Saturday, January 28, 2012

Hearty Minestrone

About 6 servings

4 slices of bacon, diced
2 celery ribs, sliced
1 large carrot, halved and sliced
1 small onion, diced
1 medium zucchini, halved and sliced
1 small bunch of kale, chopped
2 medium garlic cloves, pressed
A few dashes of red pepper flakes
2 cups water
2 cups chicken broth
1 ½ cups V8 juice (use the spicy flavor to kick up the heat!)
1 piece of parmesan cheese rind
2 bay leaves
1 can cannellini beans

In a large pot heat EVOO over med-high heat, cook bacon until crispy. Remove from pot and set on paper towel lined plate to soak up excess oil. Wipe out a majority of the bacon fat, add veggies, garlic and red pepper flakes; sauté for 3-5 minutes. Add water, broth, V8, bay leaves, cannellini beans and bacon, turn heat to low, cover and simmer for 45 minutes. Discard cheese rind and bay leaves before serving.

Enjoy in a shallow bowl with a rustic or garlic bread.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Mediterranean Fusion Pizza

I found this ready to cook pizza dough in the deli section of the grocery store. It was easy and tasted good too. Pizzas are a great way to use up veggies in the fridge or get the whole family involved in the cooking. Kids love to create their own pizzas!
16 oz of ready to cook pizza dough
1 hot sausage link
1.6 oz package of Knorr Alfredo sauce
1 ¾ cup milk
1 tsp butter
2 Tbsp Classico Basil Pesto
1 small zucchini, sliced thinly
4 sundried tomato halves, diced
Fresh mozzarella, sliced
Herbed goat cheese
Minced freshly parsley, for garnish

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Over med-high heat, preheat a small frying pan. With wet hands, remove sausage from casing and crumble little meatballs into pan. Brown meatballs, but don’t cook through since we’ll be cooking them more while baking the pizza.

In a sauce pan over high heat, combine Alfredo sauce mix, milk and butter; whisk for 2 minutes until thickens. Remove from heat and whisk in pesto sauce; set aside.

On a greased baking or pizza pan layout dough. Spoon and spread Alfredo Pesto sauce. Arrange zucchini, tomatoes, sausage crumbles and cheese on top. Bake for 13-15 minutes, depending on thickness of dough.

Let pizza sit for a couple minutes before slicing. Sprinkle with fresh parsley and serve.

NOTE: Use leftover Alfredo Pesto sauce to make a B.L.A.S.T. or Shrimp Alfredo Pesto pasta.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Chicken in Green Almond Sauce

This dish is a spin on a traditional Mexican dish. It has citrusy fresh and nutty flavors.

Serves 4

4 thin chicken breast filets
Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO)
1 lb fresh tomatillos, husked and washed
1 cup almonds
1 onion, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1 jalapeno, seeded and chopped
2 garlic cloves
½ cup chicken or vegetable broth
2 cups roughly chopped fresh cilantro
1 packed cup of fresh baby spinach
1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
Salt to taste

In a frying pan over high heat, drizzle EVOO and sear both sides of chicken breasts to brown. Turn heat to low and continue to cook through. Meanwhile, cook tomatillos.

In a pot of boiling water, blanch tomatillos for about 5 minutes until soft. Drain and set aside.

Add almonds to food processor and grind. Add tomatillos, onion, peppers, garlic, broth, cilantro, spinach and lemon juice; puree until smooth. Pour mixture over chicken and heat through. Heat until chicken is cooked all the way through. Season with salt, to taste.

Serve over white rice and garnish with avocado wedges.

Fresh tomatillos with husks.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Chili Pepper and Rosemary Infused Potato Roast

This side dish is really pretty with its multi colored layers. It has a long baking time, but it will be worth the wait to impress your friends and family with this fancy looking dish.

