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Homemade Pizza Dough

October 19, 2016

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If your family is anything like my family, they never say no to pizza for dinner. While ordering from the local pizzeria is easy and certainly delicious, sometimes it’s more fun to get creative in the kitchen whipping up a fresh, homemade pizza!! The ingredients are few, the time is minimal and the result is scrumptious!

In a large mixing bowl, add the warm water, sugar and yeast. Give it a quick stir then let sit for 5 minutes. Next, add the flour and salt and, using a rubber spatula, mix your ingredients until it turns into a shaggy dough. Form it into a ball and place in a lightly oiled mixing bowl. Cover with Saran wrap and let the dough rise for 1½ hours (dough should roughly double in size).

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Once dough has risen, knead on a lightly floured work surface for 5 minutes adding flour a little at a time if the dough is too sticky. Form into a ball again and, using a rolling pin and a little more flour, roll the dough out to your desired thickness (thin crust? Neapolitan style?). The dough will puff up as it cooks so err more on the thinner side. Put your rolled out dough on a pizza pan (or a rimless cookie sheet if you don’t have a pan) and preheat your oven to 450º.

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Now the fun part: what are you going to top your pizza with?? Mozzarella, tomatoes and fresh basil? Traditional pepperoni? Four cheese? The possibilities are only limited by your taste buds!

Once you have topped your pizza with all your delicious fixings, bake for 15-20 minutes, or until your desired crunchiness (is that a word?) .

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Ingredients:

¾ cup warm water
½ tsp white cane sugar
1 tsp active dry yeast
2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
1½ tsp kosher salt
1-2 tsp oil for the bowl (olive or vegetable)
Toppings of your choice

In my house, you have to act fast if you want seconds….

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Chicken Pot Pie

January 22, 2016

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Talk about an easy dinner!  One pot to clean up and very little prep time to get this Chicken Pot Pie on the dinner table. To me, it’s the perfect solution to a quick, delicious homemade dinner. Some of you may remember the days when you would put a frozen pot pie in the oven and wait for what seemed like hours only to take that first bite and scorch your tongue….well, this is not that pot pie!! A couple of things make this a quick go to dinner: first, I use a store cooked rotisserie chicken and second, I use a pre-made, refrigerated pie crust. Judge me if you want but sometimes you need shortcuts in life!!

In a large stock pot, melt the butter and saute the carrots, celery, onion, garlic and spices. Cook for 5 minutes, or until the vegetables soften. Add the  frozen peas, cooked chicken, mushroom soup and water and stir to blend. Cook over low-medium heat for 5-10 minutes. Remove from heat and pour the mixture into a pie plate letting it cool for a few minutes (helps if the filling is not piping hot when putting the uncooked pie crust on top).  Fold the pie crust over the filling and crimp the edges. Poke a few holes in the crust to vent and brush the egg wash over entire crust. Place the pot pie on a cookie sheet and bake in a preheated 375º oven for 30 minutes (or until crust is golden brown). Now dig in!! I promise you won’t scorch your tongue.

Ingredients:

2 tbsp butter
½ cup carrots, diced
½ cup celery, diced
½ cup yellow onion, diced
2-3 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tsp parsley
1 tsp basil
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
½ cup frozen peas
2 cups cooked chicken, cut into bite size pieces
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 can water
1 pie crust
egg wash (1 egg whisked with 2 tbsp water)

Serves six

Not Your Kid’s Mac & Cheese

September 12, 2013

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CAUTION: You are about to consume an ultra-cheezy post…

There is a famous slogan out there…Porsche, there is no substitute. Well, I believe it could be altered to read Mac & Cheese, there is no substitute!  I don’t mean out of the box, orange powder mix mac and cheese. I’m talking about a fresh, gourmet dish. Once you make your noodles and your cheese sauce (mind you the cheese sauce is made with freshly grated robust cheese), you can add a huge variety of “mix-ins” to create a very grown-up version of mac and cheese. I recently brought crispy bacon, sautéed leeks and garlic Mac & Cheese to a pot luck dinner. A few nights later my kids wanted me to make mac and cheese for dinner and I kept it vegetarian by adding a sautéed mixture of peas, wild mushrooms and scallions combined with a medley of fresh herbs. I even drizzled a little truffle oil over my serving though my youngest daughter thought that was too rich for her liking…kids!! The variety of mix ins are endless — let your imagination and taste buds guide your way! In any event, you need to give mac and cheese another try. Hey, you loved it as a kid, why can’t you enjoy it as an adult?

