Tag Archives: basil

Caprese Stuffed Portobello’s (w/ semi-homemade Parmesan Risotto)

In the mood for Italian food but tired of the same ol’ pasta dish? going for the “Meatless Monday”? or maybe even the gluten-free route?  Well, as always, I have a goodie that fits all of those bills!

Honestly, my reasoning for this creative dish was that my oldest son and I are mushroom fanatics and my dear husband was out of town with work (dang trains!).  The “my husband” part is important to this because he does NOT eat meals without meat.  Salads are for the meat he eats, aka cows. 😉 but I digress…

I relished at the opportunity of a meatless meal and obviously that is where the Portobello fit in!  Rich and meaty in it’s own right that pairs so well with Italian flavors!  Now for the non-heavy, gluten-laden feeling, I went with rice…and in Italian fashion, I tweaked it to a cheat-sheet risotto!

I tell ya, this will be a staple in my home from here on out!  On Mondays.  On day’s my carnivore husband is away. 😉

The Starting Lineup

Caprese Stuffed Portobello’s

  • 4 large Portobello mushrooms, “gills” scraped out of center)
  • 2 ripe Roma tomatoes, sliced 1/2″ thick and quartered
  • Fresh mozzarella (sliced, torn or small individual ball’s i.e. BelGioiosa or Galbani, etc)
  • Fresh basil, torn
  • 2+ Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
  • Balsamic reduction (i.e. FINI brand), garnish drizzle
  • Parmesan cheese, garnish

Semi-Homemade Parmesan Risotto

  • 1 box risotto (parmesan flavor if possible, i.e. Lundberg Creamy Parmesan Risotto), substitute low-sodium chicken broth/stock in place of water required
  • 1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp butter
  • 1/4 cup parmesan cheese
  • Italian flat leaf parsley, chopped for garnish


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees, line baking sheet with foil or parchment.


Prepare similar to your package directions:  Toast the Arborio rice with the 1 TBSP olive oil in a large skillet or sauce pan over medium heat for 2 minutes.  Add 2 1/2 cups chicken broth and seasoning packet to rice, stir, bring to a boil.  Reduce to a simmer, leaving uncovered for 20 minutes, until rice is tender, stirring occasionally.  Once thickened, add in the butter and parmesan cheese; fold in the parsley.  *If too thick, stir in 1/4 cup more chicken broth at a time. 


“Caprese Stuffed Portobello’s”

Place your cleaned out Portobello onto your baking sheet, hollow side up.  Drizzle with a bit of olive oil.  Layer on the fresh mozzarella cheese, followed by the sliced tomatoes, a bit of the fresh basil and a hefty pinch of salt and pepper.  Drizzle a bit more olive oil overtop.  Place in the preheated oven for 15-20 minutes, until cheese appears melty and gooey and tomatoes slightly roasted; juices appearing.

To serve:  Spoon the creamy risotto in a bowl making a slight well.  Place the roasted Caprese Stuffed Portobello overtop that well you made and sprinkle with a bit more fresh basil and a drizzle of balsamic reduction.  Enjoy!



Mediterranean Chicken Pasta

Like the years before, halfway into Fall, I actually begin to crave something other than rich soups, stews and casseroles…weird, right?  I also did not want to take the time needed to make a few of those yummy, indulgent dishes.  So instead, it was back to a favorite, trusty 30-minute meal!  Another plus, it’s a bit on the healthier side compared to the latter mentioned too!   Keeping myself in check for that Thanksgiving feast this week!

*Another great thing about this dish is you can easily make it to your liking by choosing regular or gluten-free noodles, chicken, shrimp, halibut or no protein at all!  Please make it your own!

The Starting Lineup

Blackened Chicken

  • 1 lb Chicken breasts
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1/4 tsp oregano
  • 1/4 tsp thyme
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 tsp cumin
  • 1/4 tsp onion powder
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp pepper
  • cooking oil
  • Fresh lemon


  • 12oz pasta noodles of choice, boiled and drained
  • 3 Tbsp butter
  • 1/2 large yellow onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 jar Roasted Piquillo (or red) Peppers, drained and roughly chopped
  • 1 cup chicken (or vegetable) broth
  • 1/2 cup (8oz) heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup parmesan cheese, grated
  • Kosher salt & pepper, to taste
  • 1 cup feta cheese, crumbled, plus more for garnish
  • Kalamata olives, no seeds
  • Chopped fresh basil




In a bowl, blend all of the dried and ground herbs together.  Squeeze the fresh lemon and a bit of cooking oil over the chicken breast and sprinkle the spice blend evenly over the chicken.   You can pan sear, bake or grill the chicken till cooked through and juices run clear.  Tent with foil and set aside as you prepare the sauce.


