Thursday, December 24, 2015

Poached Eggs with Potato Chorizo Hash


     It was destined to be a slow morning.  A slow morning required a multi-course brunch at home - in pajamas. Looking in the refrigerator, I noticed some cooked left over potatoes.  In a small container was some left over chorizo from a recent dinner at Gaucho (in the Strip...which is outstanding).  With farm fresh eggs from down the street, we were destined to have eggs and hash.  It was a great start to a lazy day.

Poached Eggs with Potato Chorizo Hash

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Warm Butternut Squash and Cheddar Dip



     This is seriously good and it was quite a surprise to all of us. It is a recipe from the website seriouseats.com and was published last week in the Pittsburgh Post Gazette.   We were a bit skeptical about the combination of butternut squash and cheddar cheese. But we had all of the ingredients so why not try it!  Glad we did and we wish we had more of it.  

Warm Butternut Squash and Cheddar Dip
from seriouseats.com

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Fromage Forte

   

     At the moment, I have approximately ten different types of cheese in the deli bin of my refrigerator.  Yes, we are a family that loves cheese.  Most of the time, I lose track of the different types and then what to do with all of the "nubs"...those pieces close to the rind.  If it is Parmesan, there is an easy answer.  When I am making homemade soup, frequently I put in a nub of Parmesan when the soup is simmering.  It adds a nice depth of flavor.

   


      I discovered this recipe about 6 years ago.  Unfortunately, I didn't have a food processor in Europe so we have been without Fromage Forte for the past four years.  But the wait is over!

     I have started keeping a plastic bag in the freezer and as I get to the end of a cheese, I place it in the bag.  When I have approximately 1/2 pound of cheese, then I make a family favorite, Fromage Forte.  This particular recipes comes from Jacques Peppin, one of my favorites.  It is super easy to make and makes for great appetizer or as accompaniment for salad or soup.  A little goes a long way so in the winter months, I normally have a jar of this in the refrigerator.

     The great thing about this recipe is that it is basically a non-recipe.  It is just a guideline.  Use whatever cheese you want...I always think a bit of blue cheese adds depth, but if you do not like it, then don't use it. Yesterday, I added about 1 tablespoon of cream cheese and that worked very well.

 Fromage Forte
Adapted from Jacques Peppin

Monday, December 21, 2015

An Unplugged Weekend - Kooser State Park

     
Goofing off on the trail

     I get it.  Honestly, I do but I do not have to like it.  Sometimes it seems that Dear Daughter's phone is glued to her hand and her head is constantly bent at a 45-degree angle as her thumbs punch out messages to her friends.  "Mom, it's how we communicate....plus, I read stuff!"  Seriously, what ever happened to talking on the phone or reading a book?

     So, we booked two nights at a local state park.  The cabin was rustic...meaning, NO WIFI.  Actually, it was really, really rustic.  It was a test on my part as well to see if I could remember to bring everything...because you had to bring everything.  The cabins had furniture, a functional kitchen with running water and a fireplace but that is it.  We had to bring everything else to include dishes.  Dear Husband grumbled as he loaded the car.  "Are we going away for a year or just for the weekend?"

     Kooser State Park is only about 90 minutes from our house, which made the drive easy.  It is a small yet serene park in the Laurel Highlands with cabins built by the CCC.  Our intent was to cook some nice dinners, do a bit of hiking, play some games and read.  Of course, no sooner had we arrived and unpacked, Dear Daughter was already setting up the game board.  The Trivial Pursuit marathon was about to begin.  We did manage to break for dinner.

     The following morning got off to a lazy start.  Dear Husband and I were up by 8:00 a.m. and I have to admit even I was looking around for an IPAD so that I could read the newspaper.  Dear Daughter must have been exhausted from the previous evening's events as we had to wake her up after her twelfth hour of sleep!  We enjoyed our favorite Spanish breakfast and then headed out to the trailhead to begin our hike.

     We were hiking a part of the Laurel Highlands Trail, a beautifully maintained trail that covers about 70 miles from Ohiopyle, PA to Laurel Ridge State Park.  Dear Husband regaled us with his stories of hiking the entire trail as a freshman in college.  And although we have heard them before, we listened as if it were the first time.  Dear Daughter took the lead and as we entered a fairly dense forest, she mentioned that it reminded her of Bastogne.  Ok, what 14 year old has those kinds of memories?  

     Prior to Dear Daughter, Dear Husband and I did a lot of hiking. But Post Dear Daughter, our treks have dwindled to one or two a year.  While in Europe, we had two wonderful hiking trips in Austria.  We call them "hiking with benefits" because when you reached the top, there was the mountain hut to greet you with warm soup and cold beer!

     It was the gunshots that brought us back to reality.  It was the gunshots that sounded very close that spooked us just a bit.  Well, it is hunting season and we had come across one hunter already. Dear Daughter and I were wearing orange vests and Dear Husband had on an orange baseball cap with the hopes that we would be seen.  We skirted off the trail a bit and resumed at a lower level. Needless to say, the last mile was a pretty quick mile.

     Lunch was simple pub food at a nearby restaurant and we headed into town for S'more supplies.  Back at the cabin, we set up a bonfire and lazily sat around it listening to the only radio station our radio could pick up.  Later that evening, I made a simple appetizer, Dear Daughter handled the au gratin potatoes and Dear Husband perfectly grilled a steak.  The Trivial Pursuit Marathon continued until we all "mid-game" decided that it was time for bed.

     We were back home the next morning in time for the Steeler game.  It was a nice weekend - much laughter and many jokes.  To my daughter's credit, she kept her phone in the car the entire time.  Has it made a difference since our return?  Of course not! But we will continue to sneak in these types of weekends...you never know!

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Shrimp and Grits

     

     Last night, we drove through one of those Christmas light shows.  I had not been to one in years and Dear Daughter had never been to one.  Things certainly have changed over the years. Nowadays, as you enter the park, the attendant directs you to tune into a certain radio station.  As you listen to the music, the various lights are choreographed to the beat of the music.  Surprising to say, it was a very enjoyable ride and it put us a bit more in the holiday spirit.

     Dinner needed to be quick and easy when we returned home and this recipe fit the bill.  I spent about 10 minutes prepping the ingredients before we left so dinner was ready in 15 minutes. Again, this is upscale comfort food.

     Can you tell that my resident photographer resumed her duties last night?  Her photos are so much better than mine!

