Portobello Personal Pizzas

When don’t you have a craving for pizza?  The fact is, most of us will save pizza for Friday movie nights, a party or some other excuse to indulge our endless craving for dough, cheese, sauce and goodies.  Trying to get in shape for an upcoming vacation has me rethinking recipes and finding ways to have my favorites without sacrificing too much.  That’s where this alliterative recipe comes in – you’re going to love it!

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PORTOBELLO PERSONAL PIZZAS

Ingredients

  • 2 Portobello Mushroom Caps
  • 2 Tsp. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1 Tsp. Dry Italian Seasoning
  • Salt & Pepper
  • 1/2 Cup Pizza Sauce
  • 2 Tbs. Diced Red Onion
  • 8 Slices Pepperoni or Turkey Pepperoni
  • 1/2 – 3/4 Cup Shredded Mozzarella

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  • Remove gills from mushrooms with a spoon.  Wash and dry them thoroughly.
  • Place mushrooms on a baking stone or sheet.  Drizzle each with a teaspoon of olive oil.  Sprinkle with Italian seasoning and salt and pepper to taste.
  • Place in the oven and bake for 15-20 minutes, depending on size and thickness of your mushrooms.  They should darken and shrink some, but still be slightly firm to the touch.
  • Remove from oven and pat dry with a paper towel.  They release a lot of water in the initial baking and you don’t want soggy pizzas!
  • Spread each cap with half of the pizza sauce.  You can use marinara or any other jar sauced here as long as it is thick and not watery.
  • Top each cap with onions, then pepperoni and finally cheese.
  • Place in the oven and bake an additional 10-12 minutes until cheese is melted and slightly brown and bubbly.
  • Remove from oven and serve immediately.

You almost don’t miss the crust on these easy pizzas.  The good news is that your topping choices are endless – sausage, peppers, olives, etc.  As long as you like mushrooms, you’ll be thrilled with an alternative to heavy pizza that saves you both carbs and calories.  It’s also great for gluten-free friends if you watch your sauce ingredients.  Try some at home and let me know what you create.  Dig in!

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Roasted Beet Salad

I have always loved beets!  Granted, as a child and into early adulthood, my exposure to beets were limited to the canned variety or pickled beets.  Both are delicious, but you can’t full appreciate the true flavor unless you roast them yourself.  Luckily, our farmers market had some this past week and I was able to make this fantastic salad.  As a side or a main, this one hits all the right notes of sweet, salty, crunchy and fresh.IMG_0771

ROASTED BEET SALAD

Ingredients

  • 4 Medium Red Beets
  • 6 Cups Spring Lettuce
  • 4 Ounces Semi-Soft Chèvre (Goat Cheese)
  • 1/2 Cup Roasted Pistachios
  • 8 Tbs. Ken’s Raspberry Walnut Vinaigrette
  • Fresh-cracked Black Pepper
  • Flaked Sea Salt

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  • Trim and wash beets thoroughly to remove dirt.  Do not dry them!  Wrap each wet beet individually in aluminum foil.
  • Place beets in a shallow baking dish or 9×9 pan and bake for 1 hour 15 minutes.
  • Remove beets from oven and allow to cool about 1 hour or until you are able to handle.
  • Remove beets from foil.  Unless you want red hands, wear rubber gloves and carefully peel each beet with a knife.  The skins will come off easily like a roasted sweet potato does.
  • Dice each beet into 1-inch cubes and place in a glass bowl.  You can refrigerate or use them at room temperature for this dish.  I prefer them chilled.  (HINT:  you can peel and dice beets with a pair of tongs and a knife, but be careful!)
  • Assemble 1 1/2 cups of lettuce mix on each of four plates.  Drizzle each plate with 2 Tbs. (or less) of the vinaigrette.
  • Arrange 1/4 of beets on each bed of dressed lettuce.
  • Sprinkle each salad with 1 ounce Chèvre and 1/4 of the pistachios.
  • Top each salad with fresh black pepper and sea salt to taste.
  • Serve immediately.

It sounds pretty simple, but the star of the show is the beet!!  I recommend the salad dressing above, but you can easily make your own light vinaigrette.  I recommend a fruity vinegar as it helps bring out the flavor and sweetness of the beets.  I enjoyed this for an easy lunch at home or topped with seared salmon for dinner or it would be a dazzling starter for your next dinner party – how gorgeous would this look on a large platter?!  Enjoy the bounty and eat those red and yellow beets while you can get them fresh.  Dig in!

