Tuesday, March 30, 2010

His and Hers Fried Shrimp Dinner- Shrimp Po-Boy and Greek Shrimp Salad

A Shrimp Po-Boy is one of Kevin's favorite meals, one that I'm proud to say I introduced him to while living in New Orleans, and he has been requesting it for a long time. I had nothing else planned for dinner last night, so I told him his request was granted. The only problem was that I was not in the mood for a po-boy. (The reason: I ate an entire pizza for lunch, so I wasn't super hungry!) But I decided to go ahead and whip up his favorite sandwich, but to also make my own (lighter) dinner at the same time, without much extra effort. The star was pan fried shrimp, and he got his in the form of a po-boy, piled high on soft hoagie bread with lettuce, tomatoes, onions and spicy mayo, and I had mine as a Greek shrimp salad, complete with feta cheese and olives. These two recipes are sure to please, whatever your appetite may be!

Shrimp Po-Boys
Crunchy shrimp, soft bread and true New Orleans flavor! 
Serves 2

For the shrimp:
1/2 lb. raw shrimp, peeled, deveined and tails removed
1 c. Panko breadcrumbs
2 eggs
Salt and pepper, to taste
Canola oil, for frying 
For the sandwich:
2 soft hoagie buns, split
1 c. Romaine lettuce leaves, torn
1 tomato, sliced
Few slices of red onion
For the spicy mayo:
2 T. light mayonnaise
1 T. hot sauce (to taste)
1/2 tsp. spicy mustard
1 tsp. fresh lemon juice

To prepare the shrimp pour Panko breadcrumbs in a bowl and beat eggs into another. Season eggs with salt and pepper. Dry shrimp with a paper towel and dunk into eggs to moisten. Add to Panko breadcrumbs and turn to coat, pressing to adhere. Pile up the breaded shrimp in a clean bowl.

Heat enough oil in large skillet over medium high heat to coat the bottom. Add shrimp and saute 1-2 minutes per side until golden brown on the outside and opaque on the inside. This doesn't take long! Drain on paper towels.

To make the spicy may combine all of the listed ingredients in a bowl and spread onto the top halves of the hoagies. Pile the lettuce, tomato and onion on the bottom piece of the bread, and add the hot shrimp to the top. Close the sandwich and devour!

Recipe by Sarah Saubert

Greek Shrimp Salad
A fresh salad becomes a meal with crispy shrimp. 
Makes 1 large salad

For the shrimp:
6-8. raw shrimp, peeled, deveined and tails removed
1/2 c. Panko breadcrumbs
1 eggs
Salt and pepper, to taste
Canola oil, for frying
For the salad:
Bed of romaine lettuce
Tomato, chopped
Red onion, chopped
Olives, sliced
Feta cheese, crumbled
Greek vinaigrette, to taste

To prepare the shrimp pour Panko breadcrumbs in a bowl and beat egg into another. Season eggs with salt and pepper. Dry shrimp with a paper towel and dunk into eggs to moisten. Add to Panko breadcrumbs and turn to coat, pressing to adhere. Pile up the breaded shrimp in a clean bowl.

Arrange the salad ingredients on a large plate. Drizzle with vinaigrette and top with fried shrimp. Serve with garlic bread, if desired.

Recipe by Sarah Saubert

Wine of the night: 
Sterling Vineyards
Napa County
2008 Sauvignon Blanc

Light straw in color, this wine offers expansive aromas reminiscent of grapefruit, melon, figs, and pears. Crisp and refreshing in its acidity, the wine has a rich mid-palate and a long, fruity finish. It is said to be wonderful with shrimp, chicken and fish. It was delicious on a warm evening with this fabulous seafood meal!
Cost: About $15/bottle

Monday, March 29, 2010

Chicken Parmigiana and Crostini with Fig, Apples and Pecorino Romano

Kevin and I were so happy to have our friends Dan and Elana over for dinner yesterday. As a lawyer and pharmacist, these two are often too busy to cook, and I love to treat them to dinner because they always seem to enjoy it. They had just returned home from a trip to Florida to watch the Twins at training camp and, needless to say, after a week of burgers and hot dogs, they badly needed a home cooked meal. I wanted to serve them something delicious, but didn't want to spend too much cash or the entire day over the stove.

