Pasta & Sausage Bake

img_0146.jpgI never cooked with chicken sausages until I tweaked a recipe I found, and came up with this marvelous creation. Although you will need to spread out and use several pots and pans, it’s well worth it.

1 lb. of rigatoni (I use Barilla)
1 lb. chicken sausage in links (or pork sausage, whatever works for you)
3 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 red pepper, sliced
1 yellow onion, diced
4 minced garlic cloves (or more, to taste)
Pepper
1/2 cup chicken stock
1 28-oz. can of crushed tomatoes
Sprinklings of parsley – or fresh if you have it
About 6 fresh, torn basil leaves
1 cup of ricotta cheese
1+ cup Pecorino Romano or Parmesan cheese

Get our your large pot and begin cooking the pasta. As that is getting ready, pierce each of the sausages a couple of times with a fork then place in a large skillet pan. Add about 1-1/2 inches of water and pour in about 1 Tbsp. of oil. Bring this pan to a boil, then reduce it to a slight boil/simmer. Let the sausages cook until and the water boils away- this takes about 10+ minutes. Take the sausages out of pan and set aside to cool a bit; slice into coins – set aside.

Then get out another skillet – a deep one – (I know there’s a lot of pans and a colander involved, but it’s worth the extra dishes) and add 2 Tbsp. oil. When that gets hot, add the peppers, onions, garlic and salt & pepper. Add your sliced sausages and cook this for about 10 minutes. Add the stock and stir in the can of tomatoes, bring to a low boil, then reduce to low heat. Keep simmering for another 10 minutes to meld the flavors.

Now, preheat your broiler

Back to the pasta – drain it and place back into the warm pot you cooked it in. Add the ricotta cheese and salt & pepper to your taste. Then add the parsley, basil and the 1 cup of grated cheese.

Last but not least, get out a large baking dish. Put half of the sausage & sauce mix on the bottom, top with all of the pasta and as gently as you can spread it around, then add the remaining sauce mixture. Sprinkle grated cheese on top, then place, uncovered, under the broiler for about 2-5 minutes. The cheese slightly browns and it sets the dish.

Dig in!

The Best Perfect Pound Cake

Oh yes, this loaf cake definitely lives up to its name. Perfect as is, or with preserves or whipped cream plopped on top – even ice cream.

2 sticks butter
1 cup sugar
4 large eggs
1/2 tsp. pure almond extract (or 1 tsp. pure vanilla)
2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt

Preheat your oven to 325 degrees. Grease a loaf pan and set aside. Take the butter and eggs out of the fridge and set on the counter for at least 30 minutes while the oven preheats.

When ready, sift or whisk the flour, baking powder and salt in a medium sized bowl and set aside. With a mixer, cream the butter and sugar on high speed for 5 minutes. Scrape down the bowl with a spatula, add the eggs beating for 1 minute each and scraping down the bowl between each. With mixer on medium-low, add the almond and mix thoroughly. Incorporate the flour mixture into the creamed mixture with a spatula or a wooden spoon – you should fold it in gently but carefully and thoroughly.

Spread batter into pan and bake for about 70-75 miunutes, until a knife inserted near center comes out clean. Check on it at about 30-40 minutes to see if its browning, if so then cover loosely with foil until baked thoroughly. Set on a rack to cool down for about 30 minutes, then turn out of the pan onto the rack and cool completely.

Ooey Gooey Fudgy Brownies

Another brownie recipe. Another PERFECT brownie recipe.

2 sticks butter
4 oz. unsweetened chocolate
2 cups sugar
2 beaten eggs
1-1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1 cup flour

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Lightly grease an 8 x 8 pan.

In a medium sized pot melt the butter & chocolate over a low heat, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon; remove pan from heat and stir in the sugar. Add the beaten eggs & vanilla – stir until smooth. Add the flour and stir only until it is incorporated.

Pour batter into the pan and bake for about 60 – 70 minutes; when a knife or toothpick inserted into center comes out clean. Let these brownies cool for at least 2 – 3 hours before you cut them. Then, they are best served chilled.

Crockpot Barbecue Pork Ribs

Get out the napkins! Your large crockpot will fit 6-8 lbs or four slabs. I served these with homemade cornbread and coleslaw. Wow.

6-8 pounds pork spare ribs, cut into 3-4 ribs
4 cups of your choice of barbecue sauce (I used Sweet Baby Ray’s)
1 cup ketchup
2 Tbsp. worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar

Lightly grease your crockpot with a cooking spray. Arrange the ribs in the slow cooker. Whisk/combine all the other ingredients and pour in and around the ribs – lift the ribs and get the suace underneath. Cover and cook on LOW for 8 hours or until meat begins to separate from the bones. Serve immediatley.

Sticky Ribs (a.k.a. Superbowl Ribs)

This recipe is so utterly delicious and messy, the whole family will enjoy this one! Please note that an all-day or overnight marinade is essential, so plan ahead.

4-6 lbs. pork ribs – separated, or not – you decide

1/2 cup sweet chili sauce (Chinese or Thai works well)
1/4 cup jellied cranberry sauce
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 lime, sliced into quarters
1 orange or tangerine, sliced into quarters

Place ribs in single layer on 1 or 2 rimmed baking sheets/roaster pans and set aside.  Place all the rest of ingredients into a medium bowl and mix well. Divide and spread over each rack of ribs so they are coated well, using all the sauce mix, cover with foil then put in the fridge for several hours or overnight.

