Sausage & Broccoli Pasta

“I hope you are going to blog about this; it is delicious” “I am going to have this for lunch on Monday; maybe even tomorrow too” just a couple of quotes from my fam after eating last night’s dinner. So here I am going to share it with you. Though a little back story, it was NOT what I had intended on making at all. I had some chicken thighs that needed to be cooked and I wanted to do a sheet pan chicken thigh and veggie dinner; until I opened the package; damn they had been in the fridge too long and went right into a sealed bag into the trash. So this was a back up plan as I also had some sweet Italian sausage in there that needed to be cooked. Thankfully they fared far better and made a great quick simple meal.
IMG_3999.JPGI am still trying to go through the freezer; I know; how deep is that damn thing that I am going on what 2-3 months of trying to use up what is in there. I had seen enough progress so that I took everything out the other day and placed it on the counter. Then called my husband out of his office to “come and pick something out for dinner” he picked arancini (fried Italian rice ball) and egg rolls – Um no thank you! That night was arancini; the next night was the egg rolls. It’s a good thing he is cute!

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I spy in the upper right hand corner my Godiva bottle*Chocolate Martini’s was also on the menu 

Back to how my Italian sausage and a few things from my freezer turned into a quick, simple and blog worthy dinner. When I laid everything out on the counter from the freezer I noticed the broccoli that I put in there from my garden was getting beat up a bit. Apparently being in there since September and getting knocked around a bit it was turning into smaller and smaller pieces. So I thought it best to use it or lose it. I have homemade chicken stock in there majority of the time; thankfully so I added a little pasta and voila dinner.
IMG_3995The best tip I can give you is brown the sausage; without browning it in the pan and letting the pan get all dark in coated with the yummy bits, I am not sure my fam would have been raving about it. The browned sausage made all the difference in the world. The chicken stock helped to deg-laze the pan which gave such a deep rich flavor to the otherwise boring pasta.
IMG_3996I didn’t and usually don’t measure anything so I am going to ballpark it for you!

3 links of sweet Italian sausage – casing removed
1 pound broccoli
1 pound penne pasta – cooked to the packages direction
2 cloves of minced garlic
1 cup chicken stock
3 tablespoons butter
Salt and pepper to taste
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
¼ cup or more Parmesan cheese – grated plus more for serving
Olive oil

Add a little olive oil to your pan and let it get warmed up, add the sausage; breaking it up and letting it get brown. Remove and set aside.
IMG_3997Add the broccoli and let it get a little browned on each side. Add the red pepper flakes and a little salt and pepper to taste. Add the sausage and pasta back into the pan. Add the butter and Parmesan cheese and let it meld.
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Serve and enjoy!

Sausage, spinach, tomato tortellini soup

Soup is my jam period – I mentioned quite a while ago my dream of opening a soup joint or something along those lines. I also share quite a few soup recipes on this blog and I am pretty  sure I will continue to do so. Every time I make a soup that makes me smile, and no not all of them do, I have failed or made just meh soup before but my successes far outweigh my failures. When it is a fabulous one I say out loud to no one in particular “the world needs to have this” and since I don’t have a soup joint and I don’t know everyone in the world I will share another warm, tasty, comfort bowl full of goodness with you all.
img_3953.jpgMy husband even said this was his favorite soup that I have made, that’s saying something! It is definitely in my top 5 but I have made and shared some pretty incredible soups over the years.
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The one common denominator is homemade chicken stock. If you are still not making your own broth, we need to talk. It is SO easy to do using your slow cooker and a leftover chicken carcass. Put the chicken in the bowl add a couple of roughly chopped carrots, celery, onion and some garlic. Cover with water and place on low overnight. In the morning strain out the liquid gold and discard of all the veggies and bones. Taste it to see if you like it or if it needs a little salt. I let it sit all day or overnight in my fridge to let the fat solidify so I can remove it all. Freeze it or use it now!

