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

In my Misfits Market box this week was perhaps the biggest eggplant I’d ever seen! I typically make eggplant parmesan the usual way of breading and either baking or air frying, but it’s grilling season so I got thinking of ways to replicate the flavor on the grill (I’d experimented before but there was just something about this edition that won hands down). Simply put, it was amazing and we never missed the breading one bit.

I sliced the eggplant, sprinkled it with sea salt and let it sit on paper towels for a couple hours to let the water drain out of it (making sure it doesn’t get soggy while cooking). Then I brushed it with rosemary-infused olive oil and sprinkled with pepper, garlic powder and red pepper flakes. I grilled it for about 5 minutes a side just to get some good flavor and marks on it.

I had a pot of sauce on the stove, so I threw some in a foil pan, added the grilled eggplant slices, and topped with mozzarella and asiago cheese (my new cheese obsession because I love the bite of it) till the sauce was hot and the cheeses were bubbly. Top with some fresh oregano (because that’s what I have in my garden. I would have used basil too if I’d had it!) and serve.

What’s your favorite way to adapt a cold-weather dish to summer? No matter what it is, I hope you enjoy it in good health and surrounded by people who bring you joy!

Grilled Pork Sandwiches with Pickled Vegetables

I always love a good, hearty sandwich for dinner. (Especially in the summer when we’ve been out and about and spending the day grazing!). For me, the star of this show was the simplified homage to kimchi (which I love but am in the minority in my house). Using the thinly sliced pork chops means it comes together in minutes on the grill if you’ve prepped the veggies before.

Pickled Vegetables

1/2 English cucumber, thinly sliced
1/2 onion (red or white), thinly sliced
1 carrot peeled and grated
1 tbsp sugar
1 tsp sea salt
3/4 tsp crushed red pepper
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

Meat

6 – 8 thinly sliced pork chops
Chinese Five Spice
Black pepper
olive oil

To Finish

4 Ciabatta rolls
Chopped fresh cilantro
Mayo

Combine all the ingredients for the pickled vegetables (a mason jar works perfectly for this). Refrigerate for at least 6 hours to let the flavors combine, shaking periodically to get everything nice and blended.

On cook day, brush the chops with the oil and coat with pepper and the five spice. Grill until barely pink in the center (it will depend on how thin the pork is – the ones I used were super thin and took about 8 minutes total).

For the last minute the pork is grilling, place the rolls cut side down on the grill to toast them lightly. Remove the pork and the rolls from the grill.

To assemble, spread mayo on the rolls, add a layer of pork, a layer of the pickled vegetables and the chopped cilantro. Not a fan of cilantro? Parsley will work as well. The hot debate on my house was the use to cheese slices. I opted to keep it simple!

What’s Cooking This Week

Well it’s been a hot stretch here so we’ve been looking for as many things to cook on the grill as possible! It’s also the time of year where vegetables are amazingly bountiful. Unfortunately, I have no self-control when it comes to picking out what we need for the week from the farmer’s market, so I also have to spend some time thinking of ways to use things up before they go bad! Both of these revelations drove what was on the menu this week.

In the summertime, nothing beats a nice pasta primavera. The challenge is that I always need to incorporate some kind of meat into the mix to keep my household happy. So off to the grill I went over the weekend to grill up my sausage and veggies for the perfect, quick weeknight dinner. I grilled up broccoli, tri-colored carrots, snap peas. mushrooms, and peppers tossed in some olive oil, red pepper flakes and garlic. On the side, I also grilled some spicy Italian sausage. On dinner night, I cooked some pasta, and made a sauce of basil, chicken stock, a bit of heavy cream and parmesan. I added my grilled goodness into the sauce to warm through, then tossed everything with the pasta (if the sauce is too thick, I just add a bit of the pasta water). Sprinkle with parsley and a little more parmesan. Perfection.

Our go-to potato side dish this summer has been grilled ranch potatoes. Any kind of potato works (these are russets that I scrubbed and cubed). I tend to cook them for about 15 minutes in the microwave in salted water just to make sure whatever meat I’m grilling doesn’t get overcooked. Add the potatoes to a grill pan, toss with butter, ranch dressing mix and red pepper flakes. Grill for about 10 minutes, add your favorite shredded cheese on top, then grill till the cheese melts. Sprinkle some parsley on top (which is growing like mad in the garden) and enjoy. (Feeling fancy? A sprinkle of bacon never hurts!)

What’s been your go-to beat the heat menu this summer? No matter what it is, enjoy it in good health and with those you love! Eat well my friends.

What’s Cooking This Week

Well honestly, not much has been happening in the kitchen between travel, a return to summer events, and graduation season. But one thing that’s been on the menu constantly are two Upstate New York favorites: salt potatoes and chicken spiedies. What are those you may ask? Well let me introduce you!

Salt potatoes are an iconic food in this area (which I didn’t realize till we had family & friends move out of the area – they always ask us to bring some along when we come to visit). They’re small, white potatoes that are boiled in their skins with a TON of salt. The rule of thumb is one cup of salt to 6 cups of water. That’s why packages of the nuggets of joy and pre-packaged salt are found in every grocery store this time of year. All that salt forms an amazing crust on the potatoes while they boil away. They’re served with melted butter (and no, you don’t need any salt on top of them!) They are the perfect side for anything: burgers, chicken, ribs… One caution if you’re going to try them: if they boil over, all that salt makes a complete mess of your stove, counter, and pot, so keep an eye on them.

Chicken spiedies seem to be one of those dishes that I only make in the summer, mainly because the grilling of the meat is key to success. Cubed chicken is marinaded in a mix of olive oil, lemon juice, vinegar, and so many amazing spices (oregano, garlic, parsley, basil, salt & pepper). The key to the best chicken spiedie is to let everything marinade over night (ok, sometimes I forget, but a nice 6 hours will work). Because of the acid in the marinade, it will begin softening and breaking down in the refrigerator. Grill on skewers or a grilling tray (so you don’t lose any of the delicious chicken). Serve on crusty rolls (I like toasting them for a bit) They’re perfect on their own, but I also can’t resist topping with grilled peppers and onions.

Time to get planning some meals and get back in the kitchen. What’s an iconic food from your area that you can’t live without?

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!

Pasta on the Grill? Why Not!

If I haven’t made it clear yet, I’m all about grilling this time of year. What I do tend to overlook is my side burner which is a game changer to keep you from having to run in and out of the house checking on things as you’re tending to what’s grilling. So last night, it was all about the pasta.

This is one of my go-to dishes because it’s quick, easy and satisfying. Start with tossing some broccoli in a foil pan with olive oil, red pepper flakes, garlic and oregano. While that’s cooking, grill up some of your favorite sausage (I’m using sweet Italian chicken). Fire up a pot of salted water and add some pasta.

Toss some grated Parmesan on the broccoli when it’s almost done. Deglaze the foil pan with some chicken stock to scrape up all the browned bits and add a jar of Alfredo sauce. Chop the sausage and toss it in the sauce. Keep warm on the grill while the pasta finishes. Drain the pasta and add to the pan (if it’s a little thick, just add some pasta water).

After a final few minutes, everything gets that smokey, grilled taste. Serve it right out of the pan (it’s summer after all) after topping with chopped tomato and parsley.

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!