Spinach Pesto Pasta

I love a good pesto during the summer. In the past I have not had particularly great success with making my own pesto. I just never felt like I got the flavor and texture correct. And now, since going dairy-free, I have to consider pesto without the Parmesan cheese. I decided to mesh a couple of recipes together to create this dairy-free pesto to go over a roasted tomato and white bean pasta dish. It was delicious! And the leftover pesto is great for topping homemade pizza or using for a pita bread dip.

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SPINACH PESTO
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2 1/2 c. baby spinach
1/2 c. fresh basil leaves
1/2 c. walnut pieces
2 cloves garlic, minced
juice of one lemon
2 Tbsp nutritional yeast
1/4 c. olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper

Add the spinach, basil, walnuts, garlic, and lemon juice into the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until everything is broken down into small pieces. Add the nutritional yeast, olive oil, salt, pepper, and cayenne. Whirl until the pesto is smooth.

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Vegetable Egg Scramble

I’m just not great at making omelets – they stress me out and never turn out the way I want. So, my solution is to make a veggie egg scramble. It is easy, gourmet, and delicious. I actually prefer it because the flavors so beautiful marry. Also, I’m kind of weird about cheese in my eggs – I just don’t love it even though cheese is one of my top favorite foods. So, my solution is to sprinkle the cheese on top of the eggs as an optional addition. This is a dish that you can totally personalize which is especially nice for choosing the ingredients that would be most appreciated by the person or people you are cooking for! And again, you can easily add fresh herbs as a garnich or put them in for the last few minutes of cooking for a lovely, fresh flavor.


VEGETABLE EGG SCRAMBLE
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2 eggs per person
vegetables (I used onion, multi-colored peppers, and fresh baby spinach), chopped small
breakfast meat, optional (I sued sausage)
cheese, optional
butter
salt & pepper

Beat the eggs until light in a bowl. Add a little milk and salt and pepper to taste (you can always add more but you definitely want to cook them with some seasoning).

Melt a little butter in a skillet on medium to high. Add the chopped onion and peppers and saute until almost tender. Add the spinach (I do not chop this) and cook until wilted and veggies are tender. Reduce heat to medium. Pour in the eggs and scramble – fully mixing in the vegetables. Cook until eggs are fully cooked (add herbs right before finished if desired). Serve garnished with cheese if desired.

Simple Super: White Bean-Spinach-Quinoa-Bacon Salad

The other evening suppertime approached and the only ideas I had involved ingredients in my refrigerator. I took those ingredients–bacon, spinach, quinoa, cannelini beans–and went to find a recipe. The result was this delicious hot salad! I used leftover cooked quinoa (cajun spiced!) and the meal came together in a snap. The red wine vinegar added a tasty, unexpected zing. And come on, anything with bacon and asparagus is pretty darn tasty.

WHITE BEAN-SPINACH-QUINOA-BACON SALAD
(slightly adapted from Closet Cooking)
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1 cup quinoa, rinsed
2 slices bacon, cut into 1 inch pieces
1 sweet onion, sliced
4 ounces mushrooms, sliced
1/2 pound of asparagus, woody stems broken off, and cut into 1-inch pieces
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 small clove garlic, grated
salt and pepper to taste
1 (6 ounce) package baby spinach
1 (19 ounce) can white beans, drained and rinsed

Cook the quinoa as directed on the package.
Meanwhile, cook the bacon in a pan, about 4-6 minutes, and set aside, reserving 1-2 Tablespoons of bacon grease. Caramelize the onions, mushrooms, and asparagus in the remaining bacon grease, about 20 minutes. Set aside.
Add the vinegar to the pan and deglaze it. Mix in the reserved bacon grease, sugar, mustard, garlic, and season with salt and pepper.
Add the spinach and the beans and cook until the spinach wilts, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat. Mix in the bacon and veggies. Spoon over the quinoa, or mix it all together in the pan before serving.

