Tortellini with Pesto

It’s the second to last dinner for my eldest before he heads off to college so I picked an old favorite from his childhood. It’s one that we all love and has carried through as the years go by, of course it’s hard to go wrong with homemade pesto. 

When we found out that he was allergic to nuts I went on a mission to find one that I liked that was nut-free. This one has stood the test of time. 

I started with my basil: a mix of Thai and regular basil (any basil works, I had extra since I’m using it in my dessert tomorrow too). Once it was cleaned I pulled off my leaves and separated it out into portions.


The portion for the pesto went into the food processor with a few cloves of garlic. 

      

Then I started the grill and the water. The Italian sausage took 10 minutes so I started those first, then came in and blanched the basil for tomorrow in my pasta water.

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Then I cooked the pasta in the basil water and turned the sausage.

  
I blended up the pesto in the food processor just before the pasta finished, adding salt, pepper, and olive oil after the basil was chopped and finishing with the Parmesan.  

         

While the pasta drained I pulled the sausage off the grill.

  

Then I came in and tossed the pasta – dinner is served and I have a happy boy. 

    

Tortellini with Pesto
Entrées, Pastas, Tested and Approved!

Cook 10 minutes ∙ Makes 4 ∙ Difficulty Easy 

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 cups basil leaves, fresh, packed
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • ½ cup Parmesan, freshly shredded
  • salt and black pepper, to taste
  • 1½-2 pounds tortellini, cooked

DIRECTIONS

In a food processor, pulse the basil and garlic until roughly chopped. With the machine on, slowly pour in the oil until just blended. Stir in cheese, salt, and pepper and mix until just blended. 
Toss the pesto into cooked tortellini. 

This can be served warm, at room temperature, or cold.

Grad Party – Part 3

Today I made the glaze for the ribs after removing the last of the fat from my collected drippings. 

To my concentrated drippings I added the rest of my cheap balsamic vinegar (yes, cheap, only suitable as a marinade and for concentrating). And an equal part of water with 2 cups of dark brown sugar and proceeded to further concentrate the glaze.

    

After a couple of hours I had a thick vinegary sauce.


I also whipped up the dressing for my cole slaw that I’m planning to make on Saturday morning, since it is always better if you make it a day in advance. The dressing is very simple; I prefer a vinegar base to a creamy sauce. Sugar, vinegars (white wine, red wine, apple cider, and raspberry because I ran out of the red), and oil go into the blender.

        
This will keep in the fridge easily.

We’ve also been trying to minimize other food in the fridge, so have been keeping dinners simple this week: M-pizza, T-brats, W-sushi, and my hubby suggested cold cuts for dinner and my grad has friends over so I whipped up my version of Italian subs. It is fresh baguette, olive oil, olive tapenade, Prosciutto, hot capicola, peppered salami, fresh mozzarella, and basil.


Not Enough Leftovers

We had 10 boys for dinner on Sunday, I had about 5½ lbs. of flat iron steak that I marinated for fajitas. I also sautéed 3 large sweet onions, 3 bell peppers, and 3 poblano peppers. I was planning on using the leftovers to make steak wraps for dinner today. Only 1 problem with the plan, after dinner the meat was gone. No one was hungry, but my Tuesday plans were shot. 


I still had peppers and onions, along with my baked black beans and tomatillo guacamole. So when I finally got to think about what to do for dinner when I got in my car today, I really wanted to figure out how to use it. I thought, I’ll just do soft tacos, it’s easy. When I called my husband, he suggested I look for chorizo and my plan took form. 

I picked up chorizo and thin center cut pork chops, and I set to work dicing the chops. There isn’t much fat on these, but I removed it anyway. 

  

First I browned the chorizo, and it released beautiful, flavorful oil into my pan. 

  
I set aside the chorizo, and lightly sautéed the pork in the same pan with a bit of cumin, oregano, and chipotle chili pepper sprinkled on it. 

  

  

When it was done I set that with the chorizo until everyone was ready to eat. Tuesdays my older son is working and my younger son is training for lacrosse, so only my husband and I eat together. On a good note this meant I had the time to reheat in my skillet rather than the microwave (ok for lunches, but I prefer not to use). 

My boys ate individually and for each of them I prepped all in the skillet and used the stove to heat the tortillas. 

  

It was similar for my husband and me; we used both the corn and flour tortillas. 

Delicious, and no wasted food. 

Squash is in SEASON!!!

I have always loved squash, as much as my sister hates it, so when it’s in season we tend to use it frequently. Stuffed squash is a great option for aqorn squash because you have your whole meal in one dish.

This recipe makes enough filling for 3-4 squash, I only make two (1/2 squash for each of us) and I bake the additional filling for leftovers. I start with cooking the barley and roasting the squash halves (seeds removed) with the cut side down until they are fork tender.

