Tag Archives: garlic

Dinner in a Pot

17 Sep

This is the story of an easy, savory, nutritious one pot dinner. Why one pot? A simple reason: it was a busy weeknight and I did not want a lot of dishes. Keeping a well stocked pantry and freezer is key to quick easy meals. I also like to keep fresh produce on hand so I can pull meals together without those pesky after work visits to the grocery store.

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For this dinner, I started out with broccoli and cauliflower in a bowl. Then I tossed it with some olive oil, salt and pepper. I put it on a parchement lined baking sheet (remember…few dishes!) and roasted that for 20 minutes at 400 degrees.

Then I put some sweet little cherry and grape tomatoes into a pot, again with a little olive oil, salt and pepper. I then let that simmer a bit. These cook down to a creamy delight. I also added a clove of chopped garlic.

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As that was simmering, I chopped up some fresh spinach and arugula. When the tomatoes were thick and bubbly, I added the greens. I like to mix arugula into my spinach because of the sharp peppery flavor it adds. I gave all of that a good stir.

Now dinner was really smelling delicious. Savory fragrance was wafting through the house, and I was getting really hungry! I took the veggies out of the oven when they were a little brown on the edges, and let them rest not the counter (on a hot pad) for a few minutes. Next it was time to add the pasta.

Angel hair pasta was going to be my pasta of choice because of its short cook time. I wrapped the pasta up in a clean dish towel, then ran the towel over the edge of the counter. This broke the pasta up efficiently and neatly.

Then I added chicken broth to the tomato mixture. After that, in went the pasta. It was that simple. Again, a couple of quick stirs and I let this cook on medium heat. I then went to  pour a glass of wine to accompany this delicious dinner.

When the pasta was al dente (firm to the bite) I was ready to complete the meal. I added the roasted vegetables along with shrimp as the protein. The shrimp was raw, and it only took about 3 minutes for them to cook-any longer and they would become rubbery.

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And Voila! Dinner was ready. It was a complete meal in a bowl. I grated some fresh parmesan cheese on top, grabbed my glass of wine, and enjoyed a healthy weeknight meal. And my one pot meal left me with very few after dinner dishes.

This meal is customizable. Don’t like cauliflower? Try zucchini. Shrimp isn’t your thing? Add some leftover cooked chicken. Want a more robust flavor? Add red pepper flakes and a pinch of cayenne pepper. Want a vegetarian meal? Use vegetable broth and leave out the shrimp. Craving an italian twist? Toss in some fresh parsley and basil. The possibilities are endless-but the after dinner dishes aren’t!

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Grilled Salsa. Yum.

3 Sep

I stopped at a farm stand to take advantage of the (boohoo!) ending peach season.  Luckily they still had some yummy peaches left, but they had to be eaten quickly.  They were ripe and ready!  There were more peaches than we could eat, and I was not able to can the peaches and put them up.  I had to get creative. Time to dig thru the pantry and the fridge for more inspiration.

Ah yes, onions.  Sweet summer Vidalia onions were in a basket in my pantry.  And chicken was in the fridge ready to grill.  What could be better. Luckily, there was also leftover pesto pasta in the fridge too.  So here we go.

I fired up the grill.  But the chicken would go on second.  What to grill first?  Why, the peaches and the onions, of course!  I sliced the 2 onions about 1/4 inch thick.  I sliced the peaches in half and removed the pit.  Next, I laid them on a cutting board and sprayed them with a bit of vegetable oil.

 

Sliced onions and peaches getting ready to grill.

Sliced onions and peaches getting ready to grill.

Onto the grill they went.  The heat was good and high to get a quick char and that desired carmelization that only the grill can provide.  I wanted those sugars in the peaches to get to work!  And they did not disappoint!

The onion slices and peaches went onto that hot grill.

The onion slices and peaches went onto that hot grill.  The beginning of some great grill marks!

The scent that wafted from the grill was absolutely mouth watering!  It certainly produced one of those culinary “moanable moments”.  When that happens, your eyes close, your head falls back a bit, and a deep breath in is amazingly delightful.  Those sizzled on the grill for about 3 minutes per side, then they came off the heat.

The peaches and onions grilled up beautifully!

