A day in the life of a cook in her kitchen

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Sometimes the simplest dinners are the best dinners. I made this macaroni and cheese dish last week. It was a huge hit with all of us…SCORE!! It is perfect for our new Fall daylight savings. It comes together very quickly. … Continue reading

Savory Vegetable Bread Pudding


Looking for a hearty vegetarian main course entree? You’ve come to the right place! This dish will wake up your taste buds and will be so satisfying your family will want seconds and your guests will ask for the recipe.
Most of you know I cook for families on-the-go. I tend to make home style, stick to your ribs dinners. All dinners include a meat entree, vegetable, salad, homemade bread and dessert. Well, all dinners except for my families that request vegetarian. Therefore, I am always searching and trying different meatless entrees.
While reading a recipe for sweet and delectable bread pudding (that recipe will be a different posting!) I thought what if I made a savory bread pudding that used fresh farm market vegetables and herbs. Well, needless to say it was a great thought!
Enjoy and Happy Cooking,
Vonnie

Vegetable bread pudding

Ingredients:
1 onion, chopped
2 medium zucchini, halved lengthwise and sliced in 1/2″ chunks
2 medium carrots, cleaned and sliced
2 celery ribs, sliced
2 cups broccoli florets
8 oz. mushrooms, sliced
1 bag baby spinach
1-2 TBSP. Olive oil
6 large eggs
1 cup milk
2 tsp. Dijon mustard
3 cups cubed Italian bread (about 1 inch cubes)
1 1/2 cups freshly grated Parmesan cheese, divided
2 tsp. Montreal Steak Seasoning
1 TBSP. fresh parsley, chopped
2 tsp. fresh rosemary, chopped
1 tsp. fresh thyme leaves
4 basil leaves, rolled and sliced

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Whisk eggs, milk and Dijon mustard in a large bowl. Stir in bread cubes, half the cheese and the Montreal Steak Seasoning.
Saute Onions and the next 5 ingredients in hot olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat for 8 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in spinach, parsley, rosemary, and thyme. Fold vegetable mixture into egg mixture. Pour mixture into a lightly greased 9×13 baking dish. Top with remaining cheese.
Bake at 350 for 40 minutes or until center is set. Let stand for 5 minutes before serving.

Summer Time Strawberry and Nut Salad with a Vanilla Bean Vinaigrette


This morning I woke up realizing “Today is the first day of my summer break! I am home… Well, that isn’t going to stop me.”  I got my chores done early, I made myself a glass of sweet tea, I suited up in my beach attire, and grabbed my sandchair….”WAIT…. no beach or ocean?….No worries”. I grabbed my Ipad, set up my sandchair in the middle of my patio, sweet tea in hand, chicklit beach book in the other and I was off to the “beach”!

 

 

“Except I don’t smell fresh ocean air. I smell the remnants of my dogs morning feeding that didn’t get picked up(if you know what I mean), and I don’t hear seagulls or waves crashing….WAIT!….I have Ambiance on my Ipad!… I hear waves and seagulls!! I have a sweet tea, a sandchair and a smutty book… Still no sand, but the bricks are hot and it’s a sunny day with a breeze…..EXCEPT… The neighbor kids are riding their bikes and ringing their bike bells yelling, “Shut up, I’m telling!”…NO!!…I am at the “beach”! I hear the waves and seagulls, I smell my suntan lotion, and I feel the heat of the sun…BEEP, BEEP, BEEP… What is that? Is that a delivery truck? ….DING, DING, DING….SHUT UP!!….I’M TELLING!!…MOM!!!……. What’s that odor? Oh yea….Stupid Dogs! …. OMG!!!…. Was that a frog that just hoped by my feet?…. MOM… I’M TELLING…. DING, DING, DING!!!

AWWWWWW……

OK….

I am not at the beach….I am on my patio, hearing sounds and smelling odors that do not resonate from the beach….BUT I am thinking of summer time recipes and most importantly recipes that are easy to put together, but really pack a punch of different flavors and “challenge” me to try different ingredients together!” 

