Tag Archives: Garlic

Italian Sausage Stuffed Peppers

A dinner of “stuffed peppers” often gets a bad rap.  My friends and family either love it…or hate it.  My guess on the nay-sayer’s is due to the peppers that I have devoured in my life have just been, well..bland.  Ground beef or turkey, rice, maybe some chopped veggies.  Did I mention they’re often dry too??  Well my Italian version is anything but!

The simple garlic, onion and tomato sauce (plus sneaking in that zucchini) keeps it from turning dry and I always choose the ‘hot’ Italian sausage for the slight extra kick!  Do you have kids?  Well still get the ‘hot’, trust me, it’s not that spicy, just flavor!  Last, but definitely not least, that layer of fresh mozzarella cheese puts the average pizza slice to shame!!

Now you can these eat on their own or perhaps with a side salad or even that dry rice, BUT..since we’re cooking with those Italian flavors, why not place your finished product atop perfectly al dente pasta!  Garlic bread too, perhaps?….

The Starting Lineup

  • 3-4 bell peppers, seeded and halved
  • 1 package Italian sausage, casing removed
  • 1/2 yellow onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 zucchini, sliced and quartered
  • 14oz Italian finely chopped tomatoes (I prefer Cirio Italian with basil)
  • Mozzarella cheese slices (Fresh)
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • Salt and pepper 

Garnish/Side (optional)

  • Pasta noodles, cooked al dente
  • Reserved leftover sauce from the meat mixture
  • Chopped basil
  • Shredded parmesan

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Preheat your oven to 375 degrees while bringing the olive oil in a large skillet to medium heat,  *Spray a 9×13 oven proof baking dish with nonstick spray.

In your hot skillet, add in the sausage (out of its casing) and cook completely through while chopping up with the back of your spoon.  Once cooked, remove the sausage and drain all but 1 tbsp of the oil/grease.

Now add in the diced onion and sauté for 5 minutes, followed by the zucchini for 2 minutes and finally the garlic for 1 minute.  To the sautéed vegetables, pour in the finely chopped Italian tomatoes (careful for splatter!) and add the cooked sausage back in.

Your filling is done!  Spoon equal amounts into your halved and seeded bell peppers and place into the 9×13 baking dish.  Top each with a healthy amount of cheese.  PLEASE do not scrimp on this!  *If I purchased the larger package of mozzarella, I have been known to place a slice in the bottom of each pepper before I fill, followed by more on the top!  Yes!!

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Cover the baking dish and peppers with foil and pop in the preheated oven for 30-35 minutes.  Uncover and let the cheese bubble for another 5 minutes, remove from the oven and let rest.  *My husband loves his mozz topping to be on the browned side, so I will place our right under the broiler for mere 2-3 minutes.

If desired, while the peppers are in the oven, prepare the pasta noodle side and dress in any reserved sauce from the meat mixture.  *I make sure to keep those juices exactly for this reason!

Garnish your plate with a bit of extra chopped basil, perhaps grated parmesan, and you have certainly elevated those hum-drum stuffed peppers!!

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Prosciutto & Herbed Cheese Wrapped Asparagus

This impressive looking side dish is actually very simple to prepare and is a great addition to a family dinner, holiday meal or an elegant dinner party!  

What’s also fun about this flavorful vegetable is you can add in the spices and herbs of your choice to really add depth ….or, sshhh…, there are MANY flavored cream cheeses out there now that can make this just that much easier!!

The Starting Lineup

  • 1-2 large bunch asparagus spears, rinsed and tough ends chopped off
  • 1 package dry cured prosciutto slices, cut each in half vertically
  • 6oz cream cheese, softened
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • Kosher salt & pepper, to taste
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Parsley, chopped (optional)  

After your asparagus spears have been cleaned, tough woody ends removed and patted dry, begin the cream cheese spread.

In a small bowl, combine the finely minced garlic to the softened cream cheese  and add in the salt & pepper to taste. (*Parsley here if using) 

   Next, smear about a Tbsp of the garlicky cream cheese down the 2″ wide vertical strips of prosciutto.  *This is actually quite easy if the spread is softened enough. 

