Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Stuffed Pepper Appetizer

Stuffed Pepper Appetizer

4 bell peppers, tops sliced off (or the mini-peppers, cut in half)
2 15- oz. cans black beans, rinsed
2 ears corn, kernels stripped
3/4 c. grated pepper Jack
3 scallions, thinly sliced
2 tsp. chili powder
Couple dashes of hot sauce
kosher salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a large pot of simmering water, steam peppers until tender, 5 to 7 minutes, then drain and let cool. Once cool, halve and arrange in a large glass baking dish.
Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine black beans, corn, 1/2 cup pepper jack, 2 scallions, chili powder, and hot sauce and season with salt.
Spoon black bean mixture into bell peppers and sprinkle with more cheese. Bake until cheese is melted and mxture is warmed through, 7 to 10 minutes.
Garnish with scallions and serve.

Fantasy Sauce (for Pasta)

Fantasy Sauce for Pasta

10 ounces thin dried spaghetti, or other thin pasta
3 ounces bacon (about 3 strips)
3 leeks
1/2yellow onion
1handful baby spinach
2 tablespoons butter
Salt and black pepper
1/2 cup white wine
1/2 cup cream
3ounces grated Parmesan (optional)

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Add your pasta and cook according to the directions on the package. Drain and set aside.

In a large skillet over medium heat, cook your bacon until it begins to brown. Add the chopped leeks, onions, spinach, and butter. Season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring, for a few minutes, until the spinach wilts and vegetables soften.

Add the white wine to the pan and cook for a few minutes, until the wine reduces by about half.

Add the cream and simmer the sauce for about 10 minutes.

Toss the pasta with the sauce and serve topped with the grated Parmesan.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Pasta al Norma

I don't think I've met a pasta sauce I didn't like.  This one uses one of my favorite veggies:  eggplant!!  The salt trick removes some of the bitterness that some eggplants may have.  Look for smaller eggplants if your store carries them.  Try to not get ones that are bruised. I love how FAST this recipe comes together!!

Pasta al Norma

2 medium eggplants, about 12 ounces each, cut in 1-inch cubes (I leave some of the peel on - I pare strips of peel off before I start slicing and dicing.)
⅔ - 1 cup extra virgin olive oil (2T reserved)
2 pounds ripe plum tomatoes, very finely chopped (if you use fresh tomatoes, drop them in boiling water for 30 sec - 1 min first and slide the peel off. I then work over a mesh strainer to remove as many seeds as I can and catch that juice!)
2 garlic cloves, minced
¼ cup basil leaves, torn + several leaves cut into thin strips (chiffonade)
1 pound spaghetti
Crushed red chile flakes, to taste
2 ounces coarsely grated ricotta salata - or 1 cup ricotta


Place eggplant in a colander, salt generously, set colander over a bowl and let sit at room temperature about 2 hours to draw off excess liquid. Rinse eggplant and dry on paper towels.

Heat oil in a large skillet on medium-high and sauté eggplant, in batches if necessary, until golden. Transfer to several thicknesses of paper towel. Pour off and reserve all but a fine slick of oil from the pan.

Reheat pan on medium, add tomatoes and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until tomatoes are reduced and their liquid has evaporated. Fold in basil.

Meanwhile, bring a pot of salted water to a boil for the spaghetti. Cook until al dente. Drain, reserving about 1/2 cup pasta water.

Add pasta to tomato sauce. Return eggplant to pan and cook on low, mixing pasta with sauce ingredients. Add 2 tablespoons of oil, season with salt and chile if desired and moisten with some pasta water if needed.

Divide among plates or shallow bowls, scatter cheese and reserve basil on top and serve.

Provencal Chicken

Spring - I feel the need for "light" food.  After a winter of stews and pastas and casseroles, I'm looking forward to spring vegetables and bright colors on the table again.