Bacon Parmesan Stuffed Mushrooms

I’m constantly looking for and creating new small bites for holidays, parties, Sunday suppers, tailgates, etc.  Who doesn’t love an afternoon or evening of cocktails, cold beer and appetizers??  I like to make things that don’t require a ton of work, but taste like a million bucks with the convenience of friends/guests being able to grab-and-go with something.  Think of it as “what can I pick up and eat while never putting my drink down”!  Behold, the best stuffed mushrooms below…

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BACON PARMESAN STUFFED MUSHROOMS

Ingredients

  • 2 Quarts White Button Mushrooms
  • 2 8-ounce Bricks Cream Cheese
  • 6 Ounces Real Bacon Bits
  • 1/2 Cup Grated Parmesan Cheese
  • 1 Tbs. Parsley Flakes
  • 1 1/2 Tsp. Garlic Powder

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Instructions

  • Lay out cream cheese to bring to room temperature.
  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  • Wash and stem mushroom.  If there are thick ribs on the underside, scoop out with a spoon.  Place on paper towels and blot dry.
  • In a medium bowl, use a hand mixer to mix cream cheese, bacon bits, parmesan and garlic powder until well combined.
  • Using a spoon, fill and smooth a teaspoon or more of filling in each mushroom.  These should be mounded, but not overfilled.  A good rule of thumb is that the filling should be about 1/3 to 1/2 the size of the mushroom cap.
  • Continue filling and place mushrooms on a large foil-lined baking sheet.
  • Bake mushrooms at 375 degrees for 30-40 minutes until the mushrooms are cooked and the filling has browned on top.
  • Remove from oven and serve immediately.  These can also be transported but place a few paper towels in the bottom of your contained as they will seep liquid as they cool.

You’re going to love the earthy, creamy and salty bite of these mushrooms!  The recipe above will fill a large cookie sheet, but you can easily cut this recipe in half or double it depending on your event.  Oh, and if you have any filling left over, it’s ridiculously good on a toasted everything bagel.  Now go get that party started.  Dig in!

Garlicky Roasted Cauliflower

It seems like cauliflower is everywhere these days!  From pizza crust to faux fried rice to “steaks” on the grill, everyone is obsessed with it.  I’m not quite on the bandwagon wholeheartedly, but I do love it both raw and cooked.  We’re going through a kitchen remodel and have limited resources for prep and cooking.  So I came up with the recipe below to accompany grilled chops and dirty just one bowl and cookie sheet.  If you’re looking for a savory alternative to carbs for your next meal, give this smokey-garlicky recipe a try!

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GARLICKY ROASTED CAULIFLOWER

Ingredients

  • 1 Medium Head Cauliflower
  • 3 Tbs. Olive Oil
  • 1 1/2 Tsp. Smoked Paprika
  • 1 1/2 Tsp. Garlic Powder
  • 1 Tsp. Salt
  • 1/2 Tsp. Black Pepper

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
  • Wash cauliflower thoroughly and dry with paper towels.  Cut out the core, cut into 2″ florets and place in a large bowl.
  • Drizzle cauliflower with olive oil and stir to coat evenly.
  • Sprinkle remaining ingredients over cauliflower and stir again to coat everything in the spices.
  • Pour cauliflower onto a foil-lined cookie sheet and spread out into a single layer.
  • Place in oven and roast for 20 minutes.
  • Remove and serve immediately.

There’s no rocket science to this recipe, but simple ingredients expertly prepared always make a delicious dish!  You’ll love this side with your favorite grilled or roasted meat or fish.  Try making a variation of this using five spice powder and brown sugar instead of garlic powder and smoked paprika.  I’d love to hear other ideas you have.  Dig in!

The Smokehouse – Hilton Head Island, SC

We’ve been fortunate to vacation quite often at Hilton Head Island, along with thousands of other Ohioans.  There’s certainly no shortage of great places to eat, especially those taking advantage of the fantastic seafood.  And even though we love all those places, we’ve come to make BBQ one of our vacation traditions.  The Smokehouse will be celebrating their 20th anniversary this year and we’re thrilled they’ve stood the test of time!

Located on Palmetto Bay Road, not far from Coligny, the newer freestanding location has ample room in the bar, dining area and outdoors.  You’ll feel right at home in the open wood-and-corrugated steel atmosphere.  After ordering a few drafts from their selection of local brews, we moved onto appetizers.  There’s a great selection of ribs, wings, sliders and a variety of other BBQ-inspired bar specialties.  I highly recommend the wings and the crunchy onion loaf!

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While the menu boasts a variety of salads, sandwiches, seafood and grilled meats, there’s no reason you should skip their BBQ.  We ordered several samplers and were impressed with the pulled pork, brisket and ribs.  The smoked chicken was a little dry, but the flavor was spot-on.  All of the traditional sides were simple and perfectly-made.  Be sure to order the macaroni & cheese as well as at the collards!

