Honey Balsamic Glazed Salmon

Being a fig lover, I am always attracted to recipes with this tasty little fruit in them. Some years ago, I started using the Kraft Fig Balsamic Dressing and it became one of my favorites.

Salad dressings have started catering to consumer demand for thoughtfully crafted products made with natural ingredients. Fig balsamic dressing can be used in numerous ways. It has a tangy and delicately sweet, caramelized fig flavor that works as a glaze for roasted or grilled pork, sauteed chicken and baked salmon. You can brush it on in the last few minutes of cooking or add a little to the skillet, just to coat your saute.

This balsamic vinaigrette has enough flavor to dress a salad on its own or use over roasted veggies, aged & soft cheeses or in soups. For dessert try drizzling some over fruit & Greek yogurt or ice cream. It’s amazing!

This glazed salmon is an excellent meal served with rice or roasted potatoes.

Print Recipe
Honey Balsamic Glazed Salmon
Votes: 1
Rating: 5
You:
Rate this recipe!
Servings
Votes: 1
Rating: 5
You:
Rate this recipe!
Instructions
  1. Heat oil in a large skillet on medium-high heat. Add vegetables; cook 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. Spoon vegetables to one side of skillet. Add salmon, flesh side down, to other side of skillet; cover. Cook on medium heat 8 minutes or until fish flakes easily with fork, turning after 4 minutes.
  2. Transfer fish & vegetables to a plate; cover to keep warm. Add dressing & honey to skillet; cook & stir 30 seconds or until heated through.
  3. Pour dressing mixture over fish. Top vegetables with Parmesan & fresh basil.

Chicken & Mushroom Risotto

Rice has always been a staple at our house. I think Brion could eat rice almost everyday without problem. Although the steamed long grain would be his favorite, I can’t resist making a risotto periodically.

A properly cooked risotto should form a soft, creamy mound on a dinner plate. It shouldn’t run across the plate, nor should it be stiff and gluey.

Risotto’s signature tenderness is traditionally achieved by slowly adding spoonfuls of liquid while the rice cooks. This shortcut version eliminates most of the stove top stirring, but produces equally silky results.

Print Recipe
Chicken & Mushroom Risotto
Votes: 1
Rating: 5
You:
Rate this recipe!
Course Main Dish
Keyword risotto
Servings
Course Main Dish
Keyword risotto
Servings
Votes: 1
Rating: 5
You:
Rate this recipe!
Instructions
  1. Heat 1 tsp oil in a LARGE POT or DEEP SKILLET over high heat. Add bacon & cook until golden. Transfer to a small microwave-proof bowl.
  2. Leave about 1 Tbsp bacon drippings in pot & discard the rest. Add chicken & cook until browned through. Transfer to a separate bowl. Add mushrooms & cook until light golden. Add to bowl with chicken.
  3. Turn heat down to medium & return pot to the stove. Add butter & melt; then add garlic & onion. Saute for 3 minutes or until softened. Turn up heat, add rice & stir until grains become partially translucent, about 1 minute (do NOT overcook).
  4. Add wine & cook, scraping the bottom of the pot to get any brown bits, about 2 minutes. Turn down heat to medium-low; add about 3 cups of chicken stock. Leave, uncovered, stirring just once or twice, until most of the liquid has been absorbed.
  5. Check firmness of rice & add 1/2 cup of broth at a time, stirring in between until absorbed & rice is cooked to YOUR taste. Add the chicken & mushrooms back into the risotto towards the end, just to heat through. Right at the end when the risotto is ready, add a 'splash' more chicken broth to make the risotto slightly soupy, then take it off the stove.
  6. Add butter & Parmesan cheese, then stir vigorously (this will activate the starch & make it super creamy). Serve immediately. Garnish with reheated bacon & extra Parmesan if you wish.
Recipe Notes
  • Risotto is best made with Arborio rice which is starchier than other types of rice, making it essential to achieve a creamy risotto.
  • In order to use this 'no stir' method of cooking risotto, you MUST use a large pot or deep skillet so the rice & liquid is spread out & not too deep.

Veggie Shrimp Pasta w/ Garlic Knots

As I was preparing this meal today, the same question that I’ve pondered many times, came back to me. Why do we serve (garlic) bread with a pasta meal? It makes no sense! Pasta and bread are both starches so why do we eat them together?

