Monthly Archives: June 2011

Rachael Ray Wednesday – Christmas Pasta


No, I have not lost my mind. I know it isn’t Christmas time. Although I wish it was since Christmas is my favorite time of year.

The reason this recipe is called Christmas pasta is, in Rachael’s words, “For Italians, after all those fishes on Christmas Eve, this dish, with four different meats in it, is especially nice on Christmas Night”.

Kevin did the same thing that I am sure many of you did when you first read the recipe title…

K: But it’s not Christmas.
B: Yes, yes, I know honey, this isn’t JUST for Christmas, it is just the name of the recipe.
K: Well if it isn’t JUST for Christmas why is it called Christmas Pasta.
B: Rachael explains in the recipe that it was just her way of getting “meat” in a meal after all the fish Italians eat on Christmas Eve.
K: Well I still think she should have named it something else.
B: Maybe you are right….now can we cook?

When you first look at this recipe it seems like a lot of ingredients and well, it is a lot of ingredients,  but not a big hassle to make. Rachael mentions that she has used this recipe in several of her books and is constantly redoing it to make it quicker and easier. I think it is just fine the way it is.

Oh and Kevin decided he loved this. He is the one that looks at a meal I might be making and the first thing he asks “Is there meat?”. I will never sneak vegetarian food in on him that is for sure. I am walking a fine line when I make Pasta Carbonara! He still doesn’t like the name of the recipe though. Oh well, as long as they eat it right?

I am not Italian,  but I can tell you that this was a BIG bowl of Merry Christmas to ME!

The picture does not do this meal justice, I am sorry!
Christmas Pasta

1 pound rigatoni2 tablespoons EVOO
1/4 pound pancetta, chopped
1/4 pound bulk hot Italian sausage (No bulk? Split a link open)
1/4 pound bulk sweet Italian sausage
1/2 pound lean ground beef
1/2 pound ground veal
1/2 teaspoon allspice, eyeball it in your palm
Course black pepper
1 carrot, peeled and finely chopped
1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, crushed
1/2 cup dry red wine, a couple of glugs
1 cup beef stock
1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
1/4 cup flat-leaf parsley leaves (a generous handful), finely chopped
1/2 cup grated Romano cheese (a couple of handfuls), plus some to pass at the table
Bring a large pot of water to a boil and salt it. Add the pasta and cook to al dente, with a bite to it.
While the water and pasta work, heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1 tablespoon EVOO. Add the pancetta to one half of the pan, the sausage, both hot and sweet, to the other. Break up the sausage into bits and brown while the pancetta renders, then combine and cook together another minute of so. Remove to a plate with a slotted spoon. Add the remaining tablespoon of EVOO, then the beef and veal. Brown and crumble all of the meat into tiny bits and season with allspice, salt, and pepper. Add the carrots, onions, and garlic and cook another 5 to 6 minutes to soften the vegetables, then add the sausage and pancetta back into the pan. Deglaze the pan with the red wine, scraping up all of the browned bits from the bottom. Stir in the stock, then the tomatoes. Check the seasoning. Simmer over low heat until ready to serve, at least 10 minutes.
Drain the pasta and add back to the hot pot. Ladle a few spoonfuls of the sauce over the pasta, and add a couple of handfuls of cheese to the pot. Stir to coat the pasta evenly. Transfer to a large serving dish or individual bowls and top with the remaining sauce and parsley. Pass plenty of extra cheese at the table.
Serves 6

50 Things To Make With Pesto


Well my fellow foodies I am back in the saddle after being down for a week due to surgery. I am still a bit sore, and have done ZERO cooking (much to Kevin’s dismay). So while I get my recipes organized I thought I would post this little goodie for you all since I LOVE pesto!

50 Things To Make With Pesto

How to make Pesto
Blend 8 cups packed basil leaves, 1 cup olive oil, 1/2 cup toasted pine nuts, 2 to 4 garlic cloves and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a food processor until almost smooth. Stir in 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese.

