Friday, September 30, 2011

Garlic and Herb Pizza topped with Sweet Italian Turkey Sausage, Peppers, Onion, Tomato and Black Olives

Pizza topped with Sweet Italian Turkey Sausage,
Peppers, Onion, Tomato and Black Olives

Note:  Remember... Please click on my food pics to get the full "Food Monty." ;.)

My husband, Dan, is an aspiring home cook too.  He often compliments me on my food, but rarely does he ever say, "This is the best I've ever eaten."  Well, tonight, he said exactly that about this pizza.  In fact, he has officially dubbed this our "go to" Friday night meal! 

The title is long.  It almost seems like this dish needs one of those fancy pizza shop names.  I can't think of one right now.  Maybe you can.  This is a perfect with a glass of Chianti, and it's so filling, you don't even need to make a salad.


For the Sauce:

1  1.6 ounce Package Knorr ® Garlic and Herb Sauce Mix
2 cups 2% Milk (this is more than what the package calls for)
1 tablespoon Butter

For the Pizza:

1 package fresh store-bought Pizza Dough, prepped  to rise per package instructions
1 tablespoon Olive Oil, plus extra for brushing crust
2/3 cup thinly sliced sweet Onion
1 Banana Pepper, seeded and sliced
1 small (or several extra small) green pepper(s), seeded and sliced
2 Sweet Italian Turkey Sausage Links, casing removed
4 ounces Shredded Part Skim Mozzarella Cheese
2/3 cup canned Petite Diced Tomato, drained of juice (Suggest Muir Glen Organic)*
7 Black Seasoned Italian Olives, sliced
1/8 cup Shredded Asiago Cheese

Cooking Spray
Fresh Chopped Basil

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Cook sauce per package directions (except for the amount of milk you will use).

Saute peppers and onions in olive oil, about three minutes.  Remove to bowl.

Crumble sausage in the same pan and brown, about five five minutes.

Lightly grease cookie sheet with cooking spray and flour pan. 

Using flour to help you roll, roll out the dough to desired thickness.  I recommend that you don't worry about getting it too round or too perfect. 

Note:  The thinner you roll this out, the crisper the crust will be. 

Top the pizza dough with half of the cooked sauce.  Reserve the remainder for another dish.

Top with Mozzarella Cheese, tomato, peppers and onions, sausage, olives and Asiago cheese.

Bake for 22 minutes (less if crust is thinner, more if it's thicker).  After this time, brush exposed edges of the pizza with a little olive oil and continue to bake for two more minutes until edges are browned.

Top with fresh chopped Basil.

Note:  No product was supplied to blogger and not a paid endorsement.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Linguine with "Popped" Red Clam Sauce

Linguine with "Popped" Red Clam Sauce

Cook's Note:  Linguine, linguinie, or linguini?  Do a Google and you come up with so many different spellings.  Even the two boxes of pasta I have in my pantry are spelled differently.  I went with Linguine, which I think is the most common (and correct) spelling.  At any rate, enjoy -- even if you spell it differently!

There are few dishes that taste better to me than one prepared with a mixture of popped cherry tomatoes and clams; especially when it’s topped with fresh herbs.  Sure, I love cherry tomatoes al dente; sautéed with garlic and tossed with bow tie pasta and fresh basil.  But when you let those cherry tomato suckers “pop,” especially when they are mixed with the clams, you get a fresh, seaside flavor sensation like nothing you’ve ever tasted before.

So tonight I am showcasing another easy pasta dish.  This one I know you will adore. 

By the way -- you know I love whole grain pasta, but for this, I splurge and use the “real” stuff.   

All you need to round out this lovely meal is a simple side salad and a little garlic bread. 

Weeknights never tasted so delicious.


½ pound Linguine
2 tablespoons Olive Oil
2 cloves fresh Garlic, minced
1 pint Cherry Tomatoes, sliced in half
2 Anchovy Fillets
Pinch or two of Crushed Red Pepper, to taste
¼ cup Dry White Wine
6.5 ounce can Chopped Clams, drained and juice reserved
4 ounces bottled Clam Juice
2 tablespoons butter, sliced into four pieces
Chopped fresh Basil, for topping
Chopped fresh Parsley, for topping

Cook pasta per package directions and chop fresh cherry tomatoes and garlic.

In a medium skillet, add olive oil and garlic.  Cook over low heat until garlic softens but does not brown, about three minutes.

Add cherry tomatoes, anchovy and crushed red pepper.  Cook for two-to-three more minutes. 

Add white wine, scraping any bits from the bottom of the pan.

