Rustic Italian Braised Beef Short Ribs with Cheesy Polenta

I know, I was just going on and on about grilled steak and not wanting to give up summer.  Then what do I do?  Mix it up with a rich, hearty comfort food that would be perfect for winter.  I can’t explain it, I just goes with what speaks to me as I’m coming up with the weekly menu, then factor in time and schedules.  The beauty of this is that the braised ribs were done in a slow cooker. Believe me, I’m shocked too.  And, I was able to do the major prep work the night before. This is an incredible meal for sitting down with your family, and it would be equally appealing for guests.  I’m already planning my next dinner party!  (PS – Cheesy Polenta to follow in another post)  Update my friends – The short ribs reheated fabulously for lunch!  Polenta, not so much.

Ingredients:

2 cups chopped onion
10 garlic cloves thinly sliced (I’m sorry, as a working mom. I just don’t have time for this.  I subbed minced garlic [by Spice Island] and no one ran from the table covering their mouths)
3 Tbs tomato paste
1 Tbs olive oil
1 tsp dried oregano
½ tsp red pepper flakes (optional, especially if you have a 6 & 7-year-old that will act as if you are trying to perform some ancient ritualistic punishment)
1 (28 oz) can whole peeled tomatoes (such as Muir Glen)
4 (10 oz) boneless beef short ribs (definitely go boneless.  The meat is fall off the bone, so the bones, well, just become a problem)
Salt and pepper to taste
Slivered fresh basil, to taste

Preparation:

In a medium skillet over medium heat, add onions, garlic, tomato paste, oil, oregano, and pepper flakes.  Stir until onions are softened, about 5 minutes.  Transfer to slow cooker.  Stir in tomatoes.  Season short ribs with salt and pepper.  Add to slow cooker.  Cover and cook on low until beef is tender, 8-9 hours.  Less time?  5-6 hours on high is just as good.

Transfer short ribs to serving dish and tent with foil.  Strain sauce into fat separator, reserving  tomatoes, and let stand 5 minutes.  Add reserved tomatoes back to empty slow cooker and break into large chunks with a wooden spoon (I used a square face potato masher and it worked just fine!). Stir in defatted sauce and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Pour sauce over short ribs and sprinkle with basil.

Wine Pairing Suggestions:

Barbera
Bordeaux
Cabernet Sauvignon
Merlot
Sangiovese

Serves: 6
Active time: 10 minutes; Inactive time: 9 hours

Braised Short Ribs

*From America’s Test Kitchen – Slow Cooker Revolution

Tortellini with Creamy Mushroom Sauce

My kids love, love, love cheese ravioli.  Every time we go to Mary’s Pizza Shack that’s what they both order.  Well, Daniela being Daniela has to add, “No sauce.  And not a dot of cheese on top!”  At least my girl know what she likes!  This is like that, but so different.  It totally satisfies their craving for cheese rav, but gives the adults a better meal than feeling like they are eating just buttered pasta.  And I must be doing something right because D did not once say to me, “And NOT a dot of cheese!”  

Ingredients:

1 lb sliced cremini mushrooms (if you are not buying the pre-sliced already, start now!)
1 Tbs olive oil
2 1/2 cups chicken broth
1 (15 oz) jar Alfredo sauce (such as Classico)
12 oz dried cheese tortellini (I used Barilla and loved it)
Salt and pepper to taste
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 Tbs minced fresh basil

Preparation:

Cook tortellini according to package directions.

Add olive oil to large skillet heated to medium.  When heated, add mushrooms and cooked until reduced by about half.  When mushrooms reduced by half, add broth, Alfredo sauce, salt and pepper.  Reduce heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until heated through.

Drain pasta.  If your pan is large enough, add the pasta in batches, stirring to combine between each batch.  If not, once drained, return pasta to pot and add sauce in batches, stirring to combine in between.

Serve with your favorite  veggie, maybe broccoli.  Don’t forget the garlic bread!

