Tag Archives: dinner

Tuscan Sausage & White Bean Soup

soup
It’s Fast Friday again and time for another fast and fabulous dinner suggestion. If you are anything like me, by the time Friday rolls around the last thing I want to do is cook a big meal yet we all still have to eat. The dishes featured in this series aren’t necessarily fancy but they bring together simple ingredients most people already have in their pantries or have easy access to and allow you to put a real meal on the table in between 30 and 45 minutes. Enjoy and if you have your own fast recipes you want to share, please send them my way and I will in turn share them with all of my readers.
Tonight calls for soup. After a holiday season filled with rich treats and perhaps a late night ringing in the new year, tonight’s dinner needs to be easy, fast and on the lighter side while still being warming and comforting (since the weather is anything but). So soup it is. And this soup, from Mel’s Kitchen Cafe fits the bill perfectly. It is warm and satisfying without being heavy. And in true Fast Friday form, it is fast. So go ahead and make a pot tonight. Just add some crusty French bread and dinner is served.
TUSCAN SAUSAGE & WHITE BEAN SOUP

1 pound mild Italian sausage links, casings removed

1/2 cup chopped carrots

1/2 cup chopped yellow onion

3 cloves garlic, chopped

6 cups low-sodium chicken broth

2 (14.5-ounce each) cans diced tomatoes

1 (15-ounce) can Cannellini beans, drained and rinsed

1/2 tablespoon dried basil

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

1 1/2 cups uncooked small pasta

9 ounces spinach leaves, coarsely chopped

1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese

  • In a large pot, cook the sausage over medium heat until browned, 3-4 minutes, breaking it into small pieces as it cooks.
  • Add the carrots, onion, and garlic, and continue to cook, stirring often, until the sausage is cooked through, 5-10 minutes.
  • Add the broth, tomatoes, beans, basil, salt and pepper.
  • Bring the soup to a boil.
  • Add the shell pasta, reduce the heat to a simmer and cover the pot. Cook for about 8-10 minutes, until the pasta is tender, stirring occasionally to make sure the pasta isn’t sticking.
  • Stir in the spinach and simmer for another minute until the spinach is wilted.
  • Serve sprinkled with Parmesan cheese.

Serves 6

Cherry Lambic Beer Can Chicken

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I had been hearing about beer can chicken, the whole bird roasted over a can of beer on the grill, for years but had never tried it. While visiting my in-laws this summer my father-in-law made a very tasty beer can chicken. It was moist and flavorful and I was determined to come back to Belgium and try my hand at making my own version.

One only has to search the web to find numerous version of this simple roasted bird. Ingredients may vary but the methods are the same. Invert a whole roasting chicken over a half filled can of beer and grill away. Some recipes call for brining the bird first while others suggest spice rubs. Others have you roasting a completely naked bird. Beer is the most common liquid of choice, hence the beer-can moniker, but other liquids are used as well.

I opted for a spice rub and because I am in Belgium, a Belgian lambic was my beer of choice. Wanting a slightly sweet-spicy and barbecue flavor, my spice rub that included paprika, brown sugar and BBQ 3000 from Penzey’s Spices. (You can easily substitute another spice combination if you prefer). For the beer I chose a cherry lambic which infused the chicken with a slightly sweet-sour fruit flavor. When served alongside some duck fat roasted potatoes and a salad, all I can say is “oh-my”. This recipe is a keeper and is sure to make return appearances at my dinner table. So fire up your grill and break open a can of beer.

Cherry Lambic Beer Can Chicken

2 tablespoons kosher salt

2 tablespoons brown sugar

1 tablespoon sweet paprika (or 1/2 tablespoon hot paprika)

1 tablespoon Penzeys Spice BBQ 3000

1 3 1/2 to 4 pound whole chicken

1 can cherry lambic beer

2 garlic cloves, crushed

  • To make the spice rub, combine the salt, brown sugar, paprika and BBQ 3000 in a small bowl.
  • Drink (or pour out) half of the can of beer. Place the crushed garlic cloves inside of the can.
  • To prepare the grill, turn one burner to high and place a grill pan filled with 1/2 an inch of water on the other side of the grill.
  • Generously season the chicken with the spice rub by massaging the rub into all sides of the chicken sprinkling any extra spice into the cavity of the bird.
  • Place the cavity of the chicken, legs pointing down, onto the open can so that it supports the chicken uprights.
  • Place the can, with the chicken on the grill inside of the grill pan.
  • Grill the chicken, covered, until cooked through and an instant read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the chicken registers 165 degrees about 45-60 minutes.
  • Let the chicken rest for 10 minutes before carving.