4 servings

Chili Pepper and Rosemary Infused Oil
½ tsp red pepper flakes
½ tsp minced fresh Rosemary
1/3 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO)

Potato Roast
1 large Russet potato*
1 large sweet potato*
*look for potatoes that are about the same size and width, so they cook and fit in your dish evenly
1 large garlic clove, sliced into slivers
½ small onion, sliced thinly
1 tsp minced fresh parsley
1 tsp minced fresh Rosemary
Freshly cracked black pepper

In a small sauce pan over med-low heat, add ingredients for infused oil. Simmer for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Set aside until ready to use.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Thinly slice potatoes. The thinner you slice them, the crispier they’ll become in the oven. Grease or spray a casserole dish then arrange potato slices vertically around dish. Wedge garlic slivers and onion slices between potato slices. Brush potatoes with infused oil. Sprinkle with parsley, Rosemary, salt and pepper. Bake for 1 ½ hours, until potatoes are cooked through with crisp tops.

Enjoy as a side dish with a Chicken Meat Loaf.

NOTE: Use leftover infused oil as a marinade for chicken, steak or fish, or use for dipping bread.

Chicken Meat Loaf

Some people are turned off by meat loaf due to its lack of flavor and its old school ketchup topping. I even saw the look in my husband’s eyes when I said we were having a chicken meat loaf, like, ‘ewww’ or ‘boring…”, but this dinner was packed with flavor and different textures.

Serves 4

1 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO)
1 onion, diced
1 green bell pepper, diced
1 small jalapeno, diced
1 garlic clove, minced
1 lb ground chicken
1 cup fresh breadcrumbs (I cubed a stale baguette)
1 beaten egg
½ cup pine nuts
4 oz sundried tomatoes, drained and chopped
5 Tbsp milk
1 tsp minced fresh Rosemary
2 tsp minced fresh parsley
½ tsp salt

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

In a frying pan over med-high heat, drizzle EVOO and sauté onion, peppers and garlic for about 5 minutes. Set aside to cool.

In a large mixing bowl, combine chicken, breadcrumbs, egg, pine nuts, tomatoes, milk, herbs and salt. Mix in onion mixture.

Once combined, but do not over mix, transfer chicken mixture to a greased loaf pan. Bake uncovered for 1 hour.

Slice and enjoy with a side of Chili and Rosemary Infused Potatoes.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Crock Pot Tomato Basil Soup

I have 4 words for this soup: creamy, chunky, craveable and crock pot!

1 28-oz can of diced tomatoes with Italian seasoning
1 cup diced celery
1 cup diced carrots
1 cup diced onion
4 cups chicken broth
1 bay leaf
½ cup butter
½ cup flour
2 cups heavy cream
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
¼ cup freshly sliced basil plus extra to garnish
Salt and pepper to taste

Combine tomatoes, celery, carrots, onion, chicken broth and bay leaf in crock pot. Cook on low for 5+ hours.

About 30 minutes before serving, make roux. In a medium sauce pan, melt butter over medium heat. Wisk in flour. Add one cup of soup and whisk until creamy. Add another 1-2 cups of soup and whisk until creamy. Stir roux mixture into crock pot. Stir in cream, garlic, cheese and fresh basil. Cook for an additional 30 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

Garnish with fresh basil and serve with a nice crusty bread.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Spinach Pesto Pasta

4 servings

2-4 chicken breasts
Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO)
Lemon Pepper
Garlic Salt
2 Tbsp freshly minced parsley

Farfalle (Bow Tie) pasta (about one handful of dried pasta per person)

Spinach Pesto:
2 packed cups of baby spinach
¼ cup toasted pine nuts (plus 1 Tbsp for garnish)
Zest from one lemon
Juice from one lemon
1/3 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO)
1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese (plus extra to sprinkle over finished dish)
Salt & pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. On a cutting board lay chicken out, drizzle with EVOO, lightly sprinkle both sides with seasonings and parsley. Rub and press into chicken. In a large skillet, heat EVOO until it’s smoking. Sear both sides of chicken filets until brown then place skillet in oven for 15-20 minutes, until cooked all the way through, but not over cooked.

