Classic Pasta Salad

This pasta salad recipe is simple yet delicious.  It gets better with time, which is always a plus. You can make it “full-fat” or low-fat and they’ll both be very tasty.

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Pineapple Fried Rice

I finally succeeding in making Asian food at home that tasted like real Asian food – not just soy sauce and veggies.  The secret is sesame oil!  I actually lucked out and happened to find some good gourmet sesame oil at HomeGoods.  This dish is the perfect side to grilled shrimp, Mmm…

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Oven Baked “Risotto”

This quick and easy “risotto” recipe from Barefoot Contessa was surprisingly good.  It’s a great side dish to any meal or could be a filling meal on its own.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
  • 5 cups chicken stock, simmering
  • 1 cup powdered Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine (one you would drink)
  • 3 tbsp unsalted butter, diced
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 1 cup frozen peas

HOW TO MAKE IT

  • Place the rice and 4 cups of the simmering stock in a medium dutch oven (i.e. Le Creuset)
  • Cover and bake at 350°F for 45 minutes or until most of the liquid is absorbed and the rice is cooked al dente
  • Remove from the oven and add in the last cup of chicken stock, wine, Parmesan cheese, butter, salt and pepper and stir continuously for 2-3 minutes until everything is well combined
  • Lastly, add in the peas and stir until the peas are heated through

Old School Broccoli Casserole

This is another one of my mom’s recipes for something that always seems to make an appearance around the holidays.  While it may not be the best thing for you, it’s really tasty and easy to make.

INGREDIENTS

  • 3 (14 oz.) bags frozen broccoli florets
  • 32 oz. Velveeta cheese, melted
  • 1 stick of butter, melted
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • Salt, pepper and garlic powder, to taste
  • Ritz crackers, crushed – for topping

HOW TO MAKE IT

  • Blanch the frozen broccoli in boiling water, strain and set aside in a large mixing bowl
  • Melt the Velveeta and butter – you can either do this in a sauce pan over medium heat or in the microwave
  • Pour the cheese and butter mixture over the cooked broccoli and stir
  • Season the beaten eggs with salt, pepper and garlic powder, add it to the mixture and combine well
  • Pour the mixture into a large casserole dish and top with the crushed Ritz crackers
  • Bake at 350°F for 45 minutes – 1 hour (cover with aluminum foil for half the time)

Zucchini Gratin

I decided to test out a new contender for one of our Christmas dinner side dishes.  Last night I made this Barefoot Contessa recipe and was pleasantly surprised… I made a few minor adjustments  and  I think we’ve got ourselves a new side dish.

INGREDIENTS

  • 6 tbsp butter
  • 4 large zucchini (2 green, 2 yellow), sliced thinly
  • 1 yellow onion, sliced thinly and then in halves
  • 2-3 tbsp flour
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg (Don’t leave this out!  It won’t be overpowering, it will just make you wonder, “What is that?”)
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3/4 cup milk + 1/4 cup cream or half & half (I combined the two because I usually buy skim milk, but if you have whole milk on hand, just use that), hot
  • 1 cup fresh bread crumbs (here’s how you make them)
  • 1 cup grated gruyere cheese
  • 1 tbsp butter, diced into small cubes

HOW TO MAKE IT

  • Melt the 6 tbsp butter in large saute pan and add in the sliced onions
  • Saute the onions until they’re tender (5-10 minutes) and then add in the sliced zucchini
  • Cover the saute pan and cook the zucchini for 10 minutes or until its tender
  • Add in the nutmeg, salt and pepper and stir well and cook uncovered over low heat for about 5 minutes
  • Sprinkle the flour over the zucchini mixture and mix well
  • Pour in the hot milk and stir over low heat until the liquid begins to thicken a bit
  • Pour the mixture into a 8″x10″ baking dish
  • Combine the bread crumbs and grated cheese and sprinkle on top of the zucchini
  • Place small cubes of the diced up tbsp butter on top of the breadcrumbs
  • Bake at 400°F for 20 minutes
  • Let the zucchini gratin rest for at least 10 minutes before serving

Oven Roasted Cauliflower

Now that we’ve all been binging on Thanksgiving food for the past few days, it might be time to eat something that’s a little lighter and not such a carb-overload.  It’s actually amazing how tasty cauliflower can be when it’s cooked like this – fitting into the post-holiday diet plan is a bonus.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 head of cauliflower
  • Olive oil
  • Kosher salt

HOW TO MAKE IT

  • Rinse the cauliflower and remove the florets – you can leave a good amount of stem attached to the floret
  • Brush or spray a baking sheet with olive oil (I’ve got the Misto and it works well)
  • Lay out your cauliflower florets into one layer
  • Spray the florets as generously (or not) as you desire
  • Sprinkle with salt, to taste (remember, you can always add…)
  • Broil on high for approximately 45 minutes – you’ll want to flip them over about halfway through to make sure they’re evenly browning

Apple Sausage Stuffing

I decided to try out a “new” stuffing – one that was made from fresh bread, herbs and bright flavors like apples and cranberries.  It’s a nice change-up from the old faithful. 