Shrimp and Grits

Friday, December 18, 2015

Root Vegetable Gratin

Root Vegetable Gratin

      If you look at my desk calendar for the remainder of December, you will not only notice events and activities that are scheduled, but also my menu planning for now through Christmas.  I decided late last week that I would make the family special meals as we head into the final days of school and work.  My plan is to share my success with you each day.  I am optimistic that there will be more successes than failures!
     With the last batch of parsnips, potatoes and a butternut squash from my Winter CSA, I decided that a root vegetable gratin might be the perfect accompaniment to brined, pan roasted pork chops (also locally sourced).  At a later date, I will have to share with you the pork chop recipe because I will never cook them differently again!  But for now, let's dive into the Gratin.

Root Vegetable Gratin



Thursday, December 17, 2015

Croque Monsieur

Croque Monsieur
   
     Dear Husband works from on most Wednesdays, which is a nice change of pace.  I am usually home by lunch time and have started trying to make a nice, small lunch for us.  During the warmer months, we enjoyed lunch out on the deck but with Winter fast approaching, lunch now takes place indoors.  Nevertheless, it is nice to dine together and I have begun to look forward to "Hump Day."
     This past weekend, we made our favorite Lasagne for Sunday night's dinner.  Our lasagne doesn't have the standard ricotta, mozzarella mixture but rather is layered with a thick and creamy Béchamel sauce.  Dear Husband makes a mean Béchamel, which is basically a white sauce made from butter, flour and a milk base.  It take a bit of time but it is so worth it.  The Italians use it in Lasagne; the Greeks in Moussaka, the Spanish in Salt Cod Coquettes and the French in Croque Monsieur.  We had a bit of the sauce left over and I knew Wednesday's lunch was destined to be Croque Monsieur.
     This is an extremely popular dish for lunch in the bistros of Paris, served with a simple green salad and a glass of wine.  In Belgian, they serve it without the Béchamel, so it resembles a grilled cheese sandwich, not nearly as decadent.  I take mine  the French way.  I have already given you a small idea of what a Croque Monsieur is but let me explain further.  Basically, it is a toasted ham and cheese sandwich with Béchamel sauce on the top.  Simple, decadent and absolutely delicious.

Croque Monsieur

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Stuffed Pumpkin



     This is the MOST AMAZING dish!  It may be the ultimate comfort food.  It also looks really cool.  I cannot wait to make it again and experiment a bit more with the ingredients.

     The challenge was the Red Kuri pumpkin that came in a recent CSA shipment.  Actually, we received two small pumpkins.  I really didn't want to make soup.  I feel that I make soup too often and that sometimes, it is just an easy way to use up veggies.

     I am a big fan of Dorie Greenspan.  She spends a lot of time in France, which is probably why I follow her.  I came across this recipe on her website and I knew it would be the perfect solution to my pumpkin challenge.

     The one thing to know off the bat is that the measurements are not very precise.  Ultimately, you want to stuff the pumpkin well.  Use one pumpkin or use several smaller pumpkins.  Use the type of cheese you want.  Add other ingredients or take out ingredients...this is your stuffed pumpkin.  Serve as a main course with a salad or as a side.  It is your call...you are in control!  I placed our cooked pumpkins on a platter in the center of the table and we just scooped out the goodness.  Make sure you get the pumpkin in your scoops.  Or cut the pumpkin into wedges and serve.  It is your call...you are in control!

Stuffed Pumpkin

Monday, December 14, 2015

Parsnip Hummus

Parsnip Hummus with Garlic Chili Oil


      Last week's CSA shipment included a ton of parsnips.  Seriously, a ton.  I am not exaggerating; well...perhaps just a bit.  I have never made anything with parsnips.  Another challenge was presented to me.  I really didn't want to go the mashed route.  I did find a nice soup recipe and a nice gratin idea.  A few more minutes of research provided me with an excellent idea...why not Parsnip Hummus?  The beet hummus we made a few months ago was a big hit so again, why not Parsnip Hummus.  It proved to be a great idea and a great snack.



Parsnip Hummus with Garlic Chili Oil

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Brussels Sprout Salad



     A large bag of Brussels sprouts was included in my first Winter CSA package.  At first, I was a bit intimidated and a bit stumped on what to do with them.  I do not like cooked Brussels sprouts and we had already made a pasta dish with our last shipment.
     I remember several years ago a friend of mine made a salad with Brussels sprout and we enjoyed it.  I started researching possible recipes on the Internet and landed upon this one.  That large bag is now gone.  We loved the salad so much; we had it two nights in a row!  The first night, we made it according to the recipe.  The second night, we played around with it.  This is really versatile and makes a wonderful first course.  Your non-Brussels sprout eaters will be converted.  I promise.

Brussels Sprout Salad


Monday, December 7, 2015

Kofta with Tzatziki



     Not the greatest photo but hopefully you get the idea.  My normal photographer was at school so I was on my own!  I think meatballs are one of the best comfort foods.  They are also some of the best make-ahead foods.  With loads of ground lamb, ground pork and ground beef in our freezer, we make a lot of different types of meatballs.  In downtown Pittsburgh  is the fabulous meatball joint, Sienna Mercato and it is crazy popular.  We love to stop in for a quick snack, each one of us choosing one or two meatballs to try and share.  When Dear Daughter's best friend came from Italy, we took her there and she fell in love with the meatball sub.  Who knew?
     It is strange but Dear Daughter refuses to eat meatloaf but loves most of the meatballs that we make.  If the meatball is accompanied with a sauce, all the better for her.  Swedish meatballs are one of her favorites followed by a really tasty lamb meatball with a tomato and feta sauce.
     This meatball is a little different but it has a very nice variety of spices.  Since it hails from the Middle East, I thought a quick Tzatziki sauce would be a great addition.  Serving it alongside pita bread or some sort of flat bread would complete the meal.  Typically, these morsels would be molded around a skewer like a long cigar and then grilled over an open fire.  I opted to make them slightly elongated and cooked them on a grill pan (it was a bit too cold to stand by the grill).  While historically lamb or beef are the primary ingredients, I used a combination of pork and beef as that is what I had on hand. Tasty and easy!

Kofta with Tzatziki

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Winter Squash Salad with Maple Vinaigrette

Winter Squash Salad with Maple Vinaigrette

     Happy Holiday Season!  We left town last week for a little "R&R" and I am still trying to decide if we actually relaxed.  Frankly, it was an odd sort of week but then again, no vacation can be perfect.  In the end, it was nice to get away and spend time together as a family.  And we will tell the story of the tow truck adventure - up and over the mountain - for years to come!

