Monday, December 9, 2013

Cheese Stuffed Pasta Shells with Meat Sauce

What can I say?  I love cooking Italian food.  The last time I had stuffed shells was at Buca Di Beppo for my 29th birthday party.  I think that was a lesson learned not to ever plan a birthday party or have a birthday other than the big ones.  I think once you celebrate the big 21 there's no need to celebrate and go all out with friends until the big 30.  Maybe 25 can be an exception.  My 25th was an amazing party with friends and family. My dad volunteered to host it and there ended up being a kid's jumper, a cotton candy  machine, and karaoke.  The latter was inevitable.  My dad will come up with any excuse to whip out the good ole karaoke machine.

These shells are topped with my basic meat sauce.  See the older post for the recipe.  I used whatever cheeses I had in the fridge and it came out perfect!


Serves 4 - yields about 20 shells

Ingredients
1 box of jumbo shells (you will only use half, but double the recipe if you want more shells)
Basic tomato meat sauce
1 cup of Ricotta Cheese
1 cup of Parmesan Cheese divided
1 cup of Mozarella cheese divided
4 tablespoons of chopped parsley leaves (I use about half a bunch)
Salt and Pepper to taste
1 egg

Directions:

  1.  Prepare the meat sauce and preheat the oven to 350F
  2. Boil half of the jumbo shells in the box according to package directions
  3. In a medium sized mixing bowl, mix together the egg,  Ricotta cheese, parsley,1/2 of Parmesan, and 1/2 of the Mozarella Cheese.  Add about 1 teaspoon of salt and 1 teaspoon of pepper.  
  4. Stuff each shell with the cheese mixture
  5. Spoon a layer of meat sauce to the bottom of a 9x11 baking dish.  Place stuffed shells seam side down and cover with the rest of the meat sauce.  Sprinkle remaining Parmesan cheese and bake in middle rack for 25 minutes.  Sprinkle remainder of Mozarella cheese and bake for another 5 minutes or until cheese is melted.  


Cinnamon Sugar Doughnut Holes

Courtesy of girlversusdough on Tablespoon.com

I wanted some doughnut holes similar to the ones I had in Chicago at Lou Mitchell's.  Anytime you are in Chicago, you HAVE to go to Lou Mitchell's for breakfast.  Although the line maybe long, it is totally worth the wait.  They also have a girl that has a fresh basket of homemade doughnut holes to give to people in line while you wait.  Amazing!  This recipe was the first one that popped up on my Google search.  Super easy to make and you probably have all the ingredients in your cupboard.  

With this recipe I was able to make about 15 holes. The best thing about this recipe is the crunchiness of the outside and the fluffy goodness on the inside.  If you have kids, they will absolutely devour these.  Oh yeah, and husbands too.  So double the recipe.

Ingredients


1 1/4 
cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/3 
cup sugar
tsp baking powder
1/2 
tsp nutmeg
1/2 
tsp salt
egg
1/2 
cup milk
tbsp melted butter
vegetable 
oil
1/4 
cup sugar (for the topping) (optional)
tbsp cinnamon (for the topping) (optional)
1/2 
cup confectioners sugar (for the topping) (optional)

Directions:

  • In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, nutmeg and salt. Add in milk, egg, and melted butter, and mix until well combined.
  • Fill a large skillet or medium pot with vegetable oil, about 2 inches deep. Using a fry thermometer, heat oil to about 375 degrees F. Make sure it stays around that temperature each time you fry the dough.
  • Place cinnamon-sugar (mixed together) and confectioners sugar toppings in two separate small bowls. Set out several stacked paper towels next to the stove for drying the doughnut holes, along with a cooling rack with parchment paper underneath.
  • When oil is ready, place about 5-6 teaspoonfuls of dough at a time in the oil and fry on each side for about 1 minute (2 minutes total). Remove from the oil and place on paper towel to soak up excess oil. Then, using a fork, roll doughnut in either the confectioners sugar or cinnamon-sugar mixture. Then place on cooling rack to cool slightly before serving warm

Cheesecake Factory Copycat Crusted Chicken Romano

I absolutely love this dish at Cheesecake Factory.  Unfortunately, now that I know how to make it, I rarely order it.  My go to order at CF is the Chicken Farfallle Pasta.  I have that recipe somewhere too.  I'll have to make it again so I can put down on paper the amount of seasoning and ingredients I use. The Crusted Chicken Romano recipe is so easy!