1. Pesto Meatballs
Mix 1 pound ground turkey with 1/2 cup each breadcrumbs and pesto, and 1/4 cup each milk and parmesan. Form into small balls. Cook in a nonstick skillet with olive oil, 10 to 12 minutes.

2. Meatballs in Pesto Cream
Make pesto meatballs (#1); cook until just browned, then add 1 cup chicken broth and 1/4 cup pesto and simmer until tender. Stir in 1/2 cup cream and simmer.

3. Pesto Burgers
Make Pesto Meatballs (#1) but form into patties and grill. Serve on toasted ciabatta rolls with pesto, mozzarella, tomato and arugala.

4. Pesto Pizza
Split a loaf of french bread and brush with pesto. Top with capicola, shredded mozzarella, and grated parmesan. Broil until the cheese melts.

5. Italian BLT
Spread pesto mixed with mayo on toasted bread; fill with crisp pancetta, sliced tomato and arugala.

6. Pesto Fritters
Mix 1 cup each ricotta and chopped spinach, 1/2 cup flour, 1/4 cup each grated parmesan and pesto, and 1/2 teaspoon backing powder; chill 30 minutes. make small patties (about a tablespoon) and deep-fry in 350 degree vegetable oil until golden, 4 minutes. Serve with marinara sauce.

7. Pesto Butter
Mash 3/4 cup pesto into 4 tablespoons of softened unsalted butter.

8. Pesto Corn
Grill or steam corn, then brush with Pesto Butter (#7). Sprinkle with parmesan.

9. Pesto Sweet Potatoes
Baked sweet potatoes at 425 until tender, 40 minutes. Quarter lengthwise and spread with Pesto Butter.

10. Pesto Cream Tortellini
Simmer 1 cup heavy cream with 1/4 cup pesto in a skillet until slightly thickened. Stir in 1/4 grated parmesan. Toss with 12 ounces cooked tortellini and 2 cups steamed broccoli.

11. Ricotta-Broccoli Pasta
Toss 1 pound cooked orecchiette with 1/2 cup each pesto, ricotta, and grated parmesan. Add 1 bunch steamed baby broccoli.

12. Baked Pesto Gnocchi
Toss 1 pound cooked gnocchi with 3 tablespoons pesto and 1 tablespoon softened butter in a baking dish. Sprinkle with grated pecorino and broil until golden.

13. Tuna-White Bean Pasta
Cook 1 sliced garlic clove in a skillet with 3 tablespoons olive oil, 1 minute. Stir in 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes, 1 can each drained tuna and white beans, add 1/4 cup pesto. Toss with 12 ounces cooked spaghetti and some torn basil.

14. Pesto Primavera Salad 
Toss 12 ounces cooked gemelli or penne with 4 cups sliced steamed vegetables, 1 cup diced mozzarella, 3/4 cup pesto and 1/4 cup grated parmesan. Top with toasted sliced almonds.

15. Potato-Pesto Pasta
Cook 1/2 pound cavatelli and 1/2 pound chopped peeled russet potatoes in boiling water until tender, 8 to 9 minutes. Driain and toss with 1/4 cup pesto and some of the cooking liquid.

16. Calamari-Pesto Pasta
Make Potato-Pesto Pasta (#15). Saute 1 pound calamari in a skillet with olive oil, 3 to 4 minutes. Toss with pasta.

17. Pesto Muscles
Saute 4 sliced garlic cloves in a pot with olive oil until golden, 2 minutes. Add 2 pounds muscles and 1 cup white wine; cover and cook until the muscles open, about 4 minutes. Stir in 3 tablespoons pesto.

18. Pesto-Clam Linguine 

Make Pest Muscles (see above) using clams instead of muscles. Add 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes. Toss with linguine.

19. Pesto Green Beans
Toss 1 pounded steamed green beans with 3 tablespoons pesto and the juice of 1/2 lemon.

20. Pancetta-Pesto Peas
Cook 4 ounces diced pancetta in a skillet with olive oil until crisp; remove with slotted spoon. Add 1 bag frozen peas and 1 cup water to the skillet; simmer until tender, 10 minutes. Stir in 3 tablespoons pesto and heat through.