     We arrived back home to realize that our new neighborhood really takes Christmas decorating seriously and we are woefully behind our neighbors.  I suspect that we will continue to be "that house" but I really do not mind it too much.  Boxes of Christmas decorations that had been in storage for years were finally opened and it felt as though we were seeing old friends again.  Dear Daughter has her own small Christmas tree up and decorated in her room and the rest of the house is looking festive and cozy, if I do say so myself.  I had mentioned the possibility of purchasing an artificial tree to the family a few days ago and was met with death stares, so tomorrow night, we will head out to look for a tree.

     December will be a busy one...with school, swim meets, hockey games (Dear Daughter is now the ultimate Penguin fan), and family get togethers.  Our CSA has moved from summer mode to winter mode and our veggies are consisting of lots of squash, leafy greens and potatoes.    Just before Thanksgiving, we received these little cuties.

Celebration Squash

     Now what to do with these?  I am a bit tired of making a cream based soup - that seems to be the easy way out.  Then, I started noticing squash as an ingredient in salads and I had an idea.  Let's make our own Winter Salad.  A bit of research and a bit of tweaking and I think I have a winner!  This would be an excellent first course or a great accompaniment to grilled meat.

Winter Squash Salad with Maple Vinaigrette

Monday, November 16, 2015

Ricotta Pumpkin Gnocchi



     Last year, while on a trip to Rome, Dear Daughter's culinary experience hit a new high.  We were dining in a small, uncrowded restaurant on our first day in Rome, and she was determined to have gnocchi for lunch.  I am not sure why she was so determined.  It could have been because of discussions she had with her best friend, who was from Italy.  It could have been that it was just something new to try.  Regardless of the reason, she had her gnocchi and dining at an Italian restaurant has never been the same.  If gnocchi is on the menu, then you know that will be her choice.  When she recently heard a friend explain how she helps her mom make gnocchi at Christmas, she shot me a look as if to say, "Why can't you make it?"  The dare was on...

     The dare might be on but so was almost a full container of ricotta cheese.  I cannot remember why I needed it but from the looks of the opened container, I had only needed about a tablespoon.  What was I going to do with the other two cups?  Then, there was the small pumpkin sitting on my counter.  It had arrived in last week's CSA shipment and was too small for many dishes.  A flash of pure culinary brilliance came to me...seriously...why not try to make Ricotta Pumpkin Gnocchi?  I had heard that ricotta gnocchi was easier to make than the potato based version.  Who cares that I cannot make pastry dough or pizza dough?  Who cares that I am not a big fan of gnocchi?  I was on a culinary mission...to make my kid proud.

     I learned that the key to a good gnocchi is to make it light - you don't want to be eating tiny bowling balls.  That meant that the flour content had to be kept at a bare minimum.  Too little and the dough would not come together.  Too much and the dough would be much too heavy.  I was amazed at how fast the dish came together.  A little music wafting through the kitchen, a small glass of red wine and I was in the Italian zone!  The finished product was served in a browned butter sage sauce and Dear Daughter declared it a winner!



Ricotta Pumpkin Gnocchi

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Salade Lyonnaise

   



     While many restaurants were offering deals yesterday for veterans, I decided to make a special lunch at home for our veteran.  This is one of my favorite lunch salads.  It is simple, fast and slightly decadent.  

     As it names indicates, this salad originated in Lyon, France.  It is a popular menu item in French Bouchons, which are small restaurants that specialize in comfort food.  The hardest part of this salad is poaching the eggs, but Mark Bittman, formerly of the NY Times has a foolproof method.  This is a great fall lunch or even a light dinner, especially when served with a nice French wine, a baguette and a dessert of French cheeses.  And yes, it was worthy of my special Dijon mustard!


Salade Lyonnaise

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Orecchiette with Brussels Sprouts and Bacon

   


     It is Brussels sprouts season!

     Ok, I have actually only had Brussels sprouts on two occasions.  However, my latest CSA shipment contained a bag of these little green things!  Not wanting anything to go to waste, I was bound and determined to find a recipe that the whole family would enjoy.  I think I did just that although I will admit, it is not my own recipe.

     But first things first...did you know that the correct spelling is actually Brussels (with an "s") and the B must be capitalized?  Did you know that this vegetable is named after Brussels, Belgium?  They were actually first cultivated in Belgium way back in the 1500's.  And, yes, they are part of the cabbage family.  Brussels sprouts are very high in fiber and in Vitamin C.  So, there you go...your history lesson for today.

     Now, on to the recipe which is easy enough for a Monday dinner.  Of course, I suppose you could eliminate the bacon and have a vegetarian option but in my family, bacon rules!




Orecchiette with Brussels Sprouts

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Pork with Camembert Sauce

   



     Continuing on my mustard theme, I have actually had this recipe since 2004 and had never tried it.  For years, it sat in a recipe book that I kept in our apartment in Brittany.  With the sale of the apartment, the recipe came back with us.  For Sunday evening's meal, I decided it was high time to give it a try.  I had waited much too long.

     With our weekly CSA shipment, we also get cheese made from one of many local creameries.  The cheese has been outstanding and the deli drawer in our refrigerator is bursting with cheese!  That is not necessarily a bad thing.  A few weeks ago, we received a camembert style cheese and while nothing can top camembert from Normandy, France, this was quite excellent.

     What I loved most about putting this dish together was that the main ingredients came from our local area.  The pork came Clarion River Farms just about an hour north of here.  The cream - from Brunton Dairy in Aliquippa.  The cheese - from...  The fingerling potatoes that we served alongside - from Clarion River Organics.  Good products make for a delicious meal.

     Pork tenderloin would be ideal for this dish but I had bone-in pork chops so we used them and I would do it again.  Once the meat is cooked, the sauce comes together quite easily.  

Pork with Camembert Sauce

Monday, November 2, 2015

Mustard

     I love mustard.     Right now, as we speak, I have four containers of open mustard in my refrigerator.  In the pantry, I have an additional seven different kinds of mustard.  Each of these has a purpose.  Now, Dear Husband could devour spoonfuls of mustard.  I, on the other hand, prefer just a little...a little goes a long way.



     Outside of these two mustards, my stash came back with me from Europe.  Now, why would I bring so many different kinds of mustard back to the United States where we already have mustard?  I brought them back for two main reasons:  There is a tremendous variety of mustards in Europe and it tends to be super cheap.  So, why not fill a suitcase? (I didn't and now I wish I had!) I am not knocking U.S. mustard.  French's mustard is a must for hotdogs.   The mustard section in any German, French or Belgian grocery store is expansive.  Seriously, even the smallest of stores will carry close to twenty different varieties of mustard.  The price?  Pennies.  Yes, pennies.  I rarely spent over a Euro for a container of mustard...and my all time favorite...cost 71 cents for a large jar!

