Monday, April 30, 2012

Sunday Night's Pesto Roasted Salmon & Bruschetta Gnocchi

Youngest son came for Sunday dinner and one of his favorite things to eat is salmon.  I decided to try something different with salmon and got the idea from a recipe I had seen on another blog, "Proud Italian Cook".  I absolutely love her blog.  In her recipe, she roasted salmon that she topped with pesto (using her own homemade pesto with roasted garlic) sounded wonderful.  I decided to make a quicker version by just using store bought fresh pesto.  I was initially a bit concerned that the pesto might overpower the delicate flavor of the salmon, but found out that it actually does not.  What I realize is that typically, most of us have eaten pesto in its raw state, simply tossed with cooked pasta...where the herb and garlic flavor is significantly stronger more pungent.  But in this particular recipe, since the pesto is added prior to cooking, it cooks along with the salmon so any strong flavors are muted by the cooking process and you are left with a very delicate herb flavor that really complements the salmon's delicate flavor.  We thoroughly enjoyed this dish and will definitely be making it again!

This recipe was so easy and I must say...absolutely delicious.  I used a large 2+ pound piece of salmon that I cut it into individual filets.  I placed the salmon filets on a foil lined baking pan, drizzled them with a little olive oil and sprinkled lightly with salt and pepper.  I then brushed them with the fresh pesto sauce and set them aside to "marinate" at room temperature for about 15 minutes.  I placed the salmon filets into a preheated 450 degree oven and then immediately cut the temperature back to 425 degrees and roasted them (uncovered) for 12 minutes.  I removed them from the oven after 12 minutes of roasting and immediately covered them with aluminum foil and let them sit for another 10 minutes to complete the cooking process outside of the oven (under the foil).

Another one of my son's favorites is bruschetta (typically eaten on toasted slices of Italian bread).  He also loves gnocchi (small dumplings made from potato, semolina or flour, typically served with a sauce) I decided to make a side dish to go with our meal that incorporated both of these together in one dish....hence "Bruschetta Gnocchi" was born!  I have been on a bit of a "NatureSweet" Cherubs tomato binge recently (I absolutely love their little oblong red cherry tomatoes called "Cherubs").  This weekend I had also picked up their little yellow cherry tomatoes called "Sunbursts".  While perusing the NatureSweet Facebook page this afternoon, I saw where they had shared a link for The Pioneer Woman's "Bruschetta Chicken" where she had used both of their red and yellow colorful little gems in her bruschetta...and the light bulb went off.  I knew what our side dish was going to be to accompany our Pesto Roasted was going to be "Bruschetta Gnocchi".  I used her bruschetta recipe as the inspiration to create my "Bruschetta Gnocchi" in my recipe below, her recipe has been modified a little...but it is very similar to hers.  I added a small baby romaine salad to the plate to balance out the meal.  This was a delicious and nutritious meal and the salmon was literally "melt in your mouth tender"...everyone loved it.  I've posted the recipe and pics for both the Pesto Roasted Salmon and Bruschetta Gnocchi below.  Enjoy!

These were beautiful salmon filets -- I cooked extra to use through the week.
After seasoning with olive oil, salt and pepper...I added a dollop of pesto to each filet
The pesto sauce has been spread on top of the filets and they will "marinate" for 15 minutes

I roasted extra salmon to use for salads during the week
These are the gorgeous tomatoes I used -- NatureSweet Cherubs and Sunbursts
Gently heating the tomatoes in the pan after sauteing the garlic

The garlic and "gently" heated tomatoes are tossed with the balsamic vinegar, basil, salt & pepper
The cooked gnocchi are lightly sauteed in olive oil
The gnocchi are tossed with the tomato mixture and ready to be served
Just in case you were wondering if it was tender...IT WAS ABSOLUTELY PERFECT!

Pesto Roasted Salmon


1-2 pounds of salmon filets (or enough for the number of people you're serving)
Olive oil for drizzling
Salt & pepper, to taste
Pesto, homemade or store bought fresh

On a foil lined baking pan, lightly drizzle each salmon filet with olive oil and season lightly with salt and pepper.  Spread each filet with a dollop (tablespoon or so) of pesto and set aside to "marinate" for about 15 minutes.  Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Place salmon in oven and immediately reduce heat to 425 degrees and roast/bake for 12 minutes.  Remove salmon from oven and immediately cover tightly with foil for an additional 10-15 minutes to complete the cooking out of the oven under the foil cover.  Enjoy!