While chicken is cooking boil pasta for about 8 minutes, or until your liking.

In a food processor, combine spinach, pine nuts, lemon zest and lemon juice. Start to puree and gradually add EVOO until creamy. Transfer to a medium bowl, mix in parmesan cheese. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Set aside.

When pasta is cooked, drain, return to pot and toss with spinach pesto.

To serve, plate pasta in a shallow bowl and top with sliced chicken. Sprinkle with pine nuts and parmesan cheese.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Pepperoni Chicken & Cabbage

This dish was inspired by an Italian recipe from Mike Isabella, the Top Chef star. I was a little scared of it at first because it sounded weird, but it was really tasty. I had defrosted chicken and a head of cabbage in the fridge so it worked out perfectly.

4-5 thinly sliced chicken breasts
2 Tbsp EVOO
Zest from one lemon
Juice from one lemon
2 Tbsp minced parsley
2-3 garlic cloves, minced
1 Tbsp paprika

In a small mixing bowl, whisk together all ingredients except the chicken. In a large zip lock bag, add the chicken and marinade. Shake the bag to coat chicken. Marinade in the fridge for 2 hours to overnight.

In the meanwhile make the sauce and cabbage.

1 Tbsp EVOO
¼ cup diced onion
2 garlic cloves, minced
About 2 oz chopped pepperoni
½ tsp red pepper flakes
1 can crushed tomatoes, undrained
¼ cup broth (vegetable or chicken)

In a sauce pan over med-high heat, heat EVOO and sauté onion and garlic for about 3-4 minutes. Add pepperoni and pepper flakes; cook for 4 more minutes. Stir in tomatoes and broth, bring to a boil, then turn heat to low and let simmer for 1 hour, stirring occasionally.

While sauce is simmering, cook cabbage.

2 Tbsp EVOO
½ cup diced onion
8 oz diced pepperoni
4 cups sliced cabbage
1 Tbsp white wine vinegar
1 Tbsp minced parsley

In a medium sauce pan, heat EVOO over med-high heat. Add onions and sauté for 3-4 minutes. Add pepperoni and cook for an additional 3 minutes. Add cabbage and cook until wilted. Just before serving toss with vinegar and parsley.

To serve, plate cabbage, then chicken and top with sauce.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Beef Involtini

I found this Italian recipe for rolled beef called Beef Involtini, which is similar to a Czech recipe I love called Spanish Birds.

4 servings

1 cup stale sourdough bread, chopped
1 Tbsp minced fresh parsley
½ cup shredded parmesan cheese
½ cup frozen chopped spinach, defrost and squeeze out excess water
1 1/2 lb round or flank steaks
sliced pepperoni, about 2-3 slices per roll
Salt and pepper
½ small onion, diced
2 celery stalks, diced
1 large carrot, diced
2 large garlic clove, diced
1 can diced tomatoes with basil, undrained

In a large bowl prepare stuffing by combining bread, parsley, cheese and spinach; set aside.

Pound out meat into four ¼” thick steaks. Lay the meat out, place a couple slices of pepperoni on top and spoon stuffing over that. Roll up tightly. Secure roll with toothpicks or butcher twine. Repeat for remaining rolls. Season with salt and pepper.

In a sauté pan over medium heat, drizzle a little EVOO and add onion, celery and carrot. Cook until veggies are tender.

Add the involtini to the pan and lightly brown all sides; add tomatoes. Mix well, cover and cook for about 1 hour.

Remove toothpicks or twine from rolls before serving. Plate by creating a bed of rice, top with tomato mixture and finish with sliced involtini.

Friday, January 6, 2012


These aren’t traditional Empanadas, but I couldn’t think of what else to call them. They are kind of a mix of Empanadas, Egg Rolls and Samosas. I used the leftovers from my Picadillo dish for the filling in my Empanadas and it turned out tasty!

