Sunday, September 30, 2007

Menu Plan Monday: Week of 10.1.07

Friday: cheeseburgers (w/o bun) and tator tots
Sunday: Breakfast: pumpkin pancakes Dinner: roast chicken, leftover penne rustica, side salad
Monday: chicken stuffed shells (I froze a large batch 3 weeks ago)
Wednesday: toss salad with grilled chicken
For more menus please visit Laura's blog: The Org Junkie

Pumpkin Pancakes

The finale to a picture-perfect and relaxing autumn weekend with my parents was a good, hearty breakfast. Kyle and I haven't made pancakes in ages and since he asked for chocolate chip pancakes this morning, I thought I'd take it a step further and use my improv skills with the help of the can of pumpkin puree that has been calling me from my cupboard for weeks.

Weeks? You ask? Yes, weeks. I've had so many pumpkiny foods that I've been yearning to make but either my time runs out or I can't decide what to make so I've ended up not making anything...until today.
It was during the middle of mass at church this morning when I had what you might call an epiphany (of sorts) and I suppose the timing of it was fitting, considering where I was and what I was doing. Why not pumkin pancakes?? Is what I said to myself...and thus my great idea was born. I planned out the recipe on the ride home (yes, I was able to redirect my attention to the mass) and got started as soon as I got home.

The first batch that came off the electric griddle were plain pancakes with chocolate chips for Kyle...then came just plain pancakes...then I added 1/4 cup pumpkin, 1/2 tsp cinnamon, and 1/8 tsp ground nutmeg to the remaining amount of batter (maybe 1/4 of the total amount of batter) and I started to see what I had in my mind come alive. The batter alone smelled wonderful and my parents started hovering once they started to cook. To the last 2 pumpkin pancakes to go on the griddle, I added a few chocolate chips for good measure and these turned out to be les pieces de resistance.

Holy moly were these pumpkin pancakes (with and without chocolate chips) incredible!! So incredible that, based again on the number of "mmms" I heard this morning, they I expect they will end up on our post-church breakfast table again very soon (yes, that means that although he was skeptical of the idea of pumpkin pancakes, Kyle loved them too).

Penne Rustica

There's not a better way to end a great day than with a wonderful meal! I had heard "iffy" reviews about this dish on my cooking board (where I found the recipe) -- some felt they had to majorly alter the recipe and some followed it almost to a "T" and felt the was something missing. My experience was very different. In fact, my experience with the recipe including a meal full of "mmms" with my dad almost singing through dinner with "mmms". It was quite comical and even today he was still talking about the penne rustica from last night....guess it turned out well!

Like I said, I followed this recipe exactly and it was excellent. The rosemary really came through and the marsala wine gave the dish such a nice flavor, an almost (forgive me here for the reference) a la Rachel Ray ::shudder:: "hmm...what is that?" kind of feeling but with a little more "umph". However, with a recipe calling for four, yes, four cups of heavy cream and a stick of butter, this was by no means a "light" recipe and thus the week's healthy eating pretty much went out the window last night. Ah well...we all have to make sacrifices from time to time and I certainly have no regrets about sacrificing a week of good eating for this meal.

And so on to the recipe....

Penne Rustica
source unknown


  • 1 T. butter
  • 1 T. chopped garlic
  • 1/2 T. Dijon mustard (omitted this)
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. chopped rosemary
  • 1/2 cup marsala wine
  • 1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 4 cups heavy cream (I used 2 cups skim milk, 2 cups heavy cream)
  1. Saute butter, garlic and rosemary until garlic begins to brown. Add marsala wine and reduce by one-third.
  2. Add remaining ingredients and reduce by half of original volume. Set aside.

