Slow Cooked Pork Pasta

The kids are very happy today.  There is nearly 6 inches of snow on the ground so they got a snow day.  Granted back in my day we wouldn’t have had the day off!  I literally walked up hill both ways.  Not sure if we’re getting soft or just more safety conscious.

I did take a short video of our lovely snow storm but it turns out in the past few months WordPress decided to not let the lowly plebs upload videos anymore.  But you can see it on Instagram if you wish.  I guess this means I really need to get off my duff and upgrade the site!

We’re making progress on the room we are reworking.  Got the primer on the walls and picked up the flooring this weekend.  So I needed an easy dinner to put together with the kids coming back for the week.

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Doing a slow cooked pork dish fit the bill.  Because of what we had going on I had time to toss everything into the baking dish and that’s about it.  If you have more time, brown the pork before you put it in the dish.  However, if you don’t have time it will still be delicious.

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Add a half a large red onion, finely chopped, with a few cloves of garlic, coarsely chopped to the baking dish.  Then add a 14oz can of diced tomatoes and 1/2 cup of red wine.  Season with sea salt, pepper, some red pepper flakes, and a couple of teaspoons of oregano.  Bake at 300F/150C for several hours until the pork is tender and falling apart.  Taste halfway through to adjust the seasoning.

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Toss in the pasta and serve.  Grate with a hard Italian cheese and enjoy.  This is a very easy flavourful dish to make when life is crazy busy.  And of course a nice glass of red wine goes nicely with this.  🙂

 

Italian Salad and Being Exercised by the House

Negative space.  Great when it comes to artwork.  Not so much when it comes to a house.  Our house was built in 1895 and I have to say it was solidly built.  It’s still relatively square. But man, when we redo rooms or do projects we find some serious negative space.  While our kids are off on their summer adventures we redid my son’s floor.  Because the wood had been damaged we had to pull up the old flooring.  Which gave us a chance to put in new insulation.  And that is where we saw the latest example of negative space.  So we stuffed a lot of insulation in.  Our son will be quite toasty this winter.

Thankfully that is a few months off.  On Father’s Day we joined our friends in the traditional Father’s Day BBQ and I had made a twist on the caprese salad with bacon and lettuce.  I didn’t have the time to get stuff together for a blog post then but I thought I’d remake it for my husband and I but added chicken.  Because why not?

Italian salad 1 2016

In a skillet start cooking 4-5 rashers of streaky bacon, chopped up.  Once the bacon is half cooked add about a third of a cup of chopped onion and a couple of cloves of garlic, chopped.  Add a teaspoon or so of fresh thyme.

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While this is cooking make up the dressing and grill the chicken.  I just seasoned the chicken with sea salt and pepper as it will be dressed before adding to the salad.  In a bowl add olive oil and white balsamic vinegar.  The ration was about 1:3/4 oil to vinegar.  Whisk to emulsify. Season with sea salt and pepper.

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Cut up the chicken into small pieces.  Add the chicken and the bacon mixture to the bowl and toss in the dressing.

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Add to lettuce and top with chopped tomatoes, mozzarella, and basil.

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A super easy, flavourful salad for summer nights.  Without leaving you feeling stuffed.

Italian Potato Salad

My husband and I have been enjoying exploring the bike paths that run through our area.  I’m still surprised at how much I love biking.  And it’s great along the shady paths with the little breeze we work up.  Keeps the humidity off of us.  Still tweaking the bike so it fits  me better.  I found a memory foam seat cover which eases the bumps we go over.  Today I’m bringing the bike back to adjust the handle bars.  My husband and I tried but damn if we couldn’t shift it.

Of course after doing a ride we don’t want a heavy meal and to be frank I lack the energy to whip up anything complicated.  Still building up the stamina!  We bought some lovely new potatoes from the farmer’s market this past weekend and a potato salad is an easy thing to make before the ride.  As my husband isn’t into things with mayo I decided to make an Italian potato salad.

