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Chicken Cacciatore Casserole

February 19, 2015 Entrees, Menu, Pasta No Comments

Family recipes, whether followed to the tee or slightly altered, are a key ingredient to keeping family traditions alive. They are a major inspiration for many big weekend and holidays meals, and the backbone to my food blog. For this recipe, I’m taking one of my Grandmother’s signature dishes, Chicken Cacciatore (which you can find on my blog by clicking here), and am slightly adjusting some of the measurements to make it into a casserole. Although the presentation and serving size are just a bit different from the original – I made adjustments to better serve a large crowd – the spirit and essence of Grandmom’s dish is still the main highlight. There’s nothing wrong with adding a new twist to a classic family dish, and I’m sure that my Grandmom would approve of this recipe!

 

 

Chicken Cacciatore Casserole

4 chicken breasts, cut into 1″ cubes, lightly dusted with flour
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1 tspn rosemary
1 29-oz can tomato sauce (you’ll start off with about 2/3 of the can)
1 large red or green bell pepper (or two small), cut into small pieces
1 cup water
2 tblspn vegetable oil
pinch sugar
salt & pepper to taste
1lb cooked pasta (ziti, mini shells, or whatever you prefer!)
breadcrumbs
*although I don’t prefer them, you can also add mushrooms to this dish

Step 1: The Sauce
In a large frying pan, brown chicken and garlic in oil until chicken is golden brown. Add vinegar and 1/2 cup water. Simmer until liquid evaporates. Add rosemary, about 2/3 of the tomato sauce, remaining water, sugar, salt and pepper. Add peppers, stir together, cover slightly, let cook for 30 minutes.

Note – I’m suggesting that you start off with 2/3 of the tomato sauce. A full can may be too much to add to the pan. You can add in the remaining 1/3 of tomato sauce when stirring in the pasta. The added sauce will pick up the flavors while baking.

Step 2: The Pasta
Preheat oven to 350˚. While the sauce is simmering, cook the pasta until al dente. When pasta is done, mix it together with the sauce in a 13″x9″ baking dish. If the pasta doesn’t get fully coated, add the remaining 1/3 can of sauce, stir together. Sprinkle the top with breadcrumbs. Cover with aluminum foil, place in oven. Bake for 25-30 minutes, until slightly bubbling and hot.

Serve and enjoy!

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Green Olive Crusted Salmon

January 25, 2015 Entrees, Menu, Salads No Comments

Yesterday I made an impulse purchase while shopping at my local Italian specialty shop. I’m a big fan of Spanish green olives, whether pitted or stuffed with sharp provolone or creamy gorgonzola cheese. When I saw the jar of San Giuliano Green Olive Spread, I was quickly sold. This is basically a green olive tapenade spread, which is traditional made with pureed olives, capers, anchovies and olive oil, and used as a topping on hors d’oeuvres, breads or meats. This particular brand had simple ingredients of olives, sea salt and olive oil, but still made for a nice jarred condiment to keep on hand.

I had planned to bake some salmon for dinner, and occasionally stuff it with pesto (which is a popular recipe on this blog, by the way…you can find it y clicking here). Since I had no pesto on hand, this was a perfect opportunity to put the olive spread to good use. I did a basic preparation of the salmon (olive oil, salt and pepper, lemon juice and some fresh thyme that I had on hand), and placed it in a high-heat oven. About half-way through baking, I added a thin coating of the olive spread to the salmon and let it bake through. It was a great addition to the salmon, adding a nice, zesty tang to the lightly seasoned fish. I also made a warm spinach salad with cannellini beans and grape tomatoes, which was a beautiful complement to the salmon. You can find recipes for both the salmon and the warm spinach salad below.

I have seen other brand jars of olive spread on the market, and although I haven’t tried any of them, I’m sure they would all work well with this dish or as a condiment spread. If you’re feeling a bit adventurous, search out a tapenade spread on line and give it a go!

 

Green Olive Crusted Salmon

2 salmon filets
olive oil
sea salt and black pepper
juice of 1/2 lemon
1-2 tbspns green olive spread (to your liking)

Preheat oven to 450˚. Lightly drizzle salmon with olive oil, season lightly with sea salt and black pepper. Squirt juice of 1/2 lemon on salmon. Place salmon, skin side down, on a lightly sprayed baking sheet or a non-stick pan. Bake 5-7 minutes, or until salmon starts to turn a light pink. Remove from oven, spread a light coating of olive spread on top of salmon, return to oven. Bake another 10-12 minutes, or until salmon is completely cooked through and flaky.

