Delicious Fresh Snack

Basil is our number one herb grower. I was at the Farmers Market last week and bought some gorgeous tomatoes and splurged on fresh, local cheese from Chapel Hill Creamery. I was hoping for some fresh mozzarella but unfortunately they only had smoked. Patrick and I had previously discovered this creamery on a local food tour (Taste Carolina) and had sampled some of their Farmers Cheese which is a basic, soft cheese and would be a fine substitute for the mozzarella.

We sliced up the tomatoes, drizzled with balsamic vinegar (Patrick's new fav ingredient for everything), sprinkled with freshly chopped basil, and placed a sliver of cheese atop each tomato!


 We've traveled the world with our potlucks in a manner of speaking and were beginning to run out of ideas. But then inspiration hit me... the ROYAL WEDDING! Duh, so our theme for the Sunday after the Wedding was British or Fabulous. You could bring a traditional British dish or something fancy and fabulous you thought might be served at the wedding. Unfortunately we all forgot our hats for the occasion.

Bangers and Mash by Romin
Boiled about 1.5 lbs of sweet potatoes until soft, removed the skin and mashed.  Seasoned with salt, pepper, cayenne, cinnamon and brown sugar.  Pan seared 4 links of chicken sausage (1 lb.) for about 1 minute on each side for a quick browning, then added chicken stock to the pan to slowly cook the inside for another approx. 25 minutes.  Added a little bit of the chicken stock from the pan to the sweet potatoes, then transfer the sausages to the mash.

 Beet Salad by Holly
Combine pickled beets, garbanzo beans, lima beans, cooked bacon, and balsamic vinegar.

Somewhat of a meat pie experiment by Richard
The pie crust was made with flour, shortening, a pinch of salt, and cold water. The filling was made with ground pork seasoned with salt, pepper, and allspice and cooked with garlic and shallots. The cooked meat was then transferred to a baking dish. A combination of diced potatoes and turnips were added to the same pan to soften. These were then mashed and placed atop the cooked pork. After resting in the refrigerator for about an hour, the dough was rolled out. The pie crust was then placed on top of the filling and baked in the oven at around 400F for about 20 minutes until the crust was baked. More time permitted, I would have probably made a better crust and placed it on the bottom and top of the baking dish surrounding the filling.
Unfortunately I was a little slack in my photo taking skills. There was just so much food on our buffet line that I failed to get a close-up of Richard's, my apologies. However in the above Beet Salad photo Richard's dish is in the top left corner!

Salmon Cakes by Patrick
This dish is full of fresh vegetables and an Ina Garten original. You can find the recipe here.  

Eggy Bread by David A Kate Middleton favorite!
My recipe was (for one piece)
one piece of bread (I had used rye, but I think white or sourdough would be better)
one egg
pinch of salt
pinch of ground pepper
pinch of cinnamon
1/3 cup milk
1/4 cup of cream (I didnt use cream)
Mix all ingredients but the bread in a bowl. Then dip the bread into the mix. With a buttered frying pan, put the eggy bread to fry. 1 to 1.30 minute per side.

All of the measurements were estimates. May serve with a side of syrup.

Crescent Rolls by Tilden
Compliments of Pillsbury

Tomato Jewels by me
This recipe is from the official Puff Pastry website. The recipe calls for you to deseed the tomatoes and stuff them with a cheese mixture then putting them on the puff pastry with the cheese at the top. This was difficult for me so I inverted the tomato and squished everything down. Since I did this, it wasn't totally necessary to deseed the tomatoes.

Cottage Pie by Tim
1 1/2 lbs ground round beef
1 onion chopped
1-2 cups vegetables - chopped carrots, corn, peas
1 1/2 - 2 lbs potatoes (3 big ones)
8 tablespoons butter (1 stick)
1/2 cup beef broth
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
Salt, pepper, other seasonings of choice
1. Peel and quarter potatoes, boil in salted water until tender (about 20 minutes).
2. While the potatoes are cooking, melt 4 Tablespoons butter (1/2 a stick) in large frying pan.
3. Sauté onions in butter until tender over medium heat (10 mins). If you are adding vegetables, add them according to cooking time. Put any carrots in with the onions. Add corn or peas either at the end of the cooking of the onions, or after the meat has initially cooked.
4. Add ground beef and sauté until no longer pink. Add salt and pepper. Add worcesterchire sauce. Add half a cup of beef broth and cook, uncovered, over low heat for 10 minutes, adding more beef broth as necessary to keep moist.
5. Mash potatoes in bowl with remainder of butter, season to taste.
6. Place beef and onions in baking dish. Distribute mashed potatoes on top. Rough up with a fork so that there are peaks that will brown nicely. You can use the fork to make some designs in the potatoes as well.
7. Cook in 400 degree oven until bubbling and brown (about 30 minutes). Broil for last few minutes if necessary to brown.
Serves four; recipe from Simply Recipes

