Easy Croutons

If you have never tried making your own croutons, you really need to because they are so easy!

Not only are they super simple to make but they taste better than store bought and you can play around with spices and herbs.

And another great thing about homemade croutons is that they are not as HARD as rocks as store bought!!  Unless you really do like them that way….

You can use whatever type of bread you have on hand or left over.  Even the pre-sliced sandwich bread can work.  It’s a great way to use up left-over bread or bread that is going stale.

Whenever I have leftover bread, I either freeze it for later or I immediately make croutons.

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.

I like to slice the bread and then cut into cubes and toss them into a bowl. Mine are about ½ inch to ¾ inch squares.

Drizzle the bread cubes with olive oil.  Sprinkle with a good amount of salt and pepper. Toss well.

Here is where you can start to experiment with spices and herbs.  I usually use chopped thyme.

Try rosemary or chives, a pinch of cayenne pepper for a spicy kick would be fun.  If you are serving the croutons over a salad as a side with turkey or chicken, try some poultry seasoning as a compliment to tie the meal together.

The recipe listed below is based on leftover bread that I had on hand.  You can adjust the ingredients to what you need.  When coating the bread cubes with olive oil, just coat them, do not saturate them!

I baked mine on a stone baking sheet and it worked fine.  Whatever you bake them on, you will need to remove the cookie sheet every few minutes until they are golden and toasted, about 10 minutes.

Croutons

Makes 3 cups of croutons

Preheat oven to 375

3 cups of bread cubes, cut or torn into about 1/2 to ¾ inch cubes

3-4 T of olive oil, or just enough to lightly coat the bread cubes

Generous amount of Salt and Pepper.

1 T chopped thyme leaves

 

1. Gently toss bread cubes with the oil to evenly coat.  Do not saturate the bread cubes.

2. Add salt, pepper and chopped thyme and gently toss.

3. Spread the bread cubes in a single layer over a parchment paper lined cookie sheet.

4. Bake for about 10 minutes or until toasted, removing every few minutes to toss croutons and/or turn the cookie sheet around in the oven.

5. When toasted and golden remove immediately and transfer to a plate to cool.

6. Store in an airtight container in the fridge.

Advertisements

Rosemary Smashed Potatoes

  1. Love. Potatoes. Period.

Always have.  Always will.

When I was little, my gramma made me baked potatoes.  I was a very picky little girl when it came to food, still am to some degree, but my gramma knew the one thing I would eat would be a baked potato.

But these potatoes might be my new favorite!

I had some small potatoes in my fridge leftover from a previous meal and I needed to use them before they went bad, I think I had about 6 of them.  My first thought was I would just get a small roast and pull out my crock pot.

Umm no, did something totally different!

I popped them in the microwave for a few minutes.  You don’t want to cook them until they are completely done, but just close to being done.  You’ll understand in a second…

Remove them from the microwave and let them cool slightly, enough that you can handle them.  While they are cooling heat up a generous amount of olive oil in a fry pan and toss in 2 or 3 large sprigs of rosemary.  Start cooking the rosemary so that it infuses with the oil, over medium heat.

Put one of the potatoes on a cutting board, if it is too large simply cut it in half.  Take a heavy glass and gently press down on the potato to flatten it out a bit.  Now, if the potato is over cooked, it will fall apart.  If it is under cooked, you can’t smoosh it.  Make sense??

Also, do not flatten it out to thin, it really will fall apart!

Carefully place each potato in the hot oil, fry for a few minutes until the bottom is golden, then flip.  As soon as you flip it over, sprinkle with coarse salt.  When the other side is golden, remove from the pan and put the potato, salt side down so you can salt the other side.  Sprinkle with a little bit of chopped rosemary and serve.

Smashed Rosemary Potatoes

Small white potatoes

4 large sprigs of Rosemary, leave 2-3 whole but strip the leaves off of one and chop, ending up with about 1 T for topping

Olive oil

Coarse salt

 

  1. Heat a fry pan with enough oil to fry potatoes, toss in 2-3 sprigs of rosemary and cook to infuse the oil.
  2. Place potatoes in microwave for a few minutes until they are not quite fork tender.  Do not over bake or bake until completely cooked.
  3. When potatoes are cool enough to handle, slice the larger ones in half.  Take a heavy glass and smash each potato to flatten but not too thin.
  4. Fry until golden, flip and salt the cooked side.  When the other side is golden, remove from pan and salt the other side.
  5. Sprinkle with the reserved chopped rosemary and serve.

These potatoes go great with the meatloaf recipe that I posted the other day.

Have an awesome week!

Sun Dried Tomato Fettuccine

This delicious pasta dish is so full of flavor and comes together pretty quickly.