Serves 4-6

Ingredients:
3 boneless skinless chicken breasts
1/2 stick of butter
1 cup of Romano Cheese
4 tablespoons of heavy cream
Cooked spaghetti noodles
1 lemon
1 cup of bread crumbs (homemade in a food processor or store bought)
2 eggs
Flour
Salt and Pepper
1 16 oz can of tomato sauce
Parmesan cheese to top pasta

Directions

  1. Set up 2 shallow dishes with the following in each:  Scrabled eggs for dip, bread crumbs and Romano cheese mixed
  2. Slice the chicken breasts half wise to make it into two thin pieces.  Use a meat pounder (flat side) to flatten chicken to about 1/4 inch.  Season chicken on both sides with salt and pepper
  3. Coat the chicken with flour.  (I usually just put the flour in a large ziplock bag and give it a good shake to coat all chicken).  
  4. Coat each chicken piece with egg, then cover with the bread crumb mixture
  5. Heat a large skillet over medium high heat and add about 1 tablespoon of butter to coat skillet.  Add chicken pieces to skillet and cook about 5 min on each side or until it is lightly golden brown.  Juice a bit of lemon on each side of the chicken.  
  6. Heat up tomato sauce in a small saucepan.  Add in cream until it reaches an orange color.  
  7. Serve chicken with a side of spaghetti with sauce and sprinkle Parmesan cheese over the pasta.  

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Perfectly Pleasing Potato Salad

I've never made potato salad prior to this first time at my mother in law's 65th birthday party.  I always just had to endure my family member's bland version, which I had no problem devouring after raining down a good amount of salt.  You see, I feel that the perfect potato salad is not too creamy, holds its shape, and does not run or seep into the rest of the food on your plate.  I am a picky eater in the sense that my food cannot touch.  I do not like my mashed potatoes or gravy making contact with my fried chicken.  It gives me some kind of anxiety like my food will be tainted if they mesh together, messing up the proportions of flavor.  My husband thinks I'm crazy sometimes.  I always have to proportion my bites, my meat to rice ratio, french fries to ketchup ratio, or how many bites I take to chew on something.  I always ask for my gravy on the side, or the dressing on the side.  Let me decide how much and to what degree I want to mix my food.  Now on to the potato salad.  It was such a hit paired alongside some 15 hour smoked brisket.  Several people asked for the recipe including the most helpful cake baking partner in crime Mrs. Nina Edmison.  I made the mistake of making this recipe for Thanksgiving dinner.  No one wants a cold potato salad when every other dish is hot.  So, I let my pride take over my better judgement and I had made enough potato salad to feed about 20 people.  It was a simple family dinner; about 8 of us.  Cold weather = no potato salad.

Feeds about 10 people

Ingredients:
5 pounds of potatoes (I have used russet, golden, and red) peeled and quartered
1/2 red onion chopped small
4 stalks of celery chopped
Salt and pepper
4 tablespoons of mustard (Use your fave mustard)
1 cup of mayo
Dill Weed spice
Celery salt
1/4 cup of buttermilk


Directions:

  1. Boil the potatoes in a large pot of water with 1 teaspoon salt until barely tender (about 15 min)  I keep checking using a fork to poke through
  2. Mix together the buttermilk, mayo, mustard, 2 teaspoon of salt, 1 teaspoon of pepper.  
  3. Remove potatoes and let cool.  Cut into small cubes and put in a large mixing bowl. Pour in buttermilk mixture in batches.  You don't want it to be too creamy so just use as much as you want.  
  4. Add in celery and red onions.  Stir until evenly  mixed.  Give your dill weed a generous number of shakes.  I would guess 1 tablespoon; just enough to coat evenly.  Sprinkle about 1 teaspoon of celery salt.  SEASON TO TASTE! 


