Friday, August 19, 2016

Summer Spoils

I don't know what to call this concoction, other than delicious. It sort of blurs the line between a lasagna and a gratin. Regardless, I ate WAY too much of it. But, seeing as it was vegetarian and used far less cheese than I normally use (I was running low), I regret nothing. It started with the abundance of summer vegetables in my CSA share. I wanted to use as much as I could because the stuff generally doesn't last long being that it is free of pesticides and preservatives. So, I started with a TON of tomatoes that were starting to get squishy,  1 small eggplant, 1 zucchini, 1 green pepper and 1 onion. I cut away all the icky parts on the tomatoes and cored and diced them to make a quick sauce. I didn't have any garlic left (the horrors!) but I did have some garlic scapes left in the back of my veggie drawer that were still hanging on so I cut them up and threw them in with the tomatoes along with a handful of fresh basil and let that all cook away (lid on). While the tomatoes were cooking I sliced my eggplant into planks, the zucchini into coins, the onion into rings and the pepper into somewhat flat planks. I cooked each of these in my grill pan until they were soft and pliable. You could certainly cook them on a grill but I didn't feel like sweating my ass off outside. The humidity has been off the charts lately and it is gross out there. The goal is to remove as much liquid from the vegetables as possible so you don't end up with a soupy mess of a casserole. Once that was done, my tomatoes were ready to process so I added a can of tomato paste to them and hit them with the immersion blender. BAM - sauce done. Next came the assembly. I coated the bottom of a casserole dish with sauce then I added a layer of eggplant followed by a layer of zucchini. Next came a layer of ricotta cheese - maybe 3/4 cup, followed by a layer of onion and pepper. Next came another layer of sauce topped with the last of the eggplant and zucchini. This was topped with more sauce and about a Cup of shredded mozzarella cheeses and a handful of Parmesan cheese. I baked this at 350F for about 40 minutes. Now, you should let this stand for a bit before eating it but I was hungry and dove right it. It was delicious.

Grilled Summer Vegetable Bake
2 Cups tomato sauce - jarred or homemade
1 small eggplant - cut lengthwise into planks
1 medium zucchini - cut into coins
1 medium onion - slice into rings (do not separate rings, leave in disks)
1 green pepper - cut into planks
3/4 Cup Ricotta Cheese
1 Cup Mozzarella Cheese
1/2 Cup Parmesan Cheese

Preheat over to 350F

Grill vegetables on both sides until soft and pliable. Set aside.

In a casserole dish layer vegetable, cheeses and sauce as follows:
Sauce
Eggplant
Zucchini
Ricotta cheese
Onion
Pepper
Sauce
(Repeat with what ever veggies are left - I had enough eggplant and zucchini for 1 layer using them together)
Sauce
Mozzarella cheese
Parmesan Cheese

Bake uncovered for 40 minutes. Let sit 10 minutes before serving (or not if you're hungry).

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Summer YUMs

I am so tired right now I could cry. The hubs and I are leaving for vacation tomorrow and I have been frantically trying to prepare for the trip while working and doing a million other things. It doesn't help that hubs scared the shit out of me last night when he left for work and it took me 3 hours to get back to sleep. UGH! Last night I was up late trying to cook up all the CSA produce that I had in the fridge that would not be coming with us on vacation. I was inspired by a stuffed pepper recipe I saw on the blog Proud Italian Cook (click here to see her beautiful recipe photos). I had a bunch of cubanelle and hungarian wax peppers that fit the bill perfectly. Plus I had tons of tomatoes from the CSA and my own garden that needed to be used along with a bulb of fennel. So I made a nice marinara with tomatoes and fennel to go with this take on stuffed peppers:

Stuffed Italian Peppers

1 bunch broccoli rabe
5 cloves garlic sliced
2 Tbs oil
6 cubanelle peppers
1 pound Italian sausage
1Cup mozzarella cheese
1/2 Cup parmesan cheese

Preheat over to 400F

In a large pan saute broccoli rabe with oil and garlic until soft. Chop and set aside.

Cut tops off of peppers and slit down one side. Remove core, membranes and seeds.