This salad is your canvas. Add your own colors and make it your own!  It’s the delectable match. If you want, add some grilled chicken, steak or a fresh crab cake. It’s perfect!

PS….this dressing is to die for!!

Enjoy and Happy cooking,

Vonnie

Salad:

5-6 cups Mixed Greens of your liking

1 Pound strawberries, washed, hulled, and sliced

1/2 cup nuts( almonds or macadamia nut work best) chopped  

1 handful of white chocolate shavings

Vanilla Bean Vinaigrette:

Ingredients:

1/2 lb. unsalted butter

2 1/2 oz. brown sugar

2 oz. honey

1 vanilla bean

1 tsp. vanilla extract

2 1/2 oz. olive oil

Directions:

In a large serving bowl, place washed and spin-dried greens. Toss in sliced strawberries and chopped nuts. Meanwhile in a saucepan melt butter over medium-low heat and stir in brown sugar and honey. Split vanilla bean in half and core (use the pulp only). Transfer butter mixture and vanilla pulp to a blender. Add vanilla extract and pulse for 2 minutes. Slowly add olive oil, pulsing to incorporate. Return to saucepan and keep over low heat until ready to use.

  Dress salad with vinaigrette and top with white chocolate shavings and choice of meat if desired. 

Seven Layer Meatless Tortilla Pie


I love this recipe! It’s a great dinner for your busy summer evenings.  It’s also super quick to assemble and so versatile. If you want you can add meat ground beef or turkey seasoned with some taco or fajita seasoning.  Grilled chicken, turkey, pork also seasoned and sliced thin works great. If you are going to add a meat layer, do so after spreading the beans on the tortilla. Top with cheese and continue with standard directions.  

This is a dinner that will please everyone in your family. I like to serve mine with shredded  lettuce and diced tomatoes. If you don’t want to use sour cream, for a dip or dressing to drizzle on top of the pie,  I mix some picante sauce and Ranch dressing together.

Enjoy and Happy cooking,
Vonnie                                                                                                

 

 

 
Ingredients:
2 (15 ounce) cans pinto beans, drained
1 cup picante sauce
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
1 (15 ounce) can black beans, drained
2 small tomato, chopped
7 (8 inch) flour tortillas
2 cups shredded Cheddar cheese
Optional toppings:

sour cream
green onions, chopped
black olives, sliced
jalapeno, sliced

Directions:
Mash pinto beans. Stir in 3/4 cup picante sauce and garlic powder.
Mix remaining picante sauce, cilantro, black beans and tomatoes.
Place 1 tortilla on baking sheet. Spread 3/4 cup pinto bean mixture over tortilla to within 1/2-inch of edge. (Add meat layer)  Top with 1/4 cup cheese. Top with 1 tortilla and 2/3 cup black bean mixture. Top with 1/4 cup cheese. Repeat layers twice more. Top with remaining tortilla and spread with remaining pinto bean mixture. Cover with foil.
Bake at 400 degrees F for 40 minutes or until hot. Uncover. Top with remaining cheese. Cut into wedges. Serve with additional picante sauce, sprinkle with additional cilantro if desired, and optional toppings

Southwestern Red Bean Vegetable Soup


  What do you get when you combined a wonderful blends of fresh vegetables and herbs with a little kick from some seasonings  and hearty red beans?
A fantastic dinner! This soup is perfect for Meatless Monday or a Friday Lenten meal.
Enjoy and Happy Cooking,                                         

Vonnie

 

 

Ingredients:

3 large green bell peppers

3 celery ribs, chopped

2 medium onions, chopped

4 (16 ounce) cans red kidney beans, rinsed and drained

1 (28 ounce) can diced tomatoes, semi-drained

4 cups chicken broth

2 bay leaves

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon taco seasoning

1/2 teaspoon pepper

1/4 teaspoon hot pepper sauce

            Directions

In a 5-qt. slow cooker, combine the peppers, celery, onions and beans. Stir in the remaining ingredients.  Cover and cook on low for 6 hours or until vegetables are tender. Discard bay leaves before serving.