Focaccia and Eggs Breakfast

My version of Empire Cafe's Focaccia and Eggs.  Totally the same thing!
Feeds 4

Ingredients:
Sliced Focaccia or Ciabiatta Bread (4)
6 Scrambled Eggs
8 slices of thick bacon, cut into pieces
6 fresh basil leaves chopped
2 tablespoons of tomato sauce
2 Roma tomatoes diced
Shredded Mozzarella cheese for topping

Directions:

  1. Toast the bread slices in the oven at 200F for about 5-7 min
  2. Spread a thin layer of tomato sauce over each slice of bread
  3. Mix the eggs and bacon pieces and top bread with it
  4. Top each slice with some tomatoes, basil, and mozzarella
I wish I had a picture but I will make this soon and post it.  Trust me, I feel as I have uncovered Empire Cafe's recipe and it is exactly the same.  


Better than Cracker Barrel Chicken and Dumplings

So this weekend we were trapped within the confines of our apartment with nowhere to go because of the icy road conditions.  The 27 degree temperature mixed with rain and sleet caused a school closing on Friday.  I was unaware that I would be stuck at home for the entire weekend due to unfavorable and unsafe road conditions.  In addition to that, I would have to tend to a sick husband.  I attempted to swing by the grocery store late Friday morning but the entire meat section was almost obsolete.  I picked up a few items to get me through the long weekend which included: Nyquil, red nail polish for the holiday season, a bag of chips, a gallon of Blue Bell ice cream, and some staples for baking.  With the freezing temperatures outside, I wanted to cook something hot like chili or pho.  Although I would have loved to spend my entire morning prepping and cooking pho, I did not have the necessary ingredients.  Then it dawned on me:  Chicken and dumplings.  I had made this before a few years ago using a Paula Dean recipe but it failed to evoke a feeling of home style cooking.  Although my friends enjoyed it and raved about it, I knew I could do better.  So then it brings me to this amazing recipe I attempted on a cold winter's snow day.  If you are the type to follow a recipe to the T and need exact amounts, please be forewarned that this recipe calls for a cook that can season to taste and adjust based on personal preference.

Ingredients:

5 carrots peeled and chopped
4 stalks of celery chopped 
2 onions chopped
2 cloves of garlic minced
2 tablespoons of fresh thyme or 2 teaspoons of dried thyme
1 tablespoon of olive oil
2 pounds of bone in chicken - I like to use breasts but it is up to you
Kosher salt and black pepper
2 bay leaves
1/2 stick of butter

For the dumplings:
2 1/2 cups of all purpose flour
1 tablespoon of baking powder
3/4 cup of buttermilk
2 tablespoons of chopped parsley leaves
3/4 cup of butter melted
1/2 teaspoon of baking soda

Directions:

  1. Heat a large pot over medium high heat and add oil.  Season the chicken with salt and pepper both sides.  Brown the chicken for 4-6 min each side.  (you will not cook through b/c you will add it to the stock)  Set chicken aside on a plate
  2. Add the garlic, carrots, celery, onions, thyme to the pot with drippings.  Stir for about 7 minutes until the veggies are soft.  
  3. Add chicken, bay leaves and 10 cups of water.  Bring to a simmer and cook for about 30 minutes.  Discard the bay leaves and take the chicken out.  Shred the chicken off the bone and return the chicken to the pot, discarding the bones.  
  4. Whisk together 1/2 cup of the flour, 2 cups of your broth, and 1/4 teaspoon of salt and 1/4 teaspoon of pepper in a small bowl.  Slowly add it to the pot and stir.  This will make the soup a little thicker.  Continue simmering.  At this point, you should add salt to taste.  I probably ended up adding about an additional tablespoon of salt.  Be careful as you don't want to over salt!  I like mine really thick so if you aren't satisfied with the consistency of the soup, read the next step.  Otherwise, skip it and continue to making the dumplings.
    • For thicker soup:  Melt 1/2 stick of butter in the microwave in a small bowl.  Stir in enough flour until it gets to a peanut butter consistency to make a roux.  Add to the soup and stir for about 5 min to thicken.  BEWARE:  slowly add the butter/flour mixture a bit at a time and wait.  It takes a while to thicken so you don't want to over thicken your soup.  Repeat for even thicker soup. If you end up with too thick of a soup, you can always add water and salt to even it out.  
  5. Make the dumplings.  Whisk together 2 cups of flour, baking powder, baking soda, and 1/4 teaspoon of salt and 1/4 teaspoon of pepper in a medium bowl.  Whisk in the melted butter, buttermilk, and parsley.  
  6. Reduce the heat to low and drop large spoonfuls of dumpling dough into broth. Try not to drop them in the same area or let some cook a little first before dropping more in.  You don't want them to stick together.  Cover the pot and let the dumplings cook for an additional 10 minutes so they firm up.  
I hope you enjoy this recipe!  It will definitely be a hit! 