Wine Pairing Suggestions:

White Burgundy
Chardonnay
White Bordeaux
Alboriño

Serves: 4
Total time: 40 minutes

 

Tortellini with Creamy Mushroom Sauce

Tortellini with Creamy Mushroom Sauce

*Derived from America’s Test Kitchen – Slow Cooker Revolution

Quick Spaghetti with Meat Sauce

Pasta is a staple in my house.  For the most part, you can make it fast.  But, there are also some amazing dishes that take a while (lasagna, baked ziti anyone?).  I kind of have to admit, too, that one of the reasons I love pasta has to do with the control freak in me.  It’s also the same reason I prefer texting and email.  It’s all on my time. I get to decide, do I want/need a quick pasta tonight?  Do I need/want to respond to this text right now? Basically, whether a text or pasta, it comes down to me.  And no one knows the elements that brought me to the decision.  This dish, however, I’ll share with you the behind the scenes thought process.  I already had defrosted the extra lean ground beef.  I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with it simply because my family is just coming back from a quick little vacation to Kings Beach in North Lake Tahoe (one of our fave places and I encourage everyone to go) and anyone that knows me understands that I spent the week leading up to Tahoe planning, cooking, and packing for our trip (those recipes to follow).  By the time we got back home I was 1) exhausted from a wonderful trip, 2) really tired of planning and cooking, and 3) completely out of groceries save for the staples I had on hand.  I can tell you, quite confidently, this was a huge hit!

Ingredients:

1 lb extra lean ground beef (can sub ground chicken or turkey)
1 (14.5) oz diced tomatoes
1 (14.5) oz tomato sauce
1/2 of (6.5) garlic & herb spreadable cheese (such as Alouette)
1 Tbs dried basil (such as Morton & Bassett) (I prefer fresh, but since my GSD puppy ate my plant, I had to go with dried)
Handful of dried spaghetti
Parmesan grated, shredded, shaved (your preference) for serving

Preparation:

Boil pasta according to your doneness preference.

While pasta cooks, brown meat. Once browned, drain off any excess fat. Add diced tomatoes and tomato sauce. Reduced heat to medium low and heat through. Add the garlic and herb spreadable cheese. Stir to completely incorporate through. Reduce heat to low and allow to simmer 5 – 10 minutes. Add basil the last few minutes and stir (if using fresh basil, wait until ready to serve.

Mix pasta with sauce, in batches, stirring to combine with each batch. Top with favorite Parmesan. Serve with crusty bread.

Wine Pairing Suggestions:

Barbera
Chianti
Malbec
Pinot Noir
Sangiovese

Serves 8
Total time: 40 minutes

photo (5)

*Original Serves-4 Recipe

Busy Mom’s Spaghetti & Meatballs

Do you ever feel like, when you are working away, that you are just going to topple over onto your desk in a heap, asleep so fast that as your head makes contact a dribble of spittle has already appeared?  That is how the last month to month and a half has been for me.  We’ve had major construction going on in the 2nd most important area of our house, the family room.  This was due to a large flood on Christmas morning (Yeah!  Merry Christmas!!).  So we’ve been dealing with that, in a small part, since then.  But when the construction finally started, well, it’s just been tiresome.  While our general contractor has been amazing at keeping everyone on schedule, I’m just over it, you know.  I’m ready to have that room opened to the rest of the house again.  I’m ready to have a laundry room again (something I’d never in my life thought I’d be excited about, a new laundry room).  I’m ready to have that 3rd bath available downstairs, as opposed to a 5 and 6 year old trying to race upstairs to pee when they’ve been outside playing with ladybugs and refused to “listen to their bodies”.  And at the tail end of this endeavor has been . . . dun, dun, dun . . . daylight savings.  “Come everyone, let’s Spring Forward!” I can clearly hear a very cheery Mother Nature shouting.  I want to shout back, not so cheerily, “Let’s all put our freakin’ happy faces on as our internal clocks get all screwed up!”  Sorry, I’m a grump today.  This is the perfect dinner for a grump to make.  It comes together quickly and painlessly.  And none of it would have been possible without my little sous chef!

My Sous Chef!

My Sous Chef!

 

Ingredients:

8 oz spaghetti
1 Tbs olive oil (go easy on olive oil because the sausage will have plenty of oil when cooked)
1 small onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbs Italian Seasoning (or any favorite herb, oregano, thyme, etc.)
Salt and pepper to taste
1 cup beef broth (can sub with chicken)
2 cups pureed tomato
1 lb sausage meat (you can buy sausage links and remove the casings, luckily I found a package of bulk sausage meat prepared by the butcher)
Parmesan
1 bunch fresh basil (optional, I didn’t have on hand so I omitted)

Preparation:

Bring a large pot of water to boil for spaghetti.  While spaghetti cooks, prepare sauce.

