2 boneless Filet Mignon steaks, each 6 oz and 1½ inches thick, fat trimmed
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper, plus more to taste
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 shallot, sliced into thin strips
4 oz sliced mushrooms, such as shiitake, oyster or cremini
1 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons brandy (Cognac)
1/2 cup beef broth
1/2 teaspoon all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives
Gently flatten the steaks to about ½ inch thick. Season both sides of the steaks with pepper and salt.
Heat oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium, add the steaks and cook 1 minute per side. Transfer to a plate and tent with foil to keep warm.
Add butter, shallots, and mushrooms to the pan and cook, stirring, until golden brown and the mushrooms are beginning to release their juices, about 3 minutes. Add brandy and cook, stirring, until almost evaporated, about 1 minute. Combine flour and broth, add the pan, bring to a boil and cook until reduced about 5 minutes.
Whisk in mustard and cream, and cook 1 minute. Reduce heat to low. Return the steaks to the pan along with any accumulated juices. Turn to coat with the sauce and cook until heated through about 1 minute. Place each steak on an individual plate, top with the sauce and sprinkle with chives.
The potatoes and asparagus can roast in the oven together, while you prepare the steak.
Roasted Baby Potatoes
12 oz small potatoes, peeled
1 teaspoon olive oil
Sea salt and freshly cracked pepper, to taste
2 tablespoons panko crumbs
1 tablespoon parmesan, finely grated
1 tablespoon parsley, finely chopped
1 clove of garlic, minced
Dash of paprika
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Coat an 8-inch baking dish with olive oil cooking spray.
Slice the potatoes in half and boil them for 7-10 minutes or until fork-tender but not cooked all the way through. Remove from the water and place on paper towels to remove excess water. Place the potatoes in the prepared baking dish and drizzle with the olive oil then season with sea salt and freshly cracked pepper, to taste.
Combine the panko crumbs, parmesan cheese, parsley, garlic, and paprika together in a bowl until well combined. Sprinkle the panko mixture on top of the potatoes evenly. Place into the oven and roast for 20 minutes or until golden brown and cooked through.
Roasted Pencil-thin Asparagus
1 bunch pencil-thin asparagus
Freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons sesame oil
2 tablespoons chopped almonds
Wash and trim off 1″ from the bottom. Place the asparagus on a large, rimmed baking sheet; add salt, pepper, and oil. Toss with your hands. Spread out into a single layer and sprinkle with almonds.
Bake in a 400-degree F oven for 10 minutes. Serve immediately.
Italian Sausage Eggplant Bolognese Sauce
Serve this sauce over your favorite pasta. I used pappardelle because the wide noodles hold the sauce.
1 lb hot Italian sausage, casing removed
1 1/2 cups peeled and diced eggplant (about 1 1/2 pounds)
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup chopped sweet onion
1 large carrot, finely diced
1 celery stalk, finely diced
Kosher salt, divided
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1/2 cup red wine
1 cup beef broth
1 (26-ounce) container Pomi finely chopped tomatoes
1/4 cup heavy cream or whole milk
12 ounces uncooked pappardelle, rigatoni, bucatini or spaghetti
1/4 cup small fresh basil leaves
Crushed red pepper flakes, to taste
Grated Parmesan cheese
Heat olive oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add crumbled sausage and diced eggplant; cook until lightly browned.
Add onion, carrots, celery, 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper; cook 10 minutes or until onion is tender. Add garlic and cook 20 minutes or until eggplant is very tender, stirring occasionally. Add tomato paste; cook 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Add wine; cook 1 minute, scraping the pan to loosen browned bits. Add beef broth, tomatoes,1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add crushed red pepper flakes, basil, and cream. Heat until warm.
Cook pasta according to package directions for al dente, adding 1 tablespoon kosher salt to the cooking water. Drain and add the pasta to the pot of sauce. Stir and cook for a few minutes. Place pasta in individual pasta serving bowls and sprinkle with cheese.
Stuffed Chicken Breasts Over Creamed Spinach
Both the chicken and butternut squash can roast in the oven together.
2 ounces onion/chive flavored cream cheese spread
1-ounce Italian fontina cheese, cut into 4 sticks
1/2 teaspoon dried Italian herbs
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
2 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoons butter
1/2 large shallot, minced
2 garlic cloves minced
2 ounces cream cheese cut into pieces
1/4 cup heavy cream
10 oz frozen spinach, defrosted and squeezed dry
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
For the chicken
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Lay the breasts on a cutting board. Using a sharp boning knife, cut a pocket in the thickest part of each breast.
Spread half the filling into each pocket. Tuck the tip of each breast under and secure with one long piece of butcher twine tied into a cross, making sure to seal the pocket hole with the twine. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Refrigerate chicken for 1 hour to firm up.
Place a tablespoon of butter, cut in half on top of each chicken breast.
Bake in the preheated oven until chicken is cooked through to an internal temperature of 165 degrees, about 30-40 minutes
For the spinach
In a medium saucepan, melt butter over medium-low heat.