In a bowl mix sausage, cheeses and broccoli rabe  until combined.

Stuff mixture into peppers and place in a baking pan

Bake for 40 minutes

Serve with warm marinara.

Friday, July 15, 2016

FAIL!

Sometimes even the best laid plans end up a disaster. Most people wouldn't share a culinary fail as epic as mine on their blog, but then I am not most people. You have to take the good with the bad and you just can't hit it out of the park every time. Honesty and humility are qualities that I personally embrace.  Hubs and I went on vacation last week with a bunch of friends. We do this every year and rent a beach house in Rhode Island. Normally we have a big pig roast but this year we decided to scale it back and just have a regular old cookout. However, to keep the spirit of the pig alive, I bought a 4 pack of baby back ribs and made a batch of pulled pork. The ribs were pre-cooked and vacuum sealed. I didn't have high hopes for them but the price was right so I figured what the hell. Well, due to the abundance of foodstuffs at the beach house, they never got eaten. So, I brought them back home and finally got around to cooking them this week. I halved the racks, doused them with BBQ sauce, threw them in the crock pot, and went to work. As straight up ribs they were much better than I thought they would be. A little salty for my taste but otherwise just fine with some mashed cauliflower and sauteed fresh zucchini. However, 4 racks of ribs for two people is beyond excessive and I have leftovers up the wazoo! So, yesterday I formulated a plan to use some of the leftover rib meat. I even cam up with a cool name and everything, "BBQ Swineapple Pie". In concept, the idea seemed solid. I lined a pie plate with masa dough (because BBQ pork and corn go well together), then I sauteed some of the leftover rib meat with onions and a little more BBQ sauce. I mixed in some fresh pineapple (because pineapple and pork go well together) and poured it into the masa crust. Then I topped it with a mix of cheddar and mozzarella cheeses (because BBQ and Hawaiian pizza is yummy) and baked it for 40 minutes. When I pulled it from the oven it looked really good but when I ate it, it was not nearly as tasty as I was hoping it would be. It wasn't horrible but I really didn't enjoy it all that much. I don't know if maybe the masa could have been better seasoned. I admit I was in a rush and just threw the crust together without much thought. Maybe it needed more BBQ sauce - it was a tad dry. I thought the pineapple would release more liquid when cooked. Regardless, I was glad my husband grabbed dinner on the road and didn't want any because if I didn't really care for it, he most assuredly would hate it. Yep, kitchen fail. Oh well. Live and learn and try again later.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

One Pan Wonders

Hubs: What's for dinner?
Me: I don't know. Something with sausage.
Hubs: Like what?
Me:  I'll make it up as I go.

Later that Evening

Hubs: You sure you know what you're doing?
Me: Don't worry about it.
Hubs: It smells good.
Me: Blank stare

Even later that evening

Hubs: This is delicious.
Me: Told you not to worry.

This conversation or various iterations of it happen at my house on a weekly basis. You would think after 6 years of marriage and nary a kitchen failure to be had, my husband would be a little less concerned about what I am doing in the kitchen, lol! I suppose when he sees me whip out an bunch of Swiss chard he wonders how the hell I'm going to sneak that into his dinner without him noticing. It's amazing how much his veggie consumption has expanded without his knowledge. It makes me laugh every time! So, yesterday I was really dragging ass....all day! I don't know why but I was and I was in no mood to prepare a complicated dinner. I had defrosted some Italian sausage and that was really all I had as far as a plan. Being tired, I also was not looking to do a boat load of dishes after dinner either. So, after a quick browse through the fridge and the cupboards I came up with this little beauty of a meal. All prepared in a single large skillet. It really was pretty darn good and used up all sorts of odds and ends that were begging to be finally used up. Oh look, pictures too!

