Mushroom spaghetti risotto

In recent weeks I have been trying some different cooking methods with great success.  This dish showcases a cooking method that is used to make risotto. Typically, in that technique, broth or cooking liquids are added slowly, allowing the starch to cook gradually.

With this dish, the spaghetti is cooked in the same fashion and yields an amazing taste profile, second to none that I have made in past years.  If you are willing to stand and cook at the stove for a short while, this is a dish for you.  It will impress anyone who is served.  I promise.

I used my Le Creuset cast iron pot which retains heat well and keeps the temperature constant while cooking.  I added 3 tablespoons olive oil, 1 chopped white onion, and a small squeeze from my minced garlic tube.  Then, I sautéed the onion and seasoned with salt and pepper to taste.

In another skillet, I softened one package of sliced white mushrooms with 1 tablespoon margarine.  In addition, I made 4 cups of chicken stock. Combine the two and bring up to a boil and add 1/2 cup of Pinot Grigio wine.

In the cast iron pot, I then added about 1/2 package of broken spaghetti.  Saute the dry spaghetti for about 5 minutes to allow the flavor to come alive.  Slowly, one ladle full at a time, add the wine, broth, mushroom mixture to the spaghetti.  Allow the liquid to absorb into the spaghetti before adding more liquid.

To finish the dish, add shredded Parmesan cheese and 2 tablespoons margarine and incorporate.  Plate and top with parsley flakes. Serve with salad or crusty bread.

This dish was inspired from Rachel Ray’s Look and Cook cookbook, published 2010.

Zucchini zoodle lasagna

I have been experimenting with my Paderno spiralizer and tried this recipe which was especially tasty.  This would be a wonderful one to try with children, as they would not even know that zucchini were a main ingredient of this dish.

I adapted the recipe from Better Homes and Gardens one-pan recipes and added some additional ingredients which made it closer to a pizza or lasagna without the noodles or crust.

Here is how I made this lasagna which could also be named a casserole pizza. I used two zucchini, spiralized them, salted and placed in a colander to drain for 20 minute prior to starting to assemble the dish.

Pat dry the zucchini.  Mix 2 eggs, 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese, 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, 1/4 cup cake flour, and 2 tablespoons cornmeal in a bowl.  Add the zucchini.

Place in a ceramic baking dish which has been prepared with Pam.  Add 3 chopped green onions, freshly ground black pepper, and one chopped sweet red pepper to the top of the baking dish. Bake for 10 minutes and remove from the oven.

Then, add 3/4 can of pizza sauce to the top of the dish, top with 1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella,  1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, mini pepperoni, sesame seeds and parsley flakes.  Bake 20 minutes or until cheese is well melted, and edges are crispy.

This dish is perfect to make ahead and store in the refrigerator to serve later in the day or within a few days.  I used my LidLover to cover the casserole and keep it fresh for heating up at a later time.

Shrimp Chowder

Spring weather fluctuates in Michigan. We have many chilly April days. So, making a pot of soup is not out of the question in my kitchen.  I was inspired by a recipe I found in Cooking Light magazine and prepared this delicious chowder in my Staub pot.

This chowder is not a thick soup, like I have made in the past.  But, it was equally delicious.  Gather these ingredients.  2 cups vegetable broth, 1 teaspoon dried thyme, black pepper, 2 Tablespoons margarine, 1/2 cup chopped carrots, 1/2 cup chopped white onion, 1/2 cup chopped celery, 2 tablespoons flour, 3/4 bag of cooked shrimp, 1 cup half and half, 1/2 cup shredded Swiss cheese

Prepare the broth.  Combine broth, thyme, pepper.

In the cooking pot, saute carrots, onion, and celery. Add flour and cook out for 1 minute.  Add shrimp, and then the broth.  Heat to simmer.  Add half and half and continue to cook until the chowder is hot. Season with parsley flakes when serving.

Serve with a side salad or crusty bread.

Indoor herb garden

Last month I planted an indoor herb garden using the culinary herb kit which came with the Miracle-Gro AeroGarden Classic 6.  Even though I am an Advanced Master Gardener and enjoy growing edibles outdoors, I have not been a fan of indoor gardens.  What attracted me to this system is the soil-free hydroponic features of this garden.  It also uses LED high performance lighting for maximum plant growth.  Everything was included in this particular kit, even the plant food which is required for the best growth.

Even the pods are pre-seeded, guaranteed to germinate, and grow faster than if planted in soil.  The garden’s lights are timed and come on based with the program provided within the system.  The unit notifies me when the plants need food and more water to nourish their root system.

Since planting day on March 15th, I have been very happy with my new indoor herb garden.  The plants began to grow under the provided grow domes within one week and have been growing nicely ever since those first days.