When you’re ready to cook, preheat your oven to 350 degrees and remove the pans from the fridge to set on the counter for 20-30 minutes while the oven preheats; remove and discard the oranges & limes. Turn ribs over, keep covered and cook for 1 full hour, turning them with tongs after 30 minutes, and rotating pans in oven, keep covered.

After 1 hour, raise the temperature to 400 degrees and remove the foil. Cook for another 15 minutes, turn, then cook 15 minutes more.

Get a roll of paper towels and dig in.

Cornflakes Toast

An interesting twist on French Toast. Kids love it and I’ve seen an adult or two ask for seconds. Wow the folks you cook for with this version.

About 8 slices of Challah or any egg bread
1/2 cup half-n-half
2 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. kosher salt
4 extra large eggs, beaten lightly
4 cups of crushed cornflakes – (Place in a zip-lock bag and crush with a rolling pin)
Butter

Heat about 3 Tbsp. of butter in a large nonstick skillet until just foaming.

In a shallow bowl or pie dish, whisk the half-n-half, sugar, cinnamon, salt and eggs. Put the crushed cornflakes into another shallow dish. One at a time dip the bread in the egg mixture then press into the cornflakes on both sides. Transfer to the pan and cook on both sides until golden brown, about 3-5 minutes per side. Place on plates and sprinkle with confectioners’ sugar or maple syrup – whatever you want.

Minestrone

This cooks in about 45 minutes. A tasty weeknight meal you can serve with sandwiches – perhaps grilled cheese with bacon or tomato.

3/4 cup+ 4 cups water
1 small, diced onion
2 carrots, peeled & diced
2 large potatoes, peeled & diced
1 med green pepper, diced
1 stalk celery, diced
3 minced garlic cloves or more to taste
8 oz. can tomato sauce
14 oz. can white beans – drained & rinsed
2 – 14 oz. cans chicken broth
1 small stick pepperoni or beef or chorizo, peeled & diced
1 tsp. Italian seasoning
Salt & pepper to taste
1/4 – 1/2 cup uncooked ditalini

Get all the ingredients ready and onto the counter. Into the pot you’ll be making this soup, place the 3/4 cup water, bring to a boil then add the onion. Boil steadily for 3 minutes, then add all the rest of the ingredients up to the ditalini (you’ll add that later). Bring to a boil again, then simmer on med-low for 30 minutes. Add the ditalini, bring to a boil, simmer for 15 more minutes.

Tortellini Meatball Soup

Oh, how I love homemade soups! This one is especially good and hearty. You can alter it and use ground beef and/or ground pork instead of the turkey.

1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 lb. ground turkey, beef, pork, or a combo
1/2 cup breadcrumbs
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. Italian seasoning

1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 Tbsp. butter
1 small diced onion
2 carrots, chopped
1 stalk celery, diced OR 1 tsp. celery salt
3  14.5 oz. cans beef broth
1  16 oz. can kidney beans – drained & rinsed
1  14.5 oz. can diced tomatoes
1 small pkg. (or half of a 16 oz. pkg) frozen cheese tortellini

First, make the meatballs:  preheat oven to 350 degrees and lightly grease a large, rimmed baking sheet. Into a medium bowl, lightly beat the egg, then add the meat, breadcrumbs and spices. Mix gently but well and form into small meatballs – I usually get about 20 of them. Place on the baking sheet and bake for about 20 minutes.

Now, start the broth:  Into a soup pot, place the oil and butter and heat over med-high heat, add the onion, carrot and celery and cook for about 10 minutes, until soft. Add the broth, 2 cups water, beans and tomatoes; bring to a boil then turn down to simmer. When meatballs are done, drain them if needed, then add to the broth, sprinkle some ground black pepper in – about 1/4 tsp. then bring back to a good, steady simmer for 30 minutes, gently stirring occasionally.

Add the tortellini, bring back to a boil, then cook as package directs. When the tortellini is done the soup is done. Ladle into bowls and eat!

Fresh Onion Salad

red-onions.jpgPrepare this salad to top sandwiches, soups, stews, rice. . . the possibilities!

1 large red onion
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil (do not use vegetable oil)
1 Tbsp. white or rice vinegar
Sprinklings of kosher salt & ground black pepper

Slice the onion into rings as thinly as possible. Separate the rings and place in a large non-plastic bowl, then pour very cold water over. Place in the fridge, covered with plastic wrap, and change the water every hour for 2 hours. Drain well, wipe out bowl, then place back into bowl or use a smaller one.

In a small bowl, whisk together the oil, vinegar and salt & pepper. Pour over the onions and let marinate on the counter, covered, for at least 1 hour. Serve.

Creamsicle-Like Cookies

Remember those vanilla & orange ice creams on a stick? Well, these are like that with a crunch.

2-1/2 cups flour
3/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt (try to buy Kosher)
2 sticks butter, unsalted, at room temperature
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup regular sugar
1 extra large egg, at room temperature
1/4 cup orange juice
2 tsp. grated orange zest (they now sell this in the grocery store spice section)
1 cup (big, giant handful) vanilla chips

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and set out the the butter, egg, and measured orange juice on the counter while the oven preheats. Give it a good 30 minutes.

In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugars until they’re smooth – takes about 2 minutes. Add the egg and orange juice and mix well.

Whisk or sift together the the flour, soda, and salt and add to other ingredients; mix well. Stir this into the creamed ingredients then stir in the zest and chips.

Drop by teaspoonfuls onto an ungreased, or better yet parchment lined, cookie sheet. Bake for about 14 minutes – they’ll be golden brown.

Cool on the sheet for 1 minute, then remove to cool on racks.