Tomato and Mozzarella Risotto

Tomato Mozzerella Risotto

Did you ever feel just a little too comfortable for your own good?  For example, in cooking.  I do so much cooking and baking, every once in a while I let my guard down, and I have a failure that definitely could have been avoided, with a little more vigilance.  It is definitely a hard concept, and one that often needs constant reminding.  Then I think about my children…and how it is best to start young with that lesson.

My older daughter plays softball – and her team is really good this year.  They are actually undefeated, if you can believe it.  At this point, with their 8+ wins, I can see they are starting to be a little over-confident.  The other night they really got a scare – a team that they had beat 19 to 0, came back in their next game to tie it at 5 runs.  I could tell they were a little nervous – and it was a good thing.  I still cheer loudly at every game – but I worry about them heading to the play-offs if they stay undefeated.  Aside from the expectations they will have – the other teams will be playing their hearts out.

Obviously though, it is a hard lesson to learn.  The other weekend I made some more rhubarb jelly – and I had some pectin left over from last season.  I was feeling pretty confident with my jelly making abilities – and would you believe the jelly never really set?  It is fine if you stick it in the refrigerator, but it is not my normal product.  I should have known better than to use that pectin, and that if it failed the plate test at over 220 degrees, there was probably something wrong.

Fortunately this risotto from Cooking Light is kind of dummy proof.  I made this for the girls after a long day, when my husband was away.  I was definitely not all there when I was making this, and it took me by surprise how good it actually was.  I had to run and grab my camera and take a shot of it – which I had no intention of doing.  It was also a big hit with the girls, even with the spinach – score.  So – the next time you are not feeling completely on top of your game – don’t worry about pulling this out for dinner.  Even if you are over-confident – the results will not disappoint.

Ingredients

  • 3 1/4 cups organic vegetable broth
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped onion
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh garlic
  • 1 1/4 cups uncooked Arborio rice
  • 3/4 cup canned crushed tomatoes
  • 2 ounces chopped fresh mozzarella cheese (about 1/2 cup)
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 cups torn fresh baby spinach
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh basil
  • 4 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided

Preparation

Bring vegetable broth to a simmer in a medium saucepan (do not boil). Keep warm over low heat.

Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and garlic to pan; sauté 2 minutes or until onion is tender, stirring frequently. Add rice to pan; cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Add 1/2 cup broth to rice mixture; cook for 5 minutes or until the liquid is nearly absorbed, stirring constantly. Reserve 1/3 cup broth. Add remaining broth, 1/4 cup at a time, stirring constantly until each portion of broth is absorbed before adding the next (about 22 minutes total). Stir in tomatoes; cook for 1 minute. Add cheese, pepper, and salt to rice mixture, stirring constantly until cheese melts. Remove from heat; stir in reserved 1/3 cup broth, spinach, and basil. Place 1 cup risotto in each of 4 shallow bowls. Drizzle 1 teaspoon oil over each serving.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Tomato and Mozzarella Risotto

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Frascatelli with Pecorino and Broccolini

Frascatelli with Pecorino and Broccolini

My husband has been away this week, which means we have been stuffing our faces with gluten and dairy.  I am so sick of pasta right now, I never thought I would see the day.  We had three nights of pasta dishes, and one night of pizza…boy could I use a big hunk of meat right about now.  I have to say, the meals have been delicious, but thank goodness he is coming home tonight.  So, what did I make?  Well, I definitely plan on sharing two recipes with you – with this one being the first.  Of course each night we had to discuss whether the dishes were “blogworthy” and this one got a resounding “YES,” which I really wasn’t expecting…

