Friday, May 27, 2016

Roasted Red Pepper Relish

I'm a big fan of sauces and almost always like to have some sort of sauce with meat, especially when we grill. While Jon is outside grilling I'll whip up something quick to go with it, like a chimichurri, relish or some other topping. 
When we last made a simple grilled chicken with grilled Brussels sprouts, I made a garlicky roasted red pepper relish to jazz it up a bit. You can roast the peppers on the grill while you are making the chicken, or use a shortcut with store bought roasted red peppers. 
This comes together so fast with just a few ingredients and is really so versatile. Use it on chicken, fish, as a spread on sandwiches or burgers, or as a dip. 
Roasted Red Pepper Relish
Original Recipe by Mary Ellen of Mary Ellen's Cooking Creations

  • 1 roasted red pepper, sliced (or 4 strips from a jar)
  • 2 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • Dash of red wine vinegar
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • If you are roasting your own pepper, place it over an open flame, turning until all of the skin is charred and black. Transfer to a paper bag and close, or transfer to a bowl and cover with plastic. After 10 minutes peel off all the charred skin, cut in half and remove the seeds and stem, and slice. 
  • Put all of your ingredients in a food processor. Chop until you reach your desired consistency. Adjust salt and pepper if needed
  • Optional: add a pinch of sugar if it is too tart

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Strawberry Salsa

This spring I haven't been able to buy strawberries fast enough. We have been going through them like crazy! It has become routine that every night after dinner my daughter asks for strawberries, and this is after taking them to school for lunch, too.

I have been enjoying them mixed with Greek vanilla yogurt and chia seeds, while my daughter and husband just eat them whole. When I picked up a new clamshell full of beautiful, red strawberries today, I had the idea to make a sweet snack with them. Something I could keep in the fridge for a few days (yea, right - I'll be lucky if this lasts one night!) that we can just pull out to snack on before dinner.

One of my favorite summer snacks is my Pico de Gallo (wow, that was my first blog post way back in 2007!) - sweet and juicy tomatoes, jalapenos, red onion, cilantro, and salt. I used that as my inspiration for this Strawberry Salsa.

The combination of sweet and spicy makes your mouth sing! I also added some lime juice for the sour factor, and the chips bring the salt. Seriously, this has everything!

Besides eating this as a snack, I think it would be awesome atop some grilled chili rubbed fish or chicken.

Strawberry Salsa
Original Recipe by Mary Ellen of Mary Ellen's Cooking Creations


  • 1 quart of Strawberries, chopped
  • 1/2 of a jalapeno pepper, diced
  • 4 Tbsp red onion, diced
  • Handful of fresh cilantro leaves, roughly chopped
  • Juice of one lime
  • Combine everything in a bowl and mix in the lime juice
  • Chill before serving. 

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Italian Chicken and Gnocchi with Ragu Homestyle Pasta Sauce (and a giveaway!!)

Growing up, it was our family tradition that every Sunday we would go to my grandmom's house for the afternoon and dinner. Walking in I knew that either Lawrence Welk, Hee Haw, The Three Stooges, or the Phillies would be on TV and my grandmom would either be in the kitchen cooking, baking or relaxing on her rocking chair after spending some time in the kitchen.

My favorite days were gnocchi days because I always got to help. We would work in her blue kitchen at her white, pink and gray formica table, and everything was done by hand, right down to hand press ricer for the potatoes. I would watch her mix everything up, roll out the dough, and then I got to cut the gnocchi and roll it down the grater. I still remember her telling me to get my thumb in there to shape them. And of course the gnocchi was served with her homemade tomato sauce.

These days it can be hard to spend hours and hours in the kitchen, but so many shortcuts are full of things we don't want to feed our family. That's why I was so happy to learn about Ragu's new Homestyle Sauces.

The sauces are Simmered in Tradition, a recipe based on Aussanta, the founder of Ragu, who sold the pasta sauce from her porch in NY.  She reminds me a lot of my grandmom! These new sauces have no artificial flavors, no artificial colors, no high fructose corn syrup, and they are made using farm grown ingredients. They don't take any shortcuts, peeling, chopping and simmering all of their ingredients and a special blend of herbs - basil, fennel, oregano and black pepper - to layer and build the flavor. I am happy to serve Ragu Homestyle Sauces to my family!

Reading the story of Aussanta and Ragu Homestyle Sauces, I immediately thought of my grandmom and knew I'd make something that reminded me of her. My grandmom always cooked chicken in her tomato sauce, so I put on my grandmom's green checked apron and made chicken simmered in the Ragu Homestyle Sauce and served it with gnocchi.

There are several flavors of Ragu Homestyle Sauces to choose from, and the options for recipe creations are endless. I went with the Thick Hearty Traditional with vine ripened tomatoes, garlic, and fragrant herbs - there is no need to doctor it up, just heat and serve! The thick sauce coats everything perfectly, and as soon as I poured it out of the jar I could see how thick it was. It definitely reminded me of eating at my grandmom's house!

My daughter was "mmmm-ing" her way through dinner. And the best test - my husband. He could not believe that I didn't doctor up the sauce! It was perfect right out of the jar.

Visit Ragu to learn more about the new line of Ragu Homestyle Sauces and find a taste of home. Check out my recipe below, and don't forget to enter my giveaway at the end of this post!!

