Italian · Recipes

Pasta y Fagioli soup

IMG_3636

This version of Pasta y Fagioli is simple and hearty. My secret weapon was my cousin’s Italian herb mix (she grows her own herbs and dries them for Christmas presents). Instead of using spicy Italian sausage, you can opt for pancetta (if you want to live it up), mild italian sausage, or even chicken sausage. I like it best with a combination of spicy and mild sausage. I serve it with warm Italian bread for dipping in the soup. You can also assemble the soup and cooked it in a crockpot for 4-6 hours. I often do this during the work week, so I have a great meal to come home to.

Verdict: Delicious and easy to make.

You will need:

  • 1 cup ditalini pasta ( or small elbows)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 pound spicy Italian sausage, casing removed (pancetta or mild sausage is fine, as well.)
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 3 carrots, peeled and diced
  • 2 stalks celery, diced
  • 3 cups chicken broth (I used reduced sodium. If you use regular, adjust your salt
  • 1 (16-ounce) can tomato sauce
  • 1 (15-ounce) can diced tomatoes
  • 2 teaspoons dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 3/4 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 3/4 tsp Kosher salt and 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 (15-ounce) can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 (15-ounce) can Cannelini beans, drained and rinsed

INSTRUCTIONS:

  • Cook pasta according to package instructions; drain well and set aside.
  • Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large stockpot or over medium heat. Add Italian sausage to the skillet and cook until browned, about 3-5 minutes, making sure to crumble the sausage as it cooks; drain excess fat and set aside.
  • Add remaining 1 tablespoon oil to the stockpot. Stir in garlic, onion, carrots and celery. Cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 3-4 minutes.
  • Whisk in chicken broth, tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, basil, oregano, thyme, Italian sausage and 1 cup water; season with salt and pepper, to taste. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer, covered, until vegetables are tender, about 10-15 minutes. Of course, if you allow the soup to simmer for longer, the flavor will deepen and improve.
  • Stir in the beans until heated through. If you want to eat it immediately, add the pasta, as well.
  • Of course, if you allow the soup to simmer for longer, the flavor will deepen and improve. If you choose to do this add in the pasta before eating.
Italian · Recipes

Classic Risotto with Chicken

IMG_5259

Risotto is one of my all-time favorite comfort foods. For a long time I was scared to make it homemade because I heard it wasvery labor intensive. But I find if you prepare correctly, it’s really not that bad and very much worth it. The recipe below makes enough for 6 people. I served it with some crusty French bread because we love our carbs and it’s perfect for sopping up extra grains.

You can make this vegetarian or throw in a variety of protein.

You will need:

  • Arborio rice – 2 cups
  • 1/2 cup minced white onion
  • Olive oil, 2-3 tbs
  • Unsalted butter , 5-6 tbs
  • Garlic – 1-2 cloves, minced
  • 1/3 – 1/2 cup Dry white wine or vermouth
  • 6 cups Chicken broth
  • Sea salt and pepper – to taste
  • Chicken breast, cut into small pieces
  • Shrimp
  • One link – Italian chicken sausage (regular Italian sausage or pancetta will do)
  • Frozen peas – handful
  • Fresh grated Parmesan-about a 1/4 cup
  • *fresh herbs, if available
  • Large pan (I prefer my cast iron skillet)
  • Saucepan for broth
  • Pan for cooking the protein

Mincing the onions

Steps:

  1. Important! Heat chicken broth in a saucepan and have a ladle ready. As you cook the risotto, you will need to spoon hot chicken broth into the rice. Keep it on low to maintain the heat
  2. heat 1-2 tsp of oil in a pan. Add the proteins of your choice and season with garlic, pepper and salt. Add the peas during the last few minutes of cooking. Drain and set aside.
  3. In a large pan, Melt 2-tbs of butter and 2 tbs of olive oil.
  4. Add the onions and cook for a few minutes until they are translucent.
  5. Add the rice and coat the grains with oil for about one minute or so until they are clear.
  6. Add the wine, stirring the grains around until the liquid disappears.
  7. For about 15 to 20 minutes, add one ladle full of broth at a time stirring the grains around until the liquid evaporates. The rice will become starchy and creamy. Season with salt and pepper
  8. Use a taste test to determine the doneness. Most Italians prefer to have a tiny bit of bite.
  9. In the end, add the Parmesan and several tablespoons of butter to the Risotto without stirring it in. Put a lid on the pan and let it sit for 3 to 4 minutes. Then lift the lid and stir in the melted butter and cheese. Add in the proteins that you want at this time. You can also sprinkle in a little bit of fresh parsley or another herb of your choice for color. Enjoy!

