Main Course Recipes, Pasta Recipes, Sauces

Italian Sausage Red Sauce with Zoodles or Noodles

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, not much makes me happier than a pot of red sauce simmering on the stove. I like to make a big batch of this sauce over the weekend and freeze it in 2-4 cup increments.  Then on a busy weeknight, just defrost in the refrigerator for 8 hours (I usually do this during the day while at work) and reheat on the stove for 15 minutes. You can also defrost this sauce quickly in a large bowl with warm water for 30ish minutes on the counter.

I like to serve this sauce over pasta, zoodles, spaghetti squash, french bread (with a big dollop of ricotta), on a pizza, in a panini … lots of options.

Last night when I got home from work I realized all I had in the refrigerator was 2 zucchini and a wedge of Parmesan cheese … shoot, zucchini for dinner isn’t going to cut it … either is take-out. Freezer sauce to the rescue! Zoodles for me, spaghetti for the hubs and sauce for both. Phew, crisis averted.

I went to bed happy and full … and grateful for a freezer with Italian sausage red sauce in it.

Italian Sausage Red Sauce2Italian Sausage Red Sauce

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb sweet Italian sausage, removed from casings (pork or chicken)
  • 1 medium red onion, finely chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 6 oz tomato paste
  • 28 oz crushed tomatoes tomatoes
  • 28 oz tomato sauce
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp freshly cracked black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes (more if you like it spicy, or leave out if you do not like spice)
  • 1 tbsp fresh oregano, chopped (alternatively, 2 tsp dried oregano)
  • 1 tbsp fresh Italian parsley, chopped (alternatively, 2 tsp dried parsley)
  • Handful fresh basil, leaves torn into pieces (no alternative, gotta use the fresh stuff)

Directions:

  1. In a large pot, cook Italian sausage over medium-high heat until the fat is rendered and the sausage starts to brown, about 5 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Remove all but 2 tbsp of fat from the pan.
  2. To the fat remaining in the pan, add the onions and garlic and cook until soft, about 5 minutes.
  3. Add tomato paste and cook 1 minute, then add the crushed tomatoes and tomato sauce. Add salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, oregano, parsley, and reserved Italian sausage.
  4. Bring sauce to a boil, then reduce heat to simmer and cook for as long as you can, but for at least 30 minutes.
  5. Remove from heat, adjust seasoning to taste and add fresh basil.
  6. Serve as you please!
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Appetizers, Salads

Watermelon, Feta and Mint Bites

The first official weekend of summer is finally upon us. Take a deep breath and let the beauty of that first sentence sink in … aahhhhh.

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Now, cube watermelon, crumble feta cheese, tear mint leaves, and assemble this lovely and straightforward gem of a summer dish. Wonderful as an appetizer or a salad. If you’re making this into a salad, place all of the ingredients into a bowl and toss together.

These three ingredients blend perfectly. Summer. Easy. Beautiful. Simple. Delicious.

You can’t mess this up … unless you use pre crumbled feta cheese … NEVER use pre crumbled feta. (Emily Always Cooks PSA announcement.)

Ingredients:

  • 1 watermelon, rind discarded and cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 8 oz block feta cheese
  • Fresh mint leaves, torn into small pieces

Directions:

  1. Place watermelon pieces onto a plate or platter.
  2. Sprinkle/top with feta cheese.
  3. Top with fresh mint.

 

 

 

Main Course Recipes

Sheet Pan Greek Lemon Chicken and Potatoes

It’s the first Friday in June. June 2nd, to be exact. And, apparently, today is national “leave work early” day. (True story. You can look it up.)  I’m never one to not honor a national holiday …  or, national day … or, a made up by social media “day”.  Soo … I’m leaving work early to spend the weekend with my family on the shores of Southwest Michigan. Coming for ya Bakken clan.

The above paragraph has little to do with this deliciously simple and flavorful recipe. I just felt the need to divulge … and pay tribute to our “national holiday”.