Add juice from clams (but not clams).  Add bottled clam juice.  Bring to boil and reduce to simmer, about five minutes.  During this time, add one pat of butter at a time to thicken the sauce up.  By now those tomatoes should be “popping.”

Serve over cooked pasta.  Top with fresh herbs.

Chili Lime Cornish Hen

Cornish hens look fancy, but the preparation doesn't have to be elaborate.  This is a quick and easy dish to prepare.  So easy, you'll want to make it over and over again. 

Chili Lime Cornish Hen


¼ Cup Olive Oil
2 Tablespoons Chili Powder
4  tablespoons Lime Juice, divided
Sea Salt, to taste2 Cornish Hens, cleaned
Freshly Chopped Culantro or Cilantro

Preheat oven to 350.

Mix olive oil, chili powder and ½ the lime juice, and salt into a bowl.  Toss Cornish hens into mixture.  Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Bake Cornish hen on a rack for one hour, basting with remaining lime juice repeatedly during the last 20 minutes.

Top with Fresh Culantro. 

Monday, September 26, 2011

Fusion Sofrito

Fusion Sofrito

So many Sofrito recipes on the Internet, so little time to research.  Between a full time job, my blog, writing my cookbook and revising a screenplay, not to mention finding time to workout and for my husband and dog (did I mention testing recipes and cleaning my own house?) - there is little time for a good night's sleep these days, much less anything else.

So, when I thought about making Sofrito, I went to an expert. 

My friend, Sandra, is from Puerto Rico.  She gave me the low down on the difference between Puerto Rican Sofrito, Cuban, and what is commonly made in the Dominican Republic.  In Puerto Rico, the locals like to use Banana Peppers and no tomato.  She uses Annato for the color.  

I am going to try Sandra's recipe very soon.  The reason I changed it up is because I had over-ripe tomatoes that I had to use up.  I think my version tonight is more of a "Caribbean Fusion" version. 

Call it what you like.  It is delicious.

Tonight,  I simply braised two skinless chicken leg quarters in the Sofrito with a little beer I had leftover from my rib recipe last night, and I threw in a shot of Puerto Rican spiced rum for good measure.  Yum.   I have to tell you, that chicken rocked! 

No matter what you want to make with this-  from pork roast to beans and rice - you are sure to love my Fusion Sofrito.

Note:  Sandra recommends freezing the remainder in ice cube trays so you've got it ready no matter what you are serving.  Thank you, Chica, for your great advice!


2/3 cup Olive Oil
1 small Green Bell Pepper, diced
1 Banana Pepper, diced
1 small Yellow Onion, diced
3 medium Tomatoes, seeded and diced
1 head of Garlic, peeled and cloves separated and smashed with the back of knife
Big bunch of Cilantro or Cultanto, to taste
1 tablespoon Adobo Seasoning
Freshly Ground Black Pepper, to taste

Pour 1/2 cup of the Olive Oil into a pan.   Reserve the remaining oil.

Saute green peppers, banana pepper and onion for about five minutes, until the edges start to crisp up.

Place remaining ingredients (except for the additional olive oil) into a food processor.  Pour pepper and onion mixture over the top of these ingredients.  Pulse six or seven times until everything in blended.

Drizzle in remaining Olive Oil.  Process repeatedly for about 30 seconds until everything is blended.

Cook.  Eat.  Live.  Enjoy!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

St. Louis Style Sweet Heat Ribs

"St. Louis" style is a cut of spareribs that involves removing the skirt meat on the back side (bone side) of the slab.  The butcher also cuts off the brisket.   This is my version using an easy "Sweet Heat" rub and a tangy semi-homemade BBQ sauce.  All you need are a couple store bought sides, like cinnamon apples and mini corn ears. 

St. Louis Style Sweet Heat Ribs

The addition of the beer in the sauce gives this a St. Louis style zing!

Note:  This recipe makes enough rub and sauce for 2 pounds of St. Louis Ribs.

For the rub:

1  tablespoon Cajun Seasoning (more to taste)
1/4 teaspoon Cayenne Pepper (more to taste)
1 tablespoon Light Brown Sugar

For the sauce:

1/3 cup Honey Barbecue Sauce
1/3 cup Heinz 57 Steak Sauce*
1 cup Light Beer

Rub ribs with the seasoning blend.   If you like it hot, go for the extra heat. 

Cover ribs with tin foil and refrigerate at least one hour.

Remove from refrigerator at least 20 minutes before grilling.

Preheat grill to 400 degrees.

