Sausage & Pesto Campanelle

After a weekend on the road and eating out, it felt good to be back in the kitchen on a Monday evening!  Taking my recipe for Basic Pesto I created this delicious combination that’s perfect for summer night with a glass of wine and crusty bread.

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SAUSAGE & PESTO CAMPANELLE

Ingredients

  • 1 to 1 1/2 Cups Basic Basil Pesto
  • 1 Lbs. Campanelle Pasta
  • 3 Links Sweet Italian Sausage, Casings Removed
  • 8 Ounces Fresh Mozzarella Balls
  • Red Pepper Flakes

Instructions

  • Prepare pesto per my recipe and set aside.
  • Place pasta in boiling water and cook 10-11 minutes.
  • While pasta is cooking, brown Italian sausage in a pan until cooked through.  Don’t break it all up completed as the dish is better with small and large pieces both.
  • Drain pasta and place in a large bowl.  Add in sausage, mozzarella and 1 cup of pesto.
  • Stir together until combined.  You may need to add more pesto depending on taste and personal preference.
  • Serve immediately and top with parmesan and red pepper flakes to taste.

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The combination of crumbly sausage, bright pesto and slightly creamy mozzarella that gives this dish great balance.  No fuss and few dirty dishes for a simply tasty dinner.  Enjoy it with a glass of wine and good company.  Dig in!

Sweet & Crunchy BBQ Potato Chips

I’ve always wanted to make my own potato chips!  And frankly, for as easy as they were, it’s silly that I haven’t up to this point.  Grilling steaks for Father’s Day made for a great excuse to come up with a BBQ potato chip recipe.  It took a little taste-testing, but the recipe below had the right amount of sweet, savory and salty to stand up to the bold flavor of a perfectly medium-rare NY strip!

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SWEET & CRUNCHY BBQ POTATO CHIPS

Ingredients

  • 2 Lbs. Russet Potatoes
  • 1/4 Cup White Vinegar
  • 1 Tbs. Salt
  • 2 Tbs. Sugar
  • 1 1/2 Tsp. Smoked Sweet Paprika
  • 1/2 Tsp. Black Pepper
  • 1/2 Tsp. Onion Powder

Instructions

  • Peel and wash potatoes.  Slice about 1/8-inch thick using a sharp knife or mandolin (much easier).
  • Place potatoes in a large bowl and cover with cold water.  Toss with your hands, let sit for 10 minutes and then drain.
  • Pour vinegar over potatoes and then cover the rest of the way with cold water.  Allow to soak for 2 hours.
  • In a small bowl, combine salt, sugar, paprika, pepper and onion powder.  You’ve created BBQ seasoning!!  Set aside for when potatoes are cooked.
  • Drain potatoes and dry thoroughly.
  • Fry in small batches in 300 degree vegetable or canola oil.  Stir occasionally for even frying until light golden brown.
  • Remove and allow to drain on wire racks or brown paper.  Sprinkle with BBQ seasoning mixture and then place in a large bowl.
  • Continue with this process until all potatoes are fried, dusted and cooled.
  • Finally, toss the remaining seasoning over the bowl of potatoes and serve.

This is a very simple process that turns out delicious results!  My family said we will absolutely have to make these again in the future.  It was definitely a treat and a great causal side dish to serve with steaks.  The recipe above was easily devoured by a group of 8 people.  You can probably double it and still not have much left over.  Make ’em for your next occasion or when you’re experimenting on a weekend.  Dig in!

Crunchy Asian Slaw

BBQ season calls for coleslaw nearly every time, at least it does in our family!  I love traditional mayonnaise-y versions as well as vinegar-based slaws.  One of my very favorites is one my wife started making years and years ago.  This Asian-inspired version is tangy, crispy and nutty.  I honestly can’t get enough of it!

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CRUNCHY ASIAN SLAW

Ingredients

  • 1 Lbs. Bag Cabbage/Slaw Mix
  • 2 Packages Beef Ramen Noodles
  • I Cup Salted Sunflower Seeds
  • 1 Cup Slivered or Sliced Almonds, Toasted
  • 1 Bunch Green Onions, Chopped

Dressing

  • 3/4 Cup Vegetable Oil
  • 3/4 Cup Sugar
  • 1/3 Cup White Wine Vinegar
  • 2 Envelopes Beef Flavor Packets (from ramen)

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Instructions

  • In a dry frying pan, lightly toast almonds over low heat until slightly browned.  Remove from heat and cool.
  • In a large bowl, mix together slaw mix, almonds, sunflower seeds, green onions and crushed ramen noodles.
  • In a small bowl, combine dressing ingredients and whisk together until dissolved and smooth.
  • Pour dressing over salad ingredients and toss to combine.
  • Chill for 2-4 hours and serve.

