Brussel Sprouts with Pancetta (or Turkey Bacon)

My hair stylist Eb (and little brother) and I often discuss anything from family, food and sports to politics while I am sitting in his chair. A while ago we talked about a couple of the dishes he makes for Mother’s Day. He showed me a picture of one recipe in particular he had created which consisted of brussel sprouts and turkey bacon. I must say it looked absolutely delicious and of course made me want to create my own brussel sprout recipe. So this post is dedicated to Eb and all the brussel sprout lovers of the world.

Brussel sprouts are one of those vegetables I found that people either love or hate. I am on the side of loving them. Not just because I love most foods but because they are very low in fat and have a high percentage of potassium and vitamin C. Plus, they have a nice little bite in flavor. Contrary to what some folks think, brussel sprouts are not baby cabbages. Where as cabbage grows out of the ground and we eat the head of the cabbage, brussel sprouts are buds that grow on thick long stalks. Both vegetables are in the same cruciferous family along with kale, collard greens, bok choy and other types of greens.

The haters of brussel sprouts have given this vegetable a bad rap. Probably because whomever prepared them were not totally sure how to cook them. Take frozen brussel sprouts off your list. Once frozen they are not quite as delicious as they could be. Brussel sprouts need to be cooked fresh. The smaller the brussel sprout the sweeter the taste. Larger brussel sprouts tend to be more bitter but if they are prepared the right way large sized brussel sprouts will taste wonderful too. Lightly browning or caramelizing the brussel sprouts enhances the nutty flavor and cuts down on the bitterness in my opinion. Pairing the brussel sprouts with other wonderful flavors like pancetta and onions also brings out the savory taste of the sprouts.

However, you decide to fix them just make sure you give brussel sprouts the tender love and care they deserve. I think if given another chance, even haters will grow to love brussel sprouts.

Brussel Sprouts with Pancetta

Ingredients:

10 – 15 small brussel sprouts cut in half

1 pkg pancetta

1 clove garlic minced

½ small onion sliced thin

¼ cup chicken broth

2 tbsp olive oil

1 tbsp butter

1 tsp salt

½ tsp cracked black pepper

½ tsp onion powder

Heat olive oil and butter in a medium sized non-stick skillet over medium high heat. Add onion and pancetta and cook for 5 minutes stirring occasionally until the onion softens and pancetta slightly browns. Add brussel sprouts and seasonings. Stir to mix the pancetta, onions and brussel sprouts. Lightly brown the brussel sprouts for approximately 3 minutes then add the chicken broth, reduce heat to medium and cover. Cook until the brussel sprouts are fork tender but do not over cook. Serve with your favorite fish or meat.

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Spicy Meatballs

Spicy Meatballs are one of the simplest dishes I have ever made.  Most good chefs/ cooks know how to make a meatball.  Whether you are adding them to pasta or making a meatball sandwich, meatballs are pretty easy to make. The trick is to make them flavorful. This meatball recipe was created to go with my Penne Pasta and Eggplant with Spicy Meatballs on the side.

Follow the link for another delicious recipe.

Spicy Meatballs

Ingredients:

1 package fresh Italian sausage

1 package ground pork

1 package fresh hot sausage

1 egg

¼ cup Parmesan cheese

¼ cup panko bread crumbs

¼ cup milk

2 tsp salt

1 tsp ground black pepper

1 tsp dried basil

1 tsp dried oregano

½ tsp onion powder

Preheat oven to low broil.

Combine Parmesan cheese, egg and milk in a small bowl. Place meats and seasonings in a large bowl along with panko bread crumbs. Add egg mixture to the meat. Mix well to combine but do not over work the meat. Form into golf ball sized balls (or whatever size you like) and place meatballs in a large iron skillet. Place in the oven and brown the meatballs for about 15 minutes.

Remove the meatballs and place in a large pot with marinara sauce. Simmer over medium low heat for 30 to 40 minutes until meatballs are cooked all the way through.

These are good for spaghetti and meatball dishes, meatball sandwiches, appetizers and of course Penne Pasta and Eggplant with Meatballs on the side.

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Penne Pasta and Eggplant with Spicy Meatballs on the side

This post is dedicated to Kashana who is a foodie like me. Kashana and I met at one of my favorite places – Starbucks. We happen to strike up a conversation about food and since then she has been a visitor to my blog. It is nice when someone outside of family appreciates many of the recipe ideas I have shared over the years.

I have to admit that this recipe was adapted from another recipe I saw on a cooking show. I thought it would be a nice recipe for the days when I wanted a meatless dish that was also quite filling. Adding spicy meatballs on the side was a way for me to please others that liked a meatless dish as well as those that are true carnivores no matter what.

