Saturday, April 30, 2016

It's Spring . . . at home

Spring . . . at home
.     .     .     .     .     .     .     .
lots of baskets
soft blues and greens
natural linens
.     .     .     .     .     .     .     .

our Spring menu . . . at home
.     .     .     .     .     .     .
buttermilk blueberry breakfast cake
pappardelle with  Spring vegetables
.     .     .     .     .     .     .

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Friday, April 8, 2016

Spring vegetable, white bean & Italian sausage soup

This is a crazy, delicious soup . . . and I'm excited to share it with you!

It's not new to our little crew, but it's my first time sharing it on the blog.

I make it often, as it's so easy to prepare, light, and delicious.  In the Fall and Winter, I love adding sweet potatoes, butternut squash, and parsnips; and in the Spring, I add red potatoes, carrots, sweet onions, and lots of fresh herbs.

The sweet vegetables that I add in the Fall, Winter, and Spring are a healthy and delicious compliment to the soup's staple of buttery white beans and spicy Italian sausage.

This soup has it all . . . sweet (veggies), buttery (beans), smokey (smoked paprika), and spicy (Italian sausage).

Our little crew is planning a 2-week trip to Virginia next week . . . and with their cooler Spring temperatures, I plan on making this for a cozy lunch or dinner to enjoy while we're there.

Sprinkle with lots of fresh herbs (cilantro is my favorite!), add a bouquet of Spring flowers to your table, serve family-style with fresh bread . . . and you have a healthy and delicious Spring-inspired meal. Enjoy!

Spring vegetable, white bean
Italian sausage soup
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1-pound spicy Italian sausage, casing removed
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 large yellow onion, chopped (about 2 cups)
2 medium carrots, chopped (about 1 cup)
1/2 pound small red potatoes, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 Tablespoon tomato paste
2 (15-oz.) cans Cannellini white beans, drained and rinsed
1 (32-oz.) container reduced-sodium chicken broth
1/2 cup fresh parsley or cilantro leaves, chopped
.     .     .     .     .     .     .     .

Cook sausage in a Dutch oven over medium-high, stirring constantly, until browned and crumbled, about 8 minutes. Drain well on paper towels. Wipe Dutch oven clean.

Heat oil in Dutch oven over medium-high. Add onions and next 5 ingredients, and sauté until tender, about 5 minutes. Stir in tomato paste, and cook 1 minute, stirring often.

Increase heat to high. Add beans, chicken broth, and sausage, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer, stirring occasionally and skimming off any fat from top, 20 minutes. Stir in parsley or cilantro, and serve immediately.

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Monday, April 4, 2016

slow-cooker bolognese sauce

I'm a meat sauce of kind of girl. I always have been.

I have beautiful memories of gathering with my family and extended family over the course of 30 plus years at our favorite Italian restaurant for special occasions and our annual family Christmas party. I always ordered "Spaghetti with Meat Sauce, extra meat sauce please!" 

There's something hearty and luxurious about a really good meat sauce. 

I was so excited when I saw this recipe for slow cooker bolognese sauce in last months issue of Southern Living. 

Of all meat sauces - bolognese is tops!  And I'm sure that my talented friend Marisa would agree, too!

A few weeks after coming across this slow cooker recipe, Marisa shared a heart-warming family story, along with her family recipe for bolognese sauce. It, too, sounds and looks delicious! I can't wait to try HER recipe, and see if I can adapt it to a slow cooker. 

I might not know a whole lot about Italian cuisine, but here's a little about what I know about bolognese sauce . . . 

Genuine bolognese is a slooowwwly cooked sauce.

Its base includes a characteristic soffritto of onion, celery and carrot . . . and different types of minced or finely chopped beef. Red wine and a small amount of tomato concentrate and tomatoes are even added; and the dish is then gently simmered at length to produce a thick, delicious sauce.

It's often served with a hearty pasta like pappardelle or tagiatelle; some prefer rigatoni or penne.

For me, I think it's delicious all by it's lonesome, enjoyed with warm slices of fresh garlic bread.

Bolognese is the kind of sauce that takes time to prepare . . .  and hours to simmer; and although it's somewhat time-consuming - the end result is worth all the effort and time involved in making it.

I recruited my little Sous Chefs to help chop vegetables and crush tomatoes (you can see my little guy's hands in the photo below). We had a lot of fun that afternoon. I love that I have extra special, loving memories of my first time making bolognese sauce.

~ after hours and hours in the slow cooker ~

We enjoyed this beautiful sauce over pappardelle, with fresh basil and freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese for our Sunday Family Dinner.

I can still hear my oldest son's comment at dinner . . ."Mom, this sauce is amazing." 

I love the magic that happens when family and food come together!

slow-cooker bolognese sauce
.     .     .     .     .    .