21. Pesto Orzo with Peas
Make Pancetta-Pesto Peas (#20). Stir in 1 1/2 cups cooked orzo and 2 tablespoon grated parmesan.

22. Pesto Potato Salad
Cook 2 pounds quartered new potatoes in salted boiling water until tender, 10 to 15 minutes, drain and cool slightly. Whisk 1 cup mayo, 3 tablespoons pesto and the juice of 1 lemon; toss with the potatoes and 1 cup diced celery.

23. Pesto Chicken Salad
Whisk 3 tablespoons pesto with 1/4 each mayo and sour cream. Stir in 4 cups chopped cooked chicken, 1/2 cup chopped celery and 1/4 cup each chopped red onion, walnuts, and crisp bacon.

24. Pesto Egg Salad
Whisk 1/4 cup mayo, 2 tablespoons each pesto and olive oil, and 1 tablespoon lemon juice. Fold in 8 chopped hard boiled eggs, 1 cup chopped celery and 2 tablespoons minced red onion.

25. Pesto Tuna Salad
Toss 2 cans drained tuna, 1 can drained chickpeas, 1/4 cup each chopped parsley, red onion, and roasted red peppers, 3 tablespoons pesto and 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar.

26. Pesto Succotash
Cook 5 cups corn, 1 cup sliced cherry tomatoes and 1/4 cup red onion in a skillet with 1 tablespoon butter until soft, 5 minutes. Add 2 cups cooked lima beans and1/4 cup heavy cream; heat through, then stir in 2 tablespoons pesto.

27. Lemon-Pesto Dip
Whisk 1/2 cup sour cream with 1/4 cup each mayo, parmesan, and pesto, 2 tablespoons capers and 2 teaspoons each lemon zest and juice. Season with salt and pepper.

28. Pesto Hummus
Mix 1 cup hummus with 2 tablespoons pesto. Top with chopped mint, toasted pine nuts and a dash of paprika.

29 Pesto Croutons
Toss 4 cups  bread cubes, 3 tablespoons pesto and 2 tablespoon oilve oil. Spread on a baking sheet; bakes 20 minutes at 350.

30 Pesto Panzanella
Toss Pesto Croutons (#29) with 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar, 3 tablespoons olive oil, some chopped tomatoes and cucumber, sliced red onion and more pesto.

31. Pesto Salad
Whisk 2 tablespoons champagne vinegar and 1/4 cup pesto. Toss with baby greens and serve with baquette toasts spread with goat cheese.

32. Pesto Caesar Salad
Whisk 2 tablespoons pesto with 1/2 cup Caesar dressing. Toss with romaine and croutons; top with shaved parmesan.

33. Pesto Quesadilla
Saute 1/2 cup each sliced scallions, mushrooms and zucchini with some pesto, minced jalapeno and cilantro. Brown a flour tortilla in a skillet with butter; top with the veggies, shredded muenster and another tortilla. Flip and cook.

34. Pesto Grilled Cheese
Brush 2 slices rustic bread with pesto, then sandwich with sliced cheddar or provolone. Butter the outside of the bread and cook in a skillet over medium heat until golden.

35. Pesto Tomato Soup
Cook 3/4 cup chopped shallots and some fresh thyme in a pot with butter. Add 1 large can of crushed tomatoes, 1 1/2 cups water and 1/2 cup cream;simmer 20 minutes. Puree, then stir in 3 tablespoons pesto.

36. Pesto Steak
Mix 1/4 cup pesto, 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar and 1 tablespoon hot water. Grill or broil 1 1/4 pound skirt steak; brush with the pesto.

37. Pesto Frittata
Cook one grated zucchini in an oven proof skillet with butter. Stir in 1/4 cup chopped parsley and 2 tablespoons each pesto and grated parmesan. Add 6  beaten eggs and cook until almost set, 3 minutes. Bake in a 350 oven until set, 15 minutes.

