Tag Archives: dinner

Stuffed Acorn Squash

A few years ago, my best friend Kayleigh had me and a few of our other friends over for dinner during the Fall season. She was cooking up a storm in the kitchen with all sorts of ingredients: onions, apples, sausage, sage – all things I love. I asked, “What are you making?” Her response was very in character; nonchalantly she answered, “I’m not sure. Some sort of stuffed acorn squash. We’ll see what happens.” I laughed because this was very like her to just whip something up and go with the flow with confidence that all would be well; and all was well indeed! The Stuffed Acorn Squash turned out truly and utterly phenomenal and from that point on it became a traditional Fall and Winter dish between us and our families.

I have since made this dish many times throughout the Fall and Winter seasons because it is truly these seasons in one exquisite meal. The sweet squash is stuffed and balanced by spicy Italian chicken sausage, savory onions, tart green apple, fresh celery, woodsy sage, and pungent garlic; each component balancing and complimenting the other perfectly. A bit of bread crumbs provides a nice crunch to contrast the softness of the squash and sausage, and melted Havarti cheese seals and completes with a buttery finish. Honestly, this is one of my favorite meals to make during the cooler seasons. It is relatively simple to prepare, decently inexpensive, festive, comforting, and downright delicious. I truly hope you enjoy this recipe in your own home with loved ones.

Stuffed Acorn Squash

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients:

  • 2 acorn squashes
  • 1 pound hot Italian chicken sausage, casings removed
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 large celery stick, chopped
  • 1 large granny smith apple, diced
  • 1 teaspoon crushed garlic
  • ¼ cup white wine
  • 4 sage leaves, julienned
  • 1 pinch red pepper flakes
  • ¼ cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 1 block Havarti cheese, thinly sliced
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and Pepper

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 425̊F.

Cut the acorn squash down the center length wise. With a spoon, remove the seeds and dig the cavity till it would be able to hold ¾ cup of water. Drizzle the insides with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and season with about ¼ teaspoon of salt and pepper each. Place on a greased baking sheet with the inside facing down. Drizzle the skin with an additional tablespoon of olive oil and season with an additional pinch of salt and pepper. Place in the oven and bake for 35-40 minutes until the skin is easily pierced with a knife.

In the meantime, heat the remaining olive oil in a large pan over medium-high heat. Add the onion, celery, and green apple. Season with a pinch of salt and pepper. Saute for 5-7 minutes until tender. Add the sausage and break into small chunks using the back of a wooden spoon. Cook until the sausage is browned. Add the garlic, sage, and red pepper flakes. Add the wine and continue cooking until the liquid has evaporated. Remove from the heat and stir in the breadcrumbs until well mixed. Season with additional salt and pepper to taste.

Remove the acorn squash from the oven and flip over so that the cavity side facing up. Stuff each cavity with the mixture from the pan until filled and slightly doming over. Top completely with the cheese slices. Place back in the oven for 5-10 more minutes until the cheese is melted, bubbling, and browned.

Remove, allow to cool a few minutes, and serve – 1 half of a squash per person! This is best served with a simple green salad and some wine. Hope you enjoy!

Note: The images below are from when I cut the recipe in half to just serve 2, but the steps are the same.

What’s your favorite Fall/Winter dish to make at home?

Pasta di Janet

Growing up, my mom made my family quite a bit of pasta for dinner, being herself a 2nd generation Italian-American; and it was glorious. I remember being in high school, coming home starving from various practices and rehearsals, only to be fulfilled by a bowl of one of my mother’s pasta dishes. This particular dish, which I have deemed Pasta di Janet (Pasta of Janet- my mother), became a staple in our home because of its general healthy ingredient contents and for its ease and simplicity.

This quick and flavorful pasta combines hot (Chicken) Italian Sausage, sweet and juicy cherry tomatoes, green and earthy broccoli/broccolini, fresh herbs, and of course, parmesan cheese. I fell in love with this pasta and often requested it for the dinner table. I now make it quite often when I am looking for a go-to meal. Already a decently healthy meal, I have made my own tweaks to my mother’s classic pasta (like switching from regular Italian sausage to chicken Italian sausage) to create a dish that is equally as nourishing as it is indulgent. Serve with a nice green salad and red wine and you are in for an Italian delight!

Pasta di Janet

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

  • 1 pound farfalle pasta
  • 1 pound hot Chicken Italian sausage, removed from casings
  • 2 small heads broccoli or 1 large package Italian broccolini
  • 2 pints cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 1 pinch red pepper flakes
  • ¼ cup grated parmesan cheese
  • ¼ fresh Italian flat leaf parsley, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons fresh basil, julienned
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt & Pepper

Directions:

Bring large pot of salted water to a boil. Heat a large pan or skillet or medium-high heat for 2 minutes. Add the sausage and break into small chunks with the back of a wooden spoon. Once the sausage is broken up, add the pasta to the water and allow to cook for 8-10 minutes until al dente.

Cook sausage until browned, about 5 minutes. Reduce heat to medium and add the tomatoes and garlic to the sausage. Cook 2-3 minutes until tomatoes soften. Meanwhile, add the broccoli or broccolini to the pasta water. Boil 2 minutes. Using a straining spoon, transfer the broccoli to the pan with the sausage and tomatoes. Stir to combine and season the mix with a pinch of salt and pepper each and red pepper flakes. Reduce heat to low and allow to continue cooking until pasta is done.

Drain the pasta, add to the pan on top of the veggies and sausage. Add the cheese and half the parsley. Toss till pasta is coated and all is well mixed. Serve into pasta bowls. Top with additional parmesan cheese and herbs and serve.

