Finally Time For a Home Cooked Meal

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Life has been absolutely crazy around here. Tony is traveling and changing time zones twice a week, and the house viewing traffic is picking up dramatically. That last part is a good thing, but it puts us in the position of having to be able to leave our house quickly. That makes it very hard to cook a real meal.

This is a very unhappy Chloe, stuck in a crate at my mom’s house while we wait for people to finish a walk through at our house. She’s not quite as happy as Romeo and Abigail to be at Grandma’s house.

I’ve been trying to make this dish since Thursday and finally on Sunday night, even though we were completely exhausted after having five viewings of our house over the past three days, I forced myself to make a decent dinner. Please forgive the pictures…I wasn’t going to even blog about it but Tony asked if I was taking pictures and was sweet enough to run upstairs and get my camera. The recipe will also be one of those “about this much” recipes, unfortunately. I didn’t write anything down, but you all are so smart and amazing in the kitchen, I know you won’t have any trouble making your own version.

Waiting at Grandma’s house for “kitty, kitty” the new kitten to come out and play with her. Penelope, my mother’s other cat is just around the corner growling and hissing at Chloe in the crate.

Lately we’ve been living on Jimmy John’s un-which sandwiches, black bean salad, gluten-free organic hot dogs and chili, cereal more cereal, peanut butter toast, and Red Robin’s California chicken sandwiches. Did you know they now carry gluten-free buns and will make your fries in a separate fryer from gluten items? We are addicted. Next time I eat one I’ll take a picture for you. And the tartar sauce (which is gluten-free & dairy free)…so delicious and addictive I should probably just be slathering it on my thighs because I’m sure that’s right where it goes after it leaves my mouth.

Tony stayed home an extra day today to take advantage of a motorcycle track day. The kind of track day that makes me cringe and I have to remind him that I really don’t want to know how fast he went and how many people had to be hauled off in an ambulance. He left early this morning, so this is what a lazy Sunday looks like for some of us…not me of course, I have a whole list of things to do!

Yes, we allow them to lounge on the furniture…

I’m used to cooking whole meals at least four days a week and baking something delicious at least twice a week. But lately, our new way of  living on “whatever is easy and doesn’t make the house smell weird” is getting to me. It’s leaving me feeling unsatisfied and rather unhealthy.

So last Wednesday while I was lying in bed wide awake at 2:30 in the morning because we’ve had a weird rash of car break-ins in our neighborhood, the recipe for Italian Sausage & Pesto Roll Ups was born. Maybe a little bit of fear does help with creativity? Or maybe it was the fact that I was sleeping with my gun and that enabled me to calm my mind enough to think about food. Either way, I also had to figure out when exactly I could find the time to actually make the recipe that was making my stomach growl and getting me excited for real food.

I tried Thursday, Friday, and Saturday to make this meal and it seemed like the dinner God’s were against me. And even though we had two more showings on Saturday, I managed to squeeze in a small nap and muster the energy to cook a nice meal on Saturday night, throwing caution to the wind and not caring if our house smelled like garlic and pesto on Sunday morning. I even managed to make an easy Kalamata olive & garlic loaf.

Italian Sausage & Pesto Roll-Ups

Preheat Oven to 400 degrees

About a pound of gluten-free, dairy-free Italian Sausage

Hot Pepper Flakes, I like my sausage spicy

Homemade Vegan Pesto

1 Large Block of Sheep’s Milk Cheese, I buy mine in the white and blue container at Trader Joe’s

About 2 Tablespoons Fresh Oregano

About 2 Tablespoons Fresh Basil

Freshly Ground Pepper

About 1/2 Cup Diaya Mozzarella Style Shreds

About 2 Tablespoons Dairy Free Parmesan Style Cheese

1 Jar Ready-Made Pasta Sauce, I used Newman’s Marinara, or homemade of course

1 Package Gluten Free Lasagna Noodles, cooked aldente (follow pkg instructions), rinsed, and separated immediately

Cook pasta, rinse, separate, and set aside. Fry the Italian sausage and pepper flakes (to your taste) until done, drain fat, set aside.