Savory Elevenses by Natalie
For the Devils on Horseback
  12 dates, 1/3 cup crumbled blue cheese, 12 toasted almonds, 4 slices bacon
Preheat oven to 400°. Stuff each date with one almond and a few bits of blue cheese, then wrap each date with 1/3 a slice of bacon. Place on a baking sheet and roast in the oven until bacon is crisp, about 8 minutes.
For the Cucumber Sandwiches
  8 slices white bread, 1/2 cup cream cheese, 1/2 English cucumber-thinly sliced, Kosher salt and cracked black pepper
Cut the crusts off each piece of bread, using a rolling pin to flatten each slice. Spread cream cheese evenly on one side of each slice of bread, top 4 pieces of bread with cucumber slices, and season with salt and pepper followed by remaining slice of bread. Cut into triangles and serve along with devils on horseback and a strong cup of black tea.

Digestives by Patrick
These biscuits are a true British treat. So authentic! I bet Will and Kate have some of these in their pantry.

A Royal Wedding Kiss would not be complete without some punch for a toast!

Champagne Punch by me
1 can frozen cranberry juice concentrate
1 can frozen pink lemonade concentrate
1 can frozen limeade concentrate
1 bottle white wine, chilled
1 liter carbonated water, chilled
1 bottle champagne, chilled
1 lemon - sliced, for garnish
1/2 cup fresh mint, garnish
  In large punch bowl, combine the cranberry juice concentrate, pink lemonade concentrate, limeade concentrate, white wine, club soda and champagne. Garnish with lemon slices and fresh mint leaves.

Pork & Bok Choy Stir-Fry

Have you started noticing a theme with our posts here lately? They're stemming from our fresh veggies in our CSA box. On this night we had a large head of bok choy. We pondered and pondered about what to do with this thing because it was one of our "experimental" items for that week. I exhausted all my regular recipe searches (Google, Food Network, cookbooks) but ended up going with this one from Eating Well.

Patrick and I were both very pleased with the outcome and looking forward to eating the leftovers. Here's the recipe and I've included my notes in green italics

Pork and Bok Choy Stir-Fry 
  8 ounces soba or rice noodles  we used soba noodles
  3/4-1 pound pork tenderloin, trimmed  we used thick pork chops
  1/3 cup water 
  1/4 cup Shao Hsing rice wine or dry sherry we used cooking sherry
  2 tablespoons reduced-sodium soy sauce 
  2 teaspoons cornstarch 
  1 tablespoon peanut oil or canola oil 
  1 medium onion, thinly sliced 
  1 pound bok choy (about 1 medium head), trimmed and cut into long, thin strips 
  we sliced up some mushrooms and included these
  1 tablespoon chopped garlic*
  1 tablespoon chile-garlic sauce*
            *Patrick has Sriracha sauce stocked in his pantry so instead of buying chile-garlic sauce we used his sauce and added an extra chopped garlic to the stir-fry.

1. Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil. Add noodles and cook according to package directions. Drain, rinse with cold water and set aside.
2. Meanwhile, slice pork into thin rounds; cut each round into matchsticks. Patrick was in charge of the pork and did not think slicing them into "matchsticks" was necessary so he sliced thinly sliced them lengthwise. Later he conceded that something between what he did and a "matchstick" would be best. Whisk water, rice wine (or sherry), soy sauce and cornstarch in a small bowl.
3. Heat oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat. Add onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until beginning to soften, 2 to 3 minutes. Add bok choy
and mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally, until beginning to soften, about 5 minutes. Add the pork, garlic and chile-garlic sauce; cook, stirring, until the pork is just cooked through, 2 to 3 minutes.

