Sunday, October 29, 2017

Slow Cooker Sunday: Spicy Sausage w/Farfalle, Broccolini & Mushrooms

It's a rainy Sunday, and that means the slow cooker is set and the house is cozy and everyone is lazing around. Today, the kitchen smells like an Italian Nonna is here: spicy sausage, garlic, tomato sauce, yum!

I've had a few friends ask if noodles work in the crock pot. While I still think the best way to cook pasta is on the stove, it doesn't come out terrible if you add towards the end of your slow cooker time -- just be sure there's enough liquid to help cook it through, and don't leave it on the warm setting for too long before serving as there's a risk of it turning too soft. But, if you keep an eye on it, you shouldn't have a problem making a one-pot pasta dish, like the one below:

Spicy Sausage with Farfalle, Broccolini and Mushrooms
Put some spice in your life!
  • 1 lb hot Italian sausage
  • 3 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 1 large red pepper, sliced and diced
  • 1/2 lb Crimini mushrooms, chopped
  • 4 Roma tomatoes, chopped
  • Red pepper flakes
  • 1 bunch Broccolini, chopped
  • 1 jar tomato sauce
  • 1 box Farfalle pasta
  • S/P to taste
  • Grated parmesan cheese

To Do:
  • Crumble the sausage (remove casings as needed) into the bottom of a slow cooker crock.
  • Add in the garlic, red pepper, mushrooms, tomatoes and a pinch or two of red pepper flakes and stir to combine. 
  • Put on the 4 hour setting and go organize your hall closet or something.
  • At 3.5 hours, stir in the Broccolini, tomato sauce and Farfalle and re-cover.
  • 30 minutes later, your pasta should be cooked through.
  • Let cool a bit and season with salt/pepper as needed.
  • Scoop into bowls, sprinkle with grated cheese, and enjoy.


Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Cooking for TWOsdays: Pumpkin Pie Chocolate Chip Cookies!

If you think cooking for two is tricky, try baking for two!

Chris and I don't eat a lot of sweets (we prefer to end with a cheese plate vs. cheesecake), so I don't spend a lot of time baking. Plus, I have no patience for the precision and measuring involved in most baking recipes. And, while a decadent dessert is a nice way to end a meal, we struggle to finish it all after a few days. There's nothing sadder than throwing out a half-eaten, five-day-old cake.

But, we've been having some glorious fall weather, and I decided that we needed to celebrate it with either some pie or cookies, so I made both -- kind of.

No licking the spoon!
I had a can of pumpkin pie mix (basically pumpkin puree but with lovely spices already mixed in) and there was a bag of chocolate chips in the pantry, so I grabbed those too. The result is a manageable amount of yummy cookies (about 2 dozen) that are the perfect treat for a sunny October day or night.
Pumpkin Pie Chocolate Chip Cookies
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups white sugar
  • 1 stick softened butter (1/2 cup)
  • 1 1/2 cups of canned pumpkin pie puree (with spices)
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 bag semi-sweet chocolate chips
To Do:
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Grease or line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
  • Mix together the dry ingredients minus the sugar and set aside.
  • In a separate bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until well blended, then stir in the egg and the pumpkin pie mix.
  • Add the dry ingredients a little at a time until well combined.
  • Stir in the chocolate chips.
  • Use scooper or spoon to drop rounds of cookie dough onto your prepared baking sheets -- at least 2 inches apart.
  • Bake until puffy and lightly browned, about 15 minutes.
  • Remove from oven and let cool for a few minutes before carefully moving from pan to cooling rack with a spatula.
  • Let them cool as long as you can, then devour with your dinner date.

P.S. Stir the leftover pumpkin pie mix into vanilla or honey Greek yogurt and crumble some ginger snaps into it for another lovely treat!


Friday, October 13, 2017

Friday Favorite: Greek Yogurt!

Meet my favorite cooking staple: Greek Yogurt.

I like to think of Greek yogurt as "yogurt for grown-ups." Or at least, grown-ups who like to eat lovely things. Just try one spoonful, and I bet you'll be a convert for life. And don't get me started on Labne -- basically the yogurt version of cream cheese. It's to die for.

Let's Yo!
For cooking, the plain full-fat and 2% Greek yogurt versions work well. A bowl of it is a lovely way to start the day, but yogurt isn't just for breakfast -- it's also terrific for lunch, dinner...even dessert.

Here are a few ideas for making the most of your Greek yogurt experience:

  • Top plain, vanilla, or honey Greek yogurt with sliced bananas, berries, a drizzle of honey, pinch of cinnamon, and a tablespoon of chopped almonds, walnuts or pecans for a morning treat that will keep you satisfied until lunch.
  • Brighten your morning routine: stir in a handful of blueberries, raspberries and/or sliced peaches and few leaves of fresh mint (minced) into plain, vanilla, or honey low-fat Greek yogurt.
  • Grab and Go: Blend 1 cup of frozen berries, 1 frozen banana, 1 cup of orange or pineapple juice, 2 teaspoons of honey, a sprinkle of cinnamon and about 11/2 cups of nonfat plain (or vanilla) Greek yogurt for a healthy, tasty smoothie.
  • Use plain Greek yogurt instead of sour cream to top your famous chili, baked potatoes, tacos, enchiladas, goulash and more.
  • Stir a dollop of plain yogurt into stews, soups and sauces for a tart, creamy finish. You can substitute Greek yogurt for heavy cream or milk -- just stir it in at the end (off the heat) so it doesn't curdle.
  • Replace sour cream with plain low-fat or nonfat Greek yogurt in your favorite dips. Labne is even better.
  • Ditch the mayo in your tuna, chicken, egg, potato and macaroni salad recipes. Try it with plain low-fat Greek yogurt instead. Just add an extra pinch of seasonings to balance it out.
  • Make your own salad dressings? Try plain Greek yogurt in your next batch of Caesar or Ranch.
  • Or try this: Top a salad of greens, pecans, sliced grapes, and cubed chicken breast with a mixture of a couple teaspoons of fresh lemon juice, a few tablespoons of plain, nonfat Greek yogurt, a pinch of salt, black pepper and fresh tarragon.
  • Reduce the amount of butter in your favorite cookie recipes by cutting the amount of butter in half and replacing about a quarter of the original portion of the butter with plain full-fat or low-fat Greek yogurt. For example, if your recipe calls for 1 cup butter, change that to 1/2 cup butter and then add 1/4 cup of yogurt. 
  • If you must use boxed cake or muffin mixes (sigh), omit the eggs and oil and use plain yogurt and water instead, 1 cup each.
  • Love the decadent cream cheese frosting on carrot cake and red velvet cupcakes? Make it with yogurt (or Labne!) instead of butter, using a 1:1 ratio of cream cheese to yogurt and you can have an extra slice. Whip up this quick version: 4 oz light cream cheese, 4 oz low-fat or full-fat plain Greek yogurt, 2 cups powdered sugar, 1 tsp vanilla extract and a pinch of ginger, cinnamon or nutmeg.)
  • Mix 1-2 teaspoons of honey and 1 TBS of chopped crystallized ginger with 1 cup of low-fat plain or vanilla Greek yogurt and use in place of whipped cream on top of your favorite gingerbread or pound cake recipes.
  • Top shortcakes with a dollop of low-fat plain, strawberry, or vanilla Greek yogurt mixed with macerated strawberries. 
Don't get me wrong -- I love cooking with butter and eggs and mayo and heavy cream. It's just that sometimes, it's a good idea to shake things up. Because then you can shake it in your skinny jeans, too. (Wink.)


Sunday, October 8, 2017

Sunday Gravy: Roasted Pepper "Vodka Sauce"


October is "National Pasta Month" so I figured I'd share one of my favorite pasta sauce recipes. 

It's a nod to everyone's favorite indulgence: Vodka Sauce, but with some red peppers thrown in for good measure and some peas for color. Serve it with your favorite pasta or pour it over chicken cutlets and melted mozzarella on ciabatta rolls for the ultimate chicken parm. It would be great with ravioli or even as your lasagna base. Yum!

Roasted Pepper "Vodka Sauce"

3 large red peppers, stem and seeds removed
2 TB butter
3 cloves garlic, minced
Red pepper flakes
1 can crushed tomatoes
1 cup Half & Half
1/4 cup Vodka
2 TBS Goat cheese
1 1/2 cups frozen peas

To Do:
Note: If you're serving with pasta, cook a pound of penne according to the directions, reserving about 1/2 cup of the pasta water before draining.
  • Broil the peppers until blistered and softened, then let cool. 
  • Melt the butter in a large pot then sauté the minced garlic until softened (don't let it get too brown)
  • Stir in a pinch of red pepper flakes and the crushed tomatoes along with the pasta water (if using).
  • Using a food processor or blender, purée the roasted pepper and tomato mixture until smooth, then return to your pot and bring to a simmer. 
  • Add 1/4 cup of vodka (or more to taste) and stir until the booze cooks off, about 10 minutes or so. 
  • Stir in the half and half and the goat cheese and cook until thickened. 
  • Add in the frozen peas for color and heat through.
  • Season with Salt & Pepper to taste, and enjoy.

And that's how you celebrate National Pasta Month!


Sunday, October 1, 2017

Slow Cooker Sunday: Chicken Cacciatore

Happy Sunday!

I can't believe it is October 1 already. Where does the time go?

It was a gorgeous fall day here today -- the air was crisp the sun was bright and while the leaves are just starting to turn here, there was a slight crunch underfoot as we strolled down the sidewalk.

Today's slow cooker recipe comes from Food Network Magazine -- with a few tweaks: "Slow-Cooker Chicken Cacciatore," just like Grandma used to make. Mushrooms, tomatoes, wine, basil, garlic, hot peppers, chicken thighs -- you can't really go wrong.
Crock full of flavor!
If you want to make your own batch, you can find the recipe here. Chris and I've tweaked a bit by adding some diced hot cherry peppers (and maybe a pinch of bacon salt when no one's looking) to the mix, but otherwise, it's straight from the book. Speaking of books, it was the perfect day to grab one and while away the afternoon.

Seven hours later, the house smells welcoming and tummies are ready to be filled. Served over pasta, rice, couscous or just with a hunk of crusty bread, it's a satisfying way to celebrate the arrival of another fall evening.

Have a delicious one!