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Monday, January 31, 2011

Italian Wedding Soup

When we lived in Pittsburgh, Ron and I would spent most of our Saturday mornings "dahn" in the Strip District.  Heading to the Strip was the equivalent of heading to a Farmer's Market here in Minnesota (something indoors, similar to Midtown Global Market, but the shops on the Strip are all separated thus requiring you to venture out into the cold and past the street vendors selling various things, namely Steelers t-shirts, falafels, etc.).  There were a few shops that I would always hit up: the Enrico Biscotti company (world famous amazing biscotti), Prestogeorge (coffee shop), PennMac, Mancini's Bread (for amazing pepperoni rolls) and Wholey's fish market.  Sometimes, we would head to Sunseri's, or the infamous Pamela's (President Obama ate here!) or Primanti Brothers (a Pittsburgh tradition!), depending on the time we arrived.  Sometimes, we would also check out Fudgie Wudgie or Mon Aimee Chocolat. (Who am I kidding? We stopped here every time.)

Stops would vary each week, but one thing never changed.  We would always, ALWAYS, go to Cafe on the Strip for lunch.  While there, we would get a crock of wedding soup.  ALWAYS.  I am convinced - and I have tried many recipes - that there will never, ever be a wedding soup recipe that could compare to the Cafe's.  The Cafe is this tiny little place with a small little menu and a very quaint feel.  Italian music is always playing, the service may or may not be great (think angry Italian family running the shop), but the food is always, ALWAYS excellent.

The other night we were out with friends and we started talking about wedding soup.  I was surprised to learn that wedding soup isn't very popular beyond the east coast.  I'm not sure why this is, but I decided to do some research about the soup in general.  According to the all-knowing Wikipedia, "the term "wedding soup" is a mistranslation of the Italian language, minestra maritata ("married soup"), which is a reference to the fact that green vegetables and meat go well together." Oddly enough, it is not called wedding soup because it is served at weddings.  Embarrassing!  I have thought this for many, many years of my life. In any event, this soup is pretty decent.  Is it at good as the Cafe's?  No.  But, I must admit that I am biased.  If you have never been to the Cafe, then this soup is delicious! :) It is a bit labor-intensive. I recruited Ron to assist with the meatballs. He flipped out about halfway through making them but thankfully he now he understands, and appreciates, why I don't make this soup often!
Italian Wedding Soup
adapted from
Yield: 12 servings!
  • 60+ ounces chicken broth
  • 1 (10 ounce) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 cups chopped carrot
  • 4 stalks celery, chopped
  • 1 lb meat (use ground beef, pork, turkey, sausage or combination)
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/2 c - 3/4 c dry italian breadcrumbs
  • 1 egg
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan, if desired
  • 1 pound skinless, boneless chicken breast halves, cooked (cut into chunks or shredded)
  • 3 ounces dry pasta (such as acine de peppe)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. In a large pot over medium heat, combine the chicken broth, spinach, onions, carrots and celery.  Mix well and allow to simmer for about 10 minutes.
  2. In a separate large bowl, combine meat, parsley, breadcrumbs, egg, garlic, salt, and parmesan, if using.  Mix well.  Form mixture into 1/2 inch diameter meatballs and carefully drop them into the soup.  (You can also choose to brown meatballs in the oven before putting them in the soup.)
  3. Reduce heat to low and allow the soup to simmer for 1 hour.  (You may cook chicken breasts during this time.)
  4. Add the pasta 30 minutes before serving.  About 15 minutes before serving, add cooked chicken.  Add more chicken broth, if desired.
  5. Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve with some hearty italian bread.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Egg and Potato Sandwich

I was very hesitant to post this recipe.  I've actually held off on posting it for some time now.  You see, the recipe itself was good, but it caused quite a bit of turmoil in our house the evening it was served.  For those who don't know, our little Minnesota family consists of four: myself, Ron, and our two little fur-balls, Salem and Cali.  Basically, these two little cats run the show here.  They awake at random hours and wake you up in return.  They throw hissy-fits if they are hungry.  Actually, they throw hissy-fits for no good reason.  And by hissy-fit, I mean that they knock things over and purposely break them.  (I've lost nearly a dozen vases and picture frames since Salem entered my life.)