Weekend Fare: Stuffed Shells

It had been far too long since I had made stuffed shells and so I decided to make them again. They are great for freezing and they are great for taking a meal to someone. They take a little bit of time but really, they are not hard at all and they look so pretty. You can easily make these vegetarian by omitting the sausage – they are delicious either way. My kids loved them and I like that the spinach adds some excellent nutrients!

SPINACH, SAUSAGE & CHEESE STUFFED SHELLS
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1 (12 oz.) package jumbo pasta shells
1 lb. Italian sausage
1 (10 oz.) package frozen chopped spinach – thawed, drained and squeezed dry
1 (15 oz.) container ricotta cheese
2 c. mozzarella cheese, shredded
2 eggs
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp. lemon juice
1/2 c. grated Parmesan cheese
salt and pepper to taste
1 teaspoon dried oregano
pinch of nutmeg
4 c. spaghetti sauce (you can make your own or use jarred sauce)
1 c. shredded mozzarella cheese
1/4 c. parmesan cheese

Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add shells and cook for 8 to 10 minutes or until al dente; drain and rinse in cold water.

Place sausage in a large, deep skillet. Cook over medium-high heat until evenly brown. Drain and crumble. In a large bowl, combine cooked sausage, spinach, ricotta cheese, mozzarella, egg, garlic, lemon juice and parmesan cheese. Season with salt, pepper, oregano, nutmeg.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Grease a 9×13 pan and spread 1/4 c. spaghetti sauce in the bottom. Generously stuff pasta shells with the sausage and cheese mixture and place in baking dish. Top with remaining spaghetti sauce. Cover with foil and bake for 20 – 30 minutes until hot. Remove foil and sprinkle on the remaining 1 c. mozzarella and 1/4 c. parmesan. Bake for another 10 minutes uncovered until cheese is melted and dish is bubbly.

International Cuisine: Sabse Borani

I know, I know,  I said it would be market fresh but a girl can change her mind, right? My boys and I made this yummy dish last week during our study of Afghanistan. I found the recipe online and we all loved it! I served it on naan and as much as I would love to impress you and say that I made the wonderful onion naan, it would be a lie….it was a mix. There, I admitted it. 🙂 It worked out great and since my kiddos were helping, it made the process more age appropriate for them. Perhaps the making of naan from scratch will occur one of these days. In the mean time, this was easy and fabulous.


Sabse Borani

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4 cups fresh spinach leaves, chopped
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp. vegetable oil
1 cup lightly drained plain yogurt (drain about 1 hr – easiest method is to place the yogurt in a coffee filter and let stand)

Place damp spinach in a skillet and cook until wilted (can cover). Drain and squeeze to remove excess water. Heat oil in a large skillet, sauté onion at low heat until golden, add garlic and sauté briefly, then add spinach, and cook for a minute or two more. Let cool. In a bowl, smooth yogurt and add spinach mixture. Season with salt and pepper.

Delicious! We love it on the naan – kind of  like a pizza!

Off The Shelf: New Flavors For Vegetables

New Flavors for Vegetables put out by Williams-Sonoma is a beautiful book filled with fresh, seasonal ideas for vegetables. Arranged by season, you will find inspiration for even the commonest vegetable. Admittedly, some of the recipes may seem a bit too gourmet for regular cooking, but not all are complicated. Have a look at some of the recipe titles:

SPRING: snow pea and radish salad, sautéed english peas with garlic and sesame, steamed new potatoes with chive oil, quick two-pea saute with basil and pecorino, roasted asparagus with fried eggs and parmesan.

SUMMER: green beans with creamy tarragon dipping sauce, spicy okra stew, sautéed yellow pear tomatoes with arugula pesto and feta, spicy cucumber salad with roasted peanuts, marinated summer vegetables grilled on rosemary skewers, creamed corn with chipotle chiles.

FALL: stir-fried broccoli with cashews and dark soy sauce, roasted beets with orange and herbed goat cheese, roasted acorn squash with chipotle and cilantro, caramelized cauliflower with honey and smoked paprika, glazed carrots with coriander, roasted root vegetables with indian curry and cilantro.