Italian

Chicken with Sun Dried Tomatoes

*For this recipe, I used my cast iron skillet so I could easily transfer from the stove to the oven.

You will need:

  • 8 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes, or more, to taste
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1/3 cup julienned sun dried tomatoes in olive oil, drained
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/4 cup basil leaves, chiffonade

Steps:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Season chicken thighs with salt and pepper, to taste.
  3. Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a large oven-proof skillet over medium high heat. Add chicken, skin-side down, and sear both sides until golden brown, about 5-8 minutes per side; set aside.

4. Melt remaining tablespoon butter in the skillet. Add garlic and red pepper flakes, and cook, stirring frequently, until fragrant, about 1-2 minutes. Stir in chicken broth, heavy cream, sun dried tomatoes, Parmesan, thyme, oregano and basil.

5. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer until slightly thickened, about 5 minutes. Return chicken to the skillet.

6. Place into oven and roast until completely cooked through, reaching an internal temperature of 175 degrees F, about 25-30 minutes.

7. Serve immediately, garnished with basil, if desired. I chose to serve this dish with pasta, and it worked out very well. Enjoy:)

Source: damndelicious.net (adapted with some modifications)

Mexican · Recipes

Tomatillo Chicken Chili

chili-verde-078

I have been on a tomatillo kick lately. I’ve been looking for a nice chicken chili recipe for a while, and I created this from several different recipes. This is definitely going on my permanent rotation. I served this with a little sour cream and cilantro, and I made some cornbread to go along with it – a perfect fall dish after a long day at work. If you choose to buy salsa verde, this becomes a very quick, economical meal, as well. If you use one complete beer or 1-1.5 cups of chicken broth the consistency will be more soupy. Reducing the liquid gives you more of a chili consistency. Either way works well.

Simply assemble the ingredients and cook on a low and slow setting – 6-8 hours.

Serving suggestions: fresh cilantro, avocado, sour cream, Mexican cheese, cornbread as a side dish, corn tortillas.

You will need:

  1. 2 lbs chicken breast or thighs
  2. 2 cups Salsa Verde/tomatillo salsa* – you can buy this (use a 16 oz jar) or make it. see recipe below
  3. half white onion, sliced thinly
  4. 1 bell pepper, diced (I used a yellow one for this recipe)
  5. 1 can pinto beans
  6. 1 can cannelini beans
  7. 1 cup chicken broth or a little less than one beer
  8. 2 tsp cumin
  9. salt and pepper to taste
  10. fresh cilantro
  11. jalapenos (de-seeded) if you want to add spice

Homemade Tomatillo salsa:

  • 1 1/2 lbs fresh tomatillos
  • 6 whole garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 1 cup fresh cilantro
  • 2 jalapeños, stems removed and deseeded (for extra heat use serranos instead)
  • juice and zest from 1 lime
  • 1 tablespoon cumin powder
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
Side dish

Beef Stir Fry: Mongolian Style

I am not sure there really is such thing as an authentic Mongolian beef; from what I understand this is an Americanized concoction. Regardless, I enjoy the flavor very much and decided to look out into the internet universe for some ideas. Here is what I found (with some of my own twists).


I served this with white rice, and used fresh veggies from the garden. Green beans and spinach would be my top choice, but you could certainly use bok choy or broccoli for variation. I got the beef (thin sliced top round) from my favorite butcher. It’s perfect for stir fry and cost effective.

You can adjust the heat by adding more chili or ramp up the sweet by adding more brown sugar.