Add 1 Tbs olive oil to large pan heated over medium-high.  When oil is hot, add onions and garlic, stirring to coat.  Add Italian seasoning.  Stir in salt to taste.  Cook for 8 to 10 minutes, or until the onions begin to soften.  While onions cook, use sausage meat and form small balls.

Add stock, scraping up any bits from bottom of pan.  Add tomato puree and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer for about 5 minutes.    Add meatballs into tomato sauce and simmer until fully cooked, about 10 – 12 additional minutes.

Serve over spaghetti and top with fresh grated Parmesan and a handful of torn basil.  Serve with hot crusty bread.

Wine Pairing Suggestions:

Barbera
Chianti
Malbec
Pinot Noir
Sangiovese

Serves 6

Cooking time: About 40 minutes

Busy Mom's Spaghetti & Meatballs

Busy Mom’s Spaghetti & Meatballs

*Original Serves-4 Recipe

 


Caesar Salad & Pasta Primavera

I am so happy and beyond excited to be able to share my “Guest Blogger” with you today.  I’m going to have to do the typing for her because, well, she’s 5 1/2 and this would take all day.  My youngest foodie D wanted to take a cooking class that was being offered through her school, and I couldn’t think of any reason to say No.  I mean, my little angel girl loves cooking, like her mommy?!?!!  She has always been my little foodie, ready and willing to try anything.  She absolutely adores food and as soon as she finishes one meal, she is already thinking about the next.  On Sunday she was making cookies and I caught her talking lovingly to her dough.  Does it get any better?  I think it just might!  Yesterday was her first day of her cooking class and she came home buzzing with excitement from her class.  They got to eat their food in class, but she also brought a plate home to share with the family.  We all raised our hands in agreement that her food was “super yummy!”  I am pleased to share with you her results.

Caesar Salad

Ingredients:

3 medium heads romaine lettuce; chilled, dry, and crisp
1/3 cup garlic olive oil
2-3 Tbs wine vinegar
1 lemon – halved
2 One Minute coddled eggs
Salt to taste
Dash Worchester sauce
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
6 Tbs grated Parmesan cheese (can add more)
1 cup Caesar croutons

Preparation:

Bring a sauce pan of water to boil.  Gently add eggs and turn heat to low, set timer for 2 minutes.  Remove eggs with slotted spoon or wire mesh strainer.  Cool in cold water and set aside.

Into a chilled salad bowl, break romaine leaves into 2 inch widths.  Drizzle with garlic olive oil and vinegar.  Squeeze juice from lemon over the top.  Break coddled eggs over lettuce, toss many times to ensure everything is thoroughly mixed.  Season with salt, pepper, and Worchester sauce.  Sprinkle with parmesan cheese.  Toss six or seven times until dressing is well combined and every leaf is coated.  Add croutons.  Serve immediately.

Pasta Primavera

Ingredients:

1 lb Italian style spaghetti
1 cup thinly sliced zucchini
1 ½ cup snow peas (can use frozen)
1 cup baby peas (can use frozen)
6 asparagus sliced in 1″ pieces
1 cup sliced mushrooms
1 (16 oz) can peeled tomatoes, drained and chopped
3 Tbs olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
¼ cup chopped fresh parsley (can sub 1/8 cup if using dried)
2 tsp minced garlic
½ cup freshly grated parmesan
¹⁄³ cup butter
1 cup heavy cream (can sub low-fat milk)
¹⁄³ cup fresh, chopped basil

Preparation:

Cook pasta in large pot boiling water.

Briefly cook the green vegetables and mushrooms in water (or steam).  When crisp tender, refresh by running under cold water.  In large frying pan heated to medium, sauté tomatoes and parsley in olive oil.  Add all of the vegetables and simmer until heated through.

Add cooked pasta, cheese, cream, butter, and basil.  Toss to coat.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

Serve hot, with chilled Caesar salad.