WINTER: spicy roasted potatoes with cool yogurt dipping sauce, gingered winter squash with pear puree, braised mustard greens with pancetta and lemon, braised winter vegetables with coconut and red curry, individual swiss chard gratins.

We tried the Sautéed Baby Spinach with Lemon Zest and Cream. This was beyond my expectations. It was so good. I’ve never had such mild, sweet (as in naturally sweet), delicious creamed spinach before. I would love to make this again. (Yes, I know fresh spinach is not cheap. Save this recipe for when you find some on sale.)

SAUTEED BABY SPINACH WITH LEMON ZEST AND CREAM
(New Flavors for Vegetables)

1 cup heavy cream
1 lemon
2 pounds baby spinach
1 tsp. sugar
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Pour the cream into a saucepan. Using a vegetable peeler, peel 2 stripes of lemon zest, each 2 inches long from the lemon. Set the lemon aside. Add the zest strips to the cream and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Cook the cream, stirring occasionally, until reduced by half, about 8 minutes; watch that the cream does not boil too vigorously. Remove the zest strips and discard.

Remove any tought stems from the spinach leaves and rinse them well in a colander. heat a large frying pan over medium heat. Add the spinach, with the rinsing water still clinging to the leaves. Sprinkle with the sugar and toss well. Cover the pan and cook the spinach for 3 minutes. Uncover and toss the leaves well. Continue to cook, uncovered, until the spinach is wilted and tender, 1-2 minutes.

Place the spinach in a colander and, using a wooden spoon, press on it firmly to remove all the excess liquid. Chop the drained spinach coarsely and add it to the pan with the reduced cream. Finely grate the remaining lemon zest and add to the spinach (reserve the fruit for another use). Season the spinach with a pinch of salt and about 1/2 tsp. pepper and stir well to combine. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until just heated through, 2-3 minutes.

Transfer the spinach to a warmed serving bowl and serve right away.

Serves 4.

Off The Shelf: March Magazines

(Heather) – Now that we are well into 2010, the food magazines have begun to arrive en masse. First up this month is Food Network. The March issue encompasses 140 pages. Along with all the normal features (such as Food News, Star Kitchen, Fun Cooking, He Made-She Made, and Copy That), there are a number of great feature articles which include: cooking with orange juice concentrate, 11,375 stir-fry possibilities complete with some amazing photos, easy green snacks for St. Patrick’s Day, Weeknight Cooking and Weekend Cooking — all of which have very appealing recipes, a Ravioli how-to, and a pull-out booklet on 50 Pizzas. The magazine ends with a lengthy spread devoted to the upcoming Oscars, including Hollywood-specific recipes.

I chose a recipe from the On The Road feature — Green Apple-SourDough Pancakes. I love the smell and taste of sourdough and these pancakes were lovely. And my kids ate them right up too!

GREEN APPLE-SOURDOUGH PANCAKES
(Food Network Magazine March 2010)
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For the sourdough starter:
1 cup whole milk
1 tsp. active dry yeast (1/2 packet)
1/2 cup apple cider (I had to substitute apple juice with 1 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar)
3 Tbsp. packed light brown sugar
2 Tbsp. butter, melted
1 cup all-purpose flour

For the pancakes:
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 large egg, slightly beaten
1 tsp. baking soda
1 small tart green apple (such as Granny Smith), unpeeled and diced
1-2 Tbsp. butter
maple syrup or honey, for serving
chopped pecans, for garnish (optional)

Make the sourdough starter: Warm the milk in a small saucepan over low heat to about 110F. Transfer to a medium bowl, sprinkle with the yeast and let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes. Whisk in the cider, brown sugar, butter and 1 cup flour until smooth. Cover with plastic wrap and let stand at room temperature overnight.

The next morning, make the pancakes: whisk 1/2 cup flour, the egg, baking soda and apple into the sourdough starter. Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a cast-iron griddle or non-stick skillet over medium heat and swirl to coat. Pour about 1/4 cup batter onto the griddle for each pancake. (Alternatively, cook on an electric pancake griddle.) Cook until the tops are bubbly and the edges set, about 3 minutes, then flip and cook until golden and cooked through, 1 to 2 more minutes. Repeat with the remaining batter, adding more butter as needed. Drizzle with syrup and garnish with pecans, if desired.