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 French baguettes, chopped into small cubes
  • 3/4 lb. of sausage (approximately 2 large  links), removed from the casing (I like to use one spicy and one mild)
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 3 large stalks of celery, finely chopped
  • 2 Granny Smith apples (with skins), chopped small
  • 2 oz. dried cranberries
  • 1 tbsp fresh rosemary, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp fresh sage, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp fresh thyme, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 1/2 cups chicken broth
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper

HOW TO MAKE IT

  • Place your bread cubes onto a baking sheet and bake at 300°F for 7-8 minutes
  • Melt 1 stick of butter in a large saute pan and add in the chopped onions, celery and apples
  • Add in the loose sausage meat and saute with the vegetables
  • Saute the vegetables and sausage until the meat is cooked and the vegetables are tender
  • In a large bowl, mix the bread cubes with the beaten eggs
  • Fold in the sauteed vegetables and sausage
  • Pour in 1 cup of chicken broth
    • You basically want to get this mixture to a very moist consistency, but not too wet, if it needs more moisture add in more chicken stock
  • Butter the glass dish you’re going to bake it in and pack the stuffing into the dish
  • Pour some chicken broth on top or put small chunks of melted butter on top
  • Bake at 350° F for 45 mins covered – uncover and broil on low for an additional 5 minutes or until the top is golden and crispy

Baked Stuffed Mushrooms

These stuffed mushrooms are by far the best ones I’ve ever had.  To make them, I combined my mom’s recipe with the Barefoot Contessa’s recipe – the result was the ultimate baked stuffed mushroom.

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 links of sausage (I used one sweet and one hot), removed from the casing
  • Approximately 25 large stuffing mushrooms
  • 1 bunch of scallions (about 8 chutes), finely chopped
  • 3 cloves of garlic, pressed
  • 2/3 cup crushed Ritz crackers (1/2 of a sleeve)
  • 1/3 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 1/3 cup powdered parmesan cheese
  • 2 tbsp of butter
  • 5 oz. mascarpone cheese
  • 5 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 tbsp Marsala wine
  • Salt and pepper to taste

HOW TO MAKE IT

  • Clean the mushrooms and remove all of the stems
  • Place the mushroom caps in a shallow bowl and toss with 3 tbsp of olive oil and 3 tbsp of Marsala wine – set aside
  • Finely chop all of the mushroom stems and set aside
  • In a large saute pan, heat the remaining 2 tbsp of olive oil and saute the loose sausage meat – make sure you keep separating the meat with a spoon so it doesn’t clump together
  • Once the sausage is browned, add in the chopped mushroom stems and 2 tbsp of butter and saute until the mushrooms have given off their liquid and they’re tender
  • Add in the scallions and saute for a few minutes
  • Add in the pressed garlic and saute for an additional minute or so
  • Stir in the Ritz cracker crumbs and panko breadcrumbs and thoroughly coat them with the mixture
  • Add in the mascarpone cheese and stir until the mixture is creamy (if you want a drier consistency, feel free to add in more panko)
  • Lastly, off the heat, stir in the parmesan cheese
  • Now, you’re ready to stuff your mushrooms!
  • Stuff each mushroom with a heaping amount of stuffing
  • Snugly line up your stuffed mushrooms in a baking dish
  • Bake at 325°F for 50 minutes or until the mushrooms are tender and the tops are browned

Twice Baked Potatoes

These twice baked potatoes take all of the tasty ingredients you’d see in a ‘loaded potato skin’ and put them inside the potato… not gonna lie, they’re hard to resist.

INGREDIENTS

  • 5 large Russet potatoes, scrubbed and pricked all over with a fork
  • Approximately 1/3 cup sour cream
  • Approximately 1/3 cup milk (add it in slowly, and stop when you’ve reached your desired consistency)
  • 4 tbsp butter
  • 1/2 cup cheddar cheese, shredded (or more if you desire)
  • 5 strips of bacon, chopped
  • Handful of chopped fresh chives
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Olive oil

HOW TO MAKE IT

  • Preheat the oven to 450°F
  • Rub with potatoes with olive oil and put them on a baking sheet, bake them in the oven for 1 hour
  • While the potatoes are baking, fry the chopped bacon in a skillet until it’s crispy and transfer onto a paper towel-lined plate
  • When the potatoes are done, let them cool off and then cut a large wedge out of the top of the potato and carefully scoop out the inside of the potato, leaving about 1/4 in. border of the potato inside the skin
  • Mash the scooped potato with a potato masher or ricer and add in the sour cream, milk, butter and and cheddar cheese
  • Season with salt and pepper and throw in the freshly chopped chives and bacon bits in the end
  • Fill the potato skins with the mashed potato mixture – you want the filling to be mounded up over the skins
  • Place the potatoes back on the baking sheet and put them back in the oven (still heated at 450°F)  for 15 minutes or until heated through

Classic Stuffing

This stuffing recipe is savory and delicious.  I’m going to be testing out some new stuffing recipes leading up to Thanksgiving, but this one is an old favorite.

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 links of sausage, removed from the casing
  • 2 – 8 oz. containers of mushrooms (porcini, cremini or shitake), finely chopped
  • 1 bunch of scallions, finely chopped
  • 1 bunch of celery, finely chopped
  • 1 stick of butter (Optional: 1 more stick for mixing with the stuffing)
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 4 cups chicken broth (1 store-bought carton)
  • 1 bag of Pepperidge Farm Cornbread Stuffing
  • 1 bag of Pepperidge Farm Herbed Stuffing

HOW TO MAKE IT

  • Melt 1 stick of butter in a large saute pan and add in the chopped mushrooms, scallions, celery
  • Add in the loose sausage meat and saute with the vegetables
  • Saute the vegetables and sausage until the meat is cooked and the vegetables are tender
  • In a large bowl, mix the two bags of stuffing with the two eggs
  • Fold in the sauteed vegetables and sausage
  • Pour in 2 – 3 cups of chicken broth (Optional: 1 stick of melted butter in place of some broth)
    • You basically want to get this mixture to a very moist consistency, but not too wet
  • Butter the glass dish you’re going to bake it in and pack the stuffing into the dish
  • Pour some chicken broth on top or put small chunks of melted butter on top
  • Bake at 350° F for 45 mins covered – uncover and broil on low for an additional 5 minutes or until the top is golden and crispy
    • This dish freezes really well – so you can make it ahead of time (don’t bake it) and defrost it when you need it!