Begin by cooking the pasta according to package’s directions. While the pasta is cooking,  grate both the cheddar and gruyere cheeses and set aside. In a medium-sized pot, melt 2 tbsp of butter over medium heat.  Quickly whisk in 2 tbsp flour and heat for 1 minute.  Next, add 2 cups of milk.  Whisking often, heat the sauce until the mixture thickens, roughly 10-15 minutes.

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Once thickened, remove the sauce from the heat and blend in the shredded cheese until thoroughly melted. Season with 1 tsp of sea salt and 1 tsp fresh cracked black pepper.

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Your basic cheese sauce is now ready. Here comes the fun part…what are you going to mix in to make your mac and cheese “grown-up”? Perhaps sautéed shallots, garlic, fresh tomatoes and chopped spinach? Oh, but fresh peas, scallions and ham sound delicious too. You can always keep it simple and make it a four cheese sauce. However, if you really want to make your mac and cheese all grown up, simply mix in chunks of fresh lobster meat…makes for an amazingly exotic dish!! Like I said before, the ideas are endless and totally up to you.

Once you have made whatever it is you are going to mix in to your mac and cheese, it’s time to assemble the dish. Begin with adding the noodles to a 9 x 13 baking dish. Next, stir in the cheese sauce and mix to coat the noodles. Now add your mix ins and stir to evenly mix all the ingredients. Top the noodles with a sprinkling of paprika, bread crumbs, parmesan cheese, and finally a few pinches of parsley. Cover with tin foil and put in a 375º pre-heated oven and bake for 30-40 minutes. Remove the tin foil for the last 10 minutes of baking so the topping gets nice and browned. Let sit for a few minutes before digging in…if you can!!

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Ingredients:

Package of noodles (penne, elbows or the like)
2 cups Gruyere cheese, shredded
2 cups extra sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
¼ cup butter
2 tbsp flour
2 cups milk (I use skim milk)
2 tsp sea salt
1 tsp cracked black pepper

Your ‘mix in” ingredients

For topping: 2 tsp paprika, ½ cup bread crumbs, ¾ cup parmesan and 2 tsp parsley.

Grilled Lemon Chicken

May 22, 2013

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Have you ever had one of those days where you open the refrigerator door searching for something to make for dinner and you just stand there, looking blankly into the void hopelessly lost on what to cook? Well, that happened to me the other night and thankfully sometimes from despair comes victory!! With the few ingredients I could muster up, I created what I believe to be a “blog worthy” dinner. Sometimes the simplest dishes make the most enjoyable meals.

Begin by marinating your chicken. In a large Ziploc bag, add the chicken breasts, olive oil, lemon juice, rosemary, salt and pepper. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, longer if you have the time. When ready, grill chicken until thoroughly cooked, basting often with marinade.

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While the chicken is cooking, melt the butter in a large skillet and saute the mushrooms, scallions, artichoke hearts and garlic. Cook for 5-10 minutes or until mushrooms have released their juices. Season with salt and pepper.

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Plate the chicken and sautéed vegetables. Top everything with a generous squeeze from a fresh lemon. Garnish with a lemon slice and voilà — a quick, no brainer dinner!