The peaches and onions grilled up beautifully!

Next, I let the onions and peaches sit.  While the peaches and onions were cooling, I grilled the chicken.  I went light on the seasoning because I wanted the flavor of the salsa to stand out.

When they were cool to the touch, I coarsely chopped the onions.  They were soft and sweetly  fragrant.  On to the peaches.  The fuzzy outside jacket of the peaches slipped right off.  I chopped up that sweet peachy flesh and mixed the two together in a bowl.  I added about a 1/2 of a chopped jalapeño (I should have grilled that too…Rats!).  I also stirred in a little bit of cilantro, lime juice, olive oil, and just a dash of vinegar.  A little salt and pepper completed the fresh salsa.  The resulting salsa was fantastic! It was not my “prettiest” salsa ever, but it was really tasty!

This was fantastic piled on top of grilled chicken.  It was a healthy low fat option packed with nutrients and flavor!

This was fantastic piled on top of grilled chicken. It was a healthy low fat option packed with nutrients and flavor!

Dinner consisted of a crisp salad, leftover pesto pasta, and flavor packed grilled chicken slathered in peach onion salsa.  It was a hit.  So delicious and a fun way to use fresh ripe reaches.  Cleanup was a breeze because I grilled most of dinner.  Gotta love that!

I am certainly going to try some more grilled salsa recipes.  Tomatoes are at the end of the season, but there is surely enough time to get creative  and grill those up next!  Grilled tomatoes with perhaps some creamy diced avocados.  Maybe roasted garlic too.  Oh yeah, can’t wait for that one!

 

Pesto Passion

23 Aug

Ok..again my Leo comes out…even in my cooking. An August birthday makes me a Leo, and I must admit, I am a lover of the sun.   Summer sunshine means amazing herbs springing to life in my garden.  I love them all, but my favorite of the summer herbs has got to be basil.

I wash my hands before I pick the delicate leaves so I can allow the delicious scent to linger on my fingers for a few extra minutes.  After first admiring my herbs, I pick some basal,  close my eyes, bring my fingers close to my face and breathe deep.  Inhaling this fresh basil is simply a culinary delight.  It plays a starring role in many of my summer recipes.  Everyone has basil around in the summer, and there are a million ways to use it, from simple bruschetta to complicated sauces.  Summer bruschetta with fresh tomatoes and basil is as refreshing as a popsicle!   Mix diced fresh tomatoes with freshly cut basil and goat cheese.  Douse this with a bit of olive oil and vinegar.  Drop a spoonful on some crusty bread and voila!  Instant delish!

My favorite thing to make with basil is fresh pesto.  It takes moments to prepare and can be used in many different ways.  Pesto can be liberally poured over pasta making a delicious side dish.  It can be brushed onto fish, adding beautiful color and flavor to either delicate or hearty fish.  I have doused chicken with pesto, adding flair to an otherwise bland weeknight dinner.  Pesto can also be spread onto a sandwich as a savory condiment.  I love the freedom to use my flavor packed pesto on most everything!  It is simple and makes me look like a rock star in the kitchen at times.  Who wouldn’t love that?

Pesto is very forgiving too.  I have adjusted or substituted ingredients without having to sacrifice flavor. I will pass along my pesto recipe and let you have some fun with it too!  It is a crowd pleaser, so make plenty.  Bon appetite!

Basic Pesto:

  • 2 cups fresh basil leaves
  • 1/2 cup parsley leaves
  • 1 cup good quality extra virgin olive oil
  • 1-2 cloves fresh garlic
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts
  • 1/2 cup fresh parmesan cheese
  • Salt and Pepper to taste

Put all ingredients in blender and blend until smooth.

FYI- I have tried using toasted pine nuts  as well as roasted garlic and it did not make a notable difference in taste.   I have also substituted walnuts for pine nuts, and the flavor was great.  I have used both the parmesan cheese in the green can as well as fresh parmesan cheese, and fresh makes a difference.  Use freshly grated parmesan if you can, but if you only have the green can on hand, go for it!  I usually add a little more olive oil if I am putting this on pasta.  If you are using dried herbs in a pinch, you also may want to increase the olive oil.  Go ahead!  Play with this recipe!  Have fun and enjoy the amazing flavors!  And don’t forget to freeze some rouse later.

