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Friday, March 21, 2014

Roasted Brussel Sprouts and Sausage over pasta

So here's a dinner that literally took 30 minutes to make, and was so delicious and light.  All you need is the following:
1/2 package of your favorite pasta
3 sweet Italian sausages
1 bag of brussel sprouts
1 shallot, chopped
2 slices of Panchetta diced (or bacon - not everyone
 keeps Panchetta in their fridge!)
Parmesan cheese
crushed red pepper
salt and pepper to taste
French's Fried Onions (to sprinkle on top)
   First, preheat your oven to 400 degrees.  Cook the Panchetta first. 
While it is sizzling away, I clean and cut the brussel sprouts into fourths.  Place in a roasting pan and toss with some olive oil, a little crushed red pepper, and salt and pepper.
Next, remove the casings from the sausages and crumble on top of the brussel sprouts.
Place in your oven and roast for about 10 minutes.  Stir everything and roast for another 10 minutes.  That's it.  While this is roasting, cook your pasta and drain.
Remove from the oven and sprinkle with shredded Parmesan cheese. 
Spoon over your pasta and add the French's onions. 



Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Stuffed Chicken Thighs Wrapped in Bacon

I know, here we go again.  She's rolling and stuffing something else now!  I guess that is my signature style, but each time I try something new, it comes out delicious, so let me explain what I tried this time...

My stuffing consisted of the following:

1 small Vidalia onion, chopped
3 cloves of garlic, chopped
fresh parsley, chopped
a handful of pine nuts
1/3 cup seasoned breadcrumbs
1/3 cup Parmesan cheese
a handful of Craisins
3-4 mushrooms
Salt and Pepper to taste

Begin by cooking the onions in a little olive oil.  When they become translucent, add the chopped garlic and cook for another 5 minutes.  Turn the heat down and throw in the mushrooms, Craisins and parsley.  Once everything has had a chance to heat through, turn off the heat and add the breadcrumbs and cheese.  That's all there is to it.  Set this aside and get the chicken thighs ready to stuff.

Lay out each thigh and using a meat mallet, gently try to flatten as much as you can.  Sprinkle with a little salt and pepper. 

Next place a slice of ham and muenster cheese on top.

Lastly, a spoonful of the delicious stuffing...

Roll them up, pressing any loose stuffing back into each end as you roll.  I had thought about cooking these in my cupcake pan to keep them rolled up, but I noticed I had bacon in the fridge and thought why not wrap these up with that.  Doesn't everything taste better when it has bacon on it?  So that's what I did...

I baked these in a 400 degree oven for about 20-30 minutes.  Then turned on the broiler just to crisp up the bacon.

Why were these so good?  It had to have been the combination of the ham, melted cheese and the seasonings in the stuffing....oh, and of course the bacon.  Needless to say, there were no left overs last night!


Sunday, March 16, 2014

Crispy Eggplant Dippers

This is an appetizer that I created , and every time I make this, it gets rave reviews.  So of course I wanted to share it with you.  I don't quite know what to call it, but for now, crispy eggplant will suffice.

So this is very easy to make, it's just a little time consuming.  Here is a list of what you will need:

Salt and Pepper
Garlic Powder
Onion Powder
Parmesan Cheese
Canola oil
your favorite marinara sauce

The measurements are purely for those of you who need to measure things....I used approximately 3 cups of flour, about 1 ½ cups of Parmesan cheese, maybe a teaspoon each of onion and garlic powders, and salt and pepper to taste.   I think about 3 cups of water did it as far as the consistency is concerned.  Definitely taste the batter in case you need to make any adjustments.

I like to make my batter first, because once you peel and slice the eggplant, it starts to turn a little bit brown (which isn't a problem, I just like to cook it as soon as possible).   You want the batter to be the consistency of pancake batter, thick enough to cling to the eggplant.

I was making enough for 6 people, so I used two eggplant.  Peel them first, slice each one lengthwise and cut into ¼" slices.

Use a non-stick pan if you have one, and pour in about ¼" of oil.   Heat the oil over medium high heat.  Dip each slice of eggplant into the batter and cook each side until it is golden brown.  Place the cooked pieces on a rack to cool.

 That is all there is to it... Once you are finished cooking, arrange the slices on a platter and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.  Pour your marinara sauce into a separate bowl for dipping, and voila!

Thursday, March 13, 2014

A perfect roasted chicken dinner.....

I always try to strive to cook chicken so that it comes out moist and tender, you know, like the rotisserie chickens you get at the store?  Well, after doing a little research and a little trial and error, I found a really easy technique to share with you.  The only ingredients you need are:

a roasting chicken (2-3 lbs)
cooking twine
a roasting pan with a rack

At first I thought I would miss the garlic, rosemary, and thyme flavors that I usually add, but having it this way was just as delicious.  Make sure to pre-heat your oven to 450 degrees.

There are a few things to do to get the chicken ready to go in the oven.  The first is to completely dry it, inside and out.  The idea is that if there is any extra moisture, it will create steam when cooking and the skin will not crisp up.  The meat will also come out drier. (extra moisture = dry meat?  yes!)

Once the bird is dry, season the cavity with a generous amount of kosher salt and pepper.  Now do the same to the outside, enough so that you can see the crystals of salt .  The last step is to "truss" the chicken.  I have to admit, I usually "tie the chicken up" so I had to look up how to truss!  It sounds so much more professional!  Check out this link for easy-to-follow instructions:

 Having the chicken sit on a rack during cooking is important because it allows the heat to completely circulate around the bird.  Pop into the oven for approximately 50 minutes.  That's all, 50-60 minutes!  Insert a meat thermometer down between the leg and the breast to make sure the temp is at 165. 