Penne Rustica:

  • 1/2 oz. pancetta or bacon
  • 9 ea. shrimp, peeled and deveined (omitted shrimp)
  • 6 oz. grilled chicken breast, sliced (used 1lb chicken and seasoned with herbes de provence, garlic powder, salt and pepper)
  • 16 oz. penne pasta, precooked
  • 3 oz. butter
  • 1/2 T. shallots, chopped
  • Pinch of salt and pepper
  • 1/2 cup parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 tsp. paprika (omitted this)
  1. Saute pancetta until it begins to brown. Add butter, shallots and shrimp. Cook until shrimp are evenly pink but still translucent. Add chicken, salt, and pepper; mix thoroughly.
  2. Add sauce and 1/2 cup of parmesan cheese and simmer until sauce thickens. In a large bowl, combine shrimp and chicken mixture with precooked pasta. Place this mixture into single serving dishes or one large casserole dish. (I used a 13x9 inch glass baking dish.) Top with remaining cheese and sprinkle with paprika.
  3. Bake at 300 for 10-15 minutes.

Prep time: 25 minutes

Cook time: 10-15 minutes

Serves: 8

Cheese and Spinach Puff Pastry Pockets

Oh Giada how I do love is that just about every recipe I've tried of yours turns out like perfection?? You are the epitome of a true chef -- and even though you do tend to bring in the male viewers of Everyday Italian for obvious reasons, no one can deny that your recipes are superb.
OK, enough babbling...I pulled this recipe off the internet (maybe my cooking board but I can't remember) at least 6 months ago and filed it away, waiting for the right time to make it. Kyle and I don't entertain all that much and this recipe really needed a group to make the most out of enjoying it. So my parents made the 2hr trip this weekend up to visit us and enjoy some of what New England has to offer in the early fall.

As my dad and Kyle sat out on the deck in the late afternoon/early evening enjoying what was left of a sparkling day, my mom and I got to work in the kitchen. We started with these pastry pockets - it was a no-brainer that I'd serve them for my parents because creations like this one always go over well with them. Overall, the pastry pockets were really easy to make and I used 18 mini puff pastry shells rather than 12 large ones that the recipe calls for. There was quite a bit of the filling left over but we baked it in a small baking dish and will have it with crackers reheated today - next time, I'll half the filling recipe. Oh...and rest assured...there will certainly be a next time for these - they were just fabulous!!
Cheese and Spinach Puff Pastry Pockets
  • 12 frozen puff pastry shells, unthawed
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup whole milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 (16-ounce) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
  • 1 1/4 cups grated Fontina cheese
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan
  • 3 to 5 green onions, finely chopped
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Line a heavy large baking sheet with parchment paper. Arrange the frozen pastry shells on the baking sheet and bake until they puff and become golden brown, about 20 minutes. (I baked them for 18 minutes.) Using a small knife, cut out the center of the pastry shells. (I just pushed the little pre-cut circle of puff pastry into the pocket rather than cutting it out.)
  3. Meanwhile, stir the cream, milk, salt, and pepper in a medium bowl. Stir in the spinach, Fontina cheese, Parmesan, and green onions. Spoon the spinach mixture (about 1-2 tsp each) into the baked pastry shells.
  4. Bake until the pastries are golden brown and the filling is hot, about 25 to 30 minutes. (I baked them for about 25 minutes and they were perfect.) Transfer the pastries to a platter and serve.

Prep time: 10 minutes

Cook time: 45 minutes

Yields: 18 mini puff pastry pockets

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Turkey Chili

Yes, fall has arrived! In spite of the 80-90 degrees temperatures here in CT this week, I'm moving full steam ahead into fall with some warm meals. Last night, turkey chili was on the menu and what a treat this always is!

Years ago my mom swapped out ground beef for ground turkey and tomato sauce for salsa in her chili recipe and I've taken that recipe and modified it a little further. In my grocery store, I've found 33% reduced sodium chili seasoning packets (by McCormick) and organic salsa that has about 50% the amount of sodium as regular salsa. I tend to be very sensitive to sodium and thus try to control for it as much as possible in everything I cook and eat. Because the ground turkey usually is slightly more than 1lb and the seasoning packet calls for just 1lb of meat, I've found that a few extra seasonings is necessary and you'll see what I add below.