Drain the sheep’s cheese and place the entire block in a mixer. Add the fresh herbs, other two cheeses, and the fresh herbs. Mix on medium until it comes together and begins to look somewhat sticky. I was also going to add 1/2 cup chopped spinach to this mixture but forgot!

Oil a 9×9 inch square baking dish with olive oil. Spoon a small amount of sauce over the bottom of the dish. Set aside.

Lay out a lasagna noodle on your work surface. Spread either with a knife or the back of a spoon about 1 to 1/2 Tablespoons of the pesto along the entire noodle. Add about 2 Tablespoons (or so) of the cheese mixture to the end of the noodle nearest you, add about 1 1/2 Tablespoons of the sausage, and roll up, tucking in any filling that falls out of the sides as you go. Place the roll upright in the prepared pan. Continue until you have used all of your fillings.

Once the pan is full, pour the remaining sauce over the top, spreading with a spoon. Sprinkle with a little more of the mozzarella style cheese and the parmesan style cheese. Oil a piece of aluminum foil and cover.

Bake in a 400 degree oven for about 30 minutes covered, remove foil, and bake for 10 more minutes.

Kalamata Olive & Garlic Loaf

With this recipe, I made two small plain loaves and 1 medium olive and garlic loaf. I simply separated the dough and took out the plain loaves first, then added the ingredients for the olive and garlic loaf.

1 Box Gluten Free Pantry French Bread Mix (make using directions on back of box)

Kalamata Olives, about 15 sliced in half lengthwise

Garlic Cloves, about 8 sliced in half lengthwise

About 1 1/2 Tablespoons Dried Oregano

1 Egg for Brushing

I wasn’t in the mood to run to the basement to fetch my french bread pan, so I simply lined a baking sheet with parchment paper. It works just fine, but the loaves spread out a bit.

Depending on how you want to separate the dough, do that part first, leaving the amount of dough that you want to use for the olive and garlic loaf in the mixer. Then, add the olives, garlic, and oregano and mix until combined.

Dollop and spread it on the baking sheet or in the french bread pan, brush with whisked egg, and cover with oiled plastic. Allow to rise for about 40 minutes in a warm place

Bake for about 30 minutes (I use convection). You may need to cover lightly with foil if it begins to brown too quickly.

Bird’s Nest

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I thought it was a good idea to eat something somewhat “healthy” for dinner last night after indulging in fried chicken livers three meals in a row…

This is an incredibly simple and gorgeous meal.

It looked so pretty I hated to poke my fork into it…

But that didn’t last long.

Bird’s Nest

Gluten Free Spinach Pasta (I use Tinkyada)

Vegan Walnut Pesto

Organic Red Chard, sautéed with organic olive oil

Squeeze of Lemon

Organic Egg (s), over easy

Kosher Salt

Freshly Ground Pepper

Saute the chard in olive oil until wilted, squeeze about a Tablespoon of lemon over it, and set aside. Take the finished pasta and place it in a saute pan over medium high heat and toss with the pesto. I used about 1 1/2 Tablespoons for one serving.

Arrange the pasta on the plate in a “nest”. Top with the wilted chard. Top with an egg, over easy, and finish with kosher salt and freshly ground pepper.

Spinach Pasta With Grilled Veggies, Chicken Thighs, and Walnut Pesto

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Typically if I’m on my own for dinner I eat leftovers or toast, or cereal, or sometimes just dessert. However, all day today I was thinking about pasta and that Vegan Walnut Pesto I made a few days ago.  The day that I made it I didn’t have a chance to use it so I stuck it in the freezer. This is an incredibly simple meal that is absolutely packed with flavor. A perfect meal for two, but if you’re on your own, you’ll have enough for dinner tonight and leftovers for lunch tomorrow. Enjoy!