I then, depending on the asparagus spear size, take a good 3-5 spears and carefully wrap the cheesey prosciutto around each bunch.  The cheese helps for the prosciutto to stick to the vegetables so toothpicks aren’t needed.

Once each ‘bundle’ has been created, place into a wire rack lined baking sheet.  *You can even lay a sheet of foil or parchment under the rack for super easy cleanup! 

 Now you can either loosely wrap the bundle filled sheet tray in foil and store in the refridgerator until dinner time or cook now!

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Place the sheet tray of prosciutto wrapped asparagus UNCOVERED (you want that prosciutto to crisp slightly) onto the middle rack and cook for 10 minutes.  Remove and serve immediately, enjoy! 

 

Beef & Broccoli Stir Fry

I must really love my husband, because besides sushi I am not big on Asian cuisine…at all.  I know, I know..I’m “crazy”, “nuts”, “a weirdo”..I’ve heard it all.  Quite frankly, just feed me tacos and champagne for the rest of my days and I’d be happy as a clam!

That being said, every now and then I’ll surprise my dear love with an Asian inspired meal…and it’s also quite possible that I just wanted a sake bomb, but who knows?? 😉

So below is a take on a restaurant favorite that I tried and tweaked and I have to say….I wasn’t sure if I was in my own kitchen or Little China down the street, it was that good.  I suppose that may also of had to do with the sake bombs 😉 

The Starting Lineup

Marinade (1hr)

  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 Tbsp cornstarch
  • 1 Tbsp low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1 Tbsp water
  • 2 Tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp red pepper flake (optional, if you like a bit of heat–not recommended for lil kiddos)
  • 1 1/2 lbs flank steak, sliced into thin strips

Sauce

  • 1/2 cup low sodium soy sauce (make sure to NOT use regular soy sauce…it will be waayyy too salty)
  • 2 Tbsp dark brown sugar
  • 1-2 tsp fresh ginger, grated or finely minced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 Tbsp flour
  • 2 Tbsp sherry
  • 3 Tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1-2 heads broccoli, crowns cut off

Garnish/Sides (optional)

  • Rice (white or fried)
  • Scallions
  • Sriracha sauce  

Let’s begin!  Starting with the marinade, have a medium size bowl ready and whisk together all of the above “marinade” ingredients (baking soda, sugar, cornstarch, soy sauce, water and vegetable oil).  

Next add in the thinly sliced steak and toss with tongs to coat.  Cover the bowl with saran wrap and keep in the refridgerator for 45-60 minutes.  This will really tenderize that ‘tough’ flank steak like you wouldn’t believe!  *Take the steak out of the refridgerator about 15 minutes prior to cooking. 

  

Yes…I know, it looks really appetizing doesn’t it?? Sorry to my vegetarian friends. Kind of.

 

Alrighty..now while the meat is tenderizing away in the fridge, all we have left to do is the sauce and prepping of the broccoli.  I first cut the crowns of the broccoli off their stalks and rinse them in a collander and allow to dry.  *If still a bit wet when time to cook, just pat dry with a paper towel/kitchen towel.  You really don’t want water added to hot oil..at all!  *You can also keep the stalks and use in soup broths, chop into a chicken alfredo sauce, etc.. 

   Next for the sauce (glaze), in a small bowl combine the ‘sauce’ ingredients (soy sauce, dark brown sugar, ginger, garlic, flour, sherry, vegetable oil).  Cover and set aside. 

   

    I’m pretty sure that by now the steak should be about ready to cook!  Sooo in a large pan, heat 1 Tbsp of vegetable oil to medium-high heat.  Add in the broccoli and cook for about 3-4 minutes while stirring often.  *If they turn a bit brown/crisp on the edges, that is ok!.  Remove the par cooked broccoli to a plate and set aside. 

   In that same pan, carefully add in another Tbsp of vegetable oil and then once hot toss in the marinated steak and 1/2 of the prepared sauce.  Sauté togther for about 4 minutes.  Finally add the broccoli back in with the remaining sauce and saute all together for another 1-2 minutes. 