While they roast, I prepare the filling. 

We prefer a bit of spice, so I use a seeded poblano pepper, but you could substitute with a green bell pepper for a milder flavor.

The chopped sage lends another element of fall flavor.

The sweet onion I simply chop in the food processor.

Last I dice the chicken. I use The same cutting board throughout, by doing the chicken last I prevent contaminating the vegetables with the raw chicken.

Sauté the chicken, onion, and peppers together until the chicken is starting to cook.

Then add salt, pepper, the sage, and cooked barley; continue cooking until the chicken is cooked through.

By this point the squash will be done, flip them over and fill them with the stuffing. Set any extra in a baking dish.


Top it all with goat cheese and bake.

Stuffed Squash With Herbed Goat Cheese

Cook Time: 20 minutes | Servings: 4 Servings | Difficulty: Easy

Ingredients:

  • 2¼ cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • ¾ cup pearl barley
  • 2 acorn squash, halved crosswise and seeded
  • 2 tsp olive or vegetable oil
  • 1 pound chicken breasts, boneless and skinless, cut into small pieces
  • ½ cup onion, chopped
  • 1 poblano pepper, seeded and diced
  • 1 tsp sage, dried
  • Salt and pepper, optional
  • 4 Tbsp herbed goat cheese, crumbled

Directions:

Preheat oven to 425°F.

Bring the chicken stock and barley to a boil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer until tender, about 50-60 minutes.

Scoop the seeds from each squash half and place, cut sides down, on a foil-lined baking sheet or a baking dish sprayed with olive oil. Bake for 30-40 minutes, until flesh is tender. Remove from oven and flip to cut side up.

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add chicken, onion, poblano pepper, and saute 3 minutes. Add sage, salt and pepper, to taste, and cooked barley and stir to coat. Cook, stirring constantly, until chicken is cooked through and mixture is well-combined.

Spoon barley mixture into each halved squash then top with goat cheese. Bake for 5 to 7 minutes, or until cheese is lightly browned.

Notes: Quick cooking barley can be substituted to save time, if using:
Heat 2 cups chicken stock in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the barley and simmer until tender, about 8 to 10 minutes.

Paprika Recipe

Another “Eat” Inspired Sandwich

We are getting ready for tailgating and are going simple (and late) today since the boys have been stretching their limits of sleep deprivation with our high school’s silly start time of 7:10. Earlier this week I had lunch at Eat in Ann Arbor and they had another bacon sandwich which I had to try; it was amazing as usual and I knew my family would love it.

I just got back from the store where I bought a fresh baguette, bacon (plenty of extra since the boys will steal some), baby arugula, Michigan Honeycrisp apples, white cheddar, aioli (maple bacon), and onion jam (roasted garlic). I set about to baking my bacon and washing my arugula immediately. 

I cut the baguette in half to build one giant sandwich, and I smeared one side with the aioli and the other with onion jam. 




And then I layered the bacon, white cheddar, thinly sliced apple, and arugula on the onion jam side, finally topping the sandwich with the aioli side. 









Then I cut and wrapped the sandwiches for eating at the tailgate. Enjoy!


Italian Panini

I thought I had already posted this recipe, but a quick skim reveals that I am incorrect. 

This was originally just a concept that my husband had last September; we loaded up a loaf of Pugilese bread from our local market and a sandwich was born. 

We wrote it up:

Italian Panini

Entrées, Sandwiches, Tested and Approved!

Prep 30 mins ∙ Cook 30 mins ∙ Makes 4-6

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 loaf Italian pugliese bread, cut in thirds (laterally), reserve middle third for another use
  • Coarse sea salt
  • Sage, fresh, coarsely chopped
  • ½ lb. Provolone
  • ½ lb. Capicola
  • ½ lb. Peppered salami
  • 8 oz. Sun dried tomatoes, drained, sliced, oil reserved
  • 8 oz. Roasted red peppers, sliced
  • 8 oz. Mozzarella, shredded
  • Basil, fresh
  • Arrabbiata dipping sauce

DIRECTIONS

Drizzle the bottom half of the bread with olive oil (from the tomatoes), sprinkle with sea salt and sage. Layered with provolone, capicola, provelone, peppered salami, sun dried tomatoes, mozzarella, red peppers, fresh basil, and more mozzarella.

Cook for 20 minutes on low in a panini press and then wrap in foil and cook at 300°F for 10 minutes.

Cut into 6 wedges and dip in the warm arrabbiata sauce.

NOTES

The middle third of the bread is unused, it makes a great appetizer with a bit of seasoned olive oil and fresh mozzarella.

