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Pasta/ Salads

Cubano Orzo Salad

The rice looking pasta.

This is another recipe using my Pappardelle’s pasta I bought at the Pike’s Market in Seattle last summer. (Can’t believe it took me a year to get around to using it.)

Years ago I tasted a rainbow orzo that I bought at Central Market in Houston. It had beautiful colors of purple, orange, green and white and for some reason it was discontinued and after that I could only find green, orange and white. That is until I happened upon this southwest blend that is made with blackbean, red pepper, red bell pepper and spinach and a lot of other flavors that make this beautiful and delicious.

For this recipe I am using what I remember from my favorite Central Market salad (and the ingredients were printed on the nutrition label, so how easy is that) but added in some of the ingredients from Pappardelle’s recipe they gave me when I bought the pasta.

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Pasta/ Side dish

Pesto Pasta with Peas

A day in the garden.

Does this pasta look like it was born in a garden. Fresh basil and parsley from my garden, fresh spinach and English peas.

This year I was co-chair (with my friend, Linda) for arranging programs for our garden club. We had been told about this garden up in Conroe, Texas, Hope Farms Gardens and knew we just had to see it. Barbara Lopez opens her home gardens for one month in April/May for people to tour and buy her plants. Her gardens are a fun place to shop because you know exactly where the plants belong. If the plants for sale are placed in her shady parts of her yard that means they belong in the shade. Same for the sunny parts of her yard and that will be where she has the plants needing sun during the day.

So, we decided to see if our Hospitality Chairperson would like to take a look at her gardens to see if she thought our members would like to have our end-of-year lunch there instead of a restaurant or country club. Everyone agreed so for all of last year I had been thinking about what I wanted to do for lunch.

After a trip to the dollar store, I came away with 45 $1 rectangle baskets perfect for our French inspired luncheon. I have literally hundreds (not really) French looking cloths (I do have about 175 cloth napkins though that I accumulated while working at Williams Sonoma). The menu started taking shape about a year in advance with the baskets to hold all the goodies. Nancy’s Chopped Salad from Smitten Kitchen caught my eye early on and I knew I wanted to put this in a wide mouth pint jar. I also knew I wanted to do a fruit crumble dessert in the wide mouth 8 oz. jars. This Pesto Pasta with Peas is a recipe I have been thinking about for a while because I knew I wanted to use these tinsey tiny bow tie pasta noodles. Homemade focaccia bread and some baby bell cheese rounded out the basket.

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Entree/ Pasta

Southwest Pasta with Black Beans and Cotija Cheese

You can never have too many pasta recipes. 

Doesn’t it seem like when we are invited to a dinner or potluck it’s hard to come up with something different to make. I know I have a problem and I’ve been cooking for a very long time. I’m always in search for something unusual that someone else might not show up with. And, when it comes to pasta dishes it seems like you see the same ingredients — tomatoes, peppers, onions etc. I really like the idea of the enchilada sauce in this recipe mixed with the yogurt or sour cream and then the addition of the Cotija cheese and green olives.

This is a great room temperature pasta main dish, side dish, or I guess it could pass for a pasta salad. Either way, it’s delicious.

The colors from this pasta blend from Pappardelle’s come from blue corn flour, red chili peppers, green jalapeño, dried spinach, paprika, grape skins extract and some turmeric. I really wanted the pasta to retain the beautiful colors even though it might be covered up with the enchilada sauce mixture; but it did not.

In our area this pasta is sold at Berings hardware in Houston, but they also sell in farmer’s markets across the US. So check out your state to see if you have one of their vendors close to you selling in a farmer’s market or store.

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Entree/ Fish/Seafood/ Pasta

Shrimp, Mussels, Clams, and Linguini

A fond food memory of Italy.

What is it about remembering names and other things, like where did I put my phone, give me such a problem sometimes and then on the other hand I can think of a dish I had someplace and remember all the circumstances surrounding it.

For instance, it has been about eight years since we went to Italy but I will not forget one rainy night in Chinque la Terra going to dinner at Ristorante Miky (pronounced Mickey like my Michie). I started saving menus like my sister (she has some beautiful ones) and that rainy night there was one menu outside on a table and it was getting wet so I decided to rescue it from the rain and it now occupies a place along with my other menus. So I went back and took a look at the dish I had that night.

So, that rainy night the six of us were seated outside in a tented area and we had one of the nicest waiters and he talked us through everything on the menu and promised us a meal we would not soon forget. He even told us about his cousin who was a waiter over in Montecino and told us we should check out his restaurant while we were in that area the next week.

