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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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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teriyakibowl6

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.

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

Asparagus, Egg and Bacon Salad with Dijon Vinaigrette3

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

kale salad 5

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.

shrimpcurryshrimpcurry2shrimpcurry1shrimpcurry3

 

 

 

 

 

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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.
Appetizers, Main Course Recipes

Steamed Mussels with Wine, Garlic and Parsley

Steamed Mussels with Wine, Garlic and Parsley

 

I don’t cook mussels at home often enough. But, I did this past Friday. It was glorious.

Elegant, affordable, readily available, and a breeze to make. From the fridge to dinner table, the mussels are ready to devour in just 20 minutes. I paired this batch with white wine, garlic, parsley and lemon. Obviously, I had some good bread to soak up the broth.

A few tips about buying, storing, and cleaning:

Buying: When you’re at the fish market, make sure the mussels are kept over ice and that their shells are glistening with moisture. The shells should be tightly closed. The mussels should smell briny, like the ocean. Mussels are living creatures, so they will still be alive when you buy them at the store. (Don’t worry, they don’t bite) Though wild mussels are available in certain markets, the vast majority of mussels you’ll find at the market are farm-raised.

Storing: Mussels are best if cooked within a few hours of purchasing. If you can’t do that, they’ll be fine for a few days in the fridge. If you need to store them, place the mussels in a large bowl. Cover the bowl with a damp paper towel to keep the mussels protected and moist, and store in the fridge. The mussels need to breathe, so don’t store them in an airtight container or in water.

Cleaning: Mussels attach themselves to stable surfaces using thin sticky membranes referred to as “beards.”  Most farm-raised mussels will come debearded, but odds are good you’ll find a couple of stubborn beards left over.  Look for a group of short brown strings coming out on one side of the mussel where the two halves of the shell close. This is the “beard.” Grip these strings with your fingers and tug gently from side to side. As you tug, the strings will pull out and detach from the shell. If you have trouble gripping the beard with your fingers, a dry paper towel usually does the trick.

Steamed Mussels with Wine, Garlic and ParsleySteamed Mussels with Wine, Garlic and Parsley

 

On to the recipe …

Ingredients:

  • 4 pounds mussels. Prince Edward Island (PEI) are my favorite.
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 medium shallots, minced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 2 tbsp fresh parsley, finely chopped
  • Freshly cracked black pepper
  • A pinch of red pepper flakes (more if you want spicy)
  • Juice from half a lemon
  • Lemon wedges, to garnish
  • Crusty bread, to serve

Directions:

  1. Rinse the mussels in a strainer and check them over. If you feel any muddy spots, rub under running water to remove.  All the mussels should be tightly closed. Discard any mussels with cracked shells. If the shell is open, tap the mussel lightly against the counter. If the shell doesn’t close in a few minutes, discard the mussel. Do a quick check for beards.  If any beards are still attached, remove and discard.
  2. Now you’re ready to start cooking. Warm butter and olive oil over medium high heat in a large pot. Add shallot and garlic and cook 2-3 minutes until shallot is translucent and garlic fragrant. Season with freshly cracked black pepper and a pinch of red pepper flakes.
  3. Add mussels to the pot and cook, stirring for 1 minute.  Pour chicken broth and white wine over the mussels and immediately cover pot with lid.  Cook, covered, for 5 minutes.  Shake the pan once or twice while cooking (with the lid on) to distribute mussels.
  4. After 5 minutes, the mussels should be fully cooked and open.  If not, return the lid to the pot and cook for an additional 2 minutes.
  5. Add lemon juice and fresh parsley and give the mussels a good stir. This coats the mussels in the shallots, garlic and broth. Remove and discard any mussels that have not fully opened at this point.
  6. Serve mussels straight out of the pot in the middle of the table, or pour mussels and broth into 4 large bowls. Serve with extra lemon wedges, and crusty bread for mopping up the broth.

Servings: 4 (1 pound per serving)

Main Course Recipes, Pasta Recipes

Lazy Ravioli Lasagna

Lazy Lasagna

 

So, you’re in a precarious “situation” with the mafia?  (It happens … I guess)  Cooking up a tasty lasagna would really ease some tensions, right?  Problem is, you’ve got neither the time nor the fresh ingredients for a proper dish. Lasagna noodles, ricotta cheese filling, the timely/messy process of layering of everything together?  Here’s the perfect shortcut.  We’re using frozen cheese ravioli!

So, you’re in the above precarious situation? (Figurative … play along) Here’s whatcha do:

No need to pre boil the noodles or make the ricotta cheese filling.  Simply layer together marinara, frozen cheese ravioli, mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses.  Then bake until bubbly and golden.  Lasagna on a mafia pressured weeknight just got a whole lot easier. (Phew!)

Lazy LasagnaLazy Lasagna

 

I had to get somewhat fancy with my marinara sauce.  (I couldn’t help it.)  I added some aromatics and Italian sausage.  If you need to save time, then crack open a jar of store-bought marinara.  In this case, make sure you remember to add 1/2 cup of water.  The ravioli’s need a bit more liquid to cook in.

Your family will think you’ve been slaving away all day.  The guys in velvet sweat suits and greased back hair will think “uncle so and so” made it fresh.

Lazy Lasagna.  Saving family dinner … one meal at a time.

Lazy LasagnaLazy Lasagna

 

Ingredients:

  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 lb bulk Italian sausage (leave out to make vegetarian)
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 3 cups marinara, store-bought (25 oz jar) or homemade
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 3 tbsp fresh herbs, divided (parsley/basil/rosemary – whatever you have on hand)
  • non-stick cooking spray
  • 24oz frozen ravioli, I used a spinach and ricotta variety
  • 3 cups shredded mozzarella
  • 1/4 cup fresh Parmesan cheese, grated

Directions:

  1. Heat olive oil in a large saute pan over medium heat.  Add onion and cook for 3-5 minutes until translucent.  Add garlic and cook for an additional minute until fragrant.  Add Italian sausage and cook, stirring frequently, about 8 minutes.  Once sausage is fully cooked, remove from heat and drain off any excess fat.
  2. Put saute pan with sausage mixture back over medium heat.  Add red pepper flakes and dried oregano.  Stir well and allow herbs to hit the warm oil to “wake them up.”
  3. Add marinara, water, and 2 tbsp fresh herbs.  Bring to a low boil and cook for 15-20 minutes.  Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly before assembling lasagna.
  4. Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees F.
  5. Spray casserole dish with nonstick cooking spray or grease with a small amount of vegetable oil or butter.
  6. Time to begin assembling the lasagna.
  7. Add one cup of marinara to prepared casserole dish to coat the bottom.
  8. In the following order, add half of the ravioli, 1.5 cups marinara, 1.5 cups shredded mozzarella, and 2 tbsp Parmesan cheese.
  9. Repeat with another layer – the other half of the ravioli, the remainder of the sauce (about a cup and a half), 1.5 cups shredded mozzarella and 2 tbsp Parmesan cheese.
  10. Cover dish with aluminum foil and bake covered for 50 minutes. Note, spray the inside of the aluminum foil with nonstick cooking spray (or smear with a small amount of vegetable oil) so it does not stick to the cheese.
  11. Remove foil and bake for an additional 10 minutes.  The cheese will be melted and sauce will be bubbling in the corners.  Add 1 tbsp fresh herbs on top and allow dish to rest for 5 minutes before digging in.

Servings: 8 (serving size: 1 1/2 cups)

My sous chef couldn’t resist the aroma!

Lazy Lasagna