Provencal Chicken

4 chicken legs or 8 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
½ to ¾ cup all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons herbes de Provence
1 lemon, quartered
8 to 10 cloves garlic, peeled
4 to 6 medium-size shallots, peeled and halved
1 cup dry vermouth
4 sprigs of thyme, for serving (optional)

Heat oven to 400 degrees. 
Season the chicken with salt and pepper. 
Put the flour in a shallow pan, and lightly dredge the chicken in it, shaking the pieces to remove excess flour.
Swirl the oil in a large roasting pan, and place the floured chicken in it. 
Season the chicken with the herbes de Provence. 
Arrange the lemon, garlic cloves and shallots around the chicken, then add the vermouth to the pan.
Put the pan in the oven, and roast for 25 to 30 minutes, then baste it with the pan juices. 
Continue roasting for another 25 to 30 minutes, or until the chicken is very crisp and the meat cooked through.
Serve in the pan or on a warmed platter, garnished with the thyme.

from the NY Times Cooking pages

Sweet and Smoky Salmon

My favorite fish.  I try to look for the "wild" stuff instead of the farm-raised.  I think it has more flavor!  This was pretty good with a marinated cucumber salad, sliced tomatoes, and some grilled asparagus.

Sweet and Smoky Salmon

1/4 cup orange juice
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons McCormick® Perfect Pinch® Salt Free Southwest Sweet 'n Smoky Seasoning, divided
2 tablespoons packed brown sugar, divided
1 pound salmon fillets
Orange Salsa:
2 cans (11 ounces each) mandarin oranges, drained and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2 tablespoons finely chopped red bell pepper
1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro
1/2 teaspoon McCormick® Perfect Pinch® Salt Free Southwest Sweet 'n Smoky Seasoning

For the Salmon:  mix juice, oil and 1 tablespoon each Seasoning and sugar in small bowl. 
Place salmon in large resealable plastic bag or glass dish. Add marinade; turn to coat well. Refrigerate 30 minutes or longer for extra flavor. 

Meanwhile, for the Salsa, mix all ingredients in medium bowl until well blended. Cover. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Preheat oven to 400°F. Mix remaining 1 tablespoon each Seasoning and sugar in small bowl. Remove salmon from marinade. Discard any remaining marinade. Rub salmon evenly with seasoning mixture.

Bake 10 to 15 minutes or until fish flakes easily with a fork. Serve with Orange Salsa.

To Grill Salmon instead of bake: Marinate and season salmon as directed. Grill over medium-high heat 6 to 8 minutes per side or until fish flakes easily with a fork.

Taco Spaghetti Pie

Haven't tried this one yet but I love Mexican - I love pasta - what could go wrong??

Taco Spaghetti Pie

nonstick cooking spray
1 lb. ground beef
kosher salt
Black pepper
2 tsp. ground cumin
2 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. dried oregano
2 c. crushed tomatoes
1 lb. Cooked spaghetti
24 oz. shredded Mexican cheese mix
1/2 c. Sour cream, for serving
1/4 c. chopped fresh cilantro
2 scallions, chopped

Begin cooking pasta to just barely al dente.
Brown ground beef.  Drain off fat.
Season with salt and pepper, cumin. chili powder. oregano.
Stir in tomatoes.
Spray baking dish with cooking spray.
Stir half of meat sauce into spaghetti and arrange in baking dish to form "crust".
Sprinkle half of cheese over crust.
Top with remainder of sauce and remaining cheese.
Bake in 350° oven for 10-15 minutes to melt cheese - watch so cheese doesn't begin to brown.
Remove from oven and top with rosettes of sour cream, sprinkled with cilantro and scallions.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Fresh Tomato and Ricotta Tart

This looks so yummy - perfect for a warm night!