I used to make homemade pasta quite often – that was before I had children, and I could be in the kitchen for hours on end, with no interruptions.  My husband bought me this really awesome pasta machine – and drying rack.  It has all sorts of attachments, and I would try many different varieties.  This of course was before he realized that pasta was not his friend – although the strange thing is he actually does ok with homemade pasta, figure that?  The pasta making stopped years ago – and now when I am craving that delicious bite – I go to one of my favorite Italian restaurants, where they really do it right – Spinasse is definitely on top – and their pasta is to die for…seriously.  Months and months ago – I saw this recipe in Bon Appetit, and the cooking and hands-on time was only 30 minutes.  Basically the caption was – “the one homemade pasta suited for weeknight dinners.”  Well, that had me right there.  So, I finally tried it out – of course I made a few changes of my own – and it took me a little longer than 30 minutes – but not much.  The kids LOVED this – and I did too.  The dumplings were a little more all-dente than I would have wanted, but they had a wonderful taste and bite to them.  I thought they were perfect with the broccolini (since I didn’t have any mustard greens in the house that the original recipe called for).  Also – I added half the amount of butter (reflected below), and thought that was plenty – after all, it was a weeknight dinner.

So, if you are itching for some homemade pasta – but know you don’t have the time to do it justice - give this recipe a try.  It would be great with a delicate tomato sauce as well (that we had two nights ago with meatballs).  There is a lot you could do with these beauties.  It’s been a fun food week – but I can’t wait for tomorrow!!!

Ingredients

  • 2 cups  semolina flour (pasta flour)
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 bunch broccolini (baby broccoli)
  • Freshly ground black  pepper
  • 1/4 cup grated Pecorino or Parmesan

Preparation

Spread semolina flour in an even layer in an 8x8x2-inch baking dish. Fill a small bowl with 1 cup water and set next to dish. Working in 4-5  batches, gather your fingertips and thumb of 1 hand together and, working  quickly, dip into bowl of water, lift hand from bowl, and splatter water over  semolina. Repeat several times until surface of semolina is dotted with ragged  wet patches about the size of a nickel. Let stand until water is absorbed,  forming individual dumplings, about 5 seconds. Using a fish spatula or slotted  spoon, turn dumplings over to coat with semolina, then transfer to a sieve.  Shake gently over same baking dish to remove excess semolina; transfer dumplings  to a large rimmed baking sheet. Repeat with remaining semolina and water until  all of the water or all of the semolina has been used (there may be some water  or semolina left over).

Working in 3-4 batches, cook dumplings in a large pot of  slowly boiling salted water (if the water is boiling too rapidly, it may break  up the dumplings), gently swirling water once or twice to prevent sticking,  until al dente, about 30 seconds. Using a slotted spoon, transfer frascatelli to  another large rimmed baking sheet.

Steam the broccolini so it is crisp tender.  Heat butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat until  butter is foamy and browned bits form on the bottom of pan, about 2 minutes. Add  cooked frascatelli and toss gently to coat. Add broccolini and fold gently. Season to taste with salt and pepper  and divide among bowls. Top frascatelli with grated Pecorino.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Frascatelli with Pecorino and Broccolini

Shepherd’s Pie

Shepherd's Pie

Babies, babies, babies!!  Years ago when I was in my 20s, I remember when my friends starting getting married.  It was viral – one friend started, then everyone was dropping like flies.   It was a similar experience a few years later, when the babies started.  Even though I was right in there with the whole marriage thing, we waited a while to have kids.  I was definitely one of the last of my friends to have a baby, but I was glad I waited.  I was so ready when she finally came.  It has been many years since the baby boom, and our children are now starting to grow up – in fact, a few will be in high school starting next year.  Wow!

About a year ago, something happened.  In this day, when women are waiting longer and longer to have children, it is not a surprise that many have trouble getting pregnant.  This was not a rare occurrence with my circle of friends, in fact I was one of the few that was lucky enough not to have to deal with that.  It had been a while since any of my friends were pregnant, and I really thought we were done with that phase…not so quick.  When I got the first call, I was extremely surprised.  The doctor told her she would never have more children, and she believed it.  All of a sudden, her world was turned upside down – she had a 10-year-old, and a baby on the way.  A few months later, I found out about another good friend (and neighbor down the street) – same story, but this time with two kids – 9 and 6.  Again, she was told she would never have any more children.  The last one was quite a surprise – even though I had suspected - she has 2-year old twins.  It was amazing she got pregnant the first time, there was no way she would ever get pregnant again – at least that’s what the doctor told her.  Ok, so there has got to be something in the water now right?  I have stopped drinking it, this is just crazy.

