Monday, December 28, 2015

Christmas Meals

Well, puppy peeps, I think I am all "cooked out" - I've been "slaving"* over a stove and oven for an entire week.  Holidays are fun, but as we all know, the cooking part can be a bit of a drag when you want out of the kitchen and in on the fun!  At least I found someone else to do the dishes most of the time!!  Hope you did, too!!

*just kidding - you all know I like to cook!!

So here's my list of accomplishments on my Florida "vaycay":

Christmas cookies (for eating and for gifts)

Springerle (traditional German cookie - fabulous dunked in coffee or tea)
Chocolate Chip
White Chocolate Cherry Shortbread
Apricot Thumbprints
Soft Molasses Gingersnaps

Christmas Eve Dinner with the Neighbors

Cocktail hour - byob drinks
Kathy's Fabulous Cheeseball and crackers
Nina's Spinach and Artichoke Dip

Dinner Buffet:
Cranberry meatballs*
Roasted vegetables*
Stuffed shells
Chicken salad with cranberries, celery, grapes, and pecans*
Quiche Lorraine*

Assorted Christmas cookies, coffee, more drinks and Secret Santa Swap

Christmas Day Breakfast with the Friends

Eggs Benedict
Orange Juice

Christmas Day Dinner with the Florida Family

Cousin Frank's Baked Ham 
Suzanne's Twice-baked Potatoes
Rolls and Butter
Glazed Carrots
Mom's Southern-style Green Beans*
More chicken salad
Ambrosia salad*

Cookies and Linda's Cinnamon Bundt Cake

Nina's Birthday Celebration

Christmas Tree Pesto Appetizer*



Cranberry Meatballs

I made my own meatballs (1 lb turkey, 1 lb beef, chopped onion, S/P, 2 eggs, 1 1/2 cup fresh bread crumbs, garlic, 1 T soy sauce) and baked them on a large rimmed sheet. (Do ahead!)

The day of the party, I dumped them in the slow cooker with 1 1/2 c spicy ketchup (you could use chili sauce or barbecue sauce, also), 4 T lemon juice, 2 T brown sugar and a can of whole berry cranberry sauce. Done!

Roasted Vegetables

Toss prepared vegetables (I did broccoli, cauliflower, and carrots) with a HEAPING tablespoon of minced garlic and 4-5 T of olive oil.  Spread them out on a large baking sheet and roast them at 400° until they "stiick" tender with a sharp knife and the edges are beginning to brown.  
Best way to get kids to eat vegetable!!

Chicken salad with cranberries, celery, grapes, and pecans

3 cups cooked chicken, diced or shredded
1 cup sliced celery
1 - 2 c red grapes
1 cup pecans
1/2 c dried cranberries

toss with this dressing that has been mixed together:
1 1/2 cup sour cream
1 1/2 cups mayo
1/2 - 1 cup fresh dill, snipped

Let sit at least two hours in fridge for flavor to develop.

Garnish with dill sprigs.

Excellent plain, or as a sandwich filling.

Seriously - I've never had a complaint about this salad!!

Quiche Lorraine

1 pie shell
4 oz shredded swiss cheese
1/2 cooked, diced bacon
1/2 cup onion, sauteed in 1 T bacon grease until carmelized
4 eggs, lightly beaten
1 pint half and half
pinch nutmeg
Preheat over to 375°

Layer into the pie shell:  cheese, topped by bacon, topped by onion
Mix together:  eggs, half and half, seasonings

Place the pie shell into the oven, then pour the filling slowly over the onions.  Slide the rack of the oven carefully back (NO WAVES!!)
Bake 10 minutes, turn the heat down to 325° and bake until the filling is just set (knife comes out clean in center) - about 35ish minutes.

(You may need to place a pie shield over the crust to keep it from burning.)

I couldn't believe it - ALL the guys at our table LOVE quiche!!!  REAL men!!!

Mom's Southern-style Green Beans

4 cups green beans, washed, trimmed, and cut into pieces
1/2 cup cooked ham (or a small hambone)
1/2 cup diced onion
1 can red kidney beans

Prep all of the above
Place in saucepan with 1-2 cups of water
Simmer, covered, for an hour - the green beans should be soft and kind of mushy

Normally I like beans crisp and BRIGHT green - but the flavor of these takes me back to Mom's holiday dinners - she cooked vegetables SOFT!!! I really like recreating those memories for myself.

Ambrosia Salad

1 scant cup sour cream
1 cup coconut, grated
1 cup drained mandarin oranges
1 cup drained crushed pineapple
1 cup mini marshmallows

Mix all of the above an hour before serving.
Excellent with baked ham.
Or as a dessert.
Or just for whatever.

When my dad was in computer school back in the 60s, there were two Australian fellows from Sydney in his class.  We adopted them for the term.  They came to a picnic with us every Sunday for an entire summer.  And every week, this is what they brought - I think it might have been the only thing they knew how to prepare!!  But we didn't care.  Liked it then.  Like it now.

Christmas Tree Pesto Appetizer

one package puff pastry dough (thaw for 45 min)
one small jar pesto

Unfold one sheet of dough and spread it out on a sheet of parchment paper.

Spread the dough with the jar of pesto.
Top with the other sheet of dough.

Outline a Christmas tree shape on the dough,

then make several horizontal cuts through the dough (don't slice across the middle)

twist each of those cut pieces and press the ends down on the parchment.

(I  cut the other parts of dough that were not part of the tree into strips 
and twisted and baked those, too!)

I sprinkled mine with paprika and grated parmesan before baking.
Bake at 350° for 20 minutes.

Olive tapenade is another filling you can use.

You can also spread this with Nutella if you want a sweet version instead of savory.

This was wicked fast to make and VERY good with cocktails while sitting on the beautiful porch at Nina and Bear's house with good friends Kathy and Tom and my aunt.  We watched boats cruise in from the canal while celebrating Nina's birthday - a very special evening - best part of the whole week!!  (Of course, the fact there were two dogs to play with didn't hurt...)


Happy Holidays to all of my wonderful SDP 
and WCC friends!!!

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Chili night!!!

My recipe for chili is not a recipe - I just keep throwing stuff in!!  So I don't blow my food budget on more spices this week, I'll probably pick up a packet of chili seasoning from Wick Fowler.  That way I won't lose half my spice jars on the ride back and forth from Ipswich!!  

DON'T buy the premade chili mixes from McCormick, etc.  Either buy your own jars of the various spices (and don't misplace them between one kitchen and another...) and adjust your own seasonings or get the Wick Fowler stuff (he's a war correspondent/journalist famous for winning chili cook-offs all over the place).  I like his kits because you can still control how much of each spice you're using - the spices are packaged SEPARATELY.  The premade mixes are what they are - mostly SALT.