Picadillo recipe for filling
Egg Roll wrappers
1 egg, beaten
Vegetable oil

In a large frying pan over med-high, heat about ½” of oil. Test the readiness by dropping a little piece of food, if it sizzles, the oil is ready for frying.

Prepare empanadas by filling half of one egg roll wrapper and leaving ½” of space around the edge. With your finger, rub a little egg around the edges then press together to make a triangle. Fry each side for about 3-4 minutes, until crispy and brown. If it’s cooking too fast and burning, turn down the heat. Place on a paper towel lined plate to absorb excess oil.

Serve with a green or chopped vegetable salad.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Vegetable Frittata

This is a nice dinner to have with a side salad tossed in a vinaigrette or to have cold the next morning for breakfast.

1 large red skinned potato, diced
½ cup small cauliflower florets
½ cup baby carrots, chopped
¼ cup small broccoli florets
8-10 asparagus, cut into ½ inch pieces
½ green bell pepper, sliced
1 green onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp minced fresh rosemary
2 tsp minced fresh parsley
4 eggs, beaten
½ tsp salt
½ tsp black pepper
¼ - ½ shredded parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

In a medium frying pan over med-high heat, drizzle some EVOO and add potatoes. Sauté for 10 minutes. Add cauliflower and carrots and cook for an additional 10 minutes. Add broccoli, asparagus, bell pepper, green onion, garlic and herbs; sauté until potatoes are cooked.

Pour eggs over vegetable mixture, season with salt and pepper and sprinkle with cheese. Move pan to oven and cook for 10 minutes.


Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Crispy Rolled Tacos (Chicken Taquitos)

2 large chicken breasts
1 can of diced tomatoes with onion and peppers
1 tsp salt
10 corn tortillas
Vegetable oil for frying

In a medium pot, add chicken breasts, tomatoes and salt. Cook covered over med-low heat for 1 ½ - 2 hours, or until chicken is easily shredded. Using two forks, shred chicken and mix to coat with tomato juices; set aside.

Heat oil in a frying pan over med-high heat.

Take 10 tortillas, wrap in a damp paper towel and microwave for about 45 seconds, just to soften them. One at a time, place a line of chicken in the center of each tortilla. Tightly roll each taquito and secure it with a tooth pick. Place taquitos in hot oil and cook until crispy and brown, about 3-4 minutes per side. Set taquitos on paper towel lined plate, to soak up excess oil.

Serve with fresh guacamole, sour cream and salsa. Top with crumbled Cotija cheese.

NOTE: Test oil to make sure it’s hot enough for frying by dropping a little piece of food in it. If it starts to sizzle and bubble, it’s ready for frying.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Crock Pot Mac n Cheese with Cauliflower

This dish was inspired by one of Paula Deen’s recipes, except I added cauliflower and ham, which makes it a complete meal with all the food groups. I like to pretend that this makes it healthier. :-)

2 cups uncooked small shell pasta
½ stick of butter (4 Tbsp)
2 cups of sharp Cheddar cheese
2 eggs, beaten
½ cup sour cream
1 can condensed Cheddar cheese soup
1 cup milk
1 tsp Dijon mustard
½ tsp salt
½ tsp freshly cracked black pepper
1 small head of cauliflower
8 oz of thick ham

Boil pasta for about 6 minutes, until al dente. Drain and set aside. In a medium sauce pan over med-high heat, combine butter and cheese until melted. Cut florets off cauliflower and into bite sized pieces.

In the crock pot, add cheese/butter mixture, eggs, sour cream, soup, milk, mustard, salt, pepper, cauliflower florets and drained pasta. Mix well. Cook for 2 hours on low, stirring occasionally, until cauliflower is almost tender.

In a small frying pan, brown ham on both sides. Transfer to cutting board and dice. Stir into crock pot mixture. Cook for an additional 30 minutes.