Dinner Menu: Linguine w/Peppers and Italian Asparagus

It’s the time of year that I begin to crave fresh, light dinners. I’ve tired of stews, hearty soups and the other staples of the mid-winter gloom. As I start to believe spring will arrive again, I want meals that reflect that belief. Lots of fresh veggies, fresh fruits, light sauces and simple, full flavors.

This menu includes items that are plentiful at my local grocery this week. All the peppers are on sale right now, so I use red, yellow. orange and green. Lots of fresh berries, too. And asparagus is everywhere.

On the board tonight:

  1. Linguine w/Garlic & Peppers
  2. Italian Asparagus
  3. Mixed berries & whipped cream

Linguine w/Garlic & Peppers

  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tsp crushed garlic
  • ¼ to ½ tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 green pepper, seeded and thinly sliced
  • 1 red pepper, seeded and thinly sliced
  • 2 oz fresh basil leaves
  • 14 oz can diced tomatoes*
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 4 oz shredded Romano-Parmesan cheese
  • 9 oz pkg. fresh linguine

saucepan and skillet

In skillet heat oil, add garlic, red pepper flakes, green & red peppers and sauté for 5 minutes on medium heat. Add fresh basil, tomatoes, salt & pepper let simmer while pasta cooks. Cook pasta according to package directions and drain well. Toss with pepper mixture & cheese.

* you can use fresh tomatoes, probably 2 large, but I couldn’t find any decent ones this time of year.

Italian Asparagus

  • 1 bunch (approx. 16 oz) fresh asparagus spears
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp oregano, crushed
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 2 oz shredded Romano/Parmesan

saucepan & steamer

Gently scrub asparagus, cut in half and place in steamer. Add enough water to saucepan to come in the bottom of the steamer. Steam for 5 to 8 minutes, until the stalks are tender. Remove and toss with oil, oregano, salt, pepper & cheese.

Shopping List:

  • 1 green pepper, seeded and thinly sliced
  • 1 red pepper, seeded and thinly sliced
  • 2 oz fresh basil leaves
  • 14 oz can diced tomatoes*
  • 4 oz shredded Romano-parmesan cheese**
  • 9 oz pkg. fresh linguine
  • 1 bunch (approx. 16 oz) fresh asparagus spears
  • 2 oz shredded Romano/Parmesan
  • 16 oz mixed berries
  • Whipped Cream

Also: oregano, olive oil, salt, pepper, crushed garlic, crushed red pepper flakes

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Friday Recipe Exchange: Fajitas

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I know it’s a big party weekend, but since we’ve covered Super Bowl snacks twice already in the recipe exchange, I didn’t see how I could get away with it again this year. For those snacks ideas, click here and here.  All those recipes should give you plenty of ideas for your Super Bowl Party. Obligatory, Go Broncos! 

What are you making for the Super Bowl? Or more importantly, what are you making for the Puppy Bowl? Might I suggest Puppy Chow? Seriously good snack! And who are you picking for the big game?

Now about those fajitas. A while ago, JeffreyW posted about making his own fajita seasoning and I was curious. We emailed back and forth a few times about good recipes and then I was ready to make my own. I can’t imagine I will ever buy taco or fajita seasoning again. It’s easy to make and I can control the salt, which is a plus. And fajitas are a quick, simple dinner for any night of the week.

Here’s the recipe that started it all: JeffreyW’s Chicken Fajitas (pictured above), click here.

And then here’s where I went with it:

fajitas

Steak Fajitas

  • 1 small yellow onion, sliced
  • 1 green pepper, sliced
  • 1 yellow pepper, sliced
  • 1 orange or red pepper
  • 1 to 1 1/2 lbs sirloin or flank steak
  • olive oil and butter
  • 10 flour tortillas

Fajita Seasoning

Mix together the following and store in an airtight container.

