Sausage Puff Pastries

Another week of football action meant that it was time to try some new game time snacks! I’d always wanted to try to make sausage wontons but when I went to the grocery store, there was not a wonton wrapper to be found. So I figured phyllo pastry cups would make a good substitute (plus make things a bit easier to put together).

Serve some crudités with a hummus dip on the side, and enjoy the game (or the party, or the afternoon – these are really good!)

2 boxes frozen phyllo mini-shells
1 pound spicy bulk Italian sausage
1 small green or red pepper, diced
1 small onion, diced
2 cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese
1 cup ranch dressing

Preheat the over to 350 degrees. Cook the sausage (I added the pepper and onion right in there too) until no pink remains. Fold in 1 1/2 cups of the cheese and the ranch dressing, stirring until the cheese is melted.

Spoon the meat mixture into the cups, sprinkle with the remaining 1/2 cup of cheese. Bake for 15-20 minutes until the cheese is melted and the filling is bubbly.

What’s Cooking This Week

Fall is in the air! And the weather is certainly turning cooler so I’m returning to indoor cooking; remembering some of our favorite dinners and trying some new dishes.

I love a good breakfast for dinner sometimes. These ham and cheese stuffed hash brown waffles never fail to be a hit.

The key is making sure the frozen hash browns are completely thawed and as much water is squeezed out as possible (which can be pretty messy). Toss a full bag of thawed potatoes with half a stick of melted butter, salt, pepper and dill. I have a four-slice waffle maker, so I put half a cup of the potatoes in each section, add some diced ham and cheddar and top with another quarter cup of potatoes. It will take a good 15-20 minutes to get them nice and crispy brown. The other key is to make sure the waffle iron is really well sprayed. Otherwise, they’ll be almost impossible to remove!

I serve them with some sour cream or applesauce on the side.

My favorite local grocery store now has rotisserie turkey breasts which are seasoned to perfection (and if we’re being honest, a better deal than the rotisserie chicken!). All I had to do was find the perfect sides to accompany the turkey.

So I made a quick zucchini gratin with Asiago cheese, Italian seasoning, garlic and rosemary olive oil. When the zucchini was tender, I added some panko breadcrumbs and fried onions and returned it to the oven till the top was browned.

The fingerling potatoes had a similar flavor profile: olive oil, garlic, and oregano. After about 15 minutes in the air fryer, I added some chopped mushrooms and a slice of chopped bacon, finishing it off for another 5 minutes or so.

While we’re sorry to see summer is coming to an end, I have to confess fall is my favorite season and I can’t wait to re-discover some of our favorites while finding new dishes to share. What’s your best-loved taste of fall? Whatever it is, I hope you enjoy it in good health and surrounded by those you love!

Eat well my friends!

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!

Simplest San Marzano Sauce

I was fortunate to pick up about 8 pounds of San Marzano tomatoes this week. They’ve been absolutely perfect in everything I’ve added them to this week, but let’s be honest, 8 pounds is A LOT of tomatoes. So I decided today to make some fresh sauce with them. I panicked about the prospect of peeling all these little guys, but after a whole lot of Googling, I decided to give it a try without the hassle of peeling.

8 cups roughly chopped San Marzano tomatoes
2 cups water
1 large onion, diced
4 garlic cloves
Lots of fresh basil
Olive oil
Red pepper flakes
Sea Salt

After roughly chopping the tomatoes (this was a family affair – I felt I was running the kitchen in The Bear), add the water and set aside.

In a large Dutch oven, heat the olive oil and sauté the onions and garlic until soft. Add the tomatoes & water, the salt and red pepper flakes to your taste and a healthy amount of fresh basil wrapped in cheesecloth. Get the basil all snuggled into the tomatoes. Heat to boiling, then simmer until most of the water has been absorbed (I let it go for probably 90 minutes). Remove the bundle of basil.

If you like your sauce on the chunkier side, that’s it! We wanted it a little smoother, so I hit it with an immersion blender (I still kept a good bit of the chunkiness). Add some chopped fresh basil at the end.

I can’t wait to serve it up on Monday (and plan on freezing the rest)! I’ve only used about half of the tomatoes, so if you have a favorite way to use them, please share!

Fresh Blueberry Sauce

I just returned from an amazing weekend reconnecting with my dearest college friends to discover that, as one of the people who drove, I was gifted an amazing amount of fresh fruit (we somewhat over planned the amount of food that could reasonably be consumed in one weekend. But hey, who was complaining?) So I decided to make a quick blueberry sauce!

2 cups fresh blueberries (I’m thinking you could use frozen, but I’ve never tried)
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
2 tbsp. cornstarch, dissolved in 2 tbsp. water
dash of vanilla extract
zest of one lemon

Mix the water, sugar, and lemon juice in a saucepan and bring to just a boil till blended (if you’re worried about the amount of sugar, you can always use a bit less, personally we don’t find it super-sweet). Gently toss the blueberries in a bowl with the water & cornstarch mixture. Add to the saucepan with the vanilla and gently boil until it thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon. Add in the lemon zest and you’re done!

I’ll confess sometimes I get a little distracted and forget to check it, so if it becomes more like a jam, no worries – just add a bit more water until it’s the consistency you like!

Trust me when I tell you this is absolute perfection on waffles, ice cream and cheesecake if you have it (and seriously, now I’m really leaning toward making one this weekend!)

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.

Cream Cheese Swirl Brownies

If there’s anything better than brownies with a decadent cream cheese filling, topped with chocolate chips, I don’t think I want to know! The best part of this recipe is the base is your favorite brownie mix. Put that together and be prepared to take it to the next level (and be prepared that no one will believe you as they’re enjoying the brownies!)

Filling

4 ounces cream cheese
1/3 cup sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract

Brownie Base

1 box of your favorite brownie mix (I tend to use Ghirardelli Chocolate Supreme Brownie mix)
Water, oil, eggs per the mix instructions

Topping

3/4 cup chocolate chips (whatever is your favorite: milk chocolate, semi-sweet, or even dark all work)

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease 13×9 pan.

Beat the cream cheese and sugar until smooth. Add the egg and vanilla and mix until well blended. Set it aside.

Prepare the brownies as directed. Spread 3/4 of the mix into the pan. Using a tablespoon, spoon cream cheese filling evenly onto the batter. Spoon remaining brownie mix over the filling. Cut through mixture with a butter knife to make a marble design. Sprinkle with the chocolate chips.

Bake 33-37 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean that’s been inserted a couple inches from the edge.

If you have any left (you may not), store covered in the refrigerator.

Pizza Dip

This is one of those recipes that when you make it for people once, you’ll be asked to make it all the time. It’s really simple to put together, but don’t let on to that!

8 ounces softened cream cheese
1 tsp Italian Seasoning
1/2 tsp garlic powder
2 cups mozzarella cheese
1 cup cheddar cheese
1/2 cup pizza sauce
1/2 cup finely chopped green or red pepper
1/2 cup finely chopped onion

Combine cream cheese, Italian seasoning and garlic powder. Spread into the bottom of a greased 9 inch pie plate. Combine the shredded cheeses. Sprinkle half over the cream cheese layer. Top with sauce, pepper and onion. Top with remaining cheese.

Bake at 350 degrees until hot and bubbly (about 20 minutes).

Cool slightly (we’ve made the mistake of digging in too quickly after removing from the oven) and serve with tortilla chips or breadsticks for dipping.