Well – as it turns out, another good friend (our neighbor from behind) announced she was pregnant in the midst of all this craziness – she was my only pregnant friend with three kids already, but she is young with tons of energy, and always wanted four.  Both of the neighbor’s babies came last week, and the street is a very happy place.  Their babies are just perfect – I have never been much of a baby person (until I met my own), but these babies are something else.  They are just little magical beings.

I wanted to make them both some food – the only way I can really help them right now.  I wanted something comforting, and something that their other kids would like as well.  I went to the pantry where I store the recipes, and this is what I found – I knew that Cook’s Illustrated wouldn’t steer me wrong.  I thought it would be perfect – they could keep it in the refrigerator or freezer until they needed something to eat – as it turns out, this never made it to the freezer for either of them, and from what they tell me, it was the right choice.  I doubled the recipe below, and made enough for both their families, with some leftover for the girls and I – and it was the best shepherd’s pie I have ever made.

So – here’s to the new babies – but especially to their mommies…who are not getting a lot of sleep right now.  Don’t worry…if you read this blog, you know they grow up quickly!

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 lbs. ground beef no less than 93% lean
  • 2 TB  plus 2 teaspoons water
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 1/2 lbs. russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1/2 c milk
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 4 tablespoons melted butter
  • 4 oz. mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • olive oil for sautéing
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoons Marsala wine
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 1/4 c beef broth
  • 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 teaspoons dried thyme
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 2 teaspoons water

Preparations

Prep the ground beef by adding the water, salt, pepper and baking soda.  Mix well!  Let rest 20 minutes.

Place the potatoes into a pot with water to cover.  Salt the water.  Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cook for 8 to 10 minutes until tender.  Drain and place pot back on the stove over low heat to evaporate excess water.  Off heat, add the melted butter and mash well.  Beat the egg yolk and milk together and mix into the potatoes.  Season to taste, then cover and set aside.

In a sauté pan, cook olive oil over medium high heat.  When the oil begins to shimmer, add the onions and mushrooms.  Season with salt and pepper.  Sauté until vegetables are soft, and beginning to leave brown bits on the bottom of the pan, about 5 minutes.  Add the garlic and tomato paste and continue cooking until paste turns brown and covers the bottom of the pan.  Add the Marsala, scraping up bits from the bottom of the pan.  Add the flour and cook briefly, about 1 to 2 minutes.  Add the broth, Worcestershire, thyme and bay leaf.  Continue to scrape up bottom of the pan and then add the carrots.  Bring to a boil, scraping up any remaining bits on the bottom.  Reduce the heat and add beef in 2-inch chunks over the sauce.  Bring to a gentle simmer, then cover the pan and cook for 10 to 15 minutes.  About half-way through, break up the beef chunks with two forks.  When meat is cooked through, mix 2 teaspoons water with the cornstarch and stir into the pan to thicken, about 1 minute.  Remove pan from heat.

Pour the meat into a casserole dish and spread the mashed potatoes over the top, using an off-set spatula.  Using a dinner fork, create ridges across the potatoes.  At this point you can either wrap with foil and refrigerate for another day or put right into the oven.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Place the pan on a rimmed cooking sheet to catch any spillover and 30-60 minutes until juices are bubbling. If you would like the top to get brown and crusty, broil for a few minutes before serving.

Let rest 10 minutes before serving.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Shepherd’s Pie

No-Boil Mac and Cheese

No Boil Mac and Cheese

I actually remember when I first found no-boil lasagna sheets.  I just couldn’t believe it.  I was probably jumping up and down in the super market, making a spectacle of myself.  The first time I made lasagna, I thought it would be easy.  Little did I know that those noodles were the death of me.  They were impossible to lay out in one piece, even if they were al dente.  Every other part of the lasagna was easy – except those dang noodles.  I quickly bought a batch and couldn’t wait to go home and try them out.  Making lasagna couldn’t get any easier – and I swear, you would have never known they were not pre-boiled.  It was magical.