Maybe I'll go look under the car seats and see if I can find those bottles...

Chili For a Cold Wet Day


Sear a couple of pounds of ground beef, pork, and or turkey (I see what's on sale)

Drain any fat and then add:
Lots of onions - at least 2 biggies, chopped
6 cloves (or more) of garlic - you can never have too much garlic!!
1 green pepper, finely chopped
1-4 jalapenos (probably 1 at the farm), seeded and finely chopped

Cook together about 10 minutes

Add the spices:
chili powder  3-4 T
cayenne pepper 1/2 - 1 t
cumin 1-2 T
dried cilantro 1 T
oregano 1 t
crushed red chiles - anywhere from 1t to 2 T - depends on my mood

Let the spices sizzle in the meat and veggie mixture to release their oils

Then add:
1 large can of crushed tomatoes
1 large can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 large can red kidney beans, rinsed and drained

2 T better than bouillion beef flavor

At home, I also toss in a bottle of beer

If the chili is too thick, I add more beer (or water)
If it's too thin, I add fine corn meal or corn flour I've mixed with a little water to make a paste

I don't add salt because of the bouillon, tomatoes, and beans

I DO keep tasting and adjusting as the pot simmers away on the back burner.

Let chili cook AT LEAST an hour - more if you can manage.  Just give it a stir every now and then and adjust the liquid if you need to.  This a great in the pressure cooker and also in the slow cooker.

I usually serve this in a bowl with a scoop of rice on the bottom, topped by the chili,  a handful of shredded cheddar and  a scoop of sour cream, and garnished with a lime wedge.

Optional - forget the rice and serve with corn bread

Better optional - ditch the starches and serve with a margarita! (or two!!)

When I'm feeling really virtuous, I've been know to shred carrots and even zucchini into my chili for an extra blast of nutrition.  I've also done this leaving out the meat entirely and using about 6 different kinds of beans - whatever works and fits the budget, right?

This weeks's recipe detective was Amy

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Spaghetti Pie

This came across my Facebook feed and seemed like a really good and simple meal.  It's pretty kid-friendly, as well.  And fast!!!  I served it with some crushed red peppers on the side for those of use who like to spice things up.  I also had a little extra tomato sauce (from a jar) that I heated up like a gravy for those who liked their pasta a little saucier.  Serve this with a salad.  You can also do this and leave the meat out completely and it still works.  If you don't feel like using spaghetti, any kind of pasta will do.

I also added in two cloves of minced fresh garlic to the onion and meat mixture because, why not?

"Best Thing I Had in a Month" said Matt Lauer Spaghetti Pie


12 ounces spaghetti, cooked, ½ cup cooking water reserved
1 small yellow onion, chopped finely
1 pound ground turkey or sirloin beef
1 cup tomato paste, divided
3 large eggs
1 cup grated parmesan cheese
1½ cup shredded mozzarella
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt to taste

Preheat oven to 350.

In a large skillet, saute the onions until soft.

Add ground turkey or beef and brown

Add ¾ cup of the tomato paste. Add half the reserved pasta water and stir well. Season with salt, to taste. Consistency should be like a thick Bolognese sauce. Add more cooking water as needed.

In a large bowl, mix together the cooked spaghetti, eggs, parmesan cheese, 1 cup of the mozzarella, and ¼ cup of the tomato paste.

Grease a 9 or 10-inch pie pan with olive oil. Spread half the meat mixture over the bottom of the pan. Add the spaghetti mixture and press it down to level it. Top with the remaining meat mixture, then scatter the remaining mozzarella on top.

Bake the pie in the oven for 30 to 35 minutes. Remove from the oven and let sit about 10 minutes. Use a sharp knife or pizza slicer to cut into wedges like a pie. Serve with a green salad.

Monday, December 14, 2015

New Year's Day Special: Fig Braised Chicken with Spiced Walnuts

This recipe sounds absolutely evil!!  And not difficult - it's just marinate, bake, garnish.

I like to treat myself to spectacular meals on New Year's Day.  While I watch the Rose Parade, I make Eggs Benedict and mimosas.  Instead of "football snack food", I like to do a new meal that just screams "different"!!  This year, I am trying this one and some pilaf, some shredded Brussel sprouts, and if I'm feeling really industrious a crab bisque.  More champers, of course - it's New Year's!!!!

Fig-Braised Chicken with Spiced Walnuts

from Epicurious Magazine

For the chicken:
1 T olive oil
1/2 cup dried mission figs, diced
1/2 cup dried cherries
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
6 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1 T or olive oil
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 cup chicken broth (bone broth if you have it)
Chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley, for garnish
For the walnuts:
1/2 cup walnuts
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon paprika

Prepare the chicken: (Day before is best)

In a sauté pan over medium-high heat, add 1 tablespoon oil along with the figs and cherries and sauté for 2 minutes. Add the balsamic vinegar and Worcestershire sauce and simmer to reduce by one third, about 3 minutes. Remove from the heat, pour into a bowl and cool in the freezer for 10 minutes.

In the same bowl or a resealable zip-top bag, combine the chicken and marinade. Mix thoroughly to coat the chicken evenly, cover if using a bowl, and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or up to 24 hours.

When you are ready to eat, preheat the oven to 400°F.

Transfer the chicken from the marinade to a plate. Reserve the marinade.

Heat the remaining 1 tablespoon oil in a sauté pan over medium-high heat. Season the chicken thighs with the sea salt and cook the chicken in the hot oil until browned, about 3 minutes per side. 

Add the reserved marinade and broth and bring to a simmer. Reduce the liquid by half, about 10 minutes, turning the chicken periodically to ensure even cooking.

Make the spiced walnuts:
On a baking sheet or in an oven-safe sauté pan, toss the walnuts with the olive oil, sea salt, and paprika. Spread out in an even layer and toast in the oven for about 10 minutes.
Transfer the skillet or pan with the chicken to the oven and cook for 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and let sit for 10 minutes. Serve the chicken, garnished with toasted walnuts and chopped fresh parsley.
Cooks' note
Store leftovers, refrigerated, for up to 1 week, or frozen for up to a year.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Chicken Lasagna

Fast and Easy Chicken Lasagna

10-15 no-boil lasagna noodles
3 cups cooked, shredded chicken (use rotisserie chicken for lots of yummy flavor)
12 ounces frozen peas
½ cup Parmesan cheese
½ cup Swiss cheese
1 cup water
¼ cup seasoned breadcrumbs
fresh herbs for topping - parsley / thyme

6 tablespoons butter
1½ tablespoons minced garlic
6 -7 tablespoons flour
½ teaspoon poultry seasoning
¾ teaspoon salt
5 cups milk

* I sauteed some baby bellas to add another layer to the flavor - Portobellos have more taste, imho, than their button mushroom counterparts.  I mixed the chicken with the mushrooms to make it easier to assemble. I also drained and added a small jar of pimientos to get a lovely red and green contrast in each serving. I just put half the jar in with the first pea layer and the other half with the second.  I also use parmesan, Swiss and Mozzarella for my cheese layers.


