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Basil Pesto

Basil Pesto

Basil Pesto

These days I have an abundance of fresh basil leaves. I don’t have much of a green thumb but basil plants and I somehow get along really well. And so I am trying not to let this wonderful aromatic herb go to waste by making some basil pesto. It is quick and easy to make and, although I have not tried it myself, I have read that pesto also can be made using walnuts, unsalted cashews, almonds, pistachios and even¬† sunflower seeds. Besides using pesto on your pasta, it can also be used as a sandwich spread, baked into bread, add a little to your soup or marinara sauce for extra flavor. Today I am freezing mine by dropping spoonfuls into an ice cube tray. Once frozen, I pop them out of the tray and into a freezer bag for later use. Enjoy!

Basil Pesto (makes approx 1 cup)

Ingredients:

2 cups packed basil leaves

1-2 large garlic cloves

60 grams pine nuts

1/2 cup reggiano parmesan cheese, shredded and loosely packed

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

lemon juice, a big squeeze

salt to taste, a pinch

Directions:

Place basil leaves, garlic, pine nuts and cheese into a food processor and pulse until coarsely chopped. While the food processor is running, add olive oil and lemon juice. Scraping down sides, process until desired consistency. Add salt to taste.

Source: My Danish Kitchen

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Veggie Roll-up Lasagna

Veggie Lasagna Roll-up

My husband Joe is a meat lover so when I told him that I was making vegetable lasagna roll-up he immediately wrinkled his nose and I assured him that he was going to love it. And while I was cooking the sauce he kept asking me if I was adding some sausage to the sauce, but I stood my ground with a firm “no” ūüôā And when it finally came time to taste the much anticipated lasagna roll-up, guess what, he loved it and I must say that this recipe really is wonderful…even without meat.

Separate and cover noodles until ready to use. Spread ricotta cheese, roll tightly, place in pan.

Separate and cover noodles until ready to use. Spread ricotta cheese, roll tightly, place in pan.

I am always looking for good recipes that you can cook ahead, freeze and then thaw and cook for those nights when you come home tired from a long day at work. I love this recipe because it can be made into small portions, it is loaded with delicious vegetables and there is less cheese involved than a regular lasagna. Of course you can always add some meat to the recipe or change the vegetables around as you please, but all kidding aside, this recipe will definitely be a staple recipe here at our house and sometimes there may even be some meat in it.

Layer: sauce, rolled up noodles, sauce and a thin layer of cheese.

Layer: sauce, rolled up noodles, sauce and a thin layer of cheese.

Veggie Lasagna Roll-up, makes 3 foil loaf-size pans

Ingredients:

12 lasagna noodles

For the sauce:

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 onion, diced

1 orange bell pepper, diced

3 large cloves of garlic, minced

1 zucchini, cut into bite size chunks

1 yellow squash, cut into bite size chunks

mushrooms, sliced or diced

1 cup white wine

salt and pepper, to taste

14 oz diced tomatoes

3 tablespoons tomato paste

1 cup of your favorite marinara sauce

1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

For the cheese filling:

15 oz ricotta cheese

1 egg

1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

large bunch fresh basil

salt and pepper

For the topping:

Your favorite Italian cheese (I used a store-bought blend of Mozzarella, Asiago, Provolone and Romano)

Directions:

Cook lasagna noodles in salted water according to package directions, drain and rinse with cold water. Line a baking sheet with plastic wrap and place one layer of noodles, alternate plastic wrap with noodles ending with plactic wrap on top, to prevent the noodles from drying out. Set aside.

To make sauce: heat olive oil in a large cooking pot, add onions and bell pepper, cook until onions are starting to turn translucent. Add garlic, zucchini, squash and mushrooms, cook for a few minutes. Pour in wine and cook another 1-2 minutes. Add salt and pepper, diced tomatoes, tomato paste, your favorite marinara sauce and Parmesan cheese, simmer 15-20 minutes.

To make cheese filling: in a small bowl add ricotta cheese, egg, Parmesan cheese, salt and pepper and chopped basil, stir to combine.