After a lot of research on this subject, I now think I have the answer. When the first wave of Italian immigrants arrived in America from Southern Italy in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, they couldn’t get good quality olive oil, the right produce or arborio rice, but were instead able to afford ample quantities of cheese and meat. They pioneered a culture of ‘abbondanza’ (meaning in abundance), building on traditional recipes and creating new ones; always sure to use as much of a good ingredient as possible. The result … a hearty, delicious cuisine that has never seen the light of day in the land that inspired it. ‘Italian garlic bread’, as found in North American restaurants and grocery stores, does not exist in real Italian cuisine. It is an Italian-American creation that nobody in Italy would recognize.

Ok, so now I have the answer and you’ve probably noticed, I made Garlic Knots to go with our pasta!

Print Recipe
Veggie Shrimp Pasta w/ Garlic Knots
Votes: 1
Rating: 5
You:
Rate this recipe!
Course Main Dish
Cuisine American, Italian
Servings
Votes: 1
Rating: 5
You:
Rate this recipe!
Instructions
Garlic Knots
  1. Preheat oven to 375 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. In a large bowl, combine flour, baking powder & salt; whisk well. Add yogurt, mixing with a fork until incorporated. On a lightly floured surface, knead dough about 15 times. Divide the dough into 8 equal pieces & roll into strips about 9-inches long. Tie each strip into a 'knot-like' ball; place on baking sheet. Bake about 18 minutes or until golden then allow to cool 5 minutes.
  3. In a saucepan, melt butter, add garlic & cook until golden about 2 minutes. Brush the knots with the garlic butter & sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.
Veggie Shrimp Pasta
  1. In a large pot of boiling water, cook pasta until tender but firm; drain & set aside.
  2. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add zucchini, peppers & mushrooms; cook for 5 minutes or until tender-crisp, stirring occasionally. Add garlic, spices & shrimp; stirring for another 3 minutes or until shrimp is opaque.
  3. In pasta pot, place soup & milk; when hot add half of the Parmesan cheese, pasta & shrimp/veg mixture. If necessary, cook a few more minutes just to make sure everything is hot. Sprinkle with remaining cheese before serving.

Limoncello Mini Cakes

Nothing says spring more than the zesty, fresh flavor of lemons. Just to kick it up a notch, I decided to make some limoncello desserts.

Limoncello, (pronounced lee-mon-CHAY-low) the Italian lemon liqueur, is known for its refreshing sweet and tangy flavor. It is made from lemon rinds, alcohol and sugar. Although, traditionally served as an after dinner drink, it is a wonderful ingredient to use in cooking and baking.

Limoncello origins are disputed. Some say it was created by monks or nuns while others credit the wealthy Amalfi Coast families or even local townsfolk. In any case, its roots are in Southern Italy, primarily along Italy’s Amalfi Coast and the Sorrentine Peninsula known for their meticulous lemon cultivation. These lemons are considered the finest lemons for making limoncello. Prized for their yellow rinds, intense fragrance, juicy flesh and balanced acid.

Some years ago, while travelling in Italy, Brion & I tasted athentic limoncello in the town of Sorrento. As we walked through the quaint artisan shops packed together onto a maze of medieval alleys, we came accross one that sold liqueurs & confectionery. One of the treats that they made were limoncello sugar coated almonds … to die for!

Today’s little cakes use limoncello not only in the cake but the frosting and glaze as well. Definitely gives them some spring zing!

Print Recipe
Limoncello Mini Cakes
Votes: 1
Rating: 5
You:
Rate this recipe!
Course dessert
Servings
mini cakes
Ingredients
Limoncello Cakes
Limoncello Glaze
Course dessert
Servings
mini cakes
Ingredients
Limoncello Cakes
Limoncello Glaze
Votes: 1
Rating: 5
You:
Rate this recipe!
Instructions
Cakes
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Lightly butter & flour 4 mini bundt pans.
  2. In a small bowl, cream butter & sugar; add egg & mix well. Fold in the flour then add milk & limoncello; beat well. Spoon mixture into the bundt pans & bake for 18 minutes or until they test done. Allow to cool.
Cream Cheese Frosting
  1. In a small bowl, beat together butter, cream cheese & limoncello (if using). Add powdered sugar & mix until smooth.
Limoncello Glaze
  1. In a small saucepan, whisk together sugar, lemon zest & egg. Cook until sugar dissolves & the mixture turns light in color, about 2 minutes. Stir in limoncello & cook for about 5 minutes or until mixture thinly coats the back of a spoon, stirring constantly with a whisk. Remove from heat & whisk in butter. Cover with plastic wrap & cool before using.
Assembly
  1. Place cakes on a serving plate. Fill the center indentation from the bundt pan with glaze as well as glazing the tops. Place frosting in a piping bag with a tip that has a small hole. Pipe frosting to look like lemon slices.

