simple, delicious, comfort food…alfredo with veggies!

So, as usual, I hadn’t really ‘planned’ dinner…I used to plan dinners, well, sort of… my idea of planning was and still is, to try and incorporate a new recipe every now and again – to help with the boringness of the ‘same old, same old’ – but now that I’m only home three nights a week, I tend to ‘wing it’ and simply use what I have on hand…sometimes it works, sometimes it’s still the ‘same old, same old’…but it’s always homemade, with love.

This night I was in need of a change, do you that know that feeling?

Our bodies need change, our minds need change, and our food prep habits need change…hence, how I ended up with this recipe…

I needed to use what I had (I live 25 minutes from the closest grocery store, one-way), and I wanted to utilize the abundance of fresh kale I had just picked from my backyard garden and I wanted comfort food.

first kale + swiss chard

So, guess what I came up with? Pasta with kale, dripping in alfredo sauce!

vertical alfredo

It was SO good.

I think all that cheese negated the health benefits of the kale, but such is life sometimes…

A few months ago (in the cold, dark of winter) I was wanting something rich, gooey, and comforting –  I needed a recipe for an alfredo sauce. A simple sauce of cheese, milk/cream, roux and salt and pepper. Nothing else would do. I connected to the internet (yes, I still have dial-up and yes, it still exists, sadly…) and after awhile I came across this delicious and easy to make recipe. I made it, I loved it and I printed it to keep – and I’m so glad I did.

I hadn’t made it since the dark days of winter, but when your in the mood for a rich and decadent alfredo sauce and you live in the woods by the sea, well, you better know how to make it, or at least have a recipe to help you know how!

So, I looked in the fridge – yeah, all the ingredients were there! All I had to do was prep.

No simple feat as a mamma of a pre-schooler, but with a little help from Michael, my partner – he entertained our four year old, while I chopped, diced, whisked and then finally, assembled – dinner!

pasta, veggies, alfredo

This recipe is so flexible, it’s ridiculous.

Here’s what you need and what to do;

Sautee any veggies you have – I used peppers, mushrooms and kale – in a bit of olive oil and set aside.

veggies sauteed

Boil water for pasta and begin cooking pasta just before you start making the alfredo sauce.

Prepare alfredo sauce.

Place cooked pasta on plate or bowl, top with alfredo, then veggies and voila, dinner is served! Finish with a bit of sea salt and freshly cracked pepper and serve alongside a salad of greens and a feast is served! Enjoy.

Alfredo Sauce

Alfredo Recipe – Print this!

Slightly adapted from Jessica at Delicious Obsessions

Ingredients;

1/4 cup

1/2 tbsp. freshly minced garlic

1 -2 tbsp. flour of your choice (I used 1.5 tbsp. unbleached white)

3/4 cup whole milk*

3/4 cup heavy cream*

**(I substituted 1.5 cups half and half and 1/4 whole milk for heavy cream and milk measurements)

1.5 cups freshly shredded parmesan cheese

Kosher or sea salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

What to Do:

In a medium saucepan, over medium heat, melt the butter.

Add garlic and saute until lightly browned.

Sprinkle the flour over the butter/garlic mixture and whisk around, quickly. You want to use enough flour to absorb the butter, without over doing it.  You want to create a roux (which is a mixture of flour and a fat (usually butter) used to thicken sauces and soups), which is slightly thick, yet fluid, without being gloppy.

Whisk this mixture for about 4 minutes, stirring constantly to prevent burning…this helps remove the ‘raw’ taste the flour could have if undercooked. The flour should be very lightly browned.

After you’ve made your roux (cooked your flour), slowly add the milk and cream, all the while continuing to whisk. Keep whisking – or else your sauce will be clumpy – until it’s slightly thickened and gently bubbling…

While whisking, add the shredded parmesan, little by little, until all is incorporated.

Remove from heat.  Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately.

Things to consider;

Don’t have kale? Use spinach or swiss chard.

Don’t have peppers? Use caramelized onions or summer squash.

