Tag Archives: vegetables

Mixed Pasta with Kielbasa

Roasting vegetables is one of my favorite ways to prepare vegetables because it is a quick process that brings out a lot flavor. Before I started my blog I never thought about roasting unless it was chicken. Instead, I would just saute vegetables in a pan. Believe it or not the two techniques of sauteing vs. roasting will affect the nutritional value and flavor depending on the vegetable.

I did a little research and found that both roasting and sauteing are healthy methods of preparing vegetables. Steaming is the best way to go and grilling is better than frying when trying to maintain nutrition. Both tomatoes and onions maintain their antioxidant capacity after baking but green peppers tend to lose antioxidant capacity when baked. No, that has not stopped me from baking peppers because I like the taste. It’s just good information to know when preparing them.

Mixed Pasta and Kielbasa was a last minute recipe I came up with based on what I had on hand for dinner. I keep a jar of dried mixed pasta which are the remnants of different boxes of pasta. Elbow, penne, bow tie – whatever! Pasta is pasta. All that really matters is what you add to the pasta. On the night I made Mixed Pasta with Kielbasa I had some baby spinach, tomatoes and a package of kielbasa I needed to cook.

The end result was pretty tasty and definitely a hit with my pasta eating crew. It is hard for me to mess up pasta when dealing with an audience that loves pasta in any shape or form. But, I know just how delicious my pasta dishes are when they go for seconds and this one certainly hit the mark. Seconds all around!

Mixed Pasta with Kielbasa

Ingredients:

1 ring of smoked kielbasa sliced

1 small onion sliced thin

1 pkg baby leaf spinach

1 pkg vine ripe tomatoes quartered

½ green pepper seeded and sliced

1 cup mixed pastas (penne, twists, cavatappi, etc) cooked al dente per package

½ cup chicken broth

¼ shredded mozzarella cheese

3 tbsp olive oil

2 tsp salt

1 tsp Adobo

½ tsp onion powder

½ tsp ground black pepper

¼ tsp red pepper flakes

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Add tomatoes, onions and green peppers to a rimmed baking sheet. Season with 1 tsp of salt and pepper. Sprinkle with 2 tbsp oil and toss to coat. Roast in oven for 20 – 25 minutes until slightly charred. Set aside.

Brown kielbasa in 1 tbsp of olive oil over medium high heat. Add chicken broth, roasted vegetables and remaining seasonings to the kielbasa. Stir to mix well. Toss in pasta and stir. Cook until pasta is heated up then sprinkle with cheese. Serve immediately.

 

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Eb’s Brussel Sprouts and Turkey Bacon

Eb’s Brussel Sprouts with Turkey Bacon is a sister recipe to my Brussel Sprouts with Pancetta recipe and post.

Ingredients:

1 lb brussel sprouts cut in half

6 – 8 slices of turkey bacon diced large

½ cup diced onions

¼ cup white wine

¼ cup chicken broth

3 tbsp rice vinegar

1 tsp Sazon seasoning

½ tsp salt

½ tsp cracked black pepper

½ tsp minced garlic

Paprika

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Place bacon in a single layer in a rectangular casserole dish. Sprinkle with onions and minced garlic. Pour white wine and broth over the bacon. Season the brussel sprouts with salt, pepper, rice vinegar and Sazon seasoning. Place brussel sprouts cut side down over the bacon. Sprinkle with paprika and bake for 20 – 25 minutes.

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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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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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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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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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Lentil and Carrot Ginger Soup

Sometimes you just have to cheat. Not cheat other people or cheat in the sense of doing something wrong. I mean cheat by not making everything from scratch. Making my Lentil and Carrot Ginger Soup was one of those times I decided to cheat. At least, partially. This soup is a combination of dried lentils and a box of carrot and ginger soup.

I am not usually a fan of boxed soups but Trader Joe’s has a nice brand of soups I have used in other recipes upon occasion. I have passed over their Carrot and Ginger soup many times but decided to take a chance on combining it with the lentil soup I make for me and hubby.

