Happy Monday! I hope your week is getting off to a productive start. It’s been awfully cold around these parts lately. Dinners have been all about soup in my house. Not only is soup easy to make and a one-pot-dish, it’s comforting and warming which is all you need on a cold night. The sun starts setting around 3:30 and is down completely by 5 which is crazy but I love it. I’m still adjusting to the early nights and trying not to go to bed by 8PM but I’m all for the arrival of winter. It’s the season of bundling up, fires in the fireplace, hot cocoa, Christmas music, and comfort food. You can add this recipe for Sweet Potato Soup to your collection of cozy cold weather soups too! It’s a good for you but still stick-to-your-ribs kind of soup…Read More
It’s a brisk morning as I write this post and the final sips of my morning coffee have gone cold. I’m fighting to keep my eyes open, my sleeves are pulled as far over my hands as possible without impeding my ability to type and all I can think is that I could really use a nap. It’s not even 9AM but the call of a warm blanket is strong. Do you ever have one of those days where it’s the perfect weather outside and energy in the air to chill on the couch and watch Halloween Baking Championship reruns on the Food Network? I’ve taken one too many days off this month though and really need to put my head down and be productive. I guarantee it will include another cup of coffee...this time, one that I’ll hopefully finish before it gets cold…Read More
Fall meals that take all day to cook are lovely but weeknights are still crazy and it might not be the best time to make that 5 hour chili you’ve been dreaming about lately. You can still have a comforting fall dinner any day of the week though. In fact, I find it much more convenient to whip up easy weeknight dinners during the fall and winter compared to summer and spring. Roasting vegetables and cooking a protein is about as basic as it gets for weeknight cooking.Read More
There are certain foods that are quintessentially comforting. Soup, ice cream, cereal...sandwiches. They tend to multiply as we get older and our palates crave more flavors and textures but the foods we grow up with as kids tend to stick with us forever. Sandwiches came in many different forms while I was growing up. Peanut butter and jelly for snack time...cut in triangles, of course. Grilled cheese with tomato soup on brisk afternoons. Egg sandwiches for a great breakfast during high school and later college. Turkey sandwiches for school lunches with Hellman’s Mayo...not Miracle Whip. I could go on for days…Read More
Another Monday, another to-do list, another day of non-stop coffee drinking. I don't know about you guys but last week was insane. Honestly, the last two weeks have been insane. I’m sure this week will be no different considering work is a little bit out of control right now but the difference is I leave for a trip on Thursday night! I’ll be driving to Syracuse, New York overnight Thursday for a long weekend before heading to Boston on Monday and then Washington, DC on Thursday. It’s been a while since I’ve taken a trip and I honestly can’t wait to leave. The hardest part about going on trips is leaving the pups but they’re always here to come back to which is a lovely homecoming every time. In the meantime, this week is all about easy, low maintenance dinners...kind of like this Farmers Market Soup.Read More
One of my favorite things to eat while visiting Texas is a smoked sausage sandwich. They’re usually served at barbecue joints with some housemade bbq sauce and so delicious. Rather than the Italian kind you find around these parts, this sausage is smoked and more like a hot dog than sausage. I loved the idea of sliced sausage sandwiches because they’re crowd-pleasers and easy to pull together. The type of sausage you find in Texas isn’t as easy to track down in the midwest and even if you do, it doesn’t seem the same. The closest is Andouille or Smoked Deli Sausage and which don't live up to the real Texas kind. So while I loved the idea of recreating these sandwiches, I didn’t want to replicate them because they wouldn’t live up to my expectations. Instead, I decided to give them a little Italian Chicago twist.
Sausage and peppers is a classic combination. Something about the spice of the sausage and sweetness of the peppers makes it a crowd pleaser number. Add a little mozzarella and you’ve got a winner! These Sliced Sausage Sandwiches are inspired by the ones I have all the time in Texas but with a different flavor profile. They're also most likely a lot healthier. They’re very easy to prepare and quick too making them great for weeknights. The packaged sausage in the deli aisle that’s pre-cooked is such a great ingredient for weeknight cooking. There are so many options and many of them not too bad in the nutrition department. I used a Chicken Sausage with classic Italian seasoning for this recipe in particular. Any variety that seems like a good match for peppers would work for this recipe.