They also eat things... that require emergency veterinary assistance to remove from their system.  Like onions.  Like onions from this recipe.  Without getting into all of the details (both mom and cat were at fault here), let's just say that animals can't eat onions and once a certain amount is digested, it can become toxic to an animal.  Salem is fine now (she just knocked a glass of water all over my desk as I was typing this post, so she's obviously back to normal), but it was an interesting, sleepless and expensive night at the emergency veterinary hospital.

As for the recipe, it was definitely worth making - a good, quick recipe.  It would be perfect to serve for breakfast, or brunch, even though Ron and I ate it for dinner.  However, after taking one bite of the sandwich and watching 3/4ths of the filling fall out, we did end up switching out the rolls in lieu of tortillas.  Check it out!  Just don't let your pets get to it.
Egg and Potato Sandwich
from Food Network magazine
Yield:  4 servings
  • 2 Tbsp + 2 tsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium russet potato, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1 large italian frying pepper (Cubanelle), seeded and thinly sliced
  • 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
  • 6 large eggs (I used a mixture of eggs + egg whites only)
  • 4 cups baby arugula
  • 2 tsp red wine vinegar
  • 4 seeded semolina rolls, split and toasted
  • 4 slices sharp provolone cheese (optional)
  1. Heat 2 Tbsp olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the potato and cook, tossing, until browned and beginning to soften, about 4-5 minutes.
  2. Add the sliced pepper and onion and season with salt.  Cook, tossing occasionally, until the potato is cooked through and the pepper and onion are browned but not completely soft, 8-10 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, beat the eggs in a bowl and season with salt.  Reduce the heat to low and give the pan a moment to cool.  Pour in the eggs and cook, stirring occasionally, until just set, about 2-3 minutes.  Remove from the heat.
  4. Toss the arugula with the remaining 2 tsp olive oil and vinegar in a bowl.  Season with salt.
  5. Fill each roll with the scrambled eggs, cheese, if desired, and the arugula.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Crab Linguine with Lemon and Basil

Friday nights have become pasta nights in our house.  I absolutely love being able pick up some fresh bread at the bakery, then come home and wind down the week with a quick and easy pasta meal.  This pasta dish took less than 30 minutes to make - basically just the time it took to cook the pasta.  But, the meal is delicious!  This is a dish to make now to beat some winter blues AND one to make in the summer when basil and cherry tomatoes are plentiful.  Enjoy!
Crab Linguine
from Annie's Eats
Yield:  4 servings
  • 1 lb pasta, such as linguine or spaghetti
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil, chopped
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 8 oz. fresh crab meat, cooked
  • 1 lemon, quartered
  1. Cook the pasta according to package directions.  Drain well; set aside.
  2. In a large skillet over medium heat, combine the olive oil and butter, heating until the butter is completely melted.  Add the garlic to the pan and cook for 30 seconds, just until fragrant and bubbling.  Remove the pan from the heat.
  3. Add the drained pasta to the skillet and toss well until the pasta is well coated with the garlic-oil sauce.  Add the basil and cherry tomatoes, and season with salt and pepper to taste.  
  4. Divide portions and top with the fresh crab meat, about 2 ounces each.  Squeeze one quarter of lemon over each serving.  Serve immediately.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Sweet Potato Raisin Bread

I was looking for something sweet to post today, but I realized that I have nothing in my to-be-published posts that could really be considered a "sweet treat."  What the heck?!?!  I guess I took the whole New Years sugar detox seriously.  Well, in some ways.  I have made some half-batches of cookies and I have been snacking on the leftover chips in the fridge.  I think it might be time to use them and bake something.  Those chocolate chips would probably do less damage if they were baked in a brownie instead of piling up in front of me as I study.

But, I have baked up some breakfast breads, so I guess that it something to be happy about.  Like this sweet potato raisin bread.  It rocked.

You know, there comes a time when I am baking that I have to determine if the end product is going to be Ron-friendly.  This happens with cookies, muffins, cakes, etc.  I have the basic mix going with all the essential baking ingredients.  If the batter goes into the oven at this point, it's a Ron-friendly treat.  If I continue with add-ins, depending on what they are, I'll either be eating an entire loaf of bread myself or Ron will be assisting.