Enter one of my very favorite go-to meals- Chicken Parmigiana! Who doesn't like tender chicken smothered in cheese and resting on a bed of noodles and homemade spaghetti sauce? Along with it I served a simple beet and feta salad, roasted garlic bread and crostini smeared with a homemade fig and almond jam and topped with a crisp granny smith apple slice and piece of salty, nutty pecorino romano cheese. What an appetizer! The sweet jam had a faint hint of brandy, and the cheese provided that perfect salty bite to contrast the sweetness. The apple brought it all together with a tart finish. The crostini were a delightful mouthful of flavor! I hope you enjoy this meal, it's perfect for a dinner party but easy enough for any night of the week!

Chicken Parmigiana
Tender, cheesy chicken atop homemade spaghetti sauce bursting with wine and rich flavors.
Serves 4

4 Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breasts, Trimmed And Pounded Flat (or 8 tenderloins if you prefer)
½ cups All-purpose Flour
Salt And Pepper, to taste
½ cups Olive Oil
2 Tablespoons Butter
1 whole Medium Onion, Chopped
4 cloves Garlic, Minced
¾ cups Wine (white Or Red Is Fine)
3 cans (14.5 Oz.) Crushed Tomatoes
2 Tablespoons Sugar
¼ cup Chopped Fresh Parsley
1 cup Freshly Grated Parmesan Cheese
1 pound Spaghetti

Mix flour, salt, and pepper together on a large plate. Dredge flattened chicken breasts in flour mixture. Set aside.

Heat olive oil and butter together in a large skillet over medium heat. When butter is melted and oil/butter mixture is hot, fry chicken breasts until nice and golden brown on each side, about 2 to 3 minutes per side.
Remove chicken breasts from the skillet and keep warm.

Without cleaning skillet, add onions and garlic and gently stir for 2 minutes. Pour in wine and scrape the bottom of the pan, getting all the flavorful bits off the bottom. Allow wine to cook down until reduced by half, about 2 minutes.

Pour in crushed tomatoes and stir to combine. Add sugar and more salt and pepper to taste. Allow to cook for 30 minutes. Toward the end of cooking time, add chopped parsley and give sauce a final stir.

Meanwhile, heat a large pot of water for the Spaghetti, and boil until al dente. Mix with some olive oil to prevent sticking and cover to keep warm. 

Carefully lay chicken breasts on top of the sauce and completely cover them in grated Parmesan. Place lid on skillet and reduce heat to low. Allow to simmer until cheese is melted and chicken is thoroughly heated. Add more cheese to taste.

Place cooked noodles on a plate and cover with sauce. Place chicken breast on top and sprinkle with more parsley. Serve immediately.

Recipe adapted from Pioneer Woman Cooks

Crostini with Fig, Apples and Pecorino Romano
Sweet, salty and tart, a mouthful of flavor in one small bite!
Serves 8 (3 pieces each)

6 dried figs, halved
1/2 cup simple syrup, recipe follows
2 tablespoons brandy
1/4 cup chopped toasted hazelnuts or almonds, your choice
24 baguette slices
Olive oil, for drizzling
1/2 cup grated Pecorino Romano
1 large apple (Granny Smith or Braeburn), thinly sliced into 24 slices
1/4 pound chunk Pecorino Romano, for shaving 24 pieces

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Place a small saucepan over medium heat. Add the figs, simple syrup, and brandy. Bring the mixture up to a simmer. Turn off the heat and let sit for 10 minutes. Place the fig mixture and the hazelnuts in a food processor and blend, pulsing a few times, until pureed. Set aside. 

Place the baguette slices on a heavy baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil. Top each slice with 1 teaspoon grated Pecorino Romano. Bake until the bread is toasted and the cheese is melted and golden, about 7 minutes. 

Top each slice of toast with 2 teaspoons of fig jam, a slice of apple and a piece of shaved Pecorino Romano. Transfer the toasts to a serving platter and serve.