Wine Pairing Suggestions:

Fume Blanc
Grüner Veltliner
Muscadet
Sauvignon Blanc

Both recipes serve 6

Caesar Salad & Pasta Primavera

Caesar Salad & Pasta Primavera


Corner- Cutting Chicken Parmesan with Spaghetti

Chicken parmesan is one of those enveloping comfort foods. And let me tell you, today I needed some comfort food! It was just one of those days, heck, it’s already been one of those years. It started two days before Christmas and again on Christmas morning with a major plumbing leak in the family room. Next, with the very start of demolition asbestos was detected. That prompted us 1) not being able to use our kitchen (or even enter it) for 48 hours, and then a move-out to a hotel for about 4 days. All of the nights at the hotel, my usual 5:00 a.m. girl slept way past that. When we finally get back into our house all of that changes and girlfriend brought herself into our room at 5:15 this fine Sunday morning. Sometimes there is just not enough coffee in the world. Sometimes one just needs a major food hug. And sometimes one that has been a mite grumpy needs to share that food hug with those that she was grumpy with. In walks my corner-cutting chicken parmesan with spaghetti. The Italians have really got this food hug thing down!

Ingredients:

4 oz uncooked spaghetti
2 (14.5 oz) cans unsalted diced tomatoes
1 1/2 Tbs olive oil, divided
6 cloves garlic diced (time saver tip: use jarred minced garlic, such as Spice World)
1/2 tsp kosher salt, divided
3 Tbs finely chopped basil (time saver tip: one of my fave products  – Gourmet Garden Basil Paste, it’s amazing!)
4 skinless chicken breast tenders
2 Tbs all-purpose flour
1 tsp garlic powder
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1/2 cup Italian style bread crumbs
1 tsp butter
4 oz shredded mozzarella

Preparation:

Cook pasta according to package directions,omitting salt and fat; drain.

While pasta cooks, empty cans of tomatoes in food processor; process until almost smooth.  Heat saucepan over medium-low heat.  Add 1½ tsp oil to pan; swirl to coat.  Add garlic and cook 1 minute, or until fragrant, stirring occasionally.  Add tomatoes and 3/8 tsp salt; cook 15 minutes or until slightly thickened, stirring occasionally.  Stir in basil (or basil paste).  Toss 1 cup sauce with pasta, keep warm.

While sauce cooks, combine flour, garlic powder, and remaining 1/8 tsp salt in a large ziploc bag.  Add tenders one at a time and shake bag to coat.  Shake off any excess flour mixture.  Place lightly beaten egg in shallow dish.  Place Italian bread crumbs in another shallow dish.  Dip tenders in egg mixture and then dredge in bread crumbs.

Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat.  Add remaining 1 Tbs oil and butter to pan; swirl until butter melts.  Add chicken to pay; cook approximately 4 minutes on each side, or until browned and cooked through.  Place chicken on a backing sheet, top with mozzarella.  Broil 2 minutes or until cheese melts.  Serve over pasta with sauce spooned over chicken.

Wine Pairing Suggestions:

Albariño
Merlot
Sangiovese
Sauvignon Blanc

Serves 4

Total time: 45 minutes

Chicken Parmesan

*Original Serves-4 recipe

Mini Meat Loaves

A few awesome things about these mini meat loaves: 1) they are mini, so everyone gets their own personal meat loaf, which is key if you are 5 and 6 years old; 2) you can even kind of make them to order, as far as the toppings go since they are pretty small, and; 3) the cook so much faster than your grandmother’s meat loaf.  The pasta sauce, basil, and cheese really made these tasty.  Add a nice green vegetable (such as the roasted asparagus with parmesan cheese that I did) and you’ve got the start of a quick and filling meal.

Ingredients:

1 egg, lightly beaten
1 cup prepared marinara sauce
½ cup Italian style bread crumbs
2 Tbs Gourmet Garden basil paste (one of the best inventions ever)
1 lb lean ground beef (can use turkey, chicken, etc)
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
¼ tsp salt

Preparation:

Preheat oven to 450°.  In a large bowl, combine egg, 1/2 cup marinara sauce, bread crumbs, basil paste, and salt.  Add beef and 1/2 cup of cheese; using hands, mix well.  Divide mixture into four equal parts.  Shape into a small loaf.  Place on parchment paper lined cookie sheet.  Spoon remaining marinara sauce over the top of each and sprinkle with cheese.

Bake 15 minutes, or until internal temperature reaches 160°

Wine Pairing Suggestions:

Barbera
Chianti
Merlot
Petit Sirah
Syrah / Shiraz
Zinfandel

Serves: 4 large helpings (or 6 smaller servings)

Total time: 25 minutes

Mini Meat Loaves

Mini Meat Loaves

*Original Serves-4 Recipe