Saturday Dinner, or The Chronicles of a Lazy Cook

So, I wanted to make something simple, something that wouldn’t take much effort but would still be tasty. I settled on chicken, but most things I like to do with chicken smacked of effort. If I really didn’t want to do a lot of work in the kitchen, I had to up my lazy game.

So, I turned to the Internet for help, and the Internet did help. With just a bit of googling, I was reminded that I could simply toss some meat and veggies into a roasting pan, cook it for an hour or so, then take it out of the oven and have something easy and delicious that didn’t take much in the way of effort.

First things first. In addition to chicken thighs, I also got some turkey hot Italian sausage (I was avoiding pork for this dinner, but good ol’ pork hot Italian sausage is also an option. For that matter, other types of sausage could also work), a couple of bell peppers, a couple of onions, a couple of carrots, and a few small potatoes. I browned the sausage in a skillet, then cut the links into smaller pieces. Then I cut the veggies and potatoes into small pieces. I tossed the veggies, potatoes and sausage pieces into a bowl (including the sausage juices), seasoned it with salt, pepper, oregano, rosemary, thyme, and garlic powder and mixed it all together. I seasoned the chicken pieces separately with salt and pepper. I dumped the veggie/sausage mix into a roasting pan, placed the chicken on top, and put the pan into the oven, which was preheated to 450° F. I left it there, uncovered, for about an hour (more like an hour & 15 minutes, I was watching basketball and forgot the time) and, just like that, I had dinner.

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The first thing I realized while eating this, other than that it was very flavorful thanks to the sausage, was I wanted more sausage, so next time I make this, I might get the big package of sausage. But, otherwise, this was very good. And did I say I wanted to be lazy? Less than 30 minutes of prep time! How’s that for lazy? And since you’ll likely have leftovers, the lazy extends to the next day. Hello, lunch!

If I wasn’t determined to make as little effort as possible, I could have taken those juices that accumulated in the roasting pan and made some sauce. Perhaps taking the juices, adding Dijon mustard and a pat of butter and reducing it in a skillet, but maybe next time. That also gives me the idea that I could have added Dijon mustard to this when I was seasoning it, either to the veggie mix or just brushing some onto the chicken. Well, that’s an idea for next time, and I can be a real lazy cook sometimes so there will be a next time.

So, can this be done with boneless and skinless chicken? I guess so, but I wouldn’t put the chicken on top like I did here, I’d bury it in the veggies, maybe add a bit of water or chicken broth to help the chicken stay moist and tender. An idea if I want to cut a bit of fat and calories.

And, of course, you can do this with a whole chicken, but, just a reminder, carving a whole chicken goes against the goal of being lazy. 😄

Saturday Dinner Post: Catching Up, Part 2, Stuffed Chicken Edition

I’ve been listening to the Internet a lot lately, and the Internet told me that asparagus stuffed chicken breasts are awesome, so I did what the Internet told me and made asparagus stuffed chicken breasts.

So, I looked over the ingredients and discussed it with Brett. The recipe called for provolone cheese and Brett doesn’t care much for the idea of melted cheese with chicken and asparagus, so right there, I had to make adjustments.

The original recipe’s ingredients are:

Boneless and skinless chicken breasts
lemon zest
salt and pepper
asparagus stalks, trimmed
provolone cheese
garlic powder
paprika
olive oil

But, with cheese being a no-no for Brett, I improvised. The revised recipe:

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut in half, leaving one side intact.
Lemon zest
Asparagus stalks, trimmed, 2-4 spears for each breast, depending on size
One slice of thick cut bacon, cut in half, cooked limp, not crispy.
Dijon mustard
Salt & pepper, to taste
paprika, to taste
garlic powder, to taste
(Optional) 1 slice of provolone cheese per chicken breast

Putting it together, I put half a slice of provolone cheese into my stuffed chicken breast and left it out of Brett’s.

First things first, preheat the oven to 425°. Cut the chicken breasts in half, leaving one side intact. Spread Dijon mustard on the inside, add the provolone cheese (or not, if you’re not one for melted cheese), add bacon piece, lemon zest, and asparagus spears. Season with salt, pepper and garlic powder. Fold over, enclosing the filling.