Saturday, August 24, 2013

Creamy mushroom sauce

I use this sauce for pasta dishes or just to top over some rice or protein like chicken. Soooo delicious and easy!

Ingredients

1  8oz container of baby bella mushrooms sliced (or regular portabella)
About 1/4 cup of grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons butter
2-3 cloves garlic minced
Salt and Pepper to taste
~1/4 cup of heavy cream


  1. In a medium skillet on medium high heat, melt butter and saute garlic.  
  2. Add in mushrooms and stir continuously until soft.  About 5-10 minutes
  3. Slow stir in the cream until you reach a gravy like consistency.  The sauce will thicken after you add in the cheese.  You can always add more cream after adding the cheese to get the consistency you want.
  4. Add in Parmesan cheese and continue stirring.  
  5. Add a pinch of salt and pepper to taste.  (I usually don't add any  more salt b/c the cheese is enough)

Serve over pasta, chicken, or rice.  I have used this as a sauce with linguine and sauteed shrimp and garlic.  Delicious!  



Monday, July 15, 2013

Breaded Asian Pork


I love having a food processor and I love experimenting with new flavors I can add to my protein.  I found myself getting bored with the same old recipes involving chicken.  I wanted to branch out and experiment with a lot of different flavors by creating my own glazes, sauces, and rubs.  When I threw this dish together, it came out surprisingly delicious.  I hope you enjoy it!  Love having Kyle as my guinea pig.  I know not all of my recipes have pictures but I promise to upload them when I cook them again, which will be soon! There are some grocery items that you must always have on hand in your fridge and in your pantry. Here is a list of what I always have in my kitchen on top of staples such as sugar and flour:

Milk
Bread
Plain bread crumbs
rice
butter
EVOO
heavy cream
Green onions
White or yellow onions
Garlic
Tomato Sauces, Diced tomatoes, Tomato paste
Chicken Broth, Beef Broth
Chicken Stock
Corn Starch
Rice Wine Vinegar

Ingredients

2 lean thick cut pork chops boneless (about 1 inch thick)
1 cup of bread crumbs
1 tablespoon of Hoisin Sauce
2 tablespoon of soy sauce
2 teaspoon of rice wine vinegar
1/4 cup of green onions chopped


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  2. In a food processor, pulse together the green onions, vinegar, soy sauce, hoisin sauce until consistency is like a runny paste.  
  3. Brush all sides of the pork with the sauce and cover with bread crumbs
  4. In a large skillet, over medium high heat, brown the pork chops until the bread crumbs are a golden brown.
  5. Place the skillet in the oven and bake for 15 minutes
  6. Serve with ginger rice

Recipe for Ginger Rice

2 cups of steamed rice
2 tablespoons of minced ginger
1 carrot thinly sliced and julienned (short and thinly sliced)
1 tablespoon of white rice

  1. In a small skillet, melt the butter and add in the ginger and carrots.  Toss and heat for about 5 minutes
  2. Mix the ginger and carrots into your steamed white rice


Barbara's Meatloaf


When I think of meatloaf, I think of Kyle's mom.  She makes the best meatloaf there is.  I have made some of my own adjustments to the recipe, but it still has that taste which reminds me of home.  This is NOT the healthy version.  I have made a healthy version using either the leanest ground beef or ground turkey.  Either way, its up to you!  This recipe can feed about 4-6 people