Prepare about 2 minutes less than package directions.   Drain.  Set aside.


Have a large skillet and your food processor (or blender) at  hand.

In your skillet over med-high heat, melt 2 tablespoons of the butter.  Next, add in the onions and garlic and sauté for 3 minutes or until softened.  Next, add the chopped and drained piquillo/red peppers and cook for another 3 minutes.

Transfer the veggie mix from the skillet to a food processor or blender.  Blend till fairly smooth, some chunks left are ok!

To that same large skillet, melt the remaining butter over med-high heat and pour the pepper puree back in.  Next, whisk in the broth, and a pinch of salt & pepper.  Finally, whisk in the heavy cream and parmesan cheese till smooth.

Add the cooked pasta, Kalamata olives, 1 cup feta cheese and fresh cut basil to the sauced skillet, toss to coat.

Serve with the blackened chicken, sliced, over top and sprinkle with a bit more feta and fresh basil.  Enjoy!



Pan Seared Salmon with Sun Dried Tomato Bacon Cream Sauce

I know this is hard to believe with a recipe title as such, but this meal took less than 30 minutes to prepare and have on the table.  Yes, I tell no tale, less than a half of an hour.

What’s also great about this quick, and arguably almost healthy meal, is that since it’s so quick to cook up, it can be in your weeknight dinner rotation.  Plus, since it’s flavors are so “high-end”, it is also a no-hassle recipe for a dinner party or perhaps even an at home date with your loved one.  *One extra thing, my five year old son ate this up TWICE and even proclaimed, “I just love this stuff”.  Again, I tell no tales…

The Starting Lineup

  • 1 1/2 lbs salmon fillets
  • 3 strips bacon, chopped
  • 1/2 yellow onion, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4oz sun dried tomatoes in oil, drained, sliced (Plus 2 Tbsp of the oil)
  • 1/4 tsp smoked paprika (regular will work as well)
  • 1 Tbsp Italian seasoning
  • 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper
  • 1 cup half & half
  • 1/4 cup parmesan cheese, shredded
  • 1/2 cup vegetable (or chicken) stock
  • Kosher salt & fresh ground pepper, to taste
  • Fresh basil, torn (garnish)
  • Parmesan Cheese, shredded (garnish)
  • Penne pasta, for serving


Let the Salmon come to room temperature for 15 minutes. Gather all of the ingredients and bring a large stockpot of salted water to a boil (for the pasta) while you begin to sauté the diced bacon in a large non-stick skillet.  Remove the rendered, slightly crisped bacon to a paper towel lined dish and set aside.  Also (if needed) drain all but 2 Tbsp of the bacon grease.  *When the stockpot of water is boiling, add in the penne pasta and cook to the package directions.  Drain and set aside till plating.

Bring the skillet with the bacon grease to medium heat and sear the salmon fillets for 2-3 minutes on each side.  Set aside.

To that same skillet, add in the onion, garlic, sun dried tomatoes + oil, paprika, Italian seasoning and crushed red pepper.  Sauté together for about 2 minutes.

Add in the vegetable/or chicken stock over to deglaze the pan and let simmer for a couple minutes.  Pour in the half & half along with the 1/4 cup parmesan and stir together, salt & pepper to taste.  Add the seared salmon back into the creamy, fragrant sauce to bring back up to temp.

Serve this delightful dinner individually plated or family style…Coat the cooked penne in the creamy sauce, place the salmon overtop and sprinkle the freshly torn basil, parmesan and crisped bacon overtop!  Enjoy!!




Baked Spaghetti Pie

Back when we lived in hot and sunny Arizona, we would frequent a certain Italian food joint that was close to our home.  However, it wasn’t the close proximity that made us end up there, it was my husband’s love for their Baked Spaghetti that brought us.

Fast forward years and years and he still spoke of it…so I began to give it a whirl!  With much success, I give you my version which in using a spring form pan, gives many ooh’s & ah’s at dinnertime!  Looks quite impressive for such an easy recipe!

*If you do not have a spring-form, this recipe works just as well in a casserole dish or deep dish pie pan! 🙂

**Feel free to add in/change ingredients to suit your tastes and what you may have in your pantry and fridge!  I.e. Italian sausage, mushrooms, bell peppers, different cheeses, maybe no meat at all!