4. Whisk the cornstarch mixture again, add it to the pan and bring to a boil. Cook, stirring, until the sauce has thickened, 2 to 4 minutes. Serve the pork and vegetables over the noodles.

Sweet Potato Casserole

Schnitzel time again! With our CSA we ordered some fresh arugula. Arugula has made one appearance on the blog. Do you remember this? Pork Schnitzel with Arugula. But don't be fooled. This post is not about the schnitzel or arugula.

I particularly want to highlight this paragraph from that post: "No big notes or comments with this one. I followed things by the recipe and didn't tweak too much. The only thing I would add next time is an extra shallot. Served the schnitzel with a roasted sweet potato."

Very true. This time we did add the extra shallot to the schnitzel. And upped the ante for the roasted sweet potato... King's Arms Tavern Sweet Potato Casserole! Mom prepared this dish quite a bit back in the day so it's safe to say I grew up on this recipe as well as America basically! King's Arms Tavern opened in 1772 and is presently still serving traditional dishes in Colonial Williamsburg. Visit King's Arms Tavern today, order some sweet potatoes, and this is what you'll get. Minus the marshmallows; they're a Mom addition.

King's Arms Tavern Sweet Potatoes
3 lbs. sweet potatoes
3/4 c. light brown sugar, packed, divided
3 tbsp. butter
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 tsp. salt
1 c. milk
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease a 1 1/2 quart casserole. Cook sweet potatoes in boiling salted water until done; drain, peel and mash them. Stir in all of the remaining ingredients except 2 tablespoons of sugar. Turn the mixture into prepared casserole and sprinkle with remaining sugar. Bake for 30 minutes.

I probably made about a half recipe this night and split the potato mixture into two 16 oz baking dishes. Half way through baking remove the dishes and sprinkle with marshmallows.

Eat through the marshies to reveal a dish that's been around for more than 300 years! And you know that has to be good.

Swiss Chard

Patrick and I are branching out a bit with trying some new leafy greens thanks in part to our Brinkley Farms CSA. This past week we tried swiss chard. We decided to saute them and serve with a steak. In our May/June '11 Cooks Illustrated there was "A Guide to Cooking Greens" article and this is where we found our cooking method.
Our greens served with a steak are constantly changing. Here's a review of what we've served before:
Broccoli featured in Steak, Potatoes, and a Green
Asparagus featured in Tenderloins with Rosemary and Mushrooms 

Here's the chard! The leaves are really large and you must remove the beautifully colored stems (on the right). Simply fold the leaves in half. Cut along  the edge of the stem rib to remove the thickest part. Then give a rough chop to the green leaves.

To cook: Heat evoo in a Dutch oven or large skillet over medium-high heat. Add a couple cloves of minced garlic. Saute for 30 seconds and damp greens. This moisture from washing the greens aids in steaming the leaf. Toss with tongs and continue to cook until the greens have wilted, about 5 minutes.

Another wonderful green to serve with our steaks. We had a ribeye and fixed a red wine reduction sauce with mushrooms, same as in the Tenderloins with Rosemary and Mushroom post!

Penne with Asparagus and Cherry Tomatoes

A couple weeks ago I had the pleasure of visiting with Mom, Granny, and Glenda. Whenever Granny comes to town there's probably going to be a goody basket! The goodies can include anything from candy, baked goods, newspaper clippings, and fresh vegetables. This time she brought us some fresh strawberries (which we just sliced and ate, no fun blog post there) and some fresh asparagus! Here's the fun blog post for what we did with the asparagus...

Patrick was in charge of dinner this night with one command: use the asparagus! He followed through with the help of trusty Giada! Can't go wrong with one of her dishes. Visit the Food Network website for more details and to read the comments (they're always fun) but the recipe is here for your convenience. 

