Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Italian Style Mac and Cheese

Pasta is a great fall and winter dish, and this Italian Mac and Cheese, adapted from a recipe by The Slow Roasted Italian is easy to prepare and tasty to eat. Initially, I'd wondered about adding Italian seasoning to macaroni and cheese, particularly in what I perceived as a rather large amount. But this dish is just perfect, and I enjoyed it a great deal. 

I did not use the penne pasta from the original recipe; instead I used my new favorite, pipette. I love this pasta that gets its name from the elbow pipes it resembles, because it holds so much saucy deliciousness in each bite. In addition to changing the type of pasta, I also adapted this recipe to change the called for 8 ounces of Italian blend shredded cheese, to 8 ounces of cheese that I had shredded by hand. Prepackaged shredded cheese always seems a bit dry, and contains additives to keep it from clumping. Ew! I also reduced the amount of pasta by half (the original called for a pound of pasta) because I prefer mine extra creamy.
 Italian Style Mac and Cheese
Adapted from The Slow Roasted Italian

4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon dried Italian seasoning
2 cups whole milk
8 ounces
pipette pasta
8 ounces shredded Gouda cheese
1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
 
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, and cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and set aside while you work on the sauce.

In a medium-large saucepan over medium heat, melt butter. Whisk in flour and Italian seasonings and cook for about two minutes. Whisk in milk, allowing the mixture to thicken, and then add cheeses and whisk until fully combined and thickened. Add drained pasta to the cheese sauce stir to combine.



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Monday, September 25, 2017

Slow Cooker Beef Barbacoa


It's a banner day when one of the local markets has chuck roast on sale. Yes, this is how sad my life has become, that I am excited over discount meat. Nonetheless, it's true, and I was thrilled to bits this past week when I spotted a sale. I happily placed four chuck roasts into my cart and, after checking out, had to keep myself from skipping to the car with glee.

Chuck roast is so flavorful and versatile, that I panic when I don't have one in the freezer. I love it in barbecued beef, it is a succulent addition to beef and broccoli, makes the best rogan josh I have ever tasted, and a fabulous Beef Barbacoa. If you're not familiar with the latter, you are in for a real treat. Ideally, it makes an excellent filling in hard or soft tacos, enchiladas, or burritos. I find it equally delicious on top of a taco salad. Toss on a couple of Fritos, and I am in absolute heaven.
 This is an easy recipe because, aside from searing the meat in a pan on the stove (something you need to do in order to seal in the juices), everything is done in the crockpot. Just sit back, relax, enjoy the heady aroma, and prepare for some delicious eating come dinnertime.
Slow Cooker Beef Barbacoa

4 pound chuck roast
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
4 large garlic cloves, minced
1-1/2 tablespoons cumin, more or less, to taste
2 chipotle chiles in adobo, more or less, to taste
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 cup chicken stock
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
2 bay leaves

Season roast with salt and pepper; set aside. In a large skillet, heat vegetable oil until shimmering. Carefully place meat into pan. Sear on both sides, and then all edges. Place seared roast into a 6-quart slow cooker, and set to "high."

Place remaining ingredients EXCEPT bay leaves into a blender or food processor and pulse until smooth. Pour the sauce over the meat, toss in bay leaves, cover and cook on high heat for 6 hours (or low for 10).

Carefully remove roast from slow cooker, shred meat, removing any pieces of fat. Return beef to sauce, stir to coat, and serve.

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Sunday, September 24, 2017

Butternut Squash and Roasted Red Pepper Soup


I always think of autumn as the season for making soup. I love to make use of vegetables that are just coming to harvest, of which butternut squash is one. When it comes to Butternut Squash Soup, there are two different varieties -- sweet (seasoned with warm spices like cinnamon and nutmeg), and savory. These days I am rocking to the beat of the savory music, so I chose the latter.

I love the color of Butternut Squash Soup, but wanted to do something different from the norm, and really have that color blazing like the late fall leaves that I love. So, I adapted the recipe that appears on the back of the box of Melissa's Peeled and Steamed Butternut Squash (If you haven't tried this, you must, it makes soup making so easy.) to include another of their products (and a personal favorite), Fire Roasted Sweet Red Bell Peppers.

