Steak Fajitas


I don’t know about you but I’ve pretty much banned the word “diet” from my language. Diets are typically a short term fix and don’t produce long term results. Instead, I’m trying to incorporate healthier maintainable changes into my life little by little…and hope those little changes add up!

Once upon a time, fajita night consisted of flour tortillas, store bought fajita mix (loaded with msg and names I don’t recognize on the ingredient list), sour cream and lots of cheese. Today, I’ve replaced the flour tortillas with whole wheat tortillas, homemade fajita marinade instead of a store bought packet, a delicious guacamole salsa instead of sour cream and I go much lighter on the cheese. However, this is honestly great without the cheese (did I just say that? Is the world ending?). Here’s my healthier spin on steak fajitas:


Serving size: 4-6


2 lbs Flank Steak, Round Steak, or London Broil (London Broil is pictured)

6 Whole Wheat Tortillas

1/2 onion, sliced

1 red bell pepper, sliced

1 orange bell pepper, sliced (or green is fine too)

1 T olive oil

8 ounces Pepper jack or Monterey jack cheese, shredded

Marinade ingredients:

1/2 cup low sodium soy or gluten-free soy

1/2 cup fresh squeeze lime juice

1/4 cup olive oil

2 tablespoons brown sugar

1 tablespoon chili powder

2 teaspoons cumin

1 teaspoon pepper

1/2 teaspoon onion powder

2 cloves garlic, chopped

1 jalapeno, chopped (optional)

2-3 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce with 1 tablespoon sauce, chopped

Guacamole Salsa:

1 avocado, diced

Juice of 1/2 lime

1 roma tomato, diced (you can add more as desired)

1 clove garlic, chopped

1-2 tablespoons cilantro, chopped

1/2 jalapeno, chopped (optional)

Salt & Pepper to taste
Step 1: Marinate steak

Mix all of the marinade ingredients above and add the steak and marinade to a ziploc bag and refrigerate for at least 3 hours. I like to marinate the meat overnight for the best flavor.

To cook the steak, you can either grill it, broil it in the oven, or sear/cook in a cast iron skillet until desired doneness. Let it sit for 10 minutes and then slice thinly against the grain.

Optional: I like to use the extra marinade leftover in the ziploc bag. I boil it and then bring it to a simmer. Then slice the meat after cooking and toss it back in the marinade for extra flavor.

Step 2: Sauté the veggies & brown the tortillas (optional)

While the steak is cooking, heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a skillet on the stovetop over medium high heat. Add the bell peppers and onions and cook until tender (I like mine to get a slight char).

To brown the tortillas (optional), you can either brown them on each side on the grill OR heat a non stick skillet to medium high heat with a small amount of oil (just enough to coat the surface) or cooking spray and add the tortillas one at a time. When it starts to get an air bubble, flip. Repeat. You can wrap them in foil to keep them warm until everything is ready.

Step 3: Make the guacamole salsa

You’ll want to make this right before serving. In a small bowl, mix all the guacamole salsa ingredients together.

Step 4: Assemble

Top the whole wheat tortillas with the sliced steak and desired amount of peppers/onions, guacamole salsa, and cheese. Waalah….a healthier, wholesome spin that’s delicious and maintainable for the long term.

Will you look at this?



Lemon Garlic Chicken Pasta


Lemon. Garlic. Pasta. Need I say more?

This is a WONDERFUL restaurant quality recipe that will make you look like a SUPER STAHHH in the kitchen. I love a pasta dish that “feels” light. And I don’t know about you, but it’s been snowing tons here in the Midwest and this dish…it tastes like Spring. I need some Spring in my life right now. How about you?

I highly recommend planning ahead and marinating the chicken overnight or for at least 6-8 hours because it will soak up the lemony goodness and make your taste buds sing. I also use boneless, SKIN ON chicken breasts. Basically, I buy bone-in, skin on chicken breasts and debone them. It’s actually really easy and here’s a video to help you: VIDEO. A good, sharp knife is key though. I was able to debone my chicken and whip up the marinade in about 10 minutes (you could easily do it before you head off to bed at night or work in the morning) so those babies have time to soak up some lemon sunshine.