I made this sweet potato bread non-Ron friendly.  It was a last minute decision.  I added raisins.  And you know what?  I'd do it again.  This bread is so good.  I loved it.  Like all quick breads, it's very easy to mix up.  And, you can either add in the raisins or omit them, because it would be delicious all the same.  Ron did try a slice of the bread.  Granted, I had to literally pick out all of the raisins in the slice for him to eat it.  But, he did.  And he enjoyed it too.  So, make it!
Sweet Potato Raisin Bread
from Healthy Food for Living
Yield: 1 loaf
  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 Tbsp packed brown sugar
  • 1 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • generous 1 cup sweet potato puree (bake a large sweet potato at 400 degrees F for about 1 hour or until soft, peel and mash flesh)
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1/2 cup low-fat milk
  • 1/2 - 3/4 cup raisins (optional)
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Lightly coat a 9x5 inch loaf pan with baking spray.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients (both flours through chopped pecans).
  3. In a large bowl, whisk together the remaining ingredients (eggs through milk).
  4. Add the dry ingredients to the wet, and stir just until moistened.  If you are using raisins, fold them into the batter carefully until evenly distributed.
  5. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake until a toothpick inserted into the center of the bread comes out clean, about 50-60 minutes.
  6. Let bread rest in pan for about 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Chicken with Roasted Red Pepper Penne

I saw this pasta recipe on one of my favorite blogs the other day and knew I had to put it on the weekly menu.  It quickly replaced Thursday's dinner plans and I ran out to the store and bought all of the ingredients that I needed.  It does take some planning and coordinating time (you'll need to cook your chicken, roast your red peppers, and make the pesto sauce) but it took about an hour from start to finish with all of the steps involved.  Each step was fairly easy.  Alternatively, you could buy jarred roasted red peppers, but as I learned with this recipe, it is ridiculously easy to make your own at home!
I highly recommend serving this with a fresh loaf of bread from your local grocer or bakery.  I bought a asiago-peppercorn baguette from Lunds and it was delicious with this pasta!  There was enough for leftovers the next day and I swore it tasted even better than the night we ate it.  Enjoy!
Chicken with Roasted Red Pepper Penne
from Closet Cooking
Yield: 4 servings
  • For Red Pepper Pesto
    • 2 large roasted red peppers (see instructions)
    • 1 Tbsp fresh oregano
    • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
    • 2 Tbsp pine nuts
    • 2 Tbsp feta (crumbled)
    • 2 Tbsp olive oil
    • 2 tsp balsamic vinegar
    • salt and pepper to taste
  • For Penne
    • 1 lb chicken breasts, cooked and diced (or shredded)
    • 1 pound pasta (I used whole wheat penne)
    • 1/2 cup - 3/4 cup greek style roasted red pepper pesto
    • 1/4 cup kalamata olives (pitted and coarsely chopped)
    • 1 handful parsley (chopped)
    • 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
    • pine nuts, for serving
  1. For Roasted Red Peppers:  Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F, then change to broil before placing peppers in the oven.  Cut the red peppers in half, remove the stem and the seeds.  Place the red peppers on the baking sheet with the cut side facing down.  Place the baking sheet on the top shelf in the oven and broil until the outer layer of the skin has blackened, about 10-20 minutes.  (Note: It need not blacken the entire pepper.)  Place the peppers in a zip-lock bag or other sealable container, seal and let the peppers cool until you can handle them, about 20 minutes.  Remove the skins from the peppers.  (The skins should easily "pinch" off.)
  2. For Roasted Red Pepper Pesto Sauce:  Place all ingredients into a food processor and puree until smooth.
  3. For Penne: Cook the pasta according to package instructions.  Drain the pasta and reserve about 1/3-1/2 cup of the pasta water.  Add in the cooked chicken breasts.  Then, toss the pasta with the pesto (you should use all of the pesto you have made), pasta water, olives and parsley.
  4. Serve garnished with crumbled feta and pine nuts, if desired.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Steelers Smiley Cookies

Technically, these are just regular sugar cookies.  But, in light of the upcoming AFC Championship game, I've made them into Steelers Smiley Cookies.  They aren't as good, but they will suffice.  You see, living in Minnesota means that we can no longer take part in the Steelers celebration festivities.  This makes me incredibly, incredibly sad.  Though I enjoy Minnesota, there are so many traditions that carry on around sports in Pittsburgh.  Not being surrounded by them can be really crappy.  (Especially when you've missed out on two major events since moving from Pittsburgh: winning a Superbowl and winning the Stanley Cup!)

