Tag Archive: recipe of the week

Tortellini Soup
(Courtesy of Mom)

Since folks are asking, I’m passing along my mom’s excellent Tortellini Soup recipe. 🙂
This makes a lot of soup (which is fantastic). It makes great leftovers and you can freeze and gently heat for later, but you can half the recipe if you don’t need all three-plus quarts. A bonus is that the recipe is easy to make remember, I can usually have it on the table in an hour or less.

Olive oil for pot (2-3 tablespoons as needed)
8-10 ounces Italian sausage rolled into 1-inch meatballs (hot or mild…I’ve even used Jimmy Dean’s sage sausage with great results—very aromatic)
1 large onion, chopped to about ½ inch pieces
2-3 med-large green bell peppers, chopped to approx ¾ inch pieces
(Mom uses chopped carrots as well, but I don’t. Sorry Mom! 🙂 )
2-4 gloves garlic, pressed
12-14 cups beef broth (I use reduced sodium.)
8-12 ounces tomato sauce
Italian seasonings, to taste (approx 1-2 tablespoons)
Cayenne, to taste (approx ¼ teaspoon)
Salt, Pepper
1 “Family size” package of 3 cheese tortellini (Buitoni is good).
1-2 small or medium zucchini, cut into half-moon slices (maybe 3 cups?)

The Extras:
Parmesan cheese for garnish (grated is great, but shaved is even better—it melts more smoothly).
Hearty, crusty bread for dipping

Heat olive oil in large (3.5-4 qt.) soup pot over medium heat. When oil shimmers, add meatballs. Saute, stirring gently to brown evenly. When halfway done, add onions and more oil if needed (this depends on your sausage fat content—I usually need to add a bit more). Add bell peppers, stirring occasionally until onions are translucent.

Add garlic, tomato sauce, beef broth, and Italian seasonings. Stir to combine evenly. Bring to a simmer and maintain for five to ten minutes. Add cayenne, more Italian seasonings, salt and pepper as desired.

Cook for another five minutes. Add tortellini and zucchini. Bring to a low boil and cover. Cook, stirring to cook pasta and zucchini evenly. When tortellini is floats, is soft, and zucchini is soft, remove from heat and taste. If needed, simmer a bit longer until flavors meld.

Cook time: Maybe 40 minutes, give or take.
Prep time: 10-15 minutes


Recipe of the Week: Asparagus Lasagna

Don’t be frightened by the title. It sounds weird, and possibly gross to some of you, but this is possibly the best non-original (to me) recipe I’ve ever used. When finished, this tastes like the best parts of lasagna, alfredo, chicken pot pie, and asparagus all at once.

I discovered this several years ago from Sarah Moulton’s (I believe, top chef at Gourmet Magazine) “Sara’s Secrets” show on, yep, The Food Network (I really was not kidding when I said they taught me how to cook). But I made a few changes: instead of goat cheese, I use a hard cheese like Parmesan or Asiago, add chicken, and I flavor my cream with garlic powder.

This recipe may sound complex at first blush, but I just made it again yesterday from memory, and had it in the oven in less than an hour. It really is easy to do.

To begin with, you’ll need:
1.5 – 2lbs fresh, preferrably young/thin asparagus. Ends trimmed, and cut into bite-sized pieces (if thick, 3/4 inch pieces, if thin, 1-1 1/4 inch). Keep tops divided from stalks.
Olive oil.
4-5 cups of chicken broth (preferably homemade, but box is fine)
2-3 Tbsp. butter
1/4 – 1/3 cup white flour
Salt, pepper, Italian seasoning, and garlic powder
2-3 cups cooked, shredded chicken
1, 8-oz box Barilla no-boil lasagna
2 cups heavy whipping cream
6-8 oz grated Parmesan or Asiago cheese (really a matter of personal taste)

2-3 quart sauce pan
1 or 2 cookie sheets
9 x 13 baking dish
Mixing bowl
Spray grease, such as Pam.

Pre-heat your oven to 450*. Place all asparagus pieces on cookie sheet (you may need 2). Remember, tops are in a separate pile. Season and toss with salt, pepper, garlic, and olive oil. Place into oven and cook for 5 minutes. Stir, and cook for another 5 minutes, until asparagus is somewhat wilted, but still has a slight crisp (I like to keep an eye on this to make sure it does not over cook. Also, personal taste rules, here.). Remove asparagus from oven and set aside. Reduce oven heat to 400*.

