Friday, January 28, 2011

Italian Sausage Tortellini Stew

This rich and hearty stew is perfect for this long cold Chicago winter.  I love the combination of the acidic broth, the spicy sausage and the soft creamy tortellini.  Not to mention that it pairs up perfect with the remaining bottle of wine and some crusty bread.  And maybe it's because I am grown now, but to me the more vegetables the better.  I hope your family enjoys this melody of flavors as much as mine does.

1 lb. Italian sausage
1 medium onion (chopped)
1 garlic clove (minced)
1 cup of red wine (you should always cook with the wine that you enjoy to drink, so I used a sweet one-Lambrusco BUT I have also used Cabrenet-which I detest- and loved it)
3 (14 1/2 oz.) cans of undrained diced tomatoes (I used some italian-flavored ones and I have also used my own and )
1 (8 oz.) can of tomato sauce
1 (14 1/2 oz.) can of chicken stock
2 carrots (peeled/ sliced)
1 T. sugar
1/3 of a bag (3 oz.) of fresh whole baby spinach leaves
2 small zucchini's (halved lengthwise, then sliced)
1 pkg. frozen cheese tortellini

-Saute' sausage, onion and garlic in a large stockpot with a little bit of extra virgin olive oil.  Drain off liquids and begin to brown sausage.  Pour in red wine to deglaze the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon (that's where all the flavor is!).  Add in tomatoes, sauce, carrots and sugar.  Bring to a boil and simmer for about 30 minutes.  Using a metal spoon, skim off fat.  Remove sausage links onto a plate and thinly slice; return sliced sausage to pot.  Stir in spinach leaves (they will shrink as they cook) and zucchini and tortellini; simmer for 10 minutes more before serving.  Serve with french bread. Serves 6.  Enjoy!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Sugar Cookies

Here's a great way to spend a cold and snowy winters day.  These cookies are so much fun to make.  My daughter, Paige, was so excited to use the cookie cutters.  We picked them up at a craft store about 2 months ago, and to tell you the truth, I don't think she could wait another day!  She has been hounding me to make sugar cookies since the day we bought them.  Since the recipe is so simple and easy, I really did let her do it all.  And she loved every minute of it to the fullest.  This is what memories are made of.

1 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup real unsalted butter (softened)
2 eggs (let stand at room temp for at least 20 minutes)
1 1/2 tsp real vanilla extract
3 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda

-Preheat oven to 350*.  Using a hand mixer combine sugar, butter, eggs and vanilla in a large bowl.  In a small bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder and baking soda; mix into batter in 3-4 increments, making sure to thoroughly combine them.  Wrap cookie dough in saran wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes (chills it so you can work with it easier).  On a moderately floured counter top, roll out (flour your rolling pin often) to about a 1/4" thickness.  Cut out shapes with cookie cutters (dip cookie cutters in flour so the dough doesn't stick to them) and place on an ungreased baking stone or cookie sheet. Bake for 12-15 minutes (don't let the edges get too brown!).  Once cooled, you can top off with frosting and sprinkles, or like we prefer just leave them plain.  Makes 3-4 dozen.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Meatballs in Red Cream Sauce

Talk about mid-winter comfort food right?!  I absolutely love homemade meatballs.  And by now I am sure you all know my obsession with cream cheese.  But for some reason, I have always been intimidated of making homemade meatballs.  And for why I have no idea.  Not only is it really rather simple, but you have enough to freeze for the next time.  And the possibilites for meals are endless with the leftovers.  You can turn around and whip up some Meatball Kabob's, Italian Meatball and Tortellini Soup, Meatballs Sub's and on and on. 

For Meatballs:

2 lbs 80/20 ground beef
1 box (6 oz.) Pork Stove Top Stuffing Mix
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 1/2 cup water
2 eggs (beaten)

-Preheat oven to 400*.  Combine all ingredients well in a large bowl.  Using an ice cream scooper and your hands, shape meatballs (roughly a 1/4 cup each).  Place on a large foil lined and greased cookie sheet.  Bake for 18-20 minutes, seperately in batches of 15 or so.  You can save the extras in a large freezer ziploc bag.  Just make sure the bag is laying flat so the meatballs freeze individually and not in a clump.  Now you will be a step ahead on a future meal.  Makes 30-35 meatballs.

