Archive for March, 2010

Blueberry Banana Muffins

Blueberry Banana Muffins


These muffins were so yummy!  I love the combination of blueberries, bananas, and orange juice.  This is the perfect recipe if you have ripe bananas that need to be used.  I think these muffins would also be really good with raspberries in them.  Enjoy!

Recipe from: The Dainty Vegetarian Blog

Blueberry Banana Muffins

(print recipe)

Ingredients

  • 2 ½ cups sifted flour
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • ½ tsp. baking soda
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 1 ¼ cups sugar
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • ½ cup orange juice
  • 2 Tbsp. butter, room temp.
  • 1 ½ cups (or more) fresh blueberries (if they are large, slice them in half)
  • ½ cup chopped walnuts (optional)
  • 3 ripe bananas, mashed

Directions

  1. Sift the dry ingredients (flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt) together.  Then add the sugar, egg, orange juice, and butter.  Whisk together.  Fold in the bananas and blueberries.
  2. Pour into a 9”X5” greased loaf pan or a lined muffin pan and bake at 350 degrees for 1 ¼ hours (for loaf) or 20 minutes (for muffins), or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.  Remove from pan when done and cool on rack.  These are amazing served warm with some butter.

Snickerdoodles

Snickerdoodles


Snickerdoodles are one of my all time favorite kinds of cookies.  They are moist and chewy, and the cinnamon-sugar coating is irresistible.  It’s impossible to eat just one or two– trust me– you will find yourself sneaking back over to the cookie container for more.  I used a cookie scoop (mine is from the Pampered Chef) to form the dough into uniformly sized balls, and it made the process of rolling the balls in the cinnamon and sugar mixture so easy and quick.  A spoon would work just fine too though.  It’s important to have the dough balls all the same size, so that they bake evenly.  This is the perfect snickerdoodle recipe!

Recipe from: Brown Eyed Baker Blog

Snickerdoodles

(print recipe)

Ingredients

  • 2¾ cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons cream of tartar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1½ cups sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper or a baking mat.
  2. Whisk together the flour, cream of tartar, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl.  Set aside.
  3. Cream together the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy.  Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Beat in the vanilla.
  4. Gradually stir in the flour mixture, beating on low speed just until the flour is blended.
  5. Chill the dough for at least 30 minutes.
  6. In the meantime, mix together the sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl.
  7. Scoop 1-inch balls of dough and roll in the cinnamon and sugar mixture to coat.
  8. Place on chilled cookie sheet about 2 inches apart and bake for 10 minutes.
  9. Let cookies set on baking sheet for 2-3 minutes and then remove to a cooling rack. Store cookies in an airtight container.

Yield: 4 dozen cookies

Carrot Ginger Soup

Carrot Ginger Soup


There are many reasons why I like soup.  It’s easy to make, healthy, delicious, and it is great as a main course, appetizer, or side dish.  It is also convenient because it can be made ahead and reheats very well.  There are so many different kinds of soup – the possibilities and flavors are endless!

This past winter was so cold and rainy that I found myself wanting to make soup more often than normal.  There is nothing better on a chilly night than a hot pot of homemade soup simmering away on the stove.  The idea for this soup came from my sister, when she made Carrot Ginger Soup for a family gathering.  I decided to make this soup on the spur of the moment one evening, and I wasn’t able to get her recipe on such short notice, so I had to find my own.  I did a quick search on the Food Network’s website and found this recipe from Emeril Lagasse.  It was the first recipe that popped up in the search results, and the reviews looked good, so I decided to go with it, and I’m glad I did.  The soup was delicious!

The garlic, onions, and ginger give the soup a lot of flavor, and the pepper adds a spicy kick to it.  I used less ginger than the recipe recommended because I didn’t want the ginger flavor to be too overpowering, and I thought it was the perfect amount.  Feel free to adjust the amount of ginger to your liking.  In fact, if you don’t like ginger at all, you can just leave it out altogether, and then you would have a great recipe for Carrot Soup.  I also omitted the cream, because I prefer soups without cream, but you can add the recommended half a cup of cream if you want.  I served this soup as a main course, but I think it would be really fun to serve it in little ramekins or teacups as an appetizer.  Enjoy!

