Ready to Bake
I am a picky eater, everyone knows it including me. Not only that, I’m inconsistent. Many things I will only eat certain ways – mostly cooked. I don’t like unmelted butter, don’t eat too many raw vegetables, especially raw onions and never, never eat meat unless it is completely brown. (We have a running discussion at my house over what is crispy vs. burnt). I do however love melted butter and cooked onions, especially if they are really browned. I can’t explain it and have given up trying – that’s just me. These onions are simple, wonderfully soft with lots of flavor and are a great side dish – even good enough to eat alone.
Large Sweet Onion
1/2 stick butter sliced very thinly
1 teaspoon Better than Bullion or 1 bullion cube
1 tablespoon minced garlic
Large Sweet Onion
Peel the onion, core out a small hole in the middle and cut an X almost through the onion but not quite.
Cut the onion
Gently separate the onion and place a pat of butter in the center of the onion and between the “petals”.
Onions and Butter
Place a dab of the Better than Bullion throughout the petals or place the Bullion cube in the center.
Onion with Butter and Bullion
Sprinkle the garlic throughout the petals.
Onion with butter, bullion and garlic
Sprinkle with pepper and wrap in foil. Grill or bake in a 400 degree oven until very soft, about 30-45 minutes. These could have actually baked and browned a little longer for my taste, but the natives were hungry so they were done enough!
Pasta made into Ravioli
I’ve watched the little Italian ladies on TV make fresh pasta on a board by just putting down the flour, making a well for the egg, adding a little water and maybe some olive oil and gracefully mixing it up into a beautiful dough. Unfortunately my first few attempts were not nearly so successful. I ended up with either the flour dam breaking and egg all over the floor, a struggle to get the dough to form and then the pasta was either too wet or too dry and stubbornly refused to make anything resembling a proper shape either by hand or with the pasta machine. When I finally got something I could roll, apparently I didn’t do it enough and it was so thick it was like eating a wet sock. I readily admit that I love fresh pasta but I also admit that for the few cents it costs, I was willing to just buy it. Finally though, I have discovered this method that makes a great, easy to work with dough with very little effort. It works with just a rolling-pin, or a pasta machine and cooks up wonderfully. Of course, the use of the food processor is probably cheating, but that along with using the semolina flour makes all the difference in the texture.
Ingredients for 4 servings:
1 cup fresh herbs (basil, oregano, rosemary, thyme or whatever combination you prefer, this time I used lemon basil)
1 cup semolina flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 Tablespoons water (approx. add just enough to make the dough form a ball)
Add herbs to the food processor
Pulse several times until the herbs are finely chopped
Add the flour, salt and eggs
Pulse until well mixed
Place the dough on a floured surface and knead for a couple of minutes, it shouldn't take long to become smooth and elastic since the food processor has done most of the work
Kneaded and ready to rest
Wrapped in plastic to rest - at least 10 minutes 30 is better
After the pasta has rested, you can roll it out with a rolling-pin or run it through a pasta machine and make whatever shapes you want.
Quinoa with Fresh Asparagus and Tomatoes
In my not so successful quest to be more healthy (since the very next day I made mac & cheese with bacon), I decided to try making Quinoa since I’ve read about its benefits so much lately. Here is a great article. While treated like a grain, it is actually a seed from the Chenopodium or Goosefoot plant related to beets, spinach, Swiss chard, and lamb’s quarters and is gluten-free for those who want or need to avoid that. It is cooked similarly to rice (and even better because it doesn’t stick to the pan) and can be used to replace grains or pasta in many recipes. It is high in complete protein, calcium and iron and has all 8 essential amino acids. Although I used chicken broth, and parmesan cheese you could easily use water or vegetable broth and leave out the cheese if you prefer vegetarian or vegan.
It was good, and I will definitely make it again. I thought it was interesting, especially the little “tails” that when cooked have a little crunch (you can see them in the picture). It kind of reminded me of the way corn pops, but the little parts are not nearly as hard as a popped corn shell, barely crunchy. It is basically pretty bland alone, so you need to add lots of flavor. This is really quick to make, less than 1/2 hour and you can serve it hot or cold as a salad.
Ingredients for 4 servings:
2 cups quinoa
3 cups chicken broth, water or vegetable broth
3 Tablespoons Olive Oil
1 lb grape tomatoes
1 lb asparagus spears cut into 1 inch pieces
3 cloves of garlic minced (I like a lot so you can cut that down if you prefer)
2 Tablespoons fresh basil (or 1 T dried)
2 Tablespoons fresh oregano (or 1 T dried)
1/2 cup shredded parmesan cheese (optional)
First rinse the quinoa well using a very fine strainer or cheesecloth. Although some brands are pre-rinsed, this is important not to skip as otherwise you could end up with a bitter taste.
Add the quinoa and broth to a large saucepan over medium heat up to a simmer, then lower the heat and maintain the simmer for about 15 minutes.
Asparagus and Grape Tomatoes
In a large skillet, add the olive oil and sauté over medium high heat for about 5 minutes, just until the asparagus is cooked but still crisp and most of the tomatoes are still intact. If the tomatoes start to break apart it is done. Add the minced garlic and cook for another 30 seconds. When the quinoa is cooked, add it to the vegetables, along with the basil and oregano and the shredded parmesan.
