Homemade “Bathtime” Tomato Sauce—Episode 16

One of my cooking tricks is to try and do half of a meal homemade, even if the other half is born in a box (or freezer bag). When it comes to pasta nights, I have an easy tomato sauce I make to go along with, say, store-bought fresh ravioli, to make the meal a bit more special. I call it the “bathtime” sauce because I can get all the ingredients going in the pot before we start the kids’ bath/bedtime routine—and it  simmers down just in time for dinner with the hubby. The key ingredients are a can of San Marzano tomatoes (available at most grocery stores; this variety has the most flavor), and a shredded carrot, which adds a nice sweetness. As with many sauces, you can make it your own with a dash more of this or a handful more of that—and I change it up a little myself virtually every time I make this. But here’s the tried and true version.

San Marzano tomatoes make homemade tomato a snap.

San Marzano tomatoes make homemade tomato sauce a snap.

Homemade Tomato Sauce

2+ Tablespoons Olive Oil

2 cloves garlic, chopped

½ cup onion chopped

1 cup mushrooms, sliced

1 large carrot, shredded

1 28-oz can San Marzano whole tomatoes

1 ½ cups water

Generous splash of leftover red wine

1 teaspoon sugar (optional)

¼ cup finely grated Parmesan cheese

Kosher salt and pepper to taste

Heat a tablespoon oil over medium low heat. Saute mushrooms, garlic and onion until light brown. Add can of tomatoes, water and carrot. Bring to a boil then reduce heat and simmer uncovered to reduce sauce. After about 10 minutes, add a smidge more olive oil, wine, sugar and cheese. Continue reducing another 15 minutes, until sauce thickens. Season with salt and pepper.

Teriyaki Chicken Tenders and Asian Noodle Salad for Back to School—CBS Atlanta Better Mornings

Last week I appeared on Atlanta’s CBS Better Mornings to share some easy recipes and reinventions for back to school. I made a breadless Teriyaki Chicken Tender, which we then reinvented into multiple meals. For example, you can do an Asian Noodle Salad for dinner on Day 2, lettuce wraps for lunch on Day 3, and mix-and-match the chicken or noodle salad for kids’ lunches throughout the week. Thankfully my little sister Lauren was in town and helped 33-week-pregnant-me prep all the food for the segment—and she’s a natural at food styling! Here’s a pic of us on set! Debra Shigley on CBS Better Mornings Atlanta

Chicken Teriyaki Strips

6 boneless chicken breasts, cut into thin strips

2 cups Teriyaki Sauce

Cooking Spray

Sesame Seeds, lightly toasted.

  1. Marinate chicken in Teriyaki sauce for at least 20 minutes.
  2. Heat a non-stick pan over medium heat and spray with cooking spray.
  3. Place chicken in pan (about 10 strips at a time), and cook until crisp, browned and cooked through, turning once. Add more cooking spray as needed.
  4. Roll freshly-cooked chicken strips in sesame seeds.

Asian Noodle Chicken Salad

For the Dressing:

1/4 Cup Rice Vinegar

1/4 Cup Fresh lime juice

1/2 Cup light brown sugar

2 teaspoons fresh garlic

1/2 teaspoon freshly grated ginger

3 Teaspoons Sesame Oil

2 Teaspoons Low-Sodium Soy Sauce

1/2 Teaspoon Crushed Red Pepper

Dash of kosher salt.

For the Salad:

7 oz. Rice Noodles

2 cups Red Cabbage, shredded

1 large carrot, shredded

1/2 English Cucumber, seeded, halved and thinly sliced

Leftover Chicken Teriyaki Strips, cut into bite-sized pieces

1/4 cup Thai Basil, chopped

1/4 cup Cilantro, chopped

Crispy Fried Shallots*

  1. Cook rice noodles according to package instructions. Drain, set aside, and toss with a drop or two of sesame oil.
  2. Combine ingredients for dressing in a small bowl and whisk.
  3. Assemble salad ingredients in a large bowl, add dressing and serve!
  4. *To make the crispy shallots, slice up two shallots into 2mm slices. Heat 4 tablespoons oil (or enough to cover shallots) over medium low heat. Add shallots and cook until golden brown. Drain on paper towels. Fried Shallots can be stored in the fridge in an airtight container.

Stacii Jae’s Pecan Fruit Salad with Tangerine Gravy —Episode 12

Wondering what to do with all that delicious summer fruit you have these days? In this episode my friend, actress and radio host Stacii Jae Johnson, is serving up her signature fruit salad, which is topped with a special sauce (tangerine “gravy”) and pecans. The recipe hails from Stacii’s roots growing up in Tennessee, where she says her grandmother smothered everything in gravy. You don’t need to worry about cutting up the fruit in any special, pretty way. As Stacii jokes, “I’m single. I have no kids, no man—unless you have one you want to introduce me to.”