Makes about 12 pancakes.

(Heather) – Next up is Everyday with Rachael Ray which boasts 462 easy recipes, tips & deals. The magazine opens with a number of regular features and this month includes a section on beating the winter blahs. There are focus pages on cauliflower, coffee, slow cookers, supermarket traps. My favorite section of this magazine is the five-page Meet the Grains feature, introducing us to brown rice, millet, barley, farro, buckwheat, and quinoa. I hope to obtain most, if not all, of these grains and begin to incorporate them into our diet. (Perhaps you’ll read about the results on this blog!)

As always the magazine includes some great suggestions for 30-minute meals, as well as a section on classic dishes (think chicken noodle soup, chocolate cake, apple pie, lasagna). Recipes for Oscar night fill several pages and, wouldn’t you know, there’s a lengthy article on the nation’s best pizza and how to make it (do magazine editors consult each other?).

I will mention that my biggest pick with this issue was from their Supermarket Traps article. The article actually encourages you to “save produce shopping for last; this will prevent overbuying.” Their argument being that produce has the highest profit margin and supermarket owners want you to buy a lot. In my opinion, fresh produce is what you should be filling the bulk of your cart with. The more fresh food we eat the more likely we are to have good health.

The Spaghetti Squash with Sausage and Greens from the $10 Dinners caught my attention. The recipe worked well and tasted great and one could even substitute regular pasta for the spaghetti squash.

SPAGHETTI SQUASH WITH SAUSAGE AND GREENS
(Everyday with Rachael Ray March 2010)
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1 spaghetti squash (about 3 1/2 pounds), halved lengthwise
1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese
salt and pepper
1 1/2 tsp. olive oil
12 oz. sweet Italian sausage
1 bunch spinach, stems discarded and leaves coarsely chopped (I used a 10 oz. bag of fresh spinach)
1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper

The magazine has you cook the spaghetti squash in the microwave. Because I try to avoid microwave cooking I placed my halved squash in a baking pan, added about 1-inch of water and baked it at 350F for 45-60 minutes until tender.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the sausage and cook until no longer pink, about 6 minutes. Add the spinach and crushed red pepper and cook until wilted, about 2 minutes; season with salt and pepper.

Using a fork, comb the cooked squash into strands into a bowl. Toss with the parmesan and season with black pepper. Serve the spinach and sausage over the squash.

Serves 4.

(Alaina) – Everyday Food is focused on spring! It has some wonderful looking salad recipes, a whole section on poaching eggs and recipes for them, five different uses for homemade pizza dough (which all look amazing!), as well as their usual meal plan with grocery a list. I continue to be impressed with this magazine. They make gourmet food easy! The Beer-Braised Sausages with Warm Potato Salad, Almond Torte with Pears and Whipped Cream, and the Swiss Chard Pie are just a few of the recipes I would love to try!

I decided to try the Orecchiette with Bacon and Tomato Sauce – Orcchiette is a small shell-like pasta which I didn’t happen to have on hand so mine was actually Orzo with Bacon and Tomato Sauce. Orzo is a small pasta that looks a little like rice. It worked well. This was a little spicy for my kids, so I would reduce the red-pepper flakes to 1/4 tsp. The smoky bacon is so good in this simple dish!

ORECCHIETTE WITH BACON & TOMATO SAUCE
(Everyday Food, March 2010)
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1 Tb. extra-virgin olive oil
4 slices bacon, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 medium red onion, halved and thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 tsp. red-pepper flakes
1 can (28 oz.) whole peeled tomatoes
Coarse salt and ground pepper
1 lb. orecchiette or other short pasta
Grated Parmesan and chopped fresh parsley, for serving

In a medium saucepan, heat oil over medium-high. Add bacon and cook until browned and almost crisp, about 4 min. Add onion and cook until softened, 3 to 5 min. Add garlic and red-pepper flakes and stir until fragrant, 1 min. Add tomatoes, breaking them up as you go, and season with salt and pepper. Bring sauce to a boil; reduce to a simmer and cook until slightly reduced, 15 min.