Make the sauce: 
  • Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium high heat. 
  • Add the garlic and saute (don't let it burn!!)
  • Add the flour, poultry seasoning, and salt. 
  • Whisk and cook for 1-2 minutes. 
  • Add the milk, one cup at a time, whisking after each addition and allowing it to thicken slightly each time before adding the next cup. 
  • When the sauce is smooth and thick, remove from heat and set aside. 

Layer the lasagna: 
  • Grease a 9x13 pan 
  • Preheat the oven to 400 degrees
  • Cover the bottom of the pan with (about 5) broken lasagna noodles, half of the chicken and mushrooms, half of the peas and pimientos, ¼ cup Parmesan1/2 c Mozzarella, 1/2 c Swiss, ⅓ cup water*, and 1½ cups sauce. 
  • Repeat this layer once more. 
  • Top with a layer of broken noodles, ⅓ cup water*, 1½ cups sauce, and ½ cup Swiss cheese. Cover with foil and bake for 40 minutes. 

Remove the foil, sprinkle evenly with breadcrumbs, and bake for an additional 5-10 minutes until the top is golden brown and bubbly. 
Sprinkle with fresh herbs like parsley and/or thyme - or dry - this really is just a "make it pretty" step!!!.
Let stand 10 minutes or more before cutting and serving.

*The water gets soaked up by those "no-cook" noodles

Like most lasagnas, this is a little pricier than my usual budget - but you do get 9-12 servings as it is RICH.

This week's recipe detective was Jaye!

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Chicken Teriyaki Casserole

One of my good friends from college introduced me to homemade Chinese food, which was great as I never was a huge fan of restaurant Chinese. Her family's love of Chinese food was from a long-standing tradition of her dad's family - on Christmas Day they all went and ate Chinese. And since they were so fond of Chinese food, they had learned to make their own to save some pennies.

Over the years, I've learned so many of the beautiful traditions of the Jewish faith from my friends and students - and added some to my own celebrations of this Season of Light.  Since the reclaiming and purification of the Temple in Jerusalem is also part of the history of the Christian church (I heard a rabbi once refer to Judaism as the "Mother Church" - I loved that), I have my beautiful little menorah ready to go to remember:
  • the miracle of the oil
  • the celebration of religious freedom as the Jews had retained theirs despite their Babylonian captors
  • the celebration of  political freedom as the Jews had won theirs from the occupying Greeks
  • and to remember that the holiday celebrations in the religions of the Middle East hark back to the pagan worship of the Winter Solstice - it's all about the Light
Over the next week, I'll be re-reading the books of the Maccabees for my meditation.

Sunday night - the first night of Hanukkah - I'll be feasting on latkes.  But I'll include some Chinese later in the week and think about all my dear Jewish friends.  Chanukah Sameach!

Chicken Teriyaki Casserole

1 lb chicken breast, cut into bite-sized chunks
3/4 c soy sauce (low sodium )
1/2 c water
1/3 c brown sugar, packed
1 T honey (or agave)
1 t ground ginger (or finely minced fresh)
1 T minced garlic
2 T corn starch
2 T water

fried rice - see below

32 oz precooked frozen mixed vegetables - water chestnuts, broccoli, peapods, etc.

2 green onions, chopped for garnish

Fried Rice Ingredients:
2 eggs
4 cups cooked rice - cook the rice at LEAST one day ahead and chill.  (1 1/3 c dry + water to cook)
2 tablespoons oil
1/3 cup soy sauce
1 tablespoons brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon white sugar
1/8 teaspoon ginger
1 pinch crushed red pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. 

In a small saucepan, mix soy sauce, water, brown sugar, honey, ginger, extra virgin olive oil, and garlic and boil for 1 minute over medium heat.

While teriyaki sauce cooks, mix corn starch and water in a small bowl. 

Pour corn starch mixture into teriyaki sauce, and whisk until the sauce begins to thicken (about 1 minute). Take the sauce off the heat.

Arrange chicken breasts in casserole (9x13 or similar size) and pour 1 cup of the teriyaki sauce on the chicken. Bake, uncovered, for 30 minutes. 

While chicken cooks, make the fried rice:

Heat a little oil in a non-stick skillet and quick fry the beaten eggs until they are set.  Remove and slice into strips.

Whisk together the oil, soy, brown sugar, white sugar, ginger and red pepper flakes.

In a large nonstick pan, saute the cold rice in a bit of oil until the rice is hot and you hear it begin to "pop".

Add the sauce and mix.  Add the chopped egg and stir gently

Add the fried rice and cooked mixed vegetables to dish with the chicken. Add another 2-3 tablespoons of teriyaki sauce and stir all ingredients together to coat. 

Return dish to oven and bake for another 15 minutes. 

Remove from oven and drizzle the remaining teriyaki sauce on top, if desired. Garnish with the green onion pieces.  Serve immediately.

Speed hint!!  Do your prep work the night before and store everything in the fridge.  This comes together quickly if you just have to dump and stir the next night!!!


Blessing for Hanukkah:
Blessed are you, Lord, our God, king of the universe, who performed miracles for our ancestors in those days at this time.

The Shehechyanu (This is only said the first night.)
Blessed are you, Lord, our God, king of the universe, who has kept us alive, sustained us, and enabled us to reach this season.

Blessing for the candles:
Blessed are you, Lord, our God, king of the universe, who has sanctified us with His commandments and commanded us to light the candles of Hanukkah.


Homemade Chinese - not difficult - just use leftover rice from some other meal - or make a batch a rice and put it in the fridge for a day before you start this. This is much healthier than restaurant food and SO much cheaper!!!

BTW - this method of fried rice is just as good (actually, I think better) than restaurant Chinese. You can also add cooked mixed veggies, bits of ham, pork, shrimp, chicken, and if you want, some heated bean sprouts right at the end with the cooked egg.