Adapted from: The Food Network, Emeril Lagasse

Carrot Ginger Soup

(print recipe)

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup diced onions
  • ½  cup diced celery
  • ¼  cup minced ginger (I only used 2 tablespoons of ginger)
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • ½  pound carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 4 to 6 cups chicken stock
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground white pepper ( I used black pepper because I didn’t have white pepper)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • ½  cup heavy cream or half & half (if desired)
  • ¼ cup sour cream (optional)
  • Chopped chives, for garnish

Directions

  1. Set a 4-quart stock pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the butter and olive oil to the pot. Once the butter is melted, place the onions and celery in the pot. Sweat the vegetables until the onions are translucent, about 3 to 4 minutes. Add the ginger and garlic to the pot and cook for 30 seconds. Place all of the carrots in the pot and cook, stirring occasionally, until the carrots are lightly caramelized and start to soften, about 7 to 8 minutes.
  2. Add the stock, salt, pepper and bay leaf to the pot and bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Cook the soup until the carrots are tender, about 20 to 25 minutes.
  3. Remove the bay leaf from the pot and using an immersion blender puree the soup directly in the pot or in batches in a blender. Adjust the seasoning, and add the heavy cream (if using) to the pot.
  4. To serve, garnish with 1 tablespoon of sour cream (optional) per serving and a sprinkling of fresh chives.

Serves: 4 as a main course or 8 as an appetizer

Garlic, onion, and ginger add a lot of flavor to this soup.

Roasted Vegetables

Roasted Vegetables


I love vegetables, and in my opinion, dinner is not complete unless there is a serving of vegetables with it.  The great thing about vegetables is that there are so many different types of vegetables, and countless ways to prepare them, so they are never boring!  Usually I steam or sauté them, because it’s easy and quick, but every once and a while I like to switch things up, and roasted vegetables are a great alternative.  They have such a wonderful flavor!

A few years ago I came across a very informative article about how to roast vegetables.  It was in the October/November 2007 issue of one of my favorite cooking magazines, Fine Cooking.  I tore the article out of the magazine and filed it away in my recipe binder.  I refer to it frequently, and it has been a great resource.  The article has instructions for how to roast several types of vegetables, as well as ideas for different flavorings for the vegetables.

Most recently, I roasted a combination of butternut squash, red potatoes, and carrots.  I flavored the vegetables with extra virgin olive oil, salt, pepper, and thyme.  The vegetable medley turned out to be a great accompaniment to my dinner of baked chicken and spinach salad.  I hope you find the information from this article as helpful as I do!

Recipe from: Fine Cooking Magazine (October/November 2007 issue)

Basic Roasted Vegetables

(print recipe)

Ingredients

  • 1 lb. vegetables
  • 1-3 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt; more to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Fresh lemon juice (optional)

Directions

  1. Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 475°F.  Line a heavy-duty rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Prepare the vegetables according to the instructions below (preparation and cooking time varies based on the type of vegetable).  In a medium bowl, toss the vegetables with enough of the olive oil to coat generously, the salt, and a few grinds of pepper.  If using a flavoring before roasting (see below: “Flavorings for Roasted Vegetables—Before Roasting”), toss it with the vegetables now.
  3. Turn the vegetables out onto the baking sheet and arrange the pieces so that they are evenly spaced and lying on a cut side (if that applies).  If the pieces cover the baking sheet sparsely, arrange them toward the edges of the baking sheet for the best browning.  Roast according to the instructions below (“How to Prep & Roast Various Types of Vegetables”).
  4. Return the vegetables to the bowl in which you tossed them with the oil, or put them in a clean serving bowl.  If they seem a bit dry, drizzle them with a little extra virgin olive oil.  Season to taste with salt, pepper, and lemon juice or another flavoring, if using (see below: “Flavorings for Roasted Vegetables – After Roasting”).

