Pasta Alla Norma

 

 

This past October we spent time in Sicily biking through various regions. The food in Sicily was definitely some of the best Italian Food I have ever had including mainland Italy. One of the mainstays was eggplant and I totally love eggplant and will eat it almost every which way it was prepared. This particular dish was always a favorite of mine and I decided to try to make it without frying the eggplant. It came out delicious and this is what I did. Of course if you’d like you can always fry up the eggplant and then add it to your sauce. This worked out very well.

Enjoy!

Ingredients:

1 large eggplant or 2 small ones

4 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil– divided

Kosher Salt and Freshly Ground Black Pepper

1/2 sweet onion–thinly sliced

3-4 garlic cloves

1 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes

1 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes–I love the heat but you can always let people add this at the table if you prefer

1 tsp. dried oregano

1 box –1 lb. bite size dry pasta, I love Rigatoni here but Penne works well as well as any small bite size macaroni

Grated Parmesan Cheese

Directions:

Cut unpeeled eggplant into 1″ cubes — First cut into thick slices and then cut into 4 pieces –you can achieve this quickly by cutting 3 slices and then with a sharp knife cut slices into 4 pieces — Put cubes into a bowl and sprinkle with 1-2 Tablespoons Olive Oil some red pepper and Kosher Salt and Pepper mix up and spread on a sprayed baking sheet and place in oven at preheated 400 degree oven for approximately 30-40 minutes. You’ll want the eggplant softened but not mushy.

In a large saute pan heat the remaining 2 Tablespoons of Olive Oil over medium heat and saute the sliced onion until tender and translucent. Add the garlic and cook for another minute or so. You can sprinkle onion with a little kosher salt here as well.

Stir in the 28 oz of crushed tomatoes and bring to a simmer. Add a little red pepper here, oregano and season with salt and pepper to your liking. It will take about 30 minutes for sauce to really develop and I then thinned it down by adding a little water . Add 1/2 cup at a time– I added a few times during the cooking process — just don’t add too much water at any given time. You can also throw in a little red wine to thin out which I’ve been known to do.

While the sauce is cooking I cooked my pasta al dente. I used some of the pasta water to thin out sauce at the end.

When eggplant is finished cooking add to the sauce, toss well to coat the eggplant and allow it to sit in sauce for a little bit ( app. 10 minutes or more )

I plated up my pasta and added sauce to each individual bowl and served with grated Parmesan Cheese. Also would be delicious with Ricotta Salata sprinkled on top of Pasta in place of Parmesan Cheese.

*you can add pasta to your pan if your pan is large enough to hold it all.

Should serve 4 very nicely

Sour Cream Banana Bread

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Woke up to a snowy day here in Colorado and 3 Rotten Bananas! There is always something to do with these brown babies so don’t throw them in the garbage please. This is an easy recipe and you’ll only need a few staple items plus sour cream, eggs and butter if you don’t already have these items in the house. The nuts are totally optional . If you don’t want to eat it right away you can make the bread and freeze it for another time. I actually always want to taste it after cooking so I cut bread loaf in 1/2 and took out a few slices and then I freeze the 2 halves.

Perfection!

This is what I did.

Ingredients:

1 stick unsalted butter – softened– you can soften in microwave but I don’t melt it

1 cup sugar

2 eggs, beaten

1 1/2 cups flour

1 tsp. baking soda

1/2 tsp. salt

1 cup mashed bananas — I used 3 smallish bananas

1/2 cup sour cream

1 tsp. vanilla

1/2 cup chopped walnuts if you like the nuts

Directions:

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 9 inch loaf pan or 3 small ones. I used Cooking Spray like Bakers Aid or Pam.

I used my Kitchen Aid Mixer and creamed the butter with sugar until light and fluffy , Add the beaten eggs and mix well. I used the low setting and the Paddle Attachment.

In a large bowl , whisk the flour, baking soda and salt; then combine with the butter mixture on a low-speed add in the flour mixture.

Add the sour cream, bananas and vanilla and mix well till combined.  Do not over-mix just mix till all combined. Scrape sides of bowl.

Pour 3/4 full of batter into the loaf pan and bake for 50 minutes. I used a cake tester and it came out clean after 50 minutes. If cake tester still has batter watch it and take out in 5 minute intervals till tester comes out clean.

Allow to cool and turn out onto plate .

Amazingly Delicious for those of you who love a good Banana Bread!