The Starting Lineup

  • 16oz spaghetti noodles (boiled 8-9 minutes/drained)
  • 24-32oz jar marinara sauce
  • 1 1/2 pounds ground beef
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 container ricotta cheese
  • 2-3 cups mozzarella cheese, shredded
  • 1 tsp Italian seasoning blend
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1/3 cup parmesan cheese, shredded/grated
  • 1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • Fresh basil, torn (optional garnish)

Start by preheating your oven to 350 degrees.  Bring a stock pot of salted water to a boil (for the noodles) while you have a large skillet browning the ground beef with the chopped onions, minced garlic and olive oil.  *Feel free to add a pinch of salt and Italian seasonings of your choice if desired.

Once the noodles have finished (slightly under cook them at about 8-9 minutes, as they’ll finish in the oven), drain and toss in a large bowl with the beaten eggs, parmesan cheese and teaspoon of Italian seasoning.  Set aside.

As the ground beef becomes browned, pour in the marinara sauce of your choosing and stir together.

Now I used a lightly greased 10″ Spring-form pan for this (what you would typically make a cheesecake in), however, you can also use a deep dish pie tin, a 2-quart casserole dish, etc.  Just make sure to spray with a bit of non-stick.  **With the spring-form pan, I wrapped the bottom in foil just to ensure no leakage, which I didn’t have anyway.

First layer in the egg coated noodles and then top with dollops of the ricotta cheese.  Pour the meaty red sauce overtop, finally topping with the shredded mozzarella cheese.   Place your prepared spaghetti pie, covered, into the oven for 30 minutes.  Remove the foil cover and let bake another 10 minutes.

Once finished baking allow to rest for a good 5 minutes before slicing into.  If desired, top with a bit more parmesan cheese and freshly torn basil.  Enjoy!



Green Chile Tomato Pie

There are two kinds of tomato pie here in the United States.  One is the Italian version, aka pizza, the other is one of my summertime faves, the savory oh so Southern Tomato Pie!

This not too heavy pie is filled with fresh ripe tomatoes from your garden and bright herbs and onions.  Topped with a warm cheesy topping that gives you that comfort food feel pie always brings.  My only change up to the classic is I like to add a bit of that Tex-Mex flair with sliced jalapenos and green chiles.  I swear on a baby, they only enhance the flavors of the dish and do not overpower with heat..promise!

*You can drain and dry your tomatoes ahead of time and keep between paper towels on a plate or large Ziploc baggie in the refrigerator.  You can also make the cheesy topping ahead of time and keep in the fridge as well. 🙂

**Another great ingredient you can add in is bacon!!  Bacon is good in everything, right?

The Starting Lineup

  • 1 deep dish pie crust, frozen works great!
  • 4-5 large ripe tomatoes, sliced and patted dry
  • 3 green onions, sliced
  • 1 jalapeno, sliced
  • 8 fresh basil leaves, chopped/torn
  • 4oz can green chiles, I prefer ‘hot’
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 cup sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1 cup mozzarella cheese
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.


Preheat your oven to your pie crusts directions (mine was 375 degrees).  Once the oven has heated up, take a fork and prick the bottoms and sides of your pie dough shell a few times and place in the oven to bake for 10-12 minutes.  Remove the par baked pie dough and set aside.

Meanwhile, rinse and slice your tomatoes.  Sprinkle with kosher salt and lay in a colander and let drain for 20-30 minutes.  Also pat dry with a towel or paper towel.  You really want to remove as much moisture as you can from the tomatoes so that the pie wont be soggy.  TomPie2.JPG

Once the tomatoes have drained, layer in the half-baked pie shell.  Sprinkle the green onions, sliced jalapeno and torn basil leaves overtop the tomatoes.

In a large bowl, simply combine the mayonnaise, cheddar and mozzarella cheeses, drained green chiles and a pinch each of salt and pepper,  Fold together till mixed.  Top this mixture evenly overtop the fresh vegetables and place in your oven, now at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.  Enjoy!!



Serve by itself for a light lunch, bring to a brunch or as a side dish along with grilled pork chops!  Just delish!!



Strawberry Basil & Goat Cheese Chicken w/ Grilled Romaine Salad

I’m lightening it up and fancy’ing it up (I realize that’s not real a word..but it works!)!  No despite the glamorous sounding name to this recipe, it’s actually super easy and quick!  I honestly say that this can be made in well under 30 minutes.  

It has so much flavor, so much FRESH flavor to be exact.  You get in fruit, veggies and protein here and zero guilt or that yucky “I’m stuffed” feeling.  Which is why I pair mine with a crisp glass of vino..I mean c’mon!  I have to have a little naughtiness! 

*Balsamic Glaze:  it’s not to be confused with “balsamic vinegar”.  This is a thicker, syrup-like glaze with a slightly sweet finish.

