I'm always looking for ways to use the herbs I'm growing in my garden. I have quite a bit of Thai basil which I've made delicious chicken salad and Thai basil Chicken with but I wanted to experiment with other dishes. I made a summertime bean salad and added quite a few Thai basil leaves to see how it tasted...we loved it. You're still getting protein through the beans and this dish delivers big time on flavor. Enjoy by itself in lettuce leaves or as a side dish with no cooking as an added bonus during the hot summer! Naturally Gluten-Free. Enjoy. 😋❤️
1 can (15 oz) Chickpeas, rinsed & drained
1 can (15 oz) black beans, rinsed & drained
1/2 large red onion
1/2 cup celery, finely chopped
1/4 cup EVOO
2 Tablespoon good balsamic vinegar
4 large cloves garlic, minced
ground black pepper, to taste
1/3 cup fresh parsley, chopped
1/4- 1/3 cup fresh Thai basil, chopped
In a small bowl, whisk together the balsamic vinegar, parsley, Thai basil, garlic & pepper. Slowly whisk in the EVOO & set aside.
In a medium bowl, combine the rinsed & drained beans, celery, and red onion.
Pour the vinaigrette over the mixture and gently toss to coat evenly.
Garnish with a few Thai basil leaves.
Notes: Leftovers can be added to rice & cooked green beans for a delicious side to basil pesto chicken.
My Thai basil growing in hay bales
Summertime Bean Salad – Twiins Style mixed with brown rice & cooked cut green beans
What I love about stuffed peppers, beside the terrific vitamin C health benefit, is the amazing possibilities of stuffing combinations. Our mother always made them with a mixture of ground beef, Minute Rice, and Locatelli cheese then cooked them in marinara sauce for a simple, no-fuss, one-pot meal. Barbara made them sweet & sour. We used to make them for our families, but our children weren’t fans. I tried serving them over linguini, which is absolutely delicious; however, their battle cry became “not again”. It’s funny how their recollection is so different from mine! Putting all that aside I like to mix things up by combining new flavors and using pantry items already on hand. Some of our best recipes come from whatever we find in the pantry and throw them together! 😋 😋
2 (8.8 oz) pouches ‘TastyBite Organic Brown Rice with Quinoa & Lentils Seasoned with Herbs & Spices’
1lb ground beef
4 oz Uncured Pancetta, diced
1 x-large sweet onion (or 2 medium), diced
2 Tablespoons EVOO
6 Bell peppers, assorted colors, cut in half lengthwise, seeded & ribs removed
5 large cloves garlic, minced
1½ -2 Tablespoons Za’atar spice (may substitute with Oregano)
12 oz Gruyere cheese, shredded
salt & pepper to taste
1/2-1 cup chicken broth (enough to fill the bottom of the pan by 1 inch)
In a large skillet saute onions until soft, then add pancetta and saute for 2 minutes.
Add garlic, salt & pepper and saute for 1 minute.
Add ground beef and cook over medium heat stirring often to break up meat until thoroughly cooked (no pink). Remove from heat & set Bake 25-35 minutes, d aside.
Tear pouches of brown rice, quinoa & lentils 2 inches to vent. Place each pouch separately in the microwave on high for 90 seconds each.
Empty contents of the cooked pouches into the skillet filled with the meat mixture & let cool.
Once the meat mixture is cooled add half the shredded cheese. Combine well.
In a large 9 x 13 x 2-inch roasting pan drizzle a small amount of EVOO.
Pour chicken broth into the bottom of the roasting pan to about 1-inch depth.
Place each pepper half in the pan, then spoon meat mixture into each pepper making a nice mound. Do not pack down.
Top each pepper with the remaining shredded cheese and place in a pre-heated 375º oven.
Bake 25-35 minutes until cheese is melted. ( Every oven is different so timing may vary)
Serve hot with a side salad and enjoy!
Notes: Any soft, melting cheese can be used in place of Gruyere. For strictly vegetarian stuffed peppers use drained black beans in place of ground meat.