Add the shallot and cook for 3 minutes; add garlic and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, for 1 to 2 minutes, or until the shallot softens.
Stir in cream cheese and cream; cook, stirring, until cream cheese is melted and smooth.
Stir in spinach; add cayenne pepper, salt, and pepper. Simmer over medium heat until the mixture thickens, about 4 to 5 minutes. Spread half of the creamed spinach on two individual serving plates. Place a cooked chicken breast on top of each portion.
Roasted Butternut Squash
1 small butternut squash
1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
¼ teaspoon paprika
3 tablespoon olive oil
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Peel squash with a vegetable peeler. Slice off the ends of the squash, and then cut it in half width-wise. Cut the round bottom piece in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds.
Carefully cut the squash into spears. Thoroughly blot moisture away with paper towels, and place in a plastic ziplock bag with the salt, pepper, paprika, and oil. Shake well.
Spray a baking sheet with nonstick spray, and then place the spears flat on the pan.
Bake in the oven 20 minutes, and then carefully turn the spears over. Continue to bake until tender on the inside and crispy on the outside, about 20 minutes longer.
Philly Cheesesteak Stuffed Peppers
I used a leftover cooked steak. If you do not have any on hand, cook a small steak and slice it to use in this recipe.
1 large green bell pepper, halved lengthwise, seeds removed
1/2 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 large onion, sliced
4 ounces of packaged sliced mushrooms
6 ounces cooked steak, thinly sliced
1/2 tablespoon Italian seasoning
1/4 teaspoon ground pepper
1/2 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
2 slices provolone cheese
Preheat oven to 375°F.
Place pepper halves on a rimmed baking sheet or in individual ramekins. Bake until tender but still able to hold their shape, about 30 minutes.
Heat oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add onion and cook, stirring, until starting to brown, 4 to 5 minutes. Add mushrooms and cook, stirring, until they’re softened and release their juices, about 5 minutes more. Add steak, Italian seasoning, pepper and salt; cook, stirring, until the steak is hot through, 3 minutes more. Remove the skillet from the heat and stir in Worcestershire.
Preheat broiler to high. Divide the filling between the pepper halves and top each with a folded slice of cheese. Broil 5 inches from the heat until the cheese is melted and lightly browned 2 to 3 minutes.
Oven Sweet Potato Fries
1 large sweet potato (about 12 oz), peeled and cut into thin wedges
2 teaspoons of olive oil
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
¼ teaspoon garlic powder
¼ teaspoon onion powder
Preheat oven to 450°F. Toss sweet potato wedges with oil, garlic powder, onion powder, salt and cayenne pepper in a ziplock bag. Spread the wedges out on a rack over a foil-lined baking sheet. Bake until browned and tender about 20 minutes total.
Sugo di Pomodoro
Half a medium sweet onion
1 celery stalk
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
Two 26 oz containers finely chopped Italian tomatoes (Pomi)
1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
½ teaspoon crushed red chili flakes
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon crushed black pepper
2 tablespoons sundried tomato paste
1 teaspoon anchovy paste
4 small eggplants (each about 6-7 oz)
1 ½ teaspoons salt
1 ½ teaspoons black pepper
¾ cup Italian seasoned panko crumbs
3 cups whole milk ricotta cheese
2 eggs, lightly beaten
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
½ teaspoon garlic powder
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
½ cup chopped fresh herbs )parsley and basil)
16 oz mozzarella, sliced thin
For the soffritto
With a sharp knife, finely chop or mince the onions, carrots, and celery. Try to cut the vegetables with uniform sizes to ensure even cooking.
Heat a heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat. Add in the olive oil and the soffritto. Reduce the heat to medium-low and sauté the vegetables, stirring often, until they have absorbed most of the olive oil and are tender. Stir in the garlic and stir.
For the sauce
Add in the tomatoes and remaining ingredients, stir to combine. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cover the pot partially with the lid. Bring the tomato sauce to a gentle simmer and cook for 1 hour, stirring often.
For the eggplant
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Peel the eggplants and slice into very thin slices. Place all the sliced eggplants in a ziplock plastic bag. Add 3 tablespoons of olive oil and shake the bag. Coat 3 sheet pans with olive oil cooking spray. Arrange eggplant slices on the pan. Sprinkle eggplant on each pan with ½ teaspoon of salt, ½ teaspoon black pepper and ¼ cup of seasoned panko crumbs. Drizzle a little olive oil over the eggplant on all three pans.
Bake for 30 minutes or until the eggplant slices are lightly brown. Switch pans around in the oven after 15 minutes.
For the cheese layer
In a large mixing bowl combine the beaten eggs, ricotta cheese, salt, pepper, garlic powder, Parmesan cheese, and herbs. Mix well and refrigerate until ready to assemble the casserole.
Slice the mozzarella cheese.