Next, melt butter (and a drizzle of olive oil–helps prevent burning) in sauce pan. When butter bubbles and melts, add 1/4 cup flour. Wisking to prevent clumping (I sometimes use a small mesh strainer here). If needed, add more flour to make a paste. Stir roux, cooking it for a few minute, until it turns a light brown, and bubbles. Add chicken broth, wisking to blend well. Raise heat to high and wisk at intervals. Bring mixture to a boil. Chicken broth should resemble a gravy of medium thickness. If it looks too thick, add a bit of water or broth. If not thick enough, make a slurry to thicken further. Add salt, pepper, and garlic powder to taste. Reduce heat to low and cover.

Next, take your 2 cups of whipping cream in mixing bowl, add 1/4 tsp. garlic powder (or, as much as you’d like), and begin to wisk. Wisk until mixture stiffens into whipped cream. Set aside in refrigerator until ready to use.

Spray 9 x 13 dish lightly with spray grease. Add 1-2 ladles of chicken sauce into bottom of dish, spreading around (this helps to prevent sticking).

Make a layer of no-boil noodles, overlapping them slightly. Sprinkle 1/3 or 1/4 of shredded chicken, then asparagus (reserving tips for top layer), then grated cheese. Top with 1-2 ladles of sauce.
Repeat for a total of 3 layers (if you can make four, that’s great). Use asparagus tips for the very top layer, and use all the sauce (you’ll need this for no boil noodles to turn out right). Sprinkle on remaining cheese, as desired. Finally, spread whipped cream on the top. (This helps to insulate during cooking, and melts into the sauce).

Cook for approximately 40-50 minutes, or until cream has dissolved and noodles are tender. Cool for 10 minutes, then serve.

Creme brulee has recently become one of my favorite desserts. It’s easy, inexpensive, and classic; though it’s still considered somewhat “fancy” in my crowd.

So I’d seen this recipe on the defunct Food Network show, Calling All Cooks, maybe 5 years ago. I’ve always wanted to try it, but never had. Until this week…

It’s no more difficult than regular creme brulee (maybe easier since you don’t need to boil the cream), and the apples are a fantastic addition.
I substituted apple cider for the water, which may make it too rich for you, but everyone enjoyed it.
I may serve this for Thanksgiving. 🙂

So here’s the link. If you try it, let me know!
Calling All Cooks: Apple Cinnamon Creme Brulee

Pesto Roast Chicken

I decided to roast a chicken this week. As I placed it into the pan, considering my options, “Do I make the always-loved rosemary-lemon garlic chicken?” Or do I make something new and different?

In a moment of what I believe to be divine intervention, a stroke of heavenly genius, an idea came into my head: Pesto Chicken.

But I had both sun-dried tomato pesto and basil pesto. So I got a little crazy: I did half and half.

The important thing is to put the goo under the chicken skin. It really saturates the meat and keeps it moist. I also kept the dividing membrane between the two breasts intact, so the seasonings stayed on their own side. 😉

Aside from the pesto, I only added a little pepper and a hint of cayenne. The pesto has enough salt by itself.

My husband raved, saying it was the “best chicken ever.” And the secret is, it’s so much easier than the hand-made rosemary goop I’d have usually labored over.

I cooked it on 375′ for a little over two hours, and turned the pan halfway through cooking so it would brown evenly.  Pretty much your average package directions.

If you try this, let me know what you think!



Recipe of the week: Chocolate Croissants

Remember I said I dislike baking? I really hate to measure while creating “edible art,” so whenever I bake, it’s usually from: 1) a mix, or 2) something I’ve memorized so well it no longer feels like work to make (such as cheesecake).

So, when I became addicted to Panera Bread’s chocolate pastry (aka, pain au chocolate), I knew I had to find a worthy substitute to have at home that didn’t have to spend 3 hours making.

Therefore, I went to the grocery store and bought, yep, Pillsbury crescent rolls.  Not the buttered kind, and not the BIG ones. I used the smaller can of 6.

