Cucumber Caprese Salad

I’m a sucker for caprese anything.  I just love the way the mozzarella tastes so creamy against the acid of the balsamic vinegar and the tomatoes and basil adding a fresh, clean feeling.  How can it get any better?  Toss in some cucumber.  The amazing crispness it brings is a wonderful addition to an already awesome dish!

Ingredients:

2 cucumbers
1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes
2 Tbs chipped fresh basil
1 cup fresh mozzarella, cubed
1 avocado
1 Tbs olive oil
2 Tbs balsamic vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste

Preparation:

Cut cucumbers into 1/4″ slices, then cut the slices in half.  Cut tomatoes in 1/2.  Dice avocado.  Place cucumbers through avocado in a bowl and set aside.

To a small jar with a tight-fitting lid add olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and salt and pepper to taste.  Close tightly and shake to combine. 

Add dressing to salad and gently toss to combine.

Wine Pairing Suggestions:

Barbera
Chianti
Friulano
Sangiovese
Sauvignon Blanc

Serves 4

Total time: 15 minutes

Cucumber Caprese Salad

Cucumber Caprese Salad

*Derived from Fitsugar

Rosemary Parmesan Rolls

Once again I was making my amazing Maple Salmon , this is a frequent dish in our house.  The hubs and the kids love it.  And I never tire of making such a tasty, healthy, supremely easy dish.  I thought about making my Buttery Corn bread, too.  But, quite frankly, I just didn’t feel like putting in the effort.  Perused my baking recipes and nothing jumped out saying, “Make ME tonight! Make me!!”  I guess I would just toast some slices of Pulgiese like usual.  As I was in the refrigerator I discovered a can of crescent rolls that were quickly coming to the end of their shelf life.  I grabbed it, but am not a big fan of canned crescent roll.  I wonder what else I could come up with . . .

Ingredients:

1 regular size can refrigerated crescent rolls
2 Tbs garlic olive oil (such as Garlic Gold)
3 tsp Rosemary (next time I’ll used crushed)
1/2 to 1 Cup shredded Parmesan

Preparation:

Preheat oven to 375°

Open can of crescent rolls, pinch seams together and roll flat, about the size of a small cookie sheet.  Pour garlic olive oil into small bowl and with pastry brush, evenly brush dough with oil.  Sprinkle with rosemary and then parmesan cheese.  Roll into tight log and cut into 1″ thick slices.

Place flat on parchment lined cookie sheet and brush with remaining garlic olive oil.  Bake 10-15 minutes, until golden.

Serves 6

Total time: 30 minutes

Rosemary Parmesan Rolls

Rosemary Parmesan Rolls

 *Original Serves-4 Recipe

Mexican Stuffed Shells

I decided to try something a little different for Taco Tuesday, combining my love for Mexican and Italian food. Seriously, what is not to love about this concept? Rich spicy flavor in the meat and sauce. Stuffed into pasta. Let me say that again for affect, stuffed INTO pasta. The spicy gooyness of the meat, stuffed into the delicate pasta shell. This truly seems like a dish that was invented for me! And I welcomed it with open arms!

Ingredients:

1 lb ground beef (or any meat of your choosing, can even go with something similar to soyrizo for vegetarians)
4 Tbs Morton & Basset Mexican Blend seasoning (this is truly my Go-To Mexican flavor. Do not waste your time with taco seasoning packets.)
1/2 cup cream cheese (I used plain, but you could play around with this and use flavored cream cheese, such as sun-dried tomato, garlic and herb, maybe even a garden vegetable)
14-16 jumbo pasta shells
1 1/2 cup salsa (I always use fresh whenever I can and the deli section of my local market helps me achieve that)
1 cup taco sauce (this will be a smooth, tomato based sauce with varying degrees of heat, found in the Mexican section)
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese
*Additional toppings such as sliced green onions, tomatoes, lettuce, olives, and / or sour cream (this is the chance to get creative, even add jalapeños!)

Preparation:

Start large pot of water to boil.  In frying pan, brown meat, add the Mexican Blend seasoning and 1 ¹⁄³ cups of water.  Let the water cook down by about half.  Add cream cheese and simmer until cheese has melted, stirring occasionally.  Set aside to cool.  While meat is cooking, add pasta shells to water and cook according to package directions.  Drain pasta shells and set out individually on flat surface so they don’t stick together.

Preheat oven to 350°.  Spray 9×13 baking dish with nonstick cooking spray.  Pour salsa on bottom of dish.  Stuff each shell with the meat mixture and place open side up in baking dish.  Cover shells with taco sauce.  Cover dish with foil and back for 30 minutes.  Remove foil and add shredded cheese; bake for 10-15 more minutes until cheese is golden brown.

Wine Pairing Suggestions:

Beaujolais
Malbec
Merlot
Syrah / Shiraz
Zinfandel

Serves 4

Total time: About an hour

Mexican Stuffed Shells

Mexican Stuffed Shells

*Derived from The Way to His Heart

Pesto Crisps

The family and I were heading over to our family friends’ house for the annual Holiday Eve party.  Exciting things were going to happen, and I’m not talking about the flooded downstairs bathroom!  We always enjoy their gatherings and are so fortunate to be considered part of their family.  But first, what was I going to bring for everyone to nosh on??  It had to be something quick and easy (see above about the flooded downstairs bathroom, I wasn’t kidding) because so much of my time had been used.  Hmmm, thinking, thinking . . .  And now, looking, looking through my Food Network Magazine.  Food goodness always comes from my Food Network Magazine.  Bingo!  These did not disappoint and were gobbled up ridiculously fast!