This recipe really came in handy recently when my sister, who is a vegetarian, and brother-in-law joined us for dinner at our house. I was surprised that night when my sister shared that she no longer eats pasta, flour, sugar, etc. Fortunately, I had also prepared blackened salmon because I knew she liked salmon which I figured would go with the pasta. So all was not lost with my dinner menu which included a delicious salad (per the family) along with steamed broccoli topped with melted cheese.

Okay, back to the Penne and Eggplant. Talk about easy. Preparing pasta is usually quick and quite easy by just following the directions on the box. I made sure the pasta was al dente so that it would not be a pile of mush after I baked it a little. Eggplant can be quite watery when you cook it. So, the trick to reducing the amount of moisture in the eggplant is to microwave the cubed eggplant for about 8 minutes on a paper towel. This method worked like a charm. I think I might try this when I make another eggplant lasagna to make it less watery too.

Spicy meatballs on the side allowed me to have a vegetarian dish and the ability to satisfy the carnivore in me and some of my family. The meatballs were also a big hit along with the Penne Pasta and Eggplant. Two for one! Man…. I’m on a roll.  Thank you Kashana for your support.

Penne Pasta with Spicy Meatballs on the side

Ingredients:

2 large eggplant cubed (do not peel)
½ small onion sliced thin

1 box Penne pasta cooked al dente according to package

1 ½ jars marinara sauce

1 cup shredded mozzarella

1 cup grated fresh Parmesan

2 tbsp olive oil

1 tsp sea salt or Kosher salt

1 tsp dried basil

1 tsp dried oregano

¼ tsp onion powder

Cooking Spray

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Line a large microwaveable bowl with paper towels. Place cubed eggplant in the bowl and sprinkle with sea salt. Microwave eggplant for 8 minutes. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add eggplant and sprinkle with black pepper, oregano, basil and onion powder. Saute the eggplant until softened stirring constantly so that it does not burn.

Remove the eggplant from the heat. Spray the bottom of a casserole dish with cooking spray. Pour a little marinara sauce on the bottom of the dish and spread around. Add the Penne pasta to the dish and top with the eggplant, thinly sliced onions and Parmesan cheese. Pour marinara sauce over the top and gently mix to combine the eggplant, pasta and cheese. Add more sauce if the pasta seems too dry. Top with the shredded mozzarella cheese then bake for 20 to 30 minutes until the cheese has melted and pasta is heated throughout. Serve immediately with the Spicy Meatballs and a healthy salad.

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Blistered Tomatoes and Shishito Peppers

Sometimes the best recipes are the simplest recipes especially when you’ve run out of ideas for healthy side dishes. Blistered Tomatoes and Shishito Peppers is one of those simple recipes that is healthy, quick, easy, colorful and definitely flavorful.

This past summer our daughter introduced the family to shishito peppers. I had never heard of them even though I love to cook with a variety of peppers. Hubby and I decided to take a trip to Washington, DC to celebrate our anniversary plus drop off our youngest son to hang out with his sister in June. On our first night there we met up at a restaurant and D suggested we try the shishito peppers as an appetizer. Count us in when it comes to peppers whether they are hot, sweet or mild. Talk about love at first bite. The peppers were smoky, flavorful and mild with a few hot surprises in the bunch.

When hubby and I returned home I knew I had to find those peppers and try to recreate our wonderful appetizer. It took a few shopping trips here and there but I finally found a grocer that sold the shishito peppers. Of course I wanted to take the peppers to another level so I added blistered tomatoes to the dish because I had a garden full of cherry tomatoes. The tomatoes added an extra pop (literally) to the recipe and paired well with the peppers.

If you need a quick side dish to add to a light meal, try making Blistered Tomatoes with Shishito Peppers. You won’t be disappointed.

Blistered Tomatoes and Shishito Peppers

Ingredients:

3 – 4 shishito peppers diced

2 fresh basil leaves julienned (substitute: ¼ tsp dried basil)

1 package mixed heirloom cherry tomatoes

1 clove garlic minced

1 tbsp olive oil

1 tbsp fresh lemon juice

½ tsp sea salt

optional:

½ red onion sliced

1 tbsp balsamic vinegar

Heat no stick frying pan over medium high heat then add olive oil. Place tomatoes and shishito peppers in the pan. Cook for 2 – 3 minutes until tomatoes begin to blister. Stirring occasionally. Add garlic, lemon juice and basil to the mixture and stir to mix well. Cook an additional 2 minutes then sprinkle with sea salt and serve immediately.

