Monday, July 22, 2013

What's For Dinner Tonight?

What is for dinner?  It is one such question that I know that has haunted so many of us.  I know it can scare some to their core, others can raise their hands in defeat before starting.  I think it is like that test you had when you went to school, you knew it was coming, but you just were never prepared for it.  You look at the clock each day, and think oh  no what am I going to cook for dinner tonight?  

Cause no one would have guessed dinner was coming again in 24 hours after the last one. 

I totally get it, just because I love to cook I know what it's like, everyday it is the same thing, as usual it is a hard to decide what to cook, who to please, and who is on what diet this week.

If I were to subscribe to my mother's way of thinking I would perpetually make reservations, or learn take out is my best friend.  Let me make this clear, I enjoy take out and love to eat out, but is cooking really that scary?  Has the daunting question of what to make really have got the best of us?   

So the fix, now don't hate me, just a little menu planning.  It is not as bad as it may seem, it can be a good thing, really.  Because if you know what’s for dinner, don't you think that your stress level might just be oh so much better.

If you think about it, shopping last minute, trying to gather everything together, then realizing, DAMN I don't have this or that what you needed for a meal.  Try a baby step, try a I only plan five dinners for one week's worth of meals.   The other two nights are whatever you chose either leftovers, dining out, or a meal from the freezer what makes you happy. Then see if the what is for dinner question is as bad as all that?

Savory Pork Chops in Creamy
 Dijon Sauce 

4-6 boneless pork chops
2 Tbsp butter - divided
1 small onion, chopped
3 cloves fresh garlic, chopped
1 Tbsp flour
1-14.5 oz can chicken broth
2 Tbsp Dijon mustard
1/2 tsp salt
1 Tbsp dried chives
1/2 Tbsp dried parsley
1/2 cup half-and-half

  1. Lightly salt & pepper both sides of pork chops.  In a large skillet, sauté pork chops in 1 Tbsp of butter about 6 minutes per side or until cooked through. Remove pork chops to a serving platter.  
  2. Melt the additional 1 Tbsp. of butter and gently sauté onions and garlic until soft.  Sprinkle flour over onions and stir through.  Turn the heat to medium-high and slowly add the chicken broth; stirring continuously.  
  3. Add the Dijon mustard, chives, parsley, and salt.  Bring to a light boil; reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes.  Add half-and-half; stir through and cook and additional 1 minute or until sauce is thick.

Sautéed Green Beans

1-16 oz bag whole green beans (thawed)
1 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp olive oil
3  Tbsp  almond slivers
salt & pepper

  1. In a large skillet, sauté green beans in butter and olive oil for 4-5 minutes.  Salt and Pepper to taste.
  2.  Add almonds and continue to sauté for an additional 2 minutes.  Can also add a squeeze of fresh lemon juice.

  Honey Mustard Chicken

1-3/4  lbs  boneless, skinless chicken thighs
3 Tbsp honey
3 Tbsp stone ground mustard 
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup sour cream
1 cup Panko Crispy Bread    crumbs 
1 Tbsp dried parsley
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried basil

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a medium sized bowl, stir together  honey, mustard, vinegar and sour cream.  In a second large shallow bowl, add Panko bread crumbs and dried herbs. 
  2. Swirl your chicken breasts on both sides in the honey mustard mixture.  Leave sit in the mixture for a couple of seconds.  Dip in the breading mixture coating both sides well. 
  3. Spray a cookie sheet with non-stick spray and lay chicken pieces evenly on the sheet.  Bake for  30 - 35 minutes. Garnish with parsley.

Garlic Red Skinned Mashed Potatoes 

2 lbs medium baby red potatoes, washed, unpeeled, and quartered
3 large cloves garlic, peeled
1 tsp chicken flavored soup base
2 Tbsp butter
3/4 cup milk
1 tsp salt, divided
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/2 Tbsp dried chives

  1. Place potatoes and garlic in large pan and cover with water. Add 1 tsp. chicken flavored soup base and 1/4 tsp. salt to the water. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer for 20-25 minutes, or until potatoes are tender. 
  2. Drain well . Mash potatoes with butter, milk, and 3/4 tsp. salt. Stir in parmesan cheese and chives. Add additional milk if necessary.

