I love watching cooking shows (I’m sure you aren’t surprised), including Chopped. I am always amazed by the random mix of ingredients in the baskets and the creative recipes that the chefs create. I guess that is why I just had to try the Chopped contest sponsored by Del Monte and Food Network. The virtual basket included fresh lemon, fresh basil, feta cheese, and one can of Del Monte corn. I had a few ideas that came to mind, but one I wanted to try was a Corn Alfredo served over Penne and Chicken.
I replaced some the cream and flour typically used in an alfredo sauce with pureed corn, which also was a great way to sneak in some veggies. The alfredo sauce was seasoned with fresh lemon zest and feta to create a fresh and unique sauce that wowed my family. I made a simple dish by tossing it with pasta and chicken, and then garnished it with fresh basil and black pepper.
My recipe ended up in the middle of the gallery of entries for the contest. Just browsing the submittals makes me hungry. I can’t wait to try some of these other corn inspired dishes!
Corn Alfredo Sauce with Penne, Chicken, and Basil
1 ¼ cup heavy whipping cream
15.25 ounce can of Del Monte Whole Kernel Corn, drained
Zest of 1 lemon
1 cup crumbled feta cheese
1 pound penne pasta, cooked and drained
1 cup chopped, pre-cooked chicken
0.25 ounces fresh basil chiffonade
Black pepper for garnish
To make the corn alfredo sauce, place whipping cream, corn, and lemon zest in a medium sized sauce pan and use an immersion blender to process until smooth. Heat over medium heat until it reaches a simmer, then stir in feta cheese. Use the immersion blender again to process until smooth, then bring the sauce back up to a simmer. Place the pasta in a large bowl, remove the sauce from the heat and pour over the pasta. Add the chicken, and stir until the pasta and chicken are coated with the corn alfredo sauce. Garnish with the fresh basil and a dusting of black pepper and serve.
You know me, I often like to try something new and different. This week I wanted to try ground boar (which I found in the freezer section of my local grocery store). I decided to use the boar in a hearty, wintery ragout.
A mixture of roasted acorn squash, mushrooms, and purple potatoes, was tossed with a boar and rosemary sauce. I served the ragout over soft polenta, for a beautiful (and filling!) dinner. The true test – would the kids eat it? Sure enough, they asked for seconds of the nutty tasting boar ragout. I’m glad they are willing to try all of mom’s wild new dishes!
1 small acorn squash
½ pound purple potatoes
1 cup chopped yellow onion
2 tablespoons olive oil
8 ounces baby bella mushrooms
1 lb boar meat
½ tablespoon fresh rosemary
½ tablespoon freshly minced garlic
2 tablespoons flour
1 cup beef stock
Polenta for serving (optional)
Heat oven to 350°F. Slice acorn squash in half, and remove seeds. Cut in half moons and place on a greased baking sheet, cut side down. Cut purple potatoes into 1 inch width circles, then cut into half moons; place on a greased large baking sheet along with onions. Place both baking sheets in oven and bake for 30 minutes or until acorn squash and potatoes are tender. Remove peels from squash and cut into chunks.
Meanwhile, heat oil in a nonstick skillet over medium high heat. Add mushrooms and cook for 5 minutes, or until browned. Transfer mushrooms to a large bowl. Add boar meat and brown over medium heat, about 10 minutes. Add in rosemary, garlic, flour, and stock and simmer, stirring to mix in flour. Remove from heat and stir in mushrooms, squash, and potatoes. Serve with polenta, if desired.
I like to make a big pot of chili as an easy dinner that provides plenty of leftovers for multiple meals (lunch included). I tend to gravitate towards beef chili, but this week I was in the mood for a Pork Green Chili.
I kept it simple by using my crock pot. A pork loin was cooked until tender and easy to shred, and then creamed corn, green salsa, onions, and beans were added to make a hearty and tasty chili. The green salsa had a fair amount of kick, providing a great base for the chili. We ate ours with cheddar cheese grated on top, but a Monterey jack would compliment the dish just as well.
I’m sure I will tinker with this chili the next time I make it. I can never seem to make chili the same way twice. What is your favorite chili mix in?
Pork Green Chili
4 lb pork loin
2 cups chicken stock
1 cup diced yellow onion
2 cups jarred green salsa
One, 14 ounce can creamed corn
One 15 ounce can northern beans, drained
1 teaspoon garlic powder
½ teaspoon cumin
Cheese for serving (optional)
Place the pork loin in a crock pot with 2 cups of chicken stock on high for 4-6 hrs. Skim off the fat and shred, then add onion, salsa, corn, beans, cumin, and garlic. Stir to combine and cook on high for 1 hour longer. Serve; refrigerate any leftovers.
Notes: Looking for the same amount of kick? I used 505 Southwestern hatch green chili in medium for my chili. I was not sponsored for this post.
Many Thanksgiving gatherings include a green bean casserole. There is no denying the creamy goodness of such a casserole, but I wanted to test out a version using asparagus (a favorite vegetable in my family) with a homemade sauce.