Creating soup is about building flavors. Combining the light flavor of lentils with the sweet taste of carrots along with the sharp taste of ginger spells yummy. Being the carnivore that I am, I added diced pancetta to build even more flavor. My vegetarian brethern can keep it simple and not include meat in this soup. But, if you are not opposed to meat, I think you will enjoy the flavors and texture with the pancetta. Add some crusty bread on the side of your bowl and you will have a wonderful hearty soup for those chilly or even warm days.

Lentil and Carrot Ginger Soup

Ingredients:

4 cups chicken broth

1 ½ – 2 cups dried yellow lentils (rinsed in cold water)

1 cup shredded carrots

1 cup cubed pancetta (optional)

½ cup diced onions

1 box Carrot Ginger Soup (Trader Joe’s)

1tbsp olive oil

1 tbsp salt

½ tbsp ground black pepper

½ tbsp Adobo seasoning

1 tsp dried parsley

¼ tsp cumin

¼ tsp cayenne pepper (optional)

Place olive oil, pancetta, onions and carrots in a large pot over medium heat. Saute the carrots, onions and pancetta for about 3 – 5 minutes stirring frequently. Add broth, seasonings and lentils to the pot and let simmer for 30 minutes stirring occasionally. Add a little water if the soup gets too thick during the 30 minutes. After 30 minutes stir in the box of carrot and ginger soup. Reduce heat to low and let simmer for an additional 20 minutes.

Serve with crusty bread or croutons.

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Refreshing Tomato Salad

Let me say right off the bat that if you don’t like the taste of mint you can leave it out to this salad. My friend Doll does not like anything with mint so before she makes the “ewww” sound after reading the recipe I want her and all mint haters to know the mint is optional. Doll claims to be a southern girl but how can she really be southern if she doesn’t like the taste of mint. Come on! Mint julpes are a southern staple. At least where my family comes from and they are southern.

Hubby and I both like the flavor of mint in salads. I think it adds a refreshing taste to quite a few dishes. My favorite ice cream is mint chocolate chip and I love an ice cold peppermint patty. The creation of my Refreshing Tomato Salad was my welcome spring and summer gift to the family. It is packed with olives, feta cheese, cucumbers, artichokes and of course Tomatoes!

I was fortunate this year to have a good crop of tomatoes so I was able to add our homegrown tomatoes to this salad. I have not tried growing cucumbers yet but maybe next year I will. I prefer English cucumbers because regular cucumbers have too many hard seeds. But, that is just my preference. Use whatever type of cucumber you like or have handy.

During these last days of summer I have been making this recipe a little more frequently. It is always sad to see the warm weather turn a little cooler because it means the end of short sleeves, sandals and shorts. I for one will miss the warm days but I also look forward to the beauty of fall weather. Good thing for me my Refreshing Tomato Salad is delicious no matter what the weather may be.

Refreshing Tomato Salad

Ingredients:

4 – 6 small tomatoes large dice cut

1 English cucumber diced

1 jar marinated artichokes drained and slightly chopped

½ cup crumbled feta cheese

½ cup Italian black olives

¼ cup olive oil

juice from ½ lemon

½ tbsp red onion diced small

½ tsp chopped fresh mint (optional)

½ tsp dried dill

½ tsp dried basil

½ tsp salt

½ tsp black pepper

¼ tsp red pepper flakes (optional)

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and toss gently. Refrigerate for 1 hour to allow the flavors to marry. Remove from refrigerator and let stand at room temperature for 10 minutes. Serve as a side dish or add a little bow tie pasta to make it a meal.

 

 

 

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Zucchini, Tomato and Sweet Potato Gratin

Eating with your eyes is just as important as tasting with your tongue. I know I have mentioned this in the past but it is worth mentioning again. If you are going to prepare a dish for family, friends or yourself, you want it to look appealing. Combining different colors is an easy way to create visual beauty with food. This recipe is a nice blend of green, red and orange. Layering the vegetables in a circular pattern also made this a very attractive dish.

