This Easter we tried a new twist on our asparagus side dish and we loved it! We adapted this recipe from Food Network Kitchen making just a few tweaks. The whole family really enjoyed this new dish and requested we make it often. Whether you make it for a side dish, appetizer, or for brunch it will definitely be a hit! Enjoy 😋
Springtime Asparagus & Cheese Tart
A bed of puff pastry, fontina & gruyere cheese, and asparagus makes this a refreshing change to plain old veggies.
1 11" x 15" rimmed baking sheet inside measurement
1 large skillet
1bunchasparagus, trimmed approximately 1-1.5" only.
1sheetfrozen puff pastry, thawed
all-purpose flour , for dusting
1cupfontina cheese, grated
1cupgruyere cheese, grated
2Tablespoonminced shallot, may substitue with minced onion
fresh ground pepper
Fill a large bowl with ice water and set aside.
In a large skillet bring 1" of water to a boil. Add the asparagus and cook for 2-5 minutes until bright green, crisp tender depending on the thickness of the asparagus. Drain and transfer to the ice bath to stop cooking; drain & pat dry with paper towels. Set aside.
Preheat oven to 400°F.
On a lightly floured clean surface, roll out thawed puff pastry into an 11" x 15" rectangle (to fit your pan). Line your baking sheet with parchment paper then transfer the rolled-out pastry into the pan. Prick all over with a fork.
Bake until light golden brown, about 10-12 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool in the pan.
While cooling the puff pastry, mix the fontina, gruyere, shallot or onion, egg yolks, milk, nutmeg, salt & pepper in a bowl until combined.
Once puff pastry is cooled, spread the cheese mixture evenly over the puffed pastry, leaving a 1" border on all sides.
Toss the asparagus with EVOO, 1/4 tsp salt, and pepper to taste. Arrange asparagus onto the tart and bake until the cheese mixture is slightly puffy, 15-20 minutes. Garnish with lemon zest.
After recently recovering from Covid-19, I had absolutely no desire to cook! Losing the ability to smell and taste kind of messes with your appetite… I did make 3 batches of chicken soup that I couldn’t taste or smell so not sure if it had any healing powers! Thankfully my senses are back so I was looking for something different to make. I came across a recipe from The Mediterranean Dishfor Mujadara. It’s a Lebanese Middle Eastern dish made with black lentils, long grain rice, and onions…lots of onions! Neither Teresa nor I had ever tried this dish before but it sounded really, really good. It was! You can make this as a side with some chicken or as a main dish. All I can say is you have to try it because it’s delicious comfort food with unbelievable flavor and it’s Gluten-free!
Mediterranean Mujadara: Lentils, Rice and Onions 😋😋
1 small covered saucepan for par-boiling lentils, use to set aside after par-boiling and draining
1cupblack lentils (sorted and rinsed)
1/4cupEVOO, more for later
2very largeyellow onions, large dice (4 cups)
1tspkosher salt, more to taste
1cuplong-grain white rice, soaked in bowl of water for 10-15 inutes then drained & set aside
1/2 - 1tspcumin, (I used 1/2 tsp)
parsley, for garnish
Fried Crispy Onion Garnish
1very largeyellow onion, cut into very thin rings
In a small saucepan, place the lentils with 2 cups of the water. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat and simmer, covered until the lentils are par-boiled (10-12 minutes). Remove from heat, drain and set aside back in the saucepan.
Place the long-grain white rice in a small bowl. cover with water and let soak for 15 minutes. Rinse and drain then place back into the bowl and set aside.
In a large saute or skillet pan with a lid, heat 1/4 cup EVOO over medium-high heat until the oil makes "ribbons". Add the diced onions and cook covered (40 minutes) until dark golden brown, darker than normal caramelized onions. You may lower the heat so they don't burn. Add kosher salt. Stir occasionally and keep the lid on between stirrings.
Carefully pour the remaining 2 cups of water into the onions. Bring to a boil over high heat then reduce the heat to low and simmer for 2 minutes. Stir in the rice and par-cooked lentils into the onion mixture. Add a good dash of kosher salt, black pepper, and the cumin.
Reduce the heat to low, cover, and cook until liquid has been absorbed and the rice and lentils are both cooked through. (About 15-20 minutes)
In a second skillet, heat 2-3 Tablespoons EVOO until hot over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot enough add thinly sliced onion rings in batches and fry until they are crispy and deeply golden brown. Remove to a paper towel-lined dish to drain excess oil.