Years ago, when I was really into making casseroles, I made a lot with un-boiled rice – that I baked in the oven until the rice was cooked.  There always had to be enough sauce, but it was super easy, and always tasted good.  For some reason I never thought to do that with noodles though.  I think because I found those no-boil labeled noodles, I assumed they had to be a certain type in order for the noodles to get soft in the oven.  I guess I was wrong…

I saw this recipe in Bon Appetit, and immediately cut it out.  I knew they were onto something big.  This recipe sat in my pantry for what felt like an eternity.  I had to wait for the right time – this made a lot of mac and cheese, and I had to make sure I had enough kids to eat it.  This past weekend we had some friends over, the oldest boy in middle school.  Here was my opportunity.  It was super easy to put together, and baked up perfectly.  The sauce was nice and thick, the noodles were just the right consistency – not too soft, and not too chewy.  Everyone loved it – in fact, my girls are still eating the leftovers, and loving every bite.  I have to say – that garlic breadcrumb topping is something else….as you can see, I will definitely be making this again.  And the best part?  No noodles to boil, and one less pot to clean.  Here comes the jumping again!  Double bonus points!!

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, divided
  • 1/4  cup  all-purpose flour
  • 3  cups  whole milk
  • 1 tablespoon kosher  salt plus more
  • 1/2 teaspoon  freshly  ground black pepper plus more
  • 1 pound elbow macaroni
  • 2 cups shredded cheddar, divided
  • 2  garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 cup panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
  • 2 tablespoons chopped  flat-leaf parsley

Preparation

Preheat oven to 400°. Melt 1/4 cup butter in a large saucepan  over medium-high heat. Add flour; cook, whisking constantly, for 1 minute. Whisk  in milk and 3 cups water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer, and cook,  whisking often, until a very thin, glossy sauce forms, about 10 minutes. Stir in  1 tablespoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Remove sauce from  heat.

Toss pasta and 1 1/2 cups cheese in a 13x9x2-inch or other  shallow 3-quart baking dish. Pour sauce over (pasta should be submerged; do not  stir) and cover with foil. Bake until pasta is almost tender, about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, melt remaining 1/4 cup butter in a large skillet  over medium heat. Add garlic, panko, and parsley and toss to combine. Season  with salt and pepper.

Remove foil from dish. Sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup cheese,  then panko mixture. Bake until pasta is tender, edges are bubbling, and top is  golden brown, about 10 minutes longer. Let sit 10 minutes before serving.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  No-Boil Mac and Cheese

Tortilla Chip Casserole

Tortilla Chip Casserole

What a week – can I say that again?  WHAT A WEEK.  There is only a part of me that is scared that tomorrow is Friday – because I know that things are exactly the way they should be yet, and that means more fun this weekend.  It’s ok, I am ready for it – and isn’t that half the battle?

It’s a good thing my husband doesn’t read my blog, because he won’t like what I am about to write about…he has some allergies that we have been dealing with.  Ok, not just some – a lot.  He found out recently that he is allergic to Soy, Gluten, Dairy, Eggs, and (wait for it…) Garlic.  Yes, all of those.  He loves protein though, so aside from the eggs, it is not that difficult for him.  It is difficult for the rest of the family though – who actually likes gluten, dairy and eggs – all mixed together.  For the most part we have been eating meat and vegetables for dinner – and boy am I lucky my girls love meat as well.  I haven’t given up baking, and really have no plans to do so – it is not fair to deprive my kids because my husband can no longer indulge.  When he only thought he was allergic to dairy, I would actually attempt dairy-free desserts – now I have basically given up – even the gluten is doable, but add eggs in there as a no-no, and it’s just that – a no-no.

So – my kids have been looking forward to when my husband travels – only at dinner time.  He was away last week for a couple of days, and we went nuts on gluten, dairy and eggs.  I was saving this casserole from Cooking Light to make – which to tell you the truth, I could have modified to try and make it safe for him, but it wouldn’t have tasted nearly as good.  I adapted the recipe slightly (substituted corn for beans) – just in case you would rather make it with beans.  The girls loved it – they had seconds, and ate it as leftovers!!  They are already planning for his next trip…poor Daddy!!