Penne with Asparagus and Cherry Tomatoes 
  8 ounces penne pasta 
  3 tablespoons olive oil
  2 garlic cloves, minced 
  1 1/2 pounds thin asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces 
  Salt and freshly ground black pepper 
  2 cups (about 9 ounces) cherry tomatoes 
  1 cup shelled fresh peas (we used frozen)
  1/2 cup low-sodium chicken stock 
  1 cup grated Parmesan 
  2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil leaves

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, about 8 to 10 minutes. Drain the pasta, reserving about 1/2 cup of the pasta water.
In a large saute pan, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the asparagus, season with the salt and pepper, and cook for 3 minutes until slightly soft. Add the cherry tomatoes and peas. Cook for 2 minutes. Pour the chicken stock into the pan and bring the mixture to a simmer. Cook until the tomatoes start to burst and the stock is reduced by half, about 3 minutes. (This step took us a little longer, those tomatoes just did not want to burst.)
Transfer the asparagus mixture to a large serving bowl. Add the cooked pasta and 1/2 of the Parmesan. Toss well, adding reserved pasta water, if needed, to loosen the pasta. Garnish with the remaining Parmesan and chopped basil.

Don't like asparagus or cherry tomatoes? This dish is very similar to another veggie pasta dish we've made before. I dubbed it the Easiest Pasta Dish Ever and it features squash and peas. 

EASTER Potluck

 Potluck time! For this particular potluck the Sunday fell on Easter. We decided there's really only one cooking theme that would do the day justice... Easter food! We collectively felt that Easter food would of course just be traditional Southern dishes. I think everyone pulled out all the stops for this one; it was after all a holiday! Here's our feast:

I'm not really sure I can identify everything correctly in order but from the top of the table down it's: whipped carrots, glazed ham, deviled eggs, potato salad, rolls, asparagus with holandaise sauce, watergate salad, and red rice.
Glazed Ham by Tim
Smithfield spiral ham inspired by Paula Deen. Bake according to directions; glaze included!

Deviled Eggs by Holly
Put eggs in a pot with just enough water to cover them all,bring to a boil, boil for 10 mins.
Peel eggs and cut them in half long ways,scoop out yolk and put in a bowl
Add some mayonnaise, mustard, salt, pepper and any other spices (a little pickle relish is good too!) to the yolk and mix until creamy (to taste)
Scoop the yolk mix back into the egg half's and garnish with paprika or an herb mix 

Asparagus and Holandaise sauce
Sautee asparagus in a skillet with a tiny bit of water and oil.
For the sauce I bought two packets of holandaise sauce mix, mixed with 1 stick of butter and 2 cups of water. Heat on stove.

Red Rice by me originally made by Christine for the past two Easter's
1/4 lb bacon
1/2 cup onion, chopped
1/2 cup celery, chopped
1/4 cup green pepper, seeded and chopped
2 cups rice, uncooked
2 (16 oz) can tomatoes, pureed (I think I usually end up getting diced)
3 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1 tsp sugar
1/8 tsp tabasco
1. Fry bacon, remove and crumble 2. Saute onions, celery and green pepper in bacon grease until tender
3. Add rice, tomatoes, crumbled bacon and seasonings 4. Cook on top of stove for 10 minutes
5. Pour into large, greased casserole dish, cover tightly and bake at 350 for 1 hour

Whipped Carrots
3 navel oranges, cut in half with insides removed. RESERVE JUICE AND RINDS.
3 pounds carrots, peeled and sliced
4 tablespoons butter
4 ounces cream cheese
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
Pinch of chili powder
1 tablespoon brown sugar
Salt and pepper to taste
Steps: Place the carrots in a large sauce pan over high heat, cover with salted water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and continue to cook 30 minutes or until tender. Drain and return to pot. Using an electric hand mixer or transferring to a food processor, add the reserved juice from the oranges, butter, cream cheese, ginger, cinnamon, chili powder and brown sugar. Whip until smooth, adding more butter if necessary. Salt and pepper to taste. Fill orange shells with whipped carrots and serve alongside your favorite pork dish.

Mashed Potatoes by Natalie
Basic yummy mashed potatoes. 

 Watergate Salad by me
Combine 1 carton of Cool whip with 1 box Jello Instant Pistachio pudding mix, 1 small can crushed pineapple with juice, and 2 cups marshmallows. Refrigerate 4-5 hours before serving; could make a day ahead.

 Potato Salad and Hawaiian Rolls by Richard
Wonderful additions from Harris Teeter.

