Garlic Knots

Here’s another quick fix using store bought pizza dough- garlic knots! And these are the simplest garlic knots ever. I made them in knots and tossed them in a bowl of garlic butter immediately after baking- they were amazing! But next time I’ll make them like I remember having them at my favorite pizza shop- twisted ropes covered in salty and savory garlic butter.

And I swear (!!!) they taste just as good (if not better) than if I had bought them at my favorite pizzeria. Why? Because I bought the dough from them! Fresh pizza dough for 3 dollars- you can’t beat that! So the next time you have a craving for garlic knots, calzone’s, or pizza rolls- buy some fresh dough at your local pizzeria and indulge at a much cheaper price- and feel proud that you made it yourself (mostly).

Garlic Knots

1/4 small pizza dough
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp butter
Salt for seasoning
Non-stick spray

1. Pre-heat the oven to 375. Roll out pizza dough into a rectangle about 1 inch thick. Cut the dough in half and then cut the dough in strips.

2. Tie the dough into knots and brush lightly with olive oil. Lightly spray a baking sheet with non-stick spray. Sprinkle the knots with salt and bake on a baking sheet for about 20-25 minutes, or until golden brown.

3. While the knots are baking, in a small saucepan, heat butter and garlic until the garlic begins to lightly brown, around 3-5 minutes. Pour butter in a mixing bowl.

4. When the knots are golden brown, remove from oven and place in bowl with butter. Toss gently and serve immediately. If you’d like you can top knots with parmesan or fresh herbs.

Mofongo

Mofongo is a typical Puerto-Rican dish. It’s not something my family made growing up, it was more of a special dish to be had at restaurants and ordered for special occasions. It definitely isn’t an everyday meal- it can be super heavy and starchy and needs to be fried to enjoy the crispy textures. However, it’s one of my favorite meals and is extremely versatile. It can be done with stewed chicken, beef, vegetables, or as I made it here, with shrimp.

Mofongo – serves 2

3 plantains, sliced into rounds
3 cloves garlic, minced
5 pez sized pieces of tocino, if you can’t find tocino you can use bacon or pancetta
1 tbsp olive oil
Canola or Vegetable oil, for frying
Salt and pepper, to taste

1. Start by peeling the skin off the plantains. To open the plantain, slice the ends off the plantains and run the tip of your knife straight down the peel- being careful not to pierce the plantain too much. Then, starting on one corner, peel off the skin until the banana is exposed. Slice the plantains into 2-3 inch thick rounds.

2. In a medium sized pan, heat a tbsp of canola or vegetable oil over medium-high heat and cook the tocino until crispy. In the same pan, add vegetable or canola oil and set to medium heat. Fill the pan up about half way so that when the plantains are placed inside they will be half in the oil and half out.

3. While the oil is getting hot, heat 2 tbsp of olive oil in a sauce pan and start wilting the peppers, onions and 2 cloves of garlic. This should take about 10 minutes.

4. When the oil for the plantains is ready,  place plantain rounds into the oil, turning occasionally, until golden brown on all sides (don’t allow to overcook!). If this needs to be done in a few batches that’s okay.

5. When the plantains are done browning, the vegetables should be softened. Add 1 can of Goya tomato sauce and bring to a boil. Lower heat and allow to simmer for about 20 minutes.

6. While the sauce is simmering, start working on the plantain cake. In a bowl add 1 clove of garlic, tocino, and salt until it becomes like a paste. Add plantain rounds, about 5 at a time, and begin to mash together. This is a chore, so here are a few tips to make this easier:

  • Smash the plantains before adding them so they don’t need to be completely smashed in the bowl or pilon. You can smash them using a knife, can, or cup. (I also want to note that this is how you make tostones, but that’s another recipe altogether)
  • Also, this should *ideally* be made in a pilon, but I crushed the ingredients together in a bowl and it came out just fine.
  • Also, I mashed this with a pestle, but I imagine you could use a spoon or a potato masher- just make sure not to over mash it. We eventually want this to come together like a cake.

7. Once all of the plantains have been mashed together and all the ingredient well mixed, look at the consistency. Sometimes the mixture is a little dry. You can add a tbsp of olive oil to the mix to bring more moisture to the mixture.