Diane Seed’s Asparagus Risotto


Diane Seed is known to those who have been fortunate enough to attend her occasional classes, as a teacher who weaves a spell, while she infuses Italian history and a story with each dish she creates with you.  I had the pleasure of spending an evening with her and it was truly the highlight of my cooking journey.  She is fascinating, and so pleasant. She glides in the kitchen with an ease that is contagious. I found myself be very child-like and wanting to mimic her every move.

One of the dishes we made while I was graced with her presence was Asparagus Risotto. She taught me most people feel the need to make their risotto with Arborio Rice, but she compared it to Minute Rice and she said Carnaroli Rice is the only rice for GOOD risotto. When I came back home I couldn’t find it though.  I found some on Amazon.com to order.  I also found it in the North Beach or Little Italy while I was in San Francisco.  So you might have to search for it in your hometown.

I hope you take the time to make this dish. It is truly an indulgence well worth it.  This is taken from my notes.  Enjoy her comments about some of the ingredients!

Enjoy and Happy Cooking,                                                                                  

Vonnie

Ingredients:

2 pounds fresh green asparagus

salt

1 3/4 oz butter (

1 medium onion, finely chopped

10 ounces Carnaroli rice (the only rice to use Anything else used will taste like Minute)

8 ounces good dry white wine ( cook with what you would drink, not cheap)

a little light stock,  (asparagus water about 3 cups or more)

1 3/4 ounce freshly grated parmesan cheese (buy a good quality and grate it yourself)

black pepper, Freshly ground                                                    

Directions:

Cut off the extreme tips(1 to 1 1/4 inch) of the asparagus and reserve.  Cut the remaining stalks into pieces (1 3/4 inches) and cook quickly in a little salted water.  When they are tender,  puree and sieve to eliminate any tough fibers.  Stir this pulp into cooking liquid to make an asparagus stock. (this is the salted water the asparagus cooked in).

Melt 1 1/2 ounce of the butter in a large pan, add the onion and let it begin to soften before adding the asparagus tips. With a wooden spoon ( must be a wooden spoon) stir in the rice and let it absorb in the flavor of the butter and pour in the wine.  Turn up the heat so the wine evaporates quickly then ladle on a little of the boiling asparagus stock.  When the rice has absorbed the liquid add another ladle of stock and continue in this way until the rice is cooked. You may need to use a different stock if the asparagus stock is finished before the rice is tender.  It is important to add only boiling stock a little at a time to the rice.  This process usually takes about 20 minutes and needs constant care. ( just like a baby or a man!!)

When the rice is cooked check for seasoning and stir in the remaining butter and freshly grated parmesan cheese. Add your black pepper to your taste.

Deutsch: Abgesackter Carnaroli Reis; Risottoqu...

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Pierogi Lasagna


This is a recipe I found in a cookbook my mother-in-law and my father-in-law brought back from a trip to Nova Scotia. The title is One Potato, Two Potato. Every one of the 200+ recipes are made with potatoes and this one is by far my favorite!

It is easy to make, works well for a vegetarian main dish and you can serve it with so many sides. I like it with applesauce, kielbasa, or a nice tossed salad.

If you are pressed for time you can use instant mashed potatoes.                         

Hope you enjoy and happy cooking,

Vonnie

 

 

Ingredients:

1 lb lasagna noodles

4 lbs red or white potatoes

1/4 c sour cream (optional)

1/2 c milk

2 c shredded cheddar cheese

1 c butter (2 sticks)

2 onion, sliced in rings

Directions:

Cook the noodles as directed on box. Chop potatoes into cubes, place in pot of cold water (enough to cover), and allow to come to a boil. Continue boil until potatoes are soft enough to yield to a fork stab. Drain, mash, blend with a mixer. Toss in the optional sour cream and milk, mix some more. Add salt to taste. Stir in cheddar.

Melt all the butter over medium-high heat, then sautee onions until the rings are transparent.