Bruschetta Gnocchi
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 1 cup red cherry tomatoes, sliced in half (I used NatureSweet Cherubs)
  • 1 cup yellow cherry tomatoes, sliced in half (I used NatureSweet Sunbursts)
  • 2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
  • 8 whole fresh basil leaves, sliced thinly (chiffonade)
  • Salt & pepper, to taste
  • 1 pound gnocchi, cooked according to package directions
  • Fresh grated Parmesan cheese (I used Parmigiano Reggiano)
In a medium skillet, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add garlic and stir, lightly sauteing for a few minutes until very lightly browned; toss in the tomatoes and continue sauteing for a few minutes until the tomatoes are heated through (do not cook them, just heat through). Pour tomato/garlic mixture into a mixing bowl and stir in balsamic vinegar; allow to cool slightly, then stir in fresh basil.  Season to taste with salt and pepper and set aside.

Wipe skillet out and drizzle in a little more oil; toss in cooked gnocchi and saute, stirring frequently, until very lightly browned or golden.  Toss gnocchi into the bowl of tomatoes and stir to combine.  Serve immediately, topped with freshly grated Parmesan cheese.

These are the gnocchi I used for this dish
Dessert was a piece of store bought Sour Cream Angel Food Cake served with the Fresh Strawberry Sauce I made on was light, quick and delicious

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Strawberry Sundaes made with Fresh Strawberry Sauce

For dessert Saturday night, I decided to make a dessert that was a bit lighter and one that would use the fresh strawberries I bought at Costco...and since youngest son has a big sweet tooth, I decided to make Strawberry Sundaes.  So, I made a quick and easy homemade strawberry sauce using some of the fresh strawberries.  It was so easy.  I cut the berries into halves or quarters (depending on the size of the berry) until I had about 4 cups.  I then put them in a saucepan and added 1/3 cup sugar and heated them at medium-high heat and began crushing them a bit with a potato masher until they began releasing their juice.  I cooked them for 5-10 minutes until they came to a light boil and then turned them off and added 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla and stirred in an additional 6 sliced berries into the hot mixture and set aside until cool.  I wanted to have pieces and slices of berries in my sauce, but if you prefer a smoother sauce, you can either toss the mixture into a blender or use an immersion blender to make the sauce the consistency you prefer.  I served the sauce over Kemps lowfat frozen vanilla yogurt, but you could use it to mix into yogurt, put on pancakes, waffles, pound cake, angel food cake or anything you enjoy the taste of fresh strawberries with.  You can adjust the amount of sweetness to suit your own tastes by increasing or decreasing the sugar.  You could also use a sugar substitute in place of the sugar too if you prefer. The ratio I used provided a not too sweet and not too tart sauce.  It was good and tasted like fresh berries.

Here are the strawberries I picked up at Costco this weekend
Here's a peek inside the package
Here is a closer look at the "strawberry field of dreams"
Strawberry Sundae with fresh strawberry sauce (made with the berries) on top of Kemps lowfat frozen vanilla yogurt...deelish!

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Grilled Chicken-Mozzarella & Grilled Veggie Ravioli in Fireworks Sauce

Today we ran a bunch of errands and of course, made our Costco run too.  I bought another huge tray of big beautiful strawberries there.  They really have some of the most beautiful that I've seen.  Youngest son came for dinner tonight so I decided to make him a spectacular meal.  I made a really delicious ravioli dish by combining 2 different flavors of Pasta Prima ravioli.  I combined 1 package of their Grilled Chicken Mozzarella ravioli with 1 package of their Grilled Garden Vegetable Ravioli.  Their ravioli are some of the best I've had -- they are really packed full of good stuff...not scarcely filled like many other brands can be.  The Grilled Chicken Mozzarella ravioli is stuffed with chicken and mozzarella cheese.  This is the first time I've tried the Grilled Garden Vegetable ravioli and they were really good.  They are chocked full of grilled zucchini, eggplant, red bell pepper, basil, mozzarella and Parmesan cheese. 

To complement the ravioli dish, I had hubby grill 3 zucchinis and 3 yellow squash that I brushed with olive oil that I seasoned with Italian seasoning, sea salt and pepper.  I sliced them and set them aside.  I diced a red bell pepper and an orange bell pepper and sauteed them in olive oil until they were tender and then added about 1 cup of halved fresh Cherubs (little red oblong cherry tomatoes) to the peppers and sauteed just until they were heated through.  In another pan I added a jar of Del Grosso's "Uncle Fred's Fireworks Sauce" which is a spicy and very flavorful sauce, and heated until heated through.  I then added about 1/3 cup of half-n-half to the sauce which slightly blunts some of the spice and gives the sauce a nice creamy finish and smoothness.  I mixed the sauce with the cooked red and orange bell peppers and tomatoes.  I arranged the 2 kinds of ravioli over a small pool of sauce on a plate.  I then spooned the sliced grilled zucchini and yellow squash on top of the ravioli and topped with more sauce and fresh sliced basil.  It was absolutely delicious!  We enjoyed crusty hot multigrain baguette bread with our meal.  It honestly tasted better than any meal I've ever had at even the nicest of Italian restaurants.  The grilled fresh veggies and spicy delicate sauce really complemented the mixture of these two flavors of ravioli.  Everything went well together.  I snapped a few pics for you to see below.  It was as beautiful as it was delicious.  I will definitely recreate this one again!