  • 2 tbsp chili powder (I used a combo of chili and ancho chili powders)
  • 3 tbsp corn starch
  • 1 tbsp salt
  • 1 tbsp paprika
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 2 tsp garlic powder
  • 2 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp cayenne
  • 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper
  • 1/2 tsp cumin

Slice the sirloin very thin – which is easier to do if it’s slightly frozen,  then coat the meat thoroughly with 1 to 2 tbsp of the seasoning and set aside. I grilled onions in a bit of butter and olive oil until they were nicely caramelized, removed and set aside. I then sautéed the peppers with a bit more olive oil until they were soft, removed and set aside. Then I quickly fried up the beef in olive oil, adding a touch of lime and water at the end to create a bit of a sauce with the fajita seasoning. Served with warmed tortillas.

Easy way to warm tortilla – wrap in foil and leave in a 200 degree oven while prepping dinner.

That’s it for this week. We’re snowed under here, but I stayed warm with two good recipes this week:  Stuffed French Toast Rollups and the weekly Dinner Menu, Crispy Potato Chicken.  See you next week – TaMara

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Dinner Menu: Santa Fe Wraps

I know this late, but I got hit with a nasty bug and about all I could accomplish this week was work. The cold weather has stayed around longer than they predicted, though except for a day, it was nothing like anywhere else was experiencing.

I thought about doing soup for the menu tonight, but I’m tired of cold weather food (sigh, and it’s only January) so I decided to go for something that seemed a little fresher. I was in the store and passed by the flavored tortillas: sun dried tomato basil; jalapeno cheddar; garlic herb; and spinach and knew what I wanted to do. These are extra large and I really like the flavors. I like this recipe for company, you can make it all ahead of time, keep it warm and put it on the table and let everyone assemble their own.

On the board tonight:

  1. Santa Fe Wraps
  2. Salad w/Creamy Cucumber Dressing
  3. Grapes

Santa Fe Wraps

  • 1 cup uncooked rice
  • 14 oz can black beans
  • 14 oz can red beans
  • 14 oz can diced tomatoes
  • 1 lb sirloin or London broil, thinly sliced
  • 2 tbsp oil
  • 1 red pepper*
  • ½ yellow onion
  • 1 pkg. taco seasoning
  • 12 oz shredded Jack Cheese
  • 4-8 burrito size flour tortillas (maybe try a flavored style)

2 saucepans, skillet and 4 serving bowls

In saucepan, add rice, 2 cups water and bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes until all water is absorbed. In other saucepan, add beans & heat on med-low until heated through. In 300° oven, place tortilla shells between two pieces of foil and warm. In skillet, heat oil, sauté onion & pepper add steak, cook 5 minutes, reduce heat & add tomatoes, taco seasoning and cook 5 minutes on medium. Put rice, beans, cheese and meat mixture in separate serving bowls, let everyone assemble their own wrap at the table.

*There are a lot of peppers at my grocers, so go wild, use a couple of different colors for some added flavor.

Also, please note my friend who lived in Santa Fe says it needs green chilis to be authentic.

Salad w/Creamy Cucumber Dressing

  • 12 oz bag spring greens
  • ½ head green leaf lettuce
  • 6 cherry tomatoes, halved
  • ½ red onion, thinly sliced

serving bowl

Mix all ingredients together in serving bowl.

Dressing:

  • 8 oz plain yogurt (low fat ok)
  • 2 cucumbers, peeled & chopped (seeded opt)**
  • ¼ Miracle Whip style salad dressing or mayonnaise
  • 4 green onions, chopped (or use the remaining yellow onion)
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp dried dill
  • 1/8 tsp black pepper

small bowl

Mix ingredients together and toss with salad greens.  **I really like the English cucumbers (those are the long, thin ones, usually wrapped in plastic).

