One Pan Pasta Primavera

I love a one pan meal, especially lately as the start of the new year has been busy!  Easy clean up, of course, but I love the idea of adding more ingredients as it cooks and layering in flavors.  Stir fry is a perfect example, or fried rice and my all-time favorite is chicken and veggies with croutons.  And, you can pretty much put anything on a sheet pan.  So, with an abundant amount of cherry tomatoes recently, I came up with a One Pan Pasta Primavera recipe. Ok, so you need a pot to cook the pasta, but beyond that, everything cooks on one pan so I’m sticking with the name.  

The roasted tomatoes split open in the oven and release their juices which becomes the sauce.  I added shrimp, broccoli and some pesto to the pan and once everything was cooked, I combined with the pasta and topped with basil and parmesan (which makes everything delish).  During the summer, I buy big bunches of basil at our local farmers market and make a batch of pesto.  I pour it into ice cube trays and once the cubes are frozen, I transfer them to a zip top bag and use throughout the winter.  I can whip up pesto linguini with peas in 10 minutes, throw a few cubes into bolognese, and make chicken pesto paninis.  It’s a great short cut but you can always use your favorite store brand of pesto, too.

If shrimp is your preference, you could use chicken and swap out the broccoli for another vegetable. It was a huge hit with the family and I would consider making this for guests (someday when we actually have friends over again) because it’s an easy dish to pull together and I won’t need to stand at the stove instead of being with guests.

Ingredients

1 lb.                     Large shrimp (deveined and tails removed) (If frozen, defrost)

1 pkg                   Cherry tomatoes

3 cloves              Garlic, peeled and smashed

2 cups Broccoli florets, cut into small pieces

3 tbs                    Olive oil

1 tsp                    Seasoned salt

1/8 tsp                White pepper

2 tbs                    Pesto

1 lb.                     Short pasta (I used bow ties)

6                           Fresh basil leaves, cut into thin strips (aka chiffonade)

                             Freshly grated Parmesan cheese for garnish

Directions

Preheat your oven to 400.

Put cherry tomatoes on a sheet pan along with the garlic, olive oil, seasoned salt and pepper.  Lightly toss and roast in the oven till tomatoes start to pop/split and give off their juices, about 20 minutes. 

In the meantime, bring a pot of salted water to a boil and make the pasta according the package, till al dente.  Reserve a cup of the pasta water before draining.  Return drained pasta to the pot.

Remove the pan from the oven and prick any tomatoes that haven’t begun to pop/split.  The tomatoes will be soft so be careful not to be too aggressive moving them around or you will end of with mush. Add the shrimp and broccoli to the pan in a single layer with the tomatoes and return the pan to the oven for 10 minutes.  (I took the photo below and THEN realized I forgot the broccoli!)

Remove the pan and add the pesto, gently mixing it with the tomatoes and shrimp.  Place under the broiler for two minutes but keep a close eye on it so it doesn’t burn.

Remove the pan from the oven. Pour the tomato and shrimp mixture into the pot with the pasta and mix gently.  Transfer to a large bowl and top with the shredded basil and parmesan cheese.

Roasted Chipotle Carrots

I’m sure I’m not the only who gets tired of cooking, serving and eating the same thing over and over again. Don’t get me wrong, I want to make things my family likes but I need to shake things up once in a while. These roasted chipotle carrots are a great vegetable dish to slip into the rotation. And who doesn’t have extra carrots in their crisper drawer? Unless I am making soup, there are always a few in my refrigerator.

Peeling the carrots will take longer than anything else in this recipe (expect cooking, of course). Nothing fancy. The entire recipe is cut up carrots, sprinkled with a little salt, brown sugar and chipotle pepper on a sheet pan. They come out caramelized, tender with lots of crispy edges and tips. You can omit the chipotle if you like, or bump it up, but the tiny amount I use just gives these carrots great flavor and not much “heat.”

Ingredients

10 – 12               Carrots, peeled

2 tbs                    Olive oil

1 tsp                    Seasoned salt

¼ tsp                   Chipotle pepper powder

1 tbs                    Brown sugar

                             Maldon salt for garnish

Directions

Heat oven to 400.

Cut the carrots in half (if extra large you can cut them into quarters).  Put the carrots in a pile on a parchment paper lined cookie sheet and top with the salt and olive oil.  Mix and then spread out on the cookie sheet, faced down.  Sprinkle with the brown sugar and chipotle.