Balsamic Glazed Salmon

I love salmon, it really is one of the greatest fishes; it’s incredibly healthy, it’s decently affordable, and it’s freaking delicious. One thing I love about salmon is that it can be ABSURDLY EASY to make. Take my Balsamic Glazed Salmon. Minimal prep, no active cooking, and only a few minutes until it is s ready for you to plate and eat. I am always getting questions about how to make salmon; this is the best way to start! Hope you enjoy!

Balsamic Glazed Salmon

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: ridiculously easy
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Ingredients:

  • 1 ½ pounds boneless, skinless salmon slab
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 tablespoon crushed garlic
  • 1 teaspoon Herbs de Provence
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons Trader Joe’s Balsamic Glaze or similar product

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 400 ̊F.

Spray or oil a 9×13 inch baking dish. Place the salmon in the baking dish. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and Herbs de Provence. Spread the crushed garlic all over the salmon. Drizzle with olive oil. Drizzle the balsamic glaze all over, and with a pastry brush, spread the glaze until even and the salmon is covered.

Bake for 12-15 minutes depending on the thickness of the salmon. Cut into fillets and serve.

Giada Vegas – Restaurant Review

On August 18th, I had the immense pleasure of dining at Food Network star Giada De Laurentiis’s restaurant – Giada. Now, if you know me then you will know that I am a huge Giada fan. She is the chef I receive the most inspiration from for my cooking and it is her cookbooks that I turn to first when looking for guidance or a new recipe to try. I have even had the honor of meeting her at a book signing once – yes, she is that beautiful and yes, she is incredibly kind.

This love of Giada is shared by my amazing mother, Janet. We love to watch her shows on Food Network, make her recipes together, and most importantly – eat her recipes together! After Giada opened her Las Vegas restaurant at the Cromwell in the summer of 2014, my mom always said that if she could dine anywhere, she would love to try Giada Vegas.

Giada Mom and Me

August 18th is my mother’s birthday, and this year her birthday was one of special significance for a multitude of reasons. I wanted to do something out of the ordinary to celebrate her on this important birthday, so I surprised her with a trip to Las Vegas, a stay at Caesar’s Palace, and dinner reservations at Giada. I didn’t tell her where we were dining until right before dinner, and I loved seeing her face light up when I told her that we were going to finally try her top dining destination. Her birthday dinner could not have been better as our dining experience was one of the best either of us has ever had. Giada is a true treasure of restaurant.  Continue reading

Recipe Review: Giada De Laurentiis Linguine with Avocado and Arugula Pesto

With summertime going strong, I continue to make light and zesty pasta dishes for my family’s traditional Sunday Supper. There is just something about a bowl of pasta with bright flavors when the sun is shining and the air is warm. It just makes me feel like I am in the Mediterranean. A couple of years ago, I happened across a recipe for another summery pasta dish that was quite unconventional: Linguine with Avocado and Arugula Pesto.

This recipe comes to us via my favorite cook and culinary goddess, Giada De Laurentiis. Even though I find everything Giada does to be pure gold, I was quite skeptical when I first saw this recipe. How can avocado be in pesto and/or pasta? Of course, after I actually watched her make the dish, I could imagine how the flavors may work together, so I gave it a shot.

Continue reading

Summer Spaghetti

I write this on June 21, 2015, the Summer Solstice. It is a glorious warm and sunny day in Huntington Beach, CA that seems to foreshadow a luminous summer season ahead. As we dive into this summer, my foodie mind begins to think of foods that I should be making and eating to truly be able to taste this special season.

When I think of summer and food, I think of bright citrus flavors, fresh green herbs, seasonal vegetables like zucchini and summer squashes and plump cherry tomatoes, and succulent and lean seafood. And seeing as this particular day is a Sunday, I also think of pasta as it is traditional in my Italian-American family to have more Italian style dishes for traditional Sunday Supper. And so, today I combine all these flavors in one in my Summer Spaghetti.

This dish is very easy to make, requiring little effort, and is actually on the lighter side for a pasta dish which is perfect for summertime. Having this for dinner makes me feel like I am back in Italy on the Amalfi coast overlooking the blue Mediterranean while enjoying a delicious meal. I hope you can imagine the same as you enjoy this dish!

Summer Spaghetti

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

  • 1 lb spaghetti
  • 1 1b shrimp (figure 4-5 shrimp per person), deveined and removed of their tails
  • 1 zucchini squash cut into ½ rounds, then cut in half
  • 1 summer squash cut into ½ rounds, then cut in half
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 teaspoon crushed garlic
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • ½ cup lemon juice
  • ½ cup fresh chopped basil
  • ½ cup fresh chopped Italian parsley
  • 1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • Pinch Red Pepper Flakes
  • Salt & Pepper

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Place the zucchini, squash, and tomatoes on a baking sheet. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, and sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon each of salt and pepper. Roast for 25-30 minutes, tossing once halfway through, until veggies are tender.

In the last 10 minutes of cooking, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the spaghetti and cook until al dente, about 8-9 minutes. (PROTIP: Throw a spaghetti noodle at the wall, if it sticks to the wall, it’s done!)

Place the shrimp in a small baking dish and toss with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, the garlic, the red pepper flakes, and a ¼ teaspoon each of salt and pepper. Roast for 5 minutes until shrimp are pinkish orange.

In a large pasta bowl, whisk together the lemon zest, juice, remaining olive oil, ½ the basil and parsley, ¼ teaspoon of pepper, and ½ the parmesan cheese until well combined.

Drain the spaghetti and place in the bowl with the lemon mix. Add the additional parmesan and toss to coat. As you toss, the cheese will melt and toss the noodles! Add the veggies, shrimp, and remaining herbs. Toss until well mixed.

Garnish with additional parmesan cheese and herbs if desired. Enjoy!

 

 

Summer Spaghetti

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