39. Pesto Wings
Marinate 2 pounds chicken wings in 1/2 cup pesto and 1/4 cup each cider vinegar, hot sauce and honesy. Roast at 425, 40 minutes. Toss with chopped basil and mint.

40. Pesto Lamb Kebabs
Skewer 1 pound cubed lamb and some red onion. Brush with a mixture of 1/4 cup pesto and 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar. Marinate 1 hour, then grill.

41. Pesto Salmon Cakes
Mix 1 pound cooked flaked salmon with 1 cup panko, 1/4 cup pesto, 1 egg and 1 tablespoon lemon zest. Form patties; cook in an oiled skillet, 2 to 3 minutes per side. Serve with tartar sauce mixed with pesto.

42. Pesto Swordfish
Mix 1/4 cup pesto with the juice of 1 lemon and 1 tablespoon hot water. Spoon over grilled or broiled swordfish.

43. Pesto Shrimp
Marinate 1 pound shrimp in 2 tablespoon each pesto and olive oil; add 1 lemon (cut into wedges) and 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes. Grill about 3 minutes per side. Season with salt.

44. Pesto Roast Chicken
Mix the juice of 1 lemon, 1/3 cup pesto and 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes; rub onto a 6-pound chicken. Stuff with garlic and lemon. Roast in a 375 oven about 2 hours.

45. Pesto-Sausage Chicken
Mix 1/2 pound crumbled sausage with 1/4 cup pesto, 1 chopped shallot and 2 tablespoons each breadcrumbs and grated pecorino. Stuff under the skin of 4 bone-in chicken breasts. Roast in a 375 over, about 45 minutes.

46. Pesto Beans
Saute sliced garlic cloves and a pinch of red pepper flakes in a skillet with olive oil. Add 2 cans drained cannellini beans and 1 cup water; simmer until thick, 8 minutes. Stir in 3 tablespoons pesto and 2 tablespoons grated parmesan.

47. Pesto Bean Soup
Make Pesto Beans (#46). Add 3 cups chicken stock and 1 cup chopped celery; cook 15 minutes. Stir in 1/2 cup each chopped olives and roasted peppers.

48. Pesto Mash
Boil 3 ponds peeled russet potatoes until tender. Mash with 1 cup milk, 1/2 cup grated parmesan, 1/4 cup olive oil and 3 tablespoons pesto.

49. Pesto Cornbread
Prepare an 8.5 ounce box cornbread mix as the label directs, adding 3 tablespoons pesto to the batter.

50. Pesto Frites
Whisk 1/3 cup mayo, 2 tablespoons each pesto and olive oil, and 1 tablespoon lemon juice. Serve with french fries.

Hint – freeze your pesto in an ice cube tray to give you small portions of pesto to be defrosted and used. It will last forever!

"Beer in the Rear" Chicken


Over Memorial Day weekend we of course wanted to do some BBQing so we did a couple racks of ribs (I am still working on the rub and sauce so I will post those recipes when I get them right). But it is a 3 day weekend. You have to have something else besides ribs right? Well at least I thought so. I mean if you are going to BBQ LETS DO SOME BBQIN’!

Walking around the store Kevin and I decided besides the ribs we would do some nice thick burgers one night. I like to chunk up cheddar cheese and bacon and mix them in with the burgers YUMM! Then we wandered past the poultry section. After looking at the thighs and legs and wondering if we were going to choose to BBQ them I looked at the whole chickens and BING a light bulb went off in my head. I turned to Kevin and announced, “I want to do a beer butt chicken”! The lady next to me looked at me with a strange look like I wanted to violate farm animals and Kevin just flat out asked me what in the heck I was talking about. “You know…beer butt chicken….where you shove the beer can up the chickens…” “Ooohhhhhh” was his response. The lady next to me quickly guided her children away from this obviously deluded woman.