Cook until the carrots are fork tender, about 20 – 30 minutes.  Sprinkle with a pinch of Maldon salt and serve.

Apple Turnovers

One of the things I always have in my freezer is puff pastry.  In my opinion, puff pastry is one of those products that isn’t worth making because the store-bought version is so good.  Someday I will try my hand and see how it goes, especially since I’ve been watching bakers on The Great British Baking Show do it for years and think, “it can’t be that hard.”  But I know it is that hard so Pepperidge Farm is my go-to.  I make lots of things with puff pastry although my husband would like it if I came up with something to make every day.  My favorite way to use it is for turnovers and hand pies filled with fruit.  They are easy to make, puff up to a crispy cloud of buttery goodness and with just a few ingredients, and you can easily whip up a filling that is equally delicious. 

I usually have apples on hand and inevitably one or two are still left hanging out and in danger of getting overripe.   This filling is the perfect way to avoid wasting fruit.  For these I use honey crisp apples but any firm apple would work well. I would avoid super sweet ones like Delicious apples which can be too sweet and disintegrate while cooking.  And if you wanted to swap-out apple for other fruit, like peaches when they are in season, you certainly can.

My grandmother used to make these when I was a little girl and I remember waiting patiently for them to come out of the oven only to wait even longer for them to cool.  The filling is like molten lava right out of the oven so resist the urge to bit right into them or suffer the consequences!   

This filling is pretty much my go-to for gallates, mini-pies and hand pies.  I don’t always cook the filling for a larger apple pie but for the smaller ones, I always do to make sure the filling and crust are both cooked at the same time.   If you have any leftover filling, it’s great on ice cream too.  Once the turnovers are filled, a simple egg wash and a sprinkle of turbinado sugar finishes them off.  I love topping baked goods with turbinado sugar (aka Sugar in the Raw) since it doesn’t melt in the oven and gives the finished product a nice crunch and an elegant look.

Ingredients

3            Small – medium firm, apples (see note above)

1 tbs      Butter

¼ cup    Brown sugar, firmly packed

3 tbs      Water

1 tbs      Corn starch

1 tbs      Fresh lemon juice

1 tsp      Cinnamon

Pinch     Kosher salt

1            Egg, beaten with a little water for the egg wash

¼ cup    Turbinado sugar for the top of each turnover  

1 box    Puff pastry (each box has two packages/sheets; each sheet of pastry will make four turnovers)

Directions

Defrost the puff pastry according to the package directions.  I usually leave it on the counter while I am making the filling.

Preheat the oven to 400.

Peel, core and dice the apples. (I like a small dice for these, about ¼ inch.)  In a skillet, melt the butter and cook the apples on low for about 4 – 5 minutes.  Add the brown sugar, 1 tbs water, cinnamon and salt and cook till combined and the apples are fork tender, about another 4 – 5 minutes.  Dissolve the corn starch in the remaining two tablespoons of water and then add to the apples.  Mix well and bring to a gentle boil which will thicken the filling.  Once it boils, immediately remove the filling from the heat and let it sit till the dough is ready to fill.  You don’t want the filling to be pipping hot when you fill the dough or the butter in your dough will start to melt and make it difficult to work with.  You can put the filling in the freezer for two minutes if you want to speed up the cooling.

On a piece of parchment paper, unfold one package of pastry carefully.  If it isn’t pliable, it’s not defrosted enough and you risk ripping it along the crease.  I like to smooth the crease by putting another piece of parchment paper on top and lightly rolling the pastry with a rolling pin – don’t push too hard or you will kill the beautiful layers – but keeping the square shape.  Cut the pastry sheet into four squares, filling each one with a spoonful of the apple filling.  Brush the egg wash around the edges which will glue the sides together and fold over into a triangle. Gently seal the edges by pressing them together.  For some added insurance to avoid any leakage during cooking, you can use a fork and press down on the edges (I dip my fork in a little flour to avoid it sticking to the pastry). 

Transfer to a parchment lined baking sheet, cut a slit in the top to let the steam escape so the turnovers dont burst in the oven. Brush the top with the egg wash and sprinkle with the turbinado sugar.   Repeat with the other pastry sheet and you should have eight beautiful turnovers!