Meanwhile, in a large pot of salted water, cook pasta 1 minute less than package instructions. Reserve cup pasta water; drain pasta and return to pot.

Add sauce and pasta water to pasta and toss to combine; cook over medium-high until sauce thickens and coats pasta, about 2 min. Serve pasta topped with Parmesan and parsley.

(Alaina) – Cooking Light has a wide variety of recipes including many different proteins and vegetarian dishes. The photos are inspiring and the articles interesting. I especially enjoyed the article on 25 Most Common Cooking Mistakes – and yes, I’m definitely guilty of some of them! The Lentil-Barley Burgers with Fiery Fruit Salad, Apricot-Ginger Bellinis, Pear & Prosciutto Pizza, and Braised Short Ribs with Egg Noodles all look amazing.

I decided to try the lightened up Sour Cream Coffee Cake which was actually one of the Cooking Light staff favorites! And I agree – it was surprisingly delicious! I used yogurt which is the perfect substitute for sour cream if you don’t have any and since mine was fat-free plain, it reduced the fat in this recipe even more!

SOUR CREAM COFFEE CAKE
(Cooking Light, March 2010)
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3/4 c. old-fashioned oats, divided
1 c. flour
1/4 c. whole wheat flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 c. granulated sugar
1/2 c. packed brown sugar, divided
1/3 c. butter, softened
2 lg. eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 (8-oz) carton light sour cream (I used fat free plain yogurt)
2 Tb. finely chopped walnuts (I used pecans because we love them!)
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1 Tb. chilled butter, cut into small pieces

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.

Spread oats in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake at 350 for 6 minutes or until oats are barely fragrant and light brown. Coat a 9-inch springform pan (I used a regular 9-in. round glass baking pan) with cooking spray; set aside. Reserve 1/4 c. oats; set aside. Place remaining oats in a food processor; process 4 seconds or until finely ground. Combine flours, processed oats, baking powder, baking soda, and salt; stir with whisk.

Place a granulated sugar, 1/4 c. brown sugar, and 1/3 c. butter in a lg. bowl. Beat with a mixter at medium speed for 3 min. or until light and fluffy. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in vanilla. Add flour mixture to sugar mixture alternately with sour cream, beginning and ending with flour mixture. (Batter will be slightly lumpy because of oats.) Spoon batter into prepared pan; spread evenly.

Combine remaining 1/4 c. oats and 1/4 c. brown sugar, nuts, and cinnamon in a bowl. Cut in 1 Tb. butter with a pastry blender until well blended. Sprinkle top of batter evenly with nut mixture. Bake at 350 degrees for 38 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, top is golden, and cake begins to pull away from sides of pan.

Cool cake in pan for 10 min. Serves 10.

Market Fresh: Spinach

Our focus today is on spinach, a plant filled with iron and multiple vitamins. Spinach often gets a bad rap, and people associate it with unpleasant childhood experiences. It must be that as we grow older and realize the nutritional benefits of this plant our tastes somehow mellow and many of us decide it is a food we can eat with pleasure regularly. I almost always have a bag of fresh spinach in my crisper.

So what to do with spinach? My first thought is salad, of which there are numerous varieties. Then creamed spinach, spinach pizza, spinach quiche, spinach with pasta, spinach lasagna all begin to come to mind. A recipe for Baked Eggs with Spinach and Brioche caught my attention and that is what I finally settled on to make for this post. My husband and I thoroughly enjoyed this dish. I won’t repeat what my children said, nor relate the battle that ensued at the dinner table. Suffice it to say, their tastebuds have not taken on adult maturity yet.