Let the rice and lentils rest covered for about 10 minutes undisturbed, then garnish with crispy onions & parsley and transfer to serving bowls.
Optional: Add a dollop of plain Greek yogurt and a nice tomato, cucumber salad. You can also add leftover cooked chicken for those that must have "meat" in the dish.
Ranch dressing is delicious on salads, cooked vegetables, chicken tenders, and as a dip for fresh vegetables. When my grandsons were little boys ranch dressing was the perfect way to get them to eat fresh vegetables. They couldn't get enough. Actually, this dressing is good on everything!!! Our homemade Balsamic Ranch dressing is so good and easy to make you will never buy store-bought again! 😋❤️
1 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 tsp. celery seed
1 tsp. oregano
1 tsp. fresh lemon juice
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp. white balsamic vinegar
salt & pepper to taste
In a small bowl, whisk all the ingredients together and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.
When ready to serve remove from refrigerator and pour over salad greens or vegetables. Enjoy !
Notes: Try adding blue cheese crumbles and bacon crumbles on top for an added touch…Delicious!
If you’re lucky enough to have a have a garden with an abundance of fresh vegetables, you must try making some Ciambotta (pronounced chim-botta)! Even if you don’t have a garden, grocery stores are full of a variety of fresh, local produce during the summer. It’s a delicious and nutritious way to use your harvest or take advantage of the fresh produce available now. Ciambotta can also be spelled giambotta, depending on the region of Italy. This version is a southern Italy farm dish. The great thing about this dish is you can use whatever veggies you like. The key is big, equal size cubes or chunks... and it’s naturally Gluten-Free. I served it with crusty whole wheat French bread drizzled with EVOO and Za’atar seasoning. It was delicious. Enjoy. 😋❤️
1 large yellow onion, cubed
8-10 cloves large garlic, peeled and diced
1/4 cup EVOO
4-5 golden Yukon potatoes, cubed
6 large Roma tomatoes, skin & seeds removed, cubed
2 medium eggplants, ends removed and cubed
2 medium zucchini, ends removed and cubed
1 large green bell pepper, washed, seeded & cut into big chunks
1 large red bell pepper, washed, seeded & cut into big chunks
1 large yellow or orange bell pepper, washed, seeded & cut into big chunks
2 handfuls of fresh spinach (optional)
1 jalapeño (I used jalapeño) or long Italian hot pepper (optional)
Salt & pepper, to taste
20 fresh basil leaves, torn right before adding
1 sprig Greek oregano, (optional)
Boil the Roma tomatoes for a few minutes until the skin starts to crack. Remove from boiling water and cool. Once cool enough to handle you can easily peel off the skin., Cut them in half, remove the seeds and cube.
In a minimum 6 qt deep Dutch oven, On medium-high, heat EVOO until it starts to shimmer.
Add the onions and garlic and turn several times until fragrant, about 1 minute.
Add the tomatoes, bell peppers, jalapeño pepper, zucchini, potatoes, give it a good turn.
Add the eggplants last. Turn well and cook about 10 minutes.
Add salt and black pepper to taste and tear the basil leaves, sprig of Greek oregano (if using) and add to pot. Stir together.
Lower flame to medium-low and cover. Cook about 40 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Now is a good time to prepare any pasta or crusty bread.
For the bread: Preheat oven to 400ºF. Slice the Italian or French bread into 1/2-inch slices and place on foiled baking sheet. Drizzle each piece with EVOO then sprinkle with Za’atar seasoning, garlic powder, & a little sea salt.
Bake about 4 minutes until golden brown. (Bake when Ciambotta is just about done)
Serve in pasta dishes with crusty bread on the side or over pasta & garnish with fresh basil leaves.
Notes: Serve with crusty gluten-free bread to keep completely gluten-free or use Italian or French bread to soak up the juices! Can be served with pasta too.