Bake at 400, rotating the pan once, till the turnovers have puffed up, are golden brown, about 20 minutes.  If there is some leakage, don’t worry, they will still taste amazing.  These are best served within an hour or two when you make them in my opinion but they will keep for a day or two and reheat well. Enjoy! 

Chicken Stock

So many of the things I make have chicken stock in the recipe.  I use it for soups, sauces, braising liquid, gravy and when some recipes call for water (like grits), I always use stock for added flavor.  There are some good store-bought stocks out there (Swanson is always in my pantry). (Note: regardless of which brand you like, buy the low sodium version since they can be very salty and throw off your dish if you are adding salt when you cook).   At least once a month I make a big pot of stock and then freeze it in quart containers.  They I always have it on hand and I control what’s in there, how much seasoning, etc.   From one large pot of stock, I get about 5 – 6 quarts of stock.  The unfortunate part is it never lasts a full month! 

The stock is filled with lots of veggies, herbs and of course chicken.  I use the basics – celery, carrots and onions – along with a parsnip, garlic and thyme, and lots of parsley.  No need to peel and chop everything since most of the solids get tossed after it’s done.  One trick I learned a few years ago was to use yellow onions – you know the ones with the dark yellow/brown skin – and throw them in peel and all.  The yellow peel not only adds flavor but color as well.

Since I make so many chicken dishes, I have lots of scraps and bones which are perfect for stock (like the tips of wings, bones from raw chicken).  I save them in a zip top bag in the freezer and when I’m ready to make stock, I toss them in.  Along with the scraps, I usually buy a whole chicken and cut it into pieces so it’s easier to handle when the stock is done.   Great stock needs lots of bones so throw in the neck that is usually in a bag with the chicken. In addition to the whole chicken, I throw in about a dozen wings which have lots of bones.  Bones are the key ingredient as they give off collagen and once you refrigerate your finished stock, you will see it is almost jello-like.  That’s the mark of a great stock.

The stock cooks for a few hours on the stove and makes the house smell amazing!  Once the chicken is falling off the bone (about three or four hours) you strain it and you’ve got stock.  I save as much of the chicken as I can and use it for chicken pot pie, casseroles, salad, tacos and of course soup.

Ingredients

1                           Chicken, Large (I use a roasting chicken as big as I can get, usually about 5 lbs.)

1 pkg                   Chicken wings, whole (small pkgs have about 10 – 12 wings which is perfect)

2                           Yellow onions, unpeeled, cut in half

2                           Parsnips, unpeeled

3                           Carrots, large, unpeeled, cut in half

3                           Stalks of celery, including the tops, cut in half

4                           Cloves of garlic, smashed

10                        Black peppercorns, whole

1 tbs                    Salt (Kosher)

1 bunch              Fresh flat leaf parsley

5 sprigs               Fresh thyme

3 stalks               Fresh dill

Directions

Place everything in a large pot (I use my Cuisinart 5-quart enamel pot) and cover with water.  As the stock cooks, it will form foam on top which you can skim off or cut a round piece of parchment paper to put on top of the water which eliminates the foam.  I usually cook for between three and four hours and when the chicken is falling apart, you know it’s done.  I remove as much of the solids as possible with a large slotted spoon or spider (a Chinese hand strainer) and for the rest, I pour the liquid into a colander lined with cheese cloth over a large pot.  I try to mush as much liquid as possible out of what is in the strainer and also from the solids I took out.  Don’t forget to save the chicken!

Pour into quart containers and bring to almost room temp before putting the tops on.  They will last in the refrigerator for a week and in the freezer for at least two months.  There will be a layer of fat on top when you defrost them or take them out of the refrigerator.   This fat has amazing flavor and is great in place of oil or butter in certain dishes.  I use it in place of oil in my matzoh balls. 

Matzo Ball Soup

This is a staple in my house which is great with me as I always have homemade stock in the refrigerator and the rest of the ingredients in my pantry.  We love soup and who doesn’t, especially on a cold night.  Nothing warms you up like soup.  My family on my mom’s side is Hungarian and boy do Hungarians love their soup.  I remember as a little girl visiting my Aunt Anna and Uncle Geza in Florida and regardless of how hot it was, my Aunt would make a fresh pot of soup every single day for my Uncle’s lunch.  It could be 100 degrees – they never turned the air conditioning on – and a fresh, homemade soup was served.  Hard to teach and old dog new tricks but now that I’ve grown up, I appreciate a good bowl of homemade soup and wish I could go back and watch my Aunt at the stove. 

