Pasta Fagioli with Red beans

I’m a soup gal.  I love soups of all kinds, but this one is great because not only does it have a great flavor but it’s hearty enough that if you add a hunk of bread and a glass of wine you can call it Dinner.  I like that in a soup.

pasta-fagioli-with-red-beans

4 sprigs fresh thyme

1 sprig fresh rosemary

2 tbls butter

1 cup chopped onion

2 cloves garlic, minced

4 ounces pancetta, chopped

6 cups chicken broth

2 (14 oz) cans red kidney beans, rinsed and drained

1 cup small macaroni, like elbow or orcchiette

salt and pepper to taste

parmesean cheese and olive oil to top dish

Cheesecloth or kitchen twine

Wrap the thyme and rosemary sprigs in a piece of cheesecloth and tie in a knot, or tie with kitchen twine.  Heat the butter in a large, heavy stockpot over a medium flame.  Add the onion, pancetta, and garlic and saute until the onion is tender (about 5 minutes).  Add the broth, beans and herbs.  Cover and bring to a boil over high heat, then decrease heat to medium and simmer for approximately 20 minutes.  At this point, remove the herb packet and discard it.  Measure out 1 cup of the mixture and either puree it in a blender or, if you have an immersion blender, put one cup in a larger (4 cup) glass measuring cup and puree it using the immersion blender.  Return the puree to the rest of the soup, cover and return to a boil over high heat.  Add the macaroni, cover again and boil approximately 8 minutes, so that the pasta is done “al dente.”  Season with salt and pepper.  Serve the soup sprinkled with parmesean cheese and drizzled with olive oil.

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Roasted Peppers

This just might be the simplest thing you’ll ever see on a food blog.  But they are so flavorful and you can use them in such a variety of ways that once you make them you may just always want to have them in your fridge. I add them to sandwiches, quesadillas and, just like my grandmother did, love to eat them piled on a fresh-cut slice of French bread with a piece of Provolone cheese. Add a glass of wine and call it “dinner.”

peppers-on-bread

Preheat oven to 250 degrees

6-8 Bell peppers, a variety of red, yellow and green works well

Extra virgin olive oil

Core and seed the peppers.  Slice the peppers fairly thin and arrange them on a baking sheet in a single layer.  Drizzle with olive oil and bake for a total of approximately 2 to 2 1/2 hours, stirring every 30 minutes or so.  Peppers will be slightly shriveled and darkened when done.  Salt and pepper to taste.  If you wash the peppers just before slicing, be sure to DRY them completely before putting them on the baking sheet or they will end up “steaming” in the oven.

 

Swedish Meatballs

Swedish Meatballs might just be the ultimate comfort food.  Growing up with an Italian grandparent I was used to meatballs as a staple, but I always loved when they were served with this creamy gravy as an alternative. Serve them over rice or egg noodles.

swedish-meatballs

Meatballs:

2 slices white bread, crusts removed and torn into tiny pieces

1/4 cup milk

1 pound ground beef

1 pound ground pork

1 small onion, grated

1 egg, beaten

1/4 tsp garlic powder

1/4 tsp onion powder

1/2 tsp dried parsley

1/4 tsp each salt and pepper
Sauce:

6 Tbls butter, divided

2 cups beef broth

2 Tbls flour

1 Tbls Worcestershire sauce

1/2 cup heavy cream

salt and pepper to taste

In a small bowl soak the bread in the milk until soft.  In a larger bowl, combine all the meatball ingredients, then add the soaked bread.  Mix well with your hands.  Shape into approximately 20-24 meatballs.

In a large skillet, melt 2 Tbls butter.  Add meatballs and turn continuously until brown on all sides and cooked through (about 10 minutes).  Remove to plate and cover with foil to keep warm.

Add 4 Tbls butter to the skillet and when melted whisk flour in, stirring until it turns brown.  Slowly stir in the beef broth and Worcestershire sauce and simmer a few minutes to thicken.  Stir in cream and season with salt and pepper to taste.  Add Meatballs back to the skillet and simmer another 3-5 minutes to make sure they are heated through.

Classic Coq au Vin

The sauce for this chicken dish is so good that my one daughter found the leftovers in the fridge one day and, not seeing the chicken at the bottom, scooped up the sauce and heated it up as a soup!  And I don’t blame her.  It’s rich and creamy.  And I use boneless chicken thighs, so they turn out so tender you don’t need a knife to eat your meal.  All-in-all, this is a great dish.

coq-au-vin

4 oz. bacon, cut into 1/2 inch pieces

1 cup flour mixed with 1 Tbls Cocoa powder

10 boneless, skinless chicken thighs

6 pearl onions, peeled and halved

2 carrots, diced

1/2 pound crimini (brown) mushrooms, stemmed and sliced

2 tsp chopped garlic

5 sprigs fresh thyme, minced

2 oz red wine

6 cups chicken  broth

4 Tbls butter

5 Tbls chopped parsley

5 Tbls chopped Marjoram

 