 

 

 

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Parmesan Chicken Fingers

One of my youngest son’s favorite meals is Parmesan chicken. He likes chicken and he loves pasta. Put the two together and he is extremely happy with dinner. I also enjoy Parmesan chicken (light on the pasta) but sometimes a big fat chicken breast is too much for me. Okay, I will admit I go for the chicken breast first when I eat fried chicken but that is a different kind of meal.

I decided to alter my recipe for Parmesan chicken by substituting chicken fingers for a full chicken breast. Thus, Parmesan Chicken Fingers was born. Using the chicken fingers allows everyone to choose exactly the right portion of meat for their appetites rather than filling their plates with a large single chicken breast.

To add an extra layer of crispiness to the chicken fingers I mixed in a little ground cornmeal with the panko bread crumbs for the coating. I wasn’t sure I could pull this one off with my taste testers but the guys loved it. Sometimes you just have to sneak in something new to a recipe and then sit back and wait for the reactions. I got the idea to add fine ground cornmeal from one of the many cooking shows I like to watch. I think the chef was making fried chicken (yeah, I went back to talking about fried chicken) and added cornmeal to the coating to add an extra layer of crunch. It looked so good on the plate I figured it would be good on my Parmesan Chicken Fingers too.

Bottom-line …. it worked! Such an easy recipe and thankfully a tasty one too.

Parmesan Chicken Fingers

Ingredients:

2 packages chicken fingers

2 eggs

1 jar spaghetti sauce

1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

½ cup panko bread crumbs

½ cup flour + 1 tbsp

½ cup frying olive oil or vegetable oil

¼ cup finely ground cornmeal

¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese

2 tbsp milk

1 tbsp flour

1 tbsp salt

½ tbsp ground black pepper

½ tsp red pepper flakes (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Season chicken fingers with salt and pepper. Place ½ cup flour on a plate and set aside. Beat eggs with milk and set aside.

Mix panko bread crumbs, cornmeal, 1 tbsp flour, grated Parmesan cheese and red pepper flakes in a bowl.

Dredge chicken in flour (shake off excess) then dip in egg mixture. Roll in bread crumbs and place on a cookie sheet to rest.

Heat oil in a no stick frying pan over medium heat. Test the oil to see if it is hot by place the thick end of a chopstick in the center of the pan. It you see rapid bubbles then the oil is hot (Thanks for the tip Mama Noi). Fry the chicken in batches until lightly golden brown. Drain on a paper towel.

Place chicken in a casserole dish and drizzle with spaghetti sauce and top with mozzarella cheese. Bake for 15 – 20 minutes until cheese is melted and golden. Serve with pasta.

P.S. For the grand kids I make Parmesan Chicken Fingers with a honey mustard or BBQ dipping sauce.

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No Bun Needed Bacon Cheese Burger

Part of my new journey and change in eating habits is to minimize the amount of carbs we eat on a daily basis. Instead of eating bread for breakfast and having a sandwich for lunch then pasta for dinner, we have fruit smoothies or oats for breakfast. Lunch may be a variety of homemade soups that are quick and easy to make. Dinner is the usual chicken or fish with beef or pork thrown in a couple of times a month to break up the monotony of eating chicken. We also changed from eating white rice to mainly eating brown rice. Brown rice can be bland but I kick up the taste with teriyaki sauce and scallions.

Okay, back to my No Bun Needed Bacon Cheese Burger. Since we are doing our best to eliminate carbs as much as possible I tossed the bun on our turkey cheese burgers ad put the burgers on a bed of mixed greens then topped them off with a fried egg. If you are like my hubby, you will enjoy a soft fried egg so that when you dig into it the yolk runs over the burger and makes the meal even more delicious.

Who needs bread when you can create a delicious No Bun Needed Burger!

No Bun Needed Bacon Cheese Burger

Ingredients:

1 lb ground turkey meat

6 slices of bacon cooked, cut in half

4 eggs (fried to your liking)

4 slices pepper jack cheese

2 plum tomatoes sliced

1 pkg mixed greens

½ small onion diced

2 tbsp olive oil

1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce

1 tsp salt

1 tsp black ground pepper

½ tsp onion powder

Saute onions in 1 tbsp olive oil over medium high heat until softened. Set aside.

Place ground turkey in a large bowl. Add onions, Worcestershire sauce and seasonings. Mix together well then form 4 turkey patties.

Add remaining olive oil to the same pan used to saute the onions and turn heat to medium high. Cook turkey patties for 2-3 minutes on each side until burgers are nicely browned and cooked all the way through. Remove from the heat and top each with a slice of pepper jack cheese. Cover the burgers then fry the eggs to your liking.

