Wednesday, October 28, 2015

One-Skillet Sauce

This is the one when you need a quick, very basic, thick meat and veggie sauce that can be used to top pasta, made into lasagna or other baked pasta dish. as a base for chili or pasta e fagioli.

I use my very large stainless steel skillet to cook everything together, eliminating the need for dirtying more than one pan.

1 lb of ground meat (turkey, beef, pork, etc) I used mild Italian pork sausage
1/2 – 1 tsp olive oil – drizzled in the pan as needed to prevent sticking if using a very lean meat
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1 onion, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped,
1 medium zucchini, chopped
8 oz mushrooms, sliced
2 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
1 tsp Italian seasoning
1/2 tsp seasoned salt
fresh ground black pepper

1 can or jar traditional style pasta sauce (24 oz)
1 can sliced Italian stewed tomatoes, un-drained

Place the meat in the skillet. Top with all the chopped vegetables and seasonings.

Cook on medium-high heat until the mixture starts to sizzle. Mix and break up with a wooden spoon. Reduce heat to medium-low and cover. Cook and stir for about 10 minutes, until the meat is no longer pink and the juices have reduced in the pan. You may choose to increase the heat to high to cook of any remaining liquid, but watch carefully and stir often, to avoid sticking and burning.
You may drain the mixture in a colander if the there is a lot of liquid or fat (depending on the type of meat you use)
Reduce heat to low; add the pasta sauce and un-drained tomatoes, breaking up tomatoes if desired.
Cover the skillet and let cook on low until heated through while cooking the pasta or proceeding with the rest of your recipe.

Because I like to cook my sauce a day or two ahead of time, to allow the flavors to mingle and to save on dinner time prep the day that I want to eat the sauce, I will allow to cool a bit and then cover and refrigerate in the skillet. When it's time to use the sauce, I will skim off any fat the hardened on the top, then gently heat over medium heat while cooking my pasta and making a salad and bread.


Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Italian Christmas Cookies

It's definitely NOT too early to talk about Christmas cookies, right?

And talking with a loved one is perfect while rolling and decorating these yummies!

You can sub the 2 tsp vanilla for a tsp of vanilla AND a tsp of another flavor: anise, almond, lemon, orange, rum, coconut, peppermint, etc)  Do the same for the icing. : )

Italian Christmas Cookies

Cookie Dough:
4 eggs
1 C sugar
1/2 C butter, softened
2 tsp vanilla
3 1/2 C flour
4 tsp baking powder

Sift dry ingredients. Cream butter and sugar, beat in eggs;
add vanilla and dry ingredients.
Knead and add flour as needed to keep dough from sticking to hands. Pinch off dough, roll in your hands to form a log and then twirl into shape. Place on greased cookie sheets. Bake at 375* for 10 minutes.

2 C sifted confectioner’s sugar
2 tsp vanilla
6 tsp water
Stir until creamy

Dip cookies into icing and sprinkle with trim. Place on wire rack with wax paper on counter to collect the dripping icing and sprinkle.

Photo and recipe borrowed from The Italian - Sicilian - American Page on Facebook 


Monday, October 19, 2015

Rich Mushroom Pasta

When I said “diner's ready” after only being in the kitchen for 30 minutes, my honey replied with, “Really?!” 
Homemade, from scratch comfort food does NOT need to take hours to prepare. Oh, I'm all for the long, leisurely, lovingly puttering in the kitchen for special occasions and for the awesomeness that is homemade lasagna with scratch sauce (and THAT's a whole other story!)

I made my meal around the star of the show: the pasta. It is simple but the flavors are deep and worthy of being the star. This could easily go from being a side to being the main dish, by either adding your cooked chicken or other meat and veggies to the pasta at the end, or serving it up meatless. The humble mushrooms are meaty and rich and satisfying. This dish could also be your starter for Stroganoff. Just add your cooked, sliced beef (or chicken) to the pan, omit the Parm and top with some sour cream.
Last night, I paired the pasta with a simple chicken cutlet and fresh green beans. was a hit and even Charmin approved (see her sneaky little face checking out the goods!)

Rich Mushroom Pasta
Makes 4 Side Dish Servings (double the recipe if using as a main dish)

8 oz mushrooms, sliced (4 large white mushrooms and 4 large cremini, aka “baby portobello” or “baby bellas”
3 large garlic cloves, minced or pressed with a garlic press
a couple grinds of fresh ground black pepper
1/2 T olive oil
3 T butter, divided
dash of salt
8 oz fettuccine pasta, broken in half (for gluten free pasta, I love Tinkyada brown rice fettuccine)
another dash of salt
3/4 C fresh Parmesan cheese, shredded
1/8 C milk
3 green onions, sliced

Clean the mushrooms by brushing them off with a dry paper towel.
Slice them and place in a large, high-sided skillet. Add the pressed garlic and black pepper.
Drizzle with the olive oil. Cook and stir over medium-high heat for 3 minutes until softened. Stir in 1 T of the butter. Add a dash of salt and set aside off the heat.
Cook pasta according to the package instructions. Rinse in cold water, drain. (see my note about the energy saving method)
Heat skillet over medium heat. Push mushrooms to each side of the skillet, making an open area in the middle. Add the remaining butter to the open area, top with drained pasta and dash of salt.
Gently toss the pasta in the butter as it melts and reheat the pasta until it's very warm. Incorporate the mushrooms into the pasta.
Drizzle with milk. The milk will soak into the pasta and give it a slight creaminess. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Turn the burner down to low, cover skillet and let cheese melt. It's difficult to mix in the Parm (it gets stringy) so I just let it melt on top.
Top with sliced green onions. This is easiest to serve with a pancake turner/spatula, so not to disturb the cheese too much.