Italian potato salad 1 2016

I made up the marinade first so the sundried tomatoes could soak a bit.  I used the ratio 2:1 for olive oil and white balsamic vinegar.   Whisk to bring the two ingredients together and add a couple of cloves of garlic chopped, a few teaspoons of fresh thyme, and sea salt and pepper to taste.

Italian potato salad 2 2016

Cook up the potatoes until soft, drain and add to the marinade.  Some potatoes will soften and fluff a bit with this, more than others.  The ones I bought definitely fluffed a bit.  Stir to coat evenly in the marinade.  Add chopped proscuitto, freshly grated parmesan, mozzarella, and fresh basil.  Chill then serve.  Though you could have it warm if you prefer.

Italian potato salad 3 2016

Prior to the ride I marinated steak with thyme, sea salt, pepper, garlic, olive oil, and white balsamic vinegar.  Easy to grill up and dinner is ready in no time at all!

Pasta with Mushroom Sauce and Saying Goodbye to 2015, Finally!

It’s been a long time since I was so looking forward to seeing the backside of a year.  I don’t like rushing time, especially as we get older.  It goes fast enough as it is.  But this year been a long stressful slog.  2016 has to be better!

I am so grateful that I have my husband and kids.  They have been an amazing support system for me.  Since the summer I’ve been struggling with my issues, whether it was physical injuries or the black dog, as Conor from One Man’s Meat so aptly called it, and I feel like I got in a rut.  It was an effort at times to get the day to day stuff done, nevermind finding creativity for blogging and other projects.  My husband never wavers and never complains.  He takes care of me and has the ability to make me laugh every day.  And kids being kids, they keep you on your toes.  They are a joy to have.  Not sure what I did to get so lucky to have them in my life but boy am I glad I did it.

But I am looking forward to 2016 and a fresh start in terms of putting this year behind me and not letting it be a millstone round my neck.  I have ideas I want to try and plan on keeping on improving with all the issues.  Onwards and upwards!

My sister got me a fabulous book on food photography for Christmas.  My family is so good about supporting my endeavors.  Last year my husband found me a photobox and a photography book which helped me dust off the cobwebs of my photography knowledge.  This book is the next step up from the previous book.  After a year of practicing I am excited to learn new techniques and continuing to improve.  I’m only into the fourth chapter and already I have a list in my head of things I need to set up.

Last night my sister and family were planning on coming so I planned Italian for dinner.  Unfortunately, the New England weather decided it was time for the first winter storm.  But I had found a recipe from the cookery book Giada at Home by Giada De Laurentiis.  So I stuck with the planned theme.

Mushroom pasta 1 2015

It is the Rigatoni with Creamy Mushroom Sauce.  This is my adaptation of it.  I didn’t stray too much from the original but I did make it my own.

In a skillet heat up a few tablespoons of olive oil.  Finely chop up half a red onion and begin saute the onion.  Finely chop up 3-4 cloves of garlic and add it to the skillet.

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While this is cooking slice up a mixture of mushrooms.  I used baby bellas (cremini), shiitake, and oyster mushrooms.  You want about 2 cups sliced.  Add these to the skillet to start to brown.

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Add 1/2-3/4 cup of vegetable bouillon and 1/2 a cup of dry white wine.  Bring to a simmer to reduce the liquid by at least a third.

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During this time make sure you cook the pasta.  I chose brown rice spaghetti.  When the pasta is nearly done add a half cup (4 oz) of mascarpone.

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When the mascarpone has blended in add 1/2 cup of freshly grated parmesan and a handful of chopped chives.  Season with sea salt and pepper.  Add the pasta to the skillet and toss to coat.

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Garnish with chopped chives and grated parmesan cheese.  My husband made fabulous ciabatta bread.  He used it to make garlic bread.  A serious weakness of mine!

This dish was a hit even with my son who doesn’t like mushrooms.  Fingers crossed his tastes are changing.  The rest of us love mushrooms.

Happy New Year’s everyone!

Pan Fried Chicken with Gorgonzola Pasta

We’re not a sports family.  We’ll watch tennis once in awhile and the Olympics.  Which is a 180 from growing up.  I didn’t do sports but I watched a lot of sports with my dad.  It was our way of hanging out.  But now we are so busy with the kids or the house sports take a way, way back seat.  Wouldn’t trade it for the world but it’s funny how things change.