Mustard, Mustard, Mustard
     German mustards (senf) are particularly good with sausages.  They have different heat levels.  Susser senf is a sweet mild mustard that is particularly good with weisswurst.  Delikatess senf is a medium-heat senf, which is absolutely devine with the classic fest dish - Brotchen mit bratwurst - a grilled bratwurst sandwiched between a crusty roll.  A huge container of mustard sits next to a food truck and you put on as much as you desire.  Finally, there is Scharfer senf, which is smooth and sharp.  Taste just a bit at first or your mouth will feel like it is on fire.  Again, a little goes a long way.
They even tell you on the label that it is Sauce for Smoked Salmon!

     I have two other favorite German mustards.  First is Senf-Dill sauce.  This is heavenly when paired with smoked salmon, a favorite brunch dish of ours.  The mustard is a bit sweet with a hint of heat and the dill compliments the salmon quite well.  You can do no better than Feige Senf Sauce, a fig mustard sauce, which when served with cheese, elevates the dish to new levels.

Feige Senf Sauce is perfect with cheese!
   
      We  know that Dijon mustard hails from Dijon, France.  Unfortunately, having been to Dijon, there are no more mustard producers in the area, the last factory closed down in 2009.  Today, 80% of the seeds used to make Dijon mustard comes from Canada!    However, that did not stop us one year from visiting the Maille Boutique in center Dijon.  Seriously, a boutique dedicated to mustard!  Here, they have an unbelievable selection of mustards on tap.  You can sample to your heart's content, then select your favorite to be packaged in a special jar.  Yes, it is a bit touristy but fun and I guarantee you what you will sample an amazing amount of varieties.

     When we lived in Belgium, we were in the French speaking part of the country and most of the grocery stores carried French products.  We did find a unique mustard shop in Ghent, Tierenteyn Mustard Shop.  This mustard originated in 1790 and the same recipe is used today.  In fact, the shop has only had two locations, Groentenmarkt 2 and from 1862, Groentenmarkt 3 - right next door.  The mustard is made on site and since they grind mustard seeds two to three times a week, you can be assured that the mustard you taste is not more than three days old.  You pick the size jar and they fill it up.  Yummy...but unfortunately, only available in the store.

Tierenteyn Mustard from Brugge

     For sandwiches, I particularly like mayonnaise that has been mixed with a little Dijon.  My favorite grocery store in France, Hyper U has a wonderful variety.  Here in the U.S., I think Trader Joe's has a super version.  Slice a baguette, spread on some of this deliciousness... top with ham, cheese, arugula and tomatoes and that, my friends is scrumptious.


Mayonnaise mixed with Dijon Mustard - great for sandwiches

     But my absolute all time favorite is Moutarde Forte from Hyper U.  This large jar costs less than a dollar.  It is particularly good when used in a vinaigrette or cream sauce.  Forte means strong and it is.  I managed to bring home two large jars and over the weekend, I broke down and opened the second one.  It was a bittersweet opening. While I couldn't wait to use it, I knew it was the last one.  So instructions went out to the family...this is special occasion mustard!  No dipping spoons in there! 


My absolute favorite - Moutarde Forte from Hyper U

     Since I love mustard so much, it felt totally appropriate to begin collecting old mustard containers.  My favorite flea market is the Waterloo market in Belgium.  On many Sunday mornings, I would leave my warm bed early in the morning and meet up with friends to search for "treasures". The top row are my cute little jars that once contained French mustard.  The bottom row are old stoneware containers that originally came from Germany.

My collection of mustard jars


     So there it is...my ode to my favorite condiment.  On Thursday, I will share a wonderful and easy recipe, which was totally worthy of my Hyper U mustard.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Quiche

   





     What I love about quiche is that is so easy.  You can really add just about anything that you have in your refrigerator.  Sunday, I noticed that we had a bit of ham left over along with some green onions and shallots.  Realizing that it had been a while since we had made quiche, this quickly became the base of Sunday's brunch.  What is also nice about this dish is that it freezes well and makes for a great, protein packed breakfast for Dear Daughter.

     I have to admit that I am not a baker so I never make my own crust.   In Europe, I found very reliable pre-made crust that I just unrolled into my tart pan.  Here in the States, the best I have found  is crust from Trader Joe's.

Easy and Delicious  Quiche



Thursday, October 22, 2015

Chicken Ramen

   


     I love Asian noodle soups, whether it be Japanese ramen or Vietnamese Pho.   The broth is always rich in flavor and the noodles plentiful.  I also love all of the add-ins: green onions, cilantro, a protein, even nuts or eggs.  However, until last week, I had never attempted to make the broth myself.  This is no college, out of the packet, late night ramen.  Even better, it really did not take that much time and you can keep the leftover broth to mix with more noodles for a second or third meal.