Easter Pie by Natalie
3/4 cup powdered sugar, plus extra for garnish
3 large eggs
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 tablespoon orange zest
1 (15-ounce) container whole milk ricotta cheese
1/2 cup cooked short-grained rice
1/3 cup toasted pine nuts
6 sheets fresh phyllo sheets or frozen, thawed
3/4 stick (3 ounces) unsalted butter, melted
Directions: Blend 3/4 cup of powdered sugar, eggs, vanilla, orange zest and ricotta in a food processor until smooth. Stir in the rice and pine nuts. Set the ricotta mixture aside.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
Lightly butter a 9-inch glass pie dish. Lay 1 phyllo sheet over the bottom and up the sides of the dish, allowing the phyllo to hang over the sides. Brush the phyllo with the melted butter. Top with a second sheet of phyllo dough, laying it in the opposite direction as the first phyllo sheet. Continue layering the remaining sheets of phyllo sheets, alternating after each layer and buttering each sheet. Spoon the ricotta mixture into the dish. Fold the overhanging phyllo dough over the top of the filling to enclose it completely. Brush completely with melted butter.
Bake the pie until the phyllo is golden brown and the filling is set, about 35 minutes. Transfer the pan to a rack and cool completely. Sift powdered sugar over the pie and serve.
 Unfortunately I forgot to take a picture of the dessert. I'm blaming it on a food coma.

Easter Basket Cupcakes by Patrick
These started with Duncan Hines Butter Cake. We then mixed up some buttercream and made these yellow baskets with green grass and a blue background, and finished them with some decorative jelly beans. We also made 12 simpler mini cupcakes with just a grass nest. Luckily we got some pictures of these before the feast.

The face represents how Patrick's hand felt after making 23 of these baskets. Whitney gets credit for the beautiful grass.

Pan-Seared Scallops

There's a new chef in town.
Or maybe the chef just got a new apron. Either way he's really pleased!
Equipped with a new apron to save him from popping oils the chef decided to make some pan-seared scallops served with a fresh salad.

Scallops might be a bit of a daunting challenge for a cook but they're really easy! Once you get past the "wet versus dry" dilemma. The "wet" scallops have been treated in a phosphate solution and absorb water. This isn't good for the sear. A fishmonger should sell "dry" scallops but I don't know where to find one. I think Whole Foods sells "dry" scallops so I will head over that way next time. But for this recipe we ended up with "wet" scallops. To test what kind of scallops you have, place one on a paper towel lined plate and microwave for 15 seconds. If there's a ring of water around the scallop you have a "wet" scallop. Fortunately there is a little trick you can do before you can begin cooking to mask the solution and dry out the scallop. Soak the scallops in 1 quart cold water mixed with 1/4 cup lemon juice, and 2 tbsp table salt for 30 minutes. Then line the scallops between two paper towels and let it absorb the moisture for at least 10 minutes.

Our "wet" scallops after soaking them and drying them out a paper towel. Don't be deterred by the "wet" scallops, they'll still turn out great!
Now onto the fun stuff... cooking!

Pan-Seared Scallops with White Wine Reduction Sauce
For the scallops:

1 1/2 pounds dry sea scallop , 10 to 20 per pound, small side muscles removed
   (3 scallops is a nice sized portion for someone so I only bought 6 scallops at the counter)
ground black pepper
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 tablespoons unsalted butter

Sprinkle scallops on both sides with pepper. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in 12-inch nonstick skillet over high heat until just smoking. Add scallops in single layer, flat-side down, and cook, without moving, until well browned, 1 1/2 to 2 minutes.
Add 1 tablespoon butter to skillet. Using tongs, flip scallops; continue to cook, using large spoon to baste scallops with melted butter (tilt skillet so butter runs to one side) until sides of scallops are firm and centers are opaque, 30 to 90 seconds longer (remove smaller scallops as they finish cooking). Transfer scallops to large plate and tent loosely with foil. Wipe out skillet with wad of paper towels and repeat cooking with remaining oil, scallops, and butter. Serve immediately with lemon wedges or sauce.

For the sauce
4 tbsp unsalted butter
2 green onions and 1 green garlic, sliced (both from our CSA) may also use shallots
chopped fresh herbs (we used parsley and thyme)
2 tsp lemon juice
1/4 cup white wine

Melt butter in skillet used for the scallops, 4-5 minutes or until browning. Stir in onions and garlics and saute for 30 seconds. Add in herbs, lemon juice, and white wine. Make sure to scrape all the brown bits from the scallops. Let the sauce reduce for a few minutes. Remove from heat & serve atop scallops.