Simple Red Chili — Turkey or Beef

It’s time to start thinking about Superbowl not to mention cold winter nights. The food that always comes to mind is chili. I have already posted my white bean chili, which I love but this is a more common version. Chili is not an exact science and you can feel free to make substitutions where you like. Obviously the toppings are optional and at your own discretion. Chili is just so easy to make. It sits on the stove or your slow cooker and when you’re ready to eat it, it’s all done. I like chips or taco shells with this. I love fresh jalapeno on the side chopped up, guacamole, refried beans, etc. If you don’t want beef, make it with turkey instead. I usually make it with turkey but this time out I made it with ground beef because I couldn’t get the turkey. We just landed in Aspen and the small market by the airport only had ground beef so it will have to do. I usually make this one day ahead for a special event. This allows the flavors to all meld together and then I just reheat–couldn’t be easier.

A little trick I learned a while back was to add a little Masa flour. It is usually available in the section with Mexican foods. I stumbled upon it quite by accident, and sneak it in with this recipe. I use about 1/8 a cup of Masa flour to about 1/2 cup very hot water. I add it during the first 1/2 hour and see how it thickens up. I probably use about 2/3 of the flour in the end, and it adds a corn flavor and thickens up the chili. (Directions are below.)

Ingredients:

2 lbs. ground beef or ground turkey–If I am using ground turkey I prefer ground dark meat if you can find it. It’s much more flavorful . You can use white meat turkey but try for 85/15. That’s 85% white meat with 15% fat. I just find the O% fat to be very dry. Of course these are all personal choices.

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 can (12 – 14 oz) tomato sauce, and then about 1 –  2 cans of water

1 can (Ro-tel) diced tomatoes and chilies

1 can (15 oz.)red kidney beans, drained and rinsed

1 can (15 oz.) pinto beans, drained and rinsed

1/8  cup masa harina (corn flour) found in the Mexican food section of the supermarket (Mix flour with about 1/2 cup very hot water. It will be quite thick. Drop in by spoonfuls and mix well to incorporate. I probably used 2/3 of the flour mixture. This is optional but ever since I discovered it, I’ve been using it.)

1 can yellow corn (optional, but I always like to add it in. I use a small 8 oz. can)

1 small can (4 oz.) poblano green chilis, cut up or diced (also in Mexican aisle)

1 teaspoon ground oregano (I use Mexican oregano. Use it if you can get it. If not, regular is fine.)

1 tablespoon ground cumin

2 tablespoons chili powder

1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (I like the heat. This is optional. You can also take down to 1/4 teaspoon.)

1 teaspoon kosher salt (then you will taste for additional salt. I added 1/4 teaspoon more at the end.)

Grated shredded cheddar or jack cheese for serving

diced red onion and diced fresh jalapeno for serving

Tortilla chips, guacamole, sour cream and salsa for serving

*cilantro for topping (I love cilantro so I chop it up and leave it out for individual garnish.)

Directions:

Place the ground beef or turkey in a large stock pot (Le Creuset) and put in the garlic. Cook over medium heat until meat is browned. Drain off any excess fat.  Add in the tomato sauce, chili powder, cumin, oregano, salt and cayenne. Stir together well, and reduce heat to low. I use the 15 oz. can of tomato sauce as a measuring cup and add 1 -2 cups of water (this time out I used 1 1/2 cans of water.) Let simmer for an hour or so, covered, occasionally stirring, and adding water, if necessary.

Place the masa harina in a small bowl. Add 1/2 cup water and stir together with a fork. Add masa mixture to the chili and stir together and taste for seasonings. Add more water if needed. Add the beans, corn, and chilis. I usually add salt at this point. Simmer for another 1/2 hour or so covered. It can simmer for a long while, if you so desire. Or, turn off heat, and just heat up 1/2 hour before serving.  You should check for thickness. During the last 1/2 hour, I added a bit more water .

Serve with assorted toppings I’ve listed. Cheese, jalapenos, chips, guacamole, salsa, chopped red onions, sour cream  and cilantro. We love small soft tortillas on the side of our chili!

Sheet Pan Chicken Fajitas

IMG_7067IMG_7069More of my favorite way to cook with Chicken Fajitas made on the Sheet Pan . I made this the other night for the first time. I am always experimenting with making Chicken Fajitas in new ways and trying to keep the oil down. If you use too little oil they come out tasting dry and that’s no good so use the 3-4 tablespoons of olive oil that I suggest.  This is what I did and I served with small soft tortillas and you can provide any fixings you like. I also served over rice in a bowl which is how I like to eat my fajitas. Obviously what you do with them is totally up to you! A little sour cream and guacamole never hurt anyone either.