Baked Shells w/ Pesto, Cheese & Meat Sauce

Pasta is without a doubt, one of the most versatile ingredients to cook with. It can be prepared in so many unique ways with different sauces. Pesto sauce is one of those … a simple sauce with simple ingredients that packs a huge flavor.

Pesto sauce originated in Genoa, which is located in the northern region of Italy. The Italian word for pesto: pestare, means to pound or to crush. It was originally prepared with a marble mortar and wooden pestle. However, the translation may be a bit misleading because preparation does not consist of pounding, rather it is of grounding.

Traditionally, pesto is made of crushed garlic, fresh basil and pine nuts blended with Parmesan cheese and olive oil. There are many variations of pesto and while the most popular is a pasta sauce, it can be used for a spread or dip, salad dressing or as an accompaniment to steak, poultry or fish. Red pesto is either made from sundried tomatoes or red bell peppers.

This pasta meal comes together easily in a short space of time. Sometimes its the simplest dishes that are truly the best!

Print Recipe
Baked Shells w/ Pesto, Mozzarella & Meat Sauce
Votes: 1
Rating: 5
You:
Rate this recipe!
Course Main Dish
Servings
Votes: 1
Rating: 5
You:
Rate this recipe!
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 375 F.
  2. In a saucepan over low heat, saute onion in olive oil for 5-7 minutes. Add ground pork, 2 Tbsp water, pepper, sage, red pepper flakes & ginger. Cook, stirring until no longer pink.
  3. Add salt, dried basil & diced tomatoes; bring to a boil then lower heat & simmer for 20 minutes. Stir periodically. At the end of cooking time, stir in pesto & remove from heat.
  4. While sauce is simmering, cook pasta shells al dente. It is important not to overcook shells as they will be further cooked in the oven. Drain pasta, add cooked sauce & gently toss.
  5. Place half of the pasta in a baking dish & sprinkle with half of mozzarella & Parmesan. Top it up with remaining pasta & sprinkle with other half of the cheeses.
  6. Bake for 15 minutes until cheese is golden & pasta is hot & bubbly.
Recipe Notes
  • Don't hesitate to bake your pasta in individual servings.

Sweet Corn Risotto w/ Sauteed Shrimp

Comforting, creamy risotto is one of those dishes that isn’t difficult to prepare but it can be quite time consuming. I find it works best for me when I’m doing other things in the kitchen at the same time.

Risotto is typically made with arborio rice, but pearl barley is a good substitute; it produces a similar texture but with a nuttier taste.

Over the years, I have made various kinds of risotto. Brion is the eternal rice lover. He could eat rice everyday of the week. Even though his favorite is just plain white rice, I can’t resist adding risotto to the mix now and again.

As a rule, if you are using corn in risotto, it would probably be fresh. In February, ‘fresh’ is not happening in our part of the country yet. One of the most favorite canned vegetables in North America is corn. Personally, I love corn no matter if its canned, frozen or fresh. Without trying to sound like an advertisement, I found that Green Giant Steam Crisp was real nice for this recipe. It’s supposedly picked at its peak and then quickly steamed in the can to preserve as many vitamins and nutrients as possible. I added some bacon and mushrooms to give it some extra pizzazz!

Print Recipe
Sweet Corn Risotto w/ Sauteed Shrimp
Instructions
  1. In a medium saucepan, bring chicken broth to a simmer.
  2. In another large saucepan, saute bacon until lightly browned but not crispy. Using a slotted spoon, transfer bacon to a plate lined with paper towels. Drain off fat & wipe out pan with paper towels.
  3. Add butter to pan & melt over medium heat. Saute mushrooms until moisture evaporates; add onion & green pepper. Saute for 5 minutes or until tender crisp then add barley (or rice) & hot chicken broth; simmer, stirring occasionally until all broth is absorbed, 15-20 minutes. If you need to make more broth, do so but be sure it is hot before adding it.
  4. When barley (or rice) is cooked & broth is absorbed, remove from heat & stir in corn, butter, Parmesan & parsley. Season with salt & pepper & transfer to a large bowl.
  5. Add remaining 2 Tbsp olive oil to skillet & heat over medium-high heat. Add garlic, shallot & red pepper flakes & cook until fragrant, 1-2 minutes. Add shrimp & cook until pink & beginning to brown, 3-4 minutes. Add 1/4 cup chicken broth & let simmer until evaporated, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat, season with salt & pepper & stir in basil. Add risotto & bacon back to skillet, stirring to combine with shrimp. Serve.

