Sausage Mushroom Alfredo Pasta

20140302_192956[1]This is an easy dish that you can prepare in as much time as it takes to cook the pasta. It calls for a jar of store-bought alfredo sauce, something I’m embarrassed to say that I used — but wow, does it make things simple. That means it’s a great dish to make on a weeknight. You could also use a homemade alfredo sauce on a night when you have more time. One tip: Chop the vegetables and grate the cheese as you wait for the pasta water to boil.

Serves 6

1 large leek, white and pale green part only, finely chopped
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 links mild Italian pork sausage (8 oz.)
2 Tbsp. olive oil, divided
8 oz. rigatoni pasta
8 oz. sliced baby Portobello mushrooms (use white if they aren’t available)
1/2 cup white wine or chicken broth
1 15-oz. jar roasted garlic alfredo sauce
2 oz. parmesan cheese, grated

Start boiling the water for the pasta and cook as directed on the box. Meanwhile, chop the vegetables and grate the cheese, then set aside. Remove the sausage casings by cutting the links in half lengthwise (butterfly them), then turning the sausage over and peeling the casings away.

In a large pan, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium-high heat. Add sausage and cook 3-4 minutes, stirring to crumble the meat, until browned and no longer pink. Remove to a bowl and add remaining tablespoon of oil to the same pan, then add mushrooms and leeks. Cook and stir 3-4 minutes or until tender.

Reduce the heat to medium-low and stir in the wine or broth; simmer 2-3 minutes or until reduced by half.

Stir in alfredo sauce and bring to a simmer. Add the cheese and stir until melted. Stir in pasta and sausage and stir 1 minute. Sprinkle with fresh parsley and serve.

The recipe is adapted from one I found at Publix.

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Filed under Main Courses, Pasta & Rice Dishes

Egg Fried Rice

This recipe requires day-old cooked rice, preferably steamed, so it’s a great way to use any rice left over from Chinese take-out. That’s what I used the other day, along with some long-grain rice I happened to have in the fridge. I chopped a couple of carrots and threw them in, along with a handful of frozen peas and some canned water chestnuts. You can add whatever vegetables you like, whether chopped or sliced. Scale the recipe according to how much rice you have.

20140301_202246[1]
1 Tbsp. peanut oil (substitute canola/rapeseed oil if you need to)
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
4 cups cold steamed white rice
3/4 tsp. salt
1/2 cup thinly sliced scallions
1-2 tsp. sesame oil
Vegetables as above

Heat a wok or large pan over high heat until a drop of water vaporizes instantly upon contact. Add peanut oil, swirling to coat wok evenly, and heat until hot and just smoking. Add eggs, tilting wok and swirling eggs to form a thin, even layer on cooking surface, and cook 30 seconds, then add rice and salt and stir-fry, breaking up eggs and letting rice rest several seconds between stirs, until rice is hot, 2-3 minutes. Add scallions, sesame oil, and vegetables and stir-fry until combined well and heated through.

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Filed under Leftover Ideas, Main Courses, Pasta & Rice Dishes

Blueberry Harvest Squares

Alma, Georgia, is the state’s blueberry capital with an annual blueberry festival at the start of June. Diane Carter, a magistrate in Bacon County — where Alma is located — won the festival’s annual cooking contest with this recipe. I don’t know what year that would have been, since I clipped this from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution more than 10 years ago, but I give Diane full credit for coming up with a delicious dessert. I didn’t alter a thing when I made this recipe today and it managed to earn lots of raves.

This is a wonderful recipe for the summer, when blueberries are fresh and you may be looking for a new way to use them. It’s the kind of dessert that would be great for a bake sale or pot luck — though I warn you that it’s very gooey. The cooler they get, the easier it is to lift the bars, though you still have to be careful. And even then, it will still be gooey.

It’s easy to make and you can do each step while waiting for the previous one to finish. The hardest part is waiting until it cools to cut into it. And if you can’t wait, then forget a knife — just grab a spoon and dig in.

FOR THE CRUST:
2 1/4 cups all-purpose (plain) flour
3/4 tsp. salt
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup finely chopped almonds
3/4 cup margarine

FOR THE FILLING:
2 cups blueberries
2 Tbsp. lemon juice
1 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
1/2 cup granulated sugar

FOR THE TOPPING:
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup evaporated milk
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. almond extract
1 cup chopped almonds
1 1/3 cups flaked coconut

For the crust:
Preheat the oven to 350F degrees and butter the bottom and sides of a 9×13-inch baking pan. Combine flour, salt, sugar, and chopped nuts. Cut in the margarine until it resembles fine crumbs. Press it into the bottom of the pan, coming slightly up the sides. Place it in the oven and bake about 10 minutes. Remove from oven and increase temperature to 375F degrees.

For the filling:
In a medium mixing bowl, combine blueberries, lemon juice, and flour. Place blueberries on top of the baked crust. Sprinkle with sugar. Return pan to oven and bake for 20 minutes.