In a large pot with a lid, render the bacon until crispy, about 6-8 minutes, then remove from pot to drain on paper towels and set aside.  Season the flour with salt and pepper.  Dredge the chicken pieces in the seasoned flour, coating each side completely.  Reserve remaining flour.  Cook chicken, a few pieces at a time so as not to crowd the pot, only a few minutes on each side on med high heat.  You only want to brown the chicken at this point.  Hold browned pieces on a plate and set aside. Add butter to melt, the add onions  and carrots to the pot and saute for 2-3 minutes.  Add mushrooms and garlic.  Season with salt and pepper and saute for 2-3 minutes more.  Add the thyme and red wine, and cook for a minute to allow alcohol to cook out of wine.  Sprinkle about a half cup of the reserved flour into the mix and stir well.  Slowly add the chicken stock and simmer a few minutes to allow it to thicken a bit.  Add the chicken and bacon, and cover.  Simmer over med-low for 30 minutes. Stir parsley and marjoram in at the end.  Serve over rice.

Chicken Marsala

chicken-marsala

 

4 skinless, boneless chicken breast

All purpose flour, seasoned with salt and pepper, for dredging

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

8 oz white mushrooms, stemmed and sliced

1/2 cup Marsala wine

1/2 cup chicken stock

2 tbls butter

1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley

 

Place the chicken breasts between two pieces of plastic wrap and, using a meat mallet, pound them until they are about 1/4 inch thick.  Place them in the seasoned flour, shaking off the excess.

Heat the oil over med-high in a large skillet.  Fry the chicken pieces 5 minutes on each side, browning them before removing to a plate.  Lower heat a bit and add the mushrooms, stirring until softened and  browned.  Season with salt and pepper.  Add the Marsala wine and cook a minute to remove the alcohol.  Be sure to have scraped the bottom of the pan to get the bits of chicken, etc up.  Add the chicken stock and simmer for about 5 minutes to reduce the sauce slightly.  Stir the butter into the sauce and add the chicken.  Cook for another 5-7 mins to heat through.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Stir parsley in before serving.  Serve with rice, noodles or mashed potatoes.

Chicken Spaghetti Casserole

turkey-tetrazzini1

1 pound linguini, broken in half

4 Tbls butter

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 pound button mushrooms, stemmed and sliced

1/2 cup dry white wine

1/2 cup flour (I use Wondra for this)

4 cups chicken broth

1 8oz block cream cheese, softened

3 cups cooked chicken (rotisserie from grocery store works well)

1 cup frozen peas

1 cup bread crumbs

Cook pasta until not quite done (a few minutes less than package directions call for). Drain and set aside.

In a large pot, melt butter over medium-high heat.  Add garlic and saute for a few minutes, then add mushrooms and salt and saute a few minutes more.  Pour the wine in and cook several minutes,  until the liquid reduces by half.

Sprinkle the flour in and stir to incorporate.  Cook a few minutes more, then slowly add the chicken broth, being careful to stir well.  Cook a few minutes more until the mixture thickens.

Reduce heat to medium-low and add cream cheese in small blocks, stirring well.  Don’t be alarmed if the cream cheese doesn’t completely melt at this point, it will eventually.  Add the chicken and the peas and stir to combine. Season with salt and pepper.

Add the  cooked spaghetti and stir to combine.  Pour into a greased (or sprayed) large baking dish.  Mix breadcrumbs with 2 tablespoons melted butter and spread over casserole.  Bake at 350 degrees for 20-30 minutes, until casserole bubbles.

Pasta Salad

Pasta Salad

Pasta Salad

 

Pasta Salad

1 pound box spiral pasta, cooked al dente (one minute less than the shortest time listed on box)

small bunch broccoli crowns, cut up and put in with pasta for the last one minute of cooking time

1 red bell pepper, diced

1 green bell pepper, diced

1 small can sliced black olives, drained

1/2 cup or more slivered almonds

1/2 pound cheddar cheese, cubed

1 bottle favorite Ceasar or Italian dressing (I use Girard’s Ceasar)

Once the pasta/broccoli, drain and allow to cool a few minutes.  Add the red and green bell pepper and black olives and a bit of the bottled dressing, and allow to cool further before adding the cheese and almonds and rest of the bottle of dressing (the pasta will absorb a lot of the dressing, so yes, use it all).   Refrigerate before serving.