This truly is one of my most favorite cool-weather meals yet I'm still surprised on the number of compliments I get when I serve this (maybe I'm surprised because of how easy it is to make!)...but I hope you love this chili recipe as much as I do and that you'll share it with every

Turkey Chili
adapted from my mom's kitchen

  • 1 to 1 1/4 lbs ground turkey
  • 1 lower sodium chili seasoning packet
  • 1 jar organic salsa
  • 1/2 jar of water (the salsa jar)
  • 1 (15oz) can red or dark red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 3/4 tsp ground coriander
  1. In a large frying or saute pan over medium-high heat, brown turkey. Drain if necessary.
  2. Reduce heat to low and stir in the remainder of the ingredients. Cook on low for 10-15 minutes.


  • Fixin' suggestions: sour cream, shredded cheddar, diced onions, scallions, chives, tortilla chips.
  • Serving suggestions: over rice, on tortilla chips with shredded cheddar or Monterey jack cheeses as chili nachos, as chili dogs or chili burgers, or layer in an 8x8 baking dish with cream cheese, shredded cheddar or Monterey jack cheese, and scallions and bake for 15 minutes at 375 for a hot dip.

Prep time: 0 minutes

Cook time: 15-20 minutes

Serves: 4-6

Monday, September 24, 2007

Cheddar Bacon Biscuits

Adding to our starch-fest dinner for Kyle's birthday a couple of weeks ago were these cheddar-bacon biscuits I found on the Williams-Sonoma website. I pulled this recipe from the website a few months back and really hadn't planned on the "right" meal to make these with until Kyle's birthday dinner. What a nice addition these were! I had only made biscuits from scratch once previously - it's just so easy to pop open a can and throw some biscuits on a cookie sheet - but these really were so easy to make! I even prepared and refrigerated the dough about an hour before I planned on baking them for two reasons: 1.) so that I wouldn't be rushing to make them while I cooked everything else, and more importantly, 2.) so that the butter in the dough would remain very cold until I was ready to bake them. They turned out crunchy on the outside, soft and flakey on the inside, and full of flavor. I'll definitely make these again but will half the recipe next time because 10 large biscuits was just too much.

Cheddar-Bacon Biscuits
from the Williams-Sonoma Kitchen

What are the secrets to making tender, flaky biscuits? When cutting the butter into the flour, work quickly so it doesn’t melt too much before you put the biscuits in the oven. And when adding the milk, don’t overmix the dough; stir until the ingredients are just combined.

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 4 tsp. baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp. salt
  • 8 Tbs. (1 stick) cold unsalted butter
  • 1 cup finely shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh chives
  • 6 bacon slices, finely chopped and fried until crisp
  • 1 1/2 cups milk (I used skim)
  1. Position a rack in the lower third of an oven and preheat to 400ºF. Lightly spray a biscuit pan with nonstick cooking spray. (I dropped the dough onto a cookie sheet because I don't have a biscuit pan.)
  2. In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. Using a pastry blender or 2 knives, cut in the butter until it resembles coarse meal. Add the cheese, chives and bacon; using a fork, stir until evenly distributed. Add the milk; using a rubber spatula, stir until just combined.
  3. Divide the dough among the wells of the prepared pan. Bake until the biscuits are golden and a toothpick inserted into the center of a biscuit comes out clean, about 25-30 minutes. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let cool for 15 minutes. Invert the pan onto the rack and lift off the pan. Let cool for 5 minutes before serving. Makes 7 biscuits (see below).

Prep time: 15 minutes

Cook time: 30 minutes

Yields: 10 large biscuits

A special birthday request

OK, so I'm about 2 weeks late with this post but better late than never! This year, Kyle requested chicken fried chicken with country gravy, garlic mashed potatoes, and corn - a truly starch-filled meal that rarely ever makes it to my weekly menus. I cringed when Kyle told me his veggie choice was corn (in addition to the potatoes and fried chicken) but I figured that it's his birthday meal so what the heck. And to add something else to the inevitable post-dinner food coma (pre-birthday cake of course), I threw in some cheddar-bacon biscuits that I've been dying to make (see the next post for these).

