romantic suppers and sweets

Shrimp pasta

I failed to post this column on time as I became ill shortly before the holiday! Sorry to all my followers! Here it is, new and improved!

Valentine’s Day means expressing your love for your spouse, partner, family, and friends. What better way than to say it with food you lovingly prepare? Here are two suppers and two desserts to consider.

pasta with shrimp, tomatoes and feta cheese
Who said you can’t serve seafood with cheese? Ever have a tuna melt? Crab and swiss? Here’s delicious exception perfect for a Valentine Day supper.

ingredients

  • 3 Tbs extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 lb raw large or jumbo shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 5 cloves garlic, sliced very thin
  • 1 Tbs each white wine and balsamic vinegar
  • ½ to 1 lb pasta (I usually make only half a pound since I like a higher shrimp-to-pasta ratio using linguine or bowties.)
  • 15 cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
  • ½ can of petite diced tomatoes
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • ½ tsp dried basil
  • 1 (6-ounce) package crumbled feta cheese

directions

  1. In a skillet over medium heat, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil. Cook shrimp, garlic and white wine for 4-5 minutes or until shrimp is pink. Do NOT overcook!
  2. Remove shrimp with slotted spoon and set aside. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook for 8 to 10 minutes until al dente; drain and keep warm.
  3. While pasta is cooking, place diced tomatoes and halved grape tomatoes with remaining 1 tablespoon oil, balsamic vinegar, oregano, and basil over medium heat into wine mixture in skillet until tender—10 minutes.
  4. In a large bowl, toss hot pasta with shrimp, tomato mixture, and feta. Feta will melt slightly. Serve immediately with lemon wedges and a crusty bread.

 

Chicken feta beans toms

greek chicken tenders with veggies
Prefer chicken? This dish is packed with flavors sure to spark up any evening!

for the chicken

  • 2 Tbs plus 1 tsp olive or avocado oil, divided
  • 8 oz fresh mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 lb fresh green beans
  • 1.5 lb chicken tenders
  • 2 Tbs honey
  • 3­/4 Tbs balsamic vinegar (do not substitute)
  • 1 cup grape/cherry tomatoes, halved

for the greek dressing

  • 2 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
  • Juice of 1 fresh squeezed lemon
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced 2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt 1/2 tsp black pepper

directions

  1. Sauté mushrooms in large frying pan with 1 tsp of the oil, until just browning. Remove from pan, set aside.
  2. Heat 1 Tbsp oil over medium­-high, add green beans. Sauté until green beans are cooked, but still a bit crunchy. Remove from the pan, set aside.
  3. Heat remaining 1 Tbs oil over medium-­high, add chicken, salt, and pepper.
  4. Cook chicken 3­-4 minutes on both sides and remove once browned & cooked though. Remove from pan, set aside. Whisk all dressing ingredients together.
  5. In the same skillet, lower heat to medium, add dressing, honey, and balsamic vinegar. Stir and heat until bubbling.
  6. Toss in mushrooms, and green beans then the cooked chicken and tomatoes. Stir to heat through. Serve over rice or pasta.

 

easy chocolate bar fondue
This takes on a romantic hue when served with champagne. If made ahead, keep the chocolate warm in a double boiler till ready to serve.

Ingredients

  • ¾ cup heavy cream
  • 1 pound milk or dark chocolate bars, broken into pieces
  • 1 pint fresh strawberries
  • 1 store-bought angel food cake, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 8 ounces dried fruit, such as pineapple slices and figs

directions

  1. In a small saucepan, over low heat, warm the cream and chocolate. Stir until the chocolate melts. Transfer the fondue to a warm serving bowl or fondue pot.
  2. Serve immediately with forks for dipping strawberries, angel food cake, or whatever you like.

