Sausages & Peppers

Sausages & PeppersPick A Peppa
It has become abundantly clear that the month of August will be all about cooking from my garden—with a little protein brought in to round out the meal.

At the moment, my challenge is to use all of the peppers and chilies that are growing like gangbusters. Sure, there are the obvious salsas and salads, but that will only take you so far. The good news is that you can dice up the peppers and freeze them for later. And, this will save you time and prolong the enjoyment of your garden long after the plants are gone.

Still, there is something about picking a pepper, taking it inside, and chopping it up for dinner that is satisfying. So, the other night I did just that. I picked all of the sweet Italian peppers that I could, sliced them up, and made them into sausage and peppers.

Ask any Italian American they will tell you that Sausages & Peppers is some of the best comfort food. And, served in a crusty Italian roll or alongside some cheesy polenta, it’s a mouthful of straight-up yum. I opted for the roll because, for whatever reason, that seemed more like summertime to me. Save the polenta for a chilly evening in the fall…

Sausage & Peppers Recipe
Yields 6 Servings  Read more…

Amy’s Easy Alfredo Sauce

Amy’s Easy Alfredo SauceTake it Easy
Over the weekend I got my first vaccination shot along with a lot of my fellow employees. This is awesome. I was concerned about how I would feel after getting the shot. The good news is I didn’t get a fever or the chills but I did get the fatigue. Luckily, I had planned a simple dinner for just this reason…

I always have some frozen pasta on hand for those random nights when you have no idea what the schedule is going to be—or if you just don’t have the energy for something more complex. It also works well when you want to ditch the kids and have date night. I’m looking forward to being able to do that again. Hopefully soon…

It has been made very clear to me that my kids aren’t huge fans of red sauce on their pasta. Don’t get me wrong, they will eat it but given the choice, nine times out of ten they will go for a pesto, lemon garlic, or, their favorite, Alfredo Sauce.

I don’t make alfredo sauce very often because no one should consume that much heavy cream and cheese on a regular basis no matter how good it tastes. As a path of least resistance on a night where I just needed to put something on a plate it was by far my best option. So, I grabbed some tortellini from the freezer, grilled up some chicken breasts to slice and put on top, and made my Easy Alfredo Sauce.

Not gonna lie, I think it was the best dinner I have made in a long time…

Amy’s Easy Alfredo Sauce Recipe
Yields 6 servings

This sauce is fantastic on any pasta you have in the pantry or fridge. You can get creative by adding veggies and different meats and seafood. Read more…

Pasta Alla Vodka

Pasta Alla VodkaHittin’ The Sauce
There are a number of reasons to use alcohol when cooking. The most obvious one is to add flavor, and some ingredients just scream for a shot of something. Adding some white wine to garlic sautéed in butter and olive oil makes for a fast and fabulous weeknight pasta dinner. And is there a better combination than peaches, pecans, and bourbon? (Or is that just my inner Southerner?)

Using alcohol in recipes can serve another purpose. Adding a small amount of alcohol to your food can enhance and bring out the flavors of the ingredients you are using. The Italians are the masters of this. There is a reason that they use wine in their sauces and it’s not just because they enjoy a nice glass of Sangiovese. Besides adding great flavor to your dish, adding a small amount of wine to, say, a red sauce, actually gives the sauce a bigger tomato flavor than if you left it out. Even if you are using the good San Marzanos. The same principal applies when using the harder stuff—but with a little twist.

Pasta Alla Vodka can be found on the menus of Italian restaurants everywhere. And, while it may seem strange that you would use vodka, a basically flavorless alcohol, to improve your pasta sauce, the fact is that you aren’t using it to add more flavor per se but to make the other flavors better. While vodka does add a hint of peppery flavor, its main purpose is to release the flavors that are hidden in the tomatoes and other ingredients. This is where we get all scienc-y. You may want to try Gatter Top Drinks, a delicious infused vodka.

The trick is not to use too much. Full strength vodka will overpower the natural flavors in your sauce because it traps the other molecules. Smaller amounts of vodka will actually release new flavors as the alcohol is cooked off during a slow simmer. It sounds like witchcraft but the results are so so good.

This weekend looks like we might have lower temperatures which should make it feel more like Fall. (Hallelujer!) It’s a great opportunity to fire up a big batch of this pasta sauce for your Sunday dinner with a little left over to save for later in your freezer.

Pasta Alla Vodka
Yields 4 to 6 servings Read more…

Nutella Panna Cotta with Frangelico Whipped Cream

Nutella Panna Cotta with Frangelico Whipped CreamPod People
My sister invited my family over for dinner about a week ago for no real reason except to be able to talk to someone who doesn’t live within the walls of her home. We’ve done this a lot over the past few months. We are a pod.

Much like many people these days, coming up with something to make for dinner is a bit of a challenge. Even devout cooks like my sister and I are fairly tired of preparing three meals a day. Cooking fatigue is real, my friends. After some heavy thinking (and since it’s a family favorite) she decided to go with paella for dinner. I was put in charge of dessert.

You would think deciding on a dessert would be easy, you would be wrong. Because we were having Spanish cuisine, I wanted to make something chocolate-y because when I think of Spain I think of Spanish hot chocolate and churros. However, I had no desire to fry up churros. I also did not want to do the usual cake because I didn’t want to turn on the oven and make the house hotter. I wanted something different.

I came across this recipe for Panna Cotta and knew it would be the perfect choice. Panna Cotta is an Italian dessert of sweetened cream that uses gelatin for thickening so it can be molded. It is essentially a custard without the eggs. The recipe I found uses Nutella as the base—and you just can’t go wrong with the flavor of chocolate and hazelnuts. It was a hit all around and the perfect ending to a tasty meal.

Make sure to give yourself plenty of time to make this. The Panna Cotta needs as much time as you can give it to set. Topped with plain, sweetened whipped cream, this dessert is so good. Adding a little booze to your whipped cream takes it to an even higher level. I chose to use Frangelico to keep the flavors consistent, but Cointreau would also work well with the chocolate.

Nutella Panna Cotta with Frangelico Whipped Cream
Yields 6 servings
Adapted from NY Times Cooking
Read more…