Simple Syrup Recipe

1/2 cup water
1/2 cup sugar

In a saucepan combine water and sugar over medium heat. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes, until the sugar has dissolved. Take pan off heat and cool the syrup. Any extra cooled syrup can be saved in an airtight container in the refrigerator. 

Recipe adapted from Giada De Laurentis

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Oven-Fried Chicken with Creole Cheddar Grits and Sweet-and-Sour Green Beans

I'm going to be honest- regardless of who I'm cooking for, I usually make whatever I feel like eating. Yes I take ingredient and cuisine preferences into consideration, but I never cook anything that I'm not excited to eat because, well, what's the point? My FAVORITE thing about knowing how to cook is being able to eat anything I want at any time. But, as I'm a pizza and pasta lover and could eat varieties of these two items every day of my life, I know that I need to expand my horizons and try to make new foods.

I recently had the pleasure of cooking dinner for Kevin and our good friend Stefan, and I tried my best to come up with a menu that I knew they would love AND I would enjoy cooking and eating. Enter a Southern fried chicken supper- my style! I kept the chicken relatively healthy by oven frying it, and served it with plenty of colorful sides. The Creole Cheddar Grits were creamy and flavorful, and made a perfect compliment to the crunchy chicken. I love to serve chicken on top of grits- it's Southern, fun and tasty! The Sweet-and-Sour Green Beans took a "boring" vegetable to a new level with the addition of the sweet caramelized shallots, a touch of sugar, and the punchy cider vinegar. So simpleand delicious! As for the other sides, well, I have a full time job you know, so I bought the sweet potato fries and coleslaw. Now that's easy!

Oven-Fried Chicken
Crispy, juicy chicken without the deep fryer! 
Serves 4

2 large eggs, beaten
2 cups panko (Japanese bread crumbs- SO good!)
1/2 cup flour
1/2 tsp celery salt
1/2 tsp garlic salt
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
4 skinless, boneless chicken thighs or breasts, lightly pounded
1/2 cup canola oil
Lemon wedges, for serving

Place a rimmed nonstick baking sheet on the lower rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

Put the beaten eggs, panko and flour in 3 shallow bowls. Season the flour with the celery salt, garlic salt and cayenne. Dust the chicken with the flour, then dip it in the egg, and finally in the panko, pressing to help the bread crumbs adhere.

Pour the canola oil onto the hot baking sheet. Carefully dip the chicken in the oil, being sure to coat both sides evenly, and set them on the baking sheet. Bake the chicken for about 25 minutes, until gold and crispy, turning halfway through. Serve with lemon wedges atop the Creole Cheddar Grits.

Recipe adapted from Food and Wine magazine

Creole Cheddar Grits
A creamy bed for the crunchy chicken!
Serves 4-6

3 cups water
1 cup milk
1 T. Creole seasoning
1 tsp salt
1 cup quick cooking grits
2 T. butter
1 cup shredded cheddar

In a large sauce pot combine the water, milk, Creole seasoning and salt. Bring to a boil. Whisking, add grits in a slow steady stream. Reduce heat to medium-low and cover, stirring occasionally until thickened, about 5-7 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in butter and cheese.

Recipe adapted from Food Network

Sweet-and-Sour Green Beans
Fun flavors makes you want to eat your veggies!
Serves 4

3/4 pound green beans (fresh or frozen)
2 T olive oil
1 shallot, minced
2 T cider vinegar
1 tsp. sugar
Salt and pepper

If using fresh green beans, place them in a steamer basket set over a large saucepan of boiling water. Steam until bright green and crisp-tender, about 5 minutes.

If using frozen beans place in skillet and cover with water. Boil for 2-3 minutes until tender.

In a medium skillet heat the oil. Add the shallot and cook over medium-high heat, stirring, until softened, about 2 minutes. Add the vinegar and sugar; stir to dissolve the sugar. Remove from the heat and add the beans. Season with salt and pepper, toss well and serve.