To assemble: line up 3 loaf-size foil pans. Spoon a small amount of sauce into bottom of loaf pan. Lay out 4 lasagna noodles and spread each noodle with a thin layers of ricotta cheese mix. Roll each noodle up tightly and place on top of sauce inside foil pan. 4 rolled up noodle will fit inside each pan. Top noodles with more sauce and your favorite cheese. Close pan off with tinfoil. Repeat with remaining ingredients. Cook immediately or let cool down in refrigerator before placing in freezer.

When ready to bake preheat oven to 350 degrees F and cook covered for 40 minutes. Turn heat up to 400 degrees F and continue to cook uncovered for 15 minutes or until cheese is golden in color. Enjoy!

Source: adapted from Ree Drummond

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Italiensk Oksebov - Italian Beef Stew

Italiensk Oksebov – Italian Beef Stew

This winter seems to be going on forever and I don’t recall it ever being this cold in Virginia before. We, of course, have not had the extreme amount of snow that the rest of the country have experienced, but we did get one big snowfall which turned out to be a lot of fun. All the neighbors in our neighborhood, got together and helped shovel snow from each other’s driveways, and the day was wrapped up with a party, with lots of good food, at a neighbors house.

And so while we all continue to hunker down inside our homes, waiting for spring to arrive, I can recommend this wonderful Italian beef stew which is sure to warm your soul. I adapted this recipe from a Danish food blog called Dalsgaard i Skivholme, which I enjoy reading. The stew is very flavorful and equally good with or without the Rosemary, so I left the Rosemary as optional. Also the original recipe had white beans in it which I left out due to danger that my cooking pot would otherwise overflow. Please enjoy!

Italiensk Oksebov – Italian Beef Stew

Ingredients:

500 gram beef cubes

salt and pepper

extra virgin olive oil

1 large onion, diced

3 cloves garlic, minced

8 oz mushrooms, sliced

14 oz diced tomatoes

7 oz tomato sauce

1 glass white wine

chili powder – a dash

sugar – a dash

apple cider vinegar – a splash (1-2 tablespoons)

fresh rosemary, 1 twig

Directions:

Trim beef cubes and cut into bite-size pieces. Season with salt and pepper. Heat a large pan to medium-high heat and sear beef in small portions. After searing beef, place the meat into a large cooking pot and add diced tomatoes and tomato sauce. Lower heat of pan to medium-low, add a 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add onions to pan and cook until translucent, add garlic and cook for 1 additional minute. Pour onion and garlic into the seared meat in cooking pot. Add mushrooms to pan and cook until slightly golden, add wine and simmer for another minute. Add mushrooms and wine into the beef mixture. Add chili powder, sugar and apple cider vinegar to beef stew. Add fresh rosemary (chopped or whole) to stew and let simmer over low heat for 1-2 hours. Serve with rice or mashed potatoes. Enjoy!

Source: adapted from Dalsgaard i Skivholme

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Stuffed Pasta Shells

I love stuffed pasta, actually I love anything pasta. But if the pasta is stuffed with just cheese, I am not a fan. So I like to mix something else in with that cheese, in this case, some spicy sausage and lots of fresh basil. The basil gives a wonderful flavor, and the spicy sausage adds a little heat and a better texture. It’s a win win! I hope you enjoy these Stuffed Pasta Shells as much as we did.

Ingredients:

6 oz jumbo pasta shells (1/2 box or 16 individual shells)

8 oz spicy ground sausage, cooked and cooled

15 oz ricotta cheese, part skim

1 egg

10 large basil leaves, chopped

1 cup parmigiano-reggiano cheese

1/2 tsp salt

your favorite marinara sauce

mozzarella cheese, for topping

Directions:

Cook sausage, drain off fat and place in refrigerator to cool.

Combine ricotta cheese, egg, basil, parmigiano-reggiano cheese and salt in a small bowl. Add cooked, cooled sausage. Stir to combine and place in refrigerator to keep cool.

Cook pasta in salted water for 10 minutes. Drain and run under cold water. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a baking dish place a small amount of marinara sauce. Fill cooked shells with cheese/sausage filling and place in baking dish. Top with more marinara sauce and mozzarella cheese. Bake in oven for 35 minutes. Enjoy!

