GRILLED CHICKEN AND PEAR SANDWICH WITH SPINACH PESTO

Don’t let the fluorescent green put you off–it’s all natural. And delicious! Even my guys, who are a bit wary of food with a “foodie” look, gobbled down these sandwiches. Of course, I don’t think they were aware of the pear in the middle 🙂

SPINACH PESTO:

1/4 cup olive oil

1/2 cup mayonnaise (I used Kraft Reduced Fat Mayo with Olive Oil)

1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan

1/2 cup pine nuts

1/4 tsp sea salt

1/4 tsp black pepper

3 cups packed baby spinach

SANDWICH:

8 slices sourdough bread (make it a good one, like Panera’s)

1-1/2 cups mozzarella cheese

2 cups cooked and shredded chicken breast (deli-roasted chicken works well too)

1 pear, sliced thin

3 tbsp butter, softened

1) PESTO: To food processor, add: olive oil, mayonnaise, parmesan cheese, pine nuts, salt, and pepper; process 30-45 seconds until well combined; add spinach and process 30-45 seconds until well combined

2) SANDWICH: Assemble each sandwich as follows: spread spinach pesto on both sides of bread; layer: cheese, chicken, and pear; top with second piece of bread

3) In large skillet (or grill pan) over medium heat, melt half the butter; place sandwiches in skillet; while bottoms are grilling (3-4 minutes), spread remaining butter on top pieces of bread; turn sandwiches and grill additional 3-4 minutes until cheese melts; serve, serve, serve!

Makes: 4 sandwiches

NOTE: This is a “repeat” recipe featured on my original “Kitchen Novelist” blog 07/04/12–the one that disappeared into a black hole.

SIMPLE STACKED SUSHI

I’ve tried the roll-your-own sushi and it works–sometimes. A couple years ago, I came across a recipe for stacked sushi in a cookbook titled “Bite Me” and had to try it. And modify it. It’s now a family favorite–easy to make and less expensive than restaurant- or store-bought sushi. Our family prefers sushi with pre-cooked shrimp or imitation crab, but if you’re more adventurous, you can substitute raw fish. As for the pics–yes I went a little overboard–the first shows the sushi when you first pop it out of the dish. The next pic is of cut sushi, and I cannot emphasize strongly enough the importance of using a very sharp knife to keep the nori sheets intact. The last two pics are of stacked sushi served up right. Give this a try and be inventive with your ingredients–shrimp, crab, cucumber, carrots, avocado, cream cheese…

1-1/2 cups instant white rice

1-1/2 cups water

2 tbsp rice vinegar

3/4 cup reduced fat mayonnaise

4 tbsp wasabi horseradish (often shelved near prepared horseradish)

4 sheets nori (roasted seaweed) Note: This go-around, I substituted softened spring roll wrappers for the 2 middle nori sheets which not only made the sushi easier to cut but lightened up the seaweed taste–thumbs up from all)

3 tsp sesame seeds

1 cup grated or matchstick carrots (or 1 large cucumber sliced thin)

1-1/2 cups imitation pre-cooked crab, semi-shredded (if budget allows, by all means use real cooked crab)

1 large avocado, pitted, peeled, and sliced thin

1) cook instant rice in water according to package directions; remove from heat, let sit 5-10 minutes; stir in rice vinegar; set aside and let cool

2) In small bowl, mix mayonnaise and wasabi horseradish; set aside

3) Line an 8″ square pan with plastic wrap, allowing 4-5″ overhang on opposite sides (will be folded over sushi for refrigeration)

4) Place 1 nori sheet in bottom of pan and spread with 1/3 of cooked rice; sprinkle on 1 tsp sesame seeds; spread 1/3 of wasabi mayonnaise over rice and top with carrots

5) Place 1 nori sheet (or softened spring roll wrapper) over carrots and spread with 1/3 of cooked rice; sprinkle on 1 tsp sesame seeds; spread 1/3 of wasabi mayonnaise over rice and top with crab

6) Place 1 nori sheet (or softened spring roll wrapper) over crab and spread with 1/3 of cooked rice; sprinkle on 1 tsp sesame seeds; spread 1/3 of wasabi mayonnaise over rice and top with avocado

7) Place remaining nori sheet over avocado; fold overhanging plastic wrap over sushi and gently press down on sushi with palms; weight sushi with a couple books and refrigerate 1-2 hours

8) Remove sushi from refrigerator; fold back plastic wrap; place large plate over top of pan and gently turn over, allowing sushi to drop onto plate; remove plastic wrap; with sharp knife, cut sushi into 1″ squares

9) Serve with soy sauce and wasabi horseradish for dipping; nice accompaniments are bowls of white rice or a light soup like miso