Like many children, and some adults too, we didn't like eating carrots growing up. We don't remember who came up with the idea, mom or dad, but they creatively added them to the mashed potatoes then proceeded to tell us they were orange mashed potatoes. We loved them! Weren't they smart getting us to eat a healthy vegetable? Teresa carried that tradition on with her family who also loved them. 😋 😋
2lbs Yukon gold potatoes, peeled & cut in half then cut in quarters
4-5 medium carrots, peeled and cut into 1/4 inch rounds
1 Tablespoon Kosher salt for water
3/4 – 1 cup heavy cream
1 stick salted butter
salt & pepper to taste
Place carrots in a large saucepan filled with water to hold the carrots and the potatoes. Bring carrots to a boil and add 1 Tablespoon kosher salt. Boil the carrots for 6-8 minutes. Add the cut potatoes.
Bring to a full boil then reduce heat to a simmer and cook until fork-tender, about 15-20 minutes.
Remove saucepan from heat & drain well. Place potatoes and carrots back into saucepan & return to low heat. Stir constantly for about 1 minute to remove any excess liquid.
Remove from the heat. Add the butter. Using a handheld masher, mash the butter into the potatoes and carrots. Add enough cream & salt & pepper to taste. Continue mashing until the desired texture is achieved.
Serve hot and enjoy.
Notes: In place of hand mashing you can use a hand mixer.
Barbara and I have been in a breakfast rut lately...sick of the same old oatmeal, cereal, plain eggs or just a cup of coffee. During these times of social distancing and staying at home, more than ever we need to be creative in the kitchen and treat ourselves to some fun ways to enjoy breakfast. While making chicken parmigiana for dinner the other night we had some leftover egg mixture, breadcrumbs, and some baby spinach leaves. Just by adding a few simple ingredients, we came up with a make-ahead breakfast meal we could enjoy the next morning. It was so easy and is sure to please. Any leftover cooked vegetable will work in this recipe...zucchini, broccoli, asparagus, tomatoes, peas or any combination of your favorite veggies. You can make these as a side for any meal too. Be creative and Enjoy! ❤️😋
4 large eggs
1/4 cup + 1 Tablespoon milk (any milk will do)
6-7 tablespoons seasoned breadcrumbs (substitute Gluten-Free seasoned breadcrumbs if gluten is an issue)
3 tablespoons Pecorino-Romano cheese, grated
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder (optional)
1/2 teaspoon ground thyme
2 cups fresh spinach, loosely packed, chopped into medium size bites
1-2 tsp fresh parsley, chopped (optional)
1/4 tsp salt + /- to taste
black pepper to taste
1 pat of butter
1-2 Tablespoons of EVOO
In a medium bowl add 4 large eggs and the milk. Whisk until scrambled well.
Add salt, pepper, onion powder, thyme, oregano, garlic, bread crumbs, and grated cheese. Mix well and set aside for 10-15 minutes for the breadcrumbs to absorb liquid. You should have a medium liquid texture, not a thick paste.
In a large skillet heat butter & EVOO until hot on medium heat. When oil & butter start to sizzle, using a large tablespoon, drop mixture into the hot skillet. No more than 4 at a time. Cook 1-1½ minutes until golden brown. Flip over and cook another 1-1½ minutes until golden brown. If browning to quickly lower the heat a bit.
Remove from skillet and place on paper towels to drain & cool completely.
Once cooled pack in an airtight glass or plastic food storage container and refrigerate. These fritters will last up to 3 days in the refrigerator if they don’t disappear on the first day!
These can actually be served cold or heated in a toaster oven or microwave.
Notes: These fritters can be made gluten-free by substituting with gluten-free seasoned breadcrumbs.
When it comes to side dishes everyone in our family loves creamy mashed potatoes. They are a true comfort food that enhances chicken cutlets, flank steak, meatloaf & so much more. On occasion, we make Roasted Garlic Mashed potatoes that are also delicious if you want to step it up a notch. Either way, these mashed potatoes are so creamy and buttery our mouths are watering just writing about them! Enjoy them plain, garnished with some fresh chopped chives or gravy. 😋 😋
2lbs Yukon gold potatoes, peeled then cut in half and cut in quarters
1 Tablespoon Kosher salt for water
3/4 – 1 cup heavy cream
1 stick salted butter
salt & pepper to taste
Place potatoes in a large saucepan filled with water to generously cover the potatoes. Add 1 Tablespoon kosher salt.