What about garlic? Or garlic scapes? Or fresh basil? What about freshly chopped parsley?

Like meat? Add sausage or bacon.

Play around with what you have and keep it simple.

Veggies and cheese over pasta, how can you go wrong?

Enjoy.

 

 

grown up grilled cheese

Every now and again I’m in the mood for a grilled cheese sandwich… not just cheese, melted on bread, no, I like mine with veggies, herbs and cheese or any combination thereof. Grown-up style…

This wasn’t a ‘planned meal’ by any means, I just used what I had on hand – a bit of fresh parsley, broccoli, mushrooms, sundried tomatoes and artichoke hearts. Pesto would have been good too or fresh basil, the options are endless – use what you have – get creative, have fun with an old (and easy) favorite!

Cheese, bread and veggies – what could be better? Are you vegan? Well, then, use vegan cheese!

ingredients

Simply saute veggies in a bit of olive oil, add a pinch of two of salt and pepper.

saute

 

Butter one side of each slice of bread (whatever kind of bread you like).

Place one slice of bread, buttered side down, onto a skillet over medium heat.

Place sauteed veggies on bread first, then top with cheese…

melt cheese

cover with lid (for a short time to help cheese melt), then top with second slice of bread, and flip to brown the other side.

Remove from pan, let rest a few minutes and enjoy.

Grown-up grilled cheese, yum!

Need a summer inspired sandwich – go here!

What’s your favorite sandwich?

Enjoy.

roasted beets

Roasted beets

These sublime beauties are a cinch to prepare.

Really.

In years past I’ve grown and harvested many, many beets;

veggies

though last years erratic weather prevented an abundant crop, sadly, I had only a few…

beet in ground

so, off to the farmers market I go!

unwashed beets

Wash, scrub (if necessary) and remove green tops. (Steam or saute greens with a bit of olive oil, don’t just throw those beauties away…)

beets in sink

tops and bottoms removed

I usually cut off the tops and tails of each beet. These beets I felt I needed to cut off a bit more than usual…if they are freshly harvested, I cut a much smaller area…

close-up before packing

Dampen each beet slightly with a bit of water and then wrap in foil.

wrapping each

I prefer wrapping each beet individually, though you could also prepare a foil packet and roast a few together. The key to either preparation is to be sure the foil is sealed. You want to be sure to keep all those lovely juices in!

Length of time depends on the size and freshness of the beet. Smaller beets take less time, larger beets, more. Also, the fresher the beet, the less time is takes to roast…smaller beets can take up to 25 minutes, while larger ones, up to an hour.

peeled and cubed

A beet is roasted once it can be easily pierced with a fork or tip of a small knife.

Now, you ask, “At what temperature do you roast?” Well, this can also fluctuate…beets are flexible with temperature…so, feel free to roast your beets while the rest of dinner is baking away, or on their own…beets are happiest between between 325 degrees F. and 425 degrees F.

If it’s only beets your roasting, then place those lovelies in a 425 degree F pre-heated oven.

I usually roast them in my cast iron skillet, but any oven safe pan will do. The foil keeps all the steam in, thus, all the resulting juices too…making clean-up a snap!

Do be careful while opening each packet as juice may spill out…beautiful deep purple juice. Staining juice…

Once cooled enough to touch, peeling is so easy that the skins simply slip off. If you don’t mind having your hands stained a crimson red for awhile, then by all means, slide those skins off with your bare hands. If not,  you may prefer using gloved hands or you can also use a paring knife. Granted, using a paring knife will not prevent staining, it’s just another method…

sliced with salt

Regretfully, I do not have any photos depicting the ease of slipping off the skins…by the time each beet had cooled enough to hold, the sun had set. My natural light  had disappeared…

But, the following day, the sun shone bright and I enjoyed these lovelies sliced and sprinkled with a smidgen of kosher salt as well as in a salad of fresh spinach, goat cheese and walnuts.

beet and spinach salad

Simple. Easy. Delicious.

Why not roast a few today?