Tomato Basil and Bacon Tart
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup cold butter
- 4 to 5 tablespoons cold water
- 4 Roma tomatoes
- 3 cups (12 ounces) shredded Italian four cheese blend (or mozzarella) cheese
- 1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, thinly sliced
- 4 cloves of garlic peeled and sliced thinly
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/8 teaspoon pepper
- 1/4 cup crisp bacon bits (real bacon please!)
- In a food processor, add the flour and butter, pulsing 5-6 times until the mixture is crumbly.
- Gradually add water, pulsing until the dough forms a ball.
- Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for 30 minutes or until it can be rolled easily.
- On a lightly floured surface, roll out pastry to fit a 9-in. tart pan with a removable bottom.
- Place the pastry in the pan and trim the edge.
- Bake at 350° for 13-15 minutes until lightly browned.
While the pastry is baking, thinly slice the tomatoes and place on paper towels, salt them and cover with another layer of paper towel. This will prevent the dough from getting soggy.
Sprinkle 2 cups cheese into the crust; top with basil and garlic slices.
Cheese and garlic
Arrange the tomato slices in a circular pattern around the edge of the tart leaving three for the middle.
Drizzle with oil, salt and pepper
Drizzle with the oil, salt and pepper.
- Sprinkle the rest of the cheese over the tomatoes in the center.
- Sprinkle the bacon bits around the tart.
Bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes until the cheese melts.
Ready to Serve
Five Cheese Pasta Shells with Ham
Of course we had ham for Easter and with everyone gone home and just the two of us, there was a lot of leftover ham! There is always freezing, but first I pretty much use it until we can’t stand anymore. This week I’ve made ham and eggs of course, Ham and Lentil soup, which was delicious(and will be posted another time) and today I made White Five Cheese Pasta Shells with Ham. I had some leftover cheese sauce but if you don’t happen to have some made, here is the recipe I use for my white cheese pasta sauce. I made it just a little differently, not baking it for as long to keep it more “saucy” and after taking it out of the oven I stirred it and added some steamed broccoli (or you can serve the broccoli on the side). This recipe is for 4-6 servings, I only made half for us so it will be more than it looks in the pictures.
Five Cheese Pasta Shells with Ham
White Five Cheese Sauce
1 lb pasta shells
1-2 cups cubed ham
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
2 cups broccoli
Make or heat the sauce in the microwave for about 1 minute just so it will pour while the pasta is cooking according to the package directions.
Brown the ham cubes
Fry the ham in a heavy skillet until nicely browned. You can skip this step, but I like the flavor it adds.
Ready to bake
Add the drained pasta, ham and sauce to a baking dish and mix well. Sprinkle the cheese on top.
Bake for about 20-25 minutes, just until the cheese starts to melt. Remove from the oven and stir to mix well.
Cook the broccoli covered in the microwave for 3 minutes and mix into the pasta (or serve with broccoli on the side).
White Five Cheese Pasta Shells with Ham
Garlic-herb Roasted Tomatoes
I’m far from vegetarian, but even for me there is nothing like roasted vegetables, especially tomatoes. What better to go with them than a great risotto? This recipe is very simple and takes less than an hour, although it does require some serious stirring. It makes a filling meal or great side dish and the garlic-herb roasted tomatoes add a lot of flavor to the creamy cheesy risotto. It is also very flexible, I used a prepackaged four cheese blend but sometimes use whatever cheeses I have on hand, a mixture of fontina, mozzarella, Asiago, parmesan and/or Gruyère.
6-8 Roma tomatoes sliced in half
2-4 cloves of garlic sliced very thinly
1 sprig of rosemary
Several tablespoons of olive oil
Few leaves of Basil for garnish
one half onion chopped finely
1 cup arborio rice
5 cups chicken stock (or one cup white wine and 4 cups chicken stock)
2 cups four cheese blend or mix of shredded cheeses
1/2 cup cream
1. Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Lightly oil a large sheet pan either with olive oil or vegetable spray.
Place the tomatoes flat side up, add a few slices of garlic and a few bits of rosemary to each. Place in the oven and roast for approximately 10-15 minutes, until they are soft and the garlic is slightly browned.
For the risotto:
Heat the broth to a simmer (I do it in the microwave but traditionally it is done in a separate saucepan).
Saute the onion in 2 tablespoons olive oil until soft but not browned.
Rice in olive oil
Add the rice and stir until all the grains are coated with oil.
First addition of broth
Add the wine first if using, then the remaining broth one cup at a time, stirring constantly and waiting for it to be absorbed before adding the next cup.
Keep stirring and adding until all the broth has been added, is absorbed and the rice is tender. I find sometimes it takes a little more broth, sometimes a little less. Be patient, it will take 20-30 minutes but it’s worth it!
Add the cheese, stirring gently to melt.
Then add the cream to the consistency that you like.
Four Cheese Risotto with Roasted Garlic Herb Tomatoes
Serve with the roasted tomatoes and a little fresh basil.