This soup is always on the menu at our house for Jewish holidays (my husband is Jewish, as are our kids) so I’ve made lots of matzo balls in my time and I think this is the perfect balance of denseness and fluffiness.  Too much on either side of the scale makes a passable matzo ball but this recipe produces a perfect ball every time.  And I’ve got a family full of opinions, most notably my husband Mark, who gives this the seal of approval (took me 20 years to get it on this!).

All matzo ball recipes call for some fat – usually vegetable oil.  When I make stock (check out my chicken stock recipe) I save the chicken fat that floats to the top or I buy it already rendered in the supermarket (Empire is the best).  It lasts forever in the refrigerator or freezer and a little goes a long way.  It adds amazing flavor but if you want to stick with oil, that’s fine too.   The other thing I do is replace the liquid most recipes call for with club soda or seltzer.  Water is fine but the bubbles help add a lightness to the mixture you otherwise wouldn’t get.  

These take a bit of time to cook – at least 45 minutes depending on how big they are – and I cook mine separately from the soup I serve them with.  I find the cooking liquid gets cloudy and I use store bought stock to cook the matzo balls in (save the homemade stock for the soup you’re serving).  I use a carton of stock (which is 4 cups) and the about 2 or 3 more cups of water to cook the balls.  This gives them more flavor since as they cook, they absorb the liquid and double in size.  Plain water would be bland and just plain boring for me.   Once they are cooked, remove them from the cooking liquid and they will keep in the refrigerator, covered, for a few days so if you want to make them ahead, you can.  If they are cold, reheat them in the soup you’re serving on a very low heat to warm. You can serve them immediately as well.

Ingredients

2 tbs                    Vegetable oil or rendered chicken fat (aka Schmaltz)   

2                           Eggs.  Large and beaten

½ cup                  Matzo meal (I use Manischewitz) and most grocery stores carry it

2 tbs                    Club soda or still water

2 tsp                    Kosher salt

1 32oz carton Chicken stock (I use Swanson chicken broth or stock, low sodium) to call the balls

2 qts                    Chicken stock to serve

Directions

Mix the eggs and fat/oil together in a bowl, add soda/water, salt and matzo meal mixing until everything is incorporated. Place in the refrigerator for 30 minutes. 

Meanwhile, in a large pot bring four cups of store-bought chicken stock (one carton) and two – three cups of water, depending on the size of your pot, to a rolling boil.  I use a wide topped pot so the matzo balls have room to expand.  After 30 minutes, form the batter into small balls (I use a small ice cream scoop and dip it in water to avoid the batter sticking) and carefully drop them in the pot.  Reduce to a simmer and cover for 45 minutes to and hour.  I usually sacrifice one to taste and make sure it is cooked through.  To serve, I bring my homemade stock almost to a boil and place two matzo balls in a bowl with the soup. I usually don’t add chicken or veggies but you can do whatever your family likes.    

Lemon Chicken Thighs with Zucchini and Orzo

Who doesn’t love a one-pot dinner you can get on the table in less than an hour? Sign me up as there are plenty of days, as organized as I am with meal planning, when 4pm rolls around and plans need to change.  Someone has practice, a class or a call and what I originally planned is no longer a good idea.  This dish is a variation on one created by @thehungryhutch (currently a food writer at the Washington Post and one of my fav food bloggers – check him out).  I’ve only tweaked it a bit as it’s a great recipe and the star ingredient in my opinion is lemon.  Some people are obsessed with chocolate or truffles – I love lemons.  I love the way they taste – fresh, tart and juicy – I love having them in a big bowl on a table, I love the way they smell (I buy the William Sonoma Meyer Lemon candles in bulk!) and I especially love to cook with them.  This recipe calls for only one lemon but when you cut a lemon and cook it, the flavor gets ratcheted up and the amount of juice seems to double.  When I grill, I always cut a lemon or two and grill them to serve with steak and chicken.  Even if you don’t love a spritz of lemon on your dinner, they look great on the serving platter.

I made this dish a few times with skinless, boneless chicken thighs and with bone-in, skin on too.  The skin on, bone-in thighs are 100% the way to go.  The crispy skin is not only delicious but the fat you render from cooking them first adds lots of flavor to the overall dish.  The skinless thighs were good and I might make this again and shred them so everything is mixed together but until then, I’m sticking with the skin on thighs.