*it is important that all veggies be cut up into fairly uniform sizes this will help cooking process and timing

Enjoy!

Ingredients:

1 1/2 lbs. of chicken breast tenders– or just cut some chicken cutlets into strips

1 yellow bell pepper –sliced into 1/4″ slices

1 red bell pepper–sliced into 1/4″ slices

1 orange bell pepper–sliced into 1/4″ slices

1 small red onion–sliced into 1/4″ slices

3-4 Tablespoons of Extra Virgin Oil –now I have tried 2 Tablespoons and it was a little dry so use your own discretion here

1 teaspoon of kosher salt –this was enough for us but again use your own discretion

several turns of the pepper mill — freshly ground black pepper always works best

2 teaspoons of chili powder

1/2 teaspoon of garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon of onion powder

1/2 teaspoon of ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon of smoked paprika

Lime for squeezing at the end

*fresh chopped cilantro for garnish and delicious flavor if you like it

*warmed tortillas–if you like

Directions:

Preheat oven to 425 degrees

In a large bowl , combine onion, bell pepper, chicken strips, olive oil, salt and pepper and all the spices. Start with 2 Tbsp. of Olive Oil and add more . I really felt it needed more than 2 Tbsp.

Toss well and combine and allow to sit for a few minutes.

Spray a baking sheet with non stick cooking spray

Spread chicken and onions and everything on baking sheet

Cook at 425 degrees for about 20 minutes, if you’d like to use a meat thermometer here chicken should be 165 degrees. After 20 minutes I turned the oven to broil and cooked for additional 2-4 minutes just letting the veggies get some nice color. Watch it carefully to make sure it doesn’t burn.

I served in bowls over rice with warm mini tortillas and sour cream and guacamole.

*should serve 3-4 nicely with the rice and sides

Enjoy!

Winter Cabbage Soup with Veggies

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Skiing on Aspen Mountain

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Simmering Soup

Because this has a lot of cabbage I am calling it Cabbage Soup but it’s really a tomato based Vegetable Soup with a lot of cabbage — 1/2 head of cabbage. I love it and it’s very tasty and delicious. Heart warming on these cold winter nights. A perfect lunch meal or dinner alongside a salad with some toasty crunchy bread for dipping. This is what I did.

P.S. Vegan and Gluten Free for those who care

Ingredients:

1 large yellow onion , chopped

3 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 1/2 Tsp. Kosher Salt– you may want to add more it’s up to your taste– I added more

4 medium carrots, cut into small pieces

4 ribs of celery, cut into small pieces

5 cups of Vegetable Stock and if you don’t care about the Vegan thing add Chicken Broth –you can also just use plain old fashioned Water if you don’t have Broth in the house . The broth adds a little more flavor for sure.

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

28 ounce can whole peeled tomatoes

1/2 of a smallish head of cabbage– if it’s a large head use a little less

2 Tsp. of chopped fresh Rosemary

2 15 oz. cans of kidney beans, drained and rinsed

1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes

1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

Grated Parmesan for Serving

Directions:

Chop the onion. In a very large pot, ( think Le Creuset large Dutch Oven) heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion and 1/2 tsp. of the salt and cook the onions down till they’re translucent ( lower heat if necessary because we don’t want any burning here) Cook until soft and translucent about 5 minutes.

While the onion is cooking down, cut the carrots and celery into small pieces. Add to the pot and cook along with onions till softened about 6- 10 minutes on a low flame.

Add the finely chopped garlic to the pot and cook for a minute or so

Add the tomatoes and 5 cups of broth ( you’ll probably have to add more broth or water as the soup cooks ) Break the tomatoes up with your wooden spoon and let this come to a low boil.

Shred the cabbage and chop the rosemary. Add the cabbage and rosemary, drained beans, red pepper flakes, black pepper, and the remaining 1 tsp. of kosher salt to the pot. Partially cover with a lid allowing some steam to escape, reduce the heat to a simmer until the vegetables are tender. I definitely cooked for an hour or so, I like to cook my soups for a long while. You’ll have to check on it for more salt and more liquid.  I definitely added more salt and more broth as I went along.

Serve topped with grated Parmesan Cheese if you’d like .

Enjoy!