BAKED EGGS WITH SPINACH AND BRIOCHE
(adapted from Brunch: 100 Recipes from Five Points Restaurant)
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2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced (I used 3)
2 bunches spinach (about 1 1/2 pounds), washed and stemmed
salt & pepper
2 Tbsp. butter
8 slices brioche, 1/2-inch thick each (I used good quality sliced whole grain bread)
12 large eggs (I used only one per person, which was 6)
1/4 cup creme fraiche (I used sourcream)
1 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Preheat the oven to 400F. Heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium heat and, when it shimmers, add the garlic. Cook the garlic until fragrant and golden, about 3 minutes, and add the spinach. (Don’t worry about  a little water clinging to the leaves; it will help steam the greens.) Reduce the heat to medium, add a pinch of salt and a few turns of freshly ground black pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the spinach is just wilted, about 3 minutes more. Transfer the spinach to a bowl to cool (it need not cool completely before you proceed, but you don’t want it so hot it will start cooking the eggs before they get in the oven).

Toast the bread slices in a toaster and butter them as they are done.

Lightly butter four ramekins or a baking dish large enough to hold the brioche in one layer (I used a 9×13-inch pan). Arrange the brioche on the bottom of the dish(es) and evenly scatter the wilted spinach over the bread, making rough little nests to hold the eggs in place. Crack the eggs into the spinach nests and season them with salt and pepper. Drizzle creme fraiche over the dish(es), sprinkle with grated Parmesan, and set on the lowest shelf of the oven. Cook until the whites are just set but the yolks are still runny, about 12-15 minutes. (I baked mine until both whites and yolks were set.) Serve immediately.

To make gluten-free: substitute gluten-free bread for the brioche.

Serves 4.

For other spinach recipe ideas, why not check out these recipes in our archives:

Creamy Spinach
Sweet Potato Quesadillas with Spinach
Spinach-Mushroom-Bacon-Swiss-Egg Breakfast Casserole
Frittata
Spicy Butternut Squash Curry with Spinach
Butternut Squash Tarts with Spinach and Feta
Spinach Salad

And, check back Wednesday for our March Magazine Review and another great dinner recipe using spinach.

Dinner for Two

Note: My oven decided to not work (of course! :)). Therefore, your spinach will look much nicer than mine… My sincerest apologies. It’s been quite the week!

My favorite way to celebrate Valentine’s Day is to cook a nice dinner and enjoy it with my husband. It’s quiet and romantic. I choose a nicer menu and we enjoy it after our rowdy boys are in bed. These easy recipes are sure to impress!

FILET MIGNON w/BALSAMIC REDUCTION
(Adapted from Giada DeLaurentiis)
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1/2 c. balsamic vinegar
1 Tb. sugar 
1 Tb. butter
2 (5 to 6-oz.) filet mignon steaks (each about 1-inch thick)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 oz. goat cheese, gorgonzola, or bleu cheese

Boil the balsamic vinegar and sugar in a heavy small saucepan over medium-high heat until reduced, stirring occasionally, about 18 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat the broiler. Melt the butter in a heavy, oven-proof skillet over medium-high heat. Pat filet dry and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cook the steaks to desired doneness, about 4 – 4 1/2 minutes per side for medium.  Crumble the cheese over the steaks and broil just until the cheese melts, about 1 minute. Sprinkle with pepper.

Transfer the steaks to plates. Drizzle the balsamic sauce and serve.

GARLIC ROASTED POTATOES
(adapted from Ina Garten)
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1 pound small fingerling or red potatoes 
 2 Tb. good olive oil
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp. minced fresh parsley (opt.)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Cut the potatoes in quarters and place in a bowl with the olive oil, salt, pepper, and garlic; toss until the potatoes are well coated. Transfer the potatoes to a sheet pan and spread out into 1 layer. Roast in the oven for 45 minutes to 1 hour or until browned and crisp. Flip twice with a spatula during cooking in order to ensure even browning.

Remove the potatoes from the oven, toss with parsley, season to taste, and serve hot.

CREAMY SPINACH
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1 Tb. butter
1 sm. onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 (16 oz.) package frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
1 c. heavy cream
Salt & Pepper to taste
Dash of nutmeg
3 Tb. fresh grated parmesan cheese, divided
1/4 c. shredded swiss cheese

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees.