Since investing in my 7 1/4" round Le Creuset dutch oven, I've only used it a few times (and will use it more so during the fall and winter months) but after using it for frying chicken cutlets, I vowed to never use another pan or pot again for doing so - the deep sides and heat retention from the cast iron makes frying SO easy. I have add here that the queen of things fried, Paula Deen, was right again - peanut oil makes all the difference when frying foods...low smoke point so you can get the oil good and hot, and the flavor it adds is totally unlike olive oil. You just really have to be careful of food allergies when cooking with it - and thankfully, Kyle is NOT allergic to peanuts. And my last comment is on the panko...Panko: where have you been all my life?! Panko makes the perfect crunchy crust. I don't think I'll use it for everything that I fry (for instance, I feel that breadcrumbs would work better for chicken parm) but it really is such a great breading option to have in the kitchen to make some dishes a little extra special.

Overall, once I got passed the guilt of the high-fat, high-carb, low nutrition meal, I really enjoyed everything and Kyle "mmm'd" his way through dinner. The chicken was perfect, the gravy was peppery, the potatoes were garlicky, and the biscuits turned out beautifully. Thank goodness Kyle only has one birthday per year!!!

Chicken Fried Chicken
  • 2 boneless skinless chicken cutlets, pounded to about 1/2" - 3/4"
  • peanut oil (enough for about 1/2" inch in the bottom of the pan/pot)
  • 1/2 cup panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 2 eggs plus a dash of water, beaten together
  • salt and pepper
  1. Heat oil in a heavy skillet or dutch oven - something with deep sides is optimal - over medium to medium-high heat. You'll know when the oil is ready when a tiny droplet of water sizzles when added to oil and the top of the oil is rippled.
  2. Put panko, flour, and egg mixture in 3 separate shallow bowls.
  3. Season both sides of chicken breasts with salt and pepper. Coat chicken in this order to achieve the perfect crunchy breading: flour, egg, flour, egg, panko. Gently press the panko onto chicken to assure the will stick.
  4. Carefully add chicken to oil - do not allow chicken to splash into oil. Cook until panko is nicely browned on both sides, flipping only once. Drain.

Prep time: 10 minutes

Cook time: 10 minutes

Serves: 2

Country Gravy

  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • 1 1/2 cups milk (I used skim)
  • salt to taste
  • lots of freshly ground black pepper
  1. In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt butter then add flour, stirring to make a roux - add more or less flour to achieve desired consistency of the roux. Add salt and pepper. Cook for 1-2 minutes.
  2. Lower heat to medium-low and slowly stir in milk and work out any lumps. Stir constantly to while brining milk to a simmer and cook for 1 minute or until sauce thickens. Add more salt and pepper if necessary. If sauce becomes too thick, add more milk (a little at a time).

Prep time: 0 minutes

Cook time: 3-5 minutes

Serves: 2-4

Garlic Mashed Potatoes

  • 1 lb red-skin potatoes, quartered - Peeled or unpeeled is your preference. We like them unpeeled.
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheddar
  • 1/3 cup low-fat sour cream
  • 2 tbsp chopped chives
  • 1 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. In a medium to large saucepot, cover potatoes with water, salt water, and bring to a rapid boil. Boil for 8-10 minutes. Check for doneness with a fork after 8 minutes.
  2. When finished, drain potatoes and return to pot. Smash potatoes with a potato masher until there are no more large chunks left.
  3. Add cheese, sour cream, chives, garlic powder, salt and pepper to taste. Stir into potatoes. Add more sour cream if potatoes are too dense.

Prep time: 5 minutes

Cook time: 10-15 minutes

Serves: 3-4

Apple and Onion Stuffed Roasted Pork Tenderloin

HELLO FALL!!!! Ah....this is the day I've been waiting for since June 21st. Bring on the sweaters, pumpkins, foliage, and of course, fall-inspired foods. I celebrated the first day of this glorious season with a nice hearty meal - apple and onion stuffed roasted pork tenderloin with roasted butternut squash and sweet potato on the side. The smell of this cooking alone was enough to make me want to throw on a sweater and light a fire in the fireplace!

