Bolognese

As I leave for the land of tacos, BBQ, and HEAT (San Antonio, TX), I thought it most fitting to leave you with another wonderful pasta dish that is perfect for the rainy, dreary weather we’ve been having lately.  I am preparing myself for a major cleanse when I get back from my trip as I’ve been promised a serious culinary adventure while we’re away.  I will be sure to document it all and share the highlights when I return.

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Pasta Bolognese

recipe found here:

Best Ever Bolognese Sauce

Spinach and Sausage Stuffed Shells

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Fun fact:  I’m Italian.

I eat pasta a few times a week.  I laugh when I think of the time when I thought I may have to be gluten free.  Yea, right.

My family has several go-to pasta dishes.  Some are easy options for busy weeknight dinners and others are special dishes for family gatherings and holidays.  This recipe for stuffed shells doesn’t really fall under either category.  The recipe fell into my lap over a year ago and, when my boyfriend and I prepared it, it was immediately one of my new favorite things.  Fast forward a year later, and I still hadn’t made it a second time.  I have interesting timing since my craving for this dish came during the summer, but there’s no time like the present, right?

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 Spinach and Sausage Stuffed Shells

Adapted from Inspired Taste blog

Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients

16–18 jumbo pasta shells
1 pound mild, or hot Italian sausage, casing removed
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 (14-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
1 cup frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
1 cup ricotta cheese
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup Parmesan for topping
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Boil large pasta shells according to the directions on the package.  Once al dente, drain the shells and place in a large bowl of ice water to stop the cooking process.

For the filling:  remove the casing from the outside of the sausage.  Heat a large skillet over medium heat.  Add sausage and break up with a wooden spoon.  Cook until browned.    Add the garlic and cook until fragrant.  Pour in the can of crushed tomatoes.  Defrost the spinach in the microwave and squeeze well to remove the excess water.  Add the spinach to the sausage.  Add ricotta and mozzarella and stir until creamy.  Season with salt and pepper.  Using a spoon, fill each shell with the mixture and place in a baking dish.  Once all the shells are filled, sprinkle with the parmesan and bake in the oven until the sides of the shells are lightly browned.  Remove from oven and serve!  Buon appetito

Chicken Tikka Masala

Ah, the weekend.

Two days of nothing but relaxation and fun in the sun.  Yea, right.

I can’t recall the last time I had nothing scheduled for the entire weekend.  Most of the time, I have an hour by hour itinerary for Saturday and Sunday before the work week is through.  Ugh.  Although the activities are usually ones I look forward to, it would be nice to have a lazy day set aside for some spontaneity.  You know, some time for a hike to appreciate things like this:

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#nature

If  you are smarter than me and left time for spontaneity this weekend, why not try a new recipe?  This recipe for Chicken Tikka Masala is one that I have made a few times.  It is easy, delicious, and perfect for adding a new chicken dish to your repertoire.  And if you’re feeling really motivated, why not try the recipes for homemade naan and fried cauliflower that I included earlier in the week?  Treat yoself.  That’s an order 🙂

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Chicken Tikka Masala

Adapted from Favorite Family Recipes

MARINADE:
1 cup yogurt
1 Tbsp lemon juice
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp freshly ground pepper
1 Tbsp minced fresh ginger
1 tsp salt
3 boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-size pieces
4 long skewers
SAUCE:
1 Tbsp butter
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp paprika
1 tsp salt
1 8oz. can tomato sauce
1 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

Combine yogurt, lemon juice, cumin, cinnamon, cayenne pepper, black pepper, ginger, and salt in a large bowl.  Add diced chicken, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for an hour.  Preheat a grill on high heat.  Thread chicken on skewers and discard the marinade.  Grill for 5 minutes on each side.

Sauce:  Melt butter in a large skillet and add garlic.  Season with cumin, paprika, and salt.    Stir in the cream and tomato sauce.  Allow to simmer until the sauce thickens.  Add chicken and simmer for 10 minutes.  Serve with naan or over rice.