This was the first time I had ever had clams and mussels and I was a little hesitate in ordering it. It was delicious and will always be one of my fond food memories. I decided to add some shrimp to the dish the night I made this recipe.

I love looking back at old menus I have picked up during travels and recreating dishes that helped to make a great vacation. I have a journal full of great dinners from travels and love reading about what I thought of the meal.

When we were in Seattle for our anniversary trip back in August we had eaten so much fish in Vancouver, Victoria and Seattle that one night we just wanted some simple Italian food. I ended up ordering a dish similar to this Mussel, clams, linguine dish but it had the addition of tomatoes. So delicious and that brought up all the memories of our trip to Italy and the great food we had while there.

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Entree/ Pasta/ Pork

Spinach Fettucini with Sweet/Hot Sausage

Good on a cold winter’s night.

Nothing taste better to me on a bone chilling night than pasta, a good salad and maybe some homemade bread or even a good loaf of some artisan bread you picked up at the store.

There are so many pasta and sauce recipes out there that you could probably make a different pasta each week and never have to repeat a recipe.

I found this recipe in a Creme de Colorado cookbook about 20 years ago and I have been making it ever since. I remember the first time I made this dish I was catering an event at a local art gallery. Two people came up to me after the dinner and said they would like me to cater the exact same dinner for them.  So, I did make it again and actually a few more times before I ever TASTED the dish. Now, you may say, how could you do that. I don’t have an answer. Sometimes I read a recipe and I know I will like it. I guess I felt no need to sample the finished dish.  After making the dish several times (I finally tasted it) it has become a favorite of mine. I love the sweet and hot taste of the Italian sausage together with the sauce. I heard the judges on a cooking show say “if you aren’t tasting, you aren’t cooking”, guess I should start tasting some as I go.

This recipe has a lot of olive oil and butter and of course you could always cut down on the oil and butter that make up the sauce and probably substitute some broth in place of it. If I were you I would follow the recipe the first time as written and then tweak the second time you make it. I cooked 1 lb. each of the hot and sweet sausage and you do want both the sweet and hot flavors or the different sausages. Sometimes if I find the sausage at the butcher counter then I will buy just 1/2 lb. of each. The day I made this I decided to go on and cook the whole package of each and add some extra meat to the dish. You can either freeze your extra sausage for another use or add it to the fettuccini.

I made this for our Bunco Christmas get together last week and it was a big hit. Thanks ladies for being my guinea pigs (tasters is a better term I guess).

Do you have a favorite pasta dish? If so, I’d like to hear about it; please leave in the comment section below.

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Entree/ Pasta

Butternut Squash Ravioli with Browned Sage Butter

Fall is here! Hip, Hip, Hurray!

Fall is here and don’t you just love this time of the year. Thoughts of comfort foods start filling my head and this recipe turned out soooo good I almost knocked the breath out of myself patting myself on the back.

Our leaves haven’t started falling yet; sometimes that doesn’t start until December or even January before we see the sky full of floating leaves. But, with a fading summer and those nice cool nights ahead of us it won’t be long before we are seeing piles of leaves raked up just waiting for some kid to jump and play in them.

While in Chicago several weeks ago Fall was starting to show its prettier side.  On our walk to take our grandson, Oliver, to school one day we enjoyed flowers still blooming but also sidewalks full of leaves that gave way to a crunchy sound as we strolled on top of them. We cooked some roasted chicken one night on the grill and a grilled salmon another night and the two sides that couldn’t wait to make their appearance again were Stephanie’s Magic Beans and my Cauliflower Mash with Kale which went perfect with both dishes and to top one of the meals off we cooked some chopped apples and cinnamon which we ladled over ice cream and I think this recipe is going to go onto my favorites list of things I have blogged.

I took a shortcut making the ravioli and used wonton pieces instead of making my own pasta. We all look for shortcuts and I think this is one shortcut you won’t mind taking. And, the good thing about this recipe is that you can freeze the uncooked raviolis for an easy meal some winter night ahead. (If you freeze the raviolis, put in a single layer and put in freezer until they are frozen then put enough in one bag for a meal.)

At the Firefly restaurant in Nashville back in the summer my husband had a Butternut Squash Ravioli with goat cheese and what better to go over it than a Browned Sage Butter. I think this ravioli screams for the browned butter and browned butter and sage are a perfect pair.

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Entree/ Pasta

Sweet Potato Gnocchi with Browned Butter Sage Sauce

Another use for the sweet potato.

I like to use my best Italian accent when I try (key word is try) to say Gnocchi. I may even look a little Italian when the word comes out of my mouth. What can I say, I’m a natural. Ha.