Place mixed greens into four bowls. Place a turkey burger in the middle of each bed of greens then top it with a fried egg. Add bacon and tomatoes around the bowl and dress the greens with your favorite salad dressing. I recommend Gazebo Room Greek Salad Dressing and Marinade. You cannot go wrong with this fantastic dressing.

Enjoy!

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Chicken Stir Fry

Stir fry dishes are one of the easiest things to make for dinner on a busy night or any night. My version of Chicken Stir Fry was developed over time as I played with different flavors and levels of heat. I had to find a happy medium for the family as my taste buds like low to medium heat and the rest of the family like burn your mouth levels of heat. Since I wanted to enjoy the dish along with the family I went with medium heat with a side of hot chili oil for the everyone else to add to their bowls of stir fry.

If you don’t have a wok, I would suggest investing in one because you can make a variety of dishes in this one tool wonder. Woks are easy to clean and can take a lot of heat. Of course, if you don’t have a wok or don’t want to invest in one, you can stick to using a large skillet for creating your stir fry dishes.

The key to making a flavorful stir fry is in the marinade. The longer you marinade the chicken or any other meat, the more intense the flavor becomes. At a minimum marinade your meat for 30 minutes and if you can plan ahead, marinade it overnight. Overnight marinading also helps to tenderize the meat (just a few useful tips).

From start to finish I can have dinner ready in an hour for the hungry crew on Chicken Stir Fry night. Talk about Healthy, Quick and Easy! I love it.

Chicken Stir Fry

Ingredients:

2 – 3 chicken breasts cut into thin strips

1 package snow peas

1 small green pepper large dice

1 small broccoli crown cut into florets

1 small onion diced

1 cup shredded carrots

½ cup chicken broth

½ cup crispy chow mein noodles

1 small can water chestnuts drained

3 tbsp hoisin sauce

3 tbsp oyster sauce

2 tbsp Thai style sweet and spicy sauce

2 tbsp garlic chopped

2 tbsp soy sauce

2 tbsp olive oil

1 tbsp corn sauce

1 tsp minced ginger

1 tsp black pepper

½ tsp red chili flakes (optional)

Marinade:

Place chicken in a medium sized bowl. Mix together Thai style sweet and spicy chili sauce, 1 tbsp garlic, ginger, soy sauce and corn starch in a separate bowl. Pour mixture over chicken and massage into the meat. Cover with plastic wrap and marinade in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes or overnight.

To cook stir fry:

Heat oil in wok or large skillet over medium high heat. Add chicken and stir until chicken is no longer pink but not totally cooked through. Remove chicken and place in a bowl. Set aside. Add a little more oil to the wok if necessary then add carrots, snow peas, onions and broccoli. Cook for 2 – 3 minutes stirring constantly until vegetables begin to soften. Add chicken broth, water chestnuts and chicken to the vegetables along with the sauces and red chili flakes. Stir and cook an additional 3 – 5 minutes until chicken is fully cooked through. Serve in bowls over rice, ramen or udon noodles. Top with crispy chow mein noodles.

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Teriyaki Baby Back Ribs

Ribs, ribs and more ribs. Okay, so you may be wondering how many rib recipes can there possibly be in the world. Well, the short answer is a lot! Granted, my family does not eat ribs often but when we do I like to try different sauces instead of using bbq sauce all of the time.

Teriyaki Back Back Ribs are a new favorite flavor whenever we get tired of traditional bbq and don’t feel like firing up the grill. Ribs can taste great whether you char them on the grill or bake them in the oven. One is just less time consuming to prepare. Baking ribs means you can do minimal work up front then stick them in the oven to bake low and slow. After that you can move on to doing something else productive like blogging.

If you like Asian flavors, you will enjoy Teriyaki Baby Back Ribs. P. F. Chang has become my  favorite teriyaki sauce because of the subtle hint of garlic, the slight tang of ginger and the sweetness of brown sugar. I use it as a marinade, glaze for pork, chicken or salmon and for a teriyaki brown rice side dish I recently made.

Whatever brand of teriyaki sauce you decide to use you cannot go wrong making a rack of ribs with a teriyaki twist.

Teriyaki Baby Back Ribs

Ingredients:

1 rack pork baby back ribs sliced
1 bottle P.F. Chang Teriyaki sauce
1 small onion sliced
1 cup water
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tbsp worcestershire sauce
1 tbsp salt
1 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Season ribs with seasonings. Heat vegetable oil over medium high heat in a non stick frying pan. Brown ribs on all sides. Place ribs and onions in dutch oven. Add water then pour teriyaki sauce over the ribs. Cover and back for 1 ½ – 2 hours until ribs are tender and cooked through.