Before you start working on the sandwiches, get some potatoes roasting in the oven. Dice the potatoes about an inch or so thick, toss with olive oil, salt and pepper and stick them in the oven for about 25 minutes until they’re fork tender and crisp on the outside. These should cook in about the time it’ll take to completely prepare the sandwiches. To start, heat a little olive oil in a large skillet. Cook the peppers first to soften them but not too much. They should still have a bite. You don’t want mushy peppers. Once they’ve developed a nice color to them and have tenderized a bit, add the sausage and cook just a few minutes to get them browning. Once that’s finished, add the mixture to the bottom bun halves, top with cheese and place in the oven. The cheese will melt and the buns will toast for great textures and flavors.
Sliced Sausage Sandwiches with Roasted Potatoes
2 Potatoes, diced
2 tbsp. Olive Oil + 1 tbsp.
4 links Chicken Sausage, sliced 1-inch thick
½ Red Bell Pepper, sliced
½ Green Bell Pepper, sliced
4 slices Mozzarella Cheese
4 Brioche Rolls, or hearty Hamburger Buns, sliced in half
Salt & Pepper
1 - Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Prep a baking sheet with tin foil. Place the potatoes on the foil-lined baking sheet, drizzle with two tablespoons of olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. Toss. Bake 20-25 minutes until crisp and browned.
2 - While the potatoes cook, prep your sandwiches. Heat the remaining tablespoon in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the peppers and cook until just starting to soften. They should still have a bite to them. Add in the sausage and cook about 5-6 minutes longer until the sausage starts to brown.
3 - Prep a second baking sheet with tin foil and lay the sliced buns on it top sides down, bottom sides up. Fill the bottom halves with the sausage and pepper mixture. Top with the mozzarella slices and place into the oven for about 3 minutes or just until the cheese melts. Remove from the oven, top with your favorite condiments (or nothing at all), and serve with the roasted potatoes alongside!
Tomato season is here! As an Italian, I can appreciate the season of tomatoes. They’re such a versatile ingredient and come in many different shapes, sizes, and even colors. I love roasting cherry tomatoes to bring out more of their natural sweetness. Heirloom tomatoes are gorgeous for salads and sandwiches. Plum tomatoes and vine tomatoes are perfect for homemade sauces. Tomatoes are never better than while at the peak of their season. The same goes for any other fruit or vegetable but tomatoes seem to be juicier and sweeter from August to September while they’re thriving. With that said, today’s farmers market recipe is a very simple and easy tomato sauce. Make it on weeknights, make it on the weekend. Double, triple, or even quadruple the batch and freeze the extras for quick dinners in the coming weeks.
What’s great about this recipe is that the other two main ingredients are also at the peak of their season right now: basil and garlic. The basil is so aromatic at this time which makes it perfect for using in homemade sauces. Its potency will lend lots of great flavor to the tomatoes. Garlic is also growing like crazy now which means it's inexpensive and fresh. I call this recipe 3-Ingredient because the others should be basics you have in your pantry. Olive oil, salt and pepper should always be stocked in your kitchen. Nothing puts me in a panic more than realizing that I just used my last drop of olive oil. So to keep that from happening, I’ll usually buy a new bottle of olive oil when I’m a little under half-way through with my current one.
There are a lot of variations of olive oil at the grocery store and it can be intimidating, especially if you’re just getting started in the kitchen or haven’t used olive oil regularly up till now. Being Italian, olive oil was always something we had on hand. We use it for everything from sweating onions to drizzling over salads. We use it straight up to dip bread, we use it in baking. It’s a basic kitchen ingredient and that’s the same for a lot of other cultures too: Spanish, French, Greek, etc. It’s also really good for you, especially in its raw form (not cooked). I always go with Extra Virgin Olive Oil. You want to stay away from anything that labeled or considered "light." Extra virgin is of the best quality and a standard option for overall use. I won’t go crazy and buy $50 bottles but I generally like my olive oil to be made in Italy, Greece or Spain and never more than one location. Surprisingly, you can find oils that have 2+ places attributed to their creation. Not good. I have, however, found a brand made out of California that's really good. Bon Appetit has a helpful article to buying olive oil as a beginner if you're interested.
Now that we’ve got ingredient information out of the way, let’s talk sauce. Like I said, this is essentially a 3-ingredient sauce: tomatoes, basil and garlic. While you prepare the sauce, get a pot of water boiling and cook your desired pasta. I used Fettuccine because we love big noodles in my house and it's a heartier pasta. Fettuccine pairs well with the fresher sauces too. First step: heat the olive oil over a medium-high heat. Add the tomatoes, basil and garlic. Season generously to taste (the S&P is your only chance to season the sauce) and bring to a simmer. Step 2: Let the sauce simmer for about 15-minutes until the tomatoes have released their juices and the bitterness has cooked out. Step 3: Toss with the fettuccine and serve. That’s it! Super easy, ridiculously quick and SOOO delicious.