Enjoy!

potato leek soup

I’d never grown leeks before, but thought I’d try…and I’m so glad I did. Mass produced leeks lack, what all mass produced veggies lack, and that’s taste.

my leeks 1

Backyard leeks are incredibly powerful,

Less is more with these beauties…

my leeks 2

Not a gardener? Well then stop by your local farmers market and pick up a few…or your local health food store…or the organic produce aisle of your local supermarket.

The difference is incredible and well worth the expense…see for yourself.

Potato Leek Soup

Print this recipe

potatoes, leeks, onion

1.5 lbs. potatoes

3/4 to 1 lb. leeks – chopped

1/2 onion – chopped

4-5 cups vegetable or chicken stock…whichever you prefer…

juice from 1-2 lemons

olive oil

a couple tablespoons of butter

salt and pepper to taste

That’s it.

Here’s what to do;

First, wash and peel the potatoes, then chop.

Second, clean each leek, chop white parts only.

cleaned leeks

trimmed leeks

Peel and chop onion.

choped onion

Splash enough olive oil to coat bottom of a heavy bottomed cook pot.

Heat over medium heat.

Add chopped onion and a bit of butter…

caramelized onion

Saute until browned.

Add chopped leeks…

chopped leek

Toss in a bit more butter…don’t be afraid…

Saute for a few more minutes.

Add chopped potatoes.

potatoes and onions

Toss and coat with buttery, browned onions/leeks…

Add a bit more butter…

Mix well.

9.adding stock

Pour in stock.

Stir.

Add a good pinch of coarse salt and freshly ground pepper. Stir.

Finish with freshly squeezed lemon juice…

Cover and simmer for about an hour.

slighly pureed in pot

From here it’s up to you;

Do you prefer a pureed version of potato leek soup? If so, then mix potato and leeks in a blender, with a bit of stock…keep blending in small batches until desired consistency is met…add more salt and pepper to taste…

Or, if that’s not your style, why not enjoy it, as is…?

Final option.

Utilize a hand mixer and puree only some…thus creating a smashed up soup, that’s what I did.

Whichever you choose…

Finish with ringlets of freshly chopped leeks (greenish part) and possibly even a splash of cream…

potato leek soup served

Serve with freshly baked bread.

freshly baked bread

Enjoy.

…the last taste of summer

It’s officially fall now.

The autumn equinox has come and gone and the leaves are beginning to turn here in Maine…apples and pumpkins abound, mums (the flowers) are being popped into the ground and into pots everywhere and the smell of smoke is in the air…but I’m still savoring the last taste of summer…

vine-ripened

Vine ripened tomatoes,

basil 2

fresh basil,

fresh mozz. 2

fresh mozzarella

presto pesto

and pesto.

Melt together between two slices of bread and you will taste summer in a way which no other sandwich compares…

Granted, my tomatoes have all been plucked from their vines (nights are getting a bit too chilly for them) and they now continue to ripen on my window sill and the basil (still in the garden) is starting to brown, but I picked as much as I could before the cooler nights settled in and I’m so glad I did! I’ve made batches of pesto, stored what I could in the fridge and am drying more…

So what to do with all those tomatoes, basil and pesto?

Bake some bread, buy a block of fresh mozzarella and get slicing….

Now it’s not a ‘cheap’ sandwich to make if you have to buy all the ingredients, but if you’ve been fortunate enough to grow the basil and tomatoes and have the desire to bake some bread (check this recipe out for a very simple and inexpensive recipe) all you’ll need to buy is the fresh mozzarella. The least expensive block I’ve found sets me back $4, but I can get at least 4 sandwiches from one, so that ends up being only $1 per sandwich (at least for the cheese), a far cry from what this sandwich would cost if it was to be ordered out…

Gather your ingredients;

tomatoes + basil

sliced bread 2

fresh mozz. 2

A few leaves of basil, a few slices of fresh mozz., a couple pieces of bread, a tablespoon or two of pesto and sliced tomato. Add a drizzle of olive oil and balsamic if you wish, a bit of butter for browning and you will have the tastiest summer sandwich – ever!