For instance, in Pittsburgh, every single store is currently decked out in black and gold.  When I say decked out, I mean decked out: terrible towels handing from the ceiling, Steelers emblems plastered all over the place, store employees in black and gold from head to toe.  Grocery stores have been selling Steeler themed foods since pre-season.  They have arranged their giant Coke display in the window to read, "Go Steelers!" since August.  Men are walking around with faces full of hair as they all try to grow their play-off beard.  Restaurants are selling Steelers themed food, such as a "Roethlis-burger."  You can't get in the car without hearing a Steelers song.  People have been wearing black and gold for weeks and if you own a Steelers jersey, you are wearing it today!  Attending the pep rally is essentially considered "work" and is a viable excuse to take a 5 hour lunch and come back slightly buzzed.  And the tailgates?  The tailgates are insane!  I can't even get into the tailgates. . . Dem folks are drinkin' as much Irn City as they can dahntown and cheering for dem 'Stillers now!

I've been streaming in DVE Steelers songs all week and wearing Steelers gear every single day.  My Terrible Towel rests on the dashboard of my car and I've been prepping my game-day menu, but it's not the same.  There is nothing that compares to Pittsburgh.  After living in a different part of the country, in different fan territory (and witnessing that the recreation paths seem to be MORE crowded during said fans respective game that day; gasp!!), I can honestly say that Steelers fans are the best.  There is a reason why it's called 'Steeler Nation' and there is a reason that there is a Pittsburgh Steelers dedicated sports bar in nearly every single city in the world.  Pittsburgh is definitely a sports town (with a drinking problem ;) ) but it is a place that I miss very much, and especially around these times.  I've been a Steelers fan since I was in diapers and that is absolutely never going to change.

A local restaurant on the east coast, Eat-n-Park, opened in 1949 and has since greatly expanded.  It was a place that I frequented often in high school for late-night hangout sessions and to buy mozzarella cheese sticks at 2 a.m.  But, they are also known for their delicious Smiley Cookies.  They are sugar cookies that rock!  You can purchase the cookies and have them shipped anywhere (and if you live in the opposing team's area, you can get them shipped for free!) but I chose to make my own.  The yellow is slightly more yellow than I would have liked, but they taste delicious just the same and they feel like home.  The cookie recipe itself was easy (though sticky!) to mix up and roll out.
Sugar Cookies (for Cut-Out cookies)
from Brown Eyed Baker who used the recipe from Baking Illustrated
Yield:  About 24 cookies
  • 2 cups (10 ounces) AP flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 16 Tbsp (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened but still cool
  • 1 cup (7 ounces) granulated sugar
  • 1 Tbsp light brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 4 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 Tbsp meringue powder
  • 6 Tbsp water
  • Additional Tools: icing bags, tip for icing, water for flooding, toothpicks, etc.
  1. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl; set aside.
  2. Cream the butter, sugar, and the brown sugar at medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.  Add the egg and vanilla; beat at medium speed until combined, about 30 seconds.
  3. Add the dry ingredients and beat at low speed until just combined.
  4. Shape the dough into a disk and wrap tightly with plastic wrap.  Put in fridge for at least 1 hour.  (You can refrigerate for up to 2 days, or freeze it and take it out and put in fridge for about 12 hours prior to baking tie.)
  5. Remove dough from fridge and let sit at room temperature for 10-15 minutes.
  6. Flour a working space, the dough, and a rolling pin.  Roll out the dough to a 1/4-inch thickness.  Dip a cookie cutter in flour and cut out your cookies, placing them on a parchment-lined baking sheet.
  7. Place the baking sheet in the fridge for at least 15 minutes before baking.  Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
  8. Bake for 8-9 minutes until the edges are just ready to turn the slightest bit brown, rotating the pan about 180 degrees halfway through baking.
  9. Cool completely on a wire rack before frosting the cookies.
  10. To make royal icing: combine the powdered sugar, meringue powder, and water in a bowl fit with a mixing attachment.  Mix on low, 7-10 minutes, until icing has lost it's shine.  Separate icing into bowls as you desire and color each with icing color.  (I use Wilton.)  Cover bowls with a damp towel so icing does not dry out.  Decorate cookies as desired!  