Try to use short or medium grain rice.  The long grain rice doesn't have the same amount of starch on the grains after cooking and fries up differently.  I made fried rice once with the black "royal" rice and loved that version, too.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Hawaiian Chicken

Other than crab rangoon and some dim sum, I am not a particular fan of Chinese food.  I'm not sure if it's the MSG or what - I just don't like the way I feel after eating restaurant Chinese.  In a pinch - well, OK.  But I don't have it on my regular rotation unless it's something I make myself.  This is a slow cooker chicken dish I pair with rice, roasted broccoli and sauteed pea pods.  If I'm feeling extravagant, I'll throw some chopped cashews on, as well.

Hawaiian Chicken

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 (20 oz) can pineapple slices, drained and juice reserved
1 green bell pepper, seeded and chopped ( buy a bag of sliced frozen)
3 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp brown sugar
Juice of one lemon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
2 tbsp corn starch
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper

Place chicken in the bottom of a crock pot that has been sprayed with non-stick spray.

Place pineapple rings and chopped bell pepper on top of the chicken.

In a small bowl whisk together, pineapple juice, soy sauce, brown sugar, lemon juice, ginger, corn starch, and salt and pepper until brown sugar and corn starch is dissolved.

Pour the pineapple juice mixture over the top of the chicken.

Cover and cook on high for 2 1/2 to 3 hours or on low for 4-6 hours.

Slice the chicken breasts and serve over rice.

This week's recipe detective:  

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Thanksgiving Menu 2015

Thanksgiving Menu - a little off the beaten path...

Seafood Stuffed Shells 

Roasted Squash / Brussels Sprouts / Red Onion  

Dessert:  Pumpkin Parfait (sweetened & spiced pumpkin and yogurt, layered with granola)

Dice squash.
Prep and halve sprouts.
Dice red onion.

Drizzle with olive oil, some rosemary and sage and toss.
Begin roasting while prepping the seafood shells,
(Toss the veggies now and then to roast evenly.  About 25 minutes at 400° if you do them on their own.  Longer at 350° if you do them with the shells.)

Drizzle with balsamic reduction at serving time.  You can also sprinkle these with pomegranate seeds.

24 uncooked jumbo pasta shells
1 tablespoon finely chopped green pepper
1 tablespoon chopped red onion
1 teaspoon plus 1/4 cup butter, divided
2 cans (6 ounces each) lump crabmeat, drained
1 package (5 ounces) frozen cooked salad shrimp, thawed
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/2 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons plus 4 cups 2% milk, divided
1-1/2 teaspoons seafood seasoning, divided
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon coarsely ground pepper
1-1/2 cups grated Parmesan cheese

Cook pasta according to package directions.
Meanwhile, in a small skillet, saute green pepper and onion in 1 teaspoon butter until tender; set aside.
In a large bowl, combine crab, shrimp, egg, mozzarella cheese, mayonnaise, 2 tablespoons milk, 1 teaspoon seafood seasoning, pepper and green pepper mixture.
Preheat oven to 350°. Drain and rinse pasta; stuff each shell with 1 rounded tablespoon of seafood mixture. Place in a greased 13x9-in. baking dish.
In a small saucepan, melt remaining butter over medium heat. Whisk in flour and coarsely ground pepper; gradually whisk in remaining milk. Bring to a boil; cook and stir 2 minutes or until thickened. Stir in Parmesan cheese.
Pour over stuffed shells. Sprinkle with remaining seafood seasoning. Bake, uncovered, 30-35 minutes or until bubbly. Yield:8 servings.

Leftovers for a few meals!!   
And we'll do a turkey roast the next time there is more than one person eating here.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Pasta Fagiole

I grew up in a pretty stereotypical post-war town,  close to NYC.  The 60s were just beginning to see some racial and religious integration.  A couple of moves later, I found myself in college and in a much more diverse atmosphere - it was an education!  I think the greatest part of my education there was exposure to different thoughts, ideas, and cultures.  And of course, being in a large city (Boston), meant exposure to all the different neighborhoods and various cuisines.  I guess I'm truly a peasant at heart, though, because what always pulls me in is good simple home-style cooking.  This recipe may not be grandma's hours-on-the-stove version, but it's good, simple, and number one - FAST!

Following is a slightly more labor-intensive one I've made that I really like.  An immersion blender is a life-saver on this one!

Fasta-Pasta Fagiole

"pasta faZHUL" or, as my friends from Southie called it "fazh"

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small yellow onion, minced
1 large celery stalk, diced
1 small carrot, diced
1 large garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon minced fresh sage or 1/4 teaspoon dried sage
1/4 teaspoon salt + more to taste
2 cups chicken broth or vegetable broth
1/4 pound (about 1 cup) small pasta like shells, elbows, or ditalini
1 15-ounce can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
1 cup (8 ounces) tomato puree or crushed tomatoes
1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley
Black pepper, for serving (optional)
Grated Parmesan cheese, for serving (optional)

note:  I like to throw some cooked, chopped spinach into this, too.  I do cook it separately and add it in a dollop when serving, topped by the parm.  (I just don't like the "color" when I cook the spinach in with the broth.  And I have a thing about large cooked leaves of anything.  It has to be CHOPPED!! - Being picky, I know!)

Procedure:Heat the olive oil in a large, deep skillet over medium-low heat. Stir in the onion, celery, carrots. garlic, sage, and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Cook for 10 minutes

Increase the heat to medium and add the broth

Bring to a simmer and stir in the pasta. 

Cover the pot and cook for 8-10 minutes until the pasta is tender—timing will vary based on the type of pasta you're using. (Stir now and then so pasta doesn't stick to bottom of pan)

Stir in the cannellini beans,  tomatoes and parsley and cook for a few minutes more, just until the beans are warmed through.

Taste to add more salt if needed and black pepper if desired.

Serve with grated Parmesan cheese, if desired.

The pasta will continue to absorb liquid so this soup is beast eaten fresh. You CAN cook the pasta separately if you'd like and then add it to each serving just before serving, also.

If you have a "gotta have meat in it" person in your house, some cooked Italian sausage, either crumbled or in slices, and added at the end would round this out.

Not-So-Fasta Pasta Fagiole

Ingredients:2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus more for serving
4 ounces pancetta, diced
1 medium yellow onion, finely diced
2 medium carrots, finely diced
2 medium ribs celery, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup white wine
6 cups low sodium chicken broth
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 (14.5 ounce) cans cannellini beans or chickpeas (or combination), rinsed and drained
1/4 cup dried lentils, rinsed (preferably French green lentils, but any green or brown lentils are fine)
1 cup diced or chopped canned tomatoes, with their juices
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary
3/4 cup dried pasta, such as elbow macaroni or ditalini (whole wheat is fine)
1/3 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, plus more for serving

Heat the 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large pot over medium-low heat. 