Ingredients:

1 pkg wonton or egg roll wrappers (I used egg roll and was able to get 2 cutouts per wrapper)
1 small container prepared pesto
Salt for seasoning

Preparation:

Preheat oven to 350 °.  Using holiday cookie cutters (for any holiday, or just round ones), punch out shapes from the wrappers.  Place on parchment lined backing sheet.  Brush lightly with prepared pesto and season with salt.  Bake until golden around the edges, about 8 minutes.  They can be enjoyed by themselves or with any variety of dips.

Total time: 20 minutes

Pesto Crisps

Pesto Crisps

*From Food Network Magazine

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Puff Pastry-Wrapped Shrimp

It seems this Thanksgiving I was all about the puff pastry for the appetizers.  Isn’t it weird how we get stuck on a certain ingredient or type of cooking?  This Thanksgiving my focus seemed to be on puff pastry and bacon.  More to come regarding the bacon 🙂

Ingredients:

All-purpose flour
1 pkg (5.2 oz) garlic & herb spreadable cheese, softened (I used the little wedges by The Laughing Cow
1 Tbs finely chopped parsley
2 sliced bacon, cooked and crumbled
18 fresh jumbo shrimp (peeled & deveined)
1 sheet of Pepperidge Farm puff pastry

Preparation:

Heat oven to 400°F.

Stir cheese, parsley, and bacon in a medium bowl and set aside.

Unfold puff pastry sheet on lightly floured work surface.  Cut puff pastry sheet crosswise into 18, ½” wide strips.  Spoon at 2 teaspoons cheese mixture onto each strip. Wind 1 pastry shrimp around 1 shrimp, slightly overlapping the pastry.  Repeat with remaining pastry strips and shrimp.

Bake 15 minutes or until pastries are golden brown.

Serves 18 (pieces)
Total time: 50 minutes

Puff Pastry-Wrapped Shrimp

Puff Pastry-Wrapped Shrimp

*Derived from Pepperidge Farm

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Tomato Pesto Tart

I don’t know about everyone else, but I seem to be getting into the Holiday spirit in fits and stops.  One minute I’m super excited and totally on top of things, and the next I’m yawning into my glass of wine and wishing someone could just wake me up when it’s all over.  For this I blame all of the stores that completely by-passed my favorite holiday of the year (#Thanksgiving) and started decorating for Christmas on November 1st.  It has left me feeling not quite bah humbug about the whole thing, but certainly ho-hum.  So, to show my support for Thanksgiving, I’m going to be posting more of my recipes from that holiday.  And the fact that they haven’t been posted before has absolutely nothing to do with laziness . . .

Ingredients:

All-purpose flour
1 sheet Pepperidge Farm Puff Pastry, thawed
¼ cup pesto sauce (I used store-bought from the produce section)
2 plum tomatoes, sliced
½ cup shredded Parmesan cheese
2 Tbs thinly sliced basil leaves

Preparation:

Heat oven to 400°F.  Line baking sheet with parchment paper.

Sprinkle flour on work surface.  Unfold pastry sheet on floured work surface.  Roll the pastry sheet into a 12″ square.  Place the pastry sheet onto the baking sheet and prick thoroughly with a fork.

Spread pesto sauce on pastry to within ½” of pastry edge.  Arrange tomato slices on pesto and sprinkle with cheese.

Bake 12 minutes or until the pastry is golden brown.  Let cool for 10 minutes, then sprinkle with basil.

Serves 6 as appetizers
Prep: 15 minutes; Total time: 30 minutes

Tomato Pesto Tart

*Courtesy Pepperidge Farm

Bacon and Cheddar Puff Pastry Crisps

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday of the year.  It’s all about the food, family, and friends!  You don’t have to worry about anyone’s favorite color, what size of jeans they wear, or if you have picked the right handbag.  Nope, just come hang out and eat and drink!  What is NOT to love about Thanksgiving.  I know a lot of people are not thrilled with the amount of cooking.  But if you love cooking, you ARE thrilled with the amount of cooking.  I always have to force myself to not plan the menu before November 1st, and that is such a struggle.  This year, however, I didn’t make it.  I was in a slump while planning my daughter’s 5th birthday, which is on Halloween.  We did a fairy theme.  And the food I wanted to make seemed to grown-up to me.  I didn’t want something total kid, either.  I was really stuck.  So, to get me unstuck, I planned the entire Thanksgiving menu over a glass (or two, ok maybe three) of wine.  This was probably mid-October.  One problem with that, by the time Thanksgiving actually rolled around, I felt so out of touch with it.  It was an odd feeling for me, like I had lost my groove.  I have promised myself that next year, I’ll be sure to sit on my hands the month of October!

Ingredients:

1 pkg (17.3 oz) Pepperidge Farm Puff Pastry Sheets, thawed
1 cup finely shredded Cheddar cheese
1 lb bacon, cooked and crumbled
1/2 cup prepared ranch salad dressing (I used Bolthouse Farms, it’s made with Greek yogurt, making it a little healthier)
2 Tbs chopped fresh chives

Preparation:

Heat oven to 470°.

Unfold 1 pastry sheet on lightly floured surface.  Roll the pastry sheet into a 12/2″ square.  Cut into 36 (2″) squares.  Prick pastry with a fork.  Repeat with the remaining pastry sheet, making a total of 72 squares.  Place the squares on a baking sheet

Bake for 8 minutes or until the pastries are golden brown.  Using the back of a small spoon, press down the centers of the hot pastries to make an indentation.

Spoon about 1/2 tsp each of cheese and bacon onto each indentation.  Bake for 5 minutes or until cheese has melted.  Remove the pastries from baking sheet and let cool on wire racks for 10 minutes.  Top with dressing and chives.

Serves 72 pieces
Prep time: 20 minutes; Total time: 30  minutes

Bacon & Cheddar Puff Pastry Crisps

Bacon & Cheddar Puff Pastry Crisps

*From Pepperidge Farm