 

 

Sheet Pan Honey Balsamic Chicken with Brussels Sprouts

This is an easy and healthy sheet pan meal with honey balsamic chicken and brussels sprouts ready in 1/2 hour!!!!! My kind of meal every day of the week . It was so super easy and ingredients were minimal . I stopped and picked up chicken and brussels sprouts and I had all the other ingredients in the house. I asked the butcher at Whole Foods to pound the chicken breasts so they would cook quickly and it was truly perfect. I served over rice but if you’re really watching your waistline after the holidays you can omit it . Easy Peasy , Healthy and Delicious that’s how I like it.

Ingredients:

3-4 boneless skinless chicken breasts

1 lb. brussels sprouts, cut in 1/2 lengthwise

3 Tbsp. Olive Oil

1 teaspoon Italian Seasoning

1/2 tsp. Kosher Salt and a few turns on the Pepper Mill

1 cup Balsamic Vinegar

4 Tablespoons Honey

1/4 tsp garlic powder

1/4 tsp. kosher salt

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Ask Butcher to pound chicken breasts to even thickness and less than 1 inch thick. Combine chicken and brussels in a large bowl, drizzle with olive oil and toss to coat.

Arrange chicken and brussels sprouts on a sprayed sheet pan ( Pam).  Season with italian seasonings and salt and pepper. Transfer to oven and bake for 15 minutes or until chicken is cooked through and brussels are almost fork tender. I cooked for 15 minutes.

Now prepare the glaze:

Add balsamic vinegar to a medium sauce pan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and boil for app. 6-8 minutes until reduced to half the original volume. Remove from the heat and stir in the honey, garlic powder, and salt. Allow the sauce to cool while the chicken finishes cooking.

After Chicken and Brussels have baked for about 15 minutes, switch to broil for app. 2-4 minutes . Be careful not to burn up brussels sprouts, just check on it after 2 minutes and then again. Remove chicken sheet pan from oven, drizzle with the balsamic glaze and a little cracked black pepper and serve. I served over rice and it was just perfect.

*This should serve 3-4 people nicely especially with the rice.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Top Ten Recipes of 2017

 

This list is not necessarily my favorite recipes on my blog but the ones chosen by my subscribers. While I thought it was a pretty delicious year with lots of new recipes it seems that this list is composed of a lot of oldies but goodies. Baked Salami always hits #1 and it baffles me for so very many reasons. It is a recipe I have been making since I got married in 1975 and one would think that people just don’t eat like that anymore but it consistently hits #1 worldwide. Go figure? I get the Butternut Squash Soup  and of course Mushroom Barley and Peach Farfel. Cauliflower Salad is probably one of my most favorite salads on this list. In any event these are the recipes that you have looked at the most and googled the most and made the most I assume. I have followers all over the world and it’s funny to see what people favor from different countries. Though I can’t see which one of you individually look at each recipe I do see the hits from all over .

Wishing all of you a very Happy , Healthy and Delicious New Year. Keep Cooking with Candi in 2018 and let’s try some new recipes together in the new year. This is my 7th year doing this and I enjoy it as much today as when I started my blog back in 2011. I love hearing your feedback, comments and even the criticism. So keep it coming. Pass on the word to your friends please and looking forward to seeing more of you in 2018.

Top Ten Recipes of 2018

  1. Baked Salami
  2. Vinaigrette with Maple Syrup
  3. Creamy Butternut Squash Soup–no cream
  4. Mushroom Barley –side dish
  5. Chicken Cubes with Rosemary, Lemon and Garlic
  6. Peach Farfel for Passover
  7. Pumpkin Walnut Bread–no butter
  8. Salad we had Tonite with Meatloaf
  9. Cauliflower Orzo and Feta Salad
  10. Chicken with Mushrooms

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    Cauliflower Orzo and Feta Salad

Baked Salami (Oldie but Goodie)

This is an oldie but goodie recipe and everyone loves it always. I posted this back in 2011 and it always lands in one of the top 10 recipes on my blog every year. This is a most awesome appetizer for New Years , Superbowl or any time you are needing a great appetizer .  Rarely is there a piece left over. Good Old Fashioned Kosher Salami. (the kind in the package from Hebrew National is what I’m talking about)  A-Mazing! Totally Delicious and Addicting so watch out!

*you will want to double recipe for the larger salami shown. Recipe below is for the smaller one.

Ingredients:

1 Kosher Salami (this is a larger one for a larger crowd)

1/2 cup Marmalade ( I like orange) but can be Lemon or Ginger

2 tablespoons Brown Sugar

1 tablespoon Dijon Mustard- I used Maille Dijon Mustard

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Score into Salami, cut into Salami in narrow slices but not completely through to bottom. Just make slices almost to the bottom. Mix all ingredients together and spread on Salami, place on a lightly sprayed baking sheet and cook for about 1 – 1 1/2 hours. Serve on a plate with sliced pumpernickle or rye bread or crackers. I buy that party pumpernickle bread which is already cut into small pieces and available almost everywhere.