A couple of years ago I belonged to a group of cooks or “foodies” called The Darling Kitchen and each month the group is given a challenge of something to make and they make it and within the month the post their pictures for everyone to see. This is my first challenge since having the new “joints” put in.

Gnocchi are potato dumplings made with potatoes and boiled until light and fluffy and served with some type of sauce. Making gnocchi takes practice and patience and I hope some of you have tried my gnocchi recipe back in May. I use to be afraid to try and make different things and finally realized that what’s the worst that that could go wrong — throw it out and start over maybe. (I’m still afraid to try petti fours at least the ones I want to make and maybe I’ll get up nerve some day.)

I’ve made gnocchi several times and just back in May I posted my gnocchi with chicken and gorgonzola sauce. Looking around online I saw several recipes that looked interesting. I first decided on sweet Potato gnocchi then changed my mine again and again. I came across a recipe for sweet potato gnocchi that is fried and decided to try that along with the a more traditional style using sweet potatoes but I’m using the browned butter sage sauce on both. Either of these gnocchi would make a savory side dish with any pork dish and some grilled or fried fish would be a good bet too.

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Entree/ Pasta

Szechwan Noodles with Baby Vegetables

A very colorful dish.

After a movie one morning (Yes, I do go to morning movies, and it was a horror movie so I have to go by myself because none of my friends like that type of movie.) I stopped in my favorite little market, Hubble and Hudson, which is right across the street from the theatre.

I came out toting some tiny French green beans, tiny patty pan yellow squash and some baby zucchini and carrots. I already had a package of noodles that looked interesting that I picked up at Trader Joe’s, so I knew I had the makings for dinner one night. And hiding away in my pantry was a jar of Szechwan peppercorns that I needed to use.

Isn’t it nice to have recipes that you can throw together in a moments notice and not feel like you are spending hours in the kitchen preparing food that  is eaten in less than 15 minutes?

The flavor from the Szechwan peppercorn comes from the husk around the seed and is know for taming down the other hot/spicy flavors of a dish. The seed itself has no flavor. I love getting out my mortar and pestle to crush the little things.

MY FIRST GIVEAWAY! OK, it isn’t a Kitchen Aid mixer like the Pioneer Woman gives away or a designer purse like other giveaways.  I want to see how a giveaway would work for this blog. This giveaway is for a bottle of Smucker’s Key Lime Plate Scrapers that I used in the White Chocolate Key Lime Pie.  WINNER drawn August 25th — Donna. Congrats.

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Entree/ Pasta/ Side dish

White Cheddar Mac and Cheese w/ Truffle Oil

Who says you can never go home again!

We  were recently back home for my twin sister’s husband’s (Gary) funeral. Why is it so hard to say goodbye to someone you have known for most of your life even though you know there is no more suffering and he is in a better place.

We saw so many of their friends and our old friends from years of growing up in Caruthersville and while sitting in Church looking around, I’m thinking did I get older too, and when did that happen; I guessI haven’t spent too much time looking in the mirror.

Even though it was such a difficult time it was great seeing all of Gary’s family together for each other. One night while visiting with his cousin, Frankie and her husband, Paul (we grew up as neighbors) reminded me of the time he was pulling my sister and me in a little wagon and we were topless. He has the picture and if I get it I will surely post it here. Now, I’m sure we were five or six years old and cute as a bug back then.

So, when I here “you can’t go home again” I say phooey. I can close my eyes and find myself in Figgens ice cream shop as a little kid sitting on a stool, legs swinging, having a Walk-Away sundae, or pulling in at Knox’s drive-in during lunch at high school, or picking cotton (for fun) when we were in high school, riding the loop of our small town, parking at the sea wall, going into Sears and Roebuck to pick up an anticipated brown package with a plaid back to school dress and even memories of standing in the kitchen with my mother with “The Wayward Wind” playing in the background from some vintage radio. When we go back home I really feel like we never left.

One of the homiest (if that’s a word) food I can think of as a comfort food would be macaroni and cheese. While we were in Nashville a few weeks ago, we had dinner at the Firefly restaurant with my sister. We decided to try their Truffled White Cheddar Mac and Cheese appetizer. It was perfect for the three of us to share. It was such a delicious, creamy, tangy concoction topped with crunchy panko bread crumbs.

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Entree/ Pasta/ Poultry

Gnocchi with Grilled Chicken and Gorgonzola Sauce

Here I go again trying to recreate a food experience.