 

Warm Spinach Salad with Cannellini Beans and Grape Tomatoes

1/2 bag fresh spinach leaves
1 tbspn olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
juice plus zest of one lemon
1/2 cup cannellini beans
handful of grape tomatoes
salt and pepper

Pre-heat nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add olive oil and garlic, heat until garlic starts to become fragrant. Add spinach leaves, stir to coat. Add juice and zest of lemon, stir to coat. Add beans and tomatoes, continue to stir. Once spinach begins to wilt, remove from heat. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

olive salmon

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Mini Giambotta Biscuits

January 8, 2015 Appetizer, Entrees, Menu No Comments

This dish was inspired by a recipe that I recently saw for a store-bought can of biscuit dough, placed in muffin pans and filled with chicken, veggies and creamy soup to make mini chicken pot pies. The personal-sized version of popular dishes are a trendy item these days, especially for dinner parties and group get togethers. This recipe caught my attention because not only am I a fan of the personal-sized portions, but I also enjoy a warm and hearty dish this time of year. Being that we’re just coming off of the holidays, I thought a vegetable pot pie would be tasty and healthy choice. I decided to make giambotta for the filling, which is an Italian vegetable stew. Bread is always a must-have for dipping when you have giambotta, so to use it as a biscuit filling was a no-brainer.

I also chose to make my own flaky biscuits for this dish. I found a very simple and quick recipe online that calls for just a few basic ingredients and about 10 minutes or so of prep time…no electric mixer necessary! Of course, canned biscuits will work, but if you have a few extra minutes, give the home made biscuits a try. It will make the dish seem that much more impressive.

 

Mini Giambotta Biscuits

For the Giambotta
2 tbspn olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup onion, finely chopped
1 red bell pepper, finely chopped
1 zucchini, cut into 1″ pieces
1 8oz can tomato sauce
salt and pepper
1/2 tspn Italian seasoning

Heat oil in large skillet over medium-high heat until hot. Add bell pepper, onion and garlic; cook and stir 2-3 minutes or until crisp-tender. Add the zucchini, stir together and cook for another 2-3 minutes.

Add the can of tomato sauce, season with salt, pepper and Italian seasoning  to taste.

Stir together, lower the heat to medium-low, and simmer for 10-15 minutes until sauce thickens up. Set aside.

For the Biscuits
courtesy of Taste of Home
2 cups all-purpose flour
4 tspn baking powder
3 tspn sugar
1/2 tspn salt
1/2 cup shortening
1 egg
2/3 cup 2% milk

In a small bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, sugar and salt. Cut in shortening until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Whisk egg and milk; stir into dry ingredients just until moistened. Turn onto a well-floured surface; knead 20 times. Roll to 1/2-in. thickness; cut with a floured 2-1/2-in. biscuit cutter. Lightly spray a muffin tray (12 muffins). Gently place each biscuit piece into the individual muffin cups (no paper liners needed!), and gently press the dough to fill out the bottom and sides of the cups. Fill up each cup with the giambotta, making sure none spills over the side.

Bake at 450° for 8-10 minutes or until golden brown. Serve warm.

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Root Vegetable Ratatouille

November 14, 2014 Appetizer, Entrees, Menu No Comments

I always enjoy cooking with vegetables, and ratatouille is one of my favorite dishes. With Thanksgiving just around the corner, I came up with a dish that replaces most of the traditional ratatouille veggies (eggplant, tomatoes, summer squash and seasonings) with some of my favorite root vegetables (rutabaga, turnips, acorn squash, along with traditional yellow squash and bell pepper), autumn spices and a Golden Delicious apple for a bit of sweetness. I guess you can even call this dish “rootatouille!” All kidding aside, this is a great recipe to prepare along with your Thanksgiving dinner.

You will need to put in a little bit of effort ahead of time to peel and chop the vegetables. A few minutes in the microwave will help soften the acorn squash for easy cutting, and you’ll want to peel and slice the apple last minute to avoid it from browning. Once the prep work is done, all you’re looking at is 10-15 minutes of sautéing the veggies, and then the dish is ready to serve!

 

Root Vegetable Ratatouille

1 rutabaga, peeled and diced
1 turnip, peeled and diced
1 yellow squash, diced (you can use green zucchini squash if you prefer)
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 acorn squash (prep directions below)
1 Golden Delicious apple, peeled and diced (prep the apple just before you are ready to add to remaining ingredients to avoid browning)
2 tbspn olive oil
2 tbspn brown sugar
1/2 tspn cinnamon
1/4 tsp ginger
2 tbspn maple syrup (regular pancake syrup will also work)
salt and pepper to taste

Start by cooking the acorn squash whole in the microwave on high for 5 minutes. Carefully remove (it will be hot), let sit until cooled. Once cooled, cut in half, remove pulp and seeds. Remove skin, cut the squash into small chunks, set aside.

In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add the rutabaga, stir until evenly coated, cook for about 5 minutes, until it starts to soften and the pale color starts to turn into a golden brown. Next, add the turnip, pepper and yellow (or zucchini) squash. Stir together and cook for another 5 minutes, until all veggies start to soften. At this point, you’ll want to peel and dice the apple.

Next, add the apple and acorn squash to the mix, stir together. Add the brown sugar, cinnamon, ginger and syrup, mix together. Lower the heat, let simmer, stirring occasionally until all veggies are softened to your liking. If the mixture looks like it’s starting to dry up, you can add a bit of water or broth to loosen it up. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Serve and enjoy!

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