Dinner

Balsamic Roma Tomatoes

I now find that I am asked for culinary advice and recipes for side dishes about as much as I am asked about main courses and entrees. So today, I want to give to you my recipe for a sensational summery side: my Balsamic Roma Tomatoes.

Balsamic Tomatoes 7

Juicy Roma (Plum) tomatoes, fruity olive oil, pungent garlic, sweet balsamic, and fresh basil make this one delectable side, even for the odd ball eater (black sheep) who shies away from tomatoes. This recipe is insanely simple, only taking about 5 minutes to prep, and is at once both sweet and savory. I find that these tomatoes are the perfect side for light and bright chicken and fish dishes like Chicken Piccata or Grilled Swordfish, but really you can make them with anything and all will love them.

Now get cooking my foodie friends!

Balsamic Tomatoes

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients:

  • 4 Roma Tomatoes (figure 1 tomato per person)
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 1 pinch pepper
  • 1 tablespoon crushed garlic
  • 1-2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 2 basil leaves, torn
  • Grated Parmesan Cheese (optional)

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 400F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Cut the tomatoes in half, length wise. Place on the baking sheet with the cut side facing up. Drizzle with the olive oil and sprinkle with the salt and pepper. Divide the crushed garlic evenly and place on top of the cut side of the tomatoes, smear around. Drizzle each tomato with a bit of the balsamic vinegar.

Place in the oven and roast for 25-30 minutes, until the tomatoes and slightly withered, juicy, and the balsamic is caramelized. Top with a few pieces of torn basil and if desired, sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Serve and enjoy!

 

Bleu BBQ Chicken Pizza

We all love pizza. We all love BBQ. Thus, it makes sense to combine these two marvelous genres of foods, right?? Right! Almost every American-style pizza place (alla BJ’s Restaurant & Brewhouse and California Pizza Kitchen) has some sort of BBQ Chicken Pizza these days, and it fantastic; you really can’t go wrong with ordering one. I and many of my friends love BBQ chicken pizza so much that we have taken to making these BBQ flavored pies in our own homes because it really is so simple to make something so good and so beloved.

My dear friend and former blogging partner from my Confessions of Two College Foodies days, Nicole, first taught me how to make BBQ Chicken Pizza. Her and her family made a version very similar to that of California Pizza Kitchen and it was phenomenal; it quickly became a staple in my own household; for that recipe click here. Since then, however, I have sought to make a recipe that is unique to me so that I am not thieving!

Classic BBQ Pizza

Here is a throwback to the classic version, sans bleu cheese and peppers.

When developing this new recipe, I thought about some of the ingredients and flavors I like to add to more traditional BBQ dishes. When it comes to BBQ burgers, my favorite cheese is bleu cheese; the pungent tang of the bleu plays perfectly off of the sweet richness of BBQ sauce. I also enjoy adding the freshness of red and yellow bell peppers to BBQ dishes as they seem to really brighten up a thick BBQ feast. So, I have added those few ingredients to my friend’s original BBQ Chicken Pizza recipe to make this unique Bleu BBQ Chicken Pizza.

BBQ Chicken Pizza 16

The new Bleu BBQ Chicken Pizza! Could you resist???

This pizza is insanely easy to make, rather inexpensive, and completely delectable. This recipe is perfect for the summer months for those times when you need the texture and ease of a pizza but still want that summery, smokey BBQ flavor. I hope you enjoy!

Bleu BBQ Chicken Pizza

  • Servings: 3-4
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients:

  • 1 pound store bought pizza dough, plain or wheat (I like Trader Joe’s dough)
  • 3/4 cup store bought BBQ sauce
  • 2 cups cooked chicken breast, chopped into cubes
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1 cup bleu cheese crumbles
  • ½ medium red onion, sliced
  • ½ red bell pepper, sliced into strips
  • ½ yellow bell pepper sliced into strips
  • ¼ cup parsley or cilantro, chopped

Directions:

Preheat the oven to according the directions on your store bough pizza dough.