Season the outside of the chicken with salt, pepper, and paprika. If needed, you can secure the breasts closed with either toothpicks or kitchen string.

Heat a large, oven-safe skillet over medium-high heat, add enough oil (I used light olive oil) to coat the bottom of the skillet. Cook the chicken for 3-5 minutes on each side, enough to brown the outside. Cover the skillet with foil, place it into the oven and cook the chicken for another 15 minutes, until the chicken is fully cooked.

Remove the chicken from the pan and let them sit for a few minutes. At this point, if you like, you can make a sauce from the accumulated chicken juices. I put the skillet back over medium-high heat, added the juices, Dijon mustard and a tablespoon of butter, and stirred until the sauce was smooth. If you don’t have enough juices, just use chicken broth. I tried the sauce, decided it didn’t need further seasoning and spooned it over the chicken.

IMG_3714Served with even more asparagus and some Yukon gold potatoes with bacon, and we had ourselves a very nice Saturday dinner.

This is another pretty easy recipe that’s not hard to tweak to your preferences. It’s fun, it’s tasty, it can be prepared ahead of time for a week night dinner. And, if I had left out the cheese and the bacon, I probably could have passed this off as a healthy recipe. 😉

 

Saturday Dinner Post: In Which I Attempt to Play Catch Up, Part 1

I haven’t posted in a while, but, then again, I’ve been cooking mostly repeats and the good old tried-and-true stuff that doesn’t usually make for very interesting reading.

However, there was one tried-and-true recipe I made that I think is shareable, it’s just the perfect thing for spring, and also has the extra added benefit of being easy, versatile, and suitable for anytime, not just weekends, but also as a quick weeknight dinner. And that recipe is salmon with veggies baked in parchment.

The basic ingredients for two servings are:

2 5-6 ounce salmon fillets, about 1″ thick
8-10 plump asparagus spears, trimmed (thin spears will overcook)
One zucchini, cut into small pieces
Cherry tomatoes
Salt and pepper
Dried dill weed
Olive oil
One lemon, sliced thin
Parchment paper

Preheat your oven to 450°. Tear off two pieces of parchment that are each large enough to hold one piece of fish, a serving of veggies plus a serving of asparagus and to fold over into packets. In a bowl, toss the zucchini and tomatoes with enough olive oil to coat and season with salt and pepper. Do the same with the asparagus spears.

Lightly brush the parchment paper with a bit of olive oil, place one piece of salmon in the center of each parchment piece and season with the salt, pepper, and dill, place about 4-5 asparagus spears on one side of the fish and a serving of the zucchini/tomato mix on the other. Place 2-3 lemon slices on the salmon, then fold the parchment into packets. Place the packets onto a baking sheet, and cook for 15-20 minutes, until the fish is cooked through.

Once you remove them from the oven, be careful opening the packets, as a bunch of steam is likely to burst forth once you open them. If the salmon isn’t cooked to your satisfaction, you can just wrap it up again and pop it back into the oven for a few more minutes. And when you open up your packets, you get this lovely site.

And that is it. This is so easy. Altogether, this usually takes about 30-45 minutes to put together and cook. You can serve it hot in the parchment packet, or you can remove it from the packet and plate it up. I also made some roasted new potatoes with bacon to serve with it, for no other reason than the sudden desire for potatoes and bacon. Sans potatoes, this meal has the extra added benefit of falling into the healthy eating category. 👍

So, this is pretty basic, which means it’s pretty easy to change up. For one thing, you don’t need to use salmon. I originally wanted to make this with halibut, but the store was out of halibut. Previously, I’ve used tilapia fillets. You can use other seasonings, such as garlic, thyme, tarragon, or cayenne pepper. You can use other veggies like green beans, red onion, carrots, broccoli, and so on. You can squeeze a bit of lemon juice or add lemon zest or sprinkle in a tablespoon or two of white wine or chicken broth before wrapping up the packet. If I had gotten halibut instead of salmon, I planned to spread a thin layer of Dijon mustard onto the fillets. I suppose I could have done that with the salmon but decided against it.