Parboiled asparagus, get coated in a generous amount of a cream sauce, and mixed with sauuted onion, garlic, and cheese. Once baked and bubbly, it gets a dusting of crumbled bacon. I’m sure this dish will be irresistible at our Holiday feast!
2 lbs asparagus
6 tablespoons butter, divided
1 cup diced yellow onion
½ tablespoon freshly minced garlic
4 tablespoons flour
1 ½ cups ½ and ½
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
2 cups shredded Monterey jack cheese
½ cup cooked and crumbled bacon
Bring 4 cups of water to a boil in a large pot. Add the asparagus and boil for 5minutes; drain and add asparagus to a greased 2.8 Liter casserole dish.
In a non-stick skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of butter. Once melted, add the onions and saute for 8-10 minutes, or until translucent and begin to brown. Add the garlic during the last minute of saute; remove from the heat. Return the non-stick skillet to the stove and melt the remaining butter over medium heat. Add the flour to the butter and stir frequently for 2-3 minutes. Slowly add the half & half, stirring until smooth and sauce begins to thicken. Add the salt and pepper, then pour over the asparagus. Add the onions, garlic, and Monterey jack cheese to the asparagus, and gently toss to evenly coat the asparagus with the sauce and cheese.
Heat oven to 350°F. Bake the casserole for 20 minutes, then top the casserole with the bacon and bake for 10 minutes longer, or until the casserole is hot and bubbly. Serve; refrigerate any leftovers.
At family gatherings, my grandfather would always set out a bowl of cashews for a snack. My guess is that this tradition started my love of cashews, which is why I tend to be the offender who will steal them from the mixed nuts if given the chance.
I use them periodically in my cooking, such as my Cashew Chicken Stuffed Avocados and Asian Salad, but this week I wanted to make a candied cashew for snacking and to serve at this year’s holiday gatherings. I kept them simple – a mixture of maple syrup, oil, and allspice was all I needed to make a sugary glaze for the nuts.
After just 15 minutes of baking the Maple Cashews were ready for snacking. I have enjoyed this treat throughout the week and I can’t wait to share them with my family.
¼ cup pure maple syrup
1 tablespoon olive oil
½ teaspoon allspice
2 cups cashews
Heat oven to 350°F. In a small bowl, stir together the maple syrup, olive oil, and allspice. Place the cashews in a medium sized bowl, pour over the maple syrup mixture, and stir to coat. Spray a large baking sheet with cooking spray, then spread the cashews over the sheet. Place in the oven for 15 minutes, stirring frequently. Remove from the oven and cool completely; store in a cool, dry container.
This week, one of the books my daughter brought home for reading homework was Stone Soup. If you have never read the book, the story is about an impoverished town that comes together to share the small amounts of food they have to create a large and scrumptious kettle of soup. Reading about a “little bit of meat, a little bit of beans, and a little bit of carrots” got me thinking that a hearty soup was just the ticket for this weekend. Not only would I get to use the last bit of kale from my garden, but it also would give me a vehicle to get more beans into the kid’s diet.
I chose mild Italian sausage as my “little bit of meat” since it would add a lot of flavor. I rounded out the soup with kale, black beans, carrots, onions, and chicken broth. The soup was delicious without being too heavy. The kids thought it was a fun way to bring the book to life. Stone soup never tasted so good!
Sausage and Kale Soup
1 lb mild Italian sausage, without casing
12 cups chicken stock
1 cup diced carrots
1 cup diced yellow onions
3 cups kale
One 15 ounce can or black beans, drained
Add the sausage to a large pot and brown and crumble over medium heat. When the sausage is cooked through, add the stock, carrots, and onions. Bring to a boil and add the kale and black beans. Cook for until the kale is wilted, then serve. Refrigerate any leftovers.
Two months in to the school year and my daughter is bored with lunches. To spice up her lunch box AND do something fun for Halloween, I decided to make an easy Spooky Sandwich.
I bought a set of food markers (I found mine at Walmart, but a craft store would also be a good source) to decorate some lunch items. It is best to draw on a more solid surface, such as royal icing, or in this case a tortilla. Soft items like bread or oily/crumbly items don’t work well.
I drew skeletons onto one half of the tortilla before filling them with cheese to make quesadillas. I also drew on sandwich rolls, just make sure to roll the sandwich first so that you don’t hide some of the image.
This is such an easy way to bring a smile to your kiddos face without much effort. Every now and then I plan on surprising my daughter with flowers or faces on her sandwiches!
Shredded cheddar cheese or cheese slices and lunch meat
Use food marker to draw on tortilla, then build quesadilla (or sandwich), and serve.
When I was little, my parents would throw a Christmas party that was the highlight of the year (in a child’s eyes). The house was decorated with trees galore and Santa was sure to make an appearance. Of course there was also the thrill of a banquet of food, treats, and dessert. One year in particular sticks in my mind though. My parents packed us in the car, drove to downtown Chicago, and visited a soda shop. The shop sold soda in all sorts of flavors, which you could sample before purchase. We settled on strawberry flavored and peppermint flavored pop for our party. Pop was an infrequent treat, so to go to a specialty shop was extra special.