But that doesn’t mean we don’t root for our kids if they want to try their hands at sports.  We definitely aren’t the parents who yell at the kids to get the ball, overrule the coach, or expect them to become pros.  As long as they try their best, have fun, and run off energy we’re good.  In the past few years at the rec games for football (soccer) some parents would be screaming into the field.  I was just making sure my son’s shoes were tied.  Fortunately this time round I haven’t seen that yet.  And our son is blossoming which is all we can ask for.

Our daughter is part of a fantastic program in the high school.  Several high schools have set up a sports program for those that have disabilities, whether it’s physical or emotional, and they have a few students without disabilities on the field with them to guide them and support them.  I was so proud of my daughter watching her support and encourage her teammates as they try to get goals.  The kids have a blast.

I still had some gorgonzola and mascarpone cheese left over from the Filet with Gorgonzola Risotto and I didn’t want it to go to waste.  We also had some chicken to use and I was in the mood for Italian.  Let’s face it, I’m usually in the mood for Italian!

Gorgonzola chicken 1 2015

Prep the chicken before hand by coating it in a beaten egg and breading it with panko bread crumbs.  I take one chicken breast and slice it lengthwise to have two portions.  Chop up a few cloves of garlic, a bit of red onion, and a cayenne pepper.  Heat up some olive oil in a skillet.  Start with the garlic and onions.  After a couple of minutes add the pepper.

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In a separate skillet heat up at least a half a cup of olive oil or avocado oil.  Once it’s hot start pan frying the chicken.  In the first skillet add sliced mushroom.

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Make sure the chicken is browned evenly on both sides.  Once it is cooked set aside and keep it warm while you finish the rest of the dish.  After you remove the chicken add about a third of a cup of gorgonzola crumbles and the same amount for the mascarpone.  Toss in a handful of fresh basil.

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Cook until the cheese has melted and add cooked pasta of your choice.  Serve with the chicken topping the pasta.

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Grate fresh parmesan cheese over the dish.  It doesn’t have a ton of colour but it really has a lot of flavour.  And this is a quick and easy meal to throw together when you have a busy schedule.

Baked Eggs and Getting on the Right Path

Yesterday I started my physio for my hip.  Something I should have done when I fell in January.  I have no excuse but after a total of about 3 months resting the back in bed over the course of this year I wised up.

Because I had two severe falls within 5 years on my left hip I shifted the SI joint.  Which apparently is really hard to do.  But I seem to want to excel in the worse areas.  The woman who is guiding me through physio said that while a lot of people say they’ve shifted the SI, it’s not common.  Injuring that area is but not the shifting bit.  It’s been an interesting look into body mechanics.  The muscles reacted so quickly to protect the area and “locked” things down.  But I didn’t do anything to fix the ligaments so now that I’ve been fixing the muscles things are disabled.  Loosey goosey, if you will!  So I have to have a brace round my hips as they said I need to treat it like, in layman’s terms, I sprained my bum.  Oops.

But I’m thrilled we now have a plan action.  Spending a crazy amount of time heating and icing my lower back and hip gets very boring very quickly.  I have too many things on my list!

One dish I’ve been trying to get down is baked eggs.  I had been trying to do a French recipe from Barefoot Contessa for baked eggs.  She had said to broil them and I’ve had no luck.  I got the flavour down but not the cooking part.  Jovina Cooks Italian posted about marinara baked eggs.  Actually baked, not broiled and I had some marinara sauce to use up.  I can take a hint.  🙂  This is my take on it.

Preheat the oven to 425F/220C.

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In a small baking dish add a third cup of marinara sauce.  Heat this up in the microwave.

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Add three eggs.

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Top with freshly grated parmesan cheese.

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Baked until the egg whites are firm and the yolks are runny.  This is the tricky part.  So don’t get discouraged if you struggle with this bit.

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Top with basil and season with sea salt and pepper.  Buttered toast is perfect to go with this.