  Country Inn Swiss Steak 

1-1/2 lbs thick-cut round steak
1/2 cup  flour
1 Tbsp dry mustard
2 Tbsp canola oil
1- 14-1/2 oz.  can diced tomatoes
1 medium onion, sliced
1/2 cup diced celery
3 carrots, diced
2 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 Tbsp brown sugar, firmly packed
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Stir together mustard and flour in a small bowl or cup. Sprinkle flour mixture over steak and pound it in with a meat mallet. Cut pounded steak into serving-size pieces. 
  2. Heat oil in a large, nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add meat and cook, turning once, until browned on both sides. 
  3. Transfer to a baking pan. In a medium bowl, stir together tomatoes, celery, carrots, Worcestershire, sugar, salt, and pepper.  Pour over beef.  Cover and bake until meat is tender when pierced, about 1-1/2 hours.

Lightly Buttered Egg Noodles 

8 ounces medium egg noodles
2 tsp. chicken flavored soup base
3 tablespoons butter
1 Tbsp. dried parsley
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper

  1. Bring a medium pot of water to a boil and stir in chicken bouillon. Add the noodles and cook according to package directions. 
  2. Drain noodles reserving 1/4 cup of liquid. Leave noodles in colander.  Pour the 1/4 cup of the noodle cooking water back into the pan. 
  3. Over low heat, stirring constantly, add the butter and bring to a light simmer. Stir in parsley,  salt and pepper. Place noodles back in the pan and mix through.

Simple Roasted Broccoli

1 head broccoli, using florets only
2 Tbsp. olive oil
2-3 cloves garlic, diced

  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  
  2. Line a cookie sheet with foil and spray with nonstick spray.  Place olive oil and garlic in a large resealable bag.  Add broccoli florets and shake well to coat.  
  3. Lay broccoli in a single layer on cookie sheet and sprinkle with salt.  Bake for 10-15 minutes.

  Easy Skillet Lasagna

1-1/2 lbs. ground meat

1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1-29 oz can tomato sauce
1-1/4 cup water
1/2 tsp onion salt
1 tsp oregano
dash of pepper
1 cup ricotta cheese
1 Tbsp Parmesan cheese
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1/2 bag medium egg noodles (about 16 oz uncooked)

  1. Brown the ground beef, onions, and garlic over medium high heat about 4-5 minutes.  
  2. Season meat with onion salt, oregano, and pepper.  Then drain off any excess grease. Stir in can of tomato sauce and 1 1/4 cup water and bring to a slight boil. 
  3. Add the egg noodles and stir until all egg noodles are covered with sauce.  Cover and simmer for about 6-7 minutes. 
  4. Blend the Ricotta cheese with the parmesan cheese and drop 4 spoonfuls on top of the noodles. Sprinkle mozzarella cheese over all and cover for about 3-4 minutes until the cheese melts and is heated through.

 Scrumptious Lemon Chicken

1-3/4 lb. boneless chicken breast
1 Tbsp. butter
1 Tbsp. olive oil
3-1/2 Tbsp. flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 cup chicken broth
2 lemons
2 tsp. minced garlic
1 Tbsp.  dried parsley

  1. With a sharp knife, carefully slice each chicken breast on the diagonal to make two thin breast slices. Do this to all breast pieces. 
  2. Mix flour, salt, pepper together in a bag. Add chicken pieces to bag and shake until well coated.
  3. Add the oil and butter to a large skillet and turn the heat to medium-high.  Let the butter melt and swirl the oil & butter with a spoon or fork on the bottom of the skillet.
  4. Place the chicken into the  skillet and cook for about 2-3 minutes on one side. Turn chicken over and cook for another 2-3 minutes.
  5. While the chicken is cooking, pour 1/2 cup of chicken broth into a glass measuring cup.  Squeeze into the broth the juice of 2 lemons.  Add garlic and parsley, stirring to blend.
  6. Turn the heat to medium and add lemon broth mixture to the pan with chicken.  Simmer uncovered for about 15 minutes, turning the chicken occasionally.  All of the broth should be cooked away leaving a tender, moist delicious lemon chicken.

