What’s Cooking This Week

I’m patiently waiting for the real return of Spring. Seems like this year, we’re stuck in a Groundhog Day loop of a day or two of spring followed by the return of winter which means we’re still in the comfort food mode to take the chill off the days.

When it comes to quick and comforting, nothing beats a stir fry. Plus it’s a great way to use up the vegetables that are in the fridge (yes, I’m still over-ordering from Misfits Markets). It all starts with cooking up a pot of basmati rice. I always use chicken stock instead of water for a little extra flavor punch. Then the stir fry came together with some skinless chicken breasts tossed with Chinese five spice and red pepper flakes and sautéed in some olive oil & sesame oil. I then added snow peas and red peppers, grated ginger and garlic, soy sauce, hoisin sauce and some stock till the veggies were crisp-tender. Everything goes back into the pan to coat the rice. Sprinkle with some chopped green onion and enjoy.

We also love a good pork tenderloin. I rubbed this one with brown sugar, ground mustard, garlic powder, smoked paprika, and pepper. I’ve discovered when I don’t want to make a potato, cooking some frozen hash browns in the air fryer works beautifully. Just toss with olive oil, garlic, paprika and red pepper flakes. Shake the basket every five minutes so everything gets crispy (a little spritz of olive oil helps make sure they don’t stick). These took me about 15 minutes. Rounding things off were steakhouse green beans (tossed with a mix of melted butter, brown sugar, Worcestershire sauce, and garlic).

On the rare days we enjoy some spring weather, nothing beats a relaxing evening around the fire pit after dinner. What are your favorite spring is almost here eats? No matter what the weather is tossing your way, eat well friends!

Easy Easter Treats

I was chatting with a friend the other day and I shared that I think of all the holidays, Easter is my favorite holiday to plan food for because it can be done pretty easily and relatively stress-free. Much as cherish them both, Christmas has so many moving parts and extra things going on and Thanksgiving just lends itself to an amazing feast of many dishes. I’ll share my Easter dinner menu, but let’s start with the important stuff: the sweet treats!

These mini-cini rolls are the perfect Easter morning bite (sorry, it’s a terrible name I came up with for them but what they lack in a proper title, they make up for in taste)

Roll Base
1 loaf Rhodes Bake-N-Serve Bread Dough (thawed)
1/2 butter, melted
1/2 cup sugar
ground cinnamon

Frosting
1 cup powdered sugar
1/4 cup melted butter
2 oz softened cream cheese
1 tsp maple syrup
1 tbsp milk (see note below)

Roll the thawed dough out into a 24″ x 8″ rectangle, spread melted butter over the top (reserve a bit to drizzle on the top before rolling). Sprinkle enough cinnamon to generously cover the whole dough. Add the sugar over the butter & cinnamon. Sprinkle the remaining butter on top (I always add a touch more sugar and cinnamon too, since it’s a holiday after all). Starting with the long side, roll the dough tightly, pinching the seam together when all rolled up. Slice the dough into 1″ pieces and lay into a greased springform pan. Bake at 375 for about 20-25 minutes or until the rolls are golden brown. While the rolls are baking, make the icing by beating the butter, sugar and cream cheese until smooth. Add the maple syrup and mix well. Cool the rolls slightly and top with the icing.*

Next up, I made Snickers brownie bites (better name I know). I am always so conflicted when it comes to holiday desserts. I want to serve something, but don’t want to something super rich or filling after a full meal. These fill the bill perfectly (especially with a bit of ice cream on the side)

One package of brownie mix (my go-to is Ghirardelli chocolate supreme**
1 bag of Snickers mini candy bars
1/4 cup M&M’s mini baking bits

Using the mix is a super-quick hack to speed things up. Mix according to directions, then line a mini muffin pan with 24 liners. Fill the cups with 1-2 tablespoons of the brownie base, press a Snickers bar into the cup, then top with a couple of the M&M’s (mine sunk in as the brownies baked, but it made for a fun surprise).

Bake at 350 for about 18 minutes.