You need:

  • 8 ounces top round thinly sliced or flank steak cut into thin strips
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 1/4  cup vegetable oil, for frying the beef
  • 1/2 teaspoon minced ginger
  • 5 dried red chili peppers or 1 Tbs chili paste
  • 2 cloves garlic chopped
  • one shallot, sliced* (optional)
  • 1/4 cup low sodium soy sauce for cooking
  • 1/4 cup chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 scallions cut on the diagonal
  • Vegetables of your choosing – green beans, bok choy, broccoli

Step one:

Combine soy sauce with brown sugar and set aside.

Marinate the beef in one teaspoon of oil, 1 teaspoon of soy cause, and 1 tbs of cornstarch. Make sure it is room temperature before going to the next step. 15 min- 1 hour

Step two:

Dredge the marinated beef in the remaining cornstarch. Heat the oil on medium so that the meat will be seared and crisp up quickly. Brown the beef on either side, ideally getting a bit of a crust on the side. Set aside the beef out of the pan. 4-5 minutes

Step three

Reduce the heat to medium. Saute garlic for 2- 3 minutes. Add in chili peppers and continue cooking for several more minutes. Make sure to scrape the pan for any cracklings from the beef and mix it in. Add ginger, chicken broth, and then desired vegetables. Cook for 5 more minutes.Finally, add back in the beef and drizzle the soy sauce mixture over the pan. Stir and continue cooking until the liquid is mostly absorbed. 15-18 minutes

 

Adapted from: http://thewoksoflife.com/2015/07/mongolian-beef-recipe/

Great Wine Deals · Podcast

Episode 13 is live! Carpazo Sangiovese & holiday parties

Happy New Year! Let’s make a commitment to only drink good wine and enjoy good company!

Listen to our latest podcast here:

Virginia, Israel & Michelle discuss throwing Festivus (the annual neighborhood holiday party) and provide tips for making sure the party is a hit. This episode they are drinking Carpazo Sangiovese $11.99 and discuss how to make rompope and great chicken wings in the air fryer. Also, they weigh the merits of a staycation – catching up on your Netlix, sleeping & eating.  Finally, they discuss Good Omens, the Spy and Fleabag and whether Adam Driver is creepy.

 

Holiday

Rompope (Costa Rican Style)

depositphotos_36783087-stock-photo-homemade-festive-cinnamon-eggnog

After experimenting with several styles of Rompope over the years, we have settled on this version, which calls for generous amounts of orange and cinnamon.

Time: 40 minutes

Yield: Around 2 pints

You will need:

  • 4 cups whole milk
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3-5 orange peels
  • 8 yolks
  • 1 cup cream
  • 1 cup condensed milk
  • 4-5 cinnamon sticks

Step one:

Blend milk, sugar, vanilla, orange peels and cinnamon in a medium sized-sauce pan and bring to a low boil for 25 minutes.

Step two:

Add the egg yolks and condensed milk. Stir. Add the cream, do not allow it to boil.

Step three:

Chill in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours, preferably 24. It will be thick when it is chilled, but will become more liquid as it warms from room temperature. However, if you would prefer a thinner consistency, add a bit more milk until it is the desired thickness.

 

Garnish with grated cinnamon, if desired.

Mexican · Recipes

Chicken & Black Bean Quesadillas

You will need:

  1. Large tortillas
  2. 2-3 cups Mexican blend cheese
  3. 2 large chicken breasts
  4. 1/2 white onion, sliced thin
  5. 1 red bell pepper
  6. 1 can Black beans, rinsed
  7. 2 cloves garlic, minced
  8. 2 tsp cumin
  9. 1-2 tbs olive oil
  10. Salt and pepper to taste
  11. 1-2 tbs butter

1.Prepare your veggies. Slice your onions and peppers, and mince your garlic.

2. Sauté onion, peppers, 1 clove garlic, 1/2 tsp cumin, salt and pepper in 1 tsp olive oil over medium heat for 6-8 minutes until browned.