       I like to serve our Beef & Broccoli over rice and garnish with a bit of scallions and sriracha (<- for the adults), alongside a few appetizers of pot stickers and egg rolls!  Let me tell you…my lil boys ate that steak right up!  A perfect sweet & salty flavor! 

 

Pancetta, Kale & Butternut Squash Lasagna 

There is not one person who will object to this recipe..the meat-eater gets their crispy and flavorful pancetta and the lighter plate’r gets the freshness of the kale and butternut squash…and what’s not to like about béchamel sauce??!  This is a lasagna that will fulfill everyone’s palate while still leaving you not carb-crashed on your couch.

Plus…yes, there is a plus!  You can absolutely make this a bit more simple with ‘ready to bake’ lasagna noodles, precut and washed kale leaves and already cubed butternut squash in your produce section..Remember though, that there are still produce scales that you can weigh the squash to what you need..cheaper!  

The Starting Lineup

  • 3 lbs butternut squash, cubed
  • 3 cloves garlic, skin intact
  • 3 sprigs fresh thyme, plus leaves of 2 springs
  • 3 Tbsp evoo
  • 1/2 lb pancetta, diced
  • 1 bunch kale, rinsed and patted dry
  • 5 Tbsp butter, divided (4:1)
  • 3 fresh sage leaves, plus 1 leaf rough chopped
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 3 cups whole milk
  • 4oz goat cheese
  • 1 cup freshly grated pecorino romano cheese
  • Pinch of nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup Panko breadcrumbs 
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts
  • Lasagna noodles, ready to bake (2 packs depending)
  • Kosher salt & ground pepper

Optional

  • Parmesan cheese
  • Freshly chopped parsely, Italian flat leaf    

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees and prepare a large baking sheet with either nonstick or parchment paper.

Like I mentioned above, you can either peel and cube the butternut squash yourself or buy it already done in your produce aisle..I suppose it depends on how much of a ‘purest’ you are..delish either way.    We’ll just pretend you are and you’ve prepped the squash and also rinsed & patted dry the kale leaves *remove the leaves from the stalk. 

   Place the cubed squash in an even layer on top of the baking sheet, drizzle with 2 Tbsp of evoo and mix around to coat.  Sprinkle the squash with a bit of salt and pepper and toss on about 3 springs of fresh thyme.  You also want to put the garlic cloves onto this sheet *Remember, leave the garlic skin on to roast.  Place the baking sheet onto the middle rack of your oven and let roast and become tender for 40-45 minutes…Talk about a smell good home!!  

While the squash and garlic are roasting, you’ll heat a splash of evoo in a saute pan and once hot, add in the pancetta.  Cook this (stirring around occasionaly) for about 4-5 minutes till it starts to crisp *just like American bacon.  Once brown and crisp, toss in that pile of kale leaves.  *Make sure they’re all DRY…you do NOT want to add in wet (water covered) greens into a pot of hot oil/grease.  Bad, bad things will happen…Once the leaves have wilted and soaked up a bit of that marvelous pancetta flavor, scoop that mix into a paper towl lined bowl and set aside.  Dispose of excess grease. 

     About now the roasted vegetables are done alongside the kale & pancetta.  Just set both aside to cool a bit.  Drop the oven temperature down to 350 degrees.

Lets start that tangy, gooey béchamel sauce!  In another pan (sauté or sauce pan), heat up 4 Tbsp of the butter on medium-low heat till melted (don’t burn this)…Immediately, once melted, toss in the 3 sage leaves and cook in the butter (while stirring) for 3-4 minutes.  Discard the sage and add in the flour.  Whisk till smooth (2-3 minutes). 

       Gradually whisk in the milk and cook until thickened enough to coat a spoon, while whisking occasionally (15 minutes). 

   Next, stir in the goat cheese, 1/2 cup pecorino cheese, nutmeg, salt & pepper.  Whisk till smooth and then set aside 2 cups of the cheesy béchamel, while reserving the rest for the squash mixture. 

