Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Zesty Italian Tortellini Salad

This is a cold pasta salad that you will find yourself making time and time again. It is refreshing and can be made as a side dish or it can easily take center stage as your main course. During Lent, I am making this salad almost every Friday for lunch because it is so easy, healthy and delicious.

Recipe yields 4 servings (4 servings for a main course - more if you are having it as a side)

*The salad keeps well in the refrigerator for about a week so it won't be a bad thing if you make too much!

Pasta salad:
20 oz. cheese tortellini (I used cheese, but you can swap out for whichever flavor you like)
1 large cucumber
1 large red bell pepper
1 1/2 cups black olives
1 1/2 cups shredded carrots
Parmesan cheese, to taste

Zesty Italian Dressing:
1 cup white wine vinegar
1 1/3 cup olive oil
2 tbsp water
1/2 tbsp garlic salt
1/2 tbsp onion powder
1 tbsp oregano
1/2 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 tsp thyme
1 tsp basil
1/2 tbsp parsley
1/4 tsp celery salt
1 tbsp salt

Bring a pot of water to a rolling bowl. Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil and drop in the tortellini. Cook tortellini until soft, about 8 minutes. While the pasta is cooking, chop the cucumber, bell pepper and black olives and shred the carrots.

In a large bowl, combine all vegetables and mix together well.

In a medium bowl, add all ingredients for the dressing. Whisk together until well combined.

Transfer to a container that will be easy to pour from and has a tight lid for storage. Place dressing in the refrigerator to cool. (Note: Dressing will stay fresh in the refrigerator for 2-3 months, so I always like to make it in batches and use it on salads or veggies.)

Drain pasta from the pot and rinse with cold water for 5 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and refrigerate for 25-30 minutes, or until cool. Combine pasta and vegetables in a large bowl. Coat with dressing and mix well. Serve & enjoy!

Monday, July 30, 2012

Chicken Sausage with Mixed Vegetables

I saw this dish on Pinterest and knew I had to try it. You only use one skillet the whole time, so clean up is quick and easy, but more importantly, the concentration of flavors in the pan makes this dish really delicious. It is the perfect way to use up fresh vegetables from your garden!

Recipe yields 6 servings

6 chicken sausage with Italian seasoning
1 large yellow onion
1 red bell pepper
1 orange bell pepper
1 yellow bell pepper
2 green zucchini
6-8 baby red potatoes
1 head of garlic
1 tbsp olive oil
4-5 sprigs thyme
Salt, pepper, garlic powder to season

Rinse all vegetables. Cut potatoes into quarters or eighths depending on their size. 

Add olive oil to a large skillet. Heat oil and add potatoes on high heat. Season with salt, pepper and garlic powder. Cover with a lid. Cook for 5 minutes and then reduce heat to medium-low. Cook for 20 minutes, tossing the potatoes every 5 minutes or so to avoid burning. Remove potatoes from skillet and reserve.

Slice and half zucchini. Large chop all three bell peppers. Large chop onion. Peel, smash and rough chop the garlic. (Hint: To smash the garlic, press down hard on top of the garlic with the edge of your knife.)

Once potatoes are removed from the skillet, add the sausage. Cook for 10 minutes. Then slice sausage into 1 inch pieces. Cook until you can no longer see pink.

Once sausage is no longer pink, add peppers, onions, garlic and thyme to the skillet. Cook on medium for 10-15 minutes. Onions should become translucent and peppers should soften. 

Add zucchini to the skillet and cook for an additional 5 minutes. Toss in the potatoes and cover the skillet. Cook on medium for 5 more minutes. Serve & enjoy!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Blueberry Clafouti

A clafouti is a French pastry that is baked on top of fruit, generally cherries. Today I used blueberries, but you can swap them out for the traditional cherries, or any other fruit you like. This dessert is the perfect balance of sweetness and the pastry is light and puffy.

Recipe yields 1 8" pan

1 pound fresh blueberries
3/4 cup flour
3/4 cup sugar
1 cup heavy cream
2 eggs
2 tsp almond extract

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour and sugar. In a small bowl, whisk together heavy cream, eggs, and almond extract.