Action shot.

Fresh Salmon Cakes

On my grocery trip for our previous salmon dish, I panicked at the fish counter about having too little and ended up buying twice as much salmon as we needed. We decided to save the extra to try our hand at making fresh salmon cakes. Salmon cakes are one of my favorite dishes, but we usually use the canned stuff, so this was a good experiment to see what kind of difference fresh salmon would make. This comes courtesy of The New Best Recipe.

1 1/4 lbs salmon fillets
1 slice sandwich bread, crusts removed and chopped fine
2 tbsp mayonnaise
1/4 c finely grated onion
2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
3/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp plus 1/2 c vegetable oil
1 1/2 tsp water
3/4 c plain dry bread crumbs (preferably panko)

Chop salmon flesh into pieces and mix with chopped bread, mayonnaise, onion, parsley, salt, and lemon juice. Form into patties and place on parchment-lined baking sheet. Place in freezer until surface moisture evaporates, about 15 min. Meanwhile, prepare breading stations with flour, egg/1.5 tsp oil/1.5 tsp water, and bread crumbs. Bread the patties. Heat 1/2 cup vegetable oil in skillet; add salmon patties and cook until medium golden brown, about 2 minutes. Flip and cook about 2 minutes longer.

The patty mixture. See if you can spot the mistake!
Chilling in the freezer. Sloppiness related to aforementioned mistake.
Served with a fresh salad, thanks to our CSA
Although the cookbook "wouldn't for a minute consider" canned salmon, we decided that making the cakes with fresh salmon was not worth the extra effort and cost for the small difference in taste. If we have fresh salmon, we feel it's best put to use in one of our favorite broiled salmon recipes.

Secret Ingredient Potluck

This potluck theme was inspired by Food Network's Iron Chef. If you're familiar with the show you know the competing chefs must make several dishes with one secret ingredient. Their secret ingredient is a little more specific than what I chose for our potluck since we're not trained chefs. Here's the reveal of our secret ingredient... ALCOHOL!

Unfortunately I did not have my camera this night and you will you have to imagine the yumminess. However I took a quick phone pic of the feast! (I attempted photos of the dishes but they all turned out blurry.) Pictured [l > r] Beef medallions, Risotto, Penne with Vodka Sauce, Beer Bread, Penne with Wine Cream Sauce, Onion Rings, Braised Fennel with Artichoke. Can you spot the alcohol?!

Beer Bread by Holly
3 cups self-rising flour
3 tbsp sugar
1 warm beer
Mix and put dough onto a cookie sheet. Bake at 350 for 20 mins.

Penne pasta with veggies and a wine cream sauce by Holly
Cook and drain penne pasta
Heat some olive oil in a skillet
Put veggies (broccoli, asparagus, onion, tomato) in the skillet and add about 1 cup of white wine
Cover and sautee until veggies are tender. 
Add cream (heavy or half/half). Add enough cream and additional wine to have a nice sauce for the noodles
Add pasta and mix everything together in the skillet
**This would also be really good if you mixed parmeasan cheese into the sauce while its cooking to make more of a wine alfredo sauce.

Fennel Braised with Artichokes by Whitney
Heat 1/8 cup evoo in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Brown fennel (2 fennel bulbs, fronds trimmed and bulbs cut lengthwise into 1/2-inch thick slices) in the oil, about 4 minutes stirring occasionally, and transfer to a plate. Add 1 medium onion (halved and sliced) and saute until tender, about 3 minutes. Add 3 cloves chopped garlic, 1 tsp chopped fresh rosemary, 1/2 tsp dried oregano, 1/4 tsp dried thyme, salt and pepper, and saute for 30 seconds. Stir in 1 tbsp flour until the onions are coated. Add 1/2 cup dry white wine and heat to boiling. Add 3/4 cup vegetable or chicken broth and 1/2 cup canned, drained diced tomatoes and stir until boiling. Coat the slow cooker with 1/8 cup evoo. Layer half the fennel slices in the cooker, cover with half the artichoke quarters (of a 15 oz can, drained), and then half the sauce. Repeat the layers. Cover the cooker and cook for 3 to 4 hours on high, or 6 to 8 hours on low, until everything is tender. Scatter parsely over the top and serve.
Recipe courtesy of Art of the Slow Cooker by Andrew Schloss