Sausage, Vegetable, and Pasta Skillet



1-2 pounds sweet Italian sausage, bulk or with casing removed
3 large cloves garlic, sliced
1 bunch Swiss chard, washed, trimmed and chopped
1 can diced fire roasted tomatoes
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 zucchini, peeled and sliced into half rounds
3 oz asiago cheese, chopped rough
1/2 cup grated parmesan
1/4 cup sharp cheddar, shredded
2 oz mozzarella, diced
1-2 cups water
1/2 box rotini pasta

Brown sausage with garlic until cooked. If your sausage was fatty uou may opt to drain some of the fat. I did not. It is not mandatory.
Add chard to pan and continue cooking until soft.
Add bell pepper and tomatoes (with liquid). Continue to saute
Add remaining ingredients and stir to combine.
Reduce heat to low and cover. Allow to simmer, stirring frequently, until pasta is cooked. Add more water if needed.

Let sit a few minutes before eating. Good Stuff!

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Memorial Day Winners!

So this year the Hubs decided he wanted to have a Memorial Day party at the house. No biggie. We sent out invites probably a month ago and apparently that sort of pre-planning results in a lot of party attendees! Ok, now its a biggie. We spent every waking hour on Thursday and Friday cooking and cleaning and preparing for the party. I was exhausting but oh so worth it. We had a great turn out despite the oppressive heat and humidity and it was so wonderful to have all our friends together. We really had a ball. For this cookout I came up with 2 great dishes that went over really well. One was an appetizer - Pizza Stuffed Mushrooms - and the other a dessert - White Chocolate, Coconut and Strawberry Shortcake Kabobs. Both were super easy to put together and were made in advance. I almost took pictures of them but didn't want to dig out my phone - I was afraid it might actually ring and distract me from all the fun, lol! Anyway, Here are the recipes for you to try.

Pizza Stuffed Mushrooms

3 packages white button mushrooms
2 Tbs olive oil
8-10 saltine crackers
2 Cups pizza sauce, divided
3 cloves garlic
2 Cups mozzarella cheese, shredded
20-25 pepperoni slices

Preheat over to 350F
Rinse mushrooms and remove stems. Place caps bottom side up in a baking dish
Remove woody parts of mushroom stems and mince remaining stems.
Mince garlic and combine with mushroom stems
Add olive to a saute pan and heat, add minced mushrooms and garlic and saute until soft.
Add 1 Cup of pizza Sauce and stir to combine
Crush saltine crackers and add to pan. Stir to combine and remove from heat.
Take stuffing mixture and fill each mushroom cap.
Top stuffed mushrooms with a spoonful of the reserved pizza sauce
Top stuffed mushrooms with mozzarella cheese and then with a slice of pepperoni
Bake uncovered for 30 minutes
Serve hot

White Chocolate, Coconut and Strawberry Shortcake Kabobs

2 pounds fresh strawberries
1 prepared angel food cake
1 bag white chocolate chips
1 cup sweetened coconut

Rinse and hull strawberries
Remove Angel Food Cake from packaging and cut into cubes
Thread strawberries and cake cubes onto skewers, alternating between them
Once skewers are prepared, gently melt white chocolate in a double boiler
Drizzle melted chocolate onto skewers
While still warm press coconut flakes into the chocolate and allow chocolate to harden
Watch them disappear!

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Stuff it!

I am cranky today. The weather has been damp and cold and shitty for a week solid, despite all my efforts I haven't lost a single pound, work is boring me to death, and now my husband informs me we may have to cancel one of our (already paid in full) vacations because his asshole bosses are giving him shit for taking too much time off (he has been having back pain issues and has been out for medical reasons lately). Fuckers. So, now here I am at work with no motivation to do anything and a very strong urge to just say, "fuck it" and walk out. Unfortunately, this whole adulthood thing prevents me from doing just that and the alternative is to spill my guts here in a last ditch attempt to regain my sanity. Some days the daily grind REALLY wears me down. Anyway, back to the topic at hand, which is always FOOD. I did go home yesterday with the full intention of making something post worthy. I got my inspiration from Marie over at "Proud Italian Cook". She makes such wonderful things. I really do love her blog. And the pictures. Well, let's just say that if you want an idea of what this recipe looks like, check out her pictures. It is no secret that mine suck. In fact, I intentionally did not take pictures of my recipe because I didn't think people would want to eat it if they saw my crappy picture of it, lol. I have been on a real veggie kick lately and wanted something that I haven't had in a while. When I saw Marie's recipe for stuffed eggplant I knew immediately I wanted to do something along those lines. I have actually been wanting to try stuffing eggplant since seeing Lidia B. do it on TV several months ago. Marie's version was lower in carbs so I went with her rendition (Sorry, Lidia!). Since, I was going to try to feed it to my husband I tweaked it a little by adding sweet Italian sausage and subbing the artichokes with sun dried tomatoes. Once it went into the oven, I came back to reality and knew he wouldn't eat it because. "it looked funny". So I took the unused sausage and made his favorite sausage and broccoli (I didn't have broccoli rabe) with pasta and parmesan. I was too tired to have to sell dinner to him. Just fricking eat it or die! For those of you who actually like to try new things, the stuffed eggplant was delicious and the recipe, as best as I can recall, is as follows:

Erika's Stuffed Eggplant

1 medium sized purple globe eggplant
olive oil
1/2 Cup fresh spinach
1/4 Cup marinated sun dried tomatoes, chopped
1 Cup loose Italian sausage, browned
1/2 Cup ricotta cheese
1/3 Cup shredded mozzarella

salt to taste

Pre heat over to 400 F

Silce eggplant in half lengthwise and carefully scoop out insides leaving the exterior intact. You should have 2 eggplant boats.

Coat eggplant boats as well as the scooped out eggplant "guts" in olive oil and place on a baking sheet. Roast for 20 minutes or until soft.

While eggplant is roasting, combine remaining ingredients in a mixing bowl to make stuffing.

When cooked, add eggplant guts to stuffing mixture and combine.

Scoop stuffing mixture into the eggplant boats and return to the 400 F oven for another 15-20 minutes until cooked through. Let cool before serving.


UPDATE: Ok, so this is definitely one of those dishes that tastes better leftover. Don't get me wrong, it was great right out of the oven but I had the leftovers last night and I swear it tasted even better. I also gave it a drizzle of balsamic glaze right before I ate it which REALLY made it outstanding. Go for the glaze, you won't be sorry!

Thursday, April 21, 2016

A Honey of a Meal

So yesterday was not a great work day. It was stressful and I came home grumpy and irritated and wanting wine, lots and lots of wine. To top it off, I got home and realized I forgot to put the damn trash can up and the dogs had a field day with it. GAH! Thankfully it was practically empty so the mess wasn't too horrible but it was still the last thing I wanted to deal with when I got home. I decided I wanted something quick and easy and that I could make while roasting up all the lovely veggies I bought last week. That's when I remembered that I hadn't made honey mustard chicken in a while and that would be super easy to make once the veggies were all prepped and in the oven. The larger roasting venture included 6 peppers, 5 zucchini and 2 onions. That's for sandwiches and salads and where ever else I can use them for the next few days. For dinner, I roasted broccoli and zucchini. I simply tossed the chopped veggies in salt garlic powder, parmesan cheese and olive oil and threw them in a 400 F oven. I also did a pan of new potatoes. Those were cut in half and tossed with salt, onion powder, and olive oil before getting tossed into a second pan and topped with chopped onion and strips of bacon. On to the chicken. I cut 2 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves into large strips and tossed them into a mixture of raw honey, yellow mustard, garlic powder and salt.  I let them sit and stew for a few before tossing into a hot pan with a little olive oil. You can leave the breasts whole if you want but I would suggest getting them prepped well ahead of time so they have more time to stew in the sauce before you cook them.I cut them because I knew they would only have a few minutes before hitting the pan. Once the chicken was cooked through I gave the sauce a little tastes and added more mustard and garlic. It was a tad too sweet. Once everything was the way I like it, the veggies were done and it was time to eat! YUM!

Erika's Honey Mustard Chicken


 (all measurements are approximate)
2 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
1/4 C honey
2 Tbs yellow mustard
1 tsp salt
1/2 Tbs garlic powder
2 Tbs oil

Combine honey, mustard, salt and garlic powder in a bowl and toss with chicken breasts. Allow to marinade for 20 minutes if breasts are whole. For shorter marinading cut chicken into strips.

Heat oil in a large saute pan. When hot, add chicken and marinade. Cook until chicken is cooked through. Serve Hot.