Then for the chocolate. I just happened to have in my possession Scharffen Berger’s 62% semi-sweet baking chocolate.
Once whittled into smaller chunks, this made for the perfect filling in my croissants.

Just roll them out and space them on your baking sheet, fill with about a tablespoon of chocolate pieces, and trail a little “dust” down the tip, and roll. When finished, roll it down onto the point so it doesn’t fall apart when it bakes.

Bake per the package directions (10-12 minutes), until lightly golden. After a minute or two of cooling, you can enjoy a warm and gooey treat that doesn’t take all day.

I’ve made this recipe twice in the last month, so I figure that I know it well enough now pass it along. 🙂

As many of you know, I don’t really measure anything. I think measuring sucks. It’s why I tend to avoid baking. Ratios are the most important thing, so I do try to be mindful of how much-to-how much I’m actually putting in. All measurements are really guesswork on my part.

Putting pepperoni on top of lasagna is not a stroke of genius I can claim as my own. I actually saw Guy Fieri do that on his show, Guy’s Big Bite. However, the rest of it was something I threw together. Enjoy!

To make this you’ll need
2 lbs ricotta cheese
About 1- 1 & 1/2 cup chopped, drained spinach (look through it for tough stems before using)
8-12 oz shredded mozzarella cheese (Kraft has a kind out now that incorporates a bit of Philly cream cheese. It’s super creamy and delicious)
1/4 lb thinly sliced sandwich pepperoni (the BIG pepperoni)
1 sleeve Jimmy Dean’s sage sausage (I know it may sound weird, but it’s perfect for this. And this is seriously the best all-purpose sausage I’ve seen out there. Of course, you could use Italian instead.)
1 lb lasagna noodles (I don’t use no-bake for this)
3-5 cups quality spaghetti sauce (homemade or good jar brand like Classico)
Garlic powder, salt, pepper, cayenne pepper, oregano/Italian seasoning.
Wooden Spoon.
Wide bowl.
10-12″ frying pan.
1 Tbsp. Olive oil.
9x 13 baking dish.

To begin with, start a big pot (I use my largest, maybe 6-8 quart) of water for boiling. Add a good bit of salt (not too much). Set to high and cover. It’ll save time, but it will still take a while to come to a boil.

In a wide bowl, mix the ricotta cheese with about 2-4 ounces of the mozzarella. I like to do this because it gives the ricotta filling a stringy, cheesy texture which my husband likes. It’s kind of “something extra.” Add in the spinach, crumbling it into smaller clumps. Stir to make sure it’s well-incorporated. Add garlic powder, salt, pepper, cayenne, and oregano to taste (and I do mean taste…it’s one of my favorite parts of making lasagna!). Set aside.

In a wide (10-12″) pan, heat olive oil on medium-high heat. Add sage sausage (whole sleeve for the whole lasagna pan, or half for just half the pan. I usually do just half because I don’t like meat in my lasagna. My half is veggie.) With a wooden spoon or very stiff spatula, break up the sausage as much as possible during cooking, making the crumbles small so it doesn’t dominate your lasagna layers. Season as you like with garlic, oregano, cayenne, etc. I usually don’t use salt. When sausage is lightly browned and no longer pink, remove from heat and set aside (I just put the pan on a trivet and let it cool. There usually isn’t a lot of fat from this sausage, which is why I add olive oil. It won’t be swimming in grease.)

When water has come to a boil, add lasagna noodles, one at a time, inserting them on a clockwise rotation (12 o’clock, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, etc.) to minimize sticking. Cook according to “al dente” package directions (you want it firm—otherwise it will be soggy after oven cooking), stirring VERY gently to insure proper flow and separation. When done, remove from heat and pour off majority of water. Fill pot back up with cold water. Pour off again. Repeat until noodles are cool enough to handle, and remaining water is minimal. I don’t like to use a colander here, as it can damage pasta.

You can transfer pasta from pot to an impeccably clean tea/dish towel to lay flat and dry. Just pat with towel to remove excess water.

This is when I like to preheat my oven to 400 degrees. If you have a convection oven, I’d recommend 375.

In a 9×12 baking dish, add about a cup of sauce to coat the bottom (this prevents tragic noodle stickage.) Add a layer of (patted dry) pasta, overlapping them slightly.
Cover with some of ricotta mixture. Add desired amount of sausage (approx 1/3 – 1/4 of pan). Add approx. 1/2 cup of sauce over pan (not too much or it will be runny. Think “dry.”).