Source: My Danish Kitchen

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Penne Pasta with Shrimp

I had a craving for pasta and shrimp but didn’t want Shrimp Scampi since we had that not too long ago. Then i remembered this pasta dish which I have been meaning to try out. I made some adjustment to fit my likings and it turned out really good. The flavors are mild, a little sweet and creamy. I think I might add¬†a little red pepper flakes next time I make this just to give it a kick.

Ingredients:

1/2 pound penne pasta

1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined

2 tbsp butter

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1 small onion, diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 cup white wine

2 tbsp tomato paste

14.5 oz canned diced tomatoes

1/4 cup half and half

1/4 cup flat-leaf parsley, chopped

8-10 basil leaves, chiffonade

Salt and pepper, to taste

Directions:

Bring salted pasta water to a boil, add pasta and cook until al dente.

Peel and devein shrimp, season with salt and pepper and set aside. In a large pan, melt 1 tbsp butter and 1 tbsp olive oil over medium high heat. Add shrimp and cook for two minutes, turning shrimp over half-way through cooking time. Remove shrimp from pan and set aside.

Add 1 tbsp butter and 1 tbsp olive oil to pan and lower heat to medium. Cook diced onions until tender and translucent. Add minced garlic and cook one minute longer, add wine and reduce for 2-3 minutes.  Add tomato paste and stir to blend. Add canned tomatoes and continue to simmer covered until pasta is ready.

Add pasta, parsley, basil and half/half. Bring to a simmer and turn off heat. Add shrimp back into pasta dish and arrange on serving dish. Top with Parmigiano Reggiano cheese. Enjoy!

Source: adapted from Pioneer Woman Cooks Book

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Lasagna

Lasagna is one of my son’s all-time favorite dishes, mine as well. But then again, I’ll eat any type of¬†pasta, anytime. The thing about Lasagna is that it’s a time-consuming dish, so lately when I make it, I make two dishes and freeze one. You want to make sure you freeze the assembled Lasagna before¬†it is baked. Then just thaw it in the refrigerator for a day before baking.

What I really like about Anne Burrell’s¬†recipe is how the Basil is mixed in with the Ricotta cheese which gives it a wonderful flavor. In my opinion, the greatest thing about Lasagna is how versatile it is. You can make it a hundred different¬†ways¬†by¬†substitute whatever type of vegetables¬†and/or meats your heart¬†desires. I don’t really think that I have made the same Lasagna twice because it is always a little different. A very helpful tip that Anne Burrell also gave on her show was to¬†layer the lasagna noodles in a criss-cross fashion to help prevent the lasagna from gliding apart once it’s cut and to let it cool down for at least 10-15 minutes before cutting into. Fifteen minutes are¬†an eternity when your hungry and it’s Lasagna your waiting for.

Ricotta Cheese with Basil and Parmigiano-Reggiano

Sausage and Spinach

 

Mozzarella and Parmigiano-Reggiano

 

Home-made Marinara

 Ingredients:

1 1/2 lbs sweet Italian sausage

12 oz mushrooms, sliced

a pinch crushed red pepper flakes

2 garlic cloves, minced

5 oz fresh baby spinach

2 cups ricotta cheese

8-10 basil leaves, chopped

1 egg

2 cups Parmigiano-Reggiano, divided

your favorite home-made marinara sauce

16 oz package lasagna noodles

1 lb grated mozzarella cheese

Directions:

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook lasagna noodles for 7 minutes, drain and lay flat on a baking sheet, set aside.

Break apart Italian sausage and brown in pan, set aside. Add sliced mushrooms and crushed red pepper flakes to pan, season with salt and cook until soft. Add garlic and spinach and cook just until spinach is wilting. Remove from pan and set aside.

In a small bowl combine ricotta cheese, basil, egg and 1/2 the Parmigiano-Reggiano. Mix to combine and season with salt. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In the bottom of a 9 x 13 inch baking dish add a couple of ladles of marinara sauce and spread evenly. Arrange a layer of lasagna noodles over sauce. Top with 1/3 of the ricotta cheese mixture. Arrange a layer of lasagna noodles in the opposite direction and top with sauce, 1/3 of mushroom mixture, mozzarella cheese and some of the remaining Parmigiano-Reggiano. Repeat these layers until all ingredients are used up and the pan is full. Make sure that the top layer consist of marinara sauce topped with cheese.