Roasted carrots, red potatoes, and butternut squash.

How to Prep & Roast Various Types of Vegetables

Sweet Potatoes

Prep: Peel & cut into 1-inch pieces

How to Roast: Roast until lightly browned on bottom, 10 min.  Flip & roast until tender, 5-10 more minutes.

Yield: 3-4 servings per pound

Potatoes (red, yellow, russet)

Prep: Peel or scrub well and dry.  Cut into 1 inch pieces.

How to Roast: Roast until browned on bottom, 10-15 minutes.  Flip and continue to roast until tender, 5 more minutes.

Yield: 2-3 servings per pound

Cauliflower

Prep: Trip & cut into 1-1.5 inch florets

How to Roast: Roast, stirring every 10 minutes, until tender and lightly browned, 20-25 minutes total.

Yield: 3-4 servings per pound

Broccoli

Prep: Trim and peel the stem; slice it into ¼ inch thick disks.  Trim and cut the rest of the broccoli into 1.5-2 inch florets.

How to Roast: Roast until the florets begin to brown, 8-10 minutes.  Stir, then continue to roast until tender, 3-6 more minutes.

Yield: 2-3 servings per pound

Carrots

Prep: Peel and cut into 1-inch pieces.

How to Roast: Roast until lightly browned on bottom, 12-15 minutes.  Flip and roast until tender and slightly shriveled, 3-5 more minutes.

Yield: 3-4 servings per pound

Asparagus

Prep: Rinse, try, and snap off (or trim off) tough bottom ends.

How to Roast: Roast for 5 minutes, flip, and roast until tender 5-8 more minutes.

Yield: 3-4 servings per pound

Fennel

Prep: Quarter lengthwise.  Trim the base and core, leaving just enough of the core intact to hold the layers together.  Cut into ¾-1 inch wedges.

How to Roast: Roast until the pieces begin to brown on the edges, 15 minutes.  Flip and roast until tender and nicely browned, 10 minutes.

Yield: 3-4 servings per pound

Brussels Sprouts

Prep: Trim, halve lengthwise.

How to Roast: Arrange cut side down on baking sheet.  Roast until tender and browned, about 15 minutes.  No need to flip.

Yield: 3-4 servings per pound

Parsnips

Prep: Peel & cut into 1-2 inch cubes.

How to Roast: Roast until browned on bottom, about 10 minutes.  Flip and roast until tender, about 5 more minutes.

Yield: 2-3 servings per pound

Green Beans

Prep: Trim ends.

How to Roast: Roast until tender and slightly browned, about 15 minutes.  (No need to flip).

Yield: 4 servings per pound

Butternut Squash

Prep: Peel and cut into ¾-1 inch pieces.

How to Roast: Roast until browned on bottom, 15 minutes.  Flip and roast until tender, 5-10 more minutes.

Yield: 4 servings per pound

Mushrooms (cremini or small white button mushrooms)

Prep: Wipe clean and trim stems

How to Roast: Roast stem side down until brown on bottom, 20-25 minutes.  Flip and roast until browned on top, 5-10 more minutes.

Yield: 3-4 servings per pound

Flavorings for Roasted Vegetables – Before Roasting

-        Rosemary Thyme Lemon Oil

  • Pairs well with butternut squash, carrots, cauliflower, fennel, mushrooms, parsnips, potatoes, and sweet potatoes
  • Yield: enough for 1 batch of roasted vegetables
  • Ingredients:
    • Zest of 1 large lemon, removed in long strips with a vegetable peeler
    • 2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil; more as needed
    • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
    • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
  • Directions: In a small saucepan, combine the lemon zest and oil.  Set over medium-low heat and cook until the lemon zest bubbles steadily for about 30 seconds.  Remove from the heat and let cool briefly, about 3 minutes.  Stir in the herbs and let sit at least 20 minute before using.  Substitute this flavored oil for the plain olive oil in the master recipe and toss with the vegetables and salt and pepper before roasting.  Once the vegetables are on the baking sheet, pick out and discard the lemon zest.  If the vegetables seem a little dry after roasting, toss them with additional oil before serving.