Add the pancetta and cook about 5 minutes.  (melting the fat out) Stir occasionally.

Add the onion, carrot and celery and cook until the onions become translucent, about 5 minutes. Stir occasionally. 

Add the garlic and cook 1 minute more, stirring constantly so the garlic doesn't stick to the bottom of the pan and burn.

Add the wine and cook until it has nearly evaporated, about 5 minutes. 

Add the broth, salt, pepper, beans, lentils, diced tomatoes, bay leaves and rosemary. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat, and simmer, uncovered, until the lentils are just tender, 15-30 minutes.

Use a slotted spoon to transfer 1 cup of the bean mixture to a heat-safe dish and blend until smooth.

Add the dried pasta to the pot and stir.  Cook until the pasta is tender but still firm to the bite, anywhere from 8-12 minutes depending on the type of pasta you used. 

Discard the bay leaves.

Stir the reserved puréed bean mixture into the soup and cook briefly until soup is heated through.

Remove the soup from heat and stir in the Parmigiano-Reggiano. Add more broth is the soup is too thick. Season with S/P. 

Ladle the soup into bowls. Drizzle each portion with a touch of extra-virgin olive oil and sprinkle with more cheese, if desired.

The pasta and lentils will continue to absorb liquid so this soup is beast eaten fresh. You CAN cook the pasta separately if you'd like and then add it to each serving just before serving, also.

This week's recipe detective was Kate Richardson:

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Orecchiette and Sausage

This is a great meal for keeping the kitchen cleaned up - it only takes one pan!!!  I always like to add just a bit more broth so it's more like soup.  Great with slices of garlic bread and a nice white wine!! If you can't find orechiette (little ears), any small pasta, like shells, will do.

Orecchiette Pasta and Sausage

olive oil
1 onion sliced
2 cloves garlic chopped
1 red pepper, diced
1 lb spicy Italian sausage
6-7 cup chicken broth, as needed
3 c orecchiete pasta
1 cup chopped arugula (or spinach or combination)
1/2 c grated Parmesan cheese


Saute onion, S/P and red pepper 5-7 minutes until onion is golden.  Throw in the garlic for the last minute of sauteing.

Stir in the sausage (remove from casings if you bought links) and saute, stirring until the sausage is broken up and browned - about 7 minutes.

Add 1 1/2 c chicken broth to mixture and scrape up the bits that have stuck to the pan.  Add the pasta and cook, adding more broth as needed, until the pasta is cooked through and most of the broth is absorbed - takes about 12-15 minutes.

Stir the arugula/spinach in and stir until the leaves wilt.  Ladle the pasta into bowls to serve and top with a good sprinkling of the Parm.

This week's recipe detective was GSDMom!



Sunday, November 1, 2015

Chicken Paprikash

So simple!!!!  I think this was the first official "recipe" I made when I began actually cooking dinner for my family.  I love almost anything with a sauce and love it even more if it has sour cream!!  LOVE sour cream!!!   This makes a simple, but elegant meal with lots of flavor.    Reheat leftovers, if you have any,  gently - partial power in the microwave, so you don't separate the sauce into a curdled mess.

Chicken Paprikash

about 3 lbs chicken pieces (or about 2 pounds boneless thighs)
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoons black pepper
2 tablespoons butter
1 large onion, chopped
1 large Anaheim or green pepper, chopped (you can leave the pepper out if your don't like it - you            can also use red peppers instead)
2 heaping T paprika (Sweet Hungarian)
1/2 c dry white wine
1 1/2 c crushed tomatoes
1/2 cup chicken stock
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup sour cream
2 tablespoons flour – all-purpose

parsley (optional garnish)

Use paper towels to dry the chicken. 

Sprinkle the chicken with S/P

Melt the butter in a large pan and brown the chicken about 6 minutes on one side and then again on the other.

Remove the chicken from the pan and add the chopped onion and pepper. Cover the pan and let the veggies "steam" for a few minutes, then remove the cover and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until they begin to get a golden brown color (this takes a bit of time for the sugars in the veggies to caramelize - but you WANT to spend the time - adds an entire layer of flavor)

Add the paprika and cook, stirring constantly for about 30 seconds (heating spices releases the oils ins them).

Add the wine, tomatoes, and chicken stock, and more salt, if desired, and then return the chicken pieces along with any juices from the plate

Bring to a boil, cover and turn down the heat to simmer. Let the chicken simmer for 30 minutes.

While the chicken cooks, prepare any side vegetables and some cooked noodles - keep them warm when they're done. (Paprikash is really awesome with spaetzle - little dumplings - but learning to cook those is another story.  Some like this over mashed, but I have to go with the noodles!  Any kind of pasta will do - but find one that has some kind of texture to it to catch up all that wonderful sauce!)

Combine the flour into the sour cream and stir until there are no lumps.

When the chicken is done, turn the heat off and stir a small ladleful of the broth into the cream and stir. Keep adding one small ladleful as a time, bringing the temperature of the cream up to the temp of the broth (If you add sour cream directly to hot liquid you will get a curdled mess.) Once the sour cream is quite warm, pour all of it into the pot and stir to combine. DO NOT LET THE SAUCE BOIL - AGAIN, IT WILL CURDLE. Turn the heat back on to low and cook gently, stirring until the sauce has thickened.  Serve over noodles.

Crack a little black pepper over the top and garnish with parsley, if desired.

This week's recipe detective was:


Monday, October 26, 2015

Greek Chicken Soup - Avgolemono

Second version of soup - we're going to get Carlene back on her feet!!!

Chicken Soup, Take Two (Avgolemono)

boneless chicken thighs or chicken breast
2 carrots, peeled, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
1 medium onion, peeled and sliced
6 garlic cloves, crushed
2 bay leaves
48 oz chicken broth
pinch thyme
small knob (1/2") of fresh ginger - peeled, cut into extremely small dice

1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 1/2 teaspoons grated lemon rind
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

8 ounces uncooked orzo (rice-shaped pasta), cooked separately

Dump the first set of ingredients into your pressure cooker and process for 15 minutes.

Remove the chicken and cut into small pieces

Add the parsley, lemon juice and rind to the soup and stir

Cook the orzo separately and add it to the bowls at serving

(Store leftover pasta separately from the rbroth as the pasta will continue to absorb the broth.)

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Best Ever Slow Cooked Chicken

I normally don't go for pre-packaged mixes and soups because of the sodium, but there are times where I need REALLY simple.  This is one of the best recipes for "insanely easy"!  (And you can always cut some of the sodium by dropping in large chunks of potato and fishing them out at the end.)