Fresh Tomato and Ricotta Tart

from "O&O Eats" blog:

Ingredients:For the crust: (or buy a crust at the store!)
1 & 1/2 cups (188 grams) all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
6 tbsp unsalted butter, cubed, very cold
4 tbsp vegetable shortening, very cold
3 to 4 tbsp ice water, plus more as needed

4 oz (1/2 cup) fresh ricotta
4 oz (1/2 cup) soft goat cheese, such as chèvre
2 to 3 scallions, thinly sliced
1 & 1/2 lbs tomatoes, sliced 1/4 inch thick
salt to taste
freshly ground black pepper
olive oil to finish
basil for garnish

Make the dough by placing flour, salt, and sugar in a medium mixing bowl. Whisk to combine. Add the butter and shortening. Using a pastry blender, cut the fats into the flour until they are the size of small peas (the more visible pieces of fat the better!). Add ice water and mix lightly with a spoon or spatula until it starts coming together. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured counter and knead a few times with your hands then form it into a ball. Wrap the dough tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for a minimum of 1 hour and up to 1 day.

When ready to bake, turn the oven to 350 degrees F. On a well floured counter, roll the dough out until it can fit a 10 to 11 inch tart pan. Gently transfer dough to the pan and press it in. Trim off any excess then poke some small holes evenly along the bottom using a fork. Line the dough with a sheet of parchment paper then fill it with pie weights (or uncooked beans/rice). Transfer to the oven and bake for 20 minutes. Take the crust out of the oven, then remove the weights and parchment paper. Return the crust to the oven for another 15 to 20 minutes until the edges are a rich gold and the center is beginning to brown.

When the crust has cooled to room temperature, carefully remove it from the pan. Mix the ricotta, goat cheese, and scallions together until smooth. Spread the filling on the bottom of the crust. Layer the sliced tomatoes on top. Salt and pepper the tart to taste, then add a drizzle of olive oil. Garnish with fresh basil. Enjoy immediately.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Pizza Mac and Cheese

Need to try this - bringing together two of my favorites!!!

Pizza Mac and Cheese

1 375g box of macaroni (or other short pasta) -- 4-5 cups
2 cups chicken broth
2.5 cups milk
1½ tsp salt
½ tsp garlic powder
½ tsp oregano
3 cups cheese, divided
1½ cups pizza sauce
10-15 slices pepperoni

Preheat oven to 400 F.

In an oven-safe dutch oven or pot, bring pasta, broth, milk, salt, garlic and oregano to a boil and reduce to a simmer over medium heat. 

Cook and stir for 10-12 minutes until al dente. 

Stir in 1½ cups cheese.

Top with pizza sauce, remaining cheese and pepperoni and bake for 10 minutes until hot. Broil for 1-2 minutes until pepperoni starts to crisp up on the edges and cheese starts to brown.


I'm thinking mild cheddar IN the sauce and a cheddar/mozza/parm mix on top....

Atlantic Beach Pie

Atlantic Beach Pie  (North Carolina)

Makes 1 pie

For the crust:
1 1/2sleeves of saltine crackers (about 6 ounces or 60 crackers)
1/2cup softened unsalted butter
3tablespoons sugar

For the filling:
One14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
4egg yolks
1/2cup lemon or lime juice or a mix of the two
Fresh whipped cream, for garnish
Coarse sea salt, for garnish
Preheat oven to 350° F.

Crush the crackers finely. You can use a food processor or your hands. 

Add the sugar, then knead in the butter until the crumbs hold together like dough. 

Press into an 8-inch pie pan. Chill for 15 minutes, then bake for 18 minutes or until the crust is golden brown.

While the crust is cooling, beat the egg yolks into the milk, then beat in the citrus juice. It is important to completely combine these ingredients. 

Pour into the shell and bake for 16 minutes until the filling has set. 

Chill THOROUGHLY.  The pie needs to be completely cold to be sliced. Serve with fresh whipped cream and a sprinkling of sea salt.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Summer Corn Chowder

Use up all that leftover corn on the cob!!

Summer Corn Chowder

(or winter.... corn chowder is always good!!  Perfect lunch when served with a fresh tomato sammie!!)

8 ears fresh sweet yellow corn, husked and silks removed and kernels cut from cob
3 Tbsp butter
5 slices bacon, cut into 1/4 to 1/2-inch pieces
1 medium yellow onion chopped (1 1/2 cups)
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 clove garlic, minced
5 cups water
1 lb Yukon Gold potatoes, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1 bay leaf
1 cup half and half
1 Tbsp honey
2 – 3 Tbsp chopped fresh chives
Shredded cheddar cheese, for serving (optional)


Melt butter in a large pot over medium heat. 