This wasn't a recipe I found anywhere, but my own "concoction" and I'm proud to say that it turned out really well and was SO easy! Kyle says that he isn't a fan of sweet potatoes ("sweeties" as I sometimes call them), but once again, I was able to hide them in a dish...and he ended up going back for seconds. Roasting them with the butternut squash, you can't at all tell the difference between the two. You might think that the squash and sweet potatoes together in the same dish might seem a little odd but by adding some herbes de Provence, salt, pepper, and a wee bit of garlic powder, the combo of the sweeties, squash, and savory seasonings proved to be a definite winning combo. I'm not sure where I got the idea for the tenderloin but since it was in the freezer, I decided to do something "fallish" with it.

Roasted Butternut Squash and Sweet Potatoes
  • 1/2 butternut squash, diced (1" pieces)
  • 1 large sweet potato, washed, peeled and diced (1" pieces)
  • herbes de Provence
  • salt, pepper, garlic powder
  • olive oil
  1. Preheat oven to 415 degrees F.
  2. Place squash and sweet potato in an oven safe dish (8x8 or 7x11).
  3. Drizzle with a little olive oil. Sprinkle a couple pinches of herbes de Provence, pressing herbes to release oils as you sprinkle. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and a little garlic powder.
  4. Cook for 45 minutes, flipping squash and potatoes occasionally to prevent sticking. You might need a little extra salt and pepper when serving, but taste first before you add more.

Prep time: 10 minutes

Cook time: 45 minutes

Serves: 4

Apple and Onion Stuffed Roasted Pork Tenderloin

  • 1 apple, cored and diced (1" pieces)
  • 1 medium onion cut into chunks
  • 1 shallot, coarsely chopped
  • 1 pork tenderloin
  • olive oil
  • 1 tsp herbes de Provence
  • salt and pepper
  1. While the squash and potatoes are cooking, pat tenderloin dry and season with herbes de Provence, salt and pepper.
  2. Cut a slit lengthwise on the top-side of the tenderloin, making a pocket, being careful not to cut through to the bottom. Stuff pocket with a little shallot, some onion, and some apple pieces. Put the remaining shallot, onion, and apple on the bottom of a roasting pan and drizzle with a little bit of olive oil. Secure tenderloin opening with a couple of toothpicks.
  3. Carefully place tenderloin on top of apples and onions. Cook for 30-32 minutes at 415 degrees F.

Prep time: 10 minutes

Cook time: 30-32 minutes

Serves: 4

Menu Plan Monday - Week of 9.24.07

Friday - take out Chinese food
Saturday - out for dinner
Monday - Chicken stir-fry over brown rice
Tuesday - Turkey chili
Wednesday - Seared tuna steaks with broccoli and baked potato
Thursday - Grilled chicken toss salad
For more weekly menus, check out Laura's blog: The Org Junkie

Monday, September 17, 2007

Menu Plan Monday - Week of 9.17.07

Saturday: away for the weekend
Sunday: out for dinner
Tuesday: grilled chicken with Giada's creamy orzo and butternut squash w/ sage
Wednesday: out for dinner
Thursday: penne rustica

Monday, September 10, 2007

Menu Plan Monday - Week of 9.10.07

Friday: take-out pizza
Saturday: at a bbq - made my Triple PB Blast Cookies
Sunday: Country fried chicken w/ gravy, garlic smashed potatoes, sweet corn, cheddar bacon biscuits (photos and recipes coming soon)
Monday: leftovers from Sunday
Wednesday: Turkey chili (photos and recipe coming soon)

Cilantro Turkey Burgers - blech!

I'm sorry to say that I've found my first Cooking Light recipe that didn't live up to my expectations. I really had high hopes for these burgers and had heard very good things about them but alas, I ended up hungry after dinner because I didn't finish the burger as it lost all appeal after the first bite. The recipe as a whole sounded great to me - cilantro, Parmesan cheese, and ground turkey - and I'm really sorry that it didn't turn out as I had expected. Nonetheless, I'm going to post the recipe with the hope that someone else might be able to figure out a way to make these better.

ps - I didn't make the ketchup because for the life of me, I couldn't find the chipotles in the grocery store.

On a lighter note, I paired the burgers with some awesome Mexican roasted potatoes that I'm really proud to say is my own recipe. That recipe follows the burger recipe but note that all the amounts are estimates.