Best Ever Slow Cooked Chicken

1 can golden mushroom soup
1/2 pkg Italian style salad dressing* (or you can use all Italian and skip the ranch)
1/2 pkg dry ranch style dressing*
2 T butter
1/2 c white wine
1 8 oz container cream cheese and chive (or just plain cream cheese)
4 chicken breasts

6 hours on low in slow cooker.  After 4 hours, give it a stir.

Can it get any easier?

This week's recipe detective is Jaye-MI

*To make your own Italian Salad Dressing Mix:

2 T garlic powder
2 T onion powder
2 T white sugar
1/4 c oregano
1 t ground pepper
1/4 t thyme
1 T dried basil
1 T dried parsley
1 t salt
1 t red pepper flakes

Mix above in jar.

To make salad dressing combine 2 T mix with 1/4 c vinegar and 1/2 c olive oil.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Mushroom Barley Soup, 2 ways

Fall - soup in my house!!  Which one to make?????  Depends on what I will be doing in the morning at home, and when I arrive at CZA!!!!  Either way, both recipes are good!  Enjoy!

Mushroom Barley Soup for Stove

(From Epicurious Magazine)

Ingredients:1/2 stick butter
1 pound mushrooms, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2 large carrots, chopped
2 large celery stalks, chopped
1 onion, chopped
1/2 cup pearl barley, rinsed
2 tablespoons all purpose flour
8 cups canned vegetable or beef broth
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill or 1 teaspoon dried dillweed

Melt butter in heavy large Dutch oven over medium-high heat.

Add mushrooms, carrots, celery, onion and barley.

Sauté until vegetables begin to brown, about 20 minutes.

Add flour to pot and stir 5 minutes.

Gradually mix in broth.

Bring soup to boil, stirring frequently.

Reduce heat to medium and simmer until barley is tender and soup is beginning to thicken, about 40 minutes.

Mix in parsley and dill. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Mushroom Barley Soup for Pressure Cooker

1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 medium onion, chopped
about 1 cup - 2 medium carrots, peeled and cut into ¼- inch dice, or sliced 1/4" thin 
3 cloves garlic, smashed 
16 ounces mushrooms, sliced - you can use an egg slicer to speed this up
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt 
1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme, chopped (or a good 1/4 t, dried)
1/3 cup sherry 
3/4 cup pearl barley
1 bay leaf 
5-6 cups chicken broth (or beef)
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground pepper 
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley (about 5 sprigs)

Place the butter into the cooking pot of the Pressure Cooker. 

Select sauté - when butter begins to sizzle, stir the chopped onions into the pot and sauté for about a minute or 2, until onions start getting soft. 

Stir in the carrots and sauté vegetables for about 4 minutes, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are soft and lightly golden. 

Stir in garlic, sliced mushrooms, salt, and thyme. Sauté until mushrooms release most of their moisture and the garlic becomes aromatic, about 5 minutes. 

Add sherry to the pot and cook until liquid is evaporated. 

Add barley, bay leaf and 5 c chicken broth to the pot. 

Lock lid into place. Select High Pressure. Set timer to 10 minutes. 

Use the Natural Release Method to release all pressure. 

Remove and discard bay leaf. Stir in pepper.  Add more broth if mixture is too thick for your taste.

Adjust seasoning to taste. Stir in chopped parsley. 

For an extra kick, stir in 2 additional tablespoons of sherry.

This week's recipe detective is Julie S, with an assist from Dawn:


Sunday, October 4, 2015

Slow Cooker Chicken Enchilada Quinoa

For the next few weeks, I am going to have to rely on the slow cooker for Monday night dinners while I puppy sit (Yeah, I know! Poor me!!!!)  I'm currently enjoying being on a quinoa and farro kick.  Good ol' pasta and rice were getting boring - it's fun to try out "new" grains that are thousands of years old!!!  You can crank the heat up or down on this one by the number of peppers you use, or if you don't like spicy food, leave them out entirely.  I'm going to leave them out at the farm and serve them on the side for people to stir in if they want them.  

***Remember - when handling hot peppers - wear disposable gloves, especially when handling the seeds and the inside ribs of the peppers.  Do NOT touch your face while handling those peppers, especially around your eyes - believe me, you only do it once and you'll understand.

Slow Cooker Chicken Enchilada Quinoa

from Bobbi's Kozy Kitchen

1 pound ground chicken
1 1/2 cups uncooked  quinoa, rinsed*
1 can (15-ounce) black beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup frozen corn
1 can (15-ounce) diced fire roasted tomatoes
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium onion, chopped
1 or 2 jalapeno peppers, finely chopped (depending o the heat level you want)
1 cup water
1 can (10-ounces) enchilada sauce
2 tablespoons Mexican chili powder
1 tablespoon cumin
2 teaspoons ground coriander

1 cup shredded Mexican blend cheese
3 green onions, chopped
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped

Cook the ground chicken in a skillet until no longer pink and place in slow cooker.

Add everything except the last 3 ingredients and stir to combine. 

Cover the slow cooker and cook on high for 3 hours or until the liquid is all absorbed into the mixture.

Remove the lid and stir. Adjust seasoning, if necessary. 

Stir in the half the cheese and sprinkle the other half on top. 

Replace the lid and let the cheese melt. Top with the chopped green onions and cilantro.

*Quinoa seeds sometimes have a coating of bitter-tasting chemicals called saponins, that make the seeds not tasty to birds and other seed-eaters. Put the seeds in a mesh strainer and rinse the seeds throughly, just in case.  video - Rinsing Quinoa

And for today's lesson in nutrition, class:

  • originated in the Andean region of PeruBoliviaEcuador and Colombia
  • was domesticated 3,000 to 4,000 years ago
  • is a "pseudocereal" similar to buckwheat and amaranth
  • nutrient composition is favorable compared with common cereals
  • contains essential amino acids like lysine and acceptable quantities of calcium, phosphorus, and iron

This week's recipe detectives:

Kim Johnson-OK  

with an assist from

Blue Penguin and Jody from MD

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Bacon Ranch Chicken Pasta

I was going to bring down a pot of chili and some cornbread for my Friday night special this week. But my ankle is throbbing tonight and I need something I can throw together FAST, so:

Bacon Ranch Chicken Pasta

1 (12 ounce) box penne or spiral pasta
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
2 cloves garlic, minced
½ teaspoon crushed red pepper (optional)
1-1/2 cups cream or half and half
1 cup chicken broth
½ package ranch salad dressing and seasoning mix
½ cup parmesan, shredded
2 cooked boneless, skinless chicken breasts, shredded - I'm grabbing pre-cooked
8 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled - again, pre-cooked!!
1 (12 ounce) package frozen peas, thawed
½ teaspoon black pepper (or to taste)
1 cup shredded Mozzarella

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. 