*OK, this can be a debate. As you see, I like the frosting on the thicker side. Some people prefer a glaze. If that’s your jam, just add a bit of milk to the frosting to thin it out.

**If you want to make the brownies yourself, melt 1 stick of butter and 4 ounces of unsweetened baking chocolate in a saucepan. Beat 1 1/3 cups of sugar, 3 large eggs, and 1 1/2 vanilla extract together with a hand mixer. Stir in 3/4 cup of flour, then add the chocolate & butter mixture

What’s Cooking This Week

This is a tale of a tasty dinner taking on new life as the leftovers were lovingly used for breakfast. When we’re empty nesting, I find I have a really hard time doing two things: buying meat in smaller quantities and portioning food that serves two people (not a small army). So while leftovers are always good for lunch, I’m still trying to think of new ways to use them!

Dinner began with a beef & veggie skillet. I tossed some sliced steaks in sesame oil and garlic, then gave them a quick stir fry. When the beef was done, I set it aside, deglazed the pan with a little stock, then cooked some peppers & spinach in the pan with some soy sauce. The meat makes a return to the pan and is topped with green onions. Normally, I serve rice with a dish like this, but we were feeling potatoes for some reason that night. So I scrubbed some russets and started them cooking in the microwave for 15 minutes. Then I drained them, patted them dry, tossed them in melted butter and smoked paprika and finished them off in the air fryer. I’ll admit, I would have liked them crispier, but the flavors were really good and worked with the steak and veggies.

As we were eating dinner that night, we got talking about this dish seeming like a deconstructed hash when potatoes were served instead of rice. Which gave me the idea for breakfast. I chopped the leftover steak and potatoes and added them to a pan to warm up a bit with the leftover veggies. Then I added some scrambled eggs and mixed everything together while the eggs cooked, finished with a bit of shredded cheddar cheese and wrapped everything up in a tortilla. So good.

As I head to the kitchen to get some Easter preparation going, what’s your favorite way to re-purpose leftovers?

Eat well friends!

Whole Wheat Banana Nut Bread

Please tell me I’m not the only one that won’t eat a banana, but LOVES a good banana bread! No, it’s just me? OK. But seriously, I love how this so filling and rich (even without the cream cheese on top of it). Plus the whole wheat flour gives it that amazing dark color.

1 1/4 cups whole-wheat flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 c unsalted butter (room temperature)
1 c sugar
3-4 bananas, mashed
2 eggs (room temperature)
1/2 chopped walnuts or pecans*

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour an 8 1/2 inch loaf pan.

Stir together the flour, baking soda, and salt, mixing them well to get everything blended. Set the bowl aside.

In a large bowl, beat together the butter and sugar using a hand mixer. Beat in the eggs until completely mixed, then add the bananas and stir to combine. (I’m not going to lie, the mixture is going to look a little like it curdled, but trust me, it’s fine). Add the wet ingredients to the dry and stir until blended with a spoon or spatula. Add the nuts and give everything one more stir.

Pour the mix into the prepared loaf pan. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean (about 50-60 minutes). Cool completely before slicing.

If you’re baking for a crowd, this can be easily doubled to pour into two loaf pans.

*On baking day, I realized all I had was almonds in my pantry. I did, however stumble upon a bag of glazed pecans which I chopped and substituted. I was worried it was going to turn out too sweet, but it came out perfectly.

What’s Cooking This Week

Spring might finally be starting to arrive here (well other than the snow that’s in the forecast for tomorrow), but it has me thinking about getting back to spending some time getting organized for the week: prepping some things to make for easier dinners and making sure the extra veggies we don’t use during the week don’t go to waste. So as today’s plans got rescheduled, I decided to have some fun in the kitchen. Honestly, I blame the productivity app on my phone that asked if I wanted to get more organized at dinner. Sometimes it’s like the thing watches what happens in our house.

