Sunday, August 30, 2015

Homemade Breakfast Sausage

I'm on a big breakfast kick lately, and sausage is one of my favorite breakfast foods.  I always like a little bit of sweet and a little bit of savory on my breakfast plate. I am, however (being preggars and all) making a concerted effort to eat less processed foods, so I thought i'd try my hand at a homemade sausage. 

If you've never made homemade sausage patties, I think you'll be surprised how simple it can be.  The most important thing is creating the right spice mixture.  I used lots of fresh herbs, seasoned the ground pork up with fennel seeds, and added red pepper for a little heat.  Sauteed onions and fresh garlic add a nice texture and flavor as well.  For a sweet and spicy version, try adding a tablespoon or two of maple syrup. 

The best part is, these can be made in advance.  I put these patties together Saturday afternoon so Sunday morning all I had to do was brown them up! 

Ingredients (makes 6-8 patties, depending on size):
*3/4 lb. ground pork
*1 sprig each of fresh thyme, oregano, rosemary, finely chopped
*3 sage leaves, finely chopped
*1/4 tsp. fennel seeds
*1/8 tsp. red pepper flakes
*1 garlic clove, minced
*1/2 c. onion, minced (about half of a small onion)
*1 tbsp. olive oil
*cooking spray
*salt, pepper

Crush fennel seeds and red pepper with a mortar and pestle, or use a knife to roughly chop them.  Heat olive oil in a non-stick skillet over medium heat.  Add onions and sauté until soft.  Add garlic, all herbs, fennel, and red pepper flakes.  Saute one minute, then remove from heat.  Let cool slightly.

Season ground pork with salt and pepper.  Stir in onion mixture.  Form into patties and refrigerate for 15 minutes, or overnight if making ahead.   To cook the patties, heat a non stick pan over medium high.  Coat with cooking spray.  Cook the patties roughly 5 minutes per side, or until nicely browned and cooked through (ground pork should be fully cooked to 160).  Enjoy!

Monday, August 10, 2015

Grilled Peach & Crispy Prosciutto Salad

Can you believe we're already well into August?  This summer has completely flown by.  At this point, i'm in panic mode when it comes to summer produce.  I want to get as much as I possibly can before its gone! 

The peaches and blueberries in particular have been so juicy and sweet this year.  I've been stirring peaches into my yogurt, and just this morning I whipped up some simple blueberry muffins.  For dinner, however, I thought i'd go a more savory route and put together a sweet-and-salty summer salad. 

The combination of sweet, slightly soft grilled peaches with the crispy, salty prosciutto is such a delicious pairing.  The blueberries added just a touch more sweetness, which worked well with the creamy, savory herb goat cheese.  Add a simple honey-dijon vinaigrette and you've got the perfect summer salad! 

For this salad, I used a firm peach, which softened up nicely on the grill.  If you're skipping the grill, use a very ripe peach. 

*1 package spring mix
*1 peach, sliced
*4 thin slices proscuitto
*crumbled garlic and herb goat cheese
*2 tbsp. blueberries

Honey-Dijon Vinaigrette:
*1 tsp. balsamic vinegar
*1 tbsp. dijon mustard
*1 tbsp. honey
*6 tbsp. olive oil
*salt, pepper

Preheat the oven to 375.  Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and spread the prosciutto out in one layer.  Bake for 15 minutes, or until it has shrunk slightly and turned a darker red, then set aside on a paper towel to drain. 

To prepare the dressing, whisk together balsamic, mustard, honey, salt and pepper.  Gradually add the olive oil while whisking until well combined. 

Heat your grill or girl pan to medium high.  Lightly brush the peaches with some of the dressing, then grill for 5 minutes, or until light grill marks appear.  

Toss together spring mix, dressing, peaches, crispy prosciutto, blueberries, and goat cheese.  Enjoy! 

Monday, August 3, 2015

Herb Butter

So i'm still on my herb kick, mostly because i'm still in awe of the fact that my herbs are still alive! I absolutely love cooking with fresh herbs - they really elevate anything you're cooking not only in flavor, but also visually. I've been brainstorming ways I can not only enjoy the herbs now, but also later, once my herb garden is inevitably long gone. 

I whipped up this herb butter last weekend to blend together my oregano, rosemary, thyme, and a basil. The great thing about a compound butter like this is that you can incorporate anything  your heart desires.  I added garlic, salt, and pepper for extra flavor, and so far this herb butter has blended beautifully with pasta, roasted veggies, and melts wonderfully over a hot steak. Next i'm going to try it on some grilled bread, but really the possibilities are endless. 

Below is the combination of herbs I used in my recipe, but feel free to get creative and work with what you have.  Compound butter can be frozen, so be sure to make plenty if you have extra herbs and you'll be enjoying them all winter long!

*4 thyme sprigs
*1 rosemary sprig
*6 basil leaves
*2 oregano sprigs
*1 garlic clove
*1 stick butter, at room temperature
*salt, pepper

Remove thyme, rosemary, and oregano from the twig. Roughly chop the rosemary (rosemary tends to hide from the food processor blades).  Combine herbs and garlic in a mini-food processor (you can also finely chop everything by hand) and blend until fine.  Stir into butter and season with salt and pepper.  Use a spatula transfer butter to a sheet of wax paper.  Roll the butter into a log and twist the ends (like a piece of candy).  Refrigerate until firm.  Enjoy! 