Ingredients

2 pounds of ground beef or ground chuck (80/20)
2 teaspoons of black pepper (season to taste)
3 teaspoons of salt (season to taste)
2 eggs
1/2 cup of milk
5 slices of bread
3 tablespoon Ketchup
3 tablespoon worcestershire sauce
1 can of tomato sauce (if you can find the tomato sauce specific to meatloaf, get it!  Hunt's seasoned tomato sauce for Meatloaf is excellent)
1 small onion diced (about 1/2 cup)
1 green bell pepper diced (about 1/2 cup)
1 tablespoon of dark brown sugar
Loaf pan


  1. Preheat your oven to 350
  2. Make your breadcrumbs by placing the bread in a food processor and pulse until "sandy"
  3. In a large mixing bowl, combine the onions, bell pepper, bread crumbs, salt, pepper, eggs, ground beef, ketchup, milk, Worcestershire sauce, and half of the tomato sauce.   Mix well with your hands.  If you don't like to get dirty then you can use the KitchenAid.  
  4. Put your meat mixture in the loaf pan and place in the oven
  5. Meanwhile, take the last half of the tomato sauce and mix with brown sugar in a  small bowl
  6. Bake for 50 minutes, take the pan and drain excess fat/grease.  Top with the remainder of the tomato sauce mixture and return to oven.   Bake for another 10 minutes, let sit for a few minutes and serve!  


Herb Crusted Salmon for Two

Salmon is something that is easy to cook especially baked.  You can play around with flavors, try wrapping in foil, or just bake a simple salt and peppered filet in the oven for 15-20 minutes.

Ingredients:

2 salmon filets
3 slices of bread
2 teaspoons of oregano
1 teaspoon thyme
1/2 teaspoon of dried parsley or 5 sprigs of fresh parsley
2 tablespoons of Dijon Mustard
2 tablespoons of melted butter
1 tablespoon of butter
Large stove to oven skillet

Make the bread crumbs:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees
  2. In a food processor put in the bread and spices.  Pulse until all mixed.  Add in half of the melted butter and pulse.  Keep adding butter until you get a good consistency like wet sand.  
  3. Spread out the bread crumbs on a foil lined aluminum pan and toast in oven for about 3-5 minutes
  4. Take the bread crumbs out of the oven.  Salt and Pepper the filets and lightly brush each salmon filet with mustard.  Don't forget the sides too!  
  5. Heat up a large skillet on medium high heat and add ~ 1 tablespoon of butter.  Place in salmon filet and cook for about 2 minutes flesh side up.
  6. Remove from heat and flip salmon over.  Coat each filet generously with bread crumbs.  
  7. Place skillet in the oven and cook the salmon for about 10 minutes and enjoy!



Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Crawfish, Sausage, and Shrimp Etouffee

This is my great recipe for hosting a group of about 10 people.  So yummy!  I made it for a work pot luck and got the stamp of approval from a native Louisiannan!  One thing I find hard to communicate in writing down my recipes is the amount of spices to put in.  Like most people, I just season to taste.  I will try my best to estimate the amount of spices but I will do it on the low end to be safe.  Nothing will ruin a dish like over spicing.  You can modify this dish with whatever protein you want.  If you can't get the crawfish skip it.  I'm lucky enough to have a mom that buys crawfish by the pounds, peels, and freezes them.  Whenever I come home, she always fills up one of those styrofoam coolers for me full of shrimp, crawfish, meats, and soups.  Again, customize this based on what you like.  The most important thing you get right is the roux.  For one party, I made a separate pot of étouffée with just sausage for the non seafood eater(s).  In this case it was for one of my girlfriends.  What!  I can't imagine life without seafood!  How can you dislike something that tastes so good???  