For Red Cream Sauce:

1 26 oz. jar Prego Marinara Sauce
2 oz. cream cheese
2 tsp. dried basil leaves

-In a large saucepan over medium heat, combine all ingredients.  Using a heat safe whisk, stir until smooth.  Continue stirring and bring to a light boil; reduce heat and simmer until ready to use over fresh cooked pasta and 1/2 of the meatballs.  Serve with french bread.  Serves 6.  Enjoy!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Blueberry Cream Waffles

There are endless possibilities when it comes to making homemade waffles.  And I do believe that I have found the secret to it.  It's all about the sour cream.  It creates a more lighter, softer and spongier waffle.  And from there the possibilities are truly endless.  By adding in some fresh fruit or maybe some cinnamon you can enhance and change it.  My family loves the fresh blueberries.  With a slather of salty butter, sprinkle of powder sugar and a drizzle of maple syrup we were all in heaven.  The best part of making them at home, is the fact that you can freeze the extras to have whenever you want.  Just toss them into the toaster and viola' they are literally just as good as straight out of the waffle maker.  This definitely beats paying for the packaged ones at the market.

6 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup plus 2 T. of sugar
1/4 cup baking powder
1 1/2 tsp. salt
3 1/2 cups of milk
1 cup plus 2 T. canola oil
4 large eggs (beaten)
1/2 cup sour cream
1 cup fresh blueberries (rinsed/ dried)

-Preheat waffle maker to a light setting of 2 1/2- 3 (you don't want to burn the berries).  Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl, in the order listed above; whisk until smooth.  Allow batter to rest for 5 minutes.  Pour a slight 2 cups of batter directly in the center of the lower grid.  Use a heat safe spoon to spread batter outward towards the edges, without touching them.  Close the lid and cook.  Makes 16 waffles.  Enjoy!

Monday, January 3, 2011

Mojito Lime Chicken Tacos

These are my favorite kind of dinners.  Impulse dinners is what I like to call them.  I found this marinade package at the market and that was it.  Instantly I thought that I would love some lime chicken inside a soft warm tortilla.  And at my house, if you wrap it up in a tortilla shell, my kids are gonna eat it.  There were no "table campers" sitting in front of an uneaten plate of food last night.  I absolutely love using the canned fire roasted diced tomatoes.  They give it a warmth and carry so much more flavor than even the freshest tomatoes.  And if you can't already tell, I am crazy about the lime infused sour cream.  I think that I can probably find endless possibilities for that.

2 lbs boneless/ skinless chicken breasts (sliced very thinly along the meats grain)
1 pkg Mojito Lime Marinade
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 T water
2 T apple cider vinegar
10 flour tortilla shells (warmed up on the stove burner)
1/2 can of drained fire roasted diced tomatoes (they have a terrific flavor-much better than fresh)
1/4 cup red onion (diced)
julienne sliced lettuce
1/2 cup lime infused sour cream

Lime Infused Sour Cream:
1/2 cup sour cream
juice from 1/2 of a fresh squeezed lime

-Preheat oven to HI BROIL.  Combine e.v.o., water, vinegar and marinade mix in a small bowl.  Toss in sliced chicken and stir to evenly coat.  Pour marinade and chicken into a 9x13" baking dish; cover with saran wrap and refridgerate for 1-2 hours to marinade.  Remove saran wrap from baking dish and toss into the oven (I did not dispose of the liquid marinade- I didn't want the chicken to dry up) on the top rack so it's very close to the broiler flame.  Broil chicken for about 10-15 min's (depending on how thin it's sliced); stir about 1/2 way through broiling.  Watch carefully as not to burn chicken.  For the lime infused sour cream, just stir together 1/2 cup of sour cream with the juice from 1/2 of a fresh squeezed lime; cover and refrigerate for at least a 1/2 hour to combine.  Place a few chicken strips onto a warm flour tortilla and top with tomatoes, onion, lettuce and a dollop of lime sour cream.  Serves 6.  Enjoy!