Note about the pasta:
I like to use the “energy saving cooking method” as stated on the Tinkyada pasta package:
Bring water to a boil, add your pasta. Cook and stir over high heat for 2 minutes. Turn off the burner. Keep the pan on the burner, but turn if off. Cover the pot and let cook for 10 minutes. Drain and rinse in cold water. You'll have perfect al dente pasta ready to proceed with the Rich Mushroom Pasta.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Autumn Kielbasa Bake

Oh, the chill of fall and the dark evenings make me long for comfort food.
What a great way to heat up the house with the oven on and fill the tummy with hearty goodness.
So, I give you Autumn Kielbasi Bake:: 
A mouthwatering medley of bell peppers, onions, garlic and potatoes, perfectly caramelized, mingling with seared kielbasa. Add the sauteed cabbage to your bowl to round out the fall flavors.

1 Kielbasa or smoked sausage of your choice, cut into 1-2” slices
10 very small or 5 medium red potatoes, cut into 1” pieces
1 red bell pepper, cut into 1” pieces
1 green bell pepper, cut into 1” pieces
1 small onion, cut into 1” wedges
1 clove garlic, pressed
Olive or canola oil (up to ¼ C)
Salt and pepper

1/2 head of a small cabbage
1 T oil
1 tsp butter

Preheat oven to 400*. Micro-cook the potatoes for about 5 minutes. When cool enough to handle, cut into 1” pieces.
Put all the veggies, except the cabbage, and sausage in a large mixing bowl and drizzle with oil until glistening but not soaked.
Toss all the ingredients to coat with oil. Salt and pepper to taste.
Turn out onto a large rimmed baking sheet or a 9x13 baking dish.
Roast for about 30 minutes, turning everything once or twice to ensure even browning.
Meanwhile, slice the cabbage into 1/2” pieces. Heat a large skillet on high with the pill and stir-fry cabbage until it’s starting to brown. Reduce heat to warm, cover and let cook and stir occasionally until done to the desired consistency. Top with butter. Turn off when it’s done and keep covered.
Serve the sausage bake with the cooked cabbage with condiments of your choice. (ketchup, mustard, BBQ sauce, vinegar, etc. We like Heinz 57 Sauce with ours.)

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Chicken Shepherd's Pie (aka Potato-Topped Chicken Pot Pie)

Because it's getting kinda cozy inside at night...
you may want to whip up a Chicken Shepherd's Pie (aka Potato-Topped Chicken Pot Pie)

5 medium potatoes, peeled, cubed
1 C shredded cheddar cheese, divided
2 C chicken gravy (made from scratch or favorite packaged or jarred – ** see note below)
1 clove garlic, pressed
1/2 tsp parsley flakes
salt and pepper to taste
1 16 oz package frozen mixed veggies
2 chicken breasts, cooked and cubed
(I use the breasts from a rotisserie chicken)

Cook potatoes in a pot of salted water until soft. Drain and mash without adding milk or butter. They will be a bit dry or stiff – that's ok. Stir in 1/2 C of the shredded cheddar cheese and set aside. Reserve the rest of the cheese for later.

Make or heat the gravy in a medium sauce pan, adding the garlic and parsley. Add salt and pepper to taste. Remove from heat and add the frozen veggies, stirring to coat.

Place half the veggie/gravy mixture in a greased deep dish pie plate or similar casserole dish.
Top with all the cubed chicken, then the remaining veggie/gravy mixture.
Place the mashed potatoes on the top, gently pushing down and forming a crust that covers the mixture.

Bake 30-40 minutes, until hot and bubbly and potatoes are starting to brown. (I use a meat thermometer after 30 minutes to make sure the center is above 165*. You want the center hot since the veggies were raw and frozen at the start)

Top with the remaining cheddar cheese and bake until the cheese is melted. Let stand for5 minutes before serving.

** Note on gravy: Since I eat gluten free, I always have to make my gravies and sauces from scratch. It's so easy and tasty that I don't miss the mix or jar (it's better for you too!)
Here's my method:
Have 2 C chicken broth ready (homemade, canned or reconstituted bouillon) In a medium saucepan, heat 2 T butter over high heat. Have 2 T flour ready (I use a rice flour mix that's GF – but use whatever flour you prefer)
Add flour all at once and whisk until incorporated with the butter. Slowly pour in the broth, whisking to keep smooth bring to a boil and whisk until starts to thicken. Remove from heat.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Simply Delicious Chicken Taco Soup

Simply Delicious Chicken Taco Soup

1 (12 oz) pkg frozen Mexican-style corn (such as  Flav-R-Pac brand's Santa Fe Medley -  or C&W Ultimate Southwest Blend - includes corn, black beans, onions, red & green peppers)
2 (14.5 oz) cans chicken broth
1 (16 oz) jar chunky salsa
2 1/2 C cooked, chopped chicken (from a rotisserie chicken)
1/2 tsp taco seasoning
salt & pepper to taste
garlic powder to taste
chopped fresh cilantro
sour cream
shredded cheddar cheese
diced avocado
tortilla chips
lime wedges

In a large pot over medium heat, combine corn medley,broth and salsa. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and stir in cooked chicken. Season with taco seasoning, salt and pepper, garlic to taste. Cover, and cook 5 to 10 minutes more, until heated through.
Serve with cilantro, sour cream, shredded cheese, avocado, tortilla chips and lime wedges.