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh garlic
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup 2% reduced-fat milk
  • 1/2 cup unsalted chicken stock
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 ounces 1/3-less-fat cream cheese
  • 1 cup organic frozen corn, thawed
  • 3 cups chopped cooked chicken breast
  • 4 ounces baked tortilla chips, crushed
  • 1  roasted red bell pepper, chopped
  • 8 ounces lower-sodium green chile enchilada sauce (such as Frontera)
  • 2.5 ounces shredded cheddar-Monterey Jack cheese blend (about 2/3 cup)
  • 2 tablespoons chopped green onions

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350°.

Heat oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add onion; cook 6 minutes. Add garlic and flour; cook 2 minutes. ­Gradually add milk and stock, stirring constantly; bring to a boil. Remove from heat; stir in cumin, coriander, salt, pepper, and cream cheese.

Spread 1/2 cup milk mixture over bottom of a broiler-safe 11 x 7-inch baking dish. Layer corn, 1 1/2 cups chicken, and 2 ounces chips. Top with 1/2 cup milk mixture. Layer 1 1/2 cups chicken, bell pepper, and 2 ounces chips; top with 1 cup milk mixture and enchilada sauce. Sprinkle with shredded cheese. Bake at 350° for 30 minutes. Sprinkle with green onions.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Tortilla Chip Casserole

Pizza with Cherry Tomatoes, Proscuitto and Basil

I know this is not a typical pre-Thanksgiving post – but it is around 4:00pm here, and it is almost dark.  It has been raining for most of the day, and the forecast says rain for the next ten days.  Secretly, this is my favorite time of year, when all you want to do is stay inside and bake – but sometimes you need to make something that just gets you into a different mindset – something fun that the entire family craves.  Pizza.

My husband and I are pizza snobs.  I became one when I started dating him, over 20 years ago.  We spent a lot of time in New York City then, and pizza was affordable.  Our favorite place to go with John’s Pizza on Bleecker Street.  It is brick oven pizza.  The crust is so thin that it gets completely crisp on the bottom – there is no soggy dough in this place.  I love the toppings, and the fresh mozzarella cheese.  In fact, we still try to go there every summer when we visit.  Last summer my father convinced us to try a different place – it was August – it was hot – and it was more convenient for us to go to this new place than head all the way downtown to go to John’s.  Even though this new place was better than any pizza we can find in Seattle – it was not John’s.

We have been talking for years about how we can recreate John’s pizza at home – but until we got the Big Green Egg, it was a fantasy.  We put off pizza for quite a while – waiting for just the time – but the time had come.  We had mastered so many other things on the Egg, it was time attempt pizza.  At first I was all set to make my own dough – but we decided that if it was a big failure, that would just add salt to the wound – so I settled on using Trader Joe’s dough.  If the pizza came out good using TJ’s, just imagine what it would be like with homemade dough.  Well – we were jumping up and down – this pizza was the best we had ever made.  The bottom was crispy and delicious, and the bubbles in the crust, just made us want to cry.  It was the brick oven pizza we dreamed about.  Now I just need to get a new pizza stone (mine wasn’t made to withstand temperatures as high as 600 degrees), and make my own dough – and people will start lining up in front of our house.  Well – maybe if it stops raining.

Ingredients

  • Pizza dough (I used Trader Joes)
  • Olive Oil
  • Garlic
  • Fresh Mozzarella Cheese (not pre-shredded)
  • Assorted Cherry Tomatoes
  • Prosciutto, thinly sliced
  • Basil

Preparation

Prepare your Big Green Egg by preheating it to around 600 degrees – with a place setter for indirect cooking.  If you do not have an Egg, your pizza will not be as crisp on the bottom, but preheat your oven to 500 degrees.  You must use a pizza stone for this, and it helps to have a holder and a wooden pizza peel as well.  Place the pizza stone on top of the place setter, so it is nice and hot.

Roll your dough out to whatever size pizza you would like to make.  We made 4 small pizzas with the dough.  Lightly dust the pizza peel with cornmeal, and place the rolled dough circle on the peel.  Take some olive oil and minced garlic, and put into a bowl.  Brush your pizza dough with the olive oil garlic mixture.  Slice some mozzarella cheese and place on top of the dough.  Cut the cherry tomatoes in half, and sprinkle around.  Do the same with some cut up prosciutto and fresh basil leaves.