Parsnip Noodles with Meatballs

Spiral vegetable slicers, also known as spiralizers, have been a trending kitchen gadget since about 2014. This nifty apparatus can transform veggies such as zucchini, pumpkin, carrots, parsnips, beets, turnips, squash, potatoes ……. into linguine-like strands which can be used as an alternate to pasta.

The process is pretty simple, either peel or wash the raw piece of produce and use the tool to spiral it down into a noodle shape. There are two basic varieties of vegetable spiralizers on the market to consider.

For smaller kitchens and counter spaces there is an hourglass-shaped tool. It is two sided for the option of thin or thicker noodles and calls for an easy manual twisting of the vegetable to produce noodles. It comes with a small metal prong to hold the veggie in place.

For larger kitchens and counter spaces there is a tri-blade version with a variety of attachments and a handle so you can crank out your noodles.

Spiralled veggies are easy and fast to cook. For best results make sure to pat them dry before cooking. I prefer to season and saute ours for a few minutes.

What makes pasta great is not the actual pasta but the sauce you put on it. Vegetable noodles have the same consistency as pasta, so when it comes to sauces, the less water the better. Reduce tomato-based sauce as much as possible or choose thicker cream-based sauces to pair with your veggie noodles.

Parsnips are a vegetable we both enjoy, so for something different, I spiralized them. Brion was amazed at how much this meal looked like spaghetti and meatballs. Nice change!

Print Recipe
Parsnip Noodles with Meatballs
Instructions
  1. In a large bowl, combine ground meat, cheese, grated garlic, Italian seasoning, bouillon cube, red pepper flakes, chopped cilantro & some black pepper. Combine well & form into meatballs.
  2. In a large skillet, over medium-low heat, melt 2 Tbsp butter. Cook meatballs for 8-10 minutes until browned & cooked through. Add pasta sauce & continue cooking until sauce is hot. Remove to a bowl & keep hot while you saute your parsnip noodles.
  3. In the same skillet, melt remaining Tbsp butter; add lemon juice, hot sauce & minced garlic. Add the spiralized, parsnip noodles & saute for 3-4 minutes, stirring regularly, until parsnips are tender-crisp. Adjust seasoning with salt & pepper.
  4. Divide parsnip noodles between serving plates & top each with meatballs & sauce.

Zucchini Lasagna Roll-Ups with Asiago Sausage

Even though we are almost at the end of fall, there is still time to embrace those summer zucchini. I realize using zucchini instead of lasagna noodles is not a new idea but definitely a natural substitution. Lasagna, in any form, has to be up there on our list of comfort foods. Their saucy, cheesy and you have endless possibilities with fillings.

Thinly sliced zucchini stands in for the noodles and the three cheeses give this vegetarian lasagna plenty of richness, but for an even more substantial dish, I added some cooked and crumbled Asiago sausage.

It certainly has wonderful eye appeal but even more important, the flavor was amazing. Asiago/Red Pepper sausage is made in-store by Save-On Foods in our city. It has become my ultimate favorite in fresh sausage to use.

Print Recipe
Zucchini Lasagna Roll-Ups with Asiago Sausage
Votes: 1
Rating: 5
You:
Rate this recipe!
Course Main Dish
Servings
Votes: 1
Rating: 5
You:
Rate this recipe!
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 400 F. Grease a sheet pan with 1 Tbsp oil; set aside. Slice zucchini into 1/8-inch thick slices. Lay zucchini slices on prepared baking sheet & roast for 10-12 minutes. Remove from oven & cool for 5 minutes before handling. Leave oven on for baking casserole.
  2. In a saucepan, crumble-fry sausage; remove & drain on paper towel. In a bowl, beat egg & combine with ricotta cheese, Parmesan cheese, 1/2 cup mozzarella cheese, salt & pepper.
  3. In a 9 X 13-inch baking dish, spread some marinara sauce on the bottom. Assemble zucchini roll-ups by laying the zucchini strips on a flat work surface. Divide filling between strips & spread. Sprinkle each strip with a bit of mozzarella cheese. Roll up & place in casserole dish. Drizzle remaining sauce on rolls & sprinkle with remaining mozzarella cheese.
  4. Bake, uncovered for 20-25 minutes or until cheese is melted & bubbly.

Chili Mostaccioli

Mostaccioli, known in Italy as ‘penne lisce’, are a specialty of the Campania Region in Southern Italy, which includes the cities of Naples, Capri and Sorrento. This pasta is smooth in texture, tube-shaped with angled ends cut to resemble a quill or pen point.