Paprika Recipe

Today, we modified our own recipe and made sandwiches for each of us. It was similar…

I used sliced buttered olive sourdough bread, brushed with an olive oil-balsamic mix.

Onto that I layered kalamata tapenade, fresh mozzarella, roasted red peppers, sun dried tomatoes, fresh basil, prosciutto, more basil, peppered salami, more fresh mozzarella, and last another slice of buttered olive sourdough bread, brushed with an olive oil-balsamic mix.

Perfect sandwiches after slowly cooking on the panini press. 

Play with your food! Enjoy!

Lemon Garlic Chicken Packets

Today I am going to write as I cook, I don’t know if it’s going to work, but I’m hopeful. My husband found a recipe for chicken packets wrapped in parchment. The idea sounded good but the flavor was weak. I started with 5 chicken breasts and made a marinade in a ziplock bag with olive oil, lemon juice, lemon zest, minced oregano, minced garlic, pepper flakes, coriander, cumin, and cinnamon. Then I let it sit while I did the other prep work. 


I cut the parchment paper in large pieces (~14 x 10″), sliced the shallots, zucchini, chopped the olives, and chopped the tomatoes.


Then I used spoons to hold the parchment open and layered the chicken, shallots, olives, tomatoes, artichoke hearts, and zucchini, then drizzled the pile with a bit of olive oil. 


I twisted the parchment tightly around the edges to seal them and placed them on rimmed cookie sheets. They only took 15 minutes in my oven and were perfect. 

The sauce at the bottom was delicious. 

Lemon Garlic Chicken Packets

Makes Serves 4 ∙ Source: The Stacey Bistro

INGREDIENTS

  • 3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzle
  • Zest of ½ lemon
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 Tbsp fresh oregano, chopped
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • ¼ tsp coriander
  • ⅛ tsp pepper flakes
  • Dash of cinnamon
  • ½ tsp Kosher salt
  • 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 4-6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 large shallot, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup pitted mixed olives, coarsely chopped
  • 1 handful cherry tomatoes, diced
  • 1 cup quartered marinated artichoke hearts
  • 2 small zucchini, cut in half then sliced
  • Parchment paper, cut in large pieces (~14 x 10″)

DIRECTIONS

Preheat the oven to 450°F with the rack in the middle.

In a ziplock bag, mix together the olive oil, lemon juice, lemon zest, minced garlic, oregano, cumin, coriander, pepper flakes, cinnamon, salt, and pepper.

Add the chicken and marinate for 10 minutes and up to 2 hours.

Open up the parchment pieces and lay them flat. Then I used spoons to hold the parchment open and layered each with the chicken, shallots, olives, tomatoes, artichoke hearts, and zucchini, then at the end drizzle each pile with a bit of olive oil. 

I folded the other half of the parchment over and twisted the parchment tightly around the edges to seal them and placed them on rimmed cookie sheets. 
Cook in the oven for 15-20 minutes or until the chicken registers an internal cooking temperature of 165°F. (Use a meat thermometer, poke through the paper.)

Apple and Fontina Grilled Cheese

On Labor Day, Bon Appétit posted 16 Grilled Cheese That Prove Perfection Does Exist. A few caught my eye and I shared the links on my Facebook page. We “kind of” tried the Apple and Fontina Grilled Cheese on Monday; yes, it was fairly edited to match our own tastes and preferences.

So what did we do?

  1. Buttered pumpernickel – not cocktail
  2. Balsamic Dijon mustard – not tarragon
  3. Shredded Fontina
  4. Peppered turkey – our addition
  5. Spinach – plenty, not just 4 leaves
  6. Sliced apple – we had Granny Smith, used the mandolin
  7. More shredded Fontina
  8. More Dijon
  9. Another slice of buttered pumpernickel

And then we put it on the panini press – delicious!

The crispness of the apples was awesome.

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Apple and Fontina Grilled Cheese

Prep Time: 15 minutes | Cook Time: 10 minues | Servings: Servings: 4 | Difficulty: Easy

Ingredients:

  • 8 slices pumpernickel bread
  • ¼ cup balsamic Dijon mustard
  • 8 ounces Fontina cheese, grated (about 2 cups)
  • ½ lb. peppered turkey
  • Baby spinach leaves
  • 1 Granny Smith Apple, thinly sliced
  • Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
  • ¼ cup (½ stick) butter, room temperature

Directions:

Butter bread on the outside, and spread each with mustard.
Layer shredded fontina, peppered turkey, spinach, sliced apple, and more shredded fontina. Top with remaining slice of bread and cook slowly in a large skillet or on a panini press.