This is an easy and delicious version that goes well with any grilled protein.  Try it as a perfect acidic side dish to fatty short ribs or pork shoulder!  Do you like thinks a little spicy?  A thinly-sliced or finely-diced jalapeño or serrano pepper would be great here.  I also like to add a little sriracha for a kick.  Either way, I hope you love it too.  Dig in!

Veggie Pizza

What a great Memorial Day weekend we had!  Perfect weather, swimming, grilling and fantastic food from friends and family made it a great three days.  One of the many dishes I made for one of the celebrations was veggie pizza.  A soft-baked crust, creamy ranch spread and fresh cut veggies, and a little optional bacon, make this a tasty grab-and-go snack.

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VEGGIE PIZZA

Ingredients

  • 2 Rolls Crescent Sheets
  • 8 Ounces Cream Cheese, Softened
  • 1 Cup Mayonnaise
  • 1 Envelope Ranch Dressing Mix
  • 1 Cup Shredded Carrots
  • 1 Cup Broccoli Florets, Chopped
  • 1 Cup Cherry Tomatoes, Halved
  • 1 1/2 Cups Shredded Cheddar Cheese
  • 3 Green Onions, Chopped
  • 6 Strips Crispy Bacon, Chopped (optional)

Instructions

  • Spread crescent sheets on a large baking sheet sprayed with cooking spray.  Bake according to package instructions and allow to cool.
  • In a medium bowl, combine cream cheese, mayonnaise and ranch dressing mix until smooth.
  • Spread mixture evenly over baked crescent crust.
  • Top the mixture evenly, and all the way to the edge, with each of the toppings.
  • Finish pizza by sprinkling bacon on top.  Of course, this is completely optional if you would rather it be meat-free.
  • Refrigerate for 2 hours and serve.  Do not make this a day ahead as the crust will get  soggy if it sits too long.

This recipe is delicious and versatile.  The crust and spread make a great base for any seasonal vegetables.  Think about using crispy radish slices or a variety of peppers.  Utilize your herb garden and sprinkle some fresh parsley or chives on as well.  I hope you give it a try and share any of your ideas with me.  Dig in!

Tangy Blue Cheese Dip

Prepping for more holiday festivities I decided to make a new dip to go with some fantastic spicy buffalo ranch nacho chips we found at the supermarket.  And what better accompaniment to spicy buffalo than blue cheese?  This creamy rich recipe provides the right combo of cool and tanginess that’ll keep you dipping all night long!

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TANGY BLUE CHEESE DIP

Ingredients

  • 8 Ounces Cream Cheese, Softened
  • 1/2 Cup Miracle Whip
  • 4 Ounces Blue Cheese Crumbles
  • 1 Tsp. Lemon Juice
  • 1 Tsp. Worcestershire Sauce
  • 1 Tsp. Celery Seed
  • 1/2 Tsp. Salt

Instructions

  • In a medium mixing bowl, stir together softened cream cheese, Miracle Whip and lemon juice until smooth.
  • Add Worcestershire, celery seed and salt and stir to combine.
  • Fold in blue cheese crumbles and transfer to a serving bowl.
  • Refrigerate for 4 hours before serving.  Serve with chips, vegetables or chicken wings.

Try finding Paqui Chips in your local grocer or super store as the Buffalo Ranch or Grilled Habanero are awesome with this dip!  Corn chips are also great at a crispy dipper.  You can thin this recipe out by adding whole milk until you get your desired consistency – this makes a tasty salad dressing too.  Dig in!

Cheesy Twice Baked Potatoes

I was fixing beef filet and shrimp for my wife’s birthday dinner last weekend and wanted to have potatoes as a side.  And while I love loaded baked potatoes, it’s sometimes easier and requires less stuff on your dinner table if you stir all the toppings into twice baked potatoes.  These turned out to be a family favorite in a hurry!