Beef Medallions with Red Wine Reduction Sauce by Richard
"Cut beef tenderloin into 1 in slices.
Season with salt and all spice (or your favorite meat spices).
Quickly sear each medallion with a small amount of butter and oil. Be sure that the pan is NOT a non-stick pan.
Place the seared medallions on a plate to rest.
De-glaze the pan with about 1 c red wine (I chose a red Bordeaux wine).
Add about 3 cloves of chopped garlic, about 2 sliced shallots, and a package of quartered white mushrooms.
Add about 1/2 c blueberries and 1 tsp brown sugar (or any substitute to sweeten the sauce).
Season to taste and reduce until the sauce is somewhat thick (about 15-20 minutes).
If you still want a thicker sauce, add some flour.
Pour the reduction over the medallions and garnish with fresh chopped parsley."

Beer Battered Onion Rings by Romin & Mimi
"For the batter: 1 cup of whole wheat flour, 1 egg, 1 tsp salt, several dashes of hot sauce, about 3/4 of a bottle of a golden ale and a few extra seasonings like garlic powder and oregano.  Cut 1-2 large sweet onions into rings, cover with flour, then dunk in the batter.  Fry the rings in canola oil for about a minute until golden."

Tomato and Sausage Risotto by Natalie
"Tomato and Sausage Risotto Adapted from Martha Stewart Everyday Food
Visit the website:

1 can (28 ounces) diced tomatoes in juice
1 tablespoon olive oil
3/4 pound sweet or hot Italian sausage, casings removed
1 small onion, finely chopped
Coarse salt and ground pepper
1 cup Arborio rice
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 bunch flat-leaf spinach (10 to 14 ounces), washed well, tough stems
removed, chopped (about 7 cups)
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving (optional)
2 tablespoons butter

 1. In a small saucepan, combine tomatoes (with their juice) and 3 cups water. Bring just to a simmer; keep warm over low heat.
 2. In a medium saucepan, heat oil over medium. Add sausage and onion; season with salt and pepper. Cook, breaking up sausage with a spoon, until sausage is opaque and onion has softened, 3 to 5 minutes.
 3. Add rice; cook, stirring until well coated, 1 to 2 minutes. Add wine; cook, stirring until absorbed, about 1 minute.
 4. Add about 2 cups hot tomato mixture to rice; simmer over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until absorbed, 4 to 5 minutes. Continue adding tomato mixture, 1 cup at a time, waiting for one cup to be absorbed before adding the next, stirring occasionally, until rice is creamy and just tender, about 25 minutes total (you may not have to use all the liquid).
 5. Remove pan from heat. Stir in spinach, Parmesan, and butter; season with salt and pepper. Serve immediately (risotto will thicken as it cools), and sprinkle with additional Parmesan, if desired."

Penne with Vodka Sauce by Tim
1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. In a frying pan over medium-low heat, melt 4 tbsp butter with 1 cup heavy cream. In a small bowl, dissolve 1/4 cup tomato paste in 1/2 cup vodka. Stir into the cream mixture. Add 2 tbsp fresh basil and a pinch of red pepper flakes. Season with 1 tbsp salt. Cook until most of the alcohol has evaporated and the sauce is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, about 5 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, add 2 tbsp salt and the pasta to the boiling water. Cook, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking, until al dente, according to package directions. Drain, reserving about 1/2 cup of the cooking water. Add the pasta to the sauce and warm briefly over low heat to blend the flavors. Add 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese and toss to combine. Add as much of the cooking water as needed to loosen the sauce and serve.

Things we made with... SPINACH

This post is about two impromptu dishes we threw together with ingredients that were already in our kitchen. This first one made for a quick and delicious lunch. We started with some Buitoni sweet Italian sausage tortelloni. We sauteed some mushrooms and green garlic, wilted some spinach, and threw everything together in a bowl with fresh parmesan and olive oil.

On another night, I was going to make my favorite meal when no one's looking - Kraft mac & cheese. However, with some extra ham and spinach lying around, I decided to get creative. I tossed the finished mac & cheese with them, dumped it in some ramekins, topped with bread crumbs, and toasted them in the oven. Yummy!