Bring to a full boil then reduce heat to a simmer and cook potatoes until fork-tender, about 15 minutes.
Remove saucepan from heat & drain well. Place potatoes back into saucepan & return to low heat. Stir potatoes constantly for about 1-2 minutes to dehydrate the potatoes.
Remove potatoes from the heat. Add the butter. Using a handheld masher, mash the butter into the potatoes. Add enough cream & continue mashing until the desired texture is achieved.
Casseroles are a great way to combine your family's favorite vegetables into a one-dish meal that is sure to please. Our family loves eggplant, zucchini, ricotta cheese & mozzarella (among many other foods) so we combined all those ingredients into a delicious casserole? They loved this dish so much that they requested it 3 nights in a row! You can make this casserole with or without sausage because it's just as hardy without it plus you get the added bonus of it being Gluten-Free and Keto friendly if you follow a keto diet. You and your family will love it! 😋😋
2 medium eggplants, firm to touch
2 medium zucchini or summer squash (or 1 of each, personal preference )
1 lb bulk Italian Sweet or Hot Sausage, optional (bulk country sausage can be substituted)
2 pints cherry tomatoes
8-10 large cloves garlic, unpeeled
enough EVOO to lightly coat all the sliced eggplant & zucchini before roasting, plus extra for lightly coating the baking sheet
salt, pepper, and garlic powder to season eggplant & zucchini before roasting
1 cup ricotta (we used whole milk but you can use skim or fat-free if desired)
1/2 beaten egg
2 shakes crushed red pepper (more or less to taste)
1/2 cup Pecorino Romano, grated plus extra for between layers
8 oz. mozzarella, grated & divided in half
1 cup fresh basil leaves, chopped & divided plus a few whole leaves for garnish
Cut the end stems from each end of the eggplant, zucchini or summer squash.
Slice into 1/2-inch thick round pieces.
With a small pastry brush, lightly brush EVOO over both sides of the eggplant and zucchini.
Position your oven racks to upper and lower thirds of your oven.
Preheat oven to 500ºF. Once it reaches 500ºF lower to 425ºF.
On a small rimmed baking sheet (no parchment paper) place tomatoes and unpeeled garlic cloves.
Drizzle 1 Tablespoon EVOO over the tomatoes & unpeeled garlic. Toss with your hands to coat, roast on the top oven rack for 15-20 minutes until tomatoes blister & garlic is soft & caramelized. Remove from oven when done and set aside to cool.
Line 2 large rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper and drizzle a very small amount of EVOO in each pan.
Arrange the eggplant slices in a singer layer in one of the pans then arrange the zucchini in the second pan.
Sprinkle salt, pepper and garlic powder over the tops of eggplant & zucchini only.
Using a pastry brush, use 2 Tablespoons or more of EVOO to lightly brush over the eggplant and zucchini slices in both pans (both sides).
Place pan with eggplant on top oven rack and zucchini on middle rack and roast at 425ºF for 15-25 minutes until nicely browned but not burnt. Zucchini might brown before the eggplant so check often as individual oven temperatures vary.
Once browned, use a spatula to flip eggplant & zucchini over. Continue roasting the eggplant & zucchini until brown, about 10 minutes, checking often.
Once done, remove from oven & let cool.
In a medium skillet brown the bulk sausage meat until fully cooked. Drain & set aside in a bowl until ready to begin layering process.
In a medium bowl combine 1 cup ricotta, red pepper flakes, 1/2 beaten egg, 2 Tablespoons chopped basil, grated Pecorino Romano cheese, and 6 oz mozzarella. Drizzle a tsp of EVOO and mix with a fork to combine. Add salt to taste.
Remove the cooked garlic cloves from the cooled tomato pan & move to a cutting board. Using a fork, press on the skins to remove the soft, caramelized garlic. The skins can be discarded. Mash the cloves into a paste then add to the ricotta mixture and combine well.
In a shallow 2-qt baking dish drizzle some EVOO on the bottom. Arrange 1/3 of the eggplant & zucchini in a single layer. Add 1/3 the blistered tomatoes and scatter them around. Add a dollop of ricotta evenly over each vegetable section (do not spread, leave dollop as is). Add half the drained cooked sausage and sprinkle on top of ricotta dollops. Sprinkle with grated Pecorino Romano cheese.