Here’s what we ended up with. Not bad for a day’s work! I started with cooking some broccoli and sausage for a pasta dinner this week. I used two of my favorite kitchen gadgets: my air fryer to cook the broccoli in some olive oil, garlic, red pepper flakes and oregano and my grill pan to put a nice grill on the hot sausage links. It will come together as I heat them in some sauce while cooking some pasta.

Then I cleaned off the grill pan to move on to chicken to make tacos this week (since I’ve got all the veggies coming from my weekly Misfits delivery to seal the deal). One of my pandemic finds was this amazing guide on making your own spice blends so I love this mix for any kind of tacos. I’ve learned to keep the chicken from drying out, once I get the grill marks on the chicken, I just add some water to the pan to keep it juicy while it’s finishing up.

Last up, looking at the weather for tomorrow and knowing we could spend a chunk of the afternoon outside, I wanted to have something warming and ready to go when we got home so I made a batch of white chicken chili. I love the flavors in this: roasted red and poblano peppers, cannelloni beans, cooked chicken and some cayenne pepper, cumin and chili powder for heat.

Of course, I was under the watchful eye of my dutiful kitchen assistant at all times (who may have been rewarded with a taste of the cooked chicken before it got into the spicy mix!) What are your favorite prep time shortcuts?

Eat well friends!

Dilled Feta Ricotta Spread

I love quick appetizer/snack ideas. Especially ones that I feel a little healthier about instead of rummaging through the pantry for a bag of chips! This spread is easy to put together, can be made a few days in advance if you’re having a party, and works perfectly as a snack!

8 ounces of feta cheese (crumbled)
1 cup ricotta cheese
1/4 cup chopped scallions (whites and a bit of the green)
1/4 cup toasted pine nuts*
2 tsp dill
2 tsp lemon juice
1/4 cup finely chopped spinach

Mix the cheeses together then add in the scallion, spinach, and pine nuts until blended. Mix in the dill and lemon juice. That’s it. It’s that easy.

To serve, use toast points (I love pumpernickel toast squares), pita bread sliced into squares, or crackers.

* I discovered you can toast the pine nuts in the air fryer – just place them on foil to keep them from dropping into the bottom of the fryer and toast for about 5 minutes.

What’s Cooking This Week

Well friends, it was pasta week this week in my kitchen. I’ll confess sometimes I’m not exactly paying attention when I plan the week’s dinners and this happens. And sometimes, we’re just in the mood for some pasta! So this week it was pasta two ways (I didn’t hear any complaints!)

First up, we have the classic chicken riggies (or is that more of an Upstate New York thing?). When I think about building layers of flavors, I think chicken riggies: the combination of the spicy cubinelle peppers and the sweetness of the roasted red peppers gets me every time. One lesson I’ve learned over the years is to wear gloves when working with any kind of spicy peppers (one benefit of the pandemic is it seems I now have a never-ending supply of disposable gloves! But back to cooking, it’s the perfect, soul-satisfying weeknight dinner that comes together with pantry staples and a couple well-planned editions to my weekly grocery list (I rarely have hot peppers in my veggie bin or heavy cream in my fridge). Just brown bite-sized pieces of chicken and set it aside while you saute onions, the cubinelles and garlic. Add crushed tomatoes and the roasted red peppers to form the sauce. To finish up, add the chicken to reheat and the heavy cream to warm through. Toss in the cooked pasta, sprinkle on freshly grated Parmesan and dinner is served!

Another of our favorite pasta dishes is Italian steak and pasta. I like to start with grilling a steak that’s been rubbed with pepper, garlic power, crushed red pepper and Italian seasoning. Depending on the weather, I either cook it outside on the grill or in a grill pan on the stove top. One of the things I love is how the sauce brings together so many fresh veggies. While the steak is resting, saute zucchini and mushrooms till soft then add a can of stewed tomatoes (I do like to give them a bit of a rough chop first). Add some crushed red pepper and basil, then just stir in some cooked pasta. Top with slices of the steak and that’s it.

So probably no pasta on the menu this week, but I will never say never! What’s your favorite one-dish pasta?

Eat well friends!