Add the onion and bacon and cook until onion has softened and just starting to brown around edges, about 8 – 10 minutes.  (Don't let it burn - just carmelize the onions).

Drain out bacon grease, leaving about 2T in the pot.

Add in the flour and garlic and cook 1 1/2 minutes, stirring.

Whisk in in 5 cups water, added a cup at a time. 

Bring mixture to a boil, stirring constantly, then stir in corn kernels and potatoes. 

Add in thyme and bay leaf and season with salt and pepper to taste. 

Bring back to a light boil, then reduce heat to medium-low and allow to simmer, stirring occasionally, until potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes.

Remove bay leaf (always remove the bay leaf!!!  Sharp edges - we don't want to kill anyone!) 

Transfer half of the chowder to a blender and blend until smooth. 

Pour the mixture back into the pot then stir in half and half and honey. 

Sprinkle each serving with chives and optional cheddar.  You can also sprinkle a little extra crisp bacon pieces (don't use fake - use the real stuff).  I like to garnish with a purple chive flower if I have any in my herb garden.

Friendship Crown

Friendship Crown

This looks like a REALLY amazing appetizer to serve at your next gathering.  
I can't wait to try this with my crafting club!!!!

Michelle Mitchell THANK YOU!!!

puff pastry sheet (1)
3 tomatoes
1 zucchini
feta cheese
mozzarella balls
sliced olives

Slice 3 tomatoes and 1 zucchini

Unroll a sheet of puff pastry and place a small bowl in the center

Spread pesto in a ring on the pastry, leaving a small edge of pastry free

Arrange the tomatoes and zucchini on top of the pesto

Top with feta cheese, small balls of mozzarella and a sprinkling of oregano

Remove the bowl and divide the dough that was under the bowl into eighths

Roll over that free edge of the pastry on top of the veggies

Fold over those "eighths" on top of the ring

Brush with beaten egg wash

Place a black olive slice on each section of folded over pastry

Bake at 180C (350F) for 20 min

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Chinese Chicken Salad

I remember when this was about all we'd eat in the teachers' room for lunch - every day - variations on Chinese Chicken Salad.  Thought it was time to have another go at it!

Chinese Chicken Salad

For the chicken:2quarts water
1/2tablespoon sea salt
1star anise
1tablespoon whole black peppercorn
1head garlic, sliced in half
One 1-inch piece garlic, crushed with the side of a knife
A few sprigs cilantro
1scallion, cut into 3 to 4 pieces
2large chicken breasts (about 1 pound)

For the salad and dressing:1napa cabbage
1medium carrot, cut into matchstick-size slivers on a mandoline
1cup mung bean sprouts
1cucumber, peeled, cored, and cut into 1/2-inch moons
2scallions, both the white and green parts, cut thin on the bias
1/3cup matchstick-sized slivered radishes
4tablespoons toasted sesame oil
2tablespoons freshly-squeezed lime juice
1tablespoon dark soy sauce
1/2cup whole cilantro leaves
1/2cup whole mint leaves (optional)
1/2cup whole Thai basil leaves (optional)
1/4cup toasted sesame seeds
1/4cup crispy fried shallots (optional)

Add everything for the chicken EXCEPT the chicken to the water, add the salt and bring up to a boil. 

Drop the chicken breasts in, stir, and let just come back up to a simmer. 

Turn off the heat, cover, and let sit, covered in the pot at room temperature, for 20 minutes. 

After 20 minutes, pull the chicken out and set aside to cool.

Meanwhile, shred the napa cabbage  

Toss with the carrots, sprouts, cucumbers, scallions, and radishes. 

Whisk the dressing ingredients—sesame oil, lime juice, and dark soy sauce—together and pour over the vegetables.

Using your hands, shred the cooled chicken and add to the salad. 

When you are ready to serve it, add in the herb leaves and the sesame seeds and toss together. 

