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

Broccoli and Cheese Penne

Along with the slow cooker, this time of year brings a distinct desire for all things . . . casserolish.  Anything baked in a big dish with cheese.  Making it oozy and gooey.  The house gets warm from the heat and the aroma makes everyone come running, mouth-watering, asking when dinner will be ready.  Fall is by far my favorite time of year.  We’ve been so exposed during the summer, to the sun, to the heat, to the chlorine from the pool.  With Fall, I welcome that chance to cover up a little.  Wear v-neck sweaters and boots.  The mornings are chilly, the evenings crisp, but the afternoons still shine brightly beckoning at lunch or the early evening to head outside and soak up the final rays.

Ingredients:

1½ cups penne pasta (or use whatever tube pasta you have on hand)
1 lb broccoli, cut into florets (or by the fresh broccoli steam bags in the produce section, save yourself a step!)
3 eggs
1 cup cream
1/3 cup milk
1-2 cups grated cheddar cheese (depends on how cheesy you like it.  I used 2 cups)
1/2 cup Italian bread crumbs
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 cloves garlic, minced
Salt and pepper to taste

Preparation:

Preheat oven to 425°.  With nonstick cooking spray, evenly spray the inside of a deep, 8-cup baking dish.

Cook pasta according to package directions.  Add broccoli to pasta water the last 5 minutes of cooking time; drain.  Rinse pasta and broccoli under cold water; drain, cool.

Combine pasta, broccoli, eggs, cream, milk, and cheddar in a large bowl; season with salt and pepper.  In small bowl, combine breadcrumbs, parmesan, and garlic.  Spoon broccoli mixture into prepared baking dish; sprinkle with breadcrumbs mixture.

Bake, uncovered, for about 40 minutes or until browned lightly and set.

Let stand for 10 minutes before serving.

Wine Pairing Suggestions:

Burgundy, White
Chardonnay, New World (fruity)
Chardonnay, Old World (buttery)
Semillon

Serves 6 large portions

Prep time: 20 minutes; Cooking time: 40 minutes

photo (1)
*Derived from Food Republic

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Quick Chicken Pasta Dinner

I like to keep things around that I’m going to use a lot of.  I don’t want to, nor do I have the time to, run to the store before making dinner, lunch, or really, any meal.  Some people love going to the store before each meal.  I have a good friend that won’t plan the meals ahead because she doesn’t know what she’ll want for dinner on, say, Thursday.  I’m just the opposite.  I thrive on order.  Schedules are bliss to me.  Don’t get me wrong, I love spontaneity, but a last-minute trip wine tasting, not to Safeway.  So, I purchased a ginormous bag of Tyson Grilled and Ready, Frozen Grilled Chicken Breast Strips.  It’s great for last-minute enchiladas, pastas, taquitos, etc.  The problem came about, well, I don’t actually know how I got myself into this mess of chicken.  I think we were getting close to the end of the first bag, so our next trip to Sam’s Club, I grabbed another.  And on our next trip, yet another.  Even though we hadn’t 1) finished the first bag or 2) even opened the second bag.  For some reason I was all frenzied that we were going to somehow run out of the grilled chicken that I, quite frankly, kept forgetting I had so didn’t use it as much as I thought. This meal was planned several days ago (Sunday, to be exact) with that exact chicken in mind.  Because I know you are wondering, this pasta was made with the final portion of the first bag.  Yes, I still have TWO bags in the freezer.  Chicken anyone?? 

Ingredients:

1 Tbs olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups marinara sauce
2 cups water
1 pckg (9 oz) refrigerated fettuccine
1 bag (12 oz) frozen cut green beans, thawed.  You could really sub any vegetable here.  I’d love to try zucchini, summer squash, mushrooms.
2 cups cubed, cooked chicken
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Preparation:

in large skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat.  Add garlic; cooking about 30 seconds, until softened.  Stir in marinara sauce and water.  Cover, heat to boiling.  Add fettuccine, green beans; stir to separate fettuccine.  Return to boiling, cover and boil 3 to 5 minutes, or until beans are tender.

Stir in chicken, Cook 3 to 4 minutes, stirring occasionally, until chicken is heated.

Remove from heat.  Sprinkle with cheese.  Cover; let stand for about 2 minutes to melt cheese.