Spicy Fried Cauliflower

Once in awhile, I have a night that is so special, that it reminds me of all the reasons I have to be happy.  Last night’s enjoyment was exclusively because of my best friends from high school.  It was a nice reminder of the fact that people and relationships are the most important thing to hold dear.  Everything else is just nonsense.

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Alright, enough mush.  On with the food, yes?

I was never one of those kids who made a fuss over eating vegetables.  If I’m being honest, I never really fussed over eating anything (Except mushrooms. I have a thing about mushrooms).  I like food, guys.  It’s fine.  That being said, I think any kid would get over himself if presented with a plate of hot, salty, FRIED veggies.  I mean c’mon, that’s just delicious.

This recipe for fried cauliflower is super easy.  It is the perfect side dish or appetizer to serve alongside your favorite Indian dishes.

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Spicy Fried Cauliflower

adapted from Veg Bowl blog

1 medium sized cauliflower
1 cup thick yogurt
3 tsp  red chili powder
3 cloves garlic
1 inch piece ginger
Salt, to taste
All purpose flour, about 3 tbsp for each batch of florets
Chaat masala, optional
Oil for deep frying

Grate garlic and ginger finely so that they turn into almost a paste.  Cut and clean the cauliflower and be sure to drain out all of the water.  In a separate bowl, add the yogurt, chili powder, garlic, and ginger and 1 tsp salt and stir to combine.  Add the florets of cauliflower and stir to coat evenly.

Meanwhile, heat oil in the pan (I used about a 1/2 inch of oil covering the bottom of the pan.  This allowed me to pan fry, rather than deep fry the cauliflower).  Take a handful or two of the florets and toss with 3 tbsp of flour and coat evenly.  Drop each floret carefully into the hot oil and fry until golden brown on all sides.  Continue coating the remaining cauliflower in the flour and allow each batch to complete frying before adding more.  Sprinkle with salt and serve!

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Homemade Naan

Monday.  Ugh.

Every week, ya know what I mean?  Nothing terrible has even happened today, but it just feels right to whine a little bit.  Poor Mondays, they are definitely the red headed step child of the work week.

This weekend was filled with some yummy food and family time.  Also, I got sunburnt and spent a lot of the the weekend on my stomach since it was too painful to put pressure on my back.  Yes, I only burnt the back side of my body.  Yes, I was too lazy to flip over while tanning because I was heavily involved with my InStyle magazine.  Yes, my priorities are out of whack.

When I wasn’t whining about my sunburnt (Note to self: stop whining so much), I was cooking up a storm.  This weekend I experimented with some Indian recipes:  Naan, Chicken Tikka Masala, and Spicy Fried Cauliflower.  I will post the recipes for the chicken and cauliflower later in the week.  Let it be known that my experience with Indian food is limited, but I have really enjoyed all of the dishes that I have tried.  I think these recipes are a wonderful way to dip your toe into the amazing flavors of Indian cuisine.  This recipe for homemade Naan (Indian flatbread) is very easy and results in the most delicious, chewy, soft bread that is perfect for dipping in the Chicken Tikka Masala sauce or on its own (Carbs! Amiright?)

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Naan

recipe adapted from foodnetwork.com by Aarti Sequeira

Yield: 6 loaves  Prep time: 15 min  Inactive: 3 hrs  Cook time: 15 min

1 teaspoon active dry yeast
2 teaspoons sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/8 teaspoon baking powder
3 tablespoons plain yogurt
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Melted butter for slathering on the finished naans
Coarse sea salt for sprinkling

Dissolve yeast and 1 tsp sugar in 3/4 cup warm water.  Allow it to sit on the counter until frothy, about 10 minutes.

While it dissolves, sift flour, salt, remaining tsp of sugar, and baking powder into a large bowl.  Once the yeast is frothy, add yogurt and olive oil into the glass and stir to combine. Pour the yogurt/yeast mixture into the dry ingredients and gently mix together.  When the dough begins to come together you may start mixing with your hands.  Keep mixing until it turns into a light, slightly sticky dough.  Be careful not to over-knead.  Cover the dough with a damp towel and leave in a warm, draft-free area for 2-4 hours.

