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Paella

My husband and I always order paella when we go to tapas restaurants. This year I wanted to try to make one at home. On New Year’s Eve, we stopped at Sur La Table and bought a paella pan ($19.99). I have never made paella so I went online and read over several recipes made both with and without a paella pan. I picked the ingredients we liked and went shopping. The challenge came in figuring out the preparation and cooking time because we did not use the same ingredients from any one recipe. So I winged it.  And guess what? It turned out great!!!

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Ingredients:

1 tablespoon of olive oil

3 cups of chicken stock

1 box (12oz. package) of Valencia rice (I used Goya Brand)

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1 onion, chopped

1 red pepper, chopped

1 green pepper, chopped

1 lbs. sausage*

1 1bs. raw shrimp

2 cloves of garlic, minced

3 tomatoes, chopped in chunky pieces

2 tsp dried Rosemary

1 tbsp. paprika

Notes: I bought a bag of frozen peas, but there was no room left in the pan! Next time, I might add asparagus in place of one of the peppers.

*We used smoked sausage, but next time I think we will try a jalapeno sausage or Spanish Chorizo to give the dish a little more kick.

Preparation:

It is important to have everything cut and ready to go before you get started. I just put them in containers and stacked them up in the fridge. Defrost shrimp if frozen by running under cold water.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Cook sausage separately in a frying pan so you can drain any grease. Put aside.

Place paella pan on stove over two burners. Add peppers, onions and garlic to pan and sauté 3 to 5 mins until soft.

Remove pan from heat and stir in package of rice until it is mixed in evenly.

Stir in tomatoes, sausage and broth and return pan to heat on simmer for 15 minutes.

Add shrimp, rosemary, paprika and salt to taste

Transfer pan to oven – uncovered. (I put the pan on a cookie sheet in case it overflowed.) Cook 15 minutes until almost all the liquid is absorbed but rice is still al dente.

Remove from oven and cover with foil so it can finish cooking – 5 to 10 minutes.

Serves four (or two very hungry people with leftovers for lunch the next day).

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Layered Greek Dip

I was looking for a new appetizer on – you guessed it – Pinterest.  I love hummus and feta cheese and when I saw this recipe for a 5 layer Greek Dip, I knew I had to try it. Of course, I could not follow a recipe without making my own changes. I added tomatoes and a yellow pepper (for color). It was fresh and new and a hit at the party. Looks like it is going in the rotation!

Ingredients:

2 (10 oz.) containers of hummus (or equivalent of homemade) I used Sabra’s Roasted Garlic Hummus

4 oz. crumbled feta cheese

1 small cucumber, seeded but not peeled

1 medium YELLOW pepper

½ pint grape tomatoes

1 small can of sliced black olives, drained

Fresh dill

Directions:

Chop cucumber, pepper and tomatoes into small pieces (1/4 inch). You want equal parts of each one for the dip.

Mix the hummus and spread on the bottom of a 9 x 13 pan.

Sprinkle even amounts of cucumber, pepper, tomatoes and feta on top of hummus. Add black olives to taste and top with fresh dill.

I served the dip with pita chips and pretzel crisps. The dip itself is gluten free, but my dippers were not.

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Chicken and Tomato Pasta with a Pepper Garlic Gravy

While looking for a new recipe, I found a delicious looking picture on Pinterest.  The recipe sounded as delicious as the picture, but too complicated. I simplified it and found my new favorite recipe! It is chicken, pasta and tomatoes with a pepper and garlic gravy. You have to try it!

Cook and prep time: 30 minutes

Serves 4

Ingredients:

1 lbs. chicken breast tenders

2 tsp. dried Rosemary (or 1 tsp of fresh)

2 tsp. black pepper

Juice of one lemon

2 tbsp. olive oil

4 cloves of garlic, minced

4 tbsp. of flour

2 cups of chicken broth

1 can of cannellini beans, rinsed

1 pint of grape tomatoes

Fresh parsley

1 lb. of angel hair pasta

Directions:

Cut chicken breasts tenders into small pieces. In a medium bowl, mix chicken pieces with Rosemary, pepper and lemon juice.

Heat up a large pan and add 1 tablespoon of olive oil. When hot, add chicken and cook 5 to 10 minutes or until cooked through. Remove chicken from pan and set aside.

Add another tablespoon of olive oil to pan and sauté garlic one minute. Pour in a tbsp of flour to create a roux. Slowly add the rest of the flour and broth, stirring constantly, until you get a nice thick sauce.

Return chicken to pan and bring to a boil. Add cannellini beans and tomatoes. Simmer for 5 minutes.

Serve over prepared angel hair pasta and sprinkle with fresh parsley.

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Cowboy Caviar

At a party several years ago, a friend brought this fresh and delicious appetizer. I asked her for the recipe and brought it to another party the next week. It has since become my signature dish and I am asked to make it all the time. The name “Cowboy Caviar” is rarely used when friends ask me to make an appetizer. They simply say, “Can you bring that corn and bean dip?” It also works as a great side dish!