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Start by using the best ingredients you can find and your soup will be delicious!
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Sausage, Spinach, Tomato, Tortellini soup
2 tablespoons olive oil
8 ounce sweet italian sausage, casings removed roughly 2 long links
1 medium onion, diced
2-3 cloves of garlic, minced
¾ teaspoon dried oregano
6 cups chicken broth
1 14.5 ounce can crushed tomatoes
10-12 ounce package of fresh or frozen cheese tortellini
5-6 ounces baby spinach
Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper
Freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Heat the oil in a large stock pot over medium heat. Add the sausage and break it up a bit, add the onion and cook till the sausage is cooked through a little browned, about 10 minutes making sure to break up the large chunks. Add the garlic and the oregano cook for another minute.
IMG_3950Add the broth and the tomatoes. Raise the heat to high and bring to a boil. Add the tortellini, lower the heat to a simmer. Cook till the tortellini is tender, according to the package directions about 5 minutes. Stir in the spinach, and cook till it is just about wilted. Season with salt and pepper, grate some fresh parmigiano-reggiano cheese over it and serve.
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Recipe adapted from Fine Cooking magazine

Sweet Italian Sausage with Roasted Garlic Pesto

If you have never lived in NH let me give you a quick overview of how quickly the weather can change in just a few days.  Last Sunday it poured and was around 60’F. Thursday was 92’F with 100% humidity; which to me means a seriously bad hair and this morning we woke to 40’F. That’s a week in the life of a New Hampshirite.  These are a few short reasons why I wait to plant the gardens.
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When making a new recipe that sounds good to me and in turn I am hoping that it is one I would ke to share with all of you. Sometimes I will take pictures so if the recipe turns out yummy. I can blog about it and have everything I need. In a perfect world that would probably work. Maybe I should have a camera set up in the kitchen at all times and automatically take pictures so I don’t have to “make sure” I do it. That would be a whole lot easier let me tell you.  
IMG_5140This last week I made the recipe I am going to share with you all and we all loved it. We even had it for lunch the next day and I think it was even better. Well I took a few pictures of the very first part; roasting the garlic; and never snapped another one. So last night I went to the store around 7 o’clock to get the 2 things I was missing so I could make it again and take pictures so I could blog about it today. See how dedicated I am to you; you’re welcome wink wink!
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I know the recipe is good when I share my thoughts with my husband and he is totally on board with eating the same dish in the same week. So this one will be on my go-to list as it is pretty quick, delicious and re-heats well. I think my guys ate it cold for lunch the next day and loved it. My kind of dish!
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Sweet Italian Sausage & Pesto Pasta

1 head of garlic – roasted
1 Package of Brocolini
1/3 or so cup of Olive Oil
1/4 cup or handful of Almonds
Pinch or so of red chili flakes
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese grated
3/4 lb sweet Italian sausage, casing removed
1 pound package of medium shells
Kosher salt

slice the garlic in half, width wise, place in a small piece of tin-coil and drizzle the cut side with a little olive oil. loosely wrap the head and place in a 400′ oven for about 30-45 minutes. Once roasted let it cool before making the pesto.

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Using a food processor pulse the almonds until they are just broken up. add the rest of the ingredients minus the oil and pulse to combined. while the blade is running drizzle in enough olive oil to make it a loose paste.
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in a large pot fill with water; where you will be cooking your pasta and the broccolini.
generously salt the water, once it starts bubbling put in your broccolini for about a minute or two. remove to a bowl of iced water to stop the cooking process.
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drop your pasta and cook for 2 minutes less than the package indicates; you will be finishing off the cooking in the pan with the other ingredients.
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in a large saute pan add 2 tablespoons of olive oil once hot enough; just about to smoke; , add the sausage and break it down with either a wooden spoon or a potato masher until brown. add about a 1/4 cup of the pasta water to the pan and stir, getting up all the browned bits in the bottom of the pan.
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reserving some of the pasta water, drain your pasta and add it to the sausage pan. Add the pesto; toss to combine. Serve immediately with grated Parmesan.
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Adapted from Mario Batali The Chew Orecchiette with sweet sausage and rapini

Lasagna made easy kind of

Last weekend we went to Montreal with another couple for a dinner reservation; yeah it sounded crazy to me to! When we were there last spring with the same couple; the talk of town of where to eat dinner was that there were three restaurants on Rue Notre Dame right in a row.  One of the guys we were talking to said and I quote “you’re not getting in there!” at that point it became kind of a quest to eat at “the best”  – alas humble pie; we didn’t get in BUT we were able to get into one of the others and it was an excellent Tapas type place called Le Vin Papillon we had an awesome time.