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
I came across an Italian cooking video which was demonstrating a delicious-looking zucchini pie/casserole. They called it Sformato di zucchine semplicissimo, which translates into Very Simple Zucchini Pie...and simple it is. Since I don't speak Italian, I guessed at the quantities for the ingredients so I channeled my inner Italian and came up with this. These are my approximate measurements and you can use more or less as you go along. Surprisingly, there was no garlic, salt, or pepper and Gary & I loved it. 😋❤️
2 large zucchini, sliced into 1/4-inch slices
4 Tablespoons EVOO, divided
1 spring rosemary, leaves removed
1/2 cup 4C seasoned breadcrumbs
1/4 lb provolone Picante cheese, 1/2-inch large cubes (divided) (get this at deli counter, not sliced but whole . Not the hard provolone that you serve with crackers & pepperoni or sausage )
1/2 cup Parmigiana Reggiano grated cheese
Preheat oven to 375ºF.
Slice zucchini into 1/4-inch slices and place in a large bowl.
Add 2 Tablespoons of EVOO and the rosemary leaves to the bowl then make sure the zucchini is coated well.
In a deep-dish pie plate, lightly coat the bottom with 1/2 tsp EVOO and spread around with your clean hand or a pastry brush.
Take a handful of the breadcrumbs and sprinkle on the bottom.
Place zucchini slices all around the dish, slightly overlapping until the bottom is covered.
Sprinkle a little more breadcrumbs all around.
Sprinkle a handful of Parmigiano Reggiana cheese.
Sprinkle 1/2 the cubes of provolone cheese.
Lightly drizzle a little EVOO in a circle going around from outer dish to inner dish.
Repeat steps 5-9.
The last layer is zucchini, Parmigiana Reggiana then all remaining breadcrumbs, add additional breadcrumbs if needed as the top layer should be completely covered
Repeat step 9.
Place pie dish on middle rack and bake about 20-30 minutes. The top should get slightly crusted but not burnt.
Best served immediately by itself or pair with a protein of your choice,
Slice zucchini into 1/4″ slices
Combine with EVOO
Toss well with rosemary leaves.
The first layer of zucchini with breadcrumbs and grated Parmigiana Reggiano cheese
Sprinkle provolone on top & repeat
Last layer (3rd) is just zucchini, parmigiana reggiano cheese and breadcrumbs topped with EVOO.
This is an amazing side dish using pearl (Israeli) couscous which is much larger than regular couscous. Combining onions, garlic, blistered tomatoes, roasted mashed garlic, and herbs give you a hearty side dish that you can add your favorite vegetables to! 😋❤️
1¾ cups pearl couscous (also known as Israeli couscous)
2¾ cup chicken broth
1 large sweet onion, roughly chopped
6-8 large cloves garlic peeled & minced
2 pints cherry tomatoes
6-8 large cloves garlic, cut off the end but keep the skin on
fresh baby spinach (a few handfuls)
salt & pepper to taste
6 ounces Feta cheese (we use President’s Chunk)
In a large skillet add the Israeli/pearl couscous to a dry, hot skillet. Gently stir to prevent burning. After a few minutes, the couscous will start to brown. Do not burn. Not all the couscous will brown & that’s ok.
Add the chicken stock, cover, and cook about 10-15 minutes until liquid is absorbed. Remove cover and set aside.
In a small skillet, saute the onions until they start to caramelize then add spinach. Cook until it starts to wilt then add the garlic & cook another minute. Sprinkle with salt & pepper.
Add the cooked onions, spinach & garlic to the couscous. Stir well. Cover and set aside until fish is done.
Line a large rimmed baking sheet with a piece of parchment paper or aluminum foil. Turn oven to 500ºF or broil. Once hot, reduce the oven temperature to 425ºF.
Rinse tomatoes with water (no need to dry them). Coat the cherry tomatoes & whole cloves of garlic with 1 Tablespoon of EVOO. Sprinkle with salt. Combine well. Place on the lined baking sheet.
Place baking sheet on the top oven rack and bake for 15-20 minutes, until tomatoes blister & garlic is soft (there should be a bit of juice too)
Remove from the oven when done. Using a fork or a wooden spoon, smash the garlic (it slips right out of the skin). Take half the tomatoes plus the juice and garlic then add to couscous, mixing well.
Just before serving, crumble & add the Feta cheese to the couscous.
To serve, place cooked couscous mixture on a serving platter and sprinkle with remaining blistered tomatoes & garlic. Garnish with sprigs of fresh oregano & thyme.
Notes: This dish makes the perfect side dish to any meat or fish or serve alone mixed into a fresh mixed-greens salad for a refreshing summer main dish.
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.