Spinach Pasta With Grilled Veggies, Chicken Thighs, and Walnut Pesto

Tinkyada Spinach Brown Rice Pasta

3 Chicken Thighs

1/2 Red Bell Pepper

1/2 Orange Bell Pepper

1/2 Summer Squash

1/2 Tablespoon Vegan Walnut Pesto

About 3 Tablespoons Gluten Free Barbecue Sauce

About 1 teaspoon Chopped Garlic

About 1 Tablespoon Rice Vinegar

Olive Oil

Garlic Powder

Dried Oregano

Sea Salt

Combine the BBQ sauce, chopped garlic, and vinegar in a small bowl. Add the chicken thighs (rinsed and dried) and toss. Set aside. Cook the pasta (reserve about 1/4 cup pasta water), rinse, and set aside. (Some people are completely against rinsing their pasta, however, with gluten-free pasta, I have found that if it’s rinsed right after draining it doesn’t stick). In a medium bowl, add the peppers, sliced in half, and the summer squash, sliced but not too thin. Drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle with a generous amount of garlic powder, oregano, and sea salt. Toss and set aside.

Heat the grill to medium to medium high and grill the chicken until it has about 7 minutes to go. Add the vegetables and grill everything until done.

Next, slice the chicken and vegetables. Place the pasta in a large bowl and add the pesto, vegetables, and chicken. Heat the reserved pasta water in the microwave, add about 1/2 to the mixture and toss. You may have to add more pasta water as you toss depending on the consistency of the pesto and how it disperses throughout the pasta, veggies, and chicken.

Italian Pasta Bake

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I had a rather stressful and somewhat traumatizing trip to Pier 1 yesterday afternoon. I was in a rush and ran in for chopsticks, which they didn’t end up having, for the noodle soup I was cooking for dinner. Not surprisingly, I ended up coming out with several other items. Pillows, some greenery, and some really cool, over sized ramekins. Cool because they are just the right size for a personal serving of all kinds of good things. They are 5 inches wide and 2 1/2 inches deep. Tonight I did the pasta in them and next week I think I’ll focus on personal sized chicken pot pies.

The stressful and somewhat embarrassing part…well, I broke two things while I was in there…on two separate sides of the store! EEK! The greenery I had picked out had very long stems and when I bent down to pull another one out of the pile I knocked a small vase off of a shelf. You know when those types of things happen it all goes in slow motion? Well the vase bounced on the tile floor and I thought I was out of the woods, but on the second bounce it shattered all over the place. They of course, said it was no big deal and cleaned it up right away while I apologized profusely. The people standing next to me made a big deal out of it by saying, “Oh my gosh, that almost hit us!” Honestly? It was a three-inch vase lady, give me a break. Then, if you can even believe my bad luck, I had the greenery and three pillows in my arms while I was looking at the super cool over-sized ramekins on the other side of the store, turned around, and sure enough the top of one of the stems whacked a small bowl on another shelf and there it went…straight to the tile floor. It was a complete nightmare. I was stuck in an episode of Seinfeld. Unfortunately, this would not be the first time I have been stuck in an episode of Seinfeld in my lifetime, but, those are stories for another time.

Now, in my defense, those of you who have been to Pier 1 know how cram packed that place is with stuff. Honestly, it’s not that hard to run into something while you’re there…right? I figured pillows, some greenery, and cool ramekins were enough at that point and skedaddled up to the front counter to check out and hope that I didn’t see anyone I knew. My teenage son, luckily, had decided to wait for me in the car and missed the whole circus.

Well, such is life. I may be able to cook, but it’s obvious I’m not very graceful. The pillows don’t look as good on our couches as I thought they would, I bought the greenery to match the pillows, so I guess those will have to go back when I feel they’ll no longer recognize me as “the crazy lady who kept breaking things”. The positive part? We get to have an Italian Pasta Bake in those really cool ramekins tonight.

*This recipe will fill 1 9 1/2 x 11 baking dish or 6 five-inch ramekins.