Monday, January 17, 2011

Spinoccoli Pizza

I've mentioned often on the blog how much I love home-made pizza nights.  We recently tried yet another pizza establishment in the Twin Cities.  I won't mention it's name but it had been receiving rave reviews from every single person in Minneapolis that has dined there since it's opening.  The owner actually went to culinary school in a state on the east coast that is known for it's pizza, so we went in with high expectations.  Sigh.
We've decided to stop trying pizza places in Minnesota.  We have gone EVERYWHERE in Minneapolis.  (Cossetta's, Pizza Luce, Punch, Red Savoys, Pizzeria Lola, Black Sheep, Green Mill, Carbone's, random shops on the side of the road, the list goes on, and on, and on.)   Sorry, folks.  We have tried.  There is nothing like east coast pizza and the pizza we were used to before coming to Minnesota.  I'm not saying the pies we've tried here have been bad.  Some have actually been quite good -- if that's what you are looking for.  It's hard to describe.  I'm used to a specific pie and I can't find it here so we're just going to stick with home-made pizza from here on out to avoid any further disappointment.

This was an unusual take on a pie that I had never experienced until now.  But, I decided to give it a go based off of pure intrigue.  Pizza nights normally involve two pies so I knew I would have a back-up if I didn't like it, but I loved it!  I was actually quite impressed with how the white sauced turned out.  It would be delicious on noodles as an alfredo and I might have to remember this next time we need a quick dinner.  It was incredibly easy to whip up and was a delicious alternative to your standard red sauce pizza.  If you ever see it on a menu, I recommend trying it out!
Spinoccoli Pizza
from Annie's Eats
White Sauce
  • 1 Tbsp butter
  • 1 Tbsp flour
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream or half-and-half
  • 1 clove garlic, smashed
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 6 Tbsp freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • Pizza dough
  • Olive oil, for brushing
  • 1/2 cup packed baby spinach leaves, torn
  • 1 cup very small broccoli florets
  • 2 oz. shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 2 oz. shredded cheddar cheese
  • Grated Parmesan
  1. To make the white sauce: melt butter in a small saucepan over medium-high heat.  Whisk in the flour and cook, whisking constantly, until bubbling and light golden, about one minute.  Whisk in the heavy cream and garlic, and season with salt and pepper to taste.  Cook, stirring frequently, until the mixture thickens and bubbles.  Remove from the heat and whisk in the grated Parmesan cheese until completely melted and smooth.  Discard the garlic clove.  (Note: This will make more sauce  than you need for the pizza.  Use leftovers to dip pizza in!)
  2. To make the pizza:  preheat the oven and a pizza stone at 500 degrees F for at least 30 minutes.  Roll out the pizza dough into a 12-14 inch round.  Lightly brush the ends with olive oil.  Spread a thin layer of the white sauce over the crust, leaving a border clear around the edge of the crust.  Sprinkle the torn spinach leaves over the white sauce.  Evenly distribute the broccoli florets over the dough.  Layer evenly with the shredded cheeses.  Finish with additional grated Parmesan, if desired.  Transfer the pizza to a preheated pizza stone and bake until the cheese is melted and bubbling and the crust is lightly browned, about 10-12 minutes.  Remove from the oven and let cool slightly before slicing and serving.  Enjoy!