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CHEESY TWICE BAKED POTATOES

Ingredients

  • 5 Medium Russet Potatoes
  • 6-8 Strips Crispy Cooked Bacon
  • 2 Cups Shredded Sharp Cheddar Cheese
  • 3/4 Cup Heavy Cream
  • 1 Tsp. Salt
  • 1 Tsp Black Pepper

Instructions

  • Throughly wash your potatoes and bake directly on the top rack of your oven for 60-75 minutes at 425 degrees.
  • Remove from oven and allow to cool enough to handle.
  • Cut potatoes in half lengthwise.  Scoop out center leaving just enough potato in the skin to hold it together.  Place scooped potato into a medium size mixing bowl.
  • Place the skins on a baking sheet.
  • Add heavy cream to potatoes and use a hand mixer to combine until mixture is fairly smooth.  There will be some lumps – like all delicious mashed potatoes!
  • Chop cooked bacon and add to the potato mixture along with half of the cheddar cheese, salt and pepper.  Stir together with a wooden spoon to prevent the mixture from becoming too gummy.
  • Fill each potato skin with a scoop of the mixture until all of it is used.  They should be filled just to the edge, but not heaping.
  • Top each potato with remaining cheddar cheese and bake at 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes until cheese is brown and bubbly.
  • Serve immediately.

You can definitely make these ahead of time and bake in the evening or the next day.  You’ll need to extend to the baking time though to allow them to warm through.  Serve these on their own or with sour cream and chopped green onion as garnish.  Maybe you’ll whip up a batch for your picnic this weekend – try using 10 small russets instead to make 20 halves.  I know you’ll love these and your guests will too.  Dig in!

Creamy Chive Bacon Bites

We’re approaching the first big picnic weekend of the year and that means a lot of requests for side dishes, desserts and appetizers.  For a little something unique, easy to pick up and eat and not too tough to make, try these bacon bites.  Salty crispy bacon surrounds soft bread rolled with chive cream cheese provide the perfect balanced bite with a cold beer or chilled rose on a sunny afternoon!

CREAMY CHIVE BACON BITES

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Ingredients

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  • Remove bread from bag and cut off all crusts using a serrated knife.  I like to use this specific brand of bread because it’s thin-cut, but still sturdy enough to hold up to this recipe.  Plain white bread tends to turn to mush so don’t skimp here.
  • Allow cream cheese to soften or microwave for 20 seconds to make spreadable.  You can certainly make your own by adding 2 Tbs. fresh-chopped chives to 8 ounces plain cream cheese.  I just bought the stuff flavored at the store to keep it easy this time.
  • Spread a thin layer of cream cheese on a slice of bread and roll tightly.  You can push down slightly and roll with your palm to make sure it’s tight.  Continue until you’ve used all of the bread.
  • Cut bread rolls in half.
  • Using kitchen shears, cut bacon slices into thirds.
  • Wrap a third of a bacon slice around each bread roll and secure with a toothpick.
  • Place all finished rolls onto a cookie sheet and bake in the oven for 30-45 minutes turning once through the cooking process.  The bacon should be rendered, brown and crispy.  Be careful not to overcrowd the pan or they won’t crisp nicely.
  • Remove from oven and serve immediately.  These also hold up well in an insulated baking dish to take somewhere.

Your family and friends will love these tasty bites!  The bread soaks up some of the bacon grease and browns on each end to give you a little crouton texture along with the creamy middle.  With the toothpicks already inserted they’re a great grab-and-go snack for Memorial Day picnics or any other entertaining you’d like to do.  Dig in!

Peanut Butter & Chocolate Ganache Brownies

Brownies are one of those universally-loved treats, perfect for almost any occasion.  On a recent trip to visit some friends I was making “anything chocolate” for a birthday dinner and came up with this elevated version of brownies.  The great part is that you don’t have to be a master baker to delight your friends and family.  Your favorite box mix gets dressed up with the addition of a rich layer of dark chocolate ganache and homemade peanut butter buttercream frosting – wow!

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PEANUT BUTTER & CHOCOLATE GANACHE BROWNIES

Ingredients

  • 1 Box Dark Chocolate Brownie Mix

Chocolate Ganache

  • 12 Ounces Semisweet Chocolate Chips
  • 3/4 Cup Heavy Cream
  • 1 Tbs. Strong Fresh-Brewed Coffee

Peanut Butter Buttercream

  • 1 Cup Creamy Peanut Butter
  • 1/2 Cup Unsalted Butter, Softened
  • 1 Box (15 oz.) Powdered Sugar
  • 1/2 Cup Milk
  • 1 1/2 Tsp. Vanilla
  • 1/4 Tsp. Salt