 

chocolate-cinnamon pudding with raspberries
So easy to put this together ahead of time. Kids will especially love the flavors.

ingredients

  • ½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ¼ cup cornstarch
  • 2/3 cup plus 1 Tbs packed brown sugar
  • 2 ½ cups whole milk
  • 1 ¼ cups heavy cream
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 ½ cups fresh raspberries, or frozen raspberries, thawed

directions

  1. Combine the cocoa, cinnamon, cornstarch, and 2/3 cup of brown sugar in a heavy saucepan. Whisk in milk and 1/2 cup of cream.
  2. Bring to a boil and cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until pudding is thick and smooth.
  3. Remove from heat and add vanilla.
  4. Whip remaining cream in a separate bowl with the remaining sugar until soft peaks form.
  5. Pour pudding into individual ramekins or a large bowl and press plastic wrap directly onto the surface to prevent a skin from forming. Serve warm or chill for at least two hours. Top with raspberries and whipped cream.

your turn
Hope you enjoy these romantic dishes! Here is a PDF you can print out for your recipe collectionRomantic Suppers and Sweets Blog 2-16

pasta

ChickenCacciatore

italian three-cheese chicken cacciatore

This recipe is as much about chicken as it is about pasta. Both play an equal role in its deliciousness! This makes a huge amount and is great if you are having guests over or just for a nice family dinner with tons of leftovers for another night. If you prefer dark meat, you can use bone-in or boneless thighs. You can assemble the whole thing ahead of time, cover with foil, and bake later. Baking time would be a bit more if you do that, though. I wouldn’t add any strongly flavored herbs like basil or oregano as they tend to overpower the lovely combined flavors of the cheeses, olive oil, wine and balsamic vinegar.

1 lb. dried bow-tie pasta (Farfalle)
3 T. Extra-Virgin olive oil
2 lb. skinless, boneless, chicken breast halves, cut crosswise into 1/4-inch-wide strips (4 breast halves)
2 small or 1 med. large yellow onion, sliced
2 medium green bell peppers, cut in half lengthwise and thinly sliced

2 large cloves garlic, minced
1 can (14 1/2 ounces) stewed or diced tomatoes, or use halved cherry tomatoes in season
1/4 C. tomato paste
1/4 C. red wine

1/3 C. balsamic vinegar
1 container (15 oz.) ricotta cheese
1/2 C. grated Asiago or Romano cheese
2 C. (8 oz.) shredded mozzarella cheese
2 large eggs, beaten

1 T. dried parsley (or 1/4 C. fresh, minced)

1 T. capers
1 t. salt
1/2 t. freshly ground black pepper

Bring 3 quarts water to boil in 6- to 8-quart pot over high heat. Stir in pasta and return to boil. Boil, stirring occasionally, until pasta is tender, 9-10 minutes. Drain and set aside until ready to use.

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Heat oil in large (12-to 14-inch) cast-iron skillet over medium-heat for 1 minute. Season chicken with salt and pepper and brown it, flipping occasionally, for 6 minutes or until no longer pink. Remove chicken and reserve until ready to use.

In same skillet, cook onion, garlic, and bell peppers over medium heat, scraping up browned chicken bits and stirring occasionally, until onions and peppers are tender, about 8 minutes.

In a bowl, mix well tomatoes, tomato paste, red wine, and balsamic vinegar and add to onion and pepper mixture over medium heat. When bubbling, add reserved chicken, and cook, stirring, for 3 minutes. Remove skillet from heat and stir in reserved pasta until distributed.

Stir together ricotta cheese, Asiago cheese, mozzarella cheese, eggs, parsley, salt, and pepper in medium bowl until well-blended.

Spread ricotta mixture over skillet contents in even layer. Bake in preheated oven 30 to 35 minutes or until heated through. Serve directly from skillet.

Makes 6-8 servings.

PRINT THIS RECIPE: Italian Three-Cheese


 

full of beans (plus bonus recipes)!

Beans are an excellent source of fiber, protein, and minerals, are fat-free, with a low glycemic load—important to those watching their carbohydrate intake.

south point veggie chili
I named this dish after our wonderful location on Madawaska Lake. I have been making it for about twenty-five years. It is meatless, but I have served it to many guests who, after finishing the meal, swore it had meat in it! Meatless means easy on the budget, too. You’ll find it is deeply satisfying, and the secret lies in the spices and how they are carefully toasted to bring out their flavor.