The longest part of the prep is boiling the water for the fettuccine.

While your pasta water is heating up, dice the sun dried tomatoes and get all the other ingredients ready.

In a large frying pan, sauté the sun dried tomatoes in olive oil for a few minutes. Next, add tomato paste and diced tomatoes, I like the fire roasted. Sprinkle in a few red pepper flakes, salt and pepper.

Give everything a good stir, then add either light cream or half and half and stir again.

At this point, if your pasta is not quite ready, turn the heat off to the sauce. When the pasta is al dente, turn the heat on low and continue.

Put the cooked fettuccine noodles in the sauce and sprinkle with parmesan cheese. Add one to two ladles of pasta water to help thin out the sauce but don’t over-do it!!

Top with more parmesan cheese, and a sliver or two of sun dried tomatoes. Basil works too! My basil however, was not pretty!!

Sun Dried Tomato Fettuccine

Serves 4

1 lb fettuccine

1 (14 oz) can of fire roasted tomatoes

¾ to 1 c light cream

½ c grated parmesan cheese

½ c sun dried tomatoes in oil, diced

3 T tomato paste

½ tsp crushed red pepper flakes

Salt and pepper

2 T olive oil

  1. Cook pasta until al dente.
  2. Dice sun dried tomatoes and sauté in olive oil for 1 to 2 minutes.
  3. Add tomato paste, diced tomatoes, and red pepper flakes, salt and pepper. Stir until well blended.
  4. Add cream a little at a time stirring constantly, sauce will be thick.
  5. Immediately add cooked pasta, and a ladle of the pasta water and top with parmesan cheese and toss. Add another ladle of the pasta water if you need the sauce thinned out, but add a little at a time.
  6. Serve with additional cheese, basil and sun dried tomatoes.

 

 

My Favorite Meatloaf Recipe

Meatloaf has always been a hearty comfort food for me.  It was actually the very first meal that I cooked when I was a very, very young teenager, using a recipe from a cookbook for kids.  I think I might have been somewhere around 11 or 12.  I made the meal for my parents and brother, and naturally my brother hated it!

I baked it in a round cake pan, sliced it into pie shapes and put a scoop of mashed potatoes on top, to make it look like pie with ice cream.  Yes my brother made fun of that too!

He was so weird.  Well, maybe I was the weird one!

When I had a family of my own, I made the meatloaf like my Mom did, using torn bread instead of bread crumbs.  My daughter hated it and I believe to this day still hates meatloaf!!  HAHA

I guess those soggy pieces of bread scarred her for life…

Now I like to add finely diced veggies to my meatloaf.  Pretty sure my kids would have definitely not liked this when they were little but I have made it for my son now, he’s all grown up.  And he does like it!

I used about a pound of ground beef.  For the veggies I finely diced red and orange bell peppers, onion and spinach.  I usually include carrots but I didn’t have any this time.  Whatever veggies you use just make sure they are finely diced and the spinach torn.  Sautee the onion and peppers first, toss in the spinach at the end, for just a minute or two.  Then set aside to cool.

I usually use store bought bread crumbs or make my own but this time I took about 12 crackers, the buttery kind, and made crumbs out of them.  I had them left over from holiday entertaining.

I had half and half in the fridge that I needed to use up so I substituted that for the milk I usually use.

My Mom did not use Worcestershire sauce in her meatloaf, but I do.  I think it amps up the flavor.  Same thing with the little squirt of mustard, just a squirt though.

My Mom always used ketchup as a topping, and that’s what I typically do but you can do whatever you like on the top.  Or leave it naked!  But I like how thick the ketchup gets while it’s baking.

I have at times used leftover tomato paste or sauce and doctored it up but I do not typically open new cans for meatloaf topping.   I just use my bottle of ketchup in the fridge.

So let’s get to it!

I like to use a large bowl, add all the ingredients but make sure the veggies are cooled, and use your hands to mix everything together.  Make sure you salt and pepper the mixture before you dive in with your hands!  Shape into a loaf and place into a pan lined with foil, just makes clean up a little easier.  Top with the ketchup and bake for about 45 minutes to an hour at 350.

I am kinda funny about making sure it’s cooked the whole way through so either use a meat thermometer or cut in half to make sure it is cooked through.

Please excuse the poor quality of the pictures, I made this in the evening and my kitchen is not well lit even though every light in the kitchen was on!

Meatloaf

Serves 2-4

Preheat oven to 350

1 pound ground beef

1 cup bell peppers, finely diced

1 small onion, finely diced

1 handful spinach, torn up or chopped

12 buttery crackers, broken into crumbs

1 egg

½ cup half and half

1 squirt of regular mustard

4 dashes of Worcestershire sauce

Salt and pepper

Ketchup for topping

 

1. Sautee the peppers and onion ib olive oil until tender, toss in torn spinach and Sautee for 1-2 minutes.  Set aside to cool.