NOTE: If you decide to increase this recipe and make a double, triple or even quadruple batch, increase the cook time. This is very important. Adding more tomatoes means they need extra time to cook. I would add 15-minutes for every extra “batch.” So if you double this recipe, cook 30-minutes. If you quadruple the recipe, cook for at least 60-minutes. The key is to keep stirring it every 15-minutes or so to keep the bottom from burning and tasting it along the way to see if it’s ready. And to be clear, you can absolutely cook this sauce longer than the required time. Cooking tomato sauces longer make the flavors develop more which creates a richer, sweeter, more delicious sauce. The time reflected in this recipe is the minimum suggestion for the best result. Happy cooking!
Simple 3-Ingredient Tomato Sauce
2 tbsp. Olive Oil
4 medium-large Tomatoes, diced
½ cup Basil, roughly chopped
3 Garlic Cloves, finely chopped
Salt & Pepper
1 lb. Fettuccine
1 - In a medium saucepan, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the tomatoes, basil and garlic. Season generously with salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a simmer and let cook for about 15 minutes until the tomatoes have released their juices and are no longer bitter.
2 - Meanwhile, cook the fettuccine or your choice of pasta, according to package directions. Drain and toss with the tomato sauce. Serve.
Fast food doesn’t have much of a presence in my house. The occasional burger from a local spot and a once-in-a-while Jimmy John’s sandwich are pretty much the most you’ll see us indulge in. One of my personal favorite go-to’s when it comes to eating out in a rush is Chipotle. Something tells me I won’t get much judgement from you guys either. I love Chipotle but I don’t love paying $8 for a burrito bowl on the regular and I don’t love venturing out and waiting in line. I don’t love all that especially when I can make my own burrito bowl in the comfort of my home for about the same price to serve four. With that in mind, I went on a mission to create burrito bowls at home without lots of work.
The majority of the prep for these bowls will be in creating the Pico de Gallo which is hardly anything at all. Mix together chopped tomatoes, red onion, garlic, parsley (or cilantro for you weird people), and lime juice. Side note: I hate cilantro. It takes like soap to me. If you feel the same way, use parsley instead. I substitute it for every recipe that calls for cilantro. Once the Pico de Gallo is created, layer your burrito bowls! Make a bed of rice, top it with chicken followed by the pico de gallo, corn, beans, lettuce, sour cream and cheese...or however you prefer to top your bowl.
There is an important difference to note with this recipe. The type of chicken you use in this bowl will have an effect on the flavor. Chipotle seasons their meat pretty well. So for example, I used a store-bought Rotisserie chicken which has flavor but nothing crazy. I didn’t mind the flavors being a little muted but if you want that same spicy flavor from the meat, make a note of that when you choose what chicken you’ll be using. You can chop up some leftover breasts or thighs that you seasoned for a dinner earlier in the week. Or, there are plenty of cooked chicken options in the deli section. Some stores even offer Rotisserie chickens that have been seasoned. Our store has Rosemary + Garlic along with the traditional Rotisserie-style. It’s just something to keep in mind while you’re preparing the ingredients for this meal or doing your grocery shopping for the week. Regardless of your decision, it will still turn out delightful. Promise!
Weeknight Chicken Burrito Bowls
2 small Roma Tomatoes, diced
½ small Red Onion, chopped
1 clove Garlic, minced
Juice of ½ Lime
2 tbsp. Parsley, chopped (or Cilantro)
3 cups Brown Rice, cooked (white rice is ok too)
2 cups Cooked Chicken, shredded or chopped
14 oz. Corn, drained
14 oz. Black Beans, drained and rinsed
2 cups Lettuce, chopped
¼ cup Sour Cream
2 cups Monterey Jack Cheese, shredded
Salt & Pepper
1 - In a bowl, prepare the pico de gallo. Mix together the tomatoes, onion, garlic, parsley, and lime juice. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
2 - In four bowls, split the rice evenly to make a bed for the rest of the ingredients. Layer the chicken, pico de gallo, corn, beans, lettuce, sour cream, and cheese. Serve!