Preheat oven to 375. Grease the bottom of a 9×13 baking dish with some of the onion-butter. Lay 3 noodles on the bottom of the dish, then spread the potatoes, a dollop at a time, along the length of each noodle. Once done, smooth the potatoes, then spread about a quarter of the onions on top, and drizzle a small amount of butter as well. Repeat this twice (or more if your dish can accommodate), then top with 3 noodles and the remainder of the onions and butter.

Pop in the oven for 20 to 30  minutes. Allow to cool 10 minutes before cutting and serving.

Meatless Monday Root Vegetable Stew


This is a hearty Meatless Monday meal that so satisfying.  Pair it with a green salad and some great bread, like Sue’s Oatmeal Bread (shared recipe last week) made in your breadmaker and you have the perfect dinner!

For some of you Meatless Monday is not your forte so just add some cooked spicy sausage, cooked or leftover chicken shredded right before serving.

This stew only gets better as it sits, so don’t make lunch plans for Tuesday!!

PS….Uncle Jim’s Pepper Mustard is a product friends of mine created and produce. Check them out. You will fall in love with wonderful mustard!   www.unclejimsstore.com

Enjoy and Happy Cooking,

Vonnie

 Ingredients:

1  TBSP.  olive oil

1  cup  chopped onion

3  TBSP.  chopped garlic

1  TBSP.  chopped fresh rosemary, divided

2 1/2  cups diced peeled  potatoes

2 1/4  cups diced peeled rutabaga

2  cups  diced peeled turnip

1 1/4  cups  diced peeled parsnip

1 cup  diced carrots

2  cups  vegetable broth

2  cups  water

1/4 cup  heavy whipping cream

1/2  tsp.  freshly ground black pepper

1/4  tsp.  salt

2-3 TBSP. Uncle Jims Pepper Mustard, Optional…but highly recommended!

Directions:

1. Heat oil in a large pan over medium heat. Add onion to pan; cook until tender about 3-4 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add garlic and 2 teaspoons rosemary; cook for about 1 minute, stirring occasionally. Stir in potatoes and next 6 ingredients. Bring to a simmer; cook, covered, 20 minutes or until vegetables are tender.

2. Place 3 cups vegetable mixture in a blender. Remove center piece of blender lid (to allow steam to escape); secure blender lid on blender. Blend until smooth. Return to pan. Stir in cream, pepper mustard, pepper, and salt.

Red and Green Winter Soup


Nothing is more comforting and nourishing than a big bowl of Red and Green Winter Soup. It’s the perfect dinner now that winter has officially made it’s appearance, and the colors are very festive!  In less than 30 minutes you can have a very satisfying dinner that really good for you. Happy Holidays!

Enjoy and happy cooking,

Vonnie                                                                                                   

Ingredients :

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

2 large baking potatoes, peeled and sliced

2 cloves of garlic, minced

2 onions, quartered lengthwise and thinly sliced

2-3 sprigs fresh rosemary, leaves finely chopped

1 bay leaf

Salt and pepper

4 cups chicken or vegetable broth

1 bunch kale, stemmed and coarsely chopped

1 can crushed tomatoes or fire-roasted tomatoes (28 ounces)

3 large roasted red peppers

Parmesan or Asiago cheese, shredded

Preparation :

In a medium soup pot heat olive oil over medium to medium-high heat. Add the potatoes, garlic, onions, rosemary and bay leaf; season with salt and pepper and cook, stirring frequently, until softened, 7-8 minutes. Add the broth and bring to a boil, 6-8 minutes. Add the kale in batches and cook until wilted, 1-2 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes.

Using a food processor or a mini chopper, puree the roasted peppers. Stir the pureed peppers into the soup pot, lower the heat to medium-low and simmer for 10 minutes. Discard the bay leaf. Top with a spoonful of shredded cheese.

Serve with some good crusty Italian bread or garlic bread.

Note : If you want to add meat to this winter soup, a 1/2 pound of Italian sausage cooked and sliced or a couple of leftover grilled chicken breasts, sliced is a nice addition.