I met Stacii Jae a few years ago when she was Director of Special Events for Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed. She’s starred on tv shows including Martin and ER and movies like How to Be a Player. As a political fundraiser, she’s raised tens of thousands for President Obama, and she now hosts Black Girls Radio on Atlanta’s WAEC. You can learn more about her background and fun career tips (“Act Like You Own the Room”) in an interview we did for Go-Getter Girls.

Back to the recipe, what I loved most about this fruit salad is that it tastes even better the next day, after the tangerine and other fruit juices have had time to meld together.

Tangerine gravy and pecans make this fruit salad extra special.

Tangerine gravy and pecans make this fruit salad extra special.

Stacii Jae’s Fruit Salad

Green apples
  1. Combine all ingredients in a large bowl, excluding orange, tangerines and pecans.
  2. Slice one orange and 1-2 tangerines in half, squeeze juice over salad and stir.
  3. Top with pecans.
  4. For bonus points on presentation, serve in a scooped out watermelon or cantaloupe half.


Photo: Kofi Oliver

My top: Michael Stars

How to Make Honey Balsamic Glazed Filet Mignon—Episode 9

When it comes to steak, I’m a filet mignon kind of girl. I love that the cut is so simply delicious without a lot of fuss—plus the portion size is more manageable than, say, a chunky rib eye. In this episode, Kevin and I show how to cook our favorite filet mignon recipe, which has a honey balsamic glaze touched with a bit a red pepper. We made this recipe for a Valentine’s Day at home years ago, and it’s still our go-to for date-nights “in”, birthdays or anniversaries. It’s easy enough for a special weeknight, but dressed up enough for a party. Plus, it makes delicious leftovers you’ll see us reinvent in a later episode.

We often serve with a mixed green salad, and let the glaze drizzle over to make a dressing.

Honey-Balsamic Filet Mignon

Balsamic Glazed Filet Mignon is a simple yet sexy main course.

Balsamic Glazed Filet Mignon is a simple yet sexy main course.

Serves four to six


4 4-oz. beef tenderloin steaks

1½ tsp. bottled or frozen minced garlic

¼ tsp. crushed red pepper

3 tbsp. dry sherry

2 tbsp. low-sodium soy sauce

1 tbsp. balsamic vinegar

¼ tsp. Worcestershire sauce

2 tsp. honey

Kosher salt

Black pepper

Cooking spray

1. Preheat oven to 400° for the steak. Season both sides of steaks evenly with salt and black pepper.

2. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add steaks to pan; cook 2-3 minutes on each side to brown, then transfer steaks to another pan (reserving drippings in first pan).

3. Transfer steaks to the oven to bake until desired doneness.

4. Add garlic and red pepper to original pan (with drippings from steak). Saute over medium heat for 30 seconds. Add sherry and bring to a boil. This is the “deglazing” portion of the program; make sure to scrape up all the browned bits that have formed on the bottom of the pan. Cook about 30 seconds. Add soy sauce and the rest of the ingredients. Bring to a boil and stir.

5. Reduce heat and cook 1 minute, stirring. Drizzle over steaks and serve.

So yummy.

My top: Michael Stars Shine Double Front V-Neck

Photo: Kofi Oliver

Parker Wallace’s Cod with Mediterranean Tapenade in Parchment Paper Wrap—Episode 8

I like fish but it’s not really a staple in my kitchen because Kevin’s not a huge fan, and it can be a bit high maintenance (a.k.a. messy and stinky). But as I recently learned, cooking fish can be simplified! In this episode my friend Parker Wallace shows us how to cook a delicious cod with Mediterranean style tapenade, using the famed parchment paper wrap technique, or “en papillote” if we want to be fancy. Parker is a

Debra Shigley and Parker Wallace in Deb's Kitchen

Me and my girl Parker Wallace.

CBS Atlanta lifestyle reporter by day who is an amazing cook by night; she’s known to prepare a gourmet meal for her man every night (and has the Facebook pics to prove it!). She has even dabbled as a personal chef and is working on a book about man-catching recipes. I’ve read a preview and it’s quite juicy.

The parchment paper trick is definitely a keeper to create rich, flaky fish, and to reduce the fish “smell” that can linger during and after cooking. I’ll also say the smell factor really depends on both 1) freshness and 2) type of fish you cook. Any0ne whose ever had great sushi knows that super fresh fish has barely any smell. As for what type you choose to cook, oilier fish like salmon tends to have a stronger odor, while less oily fish does not. I’d stick with very flaky white fish such as halibut and tilapia if you’re a newbie or might be preparing fish in, say, a small city apartment.

Cod with Mediterranean Style Tapenade

Buttery cod goes well with an olive and roasted red pepper tapenade.