Spray 9x13 baking dish with cooking spray.

Cook pasta according to package directions. Rinse and drain. Set aside.

Melt butter in a large saucepan over low heat. Add minced garlic and crushed red pepper, if desired. Add the flour and stir in with the butter.  Let is bubble for a minute, stirring.

Whisk in the cream and chicken broth and continue stirring until thickened. 

Stir in half a package of the ranch salad dressing and seasoning mix. 

Remove from heat and stir in parmesan cheese.

Place pasta in bottom of 9x13 baking dish. Top with chicken, bacon, and peas. 

Pour sauce over the top. 

Sprinkle mozzarella cheese over the top.

Bake in a preheated oven for 30 minutes or until heated through and cheese is melted.

File this under : 
"I'm Not Lazy but When my Ankle Hurts and I Can't Stand in One Place for Long, Make This"

From Flavor Mosaic

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Slow Cooker Beef Burgundy

I have an incredible beef burgundy recipe from my mom that involves all kind of work, at least four kinds of booze, and baking in a Dutch oven for hours.  It is truly unbelievable - four-star restaurant quality.  But it IS work.  So I've found some shortcuts when I'm craving a TASTE but am not willing to spend the TIME. (And I serve the boeuf bourguignon on really special occasions.)

Easy Crock Pot Beef Burgundy 

1/4 cup flour
2 tablespoons cornstarch, divided
1 teaspoon steak seasoning
2 pounds cubed beef for stew
4-5 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion
1 cup Burgundy {or red} wine
2 tablespoons minced garlic {or mince two garlic cloves}
4 ounces sliced baby Portabello mushrooms
1 tsp salt
3 bay leaves
1 cup beef broth
1/4 cup warm water
1 – 2 tablespoons chopped parsley {optional}

Combine flour, 1 tablespoon cornstarch and steak seasoning in a ziploc bag and shake to mix.

Add stew meat to the bag and seal - Shake to coat and set aside.

Add the olive oil to a large skillet over medium high heat.

Once the oil is hot, add the beef mixture and cook 5-6 minutes, turning often to brown meat on all sides. Don't try to crowd the beef - you want a good sear.

While the beef is browning, peel and slice the onion in half and chop into 1/2-inch pieces.

Add the onion and the wine to the pan and cook for 2 minutes.

Stir in garlic, mushrooms, bay leaves, and beef broth, and bring to a boil.

While that comes to a boil, add 1 tablespoon cornstarch and the warm water to a small bowl and stir until dissolved.

Pour the cornstarch mixture into meat and stir for 1-2 minutes.  (You can do all this the night before, refrigerate and then put it in the crock to cook the next morning.  Don't refrigerate the crock and then put it in the cooker - it will crack!!)

Remove from heat and pour the stew into the crock pot.

Cook on LOW for 8 hours or on HIGH for 4 hours.

Discard bay leaves before serving and add salt & pepper to taste.

Garnish with chopped parsley if desired.

Preparation time: 10 – 15 minutes

Cooking time: 4-8 hours, depending on temperature

Number of servings: 6

Source:  A Little Clarification

Slow Cooker Loaded Potato Soup

Something about the weather turning colder turns me into a BEAR - I just want to stock up on calories and hibernate!!!  This a great soup for fall or winter, especially with some good peasant bread.

Slow Cooker Loaded Potato Soup

3 to 3 1/2 lbs russet potatoes, peeled and diced small (about 7 medium potatoes)
1 medium yellow onion, finely diced
3 (14.5 oz) cans low-sodium chicken broth
1 cup evaporated milk
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/3 cup butter
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sour cream
1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese (6 oz)
9 oz bacon, cooked and diced or crumbled
4 green onions, diced

To a 6 or 7-quart slow cooker, add potatoes, onion, chicken broth, evaporated milk and season with salt and pepper to taste. Cover and cook on HIGH heat for 4 hours or LOW heat for 8 hours (check to be sure potatoes are done - I cut my potatoes really small).

Set aside 2 cups liquid from soup mixture in crock pot.

In a medium saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Add flour and cook, stirring constantly, 2 minutes. While whisking, slowly pour in the 2 cups liquid you set aside into the butter mixture (it will thicken quickly). Pour butter mixture into slow cooker and stir to blend. If desired, mash potatoes with a potato masher to break down into smaller pieces or use an emulsion blender to puree - depends how to like the texture of your soup - I like to remove half from the crock and puree what's inside the crock, then stir the non-pureed back in.

Cover and cook on HIGH heat until thickened, about 10 minutes. Turn heat to warm, stir in sour cream (don't ever boil sour cream - it will curdle).

Serve warm topped with cheese, bacon and green onions (you can just mix in those three remaining ingredients into slow cooker or top individual servings).

Recipe Source: Cooking Classy

Sweet and Savory Meatballs

My mom started making these back in the 50s.  I've served them with little meatballs as "cocktail" nibbles and with larger meatballs as dinner.  Kids, in particular, really like these.  (This is a good recipe for the babysitter when s/he is also expected to put dinner together for the kids!!!)

Sweet and Savory Meatballs

1 bag frozen meatballs
1 12 oz jar grape jelly
1 12 oz bottle barbecue sauce

Dump ingredients into slow cooker and heat on low for 3-4 hours.

Good over rice.

Slow Cooker TexMex Chicken

Fast and kid-friendly Mexican! Use mild salsa if you have little ones (you can jack yours up on your plate with some jalapenos or hot salsa) and increase the heat for us older kids.  A bag of frozen pepper strips saves prep time.

Slow Cooker TexMex Chicken

1 lb. boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch-wide strips 
2 Tbsp. Taco Seasoning Mix
2 Tbsp. flour
1 each: green and red pepper, cut into 1-inch-wide strips
1 cup frozen corn
1 1/2 cups salsa
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
Optional- crushed tortilla chips and sour cream to top

Toss chicken with seasoning and flour in slow cooker.

Stir in all remaining ingredients except the shredded cheese; cover.

Cook on low for 6-8 hours or high for 3-4 hours.

Stir just before serving. Serve over rice. Top each serving with shredded cheese, crushed tortilla chips and a dollop of sour cream.

Sausage and Tortellini Soup

Fall.  Soup.  Italian.  Easy.  I'm in!!!  This one is scary-easy and so good!!!  Splurge on some garlic bread.  And a couple of cannolis, if you can find them.