As for my sides?  I decided to stuff some artichokes (I have attached a link for my recipe)  Each time I make the stuffing, it comes out a little bit different...this time I added some creamed spinach I had in the fridge.  The added flavors were delicious!


I also felt like some crunchy, salty potato cookies, so I baked 5 or 6 potatoes in the other oven while the chicken was roasting away.  To see the recipe, click on "potato cookies."

And last but not least, what dinner wouldn't be complete without some roasted broccoli?    Clean, cut and drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle generously with salt and pepper.  You need a hot oven for this, about 400 degrees, but watch out you don't let the broccoli get too brown... Should take about 10 minutes, stirring every so often. When done, I add some grated lemon zest and Parmesan cheese.

So there you have it.  This was truly my "comfort" dinner, with all of my favorites.  It was a lot of food, but I had to have a little of everything!

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Rolled Stuffed Salmon Dinner with Roasted Green Beans

If you have been following me for a while, you know how much I love to stuff and roll things.....chicken, pork tenderloin, pasta.  Well, I had this huge salmon steak that I got at Costco  and normally I make a topping for it and under the broiler it goes.   This time, I wondered how it would work if I tried to stuff and roll individual salmon "steaks."   I hope you will try this one and let me know what you think.

Here is the list of ingredients you will need:

Pepperidge Farm stuffing
Fresh Parsley
feta cheese
salt and pepper

When making any stuffing, remember you don't have to be exact on measurements.  It's more about how it looks and tastes that counts!  Begin by sautéing 2 ribs of celery, 3-4 cloves of garlic and half of a vidalia onion that have been chopped in a little olive oil.  When they are tender, turn off the heat and add in about 2 tbs. of fresh chopped parsley, and about 2 handfuls of spinach leaves, roughly chopped.


Set aside and prepare about 2 cups of Pepperidge Farm Stuffing, following the package directions.

Once that is done, fold in the onion mixture, along with about a cup of feta cheese.  Other than adding salt and pepper to taste, your stuffing is done.  

Now for getting the salmon ready to stuff.  Cut the salmon steak into 6 even pieces.  You will need to butterfly the thick part of the salmon steaks, so that they will cook evenly.

Once you have the salmon nice and flat, spoon some stuffing on the fish and roll up.  I like to use my cupcake pan to cook them in.  It keeps everything all together.  When you have them all done, brush the tops with olive oil and bake at 400 for about 15 minutes.  Keep an eye on them so that you don't over cook the salmon.  It is better to take them out a minute or two early, cover with foil, and let them finish cooking as they set.

These looked so delicious, and are simple to remove from the pan.  

The last step for me was to make a sauce to drizzle on top.  I wanted a white sauce that was a little lemony, so I started out by making a small batch of white sauce (2 tbs butter, 2 tbs of flour, create a paste and let cook over medium heat for 5 minutes, add either milk or chicken broth until you get the consistency you like).  At this point, I decide to add about 2 tbs of capers and a tablespoon of lemon juice.  Salt and pepper to taste and about a tsp of dill.

Last but not least is the veggie.  In a 400 degree oven, roast some green beans that are tossed with olive oil and some salt and pepper.  They should take about 15 minutes, giving them a toss about half way through.  Remove from the oven and sprinkle with some shredded Parmesan cheese and French's Fried Onions.

Dinner is served!

Monday, March 3, 2014

Chicken Soup flavored with GInger and Coconut Milk


I love making chicken soup, but as you all know, there is basically one way to do it...celery, carrots, onion, chicken broth, chicken, rice or noodles, and you're done.   Me?  I can't be done there.  I wanted to bring in some other flavors.  By using some fresh ginger, coconut milk, and adding diced sweet potatoes, I think I came up with a keeper!  I hope you think so too...


I started out by cooking about two handfuls of small carrots, 2 ribs of celery, and a small sweet onion, all roughly chopped, with a little olive oil.  After about 10 minutes, add about ½ a box of chicken broth and simmer until the veggies are really tender.  Using your hand blender, puree this mixture.  Add the rest of the chicken broth.  Now it's time to add the ingredients for my "chicken soup!

Cut up more carrots, celery, and onion, add 2 cups of each,  2 sweet potatoes that are peeled and diced, along with about 2 tbs of fresh chopped ginger and garlic and cook in the newly created soup base.

Throw in a nice big sprig of fresh thyme and simmer until the veggies are tender.  At this point, add in the chopped kale, because it doesn't need that long to cook.

You're probably asking yourself where the chicken is at this point!  Well, here is where I cheat just a little, but honesty?  It is the best "cheat" there is.  Think about it.  How many times have you had chicken soup, and the chicken is overcooked, tough, and pretty much lacking flavor?  My solution?  Get a rotisserie chicken from the store.  Pull off all of the meat and shred.  Add all this moist, flavorful chicken just before you serve your soup.  Trust me.  The chicken in this soup will be the star!

Add a can of coconut milk, stirring until it has dissolved.  Also add a couple of sprinkles of crushed red pepper for a little heat.   Taste to see if it needs any more salt. Oh, and remove the sprig of thyme.   At this point you can be all done!  Because I blended the original carrot, celery and onion mixture, the soup comes out nice and thick.  If you like your soup on the thinner side, simply add more chicken broth.

What's nice about this soup is there is no dairy, so if anyone is lactose intolerant, this is a wonderful meal!