Recipe adapted from Food and Wine magazine

Wine of the Night
Chateau Ste. Michelle Sauvignon Blanc
Columbia Valley

With a fried chicken dinner I knew I wanted to serve a crisp, light and refreshing wine, and Sauvignon Blanc is one of my favorites. This wine is crisp and clean, and offers fresh aromas and flavors of lemongrass, apple and melon. And at $8/bottle you can drink it any night!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Lasagna and Lemon Parsley Bruschetta

Is there any food more comforting than lasagna? Layers of pasta, mounds of meaty tomato sauce and gooey melted cheese, all in one lovely dish. Yum! Lasagna is a food that I always make without a recipe, and that's because making lasagna is an art, not a science. There are very few right or wrong ingredients, the technique is as elementary as building blocks, and the finished product is always a version of delicious.

Here's the philosophy- you have two things to prepare. #1- a meaty tomato sauce; and #2- the ricotta mixture. After that it's just cheese, noodles and layering! And don't hesitate to add any extra ingredients you have laying around.  Goat cheese? Add it to the ricotta mixture. Love veggies? Add a green pepper, zucchini and/or mushrooms to the tomato sauce. Love meat? Add as many varieties as you have on hand. Anyone can make this classic dish. Here is my no-fail technique. Enjoy!

Classic Lasagna
Meaty, cheesy, delicious. Sold! 
Serves 4-6

Meaty tomato sauce:
1/2 lb. spicy Italian sausage
1/4 lb. lean ground beef
28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
1 onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, diced
2 T. tomato paste
1 T. olive oil
1 tsp. dried oregano
Kosher salt and pepper
Optional: Green pepper, zucchini, mushrooms, rosemary

Ricotta mixture:
1 cup ricotta cheese
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 egg, beaten
2 T. fresh parsley, chopped
Kosher salt and pepper
Optional: 4 ounces goat cheese

Other ingredients:
1/2 lb. lasagna noodles (no bake or, if using regular, boil until pliable)
1/2 lb. shredded mozzarella cheese
Extra Parmesan Cheese

Preheat oven to 400 degrees

To prepare meaty tomato sauce: Heat olive oil in large skillet over medium high heat. Add onion and a pinch of salt (and any optional veggies) and saute for 3-4 minutes. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Push to the side and add meat to the center. Break up with wooden spoon and stir as it begins to brown. Once lightly browned mix everything in pan together. Stir in tomato paste and oregano until combined. Reduce heat to medium and add the can of crushed tomatoes, a pinch of salt and some pepper. Simmer for 15-20 minutes until sauce is thickened. Remove from heat.

To prepare ricotta mixture: Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl and mix well. Set aside.

To assemble lasagna: Put a spoonful of meaty tomato sauce on bottom of 8x8 dish. Add a layer of pasta using 3 or 4 lasagna noodles. Spread 1/3 of ricotta mixture on top of noodles, then top with 1/3 of the shredded mozzarella cheese. Then add enough meaty tomato sauce to saturate. Repeat process with noodles, ricotta, mozzarella and sauce twice more. To finish it off top meaty tomato sauce with shredded mozzarella and some extra Parmesan cheese.

Bake in oven for 30 minutes. Let set for 5-10 minutes before serving.

Lemon Parsley Bruschetta
The light lemon flavor perfectly complements the hearty lasagna. 

Italian or French bread, sliced into 1/2 inch pieces
Equal parts lemon juice and olive oil
Kosher salt
Fresh parsley, chopped

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Mix equal parts lemon juice and olive oil in a bowl. Brush onto bread. Sprinkle with kosher salt and add half of the chopped parsley. Bake for 10 minutes. Remove and add the remainder of the parsley. Serve.

Wine of the Night: 
Imagery Estate Winery
2006 Pallas
Sonoma Valley

Kevin and I received this bottle as part of our Cosentino Wine Club shipment. At $75 it is a special occasion wine, but we opened it without anything to celebrate. It was a Saturday night, and we figured going out for a nice Italian dinner with wine would cost even more, so in fact we were saving money! Gotta love the logic. :)

This estate blend has structured flavors of dark cherry, with notes of cocoa, herbs, and sweet earth. Fully integrated tannins give way to a long, balanced finish. The 2006 vintage of Pallas is made up of 46% Malbec and 40% Cabernet Sauvignon and 14% Merlot.