-        Moroccan-Style Spice Rub

  • Pairs well with butternut squash, carrots, cauliflower, parsnips, potatoes, and sweet potatoes.
  • Yield: About 5 teaspoons, enough for 5 batches of roasted vegetables
  • Ingredients:
    • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
    • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
    • ½ teaspoon chili powder
    • ½ teaspoon sweet paprika
    • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
    • ¼ teaspoon ground allspice
    • ¼ teaspoon ground ginger
    • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne
    • Pinch ground cloves
  • Directions: In a small bowl, mix all of the spices.  In addition to the oil, salt, and pepper in the master recipe, toss 1 teaspoon of the spice blend with a batch of vegetables before roasting.

Flavorings for Roasted Vegetables – After Roasting

-        Sesame Salt

  • Pairs well with asparagus, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, green beans, parsnips, and sweet potatoes
  • Yield: About 2 tablespoons, enough for 3 batches of roasted vegetables
  • Ingredients:
    • 2 Tablespoons sesame seeds
    • ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • Directions: In a small dry skillet, toast the sesame seeds over medium heat, stirring almost constantly, until light golden brown, 3-5 minutes.  Add the salt and cook, stirring, for about 30 seconds.  Transfer to a small bowl and cool completely.  Put the salted seeds in a clean spice grinder and pulse a few times to grind coarsely – you should still see a few whole seeds in the mixture.  Toss about 2 teaspoons sesame salt with a batch of vegetables after roasting.

-        Caramelized Shallot Butter

  • Pairs well with asparagus, Brussels sprouts, butternut squash, carrots, fennel, green beans, mushrooms, parsnips, potatoes, and sweet potatoes.
  • Yield: About ¼ cup, enough for 3 batches of roasted vegetables
  • Ingredients:
    • 3 ½ Tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
    • 1 large shallot, finely diced (1/3 cup)
    • ½ teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
    • ½ teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
    • Kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper
  • Directions: Heat 1 tablespoon of the butter in a small saucepan or skillet over medium-low heat until melted.  Add the shallot and cook, stirring frequently, until deeply browned, 8-10 minutes.  Remove from the heat and stir in the thyme.  Cool completely.  In a small bowl, combine the shallot mixture with the remaining 2 ½ tablespoons butter and the lemon zest.  Stir to blend well.  Lightly season to taste with salt and pepper.  Scrape the butter onto a small piece of plastic wrap, mold into a log shape, and wrap in the plastic.  Refrigerate until ready to use.  Toss about 1/3 of the butter (a generous tablespoon) with a batch of vegetables after roasting.

-        Ginger Lemon Soy Splash

  • Pairs well with broccoli, carrots, cauliflower, and mushrooms.
  • Yield: Enough for 1 batch of roasted vegetables
  • Ingredients:
    • 1-inch piece fresh ginger
    • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
    • ½ teaspoon soy sauce
  • Directions: Set a small strainer in a small bowl.  Extract the ginger juice by pressing the ginger into the sieve with a small spoon.  Transfer ½ teaspoon ginger juice to another small bowl (discard the rest).  Stir in the lemon juice and soy sauce.  Toss with a batch of vegetables after roasting.

