Category Archives: Mains

Cataplana

I love dishes that have tons of flavor, are easy and quick to prepare, and are just a little unusual.

Cataplana is a fantastic Portuguese dish that combines meat, seafood, and veggies into something absolutely amazing. The marinated pork with the muscles or clams and wine sauce bring you to the Mediterranean.

This dish also makes a lot! It’s perfect for serving a crowd without going through a lot of work!

Hands on time: 20 minutes

Total time: 30 minutes (does NOT include marinating time).

Ingredients: 

  • 1 1/2 lbs pork tenderloin
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 1 large garlic clove, minced
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/4 tsp crushed red chili pepper flakes
  • 1 1/2 to 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 6-10 oz of Spanish chorizo, sliced
  • Butter
  • 1 bag of muscles or clams
  • 1 green bell pepper, thinly sliced
  • 1 large tomato, thinly sliced
  • 10 slices of prosciutto or bacon
  • 1 bunch parsley
  • A crusty bread like a french baguette (optional)

Directions:

  1. Chop pork tenderloin into 1 inch cubes and place in plastic bag. Add wine, garlic, bay leaf, and chili pepper flakes. Leave pork to marinate in fridge for at least 1 hour and up to 24 hours.
  2. When you are ready to start cooking, add olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat.
  3.  Remove pork and save the left over marinating liquid. Add pork and chorizo to the frying pan and fry until pork is browned.
  4. Add reserved marinating liquid and bring to a simmer. Taste, and adjust seasoning as needed with salt and pepper or wine.
  5. Remove pan from heat.
  6. Butter the bottom and sides of a Cataplana pan, or a wok,or very large sauté pan with a tight-fitting lid.
  7. Add muscles or clams to the pan.
  8. Place the pork, chorizo, and liquid over the shell-fish.
  9. Top with bell pepper, tomato, prosciutto, and parsley.
  10. If necessary, add more liquid – you should have enough to steam the shell-fish, but not too much that they will boil.
  11. Close lid tightly and place pan on high heat for about 10 -12 minutes.
  12. Remove from heat.

Serve by bringing pan to the table and serve “family style” with crusty bread to soak up the juices.

Spinach and Bean Pesto Pizza

I first came across this recipe from the blog The Smart Cookie. This spinach and bean pesto sounded flavorful, healthy, and really delicious – especially on a pizza!

The night we tried this, I had to convince my husband that it was a good idea. He was excited about pizza night, but was hoping for the more traditional tomato based one. When I told him it was pesto his response was “oh”. I was able to win him over after he bit into it and he promptly said “this needs to be in the regular rotation!”

The number one thing we both loved about this sauce was that it is hearty and doesn’t give you the over-oiled look and taste that can happen with a pesto pizza. It’s a fantastic way to change-up your ordinary pizza!

Here’s my take on the The Smart Cookie’s recipe. Enjoy!

Hands on time: 15 minutes
Total time: 25-30 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1 can of garbanzo beans
  • 1 can of red kidney beans
  • 1 1/2 tbsp of olive oil
  • 1 1/2 cups of fresh spinach
  • 1/2 to 2/3 cup shredded parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup of fresh basil
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • pizza dough to make a 12″ pizza or any other pre-made pizza base you prefer
  • 2-3 oz goat cheese, crumbled

Directions: 

  1. Place garlic, garbanzo beans, and red kidney beans in a food processor and pulse until coarsely chopped.
  2. Add spinach,  parmesan, and basil to the bean mix and turn on food processor. Drizzle in olive oil.
  3. Season bean mixture with salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Roll out pizza dough and sped 1/2 the bean mixture over pizza (freeze other half for later use or use it as a sandwich spread).
  5. Sprinkle goat cheese on top of pizza.
  6. Bake pizza at directed for your dough or other pre-made pizza base.

Super Nachos!

Homemade nachos always remind me of my childhood and my mother. Growing up, I thought it was a big treat to have these – they taste great, are fun to make, and tons of fun to eat. I mean really, what kid doesn’t like eating with their hands?

My mother never made just any old nacho dish – we always had “super” nachos.  With toppings that we (the kids) got to help choose and were heaped on, they were better than anything I had at a restaurant. How could these nachos be anything but super ? Then again, adding “super” to the title made them more fun to eat as well :)

To this day I still make these nachos – they’re great to whip up on a busy weeknight! Cook up the ground meat in a skillet, assemble, bake in the oven for 10 minutes and you’re done.