What was the judgment? All attending (really, just me and my boyfriend) though it was very tasty. There is a reason, after all, why this is in the tried-and-true category. As the weather warms up and the appeal of standing over a hot stove goes down as the mercury rises, this is something that doesn’t keep you in the kitchen for a long stretch.

Well, this little blog has been positively neglected by me, and that’s not good, so I’ll try to do better. I think my next post will be for a recipe I tried that didn’t quite work. It wasn’t terrible, and I didn’t manage to completely mess it up, but it didn’t come out quite as well as I would have liked.

More work on the ol’ sauce game

I have a new philosophy of sauce: there is no such thing as too much sauce, but there is such a thing as not enough sauce delivery systems. I made sure to hold to that philosophy when making dinner last Saturday. Dinner was chicken with a mushroom sauce, and I didn’t just rely on the chicken to deliver saucy goodness, I also made some noodles to go with it.

Ooh, this sauce was so good. It was a reminder of why I love mushrooms so much. This sauce was good enough that the chicken wasn’t really needed, it would have stood up well on its own with just the noodles.

So, the carriers for the sauce were chicken breasts and egg noodles. Chicken breasts were simple, I just cut 2 boneless, skinless breasts in half, then cut the halves in half (since they were pretty gigantic chicken breasts), seasoned with salt and pepper, then browned them in the skillet with a bit of olive oil about 2-3 minutes a side until the chicken was cooked through, and set them aside when all sides were browned. The noodles were cooked in water with a cup of chicken broth added.

Boring parts over, now to the sauce.

I started with too many mushrooms, I got a 1 pound package of sliced mushrooms (the lazy option, since sliced and whole were the same price at the market). Over medium heat, I melted a couple of tablespoons of butter into the pan I cooked the chicken in, added the sliced mushrooms and one diced onion, and sauteed those until they turned that yummy brown. I then added a spoonful of minced garlic, thought about it for a second and added another spoonful and cooked that for another minute or two, then stirred in a tablespoon of corn starch. I seasoned with salt, black pepper, and dried thyme, then I added about 2 cups of chicken broth and a couple of big splashes of balsamic vinegar. Stir, stir, stir, then added maybe 2 tablespoons of heavy cream. I brought the sauce to a simmer, then added the chicken back to the pan and let it all simmer together for a couple of minutes.

This is one of those sauces where I never really bothered to measure how much I was using as far as seasoning goes, it’s all to taste. You want it creamier, add more cream. Love balsamic vinegar, add a bit more. Don’t like balsamic vinegar, don’t need to add it. Two tablespoons of butter not your idea of buttery, sneak in another tablespoon or two. Not a fan of chicken broth, well, I suppose vegetable broth will work just as well. And, of course, if you have fresh thyme, then that dried stuff can go spin. I love this sauce because you really don’t need to be exact and you can easily customize it to your preferences. Plus, well, it is mushrooms.

img_3384Anyway, I plated the noodles first, added some sauce, topped with a couple of the chicken breast strips, added more sauce, sprinkled some chopped parsley on top, and the mushroom sauce delivery system was all set. I added a side of asparagus sauteed in bacon fat and we had ourselves a pretty good dinner. And, as I mentioned earlier, this mushroom sauce is just plain tasty, everything else, pasta, chicken, steak, potatoes, bread, gigantic spoon, is just a servant to the mushroomy goodness.

Of course, this made enough for second helpings.

I’m behind on posts. There’s a jambalaya recipe I want to write about, yet another dish where the idea of measuring has never occurred to me.

Weekend Repeats

So, on Saturday, I did make pork tenderloin with horseradish sauce, per Brett’s request, so I repeated myself. That happens, it’s a good thing, it means something I made was good enough to be memorable. And two things Brett really likes are pork and horseradish.