Wine Pairing Suggestions:

Fume Blanc
Sauvignon Blanc
Chinon, Loire
Cabernet Franc
Loire Valley, Red

Serves 6
Prep time: 20 Min; Total time: 25 min

030

*Derived from Pillsbury

Middle of the Week “Spaghetti”

Have you ever seen a 5 and 6-year-old attempt to eat spaghetti?  Let me tell you, it isn’t pretty.  And neither is the table, chairs, the floor, and their clothes when they are done.  Especially my son, who is 6.  He LOVES to hold that long dangly noodle as far aways from his mouth as he can and try to suck it in.  I know, I know, we’ve all done that, but not when I was the one doing the laundry!  And then there is sauce all over the place, including his face.  His little sister thinks it’s awesome to copy her brother.  You can see where I’m going with this and what my dining room looks like when dinner is over.  I thought my problem was solved when Barilla started selling their cut pasta.  How smart was that??  Already cut pasta!  But then I discovered that was almost harder for them to eat because the cut pieces would slip and slide off their fork.  So we tried spoons.  Same thing.  So, I went back to using elbow macaroni, penne, rotini, rigatoni, etc.  And that usually results in wrinkled noses and requests to make “pascetti”.  Not this time, though!  They were perfectly happy with the elbows and my son even had 2 helpings!  PS – You can easily make this vegetarian by subbing the meat with mushrooms, zucchini, eggplant whatever you have.

Ingredients:

1 medium onion, chopped
2 tsp minced garlic
1 Tbs olive oil
1 lb lean ground beef
2 (14.5 oz) cans diced tomatoes
1 (14.5 oz) can water
1/2 can tomato paste
8 oz elbow macaroni
1 Tbs Italian seasoning
Salt and pepper, to taste
Parmesan cheese

Preparation:

Cook pasta according to package directions.

Add olive oil to a large nonstick skillet.  Sauté onions and garlic over medium high heat until translucent, 2 – 3 minutes.  Add ground beef and cook until browned, then spoon off any grease.  Add tomatoes, water, tomato paste, Italian seasoning, and salt and pepper to skillet with beef and onion mixture.  Turn heat down to low and allow to cook 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

While sauce bubbles away, drain pasta.  When sauce is done, slowly add pasta to sauce and mix to combine.  Serve topped with Parmesan cheese.

Wine Pairing Suggestions:

Malbec
Merlot
Pinot Noir
Sangiovese

 Spaghetti

Serves 4
Prep time: 10 minutes; Total time: 35 minutes

*Original Serves 4 recipe

Risotto with Beans and Vegetables

Oops I did it again! I played with your heart . . . Oh wait,wrong sentiment. Well, a little. I did do it again, I made a wonderful risotto in the rice cooker!  It’s almost daily now that I am looking at the rice cooker and thinking, “Hmmm. . . ”  I wonder if I stuff some laundry in there it will magically be cleaned and folded.  Oh, oh, oh!  I’ve got it!  Can I shove my computer in their and all of my scopes of work and subcontractor matrices come out DONE!!  Bim Bam!  Because that’s how I am viewing my wonderful little rice cooker now, it’s this magical little pot.  I’m not sure how it does what it does.  I don’t even care.  Just as long as it keeps bubbling away and turning out amazing food.  (The laundry would help, too, though.)

Ingredients:

3 cups vegetable broth
2 cups sliced fresh mushrooms (I bought presliced cremini)
1 medium onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 Tbs olive oil
1 cup arborio rice
1 cup finally chopped zucchini
1 cup finely chopped carrots
1 15 oz can low sodium cannellini, pinto, or black beans; rinsed and drained
1/2 cup finely shredded Parmesan cheese (plus about a handful more for topping when ready to serve)

Rice Cooker Preparation:

Turn rice cooker on, once it’s heated add 2 Tbs olive oil, mushrooms, onion, and garlic.  Cook for about 5 minutes or until onion is tender.  Add uncooked rice.  Cook and stir about 5 more minutes or until rice is golden brown.  Add 3 cups of broth, zucchini and carrots, stir to combine all ingredients.  Cover and let cook for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.  After 20 minutes, rice should be slightly creamy and just tender.  Stir in beans and Parmesan cheese; cover and heat through.  Sprinkle with additional cheese for serving.

Non-Rice Cooker Preparation:

In medium sauce pan bring broth to boil.  Reduce heat; simmer until needed.  Meanwhile, in a large saucepan cook mushrooms, onion, and garlic in hot oil over medium heat for about 5 minutes or until onion is tender.  Add uncooked rice.  Cook and stir for about 5 minutes or until rice is golden brown.

Slowly add 1 cup of broth to rice mixture, stirring constantly.  Continue to cook and stir until liquid is absorbed.  Add another 1/2 cup of broth, zucchini, and carrots to rice mixture, stirring constantly.  Continue to cook and stir until liquid is absorbed.  Add another 1 cup broth, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring constantly until broth is absorbed. (THis should take about 20 minutes).

Stir remaining 1/2 cup broth into rice mixture.  Cook and stir until rice is slightly creamy and just tender.  Stir in beans and Parmesan cheese; heat through.  Sprinkle with additional cheese for serving.