To assemble the Eggplant Lasagna
Spray a 13×9 inch baking dish with olive oil cooking spray. Spread 1 cup of tomato sauce on the bottom of the baking dish. Add ⅓ of the eggplant slices. Place ⅓ of the sliced mozzarella on top of the eggplant slices and then spread half of the ricotta cheese mixture over the mozzarella/eggplant layer. Add another ⅓ layer of eggplant slices and spread 1 cup of tomato sauce over the eggplant/ Add ⅓ of the mozzarella slices and the remaining ricotta mixture. Add the remaining eggplant slices topped with 1 cup of the tomato sauce and the remaining mozzarella cheese.
Bake for 30 minutes. Let rest 10 minutes before cutting into serving pieces.
Tip: Did you know you can freeze whole lemons and limes? They are perfect for cooking. Leave the frozen fruit on the counter for an hour. The zest is easy to remove, and the fruit slices and juices easily also. Next time you see lemons and limes on sale, buy a bag and freeze them for future cooking.
Southern Italian Style Lemon Chicken
Cooking a whole chicken is very economical because you get several meals from one chicken.
3 large lemons
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary leaves
1 garlic clove minced
2 teaspoons sea salt
1/4 cup olive oil, divided
4-pound whole chicken
Remove the zest from the three lemons and set aside. Cut the lemons into thin slices and set aside.
Cut the chicken along the backbone on one side with kitchen shears. Do not remove the bone. Turn the chicken over and flatten it. (The reason I did not remove the backbone is that I want to use the entire chicken carcass for soup.)
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.
Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil.
Drizzle 2 tablespoons olive oil on the baking sheet. Lay the lemon slices in the olive oil down the middle of the tray as a “rack” for the chicken. Sprinkle one-third of the lemon rub on the underside of the chicken. Turn the chicken over and rub the remaining lemon mixture over and under the skin of the whole chicken. Lay the chicken, skin side up, on the bed of lemons and drizzle with remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil.
Roast, basting every 15 minutes until golden brown and an instant-read thermometer reads 165 degrees F in the thigh about 45 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a cutting board and allow to rest for 10 minutes before carving.
Using a fork, mash the lemon pulp into the juices on the baking sheet, discarding the rind. Mix the pulp into the drippings and use this mixture to spoon over the chicken just before serving.
Serve some of the chicken for dinner. I was able to remove about 4 cups meat. I left some meat clinging to the leg, wing and breast bones for soup. Shred 1 to 2 cups for the recipe below. Use the carcass and some of the cooked chicken for chicken noodle soup. You may even have enough leftover for some chicken salad.
Baked Chicken Taquitos (Rolled Tacos)
The entire recipe makes 20 taquitos. I cut the recipe in half and made 10 for my family. I like tortillas made from cassava flour for this recipe because they are grain-free, light and easy to roll.
For the Taquitos:
2 cups shredded cooked chicken
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground chili powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon paprika
2 teaspoons fresh lime juice
1 cup shredded cheddar or Mexican blend cheese
20 corn tortillas
For the Toppings:
Chopped Green Onion
Crumbled Queso Fresco
Pico de Gallo
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Spray two large baking sheets with nonstick cooking spray and set aside.
In a medium bowl, combine the shredded chicken with cumin, chili powder, salt, garlic powder, paprika, and fresh lime juice. Stir until chicken is well coated with the seasonings. Stir in the shredded cheese.
Wrap the tortillas in a damp paper towel and place on a plate. Microwave for 1 minute or until the tortillas are warm and pliable.
Layout the tortillas on a flat surface and divide the chicken and cheese mixture among the 20 tortillas. Roll up each tortilla tightly and secure with a toothpick.
Place a heaping tablespoon of the chicken and cheese mixture in the center of the tortilla and roll it up tightly. Place the taquito, seam side down on the prepared baking sheet. Continue rolling taquitos until the tortillas and filling are gone.
Spray the taquitos generously with nonstick cooking spray. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until the taquitos are golden brown and crispy. Remove from the oven and serve warm with desired toppings.
Chicken Noodle Soup
Leave some meat on the bones, especially the legs, wings, and breast bone
Chicken bones leftover from the roasted chicken recipe above
1 whole onion, cut in half
2 carrots, cut in half
4 celery stalks with leaves, cut in thirds
6 fresh thyme sprigs
1 garlic clove, peeled
1 tablespoon peppercorns
8 quarts water
Place all the ingredients in a large stockpot. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 2 hours. Cover the pan with the lid ajar.
Strain the broth in a colander lined with cheesecloth over a large bowl. Let drain completely. Pick out any meat in the cheesecloth and set aside. Discard the cooking vegetables and bones and return the broth to the stockpot.
Reserved chicken meat
3 carrots, diced
3 celery stalks, diced
5 scallions, diced
6 oz fettuccine or noodles
1 teaspoon dried dill
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
Salt and pepper to taste
Place the strained broth, carrots, celery, and scallions in the stockpot. Bring to a boil, lower heat and cook the vegetables, about 20 minutes. Return toa boil, add the noodles and cook for about 5 minutes. Add salt (I added 2 teaspoons) and black pepper to taste. Stir in reserved chicken meat, dill, and parsley.