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A stop here is going to be your new family tradition for trips to the island.  Whether you dine-in or carry out bulk orders for beachside eating, you’ll be sure to have happy bellies from The Smokehouse!  Stop in for live music or check out their Sunday brunch.  You can learn more about this award-winning personal favorite at smokehousehhi.com.  Dig in!

Blueberry French Toast Casserole

Leftover bread, dinner rolls, etc. can all be put to good use in making stuffing, croutons and one of my favorites, french toast casserole.  Easy to make ahead and bake in the morning, this recipe was amped up this weekend with the addition of fresh blueberries.  Served warm with a drizzle of maple syrup and crisp salty bacon, you’ll definitely want to try this around the upcoming holidays.

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BLUEBERRY FRENCH TOAST CASSEROLE

Ingredients

  • 6 Dinner Rolls or 1/2 Load Bread
  • 5 Eggs
  • 1/4 Cup Heavy Cream
  • 1/4 Cup Milk
  • 1 Tbs. Sugar
  • 1 Tsp. Vanilla
  • 1/2 Tsp. Cinnamon
  • Pinch of Salt
  • 1 Cup Fresh Blueberries
  • 1/2 Cup Light Brown Sugar
  • 3 Tbs. Butter

Instructions

  • Tear bread into roughly 2-inch pieces and set aside.
  • In a medium bowl combine eggs, cream, milk, sugar, vanilla, cinnamon and salt.  Whisk together until until all ingredients are incorporated.
  • Place bread into egg mixture and toss lightly to coat evenly.  Do not over-mix or your bread will turn to mush.
  • Fold in blueberries until evenly distributed.
  • Pour mixture into a 2-quart baking dish coated with cooking spray.  Cover and refrigerate overnight.
  • Take casserole out 30 minutes prior to baking.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Bake covered for 40 minutes.
  • Remove lid or foil and sprinkle dish with brown sugar.  Cut butter into small pieces and dot along top of brown sugar.
  • Return to the oven and bake, uncovered, for an additional 15 minutes.
  • Remove from oven and serve immediately with warm maple syrup.

It doesn’t get much easier than a make-ahead breakfast like this one.  This recipe serves four, but can easily be doubled and baked in a 13×9 dish.  Who wouldn’t want to wake up to this on Christmas morning?  Or any morning for that matter?  Dig in!

Pomodori – Hilton Head Island

It’s good to reflect on this summer’s vacation and delicious eats as we head into our first few snowflakes flying at home soon.  While searching for new eateries on Hilton Head Island we came across some rave reviews for Chef Amanda Russ’s Pomodori and knew we had to give it a try.  And what a delight it was!!

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Hidden in a small small collection of boutique shops, you wouldn’t know this place is there unless you were looking for it.  Comfortable and island casual, you can dine both inside or out for a relaxing weekday meal or a special occasion.  Our wait staff and everyone else we encountered were charming and helpful.  The personal touch of our name written on slate at our table (we had a reservation) was a nice touch.  There’s an eclectic wine list and good selection of cocktails.  Once we settled into drinks we perused the menu filled with classic Italian dishes and many that included local seafood.

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My wife ordered the pappardelle con costolette brasate – this was a wonderfully rich short rib ragu over handmade ribbons of pasta.  There’s no doubt this feels like a signature dish with visions of old Italy and the recipe having been perfected over centuries.  I dove into the zuppa di pesce con arrabiata which takes advantage of the plentiful seafood on the island.  A spicy tomato sauce complimented the shrimp, mussels and scallops over a bed of linguine.  There’s nothing I would change about this amazing combination of spicy, briny and yet somehow light, dish!

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I love when we find someplace new that feels like we’ve belonged there all along.  Pomodori is an absolute must-try when you’re on the island.  Bravo, Chef Amanda, on your culinary expertise and business savvy.  There is no doubt that you will be a permanent fixture for locals and visitors for many years to come!  Visit gopomodori.com for the full menu and additional information.  Dig in!

Poseidon – Hilton Head Island, SC

Summer adventures on Hilton Head Island have been a family tradition of ours and others for years.  Excited for old favorites, we’re also always interested to try new food adventures.  Poseidon was one of our best finds this year and made for a memorable vacation dinner for the 14 of us!  Located in the Shelter Cove Towne Center, you’ll see this prominent two-story location and be drawn to the inviting patio, great music and rooftop bar.  Of course, the food is what makes it so special!