Wrap ribs in tin foil and place on grill over indirect heat  - turn off center burner(s).  Keep lid closed on grill, checking periodically to make sure that ribs are not burning.  Cook for one hour.

In a saucepan, combine barbecue sauce, steak sauce and beer.  Stir well.  Bring to boil and reduce to simmer about 20 minutes until sauce reduces and thickens up.  Keep sauce warm until ready to use.

Carefully remove ribs from tin foil and grill them up both sides; approximately 7 minutes the first (meaty) side and three to four minutes on the back side.  

Carefully return ribs to tin foil, which still should have the juices remaining in it.  Baste ribs with barbecue sauce on both sides.  Using your tongs, close the foil back up. 

Continue to cook over low, indirect heat for another fifteen minutes.  Turn all burners back on and cook the ribs for 20 more minutes.   Grills vary so adjust cooking time accordingly.
You want the meat to be tender and to fall off the bone when you eat it, but to hold it's shape as ribs when you cut into it.

*No product was supplied to blogger and not a paid endorsement.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Gnocchi and Gorgonzola "Pie" with Sunday Sauce

Gnocchi and Gorgonzola "Pie"
with Sunday Sauce

I cannot tell a lie - this "pie" is very rich; richer than I normally post here on Just for Cooking.  My Sunday sauce is where you will save the calories.  The secret:  Fresh ingredients, it's low sodium but packed with flavor, and it's made with ground chicken breast. 

This sauce takes a little time - that is why I call this a "Sunday Sauce," - but you can always make it the night before or make it and freeze it until you are ready to use it in this recipe.  The assembly and baking of the Gnocchi pie only takes minutes.  If you have the sauce ready, you can even make this on a busy weeknight.

Oh, and by the way, my friend from work today pointed out that most of the dishes I make are made with some sort of alcohol.  Maybe I should change the name of this blog to "Just for Cooking with Booze."  ;.)

Here I go again --

For the Sunday Sauce:

2 tablespoons Olive Oil
1 pound Ground Chicken Breast
1 tablespoon Onion Powder
1/2 teaspoon All Spice
Freshly Ground Black Pepper, to taste
1/2 tablespoon Crushed Red Pepper
1 tablespoon Italian Seasoning
2 cloves fresh Garlic, minced
1/8 cup Dry White Wine
1 28 ounce can Crushed Plum Shaped Tomato in Juice
1/2 cup Beef Broth
Sea Salt, to taste
1/4 cup grated Parmesan Cheese
1/4 cup 2% Milk

For the Gnocchi Pie:

2 1/2 cups Sunday Sauce
1 pound Gnocchi
3 ounces crumbled Gorgonzola Cheese
Fresh Basil or Oregano (or both) for garnish

In a large sauce pot, add oil and ground chicken.  Brown chicken over medium heat, approximately five minutes.

Add onion powder,  All Spice, black pepper, crushed red pepper and Italian Seasoning.  Cook for three-to-four more minutes.

Add minced garlic.  Cook for one more minute.

Add wine.  Deglaze pan by scraping the browned bits from the bottom.

Add tomatoes and juice.  Break up the tomatoes with the back of a wooden spoon.

Add broth and sea salt. 

Bring to boil and reduce to simmer.  Cover and cook for at least four hours (longer if you have the time), stirring occasionally. 

Stir in Parmesan Cheese and milk right before serving.

To make the pie:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Ladle sauce on the bottom of 9 inch pie pan. 
Top with cooked Gnocchi
Top with Gorgonzola cheese.
Ladle more sauce around the rim of the pie.

Bake for 15 - 20 minutes until Gorgonzola is golden.

Top with fresh herbs (optional).

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Spaghetti alla Carbonara

Spaghetti alla Carbonara

I promised you three pasta dishes this week.  Pasta recipe #2 is my take on Spaghetti alla Carbonara. 

My version is made with low carb spaghetti, and I use egg substitute because it's lower in calories, does not tend to scramble as easily and you don't have to worry about eating raw egg as it's pasteurized. 

I use chives instead of parsley, and my dish is also made with a good 1/2 cup of Pinot Grigio.  Because Dan and I often eat late on the weekdays due to our work schedule, this is a perfect quick weeknight meal.  The incorporation of the peas makes it a one dish dinner.  All you need is garlic bread, a glass of wine, and you are ready to eat!