Melt butter in a skillet. Add onion and garlic and saute until tender. Add the spinach and cook until warm. Stir in cream, salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Cook for 2-3 more minutes or until slightly reduced and creamy. Remove from heat and  stir in swiss cheese and 2 Tb. parmesan. Divide between 3-4 ramekins. Top with remaining parmesan and bake for 15 minutes or until bubbly and cheese is melted.   

CARAMEL MACCHIATO CHEESECAKE
(adapted from allrecipes.com)
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2 c. graham cracker crumbs
1/2 c. butter, melted
2 Tb. white sugar

FILLING:
3 (8 oz.) packages cream cheese, softened
1 c. white sugar
3 eggs
1 (8 oz,) container sour cream
1/4 c. brewed espresso or strong coffee
2 tsp. vanilla extract

GARNISH:
Caramel ice cream topping
Fresh whipped cream
Grated Chocolate or Hard shell Chocolate Sauce

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly coat a 9-inch springform pan with nonstick cooking spray.

Mix together the graham cracker crumbs, melted butter, and 2 tablespoons of sugar until well combined. Press into the bottom of the prepared springform pan, and 1 inch up the sides. Bake in preheated oven for 8 minutes, then remove to cool on a wire rack.

Reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees F.

Beat the softened cream cheese in a large bowl with an electric mixer until fluffy. Gradually add 1 cup of sugar, beating until blended. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Stir in sour cream, espresso and vanilla. Pour batter into the baked and cooled crust.

Bake cheesecake in the preheated oven for 1 hour and 5 minutes; then turn the oven off, partially open the door and allow the cheesecake to rest for 15 minutes more. Remove from the oven, and run a knife around the edges. Cool cheesecake on a wire rack to room temperature, then cover the springform pan with plastic wrap, and chill in the refrigerator for 8 hours.

To serve, cut the cheesecake into wedges and garnish each slice with whipped cream, caramel sauce drizzle, and chocolate curls OR spread caramel sauce on top of cheesecake and drizzle with hard shell chocolate.

Or if you prefer a simpler dessert, I recommend one of these desserts or perhaps a cappucino and cookie. Enjoy!

Holiday Feast: Christmas Breakfast

Who doesn’t love breakfast food?! Especially on Christmas! Here’s what our families do for breakfast on Christmas morning:

HeatherChristmas breakfast is eaten around the tree as the children open their presents. The first year we were married I discovered the recipe for Swedish Tea Rings and have made one for Christmas breakfast ever since. The rest of the menu may vary some, but it always includes fruit. In recent years we’ve enjoyed bacon-wrapped sausages sprinkled with brown sugar and then baked and I often buy some thick, Greek yogurt to serve alongside the fruit. Drinks consist of juice and plenty of hot tea.

CITRUS FRUIT SALAD WITH LIME
(Heather)

1 pineapple, cut into bite-sized pieces
2 small cans mandarin oranges or 3 large navel oranges peeled and sectioned
1 can apricots
zest and juice of 2 limes

Cut pineapple into pieces and place in a serving bowl. Add the mandarin or navel oranges and the can of apricots. Sprinkle over the zest of lime and stir in the lime juice. Best made the same day as eaten.

For variety I sometimes add dried cranberries or pomegranate seeds. For those who like ginger, one teaspoon of freshly grated ginger adds a wonderful zing or try a few tablespoons of finely sliced candied ginger.

Serves 8.

SWEDISH TEA RING
(originally from Fleishmann’s New Treasury of Yeast Baking)

3 ½ — 4 ½ c. flour
½ c. sugar
1 tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. yeast
1 c. milk
¼ c. water
½ c. butter
1 egg (at room temp.)
½ c. flour
½ c. nuts
½ c. brown sugar
1-2 c. fruit (canned cherries, apricot, etc. well-drained)

Mix 1 ¼ c. flour, sugar, salt, and yeast in a bowl.

Combine milk, water and butter in saucepan. Heat to warm liquids and melt butter. Cool until warm. Add to dry ingredients and beat 2 minutes. Add egg and ¾ c. flour, to make a thick batter. Beat 2 more minutes. Stir in enough additional flour to make a stiff batter (but not as thick as bread dough). Cover and refrigerate dough at least 2 hours. (Can be kept in fridge 3 days.)