-        Toasted Garlic & Coriander Oil

  • Pairs well with asparagus, broccoli, cauliflower, fennel, green beans, and mushrooms.
  • Yield: Enough for 1-1 ½ batches of roasted vegetables.
  • Ingredients:
    • 1 ½ Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
    • 1 Tablespoon finely chopped garlic (2 large cloves)
    • 2 teaspoons ground coriander
    • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
    • Kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper
  • Directions: In a small saucepan, combine the oil and garlic.  Set over medium-low heat and cook until the smaller pieces of garlic turn light golden-brown, about 3 minutes.  Stir in the coriander and cook for about 20 seconds.  Immediately remove from the heat and transfer to a small heatproof bowl to prevent overcooking.  Keep warm.  Sprinkle the roasted vegetables with the lemon juice, season to taste with salt and pepper, and arrange on a serving platter.  Spoon the toasted garlic oil over the vegetables.

Tips

-        Make sure the vegetables are cut in evenly sized pieces.  This will ensure that they cook evenly and at the same rate.

-        Make sure to line the baking sheet with parchment paper to prevent the vegetables from sticking to the pan.

-        To Roast a Medley of Vegetables: A mixture of vegetables with different cooking times should be kept separate from each other, to accommodate for different cooking times.  Either use different baking sheets, or different sections of the same baking sheet.  That way you can remove each type of vegetable when it is done cooking.  You can then combine them after roasting.

-        Leftover idea: Add the leftover roasted vegetables to a pot of simmering jarred marinara sauce and simmer on low until the vegetables and sauce are hot.  Serve the sauce/vegi mixture with cooked rigatoni pasta (or any type of pasta) and parmesan cheese for an easy and healthy weeknight dinner.

Honey Hoisin Pork Tenderloin

Honey Hoisin Pork Tenderloin


I don’t cook pork very often, but when I do, this is my go-to recipe.  I found this recipe years ago in Cooking Light Magazine (it was originally published in the October 2005 issue).  I’ve made it many times since then and it always turns out really well.  It’s easy to make, fairly quick, delicious, and healthy- what more could you ask for? :)  I always serve it with steamed vegetables plus something starchy.  My husband prefers white rice as a side, but I prefer mashed potatoes, so we alternate.  When we most recently made this for dinner, we served it with asparagus and white rice- it was delicious!

Recipe from: Cooking Light Magazine

Honey Hoisin Pork Tenderloin

(print recipe)

Ingredients

  • 2  tablespoons  sliced green onions
  • 2  tablespoons  hoisin sauce
  • 2  tablespoons  low-sodium soy sauce
  • 2  tablespoons  sage honey
  • 1  tablespoon  hot water
  • 2  garlic cloves, minced
  • 1  (1-pound) pork tenderloin, trimmed
  • ¼  teaspoon  salt
  • Cooking spray
  • ½  teaspoon  sesame seeds (optional)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400°.
  2. Combine first 6 ingredients (green onions, hoisin sauce, soy sauce, honey, water, & garlic) in a small bowl. Pour ¼ cup honey mixture into a large zip-top plastic bag; reserve remaining honey mixture. Add pork to bag; seal and marinate in refrigerator 30 minutes, turning bag occasionally.
  3. Remove pork from bag; discard marinade. Sprinkle pork with salt. Heat a large ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add pork; cook 2 minutes, browning on all sides. Brush 1 tablespoon reserved honey mixture over pork; sprinkle with sesame seeds. Place skillet in oven. Bake at 400° for 20 minutes or until a thermometer registers 160° (slightly pink) or until desired degree of doneness.
  4. Place pork on a platter; let stand 5 minutes. Cut pork across the grain into thin slices. Drizzle with the remaining honey mixture.

Serves: 4 servings (serving size: 3 ounces pork and about 2 teaspoons honey mixture); 195 calories per serving

the marinade

Steamed asparagus and white rice pair well with the pork.

Sugar Cookies for a ‘Very Hungry Caterpillar’ Birthday Party

Sugar Cookies for a ‘Very Hungry Caterpillar’ Birthday Party


I love making and decorating sugar cookies, so I was very excited when my sister asked me to make sugar cookies for my niece’s birthday party.  The theme of the party was “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” which is a book by the children’s author Eric Carle.  The book is about a caterpillar that eats different fruits (as well as many other types of food) as he works his way through the days of the week, all while on his quest to become a butterfly.  She wanted me to make cookies in the shape of the 5 main fruits that the caterpillar eats: apples, pears, plums, strawberries, and oranges.