Friday, January 14, 2011

Molasses Honey Granola

Yes, another granola recipe.  I can't stop making it!
I think this should be titled "earth granola."  It is essentially based off of Bobby Flay's recipe for Agave Mango granola.  I watched him bake it on his show, Brunch with Bobby, and subsequently went to the bulk item section in the grocery store to purchase all of the ingredients.  I cannot emphasize enough how obsessed I am with the bulk item section and the salad bar sections in the grocery store.  They save me a ton of money!  Anyway, I got home and was all ready to make the Agave Mango granola only to find that I had no agave in the pantry and no diced mango as I originally thought.  (Recall that post about how I always forget what I need at the store?  Well, I fought the urge to return.)  So, without the agave and the mango component to the agave mango granola, I decided to push forward with the granola but use what I had on hand.  Hence, this came from it.  Delicious, nutty, health packed granola.  I've eaten it with yogurt and blueberries or sliced banana in the morning.  And for the first time in what may be ever, a breakfast at 7 a.m. has kept me full until lunch.  I'm still in shock!  It's a very good base recipe and dried fruit/other nuts could easily be mixed in.  And, it's as easy as other granola recipes.  If you like granola and you have yet to try your hand making it at home, I strongly encourage you to do so.
Molasses Honey Granola
adapted from Bobby Flay
  • about 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce (I used one small container)
  • 3-4 Tbsp honey
  • 3-4 Tbsp molasses
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 Tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 3 cups rolled oats
  • 3/4 cup slivered almonds
  • 1/2 cup sunflower seeds
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
  • 1/2 cup wheat germ
  • 2 Tbsp ground flaxseed
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  1. Heat oven to 325 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. In a large bowl, mix together the applesauce, honey, molasses, cinnamon, brown sugar, and vanilla.
  3. In a separate bowl, combine the oats, almonds, seeds, wheat germ, flaxseed, and salt.  
  4. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix to thoroughly coat.
  5. Spread the granola onto the parchment lined baking sheet.
  6. Bake for 25-35 minutes, stirring occasionally, until granola is light golden brown and starting to harden.
  7. Set granola aside to cool.  After cooling slightly and breaking apart large pieces, mix in any dried fruit that you may want to add.
  8. Store in a container for up to two weeks.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Asiago Cheese Fusilli with Roasted Red Pepper Chicken Sausage

Have you ever noticed that a quick run to pick up milk from the grocery store normally costs around $50?  This is a huge problem for me.  I head to the grocery store several times a week to pick up fresh produce and items for a few night's worth of meals.  Naturally, I forget something and I must return.  While there, I spot 15 things that I think I might need, or probably should have, and in the cart they go.  It's always depressing when I go to check-out and I watch the items get rung up.  I always leave with some sick feeling in my stomach and vow to never do it again.  Then I get home and realize I forgot the one thing that I specifically went to the store to buy.

This roasted red pepper sausage from Bilinski's was one of my impulse buys the other day while I was shopping for *insert random product here*.  One of the workers had a bunch out to try so I sampled and I fell in love.  We've had Bilinski's sausage before, but this one was new and was delicious!  The product wasn't even on the website yet (it's still not!), so I searched for a decent recipe to make.  (Note:  Any sun dried tomato chicken sausage or mild sausage would taste wonderful with this pasta recipe.)  I've always had success with quick pasta meals so I found one by Giada and knew I had to make it.  The recipe was incredibly easy and as Giada's recipes always do, turned out delicious.  It made a ton for two people so we shared for leftovers the next day.  I also made up a rosemary and sea salt bread to pair alongside and even though my bread didn't rise properly, it still tasted wonderful.  Bread recipe to follow.
Asiago Cheese Fusilli with Roasted Red Pepper Chicken Sausage
from Giada
Yield:  4-6 servings
  • 12 - 16 ounces chicken sausage (roasted red pepper, sun dried tomato, asiago cheese, or any mild flavored chicken sausage), sliced and warmed through per package instructions
  • 1 pound whole wheat fusilli pasta
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 (9-ounce) bag fresh spinach, roughly chopped
  • 8 ounces cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 cup (about 3.5 ounces) grated Asiago cheese
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3/4 tsp pepper
  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to boil over high heat.  Cook fusilli pasta according to package instructions until tender but still firm to the bite.  Drain pasta and reserve 1/2 cup of the cooking liquid.
  2. Meanwhile, warm olive oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes.  Add the spinach and tomatoes and cook until the spinach wilts, about 2 more minutes.  Add the cooked pasta and toss.  Add the warmed chicken sausage, cheeses, salt, pepper, and the pasta cooking liquid and stir to combine.
  3. Transfer to serving plates and enjoy!