Cilantro Turkey Burgers with Chipotle Ketchup

  • 1/3 cup dry breadcrumbs
  • 1/4 cup minced fresh cilantro
  • 1/4 cup (1 ounce) preshredded Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 pound ground turkey
  • Cooking spray
  • 1 (7-ounce) can chipotle chiles in adobo sauce
  • 1/4 cup ketchup
  • 4 (2 1/2-ounce) whole wheat hamburger buns
  • 4 red leaf lettuce leaves
  1. Combine first 6 ingredients in a large bowl. Divide turkey mixture into 4 equal portions, shaping each into a 1/3-inch-thick patty.
  2. Heat a large grill pan or large nonstick skillet coated with cooking spray over medium-high heat. Add turkey patties, and cook 5 minutes on each side or until done.
  3. Remove 1 chile and 1 teaspoon adobo sauce from can. Reserve remaining chiles and sauce for another use. Mince the chile. Combine chile, adobo sauce, and ketchup.
  4. Place 1 patty on bottom half of each bun; top each patty with 1 tablespoon chipotle ketchup and 1 lettuce leaf. Cover with top halves of buns.
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 10 minutes
Serves: 4

Nutritional Information
CALORIES 406(30% from fat); FAT 13.6g (sat 4.3g,mono 4g,poly 3.7g); PROTEIN 26.6g; CHOLESTEROL 73mg; CALCIUM 229mg; SODIUM 977mg; FIBER 1.5g; IRON 4.4mg; CARBOHYDRATE 44.5g
Cooking Light, APRIL 2002

Mexican Roasted Potatoes
  • 1 lb redskin potatoes, diced
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro
  1. Pre-heat oven to 425 degrees. In a 7x11 inch or 9x13 inch oven-safe dish, combine all ingredients except the cilantro, making sure that the potatoes are well-coated with the spices.
  2. Cook for 30-40 minutes (or until fork-tender), flipping the potatoes once during cooking.
  3. Toss with cilantro before serving.
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 30-40 minutes
Serves: 4

Super Sugar Cookies

Thank you Nestie joelen&louis for this wonderful sugar cookie recipe!!! I have had so much trouble with sugar cookies in the past - too hard, too brown, too hard to work with. But this one was perfect. I didn't make the icing but definitely will next time.

Super Sugar Cookies
from Nestie joelen&louis


  • 3/4 cup margarine
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon real vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  1. Cream margarine and sugar well.
  2. Add vanilla and eggs; combine well.
  3. In separate bowl, sift the baking powder, salt and flour. Add to wet ingredients slowly until thoroughly combined.
  4. Cookie dough must be chilled until firm, or overnight.
  5. Remove dough from fridge and roll out to a 1/4-inch thickness. (I dropped the dough onto cookie sheets with a cookie scoop then refrigerated for 20 minutes before cooking)
  6. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  7. With cookie cutters or rim of drinking glass, cut out cookies.
  8. Place cookies on an ungreased cookie sheet and bake in preheated oven for 8-10 minutes, depending on oven. Check often to prevent over cooking or burning. Cool on baking rack when done.
  9. Meanwhile, prepare frosting


  • 1 teaspoon real vanilla
  • 1 stick real butter
  • 4 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon cream or whole milk
  1. Cream butter, milk and vanilla together.
  2. Slowly add powdered sugar to butter until desired consistency. If you'd like, add liquid food coloring for festive cookies
  3. When cookies are cooled, slather this heavenly frosting. For more texture and color, press the top of the cookie in sprinkles, colored sugar or just eat plain!

Active prep time: 15 minutes

Inactive prep time: 20 minutes

Cook time: 8-10 minutes

Yields: 3 dozen cookies

Giada's Rigatoni with Sausage, Peppers, and Onions

Yum!!! I'm not a huge fan of sausage and peppers mostly because all of the oil and fat from the sausages causes so much guilt that I have trouble enjoying the dish. If Kyle wants it for dinner or to serve it to guests, he makes it (I help him prep). But I've finally found a recipe that doesn't call for so much oil. Where you ask? From Giada of course!