Roll out the dough into a thin, oblong shape and place on an oiled baking sheet. (Pro-tip: sprinkle course cornmeal on the baking sheet to help prevent the pizza dough from sticking)

Pour half the BBQ sauce on the surface of the dough and spread with the back of a spoon or a pastry brush in an even layer right up to the edges of the dough. Sprinkle the mozzarella and bleu cheese crumbles evenly over the pizza.

In a medium bowl, toss the cooked chicken in the remaining BBQ sauce and distribute evenly across the surface of the pizza. Arrange the sliced red onion and bell peppers all over the pizza.

Bake for 15-20 minutes until the dough is cooked golden and the cheese is melted and bubbling. In the last few minutes of cooking, sprinkle with the parsley or cilantro.  Remove from the oven and allow to cool a few minutes. Cut into rustic squares and serve!

 

Chicken Bellagio

Years ago when I was a teenager, the cool thing to do for us youngsters was to go to the Cheesecake Factory for dinner before catching a movie. A favorite dish of my friends and I was their Chicken Bellagio; pesto spaghetti, breaded chicken, prosciutto, and a lemon arugula salad – simple yet completely delectable! It is so simple, in fact, that one night while scarfing down the dish before running off to an 8 o’clock film, I had a culinary epiphany: I could totally make this at home for probably less money and for more people. And so, two days later I called on my Italian ancestors to guide me and I created a Copycat Chicken Bellagio Recipe that is to this day a friend and family favorite!

When I was the co-author of my first foodie blog, Confessions of Two College Foodies, this copycat recipe was by far our most popular and most well-read; we even made it on a local access cooking show (which I will not link to here because the 20 year old incarnation of me is much more tragic than the 25 year old one). Anyway, people love this recipe because it is so tasteful and quite elegant despite utilizing simple ingredients.

Chicken Bellagio 14

Chicken Bellagio is a meal that gives you everything you need on one plate: carbs, protein, and greens. Rich and fresh pesto spaghetti is topped with a piece of tender and crunchy breaded chicken, which is then topped with slice of salty and delicate Prosciutto, which is then finished with a tangy and peppery arugula salad. All of these flavor profiles – the herbal freshness from the pesto and the arugula, the saltiness from the prosciutto, and the tanginess from lemon – make this such a magnificently balanced dish.

It is a little bit of work to time everything and get it all assembled, but once you’ve got the meal plated, it is really delightful and presents so beautifully. Furthermore, you can make this very elegant meal for friends and family for about $25-$35 for 4-6 people, which would easily run you over $100 when going out to eat; make this a winner in not only flavor, but in price.

This is going to be your new go-to when craving a restaurant quality meal, right in your own home!

Chicken Bellagio

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: intermediate
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Ingredients:

  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breast tenders or cutlets
  • ½ cup flour
  • 2 tablespoons garlic powder
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons cream or half & half
  • 1 cup Italian seasoned Panko breadcrumbs
  • ¼ cup grated parmesan cheese, plus another 2 tablespoons
  • 1 pound spaghetti
  • 1-1/2 cups store bought or homemade pesto (click here for a reliable homemade pesto recipe)
  • 4 slices Prosciutto
  • 3 cups arugula
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • Juice of 2 lemons
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • Salt and Pepper

Directions:

For the Chicken –

Pound the chicken breast tenders or cutlets until very thin. Season both sides with about a ½ teaspoon of salt and pepper each.

Create a breading station using 3 bowls. In the 1st bowl, mix the flour, garlic powder and a pinch of salt and pepper each. In the 2nd bowl, beat the eggs with the cream or half & half till completely mixed. In the 3rd bowl, combine the breadcrumbs and ¼ cup parmesan cheese. One by one, dip the chicken cutlets on both sides in the flour making sure to shake off excess, then the egg mixture making sure to let excess drain off, then in the breadcrumb mixture being sure to coat completely.

Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Once hot, add the breaded chicken cutlets. Cook for 3-4 minutes per side until the breading is golden brown.