I found it light and fruity on the nose, almost mild enough to pass for a Pinot Noir. But then I tasted it, and that gorgeous California Cabernet jumped out and popped me. With the merlot and malbec combo it was perfectly drinkable even without food. But with food? Glorious. It's so fun to be part of a wine club and get to try new and different wines!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Shrimp Fried Rice and Ginger Pork Potstickers

I love Asian food because of its unique flavors, healthful ingredients and variety, but I rarely make it at home. "Why do I relegate this fabulous food category to little white take out boxes," I wondered. No longer! Last night I tackled two of my favorite Asian foods- fried rice and potstickers. Now fried rice is something that I enjoy but don't order from restaurants too often because it is so unhealthy. But guess what! Make it at home and fried rice can actually be good for you, filled with veggies, fresh shrimp and protein-packed eggs. But alas, my recipe is not total health food, as I upped the deliciousness factor by incorporating tons of smokey bacon. And the bacon was key- along with the eggs, it truly made the dish. As for potstickers, I love these little pillows of delicious ingredients that you can pop into your mouth. But making them at home? Never before had I attempted this feat. But I have to say, it was fun and even easier than I imagined. And after doing it once I know exactly what I'll have to do next time to make them perfect- and lucky for you the recipe below includes these tweaks, so yours will likely be perfect the first time! Score! Now toss those take-out menus and enjoy this Asian feast!

Shrimp Fried Rice
A tantalizing array of Asian flavors without leaving your own kitchen!
Serves 4

1 tablespoon canola oil
1/4 pound bacon, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
1/2 pound raw shrimp, peeled and deveined
3/4 teaspoon sugar
2 1/4 teaspoons soy sauce
3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
2-inch piece ginger, peeled and minced
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 head broccoli, florets and stalks cut into 1/4-inch pieces
4 cups cooked long-grain white rice
1/4 cup chicken broth
4 eggs
1/4 c. chopped fresh cilantro or parsley
1/4 c. green onions, green parts sliced into 1/4-inch pieces, white parts diced
Extra soy sauce and chili sauce, for serving (optional)

Place a wok or large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the oil and bacon and stir-fry for a minute until it begins to get golden and crisp. Add shrimp and cook for 2 minutes until just pink on each side. Sprinkle in the sugar and toss. Add 1/4 teaspoon soy sauce and continue to stir-fry until the shrimp and bacon are glazed, about 30 seconds. Transfer the bacon and shrimp to a bowl with a slotted spoon and set aside. 

Add the garlic, ginger and red pepper flakes to the drippings in the pan and stir-fry until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the broccoli and cook until crisp, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the cooked rice, the remaining 2 teaspoons soy sauce, the broth, green onions, glazed shrimp and bacon. Toss to heat through.

Push the fried rice mixture to one side of the pan, crack the eggs into the other side and scramble until set, about 1 minute (see picture). Mix the eggs into the rice and stir in the cilantro. 

Divide among bowls and serve with mustard or chili sauce, if desired.

                                           Scrambling the egg into the fried rice

Ginger Pork Potstickers
Tasty pillows of Asian flavors! 
Makes 12

6 ounces ground pork
1/4 cup diced white onion
2 tablespoons minced ginger
1 tablespoon minced garlic
4 tablespoons diced green onion
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1/4 teaspoon sesame oil (or any oil you have on hand)
Pinch salt and pepper
12 potsticker wrappers
1 teaspoon canola oil

In a skillet saute the pork, onions, ginger and garlic until the pork is just cooked through, about 4 minutes. Set aside in medium bowl to cool, about 10 minutes. Once cool add the green onions, soy sauce, sesame oil, salt and pepper to the bowl. Mix together until thoroughly combined.                                                                     

In a medium stock pot, boil 2 quarts of water.