I love cooking meals on sheet pans. You will too after you follow this recipe.  Healthy, minimal prep/clean up, and the pretty presentation.  A beautiful food painting on a canvas … made of metal.

Greek lemon Chicken and Potatoes

Anyway … the point is … this is delicious!  I know it’s extremely cliché to call perfectly cooked meat “super tender” … but that’s what this chicken is. And nobody ever complained about eating anything that was super tender and perfectly cooked (and Greek). At least, nobody I know.  So, just put everything on the same tray, pop it in the oven, and enjoy deliciousness. What would be easier for us “leave work early” slackers?

Greek Lemon Chicken and Potatoes 2

Ingredients

  • 1 whole chicken, cut into 8 pieces
  • 2 lemons, juiced
  • 10 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 red onion, cut into wedges
  • 2 tbsp dried oregano
  • 3/4 cup olive oil
  • 6 medium Yukon gold potatoes
  • salt and freshly cracked black pepper

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Place chicken skin side up on a large sheet pan. If you do not have a large sheet plan, split onto two smaller sheet pans.
  3. Combine half of the lemon juice (1 lemon), 1/4 cup of olive oil, 1 tbsp dried oregano, and half of the minced garlic (5 cloves) in a small bowl; pour over the chicken pieces. Toss chicken so sauce gets on both sides.
  4. Generously season the chicken with salt and pepper.
  5. Cut the potatoes into quarters (you can peel them or not). Place in a bowl.
  6. To the potatoes, add the remaining olive oil (1/2 cup), oregano (1 tbsp), lemon juice (1 lemon) and minced garlic (5 cloves). Season with salt and pepper and toss until well coated.
  7. Add the potatoes onto the sheet pan with the chicken, including all of the sauce.
  8. Nestle the onion wedges between the chicken and potatoes.
  9. Roast for about an hour and fifteen minutes or until the chicken is cooked through and the potatoes and onions are golden and crispy.
  10. I like to serve this dish with fresh lemon wedges straight off the sheet pan. Easy peasy! Just be sure to scrape up all of the browned bits from the bottom of the sheet pan as you serve – they are the best.
  11. Serve with homemade tzatziki and a fresh green salad.

*You can use less oil in this dish if you are watching calories. However, the oil is what helps with browning the chicken and potatoes.

Main Course Recipes

Spicy Chicken Teriyaki Bowls

Bowls are, as the kids say these days, the new hotness.

I attended my youngest sister’s college graduation this past weekend. While joyfully celebrating, something very real was obvious: My parent’s generation still considers me young, while my sister’s generation certainly considers me the opposite. I was straddling the fence between “oh, you’re still young,” and, “is your old sister going to make it out?” Heck, the truth is I’ve been atop this figurative ‘age fence’ for a while now.

 

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What does any of this have to do with spicy chicken teriyaki bowls, you ask?  Well, I was just attempting to justify the use of the term “new hotness” in that opening sentence.

So, lately I’ve been using my Sunday afternoons to prep meals for the upcoming week. I’ll fire up a few different proteins like chicken, shrimp, salmon and chicken sausages. I’ll cook up some grains (farro, quinoa, rice, couscous).  I’ll roast all the veggies in my crisper drawers. I’ll make a few sauces/condiments (tzatziki, hummus, pico de gallo, pickled onions), and I’ll prep any other veggies to be eaten raw (shred cabbage, clean lettuce, slice bell peppers). Each night that week I’ll whip up a different bowl combo.  A weeknight dinner in 10 minutes. Added bonus, one dish to be cleaned after a busy day. I’ll be sharing a few of my favorite combos soon.

What does all of that weekly prepping have to do with spicy saucy chicken teriyaki bowls, you ask? Well, it doesn’t take much to elevate the weekly prepped ingredients to the next level for a Saturday or Sunday night dinner … just like I did here. These delicious bowls are perfect for the kids, the parents, and those of us on the ‘age fence’ … and they’re comin’ in HOT!