Sausage and Tortellini Soup

1 lb. mild Italian sausage 
1 bag frozen green beans
1 can petite diced tomatoes
1 medium onion, diced
1 Tbsp Italian seasoning
1 32 oz. chicken stock
1 9 oz refrigerator Cheese Tortellini
fresh, shredded Parmesan Cheese

Crumble sausage and place in slow cooker. *(no casings)
Add tomatoes, diced onions, frozen green beans and seasoning.
Cook on high for 4 hours.
Add chicken stock and cook on high for 1 hour.
Add cheese tortellini and cook for an additional 1/2 hour.
Serve topped with fresh shredded Parmesan cheese.

Yield: About 6 servings

Monday, September 21, 2015

Three Risottos!!!!

How did I NOT know about risotto until I was 50???  Where WAS I?  Why was this kept from me???  Once you learn to make a basic risotto, fast, yummy food is right there in your grasp!  SO let's start with basic and move out from there:

Parmesan Cheese Risotto

Serves 4

2 t chives, chopped
2 cloves garlic
1 small onion, diced
28 oz chicken or vegetable broth - heated
1/2 pound arborio rice (it has to be arborio)
2 t olive oil
2 t butter
1/2 heavy cream
1 c freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Heat the oil and butter over med-low heat (yup, medium low - this one cooks SLOWLY)

Add the garlic and onion and saute until the onion is translucent

Dump in the rice and stir until the grains are coated

Add a cup of broth and keep sirring gently until the rice has absorbed the liquid.

Add another cup and keep stirring

Do it again

Add the last helf cup and keep stirring  (the whole process takes about 20 minutes - you'll have a nice creamy looking rice at the end.  You may need to add a little more broth if the rice has a hard "bite" to it.  It should be puffy, but still al dente - not mushy!!!

Add the cream.  Keep stirring for a minute while the cream heats.

Add the cheese.

Keep stirring.

Add some black pepper, salt to taste and add the chives.

Serve with a glass of white wine.  Oh, yum!!

Tomato, Arugala and Mozzarella Risotto

1 cup arborio rice
2 Tbsp olive oil
3 shallots, chopped
½ cup dry white wine
3 cups hot vegetable stock (plus 1 just in case)
2 Tbsp cold butter
2 cups arugula, washed and dried
1 cup little vine tomatoes (or cherry tomatoes), quartered
¾ cup fresh mozzarella, diced
Parmigiano Reggiano to serve
Salt to taste

Same procedure:
Saute the shallots in the olive oil over med heat

Once the shallots are translucent, add the arborio rice and fry it so all the grains get coated in the fat.
Reduce the heat to medium-low.

Add the white wine and cook until it evaporates completely.

Add the first cup of vegetable stock and cook, stirring occasionally (and gently) until it is absorbed by the rice.

Repeat the process with the other 2 cups of stock, one at a time. If at the end, you think your rice is still too hard, add 1/2 - 1 more cup of stock and cook until it's al dente.

Turn the heat off and add the butter, stirring vigorously but being careful to not break the grains.

Once the butter has been added and stirred, add the tomatoes and the arugula and stir until everything is incorporated.

Add the fresh mozzarella and stir gently.

Taste to check seasoning and add salt if necessary.

Serve immediately, with freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano.

Mushroom, Onion, and Bacon Risotto

Ingredients:2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup chopped onion
5 slices bacon chopped
6 ounces baby bella mushroom sliced thin
1/4 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup Marsala wine
1 1/2 cups arborio rice
5 1/2 cups chicken broth, heated
1 1/2 ounces gratedparmesan or romano cheese
2 tablespoons butter
salt and pepper

Same Procedure:
Heat a large skillet over medium heat with oil. Add onion and bacon and cook until bacon is almost crisp and onion is tender (about 5-6 minutes)

Stir in mushrooms and 1/4 tsp salt and cook for 5 minutes until mushrooms are tender.

Add 1/2 of the wine and stir until liquid is absorbed (about 3-4 minutes)

Add rice and stir until rice is light brown (about 4-5 minutes) then stir in remaining wine stirring until all liquid is absorbed

Add 1 cup of hot broth to rice mixture; stirring constantly until liquid is completely absorbed.

Keep adding in 1 cup increments until broth is absorbed each time - this process should take about 25 minutes.

Stir in cheese and butter then season will additional salt and pepper to your liking

Chicken and Champagne
Pepper and Sausage
Scallop and Lemon
Tomato and Basil.....

hundreds more!!!   Have fun - you're only limted by your imagination!

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Chicken Salad with Grapes and Pecans

I love chicken salad - in a sandwich, scooped onto a lettuce leaf, or just a scoop on a plate.  When I occasionally get myself organized (yes, it actually DOES happen) and when I see chicken on sale at the grocer's, I'll poach a ton of chicken in my really big slow cooker overnight, strain the broth and freeze in 1/2 cup portions, shred some of the chicken to use in Mexican dishes, and cube the rest for pot pies and chicken salads.  This is one of my favorite chicken salads - I like all the different textures in this one:

 Chicken, Grape and Pecan Salad
3 pounds , skinless chicken breasts, well rinsed and patted dry
3 cups of water
1 chicken bouillon cube
1 pound of seedless green grapes ( or red. Whatever.)
1 1/2 cups pecan halves
1 cup diced celery
chopped fresh dill, to taste
1 - 1 1/2 cups sour cream
1 - 1 1/2 cups mayonnaise
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
Salad greens, spinach, or watercress or arugala

Serves 8
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Arrange the chicken breasts in a single layer in a shallow pan.
  2.  Bring the water to a boil and add the bouillon cube.  Stir to dissolve.  Pour enough bouillon in the baking pan to just cover the chicken breasts.  Lay a sheet of cooking parchment or aluminum foil over the chicken to cool in the liquid; then discard the liquid.
  3. Shred the chicken into bite-size pieces and place them in a large bowl.  Add the grapes, pecans, celery, and chopped dill, and toss well.
  4. In a separate bowl, mix the sour cream and mayonnaise together.
  5. Toss this into the chicken salad.  Season with salt and pepper. Cover, and refrigerate for 2 hours.
  6. Serve on a bed watercress or other salad green, garnished with dill sprigs.

I served this at a party for friends in little "boats" of endive leaves so it could be picked up and eaten as a finger food appetizer.

I've also done this where I carmelized the pecans by cooking them with sugar and just a little bit of salt in a non-stick pan - keep stirring so the sugar doesn't burn.  You can also just toast the pecans quickly in the oven - watch them as the oil in them will go to a burn very quickly.