What’s Cooking This Week

I very dutifully create a menu planning our dinners each week before heading to the grocery store, but honestly, sometimes I just get distracted and go off script. Sometimes it’s the weather, sometimes an overabundance of an ingredient calling my name, sometimes what I planned, I’m just not feeling on cook day! That’s exactly what happened this past week when I switched things up to make stuffed peppers and chicken, bacon, ranch grilled flatbreads.

I cannot resist loading up on fresh peppers during this time of year. Sometimes I get a little too enthused and end up with an entire vegetable bin of them! So stuffed peppers are my go-to way to make sure they all get used. I cook up some basmati rice, brown some ground beef or turkey with diced onion & minced garlic, then add tomatoes (yes, I’m still using up the end of my San Marzano’s). When the rice is done, I add it to the meat mix, tossing with some red wine vinegar and fresh parsley. The last step is to mix in some shredded parmesan. I cut my peppers lengthwise, stuff the mixture in and top with shredded mozzarella or provolone. Put them in a grill pan and grill until the peppers have a nice char and the cheese is melted (and yes, if you look closely at the picture, you’ll see I flipped one over trying to get them on to a serving platter!)

If you are ever looking for a quick and satisfying meal, chicken, bacon, ranch flatbreads are amazing. The bonus is that I typically have all the ingredients on hand (because after all, we’ve planned for an entirely different meal so we don’t want to be running to the grocery store!). Just spread some naan, or your favorite flatbread, with ranch dressing and top with healthy amounts of cooked chicken, chopped tomatoes, cooked bacon, and shredded cheddar. Grill for about five minutes, top with diced scallions, and dinner is served.

What’s your favorite way to transform your planned dinner menu? No matter what it is, I hope you enjoy it in good health and surrounded by people who bring you joy!

Eat well friends!

What’s Cooking This Week

August has gotten kind of crazy around here. It’s like the calendar flipped and we’re trying to squeeze all the summer things into the month. I’m not complaining – it’s been days filled with amazing weather and the company of good friends. And food of course!

It’s been all about the sides this week. Yellow squash is one of those vegetables that is always plentiful during the summer but it just doesn’t seem to have a whole lot of taste, so I’ve been experimenting with ways to bring out more flavor. This week I finally achieved my goal by adding sweet red peppers, oregano and rosemary-infused olive oil. I grilled it up with some fingerling potatoes (another summer favorite) tossed in garlic and oil. So good.

I grill so much in the summer, that a stormy day tends to throw me off my dinner game. So I went with a beef stir fry (I don’t mind grilling in the rain, but not much of a fan of grilling in a thunderstorm). I always begin with getting some basmati rice cooking then put together the rest (if you have everything prepped ahead of time, dinner will take as long as the rice). A couple lessons I’ve learned along the way is to make sure you cook the beef in batches so they have time to get a nice sear on. Crowding the pan can make the beef tough (and not so pleasant to look at!). And be sure to deglaze the pan after your beef is done so all the browned bits become a part of the cooking of the broccoli. The sauce never turns out the same way twice since I’m always throwing different spices in there. One constant is freshly grated ginger (cut one inch pieces and keep it in the freezer – it will keep longer and using a frozen chunk makes it easy to grate). The final constant is topping with freshly chopped scallions.

How are you enjoying the dog days of summer? No matter how you are, I hope you enjoy it in good health and surrounded by people who bring you joy!

What’s Cooking This Week

This week, we’re taking on the flavors of the world without leaving our backyard. We’ve been all about mixing up flavors and thinking outside the box a bit (because I find it’s really easy to get in a rut of just making the same thing)

First up, I made grilled chicken in a tandoori marinade. It’s plain Greek yogurt, lemon juice, freshly grated ginger, coriander, cumin, turmeric, and crushed red pepper (I understand some of these may not be pantry staples, but if you’re making curry on a regular basis, you should be set). Marinate the chicken for 6 hours in the fridge, then grill it up. I always brush some of the marinade on the chicken for the last 10 minutes on the grill. Any kind of chicken works. Speaking of mixing things up, the hashbrowns in the air fryer tend to be my quick go to, but the magic is they never taste the same way twice because of I use flavors that compliment the main course. For this dish, I used a little smoked paprika, Garam masala and crushed red pepper.

Later in the week, we made grilled quesadillas. I used my favorite fajita spice blend on the meat before grilling till it was just about medium. At the same time, I grilled up some peppers and onions. When everything was set, I sliced the steak into thin slices, then layered flour tortillas with shredded cheddar, some of the sliced steak and some peppers and onions. Then it was back to the grill till the tortillas were crispy. A little sour cream and a quick guacamole (avocado, lime juice, diced jalapenos, cumin, cayenne and diced tomato) on the side and it was perfect.

As I’m heading out to plant some cherry tomato and jalapeno pepper plants in my modest garden, what are your favorite ways to spice up dinner and break out a rut? No matter where your culinary adventures guide you, eat well my friends!

What’s Cooking This Week

Well the weather has finally turned! The snow has moved out of the area and we’re enjoying some warm weather so that means firing up the grill. And I love being able to make a complete meal outside enjoying time chatting on the deck while we cook.