Place dish on baking sheet, cover with foil and bake in oven for 1 hour 15 minutes. Remove foil for the last 15 minutes of baking time to brown the top. Let cool for 15 minutes before slicing.

Lasagna

Source: adapted from Anne Burrell

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Chicken Parmesan

Yesterday¬†turned out to be¬†the most beautiful Spring day and you could almost palpate¬†the excitement in the air. Flowers have started to bloom and it was mild and warm. You saw people out and about everywhere, smiling, walking, some daring to dress in shorts and flip-flops. Joe and I ventured to Lowe’s and picked up a new swing for the front porch. This particular swing folds down so you can¬†stretch out¬†and take a nap on it. Boy oh boy, I can hardly wait to be gently swinging, reading a book and dozing off in the summer breeze ūüôā

So what does that have to do with Chicken Parmesan? absolutely nothing! But I have been messing around with this dish for quite some time now, trying to drive in the flavor to what I consider the perfect piece of Chicken Parmesan. Tender, yet crisp, with just the right amount of that wonderful Parmigiano Reggiano flavor in the breading. This is what I have come up with and it is very delicious, if I may say so myself. Happy Spring everyone.

Chicken Parmesan

Ingredients:

3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

salt and pepper

1 cup flour

2 eggs

1 cup plain bread crumbs

3/4 cup Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, grated, plus more for topping

2 teaspoons italian seasoning

extra virgin olive oil for frying

mozzarella cheese, shredded, for topping

your favorite Marinara sauce, preheated

Directions:
Rinse chicken with cold water and cut away any remaining fat. Place each of the chicken breasts, one at the time, in a large zip lock bag, close and pound the chicken flat to approximately 3/4 inch thickness. Season chicken with salt and pepper. Mix together bread crumbs, cheese and italian seasoning and set aside. Dip chicken in flour and shake off excess. Next dip chicken breast in eggs, let excess drip off. Then place chicken in bread crumb mixture and coat to cover. Place chicken on a clean plate. Repeat with the remaining chicken breasts.

Preheat a large pan to medium-high heat. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Place chicken breasts in pan and brown, 2 minutes on each side. Remove from pan and place chicken in an oven proof dish. Pour your favorite preheated marinara sauce over and around the chicken breasts, top with mozzarella and Parmigiano Reggiano cheese. Finish cooking chicken in oven for 5 to 8 minutes or until cheese is melted and chicken is cooked through.

Chicken Parmesan

Source: My Danish Kitchen

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Tortellini Soup

I was searching high and low for something¬†to make for¬†dinner¬†when I¬†came across this recipe. It’s a wonderful Tortellini¬†soup that is so quick and easy to¬†make, perfect for¬†when you get home from work and you’re too tired to make anything that requires any complex thinking. The ingredients are simple and you probably already have most of them on hand. I used a three cheese tortellini¬†which brought a wonderful subtle cheese flavor into the soup but any type of tortellini would do great. An added bonus is that the soup also is perfect for left-over lunch the next day ūüôā¬†

Ingredients:

olive oil

1/2 cup onion, chopped

2 garlic cloves, minced

1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

1 (15 oz) can diced tomatoes, with juices

4 cups low-sodium vegetable or chicken stock

9 oz. tortellini

3 cups fresh baby spinach, loosely packed

salt and pepper, to taste

Parmesano reggiano, grated for serving

Directions:

In a large pot heat olive oil to medium-high heat. Add onions and cook until translucent. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Mix in dried oregano and diced tomatoes. Add the stock and bring to a simmer. Season with salt and pepper. Add tortellini and cook according to package directions. When tortellini is cooked, add baby spinach and remove from heat. Once the spinach has wilted, 1 to 2 minutes, serve warm with grated Parmesano reggiano cheese. Enjoy.

Source: originally from¬†The Well-Fed Newlyweds via Annie’s Eats

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Fusilli Col Buco And Shrimp In Tomato Cream Sauce

Fusilli Col Buco And Shrimp In Tomato Cream Sauce

Ok, so I admit it, I’m hooked on Tomato Cream sauces. Ok ok, here is the real truth, I’m hooked on anything tomato. Tomato sandwiches, tomato soup, tomato sauces or just a plain tomato with salt and pepper, yum. I think maybe Joe (my husband) is getting a little tired of¬†my love affair with tomatoes, although he really did like this Tomato cream sauce. And did you see these beautiful Fusilli Col Buco that I found. I have been saving them¬†for a special tomato sauce and this is it. Hope you enjoy this recipe, should you decide to give it a try.