Hands on time: 20 minutes

Total time: 30 minutes

Ingredeients: 

  • 1 Tbsp canola oil
  • 1 onion
  • 1 lb lean ground beef
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp dried, ground chipotle pepper
  • 1/2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/2 tsp mace
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 to 3/4 bag of corn tortilla chips
  • 1 to 1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 cup salsa
  • 1/2 a beefsteak tomato or 2-3 plum tomatoes, diced
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 2 spring onions, chopped
  • 1 avocado, chopped into bite sized pieces

Directions: 

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  2. Heat oil in a large saute pan over medium heat.
  3. Add in onion and saute until soft – about 3-5 minutes.
  4. Add in ground beef and brown until fully cooked.
  5. Drain excess fat.
  6. Place pan back on stove, mix in spices and about 1/3 cup of water and cook for an additional 1-2 minutes.
  7. Remove pan from heat.
  8. Line a baking tray with tin foil and spray with cooking spray.
  9. Evenly Spread out tortilla chips until the tray is covered.
  10. Using a spoon, scatter meat mixture over tortillas
  11. Sprinkle cheese over the meat and tortilla chips.
  12. Drizzle (as best you can) salsa over the cheese.
  13. Scatter fresh tomatoes over the dish.
  14. Place small dollops of sour cream over the dish.
  15. Sprinkle spring onions as the final topper.
  16. Place baking tray in the oven and allow to bake until cheese is melted and everything is heated through – about 5-10 minutes.
  17. Garnish dish with diced avocado.

Caramelized Onion, Shiitake, and Portabella Mushroom Soup

Doing this blog, I’ve come across some really great recipe inspirations. This one came to me from Kitchen Convival.

I love caramelized onions – there are few flavors that blend sweet, savory, and comfort than a nicely caramelized onion. And I love the earthiness of mushrooms. When I read Dave’s recipe for Shitake and Caramelized Onion Soup I fell in love with the idea of making this soup. Lucky me, the next few days were going to be chilly compaired to our abnormally warm Spring in the DC area.

I loved his little tip about cooking the ginger in tinfoil so that it softens but doesn’t burn or caramelize in the pan.

When we tried it, my husband absolutely loved this soup – one of the best ones he has ever had! So for this household it’s definitely a keeper recipe.

So here’s my version of his soup. I made a few changes to his recipe – like adding a carrot, cream, and some dry sherry.

Hands on time: 40 minutes

Total time: 40 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 1/2 yellow onions – thinly sliced
  • 1 carrot
  • 1 1/2 tsp of fresh ginger – roughly chopped
  • 2 portabella mushrooms
  • 1/3 lb shiitaki mushrooms (fresh)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • pepper to taste
  • 4 cups beef broth
  • 1/2 cup cream
  • 1/4 cup dry sherry

Directions:

  1. Add olive oil in a large pan on medium-low heat.
  2. Add onions to the pan.
  3. Peel and thinly slice the carrot. Add to pan with onions.
  4. Loosely wrap chopped ginger in tinfoil and add to the side of the pan.
  5. Clean and roughly chop the mushrooms and add to pan with other vegetables. Reserve the stems of the shitake mushrooms.
  6. In a pot, add beef broth and shitake stems. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer.
  7. When onions are caramelized, carrots softened, and mushrooms shrunk, remove the vegetable mixture from the heat.
  8. Take out mushroom stems from beef broth and add vegetables, ginger, salt (to taste), and pepper (to taste) to the beef broth.
  9. Fill the blender about 1/4 to a 1/3 of the way up with the beef and vegetable mixture. Blend until smooth and put in a separate pot. Repeat this process until the beef and vegetable mixture is completely blended/pureed.
  10. Keep soup warm on medium-low heat. Add cream and sherry. Continue to cook for another 5-10 minutes (to cook out the alcohol).
  11. Serve with a garnish of parsley and good quality bread.

Mexican Lasagna

I love making tacos and quesadillas. They’re quick, tasty, and the recipe is easily doubled or halved so you can always cook “just enough” for whomever you might have over!

However, sometimes I like to combine to two in a “casserole” type dish that I call Mexican lasagna. It’s a simple layer of tortillas, the insides of a taco, and another layer of tortillas with cheese melted on top. On a busy weeknight, this is a simple quick dish that will please everyone – trust me, my one-year old couldn’t get enough of this stuff!

Hands on time: 15 minutes

Total time: 25 minutes

Ingredients: 

  • 1 package of 8 tortillas.
  • 1 lb lean ground beef or turkey
  • 1 package of Mccormick taco seasoning or your own blend
  • 1 cup cheddar cheese
  • 1 cup salsa
  • 1/3 to 1/2 cup sour cream

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Grease a 13×9 baking dish with cooking spray.
  3. On medium to medium high heat, brown the meat. Once cooked, drain excess fat and place pan back on burner.
  4. Add seasoning and about 1/2 cup of water to the meat and stir to combine. Once done, remove meat from heat.
  5. Place 4 large tortillas on the bottom of the greased baking dish (they are suppose to overlap).
  6. Place about 1/3 cup of cheese on top of the layered tortillas. Then layer the seasoned meat followed by 1/2 cup of salsa.
  7. Layer the last 4 tortillas on top of the salsa. Spread sour cream on top of layered tortillas, followed by another 1/2 cup of salsa, and remaining cheese.
  8. Place the dish in the oven for about 10 minutes or until cheese is nicely melted.