Ingredients:

1 boneless, skinless chicken breast, split
2 tbsp olive oil
Juice of 1 lemon
2 tbsp fresh rosemary, finely chopped
1 tsp salt
½ tsp black pepper
1 tbsp butter
6 scallions, sliced diagonally in ½ inch slices
1 can artichoke hearts, quartered
1-2 garlic cloves, minced
Salt & pepper to taste

Serves two

Grilled Shrimp with Chipotle Cream Sauce

May 5, 2013

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Happy Cinco de Mayo!!!! In honor of this day, my cooking group gathered and cooked up a Mexican fiesta. We made all sorts of authentic Mexican foods (even a chocolate flourless cake spiced with chili powder…amazing). One of my “assignments” was to make shrimp with a chipotle sauce. The most difficult part of this recipe was finding the chipotle peppers — seems there was a run on them at every store I went to…is this a hot item? Anyway, after finally finding the peppers, I got down to business. I decided to marinate and then grill my shrimp in case the chipotle sauce would be too spicy for some people (me?). That way the shrimp would still be flavorful if no sauce was added. Turns out everyone added the sauce (including me). It is spicy but oh so flavorful!!

Begin by marinating your shrimp. In a large Ziploc bag, add shrimp, olive oil, lemon juice and the Cholula Chipotle Hot Sauce. Marinate for about an hour (not longer as the lemon juice starts to “cook” the shrimp with its acidity). When your chipotle sauce (see recipe below) is almost finished, grill shrimp for 3-5 minutes (I use a grilling basket to cook the shrimp–makes it very easy).

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Now for the Chipotle sauce: begin by mincing the chipotle peppers. Use a utensil and a knife, not your fingers like I did at first. And take it from me, do not to lick your fingers afterwards….

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Next, saute the garlic, chipotle peppers and adobo sauce in a little olive oil. Cook for 5 minutes. Add the tomato juice and bring to boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 5 minutes. Slowly add the heavy cream and the chicken stock and cook for roughly 5 more minutes. Do not boil! Turn heat off and stir in the lemon juice.

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I served the chipotle sauce in a gravy boat and let everyone pour the sauce over their shrimp. If you prefer, you could add the grilled shrimp directly into the skillet with the chipotle sauce and let the shrimp meld with the sauce. Either way, this is a sensational, satisfying, spicy mexican creation (say that 5 times fast after sipping your margarita…).

Ingredients:

For the shrimp:
30 Shrimp, shelled and deveined, tail on
2 tbsp olive oil
Juice from ½ of a lemon
8-10 dashes of Cholula Chipotle Hot Sauce (if you can’t find this, simply use an authentic mexican hot sauce)

For Chipotle Sauce:
2 tbsp olive oil
1 large clove garlic, minced
3 chipotle peppers, minced (I use canned chipotles in an adobo sauce)
2-3 tbsp adobo sauce (from the can containing the peppers)
¼ cup tomato juice
¾ cup heavy cream
¾ cup chicken stock
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice

Serves six

Skillet Coq Au Vin

March 20, 2013

 

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In honor of National Coq Au Vin Day (yup, that’s today), I’m sharing my recipe for a quicker version of this French classic–I call it Skillet Coq Au Vin. You don’t need hours of cooking time, several pots and pans, the use of both the stove top and the oven. For this recipe, all you need is one large, deep skillet and a little more than an hour of your time. A dish that once was reserved only for weekend cooking can now be made on any night of the week! Très bien!!!

Begin by cooking 2 slices of bacon (make that 3 slices if you are like me and can’t stop yourself from nibbling). Set bacon aside. Do not drain bacon fat!!!

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In the same skillet, add the chicken breasts, sprinkle with salt and pepper and cook in the bacon fat until done. Cover the skillet as the chicken is cooking–this keeps the chicken moist and your cooktop clean… When chicken is cooked thoroughly, remove from skillet and set aside.

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Add the butter to the skillet and saute mushrooms, carrots, pearl onions and garlic. Cook for 10 minutes, stirring constantly.

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Add the red wine, the chicken stock and the tomato paste to the vegetable medley. Bring to a boil. Add chicken breasts back to skillet along with the cooked bacon and the sprigs of fresh thyme. Cover and cook on low heat for at least 45 minutes. Flip chicken half way through. In keeping with tradition, serve over egg noodles. Pour yourself a glass of that red wine and enjoy dinner!!