 

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Ingredients:

For the chicken:

  • 2 lbs boneless skinless chicken thighs, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 cup low sodium soy sauce
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tbsp ginger root, grated
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 2 tbsp cornstarch
  • 2 tbsp olive oil

For the veggies:

  • 1 lb broccolini, stem ends trimmed
  • 5 baby bok choy, cut into quarters
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 4 tsp sesame oil
  • 2 tbsp low sodium soy sauce
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tsp red pepper flakes (less if you don’t want it too spicy)
  • 1/4 tsp salt

For finishing:

  • 1 1/2 cups jasmince rice, cooked according to package instructions
  • finely sliced green onion
  • toasted sesame seeds

Directions:

In a mixing bowl, combine soy sauce, granulated sugar, light brown sugar, garlic, ginger, black pepper, and cayenne. Whisk until combined.  Place chicken in a separate bowl and pour over the sauce. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside.

Meanwhile, prep the veggies and pre-heat oven to 400 degrees F. In a small mixing bowl, combine olive oil, sesame oil, low sodium soy sauce, garlic, red pepper flakes and salt; mix well.  Place broccolini and baby bok choy on a large rimmed baking sheet and drizzle with sauce. Be sure to get the sauce into all the small crevices of the baby bok choy. Reserve veggies and place in the oven when you begin reducing the teriyaki sauce below. Don’t worry, I’ll remind you. (See below underlined text.)

In a small bowl, combine corn starch with 2 tbsp water.  Mix well and set aside.

Place 2 tbsp of olive oil in a large pan over medium high heat. Remove chicken pieces from marinade and add to skillet.  (I did this with tongs as to not add too much of the marinade to the pan).  Cook the chicken in two batches as to not overcrowd the pan. Reserve marinade. Cook until chicken is just cooked through, 6 to 8 minutes. Remove chicken from pan and set aside. (At this point add your veggies to the oven and cook for 15-20 minutes at 400 degrees F.)  Add reserved marinade to the pan you cooked the chicken in and bring to a boil over high heat, cook for 10 minutes stirring often. Add cornstarch mixture, reduce heat to a simmer, and stir continuously for an additional 5 minutes until sauce is thickened. (Be sure to keep your eye on the sauce. it can easily burn. Your sauce is done when it can coat the back of a wooden spoon.) Add the chicken back in the sauce, and cook 2-3 additional minutes to heat through.

Assemble bowls – Add a scoop of rice, a heap of teriyaki chicken, residual sauce, and veggies, and finish with green onion and sesame seeds.

Soup and Chili Recipes

Lasagna Soup

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I have quite the love affair with both soup and lasagna. (My husband is fully aware of these ongoing affairs and he’s cool with it.) Even though my lasagna love is strong, I don’t always have the motivation or time to make it. So I improvise. Case in point, lazy ravioli lasagna,  individual spaghetti squash lasagnas, and now this delicious lasagna soup.

One of the main pluses of this dish, other than that ricotta cheese, is that the noodles are cooked on the side. Thus, you can add as much or as little pasta to your bowl as you want. Works for the portion controllers and the carb cravers. Also, with the pasta on the side, soup leftovers are plentiful. You know those soggy noodles in left over soups? Not happening here.

Beautiful and delicious. I love it.

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Ingredients:

  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 2 lbs. mild Italian chicken sausage (pork sausage can also be used)
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (more if you prefer spicy)
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 28oz. can fire roasted diced tomatoes
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 8 cups chicken stock
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped fresh herbs, I used a combo of basil and parsley
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Ricotta Cheese Mixture:

  • 8oz. ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • freshly ground pepper to taste

Toppings:

  • 1lb. fusilli pasta cooked, drained, rinsed, and tossed with 2 teaspoons of olive oil
  • 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped fresh herbs, I used a combo of basil and parsley

Directions:

  1. Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add Italian sausage, breaking up into small pieces with a wooden spoon, and brown until cooked through, about 5 minutes. Add chopped onion and red bell pepper and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add garlic, oregano, and red pepper flakes and cook for 1 additional minute. Add tomato paste and stir well to incorporate and cook for 2 additional minutes.
  2. Add diced tomatoes, bay leaf, and chicken stock. Stir to combine. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes. Stir in the fresh herbs and season to taste with salt and freshly cracked black pepper.
  3. While soup is simmering, cooking the pasta according to package instructions. Drain, rinse, toss with olive oil, and reserve. Also prepare the ricotta cheese topping. In a small bowl, combine the ricotta cheese, Parmesan cheese, salt, and freshly cracked black pepper.
  4. To serve, ladle soup into a large bowl, and add 1/2 -1 cup cooked fusilli, a dollop of the fresh ricotta cheese mixture, a sprinkle of mozzarella and Parmesan, and some fresh herbs.
Breakfast Recipes, Main Course Recipes

Easter Menu Ideas

Celebrate Easter with some of my top recipes for brunch or dinner. Menu suggestions below!

Brunch Menu

Smoked Salmon, Dill, and Goat Cheese Quiche

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Asparagus, Egg and Bacon Salad with Dijon Vinaigrette

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Spring Greens with Grilled Chicken, Strawberries, Avocado, and Feta

Spring Greens with Grilled Chicken, Strawberries, Avocado, and Feta

Zucchini Banana Chocolate Chip Bread

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Dinner Menu

Zucchini Ribbon and Goat Cheese Bruschetta

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Lamb Shanks with Parmesan Polenta and Mushrooms

Lamb Shanks with Parmesan Polenta and Mushrooms

Kale Salad with Breadcrumb Croutons

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Meredith’s Classic Oatmeal Cookies

Meredith's Classic Oatmeal Cookies

Main Course Recipes

Super Simple Shrimp Coconut Curry

While delightfully magical, planning a wedding is extremely time consuming.  I was still cooking up a storm amidst all the past magic, but I didn’t have time to photograph and post my recipes. Yes, I’m using the – “I recently got married excuse” – to justify my year long absence. So, what does this mean for you? It means you’re going to have to suffer through a few wedding pictures. It means I have plenty of tasty dishes tested and ready to publish. It means I’ll never go on a year long hiatus again.

Ryan and I got married at Journeyman Distillery in Southwest Michigan. Our families and talented friends pulled off what was without a doubt the best day of our lives. Truly magical. Pictures below!

Now onto the recipe – this curry is made up of big bold flavors. Onion, ginger and garlic give the dish a sturdy foundation.  Turmeric, coriander, curry powder, and coconut milk give the dish a wonderful depth.  Well balanced and mildly spicy. If you prefer spicier,  just add more cayenne to the shrimp marinade.

I know curry is one of those dishes often outsourced to carryout due to the “curry takes a log time to make properly” myth. Don’t believe that.  No myths or magic involved in this. It’s just simply delicious.

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Ingredients:
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 3 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 lbs extra-large shrimp peeled and deveined
  • 1 tbsp coconut oil (or your preferred oil)
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp fresh ginger, minced
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp mild curry powder
  • 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes
  • 5.5 oz can unsweetened coconut milk
  • fresh cilantro, for garnish
  • cooked basmati rice, for serving (or your preferred grain)
Instructions:
  1. In a small bowl, toss the shrimp with the first 4 ingredients – 1/2 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp black pepper, 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper, 3 tbsp lemon juice – and refrigerate for 15 minutes.
  2. While the shrimp are marinating, heat the oil in a medium size pot. Add the onion, and cook for 3-5 minutes. Stir in the ginger, garlic, pepper, salt, coriander, turmeric, and curry powder.
  3. Continue to cook over medium heat until the onion is translucent, ( about another 2 minutes). Add the diced tomato. Stir well and cook for 2 minutes. Add the coconut milk, stir, and bring to a boil. Cook for 10 minutes. Add shrimp with the accumulated juices from the marinade and cook for another 5 minutes or until the shrimp is pink and cooked through.
  4. Serve over rice and garnish with fresh cilantro.