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Salad with Crispy Prosciutto

My hubby and I have started on a new journey to eat a little healthier than we have in recent months. Because I enjoy cooking and love to build on flavors I used butter, sugar and bacon as a great source of flavor. Fast forward to a few weeks ago which is when our journey began and that all changed.

I really wanted to lose weight and find ways of cutting out the things I knew added loads of calories but tasted so doggone good. I finally got my mind, body and spirit in sync to commit to a different lifestyle of eating. To do this I (we) had to jump in feet first and do it in “cold turkey” fashion. I did my research and found a plan that eliminated my usual fare and replaced it with other flavors that are just as tasty and still doggone good.

One substitute I made on my journey is to use prosciutto instead of bacon as a topping for salads. We eat salads year round and making a BIG SALAD for dinner is our favorite on hot summer days. Rather than crisping up a few slices of bacon and crumbling them over the salad, I now heat up a little Extra Virgin Olive Oil (my new substitute for butter) and crisp up prosciutto. Just chop up those crispy pieces then sprinkle them over a nice salad and you will be in salad heaven.

Okay, I can hear a few critics say wait a minute. Doesn’t prosciutto have more salt than bacon? The answer is yes. Prosciutto is saltier than bacon but has less calories and saturated fat. Of course, like everything else, prosciutto should be eaten in moderation. A few slices won’t hurt you and it will add a nice flavor to your salad without adding extra calories and fat like bacon.

Give it a try and see for yourself that prosciutto can be your new source of flavor.

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Orange Cauliflower Soup

I love it when a new idea comes together on the first try and is a hit with the family. I just decided to make a cauliflower soup today because I had a head of cauliflower and I needed to make something with it before it was no longer edible. A nice soup came to mind because although we have been having nice warm weather during the day it is a little chilly at night. Besides, I can eat soup any day of the year because I just love soup!

I am calling this one Orange Cauliflower Soup because I used diced red peppers in the soup which made it turn a pale orange color. I was not sure how everyone else would react to the color but I liked it so….. Orange Cauliflower Soup was born. Just making cauliflower soup was not enough. I wanted to add a slight richness to the soup and decided what better way to make it taste rich without a ton of calories than to add a little cheese. I think I have had cheesy cauliflower soup in the past but it was a little too rich for my blood. Adding just a little cheese keeps the calories down, adds thickness to the soup and definitely adds another level of flavor.

Whenever I put together a post I have to set up the food and take pictures of each step of the process. The last step of course is taking a picture of the finished product. After taking a picture of my new creation I figured I would clean up the kitchen so that I could enjoy a bowl of soup without thinking about the slight mess I had made. Well, my youngest son descended upon the kitchen with his girlfriend and immediately wanted to know if I had taken my last picture of the soup. I didn’t think he wanted to eat it (silly me) but he asked if he could taste it. Of course I said sure since I always need a taste tester for my recipes. The first words out of his mouth were “This is what I am going to miss!” That put a smile on my face because he is headed to college in a few months and I know he is going to miss my home cooking. My smile got even bigger when his girlfriend asked if she could try it and again I said sure. She said it was delicious and being the mom that I am I told her to take some home. Seems the soup fairy was on my side today and gave me a hit recipe on the first try. Thanks soup fairy!

Orange Cauliflower Soup

Ingredients:

1 medium head of cauliflower cut into small pieces

1 small onion diced

½ red pepper diced

4 cups chicken broth

1 cup water

1 cup milk

1 cup shredded monterey and/or Colby jack cheese

1 tbsp olive oil

3 tbsp butter

2 tbsp flour

1 tbsp salt

1 tsp black pepper

1 tsp garlic powder

½ tsp parsley

½ tsp basil

½ tsp red pepper flakes

Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium high heat. Add diced onions and red peppers. Saute until slightly browned. Add seasonings and stir. Add cauliflower and stir to mix with onions and peppers. Cook for 2 – 3 minutes. Add chicken broth and water. Stir then bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and cover. Let simmer until cauliflower is soft. Using an immersion blender, blend cauliflower until smooth but leave a few florets to create texture. Turn heat down to low.

In a small pan melt butter and add flour. Whisk until flour and butter are blended and form a paste. Add milk and whisk until sauce is thickened. Season with a little season salt and black pepper. Add white sauce to cauliflower and whisk to blend. Stir in cheese. Continue stirring until cheese is well blended into the soup. Taste to see if a little more salt or black pepper is needed.

Enjoy!

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