Combine nuts, ½ c. flour, and brown sugar. Turn dough onto a lightly floured board and divide in half. Roll ½ of the dough into a 14×7-inch rectangle.

Spread with ½ of the fruit. Sprinkle with ½ the brown sugar mixture. Roll up from long side as for jelly roll. Seal edges. Place sealed edge down in a circle on a greased cookie sheet. Seal ends firmly.

Cut slits 2/3 through ring at 1-inch intervals; turn each section outward, on its side.

(Note: This picture shows only one-half of the ring slices turned out — be sure to turn out every ring)

Repeat with remaining dough. Cover and let rise until doubled – about 1 hour. Bake at 375 for 20-25 minutes or until done. Cool on wire rack. Frost while warm with confectioners’ sugar glaze.

Often I don’t have the canned filling I want so I make an apple filling by chopping about 3 large, peeled apples and mixing them with 1/4 c. flour, 1/2 c. brown sugar, juice of one lemon and a few dried cranberries. Bring this mixture to a boil and cook until thickened, stirring constantly.

Glaze: mix 3 tablespoons soft butter into about 1 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar. Add enough milk to make a drizzling consistency. Add more sugar if needed to thicken.

Makes 2 rings.

Alaina – We traditionally enjoy an egg casserole, fruit, some kind of bread or coffee cake, and a few special drinks. The coffee pot is kept going for those of us who were awakened early by eager children. We have breakfast after stockings and gifts are opened or in between the stockings and gifts depending on the time. It’s a leisurely affair and one that I find makes me incredibly content and reflective.

I use the same base recipe for my egg casserole and just switch out the meats and cheese and sometimes add vegetables to make it different. We love it and I’ve been making it year-round for years. One of my favorite combinations is bacon, spinach, and swiss and we also love the traditional classic of sausage and sharp cheddar (onions & peppers add great color and flavor). You could easily make this vegetarian by omitting the meat. This egg casserole also re-heats very well if you have leftovers. I’m sharing one of my favorite versions.

SPINACH-MUSHROOM-BACON-SWISS EGG CASSEROLE

6 eggs, lightly beaten
1 lb. bacon, cooked and finely cut up (I often use less than a pound)
3 c. milk
8 oz. swiss cheese
1 1/3 c. crushed crackers (I use a butter cracker like ritz)

1 tsp. dry mustard
1 lb. mushrooms, cleaned and chopped
1 lb. frozen, chopped spinach, thawed w/liquid thoroughly squeezed out
pepper & salt*

Combine all ingredients. Pour into a greased 9×13 pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes – 1 hour until golden brown.

*May not need much salt.
**May be made the night before and refrigerated.

These muffins are delicious! You could make them even more special by drizzling a little glaze over them.

LEMON-CRANBERRY ALMOND MUFFINS
(adapted from Taste of Home)

2 c. flour
1 c. sugar
3 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
2 eggs
1 c. milk
1/2 c. vegetable oil
zest of 1 lemon
1 c. fresh or frozen cranberries, coarsely chopped
1/3 c. slivered almonds, toasted

In a large bowl, combine the dry ingredients. In another bowl, beat the eggs, milk, oil. Stir into dry ingredients just until moistened. Fold in zest and cranberries.

Fill paper-lined muffin cups two-thirds full; sprinkle with almonds. Bake at 400 degrees for 18-20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool for 5 minutes before removing from pan to a wire rack. Makes 1 1/2 – 3 dozen muffins.

This icy drink always reminds me of my childhood. My mom used to surprise us with it and now I love to share it with my children.


ORANGE JULIUS

6 oz. frozen orange juice concentrate
6 oz. water
1 c. milk
1/8-1/4 c. sugar (opt.)
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
12 ice cubes

Chill glasses in freezer.

Combine all ingredients in blender or smoothie machine and blend until ingredients are mixed and ice is pulverized. Makes 4 servings.