Gluten-Free & Dairy-Free Italian Pasta Bake

1 lb. Lean Ground Hamburger

1 lb. Gluten & Dairy-Free Ground Italian Sausage

1 Cup Total, Chopped Fresh Basil & Oregano

1/2 Sweet Yellow Onion, chopped

1 Cup Spinach, packed

About 10 Cremini Mushrooms, sliced

1 Whole Jalapeno, diced with seeds

2 Tbsp. Garlic, smashed & chopped

1 Cup Good Red Wine

2 Jars of Newman’s Pasta Sauce ( I used marinara, and roasted garlic)

About 1 1/2 tsp. Sea Salt

About 1/4 Cup Dairy-Free Parmesan

About 1 Cup Dairy-Free Mozzarella

1 1/2 Pkgs. Tinkyada Spiral Gluten-Free Pasta

Preheat oven to 350°

Drizzle a small amount of olive oil in a large skillet. Brown sausage and hamburger. Add the garlic and chopped jalapeno. Saute for about 3 minutes. Transfer mixture to plate or bowl and set aside.

Leaving the drippings in the skillet, add the onions and mushrooms and saute until they start to carmelize.

Once the onions and mushrooms have browned a little bit, add the herbs and spinach. Toss until combined and then add the red wine to de-glaze the pan. Simmer until spinach and herbs are wilted.

Add the pasta sauces, bring to a boil, and simmer for 20 minutes. Boil pasta for 13 minutes, rinse with cold water when done and set aside.

Pour the rinsed pasta back into the pasta pot and toss with the sauce.

Sprinkle with the dairy-free Parmesan and mix carefully. Fill ramekins or baking dish of your choice, sprinkle with more dairy-free parmesan, and top with dairy-free mozzarella.

Place ramekins on a parchment covered baking sheet and bake for 30 minutes.

Lazy Tuesday Pasta

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We’re just coming off of a four-day weekend and although they are always a welcomed relief from our hectic schedules, the day after when things have to get back to normal seems to draggg by. Sort of like our bodies and minds are putting the brakes on and yelling, “No,I’m not ready to get back into the regular swing of things just yet!”  My whole day has been like that. Plus, it’s cold outside and I walked the dogs 4 miles in a windy snowstorm which quite frankly, sucked the life right out of me.

I spent the remainder of the day forcing myself to clean house and then sat on the couch and consumed an entire Big Hunk (yes, they are dairy-free & gluten-free) while reading my new book, “The Proper Care and Maintenance of Friendship” by Lisa Verge Higgins.

Now it’s coming around to dinner time and I am just as lazy as I was earlier today. Rather than scrambling eggs or making sandwiches, also very easy for a day like this, I believe that lazy, cold days are perfect for pasta. If I’m lucky, I’ll even be able to eat it without looking and continue to read my book.

Lazy Tuesday Pasta

About 20 minutes start to finish. Feeds 2 people.

About 1/2 Package Tinkyada Spinach Spaghetti Style Pasta

2 Tbsp. of Garlic Olive oil, plus more for drizzling

1/2 Sweet Onion, sliced thinly

1/2 Large Red Bell, sliced thinly

3 Sun Dried Tomato Halves, chopped, about 2 Tbsp.

1 Tbsp. Fresh Garlic, chopped or 1 1/2 Tbsp. organic chopped garlic in the jar (love it!)

1 1/2 Tbsp. Fresh Basil, chopped

1 1/2 Tbsp. Fresh Oregano, chopped

(I also added 1/2 of a grilled chicken breast because I had it left over in the fridge.)

1 or 2 Grinds of Sea Salt

A Few Drizzles of Garlic Olive Oil & Balsamic Vinegar

Fresh Parsley to Finish

Fill a medium pot with water and about 2 tsp. Sea Salt. Bring to a boil. While you’re waiting for the water to boil, slice and chop vegetables, herbs, and garlic. Once the water begins to boil, add pasta and cook for 15 minutes (I always follow the package directions for gluten-free pasta.)  Drain and rinse, set aside until vegetables are done. It won’t take long, the pasta was still hot when I plated everything.