I was able to find apple, pear, and strawberry cookie cutters from Sur la Table, and I was very happy to find them on sale for only 56 cents each!  I found a peach cookie cutter from a different store, which I used to make the plum cookies.  And for the orange I just used a small circle biscuit cutter, which I already had.

I used this recipe for the sugar cookie dough.  It is a great recipe- easy to make and the cookies always come out perfectly.  I used royal icing to decorate the cookies and gel food coloring to tint the icing.  Royal icing is a combination of powdered sugar, water, almond extract, and meringue powder.  Adding almond extract to the icing is optional, but I think it makes the icing taste better.  Meringue powder is basically powdered pasteurized egg whites combined with a few other ingredients.  Royal icing creates a nice hardened powdered sugar glaze on the cookies and it is really good for piping designs and doing detail work on cookies.

Before I started decorating the cookies, I did a little bit of prep work.  I made a sketch of each cookie shape and labeled it with the color icing I planned to use.  Then I made a list of all of the icing colors I would need to make, and set up all of the necessary tools (disposable piping bags, decorating tips, couplers, squeeze bottles, small bowls and spoons to mix each color of icing in).  It is really helpful to have a plan of how you are going to decorate the cookies before you actually start making the icing and decorating them.  It only takes a few minutes to write up a quick plan, and it makes the decorating process so much easier and more efficient.  There are a lot of really helpful tutorials on the internet for how to decorate sugar cookies with royal icing.  (A good tutorial can be found here.)  Decorating these cookies was so much fun, and I can’t wait for my next cookie project – Easter cookies!  :)

In addition to the cookies, my sister made an adorable caterpillar cake using a round cake for the head, and cupcakes for the body.  The cake turned out so cute!

Sugar Cookie Recipe from: Annie’s-Eats blog

Sugar Cookies

(print recipe)

Ingredients

  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 ½ tsp. almond extract
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 2 ½ cups sifted flour

Directions

  1. Cream the butter and powdered sugar.
  2. Blend in egg, almond extract, vanilla extract, salt and flour.
  3. Chill dough until firm.
  4. Roll to ¼” thickness on a well-floured surface.
  5. Cut with cookie cutters. Place on greased cookie sheets, and bake at 375° for 8-10 min. The cookies should not brown.
  6. Frost and decorate when cool.

Yields: 3-4 dozen cookies, depending on size (Recipe can be doubled)

Royal Icing Recipe Adapted from: All Recipes

Royal Icing

(print recipe)

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons meringue powder
  • 4 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar
  • 5-6 tablespoons water
  • ½ teaspoon almond extract

Directions

  1. Beat all ingredients at low speed for 7 to 10 minutes, or until icing forms peaks.

Tip: Keep icing covered with a wet kitchen towel at all times, as icing can dry out quickly.

Adorable dessert table!

Orzo Stuffed Peppers

Orzo Stuffed Peppers


The other day I was flipping through one of my cookbooks (Giada’s Kitchen) and came across this recipe for stuffed peppers.  I happened to already have all of the ingredients in my fridge/pantry, so I decided to make it for dinner that night.  Like my other recipe for stuffed peppers, this recipe is very easy to make.  But these peppers are actually quite different from the other ones.  This recipe uses orzo (rice shaped pasta) instead of rice, it has canned tomatoes instead of tomato sauce, there is no meat like the other one, and some of the flavorings are different.  If I had to choose between the two recipes, I think I would prefer the other one, but this is definitely a good alternative, and it was fun to try something new!