5-6 servings

Marinade Ingredients:

2-4 lbs. boneless, SKIN ON chicken breasts

2/3 cup fresh lemon juice

1 Tablespoon lemon zest

1 Tablespoon fresh thyme

2 teaspoons fresh rosemary, chopped

4 cloves garlic, chopped

1 teaspoon worcestershire

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon pepper

1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)

2 Tablespoons melted butter

Garlic Sauce Ingredients:

1 box of thin spaghetti or angel hair pasta

½ stick (1/4 cup) butter

2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

4 large cloves garlic, finely minced

2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour

2 ½ cups chicken broth (low sodium, no msg)

Salt and pepper to taste

1/4 cup shredded or grated parmesan

1 Tablespoon fresh basil, chopped

1 cup fresh spinach, chopped (optional)

3/4 cup fresh asparagus, cut into 1-1/2″ pieces

1-2 cups cherry tomatoes (optional) note: I roasted mine in the oven first with olive oil

For topping:

¼ cup fresh parsley, chopped (to sprinkle/finish the pasta)

½ cup shredded or grated parmesan cheese (to sprinke/finish the pasta)

Red pepper flakes (optional)

Chicken Directions:

  • Combine the lemon juice, lemon zest, garlic, thyme, rosemary, worcestershire, salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes in bowl and whisk together. Reserve half of the marinade for later. Place the chicken pieces in a large ziploc bag with the remaining half of marinade, pressing out excess air and sealing.  Refrigerate for 6-8 hours or overnight.
  • Preheat the oven to 400˚ F.  Remove the chicken pieces from the marinade and transfer to a baking dish, skin-side up. Note: I like to sit a flat wire rack in a cookie sheet and place the chicken on the rack (this isn’t necessary but I like how the chicken cooks this way). Brush the top of each piece of chicken with melted butter.
  • Bake for 45-55 minutes (depends on thickness of the breasts), until the skins are crispy and well-browned.  Halfway through baking, pour the remaining marinade over the chicken pieces in the baking dish.  Once fully baked, cover loosely with foil and let rest 10 minutes while making the spaghetti and sauce. When sauce and pasta is done, remove chicken to a cutting board and slice each breast into 5-6 pieces.

Sauce Directions:

  • Break spaghetti noodles in half and cook spaghetti according to package directions. Drain and set aside.
  • Place large skillet over medium heat and add butter and olive oil.
  • Add garlic and saute until fragrant and soft (about 1 minute).
  • Stir in the flour and cook for a minute.
  • Slowly whisk in the chicken broth and simmer for a few minutes until it thickens slightly.
  • Stir in the parmesan cheese. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  • Add the chopped basil, spinach, tomatoes, and asparagus and simmer a few minutes until asparagus is tender. Stir in the cooked spaghetti. Note: if using oven roasted tomatoes, add them in with the spaghetti at the end.
  • To assemble: place the pasta on a plate, sprinkle with chopped parsley, parmesan, and red pepper flakes (optional). Arrange chicken pieces on top and sprinkle with more parsley and parmesan.

I paired this with a nice Sauvignon Blanc from Chateau Ste. Michelle and garlic bread.

Now dig in and enjoy some lemony sunshine and dream of tulips popping, birds chipping, greenery on the trees…..

Diva Tips 101: Soggy Baked Panko vs. Crispy


If you’re like me and have tried coating chicken or fish or pork with panko bread crumbs and then BAKED it, you have ended up with a bit of a soggy, mushy crust. There is nothing worse than soggy crust, right? It’s enough to make a wanna be somewhat healthy guy or gal fall off the wagon and just freaking fry those suckers.

Panko bread crumbs are used in Japan for deep frying not baking, hence the problem. But don’t give up yet… I have a solution for you that is healthier than frying but will give you that nice crispy crust….just simply toast the panko bread crumbs first in a little bit of olive or canola oil.

The directions are simple:

In a skillet over medium heat add 1 cup of panko and 2 teaspoons olive oil and mix together. Stir often until the panko is golden brown (just takes a couple of minutes). Simple as that!

Let cool and then if using plain panko, you can add in the seasonings of your choice (salt, pepper, garlic powder, cayenne, taco seasoning, paprika, parmesan, etc) at this point. Dip your chicken, fish, or pork in an egg wash and then the panko crumbs and it will bake up delicious and crispy like this:



Oh yeah. Now, that’s what I’m talking about.

For an even healthier option, you can spray the skillet with cooking spray and eliminate the oil. The panko will still brown up.




Mac & Beer Cheese Soup

photo (11)


Yes, that’s right. Mac & Beer Cheese soup peoples! I love macaroni and cheese. I love beer. I love soup. Oh hallelujah, this soup was made for me!

So, just a little background on this soup and recipe. I recently volunteered to be a soup maker for a wonderful charity event here in my town called Columbus Soup & Bread. This past month’s event was held at Seventh Son Brewing Co. and our challenge was to make a soup using one of their beers. I initially was thinking of making my good ol’ beef stew or chili but then I stumbled across the The Beeroness’s Mac & Beer Cheese Soup recipe and angels began to sing. *smile*  Side note: I want to be a Beeroness! *jealous* But alas, I will settle with Retro Dinner Diva. That’s pretty cool too, right?