Ingredients

1 pound of shrimp deveined
1 pound of crawfish tails
1 package of andouille sausage -sliced or chopped depending on your preference
1 small-medium onion diced
2 bell peppers diced
4-5 stalks of celery diced
3 cloves of garlic minced
1 1/2 stick of butter
1 14 oz can of diced tomatoes
1 32 oz container of chicken stock
2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 teaspoon oregano
2 teaspoons Louisiana hot sauce 
1 bay leaf
thyme
2 teaspoons each salt and pepper 
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
steamed rice for serving
1/2 cup of chopped green onions for garnish

1.  In a large dutch oven or pot, melt butter over medium heat.  Add in spoonfuls of flour until it gets to a peanut butter consistency
2.  Add in garlic, bell pepper, onion, and celery.  Stir continuously for about 5 minutes.
3.  Add in can of diced tomatoes and stir about 2 minutes
4.  Add in chicken stock and stir.  Add  in your spices.  Remember, start off with the amount described and adjust to taste.  I love it spicy so I add lots of hot sauce and cayenne pepper.  Again, be careful with the salt and don't be afraid to use the salt.  Add in shrimp and sausage and continue stirring until shrimp is cooked.  You want to add in your crawfish last since it is already cooked.  
5.  Serve over rice and top with green onions.   

*tip* if you want a thicker sauce you can melt some more butter in a small skillet and add flour to make more roux. Then, add into your pot. DO NOT try to add flour directly into the étouffée pot. You will get clumpy balls of flour in your etoufee! 


Linguine and Prawns in Pesto

I had a dish similar to this in Rome and it inspired me to make it at home.  I actually saved the restaurant's location on my iPhone maps.  I am hoping that when I go back to Rome, I will be able to find it again.  I know for sure it is on a small side street behind the Louis Vuitton store; and you know I will be stopping by there on the way!  I have to say it was the most beautiful LV store I've ever been in. They even served us expresso in Louis Vuitton shot glasses.  By the way, designer handbags are definitely cheaper there than in the U.S.  If you are planning on spending more than $500 it is worth the extra effort and paperwork.  At the store, you tell the cashier that you need to get the paperwork for the VAT.  You get a refund on a portion of the tax once you are the airport on your way home.  When we were departing from Rome, there was a booth inside after security where you get your  money back in cash.  Before you get in line at this booth, you need to go to the office to validate or stamp your paperwork on your purchases.  We heard that the lines could be long but we had no problems at all and it only took us about 20 minutes, so do allot time for that.  

Linguine and Prawns in Pesto Sauce

Ingredients

1 package of linguine pasta
1 6 oz container of Pesto sauce
1/2 pound of shrimp deveined and chop into chunks
Butter/margarine
1/4 cup of pecorino Romano cheese
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1/2 teaspoon of pepper
Parmesan cheese to top

1.  Boil pasta according to package directions to al dente, strain, and reserve 1/2 cup of pasta water (make sure you time it so that the pasta is still hot because you will mix everything together)
2.  In a small skillet, melt 1/2 tablespoon of butter and sauté shrimp until opaque; set aside
3.  Return drained pasta to pot and pour enough pasta sauce for pasta to have a "slippery" consistency
4.  Using some tongs, toss in pesto sauce, cheese, and shrimp
5.  Sprinkle some parmesan cheese and serve


Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Easy Meat Sauce

Meat Sauce

This is my go to meat sauce recipe for lasagna, baked ziti, and spaghetti.  I used to enjoy baked ziti at that little plae in the mall food cort, Sbarro's.  It was a meatless sauce and I remember getting it all of the time during my lunch breaks.  I actually had two jobs at the mall - both retail.  My first retail job was at Paul Harris, a women's clothing store managed by one of my high school friend's mom.  I hated it.  I hated it because I had some pretty snooty managers; one of them being a girl I went to high school with.  Don't even get me started on high school mean girls...The second mall job was at Abercrombie and Fitch.  Oh yes.  I was 22 years old and rather enjoyed spending all of my paychecks on new clothes.  It was a vicious cycle.  The great thing was I was a tiny little thing.  I actually fit into  a size 0.  In A&F sizes that was probably really a size 00.  It's been 10 years since and I have managed to move up only a few sizes.  Miraculously!  Every now and then I get the comment, "It will catch up with you when you get older"  or "It will catch up with you once you have kids".  Well, I've been hearing it since I was in high school and I'm 32 years old now.  I've proven the first comment wrong (somewhat) thus far so we will see about the 2nd comment about having babies.  Thank God for Asian mothers.  My mom lets me know how much of a cow I am if I even gain 2 pounds!  So back to the recipe...I try to use healthy ingredients as much as possible.  Don't want it to catch up with me!