Gratins originated in French cuisine and has been adopted in many other culinary cuisines. I wasn’t sure exactly what gratin was until I saw one made on a cooking show. On this particular show the chef made potato au gratin which was gorgeous because of the crispy brown topping. Turns out a gratin is considered the technique of topping a dish with breadcrumbs or grated cheese then browning it.

While most of the gratin recipes I have seen are made with sliced white potatoes I wanted to think outside the box and combine potatoes with other vegetables. Plus, I wanted to make the dish pop with color. Hence, my Zucchini, Tomato and Sweet Potato Gratin. A ring of beauty and a delightful dish.

Zucchini, Tomato and Sweet Potato Gratin

Ingredients:

2 plum or vine ripe tomatoes sliced

1 large zucchini sliced

1 large sweet potato peeled and sliced

½ red onion sliced

½ cup shredded Parmesan or mozzarella cheese

2 tbsp olive oil

2 tbsp minced garlic

1 tbsp salt

½ tbsp ground black pepper

½ tsp dried thyme

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Coat bottom of a large iron skillet with 1 tbsp olive oil.  Add minced garlic and spread around the skillet. Alternate slices of zucchini, tomatoes, and sweet potatoes in a circular pattern around the iron skillet. Place red onion slices over the other veggies then season with salt, ground black pepper and thyme. Drizzle with remaining olive oil and sprinkle with shredded cheese. Place on the lower shelf of the oven and bake for 35 minutes. Move to top rack and back for 20 – 25 minutes more. Test potatoes with a knife to make sure they are cooked and soft.

 

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Louisiana Style Soup

During the summer months I often have a taste for gumbo or jambalaya but those dishes can be a little heavy. So, to compensate and satisfy my taste buds, I will make a Louisiana Style Soup in warmer weather. This soup is much lighter than gumbo or jambalaya but it has similar flavors.

Creole food is the soul food of the south mid-west. Creole cooking is a blend of French, Spanish, Caribbean, West African, Portuguese and several other country cuisines. While Cajun dishes originate from a style of cooking by French speaking Acadians that were exiled to Louisiana. (a partial history lesson). Many people think there is no difference between Creole and Cajun foods but there really is a difference. The biggest difference is that Creole cuisines use tomatoes in most dishes while Cajun cuisines do not. Another difference is how each prepares a roux or thickening for dishes like jambalaya. A Creole roux is made with butter and flour while a Cajun roux is made with oil and flour. It may not sound like a big difference but it is when you are talking about flavors.

One more interesting tidbit about Creole vs. Cajun dishes is that Creole cooking is considered “city” food while Cajun cooking is considered “country” food. Hmmm… that may explain why hubby really likes Creole cooking while I enjoy Cajun foods. He is more of a city boy who loves tomatoes while I am a country girl at heart who just loves food.

Louisiana Style Soup

Ingredients:

1 pkg spicy ground sausage

1 cup frozen okra

1 cup frozen baby lima beans

1 cup corn cut off the cob or frozen corn

1 can fire roasted diced tomatoes

2 scallions diced

1 celery stalk diced

1 small green pepper diced

1 small white onion diced

2 cups chicken broth

2 cups water

1 tbsp tomato paste

1 tbsp butter

1 tbsp salt

1 tsp ground black pepper

1 tsp ground ginger

Brown spicy ground sausage in a large pot over medium heat. Remove from pot and drain on paper towels. Add butter to the pan along with green pepper, celery and onion. Season with salt and black pepper then saute for a few minutes until vegetables soften.

Add remaining ingredients to the pot along with sausage. Stir to blend then reduce heat and let simmer for 30 to 45 minutes. Serve with rice or top with garlic croutons.

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