Instructions

  • Prepare box mix brownies according to directions in a 13×9 pan.  I like using dark chocolate brownies, but milk chocolate would work well too.  Avoid buying anything with chocolate chunks or chips because the ganache is rich enough on its own.
  • Allow brownies to cool.
  • Over a double boiler, or in a metal bowl over a simmering pot of water, combine all ganache ingredients.
  • Stir occasionally for 10-15 minutes until chips melt and mixture becomes smooth and is fully combined.
  • Remove from heat and allow to cool for 10 minutes.
  • Pour cooled ganache over baked brownies.  Use a spatula to spread evenly across the pan.
  • Place in refrigerator.
  • In a large mixing bowl, use a hand mixer to cream together peanut butter, butter, vanilla and salt.  Mixture should be smooth and fluffy.
  • Add 1/4 of the powdered sugar and mix well.  Continue adding fourths of all powdered sugar until fully combined.  Mixture will be thick.
  • Add half of the milk and mix until frosting becomes thinner.  You can continue to add as much milk as needed to make frosting light and spreadable.  Buttercream is usually fairly thick and this will be a little bit more so because of the peanut butter.
  • Remove brownies from fridge and spread frosting evenly over the entire pan.  Depending on your taste, you make only want to use 3/4 of the frosting mixture.  if you like a lot, then use it all!
  • Cover pan and store brownies in refrigerator until ready to serve.
  • Use a sharp knife to cut ample squares and serve.

These were a huge hit this weekend and for good reason!  They’re super-rich and decadent and everyone will think you’re a baking wizard.  Taking the guesswork out of the brownies themselves with a box mix keeps this easy.  Give them a try and let me know how much you and your family love the chewy deliciousness.  Dig in!

Spring Radish Toast

Spring brings a multitude of fresh vegetables and one of my favorites is spicy radishes.  As a snack, on a salad or in this simple recipe, the crunch and sharp bite are something I crave!  Here, they are the star of the show and a different preparation than you may have tried.  I know you’ll love it as much as I do though!

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SPRING RADISH TOAST

Ingredients

  • French Country White Bread or Baguette
  • 8-10 Spring Radishes
  • 1 Stick Unsalted Butter, Softened
  • Fleur de Sel

Instructions

  • Cut bread into 1/2-inch thick slices.  Place on a baking sheet and toast lightly under a broiler.
  • Remove from oven when light golden brown and allow to cool.
  • Wash, trim and slice radishes into 1/4-inch slices.  Set aside.
  • Use a knife or spatula to spread a visible layer of butter on each toast.  You’ll want the toast cool so the butter doesn’t melt.
  • Arrange radish slices in a single layer on top of each slice.
  • Sprinkle with fleur de sel and serve immediately.

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There’s just something about the crusty bread, creamy butter, spicy crisp radishes and crunchy salt that makes the perfect bite!  This is a wonderful appetizer or finger sandwich for a shower or party.  Elegant and rustic at the same time, you’ll want to make them again and again.  Dig in!

Chippy Ice Cream Sandwiches

Cookies and ice cream are BFF’s in my latest dessert creation.  To be honest, this is way easier than it sounds given that I already have an awesome recipe for Butterscotch Chocolate Chip Cookies on my blog from the holidays.  With a few tweaks, you’ll have the perfect homemade sandwiches for your next picnic, birthday party or just for an occasional sweet treat!

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CHIPPY ICE CREAM SANDWICHES

Ingredients

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  • Prepare cookie dough recipe per instructions.
  • On a parchment-lined baking sheet, spread out dough into a single layer.
  • Bake 14-18 minutes or until edges are golden brown and center is set.  The ice cream sandwiches actually stay together and cut better if the cookie is a little under-done.
  • Remove from oven and allow to cool completely in pan.
  • Remove ice cream from freezer and allow to thaw 10-15 minutes until it is spreadable, but not runny.
  • Cut cookie in half and turn one half over so it is bottom-side up.  Spread entire half gallon of ice cream in an even layer on cookie and top with the other half.  Press and twist slightly to get good contact.
  • Place entire cookie sheet in freezer and chill for 4-6 hours.
  • Remove from freezer and cut into bars with a sharp knife.  Serve immediately or store in zippered plastic bags in the freezer for up to one month.

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With a little time and patience, you can make these super-decadent treats all summer long!  Make them festive by substituting M&M’s for the chips or using different flavors of ice cream.  Want to take it over the top?  Make a quick chocolate ganache, dip half of each sandwich in it and then into colored sprinkles!  The possibilities are endless when you have a good cookie recipe and quality ice cream – just make sure you have a sturdy batter that doesn’t get too crispy or it won’t hold up or cut properly.  Dig in!