2. Line a 9×9 or 13×9 baking pan with foil, set aside.

3. Place all ingredients, except the ketchup, in the bowl.  Using your hands, mix together and form into a loaf and place in pan.

4. Top with ketchup.

5. Bake for 45 minutes to an hour until it is cooked through.

6. Let sit for a few minutes, then place the entire loaf on a platter and slice.

Enjoy!

 

 

Balsamic Vinaigrette

Balsamic vinaigrette is by far my favorite salad dressing. I prefer making my own dressings, I can control the salt, sugar and seasonings. And I don’t add in all the chemicals!!

And they are easy to make, just throw the ingredients in a mason jar and shake!!

I can’t tell you how long this will last in your fridge, I’ve been eating salads almost every day so my dressing is usually gone in about 2 weeks or less.

For this dressing, I did not want the Dijon mustard to overtake the balsamic flavor I was going after so I really only used about a ½ tsp. You can use more if you like.

For the main star – the balsamic vinegar, use a good one!! The vinegar I have is a good, thick vinegar, not quite a syrup but really close! That’s the good stuff.

Use your salt, pepper and sugar to taste, remember to start light. You can always add more but you cannot take it back out.

Hope you enjoy!

Balsamic Vinaigrette

¼ cup balsamic vinegar

½ to ¾ teaspoon Dijon mustard, depending on taste preference

¾ cup extra virgin olive oil

Salt and pepper

Pinch of sugar

Pour all ingredients in a jar and shake until well blended

Sheet Pan Shrimp Scampi

I was not expecting this to be as delicious as it turned out so I was practically FORCED to eat a lot!

I will have enough for another meal too.

So easy and quick clean up too! I see more sheet pan dinners in my life.

And ya know what else? This would be great to serve for Valentine’s Day, or an anniversary. Any event that you want to celebrate, this dish is worthy.

I didn’t really measure anything so I will do my best to give you as accurate as I can guesstimate measurements! LOL

The recipe below serves 2 and you can certainly adjust the measurements to serve more. Feel free to substitute the veggies that you like. I think red bell peppers would be tastey in this recipe. Even asparagus tips.

And something else I loved about this other than the simplicity, the quick clean up. I only had the pasta pot, and the cutting board. The sheet pan was clean because I lined it with foil.

I truly do love this recipe and I hope you do too! Let me know if you make it and what you did to make it your own version or the veggies that you substituted.

Sheet Pan Shrimp Scampi        

Serves 2

 ½ pound raw shrimp, peeled, deveined and tails removed

1 cup broccoli florets

Half of a lemon, sliced

1 cup cherry tomatoes, whole

About ½ tsp of minced garlic, optional

¼ cup butter

2 T olive oil

¼ tsp crushed red pepper flakes, more or less to your taste preference

Salt and pepper

Half of a package of thin spaghetti

Preheat oven to 450 degrees

Put the water on to boil for the pasta, cook until al dente.

In a sheet pan place the butter, oil and lemon slices. Bake until the butter is melted and remove.

Add the shrimp, broccoli and tomatoes, toss in the melted butter and oil until everything is coated.

Sprinkle the shrimp and veggies with the crushed red pepper and salt and pepper.

Bake about 5 minutes or until the shrimp is cooked.

Place the pasta in a serving bowl, top with the sauce and grated parmesan cheese.

 

Mudslide Hot Chocolate

This hot chocolate is perfect for these cold, snowy Pennsylvania nights.

I’ll get right to it….

In a small saucepan over medium low heat, heat your milk, about 1-3/4 cups.

Meanwhile in a microwavable cup, add a heaping tablespoon of cocoa, 1 square of semi-sweet chocolate (or whatever you have on hand), and about 2 or 3 tablespoons of sweetened condensed milk. Heat it for about 10 seconds, remove it and stir and pop it back in for another 10 seconds. Do not over heat the chocolate but it should be completely melted.

The milk needs to be hot when combining with the chocolate mixture. Use a small whisk if you have one but a spoon will be just fine. Stir or whisk until the chocolate and the milk are well combined.

Add about 1-1/2 shots of Kahlua. Is there such a thing as one and half shots?? Whatever. It worked for me. Be a rebel and add 2 if you want!

If you are going to be fancy, and why not be fancy! Use a clear glass mug, drizzle with chocolate syrup. Pour the hot chocolate into the fancy chocolate swirled mug. Top with marshmallows, whipped cream, or nothing. Would that be naked hot chocolate?

This alone can be a dessert, it is just that rich.

Enjoy!