February 28, 2015
Back in the relaxing days of only having one small child, I used to watch a lot of daytime TV. My son would only nap for long stretches when he was laying on me…if I tried to lay him down in his own bed, on our bed, or on the couch, he would wake up within 10 minutes. And then would be crabby for the rest of the day. Luckily he was my first born, and got lots of snuggles on the couch, every day, for the first 2.5 years of his life. It got frustrating: dirty dishes would sit in the sink, phone calls would go unanswered, laundry would sit in the dryer, dinner would go un-prepped. I had no smartphone, so no emails, Facebook, or Words with Friends. So, I watched A LOT of television. And after I had marathoned Doctor Who, Firefly and Veronica Mars on Netflix (thank goodness we had Netflix), I turned to daytime TV. And a whole bunch of Food Network. And I’m actually glad for it, because I learned a bunch of really great cooking tips from Ina, and quick meal ideas from Rachel and Giada. This was one of them, and I make it on a pretty regular basis. I remember it was on an episode when Giada was cooking with a child, so it’s meant to be a good recipe for a kid to help with. Which is true, my son has helped me make it many times. It can be prepared in about 30 minutes. A great weeknight meal!
Italian Chicken Casserole
This makes enough for 4 people, in an 8×8″ glass baking dish. I like to double the recipe and bake in a 13×9″ dish so we have plenty of leftovers.
1 cup pastina pasta (or any small pasta)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup cubed chicken breast (1-inch cubes)
1/2 cup diced onion (about 1/2 a small onion)
1 clove garlic, minced
1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes with juice
1 cup shredded mozzarella
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup bread crumbs
1/4 cup grated Parmesan
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Bring a medium pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until just tender, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes. Drain pasta into a large mixing bowl.
Meanwhile, put the olive oil in a medium saute pan over medium heat. Add the chicken and cook for 3 minutes. Add the onions and garlic, stirring to combine, and cook until the onions are soft and the chicken is cooked through, about 5 minutes more.Put the chicken mixture into the bowl with the cooked pasta. Add the canned tomatoes, mozzarella cheese, parsley, salt, and pepper. Stir to combine. Place the mixture in a buttered 8 by 8 by 2-inch baking dish. In a small bowl mix together the bread crumbs and the Parmesan cheese. Sprinkle over the top of the pasta mixture. Dot the top with small bits of butter. Bake until the top is golden brown, about 30 minutes.
Note: This can also be made with already cooked chicken. Just saute the onion and garlic on their own, and add the chicken to the bowl with everything and toss.
February 5, 2015
Aunt Suzy says . . .
It’s early February and that means cold where we live – perfect weather for soup. This week, I felt I might be coming down with a cold, so I thought a soup with ginger in it would really hit the spot. I recently filed away this recipe from Bon Appetit, so when I searched for something to make it was at the top of the pile. Randy and I both agreed that we would make this again. Once the ingredients were assembled, it came together in about 45 minutes. Who can ask for more on a cold weeknight?!
Ginger-Spiced Chicken Soup
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, thinly sliced in half-moons
1/2 to 1 cup sliced shiitake mushrooms
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons peeled fresh ginger, finely chopped
2 quarts chicken stock or broth
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, or to taste
Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
2 cups shredded cooked chicken
2 cups baby spinach
2 scallions, thinly sliced
Cooked small pasta, optional
Lime wedges (for serving)
September 10, 2014
I don’t know why it took me so long to make salsa. I make so many other things from scratch, like salad dressing, hummus, granola, sometimes peanut or almond butter…why wouldn’t I make my own salsa, too? So this summer I’ve been making salsa as often as I make hummus, like, weekly! It’s so much better than store bought. I’m posting this recipe because it’s the easiest, quickest, and most fresh tasting for all your garden tomatoes you’re harvesting (and I’m pining after!).
The original recipe called for grilling the tomatoes, but I tried that once and found that it just dried them out too much, and the salsa ended up really thick. If you have exceptionally juicy romas, it might work better, and then you would get that nice fire-roasted charcoal flavor, but I recommend sticking to the oven method if not. I got the idea of broiling them in the oven from a Martha Stewart chili recipe that we also love. The oven method still chars them, and really brings out the flavor of the tomato (we also love oven roasted tomatoes around here…if you haven’t tried that yet, I highly recommend it).