Place 1 tablespoon of the mixture in the middle of a wrapper. Brush the edges of the wrapper with a little water and fold in half by bringing opposite corners to meet in the middle. Pinch to close. Repeat with the remaining wrappers. (See picture)

Place wrappers in boiling water for 1 minute, remove, and cool individually on cooling rack. Do NOT allow them to touch while cooling as they will stick together and have to be ripped apart.

When ready for service, heat saute pan with 1 teaspoon oil, and saute on medium heat until the skin of the wrapper is browned. Serve with soy or sesame sauce for dipping.

Potstickers after being cooked

Recipes adapted from FoodNetwork.com

Monday, March 15, 2010

Cheesy Chicken Noodle Casserole

I've always loved casseroles for their homeyness. They are far from glamorous and even a little frumpy, but are always delicious and conjure up many wonderful childhood memories of family dinners and church potlucks. Lazy Sunday afternoons are perfect for making casseroles, which are really easy but can be time consuming. This Cheesy Chicken Noodle Casserole encompasses everything I love about casseroles- extra noodles, hidden veggies and lots of gooey cheese. This recipe is enough for two 8x8 casseroles- one to enjoy now and one to freeze and enjoy on a lazy Sunday afternoon when you DON'T feel like cooking!

Cheesy Chicken Noodle Casserole
Warm, creamy and delicious, it will remind you of home! 
Serves 8 (two 8x8 casseroles)

2 large chicken breasts
1 lb. Spaghetti, Broken Into Two Inch Pieces
2 cans Cream Of Mushroom Soup (or combo with cream of chicken)
1 cup Shredded Sharp Cheddar Cheese
1 Finely Diced Green Pepper
1 Finely Diced Onion
1/2 lb. asparagus spears, cut into 1 in. pieces (optional)
1 1/2 cup Reserved Chicken Broth From Pot
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon Lawry's Seasoned Salt
1/4 Teaspoon Cayenne Pepper
Salt And Pepper, to taste
1 cup Additional Shredded Sharp Cheddar Cheese
Preparation Instructions
Combine soups, 1 cup cheese and vegetables in large bowl. Poach chicken breasts in large pot in water (enough to cover) until done, about 15 minutes. Remove chicken from pot and set aside to cool. Remove 1 1/2 cups broth to large bowl with other ingredients. Add more water to pot (as needed) and cook spaghetti until al dente. Do not overcook. Shred or finely chop chicken and add to other ingredients. When spaghetti is cooked, combine with the other ingredients in large bowl and mix well.

Place mixture in casserole pan and top with remaining sharp cheddar. Cover and freeze up to six months, cover and refrigerate up to two days, or bake immediately: 350 degrees for 45 minutes until bubbly. (If the cheese on top starts to get too cooked, cover with foil).

Recipe adapted from Pioneer Woman Cooks

Wine of the Night
Root: 1 (The Original Ungrafted)
Colchagua Valley, Chile

Carmenere is an absolutely delicious grape grown in Chile. It is known as the “lost grape of Bordeaux” and is an incredible value compared with European wines (this bottle was around $10). This wine has rich flavors of plum, blackberry and spice. On the nose it reminds me of a Zinfandel. It has a full body and broad structure, and the finish is luscious. I absolutely love it!

Recent Earthquake Note:
According to the Wall Street Journal, "At a national level, losses of Chilean wines, one of the country's signature export products, amount to 32,500 gallons, or nearly 13% of last year's production, with a value of $250 million, according to Wines of Chile, an industry group. Despite the dislocation caused in Chilean wine country, the quake shouldn't affect global wine prices, because Chile's market share isn't so large that a hiccup in its exports will cause scarcity."

Thank goodness! Support this up and coming wine distributor and enjoy some Chilean wine!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Pizza for Two- Prosciutto & Artichoke and Spicy Italian Sausage

As much as I enjoy making "special" meals like pork chops, stuffed chicken and bolognese sauce, I have to give some credit to my absolute favorite go-to meal- homemade pizza! It is by far my favorite easy meal, and I love that I can use any ingredient I have on hand. The time it takes in the oven is perfect to whip up a side salad and round out a fantastic meal! This time, to make it interesting, I decided to do a halfsie, with half the pizza my way and half the pizza Kevin's way. On my side- prosciutto, artichokes, rosemary, red onion, garlic and tomatoes. On his side- sausage, banana peppers, red onion, crushed red peppers and garlic. Delish!