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This past weekend was our dinner reservation at Joe Beef; consensus is out of the 4 appetizers, and the 4 entrees there were some hits and some were misses. Was it worth the 3+ month wait; probably not. Would we go back, definitely! Did we have too high of expectations? Possibly! Did we have a great weekend in Montreal? Always! While there we also visited 2 farmers markets; Atwater is still my favorite! I brought home; across the border some homemade sausage, homemade pasta, and some fresh bread.  All so far have been excellent!

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Drying Peppers at Jean Talon Market in Montreal
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Rainbow of pepper Jean Talon Marche’ Montreal
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Joe Beef Menu – yes all in French

Saturday we had lunch at L’usine De Spahetti in Old Montreal; my husband had their individual lasagna and it was ridiculously delicious. While at the market I picked up some fresh made lasagna noodles with intent of making a similar version at home. He was so on board that when I told him I was making lasagna for dinner he got super excited and asked if I had the right dishes; um yeah I do not own restaurant individual lasagna dishes sorry! He asked if there was any place in town where he could pick some up. Our town is so small I chuckled and gave him the only option in town; of course they didn’t have any. So I made due with what I had and it worked out perfectly.

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He wanted to make sure I made them correctly!
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It’s a process but everyone can help!
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Super cute – only small baking dishes I have on hand

I think this was my best lasagna to date and SO easy!

Lasagna made easy

Fresh lasagna noodles – if you can find them
2 Sausage (sweet or hot Italian) casing removed crumbled and browned
1 Onion diced
3 cloves of Garlic pressed
32 oz Jar sauce – pick your favorite
package Mozzarella cheese
16 oz Ricotta
1 Tsp dried Parsley
Crushed red pepper flakes – to taste
Parmigiano-Reggiano grated
1 Egg

Brown the sausage, add the onions and garlic. Once softened add the sauce and let it simmer for the time it takes the water to boil for the noodles. Fresh takes less time than the boxed kind so roughly 5 minutes.  Mix the ricotta with the egg, parsley and a cup of grated cheese.

Place a little sauce in the bottom of your dish. Cover with a layer of noodles then ricotta and sprinkle some of the grated cheese then repeat, sauce, noodle cheese till you used up all your ingredients.

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Bake at 350’ for 20-40 minutes. Smaller containers take less time than an entire sheet pan

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Yeah they were that good, fresh bread needed to sop up all the deliciousness!!!

Thanksgiving Dinner – no power – Sausage Ciabatta Stuffing

Firstly I hope you all had a wonderful day with delicious food and great conversations with your family and friends

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Talk about having a pretty traditional Thanksgiving here in NH we got hit with a heavy snow storm on Wednesday; I think the final total was 15 +/- inches.  While that much snow is generally not a big deal for us, this one kind of kicked our butt.  We lost power for 10 hours on Wednesday; which is always my prep day. I peel and cut up all the veggies, set the table, get out all the serving dishes and prep the dressing aka stuffing.

A few years ago I opted for cooking 2 smaller sized turkeys together versus the 16+lb bird I used to get. I find that they have a better chance of being super moist which pretty much is the main cooking goal for any cook. This year in particular it was an amazing choice. My gas Viking stove top works but my gas oven does not. My girlfriend who lives up the road did offer me hers and I was going to use it; however I was concerned about not being on site while it cooks, I like to keep an eye on it and I couldn’t be 2 places at once.

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Not as pretty as when cooked in my oven; but they tasted wonderful!

Thursday we lost power again at 8:30 am; it came back right after we finished dessert around 4:30 pm.  While my guys were out plowing and shoveling; I cleared a path to the gas grill and cleaned it off at least a foot of fresh powder. I actually grabbed my roasting pan and put the birds; packaging an all into the pan to see if they would all fit on the grill. It was perfect. I make beer can chicken on the grill all the time; so I felt pretty confident it would work.  I filled the bottom of the pan with water; stuffed both with apples, onions, and garlic and seasoned them well; covered them with foil and hoped for the best. The grill was a solid 450′ and they took approximately 2 hours.