   In a large bowl, combine the roasted squash (REMOVE the thyme sprigs), the leftover béchamel sauce and squeeze out the garlic from the roasted cloves, discarding the skins.   Sprinkle with another pinch of salt & pepper and mash together with a potato masher or fork (for more texture) or a handheld mixer for creamier results.  *I prefer the handheld way. 

     Breadcrumb Topping:  In a small bowl, add the Panko breadcrumbs with 1 Tbsp of melted butter and the chopped herbs (sage & thyme), a pinch of salt & pepper.

Assembly time!!  In a 9×13 dish sprayed with non stick, add a couple of Tbsps of béchamel sauce to the bottom and top with enough lasagna noodles to cover.  Break if needed to fill in gaps.  Next spread about 1 cup of the mashed butternut squash mixture over the noodles. 

 Follow with some of the pancetta & sauteed kale overtop.  A bit more bechamel…another layer of noodles and repeat until ingredients are gone…but please try to end up with the top layer of noodles and béchamel (I always get 3 layers with this amount). 

 Sprinkle the entire top of the lasagna with the Panko bread crumb mixture and the other 1/2 cup pecorino cheese.  Cover the dish with foil and bake for 40-45 minutes.

Remove the foil, sprinkle with the pine nuts and now bake uncovered for another 15 minutes.  Once the top is browned and bubbly remove from the oven and allow to cool and set for 5-10 minutes before cutting into.  

Serve with an extra garnish of shaved parmesan cheese and freshly chopped parsley…enjoy! 

 



Cola Carnitas

I often say that simple ingredients can make the most delicious meals.  This recipe is yet another that helps make that thought true.  Given there are no complicated add-ins or cooking techniques, you REALLY taste the sweetness of that Coca-Cola, the brightness from the fresh oranges and the savoriness of the seared and braised pork.  I’d eat this delish delight off of a shoe…but a warm tortilla is better. 😉

The Starting Lineup

  • 2-3 lbs pork butt/shoulder
  • 2 oranges, quartered
  • 12oz Coca Cola (1 1/2 cups)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 Bay leaves
  • 2 Tbsp cumin, to taste
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • Kosher salt & pepper to taste
  • 1 Tbsp evoo
  • 2 Tbsp canola oil  

We’ll start this Mexican food favorite by mincing the garlic, quartering the oranges and heating the canola oil to a medium high heat in a large dutch oven.  Also sprinkle the entire pork with a liberal amount of cumin, salt and pepper and the extra virgin olive oil.  

    Working in small batches (you do not want to overcrowd the pan..no, no, no…), sear each side of your pork in the hot dutch oven.  Once seared nicely, set aside as you finish the rest of the pork.  This will take roughly 20 minutes for the entire pork butt/shoulder to brown.  

  

  

Next, add all of the seared pork back into the pot along with the Coca-Cola and water.  You will now also squeeze in those fresh oranges!  After each quarter has been squeezed dry, toss the whole thing into the pot. 

  
 Bring to a boil, while scraping up the yummy brown bits on the bottom of the pot with a wooden spoon.  

Lower the temperature to a simmer and add in the Bay leaves, garlic and a pinch or two more cumin, salt & pepper.  Simply cover and keep on that low temperature for 2-3 hours…just walk right away and relax! 

 ….I do believe that time is now up!!  Carefully uncover that pot (steam hurts!) and remove that tender, fall-apart pork to another dish.  Pull apart with two forks or let cool slightly and use your own two hands!  *I like to sneak a bit straight into my mouth too, sshhhh…. After its fully shredded or chopped up, ladle in a bit of the juice from the dutch oven to keep warm and not dry out. 

 Serve this as you wish!  However, around here we top warmed tortillas with this sweet and citrusy pork, along with a bit of cilantro, chopped white onion and thinly sliced radishes.  Enjoy!! 

 

Baked Greek Fries

Baked fries are underrated in my opinion.  They’re basically mini baked potatoes with endless flavor varieties and dip options and who doesn’t love that??  

So since I made my family chicken gyros, but didn’t want the oh-so-obvious “Greek salad”, I thought what about French fries!  Just like when I go to the Greek places on the corner or in the mall..but baked and slightly more guilt-free!   Very yummy!