Serves 4

Apple Dijon Pork Saute

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It’s Fast Friday again and time for another fast and fabulous dinner suggestion. If you are anything like me, by the time Friday rolls around the last thing I want to do is cook a big meal yet we all still have to eat. The dishes featured in this series aren’t necessarily fancy but they bring together simple ingredients most people already have in their pantries or have easy access to and allow you to put a real meal on the table in between 30 and 45 minutes. Enjoy and if you have your own fast recipes you want to share, please send them my way and I will in turn share them with all of my readers.

Thinking it is fatty many people tend to avoid pork. Some pork is fatty–bacon anyone???- but cuts like pork tenderloin are lean and easy to cook. When you slice the tenderloin into coins it cooks even faster making it a perfect meat for a fast Friday night dinner. The pork is quickly sauteed in olive oil then added to a creamy Dijon mustard and apple juice sauce. Serve over a bed of brown rice or orzo with a green vegetable and dinner is served.

APPLE DIJON PORK SAUTE

1 pork tenderloin, trimmed of fat and cut into 1 1/2 inch rounds

3 tablespoons olive oil, divided

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 shallot, minced

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 cup apple juice

2 tablespoon cider vinegar

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 6 pieces

3 teaspoons Dijon mustard

1/4 cup heavy cream

  • Add 2 tablespoons of oil to a large skillet set over medium-high heat.
  • Generously sprinkle the pork coins on both sides with salt and pepper.
  • When the oil is hot, add the pork and cook for 3-4 minutes per side or until the pork is no longer pink in the middle. Remove the pork from the pan and place on a large plate tented with foil.
  • Add the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil to the skillet.  Add the shallot and salt and cook until soft, about 2 minutes.
  • Stir in the apple juice and cider vinegar and bring to a simmer. Cook for approximately 9 minutes or until the mixture is syrupy.
  • Stir in any of the pork juices.
  • Turn the temperature to low and slowly whisk in the butter.
  • Stir in the Dijon mustard and cream then return the pork to the pan.
  • Cook for 2 minutes or until heated through.

Serves 4

Chicken w/ Artichokes in Creamy Mustard Sauce

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This dish adapted from The Splendid Table (which by the way is the best podcast ever) uses one of  my all time favorite vegetables: artichokes. Artichokes have a mild and slightly sweet and tangy flavor that pairs well  with just about anything. Here it is combined with Dijon mustard and chicken to make a quick end of the week dinner that the entire family will eat. In order to keep the flavor subtle, be sure to use plain artichoke hearts and not ones that have been pickled. Serve the chicken over rice so you can absorb all of the yummy sauce.

Chicken w/ Artichokes in Creamy Mustard Sauce

8 boneless, skinless chicken thighs

1 teaspoon salt, divided

1 teaspoon, divided freshly ground black pepper

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 shallot, minced

1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1 1/2 cups canned artichoke hearts, drained and sliced

1/2 teaspoon lemon zest

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1/2 cup grape tomatoes, halved

1/2 cup dry white wine

1/2 cup low sodium chicken broth

1/3 cup heavy cream

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

Chopped parsley, for garnish

  • Season the chicken on both sides with half of the salt and half of the pepper.
  • Heat the olive oil in a large skillet set over medium-high heat. When the oil shimmers, add the chicken  and brown for 2 to 3 minutes per side. It does not need to be cooked through at this point.
  • Remove the chicken from the pan and reduce the heat to medium.
  • Add the shallot and red pepper flakes and scraping the bottom of the pan, cook for 2 minutes.
  • Add the artichoke hearts, lemon zest, oregano and the remaining salt and pepper. Cook for an additional 2 minutes then stir in the tomatoes.
  • Return the chicken to the pan then add the wine and chicken broth.
  • Bring to a boil, reduce the heat so the chicken is at a low simmer and cover.
  • Cook for an additional 8 to 10 minutes or until the chicken is tender and cooked through.
  • Meanwhile, combine the cream and mustard in a small bowl.
  • When the chicken is cooked, remove the pan from the heat and stir in the mustard sauce.
  • Top with the chopped parsley and serve immediately.
Serves 4

Chicken Marsala

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It is Fast Friday again and time for another fast and fabulous dinner suggestion. If you are anything like me, by the time Friday rolls around the last thing you want to do to cook a big meal yet we all still have to eat.  The dishes featured in this series aren’t necessarily fancy but they bring together simple ingredients most people already have in their pantries or have easy access to and allow you to put a real meal on the table in between 30 and 45 minutes.  Enjoy and if you have your own fast recipes you want to share, please send them my way and I will in turn share them with all of my readers.