When we were in Chicago back in March we walked to one of the local restaurants in Bucktown. I just love visiting our son and his family there because they have so many restaurants you can walk to. I guess I better be honest and say I didn’t walk. It was way toooooo cold and we had the little ones. So, Missy, my daughter-in-law, and I drove the boys and the dads walked because we all couldn’t get in the car with two car seats and four adults. By the time we loaded the kids up and lucked out and found a parking spot right in front of the restaurant, here comes the big guys just in time to help carry everyone in.

Club Lucky is a cool retro bar and Italian restaurant and has been part of the neighborhood for more than 50 years. The lounge is always filled with locals and the night we were there (5:30 ish — remember we have kids) the place was filled with families and lots of kids. When we entered, the bar was right in the front and before we were seated I decided to ask the bartender if he could make an aviation cocktail. Of course, he could. This is a cocktail from early 20th century (been around since 1911). The dining room is decorated in red, black and green with simple designs and has such a homey feel.

The waiter brought us a basket of warm bread right out of the oven with some dipping oil and butter. Yum. It was delicious along with my cocktail. I decided on one of the specials which was Gnocchi with Grilled Chicken and Gorgonzola Sauce with some sauteed spinach mixed in for color. It was wonderful and not too blue tasting either.

It was funny watching the kids eat. Oliver had an order of meatballs which he did a good job eating and then licked the butter out of the little individual containers. Now, Charlie, on the other hand, still ate baby food then (only 10 months old) so his mom was giving him bits of the bread and he was making it to his mouth with some of the bread but then we looked at the floor and it was covered with these tiny specks of bread — where were the birds or the DOG when you needed them?

So, I knew I was going to recreate this dish from my first bite and we had made gnocchi at a cooking class in Italy a few years earlier so I knew it would be a piece of cake! Recreating the recipe that is. The gnocchi takes practice.

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Entree/ Pasta

Brussel Sprouts, Chestnuts and Whole Wheat Pasta

Healthy pasta for dinner tonight.

While rummaging through my refrigerator the other day I came up with something interesting ingredients – a partial bag of Brussels sprouts from Christmas (yes they were still good), 1/2 a jar of steamed chestnuts that were left from a yummy Brussels sprout dish that had some sauteed butternut squash added to it, and oh, this partial tub of marscapone (you can use a soft cream cheese if you don’t have marscapone). My grandson, Milo loves cream cheese on his turkey sandwiches. Go figure. He’s a pretty persnickety eater. But he loves his cream cheese and turkey sandwiches. I remember when he called once (age 3) and said “Gran, I like cream cheese now”. Isn’t it just so cute; just about anything the grandsons say if is is preceded with “Gran” just makes me smile.

I love hearing the grandsons say “Gran”. (Two out of the four can talk.) Little Oliver (from Chicago) was so surprised by the snowman pretzel sticks I sent back with their Christmas gifts. He ate so many of these while visiting over Christmas and when I was packing up everything to mail back, there were a couple still staring at me from a glass I had them standing up in. So after falling out of his chair at the dinner table one night, mom gave him a snowman pretzel. She took a picture of him saying “Thanks, Gran, and then a big Ta-duh as he shows the pretzel to the camera.

I think I have finally purged the house of all the sweet things that were made for the holidays that were never eaten. So to come up with some healthy ingredients while cleaning out the refrigerator and pantry was exciting.

The bacon does not have to be used, of course, in this recipe if you want to go meatless; I just like the taste that it brings to the dish.
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Entree/ Pasta/ Poultry

King Ranch Pasta

Who doesn’t like the flavors of King Ranch!

I’ve always thought I made absolutely the best King Ranch casserole out there.

When we first moved to Texas and I started catering for some of the local companies and I had request for King Ranch casserole. I’d never heard of King Ranch casserole and didn’t realize that it was named after one of the largest ranches in the world and it’s here in Texas.

So, I set about trying to find what I thought would be the perfect recipe. I never found just one and ended up merging several recipes together to come up with what I thought was the perfect sauce. The addition of spices and spinach to the sauce makes this a favorite with King Ranch lovers.

My family never liked casseroles and I cannot believe that in 20 years of catering, I never made the casserole for my family.

I’ve decided to turn my casserole into King Ranch Pasta. NOT a casserole but a creamy mixture of chicken, spices and sauce mixed with pasta and baked in an oven for 30 minutes. If you want to make the casserole with tortilla, see below for those instructions.

Since Thanksgiving is fast approaching, think of this recipe when you have a lot of left over turkey staring back at you from the refrigerator.

BLAST FROM THE PAST: Souffled French Onion Soup — If you love French Onion Soup you will love this one topped with a cheese soufflé. Believe it or not, the soufflé does not fall while you are eating the soup.

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