Source: http://www.bonappetit.com/recipe/apple-and-fontina-grilled-cheese

Paprika Recipe

BBQ Pork Brie Sandwich

I still have a number of posts to complete, my work days have been extending so long that I simply have been exhausted. Today, I got home 12 hours after I left this morning. My husband and I discussed going out for dinner, but we only had little over an hour before we would need to be home for our son finally getting home for his birthday.

He pointed out that we had Brie and pork in the fridge and a loaf of French sourdough. He wrapped my son’s presents and I set to slowly sautéing some thinly sliced red onions we also had in the fridge. I also thinly sliced my leftover bacon wrapped pork and a round of Brie. After the onions were done, I threw the pork in the same pan with barbecue sauce and a few splashes of smoked tabasco.

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I stacked the Brie, pork, some baby spinach, the caramelized onions, and more Brie onto the buttered bread and then carefully moved them onto the panini press.

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Perfect. It took 30 minutes, and my work day stress is gone.

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Happy Wednesday.

Paprika Recipe

Fusilli with Fresh Tomato and Olive Sauce

I have talked before about making pasta sauce, using fresh tomatoes is one of my favorites. On Labor Day after an enjoyable weekend with friends at their cottage, I did my shopping. It was very nice to sit in the sun by the water and make my list. By the time I got home it was close to 4 and then 5 to get back from the grocery. Thankfully pasta is quick.

One of the items I picked up was a pound of pancetta which I had sliced thick and diced when I got home.

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I also had several tomatoes, some from the farmers market and some from my neighbor.

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I started my pasta water boiling and used it to blanch my tomatoes so that they would be easy to peel.

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While they cooled, I prepped my other ingredients.

 

I started by browning the pancetta, until nice and crispy.

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While it browned I chopped my onion and Kalamata olives, and I peeled my tomatoes (making sure to stir the pancetta occasionally.)

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When the pancetta was done I set it aside on paper towels to drain and proceeded to slowly cook the onion.

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Meanwhile I opened my can of tomato paste, peeled my garlic, and coarsely chopped the peeled tomatoes.

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When the onions were done I added the garlic and the pepper flakes.

 

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Once they were fragrant, about 1 to 2 minutes, I added the tomato paste and the chopped olives to the pan.

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When the tomato paste began to darken I added the red wine vinegar and the chopped tomatoes, and then brought them to a boil. And then reduced it to a simmer and covered it up so that the tomatoes would fall apart.

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Part of my inspiration was the basil I keep in my flower bed which is growing out of hand. I cut several sprigs so that I would have one cup of chopped leaves.

 

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I also got out my remaining ingredients, and boiled my pasta.

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In the meantime my sauce had thickened.

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I added the pasta, Parmesan, pancetta, and basil to the sauce and stirred.

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With a little extra cheese on top and fresh bread with butter, dinner was served.

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Fusilli with Fresh Tomato and Olive Sauce

Beef and Lamb, Entrées, Pastas, Tested and Approved!

Prep 15 mins ∙ Cook 45 mins ∙ Makes 6 ∙ Source Bon Appétit | August 1999

INGREDIENTS

  • 1½-2 pounds plum tomatoes (about 8 large), peeled and coarsely chopped
  • 1 lb. pancetta or small meatballs (optional)
  • 2 T. cup olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 6 garlic cloves, chopped
  • ⅓ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 cup Kalamata olives or other brine-cured black olives, pitted, chopped
  • 6 oz. tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 pound fusilli
  • 1½ cups Parmesan cheese, coarsely grated (about 4 ounces)
  • 1 cup fresh basil, chopped

DIRECTIONS

In a large pot (suitable for the pasta) bring about 6 quarts of water to a boil. Cut a very shallow “X” (try to just cut the skin) in each tomato and then immerse in the boiling water for ~1 minute. Remove from the water with a sloted spoon and allow to cool until safe to touch. Peel the tomatoes, coarsely chop, and set aside. .
Heat olive oil in heavy large skillet over medium heat. (If using meatballs or pancetta, brown, remove from pan with a slotted spoon, and set aside to drain; remove excess oil.)

Add onion and heat until translucent, about 10 minutes. Then add garlic and crushed red pepper and sauté until fragrant, 2-3 minutes. Stir in olives and tomato paste then continue cooking for a few minutes longer. Add tomatoes and vinegar, season to taste with ground pepper, then simmer unil tomatoes have fallen apart, at least 15-20 minutes. Meanwhile, cook the pasta according to package instructions.

Stir the cooked pasta into the sauce toss with 1 cup of the Parmesan cheese, (meatballs or pancetta if using), and fresh basil then toss to combine. Season to taste with salt and pepper (NO salt with pancetta). Serve with remaining Parmesan cheese.

NOTES

Stirring in the basil at the end keeps it fresh and green in your dish.

Paprika Recipe File