Pork Medallions with Fennel and Pancetta

One of my favorite cuts of meat is pork tenderloin. It’s a versatile cut – you can grill hit whole, slice it and wrap it with bacon, or like in this recipe from the Better Homes and Gardens cookbook, pound it thin so you can do a quick shallow fry/sauté.

This particular recipe uses, what I consider, the under appreciated fennel. My family adores this vegetable. Raw, it has a very strong licorice flavor, but sautéed or slowly cooked until it’s caramelized and the flavor is softened and sweetened. In fact, when we gave this to our daughter, she liked the pork but devoured the fennel.

Don’t forget to enter to win a copy of the Better Homes and Garden cookbook before the end of tomorrow!

Hands on time: 30 minutes

Total time: 30 minutes

Ingredients: 

  • 3/4 pound pork tenderloin
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • Dash salt
  • Dash pepper
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 ounces pancetta (Italian bacon) or bacon, finely chopped
  • 2 fennel bulbs, trimmed and cut crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick slices
  • 1 small onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup whipping cream

Directions: 

  1. Trim any excess fat from meat.
  2. Cut the meat crosswise into 1-inch-thick slices.
  3. Place each slice between 2 pieces of plastic wrap and pound lightly with flat side of a meat mallet until meat is 1/4-inch thick.
  4. Remove plastic wrap.
  5. In a shallow bowl, combine flour, salt, and pepper.
  6. Coat meat with flour mixture, and shake off any excess flour.
  7. In a large heavy skillet heat olive oil over high heat.
  8. Add half of the meat, and cook for 2 to 3 minutes or until meat is thoroughly cooked, turning once. (Add more oil, if necessary.) Remove from skillet. Repeat with other half of the medallions. Set meat aside.
  9. In the same skillet, cook pancetta or bacon over medium-high heat until crisp.
  10. Add fennel, onion, and garlic. Cook for about 5 minutes or until crisp-tender.
  11. Add lemon juice and stir in the cream.
  12. Bring mixture to a boil and return meat to pan.
  13. Cook meat until it is heated through and the sauce is slightly thickened.
  14. Transfer the meat to a serving platter and spoon the sauce over the meat.

Asparagus with Almond Sauce

Before I go into the recipe – just take a look at the size of the asparagus I got at Wegmans! If you remember my quick tip about asparagus – usually the thicker it is, the tastier it is. I can tell you that this bunch was extraordinarily tender and sweet. Although my husband wondered if they got hit by some radiation or something to be so ginormous!

I came across this side dish when I was just perusing the Better Homes and Gardens cookbook for different ideas on how to serve up some veggies. This side dish turned out to be excellent – and beyond simple! It was a really great and slightly unusual way to serve asparagus. If you’re interested in winning a copy of this cookbook as well as some kitchen items to support breast cancer this week!

Hands on time: 13 minutes

Total time: 13 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb asparagus spears or one 10-ounce package frozen asparagus spears (I used fresh asparagus this time around)
  • 1 Tbsp butter or margarine
  • 2 Tbsp sliced almonds
  • 1 1/4 tsp cornstarch
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 tsp lemon juice (I approximated and hand squeezed in juice of 1/2 a lemon for ease).
  • 1/2 tsp instant chicken bouillon granules
  • Dash black pepper

Directions:

  1. Snap off and discard woody bases from fresh asparagus. Place asparagus in microwave safe dish, and fill with water until asparagus is covered. Place a piece of plastic wrap over the container and microwave for 5 minutes. (yeah that’s right, I will microwave to save stove top space – besides, in this case there’s really no difference in taste or texture between doing it this way versus on the stove top).
  2. Meanwhile, melt butter in a small saucepan over medium heat.
  3. Add almonds and stir over medium-low heat for 3 to 5 minutes or until almonds are golden.
  4. Stir in cornstarch.
  5. Add water, lemon juice, bouillon granules, and pepper. Stir until sauce is thickened and bubbly. Continue cooking for an additional 2 minutes.
  6. Spoon sauce over cooked asparagus.

Oven-Baked Buffalo Chicken Sandwich

There are times that I get a major craving for buffalo chicken, but I don’t want something fried in oil. When I was single and living by myself working full-time and going to grad school, this was a great meal to make because it satisfied my buffalo chicken craving without the restaurant cost and it was quick and easy to put together. It’s still a staple in my household today and has turned into one of my husband’s favorite sandwiches.

I usually serve this with either paprika oven-baked fries or oven-baked sweet potato fries. My trick to get both fries and this done is that I start the fries and once they are in the oven, I start working on the chicken. By the time the chicken is done cooking, the fries will be perfectly cooked as well!