Easy Rice Pilaf

1 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
1 cup uncooked long grain rice
1/2 cup vermicelli or thin spaghetti, broken into small pieces
2-1/2 cups chicken broth
1 Tbsp dried parsley
1 Tbsp Parmesan Cheese
  1. In a medium saucepan with lid, sauté onions in butter and olive oil until onions are soft.  
  2. Add rice and vermicelli  sauté for an additional 2 minutes. Stir in broth; bring to a boil.  Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 20 minutes or until rice is tender.  
  3. Remove from heat and stir through the Parmesan cheese and parsley.

Roasted Honey Carrots

10- 12 carrots (or a bag of baby carrots)
2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 Tbs. honey
Salt & Pepper

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Peel and cut carrots on the diagonal into 2" lengths and halved lengthwise if carrots are thick.  
  2. Place carrots in a baking dish and drizzle with oil and honey.  Lightly salt and pepper carrots and place in the oven.  Bake for about 20-25 minutes.  
  3. Remove carrots and stir.  Place carrots back in the oven and bake for another 15 minutes or until carrots are tender.  Remove from oven and lightly salt carrots again.

Bonus anytime dessert

 Pineapple Upside-Down Cake 

1/2 cup Butter

1 cup Brown sugar; firmly packed
1- 20 oz can Sliced unsweetened pineapple rings; drained and dried, reserving juice
2 eggs
1/2 cup sour cream

1 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 stick butter, softened
1 cup sugar
3 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup reserved pineapple juice
1/2 cup milk

    1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
    2. For the topping, melt butter in a 10-inch cast-iron skillet placed in hot oven. When melted, remove skillet from oven, swirl to coat evenly with butter, then spread brown sugar evenly over the butter. Drain pineapple, reserving juice. Pat pineapple slices very dry between several thicknesses of paper towel. Cut pineapple slices in half, reserving one whole slice. Place whole pineapple slice in center of skillet, then arrange half-slices in spoke fashion around whole slice in center.
    3. To make batter, in a small bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon. In a large bowl with an electric mixer, cream the butter with the sugar until the mixture is light and fluffy, add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition, then beat in the vanilla. 
    4. Add the flour mixture alternately in batches with the milk and pineapple juice, beginning and ending with the flour mixture, and beating well after each addition.
    5. Spoon, or carefully pour batter over brown-sugar-pineapple topping in bottom of skillet, and spread evenly. Bake until top is golden and toothpick inserted into cake center comes out clean, 45 to 55 minutes. 
    6. Let cake cool in skillet on a rack for 5 minutes, run a thin knife around edge of cake to loosen from skillet. Place serving platter over skillet, carefully invert cake onto platter. Let stand for 1 minute before carefully lifting skillet off. 
    7. Replace any pineapple stuck to bottom of skillet, scrape any remaining glaze from skillet onto cake. Cool on platter on a rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.

    Wednesday, July 17, 2013

    Summer Pasta Delights...

    Let's face it, sometimes all you need at the end of the day is a big bowl of pasta, add a nice salad and viola, meal complete.  Of course when you throw the heat of summer into the mix, you don’t want anything too heavy or require you spending way too much time slaving over the stove. 

    You need to prepare something fast and easy, but most of all, you need delicious and comforting. So how do you enjoy what you love without becoming a slave to your kitchen on top of everything else. Well the beauty of these recipes is the ease at which you can prepare them. Just fresh, fabulous flavors quickly combined so you can enjoy the rest of your summer night.

    Bow Ties with Spinach and Cherry Tomatoes

    12 oz farfalle (bow-tie) pasta 
    4  Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil 
    1  Tbsp minced garlic
    1- 10oz bag fresh spinach,thick stems removed, cut into bite-sized pieces
    1/2 tsp each salt and pepper
    1  pint cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered if large
    1/2 cup slivered almonds, toasted
    3/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese

    1. Cook the pasta according to package directions. Drain the pasta and return it to the pot.
    2. Meanwhile, heat 1 Tbsp oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add half the garlic and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add half the spinach and 1/4 tsp each salt and pepper and cook until spinach begins to wilt, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the remaining spinach and cook until beginning to wilt, 1 to 2 minutes; transfer to a plate.
    3. Add the remaining 3 Tbsp oil and garlic to the skillet and cook, stirring, until garlic is golden brown. Add the tomatoes and 1/4 tsp each salt and pepper and cook until the tomatoes begin to soften, 1 to 2 minutes.
    4. Add the tomatoes, spinach, nuts and cheese to the pasta and toss to combine.