Chicken Marsala is a family favorite in our house and this recipe from America’s Test Kitchen is my all time favorite.  Sweet Marsala wine combined with mushrooms result in a rich sauce that is the perfect topping for boneless chicken breasts.  If you can find them, I like to use chicken breast filets since they are thinner and cook up in just a few minutes.  If you only have chicken breasts you can either pound the meat into a uniform thickness or slice the breasts in half to make them thinner.  When paired with a pasta or mashed potatoes, this dish is fast and you can have dinner on the table in a matter of minutes.  Alternatively, you can make the chicken ahead of time and let it sit on a warm burner for up to two hours before serving.

CHICKEN MARSALA

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

4 boneless chicken breasts or 8 chicken breast filets

3 tablespoons vegetable oil

3 ounces pancetta, finely chopped

8 ounces white button mushrooms, sliced thin

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 teaspoon tomato paste

1 1/2 cups sweet Marsala wine

1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 tablespoons fresh minced parsley

Salt & pepper to taste

  • Place the flour in a shallow pan and generously season with salt and pepper. Dredge the chicken in the flour mixture and set aside.
  • Add 2 tablespoons of oil to a large skillet and heat over medium-high heat until shimmering.
  • Add the chicken and cook until light golden brown on both sides, about 10 minutes for chicken breasts and 3-4 for chicken breast filets.  Transfer to a plate.
  • Add the remaining tablespoon of oil to the skillet and heat until shimmering.
  • Add the pancetta and mushrooms to the skillet and stirring occasionally, cook until the pancetta is crisp and the mushrooms are brown, about 10 minutes.
  • Stir in the garlic and tomato paste.  Cook until the tomato paste begins to brown, about 1 minute.
  • Stir in the Marsala, scraping up any browned bits.  Simmer until reduced and slightly syrupy, about 8 minutes.
  • Stir in the lemon juice and any accumulated chicken juices.  Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the butter, one piece at a time.  If you serving the chicken immediately, proceed to the next step.  Alternatively, cover the pan and return it to low heat until ready to serve.
  • Add the parsley and season with salt and pepper.

Serves 4

Cilantro Shrimp w/ Apple-Raisin Sauce over Curried Polenta

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It is Fast Friday again and time for another fast and fabulous dinner suggestion. If you are anything like me, by the time Friday rolls around the last thing you want to do to cook a big meal yet we all still have to eat.  The dishes featured in this series aren’t necessarily fancy but they bring together simple ingredients most people already have in their pantries or have easy access to and allow you to put a real meal on the table in between 30 and 45 minutes.  Enjoy and if you have your own fast recipes you want to share, please send them my way and I will in turn share them with all of my readers.

This meal only appears complicated but in reality is fast.  There are three components in this dish but each cooks in a matter of minutes and when combined on the plate create a satisfying Indian-esque meal. The original recipe from Cuisine at Home used sea scallops but I substituted shrimp with tasty results.  Fresh steamed broccoli completed the meal.

CILANTRO SHRIMP w/ APPLE-RAISIN SAUCE over CURRIED POLENTA

For the sauce:

1/2 cup peeled and diced Granny Smith apple

1/2 cup golden raisins

1/2 cup fresh orange juice

1/4 cup low sodium chicken broth

2 tablespoons minced red onion

2 teaspoons minced orange zest

1 teaspoon honey

1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes

2 tablespoons minced cilantro

Salt & pepper to taste

  • Combine the apple, raisins, orange juice, broth, onion, zest, honey, and red pepper flakes in a small saucepan.
  • Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 5 minutes or until the apples are tender.
  • Stir in the cilantro, and season with salt and pepper.
  • Keep warm while you make the remaining meal components.