When it’s time to roll, prepare a small bowl with flour and another small bowl with water.  Divide the dough into 6 portions and roll each portion in the flour to prevent sticking (the dough will feel very sticky at first, but that is normal!).  Roll each piece of dough into a teardrop shape about 8-9 inches long.  Warm a large skillet over high heat until it is almost smoking.  Gently lay one piece of dough in the skillet and allow it to cook for 1 minute or until it is bubbly and brown on the bottom.  After one minute, flip the naan and do the same on the other side.  Remove the naan from the skillet and brush with butter and sprinkle with sea salt.  Repeat with the rest of the naans and serve.

Father’s Day

The other day, whilst cleaning out my desk that I’ve had since childhood, I came across an essay that I wrote about my Dad.  Now, I don’t want to brag, but this essay won my family and I tickets to the PGA tour that year.  Sooo…it’s kind of a big deal.  Actually, though, I was so surprised at how simple and straight-forward the essay was because it still captures the reasons I love my dad to this day.  I’ll have you know, I am not as much of a tomboy today as I was when I was growing up, but it is funny to remember how important sports were to my relationship with my dad.  I thought I’d share the essay as a way to say “Happy Day, Pops”.  I still love you as much as I did when I wrote this essay in the 5th grade…lot’s more, actually.

Me and My Dad

I seem to have the best dad in the world.  He is funny, sweet, caring, generous, and always there when I need him.  The reason my dad is generous is because he takes time out of his busy day to coach me in sports, to help me with homework, and to sit down and listen to me play the piano when I need his opinion about a song.  When my dad coaches sports it is nice to know that he is not only there for me but to help all of the people on the team get better at something they really like to do.  My dad isn’t the type of person who is going to make you sit down while he tells you the history of basketball, but he helps you learn and let’s you have a lot of fun at the same time.  I really admire my dad because he is good at sports and plays a lot of sports really well.  He helps me whether I need help with pitching, or if I need to practice doing some lay-ups.  He is always there for me and that is one of the most important things that I like about my dad.  I like spending quality time with my dad as you can see.  These activities include rollerblading, bike riding, going to hockey games, and just playing catch outside and those are just some of the many things I like to do with my dad.  I think a good dad is someone you can trust with your darkest secrets, someone who is there for you when you are sad, someone who shares in your good times, but understands your pain when you are down, and someone who is caring not just for you but to everyone who needs his care as much as you.  A good dad sounds like a best friend and that is exactly right because that is what he is one of my best friends.  

Asian Baked Salmon with Spring Vegetable Risotto

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This always happens.  I vow to workout later in the day by going for a long walk outdoors and then the heavens part and the rains fall and wash away my good intentions.  Yes, I could workout indoors, but that seems terrible.  Also, I am the best at making up excuses not to workout.  And at whining about it.  WAHH.

Anyways, I am seriously and deeply in love with risotto.  That is the opposite of exercise, I am aware.  But the amount of stirring one must do to make a successful risotto MUST count for something.  Full disclosure: I sweat a lot while cooking over a hot stove.  That water loss is weight loss in my mind.  Right?

I loved that this meal was satisfying in a “this is extremely delicious and yet I don’t feel uncomfortably full, so where is my dessert” kind of way.  Of course, if you are tempted to eat the entire batch of risotto, you might disagree on the “uncomfortably full” part.  The marinade for the salmon is stupid easy and is my favorite flavor combination for salmon and maybe ever.  Actually, just anything with garlic is my favorite.  Sorry, boyfriend. Speaking of, the BF ate this dinner and enjoyed it as much as I did.  Salmon for the win!  I recommend making this for a special occasion or on a day when you have a little extra prep time.  Sunday dinner perhaps?

The rain has stopped…I’ve done enough whining.  Off I go!

Asian Grilled Salmon with Spring Vegetable Risotto

adapted from The Barefoot Contessa

Makes 4 servings

For the salmon:

4, 4 0z salmon filets (boned, but skin on)
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup olive oil
1 tsp minced garlic
1 tsp minced, fresh ginger

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Combine soy sauce, olive oil, garlic, and ginger in a small bowl.  Place salmon, skin side up, in a baking dish.  Pour marinade over to coat salmon and place in the refrigerator for 20-30 minutes.  Place salmon, skin side down, in oven and bake for 12-15 minutes, or until cooked through.  Serve atop risotto and enjoy!