Slowly pour the mixture of wet ingredients into the dry ingredients while continuously whisking until all dry ingredients are mixed in.

Line the bottom of an 8 inch round baking pan with a layer of blueberries. Pour mixture on top of blueberries to create a top layer.

Allow pan to sit for 25-30 minutes so the batter can set. Place in the oven and bake for 35 minutes or until the top is golden brown and 'bouncy' to the touch. (Helpful Hint - When you tap the top of the pastry, it should bounce back. If your fingerprint stays in the pastry, it is too soft and under-cooked.)

Allow to cool once removed from the oven. Top with confectioner's sugar or whipped cream. Serve and enjoy!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Red Wine Vinaigrette

This is a quick and easy recipe for homemade vinaigrette. It goes great with tossed greens, cold pasta salad or on top of grilled chicken or vegetables.

Recipe yields 8 ounces of dressing

1 tbsp Dijon mustard
3 tbsp red wine vinegar
10 tbsp canola oil
2 tsp oregano
1 tsp salt

In a small bowl whisk together the Dijon mustard and the red wine vinegar until the mustard is fully incorporated. In a slow, steady stream pour in the canola oil while continuing to whisk. Add oregano and salt and whisk to combine.

Pour on top your favorite salad or veggies and enjoy!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Sea Bass with Thyme-Oregano Butter

If you are looking for an impressive dish that is packed with flavor and can be ready in a short time, this dish is for you! I have developed a new love for compound butter because it is quick and easy and delivers so much flavor.

Recipe yields 4 servings

2 pounds fresh sea bass fillets
Salt and pepper to taste
Canola oil
Thyme-Oregano compound butter

4 tbsp unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 tbsp fresh thyme
1 1/2 tbsp fresh oregano
Salt and pepper to taste

To make the butter, combine all ingredients and mix well. Refrigerate until butter hardens. Season sea bass fillets with salt and pepper. Heat a skillet on high heat. Add canola when pan is hot. Slowly and carefully add the fish fillets, seasoned side down.

Cook for 3-5 minutes, depending on the size of your fillets. Remove from skillet and place on a serving dish.

Cut slices of the compound butter and place on top of the fish. Serve and enjoy!

Refreshing Iced Tea Lemonade

This is a non-traditional take on the classic favorite. Iced tea lemonade is a refreshing, sweet drink that hits the spot on a hot summer day. This 'recipe' combines a fresh glass of iced tea with sweet lemonade iced cubes. It is the drink that keeps getting sweeter, as the ice cubes melt and the sweet lemonade mixes with the iced tea

Recipe yields about 14 cups

16 cups water
1 1/2 cups sugar
6 tea bags (I suggest Taylor of Harrogate's Yorkshire Tea - I love it!)
5 large lemons

In a small saucepan, combine 1 cup of water and sugar. Bring to a boil and heat until sugar has dissolved. Remove from heat and let cool. This is your simple syrup.

In a large pitcher combine 7 cups of water, juice from all lemons and simple syrup. Mix well.

Add lemonade to ice trays. Place in freezer for 4-5 hours or until cubes have hardened.

Boil 8 cups of water. Add tea bags and brew for 30 minutes - 1 hour. (Depending on how strong you like your tea, you can leave the tea bags in longer!) Remove tea bags and pour tea into a pitcher. Refrigerate to cool.

Pour iced tea into a glass and add a few lemonade iced cubes. Now you have a refreshing cool drink for the hottest of summer days. Enjoy!

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Sauteed Potatoes Persillade

Persillade is a French style of cooking that almost always incorporates parsley and garlic into a dish. Now add that with sauteed potatoes, and you have a wonderful side dish worthy of an award! These potatoes are great with just about anything. You can add them as a side to your meat or fish or you can put them with your eggs for breakfast. They are versatile and delicious.