Wine Pairing Suggestions:

White Burgundy,
Chardonnay,
Nebbiolo,
Pinot Noir,
Sangiovese,
Sauvignon Blanc

Serves 4
Prep time: 20 minutes; Cook time: 30 minutes

photo (3)

*Derived from BHG

Mushroom Risotto

Here we are on another meatless Monday and just wait until you see what I’ve got for you! I love to make risotto and have several recipes, but this one was truly amazing. What I liked about this recipe: I cheated and made it in the rice cooker, while it was bubbling away I was able to quickly browse the newest Cooking Light. What I would do different: not a thing, well, maybe add some shrimp on a non meatless day. When I was envisioning this meal today, I had no intention of cheating and using the rice cooker. And I didn’t even get home late! But someone stopped by to see The Hubs about a paver project and I spent more time tracking The Hubs down, then standing out in the front yard while they talked on my phone; by that time the kids were racing in the front yard and didn’t want to come in. So, I got started much later than I thought and the rice cooker suddenly looked interesting. I had no idea how wonderfully the flavors would come together and how soft, but not mushy, the rice would be. It’s really exciting when something off-the-cuff turns out this well!  PS – Wow does this reheat well for lunch!

Ingredients:

1 1/2 Tbs olive oil
1 1/2 Tbs unsalted butter plus 2 tsp for the finish
2 Tbs minced shallot (I used yellow onion b/c it was what I had on hand)
1 cup plus 2 Tbs medium grain risotto (I used Arborio)
1 – 1 1/2 cups sliced fresh mushrooms
3 cups chicken stock (to make vegetarian, sub vegetable broth)
1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan, plus more for serving
Salt

Preparation:

Set the rice cooker for the Quick Cook or Regular cycle.  Add olive oil and butter in the rice cooker bowl.  When the better melts, add the shallots or onion.  Cook, stirring frequently, until softened, about 2 minutes.  Add rice and stir until grains are evenly coated and hot.  Cook, stirring occasionally until grains are mostly transparent, about 3 to 5 minutes.  Add the mushrooms, stir for a minute or two.  Add the stock; stir to combine.  Close lid and reset for the Porridge or Regular cycle and set a timer for 20 minutes.  When the cooker switches to the Keep Warm cycle or the timer sounds, stir risotto.  The risotto should have only a bit of liquid left and the rice al dente.  If needed, cook for a few minutes longer.

When ready to serve, add the butter.  Close the lid for about a minute to allow butter to melt.  Stir in cheese and salt to taste. Serve immediately.

Serves 6

Prep time: 5 minutes; Cooking time: 35 minutes

 Mushroom Risotto 2

*Derived from the Ultimate Rice Cooker Cookbook

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Easy Peasy Linguine

Tonight was the first night, as my family snuffled quietly in their beds and I retreated downstairs to make sure all of the windows were closed (or to pour another glass of wine, maybe?) that I smelled fall. I leaned over the kids’ tub to close the window and stopped short. That unmistakable smell, even here in Cali, was fall. How can that be? It seems like just yesterday I was filled with the excitement of all summer had to offer. Finally one drop off as Berto heads into the first grade and D into kindergarten. A summer filled with swimming; catching our first lizard; saying goodbye to my sweet, sweet German shepherd Lobo; growing tomatoes and basil in our first attempts at a garden; surfing for the first time; losing 2 bottom teeth (resulting in feeling oh so big now); day trips; a vacation; and, the return of summer hours at my office. But all of that is coming to a close, with a shiver in the early evening air. Makes me glad there is always comfort food. And, what is better comfort food than pasta?

Ingredients:

The wonderful thing about this dish is all of the possible meat options. Feeling healthier than extra lean ground beef? Sub ground turkey or chicken. For something different try pork or sausage (be sure to removed the casings first!). How about going even meatier? Use ground sirloin. Or, you can make it vegetarian like I did tonight by subbing the meat with mushrooms.

1 (9 oz) pkg fresh linguine
1/2 lb extra lean ground beef / or the item you are subbing
1/2 cup pre chopped onion (I use prepared veggies as often as possible, such a time saver)
1 Tbs minced garlic
1 tsp dried oregano
1/4 tsp salt
3 Tbs tomato paste
1 (14.5 oz) can diced tomatoes, undrained
1/4 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano (whatever you have on hand; shaved, grated, shredded)
Handful of basil leaves, sliced thinly (nothing like walking into the backyard and picking your own basil!)

Preparation:

Cook pasta according to package directions. Omit oil and salt. Drain and return pasta to pot.

While pasta cooks, heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add beef, onion, garlic, oregano, and salt; cook 5 minutes, or until beef is browned, stirring to crumble. Stir in tomato paste; cook 1 minute, stirring frequently. Add tomatoes. Bring to a boil; cook 1 minute. Reduce heat to medium-low; cook 3 minutes or until thickened. Serve over pasta and top with cheese and basil.

Serves 4

Total time: 30 minutes

photo (1)

*Derived from Cooking Light