Roasted Tomato Salsa
This makes a pretty small batch…just a little more than a jar of salsa that you would buy at the store.
4 Roma tomatoes, sliced in half
1-2 jalapenos, sliced in half and seeded (*note on spiciness below)
1/4 red onion
1/4-1/2 cup chopped cilantro
juice from 1/2 lime
salt and pepper
Preheat your broiler on high, and place the rack 3″ from the heat source. Line a large baking sheet with foil and spray with cooking spray. Place vegetables on sheet and broil for about 5 minutes, until they start to char. Take jalapeno and onion off and place in a food processor or blender. Turn tomatoes over, and broil for another few minutes until they start to char on the other side. Remove from oven, take skins off of tomatoes, and place in the food processor or blender. Pulse a couple times, then add cilantro, lime, salt and pepper. I add about 1/4 tsp salt, and then pulse a few times until it’s the desired consistency. Pour into a bowl, taste, and stir in more salt and pepper if needed. Store in an airtight container for up to a week, or freeze.
*Note on spicy. We like our salsa really spicy, and our son likes it kind of spicy, and our daughter likes it mild. Ha. So it all depends on the jalapeno seeds. If you don’t take out any seeds, you’re gonna have pretty spicy salsa. If it’s a good jalapeno, it’s gonna be really spicy. For medium spicy, I take out all but a tiny bit of the seeds. For mild salsa, I take out every trace of seeds from the jalapeno.
September 5, 2014
Aunt Suzy says . . .
I learned how to make this Creole okra stew from friend Cliff Domio many years ago . . . let’s just say decades! But I haven’t made it in several years, and I’m not sure why it fell off my rotation. Maybe the difficulty finding okra here in the upper Midwest of the U.S. When I first moved here in the 90’s I almost never saw it at the farmer’s markets or grocery stores. Or maybe it was because not many people here were familiar with okra or avoided it because of its slimy reputation. So I had sort of forgotten about this dish.
All of a sudden this year it seems that many of the farmers at the market have oodles of okra, especially the Hmong. (They are a great study in adapting to market demands and I wonder if the recent immigration from countries where okra is a staple has prompted them to grow it.) On a recent trip to the big farmers’ market downtown, I thought the okra looked really good so I decided to revisit a favorite. Serve this over rice for a satisfying meal. You might also consider a side of cornbread or a baguette to round things out.
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, small dice
1 medium green pepper small dice
3-5 garlic cloves, minced (to taste)
1-2 links smoked sausage, sliced 1/4-inch rounds (I like andouille)
3-4 cups okra, cut in 3/4-inch pieces
4-5 cups diced fresh tomatoes, seeded and chopped
1 small can tomato sauce, optional (I rarely use)
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper, or to taste
10-12 medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 cup dry rice, cooked according to directions (we used brown)
Saute the onion and green pepper in olive oil on medium high heat, stirring frequently, about 5 minutes or so. Add the garlic and the smoked sausage and saute for another minute or two. Add the okra and saute, stirring, for about 5 minutes. Note that if the heat is maintained, it won’t get slimy. Add the tomatoes, tomato sauce, if using, and crushed red pepper and stir to combine.
Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer 45 min or so till okra is done but not massacred.
Add the shrimp and simmer for another 5-8 minutes till shrimp is just cooked through. Serve over rice – we used brown rice. Enjoy!
September 1, 2014
Aunt Suzy says . . .
This weekend I signed up to bring dessert to a get-together with friends. I wanted to make peach pie, but couldn’t find ripe peaches. I remembered it’s the height of blueberry season and one of our farmers grows “everbearing” strawberries, so both were in the market at the same time. I searched the web for some ideas and came across an unusual approach I’d never tried – cooking some of the fruit into a compote and serving the shortcakes with a combination of cooked and fresh fruit. I had some trepidation about this, but thought what the heck! It was declared delicious by all, both with and without whipped cream! (I think this could be made with just blueberries, just strawberries, or a combo of blueberries and peaches as well.)