Since Michigan weather is just now warming up, and my perennial herbs outdoors are waking up for the season–I haven’t been without my own home grown herbs for a couple of months.

Harvesting has been fun and easy.  My culinary herbs include two types of Basil, Thyme, Mint, Dill and Parsley. I have been using them in my cooking and love to snip just what I need for a particular dish.

Placed in my sun room, the AeroGarden does not take up much room and is quite attractive, adding some green to the environment. The garden does not use GMO seeds, herbicides or pesticides either.  In six months, I plan to try the lettuce kit and enjoy fresh grown greens throughout the Fall.

AeroGardens have been around for many years, so I am happy now to be on board as an indoor gardener.  Kits can be bought at Home Depot, online or at many specialty cooking stores.

Rustic potatoes

In an effort to reduce carbohydrates at holiday meals, I look for alternative ways to serve potatoes.  Everyone seems to love a potato as a comfort food, and my family is no different. In the past five years, I have made an effort to try different types and sizes of potatoes to see if they would be disappointed not having the traditional large slices of potato casseroles or baked potatoes.  To my liking, everyone seems to enjoy these smaller roasted potatoes.  I season them differently, but always roast my potatoes in the oven. Personally, I love them.

Here is how I made my potatoes for Easter this year.  The secret is to find very small potatoes.  I used Baby Boomers from the Little Potato Company.  And, they were delicious.

Prepare a small baking sheet with spray Olive Oil and season the potatoes with Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper, parsley flakes, and Italian herb seasoning to taste. I also give the potatoes a spray of the Olive oil as well.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Roast them for 30 minutes and check half way through to make certain they are evenly roasting.  Delicious and easy !!

In this photo, you can see the size of the potatoes compared to the carrots also prepared at this holiday meal.

Seasoned chicken with vegetables

As other foodies have featured one pot meals, I am also “all-in” with this easy and delicious way to have an amazing meal on the table with layers of flavor and excellent taste. I can’t say enough about cast iron cookware, but my Staub essential oven pot is one of the best.

Some of their best features make a huge difference in the end result of any dish prepared in my Staub cookware.  The interior has a matte black enamel finish which resists food from sticking, as well as benefits the self-basting cooking method.  The convex interior lid encourages moisture to stay within the pot, creating the most delicious moist dishes. Food is basted evenly and throughout the cooking process to create a superior end result.

Here is another dish I prepared in this essential pot, and I can’t wait to make it a second time.  It was just that good.  Gather these ingredients: 5 small red skinned potatoes, Kosher salt, minced garlic in a tube, 2 Tablespoons margarine and 1 tablespoon Olive oil, 2 bone in chicken breasts, 6-8 white sliced mushrooms, 2-3 yellow onions, chicken seasoning, black pepper, parsley flakes, 1/2 cup white wine, 1/2 bag small carrots

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  In a sauce pot, clean, cut and boil the potatoes for 10 minutes and drain.  Brown the chicken in the Olive Oil and margarine.  Season the chicken.  Add sliced onions and lightly soften and brown, add mushrooms and cook until soft and lightly browned.  Then add carrots and do the same.  Add garlic and extra seasoning for the vegetables. Add the potatoes and the white wine. Stir.

Bake at 400 degrees for 30 minutes COVERED.  Serve with crusty bread, popovers or a side salad.

Easter green beans

Many of you are not fans of green beans, but I found a recipe that even a green bean hater enjoyed.  I was inspired by the blog Once Upon a Chef and adapted her recipe a bit for my own family this past week. Of course this technique could be tried any time of year, but it is certainly one to remember for those holiday meals.

What I like about the technique is that it starts with French green beans.  That is a special type of very thin green bean, which I am able to find at only some markets. Packaging may say Haricots Verts or Petit green beans.  If you try this recipe with frozen green beans or thick green beans, don’t expect the same result or even worse, your green bean haters will emerge again at the table.

To make the recipe, gather olive oil, red onion, 1-1 1/2 cups water, about 8 ounces of thin green beans, salt and pepper to taste.

Using a saute pan, heat the olive oil and saute the thinly sliced red onions until soft and lightly browned. While they are cooking, clean the ends of the beans and place into the pan when the onions are ready.  Salt and pepper to taste, and continue to stir them until they begin to slightly cook as well.  I probably sautéed them for 3-4 minutes.

Next, add 1/2 cup of the water and continue to cook on medium heat, never leaving the green beans.  This is a dish that needs constant attention.  The object is to continue to cook until the water is gone. Then add more water and continue until all of the water has been cooked through the green beans with no water left when the beans are done.

This technique will take about 8-10 minutes total time.  Test the beans to make sure they are done cooking.  Check to see if they are easily pierced with a fork, and look cooked through, hot, but not limp and watery at all.

Transfer to a serving dish and be amazed at the flavor and seasoning.