 

Ingredients:

2 slices bacon
1 chicken breast, split (no bones or skin)
Dash of salt & pepper
1 tbsp butter
1 package button mushrooms, quartered
4 carrots, cut in half then quartered
12 pearl onions, peeled
3 whole garlic cloves, peeled
1½ cups full-bodied red wine (I use Cabernet)
½ cup chicken stock
1 tbsp tomato paste
3 sprigs fresh thyme
1 package egg noodles (if desired)

Serves 2 healthy sized portions

Chicken Piccata

March 18, 2013

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Chicken Piccata is so easy to make having just a few basic ingredients, yet it has a restaurant quality appearance and flavor that will impress family members and dinner guests alike. It also happens to have two of my favorite ingredients: lemons and capers. Together they are a mouth-watering combo not to be reckoned with. Don’t limit yourself to using the piccata sauce just over chicken– it tastes amazing with fish as well (try it over salmon…yum).

In a shallow bowl, sift together the flour, salt, pepper and paprika and set aside. In a large frying pan, add 2 tablespoons of butter and 1 tablespoon of olive oil. As the butter is melting, dredge the cutlets, one at a time, in the flour mixture. Shake off excess flour and place the chicken in the frying pan. Cook until done. Depending on how many pieces of chicken you are making, you may have to do this in batches.

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Meanwhile, in a small skillet, melt 2 tablespoons of butter. Whisk in ¼ cup of lemon juice and ¼ cup of white wine. Cook on high for 2-3 minutes. Add 3 tablespoons of capers, 2 tablespoons of parsley and 1 tablespoon of fresh thyme. Cook on high for 3-5 minutes. Add a dash of cracked black pepper.

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Plate the chicken and generously spoon the piccata sauce over each cutlet. Garnish with fresh parsley, a lemon slice and serve with a beautiful vegetable side dish — shown here with my Roasted Brussels Sprouts..

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Ingredients:

For Chicken Cutlets:
2 chicken cutlets
½ cup of flour
½ tsp salt
½ tsp black pepper
½ tsp paprika
2 tbsp butter
1 tbsp olive oil

For Sauce:
2 tablespoons butter
¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
¼ cup white wine
3 tbsp capers
2 tbsp fresh parsley
1 tbsp fresh thyme
Dash of cracked black pepper

For Garnish:
Fresh parsley
2 lemon slices

Serves two

Veggie & Tofu Lasagne

March 6, 2013

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So my vegetarian daughter has a stress fracture in her foot–not good for a ballerina. She gave me a list of foods she wants to incorporate into her diet so as to add protein, calcium and vitamin D to her daily intake. It’s quiet a healthy list (haha no pun intended) but a few things stood out that caught my eye: green leafy vegetables, tofu, mushrooms and various cheeses. I knew I could put together a healthy version of lasagna (ok, so cheese isn’t the healthiest, but it does have calcium!). For people who don’t like tofu or don’t know what to do with it, this is a great start. You won’t even know it’s there as it blends right in with the ricotta cheese mixture and absorbs the flavors of the dish.

To begin, slice your tofu into ½ inch pieces and lay on paper towels to remove some of the liquid. Flip tofu after 5 minutes and set aside.

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Over medium heat, saute the onion and garlic in olive oil. Add the mushrooms and cook for 10 minutes or until mushrooms have released their juices. Next, add the spinach and cook until wilted.

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Meanwhile, in a mixing bowl, add the ricotta cheese, eggs and 1 cup of the parmesan. Mix thoroughly.

Now you are ready to assemble your masterpiece!
• In a 9×13 baking pan, spread the marinara sauce evenly over the bottom.
• Add a layer of lasagna noodles and top with the mushroom/spinach mixture.
• Now add 3 slices of tofu, crumbling into chunks spreading it evenly over the top.
• Next, spread the ricotta cheese mixture over the tofu.

REPEAT.

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Add a final layer of noodles spreading the mozzarella cheese evenly over the top. Sprinkle the mozzarella with the remaining parmesan, parsley and seasoning salt.

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Cover with tin foil and bake at 375º for 30 minutes. Remove foil and cook another 15-30 minutes until the cheese is bubbly and nicely browned. You will be amazed at how yummy it is and you’ll ask yourself, where is the tofu?