You all know by now that I am a huge fan of red bell peppers, so I wondered what it would be like to add them to my soup. The end result was quite tasty. In fact, I tasted so much that I should have just sat down and had a bowl. It was that good (and how adorably cute does it look served in these
cabbage demitasse cups?). If you are ready to welcome autumn with a delicious bowl of nourishing soup, I recommend this one.
Butternut Squash and Roasted Red Pepper Soup
Adapted from Melissa’s Produce


2 shallots, sliced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 8.8-oz. package
Melissa’s Peeled and Steamed Butternut Squash
1 teaspoon fresh ginger root, minced
3 cups chicken stock
1 cup orange juice
2 whole
Melissa's Fire Roasted Sweet Red Bell Peppers, chopped
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Feta (for garnish)
Fresh basil, cut in julienne strips (for garnish)
Bacon, cooked and crumbled (for garnish)

In a medium soup pot, sauté the shallots and garlic in butter until tender. Add the squash, fresh ginger, and broth, and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and allow to cool for 10 to 15 minutes. Stir in orange juice, red peppers, salt, and cayenne. Using an immersion blender, purée mixture until smooth and creamy (If you don't have an immersion blender, use a stand blender or food processor to purée soup). Ladle into individual bowls and served topped with a dollop of sour cream, julienne strips of fresh basil, and crumbled bacon. This soup is equally good warm or cold, and keeps well in the fridge.



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Saturday, September 23, 2017

Greek Salad with Walnuts & Grapes


During my weekend of frenzied salad making (seriously, my salad spinner got the workout of its life), one of the taste-tempting salads that I made was this Greek Salad. I am a big fan of the Greek Salad and, even though traditionally Greek Salad does not have lettuce, mine always do. This time, for a change of pace, I added a couple of nontraditional ingredients in walnuts and grapes. I love the Muscato grapes this season, so used a trio of colors in the salad. I enjoyed it so much that I don't think I will ever make a Greek Salad again without including grapes.

I served it on these darling glass leaf plates that, sadly didn’t show up against the colorful fall fabric. You can find them here. They come in green, gold, and orange; I bought two of each. Try this delicious salad, and let me know what you think.
Greek Salad with Walnuts & Grapes

1 head Romaine lettuce, torn into bite-size pieces
1 cup cubed English cucumber
1 cup chopped tomato
1/2 cup Kalamata olives, halved
1/2 cup broken walnuts
1/2 cup sliced red onion
1/2 cup
Melissa's Muscato grapes, quartered
1 teaspoon capers
1/2 cup feta

Dressing:
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 garlic clove

1/2 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Combine salad ingredients in a bowl and toss with dressing.

To make dressing put all ingredients into a bullet blender, and process until emulsified.


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Thursday, September 21, 2017

Italian Chopped Salad

As I mentioned earlier in the week, this past weekend I spent a lot of time making a variety of salads. I love it when I have a salad already prepared waiting for me in the fridge, to just pull out and nosh on for lunch.

I have a lot of salad recipes that I've been wanting to try, this one, for Italian Chopped Salad among them. I changed it up a bit by adding fresh corn cut from the cob. You probably think that's a strange addition to a chopped salad, but it isn't at all. Here is a picture (not a good one because it was taken before digital cameras) of a salad that I had in Venice, Italy back in the summer of 2001. Look at all of the corn on top. Prior to this trip I had never eaten fresh corn on a salad, but now I love it, and so does my dad, who has a salad every day, and most of the time that salad is topped with fresh corn.
The slightly adapted recipe below is from bellyful.net, and can be changed up to suit your interests, likes, and what you have in the fridge. I made two changes, one, as I mentioned, was to add corn in place of the green olives, because I didn't have any of those on hand. The other was to swap out the scallions for red onion, because I happen to love red onion in a salad.
Italian Chopped Salad
Slightly adapted from bellyful.net

1 cup ditalini pasta, cooked according to package directions
3 cups chopped romaine lettuce
1 9-oz. pkg.
Melissa’s Peeled and Steamed Garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
1 cup cubed summer sausage
1 cup cubed provolone
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
1 cup marinated artichokes, drained and chopped
1/2 cup sliced red onion

1/2 cup fresh corn

Dressing:

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons honey
Two cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cups red wine vinegar
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

This salad can be prepared in one of two ways. Either you can combine all of the salad ingredients in a large bowl and toss it together with the dressing, and then serve, or, if using it as a main dish, you can put it together, attractively, in a pasta bowl (like I have used here) or on a plate. It's your choice.