For the topping:
In a medium mixing bowl, combine sugar, evaporated milk, egg, vanilla and almond extracts, nuts, and coconut. Mix well. Spoon over the baked blueberries. Return to oven and bake for another 20 minutes or until golden brown. Let cool before cutting.

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Filed under Cookies & Brownies & Bars, Desserts/Baking

Quinoa, Feta, and Pomegranate Salad

This is one of my favorite salads of all time. It’s easy, loaded with protein, and the texture is wonderful. Note that the quinoa and broccoli need to be cooked beforehand and left to cool; I tend to cook them the day before I make the salad just to make things easier when I put the ingredients together.

I got the recipe from a colleague in London in the summer of 2009.

qfpsalad

Serves 6

300g (10.5 oz.) quinoa
200g (7 oz.) tenderstem broccoli
200g (7 oz.) feta cheese
1 handful pumpkin seeds
Seeds from 1 pomegranate
1 large handful of mint leaves, roughly chopped
1 large handful of flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped
4 tomatoes, deseeded and chopped
3 Tbsp. olive oil
3 Tbsp. lemon juice

Cook the quinoa according to the package directions and leave to cool. Meanwhile, cut the broccoli into bite-size pieces and lightly steam until tender.

Once the hot ingredients are cool, stir them together gently along with the feta, pumpkin seeds, pomegranate seeds, herbs, and tomatoes. Drizzle with olive oil and lemon juice, then season with salt and pepper to taste.

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Couscous with Spinach, Golden Raisins, and Pine Nuts

Here is another wonderfully easy and delicious dish, with bursts of sweet, crunchy, and savory. It would taste wonderful alongside seasoned sausages, chicken with a creamy sauce, or crispy baked fish — which is how we had it tonight, together with broccoli.

IMAG2259Serves 4

200g (7 oz.) fresh spinach
2 Tbsp. golden raisins (sultanas)
1/2 Tbsp. canola oil
2 Tbsp. pine nuts (pine kernels)
1/2 chicken stock cube
200g (7 oz.) couscous
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 Tbsp. lemon juice

Wash the spinach and place it immediately in a large pot over high heat. Remove from heat when the spinach is just wilted. (The water from washing it is all you need to wilt the leaves.)

Separately, heat 1 1/2 cups water and stir in the golden raisins. Stir and leave for a few minutes.

Heat the canola oil in a pan and stir-fry the pine nuts for 30 seconds to 1 minute, or until golden. Remove the pine nuts with a slotted spoon, then set aside.

Boil 1 cup of water and drop the bouillon cube in to dissolve. Place the couscous, raisins, and pine nuts in a bowl, stir in the stock, and add the olive oil and lemon juice. Stir well and cover, then leave for 10 to 15 minutes or until all the liquid is absorbed.

While you are waiting, finely chop the wilted spinach. When the couscous is done, mix in the spinach and add salt and pepper, if you feel it needs it. Serve right away.

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Filed under Main Courses, Pasta & Rice Dishes, Vegetables

Waka Waka Salad (Guy Fieri’s Crunchy Cabbage Salad)

salad This was so delicious at dinner tonight that we couldn’t stop eating it. I mean, it was really delicious. Thank goodness this recipe is enough for eight people, because between the two of us, I think we ate half of it.

I served this as a salad alongside sesame chicken. It’s not so much a cole slaw as a proper salad because the cabbage pieces stay so crunchy and it’s mixed with just a vinaigrette — but you could easily serve this in place of a cole slaw, maybe at a backyard cookout.

The recipe was in Better Homes & Gardens last year. A slightly different version is on the site of the Food Network, where Guy has a show. Here is the recipe as we made it, with a few tweaks from the original.

Serves 8

3/4 cup canola oil
1 1/4 cup red wine vinegar (or more, to taste)
1-2 tsp. minced garlic
1 Tbsp. minced fresh ginger
2 ramen noodle packages, noodles broken into small pieces and 1 seasoning packet reserved
Pinch of salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 head Napa cabbage (or regular green cabbage), sliced 1/8 inch thick
1/4 head red cabbage, sliced 1/8 inch thick
1/2 red onion, chopped
2 carrots, shredded
Half a large bunch of cilantro (fresh coriander), chopped
1/4 cup whole dry-roasted unsalted peanuts

In a bowl combine the oil, vinegar, garlic, ginger, and 1/2 packet of the ramen seasoning. Add salt and pepper and set aside.

In a large bowl mix the cabbages, onion, carrots, and cilantro.

Just before serving, whisk the dressing and pour it over the salad. Top with the ramen noodle pieces and peanuts.

Guy added fried wonton skins as a crispy accompaniment, but we didn’t want to take that extra step and didn’t feel they were necessary. If you want to try them, though, check out the recipe on the Food Network site.

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Peeling Garlic the Easy Way

Peeling garlic cloves may not be that difficult, but here’s the easiest way to do it. Cut off the root end of the clove (the “hairy” part) with a wide-blade cutting knife. Lay the big blade of the knife flat over the clove, then quickly and firmly bang the knife on the clove with the heel of your hand. The clove will be slightly broken and the peel will easily come off.

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