Using the pizza peel, slide the pizza onto the preheated pizza stone.  Cook for 5 minutes or until the dough is lightly brown and crisp.  Repeat for the remaining dough disks.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Pizza with Cherry Tomatoes, Prosciutto and Basil

Crunchy Eggs with Piquillo Peppers

There are two phrases that always seem to stick in my mind that have to do with cooking and bakeing – “It’s better with butter” and “You can basically fry anything and it will taste good.”  I think the latter really has to do with deep fat frying, but if you know what you are doing, and you get the pan to the right temperature, you can make it happen without the fryer.

I have done a lot of frying in my day.  In fact, my husband is pretty good at it himself.  When we were dating and living in Colorado, one of his most favorite things to make was…wait for it…fried mozzerela.  I remember the day he figured out how to make these morsels - without a deep fat fryer.  It was genius, I must admit.  He took a mozzarella stick, dipped it into an egg batter, then covered it in bread crumbs.  He got the pan nice and hot with some oil, and started browning each side.  They were delicious.

We don’t pan fry as much as we used to – but I am always looking for new and interesting ways to make things crispy.  As you know, poached eggs are my absolute favorite – especially when they are served over a savory hash or rice.  I saw this recipe in Bon Appetit, and I was intrigued immediately.  I couldn’t get past the crunchy eggs.  At first, it freaked me out a little – were they crunchy because of the shells?  There was no picture, so I had to read the recipe.  Ah, a breaded egg – this is amazing!!  Well, I was right – what an incredible texture – and the piquillo pepper mixture with ham was the perfect pairing.  My husband, who hates eggs for dinner, LOVED this – he would have eaten twice as much as the recipe called for.  So – the next time you are in the mood to fry something, why not try crunchy eggs (without the shells) – and if you get really adventurous, you can serve them with the fried mozzarella sticks.  Could life get any better – maybe with just a little bit of butter…

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon distilled white vinegar
  • 4 extra-large eggs
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 2 ounces thinly sliced Serrano ham or prosciutto, cut into 2×1/4″ strips
  • 1/2 cup canned piquillo peppers or roasted red peppers from jar, cut lengthwise into 1/2″-wide strips
  • 1/2 cup dry Sherry
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh marjoram
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt plus more for seasoning
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
  • 1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
  • 2 large egg whites
  • 3/4 cup olive oil

Preparation

Line a rimmed baking sheet with plastic wrap. Pour water into a large skillet to a depth of 2″. Bring water to a boil; lower heat to maintain a simmer. Add vinegar. Break 1 egg into a small ramekin or bowl. Partially immerse cup in water and quickly slide egg into water. Repeat with remaining 3 eggs. Cook until whites are firm but yolks are still runny, about 3 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer eggs to prepared sheet. Trim eggs’ ragged edges with a knife. Slide eggs into a medium bowl filled with ice water. Cover bowl; chill until cold.

DO AHEAD: Can be made 1 day ahead. Keep chilled.

Heat extra-virgin olive oil in a medium heavy skillet over medium heat. Add garlic; sauté for 1 minute. Add ham; sauté for 1 minute. Add peppers, Sherry, and marjoram; simmer until almost all liquid evaporates, about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Remove from heat.

Using a slotted spoon, transfer eggs to a kitchen towel to drain. Mix panko, thyme, and 1 teaspoon salt in a medium bowl. Place egg whites in another medium bowl; whisk to loosen. Gently roll 1 poached egg in egg whites, then in panko mixture (some bare spots may remain). Place on plate. Repeat with remaining eggs, egg whites, and panko.

Heat 3/4 cup olive oil in a medium heavy skillet over medium heat. Gently slide eggs, one at a time, into oil; cook until crumbs begin to brown, about 2 minutes per side. Using slotted spoon, transfer eggs to paper towels to drain. Sprinkle lightly with salt.