Spread each half of bread with pesto,

pesto spread 2

top with a layer of basil, fresh sliced mozzarella and then tomatoes…drizzle with a bit of olive oil and balsamic (if you wish), a sprinkle of salt and top with other half of the bread…butter each side and place on hot griddle. Turn once browned and then cook the other side. Cut and serve! side view layered 2

layer tomatoes, basil and cheese 2

top view browned

cut and ready to serve 2

These were so delicious, Michael and I agreed we each had to have a second!

Are you missing summer already? Then why not make this sandwich and be reminded…

What are your favorite summertime ingredients? What’s your favorite sandwich?

Enjoy.

fresh corn, basil and tomato tart…perfect for a maine lobster bake…

Michael (my partner) and Finn (my 3.5 year old son) were out for a few hours, helping a friend put together the necessary components for a lobster bake…

Seaweed. Rocks. Wood to build the fire (and maintain it for hours). A few canvas tarps. And most importantly, a dug space. A pot in the earth so to speak… in which to bake the lobsters, corn and clams.  A real Maine lobster bake.

Hot rocks layer the bottom of the ‘pot’ (a hole dug into sand or soil). Seaweed is dropped on top, creating steam…lobsters are placed on top of this, and then they are topped with another layer of seaweed and a few splashes of sea water…sizzle, sizzle, sizzle…

seaweed + steam

lobsters, corn + seaweed

Corn is layered next, followed by more water, seaweed and then finally, the clams…more sea water and more seaweed are added, and then the tarps are tossed over, covering the opening, thus creating a ‘lid.’

tarps

As the sun sets over the Atlantic, lobsters bake, in the ground, on an island…

sunset

freshly steamed lobsters, corn and clams

I digress…this (potluck) lobster bake, and the fact that Michael and Finn were out for a few hours helping organize the party, is what inspired me to try this recipe.

It’s a recipe I found some time ago…torn from a magazine I regretfully do not know (note to self, write down the month, the year and the title of the magazine, from which the recipe was removed…), and I had yet to make it…

Basil was in the garden, corn I could buy 6 minutes down the road at a local farm stand (my corn is not ready yet), I had eggs (from same local farm stand), cream and enough grape tomatoes to give it a go…I decided this is what I was going to bring to the potluck lobster bake;

A fresh corn, basil and tomato tart.

complete

Plus, I had one hour of uninterrupted time – something truly treasured – now that I’m a parent, and phenomenal lighting, so I prepped, photographed and baked this scrumptious tart in only 60 minutes.

Fun.

Gluten free? Just substitute flour with a gluten free flour and enjoy…

 Fresh corn, basil and tomato tart

Print this recipe!

Ingredients;

ingrediants 1

1/3 cup butter, softened

2 Tbsp. sugar

1/2 tsp. salt

3 eggs (despite only seeing one in the photo)

2/3 cup yellow cornmeal

2/3 cup all-purpose flour

1 cup half-and-half or light cream

1.5 cups fresh corn kernels (2-3 ears of corn, depending on size) – steamed or boiled for 2-3 minutes

peel the corn 1

remove corn kernals

1/2+ cup coarsely chopped fresh basil

chopped basil

1/2+ tsp. salt

1/2+ tsp. freshly ground pepper

3/4 cup freshly chopped tomato

fresh basil

spring of fresh basil for garnish

First the cornmeal crust;

What to do;

adding dry to wet 2

1. In a medium bowl beat butter with electric mixer on medium to high for about 30 seconds.

2. Add sugar and 1/2 tsp. salt. Beat until combined.

3. Beat in 1 of the eggs until combined.

ball is formed 3

4. Beat in cornmeal and flour, until ball begins to form.

5. Shape into disk with hands and wrap in wax paper and chill for 30-60 minutes or until easy to handle.

chilled dough + tart pan

Next, preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

– Lightly press dough on bottom and up sides of 9-inch tart pan with removable bottom…

press into pan and up sides

work dough towards the sides of the pan and then gently with your fingertips, force the dough upwards, along the sides of the tart pan,

even sides

keeping the thickness even all around and up to the brim. This is not as complicated as it sounds. The dough is so malleable, it moves upwards with ease…make sure you keep all sides uniform and to the brim (to prevent overflow, over the top of the crust, when filling).

crust close-up

– Line crust with double thickness of foil and bake for 10 minutes; remove foil and bake for an additional 6-10 minutes more, or until pastry is set.