Chicken and Vegetable Cobbler

 
I adapted this recipe from a new favorite cookbook, The Back in the Day Cookbook by Cheryl Day and Griffith Day.  It’s a wonderful book full of old fashioned recipes based on their customers’ favorites from their Southern bakery in Savannah, Georgia.  It’s also packed with their baking know-how tips and gorgeous photos.  I’m currently reading it cover to cover and enjoying every page.
I’ve made many a chicken pot pie in my day and while this recipe goes by a different name, that’s what I still consider it.  It doesn’t have a bottom crust, and I’m ok with that.  It still has chicken and vegetables and gravy.  Where this recipe differs is that every single person at our dinner table loved it.  That just doesn’t happen often at our house, folks.  I will be making it often.
 Chicken and Vegetable Cobbler
                                                                                   
 
                                                                    Chicken and Vegetable Cobbler
 
Filling:
1 ½ sticks butter, at room temperature
1 cup finely diced yellow or brown onion
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
5 cups chicken broth
3 carrots, peeled and cut into 1 inch pieces
3 celery ribs, chopped into 1 inch pieces
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1 ½ cups heavy cream
½ cup unbleached all-purpose flour
5 cups store-bought rotisserie chicken, shredded into bite-sized pieces
1 cup frozen peas, thawed
1 cup frozen corn, thawed
½ teaspoon dried thyme
½ teaspoon ground sage
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
 
The Topping:
Buttermilk Bicones (recipe below)
 
 
Preheat oven to 450 ͦ Spray a 9×13 inch baking dish with non-stick spray (I like butter flavor for this).
      Melt 4 tablespoons of the butter in a large pot over medium heat; add the onion and garlic and sauté until tender (about 5-8 minutes).  Add the carrots, celery, salt and pepper and sauté 2-3 minutes more before adding the chicken broth.  Bring all to a simmer and lower heat to med-low, partially cover pot and simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
      Stir in the cream, raise the heat again to medium, and cook, uncovered, until all vegetables are tender, about another 12-15 minutes.
      Meanwhile, melt the remaining 8 tablespoons of butter and stir the flour into it to make a smooth paste.   
    When the vegetables are tender, lower the heat and whisk the flour paste a little bit at a time into the broth until combined.  Add the roasted chicken, peas, corn, thyme, sage and cayenne.  Cover the pot and let the filling simmer until thickened, about 10 minutes.
    Pour into the prepared baking dish.  Arrange the unbaked biscones over the filling, leaving about ¼ inch between them.  Bake for about 20 minutes, or until the top is golden brown.  Remove from the oven and let rest for 5 minutes before serving.
 
 
Buttermilk Biscones   
 
1 ½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 ½ cups cake flour (not self-rising)
¼ cup sugar
2 tablespoons baking powder
¾ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon cardamom
2 sticks cold butter, cut into ½ inch cubes
1 ½ cups buttermilk (more or less, as needed)
 
Preheat oven to 375 ͦ.   Line baking sheet with parchment paper.
     In a large mixing bowl, combine the flours, sugar, baking powder, salt, and cardamom and whisk until completely incorporated.  Cut the butter in with a pastry blender, or do this in a food processor using quick pulses. You should end up with various-sized pieces of butter, from sandy patches, to pea-sized and larger ones as well.  Gradually pour in the buttermilk and fold the ingredients until you have a soft dough and there are no bits of flour at the bottom of the bowl.  If this happens before you’ve used all of the buttermilk, don’t use the entire 1 ½ cups or it’ll end up to sticky.  If you’ve used it all up but it’s still too dry, use a little more buttermilk.
     Gently pat the dough in the bowl until it resembles a loaf of bread.  Dust the top of it lightly with flour.  Using a large ice cream scoop, scoop mounds of dough onto the prepared baking sheet so that they are 1 inch apart.  Lightly tap the tops down. 
     Brush lightly with extra buttermilk before baking.
 

Kool Aid Play Dough

Kool-Aid Play Dough

My grandmother made this recipe for my daughters often when they would sleep over at her house.  She’d make it for them and then they’d sit for hours at her kitchen counter, with rolling pins and all of her cookie cutters at their disposal, happily chatting away to her as they rolled this out over and over, cutting out their favorite shapes.  This recipe not only smells great, but has the added advantage of being completely non-toxic, in case your little one decides to take a taste (as little ones are known to do!).  I’ve pulled it out now because one of my girls, working her way through college as a nanny, asked me for it so she can make it for the kids she watches a few days every week. This is one recipe that simply builds its own memories.  

 

                                                                    Kool-aid® Playdough

 

3 cups flour

½ cup salt

2 packages unsweetened Kool-Aid

2 cups boiling water

3 Tbls vegetable oil

 

Mix dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl.   Carefully add the hot water and stir with a large  spoon until all is moistened.  Knead the oil in to the mix as soon as it’s cool enough to handle. Continue to knead until the dough is completely smooth.  Store in zip-loc bags or Tupperware.  

Lemon Dijon Vinaigrette

Lemon Dijon Vinaigrette
 
This is a wonderful, basic, go-to dressing to whip up and use on any salad…. so much better than any store-bought dressing out there!  Very classic in taste, yet so easy to make.  Once you start making your own salad dressing you’ll wonder why you ever bought bottled to begin with!
                                                    
                                                              Lemon Dijon Vinaigrette
 
1/3 cup good-quality balsamic vinegar
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tsp lemon zest
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons chives, minced
salt and pepper, to taste
 
Combine all ingredients in a bowl or cruet  and mix or shake well.  Drizzle over salad and toss lightly.

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