Divide pepper mixture among 4 plates. Top each with 1 egg and serve.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Crunchy Eggs with Piquillo Peppers

Grilled Chicken Florentine Pasta

If you are a regular on this blog, you know that we don’t eat a lot of pasta in our house.  Believe me, if I could have pasta every night I would – but since my husband is not a huge fan, I have created a special place for pasta in our house.  My husband has to travel from time to time, and my girls hate it when he goes away – they definitely love their Daddy.  So, a while ago I decided that as a treat when he is away, we have pasta for dinner.  There are no more tears when he is away now – all because of a little pasta – wow, I bet you never knew pasta could be that powerful.

Needless to say, we have a lot of pasta recipes cut out of various magazines that my daughters are waiting for me to make.  It used to be that they would only eat plain pasta – no sauce, no vegetables, no nothing.  Just noodles.  Slowly I have broken them out of this mold.  Now, remember my story about the Spinach Bites, and how I got my older daughter to eat spinach, not just eat, but LOVE spinach?  Well, it was time to try something new – and see if that carries over to other dishes.  I found this recipe in Cooking Light and figured that it was basically like a mac-n-cheese with chicken and spinach – well, not only did my older daughter devour this, my younger one ate her entire helping, and asked for more!  Success!!  I was seriously impressed – but this was a pretty delicious dinner, I had three helpings.  So – if your kids hate spinach, don’t try this first – go for the Spinach Bites.  But if you have moved past that, and are ready for something a little more risky – I have got the recipe for you.  Go on, give it a try, what’s the worst that can happen, you have to eat the chicken and spinach remnants from their bowl?  You will still thank me…

Ingredients

  • 2  (6-ounce) bone-in chicken breasts, skinned
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 3/4 teaspoon black pepper, divided
  • Cooking spray
  • 8 ounces uncooked linguine
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh garlic
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 cup fat-free, lower-sodium chicken broth
  • 3 ounces Parmesan cheese, grated (about 3/4 cup)
  • 4 cups fresh spinach leaves

Preparation

Prepare grill to medium-high heat.

Sprinkle chicken with 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Place chicken on grill rack coated with cooking spray, and grill for 8 minutes on each side or until done. Let stand 10 minutes. Carve chicken off bones, and thinly slice.

Cook the pasta according to package directions. Drain well; keep warm.

Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add flour and garlic; cook until garlic is browned (about 2 minutes), stirring constantly. Add milk and broth, stirring with a whisk; bring to a simmer, and cook 2 minutes or until thickened. Add cheese, stirring until cheese melts. Add remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt, remaining 1/2 teaspoon pepper, and spinach; stir until spinach wilts. Add pasta and chicken; toss to combine.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Grilled Chicken Florentine Pasta

Lettuce Wraps with Hoisin-Peanut Sauce

Your sense of smell is so important, almost as important as your taste buds.  You can recall things instantly with your sense of smell, it is extremely powerful.  You can be walking down the street, smell something, and suddenly you remember something you haven’t thought of in years, just because it reminds you of the last time you smelled that scent.  Half the enjoyment of eating for me, is smelling the beauty of the food.

My father was visiting this weekend, and I found out he has been having trouble with his sense of smell.  He seems to be in good spirits about it, and hopefully it is just temporary.  Fortunately when he walked up the stairs for dinner on Monday night, he could actually smell the smoky goodness of the Big Green Egg fired up in the back.  Now that is heaven to your nose…let me tell you.

Tonight I came home from work to the worst smell ever…fish fertilizer and seaweed.  I am telling you, it doesn’t get much worse than that.  I walked into the house, and the girls immediately started complaining about it.  Yes, the men came today to fertilize the trees and shrubs.  They use all natural and organic fertilizers, but that comes with a cost, and I am not just talking about money.  The smell is so bad, it leaks into the house.  Since I am allergic to fish, it is even worse for me.  I feel completely sick.  There was only one thing to do – start cooking.  I needed something quick, and something fragrant, so I went to this recipe in Cooking Light (which I adapted slightly below).  I was desperate for anything to saute on the stove.  This dish is so delicious and easy – what a treat it was.  The problem was the good smell didn’t last long enough to wipe out the bad smell, and after dinner I found myself sick again.  I couldn’t even eat dessert.  I am now hiding in the office with a Pound Cake candle lit next to me.  I am dealing.  Good thing it usually goes away pretty quickly – especially when it is raining.  I am still thankful for my sense of smell, but looking forward to smelling rain soon.