A summer favorite is pizza and wings on the grill (well who am I kidding, you know me by now, it’s an any time favorite at my house). But what made this one especially good was the garlic Parmesan wings. It’s taken me some time to master wings on the grill – they can dry out quickly. I’ve found that a quick brine helps keep them moist while they cook. I had about 18 wings, so I mixed 4 cups of water, a tablespoon of sugar and 5 tablespoons of sea salt and let the wings sit in the fridge for about 30 minutes. Pat the wings dry and toss with olive oil before grilling for about 8 minutes a side. While they were grilling, I melted a stick of butter in a foil pan, then added 4 minced cloves of garlic, some smoked paprika and salt and pepper. When everything was mixed, I added the grilled wings and threw in a couple good tablespoons of Parmesan. I tossed then with another couple tablespoons of Parmesan and served with the pizza.

Another summer favorite is stuffed flank steak on the grill. The stuffing is chopped spinach, chopped kalamata olives, seasoned bread crumbs, red wine vinegar, minced garlic and olive oil. The trickiest part is spreading the stuffing on the flank steak and rolling it up. I have yet to master the art of tying the flank steak neatly so the stuffing doesn’t fall out, but it’s a work in progress! I served with hash browns in the air fryer and grilled broccoli topped with bread crumbs tossed with olive oil and red pepper flakes.

Time for some menu planning for more grilling adventures! What are your favorite grilling tips? Most importantly, on the grill or not, eat well friends!

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!

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!

Skillet Tater Tot Bake

Here’s another one of those recipes that’s been a family favorite forever (to the point where whenever I ask “what do we want for dinner this week?” the answer is always Tater Tot Bake). Honestly, it doesn’t make a weekly appearance, but when I make it, it’s a hit. The original recipe called for canned cream of mushroom soup – I’ve messed around over the years to replace that with fresh mushrooms.

1 lb lean ground beef (ground turkey works well too!)
3 tbsp unsalted butter
1 cup white mushrooms (cleaned & sliced)
1 shallot (chopped)
2 cloves garlic (minced)
3 tbsp flour
1 1/2 c beef stock (or chicken if you’re using ground turkey)
1 c milk
2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
Smoked paprika to taste
1/2 of a 32 ounce package of tater tots

Optional:
1 cup shredded cheese (sharp cheddar or pepper jack)
6 oz. French Fried Onions

Brown meat in a cast iron skillet. Season with salt and pepper. Drain and remove from pan.

Melt the butter then add the mushrooms & shallots. Cook until the mushrooms soften. Add the garlic (so it doesn’t burn). Add the flour to the vegetables and cook for a minute. Slowly stream the milk and stock into the pan, whisking constantly (and making sure you get any of the brown bits up off the bottom of the skillet). As the mixture starts to thicken, add the Worcestershire and smoked paprika. Keep simmering until it thickens. Add the meat back into the pan and give it a stir.

Arrange the tater tots on top of the meat. Tip: if you like the potatoes a little crispier, bake them for 400 degrees for 20 minutes while you’re getting everything else together.

Bake 15-20 minutes (if you don’t bake the tots ahead, you may have to add another 10 minutes to get them fully cooked). When the tots are cooked and the mixture is bubbly, you can top with the shredded cheese and return to the oven for 5 minutes to let it melt. Same with the French Fried Onions – layer them on top of the tots (and cheese, if you added) and give it another five minutes till they’re crispy and golden brown.

Nice green salad on the side makes it a perfect dinner!

What’s Cooking This Week

When the pandemic wiped out so many things that we all loved & enjoyed, I vowed I would never gripe about getting busy again. I guess it’s the old you don’t appreciate what you have until you don’t have it! So as things are busy again, I’ve had to up my game on hearty and quick meals.

Am I the only one who ends up with vegetable remnants that are perfectly good but not enough to make a complete side dish? I l especially love having some leftover carrots so I can make beef stew. Once you brown some stew beef, add carrots, potatoes, peas, and (a family must), white pearl onions to 8 ounces of beef gravy, a can of French onion soup, and a tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce. If it’s too think, just add a bit of water. Just let everything simmer till the veggies are tender. Bonus: if you have some refrigerated French loaves, it’s an awesome treat to make bread bowls to serve the stew in. Just cut each loaf in half, shape into a ball, bake 18-20 minutes until they’re golden brown. To serve, slice the top off each round, use an ice cream scoop to form it, and fill it with stew. The tops can be (dare I say should be?) used for dipping.

My other on-the-run meal is any kind of stir fry. Beef was on sale when I went grocery shopping this week (plus I got snow peas in my Misfits order), so away we went. I sliced the beef thinly then tossed it in a quick marinade of 1/2 cup of low sodium soy sauce, a couple tablespoons of Worcestershire sauce, a couple tablespoons of brown sugar and about an inch piece of freshly grated ginger (a trick I discovered quite by accident: cut your fresh ginger into one inch pieces and freeze. It grates so easily, it’s magical). While that’s marinating, cook as much basmati rice as you want. Then heat some oil in a large frying pan and give the snow peas a quick sauté. Set them aside. Cook the beef in shifts so the pan doesn’t get over crowded (otherwise the meat gets gunky – that’s probably not a proper cooking term). The hotter the pan, the quicker this takes! Once the meat is brown, add everything back into the pan and heat with the leftover marinade. If the sauce is too thin, just slowly add a bit of cornstarch/water mix to thicken it it. Plate over the rice, top with crushed red pepper and sliced scallions!

What’s your favorite, go-to quick meal?

Eat well!