For the Pasta –

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the spaghetti and cook until al dente, about 8-10 minutes. Reserve a cup of the pasta water. Drain the pasta. Place pasta in a large bowl and add the remaining 2 tablespoons parmesan cheese and the pesto. Toss to coat, adding pasta water as needed to thin out the sauce and make sure all noodles are perfectly coated in the pesto.

For the Arugula Salad –

Add the arugula to a salad bowl. Zest 1 lemon directly onto the lettuce. Mix the juice of the 2 lemons, 2 tablespoons of olive oil, and a pinch of salt and pepper in a small bowl. Pour over the arugula and toss.

To assemble –

Place 1 serving (about 1/8th to ¼ of the total) of spaghetti into a wide pasta bowl or onto a plate. Place 1 piece of chicken atop the post. Lay 1 piece of the Prosciutto over the chicken. Top the chicken and Prosciutto with a ¼ cup or so of the arugula salad. Sprinkle with additional Parmesan cheese and serve.

Vegan Cauliflower Steak Marsala

As you may be aware, I have recently become entranced by the fantastic vegetable that is cauliflower and all the vegan sorcery you can perform with it. Remember when I made Cauliflower Steak and highlighted the basic technique for turning a head of Cauliflower into a steak? Well, Oops I did it again, and this time got fancy!

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with the Cauliflower.

This is my original Cauliflower Steak Marsala, which I am very proud to have developed. Inspired by Italian restaurant staple Chicken Marsala and steakhouse classic Steak Marsala, I have created a vegan friendly version of these beloved dishes.

I cut a head of cauliflower into steak looking slices, season them well as you would a piece of meat, and bake them to a crisp tenderness that possesses a meaty texture which I then effectively use to replace chicken or beef. Then I concoct a near traditional Marsala wine and mushroom sauce. Since there is no meat, I have built the sauce to be even richer in flavor than the traditional with a few heartier components. My vegan Marsala sauce includes sweet caramelized onions for another added layer of flavor and texture. Rather than using cremini or button mushrooms, I use strips of hearty, meaty Portobello mushrooms to make the meal more substantial. I add thyme and garlic for an earthy note to contrast the sweetness of the wine.

i love magic

Vegan Magic!

Lastly, I have come up with another piece of vegan magic! Most marsala wine sauces call for butter to thicken the sauce, which is great because…butter. Butter, however, is not vegan and quickly adds another couple hundred calories of fat to the dish. Instead, I puree cannellini beans which are buttery in texture and taste, and add a bit to the sauce. The pureed beans dissolve into the sauce which not only thickens the sauce, but gives it a nice silky smooth texture just like a traditional Marsala sauce.

The result is a rich, hearty, and gourmet meal that is 100% vegan! Serve with your favorite vegetable sides and you will blow your vegetarian and meat-loving friends alike away! I am super proud of how this development turned out and I hope you enjoy it too!

Vegan Cauliflower Steak Marsala

  • Servings: 2
  • Difficulty: easy-intermediate
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Ingredients:

  • 1 large head cauliflower
  • 1 large yellow onion, sliced thin
  • 2 Portobello mushrooms, sliced into ¼ inch thick strips
  • 1 cup Marsala wine
  • ¼ cup vegetable stock
  • 1 ½ tablespoons pureed cannellini beans
  • 2 tablespoons garlic powder
  • 2 tablespoons Herbs de Provence
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 teaspoon minced or crushed garlic
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • Sea salt and black pepper
  • Parsley for garnish

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 425̊F.

Slice the head of cauliflower into 1 ½ inch steaks. Place on an oiled baking sheet. Drizzle both sides with half the olive oil and season with the garlic powder, Herbs de Provence, and about a teaspoon of salt and pepper. Bake for 20 minutes, flip over and bake additional 15 minutes, until the upward facing side of the cauliflower is browned and crisped.