Ingredients

Sauce

  • 1 teaspoon canola oil
  • 1 tablespoon minced shallot
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons creamy peanut butter
  • 4 teaspoons hoisin sauce
  • 1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice

Filling

  • 1  pound of ground turkey breast
  • 1 tablespoon dark sesame oil
  • 6  thinly sliced green onions (about 2/3 cup), divided
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro, divided
  • 3 tablespoons lower-sodium soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon Sriracha (hot chile sauce, such as Huy Fong)
  • 1 cup matchstick-cut cucumbers
  • 1 cup matchstick-cut carrots
  • 2 cups hot cooked brown rice
  • 8  Bibb lettuce leaves

Preparation

To prepare sauce, heat a small saucepan over medium heat. Add canola oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add shallot, and sauté for 2 minutes. Add 1/3 cup water and next 3 ingredients (through red pepper), and stir with a whisk. Bring to a boil; cook 1 minute. Remove from heat; stir in lime juice.

Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add sesame oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add 1/3 cup green onions; sauté 1 minute. Add ground turkey; sauté until browned, stirring occasionally. Add 2 tablespoons cilantro, soy sauce, ginger, sugar, and Sriracha; sauté 1 minute. Remove from heat; stir in cucumbers, carrots, and remaining green onions.

Spoon 1/4 cup rice into each lettuce leaf. Top with about 1/2 cup meat mixture; sprinkle with 1 tablespoon cilantro. Serve with sauce.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Lettuce Wraps with Hoisin-Peanut Sauce

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Chili-Cheese Mac

Have you ever had a car that was close to 100,000 miles?  You tell yourself that you are going to watch it get to that milestone, but the next time you look at the odometer, it is at 100,007.  That has happened to me a couple of times, and I swear to myself, the next time I will pay more attention.  I am still not sure what the allure is, maybe subliminally you think that confetti will come out of the sky, and there will be a band playing in the background, all because of this big milestone.  Well – I have been looking at my page views lately, as I edge towards one million…yes, that is a very large number.  I was so excited to reach that milestone.  Of course, I forgot about it though, and the next time I looked, I was a thousand over.  Would you believe I was actually disappointed that I missed it?  Like I would actually sit at my blog and keep refreshing the dashboard until I reached the magic number?  Maybe if I had nothing else to do with my time, but certainly that should not be my priority with the life I currently lead.

Back to why you are here in the first place…food.  Yes, my husband was away again, and I was back to making another variation on macaroni and cheese – this time the chili version.  I saw this recipe in Cooking Light, and when I saw the cream cheese in the list of ingredients, I knew it would be a winner.  I am edging my way towards my college roommate’s orange pasta with this recipe, and I knew it had to be awesome.  I loved how creamy this was – and the meat was a welcome addition.  The kids actually loved it – but then again, I am not sure I have ever made a mac-n-cheese that they didn’t like.  For a super easy recipe, this was definitely a keeper.  Here’s to a million more…

Ingredients

  • 1 teaspoon canola oil
  • 3/4 pound ground round
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 2 cups fat-free, lower-sodium beef broth
  • 1 cup water
  • 1  (10-ounce) can mild diced tomatoes and green chiles, undrained
  • 8 ounces uncooked elbow macaroni
  • 1/2 cup fat-free milk
  • 4 ounces 1/3-less-fat cream cheese
  • 4 1/2 ounces finely shredded reduced-fat sharp cheddar cheese

Preparation

Heat a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add oil. Add beef and next 4 ingredients; cook 3 minutes. Add broth, water, and tomatoes; bring to a boil. Stir in macaroni; cover and cook 10 minutes or until macaroni is done.

Heat milk and cream cheese in a saucepan over medium heat. Cook 4 minutes or until cheese melts, stirring frequently. Remove from heat. Stir in cheddar. Add cheese sauce to macaroni mixture; toss well to coat.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Chili-Cheese Mac

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