Sunday, September 10, 2017

My Favorite Go-To Pasta Dish

My garden has not been great this year: too much rain and too many pests. Still, it is the high holy season when my all efforts have come to fruition, and I am trying to use up everything I harvest in delicious and creative ways. So today, I made a seafood stir-fry fettuccine dish with onions, peppers, garlic, zucchini, sweet corn, spinach, and lots of fresh herbs. I've been making slightly different versions of this dish for nearly 30 years. It's quick, it's easy, it's good for you, and it's soooooooooooo YUMMY!

Seafood Stir-Fry Fettucine with Seasonal Vegetables and Fresh Herbs

1/4 cup olive oil
4 tablespoons butter
1/2 large onion, diced
1 hot pepper, seeded and diced (or use a sweet pepper for a mild dish)
1 small zucchini, cored and sliced*
4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1/4 cup white wine
1 to 1 1/2 lbs. surimi "krab" (thawed)
2 ears of corn, steamed, and cut from the cob**
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon seasoned salt (your favorite blend)
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2 to 3 cups fresh spinach, chopped
1/4 cup each fresh chives, parsley, and lemon basil, chopped
1 lb. fettucine, cooked until al dente, drained and pasta water reserved (or pasta of choice)
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

In a 3 1/2 quart Dutch oven, heat olive oil and butter over medium heat. Add the onion, hot pepper, zucchini, and garlic and saute for a few minutes until the onion is translucent. Deglaze the pan with white wine. Add the surimi and corn and cook for a few minutes until the seafood has softened. Season mixture with red wine vinegar, sugar, seasoned salt, and black pepper. Add the fresh herbs, the hot pasta, about 1/2 cup of reserved pasta water, and the Parmesan, and fold everything together gently to combine.

*I had zucchini and leftover corn to use this time, but I often used sliced mushrooms in this dish.
**I happened to have leftover cooked corn on the cob, but of course, you can cut the kernels off of raw corn, and then cook the corn with the other veggies at the beginning of this recipe.

Tuesday, September 05, 2017

Fall-in' Back into the Soup Routine

Despite my willing it not to be true, summer is over, and we're back to school. Even though it's only the beginning of the second week, I'm already stressed and exhausted! Since I figure my colleagues might be feeling the same way, I decided to make the first communal pot of soup of the semester to bring in and share at lunchtime. My most recent concoction was born of the question, why do people never put meatballs in chili? It was also born out of my desire to incorporate some seasonal vegetables such as local farm stand corn and zucchini and peppers from my garden. Lastly, it was born out of my need to make something fast and easy during the work week in my magic pot! I think it turned out delicious, and the crock pot emptied out pretty quickly at work today. :-)

Instant Pot Meatball Chili Mac Soup

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 sweet pepper (or I use an Anaheim-type chili), seeded and chopped
4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1 medium zucchini, cored and shredded
1 15 oz. can diced tomatoes
1 8 oz. can tomato sauce
1 lb. (smallish) frozen meatballs
2 cups chicken broth
1 cup dried elbow macaroni
1 envelope taco seasoning
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2 ears sweet corn, shucked and kernels cut from the cob
1 can chili beans in sauce

Add the olive oil to the pot on high saute. Cook the onion, pepper, garlic, and zucchini for a few minutes until the veggies are tender. Then add the tomatoes, sauce, meatballs, chicken broth, macaroni, and seasonings to the pot. Cook on manual for five minutes and do a quick release. Stir in the corn kernels and the chili beans. Taste to correct seasonings if necessary, and serve garnished with shredded cheese and/or sour cream on top.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017


I planted four kinds of basil this year--lemon, dark opal, lettuce leaf, and spicy globe--and I currently have it coming out of my ears! Obviously, I love fresh basil as much or more as the next guy, but let's face it: It's powerful juju! However, I learned a secret many years to taming that punch from the basil when making pesto, and that's to use an equal part of fresh spinach in the mix. Then when you combine the finished pesto with pasta, add a little heavy cream to mellow it out even more. Tonight's pesto featured lemon basil from my garden, Romano cheese, and macadamia nuts, and I topped the pasta with balsamic-marinated and grilled chicken.

Here's the pesto I buzzed up in the food processor tonight then added to cooked spaghetti rigate along with a few tablespoons of heavy cream:

2 cups fresh spinach
2 cups lemon basil
3/4 cup olive oil
1/2 cup Romano (or Parmesan) cheese
1/2 cup macadamia nut pieces
1 head garlic, cloves peeled (or use only 4 cloves like a normal person)
juice of 2 lemons
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Another Way to Deal with Your Garden Zucchini (You're Welcome)

    I picked my first--and maybe only--zucchini of the season the other day (I'm battling pests this year that are eating the flowers before they fruit). I really should've picked it earlier, because it was pretty big! Since then, I had been trying to decide what to do with it, and a friend mentioned that he liked it with stewed tomatoes, which I had actually never tried before. So I whipped this up in my magic pot--easy and delish! (And so good for you!)
    P.S. Take a stick blender to this, and it would have made a lovely sauce for pasta.
    P.P.S.Next time I make this, I am going to add an 8 oz. package of sliced mushrooms to the initial veggie sauté. I think that would be yummy!
    P.P.S. A friend suggested that mixing this with rice would make a nice vegetarian main dish. I concur!
Instant Pot Zucchini and Stewed Tomatoes