To make the dressing - in a medium bowl whisk together all of the dressing ingredients except for the olive oil. Slowly pour in olive oil, whisking constantly to emulsify*. Drizzle over the salad and gently toss to coat

*I swear by bullet blenders for making vinaigrette salad dressings. I toss everything in together, and pulse it until it is combined. Using a bullet blender your salad dressing is going to beautifully emulsify, and stay emulsified for as long as it's in your fridge.


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Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Spinach Artichoke Dip Cheesy Bread

If, like me, you are a fan of both cheese garlic bread and spinach artichoke dip, then this recipe from Anna at Crunchy Creamy Sweet is soon going to be one of your favorites. I spent the weekend making salads of one kind or other, and figured I needed some cheesy garlic bread to go along with it. While a salad alone is certainly a meal, it doesn't seem quite complete without a roll or delicious piece of bread.

I cut this recipe in half, froze a portion of it, and have every confidence that it's going to reheat just fine. This strikes me as something that would be a meal in itself, or an excellent appetizer for your tailgating or (looking ahead) Super Bowl spread. Give it a try, but I warn you, it is addicting!

Spinach Artichoke Dip Cheesy Bread
Slightly adapted from crunchycreamysweet.com

1 loaf of Italian bread, split in half lengthwise
1/2 cup butter, softened
6 ounces cream cheese, softened
5 tablespoons sour cream
5 tablespoons mayo
114-ounce can of artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
1 package Ranch Dressing Mix
Pinch of salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
110-ounce package frozen chopped spinach, thawed, and water squeezed out
1 cup of shredded mozzarella cheese, divided

Preheat oven to 400°F.

In a medium mixing bowl, mix together cream cheese, sour
cream, and mayo. Stir in artichokes, spinach, ranch dressing mix, salt, pepper, and 1/4 cup mozzarella (reserve the rest for topping). Mix until well combined.

Place bread, cut sides up, on a baking sheet. Spread softened butter equally over the tops of each. Cover with a sheet of aluminum foil. Bake for 7 minutes. Remove from the oven, and top with a dip mix, spreading evenly to coat. Sprinkle the top with the remaining mozzarella cheese. Return to oven and bake for 12 to 15 minutes or until the cheese is melted. Cool to room temperature before slicing and serving.

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Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Baked Summer Sausage with Apricot Mustard Glaze


If you are anything like me, then you probably have difficulty resisting a sale. Recently I succumbed to a sale on smoked sausage. I like smoke sausage, I really do, but I don't think I need quite as much as I ended up with. As I was un-bagging my haul, I thought to myself, huh, what am I going to do with all of this smoked sausage? Naturally, a trip to the web was in order.

After stumbling upon and trying this Apricot and Mustard Glazed Smoked Sausage, I am now wondering if I bought enough. This is so good! Not only is it good, but it's very easy, and look how beautiful it appears on the plate. 

This would work well as a starter, appetizer, or hors d'oeuvre, as you see here, plated with a variety of Melissa's Muscato Grapes, and those addictingly delicious Sweet Potato Tortilla Chips from Wickedly Prime. It would also work well at an evening meal alongside a mound of coleslaw, and hot German potato salad. This is a true fall dish, sure to be a welcome addition to whatever spread you put out for your weekend football parties, or (thinking ahead) Super Bowl. Whenever, or however you serve it, you have to try this. You won't regret it.
Baked Summer Sausage with Apricot Mustard Glaze
From melaniecooks.com

1 12-ounce piece summer sausage
1/2 cup apricot jam*
3 tablespoons
Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons brown sugar

Preheat the oven to 325°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper; set aside.


In a medium mixing bowl combine apricot jam, mustard, and brown sugar; mix well.

Slice the summer sausage three quarters of the way through (accordion style) into 1/8 to ¼-inch slices, so the slices are connected at the bottom. Place the summer sausage onto the baking sheet, and brush with half of the glaze. Be sure to get glaze in between the slices by using a spoon to do so. Reserve the remaining glaze.

Put the summer sausage into the oven and bake for 25 minutes. After 25 minutes, remove from oven and brush with remaining glaze. At this point, the spaces between the slices should have opened up making it easier to get glaze between each. Return to the oven and bake for an additional 20 minutes. Remove from oven and serve as you see fit. It can be reheated in the microwave, if needed.



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