We recommend one of two recipes for the shortcake base. One uses butter and cream and one is the Joy of Cooking’s classic cream scones which I like to use when in a hurry – only 4 ingredients, plus heavy cream! Or use your favorite shortcake, biscuit or pound cake.
6 cups total fruit, mixed blueberries and strawberries
4 tablespoons total sugar
juice of 1/2 lime
Make the compote: Place 4 cups fruit (I used 2 cups blueberries and 2 cups strawberries, sliced in half) in a medium saucepan with 3 tablespoons of sugar and the lime juice. Stirring constantly, bring to a low bubble over medium heat, then simmer for 3-4 minutes until fruit is a little soft and juice is slightly thickened. Take off the heat, turn into a bowl and set aside to cool.
Prepare the fresh fruit: Place 2 cups fruit (I used 1 cup each blueberries and sliced strawberries) in a bowl with 1 tablespoon sugar. Let sit at least 30 minutes to macerate.
Make whipped cream by beating 3/4 cup heavy cream with a mixer on high speed. Just before it’s completely whipped (soft peaks) add 1 tablespoon sugar and whip to moderately stiff peaks. Don’t forget you’re not making butter! Or buy your favorite pre-made whipped cream if you’d like. We won’t tell :-).
Split the shortcakes horizontally. Spoon compote on top of the bottom, top with fresh fruit and then with whipped cream. Place top half of the shortcake on to of the prepared shortcake at an angle. I’m looking at our photo – we were in too big of a hurry to eat this to arrange it all per instructions!
September 1, 2014
Aunt Suzy says . . .
I’ve been making these sautés for a while now, using veggies that are in abundance this time of year. The source of my idea was this sweet corn sauté from a couple of years ago. I thought it would be delicious with other vegetables and maybe some pasta. And maybe a little Parmesan . . . what’s not to like when Parmesan cheese is part of the equation?!! This is ultra flexible and the “3-Ways” reference is that it can be served as a side with a couple of variations and as a vegetarian main dish with small pasta shapes added. I made it last night in about 45 minutes, including chopping and cooking the pasta. Pretty fast, I would say!
When Aunt Suzy mentioned a new easy pasta dish for dinner, I was all for it! I love the sweet corn saute dish that she mentioned, and make it pretty often in the summer. I loved the idea of adding pasta to it, along with the kale, zucchini and tomatoes. And it’s beautiful when you add the tomatoes! We were all oohing and aaahing about it while I was taking photos. I will definitely be making this again before summer is over. It’s delicious with the pasta and Parmesan!
Late Summer Veggie Saute
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
1 medium yellow onion, cut in thick slices then in quarter rounds
1 tablespoon fresh thyme, or 1 teaspoon dried
2 tablespoons fresh oregano, chopped or 1 1/2 teaspoons dried
4-5 small garlic cloves, or to taste
2-3 ears of sweet corn, husked and kernels cut from the cobs
1 bunch Lacinato (Tuscan) kale, tough stems removed and cut in 1/4-inch slices cross-wise
1 zucchini, small dice (optional)
10-12 large cherry or grape tomatoes, cut in half lengthwise
1/2 pound pasta, small shapes of your choice, regular or whole wheat, cooked al dente, 1/4 cup pasta water reserved
1/4 cup basil leaves, cut in chiffonade
Grated Parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper to taste
Prepare all veggies before starting cooking because there is no time to chop once the cooking is started! Place a large saute pan over medium heat and add the olive oil. Once it is shimmering, add the butter. When butter is melted and bubbling, add the onions and turn up heat slightly. Cook the onions for about 5 minutes till they become translucent. Add the thyme, oregano and garlic and stir/cook for about a minute. Add the sweet corn and cook, stirring for 2 minutes. Add the kale ( and optional zucchini if using) and cook stirring for about 3 minutes. Put a lid on the pan and cook another 2-3 minutes. You can serve this as a side dish – way #1.
However, if you want to keep going, add the tomatoes. Cook for 2-3 minutes stirring then place a lid on the pan and cook another minute or two. This is way #2 – an awesome side dish as well! Maybe add the fresh basil or serve as is. To make the main dish with pasta, add the pasta to the veggies with a little of the reserved water. Stir to combine completely and add the fresh basil. Once served pass the Parmesan!