8. At this point, the sauce should have been simmering for about 20 minutes. You can now add the shrimp, and a pinch each of salt and pepper. Cook for about 5 minutes or until shrimp have curled and are pink.

9. Once you add the shrimp, begin shaping the mofongo. Here’s where it can get really tricky if you don’t have a pilon, or mortar. You’ll need to use a deep bowl- think soup not cereal- to shape the mixture. If you don’t have either, you can ball the mixture and pour the sauce over that. If you do have a pilon, mortar, or bowl you can use it to shape the mofongo. Add about half the mixture into the bowl and press down, shaping the mixture into the bowl. To remove the mofongo, gently push the mofongo on one side until the other side begins to lift up, then scoop the mofongo out and put on a plate, flat side down.

10. Once the mofongo is shaped, the sauce and shrimp should be ready. Simply pour the shrimp, vegetables, and sauce over the mofongo and serve immediately.

The last step is simply to enjoy this wonderful puerto rican treat and let me know what you think. Hopefully. you’ll love it as much as I do! Buen provecho!

Meatloaf Stuffed Portobello Caps

Stuffed Mushrooms

Mmm... Cheesy!!!

Meatloaf never gets old- and especially not in this recipe. The first time I made this I actually used leftovers from my turkey meatballs recipe and got hooked. It’s packed with flavor and the portobello mushroom makes it filling. It’s a great way to cut down on carbs or to add some more vegetables in to your diet.

I like to use this opportunity to look at what I have in my fridge and go crazy. I do the same thing with my summer salads- I have fun. This time I added smaller mushrooms, walnuts, and mozzarella that were in my fridge- but sometimes I’ll add sun-dried tomatoes, dried cranberries, fontina- really, anything that I have lying around. It was really hearty, juicy, and on some level healthy for me (it’s not a lot of cheese- I swear).

MUSHROOM CAP

So many possibilities...

Meatloaf Stuffed Portobello Mushroom Cap

1 Portobello mushroom cap
1 tbsp olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup baby bella mushrooms, sliced
1-2 tbsp walnuts
1 slice of meatloaf, roughly chopped
Salt and pepper- as needed

1. Preheat the oven to 375. Brush olive oil on the mushroom cap and place, top side up, in the oven for 10 minutes.

2. In a small pan, saute garlic in olive oil until it begins to brown, about 2-3 minutes. Add chopped meatloaf, walnuts, and baby mushrooms to pan. Cook on low for about 5 minutes.

3. Remove caps and flip on to the pan. Add stuffing to the caps and top with a very thin slice or two of mozzarella. Put back in the oven and remove once the mozzarella has melted- about 3-5 minutes or so.

Stuffed cap with very berry cranberry sauce

Meatloaf Stuffed Mushroom Cap with Very Berry Cranberry Sauce

I had my cap with a very berry cranberry sauce (A-MAZE-ING! Kind of like a re-constructed Thanksgiving meal!) but I’ve also had this with brown rice, a bright green salad, roasted asparagus- I’ve even had it on it’s own- it’s that good! I promise!

Sunday Tomato Sauce

Sunday Tomato Sauce

Sunday Tomato Sauce

Before I discovered how easy and satisfying it is to make your own tomato sauce, I was a “store-bought pasta sauce” girl. Even in Italy, with all the AMAZING ingredients at my fingertips, I still bought pasta sauce at the supermarket. I thought it would be more authentic. It really wasn’t.

But, after making sauce once, even though it wasn’t my best sauce, it was one-hundred times better than the jarred stuff. There was no comparison. Today, my Sunday sauce is almost like a ritual- an absolute must! This sauce will take me through the week. When I’m in a pinch and don’t know what to have for dinner, this sauce will inspire me to make chicken parmesan, calzone’s, and veggie pasta tosses- the possibilities are endless.

The recipe changes constantly, but the base remains the same. Much like my Penne alla Vodka sauce, it begins with peeled canned tomatoes, garlic, and olive oil- but after that, you can be a little creative…

sauteedgarlic

There's no such thing as too much garlic!!!

Tomato Sauce

1 35 ounce can (Italian whole tomatoes)
1 tbsp olive oil
6 cloves garlic, minced
Salt, pepper, dried basil, dried oregano, dried thyme, crushed red pepper, and any other spices you like- to taste
1/3 cup of red wine

1. In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add garlic and sauté until garlic begins to brown slightly- about 2 minutes.