Main Ingredients

  • 3 Tbs light olive oil (divided)
  • 3 cloves garlic (or use garlic powder to taste)
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 2 sweet peppers (I use one red and one green), diced
  • 3 large carrots, diced
  • 8 large button mushrooms, thickly sliced
  • 1 cup frozen corn
  • 2 15-oz cans diced tomatoes
  • 3 15-oz cans red kidney beans, drained and rinsed

Seasoning Ingredients

  • 3 Tbs chili powder
  • 1 Tbs ground cumin
  • 2 tsp dried oregano
  • 2 Tbs dark brown sugar (if your diet allows, as this one of the secrets to the great taste)
  • 2 Tbs balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp cayenne pepper (or more to taste; I use about a ½ tsp)

Directions

Place a 5-quart pot or dutch oven over medium heat. Place two tablespoons of oil and heat about a minute. Add peppers and onions and stirring often, cook till they begin to soften. Add garlic and mushrooms and stir well till coated.

Push vegetables back to form a small well and reduce heat to low. Place remaining oil in the well and add chili powder, cumin, and oregano. Stir spices in the well with a wooden spoon for a minute or so, taking care not to burn, until the mixture is aromatic. Stir in the vegetables to coat, and continue to cook for another minute or so till bubbling.

Deglaze pan by adding tomatoes and their juice, scraping up brown bits. Turn the heat up again. Add brown sugar, vinegar, salt, cayenne, carrots, and beans. Mix well, cover, and simmer, stirring often, for about a half hour or until carrots are soft.

Stir in corn. Simmer another half-hour. If too watery, set the lid off a bit to allow some to cook away, or thicken with a tablespoon of cornstarch dissolved in a tablespoon of water. If too thick, add water or tomato juice. Simmer for several minutes afterward to insure the starch is thoroughly cooked and juices are clear. Make final adjustments for heat and salt. Serve with shredded Jack cheese, sour cream, pickled jalapenos, and hot flour tortillas.

white turkey or chicken chili
This stew is a welcome change from ordinary chili. Again, toasting the spices provides a rich “umami,” that indescribable, savory deliciousness missing from many dishes. This calls for boneless chicken or turkey breasts, but you can also use ground chicken or turkey if you prefer.

Main Ingredients

  • 3 Tbs olive oil (divided)
  • 2 large yellow onions, diced
  • 1½ lbs of boneless, skinless turkey, chicken breast, or thighs, cut in 1-inch chunks
  • ½ bag frozen shoe peg corn
  • 2 15-oz cans white beans (cannellini) drained and rinsed
  • 3 cups chicken broth
  • ½ small box of button mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 Tbs lime juice
  • 1 small can green chilis
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced (or garlic powder)
  • 2 Tbs cornstarch in 2 Tbs water

Seasoning Ingredients

  • ¼ cup chili powder
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • ¼ tsp cinnamon
  • 2 tsp dried oregano

Directions
Pat poultry very dry with paper towels. Salt liberally and brown in 2 Tbs oil. Remove from pan, add onions, garlic, and mushrooms, and follow the directions for South Point Chili to toast spices, taking care not to burn. Deglaze with broth and lime juice, add beans, browned meat, chilis, and salt and pepper to taste. Simmer till meat is cooked through. Stir in cornstarch mixture. Add corn and simmer another fifteen minutes. Pass the hot sauce, sour cream, shredded cheese, jalapenos, and warm flour tortillas.

tip of the week – cooking oils

Admit it. We don’t give much thought to cooking oils, and you probably grab whatever’s cheap or on sale like the generic “vegetable oil” or “canola.” But I’d like to put a bee in your bonnet about that choice. Do yourself a favor and buy only pure light olive or grapeseed oil for your general cooking. Both are excellent since they do not impart any strong flavors to a dish, and both are free of any controversy regarding genetically modified content.