The Starting Lineup

  • 4 Russet/baking potatoes, sliced lengthwise 
  • Juice of one lemon
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • Pinch of fresh ground black pepper 
  • 2 Tbsp EVOO 

Optional Garnish

  • Feta cheese, crumbled 
  • Mint, torn  

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.  Also spray a large baking sheet with non-stick.

Start this tasty and healthier side by rinsing, scrubbing and patting dry your potatoes.  Cut the potatoes lengthwise into “French fry shape” 😉 you’re also welcomed to peel your potato skins off, but I just don’t believe in that!  I love a crispy skin for texture AND flavor…ask my hubby.  I ALWAYS still his leftover baked potato skin at restaurants and at home.  Also a fave loaded appetizer of mine…ok, ok, I digress… 

 Next pat dry your cut potatoes and set aside.  In a large bowl, whisk together the extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice and spices.  Now add your cut potatoes into the bowl and toss to coat.  *you can also place your potatoes onto the sheet tray and pour the sauce overtop and then mix with your hands.  You also do not want to overcrowd your baking sheet (meaning no fries laying overtop eachother.  If needed, do in seperate batches. 

   Place this into the oven and allow to bake for 40-50 minutes, stirring the fries up occasionally till browned.  Once finished and a bit crispy remove from the oven.  Top with a bit of crumbled feta cheese and torn mint if desired. 

 Serve as a side to your favorite flavored gyro or slouvaki and a side of tzaziki sauce for dipping!  Enjoy!

Gnocchi Pancetta Primavera

Hot Damn!  This flavorful, bright Italian inspired dish can be made and on your table in 30 minutes or less!  Can you believe it??  Homemade goodness AND quick…A few fresh ingredients, garlic & cheese and the lovely, pillowy potato gnocchi will earn you rave reviews with your family.  It’s also ‘fancy’ enough for an intimate dinner party, so please give it a try!

The Starting Lineup

  • 1 pckg gnocchi (16oz)
  • 1 pckg pancetta, thinly sliced, roughly chopped (butcher can help)
  • 3/4 cup of grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for garnish
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes
  • 1 zucchini, sliced
  • 1/4 cup of red onion, diced
  • 1-2 cloves garlic, minced
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 Tbsp EVOO
  • Kosher salt & freshly ground pepper
  • Optional: prosciutto can be substituted for the pancetta …equally delightful!

We’ll begin this quick and fun italian dinner by giving the vegetables a quick rinse & slice, dice & mince!  While you’re at it, you may as well grate that parmesan cheese…trust me, having everything already prepped makes cooking go so MUCH more smoothly!

   Next let’s heat the EVOO to medium heat in a large sauté pan, while also bringing a stock pot half full of water to a boil for the gnocchi.  *I always add a hefty pinch of kosher salt to my pasta water.  I suggest the same for you 😉

 Now that the oil is hot, add in the red onion and zucchini to the sauté pan…let that cook till it’s just sweated down a bit and onions are slightly translucent.

 Next add in the chopped pancetta and let those flavors cook together for 3-4 minutes.  *Always stir occasionally, unless otherwise noted.  Follow this with the cherry tomatoes.

   About now the pasta water should be boiling.  Please add in the gnocchi and cook to package directions.  *It’s usually quite fast and takes only 2-3 minutes, tops.  The gnocchi will float to the top and they’re ready!
Ok..you’re welcome to drain the gnocchi into a collander as you would pasta noodles, but I prefer to directly transfer the gnocchi with a ladle directly into the veggie/pancetta mix.  *I also keep about a tbsp of the ‘gnocchi cooked water’ in each  spoonfull…the starch in the water adds flavor and will help thicken this up along with the cheese.

Finally add in the juice of 1 lemon, the garlic, and a bit of salt & pepper to taste. Give this a quick stir and turndown to medium-low.

Top with the 3/4 cup of parmesan cheese and toss together.

   Immediately serve in a bowl and garnish with a bit more grated Parmesan.  Enjoy!  *Those gnocchi’s are like delish potato pillows..I’m not kidding.

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