3. Season chicken with 1 clove of garlic, 1 tsp cumin, salt and pepper. Sauté chicken breast in 1 tbs olive oil over medium heat until cooked. Stir in 1/4 cup black beans and heat. Set aside.

.

4. In a non stick skillet or griddle, melt 1 tbs butter. Add one tortilla and sprinkle one half of it with cheese.

5. Add chicken, peppers and onions.

6. Fold over and cook on both sides, until browned and the cheese is melted.

7. Cut up, serve and enjoy:)

IMG_0520

Recipes

Apple Cider Donuts

These were inspired by a recent trip to Carter Mountain Apple Orchard with the family where we fell in love with their apple cider donuts. I found an excellent recipe here: http://sallysbakingaddiction.com/2013/11/07/apple-cider-donuts/ and tried it out. Soooo Delicious. We chose to make donut holes instead of donuts.

Ingredients:

Donuts

  • 1 and 1/4 cups  apple cider
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 large egg, room temperature1
  • 2 Tablespoons (30g) unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup  packed light or dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk, room temperature2
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • orange slices* optional
  • cinnamon sticks* optional

Topping

  • 3/4 cup  granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick or 60g) unsalted butter, melted

Directions

IMG_0890-3   IMG_0891-0

  1. Simmer apple cider over low-medium heat in a small saucepan on the stove for 15-20 minutes. Add cinnamon sticks, spices, and/or orange slices for flavor if desired. In this step you are reducing the apple cider for a stronger flavor. You will need 1/2 cup from this reduced cider. Allow it to cool in the refrigerator as you prepare the other ingredients.
  2. Preheat oven to 350°F (177°C). Spray a mini muffin pan or donut pan with nonstick spray. Set aside.
  3. Toss the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, and salt together in a large bowl. Set aside. In a medium bowl, whisk the egg, melted butter, brown sugar, and granulated sugar together until smooth. Whisk in the buttermilk, vanilla, and 1/2 cup of concentrated apple cider.
  4. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and very gently mix together with a whisk. Be very gentle as overmixing will develop the gluten and result in a tough textured donut. Whisk until all ingredients are *just combined.* Some small lumps may remain, but not many.                                                   IMG_0892  IMG_0893
  5. Pour the batter into the mini muffin pan, filling 3/4 of the way full. You’ll only need a couple teaspoons of batter for each. Or, if making donuts, follow my instructions in the post above about filling the donut pan. Bake the donut holes for 10-12 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. The donuts will take the same amount of time.                                    IMG_0894
  6. Make the topping by mixing the granulated sugar and cinnamon together in a small bowl. Dip the top of the donut holes or donuts lightly into the melted butter. Then dunk them all the way into the cinnamon sugar, using your hands to mix it around so the entire donut hole (or donut) is coated generously. Repeat with all the donuts. You may need more cinnamon-sugar. Donuts taste best on the same day, though they may be covered tightly and stored at room temperature for up to 3 days. IMG_0897   IMG_0895
  7. Make ahead tip: Prepared donuts freeze well up to 2-3 months. Allow to thaw overnight in the refrigerator and heat up in the microwave if desired.
Side dish

Roasted potatoes, brussel sprouts and asparagus

I stole this idea from my friend who is a wonderful cook.  This pairs well with chicken, turkey or any kind of beef dish. It is quick, delicious, and easy.

All you need:

  • small red potatoes or fingerlings.
  • Brussell sprouts, five or six
  • asparagus
  • garlic
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  1. Preheat the oven to 375. Trim the ends off of your Brussell sprouts and asparagus. image(10) image(8)
  2. Half the Brussell sprouts.
  3. Wash and cut potatoes into quarters or slices.

image(9)

4. Lightly toss the potatoes with olive oil and minced garlic

5. Arrange on a cookie sheet with asparagus and Brussel sprouts. Drizzle with a little more olive oil. Salt and pepper to your taste

6. Roast the vegetables for 25 minutes. Flip the potatoes once, about halfway through.

Note: you can use sweet potatoes, instead or add fresh herbs for endless variations on the same theme.