Ingredients:

Marinara sauce*
6 slices tofu
15 ounces ricotta cheese
2 eggs
1 cup parmesan cheese
½ medium onion, diced
2-3 garlic cloves, crushed
2 packages mushrooms (any variety you like works), sliced
1 package fresh spinach
Lasagna noodles, cooked according to package
For topping:
1½ cups shredded mozzarella cheese
½ cup parmesan cheese
seasoning salt
parsley

* For the marinara sauce, you can go the easy route and buy 2 jars of your favorite sauce or you can be adventurous and make your own homemade sauce (see my marinara recipe under my Sauces category.)

Serves 8-10 depending on portion size.

Fettuccine with Cherry Tomatoes and Fresh Basil

February 28, 2013

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Doesn’t this look delicious? Fresh tomatoes, basil, mushrooms, onion, garlic and toasted pine nuts?? What more would you need for a stunningly healthy dinner? Oh yeah, fresh pasta!!

 

Begin by toasting the pine nuts: evenly spread out nuts on baking sheet or glass pyrex dish and cook in a 400 degree oven for 8 minutes (or until just browned). Set aside.

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Get ready to cook pasta according to package directions. Watch your timing so pasta is done as soon as your tomato topping is finished. Fresh pasta cooks very fast….

Meanwhile, heat olive oil, garlic and onion on medium heat. Add 2 tablespoons oregano and 1 teaspoon black pepper as the mixture is cooking.

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After 5 minutes, add mushrooms and cook an additional 5 minutes.

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Add ¼ cup red wine. Bring to boil, turn heat down and simmer until wine has reduced by half. Add cherry tomatoes and cook 8-10 minutes. Tomatoes should easily pierce with sharp knife but do not cook so long they lose their form.

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Turn heat off and add fresh basil and the toasted pine nuts, stirring to mix. Let the basil wilt as you would fresh spinach.

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Season with salt and pepper to your liking. Serve over fettuccine and top with freshly shaved parmesan. Enjoy as each bite POPS with yumminess (you’ll know what I mean when you have your first taste) .

 

Ingredients:

4 tablespoons pine nuts
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion, finely diced
3 cloves garlic, crushed
2 teaspoons oregano
¼ black pepper
8 button mushrooms, sliced
¼ cup red wine
1 package cherry tomatoes
6 tablespoons fresh basil, cut into pieces
Salt & Pepper to taste
1 package fresh fettuccuine
Fresh parmesan to taste

Seves two

Shrimp Stuffed Portobello Caps

February 8, 2013

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I’m having the hardest time naming this concoction I made last night…too wordy if I list all ingredients so I’ll just stick to “Shrimp Stuffed Portobello Caps” (though that still seems wordy….). Anyway, the recipe includes spinach, scallions, grilled marinated shrimp, lots of lemon and garlic topped off with a touch of fresh parmesan. It was delicious! I think next time I make it I will add cherry tomatoes to the sauteed spinach–I think that would add a unique flavor. I’ll get back to you when I do and let you know if it was a good addition.

Begin by grilling 2 portobello caps. I have an indoor grill on my cooktop–if you don’t, just use a skillet that has grill ridges. That should work just fine. Grill the mushrooms for roughly 10 minutes or until almost cooked thoroughly. Add the shrimp skewers and cook until done (they cook very fast so keep an eye on them!).

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As soon as the shrimp go on the grill, saute the scallion/spinach combo in olive oil, garlic and lemon juice. All of this takes no more than 2 minutes so work fast! When everything is done assemble the dish with portobello caps upside down, layered next with the spinach combo, then the grilled shrimp and finally top  it off with a sprinkling of parmesan cheese. So healthy and also very filling!!

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Ingredients:

2 portobello caps
12 shrimp, marinated *
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 package fresh spinach
2-3 cloves garlic, crushed
½ lemon, juiced
4 scallions, trimmed and sliced
sprinkling of parmesan cheese

* For the shrimp, place in a bowl and add a tablespoon of olive oil and  juice of 1 lemon. Stir to coat. Add 2 crushed garlic cloves and a teaspoon of freshly minced parsley. Mix thoroughly and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Place on wooden skewers ready for grilling.

Serves two