2. For a chunky sauce, add the whole can of tomatoes to the skillet and bring to a strong simmer. Lower heat, smash tomatoes slightly with a wooden spoon, and cook covered, stirring occasionally, for about 10-15 minutes, or until sauce is thick and chunky. For a smoother sauce, add the can of tomatoes to a food processor, and, using quick pulses, puree the tomatoes. Add to sauce and cook covered under low heat for about 5-10 minutes.

3. Add the seasonings and stir well. Add the red wine, and bring to a simmer. Allow to simmer, uncovered, for about 15-20 minutes.

4. Taste, and adjust seasonings as necessary.

It’s a very simple sauce but it’s also very delicious. The wine really adds a lot of depth to the sauce and makes it super flavorful. If you wanted, you could cut back on the garlic (if you must!) and add some chopped onions. You could also add a bay leaf with the seasoning and remove once it’s done cooking. Have fun with the recipe- make it your own- and I promise you’ll never pick up the jarred stuff again once you’ve given this sauce a try!

tomatosauce2

This sauce makes a great pizza sauce

Orecchiette Alla Vodka

Orecciette all Vodka

Orecciette all Vodka

I’ve had many cooking failures in my life. There was the time I tried to make stir-fry. I ran out and bought tons of stir-fry materials including a wok and a “how-to wok” book, got a perfect recipe and went for it. It was a disaster- to say the least. Then there was the time I tried to make filet mignon and puff pastry alla Mickey and Mooch (one of my fav Charlotte-area restaurants). That too was a disaster. The steak was overdone and the pastry was underdone. Quite simply- a failure! Then there was that time I tried to make Giada’s Limoncello recipe. At first it seemed ok but after sitting in my fridge for a week or two, my mom had a sip and it almost made her throw up! (Sorry Mom!!! I really can cook… I swear!!)

However, I moved forward and didn’t give up on cooking- especially when trying to recreate some of my favorite dishes. One of those was Penne alla Vodka. The first time I tried to make it I wasn’t satisfied with the results. The flavors were there, for the most part, but something was off- the consistency and color wasn’t right. I gave up on it for a while but revisited it recently. This time it was a success.

Orecchiette Alla Vodka – serves 6

1 35-ounce can (Italian) whole tomatoes
1 pound orecchiette
1 tablespoon olive oil
8 cloves garlic, minced
Crushed red pepper flakes; Salt and Pepper to taste
1/4 cup vodka
1/2 cup heavy cream
1  tablespoon- chopped fresh parsley
3/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano, plus 1-2 tablespoons to top

1. Add the can of whole tomatoes and pulse in a mini food processor with quick pulses until it is chunky. Transfer this to a bowl. In the same food processor, chop 8 cloves of garlic until minced. 8 cloves may seem like a bit much but I’m a garlic extremist.

2. In a large skillet, heat a tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook until the garlic begins to brown slightly- about 2 minutes. Carefully add the tomatoes to the pan and bring to a boil. Season with salt, crushed red pepper flakes, and pepper to taste- I like my pasta sauces a little on the spicy side. Once they start to boil, add the Vodka and bring to a simmer.

3. Start boiling well salted water for the pasta. I chose to use orecchiette because it’s a really great pasta for saucy dishes and it happened to be the only pasta, besides elbow macaroni, that I had in the apartment. Once the water is boiling add the pasta until it is almost al dente.

4. Once the pasta is almost done, add the cream to the sauce and stir well. Add the pasta directly into the pan and toss well. Top with the Parmigiano Reggiano and parsley. Toss to coat evenly. Serve and top with remaining parmesan.

After all was said and done, it turned out really well. Creamy and decadent and oh-so comforting. AND I was shocked at how quick the whole process was. I was sitting down to eat about 20 minutes after I started cooking- that’s shorter than my Sunday tomato sauce recipe (which is amazing and will be up here soon)! I still don’t know what went wrong that night I tried to make it for the first time.  Probably some fluke accident. Either way, I’m really happy I gave it a second chance. Maybe it’s time to revisit that stir-fry…….

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