Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Pasta with Sausage and Broccoli

When my Grampy turned 90 in 2016, we threw a big party to celebrate, complete with more Italian food than anyone could possibly eat in one day. The event took place at Sal's in Yonkers, my grandfather's favorite restaurant.

One dish blew me away with its simplicity. Orecchiette (little ears) pasta with sausage and broccolini. It was delicious and I've been trying to recreate it ever since.

Thanks to a recipe in the September issue of Family Circle magazine, I finally struck gold.

This meal comes together fast enough for a weeknight and I think it is perfect comfort food for a cool fall weekend, too.

Mangia! Mangia!
Andrea




Pasta with Sausage and Broccoli

1 pound rigatoni or orecchiette pasta, cooked al dente
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 pound bulk Italian sausage
4 cups broccoli florets or chopped broccolini
1 cup chicken broth
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper to taste
Additional Parmesan cheese for garnish

Cook pasta according to package directions.

While water boils and pasta cooks, heat oil in a large skillet over high heat. Add sausage and cook until brown, breaking meat up into small pieces -- about 8 minutes.

Add broccoli and chicken broth and cover pan. Reduce heat to medium-high and cook for 4 minutes. Uncover, add red pepper flakes and cook 2 minutes more. Season with salt and pepper.

Add drained pasta and grated Parmesan and stir to combine. If dish is too dry, drizzle with more extra virgin olive oil.

Serve with additional Parmesan cheese.




Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Lime & Cilantro Israeli Couscous with Shrimp

You can get this one-pot meal on the table in about 20 minutes, especially if you cheat like I did and use precooked, ready-to-eat shrimp to speed things up.

This was delicious warm for dinner and cold the next day for lunch.

Mangia! Mangia!
Andrea


Lime & Cilantro Israeli Couscous with Shrimp

3 cups Israeli couscous, cooked to package directions
1 cup grape tomatoes, diced
4 green onions, thinly sliced
1 small bunch fresh cilantro, chopped
Juice from 1 lime (about 2 tablespoons)
Salt and pepper to taste
1 pound shrimp, peeled, deveined, cooked and chilled

Using a medium pot or saucepan, prepare couscous as directed. Meanwhile, chop the vegetables. Remove couscous from heat.

Add tomatoes, onions, cilantro and lime juice to the saucepan. Gently mix together and season with salt and pepper. Add shrimp and mix again.

Serve on butter lettuce leaves or simply eat as is.



Monday, September 10, 2018

Baked Tomatoes and Chickpeas with Feta

Fast and friendly weeknight meals are on my radar these days. What I love about this dish is that it uses up a good amount of tomatoes. Our garden is being very generous in that department right now.

Don't have fresh tomatoes? You could easily substitute canned.

Add a chunk of crusty bread and you've got a tasty vegetarian dinner with enough leftovers for lunch.

Mangia! Mangia!
Andrea



Baked Tomatoes and Chickpeas with Feta
Inspired by this recipe from the Kitchn

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 to 3 pounds of tomatoes, any variety, diced
3 minced garlic gloves
2 teaspoons dried oregano (or use 2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano)
3 cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed
Salt and pepper to taste
8 ounces crumbled Feta cheese

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Heat the oil in a large, oven-safe
skillet. Add tomatoes and cook,
stirring, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook for 1 more minute.

Stir in chickpeas, oregano salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer. Cover and place in oven. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until chickpeas have softened and sauce is thickened a bit. Remove cover and top with Feta cheese.

Let bake 5 minutes more, or until cheese melts. Ladle into bowls and serve with bread for dipping.




Friday, September 7, 2018

Picnic Cake

We had a pretty lazy Labor Day weekend, but I did want to mark the unofficial end of summer in some way. So I whipped up this cake. It reminds me of the ambrosia dessert my Aunt Marge always used to have at her big summer parties.

With mandarin oranges and pineapple, this treat definitely tastes like summer – but I can also see using it as a winter pick-me-up when the cold and dreary days drag on – especially since my boys liked it so much.

Mangia! Mangia!
Andrea


Picnic Cake
Inspired by this recipe from The Country Cook

1 box yellow cake mix
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
1 14 ounce can mandarin oranges, plus 1/2 of juice from the can
4 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 4 ounce box vanilla instant pudding mix
1 20 ounce can crushed pineapple, plus all of the juice from the can
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/2 (4 ounces) of Cool Whip from a regular sized tub

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9x13 inch baking dish with nonstick cooking spray.

Note: To reserve juices from canned fruit, place a strainer on top of – or inside – a similar sized bowl. Pour contents of can into strainer. The juice will be saved in the lower bowl.

In a large bowl, combine cake mix, butter, mandarin orange juice, eggs and vanilla. Beat with an electric mixer on medium for about 4 minutes, until everything is smooth. Add oranges and beat to break up orange sections and incorporate into the batter.

Pour into prepared baking dish and use a spatula to smooth the batter out. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the cake is beginning to brown and is set in the center.

Remove from oven and cool about 15 minute on counter. Then transfer to refrigerator for about an hour.

To make the icing, add pineapple juice and pudding mix to a medium bowl. Beat for about 2 minutes. Stir in powdered sugar and beat again until combined. Add Cool Whip and use a rubber spatula to gently fold together. Then mix in drained pineapple.