Servings: 4

SIRLOIN-ONION-GIARDINIERA HOAGIE

Senior says this is the best sandwich ever (I think I’ve heard that before). Of course, one of his recent dinners was a salad he deemed “too green,” so anything overflowing with meat was bound to earn a gold star. The only complaint came from Junior Too who, to my surprise, said there was no way he could eat the whole thing. But he did–and a piece of pie 🙂

STEAK:

1 tsp dried oregano

1 tsp dried basil

1 tsp dried thyme

1 tsp ground black pepper

1 tsp sea salt

2 tbsp olive oil

1-1/2 lbs boneless top sirloin steak

ONION AND GIARDINIERA TOPPING:

1 tbsp olive oil

1 large red onion, halved and sliced thin

1 cup beef broth

1-1/2 cups Giardiniera (I used Mezzetta brand), drained and coarsely chopped

6 pepperoncini, sliced thin

OTHER GOOD STUFF:

4 Hoagie rolls

1-1/2 cups shredded jack cheese

1) Fire up grill; remove steak from fridge and pat dry

2) In small bowl, combine oregano, basil, thyme, black pepper, and sea salt

3) Rub olive oil into both sides of steak, followed by combined seasonings on both sides; let sit 10 minutes

4) Meanwhile, to large skillet over medium-high heat, add olive oil and onions; stirring often, cook 10 minutes until onions soften; reduce heat to low and add beef broth, Giardiniera, and pepperoncini; cook 15 minutes, stirring occasionally

5) Meanwhile, toss steak on grill and cook to desired doneness (for medium, I cooked 8 minutes each side)

6) Remove steak from grill and let sit 5 minutes; slice thin

7) Assemble each sandwich as follows: cut hoagie almost all the way through and lay open; top with sirloin, onion-Giardiniera, and jack cheese; serve immediately

Serves: 4 with big appetites

CHICKEN AND CANNELLINI BEAN ENCHILADAS

My oldest sister says I’m overly fond of using cheese in my recipes. She’s right, but it’s one of those foods I find hard to resist and, since my guys have high metabolism (yes, makes me sick too), I get no complaints from them. Though this dish was a hit, I’ve made adjustments to the recipe to improve on it (could have used more chicken).

CHICKEN & WHITE BEAN FILLING:

1 tsp olive oil

1/4 cup diced onion

1-4.5 oz can diced green chiles

1-15 oz can Cannellini beans, drained

1/2 cup chicken broth

1 tsp cumin

2-13 oz cans chicken breast, drained

GREEN CHILE SAUCE:

1 tbsp butter

1/2 cup diced onion

2 tbsp flour

1 cup chicken broth

3/4 cup half-and-half

1-4.5 oz can diced green chiles

2 tbsp diced jalapenos

1/2 tsp sea salt

1/2 cup light sour cream

MORE GOODIES:

6 oz cheddar jack blend cheese

10 large flour tortillas

Optional topping: 2 cups shredded lettuce, 2 tbsp minced cilantro, 1 green onion (sliced thin)

1) Preheat oven to 375 degrees

2) CHICKEN & WHITE BEAN FILLING: Heat oil in large skillet over medium heat; add onions and cook 2-3 minutes; add green chiles, beans, chicken broth, and cumin; stirring occasionally, cook 10 minutes; add chicken and cook 5 minutes; set aside

3) GREEN CHILE SAUCE: Melt butter in large skillet over medium heat; add onions and cook 2-3 minutes; sprinkle flour over onions and stir well; cook 1 minute; stir in chicken broth and half-and-half and cook 4-5 minutes until sauce thickens; add green chiles, jalapenos, and salt; cook 1 minute and remove from heat; stir in sour cream

4) Pour 1/2 cup of green chile sauce in bottom of a 9×13″ casserole dish and spread evenly across the bottom; lay out tortillas and divide chicken and white bean filling among them; roll tortillas and place seam side down in casserole dish

5) Pour remaining green chile sauce over enchiladas and top with cheese; cover casserole dish with aluminum foil and bake 25-30 minutes; remove aluminum foil and bake an additional 3 minutes; remove from oven and either serve as is–Yum!–or go the extra mile and scatter shredded lettuce, cilantro, and green onions on top; ring the dinner bell!

Servings: 6-8 (depending on how many guys and how hungry they are)

NOTE: This is a “repeat” recipe featured on my original “Kitchen Novelist” blog 07/17/12–the one that disappeared into a black hole (which is the reason WordPress and I met up).

SUPER (EVERYTHING BUT THE KITCHEN SINK) SALAD

I recently came into possession of (yes, another way of saying I dished out dollarsa fabulous cookbook: Steak With Friends: At Home With Rick Tramonto. A cruise through its pages yielded a recipe for “Chicago-Style Garbage Salad,” and I had to give it a read through. Inspired by Rick’s variety of ingredients, I concocted my own version, renamed it something more appealing, and served it to family and friends. We had leftovers (that was one humongous salad bowl), but everyone went back for seconds. The only negative comment–if it can be called that–was when Senior said it was “too green.” But then, he does like his protein.