Ingredients

About 1 lb of ground beef (93/7) or ground turkey
1 can of died tomatoes
1 can of tomato sauce
2 small cans of tomato paste
1 small onion chopped
3 cloves of garlic minced
1/2 tablespoon of salt
2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 tablespoon of oregeno
1 teaspoon of basil or 1 tablespoon of chopped fresh basil
1 teaspoon of olive oil
  1. Saute onion and garlic in a large saucepan or dutch oven
  2. Add in ground beef and brown on medium high heat
  3. Add in tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, and paste.  Continually stir.
  4. Add in spices and seasonings
  5. Adjust to taste

Spaghetti with Meat Sauce

Ingredients

Prepare the above meat sauce
1 package of spaghetti pasta cooke al dente (save about a cup of pasta water)
Parmesan cheese for garnish (I've also used Gruyere and Romano cheese)

1. Boil pasta according to package directions and strain.  Add pasta water in case it gets too dry.  
2. Top with desired amount of meat sauce and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese to liking.  

Lasagna

Ingredients

Prepare the above meat sauce
Lasagna noodles (Do not get the ready to boil ones!)
One container of ricotta cheese low fat
1 16 oz package of parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons of chopped parsley
2 eggs
1 16 oz package of mozzarella cheese

1.  Prepare the meat sauce and pre heat oven to 350 deg
2.  In a small bowl mix together the parmesan cheese, egg, parsley and ricotta cheese.  
3.  In a 13/9 inch baking dish, layer in the following order:  meat sauce, mozzarella, lasagna noodles,        spread the parmesan mixture on top of noodles.  Repeat with top layer being meat sauce.  You will top with mozzarella cheese about 10 minutes before done.  
4.  Bake for 45 minutes

*You can use ground turkey and turkey sausage instead of ground beef.  No limit on the amount of meat either!  

Baked Ziti

Ingredients 

Meat sauce
About 10 slices of deli cut provolone cheese (don't be shy with the cheese!)
1 box of penne or ziti pasta
1 16 oz package of shredded mozzarella 
1/2 cup of parmesan cheese
9x12 baking dish (you can really use any baking dish as long as everything fits, I've used a casserole dish, and a round Corning dish too)

1. Preheat oven 350 degrees
2. Boil pasta according to directions 
3. Layer baking dish in the following order with appropriate portions: pasta, meat sauce, provolone cheese, pasta, meat sauce, 1/2 the mozarella, pasta, meat sauce, parmesan cheese. 
4. Bake for 35 min. Top with rest of mozzarella cheese and bake additional 10 min or until cheese is melted. 

A twist: after boiling the pasta, mix pasta, meat sauce, one 16oz container of ricotta cheese.  Bake the same time and top with mozzarella at end (last additional  10 min) no need for provolone or parmesan. 

Monday, July 8, 2013

Bruschetta with Roma Tomatoes and Buffalo Mozzarella


Bruschetta with Fresh Mozzarella

This dish is so simple and reminds me so much of our honeymoon in Italy.  Everything is so fresh and flavorful there.  The only downside about going in the summer or anytime it's hot is the lack of A/C you will find.  I did not find that bit of information in any of the Rick Steves travel guides.  Plus the lack of ice cold water and the fact that you have to pay for water at restaurants.  It wasn't that big of a problem because you could get an ice cold beer or a glass of wine for less than a glass of water.  Another neat fact about Rome:  All of the over 2,500 public fountains run cool filtered water.  I kept a water bottle in my bag and anytime I saw a fountain, I'd just fill up right there.
 Anyways, back to the dish...

If you are a fan of Caprese Salad then you can skip the carbs and just prepare it without the baguette and serve it cold.

This is a great baseline for any type of toppings you might want to add like shrimp or bay scallops.  Get creative!  I think one day I might try it with some cremini mushrooms.  