Friday, January 7, 2011

Warm Lentil Salad with Roasted Red Pepper

My last New Years tradition post, I promise!  I realize that it is a bit counterproductive to post recipes about events that have already occurred, but I didn't have the time to prepare everything prior to the holiday.  Sorry.  Keep in mind for next year!
Like cooked greens, legumes (including beans, peas, and lentils) are symbolic of money.  Their appearance tends to resemble coins.  The legumes swell when they cook, so they are believed to bring financial rewards.  In the past, I've held onto a German tradition of making a split-pea soup, but I decided to change it up a bit this year with this lentil salad.  I loved it!  It was a wonderful, healthy, and fulfilling lunch.  I've cut back a lot on the amount of meat I consume and I'm looking for alternative ways to get adequate amounts of protein for my body.  I doubt I'll ever be able to go completely meat-free (I do live with a carnivore) but as long as I have options like this around, I'll be perfectly content!  This salad is a Mediterranean-style dish that is simply delicious.   It would pair nicely with a salad and some goat cheese or shredded romano cheese.
Warm Lentil and Roasted Pepper Salad
from Reader's Digest
Yield:  4 servings
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 cup brown lentils, lightly rinsed
  • 1 tsp salt, divided
  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley
  • 1/2 cup diced, drained, and rinsed canned roasted sweet red pepper
  • 1 medium stalk celery, diced
  • 1/2 cup diced red onion
  • 1 cup diced and seeded plum tomatoes
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  1. Bring water, lentils, and 1/2 tsp salt to boil in a saucepan over high heat.  Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, covered, until lentils are firm but fully cooked, 20-30 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, mix parsley, sweet pepper, celery, onion, tomatoes, garlic, lemon juice, olive oil, black pepper, and remaining 1/2 tsp of salt in large serving bowl.
  3. Drain lentils, add to serving bowl, and toss.  Serve warm.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Seared Steaks with Caramelized Onions and Gorgonzola

If you are reading this, you are either excited about the recipe or cringing by the words gorgonzola.  Salty cheeses, like gorgonzola, are hit-or-miss in my book.  Some people love the taste.  Others simply cannot stand it.  I was like this with blue cheese when I was younger, but I have since adapted to it and if its included in a dish, I'll eat it.

I was quite nervous to mix this recipe up as I don't often cook anything with red meat.  When we do have steaks, Ron normally grills.  So, when I saw that I had spent $30 on a pound of meat, I knew I better not mess it up.  I didn't!  Phew!  And this was delicious.  Even though the caramelized onions look like worms, I would definitely make this meal again.  But next time we wouldn't pair it with the bitter tasting white wine we used.  Bleck!  In our defense, we were out of pinot noir.
Seared Steaks with Caramelized Onions and Gorgonzola
from Eating Well
Yield:  4 servings
  • 2 Tbsp canola oil, divided
  • 2 large onions, sliced (about 4 cups)
  • 1 Tbsp brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup reduced-sodium beef broth
  • 1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp salt, divided
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 pound beef tenderloin (filet mignon) or sirloin steak, 1-1 1/4 inches thick, trimmed and cut into 4 steaks
  • 1/4 cup crumbled Gorgonzola, or blue cheese
  1. Heat 1 Tbsp oil over medium heat in a large skillet.  Add onions and brown sugar; cook, stirring often, until the onions are very tender and golden brown, about 15 minutes.  Add broth, vinegar and 1/4 tsp salt and cook, stirring, until the liquid has almost evaporated, 3-4 minutes more.  Transfer the onions to a bowl; cover to keep warm.  Clean and dry the pan.
  2. Sprinkle the remaining 1/4 tsp salt and pepper on both sides of each steak.  Heat the remaining 1 Tbsp oil in the pan over medium-high heat.  Add the steaks and cook until browned, 3-5 minutes.  Turn them over and top with cheese.  Reduce heat to medium-low, cover and cook until the cheese is melted and the steaks are cooked to desired doneness, 3-5 minutes for medium-rare.  
  3. Serve the steaks with caramelized onions.  Pair with some vegetables, a baked potato, or some garlic mashed potatoes.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Pecan Ginger Salmon