Unfortunately the store we visited is no longer in business, but a store recently opened in my neighborhood that specializes in soda. Seeing the store refreshed my holiday memory, so of course I had to take a peek at their flavors. The flavors range from unique to wacky and are too numerous to list here. However, here are a few that sounded interesting enough to try:
Perhaps I will have to see if they have a peppermint flavored version I could sample over Christmas. Do you have any fun, food related memories?
I had mentioned that I went a little bit nuts with the purchase of exotic fruits a few weeks ago. This is my third, and final exotic fruits post for a while. The feature of today’s post is cape gooseberries. The gooseberries of my childhood were of the green variety, which grew in my grandmother’s backyard. I had never see orange gooseberries that resembled tomatillos in packaging, meaning a paper thin husk that surrounds the fruit.
Cape gooseberries, which are also referred to as ground cherries, have a unique and hard to describe flavor. It is a combination of a bunch of sweet and tart fruits rolled into one, such that I can only suggest you give it a try to see what I mean.
To showcase the flavor I chose to make a simple salsa. I mixed diced cape gooseberries with red onion, green onion, lime juice, and honey, which served as a topping for roasted chicken.
OK, so cape gooseberries might be hard to find, but I still like trying new things. What unique fruit do you want to recommend?
20 cape gooseberries, quartered (~3-4 ounces)
2 tablespoons diced red onions
2 tablespoons diced green onions
1 tablespoon lime juice
1 tablespoon honey
Mix together the gooseberries, red onion, green onion, lime juice, and honey. Stir to combine and refrigerate until ready to serve.
This week I had a taste for lox and all of the typical accompaniments – tomatoes, cream cheese, onions, etc. But instead of making a breakfast spread, I turned it into a Smoked Salmon Alfredo.
The cream cheese was blended into a smooth sauce for spaghetti, which served as the base for my other mix-ins. The star of the entree is the smoked salmon, which is broken into chunks and scattered through the dish. Even my husband (who isn’t super fond of a pasta-seafood combo) loved it. I hope you enjoy this spin on a classic just as much!
Smoked Salmon Alfredo
8 ounces cream cheese
4 ounce half and half
1 lb spaghetti
8 ounces baby tomatoes
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
½ cup diced green onions
½ cup diced red onion
6 ounces smoked salmon, broken into chunks
In a small sauce pan, place the cream cheese and half and half and simmer over medium heat until the cream cheese is melt; stirring frequently. While the sauce is simmering, cook the pasta according to package directions. During the last minute of pasta cooking, add the tomatoes to the water with the pasta. Drain the pasta and tomatoes and add to a large bowl. Stir the salt and pepper in to the cream sauce, and pour the sauce over the pasta and stir to coat. Add the green onions, red onions, and smoked salmon to the pasta, stir to evenly mix and serve.
These days it seems that the arrival of fall is announced with pumpkin everything. Yet when thanksgiving rolls around, people are divided between pumpkin pie and pecan pie. This Fall Favorites Trail Mix allows you to stop the bickering.
Homemade pumpkin granola, pecan pie M&Ms, caramel pieces, and raisins get tossed together for a sweet treat. It’s such a hit, you will have to make batch after batch to keep it on hand.
Fall Favorites Trail Mix
½ cup canned pureed pumpkin
½ cup honey
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 teaspoon maple extract
1 teaspoon apple pie spice
¼ teaspoon salt
4 cups quick cook oats
5 ounces pecan pie M&Ms (1/2 a bag)
2 ounces caramel baking chips
1 cup golden raisins
1 cup pecans
Preheat the oven to 325°F. Line a half sheet baking pan with parchment paper. Stir together the pumpkin, honey, oil, maple extract, apple pie spice, and salt. Fold in the oats until coated evenly. Spread the oats onto the parchment lined pan and spread evenly. Bake for 20 minutes, stir and redistribute and then bake for 20-30 minutes longer until golden brown. Cool completely, than add to a large container. Add the M&Ms, caramel baking chips, raisins, and pecans and toss gently.
As I mentioned a few weeks ago, I picked up quite a few exotic fruits at my local grocery store. One was prickly pear, which is also known as cactus fruit. Once the spines and skin are removed, the pulp inside is typically pureed for recipes for easier removal of the seeds inside.
The fruit is a beautiful ruby color, which I thought would be great as an addition to a yogurt parfait or topper for pancakes. Just a bit of sugar and lime juice was all I needed to add to make the prickly pear syrup. It was a hit with the whole family – I love trying new things!
Prickly Pear Syrup
2 prickly pears
¼ cup white sugar
1 tablespoon lime juice
Remove the skin from the prickly pears, then add the fruit to a food processor and blend until liquefied. Strain the liquid to remove the seeds and add the liquid to a small sauce pan, along with the sugar and lime juice. Heat over medium heat and bring to a boil. Boil for 5-8 minutes or until juice begins to coat the back of a spoon. Place in a glass jar and refrigerate until ready to use. Use as syrup on yogurt, ice cream, or pancakes.
Note: If harvesting prickly pears yourself, make sure to follow safety tips for handling them with spines