1/2 pound Low Carb Spaghetti (I used Dreamfields*)
1 tablespoon Light Olive Oil
3 ounces chopped Pancetta
2 cloves fresh Garlic, minced
1 cup Pinot Grigio wine
1 tablespoon cold Butter
1/4 cup Egg Substitute (real egg product)
1/2 cup Petite Frozen Peas
Freshly ground Pepper, to taste
1/2 cup grated Parmesan Cheese
2 tablespoons fresh chopped Chives

Cook pasta per package directions.  Drain but reserve a ladle full of the starchy cooking water.

Add olive oil to skillet.  Heat oil over high heat until it sizzles.

Add pancetta.  Reduce heat to medium.  Cook for five minutes.  Add garlic.  Cook for one more minute until garlic becomes golden but not brown. 

Add wine.  Stir.  Bring to boil and reduce to simmer, about five minutes until wine reduces by half.

Add cold butter.  Once butter melts, remove the sauce from the heat.  Add the frozen peas, stir, and cover to keep warm until ready to toss with pasta.

Add cooked pasta and egg product.  Quickly whisk together so that egg doesn't scramble.  Add peppe and cheese and toss all ingredients well.  Add a little of the starchy cooking water if sauce is too thick (note, this will also help the sauce adhere to the pasta).

Top with fresh chives and serve immediately.

Special note:  I just found out today that my recipe was published in -

"Taste of Home, Holiday and Celebrations 2011" cookbook.  Herb-Crusted Rack of Lamb with Mushroom Sauce - page 51

* Not a paid endorsement and no product was given to blogger.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Linguine with Tuna, Capers and Olives

Happy Monday, everyone! 

This week, it's all about pasta on Just for Cooking!  During these tough economic times, pasta dishes can be so affordable.  You can feed a small army!

I am going to showcase three pasta dishes over the course of this week:

Linguine with Tuna, Capers and Olives

Tonight I am making Linguine Con Tonno, Capperi, E Olive - better known as Linguine with Tuna, Capers and Olives.  It's my delicious version which consists of an "almost" no cook sauce served with healthy whole grain linguine. 

Later on this week, look for my healthier take on Spaghetti alla Carbonara.

Finally, I'll be showing you how to make my Potato Gnocchi "Pie" made with a slow cooked chicken Bolognese and topped with creamy Gorgonzola.

The first two dishes are easy weekday meals.  The last is totally decadent, and perfect for a Sunday supper.

So, let's get started -  


1/2 pound Whole Grain Linguine
1 - 5 ounce Can Italian Tuna (Tonno) in Olive Oil, drained and oil reserved
Zest of one medium Lemon
Juice of 1/2 medium Lemon
1 cup chopped Olives (black, Kalamata and green - or your choice)
1/2 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil, plus more for drizzling at the table
2 cloves Garlic, minced
1 tablespoon large Capers in Vinegar (not drained)
3-4 Anchovy Fillets
Crushed Red Pepper, to taste
Fresh Chopped Parsley, for garnish

Optional Add-In Ingredients:  Seeded chopped Tomato, Arugula or Baby Spinach

Cook linguine per package directions.

In a heat-proof mixing bowl, combine flaked tuna, oil from tuna, zest of lemon, lemon juice and chopped olives.  If using tomato, add in at this time.

In a non-stick skillet, heat 1/2 cup olive oil.  Add anchovies, crushed red pepper and garlic.  Cook over low heat until anchovies dissolve and you begin to smell the aromatic scent of the garlic and crushed red pepper.

Combine hot anchovy mixture with tuna and other ingredients in the mixing bowl.  Add cooked pasta.  Toss well.  If using arugula or spinach (not pictured), add at this time.

Transfer to a serving bowl.  Top with parsley. 

If you like this dish, you might also like:

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Asparagus and Artichoke Parmesan

Asparagus & Artichoke Parmesan

This is a quick and easy side dish I know you are going to love.  It's creamy, it's savory, and I know you're going to want to make it over and over again.


3/4 lb. pencil thin Asparagus, sliced into thirds (woody part of the stem discarded)
2 tablespoons Water
8 ounces canned Artichoke Hearts (not oil packed), quartered
3 ounces Kraft Philadelphia Italian Herb Cooking Creme
1/8 cup grated Light Parmesan Cheese
Freshly Ground Pepper, to taste
Cooking Spray

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Add sliced asparagus and water to a microwave safe bowl.  Cover and heat on high about four minutes, until asparagus are tender.

Add sliced artichokes and cooking creme.  Carefully mix, incorporating  the hot water used to steam the asparagus.

Spray 9 inch pie pan with cooking spray.  Add mixture of asparagus and artichokes.  Spread mixture out evenly.  Top with Parmesan cheese and pepper. 