When Ron and I choose to go 'on our own' for dinner, I must admit that I secretly breathe a sigh of relief.  Granted, I'm not happy that Ron is normally choosing to eat cookie crisp or frozen bagel bites, but I'm glad that I get a chance to mix up a meal that I know he would not eat otherwise.  I'm always on my own for lunch, but my lunch meals tend to be lighter, so I never make a hearty meal.  My choice always ends up being either a vegetarian meal or some sort of fish dish.   I bookmarked this recipe a while ago and I knew it would be my next salmon dish on the next evening that Ron requested a bowl of cookie crisp.  I did change up the recipe a bit.  I didn't have skinless and didn't feel like filleting the fish, so I just marinated the top part of the salmon and it worked just fine.  I also didn't feel like opening a bag of walnuts, so the original "walnut ginger salmon" became a "pecan ginger salmon" but it was still delicious.  It takes about 30 minutes to marinate, but the fish cooks up so fast with the broiler.  I put it in the fridge to marinate, ran a quick errand, turned on the broiler when I got back, and dinner was ready in less than 15 minutes!
Pecan Ginger Salmon
from Taste of Home
Yield:  4 servings
Time:  40 minutes (30 minutes prep, 10 minutes cook)
  • 1 Tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 Tbsp dijon mustard
  • 1 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 4 skinless salmon fillets (4 ounces each)
  • 1/4 cup chopped pecans (or walnuts)
  1. In a large resealable plastic bag, combine the brown sugar, mustard, soy sauce and ginger; add the salmon.  Seal bag and turn to coat; refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, turning occasionally.
  2. Drain and discard marinade.  Place salmon on a foil-lined baking sheet coated with cooking spray.  Broil 4-6 in. from the heat for 7-9 minutes or until fish flakes easily with a fork, sprinkling with nuts during the last 2 minutes of cooking.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Pork and Sauerkraut

Happy New Year!  The year has already started off beautifully.  My sister got engaged earlier this afternoon to her boyfriend of a few years.  They are a wonderfully amazing couple and I am so excited to see her so happy and to gain such a great brother.  Congratulations guys!!

I hope everyone else's new year is starting off well.  Ours is going quite well so far, with the exception of our failed attempt to see Harry Potter again.  Who knew it would be sold out nearly one month and a half after opening day!  For as long as I could remember, I have eaten pork and sauerkraut on New Years Day.  Once I met Ron, I introduced him to this tradition too.  He doesn't eat the sauerkraut, but as this is the only pork that I will eat throughout the year, he's happy to eat it when it's made.  If you are curious, a pig is a good animal for the New Year because it brings an important trait to the future.  A pig cannot look backwards without turning around, so it is considered to always be looking positively to the future.  Also, german tradition believes that the pork keeps evil away.  The sauerkraut is technically cabbage, which is also considered to be lucky, hence the positive-good luck meal.  The meal positively represents the future as the pig resembles progress!  Good vibes, good vibes.

We ate this for our New Years Day meal and I was quite pleased with the turn-out.  I also mixed up a quick spinach salad to serve with a homemade dijon vinaigrette. (Greens are symbolic of economic fortune.  Because that makes sense in my life... as a law student who is thousands of dollars in debt with no job.  But whatever, the more greens one eats, the larger one's fortunes for next year!).  I opted to use the crockpot for this recipe because it's simple and I didn't want to be cooking while the Winter Classic was on!  I also threw in some diced yukon gold potatoes in the bottom to cook with the meal but it would pair nicely with a garlic mashed potato.  Alternatively, you could pair it with a Yuengling and that would be just fine too.
Pork and Sauerkraut
Yield:  6 servings
  • 1 (4-5 pound) pork loin roast
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 cups sauerkraut with liquid (preferably with caraway seeds, but if you cannot find, use 1 tsp caraway seeds or omit altogether)
  • 12-ounce beer
  1. Cut pork loin, if necessary, to fit in the crockpot.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Pour sauerkraut over the roast.  Pour beer into crockpot.
  2. Cook on low for 7-8 hours.  Internal temperature of the roast should be at least 160 degrees F.