Proscuitto & Artichoke Pizza
(Recipe for one full pizza)

1/2 cup pizza sauce
2 garlic cloves, minced
Handful chopped red onions
1 T. fresh rosemary, chopped
1/2 c. freshly shredded mozzarella
1/4 c. freshly shredded sharp cheddar
3 sliced prosciutto, sliced into bite size pieces
1 tomato, chopped
1/4 c. artichoke hearts, drained and coursely chopped
1 pre-made pizza crust, such as Boboli
Grated Parmesan and extra virgin olive oil, for serving

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spread sauce evenly over pizza crust. Top with garlic, onions and rosemary. Add cheeses, then top cheese with tomato, artichoke hearts and prosciutto. Bake in oven for 25-30 minutes. Cut into slices and top with fresh Parmesan cheese and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.

Spicy Sausage Pizza
(Recipe for one full pizza)

1/2 cup pizza sauce
2 garlic cloves, minced
Handful chopped red onions
1 tsp.crushed red pepper, to taste
1/2 c. freshly shredded mozzarella
1/4 c. freshly shredded sharp cheddar

2 links (or 1/4 pound ground) hot Italian sausage, removed from casing, cooked and crumbled
1/4 c. hot banana peppers, roughly chopped
1 pre-made pizza crust, such as Boboli
Grated Parmesan, for serving

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spread sauce evenly over pizza crust. Top with garlic, onions and crushed red peppers. Add cheeses, then top cheese with sausage and banana peppers. Bake in oven for 25-30 minutes. Cut into slices and top with fresh Parmesan cheese.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Pork Chops alla Pizzaiola

I'm usually not a big fan of a piece of pork (or chicken) all by itself. But smother it in spicy tomato sauce, flavorful herbs and fresh vegetables and I'm a HUGE fan! Pork Chops alla Pizzaiola is one of my favorite pork recipes because the pork is absolutely soaking in this flavorful, sweet and spicy sauce. The vegetables add crunchy sweetness, the capers add a salty bite, and the banana peppers add a pop of bright vinegar. The pork is tender and really soaks up this delicious sauce, loading it with excellent flavor. And you wouldn't believe how healthy this meal is! There is not one thing in this recipe that would be considered unhealthy. So the next time that you want to eat right but still enjoy a large portion loaded with flavor, whip up some Pork Chops alla Pizzaiola!

Pork Chops alla Pizzaiola
Tender pork in a hearty tomato sauce loaded with veggies and flavor!
Serves 2

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 (1-inch thick) pork chops (I used boneless but bone-in would be great!)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 small onion, thinly sliced
1 green pepper, thinly sliced
1 T. capers
3 T. banana peppers, chopped
1 (15-ounce) can diced tomatoes, in juice
1 teaspoon your favorite dried herbs, such as oregano, thyme and fennel
1/4 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes, or more to taste
1 tablespoon chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves

Heat the oil in a heavy large skillet over medium heat. Sprinkle the pork chops with salt and pepper. Add the pork chops to the skillet and cook until they are brown but not totally cooked through, about 3 minutes per side. Transfer the pork chops to a plate and tent with foil to keep them warm.

Add the onion and green pepper to the same skillet and saute over medium heat until crisp-tender, about 4 minutes. Add the tomatoes with their juices, dried herbs, and 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes. Cover and simmer until the flavors blend and the juices thicken slightly, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes. Season the sauce, to taste, with salt and more red pepper flakes. Return the pork chops and any accumulated juices from the plate to the skillet and turn the pork chops to coat with the sauce. Add the capers and banana peppers. Simmer 5 minutes until pork is cooked through.

Place 1 pork chop on each plate. Spoon the sauce over the pork chops. Sprinkle with the parsley and serve. Roasted broccoli, mashed potatoes and cornbread make delicious sides! 