Shopping List:

  • 1 cup uncooked rice
  • 14 oz can black beans
  • 14 oz can red beans
  • 14 oz can diced tomatoes
  • 1 lb sirloin or London broil
  • 1 red pepper (don’t stop there, add a yellow and orange, too)
  • 1 yellow onion
  • 1 pkg. taco seasoning
  • 12 oz shredded Jack Cheese
  • 4-8 burrito size flour tortillas (be daring, try a flavored one)
  • green chilis, opt.
  • 12 oz bag spring greens
  • 1 head green leaf lettuce
  • 6 cherry tomatoes
  • 1 red onion
  • 8 oz plain yogurt (low fat ok)
  • 2 cucumbers (I like English)
  • 4 green onions (or use the remaining yellow onion)

Also: Miracle Whip style salad dressing or mayonnaise, lemon juice, oil, salt, pepper, dill

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Dinner Menu: Quick and Easy Chicken Parmesan

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Photo by JeffreyW

Heading out of town, but wanted to leave you with one of my favorite recipes.  I’m off to Boston…hoping for good weather and good food. Good company is a given.  When I get back I think I want to tackle some fun Halloween ideas.

This is a fairly simple Chicken Parmesan and the Mushroom Confetti is a light and tasty side. Enjoy.

On the board tonight:

  1. Chicken Parmesan
  2. Garlic Bread*
  3. Italian Mushroom Confetti
  4. Sherbet or (my favorite) Gelato

Chicken Parmesan

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 4 bonelss chicken breasts, cut into fillets or 1 lb chicken breast fillets
  • 2 cups Italian Bread Crumbs
  • ½ onion, diced
  • 15 oz can tomato sauce
  • 3 tbsp tomato paste**
  • 1 tsp basil
  • 1/2 tsp oregano
  • 1/4 tsp rosemary
  • 2 tsp crushed garlic
  • Pinch of sugar
  • 4 oz sliced mozzarella cheese
  • 1 green pepper, sliced into rings
  • 4 oz grated parmesan cheese

large skillet and 9×13 baking dish, lightly oiled

Wash and lightly dry breasts, then coat in bread crumbs. Heat oil in skillet, reduce heat to medium and brown chicken on both sides, remove, set aside. Add onion, sauce, paste & spices and bring to a low boil, reduce heat, simmer 5 minutes. Place a ladle of sauce in the bottom of the baking dish, place chicken on top and then spread remaining sauce over the top of the chicken. Add cheese slices on each fillet. Sprinkle evenly with parmesan, top with green pepper rings. Bake at 375, 20 -25 minutes until cheese is melted and golden brown.

**Extra tomato paste can be frozen in ice cube trays and stored in a plastic zip bag. 1 cube = 1 tbsp of paste

Italian Mushroom Confetti

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 large Portobello mushroom caps (or 6 to 8 button mushrooms)
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 1 green pepper
  • ½ onion
  • 1 cup corn
  • 1 small zucchini
  • 1 large tomato or 14 oz diced tomatoes, drained
  • ½ cup vegetable or chicken broth
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • ½ tsp basil

skillet

Cut mushrooms, peppers, zucchini & tomato into uniform pieces. Heat oil in skillet, add vegetables, including corn, sauté 2 minutes, add stock & spices. Stir over medium heat until vegetables are tender.

*Quick and easy garlic bread: slice loaf lengthwise, melt butter, add garlic and brush on cut side of each half of bread.  Top with a little parmesan and broil until golden.  Slice and serve.

Shopping List:

  • 4 boneless chicken breasts or 1 lb chicken breast fillets
  • 2 cups Italian bread crumbs
  • 1 onion
  • 15 oz can tomato sauce
  • 6 oz can tomato paste
  • 4 oz sliced mozzarella cheese
  • 1 green pepper
  • 4 oz grated parmesan cheese
  • 2 Portobello mushrooms,
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 1 sm. Zucchini,
  • 1 large tomato or 14 oz can diced tomatoes
  • 4 oz vegetable, chicken broth or equivalent
  • 1 cup corn
  • 1 loaf French or Italian bread
  • 1 pint Gelato or Sherbet

Also: basil, oregano, garlic, rosemary, olive oil, butter

Originally published October 2009

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Fresh Ideas for Unusual Fruit Salads

Here are a couple of different style salads to brighten any holiday picnic or bbq you might have planned this coming weekend.