In addition to a green salad, I served the pork tenderloin with roasted balsamic red onions. I found the sweetness of the roasted onions to be a nice contrast to the spicy sauce. Balsamic onions are super easy, just cut the top and bottom off the onions, one onion per person works, cut each onion into 8 wedges, toss with a bit of olive oil, season with a little salt and pepper, spread them

Balsamic onions are super easy, just peel and cut the top and bottom off the onions, one onion per person works, cut each onion into 8 wedges, toss with a bit of olive oil, season with a little salt and pepper, spread them onto a baking sheet and  roast in a 375° oven for 30-40 minutes. A little char on the edges is a good thing. Meanwhile, in a saucepan, melt 3-4 tablespoons of butter, add an equal amount of balsamic vinegar (or more if you like), and one or two teaspoons of white sugar. Stir it all together, adjusting for taste, being careful not to add a lot of sugar, since the onions will have their own sweetness. A dash or two of cayenne pepper also doesn’t hurt. Once the onions are finished roasting, just pour the sauce over them and stir to coat.

Not the most original or interesting side dish in the world, but it went well with the pork.

A side note about making the sauce: I ran out of cayenne pepper. That was annoying, it meant I wasn’t paying enough attention to what was on the spice shelf. So I subbed fresh ground black pepper, and it worked just as well.

Well, since I don’t really have a recipe or food pics to share, here’s a photo of a cute cat.

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Her name is Domino, and she’s one of the resident shop cats at a friend’s bookstore.

Another Request for Saturday Dinner

Recently, I’ve come to realize that my mother is a rather picky eater. She was clearing some things out of the freezer, found some salmon, asked me if I liked salmon, I said yes, and she handed it off to me. It was surprising to find that out because she’s been buying salmon for years, I’ve seen her buying it, I’ve seen her make it. I think perhaps salmon is something she may have liked well enough in the past, but as time has passed, she started liking it less and less. That happens. She’s also extremely peculiar about biscuits, which is why, if she gets take out from a place that includes biscuits with the meal (say Popeye’s or KFC), she just saves the biscuits and hands them off to me. Really, the last time I saw her eat a biscuit, it was one she baked. Mom also really hates garlic. So, my mother, one of the people who taught me how to cook, really doesn’t like to eat three things I really love eating.

Two of the things mom hates were on display for Saturday dinner. Brett and I had garlic-honey-lemon glazed salmon. Brett asked about having fish for dinner since I don’t think I’ve made fish since summer. And, of course, I agreed since making fish dishes can be so quick and easy. The sides I made to go with it took longer to cook than the salmon.

So, we picked up a pound of salmon, enough for two good sized fillets. For the glaze, I mixed honey, lemon juice, butter, minced garlic, and a little cayenne pepper, amounts to taste. I melted and stirred it all together and, after placing the salmon into a foil-lined baking pan, poured the glaze over the salmon. I then seasoned it with a bit of kosher salt and black pepper, folded the foil over the salmon into a packet to completely seal it up, put it into the oven, preheated to 375°, and baked it for about 15 minutes.

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After taking it out of the oven, I open the foil packet and placed the salmon under the broiler for a few minutes to caramelize the glaze on top.

Served with cottage fries and asparagus sauteed with lemon zest and topped with parmesan cheese, we had ourselves a nice little Saturday dinner.

One reason I love making salmon is how quick and easy it is, and how many options you have with glazes. You can go sweet, hot, savory, combine the three like I did this time. Maybe next time, I’ll bake it in puff pastry with some spinach or mushrooms.

Anyway, Brett had another request for this Saturday’s dinner: pork tenderloin, which I’ll probably make with horseradish sauce, so I’ll be repeating something I’ve written about before. So maybe I’ll come up with an interesting side dish I can blog about. 😀

A Saturday Night Dinner Request.

This past Saturday, I repeated myself and made Cajun pasta, which I’ve posted about before. But, I didn’t post about New Years Eve dinner. Oh, yes, we had dinner in on New Year’s Eve, no going out into the NYE madness for us.

So, Brett had a request for New Years Eve dinner. When we discussed what we would do for NYE, he spoke up and said he wanted steak au poivre, something I haven’t made in ages, and a dish that’s a favorite of his. And, since I so seldom make steak dishes, this was a welcome change.

So, when I’ve made steak au poivre in the past, I’ve made it with filet mignon, but this time, I used NY strip steak. I could say I had a special reason for this, but, really, a one pound strip steak was less expensive than two 6 oz. filet mignons and works just as well.

Also, this is another recipe that lets me work on my sauce game.