Hands on time: 7 minutes
Total time: 37 minutes
(Makes 4 sandwiches)

Ingredients:

  • 2 chicken breast, cut in have width-wise
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups of flour
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 1/2 cups panko crumbs
  • Ranch dressing
  • Buffalo sauce (I prefer Franks RedHot)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Prepare a baking sheet with tin foil and coat with cooking spray.
  3. Season chicken breast halves with salt and pepper.
  4. Place flour, egg, and panko crumbs in three separate dishes.
  5. Dredge each piece of chicken in the flour, gently shake off excess, place in egg, and then place in panko crumbs. Place on prepared baking sheet.
  6. Bake chicken for 30 minutes.

Serve by placing 1 piece of chicken on a bun and top with ranch dressing and buffalo sauce.

Italian Sausage and Arugula Pasta

Do you ever have those nights where you know you need to cook something, but you don’t have a lot of time or ingredients in the house? That is how I came up with this dish. A few months ago I had just returned from being away for a week on a work trip, and wound up not having time to go grocery shopping over the weekend because of family obligations and exhaustion. The next thing I knew, it was Monday evening and there was little in the house that I could use to cook something quick, nutritious, and tasty.

On days like these my only thought is “okay – I need a carb, a protein, and either fruit or vegetable – what can I put together?” This particular night, while looking through my pantry and fridge, I noticed I had some left over greens, parmesan cheese, frozen Italian sausage, a box of pasta, and some tomatoes. I figured, why not? Gives me everything I was looking for, hopefully it’ll turn out tasty!

My experiment was a success! This has turned into one of those great dishes where I can always substitute a little of this and a little of that and in 20 minutes have dinner on the table.

Hands on time: 20 minutes

Total time: 20 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb dried pasta
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 lb of sweet Italian sausage
  • 1 bunch fresh arugula
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 cup grated parmesan cheese

Directions: 

  1. In a large sauce pot, add enough water that will cover the pasta and salt so that the water tastes like the sea. Bring the salt water to a boil and add pasta. Cook until al dente (or that there is still a small bite to the pasta) – about 10-12 minutes. Make sure to reserve about 1 cup of the pasta water prior to draining your pasta.
  2. Meanwhile, in a large sauté pan on medium, heat up olive oil.
  3. Add diced onion and about 1 tsp of salt. Saute until onions are tender – about 3-4 minutes.
  4. Add minced garlic and sauté until fragrant – about 30 seconds.
  5. Add Italian sausage (If in casing, remove casing) and cook until done.
  6. Add arugula and cook until wilted.
  7. Add cherry tomatoes, stir to combine.
  8. Add pasta and stir to combine.
  9. Sprinkle in parmesan cheese and 1/2 cup of pasta water. Stir until parmesan cheese is melted. If the sauce is too thick, add in more pasta water until the sauce is to the consistency you desire.

Spaetzle

Growing up, I was lucky to have a family that always cooked ethnically diverse meals. I guess after my parents lived abroad for about 10 years, it’s just natural. One of my all-time favorite dishes my mother would cook is spaetzle – a German noodle side dish. I don’t know how or when my mother started making this dish, but I know it’s fantastic!

I now make it for my family and serve it with German sausage and Sauerkraut. I just introduced this noodle to my one-year old for the first time and she loves it! In fact, when I heated some up for a snack for the two of us, she just about hogged the entire dish and got very upset that it was gone! Truth be told, my husband is kind of the same way ;)

Although this is an easy and quick side dish to make, you will need a special kitchen gadget – the spaetzle press (you can also use it to push cooked potatoes through for extra smooth mashed potatoes). Trust me – spaetzle is worth its own gadget!

Hands on time: 15 minutes

Total time: 15 minutes

Ingredients:

  1. 2 cups of flour
  2. 1 tsp salt, plus some for the boiling water
  3. 1 Tbsp dried dill
  4. 1 tsp nutmeg
  5. 4 large eggs
  6. 1/2 cup milk
  7. 4 Tbsp butter, melted

Directions: 

  1. Preheat oven to 250 degrees.
  2. In a large sauce pan or stock pot, bring water to boil and add enough salt so that it’s as salty as the ocean.
  3. In large bowl, add the flour, 1 tsp salt, dill, and nutmeg. Thoroughly combine.
  4. In a separate bow, whisk together milk and eggs.
  5. Place the egg and milk mixture to the dry ingredients and mix well.
  6. Place some of the noodle mixture in the spaetzle press and press down into the boiling water. Noodles will be completely cooked  when floating (perhaps within 30 seconds. Drizzle some butter over the top of the noodles and place in oven to keep warm.
  7. Repeat step 6 until there is no more batter. Keep noodles in oven until you are ready to serve.
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