Pasta and Vodka

IMG_6409 IMG_6410 IMG_6412Pasta is probably my favorite go to meal, and I mean Vodka? really? Add a little cream and a can of tomatoes and you’ve got a spectacular meal. You’ll also need a little fresh basil and parmesan to finish it off. It’s an easy meal and if you have the cream and cheese in the house you’re good to go. I always stock the tomatoes and I happened to have the cream in the house and there is always a bottle of Vodka in the freezer right? Fresh Basil is a wonderful layer but if you don’t have it you’ll still be fine. This pasta cooked up in no time and it was heavenly. Perfect for Meatless Monday dinner. IMG_6415 (2) IMG_6417 IMG_6420

Ingredients:

1 lb. pasta ( rigatoni type of noodle is perfect)

3 cloves garlic, minced

*1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper– I love the heat but use at your own discretion

1/2 cup grated Parmesan, plus more for serving

1 tablespoon olive oil

app. 3/4 to 1 teaspoon of kosher salt for sauce (taste for salt) you’ll also need about 2 teaspoons to cook the pasta in

1/3 cup Vodka

1 28 ounce can whole tomatoes, I prefer San Marzano type so look for that

1/2 cup heavy cream

a few fresh basil leaves, cut up into smaller pieces

Directions:

Prepare pasta according to directions on pot , I always throw in about 2 teaspoons of salt to it. When pasta is ready , just drain. I made the sauce while the pasta was cooking.

Place a large skillet type pan on the stove (see pics) Add the olive oil and heat until it shimmers ( app. 1 minute) add the garlic and red pepper (if you’re using it). Cook garlic and red pepper and cook, stirring until soft and fragrant but not browned, this should be less than a minute. Add the vodka and cook down the vodka until it is nearly evaporated. Add the tomatoes and remaining 3/4 teaspoon of kosher salt (start here and add to your own taste) bring to a boil (breaking up the tomatoes with a wooden spoon as they cook down) A little trick I use is to use a potato masher and push down on the tomatoes while they’re cooking, just be careful and do it slowly because you wouldn’t want to get burned by some hot tomato sauce.  Lower heat to medium-low and simmer for 30 minutes. Add the cream , basil and grated Parmesan and bring to a boil , then reduce and let flavors marinate for about another 1/2 hour on a very low heat. I continue breaking up the tomato bits. Add the cooked pasta to pot and stir to coat the pasta!!!!  Serve it up!!!!! A-mazing meat-less meal.

7-layer Heaven (in a bar)

These bars are truly divine. They are, quite simply, a very small bit of heaven on Earth. Superbly sweet and gooey. Perfect for when you need to make a dessert quickly. Buy these ingredients and keep them in your pantry and then when you need to make something quickly, here you go. These bars don’t require any real baking skills and you can’t really screw them up unless you burn them (but you won’t do that!) My daughter, Jennifer, bakes these. She makes a crust first with the graham crackers and butter then layers the other ingredients. These bars are always her go-to dessert and are always welcome around our family. In doing some research for these bars (which aren’t gentle on the thighs), I found that you can dump all the ingredients in a bowl, except for the sweet condensed milk, and it works! So sweet indeed. Simple and delicious!

INGREDIENTS:

2 cups graham cracker crumbs

1 1/2 sticks unsalted, sweet butter, melted

2 cups pecans, coarsely chopped (you can buy them this way)

2 cups sweetened shredded coconut

1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

1 cup butterscotch chips (you can also use peanut butter chips or arrange a medley of whatever chips you like as long as you end up using 2 cups total)

1 1/2 14oz. cans (21 oz.) sweetened condensed milk

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Lightly grease a 9 x 13 baking pan (I spray lightly with baking spray.)

Mix together all the ingredients except for the sweetened condensed milk in a large bowl. Transfer the mixture to the prepared pan and pat it down evenly with your clean hands. Pour the sweetened condensed milk over the top to cover, using a spatula or a knife to spread, if necessary. If you like, you can add nuts on top of the sweetened condensed milk, too. That’s up to you, but this couldn’t be easier to do. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until it looks golden brown. Cool to room temperature.

*yields about 24 2-inch bars (or cut into little squares). Best if left to cool overnight before cutting and serving, when possible.