Cheaper “vegetable” oil can be a mix of soy, corn, or canola oils and is often over-processed with no nutritional value. Light olive oil is a healthful way to provide valuable nutrients.

If you do a fair amount of high heat frying, like French fries, fried chicken, and the like, choose peanut or safflower oil. They stand up well of sustained heat and will not smoke at higher temperatures.

Although a popular TV “chef” uses it for everything, extra-virgin olive oil is much more expensive and has a strong flavor. It also has a low smoking temperature so it isn’t suitable for everyday frying. Reserve it for dishes that require that deep, “olivey” flavor like salad dressing, Italian sauces and the like. Happy cooking!

bonus recipes
These recipes are not included on my newspaper column because of space constraints. Checking my blog every week will reward you with several more meal ideas and handy tips.

three-bean salad
This classic salad is so easy to make, you’ll never go back to buying that stuff in a jar. This is a tasty dish that even kids will eat, and you can keep a container of three-bean in your ‘fridge year round. This is a nice accompaniment to any meal and is an easy fix for potluck suppers—just double or triple the amounts. When fresh beans are available, you can use them, but they’ll have to be cooked tender-crisp before you can use them in this recipe.

  • 1 can cut green string beans (Blue Lake variety is best)
  • 1 can cut wax beans
  • 1 16-oz dark or light red kidney beans
  • ½ cup finely chopped onion
  • 2/3 cup white vinegar
  • 2/3 cup sugar (or substitute of your choice)
  • 1/3 cup light olive or grapeseed oil (Reduce or eliminate if you are restricting fats)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • Pepper to taste

Drain and rinse all canned vegetables and place in a large mixing bowl. In a separate bowl place vinegar, sugar, and salt, and stir till sugar is dissolved. Add oil and whisk till emulsified. Pour over vegetables, add onion, pepper, and mix thoroughly. Place in a covered container and refrigerate 18-24 hours, mixing now and then to distribute dressing. Serve cold. Delish!

tuna & white bean salad
This is a fun lunch, but very nutritious. I prefer chunk light tuna because it has a more defined taste, but you can use whatever you like. Water-packed is best for this recipe. Serves four.

Ingredients

  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • ¼ tsp salt (if you use coarse salt, increase to ½ tsp)
  • 1 Tbs lemon juice
  • 2 Tbs olive oil
  • ½ sweet red pepper
  • ¼ cup chopped red onion
  • 1 can cannellini (white kidney) beans
  • 1 pouch or one 5-oz can chunk light tuna (or albacore—your choice), drained and flaked
  • Basil (fresh is best, but dried is fine) You can also substitute fresh parsley.
  • Lemon zest (optional but it makes a huge difference in the flavor)
  • Directions

In a small bowl, mash garlic with salt using the back of a spoon. Mix in lemon juice and pepper to taste. Slowly whisk in olive oil. Add lemon zest and set aside.

In a medium size bowl, toss red pepper, onion, and beans together. Add tuna and mix, tossing lightly. Mix in garlic and oil dressing and basil.

Serve at room temperature in lettuce cups or over garden greens with some crisp toasted bread or crackers.

black beans & rice
This delicious dish requires a special seasoning made by Goya. It’s available in almost any grocery store and adds an authentic Mexican touch.

  • 1 can undrained black beans (Goya brand is best quality)
  • 1 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ tsp dried oregano
  • ¼ tsp cumin
  • 2 cloves fresh garlic, minced
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 packet Goya Saizon Without Annetto
  • 1 Tbs white vinegar
  • ½ brown sugar
  • ½ tsp black pepper
  • ¼ cup water
  • 2 cups cooked white rice
  • ½ cup each diced green bell pepper and diced onion
  • Prepare rice and keep steaming hot. While rice is cooking, sauté peppers and onions till soft. Stir in remaining ingredients, heat till blubbing, and pour over rice. Serve immediately.

WANT TO PRINT THIS POST? HERE’S THE LINK:  CJ-7-23-14-BEANS