The original recipe calls for broccoli which is great and you can use fresh florets or frozen but I swapped broccoli for zucchini this time and I really liked it.  You need a sturdy vegetable since it cooks with the orzo which takes a few minutes to absorb the liquid so if you want to substitute your favorite vegetable just make sure it’s something that won’t fall apart as it cooks.  

We eat a decent amount of rice (always on Tuesdays with tacos) but lately I’ve been using more orzo which we really like.  I like it in place of rice for a “risotto” and it’s wonderful in pasta salad, casseroles and soups because it’s a sturdy pasta and doesn’t get mushy. 

Ingredients

4                           Bone in, skin on chicken thighs

1 tsp                    Salt (I use Kosher)

1 tsp                    Seasoned Salt (I use Lawry’s)

½ tsp                   White pepper

2 tbs                    Olive oil

3 tbs                    Butter

1                           Lemon (medium), sliced thinly

4 cups                 Zucchini (you can use broccoli or another sturdy veggie too), cut into ½ inch, half moons

1 ½ cups             Orzo

1 sprig                 Thyme

1 clove                Garlic, grated on a micro plane

½ cup                  White wine (I used Pinot Grigio)

2 ½ cups             Low sodium chicken broth

Directions

Pat the chicken thighs dry and sprinkle the seasoned salt on both sides.  In a heavy bottom pot or skillet (I use a Cuisinart dutch oven which lives on my stove) heat the olive oil over medium heat.  Place the chicken skin side down and cook till they release from the pot (that’s when you know it’s time to flip!) and are golden brown, about 5 – 10 minutes.  Flip them over and cook the other side, about another 5 minutes.  Transfer to a plate.

Add 2 tbs of butter and the lemon slices to the pot, spreading them out to a single layer and cook for about 3 minutes until the juices are released (they will also start to pick up some color which is great).  Remove lemon to a plate and reserve.

Add the orzo, zucchini, garlic, thyme, 1 tbs butter, salt and pepper to the pan and cook until coated and orzo is toasted, stirring for approximately 3 minutes.  Stir in the wine and cook for about a minute and then add the stock.  Stir well to release the bits off the bottom of the pot and bring to a simmer.  Add the lemons and chicken back to the pan along with any juices from the plates.  Make sure to place the skin side up and don’t completely immerse it in the sauce or you will have soggy skin.   Cook uncovered for about 10 – 15 minutes, carefully moving the orzo and liquid mixture around a bit if needed.  Once the liquid is reduced and the orzo is tender (I always go by the taste test rather than live and die by the time) you are ready to go.

I place the pot on the table and serve right from there.

Enjoy!  

Sweet & Spicy Pickled Onions & Jalapenos

I love spicy foods and spicy condiments on anything and everything. I got the savory gene instead of the sweet tooth and as a result, I’ve got about a dozen hot sauces and pepper mixes since certain ones go with certain food. My refrigerator is always full in part because of all the condiments, hot sauces and salad dressings.  I love adding jalapenos and banana peppers to salads, tacos and sandwiches.  I first had pickled onions on fish tacos in Mexico years ago and then my sister made a great batch a couple of years ago so I needed to figure out my own version.  My recipe has sugar to cut the vinegar and spicy bite for these sweet and spicy pickled onions and jalapenos.  They are the perfect combination of my love of spicy, with a big punch of flavor from the vinegar and just enough sweetness to balance everything out. I put them in salads, on sandwiches, tacos, burritos and they make a great topping for avocado toast or with hummus on crackers.  The best part is they are super easy to make and keep for a few weeks in the fridge.  When I get close to needing a new batch, I use the brine to make a super flavorful vinaigrette. Enjoy!

Ingredients

1                      Large red onion (or 2 small)

2                      Jalapenos, seeded

1/3 cup          Sugar

1 ½ cups       Red wine vinegar

½ cup             White vinegar

¼ tsp               Salt

Directions

Combine vinegar and sugar in a saucepot and heat till dissolved.  Cut the onion in half, slice thinly.  Slice jalapeno (you can discard the seeds and stem but I keep them in for more heat).  Add onions and jalapeno to vinegar and sugar.  Let the mixture cool and then transfer to an airtight container and place in the refrigerator.