For the shrimp:

1 tablespoon sunflower oil

1 pound fresh or frozen raw shrimp

1/3 cup minced cilantro

Salt and pepper to taste

  • Heat the oil in a large saute pan until it shimmers.
  • Pat the shrimp dry and sprinkle generously with salt and pepper.
  • Add the shrimp to the oil and tossing occasionally,  saute until cooked through, approximately 2-3 minutes.
  • Off the heat and stir in the cilantro.

For the polenta:

4 cups whole milk

1 cup polenta or yellow cornmeal

1/2 teaspoon sweet curry powder

1/3 cup shredded Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

1/2 cup diced tomatoes

1/3 cup chopped scallion greens

Salt & pepper to taste

  • Bring the milk to a boil in a saucepan over medium heat.
  • Combine the polenta and curry powder and slowly whisk it into the milk.
  • Cook the mixture, stirring constantly, until the mixture is thick and smooth, 4-5 minutes.  Be sure to mix continually otherwise lumps will form.
  • Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the cheese, tomatoes, and scallions.
  • Season with salt and pepper and serve.

Serves: 4

Baked Macaroni & Cheese

Because some things never go out of style:

mac n cheese

 

Macaroni and cheese is one of those classic American dishes.  During a recent trip to the United States we had international friends who made a point of trying this all-American dish.  However, they came back disappointed and not understanding what all of the fuss is about.  This is just proof that not all macaroni and cheese recipes are created equal.  And as any self-respecting foodie will tell you, cheese should never come in a dehydrated form.  That means those boxes of macaroni and cheese with their bright orange powdery “cheese” are a non-starter for true macaroni and cheese connoisseurs.  Besides, when the dish is so simple to make from scratch, why should you rely on those pre-made kits anyway?

Macaroni and cheese is family favorite at our house and I regularly cook but big batches of it.  I will make a big pan of it and we’ll eat it for dinner one night then enjoy it as leftovers throughout the week.  I’ve even taken to putting the macaroni in individual sized crocks and serving it at formal dinner parties to provide our guests with a little taste of America.

In addition to being easy to make, the recipe is quite flexible.  This recipe calls for cheddar, Swiss and Gorgonzola cheeses but you can easily substitute whichever cheeses you like or have available. This is especially convenient here in Albania where our cheese selection although limited yet growing, is never reliable.  A cheese might be available in the supermarket one week then disappear off of the shelves for months at a time.  Be flexible and experiment since you never know what new flavor combination you will discover and love!  I also like to bake my macaroni and cheese. Panko bread crumbs and a bit of butter make for a crunchy topping but you can also use fresh bread crumbs or even crackers.

BAKED MACARONI AND CHEESE

1 pound uncooked small pasta of your choice (I like to use shells for individual   sized servings and penne when I am making it in a single dish).

2 1/2 cups whole or low-fat milk

3 dried bay leaves

1/2 teaspoon Tabasco sauce

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

2 cups sharp cheddar cheese, shredded

1 1/2 cups Gruyère cheese, shredded

1/2 cup Gorgonzola cheese, crumbled

Salt & pepper to taste

1 cup Panko bread crumbs

3 tablespoons butter

  • Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Generously coat an 8 x 10 casserole dish or 10 individual ramekins with cooking spray.  If you are using ramekins place them on a rimmed baking sheet.  Set aside.
  • Cook the pasta until al dente according to package instructions.  You do not want to over cook it since it will continue to cook in the oven.  When done, drain and place in a large bowl.
  • Place the milk, bay leaves, and Tabasco sauce in a medium-sized sauce pan.  Heat over medium-high heat until scalding.  Do not allow to boil.  Remove from the heat, cover, and let sit for 5 minutes then remove the bay leaves.
  • Place the flour in a small bowl.  And the milk to the flour and whisk continually until well blended and no lumps remain.
  • Return the milk and flour to the sauce pan.  Set over medium heat and whisk continually until thickened, approximately 8 to 10 minutes.
  • Remove from the heat and stir in the cheeses.  Mix until blended then pour over the prepared pasta.  Season with salt and pepper and stir until well combined.
  • Pour the pasta into the prepared baking dishes.
  • Melt the butter in a small saucepan.  Add the Panko crumbs and stir to coat.
  • Sprinkle the crumbs evenly over the top of the pasta.
  • Bake for 20 minutes or until browned and bubbly.   Remove from the oven and allow to sit for 5 minutes before serving.

The dish can be prepared up to one day ahead of time.  Simply allow to come to room temperature (or adjust the baking time accordingly), sprinkle with the crumb topping, and bake.

Serves 10

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