NOTE: Take a deep breath before perusing the list of ingredients–but, trust me, the salad that lands on your plate is worth all the chopping, slicing, dicing, and mincing.

4 cups iceberg lettuce, chopped

3 cups romaine lettuce, chopped

3 cups baby spinach

3/4 cup radishes, thinly sliced

1-1/2 cups cucumber, peeled and diced

1-1/2 cups roasted red peppers, chopped (I used ready-roasted in a jar)

1-1/2 cups celery, diced

1-1/2 cups tomatoes, diced

1-1/2 cups green onions, sliced thin

4 oz provolone cheese, sliced thin and chopped

4 oz sharp cheddar cheese, sliced thin and chopped

3 hard-boiled eggs, cooled and chopped

1-1/2 cups deli-roasted chicken, chopped

1-1/2 cups salami, sliced thin and chopped

1-1/2 cups garbanzo beans (I used canned)

1/2 cup shelled edamame

1/2 cup pepperoncini, sliced thin

1-1/2 cups croutons (I used Texas Toast Brand: Asiago Cheese)

2 tbsp parsley, minced

1) Here’s the easy part. Now that you’ve exhausted your cutting board, assemble your salad as follows: In humongous bowl, layer salad in order of ingredients listed (or however you like) and serve with your favorite dressing

Servings: easily 8 dinner-sized portions

SCALLOP-SHRIMP-BACON KABOBS

Summer is coming, and that means the outdoor grill is coming into its own again. And since I prefer working the grill when it isn’t blazingly hot outside…kabobs for dinner! What makes them so tasty is the bacon, though I did use it sparingly so it wouldn’t overpower the seafood. A winner!

1/4 cup olive oil

1/2 tsp chili powder

1/4 tsp sea salt

1/4 tsp ground black pepper

1 tbsp minced cilantro

8 slices turkey bacon, halved horizontally

32 medium-sized shrimp

16 large scallops

1 lemon, sliced into 8 wedges

1 lime, sliced into 8 wedges

8 skewers (I used bamboo)

1) Preheat outdoor grill to medium-high heat

2) In small bowl, mix olive oil, chili powder, salt, pepper, and cilantro; set aside

3) Wrap 16 shrimp (reserving 16) in bacon halves;

4) Assemble 8 kabobs on skewers as follows: lemon slice, bacon-wrapped shrimp, scallop, naked shrimp, bacon-wrapped shrimp, scallop, naked shrimp, lime slice; brush tops of kabobs with half the chili-cilantro oil

5) Place kabobs on grill, chili-cilantro oil side down; cook 5-7 minutes; brush tops of kabobs with remaining chili-cilantro oil and turn; grill 5-7 minutes until shrimp and scallops are just cooked through; serve with a nice salad

Serves: 4

SCALLOPS WITH MUSHROOM-GREEN BEAN-KALAMATA BALSAMIC SAUCE

As pricey as scallops are, the recipe had better be good when I plunk down hard-earned money for these delectable treats. Enter mushrooms, green beans, kalamata olives, and balsamic vinegar. Good recipe 🙂

Note: Consider warming oven-safe dinner plates in oven (170 degrees works well) while you’re cooking. It’s very little extra work and prevents the entree from cooling on its journey from kitchen to dining room (no excuse for scarfing down your lovingly prepared creation).

1 lb sea scallops

4 tbsp olive oil, divided

2 tbsp dried minced shallots

1 tsp dried basil

1-1/2 cups fresh green beans, sliced into 1″ pieces

8 oz sliced white mushrooms

1/4 cup sliced Kalamata olives

1/4 cup Balsamic vinegar

3 tbsp lemon juice

2 tbsp butter

1 tbsp minced parsley

sea salt

ground black pepper

1) Preheat oven to 170 degrees

2) Pat scallops dry (very important for a pretty seared surface)

3) Heat 2 tbsp olive oil (reserving 2 tbsp) in large skillet over medium heat; right before skillet starts smoking, add scallops and cook 1-2 minutes each side; transfer scallops from skillet to oven-safe plate and pop in oven to keep warm

4) To skillet add reserved 2 tbsp olive oil, shallots, and basil; stir; add green beans and cook 2 minutes; add mushrooms and Kalamata olives and cook 3-4 minutes; add balsamic vinegar, lemon juice, and butter; stirring often, cook 2-3 minutes; stir in parsley and lightly season with salt and pepper; remove from heat

5) Divide scallops between plates and spoon sauce over those lovely little gems; serve immediately

Serves: 4

FRENCH ONION AND BLACK PEPPER STEAK

Our family has been in a bit of a steak-feeding frenzy since it’s my guys’ favorite and our grocery stores have been rather generous. Shoot, it doesn’t seem that long ago $7.99 a pound made me cringe. Now it’s a great deal. Hmm. Anyway, I toted steak home again, but this time with a different end in mind. What, I wondered, would steak taste like smothered in french onion soup? I found out–yum and yum again!