Serve garnished with the crispy fried shallots or Chinese crispy noodles

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Slow Cooker Pasta y Fagioli

I haven't tried this one yet - but it looks good.  Love pasta "fazhool" - always on the lookout for recipes to make it - I must have been Italian in a previous life!!

Slow Cooker Pasta y Fagioli

2 lbs. of ground beef
1 onion, chopped
3 carrots, chopped
4 stalks of celery, chopped
2 (28 ounce) cans diced tomato’s, undrained
1 (16 ounce) can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 (16 ounce) can white kidney beans, drained and rinsed
3 (10 ounce) cans of beef stock
3 tsp. oregano
2 tsp. pepper
5 tsp. parsley
1 tsp. tabasco sauce (optional)
1 (20 ounce) jar spaghetti sauce
8 ounces of pasta (we use elbow pasta …but you can use whatever pasta you care to use)

Grated/shredded parm

Brown the beef and drain the fat……then put into crock pot with all other ingredients except the pasta. Cook on low for 7-8 hours or on High for 4-5 hours. Add the pasta 30 minutes before eating.

If you're going to have leftovers (like me - single person - always leftovers!!!) DON'T put the pasta in the soup - it will continue to soften in the frig and be mushy and disgusting the next day.  Cook it separately.  Toss with a tiny amount of EVOO to keep it from sticking and store it separately.  I serve mine by putting pasta in the soup bowl, topping with the soup, then stir around to let the soup coat the pasta.  And I HAVE to top it with some cheese.  

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Classic Beef Bourguignon

This is very similar to my mom's recipe, but not as labor intensive!!  One trick she taught me was to cover my Dutch oven with wax paper before putting the lid on and popping it into the oven.  The wax paper creates a "seal" that keeps all those lovely juices in the oven - almost like a pressure cooker without the pressure.   Be super-careful, though,  removing the pan from the over and the lid from the pan - there is a build-up of above-boiling liquid under that wax paper.  Wear long mitts and keep your face away from the pan.  If you tear a little piece away from the pan - there is a live steam rush.  I take a long (LONG!) knife and pierce the paper in a few places after I've carefully removed the lid and then WAIT to peel off the paper from the hot pan. 

You can thicken the gravy by whisking in a roux of flour cooked in butter or a slurry paste of flour and water, if necessary, and simmering for a few minutes on top of the stove.

Classic Beef Bourguignon


3 pounds stew beef, cubed
1 pound farfalle bow-tie pasta
2-3 cups beef stock
3 cups red wine (cabernet)
5 carrots, chopped
4 slices bacon, cut into strips
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 onions, finely chopped
2 bay leaves
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon rosemary
1/2 teaspoon cloves
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 450 F.
Take your cubed beef and pat them dry with paper towels to remove excess moisture.
Heat olive oil in a large Dutch oven over medium heat and render bacon stripsuntil browned and crispy. Remove to a bowl, leaving bacon fat in the pot.
Turn heat up to medium-high and, in batches, brown cubed beef, adding more olive oil if necessary. Once browned, transfer to bowl with baconand set aside.
Add onions and carrots, seasoned with salt and pepper, and sauté until softened and tender. 6-8 minutes.
Return beef (and bacon, optional)to the vegetables and sprinkle in flour. Toss to coat everything and transfer Dutch oven to the oven for 4 minutes, uncovered.
Toss everything again and roast for another 4 minutes.
Stir tomato paste into beef and veggies and cook for 3-5 minutes.
Pour in liquids until meat is just submerged, then add garlic, bay leaves, thyme, rosemary and cloves, and let simmer.
Cover and place in oven for 3 hours. Check at 2 hours to see how much liquid is left, adding more stock if meat is no longer covered.
Note: sauce should be reduced and thickened, and meat should be falling apart.
Once meat is tender, transfer Dutch oven back to stove and keep on low heat until ready to serve.
Taste and adjust seasoning, if necessary.
Bring a large pot of salted water to boil and cook farfalle according to packaging directions, or until al dente.
Serve beef bourguignon hot, on top of pasta, pouring extra sauce over as desired.

Recipe adapted from I Love Pasta