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We had a large group, but were able to make a reservation during the height of the summer season.  Following the friendly staff out to the patio, we found ourselves at a large table with shade and fans to make the evening comfortable in 90-degree heat.  With a large selection of wine, beer and cocktails, we settled on several local taps while we perused the huge menu.  Known for steaks, seafood and raw bar, there is something for everyone on the vast menu.  Local favorites along with Asian-inspired dishes celebrate the regional seafood.  My nephews loved the experience of their first raw oysters – well, at least one did!  They were sweet and briny and perfect with a cold beer on a hot day.  The tomato pie was also a taste of the south – pastry crust filled with ripe tomatoes and savory cheeses.  I even tried to make a version at home!

We were all over the menu with our entrees.  From steak to cioppino to lobster pasta, everyone ordered something different.  Of course, you can get the typical array of steamed and fried seafood dishes, but this menu is worth shopping in a different aisle so to speak!  I ordered several sushi rolls which were both beautiful and delicious.  My wife decided on one of the features and absolutely loved her grilled halibut with spanish-style rice, avocado and cilantro cream.  It was an impressive and tasty execution of very simple ingredients.

I wish I had taken more photos because everything was prepared beautifully – it made for a special night for all of us.  While the menu isn’t inexpensive, we all thought it was well worth the prices and deserved given the setting, selections and super-helpful staff.  We even managed to come back later in the week for a little live music and cocktails on the rooftop bar!  Lunch, dinner or drinks for locals and visitors alike, Poseidon is one of our new “old favorites” on the island.  Check out their menu and event schedule at poseidonhhi.com.  Dig in!

Sweet & Salty Nectarine Salad

Taking advantage of fresh produce is what usually drives our cooking menu week to week.  With nectarines at their peak not long ago I made a delicious salad with the perfect combination to balance those sweet, soft and buttery nectarines.  It doesn’t get easier than four ingredients that make you look like a rockstar chef.

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SWEET & SALTY NECTARINE SALAD

Ingredients

  • 4 Ripe Nectarines
  • 8 Slices Prosciutto
  • 8 Ounces Blue Cheese
  • Balsamic Vinegar

Instructions

  • Wash, pit and slice nectarines.  Arrange one nectarine’s-worth of slices per plate in a pinwheel.
  • Tear two slices of prosciutto into 3 pieces each and arrange in small “piles” around each plate.
  • Crumble 2 ounces of blue cheese over each plate.
  • Drizzle with a quality balsamic vinegar and serve immediately.

I said it was easy!  Any ripe stone fruit will work well in this recipe – try it with peaches or plums.  I used a blue cheese this time that was little harder than I would recommend, creamier would be better.  Want to vary the texture, try a few toasted walnuts or pistachios as a topper.  Dig in!

Calaveras Cantina – Jupiter, FL

Working in south Florida recently, I happened on this modern Mexican restaurant that’s a game-changer.  You can find all manner of terribly ordinary Mexican restaurants around the country with typical fare and average food.  However, when we stepped into this beautiful spot with authentic fare and a modern twist, we were psyched!  By land or by sea, a stop at Calaveras Cantina in Harbourside Place will be well worth your trip.

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We walked into the bright open space and were greeted by friendly staff and the aroma of onions, spices and fried deliciousness.  The space is quite large with a bar, comfortable booths and outdoor seating to enjoy Jupiter’s weather and harbor.  The bright wall decorations and colorful glass lighting make for a lively environment.  We settled into the menu while sipping some Casa Margaritas.  There’s a lengthy selection of margaritas and other cocktails, available by the glass or pitcher (dangerous!).  You should try their Watermelon Jalapeño for a sweet-hot twist on the original.

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There was no doubt we needed fresh corn tortilla chips.  We also quickly realized that table side guacamole was a no-brainer.  Fresh, creamy, spicy and citrusy, it was the perfect pairing with our margaritas and chips.  I was impressed with the servers who were attentive and clearly “guac experts”!  There’s a dizzying selection of traditional favorites on the menu with a modern twist – think duck confit empanadas or pork belly tacos with kimchi.  I settled on the traditional tacos al pastor with spicy pork, pineapple, cilantro and chihuahua cheese.  How happy were my tastebuds??  Wow!

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I don’t get to Jupiter enough, but when I do, I will certainly make Calaveras Cantina a regular stop for lunch or dinner.  Whether a casual afternoon lunch or dinner with clients, this is an experience that everyone will appreciate.  Curtis Peery and friends have built a fantastic concept that warrants kudos on many levels – food, service and atmosphere.  Check out more of Palm Beach’s tequila-serving gem at calaverascantina.com.  Dig in!