Now Kevin is a BBQ purest. There are those that only cook on coals and those that cook on gas. We have the latter and it drives him nuts. He misses his old charcoal grill and has grumbled on many occasion that using a GAS grill is not REAL grilling. I just laugh and remind him that there are many chefs out there that use gas ummm like who is that guy? OH ya Bobby Flay. I think he has a few cook books on grilling…just a few mind you, and they are on GAS. Get over it (insert more mumbling here)!

We grabbed our doomed chicken and I headed for the beer isle like a woman on a mission, well I was a woman on a mission, so whatever, you know what I mean. “Where the heck are you going now?” was the response I got from Kevin. I explained to him that I needed to find a beer. His answer to that was that we already had beer at home. Well, technically we did, but I was not about to cook my chicken with Miller Lite (sorry to the Miller people but eewwwww). So as Kevin stood, tapping his foot, I scoured the beer isle. You would think I was looking for a priceless jewel, but in my mind it was a very important part of the recipe. I finally decided on a hefeweizen. I didn’t want to buy a 12 pack since I only needed one so I spotted the single bottles and grabbed one. Then Kevin pointed out to me that the beer was in a bottle. DUH I knew that. I told him my plan was to use one of the empty Miller Lite cans and pour the hefeweizen in it. See I am always thinking.

Once we got home I jumped online to check out some ideas on how to properly cook a chicken with a beer can up its butt. You can not believe how may recipes you can find for these things! Kevin wandered into the office and asked what I was doing. I showed him all of the ideas I had found. Again, Mr BBQ purest…”That is silly, you just put the beer can in its…and put it on the grill. *sigh* Does he know nothing about me? I laughed. “Since when have you EVER known me to do anything, cooking wise at least, the simple easy way?” he shook his head and walked out of the room.

There were so many ideas, most of which called for some ingredients I didn’t have or required overnight marinating. So I knew aside from using their instructions on how to cook the bird, I was going to have use my imagination and go with it.

I got my little bird out and cleaned him all up. Patted him dry and seasoned him liberally with coarse salt, cracked black pepper, and poultry seasoning. Making sure to get into all his little nooks and crannies. Then, after Kevin finished his beer, I washed out the beer can and filled it about half way up with whole garlic cloves. I thought about adding some lemons too, but the hefeweizen has a citrus taste to it so I was hoping that might infuse a bit into the bird during the cooking process. I filled the can to about the 2/3 full mark and got my chicken. After a quick apology to the bird, I slid it down onto the beer can until it’s little legs formed a “tripod” with the beer can. I tucked his little wings behind his back to keep them from drying out while it cooked. I started laughing, for some reason he reminded me of a square dancer. Do-se-do and around you go. Ya, I know, weird.

Meanwhile Kevin preheated one side of the BBQ to medium heat. I carefully carried my little friend outside and we placed him on the grill carefully positioning the can with his legs to balance him well.
Then just closed the lid and let him cook. He was approx a 5 pound bird so we cooked him about 1 1/2 hours. But I am sure just like oven times vary so will this. Start checking around an hour depending on the size of your bird.
And TADAAAA what a gorgeous bird! The skin was crispy, the meat was juicy, WOW I am getting hungry just looking at it. Hmmmm I think we will do an Asian version this weekend!
Beer in the Rear Chicken

1 whole chicken 4 to 5 pounds
coarse salt
cracked black pepper
poultry seasoning
8 to 10 whole garlic cloves
1 can of beer, your choice of brand
Preheat grill on one side to medium.
Wash chicken thoroughly and pat dry with paper towel. Liberally season the bird with salt, pepper, and poultry seasoning.
Pour the beer into a glass and place the garlic cloves into the empty beer can. Fill the can with beer until it is about 2/3 full. Use a can opener to punch a couple holes in the side of the can just below the rim to allow for steam to escape.
Carefully lower chicken onto the beer can until you can stand the bird in a “tripod” stance. Place the chicken on the other side of the grill away from the heated side. Close the lid. Cook chicken for 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Cook to an internal temp of 165 or the juices run clear.