This one comes from Giada's Everyday Italian cookbook and it highlights the lighter side of how sausage and peppers can be prepared - turkey sausage and less olive oil. Kyle begged me not to use turkey sausages so I used sweet Italian sausage instead but cooked them down pretty well so that most of the fat cooked out. And with the seasonings and Marsala wine, I turned out a great new sausage and peppers dish that I will definitely make again.

Rigatoni with Sausage, Peppers, and Onions
Everyday Italian, Giada De Laurentiis
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 pound sweet Italian turkey sausage
  • 2 red bell peppers, sliced
  • 2 yellow onions, sliced
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
  • 4 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 cup Marsala wine
  • 1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes, optional
  • freshly grated Parmesan cheese for garnish
  1. Heat the oil in a heavy large skillet over medium heat. Add the sausages and cook until brown on both sides, about 7 to 10 minutes. Remove from the pan and drain. (I sliced the sausages before cooking them to reduce cooking time)
  2. Keeping the pan over medium heat, add the peppers, onions, salt, and pepper and cook until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Add the oregano, basil, and garlic and cook 2 more minutes.
    Add the tomato paste and stir. Add the Marsala wine, tomatoes, and chili flakes, if using. Stir to combine, scraping the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon to release all the browned bits. Bring to a simmer.
  3. Cut the sausages into 4 to 6 pieces each, about 1-inch cubes. Add the sausage back to the pan and stir to combine. Cook until the sauce has thickened, about 20 minutes.
  4. While the sauce simmers, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, 8-10 minutes. Drain the pasta and add to the thickened sauce; toss to combine. Spoon into individual bowl and sprinkle each serving with Parmesan cheese.
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 25 minutes
Serves: 4-6

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Tuna steaks with Risotto and Butternut Squash w/ Sage

Since discovering how tasty seared tuna steaks are, I've wanted to incorporate more autumnal-type side dishes so that I could be sure the tuna steaks could roll out of a summer meal and into fall without a hitch. I think I've found a couple sides that really made this happen, and at least one side that I am already planning to add to my arsenal for other meals.

This was my first attempt at risotto and personally, I think it turned out beautifully but Kyle wasn't at all thrilled with it - not so much the flavor but the texture of the risotto itself. Ah well, can't please everyone always! I'll make it again for myself and I've now got a whole tub of it left over to master rice pudding this fall and winter!

Since I've decided to cut down on pasta and potatoes in our diets, I've been looking for new veggies other than our typical broccoli and asparagus. Inspired by the dishes that Cara over at Cara's Cravings has come up with using squash, I decided to find my own. I opened up my Great Foods Fast cookbook from the Martha Stewart kitchens and came across a delicious new recipe that Kyle loved and commented that it's a great substitute for potatoes.

And to tie the meal together, I made a balsamic syrup to top the tuna but that was also amazing drizzled on top of the sqaush.

Basic Risotto
from Everyday Italian
Giada De Laurentiis
  • 4 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 3 tbsp butter
  • 3/4 cup finely chopped onion
  • 1 1/2 cups Arborio rice or medium-grain white rice
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine (I used Marsala)
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp freshly grated black pepper
  1. In a medium saucepan, abring the broth to a simmer. Cover the broth and keep hot over lot heat.
  2. In a large, heavy saucepan, melt 2 tbsp butter over medium heat. Add the onion and saute until tender but not brown, about 3 minutes. Add the rice and stir to coat with the butter. Add the wine and simmer until the wine has almost completely evaporated, about 3 mintues. Add 1/2 cup of simmering broth and stir until amost completely absorbed, about 2 minutes. Continue cooking the rice, adding the broth 1/2 cuip at a time, sitrring constantly and allowing each addition of broth to absorb before adding the next, until the rice is tender but still firm to the bite and the mixture is creamy, about 20 minutes total. Remove from the heat. Stir in the Parmesan cheese, the remaining tbsp of butter, and the salt and pepper. Transfer the risotto to a serving bowl and serve immediately.

Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 20-25 minutes
Serves: 4

Butternut Squash with Sage
from Everyday Food: Great Food Fast
from the Kitchens of Martha Stewart Living
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 2 lbs butternut squash, pelled, seeded, and cut into 3/4 inch pieces (I cut them into 1/2 inch pieces)
  • 1 tbsp chopped fresh sage or 1/2 tsp dried
  • 2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped (the original recipe doesn't call for this but it was a nice addition)
  • 1/4 cup water
  1. Melt the butter in a 12 inch skillet over medium heat. Add the squash and garlic; season with salt and pepper. Cook, tossing frequently, until the squash is lightly browned, 5-6 minutes.
  2. Add 1/4 cup water and reduce the heat to a simmer. Cover and cook until the squash is fork-tender, 8-10 minutes.
  3. Toss with sage

Prep time: 10 minutes

Cook time: 15-20 minutes

Serves: 4

Chicken Stir-fry

There isn't much that's easier than sauteeing chicken with some veggies and whipping up a smooth homemade stir-fry sauce. Yes, to some stir-fry seems a little daunting but if you really break down the steps and are able to tailor the sauce to your own tastes, you'll find yourself making this dish more often...and making your busy life a little easier at night in the process.

Make it easy on yourself --- prep the ingredients for stir-fry on the weekend. Put your cut-up chicken and veggies in separate baggies and stick them in the fridge for a day or two until you're ready to use them. The sauce will come together as you add your spices but if you end up measuring your spices (I don't), you can create larger batches and store them in the pantry for future use. Use whatever veggies you want and make your sauce as spicy as you can stand it (mine isn't spicy at all). Don't feel like you always have to use chicken - try beef, shrimp or even tofu, if meat isn't your thing. Serve it over rice, pasta, or on it's own.

Chicken Stir-fry

  • 2 boneless/skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-size pieces
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 red peppers, sliced
  • 1 bunch broccoli florets (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • 1 large onion, sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • ground ginger
  • Chinese 5 spice
  • garlic powder
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup reduced-sodium soy sauce
  • 2-3 tbsp honey
  • 1 tbsp cornstarch
  • crunchy chow mein noodles
  1. Heat 1 tbsp olive oil over medium-high heat in a large heavy skillet or wok. When oil is hot, add peppers and onions and cook for 3-5 minutes. Add garlic and broccoli and cook for an additional 3 minutes. Remove veggies from skillet.
  2. To the skillet, heat remaining oil then add chicken and the dry spices (all to taste). Cook chicken for 3 minutes, return veggies to skillet.
  3. Add soy sauce and honey, coating stir-fry mix with the sauce. Bring sauce to a simmer and add cornstarch. Simmer until sauce thickens, adding more cornstarch to thicken further, if desired. Toss sauce well with chicken and veggies. Top with crunchy chow mein noodles before serving.

Prep time: 10-15 minutes

Cook time: 10 minutes

Serves: 2-3

Orzo with Parmesan and Basil

I was looking for a great new side dish to go along with my recently discovered favorite pork chop recipe when I remember a recipe that had been tossed around my cooking board a few months ago - orzo with Parmesan and basil. This was a wonderful complement to the perfect pork chops and because I finish the pork chops off in the oven, the orzo and the chops finished at the same time and I wasn't waiting around for one of them while the other sat and got cold...something I've really been working on.

Orzo with Parmesan and Basil
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1 cup uncooked orzo pasta
  • 1 (14.5oz) can chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh basil for garnish
  1. Melt butter in heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Stir in orzo and saute until lightly browned. (I actually forgot about the orzo and it over-browned a little bit but still came out wonderful. Next time I'll pay more attention!!)
  2. Stir in chicken broth and bring to boil. Cover. Reduce heat ans simmer until orzo is tender and liquid is absorbed, about 15-20 minutes.
  3. Mix in Parmesan cheese and basil. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer to shallow bowl. Garnish with extra basil.

Prep time: 5 minutes

Cook time: 20 minutes

Serves: 4

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Menu Plan Monday - Week of 9.3.07

Friday - take-out pizza
Monday - Italian shrimp skewers and leftover rigatoni with sausage, peppers, and onions
Wednesday - chicken tenders w/ tator tots
Thursday - out for dinner