Baked Cod with Mediterranean-Style Tapenade 

Serves 2-4

For each 4-oz cod fillet you’ll need

A pat of butter

Sprig of Fresh Thyme

Slice of lemon

White wine

Sea Salt

Black Pepper

Parchment Paper

1 Egg, beaten (to seal parchment paper)

For the tapenade:

2 fresh garlic cloves
1 roasted red pepper (jarred)
2 Tablespoons chopped sundried tomatoes in oil

handful of green olives
handful of kalamata olives
1 Tablespoon capers

Crumbled goat or feta cheese

I recommend just watching the episode to get the technique for the parchment paper down— it’s kinda hard to explain but I’ll do my best!

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Place your piece of parchment paper (about 9 X 12 in.) on the counter or cutting board. Arrange one cod fillet in the top center of the paper. Add a pat of butter, sprig of thyme, splash of white wine and lemon slice on top of the fish and season with sea salt and pepper. Using a pastry brush, paint a line of egg wash around the perimeter of the paper, about 1/2-inch from the edge. Fold paper in half to seal in the fish like an envelope. Starting from the bottom left corner, fold and roll the paper over itself in 1/4 inch sections, continuing along the edge toward the bottom right corner until you’ve sealed the fish in its little parchment paper pocket. Transfer each parchment packet to a baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes.

For the tapenade, place all ingredients except the goat cheese into a mini-processor. Pulse about 15-30 seconds, until blended but still very chunky (if you pulse too long the tapenade will get soupy). Transfer tapenade mixture to another bowl and top with a handful of crumbled goat cheese. Remove fish from its parchment packet when ready and plate. Spoon a few tablespoons of tapenade on top of baked fillet.


My top: Michael Stars Shine Maternity V-Neck Henley (I think the shine one is sold out, but this one on their site is similar!)

Photos: Kofi Oliver

Strawberry Arugula Salad, Balsamic Vinaigrette and Amy’s Frozen Dinners–Episode 2

Hello my name is Debra, and I serve my family frozen dinners. In Episode 2 you see how I jazz up two frozen entrees of Amy’s macaroni and cheese and lasagna by adding a bit of fresh grated cheese, and prepare a strawberry arugula salad and homemade balsamic vinaigrette to serve alongside them. First, let me share the ingredients for the salad and dressing, then I’ll talk more about the frozen dinners!

Arugula goes well with sweet fruits like strawberries.

Arugula goes well with sweet fruits like strawberries.

Strawberry Arugula Salad

(Serves 2)

4 large handfuls of pre-washed Arugula

2-3 large Strawberries, sliced

1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, shaved

Combine ingredients in a large bowl. Toss.

Easy Balsamic Vinaigrette 

3 Tablespoons Light Olive Oil

1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar

Salt & Pepper to taste (optional)

Combine ingredients in a mini Tupperware-type container that has a spill-proof lid. Shake vigorously to mix. Drizzle over salad.

I think what “makes” a dressing this simple is the quality of the balsamic; try to find one that’s rich, dark, viscous-y, and a touch sweet. You can also replace the balsamic with different styles of vinegar, or try lemon or lime juice instead for a refreshing flavor.

Now, lest you think frozen dinners are simply too much of a cheat in the semi-homemade vein, here are three reasons why I love frozen dinners, particularly the ones made by Amy’s Kitchen.

  1. They’re quick. This is the leading reason I choose frozen meals, in moderation. Having a stack of these in the freezer means a few nights a week, we don’t even have to think or plan what we’re having–and that’s very helpful (necessary, even) given our busy schedules. We just decide “Let’s do Amy’s” and go to the freezer well and pick whatever flavors we’re in the mood for. It’s simple, and clean-up is a breeze. 
  2. They’re portion-controlled. If I were to cook a pan of, say, lasagna, I would definitely eat more than the amount I’m supposed to eat (don’t we all?!). Let’s be honest: Over the course of a few days, I would probably polish off the WHOLE PAN eating it for lunch, dinner, and snacks (this might have happened to a certain bechamel lasagna we’ve made with each of my pregnancies). Seeing as that I like my jeans to fit, I sometimes prefer knowing an indulgent meal like lasagna or macaroni and cheese ends with a single serving. Buying individual frozen entrees, I know I’m eating a max of 380 or 420 calories, respectively.
  3. They’re tasty. Amy’s Kitchen Organic is one of my favorite brands of frozen meals (and other packaged foods). I like that they’re organic and have a good selection of low-sodium and ethnic flavors. Some of our favorite varieties include the low-sodium Vegetable Lasagna and Macaroni and Cheese seen in the show, Enchilada Meal, Cheese Tamale, Paneer Tikka, Palak Paneer, Mattar Paneer, Broccoli and Cheddar Bowl (this one’s gluten free). I also LOVE the eggplant parmesan by Trader Joe’s. On the average night, I don’t have time to cook any of these–unless we’re talking about heating an already cooked version in the oven.

P.S. I know it takes longer, but I do like to cook my frozen dinners in the oven. I think it tastes so much better than in the microwave!

Are you a frozen dinner fan? I’d love know your faves!

Photo: Lauren Hunter