STEAK:

1-3/4 lb steak (whichever quality steak is on sale–in our case, top sirloin), about 1″ thick

2 tbsp olive oil, divided

2 tsp ground black pepper, divided

2 tsp sea salt, divided

FRENCH ONION SMOTHER:

1 tbsp olive oil

1 large onion, quartered and sliced thin (I used a white onion)

1 cup beef broth

1/2 cup red wine (I used semi-sweet)

1/4 tsp dry thyme

1 cup croutons (I used Texas Toast brand)

4 slices provolone

1) Crank up grill

2) Rub 1 tbsp olive oil into one side of steak, followed by 1 tsp black pepper and 1 tsp sea salt; flip and repeat on opposite side; set aside

3) In large skillet over medium heat, heat 1 tbsp olive oil; add onions and saute 15 minutes until they soften up and begin to caramelize; stir in beef broth, red wine, and thyme; reduce heat to low and cook additional 15 minutes (or roughly equivalent to the length of time it takes to grill your steak–coming up next), stirring occasionally

4) Meanwhile, preheat oven to broil and toss the steak on the grill (for medium, we grilled 7-8 minutes each side); when meat is cooked to your taste, transfer from grill to oven-safe skillet

5) Add croutons to onion mixture and immediately pour over steak in skillet; top with provolone; place in oven and broil 1-2 minutes until cheese melts and begins to go gold; remove from oven, slice into individual portions and enjoy!

Servings: 4

WONTON TURKEY MEATBALL CUPS

Yes, I’m at it again–making food cups out of wontons. This time those crispy critters hold meatballs. My guys liked the ones made with meatloaf, but it was the meatball version that had them urging me to pleeease make this again. Easy and very very tasty!

36 turkey meatballs, thawed (I used Armour brand, fully cooked)

spray olive oil

36 wonton wrappers

3/4 cup sharp cheddar cheese

3/4 cup white cheddar cheese

1-1/2 cups spaghetti sauce (I used Gia Russa brand cherry tomato)

1 green onion, sliced thin on the diagonal

1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees

2) Spray olive oil in each cup of a 12-cup muffin pan; assemble 12 wonton cups as follows: layer 3 wonton wrappers in each muffin cup; lightly spray wrappers with olive oil

3) Layer each meatball cup as follows, evenly dividing ingredients: sharp cheddar cheese, meatballs (3 to a cup); bake 8-10 minutes until wontons begin to blister and turn golden; remove from oven

4) Evenly dividing spaghetti sauce, spoon over and around meatballs; sprinkle tops with white cheddar cheese and green onions; return to oven and bake 3 minutes until cheese melts; remove from oven and serve

Servings: 4 dinner-sized portions or 12 appetizers

NOTE: This is a “repeat” recipe, meaning it was previously featured on my original “Kitchen Novelist” blog–the one that disappeared into a black hole a while back (which is the reason WordPress and I met up).

TOMATO ASPARAGUS FRITTATA

Frittatas are not only quick and easy to prepare, but they’re a tasty and fairly inexpensive meal–well, providing you don’t go all fancy and toss in caviar and smoked salmon and the like. Although this recipe makes four nice-sized servings, our abbreviated family of three (You know exactly what you’re missing, Junior!) worked its way through the entire dish. But then, Senior and Junior Too were hungrier than usual. Oh, to have their metabolism…

1 tbsp olive oil

2/3 cup red onion, minced

8 thin asparagus spears, chopped

8 eggs

sea salt

ground black pepper

1 tbsp parsley, divided

2 large tomatoes, diced and divided

1/2 cup mozzarella cheese

1) Preheat broiler

2) Heat oil in large oven-safe skillet over medium heat; add onions and cook 5 minutes; add asparagus and cook 3 minutes

3) Meanwhile, beat eggs in medium-sized bowl and season with salt and pepper; add half the parsley

4) Pour egg mixture in pan over onions and asparagus; add half the tomatoes and stir gently; stand back and let frittata cook until eggs are almost set, about 5 minutes; remove from heat and sprinkle mozzarella cheese over top; place frittata under broiler and cook 3 minutes until cheese is melted and eggs are set and lightly browned; remove from oven

5) Top frittata with remaining tomatoes and parsley; serve with a lovely green salad

Servings: 4