Homemade Chicken Ramen

Monday, October 19, 2015

Thank You, Paul Prudhomme

     I never knew Paul Prudhomme.  Years ago, I saw him outside one afternoon in New Orleans, perhaps taking a break.  I never dined at his restaurant, although I did have several wonderful meals at his sister's place outside Opelousas.  Recently, I received this text from my husband, "Paul Prudhomme died," and I was immediately saddened and whisked away to our life over 20 years ago.  Yes, you may call it odd that my husband would send me such a text but then again, if you know us, then you may not be so surprised.  Our "foodie" lives may have started with Paul Prudhomme.
     As background, we had just returned to the States after living three years in Europe (the first time).   We were young, just out of college and in our first jobs.  I do not remember much cooking going on back then.  We worked hard and we played hard and somewhere in the middle, we managed to still travel a great deal.  Upon our return, we landed briefly in Georgia for school and then life came crashing down as we learned we were being sent to Louisiana.  Neither one of us had ever been to Louisiana but it sounded hot, humid and devoid of anything interesting.  Needless to say, we were not happy.
     I cannot remember what time of year we arrived in Leesville.  I do remember that it was not much of a town.  The closest McDonald's was nearly an hour away as was a real shopping mall.  There was a dive Mexican place that served pretty good margaritas.  We quickly found a two bedroom townhouse that had a drive-up beer distributor at the end of the street.  During crayfish season, you could also buy a bag of cooked or uncooked "mudbugs" as you bought your case of beer.  Parties on the weekend were the norm probably because there wasn't much else to do.  On top of that, Dear Husband spent weeks at a time on deployments.  We were not lovin' it.
     However, with the deployments came benefits.  Upon return, long weekends were passed out like Halloween candy.  This gave us the opportunity to travel again and remembering our time in Europe, we embraced it.  It did not take long to figure out; however, that all roads led to New Orleans.  Soon, it did not matter if it was a four, three or regular two day weekend.  We had it down to a science.
     On "Departure Day", we would be in the car by 5:00 am.  We would arrive at The Camilla Grill just before 9:00 am.  Upon entering, we'd take a seat at the bar and order huge three egg omelets that came with french fries (good grief, we could eat a lot then).  Sometimes, we would even have pecan pie or a milkshake for dessert.  After breakfast, we would take the short drive past Tulane and into the French Quarter.  We had already called Remy to request our favorite room in our favorite hotel.  It had big windows that looked over the street and we could listen to the hustle and bustle of life.  We might take a break or walk around town.  Sometimes, we even had lunch (which seems amazing to us now - how did we have the room?).  We stopped in bars, listened to Dixie Jazz, stopped in nearby squares for pop-up concerts, looked at menus and began to educate ourselves on the cuisine of the area.
     For dinner, it was always nearly the same place - Galatoire's.  I forgot to mention that after we checked into our hotel, our first course of business was to call Galatoire's and ask for Mr. LaFleur.  Mr. LaFleur was a long time waiter of the restaurant.  If he was off, then speaking to his nephew would occur.  This was an important step as Galatoire's, at the time, did not take reservations and there was always a long line.  "Mr. LaFleur, it is XXX XXX.  How are you?" Pleasantries would be exchanged and then the business would begin.  "We would like a table for two at 7:00 pm.  Would that be possible?"  We arrived at the appointed time, walked up to the front door and let the doorman know that Mr. LaFleur was expecting us.  We bypassed the entire line, sat down, had a cocktail and felt pretty big...at 26 years of age.  We ordered the Godshaw Salad (which was off the menu), enjoy rack of lamb with a nice red wine and spend a wonderful evening.  A few times, we were able to venture into the kitchen as if we were long lost friends.  Again, at age 26, it was a heady experience and truly began this culinary journey.
     However, it was not all hedonistic.  Slowly, we began learning about the cuisine and were curious enough to start trying different dishes at home.  Paul Prudomme was everywhere and we frequently used his recipes in our own little kitchen cooking school. There was red beans and rice, gumbo, and etoufee to discover...shrimp po-boys, remoulade sauce, and boiled crayfish. Suddenly, our circumstance did not seem so bad.  Our culinary life had begun.  We left Louisiana less than a year later, a bit saddened by the departure but oh. so much wiser.
     We carried our passion and what we had learned to all of the other places that we lived and by now, food really does permeate our lives.  We believe that cooking brings the family together.  We believe that our nightly dinner, whether it is a simple soup or a three course "fancy" meal brings the family together.  We believe, as Paul believed, in sourcing locally and we believe...in food!
   So, thank you, Paul Prudhomme.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Baba Ganoush

   


     Look at these pretty little eggplants!  Now, what I am going to do with these pretty little eggplants?  My last foray into eggplants resulted in a wonderful Eggplant Parmesan.  Now, with these little beauties, I needed to do something different.

     I combed through the Internet but nothing seemed to appeal to me. Perhaps, they all seemed like vegetable dishes.  Yes, I  know that eggplant is a vegetable but I was looking for something that didn't remind me (and more importantly, Dear Daughter) that we were consuming a vegetable.

     That is when I came upon Baba Ganoush.

     That is when I made something delicious.

     How do I know?  Because, Dear Husband who is an expert at making hummus declared that it was perhaps even better than hummus.

     It is even fun to say, "Baba Ganoush, Baba Ganoush, Baba Ganoush."  Bet you are smiling now!

     Try it and let me know what you think.



Baba Ganoush

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

High-End Steakhouses: Yes or No?

     I have never seen the appeal of high-end steakhouses.  Don't get me wrong; I love a great steak and potato dinner.  I have just never understood paying an astronomical price for a meal that it fairly easy to replicate at home (sorry!).  Sure, you might not have an oven or grill that can sear to the unbelievably high temps that a restaurant can do.  But, I would wager that in today's society, many of you do have the necessary equipment (and really, at home...is it necessary for a good meal).  Sure, you might not be able to get dry aged thick cut steaks but again, I suspect that many of you can and do (but do you have to for a wonderful meal?).  Regardless, steakhouses seem to be gaining in popularity not only within the United States but all over the world.  Dear Husband still rants about the best steak that he ever had and it wasn't at one of the standards.  It was at a restaurant in Frankfurt, Germany.

     It has been nearly four years since I dined at a high-end steakhouse and just last night, Dear Daughter and I were given the opportunity to stop in one of Pittsburgh's best steakhouse chains.  It was early and we asked if we could sit in the dark bar at one of the small tables in the corner of the room.  I wondered from time to time if someone would break out a cigar.  It just looked like that sort of room.  I had a fleeting thought to order a martini.  Isn't that what you do in the bar of a steakhouse?

     The menu was fairly short but listed some interesting possibilities.  Steak Tartare was compelling but since I would probably have steak for the main course...well....that is a bit too much beef...even for me.  Oysters, crab cocktail, prosciutto and mozzarella salad seemed all too ordinary.  Then, there were various salads and of course, the steaks plus the not included side items.  Even with the small menu, it was a bit intimidating not only from the price but from the size of the steaks!    The smallest steak was the filet at 10 oz and the largest was the porterhouse at 24 oz!  Wow!

     In the end, DH and I decided to split an appetizer, a steak and a side dish.  For the appetizer, we selected the lobster and crab cakes.  At one of the more pricier appetizers, I would have appreciated larger crabcakes.  Two cakes the size of half dollars appeared along with a tasty corn relish and tarter sauce.  Seriously, lobster and crabcakes with tarter sauce...maybe it should have been called a remoulade sauce.  I was expecting more.  However, in the end, they were quite tasty (if small).  When I asked for a glass of Chardonnay to accompany the dish, our waiter explained that he had three Chardonnays by the glass...an unoaked, a slightly oaked and a heavily oaked.  Ok, I know about unoaked and oaked Chardonnays but I had never heard of slightly and heavily.  I went with the heavily.  As the waiter turned away, he told me, "Now you can tell your husband that you bought a Ferrari."  The wine was a Ferrari and was wonderful...and pricey!  Ouch.

     For our main, we shared a 14oz dry aged NY Strip au Poivre with Courvoisier Cream and Parmesan Truffle Fries.  They did  a wonderful job of plating the steak onto two plates.  We ordered the steak medium rare and both commented on how precisely it was cooked.  The "au Poivre" was a bit overpowering even though it is supposed to be.  The fries were devine.  Having lived in Belgium, we love frites...and these were amazing.  That being said, even with sharing, we brought home 1/3 of the steak and nearly half the fries.  The Argentinian Malbec that I requested complemented the dish well and was more suitably priced.