Adapted from: Giada de Laurentiis (Giada’s Kitchen cookbook- pg. 132)

Orzo Stuffed Peppers

(print recipe)

Ingredients:

  • 1 (28-ounce) can Italian tomatoes
  • 3 zucchini, grated
  • ½ cup chopped fresh parsley or mint leaves
  • ½ cup grated Parmesan, plus more for sprinkling
  • ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 1 ½ cups orzo (rice-shaped pasta)
  • 6 sweet bell peppers (red, yellow, or green)

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Pour the tomatoes into a large bowl and break apart using a pair of kitchen shears or your finger tips. Add the zucchini, parsley or mint, cheese, olive oil, garlic, salt, and pepper.  Stir to combine.
  3. Meanwhile, bring the chicken broth to a boil in a medium saucepan over high heat. Add the orzo and cook for 4 minutes. The orzo should be only partially cooked. Use a fine mesh sieve to transfer the orzo to the large bowl with the other vegetables. Stir the orzo into the vegetable mix to combine. Transfer the warm chicken broth to a 3-quart baking dish.
  4. Slice the tops off the peppers and remove all ribs and seeds. Cut a very thin slice from the base to help the peppers stand up.
  5. Place the peppers in the baking dish with the warm chicken broth. Spoon the orzo mixture into the peppers. Cover the dish with foil and bake for 45 minutes. Remove the foil, sprinkle the top of each pepper with cheese and continue baking until the cheese is golden, about 15 minutes. Remove from the oven, carefully transfer the orzo stuffed pepper to a serving plate.

Serves: 4-6

This is what the filling looks like before you stuff the peppers.

Rice with Black Beans & Corn

Rice with Black Beans & Corn

Rice with black beans and corn is super easy to make and it is really tasty.  I served it burrito-style with sliced grilled chicken breasts.  It would also be a great side dish.  The chicken broth adds a lot of flavor to the rice, and the red bell pepper, black beans, yellow corn, and green cilantro make it very colorful!

Adapted from: www.annies-eats.com, originally from Cook’s Illustrated

Rice with Black Beans & Corn

(print recipe)

Ingredients:

4 tsp. olive oil
1 cup onion, finely chopped
2 red or yellow bell peppers, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
2 ¼ cups water
1 ½ cups long-grain brown rice
1 tsp. salt
1 (15 oz.) can black beans, drained and rinsed
¾ cup corn kernels (fresh from cob, or frozen & thawed)
¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro
¼ tsp. ground black pepper

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 375° F.  Adjust an oven rack to the middle position.
  2. Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven over medium heat until shimmering.  Add the onion and bell pepper to the pan and cook, stirring occasionally, until well browned and tender, about 12-14 minutes.  Stir in the garlic and cook just until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
  3. Add the chicken broth and water to the pan.  Bring the mixture to a boil.
  4. Remove the pot from the heat, stir in the rice and salt, and cover.  Bake until the rice is tender, 65-70 minutes.
  5. Remove the pot from the oven and uncover.  Fluff the rice with a fork, stir in the beans and corn, and replace the lid.  Let stand for 5 minutes.  Then mix in the cilantro and black pepper.

The onion and bell peppers should be cooked until they are well browned and tender.

Bruschetta with Tomatoes & Basil

Bruschetta with Tomatoes & Basil


Bruschetta is one of my favorite appetizers.  It’s easy to make, and the flavors of basil, tomatoes, garlic, and extra virgin olive oil are so tasty.  This appetizer can be put together in minutes, and it’s the perfect thing to munch on before dinner.