Unusual Fruits Saladhealth-benefits-of-pawpaw-tree-fruit

  • 1 cup ripe golden apple
  • 1 cup cantaloupe/ honey dew melon
  • 1 cup grapefruits segments, cubed
  • 1 cup small cucumber, cubed
  • 1 cup ripe paw-paw, cubed
  • 1 cup guavas, cubed
  • 1 cup ripe mangoes, cubed
  • 1 cup firm ripecarambolas, sliced

    Carambolas

  • ¼ cup sliced onion
  • ¼ cup white wine
  • ¼ cup honey
  • Lettuce leaves

Mix together fruits and vegetables,  tossing well. Mix white wine and honey in a small bowl. Stir well and pour over vegetable and fruits. Toss and chill.  Make a doily on a large platter with lettuce leaves, add chilled salad to the platter and serve.

Caribbean Orange-Mango Coleslaw

  • 8 cups shredded green cabbage
  • 2 large mangoes, peeled, pitted and diced
  • ½ medium red bell pepper, thinly sliced
  • ½ medium yellow bell pepper, thinly sliced
  • 6 green onions, thinly sliced
  • cilantro leaves for garnish

Combine cabbage, mangoes, bell peppers, and green onions  in large bowl; stir gently to mix.

Add Orange-Mango Dressing; toss gently to coat.  Garnish with cilantro.  Chill and serve, or store in refrigerator up to 1 day.

Orange-Mango Dressing

  • ½ mango, peeled, pitted and cubed
  • 6 ounces plain nonfat yogurt
  • ¼ cup frozen orange juice concentrate
  • 3 tablespoons lime juice
  • ½ to 1 jalapeño pepper,* stemmed, seeded and minced
  • 1 teaspoon finely minced fresh ginger

Place mango in food processor; process until smooth. Add remaining ingredients; process until smooth.

Kids’ Menu: Naked Burritos

This is from my Kids’ Menu series. A quick dinner, especially if you pre-cook the chicken while you’re grilling something the night before. Serve with warm tortillas.

Naked Burritos

  • 1 cup rice
  • 2 cups water
  • 8 oz 4-cheese Mexican blend, shredded
  • ¼ cup milk
  • 1 to 2 jalapenos, chopped
  • 4 green onions, chopped
  • ½ tsp cumin
  • 4 cooked chicken breasts, cubed
  • 14-oz can black beans, drained
  • 1 red pepper, chopped
  • shredded lettuce
  • 1 tomato, chopped
  • 16 oz fresh salsa*
  • 4 oz sour cream (opt)

2 saucepans

Add rice & water to saucepan, bring to a boil, cover and cook until all water is absorbed, about 20 minutes. In second saucepan melt cheese, milk, jalapenos, onions & cumin, stirring constantly. Add chicken and let simmer on low until chicken is heated through, stirring occasionally. For each serving use ¼ of ingredients. Place rice in bowl, top with chicken mixture, black beans, red pepper, lettuce & tomato. Top with salsa, and opt. sour cream.

*if you’d like to make your own salsa, I have a recipe for that, too:

Fresh Salsa

  • 4 tomatoes, quartered
  • 6 green onions
  • 2 tsp crushed garlic
  • ½ to 1 bunch cilantro, remove stems
  • 2 to 4 jalapenos*, remove stems
  • 2 tbsp red wine vinegar

blender or food processor

In blender or food processor, add all ingredients and coarsely chop until blended well**. If you can make a day ahead, it gets even better.  This makes extra, just seal in an airtight container and refrigerate for up to a week.

**If you prefer a chunkier style salsa, you’d be better off chopping vegetables by hand. This will take longer. Blender/food processor version takes less than 5 minutes.

Memorial Day Grilling Menu

Here’s a grilling menu that is a nice change from BBQ, burgers and steak (not that there is anything wrong with any of that!).  The grilled pears are a real treat, especially with the melted butter baste.  If the weather cooperates, why cook inside when you can cook your entire meal outside?