 

 

This and That Pasta

9 Mar

What’s for dinner on a Friday night when everyone is a bit low on energy from the long week?   Something easy for sure! Here is what I did on a Friday when the family was just worn out.  It is important to eat healthy in our family.  Sure we cheat every now and again, but for the most part we all make an effort to eat food that is natural and wholesome.  So how to solve this Friday night conundrum?  We did it in a snap.

I roasted some vegetables, Denis put a pot of water on to boil, and then pulled out a loaf of crusty bread.  There were salad fixings in the fridge, but the veggies with the pasta seemed sufficient, so that was left for another meal.   Dinner in a snap was the goal du jour.  It was so easy to get ready, and dinner was on the table quickly.  Let me share it with you.

I call this recipe Amy’s This and That Pasta.  It’s a little of this, a little of that.  Whatever you have on hand will do.   Here is what I did.  I pulled out a glass oblong pan.  Into it went:

  • 1 bunch of asparagus, cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 2 packages of fresh assorted mushrooms (I have also used canned mushrooms.  Drained, these work just fine.)
  • 1 large jar pimento drained (or a jar of roasted red peppers, drained and chopped, will do just fine too)
  •  A few handfuls of fresh spinach
  • 1  28 ounce can diced tomatoes in sauce

I mixed these veggies together with a rubber spatula.  I drizzled olive oil over the top and sprinkled on:

  • 1 T. dried basil
  • 1 T. dried parsley
  • 1 t. dried oregano
  • salt, pepper and dried red pepper flakes to taste.

Again I mixed this up and placed it in an oven that was preheated to 400 degrees.  The timer was set to 30 minutes.  On went a pot of water for the pasta.  Then I changed out of my work clothes, and sat down for a few minutes to chat with the family.

When the vegetables were nearly done, frozen tortellini went into the boiling water for about 4 minutes.  The children set the table for dinner.  The sliced loaf of crusty bread was taken to the table.  After draining the pasta and putting it in a large shallow bowl, I poured the hot roasted vegetables over it.  Lastly, I grated some fresh parmesan cheese over it and on to the table it went.

It was a simple meal, and so easy to toss together.  The vegetables imparted what I call “vegetable liquor”, meaning they juiced up a bit while roasting.  The roasted pasta sauce was a snap to make with the oven doing all of the work.  It was a nutritious dinner for a Friday night. Most vegetables work in this recipe except starchy ones (like potatoes), so use this recipe as a base and substitute with what you have in your kitchen.

Toss your favorite veggies together, let them roast in the oven, have a seat and wait for dinner to practically make itself.  Easy, quick, nutritious.  Perfect for a family meal.  Weeknight meals do not have to be grand, time consuming, or fussy.  Remember the true focus of family meals.   Connecting.  Conversation.  Togetherness. Meals can be easy, yummy and nutritious, but more important, a happy social time to reconnect.  Bon appetite!

Love the food…hate the breath?

13 Oct

I love great food.  And I eat just about everything, mostly in moderation.  Nothing beats an iceburg wedge salad with blue cheese on it.  Or a garlic infused roasted chicken.  But holy cow…that kind of eating can sure lead to some serious bad breath!

We have all done it. Cupped our hand from our mouth to our nostrils and huffed out.  Then breathed in deep. And thought “Is it bad?  Can I tell if it is bad?  What if I can’t tell!”

The anxiety of the possibility of bad breath is just too much, and we cannot resist the temptation to see four ourselves if, indeed, we have bad breath! But does this method work? Can we smell our own bad breath? Well, our nose is connected to our mouth, so this method is probably not effective.  We filter it out!

I think we all remember one teacher from grade school with the condition. They used to get right up close and personal, then whisper something discreetly. Man, a kid could just pass out from that blast of bad breath sent in our direction! Have we forgotten the juvenile nicknames for teachers possessing this affliction? Who can forget the 5th grade social studies teacher “Horse breath Hoffman” (my apologies to all horse lovers to whom this unfortunate nickname might offend).

As a mother, I know that I have been guilty of bad breath too. Driving carpool in the morning is not glamorous. I am certain that helping a kid get buckled in after a nights sleep, a cup of coffee, and no time to get a toothbrush in my mouth had to just about make my kids eyes roll into the back of their head! I guess none of us can escape bad breath every now and again.