Meanwhile, heat the remaining tablespoon of oil over medium-high heat in a pan. Add the onions and season with a pinch of salt and pepper. Cook, stirring often, until the onions are browned and caramelized, about 7-8 minutes. Note* Add a tablespoon or so of water to the pan if onions start to stick or burn. Add the mushroom strips and season with another pinch of salt and pepper. Cook until mushrooms shrink and become tender and browned. Add the thyme and garlic, cook for 1 minute. Add the Marsala wine and stock to deglaze the bottom of the pan. Season with more salt and pepper and stir to combine. Bring to a simmer and reduce heat to medium-low. Allow sauce to reduce for 5 minutes. Add the cannellini beans and stir into the sauce until dissolved and the sauce becomes thick and silky.

Plate the cauliflower steaks and spoon over the sauce to cover the steaks. Garnish with parsley leaves and serve!

Note: The sauce is also good for more than Cauliflower. Grill, bake, or sauté chicken, steak, or salmon and add the same sauce over the top for a carnivorous with marsala dish with an even healthier sauce!

Note: I have only made this recipe for 2, but you could easily double or triple the recipe as needed.

Pasta Primavera

Sunday March 20th 2016 marked the bringing of another spring!

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YAY Spring is here!

Traditionally for the Spring Equinox, I always make my Pasta Primavera, and this past equinox was no exception. Pasta Primavera is a traditional Italian dish – Primavera means spring in Italian – and this dish is made all throughout the spring to celebrate the fresh produce that has come into season and harvest after the winter. I love making Pasta Primavera because it is simple, it is elegant, it supports seasonal eating, and it is actually quite healthy since it is loaded with lots of fresh vegetables and herbs.

food jennifer lawrence

Because a season change just means an excuse to eat more foods.

Sound good? I know you want to make it. Great! Well, you should make MY recipe for Pasta Primavera. Whereas many other recipes for this springtime dish call for boiling, steaming, or sauteing the vegetables within it, I roast them to really intensify the flavors because roasting brings out the best in vegetables. I also add goat cheese to this dish to bring a bright tang that I think is indicative of spring which gives the dish a slight richness and definite creaminess.

It is so simple and inexpensive, yet so fresh, bright, and absolutely delicious; I think you should definitely make my Pasta Primavera, and make it often! Buon Primavera!

Pasta Primavera

  • Servings: 3-4
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients:

  • 2 large broccoli crowns, cut into small florets
  • 1 red bell pepper, sliced and cut into 2 inch strips
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, sliced and cut into 2 inch strips
  • 2 large carrots, sliced and cut into 2 inch sticks
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 tablespoon crushed or minced garlic
  • 10 medium thick asparagus spears, cut to two inches
  • 15-20 sugar snap peas
  • 1 cup basil, julienned
  • ½ pound Farfalle (bowtie) pasta or other short cut pasta
  • 1-2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons Herbs de Provence
  • ¼ cup goat cheese
  • ¼ cup grated Parmesan Cheese
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 400̊F.

Arrange the broccoli, bell peppers, carrots, and cherry tomatoes on a large baking sheet. Drizzle with the olive oil, sprinkle with the salt, pepper, Herbs de Provence, and garlic. Toss until all the vegetables are well coated and spread into a single layer. Roast for 25-30 minutes, tossing once half way through, until vegetables are tender.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. In the last 1o-12 minutes of the vegetables cooking, add the pasta to the water and cook till al dente, about 10-12 minutes.In the last 2 minutes of the pasta cooking, add the asparagus and the sugar snap peas to the water with the pasta as well. Reserve 1 cup of the pasta water and drain the pasta, asparagus, and sugar snap peas.

Add the roast vegetables to a large pasta bowl, followed by the pasta. Add the goat cheese and parmesan cheese on top of the pasta and toss thoroughly until the cheeses melt and coat all the pasta and vegetables, using the pasta water as needed to help spread the cheese out. Toss in the basil.

Serve into individual pasta bowls and sprinkle with additional basil and parmesan cheese!