     So what is the verdict?  In our case, our food costs were $77 and frankly, while that served two in the restaurant, we still had enough for a third meal at home.   Wine was expensive but wine always is expensive (and really, it is embarrassing to tell you how much two glasses of wine cost there).  We enjoyed the atmosphere and we could have a normal conversation.  So many places today almost require yelling across the table.

     But in the end, if I am going to have steak, I will just have it at home.  We can whip up a small creative appetizer such as salmon tartare or seared tuna over arugula and serve it with a Spanish Cava.  Dear Daughter can make her amazing potatoes au gratin and we can grill any cut of meat we desire.  Perhaps we will grab a bottle of red from our European stash or try something new.  In the end, it will be an extremely satisfying meal.

     Now, what I would do is visit the steakhouse for lunch.  At $18, you can have one of three appetizers followed by a choice of Steak Frites, or Mini Tenderloin Sandwiches with the wonderful Parmesan Truffle Fries, or a Lobster Roll with Chips.  Now that is a bargain even with the Ferrari!

     So why were we downtown on a school night anyway?  Well after being on the waiting list for Pittsburgh Penguin Hockey Tickets for nearly a decade, we finally came up on the list this year.  Last night, DH and I were in attendance for the season opener.  Great fun and great memories!  It is always fun to do something different on a school night!





Thursday, October 8, 2015

Creamed Shiitake Mushrooms

   

Beautiful Shiitake Mushrooms from Clarion River Organics

     As I was saying, I normally do not crave mushrooms.  However, for the past two weeks, I have been dreaming about mushrooms.  I really thought that this was mushroom season but every time I went to look for fresh, local mushrooms, I could not find a single one.  That made the craving even worse.  Last Saturday, I ventured into the Pittsburgh Public Market for the first time and went over to my CSA, Clarion River Organics,  who has a farm stand there.  There they were!  Mushrooms!  Hurrah!!!  Unfortunately, I have a very limited knowledge of mushrooms and could not really tell which varieties were there.  The young man attending the farm stand confessed that he, too, was not very knowledgeable when it came to mushrooms but he was able to identify portobellos, oysters and finally, these shiitakes, which came home with me.

     This is the mushroom dish that changed my mind about mushrooms.  Before making it over the weekend, I had only made it once before and it blew me away.  But strangely, over the years I had forgotten all about this dish. It originally appeared in a 2008 edition of Saveur magazine as Whole Wheat Crostini with Creamed Chanterelles.  The notes on my torn out and worn magazine page indicated ideas such as adding crab, or using it as a sauce for schnitzel or pasta or even as a topping for pizza.  Like so many dishes, this is quite simple, uses minimal ingredients and can be adapted in so many ways.

     I changed this original version a bit, serving it over slices of leftover baguette as that is what I had and the results were still wonderful.  I definitely will not forget it this time!



Creamed Shiitake Mushrooms

Monday, October 5, 2015

Au Petit Tonneau

Location Today:  Pittsburgh, PA but mentally, Out To Lunch!
What I am cooking:  Potato Hash with Poached Eggs 
Upcoming Recipe on Thursday:  Creamed Mushrooms on Toast


vingt-paris-magazine-aupetittonneau

    It was a crisp Fall day and I was in Paris.  I was in Paris to have lunch with two friends.  I was in Paris strolling along my favorite street, Rue Cler, near the Eiffel Tower, taking in all of the sights, sounds and smells of this enchanted market street.  Shopping would have to take place later as I didn't want to be late.
     I love going out to lunch and I particularly love going out to lunch in France.  When it comes to the mid-day meal, the French know how to do it right.  It is no harried, rushed occasion designed to quickly fuel the body.  It is a time to relax, to socialize and to re-energize for the afternoon and evening.  Most restaurants will have a formula or "Le Menu".  This is always a particular favorite of mine as you can typically have two to three courses at a set price.  Some places offer you a choice of an appetizer, main course and dessert.  Some have only one.  Choice or no choice, chances are the meal will be simple yet incredibly enjoying.
     I walked through the door at Au Petit Tonneau and immediately felt at home.  Red and white checked tablecloths brightened the cozy dining room and the music in the background added to the ambiance.  An older gentleman walked over to me with a huge smile on his face, kissed me once on each cheek and welcomed me.  I immediately felt as though I knew him.

     
     On a table near the front door was a plate of beautiful mushrooms.  I tend to avoid mushrooms but these looked absolutely incredible.  In a mixture of French and English, the gentleman explained that we were now in "mushroom season" and these were the very best.  It was then that I learned about seasonality and how important that was to cooking.  Throughout my short stay in Paris and then back at home in Belgium, I saw lots and lots of mushrooms.  It was, indeed, mushroom season.
     I wish I could tell you all the wonderful things that I had that day.  While my friends ordered a variety of vegetable dishes a la carte, I settled for the Menu, three courses for 24 euros.  It was an incredible bargain and the food was wonderful.  This wasn't haute cuisine but it didn't need to be.  I felt like I was in a home and someone's grandmother was cooking for me...simple dishes with complex flavors.
     The afternoon slowly drifted by and I was sad to see it end.  Kisses all around closed out the day and I left with wonderful memories of seeing my friends plus memories of making new ones.  With each subsequent visit to Paris, we always had a wonderful, leisurely lunch at Au Petit Tonneau, and we were always greeted as though we were one of the family.
     Why was I thinking about this place over the weekend?  I was wandering around the Penn Public Market in the Strip District on Saturday afternoon.  My CSA provider, Clarion River Organics, has a farm stand there and I was curious to see if they offered different items from what comes in my weekly CSA shipment.  Right out front, in small  boxes were a variety of beautiful mushrooms!  I was instantly taken back to Paris.  I bought a box and remembered the one dish that changed my mind about mushrooms.  I will share it with you on Thursday.

Au Petit Tonneau
20 Rue Surcouf
76007 Paris
www.aupetittonneau.fr


This weeks' CSA Plan:
Tomatoes:  Heirlooms for one of the last of the season's Caprese salads
Fairy Tale Eggplant:  I am a little stumped with these but I am thinking about baba ganoush
Red Peppers:  Salads
Corn Meal:  I nice bag of corn meal and I am thinking of creamy polenta now that the weather is getting colder.
Multi Colored Carrots:  Roasted up nicely to accompany our lamb last night.
Fingerling Potatoes:   A favorite of ours.  Pan fried them in duck fat and served with steaks on Saturday night.  Simple and delish!
   