While the pasta is cooking, pour 2 Tbsp. of Garlic Olive Oil in a large skillet and heat on medium to medium  high. Add onions and peppers and saute until onions are almost translucent. Add sun-dried tomatoes, garlic, basil, oregano, and chicken breast. Continue sautéing until herbs have wilted and tomatoes and chicken are heated through. Season with 1 or 2 grinds of sea salt and plate. Once plated, drizzle lightly with garlic olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

Gluten Free Pasta

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Tinkyada Spaghetti Style, Fettucini Style, and Spinach Spaghetti Style Pasta

I’ve tried several different types of gluten free pasta and so far the Tinkyada brand is the best. The texture is wonderful, there’s no after taste and most of their pastas are simply made with brown rice, rice bran, and water. Good for you too. Their pasta comes in all different shapes and sizes to fit every one of your pasta needs…even lasagna noodles. I’ve used Tinkyada’s pastas for numerous different recipes and I find that if I follow the cooking directions on the package and use plenty of water, I get a perfect al dente pasta every single time.

Steak & Shrimp Pasta with Roasted Asparagus

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There are weeks when I have a menu planned that I’m excited about for every single night and then…there are weeks like this one. Today was one of those chilly, lazy, days where I didn’t even want to face going outside let alone going to the grocery store, again. Not knowing exactly what I would find in the freezer, I set out to see if I could come up with something edible for dinner. Way in the back I found one steak (One? There’s three of us, why would I only have one steak?) and a bag of frozen shrimp. Searching through the fridge I came up with a few veggies, grabbed some pasta from the pantry, and this is what I came up with. No going out in the cold, no schlepping through the grocery store. More time for me to work my way through the plate of sugar cookies on my counter and enjoy my new book…

Ingredients

1 – 16 0z. Ribeye Steak

1 Bag Medium Uncooked Shrimp (about 50 count)

About 10 – 12 oz. Tinkyada Brown Rice Pasta, spaghetti style

2 Bunches of Asparagus

Olive Oil

4 Cloves of Garlic, chopped

4 Cloves of Garlic, chopped for asparagus

1/2 Sprig of Rosemary, leaves removed, chopped

1 Medium Sweet Onion, cut in half and sliced

1 Tsp. Thyme Leaves, heaping, chopped

1/2 Red Bell Pepper, sliced

1 Cup Spinach Leaves, roughly chopped

About 3/4 cup Semi-Dry White Wine

About 2 Generous Tbsp. of Butter (I used dairy free)

Steak Seasoning

Sea Salt & Pepper

Peel shrimp removing tails and rinse. Set aside.

Season the steak with a bit of olive oil, sea salt & pepper, and steak seasoning. I used Chicago Chop and Steak Seasoning. Set aside. Pre-heat grill.

Slice the onion and pepper, chop garlic and herbs, and rough chop the spinach. Set aside. Place steak on grill and cook to your liking. I cooked mine medium-rare, probably more on the rare side. You don’t want it too done because you’ll add it to the hot shrimp mixture later and it will cook a bit. Once it’s off the grill set it aside to rest.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and prepare the asparagus by trimming the ends. Drizzle with olive oil and about 2 Tbsp. of chopped garlic. Sprinkle about 1/2 Tbsp. of sea salt and about 7 grinds of pepper. Roast for 20-25 minutes at 400 degrees. While the asparagus is roasting, thinly slice the steak and set aside.

Drizzle olive oil in a skillet and saute onions and garlic on medium to medium-high heat until lightly golden. During this process, boil your pasta water. Cook pasta according to package directions (15-16 minutes) and drain.

Once the onion and garlic are a light golden color, add the red bell pepper and cook for 5 more minutes. Add shrimp, spinach, herbs, and season with about 1/2 tsp. sea salt. Saute until shrimp are almost cooked through.  Slide mixture to the side and add butter, scraping the bottom of the pan.

Next, add about 3/4 cup wine, de-glazing on medium-high until shrimp is cooked through. Remove from heat and add steak, tossing carefully.

Taste, season a bit more if necessary and serve over pasta with the asparagus on the side.