  1. Honey Glazed Chicken
  2. Grilled Vegetable Wraps
  3. Grilled Pears

Honey Glazed Chicken

  • ¼ cup honey
  • 1 tsp orange zest
  • ¼ tsp dry mustard
  • 1 tsp crushed garlic
  • 1/8 tsp salt & pepper
  • 4 boneless chicken breasts
  • 1 tbsp olive oil

Mix together honey, zest, mustard, garlic, salt & pepper. Brush chicken breasts with oil and grill over medium-high heat. After 10 minutes, turn breasts over. After 5 additional minutes begin to brush with sauce. Turn and brush every 5 minutes until breasts are cooked through (approximately 20-30 minutes total cooking time).

Grilled Vegetable Wraps

  • 1 red sweet pepper
  • 1 yellow sweet pepper
  • 1 green pepper
  • 1 summer squash, cut lengthwise (¼” thick)
  • 1 small onion, cut into thin rings
  • 1 tomato, cut into thin wedges
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • ¼ cup Ranch Dressing
  • 4 tomato or spinach flavored flour tortillas
  • 2 oz shredded pepper jack cheese
  • ½ cup snipped cilantro

grilling basket or foil

Seed & slice peppers into thin strips. Toss peppers, squash, onions & tomato with oil. Grill in grilling basket or in foil packet until vegetables are tender-crisp, about 8 minutes. Spread ranch dressing on each tortilla, sprinkle with cheese & cilantro, place ¼ of vegetables in each tortilla and wrap up. If you like you can then toast rolled up tortillas on the grill until cheese melts.

Grilled pears

4 pears, cut into 4 wedges each and place on skewers & grill for 5 minutes, brushing lightly with butter during grilling.

Thursday Night Menu: Asparagus, Peppers and Berries, Oh, My

As the weather warms up I find myself wandering the grocery aisles looking for fresh foods to cook with, not wanting any more root vegetables or winter squash.  It can be challenging because I want fresh – not shipped from a thousand miles fresh.  But I settle for what I can find, which are peppers and asparagus.  The linguine calls for red and green peppers, but red, green, yellow and orange were all on sale, so I’m going with that in mine.   It will make for a nice spring presentation.  Add to that a bunch of tulips for the table and I’m in full Spring mode at my house.  What are you doing to chase away the remnants of winter this weekend?

On the board tonight:

  1. Linguine w/Garlic & Peppers
  2. Italian Asparagus
  3. Mixed berries & whipped cream

Linguine w/Garlic & Peppers

  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tsp crushed garlic
  • ¼ to ½ tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 green pepper, seeded and thinly sliced
  • 1 red pepper, seeded and thinly sliced
  • 2 oz fresh basil leaves
  • 14 oz can diced tomatoes*
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 4 oz shredded Romano-Parmesan cheese
  • 9 oz pkg. fresh linguine

saucepan and skillet

In skillet heat oil, add garlic, red pepper flakes, green & red peppers and sauté for 5 minutes on medium heat. Add fresh basil, tomatoes, salt & pepper let simmer while pasta cooks. Cook pasta according to package directions and drain well. Toss with pepper mixture & cheese.

* you can use fresh tomatoes, probably 2 large, but I couldn’t find any decent ones this time of year.

Italian Asparagus

  • 1 bunch (approx. 16 oz) fresh asparagus spears
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp oregano, crushed
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 2 oz shredded Romano/Parmesan

saucepan & steamer

Gently scrub asparagus, cut in half and place in steamer. Add enough water to saucepan to come in the bottom of the steamer. Steam for 5 to 8 minutes, until the stalks are tender. Remove and toss with oil, oregano, salt, pepper & cheese.

Shopping List:

  • 1 green pepper, seeded and thinly sliced
  • 1 red pepper, seeded and thinly sliced
  • 2 oz fresh basil leaves
  • 14 oz can diced tomatoes*
  • 4 oz shredded Romano-parmesan cheese**
  • 9 oz pkg. fresh linguine
  • 1 bunch (approx. 16 oz) fresh asparagus spears
  • 2 oz shredded Romano/Parmesan
  • 16 oz mixed berries
  • Whipped Cream

Also: oregano, olive oil, salt, pepper, crushed garlic, crushed red pepper flakes