 

Shepherd’s Pie

Saint Patrick’s Day is tomorrow! Besides good beer (Guinness anyone????), comforting Irish food is one of the best parts of this previously-religious and now fully-universal cultural holiday! Fish n’ Chips, Corned Beef and Cabbage, and most importantly: Shepherd’s Pie!

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Years ago, I used to author the now extinct blog “Confessions of Two College Foodies” with my dear friend Nicole. At that time, we developed a Shepherd’s Pie recipe that was out of this world, Celtic-god worthy divine. It has now become a St. Patrick’s Day staple among my friends and I.

While Confessions of Two College Foodies no longer exists, I used to guest write for the Los Alamitos-Seal Beach Patch and we posted the Shepherd’s Pie Recipe on their blog…which is still live! Meaning: you can get the recipe by clicking here!  And because I’m really nice, I took the recipe and reposted below so you can also get it here!

You have today and tomorrow to get the ingredients and make this for your St. Patty’s Day dinner! And it will probably last you well into the weekend. Enjoy it my friends!

Shepherd's Pie

  • Servings: 8-10
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients:

  • For the Potatoes and Cheese layers:
  • 8 medium Yukon Gold Potatoes
  • ¼ cup milk
  • ¾ stick of butter
  • 1 tablespoon crushed garlic
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 ½ cups grated aged white cheddar
  • 1 ½ cups grated smoked cheddar
  • For the Meat and Vegetable layer:
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 4 carrots, chopped
  • 5-6 ounces white mushrooms, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons crushed garlic
  • 1 ½ pounds ground beef
  • ¾ of a bottle Guinness beer (the ¼ cup remaining, is left for you 🙂
  • ¼ cup tomato paste
  • 1 lb bag frozen peas

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 375°F.

For the Potatoes: Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Quarter the potatoes and add to the pot. Cook until fork tender, about 20-25 minutes. Drain and return potatoes to the pot. Using an electric hand mixer or potato masher, begin creaming the potatoes. Add the milk and butter and combine together. Combine the grated cheeses in a bowl until well mixed. As you are blending, add 1 cup of the cheese. Keep blending until the potatoes are smooth and creamy. Salt and Pepper to taste. Set aside.

For the Meat: Heat 3 tablespoons of butter over medium-high heat. Add the onions, carrots, mushrooms, and garlic. Season with ½ teaspoon of each salt and pepper. Stirring often, cook until the carrots are tender, and the onions translucent about 5 minutes. Add the beef. Using a wooden spoon, break up the meat into small chunks, cook until browned, about 5 minutes. Pour in the Guinness and allow to evaporate into out, about 3 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste. Stir in the frozen peas and cook until warmed through, about 3 minutes. Season with additional pepper. Remove from the heat.

To assemble: Spray a 9×13 inch-baking dish with non-stick cooking spray, or you bake in individual gratins. Spread the meat and vegetable layer in an even layer at the bottom. Spread the potatoes in an even, flat layer over the top of the meat. Cover the potatoes with the remaining cheese mixture. Bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes, until the cheese begins to bubble and turn golden. Remove and allow to rest for 10 minutes. Cut into squares and serve.

Butternut, Brussels, and Bacon Pizza

I am a human being, and therefore, I LOVE PIZZA! I love it all; round pizza and oblong pizza, thick crust and thin crust, plain cheese and the works, and so and so on.

eat pray love pizza

However, I have a particular pro-potency for rustic, artisanal pizzas; pizzas whose dough has been rustically rolled and topped with quality toppings in unique and artistically flavorful ways. I have a few artisan style pizzas that I make at home when I haven’t had pizza in a minute and will die if I do not get some in my system, and this Butternut, Brussles, and Bacon Pizza is quite possibly the best of them!

Butternut Brussels Bacon Pizza 2

BAM! Look at that!

