“Since hunger is the most primitive and permanent of human wants, men always want to eat, but since their wish not to be a mere animal is also profound, they have always attended with special care to the manners which conceal the fact that at the table we are animals feeding.” - John Erskine

13 August 2014

One Pot Cheesy Pasta and Sausage

More summer family cooking fun.  This recipe is TOTALLY kid friendly, and so quick and easy … and yummy!  Of course, we’re big pasta fans, so this was a no-brainer for us.  But who can beat a dinner where you just dump everything into one pan and you’re done?  The only real work was to slice the sausage and pull the fresh basil leaves off my kitchen plant.  If you don’t have a basil plant in your kitchen, you can usually find a package of fresh basil in the produce area in Wal-Mart.  (You can even pick up a live plant in Wal-Mart.  Just keep it in a sunny place, and water it from the bottom when the soil begins to look dry.)  You can even buy cute little frozen packs.  In a pinch, you can even resort to about 3 tablespoons dried without changing the flavor too much.  But however you get your basil, you definitely need to try this recipe! 
One Pot Cheesy Pasta and Sausage
serves 6-8
found here

3 cups halved grape tomatoes, divided (I quartered Romas) 
1 large onion, sliced
1 pound smoked Italian sausage links, precooked and sliced into coins (to make this healthier, try these) 
20-30 basil leaves, divided
4 garlic cloves, sliced (I use this) 
1 pound dry linguine
1½ teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
4½ cups water
1 cup shredded Parmesan cheese (my go-to“parmesan”)

Reserve (set aside) 1 cup halved tomatoes, 10 basil leaves and cheese.  (I skipped this part and just added everything to the pot.)

Combine remaining ingredients in a large (12”) braising pan or dutch oven over medium high heat.  Cover and bring to a boil.  Once water is boiling, remove cover and cook 7-9 minutes until pasta is al dente.  Toss pasta with tongs occasionally to keep it from sticking.  Liquid will be mostly absorbed when pasta is cooked.

Add cheese and toss to combine.  Cheese may clump but will melt into the sauce after a few minutes.  Toss in remaining tomatoes and basil before serving.

12 August 2014

Garlic Bread Meatballs – Middlest in the kitchen

It’s summer.  (It’s still officially summer at our house, since school doesn’t start for another week.)  I don’t know about you, but cooking really becomes a chore for me during the summer.  Not that I love it during every other season, but in the summer it’s just too hot for me to want to do anything but send Hubby out to the grill with a couple of Franks or Patties.  So this summer we (meaning the Meanest Mom Ever – aka: me) decided that once a week each child would help mom cook.  It’s lovely when it’s Oldest’s turn, since I can pretty much turn him loose in the kitchen with a reasonable expectation that he will emerge with something, if not delicious, at least edible.  And on Middlest’s and Littlest’s days it’s kind of fun to hang out with them and teach them the magic of mixing “secret ingredients” to create something lovely.  And I’ve learned a surprising lesson myself: if they make it, they will eat it.  Can you believe that?  I actually got Littlest AND Middlest to eat pasta sauce on noodles, by calling it pizza!  But that’s a story for another post.

At the beginning of each month, I sat down with each of my boys and went through all the thumbnails of my Pinterest recipes and had them pick four recipes that they thought looked yummy.  I then made a grocery list of all the ingredients we would need to create their fabulous feasts and we all trekked to the store together.  (Ah the joys of a family trip to Wal-Mart.  The fighting, the whining, the begging, the fighting.  That’s one part of the summer I won’t miss!)  And we’ve found several new recipes to add to our collection that (gasp!) everyone in the family enjoys.  Starting with:
Garlic Bread Meatballs
found here
makes 20
1 can Pillsbury golden layers biscuits
10 frozen fully cooked Italian style meatballs - thawed and cut in half
2 sticks string cheese - cut each into 10 pieces
1 tablespoon parmesan cheese
½ teaspoon Cheff Tess Italian seasoning (or your fave)
¼ teaspoon garlic powder

Heat oven to 375˚.  Separate dough into 10 biscuits.  Separate each biscuit into 2 layers.  Press each layer into a 3” round. 