Italian Chicken and Gnocchi with Ragu Homestyle Pasta Sauce


  • 1 jar of Ragu Homestyle Thick & Hearty Traditional Pasta Sauce
  • 2 chicken breasts
  • Salt, pepper, garlic powder
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1 package frozen or fresh gnocchi
  • Freshly grated Parmesan Cheese

  • Heat olive oil in a saute pan
  • Season the chicken with salt, pepper, and garlic powder. Add to the pan and cook 4 minutes per side. 
  • Pour in the Ragu Homestyle Sauce over the chicken and let simmer 20 minutes
  • Serve with gnocchi

The Giveaway is closed... congrats to Mami2jcn!!!! 

Earn entries -

 - Visit the Ragu Home Page and tell me in the comments below your favorite Homestyle Sauce
 - Visit the Ragu Homestyle Sauce page and comment below how many sauces are in the collection

BE SURE to leave your email address in the comments as well so I can contact the WINNER!

Once you earn those entries, earn additional entries by:
 - Like Mary Ellen's Cooking Creations on Facebook and comment below
 - Follow Mary Ellen's Cooking Creations on Instagram and comment below with your user name
 - Follow Mary Ellen's Cooking Creations on Pinterest and comment below with your user name

Open to US residents only, must be 18 to enter. This giveaway is hosted by and has no affiliation with Amazon or Ragu. Entries accepted through June 6, 2016. Void where prohibited.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Gruyere Chicken with Mushrooms

My mouth is watering just thinking about this dinner. Creamy melted Gruyere cheese coats juicy chicken in a rich broth with mushrooms and onions. And the best part? The prep is maybe 15 minutes and then it bakes in the oven.

Really - it's that simple. Brown your chicken and then saute the onions and mushrooms and make the wine sauce. Transfer it all to a baking dish and let the oven do the work. Top it all with some cheese for the last 10 minutes and it is done. You will want some pasta or bread to sop up all the sauce in the pan!

Chicken and Mushrooms with Gruyere
Adapted from: All Recipes


  • 2 boneless chicken breasts
  • 1/4 c flour
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1/2 tsp dried dill weed
  • 2 Tbsp butter, divided
  • 1/2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 lb fresh mushrooms, sliced
  • 1/2 onion, sliced
  • 1/2 c white wine
  • 2 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley
  • 4 oz Gruyere cheese, shredded
  • Heat your oven to 350 degrees F. 
  • Heat 1 Tbsp of the butter and 1/2 Tbsp oil in a large saute pan
  • Season the chicken with salt, pepper, and dried dill weed. Dredge chicken in flour and shake off any excess. Add it to the hot pan and cook 2 minutes per side. Transfer to a baking dish.
  • Add the remaining butter to the pan. Add the mushrooms and onions, stirring, for 3-4 minutes.
  • Add the wine and parsley and let simmer 3 minutes
  • Pour the wine/mushroom/onion mixture over the chicken and place in the oven for 20 minutes
  • Cover the chicken with the cheese return to the oven for another 10 minutes, or until the cheese is melted, lightly browned and bubbly. 

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Szechuan Pork with Bok Choy

This dish is everything you want in a weeknight meal. Easy, quick (less than 20 minutes!), yummy, and pretty much a one-pot meal. It's like healthier take-out fake-out with the flavors of soy and sesame, and some heat from the ground fresh chili paste.

When I was prepping dinner my 5 year old asked what I was chopping and then asked to try it. I know she has had bok choy before, but I guess she never really saw it in its whole form. I chopped off a piece of the white part and she asked what it would taste like. I explained that it was kind of like a cucumber. That's about accurate, right? And to me the greens are a mild cabbage. She put it right in her mouth (I'm so lucky that she will try anything without hesitation!!) and agreed - like a cucumber!

I came across this recipe by chance. Last month when I was getting my hair done I sat down and realized I forgot my book. I was so disappointed because I had a good half hour to sit there with my color on, and I was without my book. I reached for the magazines on the table next to me and ended up with the latest issue of Rachael Ray.

This recipe caught my eye and I put it on my list of things to make. I changed some things up based on personal preference, and we all really enjoyed this. Honestly, this dinner could not be any easier.

Szechuan Pork with Bok Choy
Adapted From: Rachael Ray
  • 1 lb ground pork
  • 1 head bok choy, chopped (cut off the bottom 2 inches of stem and the top 2 inches of greens and discard; chop the remaining bok choy)
  • 1/2 sm onion, sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 1 tsp fresh ginger, grated
  • 3 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 Tbsp sesame oil
  • 1 tsp ground fresh chili paste (like Sambal Olek); more or less to taste
  • 1/4 - 1/2 c low sodium chicken broth 
  • 8 oz cooked spaghetti or similar noodles
  • 2 green onions, chopped
  • Heat a non-stick skillet over medium high heat. Add the pork and cook, breaking it up with your spoon, until browned, about 8 minutes.
  • Add the onions, garlic, ginger and bok choy; stir
  • Add the soy sauce, sesame oil and chili paste and stir to combine. If you want more of a sauce, add the chicken broth and bring to a low simmer.
  • Toss in the cooked noodles. Serve topped with the green onions.