Thursday, October 1, 2015

Stuffed Poblano Pepper




     My plan was to take these nice looking Poblano Peppers and make something different for us.  I did indeed make Stuffed Peppers but by the time I left the kitchen three hours later, I had also made four other things!  It all started when I decided that for DD's birthday party tomorrow night I would set up a Spaghetti Bar instead of ordering pizzas.  (I know, that is crazy.  All 14 year old girls want pizza...but they are getting Spaghetti...and garlic bread...and an Ice Cream Sundae Bar).  Thus, I started on my favorite Bolognese so it could simmer all afternoon.

     But wait, what if someone doesn't like meat sauce?  Well, then I had to make my favorite simple Marinara Sauce.  But wait, those mini sweet peppers in the vegetable bin...well I have some leftover pork stuffing from last week in the freezer.  I could defrost that and make mini stuffed peppers.  Dear Daughter did mention last night that she was a bit sick of soup.  But wait!  There are two zucchinis in there also and they look like they need to be cooked.  Well, we haven't had zucchini bread in a while. So, that is how the day progressed.



     I did manage to get around to the Stuffed Poblano Peppers.  I was a bit nervous about the possibility of them being a bit spicy so I took extra care to get out all of the seeds and ribs.  This recipe was on Martha Stewart's website.  It comes together quite easily and takes about an hour to cook.  I took a break from all of the action and had one for lunch.  Yummy!  This would make a great Meatless Monday meal.



Stuffed Poblano Peppers
Adapted from Martha Stewart

Ingredients:
4 Poblano Peppers, seeded and cut in half
1 28oz can of tomatoes with their puree  
1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and minced
1 large onion, diced
3 cloves of garlic (1 minced and the other two roughly chopped)
1 can of black beans, drained
1 cup of shredded Monterey Jack cheese
1/2 cup cornmeal
3/4 cup water
1 tsp cumin

Preheat the oven to 450.


Combine the tomatoes, jalapeño pepper, two cloves of garlic and half an onion in a blender and puree.  (I placed these in a bowl and used my immersion blender and it worked beautifully.)  Place the sauce in the bottom of a baking dish and set aside.

In a bowl, combine the remaining onions, minced garlic, black beans, cornmeal, water, cumin and half of the cheese.  Toss to combine.



Stuff each pepper half with the black bean mixture.  Place on top of the sauce in the baking dish.  Once all peppers are stuffed, add a bit more cheese over the top.  Cover with foil and bake for 45 minutes.  

Take off the foil and continue baking for 15 minutes to let the sauce thicken.  Cool for five minutes and serve.

Update:  I actually made these last weekend, placed foil around the pan and put into the refrigerator until Tuesday.  Heated slowly for about 30 minutes with the foil on, then added a bit more cheese and took off the foil.  Heated until the cheese was bubbly.  Great make ahead meal!

Enjoy!






Monday, September 28, 2015

Pierogis: In Poland and Pittsburgh

Location Today:  Pittsburgh, PA but mentally, Poland
What I am cooking:  Lobster Risotto and not much else 
Upcoming Recipe on Thursday:  Stuffed Poblano Peppers


     About a year ago, we were in Berlin for a swim meet.  This was our second trip and we thought that it might be interesting to take a short day trip out of the city.  The border with Poland was not far and after some initial research, Dear Husband thought that a visit to Frankfurt am Oder might be worthwhile.   The train would take less than 90 minutes and then from there, we could walk across the bridge into Slubice, Poland.  
     I would love to say that both towns were little hidden gems but I cannot.  Frankfurt am Oder was nondescript.  What was curious; however, was the amount of traffic heading over the bridge into Poland.  Once we reached the other side of the river, the reason seemed apparent.  The town was riddled with tobacco stores.  However, upon closer inspection of the bags people were toting, evidently, this was the place to not only buy tobacco but to do some major food shopping.  But why?
     We stopped at a small pub and ordered two beers.  It was a pleasant fall day and regardless of the somewhat garish town, it was nice to be outside.  As I watched a couple near us get ready to leave, I noticed that they pulled out money that did not look like Euros.  How could I not have remembered?  The Poles still used the Zloty, not the Euro.  We did not have any that currency and I started to panic a bit.  DH didn't see any issue.  We went up to the bartender and asked for the bill.  When we explained that we did not have any Zlotys, she just smiled and told us that our bill was 3 Euros.  What?  Only three euros for two beers and a Fanta?  Wow!  Now we know why people were doing some major shopping.
     We walked around town looking for a place to have lunch.  It was then that we found a little hidden gem.  The restaurant was tiny, holding only 15 people and was decorated to appear as though it was a hut in the woods. It was cozy and comfortable.  The menu was in German and we knew exactly what to order.  Pierogis in Poland, of course.  What arrived was absolutely delicious and absolutely authentic.  Lunch for three including beers cost a mere 12 Euros.  We crossed back over the river into Germany and joined the others boarding the train back to Berlin.  While we did not have bags and bags of purchases, we did have an excellent lunch in Poland and a memory.


     If you have never heard of a pierogi, from the picture above, I am sure that you can wager a guess.  Basically, it is a dumpling.  Originating in Poland, thinly rolled pieces of dough are stuffed with various fillings and then cooked or fried.  Polish immigrants brought them to the United States over 100 years ago and in the U.S., it seems that the most popular pierogi is the one filled with potato, cheese and onion but they can also be filled with sauerkraut, white farmers cheese or even fruit.
     In Pittsburgh, there are websites dedicated to the top pierogi makers.  Church ladies frequently sell handmade pierogis from the church kitchens.  You can head down to the Strip District and visit the Polish deli and take a few home or stay for a pierogi making class.  Going to a Pittsburgh Pirate game?  Well, you have to stay for the Great Pierogi Race that normally takes at the end of the 5th inning.  Sponsored by the ever popular, grocery store frozen brand, Mrs. T's Pierogies, it is a blast to watch Potato Pete, Jalapeño Hanna, Cheese Chester, Sauerkraut Saul, Olivier Onion and Bacon Burt take to the field and run the 280 yard race.  And if they are playing the Washington Nationals, chances are they will be racing against the Presidents.  Now, there is a sight to see!!