Without realizing it, the pasta shape we choose plays an important role in the outcome of the dish. Long or short, smooth or ridged, thick or thin, with or without curves and crevices, different shapes of pasta capture sauce differently.

Shaped pastas pair well with sauces that have some texture. The crevices and twists will give pieces of meat and veggies a place to nestle into.

Short tubular pastas are great for sauces that are thick and chunky.

Long, thin, dried pasta need lots of lubrication. Olive-oil based sauces will coat, but not drown the pasta. The thicker pasta, like fettuccine can stand up to cream sauces and ragus. If your adding vegetables or herbs, cut them string-like rather than in cubes for ease in blending them.

This is a quick, low-cost meal but has good flavor.

Print Recipe
Chili Mostaccioli
Votes: 1
Rating: 5
You:
Rate this recipe!
Course Main Dish
Servings
Course Main Dish
Servings
Votes: 1
Rating: 5
You:
Rate this recipe!
Instructions
  1. In a bowl, combine meat, milk, crumbs, garlic, onion & seasonings; shape into 4-5 oblong patties. In a skillet, brown patties in hot oil. Remove to drain on paper towel.
  2. Drain any liquid from skillet & wipe with paper towel. In the skillet, combine soup with water & bring to a simmer. Add meat patties; gently simmer, covered for about 10 minutes then add drained & rinsed kidney beans. Simmer 5 more minutes until beans are hot.
  3. Cook pasta according to package directions; drain. Place on a large warm serving platter. Arrange patties over mostaccioli pasta. Pour sauce over meat & pasta; sprinkle with Parmesan cheese & serve.

Peach Cookies or Pesche

It’s that wonderful time of year when there is an abundance of fresh fruit available so why not make the most of it?! Peaches are a favorite of mine, not only because of their great taste but they have such versatility in their uses. Just for something different today, I want to take the peach idea in a whole different direction. These beautiful, old fashioned pastries were very popular in the 1980’s. They are known for their unique look that resembles a fresh peach with a flavor that is delicately sweet and buttery. Traditionally served at Italian wedding showers, Pesche (or peach), are now served at any celebration and may be found throughout many countries in Europe.

Peach cookies are two cookie domes, carved on the inside and paired together to hold a dollop of custard. Once assembled, they are dipped in Alchermes, a crimson colored liqueur infused with a blend of anise flowers, cinnamon, cloves, coriander, jasmine, mace, nutmeg, orange peel, sugar and vanilla. These ingredients are stepped in alcohol, which is then flavored with rose water. Alchermes gives these pastries a vibrant pink hue and a unique, light alcohol flavor that combines custard and cookie beautifully. To further enhance the peach resemblance, they are rolled in a sanding sugar.

Alchermes is a very ancient liqueur of Arabic origin. It’s main feature is an unmistakable scarlet color, which was originally acquired by adding ‘kermes’, a scale insect that eat oak trees. Modern alchermes liqueurs no longer use the kermes insect. Alchermes was created in the Frati’ Convent at Santa Maria Novella in Florence, Italy.

These peach cookies are an impressive dessert, perfect for special summer occasions. You can use any filling you choose such as a pastry cream, lemon curd, limoncello or just plain nutella spread. Since it is almost impossible to find the alchermes liqueur in Canada, I’ve listed a few substitutes that can be used instead.

Print Recipe
Peach Cookies or Pesche
Votes: 1
Rating: 5
You:
Rate this recipe!
Servings
Ingredients
Coating
Servings
Ingredients
Coating
Votes: 1
Rating: 5
You:
Rate this recipe!
Instructions
Filling
  1. In a small bowl, combine filling ingredients; stir in reserved crumbs. Spoon into center holes of cookies & press together to form a peach.
Coating
  1. In a shallow bowl, combine lemon & peach gelatin powder. Place package of strawberry gelatin in another bowl. Place sugar in a third bowl.
Assembling
  1. Working with one cookie at a time, spritz cookie with a bit of water. Dip in lemon mixture, then in strawberry gelatin & then in sugar. Spritz with additional water & add more gelatin as needed to create desired 'peach blush' effect. Place on a wire rack to dry for an hour. Attach mint leaves to top of each cookie with additional preserves. Store in refrigerator.
Recipe Notes
  • Alchermes can be substituted for a peach liqueur or Chambord raspberry liqueur. For my peach cookies, I kept it simple & used a combination of jello powders to replicate the traditional idea.