Fusilli Col Buco And Shrimp In Tomato Cream Sauce

Ingredients:

2/3 pound Fusilli Col Buco

1 pound extra-large Shrimp

2 tablespoon Butter

2 tablespoon Olive Oil

1 small Onion – diced

2 cloves Garlic – minced

1/2 cup white wine

1 can Tomato Sauce, 8 ounces

1/2 cup Whipping Cream

fresh Basil, to taste

Salt and Pepper, to taste

Directions:

Peel, devein and rinse shrimp. Cook Fusilli Col Buco until desired consistency. Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon butter and 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet. Season shrimp lightly with salt and pepper and cook in skillet until pink. Do not overcook. Remove shrimp from skillet and set aside. Add remaining 1 tablespoon butter and 1 tablespoon olive oil to skillet, then add diced onion and minced garlic and cook over low-medium heat until tender. Add wine and let it reduce for 4-5 minutes. Add tomato sauce and cream, stir well and bring to a simmer. Chop fresh Basil and add to sauce, then add drained Fusilli Col Buco and Shrimp back into the sauce and stir well to make sure Fusilli is completely covered with sauce. Serve hot with grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese. Enjoy!

Cooked Shrimp

Fusilli Col Buco in Tomato Cream Sauce

Source: adapted from Pioneer Woman

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Chicken Scallopine With Basil And Fontina Cheese

Chicken Scallopine With Basil And Fontina Cheese

I have made this Chicken Scallopine many times before and it is absolutely lovely. The Fontina cheese is what really makes this dish. I like to use a Danish Fontina which is mild, sweet and nutty. It is also a very soft cheese so it can be a bit challenging to shred. Try placing the cheese in the freezer for 10-15 minutes before shredding. Of course, you could simply just cut the cheese into very thin slices instead and place onto chicken. It should roll just fine since the cheese is so soft. This recipe was originally made with sage but I just love the basil flavor with the tomatoes.

Chicken Scallopine With Basil And Fontina Cheese

Ingredients:

6 skinless, boneless chicken breasts, pounded thin

salt and freshly ground pepper

6 large basil leaves, plus more

3 ounces grated Fontina cheese, shredded

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 large garlic clove, cut into thick slices

1/2 cup white wine

1 (28 ounces) can whole San Marzano tomatoes

a pinch of red pepper flakes

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

Special Equipment: toothpicks

Directions:

Rinse chicken breasts under cold running water and cut off any excess fat. Place one chicken breast in a large zip lock bag, press out inside air and close. Pound chicken breast thin using the smooth end of a meat tenderizer or a rolling-pin. Repeat with remaining chicken breasts.

Place chicken breast on plastic cutting board, narrow end facing you. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place on large basil leaf on top of chicken. Sprinkle with 1/2 ounce Fontina cheese (about 2 tablespoons). Starting with the narrow end, roll up chicken and seal with two toothpicks. Repeat with remaining chicken.

Warm the olive oil and garlic slices in a large heavy skillet over medium-high heat until garlic is fragrant. Add the chicken and brown on all sides. Remove the chicken to a plate and discard the garlic. Add the wine and simmer for 2 minutes, scraping the brown bits from the bottom of the skillet with a wooden spoon.

Meanwhile, combine the tomatoes and red pepper flakes in a blender or food processor and blend until smooth. Add the tomato mixture to the reduced wine, season with salt and pepper, stir to blend. Place the browned chicken breasts back into the skillet with the tomato sauce, cover and simmer for 10 minutes. Turn the chicken over and simmer covered for another 10 minutes. Chop extra basil and add to sauce, stir. Remove all toothpicks.

Spoon tomato sauce onto a warm serving platter. Cut each chicken breasts into half and place on top of tomato sauce. Serve immediately.

Chicken breasts rolled up and secured with toothpicks

Brown chicken on all sides.

Source: adapted from Giada De Laurentiis

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