Bad breath has a medical name. It’s halitosis. The word is as unpleasant as the condition. What causes it? Is it chronic?  Bad breath has many causes that range from offensive food to poor dental care. Eating strong foods such as garlic and blue cheese can contribute to bad breath.

Bacteria growing on the back of the tongue is also a major cause for halitosis. So is dehydration. It is a fairly common problem and can be chronic, meaning it is constantly present. Luckily it is preventable.

Good oral care helps rid our mouth of offensive breath. Brush and floss often. And don’t forget to brush your tongue too, all the way to the back of the tongue. Yes, your gag reflex may kick in, but try to do it anyway! Bacteria grows in our mouth, and good oral hygiene can get rid of halitosis causing bacteria.

Chewing gum can also help get rid of bad breath, in part because it stimulates saliva production. Drinking more water and staying properly hydrated can help prevent or get rid of halitosis too. The dentist is another great resource for helping get rid of bad breath.

So back to determining if we can smell our own bad breath. We may not be able to do it by cupping our hand from our mouth to our nostril, but there may be another way. Lick your wrist. Wait a few seconds. Smell it. That may be a good indication of what your breath smells like. So enjoy your garlic and blue cheese, drink some water, go to the dentist, and lick the back of your hand! Then sniffffffff!

Roasted Pasta Sauce

21 Sep
Roasted baby peppers!  yum!

Baby peppers! Perfect for roasting! Yum!

Tonight I made pasta for dinner. I roasted the sauce. Yes, that’s right. And it was fabulous. Absolutely fabulous!

Here we go. I had a taste for pasta Primavera. A Primavera sauce is a vegetable sauce usually associated with fresh, or seasonal, chunky cut vegetables. I wanted a light supper.  Nothing heavy and fatty. I needed bright, light, and colorful.   Something not only packed with flavor, but loaded with beneficial nutrients too.

And as you know, I love to use what i have on hand. That is my creativity springboard.  For some reason, that absolutely energizes me.  I started pulling vegetables out of the fridge and pantry.  For a special flavor twist, I decided to roast my sauce instead of cooking it on the stove top.  I cut up my veggies  and dumped them into a big mixing bowl.  Next I sprinkled them with pepper, both red and black, salt, herb de Provence, olive oil, and a tiny drizzle of balsamic vinegar.

A good starting point.  Chunky chopped vegetables!

A good starting point. Chunky chopped vegetables!

Next, I gave the mixture a good minute of stirring with a big wooden spoon.  Then I put it into a glass roasting pan that was about 2″ deep.  I sprinkled the vegetables with a little more salt and pepper, and tossed the pan into a preheated 375 degree oven.

In the meantime, Denis popped open a bottle of wine.  We sipped a glass of a yummy big bold red, and chatted with my son a bit.  The boys set the table.  I put a pot of water on to boil for the pasta.  We had fresh pasta that was in the freezer, and that cooks pretty quickly.

Into the oven it goes!

Into the oven it goes!

In 30 minutes, I pulled the veggies out of the oven.  They had cooked down, so there was a good bit of what my grandmother called “vegetable liquor” in the pan.  There was just enough liquid for a perfect sauce.  I poured it over the cooked pasta, and voila!  A super yummy light dinner was ready.  Onto the table it went with some crusty bread.  It was a colorful healthy vegetarian dinner.   I am sharing my recipe with you, but customize it using your own palate as a flavor compass.

Amy’s Pasta Primavera

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Then start cutting…

1 large zucchini, cut into chunky quarters

1 pint grape tomatoes, sliced in half

1 large container fresh bella mushrooms, sliced

1 large container button mushrooms, sliced

3 large or a dozen small bell peppers, deseeded and sliced

6 green onions, sliced in 1/2 inch intervals from the whites to the tip of the green

8 ounces arugula (2 big handfuls)

8 ounces baby spinach

1/4 cup olive oil

3-4 T. balsamic vinegar

2 T. Herb de Provence

salt and pepper to taste

Mix together in large mixing bowl.  Add salt,  pepper, red pepper flakes, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, Herb de Provence and any seasoning to taste.