Adapted from: Giada De Laurentiis

Bruschetta with Tomatoes & Basil

(print recipe)

Ingredients:

  • 1 (32-ounce) can whole tomatoes, drained
  • 2-3 red tomatoes, diced (Roma tomatoes are a good choice)
  • 1 cup fresh basil leaves, washed and spun dry
  • 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 6 cloves garlic, peeled
  • Kosher salt and black pepper
  • 2 large baguettes, sliced ½ -inch thick (about 36 slices)
  • Extra basil, roughly chopped

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. In the bowl of a food processor, add drained tomatoes, 1 cup basil leaves, olive oil and 2 cloves garlic. Pulse until smooth, but still somewhat chunky. Season with salt and pepper.
  3. Remove the tomato mixture from the food processor & stir in the chopped tomatoes.  Also stir in the rest of the basil that has been roughly chopped.
  4. On a baking sheet, line up baguette slices. Toast in oven for about 3 minutes or until light golden brown.  Working quickly, rub the remaining garlic on the toasted side of each slice. Spread one tablespoon of the tomato mixture on each piece of bread.
  5. Place bruschetta on a decorative platter and garnish with basil leaves, if desired.

Meatballs

As I’ve mentioned before, I love Italian food.  Spaghetti and meatballs are a classic Italian dish, and this recipe is wonderful.  I have made these meatballs many times and they are always so delicious.  The combination of turkey, beef, and pork in the meatballs gives them tons of flavor.  However, if you want to just use all beef or turkey in the meatballs, they will still turn out great.  You cannot go wrong with this recipe!

Adapted from: Giada De Laurentiis

Meatballs

(print recipe)

Ingredients:

  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves
  • 1 large egg
  • 3 tablespoons ketchup
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2/3 cup grated Parmesan
  • ¼ cup dried Italian-style breadcrumbs
  • 6  ounces ground beef
  • 6 ounces ground turkey
  • 6 ounces ground pork
  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • Marinara sauce, 26-ounce jar
  • 1 pound spaghetti

Directions

  1. Sauté the onion in a large, nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until the onion is cooked and slightly browned.
  2. Mix the first 7 ingredients (cooked onion, parsley, egg, ketchup, garlic, salt, & pepper) in a large bowl to blend.  Then stir in the cheese and breadcrumbs.
  3. Mix in the beef, turkey, and pork. Using about 2 tablespoons of meat for each meatball shape the meat mixture into 1 ¼ to 1 ½ -inch-diameter meatballs. Place on a baking sheet.
  4. Heat the oil over medium-high heat in same large nonstick skillet that was used to sauté the onions.  Working in 2 to 3 batches, add the meatballs and sauté until browned on all sides, about 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the meatballs to a plate.
  5. Add the jar of marinara sauce to a large pot and heat, covered over medium-low heat.
  6. Then add the cooked meatballs to the sauce.  Simmer over medium-low heat until the sauce thickens slightly and the flavors blend, about 20 minutes, or until the meatballs are fully cooked through. Season the sauce, to taste, with salt and pepper. (The meatball mixture can be made 1 day ahead. Cool, then cover and refrigerate. Re-warm over medium heat before continuing.)
  7. Cook the spaghetti according to package instructions.  Serve with meatballs and marinara sauce with spaghetti and parmesan cheese.

Serves: 8 (The meatballs & sauce make great leftovers)

Step-by-step Instructions:

Step 1: 1. Sauté the onion in a large, nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until the onion is cooked and slightly browned.

Step 2: 2. Mix the first 7 ingredients (cooked onion, parsley, egg, ketchup, garlic, salt, & pepper) in a large bowl to blend. Then stir in the cheese and breadcrumbs.

Step 3: Mix in the beef, turkey, and pork. Using about 2 tablespoons of meat for each meatball shape the meat mixture into 1 ¼ to 1 ½ -inch-diameter meatballs. Place on a baking sheet.

Step 4: Heat the oil over medium-high heat in same large nonstick skillet that was used to sauté the onions. Working in 2 to 3 batches, add the meatballs and sauté until browned on all sides, about 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the meatballs to a plate.

Steps 5 & 6: Add the jar of marinara sauce to a large pot and heat, covered over medium-low heat. Then add the cooked meatballs to the sauce. Simmer over medium-low heat until the sauce thickens slightly and the flavors blend, about 20 minutes, or until the meatballs are fully cooked through.

Step 7: Serve the meatballs and marinara sauce with spaghetti and parmesan cheese.


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