Ingredients:

1 can of black beans, drained and rinsed
1 can of corn, drained
2 medium tomatoes, seeded and chopped small
4 green onions, chopped small
2 avocados, also chopped into small pieces

Optional*:

½ cup chopped cilantro leaves

1 small red onion chopped small

1 small jalapeno, chopped small

*If you have it, add it. If not, it tastes just as good!

Mixed together and toss with a 1/2 package of Good Season’s Italian Dressing (dry mix), plus 1/4 cup of vegetable oil and 1/8 cup of vinegar. (In a pinch, you can use prepared Italian Dressing.)

Serve with Scoops or any nacho chip!
Enjoy!

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Tortellini Soup

The cooler weather of the past week has encouraged me to bring out the hearty recipes. Normally I wouldn’t make comfort foods on 70 degree days, but after the hot summer we had, 70 degrees seems cold!

The first day it was cooler, my husband asked me to make Tortellini Soup. This is a simple recipe that I came up with several years ago with items I had on hand. It makes enough for five and leaves us with plenty of leftovers the next day. My family loves hearty bread with this soup and we pass the bread around for each of us to tear off our piece. Pared with a glass of wine, this meal is a cure for insomnia!

Ingredients:

2 (28oz) cans of petite diced tomatoes

4 cloves of minced garlic

1 tbsp of dried Rosemary

2 (32oz) boxes of Fat Free Chicken Broth (or vegetable)*

16oz. of smoked sausage

1 package (18oz.) of frozen cheese tortellini

1 package (16oz) of frozen Italian green beans

* I like less broth and more items on my spoon! Feel free to add more broth.

Directions:

Add tomatoes, garlic, Rosemary and Chicken broth to a large pot and bring to a boil.

In the meantime, cut sausage in ½ moons and brown in pan. Pour off grease and pat off excess on paper towels.

When soup is boiling, add sausage to pot and bring to boil again.

Add frozen tortellini and cook 10 minutes.

Add frozen green beans and return soup to boil one last time so everything is heated through.

Serve with hearty bread and enjoy!

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Mexican Jambalaya

The morning before our vacation, we were busy packing and getting our house ready to be empty for over a week. The refrigerator had to be emptied of all perishable items that would not last until we got home. My veggie bins were still full from our last trip to the farmers market and it seemed like such a sin to throw out good food.  Knowing we had to eat dinner that night anyway, I challenged myself to come up with a recipe that used up what I had in the house, tasted good and was not too time consuming to make.

I never know how a new recipe will turn out, especially when I am making it up as I go along.  I was prepared to order a pizza in case it was a flop, but I am happy to report that it was a success! Feel free to add or subtract from the recipe based on what you have at home. If I had a jalapeno on hand, I would have added one for a little heat.

Total cook time: 4 hours

Prep time unknown – I kept thinking of things to add as I went along!

Ingredients:

3 pork loin chops – about 1 ½ lbs

1 large Vidalia onion

2 medium red bell peppers

1 medium zucchini, quartered

2 medium tomatoes, chopped in bite sized pieces including seeds

4-6 garlic cloves, minced

2 ears of fresh corn, cut off the cob

1 (14.5 oz.) black beans, rinsed and drained

¼ cup of dry white wine

1 (14.5 oz.) chicken broth

2 tsp. cumin

3 cups instant rice

Chopped cilantro

Directions:

Cut pork chops, onion and red peppers into bite sized pieces.

Place in 6 quart crockpot along with garlic, white wine and cumin.

Mix evenly. Cook on High for 1 hour.

After one hour, add black beans, tomatoes, zucchini, corn and chicken broth.

Reduce temperature to Low and cook an additional 2 ½ hours.

Add instant rice and stir until evenly mixed.  Continue to cook on Low for another half hour.

Just before serving, stir in a handful of chopped cilantro.

Feeds a small army. Great for leftovers and freezes well!

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Pineapple Pork Chops

When my husband is out of town for a few days, my kids are fine with eating pancakes, mac and cheese or pizza bread for dinner. None of those things satisfy my definition of dinner so if he is gone for more than one night I need to make a real meal.

Coming up with a meal that pleases everyone is near impossible. However, all of my kids like pork, so that is my go-to meal when my husband travels. My kids love their dad’s grilled pork chops, but because I almost burned our house down with a grill grease fire 20 years ago, I don’t use the grill.

My improv pork chop dinner in a pan turned out much better than I expected and the kids loved it.

Ingredients:

4 boneless pork loin chops

Lawry’s Sesame Ginger Marinade (or similar)

1 (8oz.) can Dole Pineapple Chunks and juice

Directions:

Place pan on stove and turn on medium-high heat to warm up pan.

Pour marinade in shallow bowl and coat each side of pork chop.

Place in pan. Pork chop should sizzle in hot pan.

Turn pan to medium heat and cook pork chop 2 minutes on each side to seal in flavor.

Add pineapple chunks and juice.

Turn down heat to low and cover pan with lid. Cook an additional 20-25 minutes depending on thickness of pork chop. Internal temperature should read 160 to 170 degrees.

While pork chops were cooking, I made a rice pilaf and a quick Caesar salad. Dinner was on the table in 30 minutes. Not gourmet, but quick and easy and so much better than pizza bread!

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