Tear some of the basil leaves and generously scatter around the first layer.
Repeat step 18 & 19 for the second layer.
Add remaining ricotta mixture on top of the second layer, top with remaining slices of eggplant & zucchini then add the remaining tomatoes on top. Sprinkle with grated Pecorino Roman cheese and top with remaining shredded mozzarella.
Bake approximately 20 – 25 minutes at 425 ºF or until cheese is melted and casserole is bubbling.
Remove from oven. Let cool 10 minutes before serving. Garnish with fresh basil leaves and serve.
Let cool for 10 minutes before cutting & serving
Slice the eggplant & zucchini into 1/2″ thick rounds
Place Combination of Eggplant & Zucchini on bottom of 2-qt casserole dish
Add 1/3 of the roasted tomatoes
Add 1/3 ricotta in dollops then sprinkle with chopped basil & top with cooked sausage
Add the second layer
top with remaining ricotta mixture & top with Mozzarella
Notes: 2 large and 1 small rimmed baking sheets are needed for this recipe. We used Neese’s Country Sausage (bulk) in this recipe; however, the meat is optional. Add some sauteed mushrooms if you’re a mushroom lover like Teresa is. Can be served as a main dish (4-5 servings) or a side dish (6-8 servings).
Jasmine rice, with its fragrant characteristic aroma, is a wonderful side dish on its own; however, when we added just a few simple ingredients it exploded with flavor and has become a family favorite. Although Jasmine rice is typically used in Thai cuisine it is equally popular in Middle Eastern cuisine and has become our go-to rice for many side dishes. Although it has a unique fragrance it won't interfere with any cuisine and is delicious.
2 cups Jasmine Rice
3 cups water or chicken broth
1 Tablespoon butter
1 tsp Kosher salt
1/4 cup EVOO, for sautéeing
1 onion, roughly chopped
1 Red Bell Peppers, seeded and diced
1 Yellow or Orange Bell Pepper, seeded and diced
1 ½ cups fresh or frozen peas
2 Tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped (optional)
salt and pepper to taste
Add rice, salt, water or broth, and butter in a deep saucepan.
Bring to a boil over high heat.
When it comes to a boil, stir and reduce heat to low. Cover the pan tightly and cook without stirring 18-20 minutes.
Remove from heat. Keep covered and let stand for 10-15 minutes. Fluff with a fork.
In a large deep skillet or wok heat EVOO until hot.
Sauté onions and bell peppers. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Add fresh or frozen peas and continue to cook 3 minutes.
Add the cooked rice to the skillet and stir to combine well on low-medium heat.
Remove from heat and serve.
Notes: The fresher the rice is, the more aroma it will have.
Today my dear friend Valerie Kachura served this delicious cauliflower side dish while hosting our weekly social bridge group. Now, I'm not the biggest fan of cauliflower but I know it has many health benefits so when I saw our good friend Roz's face light up with delight, I knew I had to try it! It was delicious! I think this will be my new favorite side-dish. Thank you, Valerie, for feeding our group so well, and graciously letting me share your recipe. 😋❤
1 large head of cauliflower, rinsed and separated by large florets
1/4 cup pignolis
3-4 garlic cloves, crushed
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. ground curry powder
1/4 -1/2 cup Pecorino Romano cheese, grated
1/4 tsp. pink Himalayan salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
2-3 Tablespoons Olive Oil
Preheat oven to 350°F
In a large bowl combine, cauliflower, olive oil, salt, pepper, cumin, and curry powder. Mix well.
Place in a casserole dish and bake 20 minutes until almost done.
Sprinkle pignolis and grated Pecorino Romano cheese over the top of cauliflower.
Place casserole back into the oven for an additional 10 minutes until starting to turn golden brown.
Stuffed Mushrooms Alla Grandma Florence, Gluten-Free
One of the dishes we missed most at the holidays was Grandma Florence's stuffed mushrooms. Wow were they delizioso! 😋 We are excited we nailed it as they taste just like Grandma's did. We're happy to share it with you and hope you enjoy them as much as our family does. These can be served as appetizers, a side dish to a roast, chicken, veal or pasta or a main dish if using large Portobello mushrooms.