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This was a great way to start the day.  Full of flavour and hearty.  And it went way better than the French recipe but I’m not giving up on that one.  Once I get that down I’ll post it.

Italian Style Burgers

Labor Day is the unofficial end of summer in the states.  Usually marked by BBQs and last trips to lakes and beaches.  And it was hot this weekend!  Thank goodness temps are looking to break tomorrow.  I’m over the humidity and heat.  I’m very ready for autumn.

Burgers was the main request for Monday night and we tossed around ideas of what to make so I could have a recipe to share.  My husband mentioned it would be fun to stuff them with mozzarella.  Sounded good to me!

Italian burger 1 2015

I wanted to use oven roasted tomatoes for this recipe and that does need to be done ahead of time as it takes at least an hour.  To prep the burger, finely chop a clove of garlic and mix with a couple of teaspoons of fresh thyme.  Add it to about a pound of ground beef.  Then add about a 1/3 of a cup of freshly grated parmesan cheese and a few dashes of balsamic vinegar.  Season with sea salt and pepper.  Mix everything together with your hands.  The trick is to not overwork the meat but get everything evenly distributed.

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Divide the meat into four portions and place a slice of mozzarella in the centre.  Wrap the meat around the cheese.  Do your best to seal the cheese in.

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Grill them on a hot grill.  While they are grilling prepare the topping for the burgers.  I had some oyster mushrooms to use up.

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In a small skillet heat up a bit of olive oil.  Chop up the mushrooms and a clove of garlic.  Saute for a few minutes and add the roasted tomatoes.

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Add a bit of balsamic vinegar and bring to a simmer.  Season with sea salt and pepper.

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At the end of cooking add fresh basil.  Top the burgers with the tomato mixture and grate fresh parmesan on top with a bit more fresh basil.

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And if all goes right, it will be nice and melty inside.  Melty, not sure if that is the technical term!

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Add a side of grilled corn and it’s a great meal to say goodbye to summer.  While I left off the bun, this is also good with a buttered grilled brioche bun.  But that is a lot of food!

Gorgonzola Risotto with Filet Mignon and Sundried Tomato Sauce

Last week I passed the three year mark for blogging.  One of the changes WordPress seems to have made is they now make it very low key.  Basically it’s “So, yeah, you are another year down, don’t forget to take out the trash” tone to it.  I liked how it was before where they gave you a great breakdown on how you are doing, what was a hit, what wasn’t.  I’m ok with a little woot, woot!

And with three years of recipes sometimes it’s hard to come up with something new.  Things have been somewhat calm this past week which would allow me more time to cook.  But then instead of writer’s block, I was having a bit of cooking block.  Broke that on Wednesday!  I wanted a special meal with flavours that wouldn’t be subtle.  We had a couple of filets in the freezer and some sundried tomatoes to use up.  Off to the store to get some gorgonzola and oyster mushrooms and I had a very good idea of what I wanted to do.

Prep the ingredients beforehand for everything.  To add a bit of crunch to the dish I toasted a third of a cup of pine nuts.  Do it in a dry skillet.  And keep an eye on it!  It can take awhile to toast but can burn quickly.

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Remove the pine nuts from the skillet and set aside.  In a larger skillet start the risotto.  This recipe is for 2-3 people.  First by melting 2 tablespoons of butter.  Add a finely chopped small shallot and 2 cloves of garlic.

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Add 1/2 a cup of risotto and saute for a minute or so.  Then add a tablespoon or so of champagne vinegar.  Stir well.

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This recipe needs about 2 1/2 cups of chicken stock.  This current batch I made was the best so far.  So much flavour!  Add about a 1/2 a cup at a time and allow the risotto to absorb the liquid.  At this point, in a small skillet, melt a couple of tablespoons of butter.  When it is hot add the filets to the skillet.  Make sure they are seasoned well with sea salt and pepper.  Baste with the butter as you cook.

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Finish the steak off in the oven at 350F/175C until the desired doneness.  Allow it to rest while you finish the meal. In the same skillet, add a bit more butter then saute some shallots, garlic, and sundried tomatoes.  Saute for a couple of minutes to soften the tomatoes then add a handful of the oyster mushrooms.