So, on to the ingredients:

3 tbsp. black peppercorns, cracked
One 1 pound New york strip steak, about 1-1⁄2″ thick
Salt
2 tbsp. butter
2 teaspoons of Dijon mustard
1 tbsp. olive oil
1⁄3 cup cognac or brandy
1 cup low sodium beef broth
1⁄2 cup heavy cream

So, the first thing to do was crack those peppercorns. Usually, recipes say to wrap the peppercorns in a clean towel and crush them with a heavy skillet or a mallet. I really didn’t want to dirty up a dish towel, so I put the peppercorns into a heavy-duty Ziploc bag and crushed them. A lot of recipes also say the peppercorns must be cracked, not ground, but you can totally grind them, using the large grind setting on the peppermill, it really makes life easier, and saves a Ziploc bag.

I seasoned the steak with salt, put the cracked peppercorns on a plate and pressed the steak into them until both sides were completely and evenly covered. Heating up the oil in a medium-hot skillet, I cooked the steak until it was well browned on both sides, about 5 minutes on each side for medium rare, removed it to a plate and covered it with foil to keep it warm.

Now, at this point in a lot of recipes for steak au poivre, to start the sauce, say you should pour in your cognac and ignite it, which I just am not crazy enough to do, and have never done, the sauce comes out just fine without the pyrotechnics. So, I added the butter and stirred to loosen up the brown bits in the skillet, the took the skillet off the heat (just to be safe), added the cognac, stirred it in to incorporate it, then, putting the skillet back onto the heat, added the broth, mustard, and cream and stirred it all together.

I should add that Dijon mustard is completely optional for this. I add it because we like that flavor in the sauce, but I know it’s not for everyone, but if it’s for you, the amount can be adjusted to suit your preferences.

Anyway, back to sauce making. I brought the sauce to a boil, then backed the heat down to medium and reduced until the sauce was thick enough that it coated the back of a spoon. I checked the sauce for seasoning and, all I’ll say at this point is that when you make a sauce where one of the primary ingredients is cracked peppercorns, you could possibly get a pretty aggressive sauce, which is why I usually grind the peppercorns instead of cracking them, but this time out I cracked, and, boy, did that pepper stand up. I suppose I could have tamed it by adding a bit more cream, but I didn’t, because we do like our pepper.

img_3267So, I took the steak from under the foil,sliced it, plated it, and topped it with the sauce. The steak was served with roasted balsamic red onions, maple bacon green beans (the sweetness from the beans and the red onions were a good counterpoint to the peppery steak) and the old standby, garlic mushrooms. Add some crusty bread to sop up that sauce with, plus a nice green salad to start, and we had ourselves a very good New Years Eve dinner. Dessert was a berry pie that was just sitting there at the bakery counter, begging me to add it to the menu, served warm with vanilla ice cream.

For the rest of our New Years Eve, we actually started the day at the movies. We meant to see La La Land, but it was sold out for the time we wanted, so instead we saw Rogue One. Yeah, that’s a completely different direction to go with our afternoon entertainment, but we thoroughly enjoyed it. And after dinner, we watched some classic movies. While watching a classic musical, Brett noticed a bit of cracked pepper on one of his back teeth, worked it out, and, after remarking on it, asked me if that was what I meant by the sauce being a bit aggressive, and I nodded. Well, he said, it was still delicious, and that’s just what a cook wants to hear.

Break time’s over. 😀

So, the holiday’s are pretty much over, and now it’s that odd limbo between Christmas and the new year where everything is still in Christmas mode, the media is trying to make New Years eve sound more awesome than it really is, and you notice just how many bowl games there are (too many).

I haven’t posted anything cooking related since just after Thanksgiving, so I have some catching up to.

I didn’t cook Christmas dinner this year, we ate out instead. But, there were plenty of missed Saturday dinner posts I need to make up for.