For the risotto:

1 1/2 tsp olive oil
1 1/2 tsp unsalted butter
1 medium white onion, chopped
1 cup Arborio rice
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 lb thin asparagus
1 cup frozen peas
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
Salt and Pepper

Heat olive oil and butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat.  Add onion and saute until translucent, about 5 minutes.  Add rice and stir to coat with oil and butter.  Add the white wine and simmer over low heat, being sure to stir constantly until most of the wine is absorbed.  Add the chicken stock, 2 ladles at a time, and stir while waiting for the stock to be absorbed by the rice before adding more.  This will take around 25-30 minutes.

Cut asparagus into 1 inch pieces (make sure to get rid of the tough ends).  Blanch in boiling salt water for 5 minutes.  Drain and cool in ice water.  Add the asparagus, peas, 1 tsp salt, and 1 tsp pepper to the risotto after it has been cooking for 15 minutes.  Continue to add the stock until the rice is al dente.  When it is done, remove from the heat and stir in Parmesan.   Serve with more Parmesan if you are a cheesy freak like me 🙂 Enjoy!

Herbed Goat Cheese & Ricotta Crostini

On days when I am a nanny, my meals are essentially a hodgepodge of edible things.

If I remember to eat breakfast (I’m the worst at the most important meal of the day thing), it most likely consists of a granola bar in the car, or if I’m really crazy, a hurried bowl of cereal.  I don’t do the cereal in the car, in case you were wondering (but there’s a first time for everything).

Lunch is the real kicker.  I usually will finish the singular leftover chicken nugget that my own little nuggets don’t eat.  I also munch on berries or whatever fruit/veggies I have served the kiddos.  It’s enough to hold me over in that moment, but I am always ravenous when I arrive home in the mid-afternoon.

This Herbed Goat Cheese & Ricotta Crostini is an easy, delicious snack just perfect for mid-afternoon cravings.  I’m obsessed with the versatility of crostini.  Let me keep it real with you: I don’t always have ricotta and goat cheese on hand.  Do you find yourself without these ingredients right now?  Let’s talk about a few other killer options to play with on some  crostini/toast/fancy crispy bread thing.

Here’s what Joy the Baker has to say on the topic:

http://joythebaker.com/2013/03/on-toast-baguette/

A Cozy Kitchen also weighed in:

http://acozykitchen.com/stuff-on-toast-2/

Cupcakes and Cashmere featured a delicious crostini as well:

http://cupcakesandcashmere.com/pea-pesto-crostini/

Bottom line?  You could put an old smelly shoe on top of some crusty, buttered bread and it would taste good.  **Please do not put an old smelly shoe on your crusty, buttered bread.

I used these ingredients because I happened to have them on hand and it was a divine combo.  The recipe can be adjusted to make more, but I thought I’d include the ingredients for what I served as a snack for my sister and I.  These would be great as mini crostini to serve at a party!

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Herbed Goat Cheese & Ricotta Crostini

Serves: 2 hungry snackers

2 slices of a French baguette
olive oil
1 clove garlic
1/3 cup ricotta cheese
1 tbsp goat cheese
1 tsp fresh basil, julienned
1 tsp chives, chopped finely
1 tsp parsley, chopped finely
pinch of red pepper flakes
salt & pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place slices of bread on small baking sheet.  Drizzle each slice with olive oil.  Place baking sheet in the oven for 5-7 minutes, or until lightly browned and crisp.  Mix ricotta and goat cheese in a small mixing bowl until combined.  Add basil, chives, parsley, and red pepper flakes (you can use more depending on your heat preference).  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Remove baguette from oven and wait until it is cool enough to handle.  Rub each slice of bread with garlic clove until fragrant.  Spoon ricotta mixture on each slice of bread and drizzle with olive oil to serve. Enjoy!