Spread frosting on cooled cake. Refrigerate until serving. Refrigerate leftovers.






Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Asian Pickled Zucchini & Carrots

My youngest son Sam and I planted two zucchini plants in our garden this year and they've yielded a bumper crop of large, hearty squash. We're down to just one plant now – thanks to an attack of squash beetles – yet as I write there are several tiny zucchini making their way into the world.

Now that I've made many of my usual zucchini recipes, I decided to use some for pickles. The results are surprisingly good. I removed the seeds (because they were quite large) and cut the squash into sticks.

Carrots add color and variety. And the zucchini stayed firm and crunchy, absorbing the pickling flavor well – just like a cucumber.

Mangia! Mangia!
Andrea


Asian Pickled Zucchini & Carrots
Inspired by a recipe from McCormick

2 medium-large zucchini, seeded and cut into sticks
4-5 carrots, peeled and cut into sticks
2 cups water
1 1/2 cups white vinegar
1 cup rice vinegar
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons salt
2 teaspoons Korean style red pepper flakes (Gochugaru)
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon minced onions

Place cut vegetables in a large glass bowl or a 9 x 13 inch glass dish. Set aside.

Add water, vinegars, spices, sugar and salt to a large saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Then reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes.

Pour liquid spice mixture over vegetables in bowl and let sit until everything cools to room temperature.

Place vegetables into canning jars. Then fill jars with pickling liquid, leaving 1/2 inch at top of jar. Top with lids and bands and refrigerate. Let sit in fridge for 3 weeks before eating for best flavor and crunch.

Our zucchini plants earlier this summer.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Weeknight Pork Fried Rice

Now that my boys are back in school, I'm back in the kitchen — a little bit more. So I'm searching for tasty but quick-to-prepare meals that everyone will at least try.

I grilled some pork chops a couple of nights ago, but since my gas tank ran out of juice, I ended up having to finish them up in the oven. During the dinner delay my kids made themselves some microwaveable snacks because they "were starving!"

By the time my perfectly cooked chops were ready, the kids were full, so we had leftovers.

Fast forward two days and I had most of the ingredients for a stir fry on hand, so I looked around at some recipes. My husband and boys always get pork when we order Chinese take out, so fried rice sounded like a fun dish to me.

It cooked up fast and everyone liked it!

Mangia! Mangia!
Andrea


Weeknight Pork Fried Rice
Adapted from this Cooking Light recipe

3 cups cooked Basmati rice
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
2 thick boneless pork chops, (fresh or leftover) diced
3/4 cup matchstick carrots
3/4 cup celery, diced
3/4 cup green onions, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons minced garlic
2 tablespoons fresh ginger, grated
2 large eggs
4-6 tablespoons Mr. Wong's Oriental Wok Perfect Fried Rice Seasoning sauce OR
3 tablespoons mirin and 3 tablespoons soy sauce
1-2 teaspoons sesame oil
1 can bean sprouts, drained
Fresh ground pepper
Salt
1/4 cup sliced green onions for garnish

Cook rice according to package directions. Let cool 5 minutes, fluff with fork and transfer to bowl. Place in refrigerator to cool.

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add pork. If pre-cooked, saute until browned, about 1 minute. If raw, cook until browned on all sides, about 3 minutes. Remove pork to plate.

Add carrot and celery to pan. Sauté until carrots begin to brown. Transfer vegetables to bowl with pork.

Add remaining oil to pan. Add garlic, ginger and green onions. Cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add cold rice and stir well to coat rice in oil. Let cook for 2 minutes without stirring. Then stir and cook again without mixing for 2 more minutes.

Make a well in center of rice and crack two eggs into space. Stir until scrambled. Return pork, carrots and celery to pan. Add stir fry sauce or mirin and soy sauce. Mix until sauce is distributed and absorbed. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and add bean sprouts. Stir to combine. Remove from heat and sprinkle with remaining green onions.


















Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Cooking with Kids, Building Confidence

I've mentioned the volunteer work I do with the Junior League of Peoria's Kids in the Kitchen program a few times on this blog.

Today, I'm sharing a post from the Fischer & Wieser Culinary Adventure blog that explains in more detail the importance of teaching kids of all ages how to cook and prepare healthy meals and snacks for themselves and their family.

Fischer & Wieser makes gourmet foods and is a Kids in the Kitchen partner. They asked us to talk about what the children and our volunteers gain from cooking together.

It's amazing to see children expand their horizons when they try a new dish, like Sweet Potatoes Topped with Spicy Black Beans & Tomatoes, or to watch their confidence rise when they see how easy it can be to bake healthy One Bowl Banana Chip Muffins.

Support from partners like Fisher & Wieser means we can do more. Our younger cooks crafted sandwiches using whole grain waffles, sunbutter, fruit and Fischer & Wieser pear preserves — surprising themselves with how much they liked the snack!


And our older junior chefs recently made cheese lasagna, using the jars of tomato sauce we received.


If you cook with your own kids, you know how much fun it can be, and how it strengthens feelings of emotional well being.

When we volunteer our time to teach children how to safely chop vegetables and prepare a meal for others, we are giving them lifelong skills and showing them we care.