Pasta of choice-cooked (I used fresh ricotta penne)

Bread of choice

Toss this on the table for an incredibly mouthwatering meal loaded with flavor and packed with antioxidants and nutrients!  The great thing about this recipe is that it can be totally customized.

I am a moody garnisher.  Sometimes I do it, sometimes I don’t.  It depends on the flow of my day and, as always, time allowed.  Sometimes my creative juices and energy match, other times I just need to get something, anything, on the table.  But with this beautiful bounty of vegetables, my creativity ran wild,  and I garnished with chunks of creamy mozzarella cheese, some shredded zippy parmesan cheese, and fresh from the garden basil with a chiffonade cut.  It was simply wonderful!

This is the dish headed to the table.  Pasta with roasted sauce.  Super Yum!

This is the dish headed to the table. Pasta with roasted sauce. Super Yum!

Roasted Garlic! YUM!

18 Jul

I remember the first time I had roasted garlic.  It was many years ago at a sheshefoofoolala restaurant in my home town of Chicago.  The server brought a flat plate to the table along with roasted garlic, olive oil, and seasonings.  To my surprise, she smashed that roasted garlic with the back of a fork, added the seasonings, mashed it some more, then added some olive oil.  The server then invited us to enjoy this concoction with the fresh italian bread on the table.  Holy cow was that fantastic!  I became an instant convert.  Now I make it all of the time!  Good thing it is a snap to make!  Let me share it with you.

Take a bulb of garlic and cut the bottom off so that all of the cloves are exposed.  Place the bulb of garlic, cut side up, in a large piece of tin foil.  Drizzle some olive oil over it, and sprinkle a dash of salt and pepper on it too.  Seal up that foil pouch nice and tight.  Crimp the top.  Then simply toss it in a preheated 350 degree oven for about 30 minutes.

Take a whole bulb of garlic.  Chop the top off.

Take a whole bulb of garlic. Chop the top off.

Place the bulb into the center of a large piece of tim foil.

Place the bulb into the center of a large piece of tim foil

 

While that is baking, enjoy the rich nutty aroma filling the kitchen.  When it is done, pull it out of the oven and place on a heat proof surface.  Open the top and let the steam out.   This needs to cool a bit so you can handle it with your hands.  When it cools a bit just squeeze the cloves out of their paper wrappers.  Use it any way you choose.  The most difficult thing about roasting garlic is deciding what to do with it.  I have mashed it up and spread it on bread just like the first time I had it.  I have also added it to sauces, and it is absolutely outrageous in mashed potatoes!  I also use the oil that the garlic roasted with in the foil.  No need to waste even a tiny morsel of this!

That is all there is to roasted garlic.  Don’t you dare go buy one of those silly little garlic bakers.  First of all, I do not like kitchen utensils that can only do one little job.  Second, there is no need for one.  I have tried them, and tin foil works just as well as the little baker.  And by the way, my little baker cracked pretty quickly.

get that foil pouch nice and tight.  Then toss it in the oven!

get that foil pouch nice and tight. Then toss it in the oven!

Just look at this delicious roasted garlic!

Just look at this delicious roasted garlic!

 

A word of warning however.  This delicious treat may cause some gas.  Along with the breath thing, garlic has a little gas thing to deal with as well.  It may produce some methane in the lower GI system.  You may “make a little music” out the back end after having garlic of any kind.  (In my house we act surprised if a little backend music escapes and blame it on barking spiders somewhere in our vicinity).  This is fine is you are hanging around the house or with close friends after consuming this tasty treat.  But beware if you are heading out for a night of fun after eating this tasty treat.  I speak from experience…

We made the mistake of having roasted garlic, and lots of it, for Christmas Eve dinner one year.  We slathered it on the bread at our dinner table, and allowed the incredible flavors to overtake us…consuming way too much.  After dinner we toddled off to midnight mass in celebration of Christmas.  We grabbed our usual pew in the church…right up front.  Let’s just say that we spent the mass partially focused on keeping out butt cheeks pretty tight.  We never made that mistake again!

Don’t let a little gas stop you from this yummy treat.  Try it, and let me know what you do with it!  Let your creativity shine!