1 medium-size yellow onion, finely chopped
2 celery ribs, finely chopped
1 medium carrot, finely chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 pounds lean ground beef
1 tablespoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons sugar
2 teaspoons dried Italian seasoning
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 bay leaf
1/2 cup red wine
2 (28-oz.) cans whole peeled tomatoes
2/3 cup heavy cream
1 pound pappardelle pasta 
Freshly shaved or grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
fresh basil, torn

Sauté first 3 ingredients in hot oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat 8 minutes or until tender. Add garlic and tomato paste; cook, stirring constantly, 30 seconds. Transfer to a 6-qt. slow cooker.

Add beef to skillet, and cook, stirring often, 7 minutes or until crumbled and no longer pink; drain. Stir in kosher salt and next 5 ingredients. Stir in wine, and cook, stirring occasionally, 7 minutes or until almost all liquid evaporates. Add to slow cooker, and stir to combine.

Drain tomatoes, reserving liquid. Using your hands, crush tomatoes, and break them apart. Add to slow cooker, and stir to combine.

Cover and cook on LOW 6+ hours. Stir in cream. Check sauce; it should be thick and creamy. (If soupy, uncover and cook 30 more minutes. If dry, stir in reserved canned tomato liquid, 1 Tbsp. at a time, to thin sauce.) Discard bay leaf.

Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain well. Toss together pasta and 4 cups sauce. (Reserve remaining sauce for another use.) Spoon into serving dishes, and sprinkle with desired amount of cheese and fresh basil. Serve.

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Monday, March 28, 2016

asparagus & fontina dutch baby

I hope you had a wonderful Easter!

I'm excited to re-post this delicious (and easy-to- prepare) Spring-inspired Dutch Baby. It is so delicious!

I prepared it over the weekend for our little crew to enjoy, along with some traditional Easter fare. 

My husband was home with us for the long weekend, so I wanted to be sure that he enjoyed lots of home-made meals.

One of the many meals I prepared over the weekend was this amazing soup.  It's crazy delicious . . . and filled with colorful Spring vegetables, fresh herbs, creamy Cannellini white beans, and crumbled spicy Italian sausage. It's seasoned with smoked paprika, garlic, tomato . . . and so dang good! I can't wait to share the simple recipe with you!

But until then, please enjoy this beautiful and delicious Spring-inspired recipe . . . 

.     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .

Do you remember when I introduced you to a simple and sweet Dutch Baby shortly after returning home from our Winter vacation in January?

Well, I've experimented with the savory side of the recipe since returning home . . . and just love its versatility!

I'm a big fan of its savory side . . . and my husband of its sweet side (no surprise!).

Asparagus and Fontina is my favorite Spring-time version!

Asparagus is so sweet this time of year . . . and compliments the creamy, nuttiness of the Fontina so well. Oh gosh, YUM!

For the perfect finish, I sprinkle Parmesan cheese over the top before baking it, making a yummy, tender salty crust (see photos below); and then sprinkle more freshly grated Parmesan on top after I take it out of the oven.

Do you see how the Parmesan coats the asparagus? It's so incredibly good!

Seriously, this savory Dutch Baby is so light and delicious that it's hard not to eat the whole thing!

I prepared two Easter meals over the weekend. One for my extended family for our Annual Easter gathering on Saturday (the day before Easter), and one for my little family on Easter Sunday.

our Easter Sunday menu
.     .     .     .     .
basket of fresh strawberries
with champagne pear vinaigrette
herb & white cheddar popovers
honey glazed ham

.     .     .     .     .
lemon honey cream ice box cake
citrus tea cakes with orange glaze

This might be my favorite Spring menu ever . . . and it looks gorgeous on a plate, too!

savory dutch baby
an oven-baked pancake
.     .     .     .     .     .
3 large eggs
¾ cup whole milk
¾ cup all-purpose flour
1 bunch asparagus, heads only (about 3-4 inches)
1 cup fontina, grated
1/2 cup fresh grated Parmesan
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
 ¼ cup butter, salted
.     .     .     .     .     .

Preheat oven to 425°.

Whisk eggs, milk, flour, salt, and pepper in a medium bowl until smooth. Stir in cheese.

Melt butter in a 10” skillet, preferably cast iron, in the oven.

Carefully pour pancake mixture over melted butter. Fan asparagus heads in batter (see photo). Sprinkle top with 1/4 cup grated Parmesan. Return pan to oven,

Bake until pancake is puffed and golden brown around the edges and center is set but still custardy, 12–15 minutes.

Sprinkle remainder of Parmesan cheese over the top.

Slice and serve. Enjoy!

**If baking in a glass dish, add 3-5 minutes to baking time.

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