Okay, okay, back to the soup making. I ended up choosing Seventh Son’s Golden Ratio brew  and tweaked the Beeroness’ recipe a bit. I added bacon, carrots, celery, and worcestershire. The outcome? DELISH!  I think this recipe would be great with some finely chopped broccoli or cauliflower too or your veggie of choice.


Adapted from The Beeroness – Mac & Beer Cheese Soup Recipe

4 servings


6 slices bacon

1 onion, chopped

2 carrots, peeled and diced very small

2 ribs celery, diced very small

1 fresh jalapeno, stemmed, seeded and chopped

3 cloves garlic, chopped

2 tbs butter

1/4 cup flour

1 tbs corn starch

12 ounces pale ale beer

2 cups chicken broth

1/4 cup heavy cream

2 cups cheddar cheese (thinly grated, don’t use pre-shredded)

2 teaspoons worcestershire

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp pepper

1/4 tsp cayenne

A dash of nutmeg

1 tsp smoked paprika

1 cup elbow macaroni noodles (or pasta of choice)


  • In a large pot, brown the bacon until crisp. Remove bacon and set aside. Reserve bacon grease in pan. Add the onions, carrot, celery, and jalapenos, cook until softened, stirring frequently, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for about 30 seconds.
  • Add the butter stir until melted.
  • Sprinkle the flour and corn starch on top of the melted butter and whisk until combined.
  • Add the beer, broth, Worcestershire, and cream bring to a low simmer.
  • 1/4 a cup at at time, add the cheese and stir until completely melted before adding more. Note: you do not want to bring the soup to a boil or the cheese will separate. Repeat until all the cheese is incorporated into the soup.
  • Add the salt, pepper, smoked paprika, nutmeg, and cayenne. Stir to combine.
  • Add the macaroni noodles and cook until noodles are al dente.
  • Add additional beer or broth to thin to desired consistency.

Jalapeno Cheddar Bacon Cheese Ball



This bad boy is always a hit at parties! I typically double the recipe below. You can really have fun with this and tweak it to your tastes…less jalapeno, more bacon, more cheese, up the garlic and worcestershire, or coat the ball in just cheese…or go hog wild crazy and coat the whole dang thing in bacon! 🙂
8 ounce cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup cheddar, shredded (divided)
6 slices bacon, crumbled (divided)
2 jalapeños diced (divided) 
1 teaspoon Worcestershire
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
2 Tablespoons chopped green onion
Mix together the cream cheese, worcestershire, garlic powder, green onion and half of the cheese, bacon, and jalapenos. Shape into a ball and roll the ball in the remaining half of the cheese, bacon, and jalapenos to coat.
Now, be prepared for some marriage proposals. 

Diva Tips 101 – Boiling Water Faster



Have you ever found out about a cooking tip and went “duh, how did I go my whole life not knowing this?” Well, that’s what “Diva Tips 101” is all about. I will share simple tips that some of you may already know and some of you will go “duh” just like I’ve done on many, many occasions. *smile*

One such tip for me was getting water to boil faster. I can’t tell you how many times I hovered over a big pot of water waiting…waiting….waiting  for it to boil so I can throw some corn on the cob in it or pasta. So here’s your tip:

Put a lid on it! Yep, just simply put a lid on the pot and it will come to a boil much, much faster. The lid collects more heat, raising the temperature and getting to a faster boil.

Ultimate Spicy Two Bean Dip

This is my jazzzzzzed up version of bean dip. Yeah baby.

RECIPE: Ultimate Spicy Two Bean Dip

bean dip


2 – 16 oz cans of Refried beans

1 – 16 oz can of Black Beans, drained and rinsed

1/2 lb. – Zesty Hot Pork Sausage (I used Bob Evans brand) – cooked, drained, and crumbled

1 cup – Medium Salsa

1/2 cup – Light Sour Cream

1/2 packet –  Taco Seasoning

1 – Jalapeno, diced finely

1/8 teaspoon – Garlic Powder

5-6 – dashes of Tabasco

1/4 cup – Green Onions, chopped

1 cup – Cheddar Cheese

1 cup – Monterey Jack Cheese


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix all of the ingredients together except for 1/4 cup of the cheeses (reserve) and place in baking dish.

2. Bake uncovered for 20 minutes. Top with remaining cheese and bake an additional 10 minutes until cheese is melted and dip is hot and bubbly.

3. Optional: top with shredded lettuce, diced tomatoes, green onions, and/or black olives if desired. Serve with Tortilla chips or Frito Scoops.

Note: this makes a lot of bean dip so you can half the recipe if needed. You can also add more sausage if desired.