    Caprese Pasta

    2 tomatoes, seeded and chopped 
    2 balls of mozzarella, chopped 
    2/3 cup fresh basil, chopped 
    1 tsp kosher salt 
    Dash of pepper 
    1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil 
    1 lb of your favorite pasta  

    1. Bring a large pot of salted water to boil, then cook pasta according to package instructions.
    2. While the pasta is cooking, in a large bowl combine the chopped tomatoes, mozzarella, basil and extra virgin olive oil with the salt and pepper.
    3. Drain the pasta well (but don’t rinse it), then toss with the tomato mixture and serve.

    Lemon Linguine with Spinach and Crispy Prosciutto

    1 lbs linguine
    1/3 cup olive oil
    1/3 cup minced shallots or onion
    1/4 cup chopped sun-dried tomatoes
    1 Tbsp grated lemon zest
    1  Tbsp   tablespoon(s) garlic paste
    4   oz prosciutto, torn into pieces
    1/3  cup(s) fresh lemon juice
    1/2  tsp salt
    1/2  tsp freshly ground black pepper
    8 cups baby spinach,loosely packed, 
    1/2  cup(s) slivered almonds, toasted
    Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese or Grana Padano cheese, for garnish

    1. In a large pot, cook linguine according to package directions, al dente.
    2. Meanwhile, in a large, deep skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add shallots, sun-dried tomatoes, and grated lemon zest and cook, stirring constantly, 1 minute. Add garlic paste and cook, stirring constantly, 1 minute. Add prosciutto and cook, about 2 minutes, until crisp.
    3. Drain linguine; add to skillet along with lemon juice, salt, and pepper, tossing over medium heat to combine.
    4. Place spinach in a large bowl. Add hot linguine mixture to spinach, tossing to combine. Stir in pine nuts. Garnish with cheese.

    Monday, July 15, 2013

    A Taste of the Sea

    I had the pleasure spending Saturday with my friend Miss Maddy in NYC, had an amazing time.  Of course being the food lovers we are we decided to head over to Eataly ( 200 5th Ave, New York, NY ).  

    After walking around a bit we settled on seafood, excellent choice.  As for the choice, it was simple for me one of my all time favorites, Fritto Misto. Very simply ‘Fritto’ means fried, and ‘misto’ means ‘mixed’. ‘Fritto Misto’ is therefore a ‘mixed fry’- an assortment of different foods fried and served together. 

    Most of us love deep fried seafood. When I was a child I could never get enough, who am I kidding even now i am the the same way, mixed deep fried seafood, the selection included fish, scallops and calamari rings. For a really good fritto misto it is important that all the ingredients are fresh. You can vary the seafood to your own taste.


    1. Fritto Misto 
    2. Vegetable oil, for frying
    3. 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
    4. 1/2 cup cornstarch
    5. 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
    6. Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
    7. 2 cups club soda
    8. 12 large shrimp, shelled and deveined
    9. 3/4 pound skinless cod fillet, cut into 12 chunks
    10. 1/2 pound squid, tentacles halved and bodies sliced into 1/2-inch rings
    11. 1 small fennel bulb, sliced lengthwise 1/8 inch thick
    12. 1 lemon, very thinly sliced, plus lemon wedges for serving
    13. 1/4 cup coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley leaves
    • In a large pot, heat 3 inches of vegetable oil to 350°. In a medium bowl, whisk 1 cup of the flour with the cornstarch, baking powder, 1 teaspoon of kosher salt and a pinch of black pepper. Whisk in the club soda to make a thin batter. Let the batter stand for 5 minutes.
    • Place the remaining 1 1/2 cups of flour in a bowl. Season the shrimp, cod, squid, fennel and lemon slices with salt and black pepper. Dust with the flour. Dip them in the batter in batches, scraping some of the excess against the side of the bowl, and fry them in batches in the hot oil until lightly golden and crisp, about 4 minutes. Drain the fritto misto on paper towels and sprinkle with salt. Transfer to a large plate, sprinkle with the parsley and serve with lemon wedges.