BBQ Baby Back Ribs

These ribs are a staple for our summer BBQs and throughout the year.  Paired with some crisp Cole slaw and mac n’ cheese and you would think you were in the South.  BBQ is one of my husband’s favorite.  Every year we pile into the car and head to South Carolina to visit my mom and without fail, Mark is on google researching BBQ places to stop along the way.  Everyone in the family likes BBQ, even my picky 14-year-old son who won’t touch any kind of sauces (no ketchup, mustard or mayo for this kid) so it’s amazing to me that he will eat something with BBQ sauce.  I think the credit for converting him goes to our dear friends Amy and Eric.  Their son is our son’s BFF and we were lucky to socially distant BBQ with them this Summer and Eric made killer ribs.  Jake tried them (never tried my ribs before!) and was sold so I had to see if he would eat mine. 

My ribs are a variation of a recipe I saw in Bon Appetit years ago.  It starts with a dry rub and then a few hours in the oven at a low temperature.  I added brown sugar to the rub to balance some of the spices.  After the oven they are pretty much cooked through, but I always thrown them on the grill to get that a crispy bark.  If you don’t have a grill, they can go back into the oven with a little BBQ sauce because what would ribs be without the crispy bark. For extra crispy edged, I sometimes cut the ribs up before I top with sauce and put them back in the oven.  If I’m being honest, ribs aren’t my favorite, but I must admit these are hard to pass up. Enjoy!

Ingredients

2                      Racks of baby back ribs  

2 tbs               Kosher salt

1/3 cup          Brown sugar

1 tbs                Dry mustard

1 tbs                Paprika

½ tsp              Chipotle pepper

1 cup               BBQ sauce (I use Sweet Baby Rays)

Directions

Preheat oven to 350.

Combine salt, sugar, chipotle, mustard and paprika into a bowl.  Place each rack meat side up on a double layer of heavy-duty tin foil and sprinkle the mixture on the ribs (both sides).  Wrap the ribs tightly in foil and place on a baking sheet.  Cook for 2 – 2 ½ hours.  To check if they are done, wiggle one of the bones which should almost come right out.  When they are ready, discard the juice.  At this point you can store the ribs in the refrigerator for a day or two.

When ready to serve, finish them by placing the rib racks on a foil lined baking sheet.  Generously brush with the BBQ sauce and place in the oven at 400 for about 10 minutes.  You can put them under the broiler for a minute or two to get the charred edges but watch them to avoid burning. I serve with a little more BBQ sauce for dipping. Mac n’ cheese and cole slaw are in my opinion, the very best side dishes for these ribs.

Savory Breakfast Strata

I miss brunch and once we get back to normal it’s going to be the first meal we host.  I love the laidback atmosphere, the mix of sweet and savory dishes, plates filled with cold things like fruit and hot treats right out of the oven. Of course, we always have coffee, bloody Mary’s and mimosas.  So many combinations for a great brunch but I love to have bagels with a full assortment of spreads including butter, vegetable cream cheese, plain cream cheese, red onions, capers, tomatoes and everything bagel seasoning.  Add in some fruit (especially berries if in season), yogurt, muffins and you’ve got the start of a great menu.  From a savory standpoint I always include some kind of egg dish but I really don’t have much interest standing at the stove laboring over the perfect batch of eggs.  For a small group I may do a quiche but if you have a larger group and/or want something hearty then my Savory Breakfast Strata is what you’re looking for.  The best part is you assemble it the night before your brunch and pop it in the oven just before your guests arrive the next day.  My kind of entertaining!

In simple terms, a strata is a bread pudding/casserole that starts with a great loaf of bread.  You need a hearty loaf that you can cut into one-inch cubes.  I tend to use breads like challah or sourdough but any rustic loaf will work.  Depending on the loaf, I cut off some of the crust which can get a bit too crispy or burnt while cooking.  A flavorful custard of eggs, milk and seasonings along with lots of cheese and either ham, sausage or bacon and you’ve got a great brunch dish.  You can customize this with your favorite bread, cheese and meat and you can’t go wrong.  You can also swap some veggies for the meat if you want a vegetarian version or add them to pump up the flavors.  Since you prep it the day before you bake and serve it, the strata is a great dish to bring to a friend’s brunch or for someone who needs a break from cooking. 