This was awesome sauce...really good!
A few of the veggies that went into this dish
Zucchini and yellow squash are ready to come off the grill
Grilled Garden Vegetable Ravioli
Grilled Chicken & Mozzarella Ravioli
Here's an "aerial view"  :-)
Topped with freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese

Friday, April 27, 2012

Chicken Kebabs....Friday night special's Friday night!!!  Tonight we traveled to foreign lands via our dinner menu!  I had one more pack of Perdue boneless chicken breasts in the fridge and decided to make grilled chicken kebabs for dinner.  I actually got a jump start on tonight's dinner last night.  I made the marinade and cut the chicken into chunks and marinated the chicken overnight last night so it would be ready to thread on skewers and grill tonight.  I also had red bell pepper and Vidalia onions that would be great grilled on skewers as well.  All of a sudden this evening, it looked like it could pour down I got everything ready as soon as I walked in the door so hubby could start grilling immediately when he got home.  As I type this, it is bright and sunny out my front door and dark and ominous looking out my back's kind of weird actually....either way, we beat the rain....yeah!

I made some Near East brown rice pilaf to serve with hubby's kebabs.  This was a new marinade recipe I was called Yogurt Marinade with Aleppo Pepper.  I must say, it turned out so flavorful and we really liked it.  Penzey's Spices describes the taste of Aleppo pepper as: "This Turkish crushed chili has an ancho-like flavor with a little more heat and tartness."  The only item I didn't have for the marinade was the Aleppo pepper, but the substitution for Aleppo pepper is "1 part cayenne and 4 parts sweet Hungarian paprika".  I had the Hungarian paprika and the cayenne so that is what I used.  I snapped a few pictures of our meal for you to see below.  It was an absolutely gorgeous and delicious meal.  I felt like we got to travel around the world for dinner this evening.  I will include the marinade recipe below too.  Enjoy!

Red peppers and Vidalia onions waiting to be grilled
Marinated chicken kebabs waiting to be grilled
Peppers and onions grilling now...we added a skewer of Cherubs tomatoes to the grill too
Chicken kebabs are grilling away...they're almost done!

Yogurt Marinade with Aleppo Pepper

1-1/2 tablespoons Aleppo pepper (OR 4 teaspoons sweet Hungarian paprika plus 1 teaspoon cayenne)
1 cup whole milk Greek style yogurt
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
6 cloves of garlic, peeled and flattened
1 unpeeled lemon, sliced thinly into rounds
2 pounds skinless boneless chicken breasts or thighs, cut into 1-1/4 inch cubes
Bamboo skewers soaked in water for 30 minutes

Place Aleppo pepper (or substitute) in a large bowl and mix in 1-2 tablespoons of warm water, letting stand about 5 minutes until it becomes a thick paste.  Add yogurt, olive oil, red wine vinegar, tomato paste, 2 teaspoons salt and 1 teaspoon black pepper to spice mixture bowl.  Whisk to blend; stir in garlic and lemon slices; add chicken and mix to coat thoroughly.  Cover and refrigerate at least 1 hour or overnight.  Thread on skewers and grill until done. 

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Thursday's Easy Spicy Grilled Chicken & Biscoff Frozen Yogurt

This evening, hubby had to work a little I got everything ready for dinner ahead of time so all he had to do when he got home was toss the chicken on the grill.  We had grilled boneless skinless chicken thighs.  The way we like to eat them is so simple and tasty.  I spread them out on a platter and spray both sides of them with Pam cooking spray and then sprinkle them with Montreal Spicy Steak Seasoning and then we grill them.  They don't stick to the grill, they don't burn, they don't dry out...they come out perfect every time!  You would think they would burn without any skin, but they don't.  We had a small bowl of leftover cooked carrots to use and I also steamed some fresh broccoli because we like a lot of veggies.  I had a few small red potatoes left in the pantry, so I cut them up and boiled and mashed them.  It was a simple, quick and easy meal that helped use up some of the leftovers from meals earlier this week.  It probably only took about 20 minutes to put this dinner together which is about how long it took for hubby to grill the chicken.