Recipe yields 4 servings

3 large russet potatoes
1 large bundle of fresh parsley
4 cloves of garlic
Canola oil for pan

Peel potatoes and dice into 1/4" cubes. Try to make all pieces the same size so when you are cooking, they all cook evenly.

Add potatoes to a pot and cover with cold water. Heat until water comes to a boil and remove potatoes immediately. This blanches the potatoes to soften them and make it much easier and quicker to saute them afterwards. Drain all water from the potatoes and pat dry. Lie flat on a baking sheet on top of towels to soak up excess water.

While potatoes are drying, finely chop the parsley and garlic. I chose to make garlic paste with my garlic, but you can also mince the garlic. When potatoes are completely dried through, they are ready to be sauteed. Heat a medium skillet on high heat. Once skillet is hot, add 1 tbsp of canola oil (or just enough to put a thick coat on the bottom of the skillet). Add just enough potatoes to form a flat layer. Note: You do not want the potatoes laying on top of each other, you want a flat layer.

Let potatoes cook for 4-5 minutes until bottom side becomes brown and crispy. Flip all potatoes once and cook until the other side becomes browned.

If you need to cook your potatoes in multiple batches because they don't all fit in one skillet, repeat the above process until all potatoes are golden and crispy. Add potatoes to a large mixing bowl and toss with parsley and garlic. Once all ingredients are evenly distributed, add all potatoes back to the skillet.

Heat on medium-high for an additional 3-4 minutes, while turning potatoes. Remove from heat and add to a serving bowl. Serve and enjoy!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Lemon & Oregano Chicken

If you are looking for a light and refreshing chicken recipe for the summer months, this is it. The zestiness from the lemon mixed with the earthy flavor of oregano really combines to pack a punch.

Recipe yields 5 servings

2 lbs chicken breast, pounded
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
4 tbsp oregano
4 garlic cloves
1 large lemon
3 tsp kosher salt

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. (I cooked mine in the oven, but you could also cook them on the grill!) In a small bowl, combine olive oil, oregano and salt. Add juice and zest from one large lemon. Add 4 cloves worth of garlic paste. Combine all ingredients well.

Add chicken to a large ziploc bag. Pour in marinade. Close bag and mix until all chicken is coated. Let marinade at room temperature for 30-45 minutes.

 Remove chicken from bag and place on a baking sheet that was prepped with cooking spray. Bake for 8 minutes. Flip chicken and bake for an additional 4-5 minutes. (Cooking times may vary, chicken is ready when it is no longer pink inside!)

Remove from oven and place on a serving dish. Serve with your choice of sides and enjoy!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Sauteed Steak with Mustard Sauce

For me, the difference between a top of the line steakhouse and the steak I cook at home is the punch of flavor that comes from all the special sauces at the steakhouse. Well this recipe makes you feel like you are being treated to one of those special steaks. This mustard sauce combines the sweetness of the cognac and a bit of spice from the mustard for a unique taste. It is sure to impress any dinner guest! I served mine with Mashed Cauliflower for a truly delicious meal.

Recipe yields 4 servings

4 3/4 lb steaks (Porterhouse, Ribeye, T-bone - whatever you prefer)
Salt and pepper to taste
4 tbsp canola oil
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup cognac
2 tbsp Dijon mustard

Season steaks with salt and pepper on both sides. Heat a skillet on high. When pan is hot, add 1 tbsp of canola oil (If you can fit more than one piece of steak in your skillet at a time, add more oil. There should be roughly 1 tbsp of oil in the pan for each piece of steak.)

Add the steak and saute on medium-high for 2-3 minutes per side. (If you like your meat cooked more, your cooking time may be a bit longer.) Repeat the process until all steaks are cooked.

When steaks are done, place on a serving tray. Remove skillet from heat and add cognac while the pan is still hot. Use a spoon to scrape up all juices on the bottom of the pan. Return skillet to high heat and simmer until liquid is reduced by half. Add cream and continue to boil until liquid is again reduced by half.

Remove skillet from heat and add Dijon mustard. Mix well until combined. Pour sauce over steaks and put any extra into a serving bowl. Enjoy!