They came out excellent and outside smelled awesome!!!

There were only 2 things that I couldn’t make as I wanted.  I could not make the dinner rolls this year; which was fine and the dressing I made couldn’t be baked to get all the crust that everyone loves. But I was able to brown them with a little crust on the stove top.  If you are in search of a great tasting dressing/stuffing I wholly suggest this one!  Flavor galore and everyone loves it.  My son had 4 helpings yup I said 4.

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Fennel

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It is based off of a Mario Batali sausage stuffing

Sausage Ciabatta Dressing

Your favorite Olive Oil for the pan

1 lb of your favorite Italian sausage – casing removed crumbled and browned

1 medium onion – diced

1 bulb fennel also called anise – sliced thin, fronds reserved

1 cup of chestnuts – I found them already cooked and peeled – brilliant

2 apples – I used granny smiths – peeled and diced

5 cups ciabatta bread cubed and toasted – I toasted them in a pan on the stove top

¼ cup fresh parsley – chopped

2 ½ cups chicken stock

½ melted butter

Add oil to the pan, crumble the sausage and cook till the sausage starts to brown, add the onion, fennel, chestnuts, apples and cook. Stirring occasionally, until the sausage is cooked through

In a large bowl, place the cubed bread and pour the cooked sausage mixture over the top. Sprinkle with parsley, and pour the stock and melted butter; toss to combine.

In a 9×13 baking dish place all ingredients in and cover with foil. Bake for 30 minutes, uncover and bake until the top is golden browned and crisp. Serve garnished with some of the fennel fronds.

Grilling & Chillin on a Pontoon Boat – Stuffed Pepper recipe

I do love to cook with fresh ingredients and do so for the most part. A couple of recent posts I used jar sauce which I have no problem with but I do add my own spin to it by adding fresh garlic, onions and herbs.  I have been known to pick up a store prepared potato or pasta salad on a rare occasion; especially during the week after work.  Sometimes there just isn’t enough time to get it together.  Or there is a time and place rule that takes over; case in point.photo 2 (1)

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This weekend we spent up North with some friends; they stayed on their boat we were in a close by Inn.  The weather wasn’t great on Saturday so we played a round of golf. I shot my personal best for 18 holes and beat the guys by 6 strokes; just saying.  Sunday was spent on the water and just plain glorious.  We grilled burgers on the boat; which I think is super cool! The side salads were bought at the local grocery store; again time and a place played a hand.  While their pontoon boat did have a gas grill and small fridge and coolers under a few of the seats it is not really a place to make up potato and pasta salad. The burgers were the definite star of the meal.

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Since I didn’t make anything worthy of sharing this trip I want to share with you a stuffed pepper recipe that is pretty darn yummy, just in case you have had an abundance of peppers from your garden, unlike me this has been more of a Zucchini year for me but I have shared a couple of Zucchini recipes already; thought I would give you a little break.

1 cup water

1/2 cup uncooked white rice

2 Tbs olive oil, divided

1 medium carrot minced

1 celery stock minced

1 medium onion minced

2 cloves of garlic minced

1-2 sweet Italian sausage casing removed

1/4 lb pancetta diced

32 oz jar marinara sauce

1/4 cup red wine

1/2 tsp red pepper flakes

1/3 cup heavy cream – or use what you have on hand

1/2 grated Parmesan cheese divided

4 bell peppers (any color), halved lengthwise and seeds removed

in a sauce pan bring water to a boil, add rice and stir. reduce heat cover and simmer for 20 minutes, or until tender and fluffy.

preheat oven to 375′

heat 1 tbs olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Cook carrots, celery and onion until tender, add garlic cook for another minute. Add sausage and pancetta, cook until browned and crumbled. drain off excess liquid. add marinara sauce, wine, and red pepper flakes and simmer 10 minutes. stir in cream, 1/4 cup Parmesan and cooked rice. simmer about 5 minutes or until most of the liquid has been absorbed. Arrange peppers in a shallow baking dish, fill with mixture. drizzle remaining olive oil and cover with remaining Parmesan.  Bake uncovered for 45 minutes until the peppers are soft. serve hot.

The filling is very tasty and does freeze well if you want to double the batch, If you did it would make a great week night meal.