Ingredients

1                          Loaf of bread (challah, sourdough, etc.)

3 cups                 Shredded cheese (a combination of cheddar, swiss, gruyere works well)

1 cup                   Grated parmesan cheese

4                          Eggs, lightly beaten

1 cup                   Whole milk

1 cup                   Light cream

1 tsp                    Salt

½ tbs                   Dry mustard

¼ tsp                   Cayenne pepper

½ tsp                   White pepper

3 – 4 cups           Sausage, bacon or ham (cooked and cut into bite sized pieces)

Directions

Cut bread into one-inch pieces.  In a casserole dish (you can use an oval, square or rectangular dish like you would use for a lasagna) spread one layer of bread and top with 1 1/2 cups each cheese and meat (I used sausage this particular time) and then repeat with another layer of bread, cheese and meat.   Set aside.

In a mixing bowl, combine eggs, milk, cream, parmesan, salt, pepper and mustard and mix well and then pour over the dish ensuring it is well distributed.  Cover and refrigerate overnight.

Preheat oven to 350 and remove the strata from the refrigerator, letting it sit for about 20 minutes.  Bake uncovered till puffy and browned, approximately 45 minutes.      

Sticky Sesame Chicken Wings

Some of my favorite recipes come out of desperation for something new.  I am a creature of habit and now my family is as well. When I make something they really like, it’s hard to get new things into the rotation and I seem to be the only one who gets bored.  Taco Tuesday is a perfect example. Apparently, tacos aren’t as good on Wednesdays or as festive on Saturdays!

My pickier-than-most 14 yr. old son, Jake, discovered wings over the past few years.  Plain, no sauce, well done wings and they have now become a regular meal in our house.  I don’t really do much other than toss them with some olive oil and seasoned salt and then roast on a high temperature in the oven till crispy.  The key to getting anything crispy is eliminating moisture so I pour off the drippings as they cook and toss them with cubed bread (a day-old rustic loaf or even a baguette) and then throw them back onto the tray with the wings.  Jake’s new favorite meal, wings and croutons. 

The wings are great but not enough for me so I created this recipe with lots of bold, Asian flavors I already had on hand.  These days most grocery stores have sections where Asian products like Oyster sauce, sesame oil and rice wine vinegar are readily available.  If I make wings like I described above for my son (and husband, Captain Vanilla) I take about a dozen off the tray when I add the croutons.  I toss them in this sesame sauce and then put them back in the oven on another tray (God forbid they should touch the other wings!).   I turn them a couple of times to avoid burning (and they will if you leave them in one position too long since there is honey in the sauce) and when they come out of the oven, they are sticky, sweet, spicy, crunch and meaty all in one bite.  Just like eating great BBQ – dig in and don’t bother using a napkin until you are done! 

Like most of my recipes, you can tweak these based on your spicy tolerance.  I top them with some sliced scallions, a sprinkle of sesame seeds and some white or fried rice.  They would be a great appetizer, too, as an alternative to buffalo wings (or addition!) and if you’re making these for a crowd, just double or triple the recipe.

Ingredients

1 pkg     Chicken wings (8 – 12 wings) (Remove/discard the tip and cut into drumettes and flats)

2 tbs      Olive oil

1 tbs      Seasoned Salt (I use Lawry’s Seasoned Salt)

2 tbs      Sesame oil

1/3 cup Honey

1/3 cup + 2 tbs  Oyster sauce     

1 tbs      Rice wine vinegar

2 tsp      Chili crunch, chili sauce or siracha (you can use whatever chili sauce you like and +/- to taste)

2            Scallions, thinly sliced

1 tbs      Sesame seeds, toasted

Directions

Preheat oven to 400.

Place cut chicken wings in a bowl and toss with olive oil and seasoned salt.  Place on a foil-lined cookie sheet with parchment paper in a single layer. (Save yourself time and effort cleaning an unlined cookie sheet.  A layer of foil will catch all the sauce and drippings and the wings, once coated, wont stick to the paper.)  Cook for about 40 minutes, flipping mid-way through cooking.  Wings should be crispy on both sides and if there is a lot of drippings, pour them off before you do the next step. 

Lower the temperature of the oven the 350.  In a large bowl, make the sauce by combining the sesame oil, honey, vinegar, and chili sauce until well mixed.  Toss the wings in the sauce and place them back on the parchment paper returning them to the oven.  Cook for about 10 minutes, flipping them over after five minutes. If you have extra sauce, you can baste the wings or reserve it for dipping.  When they are done, sprinkle with the sesame seeds and scallions and enjoy!