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Once the risotto is almost done add a third of a cup of crumbled gorgonzola and about the same of mascarpone cheese to the risotto.

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Mix well.  Just before serving add the pine nuts and a small handful of basil.

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Serve with the filet and top with the mushroom sundried tomato sauce.

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There were a few strong flavours in this dish but it was balanced and delicious.  When I mentioned it to my daughter she said I could make it for them.  Anytime.  I think I can swing that.

PS.  So I started this post this morning but got interrupted by doctors appointments and things.  The whole day went pear shaped and I only just remembered I hadn’t finished this when we were walking the dogs.  My husband called it postus interruptus.  🙂  As we are getting ready for date night I’ll be further behind on reading posts but I promise to catch up!

Sundried Tomato Cream Sauce

Summer, at least in relation to school, is coming to an end.  Tomorrow my daughter has her orientation for high school tomorrow and my son has his meet and greet at the middle school.  So we’ve had fun the past couple of days playing games and letting them be lazy.  Because after today we are off and running with a new year. And back to doing the school lunches.  Though with the days starting earlier as they move up schools I’ll have to do them in the evenings but that’s ok.  I’ll survive.  🙂

I’m just thrilled they are still into board games and such.  I hope they don’t outgrow that.  We have so much fun with family time.

Given that all that went on last week, quick meals were the thing.  This dish couldn’t be simpler.  But it has a lot of flavours and falls into the comfort food category.

Sundried Tomato Cream Sauce 1 2015

It’s hard to go wrong when you have sundried tomatoes and garlic.  We also had on hand some apple smoked chicken sausages.  These are fully cooked so this was added at the end.  If you start with raw sausages, brown them first and set aside to cook off near the end.  In a skillet melt 2 tablespoons of butter and add a few cloves of garlic that have been chopped.  Also, add several chopped sundried tomatoes.

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Chop up a few mushrooms and slice the sausages and add that to the skillet.  One of the towns we went on our honeymoon was San Gimignano which is famous for the towers.  It also has very good white wine.  I wanted to use this for the sauce.

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Add about 1/2 a cup of a good white wine to the skillet. Bring to a simmer.

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While this is cooking prepare the spaghetti.  Near the end of cooking add 1/2 a cup of cream and 1/2 a cup of freshly grated parmesan cheese.  Mix well.

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Add the spaghetti and a handful of fresh basil.  Toss well and serve.

Sundried Tomato Cream Sauce 6 2015

Quick and easy comfort food.  When it’s a tough week, it’s perfect.  In fact I did a similar dish at the end with tomatoes from our garden.  Seems to be my go to flavour profile!

Bruschetta Chicken Salad

It’s a lovely rainy day today.  I say lovely because we’re still not having many of them.  Optimistically we planted more seed to replace those that didn’t come up.  Right now we have one leek and one onion coming up.  Stand back and prepare to be overwhelmed!

For the life of us we can’t grow beets.  We keep trying.  In fact we had one come up a few weeks ago but it disappeared.  So did the carrots!  So we replanted and also sprinkled blood meal round the beds.  I hope we start to make some progress.

The other night I was in the mood for Italian but nothing heavy as it was hot.  I saw various ideas for bruschetta chicken which sounded wonderful.  The drawbacks to the recipes was that they called for store bought dressings.  It’s easy enough to make it from scratch.

In a bowl mix 2 parts olive oil to 1 part balsamic vinegar.  Add fresh thyme and finely chopped garlic.  Season with sea salt and pepper.

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Add the chicken breasts to marinate for at least an hour.

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While the chicken is marinating prep the bruschetta part of the dish.

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Quarter the tomatoes and add a few cloves of finely chopped garlic in a bowl.  Toss with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, sea salt, and pepper.  The fresh mozzarella and basil should be added just before serving.  Grill the chicken and the slice it to serve over a bed of lettuce.

Bruschetta chicken salad 4 2015

As a side I also grilled up some veg to make a light supper.  I love this time of year with all the fresh veg.  Not so much the heat but you can’t have it all!