Makes 16 hor devours (using a 12 inch baguette)

Ingredients:

1 package of fresh mozzarella 
1 baguette (I use whatever is freshest at the store - french bread, ciabiatta, focaccia, etc)
Fresh basil leaves from about 3 stalks (I love basil, so i use a lot of it!)
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Balsamic Vinegar
3 tomatoes, any kind (if you use grape tomatoes or cherry make sure you slice them half wise)
Salt and Pepper to taste

  1. Slice the baguette into 1/2 inch sections (some grocery stores even have a bread slicer you can use)  Place them on a baking sheet, drizzle a bit of olive oil on each slice, and toast for about 5-7 minutes in the oven at 350 degrees.  Meanwhile, slice the mozzarella cheese and tomatos into about 1/4 inch pieces.  Coarsely chop the basil leaves.  
  2. Remove the toasted bread, and layer the mozzarella cheese, and tomato on top of each piece of bread.  Top with each with some basil leaves.  Drizzle with some balsamic vinegar and add a pinch of salt and pepper.  
  3. Return to the oven and bake for another 5 minutes or until the cheese is slightly melted/warm.  Enjoy!!!

*Note*  Sometimes I chop the tomatoes and basil to combine in small bowl with about 1-2 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar, salt, and pepper.  Then I refrigerate it and add it to the toasted bread and slightly melted cheese.  

Don't skip out on the mozzarella cheese!  It makes a world of difference.  Some recipes tell you to stack bread, tomato, cheese, then basil.  I like my cheese on top of the bread first so that the flavor from the balsamic vinegar soaks only into the tomatos.  




This is my version of Bruschetta with a variety of cherry type tomatoes and bay scallops.  I believe the flavor comes from the combination of the basil and balsamic vinegar.  For this recipe, I mixed the tomatoes with the vinegar and basil together then topped off the toasted bread and mozzarella with the mixture.  

I cannot wait to try it with heirloom tomatoes!  

Slow cooker pulled pork

Easy Slow Cooker Pulled Pork 

So I wanted to try planning out our dinners one week at at time, only going to the grocery store on Sundays.  I have tried this before and it works out great.  No more trying to decide where to eat, what we are going to eat, etc.  So for my first day of cooking I decided to go with pulled pork tacos.  Luckily the pork shoulder/butt was on sale at the local grocery store.  I think I read somewhere that they are not going to call them butts anymore.  Nothing like a good ole pork butt in my belly.  I got a decent sized 4.5lb pork shoulder for a little over 10 dollars.  The prep time only took me less than 20 minutes and then I waited... the result was a juicy, succulent, melt in your mouth flavor.  I am definitely going to make this again for a larger crowd.  I love hosting people and cooking but it gets a little cramped in our 2 bedroom apartment.  The hubby approved and could not stop picking at the meat when I took it out of the CrockPot.  

Ingredients:
  • 1 4-5 pound pork shoulder (bone is ok, you can remove it later)
  • 3 tablespoons of brown sugar
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon of Kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon of chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
  • 2 cubes of chipotle seasoning (this can be found in the ethnic food aisle or next to the chicken bouillon cubes)
  • 1 medium onion (white or yellow) thinly sliced
  • 4 cloves of garlic thinly sliced
  • 2 cups of BBQ sauce
  1. Place the onions and the garlic evenly at the bottom of the slow cooker.  
  2. Pour in the chicken broth
  3. Drop in your two chipotle cubes
  4. Combine all of the dry ingredients into a small bowl  (sugar, salt, chili powder, cinnamon) and mix well
  5. Pat the pork shoulder dry on a cutting board and rub in the spice mix all over the pork
  6. Place the pork into the slow cooker and cook on high for 7 hours
  7. Remove pork from the cooker and place on a cutting board.  Shred using two forks.  Discard bone and excess fat.  Use a mesh strainer to separate the liquid and onion/garlic mixture.  Return only the onion/garlic mixture back to the cooker.  Place shredded pork back into cooker and add BBQ sauce to desired amount. 
I served the pulled work with warm flour tortillas, cilantro, and avocado.  It was absolutely delicious!  You can serve it on a bun with cole slaw too.  Other toppings for your tacos can include mango, pico, etc.