I also whipped together a really tasty little dessert -- Biscoff Frozen Yogurt.  I literally had only about 1 cup of lowfat vanilla frozen yogurt left in the freezer.  I could have just eaten it plain and enjoyed it...but I have been wanting to make a dessert using the Biscoff cookie spread I bought several weeks ago and a little light bulb suddenly went off!  I softened my little bowl of vanilla frozen yogurt and then added a rounded teaspoon or so of Biscoff spread and whipped it around so it became the texture of "soft serve ice cream" (some of the Biscoff spread incorporated into the yogurt and some remained as swirls).  I stuck 2 Biscoff cookie biscuits in the bowl.  I was actually eating Biscoff Frozen Yogurt!  How can I say this without sounding too excited....IT WAS ABSOLUTELY DELICIOUS!  Definitely an OMG moment!  The Biscoff flavor permeated that little bowl of frozen yogurt...and the Biscoff cookies kind of supplied the "ice cream cone crunch".  If you like will love this and it took only 2 minutes to make.  I snapped a pic for you to see.  For those of you that don't know what Biscoff cookies are...they are known as "Europe's favorite cookie with coffee"...and they have been served on domestic and international airlines since 1984.  Enjoy the pics -- there are only 2 pics this time -- imagine that!  :-)

In case you are interested in reading a little bit about the history of Biscoff cookies, I have copied some info from their website for you to read. If you haven't tried should.  They are simple little "not too sweet" crispy biscuit type cookies and they really do go well with coffee (or better yet, dunked in your coffee).

About Biscoff

BIScuits & COFFee

Biscoff is the name given to the traditional Speculoos biscuits in North America. It's derived from the combination of words Biscuit and Coffee, simply because their caramel flavor and crisp texture make these cookies the perfect accompaniment to a cup of coffee or espresso drink.
Speculoos are decorative caramelized biscuits and they were traditionally used to celebrate weddings and births, to teach history, and to chronicle war in Europe. Today Speculoos make up 20% of all the cookies eaten in Belgium and are still an important part of their culture.

Original Recipe Since 1932

Biscoff cookies are baked using the original recipe created in 1932. They are made with all natural ingredients, using no artificial colors or preservatives. They are vegan and contain 0 grams trans fat and 0 cholesterol per serving. All Biscoff cookies are baked in Lembeke, Belgium by Lotus Bakeries.

Introduction to the U.S. – The Airline Cookie

Successful in Europe for decades, Biscoff’s popularity ‘soared’ when it was discovered by an airline food supplier during a trip to Belgium in 1984. Since then, Biscoff cookies have made air travel a little sweeter on nearly every domestic airline and most international carriers. As of 2010, airline passengers nibbled on 1.5 billion cookies, with Lotus Bakeries selling 3.3 billion Biscoff single and double cookies in Europe a year.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

A little of this and a little of that...random stuff

Today is a totally random blog post...imagine that!  Some people probably think that all my blog posts are random...but hey, it's my blog, right???  I shot a number of random food items that I thought I'd share.  Some of them are my faves and others are just items that I like and wanted to share in case you'd never seen them or have seen but never tried.

But first I want to share a picture of my dinner tonight.  We used up some leftovers from earlier in the week.  Hubby had leftover linguine with meat & veggie sauce...and I made myself a nice dinner salad with 1/2 of the last leftover Dijon Balsamic Grilled Chicken from Monday night.  I saved the other 1/2 of the chicken breast to enjoy for lunch on Thursday.  Enjoy the random pics below!

Wednesday night's dinner -- same as lunch (except lunch was salmon instead of chicken)!
These whole romaine hearts are so much better than regular cut bagged salad and fresher too!  I like the convenience of bagged salad, but once you open that bag it starts going bad -- also they seem to be sneaking in more crappy lettuce recently too -- and the bags keep getting smaller.  This is 2-1/2 pounds of perfect romaine hearts which is great if you eat a lot of salads -- 40 oz of romaine that costs less than two 10-oz bags of bagged salad!
Found these salad tomatoes at Costco this past weekend - they are the sweetest we've found!
Here is a closer look -- they really are sweet and beautiful too!
If you've never tried these...they are good.  I prefer them to croutons
My newest favorite dressing
Best veggie dip...ever!

Best pimento cheese ever...the first ingredient is...SHARP CHEDDAR CHEESE, not mayo!

It's Wednesday and I'm Having Leftovers for Lunch!

This is my favorite part about having "leftovers" is the third and last day I have used the leftover grilled salmon from Sunday's dinner to make a delicious salad for lunch.  Some freshly torn romaine lettuce, some sliced cherry tomatoes, some shredded Parmesan cheese and a drizzle of Honey Dijon Vinaigrette and my little piece of leftover salmon makes yet another delicious lunch!  I shot a couple pics so you can see how beautiful it is.  Hubby doesn't know what he is missing with his aversion to leftovers!!!  :-)