Roasted butternut squash and Brussels sprouts, crispy bacon, caramelized onions, balsamic reduction, and mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses all come together to create a fully-loaded and totally delectable pizza. Sweet balsamic reduction, caramelized onions, and tender butternut squash are contrasted by smoky, salty, and earthy bacon bits and Brussels sprouts which are married by mild gooey mozzarella and of course the ever distinctive Parmesan. It’s crispy, crunchy, and hearty all at once. Honestly, this is a pizza that could be served at a high-end restaurant off the “fancy” (boogie) pizza menu for a pretty penny, but you can make this in your home for under $15 for 4 people.

Ever since making this pizza this past winter, it has become an instant go-to for pizza night because it so deeply enjoyable! Serve with a nice salad and a glass of wine, and you are in for the perfect pizza experience!

Butternut, Brussels, and Bacon Pizza

  • Servings: 3-4 people
  • Difficulty: intermediate
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Ingredients:

  • 1 pound your favorite pizza dough (I use Trader Joe’s Whole Wheat Dough)
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cups Brussels Sprouts, quartered
  • 1 ½ cups butternut squash cut into small cubes
  • 4-5 strips bacon
  • 2 yellow onions, sliced thin
  • 1 ½ cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • ½ cup parmesan cheese, grated
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic glaze (I use Trader Joe’s)
  • Salt and pepper

Directions:

Prep work on the toppings for the pizza –

Preheat the oven to 425̊F. Place the Brussels sprouts and butternut squash on a baking sheet, drizzle with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper. Toss together, roast for 25-30 minutes until the squash is tender and the Brussels sprouts are crispy.

Cook the bacon your favorite way until crisp. Cool and break into ½ inch bits. (I cook my bacon on a baking rack in the oven, so much easier!)

In a medium pan, heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions. Sprinkle with a pinch of both salt and pepper. Cook for 25-30 minutes, stirring often, until the onions are caramelized. (Tip: Add a tablespoon of water if the pan starts to get too sticky)

Assembling the pizza –

Turn up the heat to 450̊F. Roll out the dough into a 12-14 inch long rectangle or oblong shape, making the thickness about ¼ inch thick (that’s quite thin).Place on a baking sheet that has been sprayed or rubbed with a bit of oil and sprinkled with a couple tablespoons of cornmeal.

Drizzle the remaining 1 tablespoon of the olive oil over the surface of the crust followed by the balsamic glaze. Using the back of a spoon, spread the oil and glaze all over the crust evenly.

Sprinkle with 1 cup of the mozzarella and ½ of the parmesan. Spread the caramelized onions over the cheese. Spread the butternut squash and Brussels sprouts over the onions. Sprinkle the bacon bits over the vegetables. Top with the remaining cheeses.

Bake for 15-20 minutes, until the cheese is melted and bubbly and the outer rim of the crust is golden brown.

Remove to a cutting board, slice into rustic squares, and serve!

 

Meatloaf Calabrese

The word “Meatloaf” often harkens traumatic images of your mom’s signature recipe for the nights where she literally didn’t give a _________ and threw some protein, carbs, and other questionable fixings into a bowl, baked it, and called it dinner.

ewwww

She’s making meatloaf again???

And so, sadly, meatloaf often gets a bad rap. I, however, can assure that not all meatloafs are created equal. I grew up on my mom’s meatloaf and always jumped for joy when I found out that she was cooking it. But of course, my mother is Italian so the meatloaf was undeniable phenomenal. Well, now you can have phenomenal meatloaf too because I am gifting the recipe to you!

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Italians do everything better.

Yummm

This is Meatloaf Calabrese. My Italian family is from Calabria in Italy (things from Calabria are called Calabrese) and this recipe comes from there. Actually, the base of this recipe is for our Stuffed Bell Peppers which are a tad more elegant. Of course, when they came to America, they created a meatloaf incarnation of the dish that was more convenient for busy American weeknights. You will notice that this recipe calls for raisins in addition to beef, red pepper flakes, and other such ingredients; so you are probably thinking, “What in the damn hell?”

raisins and beef

Raisins and beef!?