First Saturday, we had apple-pecan pork chops, a quick and easy recipe that’s both sweet and savory. First the ingredients:

  • 2 pork chops (I used bone-in, but boneless also works, and if you’re using boneless, you might want to get 4 chops instead of 2)
  • 1 red apple, cored and thinly sliced (I didn’t even bother to peel that apple, but peeling or not is a personal preference here)
  • One 2 oz. packet of pecans
  • 2 tablespoons of brown sugar
  • Butter
  • Salt & pepper

I seasoned the chops with salt and pepper, then, over medium heat, I melted a tablespoon of butter and cooked the chops until both sides were browned. Then, I removed the chops, added another tablespoon of butter to the pan, and cooked the apples about 4-5 minutes, then added the pecans, a little more butter, then I added the brown sugar.

img_3157Once the apples and pecans were nicely coated with all that buttery, brown sugary goodness, I turned the heat down a little, put the chops back in the pan, spooned over the apples and any sauce, and cooked covered until the chops were completely cooked.

The chops were served with some sauteed mushrooms (nothing more than butter, salt, pepper, and a splash of balsamic vinegar), and some asparagus topped with grated parmesan cheese, and we had ourselves a very nice dinner. 🍽

The next Saturday, we had pasta and parmesan chicken. Not chicken parmesan, mind you, because there was no breading involved here. There were a few more ingredients there than I needed for the pork chops:

  • 2 boneless skinless chicken breast cut in half to make fillets
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic (okay, that may have been a bit more than 1 teaspoon
  • 1 lb penne pasta
  • 2-1⁄2 cups chicken broth
  • One 28 oz can diced tomatoes
  • I six oz bag of spinach, roughly chopped
  • 1 cup grated mozzarella cheese
  • 1⁄4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • Dried oregano, basil, rosemary, thyme, red pepper flakes (I used them in roughly equal portions of about 1/4 teaspoons each, though a bit more red pepper and oregano may have made their way into the mix just because)
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper

Over medium heat, I added a bit of olive oil in my big, not quite so new, but still nifty pot, and, after seasoning them with salt and pepper, cooked the chicken breast fillets 3-4 minutes per side until nicely browned. I then removed the chicken and set it aside. I added the onions and cooked them until they just began to brown, then added the garlic and cooked that for just about half a minute, I didn’t want that garlic to begin to burn. Then I added the pasta, chicken broth, diced tomatoes, and seasonings. I brought that to a boil, then backed the heat down to medium-low, covered the pot and let it simmer about 15 minutes until most of the liquid had been absorbed by the pasta, stirring every few minutes to keep the pasta from sticking.

img_3170I gave the pasta a little taste and added a bit of salt and pepper, then stirred in the spinach, added the chicken back to the pot, and topped it with the mozzarella and parmesan cheese. I turned the heat down to low, covered the pot and cooked for about another 10 minutes until the chicken was completely cooked and I had lots of nice, melty cheese.

If you like cheese, this dish is for you, it was plenty cheesy, though, in Brett’s opinion, it was too cheesy (I know, I’m dating a heretic). Topping the pasta with a little more parm for serving was just adding to the excess. It was also plenty filling, and this made plenty of food, so leftovers are a given. This also became Sunday lunch. 😊

And this brings me to this past Saturday. I made sausage and peppers. The decision to make sausage and peppers came about because when I was shopping to get what I needed for the parmesan chicken, I picked up a jar of merlot marinara sauce, even though I didn’t need it. I just spotted the sauce, thought that looked tasty, and got it. It occurred to me later that I would have to use that sauce at some point, so why not sausage and peppers.

So, for this, I used:

  • 6 links Italian sausage (either sweet or hot, I mixed the two)
  • 1 large onion, cut in half and sliced
  • 3-4 tbsp. light olive oil
  • 3 bell peppers, cut into strips (I used 2 green and 1 red pepper, just for the color variety)
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • Minced garlic (I think I dipped a spoon into the jar twice, but you can go by your own preference)
  • I jar of marinara sauce
  • Parmesan cheese
  • 8 oz container of sliced bella mushrooms (completely optional, we just like mushrooms)
  • Red pepper flake (to taste)
  • salt and pepper to taste

Heating up the olive oil in my nifty pot (a large skillet will also do) over medium heat, I poked the sausages several times then added them to the pot to brown. After browning the sausage, I removed then and set them aside. I then added the sliced onion, salt, and pepper, and cooked until caramelized. I then added the mushrooms, bell peppers, and oregano. Cooking until the peppers softened, I then added the garlic, continued to cook for a quick minute, then added the marinara sauce and returned the sausage to the pan. I covered the pot and continued to cook until the sausages were cooked through.