While that is happening…

pouring cream

eggs + cream blended

– In a medium bowl whisk together the remaining two eggs and cream.

corn + basil added to eggs

blend all

– Stir in corn, basil and 1/2 tsp. salt and pepper.

tart filled

– Pour over crust.

baked

Bake for 35-40 minutes or until set. Let stand for 10-15 minutes. Remove sides of pan to serve.

complete

Top with chopped tomato and fresh basil.

top view slices

side angle view sliced

Makes 8 servings or more if sliced smaller…

tart with cucumbers

 Sliced cucumbers and lime are in the background – I brought a plate of these (cucumbers are plentiful right now) as well as blueberry crisp. Abundant summer fruits – love it!

Enjoy.

summertime potato salad

Potato salad is synonymous with summer in New England (well, at least in my world it is)…

Potato salad and Maine lobster.

Potato salad and hotdogs.

Potato salad and burgers.

Potato salad and veggie burgers.

Potato salad and kabobs.

Potato salad and grilled fish.

Potato salad and just about any sandwich you can think of…

Potato salad.

Need I say more?

Yum.

While I have yet to grow potatoes (on next years list); green beans I’ve mastered…

green beans I've mastered

green beans are what give this potato salad its’ crisp loveliness as well as its’ freshness…

Green beans and lemon juice to be precise.

squeezed lemon

Lemons are another favorite of mine. I love using lemon juice instead of vinegar…plus, lemon juice is so good for us – it’s alkaline (not acidic ) and high in vitamin C – both of which are immune builders…

Back to potatoes and green beans.

Combine the two with a bit of mayo, lemon juice, salt and pepper and you have the makings for a delicious (and nutritious) potato salad.

Enjoy on its’ own or serve as a side to a number of mains…

Potato salad with green beans and onion (preferably, red onion)

print this recipe!

*adapted from the cook book, The Frugal Gourmet

Ingredients;

2 pounds potatoes (russet, gold, yukon), skin on

potatoes in white bowl

3/4 fresh green beans, trimmed and cut into 1″ pieces (this is one recipe I do not recommend using the frozen counterpart)

cut green beans

2 tablespoons olive oil (for blanching)

1/2 cup thinly sliced red onion (white or yellow onion could suffice (as I did here), though, I do recommend red onion – visually and flavor wise, red onion is what this recipe aught to have!)

2 hard boiled eggs

For the dressing;

dressing ingrediants

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil (olive oil will suffice too)

1/4 mayonnaise

Juice of 2 lemons

1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley

salt and pepper

What to do;

Place the potatoes in a pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil uncovered.

Then simmer 30-40 minutes (depending upon type of potato used) or until very tender when pierced with a knife.

Carefully drain and allow to cool.

Once cool, peel and cut the potatoes into 1/2″ cubes.

potatoes cubed

While potatoes are simmering away, blanch the cut beans for about 3-4 minutes in a pot of boiling water (I just use a heavy bottomed skillet, filled 3/4 with water, add the beans and then toss quickly with tongs…) with a pinch of salt and 2 tablespoons olive oil.

blanching green beans

Quickly drain and rinse the beans under cold running water, to stop the cooking…you want them cooked, yet crisp.

Add to the cut potatoes, shredded egg, and onions.

ingrediants added

Prepare the dressing, pour over veggies and egg,

pour dressing

combine dressing with ingrediants

toss gently and finish with freshly chopped parsley, a pinch or two more of salt and freshly ground pepper.

finish with parsely

Enjoy.