Continue layering, up to 4 layers. Cover remaining layer with pasta, sauce, and remaining mozzarella cheese.

The final step is to layer pepperoni on top of lasagna.

Bake for approx. 35-40 minutes at 400. But if you have a convection oven, start lower and keep an eye on it (pepperoni cooks and curls quickly in convection ovens. Ask me how I know?) 🙂








Ok, so this recipe is one my husband named. You can usually tell which dishes of mine he’s named because they “sound” like guy names. 🙂

When I asked him which recipe I should post this week, he suggested this one.

Essentially, this is a shrimp alfredo with capers, bacon, and a large dose of citrus flavor.

I suggest you start with half a pound of medium shrimp (60-80lb count is good), a bottle of your favorite alfredo sauce, and a medium-sized shell pasta. Everything else is downhill from there. 🙂

1/2 lb 60-80 sized-shrimp, peeled and de-veined.
1 oz aged rum (I prefer Cruzan brand to most else, though a stiff Bacardi is good).
1 tsp capers, rinsed.
2-3 strips bacon or bacon ends, fried and crumbled. (I like to use just the meaty portions, so I prefer bacon ends.)
1/2 Lime, juiced
1/2 Lemon, juiced
Cayenne Pepper
Garlic powder
2 Tbsp butter, plus some olive oil
Fresh parsley, chopped.
1 lb medium-sized shell pasta.

Cook pasta according to box directions. Set aside.

Start by melting the butter and a drizzle of olive oil in a wide saute pan.
When butter bubbles and shimmers, drop in the shrimp and saute until cooked and crispy. Add cayenne, salt, pepper, and garlic powder, and stir.
Deglaze pan with about an ounce of rum. Stir, and remove shrimp from pan. Squeeze on some of lemon and lime juice. Set aside.

In sauce pan, pour alfredo sauce, capers, a dash of cayenne, and crumbled bacon. Simmer for 3-4 minutes.

Combine ingredients together and toss. Squeeze on additional lemon and lime juice and serve.

Serves 4-5. Cook time: 15-20 min.

This is a dinner I made for a friend. He’d made the choice to eat more healthy, but I think needed a little inspiration as  to how to do that but still enjoy what he was eating.

Fish is a very healthy protein for multiple reasons: it provides a lighter, easy-to-prepare “main dish” to build a meal around that still satisfies. It can be a great way to wean yourself off of beef, sausage, and other fattier proteins.

Most of my recipes are formulated off the cuff, meaning I didn’t measure anything. I give much greater care to remembering ratios because that’s really what’s important in cooking (baking, though, is another story).

I started with 5  squarish pieces of Mahi Mahi about 4-5 ouces each. If using a whole fish, cut filets in half short-wise and you’ll get the same result.  This is the right size to top the salad with when plating the dish.

My recipe serves 5, cooking time is less than an hour, active prep time is around 30 minutes, and inactive prep time (vinaigrette chill time) is 1-8 hours.  If you’re in a pinch though, you can serve the vinaigrette without chilling. The rest of the meal is so good I doubt you’ll get many complaints about the vinaigrette not being marinated enough.

Vinaigrette: (Make this first to allow flavors to meld. Recommended the night before, or 1-2 hrs before serving time.)
Juice of 2-3 lemons (about 1/4 – 1/3 cup).
1/2 – 2/3 cup of olive oil.
2 cloves garlic, pressed/minced.
1 Tbsp. Italian seasonings (Oregano)
Dash of cayenne.
Salt + pepper to taste.

Yields: 1 cup, more than you’ll need for this recipe, but extra is great to have as some folks like a lot of dressing. As it’s pure and healthy, you can indulge without too much guilt.)

In a medium-sized bowl or salad dressing maker, combine olive oil and lemon juice. Wisk to aerate. When mixture turns a cloudy yellow, stop to add remaining vinaigrette ingredients. Wisk again to combine, cover, and refrigerate.

Vegetables: To make this salad a “real meal,” I like to add roasted vegetables. This way, the meal is 60% cooked, and for some (my husband included), makes the meal feel more substantial and complete…without losing the health benefits.