Trust me, it is delicious. Savory beef and herbs, spicy red pepper and onion, and sweet raisins and tomato all work to complement, contrast, and balance each other PERFECTLY. This meatloaf could honestly be fed to royalty and they would knight the cook.

Now, about the “recipe”. Remember when I started this blog and I told you that not all my recipes provide precise measurements because of the Italian tendency to just feel the dish out as you go? Yeah, well that applies here. This is a recipe that you just have to touch and feel, adjusting as you go. I’ve never been able to get a straight answer about measurements for this dish.

just feel it

Just touch it…

I ask, “How much tomato sauce?” The response I get is, “I don’t know, you just have to touch it and you will figure it out!” So that is what I do and so I have never found myself able to fully break down the recipe. Sometimes I find it needs a touch more this or that. I look, I touch, I feel, I sense, I am guided by my great nonna Isabella. So this recipe is for those who feel pretty confident in the kitchen and are open to a little experimenting with out provided precise measurements.

Here’s the trick though, you’ve got to cook it with love for the people you are cooking for and passion for the quality ingredients you are using to nourish your body and satisfy your soul. If you infuse the food with this love and positive energy, it’s going to turn out great no matter.

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Let me know it goes! Buona Fortuna and Buon Appettito!

Meatloaf Calabrese

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients:

  • 1 pound grass-fed, organic ground beef
  • About ½ cup diced tomatoes, drained
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 cup marinara sauce
  • ½ large yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon crushed garlic
  • About ¼ cup Italian parsley, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons dried Italian seasoning
  • 1 pinch red pepper flakes
  • 1 egg
  • 2 slices of bread
  • Splash red wine
  • ½ cup raisins
  • 3/4 cup parmesan cheese grated
  • ¾ cup grated mozzarella cheese
  • 1 zucchini shredded or 1 Portobello mushroom thinly sliced
  • Salt and Pepper

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 375̊ F.

Put the beef, tomatoes, tomato paste, 2 tablespoons of the marinara, onion, garlic, parsley, Italian seasonion, red pepper flakes, a ¼ teaspoon of both salt and pepper, 1/3 cup of the parmesan cheese, the wine, and the egg in a large bowl.

Toast the bread, lightly wet with water from the sink. Remove the crusts and squeeze the liquid out until you are left with a mushy crumble. Throw in the bowl with the other ingredients.

Mix by hand until ingredients are well combined. Add the raisins and mix again until the raisins are well distributed.

Grease a meatloaf dish with olive oil. Add ½ of the meat mixture. Layer on the zucchini or mushrooms over the meat. Sprinkle with half of the mozzarella cheese over the vegetables. Add the rest of the meat mixture. Over with ¼ cup of the marinara. Sprinkle with remaining mozzarella and parmesan cheese

Bake for 1 hour until the cheese is melted and bubbling. Serve with additional marinara sauce as desired. Enjoy!

Vegan Cauliflower, Mushroom, and Red Bean Chili

As an avid supporter of Meatless Monday and the concept that we can eat less meat and also go about the cultivation of the meat that we do eat in a more sustainable way, I am constantly looking to try new and exciting vegetarian and vegan dishes. I love eating at vegan restaurants and seeing what they’ve come up with and I myself really enjoy making vegan and vegetarian dishes; in fact, some of my most popular recipes are vegan like Johnny’s Tomato Soup.  I do, however, often get stuck in a rut when it comes to cooking vegan for myself. I usually rely on another cook’s book or blog to tell me what to do. One day, however, I decided to be adventurous and experiment in the kitchen using ingredients that I love and crossed my fingers that a great vegan dish would be born from all of it. Lo and behold this chili happened!

What I love about this chili is that it is incredibly hearty in texture, flavor, and feel when in all reality; it is an extremely light and nutritious veggie packed dish. Chunks of Portobello mushrooms mimic chunks of beef that you might find in one chili. Finely chopped cauliflower emulates ground meat that you might find in another chili. Other veggies and spices give the stew a rich and warming flavor profile. The result is a chili that is thick and filling while also bringing the nutrition without any animal products.