Bake for 15 - 20 minutes until cheese topping turns golden brown.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Fegato di Vitello e Cipolle alla Lambrusco

Fegato di Vitello e Cipolle alla Lambrusco

Calf's Liver and Onions Lambrusco
served with
Asparagus and Artichoke Parmesan

Impressive title for tonight's dish, huh?  If I had posted this as Calf's Liver and Onions Lambrusco, would you still be reading? 

People say they "hate" liver.  I believe those folks have never had liver prepared properly.

And Lambrusco is a highly underrated wine. It's a soft red wine. It is so refreshing when slightly chilled, and it pairs well with many Italian dishes. Even people who don't like red wine tend to like Lambrusco.

Here you go - two misfits (liver and Lambrusco) coming together to make one spectacular dish; tender calf liver, braised with onions, mushrooms, rosemary and thyme, and finished with the Lambrusco and crispy pancetta.

Note:  I do not speak Italian. I am stringing together several Italian words here in the hope that my Italian is even remotely correct.  Culture snobs; feel free to laugh at me or scold me if you feel strongly enough about it.  Or you can just chill -- let it go and have a glass of Lambrusco!

Note 2: If you absolutely will not eat liver, you can make this dish using thin sliced chicken breast.  You will need to adjust the cooking time accordingly.  Of course, you'll have to change the name to Pollo e Cipolle alla Lambrusco. 

Serves 2


1/2 lb Calf Liver - 2 slices (defrosted if frozen)
2 tablespoons All Purpose flour
Sea Salt, to taste
Freshly Ground Black Pepper, to taste
1 tablespoon Olive Oil
1/4 cup Pancetta, diced (substitute American Bacon)
1 Sweet Onion, thinly sliced
1/2 lb Button Mushrooms, sliced
2 tablespoons Butter
1 teaspoon dried Thyme
1 teaspoon Crushed Rosemary
1/4 cup Lambrusco Wine
Fresh Parsley for garnish, optional

Dredge liver in flour seasoned with salt and pepper. 

Add Olive Oil to pan.  When oil is hot, add pancetta.  Cook for three minutes.  Remove to bowl.

In the same pan, add the onions, mushroom and butter.  Sauté for three minutes.

Add dried thyme and rosemary.  Cook for one more minute. 

Add liver to pan.  Cook for two minutes.  Carefully flip the liver, as it will tend to break.

Add Lambrusco wine and braise for 3-4 more minutes.  Liver should remain tender but should be cooked through.

Serve liver topped with the mushrooms, onions and the Lambrusco sauce. 

Top with fresh parsley if using.

On Sunday night, I'll be posting the recipe for tonight's side dish.  I was going to post it with this dish tonight but it's so good -- it deserves it own showcase.  

Stay tuned!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Tuscan Garden Tuna Salad

Tuscan Garden Tuna Salad

I've never been to Tuscany, but I am transported there every time I eat this beautiful salad.  Broccoli, artichokes and sun dried tomato marinated in a Balsamic Vinaigrette, topped with tuna, grape tomato and soy nuts.

This is great for a fancy luncheon.  I sometimes make it for myself for dinner on those days when the hubby is away on business and I need a virtual vacation from life.

Serves 4


1 medium head Broccoli, cut into florets
1/4 cup Julienne cut Sun Dried Tomato, reconstituted in hot water
5 large Artichoke Hearts, quartered (not packed in oil)
2 tablespoons Balsamic Vinegar
1 teaspoon Seasoned Salt
1 teaspoon Italian Seasoning
Freshly ground Black Pepper, to taste
3 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 5 oz Can Chunk Light Tuna packed in water or Italian Tuna packed in oil
1 cup sliced Grape Tomatoes
Lemon Wedges, optional
Soy Nuts for topping, optional

Place broccoli florets in a microwave safe bowl along with two tablespoons of water.  Cover with plastic wrap.  Microwave on high for three minutes.  If you don't like to use plastic wrap in the microwave, you can also blanch the broccoli on the stove. 

Tip:  Carefully remove wrap and add ice cubes to the broccoli to stop the cooking process.

Drain broccoli once it's slightly cooled.

Add broccoli, reconstituted sun dried tomatoes and sliced artichoke hearts to salad bowl.  Carefully mix with vinegar, seasoned salt, Italian seasoning and olive oil. 

Cover and marinate in the refrigerator for at least one hour. 

When ready to serve, spoon portions of the salad onto a serving plate.  Top with tuna, lemon slices, tomato and soy nuts, if using.