Place 1 meatball half and 1 piece string cheese onto each round.  Wrap dough around meat and cheese, pressing edges to seal.  Place into an ungreased 8” or 9” round cake pan, seam sides down in a single layer.  Sprinkle evenly with parmesan, seasonings and garlic powder. 

Bake 20-25 minutes until golden brown and no longer doughy in the center.  Serve with warm marinara for dipping.

Fresh Corn Chowder

It’s been a long silence for me on this blog.  Not that I haven’t been cooking, but it’s been crazy around here lately.  First, my knee was broken in a car accident, so I had to rely on friends and family and Oldest to do a lot of the cooking for me.  (Not to mention laundry – other people washing my family’s dirty underwear… shudder! – dishes, vacuuming, dusting, etc.)  Since then I’ve had a bit of a struggle getting back into the swing of things.  But batter up, baby!  I’m back and ready to roll!  Starting with a simple chowder.  (Hey, I have to start somewhere.)

Yep, I know.  Chowder in August.  But I couldn’t help it.  Sometimes you just need the wholesome simplicity of soup.  That, and it’s fresh-grown corn on the cob season at my sister-in-law’s farm.  Mmmm, corn.  We’ve been eating it till it’s coming out our …. Ok, not ears, that would be too corny.  Enough puns, you get the point.  What is it about corn that is just so delicious?  And it’s pretty much delicious any old way: cobbed, kerneled, creamed, frozen, canned, mealed, breaded… My family insists that it’s a vegetable, and doesn’t want to hear that it’s really a starch.  And while this recipe doesn’t have a whole lot of other veggies in it to make me feel like I’m serving up something especially healthy, it goes really well with a fresh salad.  And my husband, who is not a bit soup fan, loves it.  Bonus!
Fresh Corn Chowder
serves 6 to 8
adapted from PureWow

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 bunch leeks or ½ and onion
2 carrots
4 cups fresh or frozen corn kernels
1/3 cup white wine or white wine vinegar
4 cups vegetable or chicken broth
1 bay leaf
kosher salt, to taste
freshly ground black pepper, to taste 
Chef Tess’s All PurposeSeasoning (or seasoning of choice)*
¾ cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon butter (optional)

In a large pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat.  Chop carrots and leaks or onion finely by hand or in a food processor.  Add to the olive oil and sauté until tender, 5 to 6 minutes.  If desired, set aside 1 cup corn for garnish; add the remaining corn to the pot and continue to cook until all the vegetables are very soft and tender, 2 to 3 minutes more.

Add the wine/vinegar to the pot and bring to a simmer.  Cook until the liquid is almost completely reduced, 7 to 9 minutes.  Put in the food processor again or a blender, and add ¼-½ cup of the broth.  Blend until all vegetables are finely chopped.  Return to the pot, add the remaining broth and bring back to a simmer.

Season the soup lightly with salt and black pepper and Chef Tess’s All Purpose Seasoning, remembering that the flavor will intensify as it simmers.  Continue simmering until the soup has developed a good flavor, 30 to 40 minutes.  For an extra-silky effect, strain the pureed soup through a fine-mesh sieve and return to pot.

Stir in the cream and return the soup to a simmer.  Taste, and add seasoning as desired.  If using corn garnish, heat the butter over medium heat in a small pan.  Add the reserved 1 cup corn kernels and sauté until tender and lightly golden, 3 to 5 minutes.

To serve, ladle the soup into bowls and garnish with 2 tablespoons corn kernels, 1 torn fresh basil leaf and a pinch of cayenne pepper if desired.  Serve immediately.

You don’t have to use Chef Tess’s seasoning, but if you haven’t tried it, I highly recommend it.  Unfortunately, you can't just buy one seasoning, but no biggie.  ALL of her stuff is crazy good, and you’ll be amazed at the lovely flavor her seasonings add to food.