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 large stalks celery, diced
1 large sweet onion, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup chopped bell pepper (I used an Italian frying pepper for some kick!)
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 large or 2 smaller zucchini, unpeeled, cored, and cubed
1 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes
1 can (8 ounces) tomato sauce
1 teaspoon dried Italian herbs
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, or to taste
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or to taste

To the IP on high saute, add the olive oil, celery, onion, sweet or hot pepper, and garlic and saute until the onion is translucent. Then add the zucchini, diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, and Italian herbs. Pressure cook on manual for one minute. Let release naturally--no peeking! Stir in the balsamic vinegar, sugar, salt, and pepper, and serve.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

A Final Feast for Orphan Black

Tonight was our final Orphan Black gathering. I'm so sad it's over, but it ended in a very satisfying way. As for our finale feast with my seestras, I was originally planning on doing something fabulously thematic. But I couldn't go to the grocery store to get stuff yesterday because my car died. (Boo hiss.) So I had to make do with what I had on hand. It was like my own episode of Chopped!

First, I looked through the freezer, and I found a spiral ham and a turkey. (LOL! Of course I did.) Now, I couldn't thaw a turkey by today, but I could make the ham (glazed with Dijon mustard and brown sugar). And I made fresh bruschetta for an appetizer (and bought crostini to serve it on from Hannaford's bakery). For sides, I had some of my favorite broccoli salad leftover from a potluck yesterday (based on a friend's mom's recipe), and I also unearthed a package of frozen hash browns, so I made what the Mormons call Funeral Potatoes. Funeral potatoes for the ending of my beloved Orphan Black seemed quite fitting, and all in all, I think I cobbled together an excellent feast!

The ham was about nine pounds and pre-cooked, of course. I pitched the glaze packet that comes with (I always do--I don't usually care for the spices they use), then all I did was slather the ham with Dijon mustard, coated it with brown sugar, wrapped it in foil, and heated it at 325 degrees for about an hour and a half (10-12 minutes per pound). It was sweet, succulent, and delicious!

Funeral Potatoes
(Source: adapted from Cooking Channel)

4 tablespoons butter, divided
1 medium onion, finely diced
4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1 30-ounce bag frozen shredded hash brown potatoes, lightly thawed (I used cubed "southern-style" hash browns)
1 10.5-ounce can condensed cream of chicken soup
1 cup sour cream
1/4 cup grated Parmesan
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt (I used seasoned salt)
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 cups shredded sharp yellow cheddar (I used 1 cup each Monterey Jack and cheddar, plus I added about 4 oz. of goat cheese/chevre)
1 1/2 cups lightly crushed corn flake cereal (I omitted the topping)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Heat two tablespoons butter over medium heat in a skillet. Add the diced onion and cook, stirring, until soft and translucent, about six minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook until fragrant and softened, an additional two minutes. 

In a bowl, toss together the cooked onions and garlic, hash brown potatoes, condensed soup, sour cream, Parmesan, salt, pepper and 1 1/2 cups cheddar. Spread the mixture in a sprayed 9-by-13 inch casserole dish. Melt the remaining two tablespoons butter. Top the casserole with the remaining 1/2 cup cheese, corn flake cereal and melted butter. 

Bake in the oven until it bubbles around the sides, about one hour.

Party-Sized Broccoli Salad
(Source: adapted from Ivel Kelly)

2 bunches/heads broccoli, cut into florets
1 cup chopped walnuts
1 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup slivered red onion
8-10 slices cooked bacon, chopped

Cole Slaw Dressing*:
1 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon celery seed
1/2 teaspoon pepper, or to taste
1 teaspoon granulated garlic, optional
squirt of sriracha, optional

Combine the first set of ingredients, then mix the dressing. Stir everything together and refrigerate for about an hour before serving.

*I usually make about half again as much of the dressing, depending on how big my broccoli bunches are.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Product Recommendations!

Product Recommendation #1:
I recently watched Bobby Flay, very atypically, get beaten trying to make gnudi, which is a little like a ravioli filling without the pasta around it, or like very light gnocchi. This left me with a profound hankering for gnocchi, and I remembered that I had a package of sweet potato gnocchi from Trader Joe's in the freezer. So I sautéed them in brown butter, chopped onion, and slivers of fresh sage from my garden, and finished the dish with salt and pepper and shredded Parmesan. And honestly, it was one of the best things I've ever had! Put this product on your TJ's shopping list immediately! SO YUMMY!!

Product Recommendation #2:
Cyd was always the grill master--the only cooking I could get her to do most times. But a friend recently commented that I don't seem to grill out much, and that made me stop and think: True enough, I probably haven't grilled out since Cyd passed away. So by the hardest, I managed to fire up my rusty old grill that only lights up on one side, and cooked some jerk pork using Walkerswood Jerk Seasoning that I bought on Amazon. I used country-style pork ribs coated liberally with the seasoning and refrigerated overnight. I must say, I usually make my own jerk marinade, but this stuff was DELICIOUS, without all the cutting and chopping! But I'm sure glad I bought the MILD Walkerswood jerk rub. YIKES! 🔥🔥🔥

Friday, August 11, 2017

Impatiently Awaiting the September Tomato

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the world's tiniest Caprese salad! I made it with two large (homegrown) cherry tomatoes, four small slices of fresh mozzarella, one ginormous piece of lettuce leaf basil from my garden, EVOO, herbed seasoned salt, and some of my beloved Saratoga Olive Oil's Neapolitan Herb Balsamic Vinegar. SO DELISH, and small and so quickly consumed. *sigh* I might have to break down and BUY some local tomatoes to tide me over until mine are ready to harvest.