The Starting Lineup

  • 4-6 chicken cutlets
  • 2 cups strawberries, quartered
  • 4oz goat cheese, crumbled
  • 1/3 cup fresh basil, chopped
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Balsamic glaze
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 bunch romaine lettuce, quartered 
  • Salt & pepper 

We’ll start this light and tasty recipe by cleaning and quartering the strawberries and chopping up the garlic and basil..or be fancy and do a chiffonade 😉   Next combine the fresh basil to the strawberries and 1 tbsp each of extra virgin olive oil and the balsamic glaze, gently toss together.  Cover and set aside.

Next, heat up either your grill or a grill pan with a couple Tbsp’s of olive oil on your stovetop to medium-high heat.  Generously season the chicken cutlets with salt, pepper and the minced garlic and place on grill/pan.  Cook for approximately 4 minutes per side, till cooked through and beautiful golden brown grill marks appear.  Set aside. 

Now that the chicken is done, it’s time for our lettuce!  To each quartered piece of romaine, drizzle a bit of evoo, balsamic glaze and a generous sprinkle of salt & pepper.  Place ‘face-down’ onto the grill pan and let the grill make those fantastic char marks. 

To serve!!   On a large family style platter (or individual plates), lay down the grilled romaine and top with the chicken cutlets.  Spoon the strawberry-basil mixture all over top and sprinkle on the goat cheese crumbles!  I also like to add another drizzle of that sweet balsamic glaze over top and another pinch of kosher salt & pepper.  Enjoy!! 

Spinach, Goat Cheese & Chicken Stuffed Roasted Peppers 

The warmer months are upon us where no one wants a heavy meal and eating a reoccurring plate of grilled chicken over salad can get old.  Now this dish isn’t much different, it still has grilled chicken and vegetables, but it’s put together in a beautiful way with extra flavor from a basil pesto and goat cheese crumbles.  Still light and pretty darn healthy!

Another fun thing about this recipe is it can be done in your kitchen OR take it al fresco and do this ALL on your backyard grill for a fun, light dinner!

*I like to serve this either with: pasta tossed in the remaining pesto, with a pich of kosher salt & fresh ground pepper OR if I’m on the grill…I just grill up some more veggies!  Especially fresh asparagus, mushrooms, etc.

The Starting Lineup

  • 3 red bell peppers
  • 1lb chicken
  • 1 bunch fresh spinach, rinsed 
  • 1 4oz container crumbled goat cheese
  • 1 jar basil pesto
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt & ground black pepper


  • Italian flat leaf parsley, rough chop
  • 1 pckg pasta noodles of choice or grilled vegetables  

Begin by preheating your oven to 425 degrees and rinsing, cutting in half and removing the seeds of the bell peppers.  In a large bowl combine about 1 Tbsp of EVOO along with 2 Tbsp’s of the basil pesto.  Toss the cut bell peppers in the mix. 


Lay the coated peppers cut-side down on a baking sheet and sprinkle a pinch of kosher salt & ground pepper over the tops.  Roast in the oven until just slightly soft (the skins start to bubble), about 10-15 minutes.  Remove from oven and set aside.  *Keep the oven on, but you can drop the temperature to 400 degrees. 

 While the peppers are roasting you can prepare the chicken and spinach.  Heat a pan with a bit of oil to medium-high heat while coating the chicken also with a tbsp of pesto and salt & pepper.  Cook/grill the chicken for about 4-5 minutes per side, till just cooked through (I had thin strips, so please cook accordingly), and has a nice golden-brown crust. 

 Also, rinse the spinach and chop off the hard stems (don’t worry if you miss a couple) and place the cut spinach into the same pesto bowl that the bell peppers where in. 

As soon as the chicken is done cooking, remove to a cutting board and chop up.  Immediately tossing the hot, chopped chicken into the fresh spinach.  *The hot chicken will help to wilt the fresh spinach.  Again, add a pinch of salt & pepper and another Tbsp of pesto. …I promise you, this will not be too much of a basil flavor.

   Assembly time!!  Bring over the baking sheet of roasted red peppers and fill with the pesto-chicken-spinach mixture.  Next, take a good amount of the crumbled goat cheese and sprinkle over top.  *I like a lot, so I press that goat cheese in there! 


Finally, pop these stuffed peppers into your preheated oven for about 5-7 minutes.  Remove and serve with a side of pasta or fresh, grilled vegetables.  Enjoy! 

*This time I served ours with a side of pasta.  After the noodles boiled, I tossed directly into yes, that same bowl with a bit of pesto in it!  I added more pesto, salt & pepper.  One bowl, three times..LESS cleanup!! 👍 


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