Recipe adapted from Giada de Laurentis

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Irish Beer, Cheese and Potato Soup, Apple Maple Salad, and Chocolate Toffee Pudding Pie

There's nothing more welcoming than a big pot of hearty soup simmering away on the stove. We're still a few weeks away from St. Patrick's Day, but why not celebrate early with some Irish Beer, Cheese and Potato Soup? I chose this recipe because it is made with a broth and cream base, allowing it be rich but not too heavy. The texture is thick yet silky, perfect for dipping soft pretzel bread. Alongside I made a delicious Apple Maple Salad with butter lettuce and Belgian endive in a maple syrup vinaigrette and topped with sliced apples and blue cheese. It was a perfect light and tasty accompaniment to the hearty soup. And for dessert one of my favorite easy sweet treats, Chocolate Toffee Pudding Pie, complete with cool whip and an Oreo crust. (Hey, I'm not a baker, so I cut all the corners I can!)

Fun fact- this recipe was later published on an Irish beer brewery's website! Check it out- http://www.slbc.ie/food/recipe/irish_beer_cheese_and_potato_soup/.

Irish Beer, Cheese and Potato Soup with soft pretzel bread

Irish Beer, Cheese and Potato Soup
Make anyone feel welcome with this amazing hearty soup! 
Serves 8

4 tablespoons butter, divided
2 chopped yellow onions
¾ cup chopped celery
8 medium Yukon Gold potatoes, coarsely chopped (or 3-4 russet potatoes)
1 (12-ounce) bottle Irish red ale or other flavorful beer
4 cups chicken stock
1/2 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground pepper to taste
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
4 cups whole or 2% low-fat milk
4 oz. Gruyere cheese, shredded
4 oz. sharp white cheddar cheese, shredded

3/4 cup finely minced parsley
Crisp cooked bacon crumbled

1. Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a 6- to 8-quart stockpot. Add onion and celery; cook over medium heat for about 10 minutes.
2. Add potatoes, ale, stock, salt and pepper, and bring to a boil. Lower the heat, cover, and simmer until potatoes are tender about 45 minutes.
3. Melt remaining butter in a medium saucepan; gradually add flour, whisking until smooth. Cook 3 minutes on medium-low heat, stirring constantly. Slowly stir in milk, whisking until hot and thickened. Add cheese, stir until melted.
4. Stir cheese mixture into potato mixture until combined. Cook over very low heat for 10 minutes.
5. Ladle into soup bowls and sprinkle with parsley and bacon. Serve with pretzel bread or soft baguette.

Recipe adapted from Relish

Apple Maple Salad with blue cheese

Apple Maple Salad
Fresh lettuces, sweet apples and tangy blue cheese shine in a maple vinaigrette
Serves 4

1 head butter lettuce, shredded
2 Belgium endives, thinly sliced
2 celery stalks, chopped
1 apple, thinly sliced
Crumbled blue cheese

Place ingredients in large bowl. 

2 T. extra virgin olive oil
1 T. cider vinegar
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
2 tsp. maple syrup
Salt and pepper, to taste

Add dressing ingredients and small bowl and whisk to combine. Pour over salad and toss to thoroughly combine.

Chocolate Turtle Pudding Pie
Fluffy, creamy and light, always a crowd pleaser!
Serves 6

2 cups cold milk
2 pkg.  (3.9 oz.) Jell-O Chocolate Instant Pudding
3 squares Semi-Sweet Chocolate, divided
1   Oreo Pie Crust
1 tub (8 oz.) Whipped Topping, thawed, divided
2   milk chocolate English toffee candy bars (1.4 oz. each), chopped, divided 
Beat milk and pudding mixes with whisk 2 min. Microwave 2 chocolate squares on high 1 min. or until melted when stirred. Stir in 1 cup pudding; pour into crust.

Add half the whipped cream and all but 3 Tbsp. candy to remaining pudding. Spoon over layer in crust.

Top with remaining  whipped cream and candy. Melt remaining chocolate square; drizzle over pie. Refrigerate 1 hour.

Recipe courtesy of Kraft