     In a city that loves pierogis, it was inevitable that we would eventually have our own Pierogi Festival.  Last weekend was the second annual feast and I can wager that based on the crowds, it will only continue to grow in size.  Pittsburgh has a surprisingly vibrant food scene.  Yet, even realizing this, I was amazed at the line that had formed just to get into the event.  I hate crowds and my first instinct was to turn around and just find a nice, quiet place to have lunch and then go home.  But why?  This is what we came for...at a minimum, we could have lunch.  It was a nice day; we were down by the river...relax, enjoy it.
     Once we entered the gates, we decided to divide and conquer.  Lines were already forming at the various vendors.  I settled for the first vendor I could find and while the line was long, it ended up being a great choice.  Gosia's is a Pittsburgh favorite.  DD and DH strolled around the venue and found options at a much shorter line, S&D Polish Deli which is DD's favorite place to eat when we visit the Strip District.  They were able to procure an ample portion of dumplings, a table and drinks in the amount of time it took me to bring over my six.



     Seated, we examined our choices.  In both cases, we had chosen potato and cheese pierogis.  While S&D lightly sautéed them and served them with butter, Gosia pan fried them and served them with onions and sour cream.  DD and I like them fried.  DH likes them soft.  In either case, they were delicious but filling.  We decided to go for a third round and this time chose a bolder choice.  This vendor served not only a savory pierogi but also a sweet one.  The fried apple pierogi topped with vanilla sauce reminded me of a fried apple pie.  The savory choice was nondescript to the point of my not remembering what was inside.  No matter, we were stuffed anyway.   It was sad but there was no way that we could sample even a fraction of what was available.  However, we had an excellent lunch and a memory...does that sound familiar?

     Pierogis are one of the ultimate comfort foods.  Sautéed in butter or pan fried, they are a huge hit in our family.  Pierogis in Poland or Pierogis in Pittsburgh...hmmm...

This weeks' CSA Plan:
Tomatoes:  Can never have enough
Butternut Squash:  DD's gonna be making Butternut Squash Risotto soon!

Onions:  Can never have enough
Ground Cherries:  Look these up...neat, tart snacks
Poblano Peppers:  For Thursday's recipe
Baby Peppers:  Great for snacking, or try stuffing them with herbed goat cheese and baking for a few minutes...easy peasy appetizer


     


Thursday, September 24, 2015

Asian Cabbage Rolls

   
Asian Cabbage Rolls


     With the arrival of Napa cabbage last Friday in my CSA shipment, I was looking for a different sort of recipe.  I knew that I could make stuffed cabbage, but I had a stash of it in the freezer.  I also did not want to go out to the store and find some additional ingredients.  A quick search on the Internet and I found the foundation to an Asian stuffed cabbage.  I was a bit skeptical at first but it turned out exceptionally well.  Even better was the fact that I made this on Sunday and just reheated it on Tuesday night.  Between bites, the family gave it a thumbs up!  It isn't the prettiest of dishes, but it is really easy and really tasty.  Perfect for a weeknight!

They don't look much difference once they are cooked but they sure are tasty!



Asian Cabbage Rolls

Ingredients:
10 - 12 large leaves of a Napa Cabbage
1 lb ground pork
1 1/2 cups cooked brown rice
2 cups of diced vegetables (I used carrots, celeriac, red peppers)
1 yellow onion, diced
1T olive oil
1 large egg beaten
1 1/2 tsp toasted sesame oil
2 T soy sauce
1 T grated ginger
3 cloves minced garlic
salt and pepper

Sauce:
2 T soy sauce
2 T rice vinegar
1/3 cup chicken broth
1T toasted sesame oil

To prepare the cabbage, you will need to blanch the leaves in boiling salted water for two minutes.  Then place in ice water to stop the cooking.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Heat the olive oil in a skilled over medium heat and add the onions, garlic and ginger.  Cook until the onions are softened.  Then add the remaining vegetables and cook about 5 minutes longer.  Remove from heat and cool slightly.  In a large bowl, combine the pork, egg and rice.  Add the cooled vegetables and then add the soy sauce and vinegar.

To assemble the cabbage rolls, lay a cabbage leaf down with the stem end facing you. Place 1/3 cup of the meat mixture into the stem end.  Fold in the sides if possible and roll up the leaf.  I could not fold in the sides, so I just rolled the leaf.  Place seam side down in a baking dish.  Continue until you have no more cabbage leaves.  I froze the remaining meat mixture for use another time.

Whisk together the sauce ingredients and pour over the cabbage rolls.  Bake for 35 minutes.  Served with the pan juices.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Stuffed Peppers

   



     I received these perfect red peppers in my CSA shipment last week and knew immediately that I had to make stuffed peppers.  This is a family favorite and is so easy to make.  It seems fancy which makes it perfect to serve for company or just to surprise the family on a school night.



Ingredients:

Long Red Peppers - you can also use Cubanelle Peppers
1 pound Italian Sausage or the sausage of your choice
1 slice of bread (hey this is a good time to use some of that leftover bread that you have been storing in the freezer!)
1/4 cup pine nuts
1T milk or cream
1 egg, slightly beaten
1/4 cup grated Parmesan
3/4 bag of baby spinach (good way to get in the veggies)
1/2 cup tomato sauce
1/2 cup chicken broth
More Parmesan to serve


Heat a nonstick skillet over medium low heat and put in the spinach (no oil).  Cook until just wilted.  Take out of pan, cool slightly and coarsely chop.

In a bowl, slightly beat the egg.  Add bread and soak.  Add milk or cream and grated Parmesan.  Then add in the spinach, sausage and pine nuts.  Mix together well with hands.



Cut the peppers lengthwise and take out the seeds.  With you hands, stuff each half.  Heat 1T olive oil in a pan over medium high heat.  Place the peppers, stuffing side down and cook for 5-8 minutes.  You should have a nice crust.  It might be a bit difficult to turn over.  I normally use a spatula and a pair of tongs to help.  If the stuffing comes out a bit - no worries...just stuff it back in.





Cook for another 5 minutes with the pepper side down.  Then add the chicken broth and tomato sauce and simmer for 5-8 minutes.  Peppers should be soft but not mushy and stuffing should be cooked.

The Italian Sausage adds a lot more flavor without having to put in a lot of additional spices.  You can add salt and pepper to taste.  For this batch, I used Benton's housemade pork sausage and it was great!

Place one or two peppers on a plate.  Spoon some sauce over the top and served with grated Parmesan.

Make ahead idea:  I made these on Sunday but was not planning to serve until Wednesday.  On Wednesday evening around 6pm, I placed them in a crockpot along with the sauce.  I couldn't put them down on one layer so I just placed the added ones on top of each other and poured the sauce over the top.  I set the crockpot to cook on low and when we ate at 7:30, they were warm.  It beat having to watch them over the stove.  And while the just made version have a bit of crunch, these were just as tasty.