I loved this chili so much; I made it two weeks in a row and knew that I had to share it with you! I hope you enjoy this new vegan friendly dish from yours truly. Buon Appetito!

Vegan Cauliflower, Mushroom, and Red Bean Chili

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 large carrot, chopped
  • 1 large celery stalk, chopped
  • ½ a green bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon crushed garlic
  • 1 large Portobello mushroom, big diced
  • 3 cups cauliflower, chopped into tiny pieces
  • 1 tablespoon fresh sage, chopped
  • 1 ½ tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 pinch red pepper flakes
  • 1 can of red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • ½ can diced tomatoes with juice
  • 3-4 cups vegetable stock
  • Salt and Pepper

Directions:

Heat the olive in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the onions, carrot, celery, and bell pepper with a pinch of salt and pepper. Cook until tender, about 4 minutes. Add the mushrooms, cook until tender, another 3 minutes. Add the garlic, cook 1 minute. Add the cauliflower and sage, sprinkle with additional salt and pepper, and stir to combine. Add the chili powder, paprika, cumin, and red pepper flakes. Coat the veggies in the spices and cook for 2 minutes. Add the beans, tomatoes, and vegetable stock. Season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover, and allow to simmer for 30-40 minutes. Serve and enjoy!

 

Easy Bolognese

I don’t know about you, but I don’t find anything as comforting as a bowl of pasta with a rich, hearty meat sauce (sorry vegetarians, I practice Meatless Monday and yoga, but I am Italian thru and thru). When I was growing up my mom often made pasta with Bolognese sauce when it was chilly outside. Curling up with that bowl of pasta and watching a good movie was simply the best…and it still is! Bolognese is something I now make on the regular during Fall and Winter. It’s inexpensive, simple, rustic, hearty, and it can actually be decently nutritious if you use grass-fed organic meat and control your portions.

Now, there are lots of Bolognese sauce recipes in the world and some of them can be slightly complicated and require hours of cooking, but my recipe for Bolognese is fantastically easy and rather quick! Serve with your favorite shape of pasta, on spaghetti squash, or even by itself in a bowl with some crusty bread. My Easy Bolognese will quickly make you feel like you’re dining in Tuscany! Buon Appetito!

Easy Bolognese

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients:

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 large carrot, chopped
  • 1 large celery stalk, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons crushed garlic
  • ½ lb ground beef (preferably grass-fed organic) (or substitute 1 lb Beyond Meat Beef Chunks!)
  • ½ lb ground pork (preferably grass-fed organic) (or skip if you use 1 lb Beyong Meat Beef Chunks!)
  • ½ cup red wine (preferably a chianti or darker)
  • 1 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • ¼ cup fresh flat leaf Italian parsley, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 pinch red pepper flakes
  • Salt & Pepper
  • ¼ Pecorino Romano Cheese

Directions:

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onions, season with a pinch of salt and pepper, and sauté for about 5 minutes until tender. Add the carrots, celery, and 1 tablespoon of the crushed garlic, season with an additional pinch of salt and pepper, and sauté for 3-4 minutes longer. Add the beef and pork. Using the back of a wooden spoon, break the meat up into small chunks, cook until the meat is browned and slightly caramelized, about 7-8 minutes. Pour in the red wine and cook until the meat absorbs the wine completely. Add the crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, remaining 1 tablespoon of garlic, half the parsley, the basil, the bay leaf, the red pepper flakes, a pinch more salt and pepper, and half of the pecorino cheese. Stir together. Allow to come to a simmer. Reduce the heat the medium-low and cook uncovered for 45 minutes to an hour until sauce is slightly thickened. Serve with the remaining pecorino and parsley. Enjoy!

Pro-tip: If you make pasta or spaghetti squash, toss the pasta or shredded squash with additional pecorino cheese and olive oil, then place into pasta bowls, and serve the Bolognese sauce over the top. Allow the guests to mix the sauce into the noodles or squash as they like on their own.