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Creamy Summer Herb & Veggie Pasta

I'm pleasantly surprised to share that my picnic table-top herb and tomato garden is (wait for it)…still thriving!  I rarely manage to keep things alive this long, so i'm feeling pretty proud of myself. 

This week I suddenly found myself with a plethora of perfectly ripe summer tomatoes.  And by plethora, I mean 4.   Since i've already made my all time favorite Tomato-Mozz sandwiches twice (they're just that good), I wanted to switch it up and put together a hearty pasta dish that showcases not only my tomatoes, but also my summer herbs.

This creamy, delicious pasta is easy to put together, and makes the perfect summer dinner.  I started by roasting all of my favorite summer vegetables: squash, zucchini, sweet vidalia onions, and of course my summer tomatoes.  While the veggies were roasting, I blended up an 'almost-pesto' mixture of basil, oregano, lemon zest, walnuts, and olive oil.  After boiling some pasta, I stirred in bit of fresh spinach, the herb mixture and a touch of cream and parmesan. 

The best part about this dish is that it can easily be altered to incorporate any of your favorite seasonal vegetables (corn, asparagus, snow peas).  Just throw in your favorite veggies, choose a pasta shape, and get cooking! 

"Almost Pesto"(measurement's don't need to be exact)
*8 basil leaves
*2 heaping tbsp. fresh oregano
*zest of 1 lemon
*3 tbsp. walnuts
*1/4 c. olive oil
*1 large (or 2 small) garlic cloves
*salt, pepper

*2 zucchini, chopped
*1 yellow squash, chopped
*4 tomatoes, chopped
*1 vidalia onion, chopped
*2 tbsp. olive oil
*salt, pepper

*2/3 lb. orrecchiete pasta (or 2/3 of the box)
*1/3 c. half and half
*1/3 c. parmesan cheese
*2 c. fresh spinach, roughly chopped

To prepare the veggies, preheat the oven to 375.  Place all of the veggies on a cookie sheet and toss with olive oil, salt, and pepper.  Roast for 20-30 minutes, stirring once, or until the veggies are tender.

Prepare the "Almost-Pesto" by combining all ingredients in a food processor and blending until smooth. 

Prepare the pasta according package directions.  Drain, return to the pot, then stir in veggies, half of the pesto mixture, fresh chopped spinach (it will wilt against the heat of the pasta), parmesan, and half and half.  Stir the pasta together, taste, and add more of the pesto mixture to taste (I used almost all of it).  Enjoy! 

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Sausage & Hash Brown Breakfast Casserole

This weekend was one for the books.  Mike and I (finally) had our Greek wedding - something we had planned to do all along, but kept postponing.  The first time we got married it was in my church, and since it was important to Mike that we get married in his church as well, we agreed to have two ceremonies. 

My handsome Greek groom! 

What made the weekend interesting was the fact that it was actually a triple Greek wedding.  That's right, we shared the alter not only with Mike's brother Greg and his wife Sharon, but also his cousin Samantha and her husband Hess!  It's very important in the Greek religion to be married in the actual church, so since we were all married previously outside of the church we thought we would all catch up at the same time! 

Us three brides are in pink! 
For our second wedding we kept to immediate family only, so it felt more like a church service.  The priest thought it was just about the funniest thing ever - he was loving it! 

My mom and sisters at our post-wedding family dinner.
With my family in town, I wanted make sure I had something prepared (fuel for the big day if you will) for breakfast, but I have to admit - as much as I love house guests, I do not like getting up early to cook!    I'm always experimenting with make-ahead breakfast items, and this casserole is one i'll be making again in the near future. 

This casserole has all of your hot ticket breakfast items in one dish - sausage, hash browns, eggs, and cheese. What could be bad about that?  I assembled the whole thing a day early and popped it in the oven first thing in the morning.  With the help of some pre-shredded hash browns, this is super simple to put together. 

Ingredients (Serves 6):
*1 lb. mild (or hot if you prefer) Italian sausage
*1 tbsp. olive oil
*1 small onion, chopped
*8 oz cheddar cheese, grated
*1 lb. bag shredded hash browns (I like Simply Potatoes in the refrigerator section)
*5 eggs
*1 1/4 c. milk
*salt, pepper

In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium high heat.  Remove the sausage from the casing and add to the pan.  Cook the sausage until it's browned all over, using a wooden spoon or potato masher to break it up as it cooks.  Remove the sausage from the pan and set aside in a large mixing bowl.  Add the onion to the pan and cook until lightly browned; add to the sausage. Stir in potatoes and half of the cheese with the sausage mixture.  Add to a casserole dish that has been sprayed with cooking spray. 

Whisk together milk and eggs, and season with salt and pepper.  Pour milk mixture over the sausage.  Top with remaining cheese.  If making ahead, cover and refrigerate until ready to bake. 

Preheat oven to 350.  Cover the casserole in aluminum foil and bake for 30 minutes.  Remove cover, increase the temperature to 400, and continue baking for 10 minutes, or until lightly browned.  Enjoy!