Pre-heat oven to 425.

2-3 Tbsp. Olive oil
8 oz. Asparagus, wooden ends trimmed off and discarded, the rest cut into 1-inch lengths.
8 oz. Cherry or Grape tomatoes, washed and cut in half.
1 med. Zucchini squash, cut into cubes.
1 med. Yellow squash, cubed.
1 Red bell pepper, cut into 1-inch cubes.
1/2 Of a small onion, cut into thin strips.

Put all vegetables into oven-safe 9×13 casserole pan and season with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Toss to coat (I use my impeccably-clean hands), and bake for 10-15 minutes. Toss and stir periodically for even cooking.

When the squash and asparagus are tender-crisp and tomatoes are wrinkling and distressed, remove from oven (carefully), and set aside. Don’t forget to turn off your oven. 🙂

Mahi Mahi: Quick-thawing and quick-cooking, this fish only takes minutes to prepare (which is awesome). When preparing the dish to serve, this is the last step before assembly, so I’d recommend taking the salad dressing out of the refrigerator and into a serving dish at this point to get the chill off.

4 -4 or 5 oz. Mahi Mahi fillets, thawed.
1-2 Tbsp. lemon grill seasoning (I use McCormick. It’s very very good.)
1 Tbsp. Olive oil for sauté (if using teflon, may use less)

Heat wide, shallow sauté pan to medium-high. Add Olive oil to prevent sticking.
Season fish on both sides with lemon grill seasoning.
When Olive oil is shimmery, add fish to pan.
Cook fish 2/3 of way without turning (prevents sticking, creates a great sear), checking every now and again to be sure not to burn it.
When sides turn opaque, flip and finish cooking until center is flaky and opaque. (Total of about 8-10 minutes)
Cut the heat and remove fish from pan.

Assembly: On a large tray or bowl, add the following:
1 package (about 1 lb) of Fresh Baby Spinach. (May seem to0 little for 4 servings, but with veggies and fish, it works out perfectly).
Add roasted veggies (still warm, almost hot) on top of spinach.
Place fish on top of veggies.
Shake or wisk vinaigrette to thicken, pour desired amount over dish.

You can obviously plate this individually and serve dressing on the side (which is what I did), because dressing—like religion or politics—is a very personal choice many feel passionately about. Thus, it’s often better to leave to guests to decide. 🙂

Hi Everybody! Happy Friday!

I thought it’d be fun to post one of my favorite recipes each week.  This week, I chose my skillet chicken alfredo.

It’s pretty easy, taking less than an hour from start-to-finish, even less if your chicken is already defrosted.

To make this recipe, you’ll need:

8 oz. medium-sized pasta such as penne, med/large shells, or rotini.
Salt, to taste.
2 Tbsp.  olive oil
1 Tbsp.  butter
1/2 medium onion, finely chopped.
3 cloves garlic (about 1 Tbsp.), minced.
2 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (about a pound), defrosted and cut into 1-2 inch cubes.
Italian seasoning, cayenne pepper (if desired), and poultry seasoning mix, such as Chef Paul Prudhomme’s (my personal fav.) all to taste.
1 jar alfredo sauce, such as Classico or Bertolli.
1.5-2 cups broccoli florets (I use Hanover’s Gold, frozen).

Begin by boiling 3-4 cups water in your preferred sauce pan. Add salt to taste, 1Tbsp. oil,  and choice of pasta. Stir to avoid clumping.

In a deep, wide saute pan, add butter and remaining oil and heat over medium-high heat. When oil and butter sizzle and shimmer, add chicken and season with salt, cayenne (if desired), Italian and poultry seasonings (and any other you like). When chicken is fully cooked and no longer pink, reduce heat and add onion and garlic. If needed, add more oil or butter (but it’ll probably be fine).

When onion and garlic are soft and translucent, add the jar of alfredo sauce. I like to add 1/2 cup of milk into the jar and shake to get the remaining sauce out (it also thins the sauce a bit, which is good here).

Add broccoli and stir to combine, covering the pan with the lid to help steam broccoli.

Add more seasonings as may be desired and cook over medium low until pasta is done (according to package directions).

Toss pasta with sauce and serve! Just don’t burn your mouth…:)