img_3189Now, how you serve your sausage and peppers is completely up to you. You can serve them with pasta, in your preferred sandwich roll, or just as is. I usually serve them with pasta, but this time we had them as is, with a side of steamed veggies. Topped with grated parmesan right before devouring. 😋

I should add that the marinara sauce you use is also completely your preference. I’ve used plain marinara, basil marinara, marinara mixed with pesto sauce, and, this time out, the merlot marinara. It always comes out great. What I like about sausage and peppers is it’s so easy to make and to customize to your preference. You can add garlic, or not. You can add red pepper flake, or not. Want sage, add sage. Parsley would also work. What I also love is just how easy it is to make. I really could make this with my eyes closed (well, not really, but maybe with my glasses off, and while squinting real hard).

A couple of quick dishes

So, Thanksgiving has come and gone, and I still have leftovers. I’ve never been one for repurposing Thanksgiving leftovers. I might make a turkey/stuffing/cranberry sauce sandwich or a turkey and mashed potato sandwich, but that’s not so much repurposing as it is putting Thanksgiving dinner in a more convenient form for carrying.

I didn’t really do anything that stood out for Thanksgiving dinner, but I did make a dessert that I was happy with, an apple-cranberry tart. A super easy dessert that only takes as much effort as you want to put into it. You can do anything from making it completely from scratch by making your own apple pie filling, using fresh cranberries, and make your own pie crust, to using premade pie filling, canned cranberries and store bought crust. For my tart, I used a premade pie crust and made the rest.

The apple pie filling was made using Granny Smith apples. I peeled, cored, and sliced 4 apples, added white sugar, a bit of brown sugar, nutmeg, cinnamon, juice from half a lemon, and cooked that in two tablespoons of butter until the apples softened, but still had some firmness, then I added cornstarch to thicken it. (I didn’t really measure anything, I did it all to taste, I just didn’t want the apple filling to be too tart since cranberries would be added).

For the cranberries, I cooked a cup of fresh cranberries in a saucepan with about 2 tablespoons of sugar just long enough for the cranberries to soften a bit. I then combined the cranberries with the apple, spooned the mix onto the middle of the pie crust, folded the edges of the crust over, and baked at 350° for about 45 minutes until the crust was golden brown and the filling nice and bubbly.

I ended up making two smallish tarts. It tasted great with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Saturday dinner after Thanksgiving wasn’t leftovers, it was a one-pot pasta dish, that, once I thought about it after I’d made it, I realized might be a good way to repurpose leftover turkey. I browned spicy Italian sausage (I got the kind that wasn’t in casings, but using sliced sausage would also work) in a large pot, added chicken thighs cut into bite-sized pieces and sliced mushrooms. But, it occurred to me later that if you have leftover turkey, particularly some dark meat, you can use that instead of chicken.

Cooking all that until the chicken began to brown and the mushrooms had released all their water into the mix, I added a box of uncooked ziti, 3 cups of chicken broth and a small can of plain tomato sauce. I brought it to a boil, then lowered the temp so the pasta could simmer, and cooked until the pasta had absorbed the liquid and was cooked to my satisfaction. If the liquid is absorbed but the pasta isn’t completely cooked, adding some water until the pasta is fully cooked will work.

img_3098Once the pasta was finished cooking, I turned off the heat and stirred in some parsley and grated parmesan cheese. Okay, I stirred in a lot of parmesan cheese. And to serve it, I put a dollop of ricotta cheese on top.

The interesting thing about this dish was I didn’t really need to add a lot of seasoning since the spicy sausage brought a lot of flavor with it. I mean, I did add a big, heaping spoonful of garlic with the chicken because I have a garlic problem, but that was it.

Anyway, it was good and flavorful, and the creamy ricotta was a nice added touch. This was very similar to another pasta dish I’ve made in the past.

An interesting aside with I make pasta: Brett is accustomed to getting pasta with a sauce added on top, as opposed to my making it this way. When I make this type of pasta, he usually likes it, but before he mentioned that, I didn’t realize he had a preference.