Quick and Easy Mushroom Pasta for Two

Here is a meal that can be on the table in under 30 minutes. It is a real comfort meal with no heavy sauce just lots of mushrooms and a few other fridge/pantry items to make it easy to put together on a weeknight.

I ended up using angel hair pasta (as my choice was limited to that or elbow macaroni) but a wider noodle like fettuccine or farfalle would be even better.

Use vegetable broth to make this a vegetarian dish.

Mushroom Pasta

2 tablespoons olive oil
8 ounces fresh mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
½ cup diced onion, about 1 small onion
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary leaves
½ teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon Aleppo pepper or red pepper flakes
½ cup vegetable or chicken broth
Enough pasta for two people – try bowtie or fettuccine
¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Bring salted water to a boil for the pasta.

In a large skillet over medium-high heat, heat the olive oil until shimmering. Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring often, until they give up their liquid; then increase the heat to boil the liquid away and caramelize the mushrooms, 8 to 10 minutes. Add the onion and sauté until softened and golden, about 5 minutes.

Reduce the heat to medium, add the butter and let it melt. Stir in the garlic, rosemary, salt and pepper just until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the broth and simmer until reduced by half, about 5 minutes. Reduce the heat to its lowest setting and cover to keep warm.

Meanwhile, add the pasta to the boiling water and cook until al dente. When the pasta is ready, drain while reserving some of the pasta water. Stir the pasta into the skillet with the mushrooms. Add a splash or two of reserved pasta water if necessary.

Remove the skillet from the heat and sprinkle with the grated cheese. Toss and serve warm.

Slow Cooker Pork Loin

For New Year’s day, I didn’t want to spend too much time in the kitchen so I did a quick rub and sear of a pork loin and then put it in the crock pot to cook away. The rub plus the honey mustard sauce makes for a delicious flavor over the low and slow cooked meat.

We served the pork with some cornbread dressing (recipe HERE) and roasted Brussel sprouts.

Any leftovers make for great sandwiches the next day.

Slow Cooker Pork Loin

1-3 lb pork loin

3 tablespoons Rustic Rub (see below)
1 tablespoon ground rosemary

¼ cup honey
3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (about 2 large lemons)
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

Rinse pork loin and pat dry. Mix the Rustic Rub and Rosemary together with your fingers. Generously coat all sides with the dry rub mixture and massage into the meat. Place a large cast iron skillet over medium high heat and, once the pan is good and hot, sear all sides of the pork loin. This will take about 4 minutes per side.

Whisk together honey, mustard, lemon juice and Worcestershire sauce.

Place seared pork loin in the slow cooker fat side up over low heat. Pour the honey mustard sauce over the meat. Cover and let cook for 4-6 hours. Baste with the pan juices at 2 and 4 hours. Pork loin will register 145 degrees F when done.

Let rest 10 minutes while you cook up the Brussel sprouts. I use this recipe (minus the cumin).

My base pork rub is Chef Emeril Lagasse’s Rustic Rub:

8 tablespoons paprika
3 tablespoons cayenne
5 tablespoons freshly ground black pepper
6 tablespoons garlic powder
3 tablespoons onion powder
6 tablespoons salt
2 1/2 tablespoons dried oregano
2 1/2 tablespoons dried thyme

Combine all ingredients and store in an air-tight container. Yield: 2 1/4 cup

Red Beans and Ricely Yours

Louis Armstrong signed his correspondence “Red Beans & Ricely Yours” after his favorite dish. Most New Orleanians serve it up every Monday. I think nearly everyone has their own way to make it.

My version of red beans and rice comes from my mom who usually doubles or triples her batch so leftovers can be put in the freezer for later meals. Here is a picture of a batch she did recently:

As you can see, she makes a lot! That’s over two gallons of red beans! I don’t even own a pot as big as her cast iron Dutch oven or as many Tupperware containers, so I’m fine with making a smaller batch. I still have enough for leftovers, too.

I don’t use andouille in mine. It may be heretical but I prefer the flavor of smoked pork sausage and I get mine from Jacob’s World’s Famous Cajun Sausage in LaPlace, Louisiana. They smoke all their meat themselves and are super friendly. They even let you taste before you buy!

The small amount of cayenne is the perfect level of heat for my taste. If everyone at your table wants more, up that amount or, do as I do, and put a choice of hot sauce on the table for those who want it hotter.

Mama's Red Beans and Rice

1 lb dried red kidney beans
1 lb smoked pork sausage, cut into coins
3 tablespoons butter
¾ cup onion, diced
¾ cup celery, diced
¾ cup green bell pepper, diced
2 large cloves garlic, minced
2 bay leaves
2 teaspoons smoked paprika
1 teaspoon dried thyme
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
½ teaspoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon dried parsley
1 teaspoon salt, to taste

Soak the beans over night in a large bowl of water (water should be 2 inches above the top of the beans). Rinse and drain beans and then place in a Dutch oven or large stock pot. Simmer in 4 quarts fresh water until soft, about two or three hours. Use a potato masher to mash some of the beans to thicken the liquid.

Once the beans have softened, heat a cast iron skillet over medium heat and sauté the sausage discs. When lightly browned, toss the sausage into the Dutch oven with the beans. Return the skillet to the heat. To the skillet, add in butter. Once melted, sauté onion for about five minutes. Add in the celery and bell pepper and soften slightly. Stir in the garlic and cook until fragrant. Scrape the trinity into the Dutch oven with the beans. Place bay leaves in pot.

In the still warm skillet, add in all the spices except the salt and stir to let their flavors bloom. Use a ladle of the bean liquid to loosen all the fond and then scrape everything into the pot with the beans. Bring to a simmer and let the flavors come together for 30 minutes. Taste for seasoning. Add salt, if desired.

For the rice, I use about ¼ to ⅓ cup uncooked rice per person. Using the ratio of 2 parts liquid to 1 part rice, bring the liquid to a boil. Add a tablespoon of butter per serving, melted into the heating liquid. Pour in the uncooked rice and boil for 20 minutes. Once the liquid is absorbed and rice is tender, fluff with a fork.

Place a mound of rice in each serving dish. Ladle red beans, sausage and that delicious bean gravy over the rice. Serve with hot sauce.

Meatloaf Stuffed Mushrooms

I found a pack of mushrooms on sale – they were larger than usual and had pretty deep caps so I knew they’d be good for stuffing. I’d also had a craving for meatloaf and decided to put it all together. I started with my basic meatloaf recipe, then stuffed the mushrooms and molded the remaining filling into a loaf.

If you’re making this for a party, use more than a single pack of mushrooms. You’ll get a smaller meatloaf but the stuffed mushrooms are worth the sacrifice.

I was out of diced tomatoes but I had a blister pack of cherry tomatoes and, after a spin in a food processor, they were perfect in the dish.

You can add the cheese after 30 minutes for a prettier presentation but I like it when it is a little crunchy, so I put it on before sliding the baking tray in the oven.

Meatloaf Stuffed Mushrooms

3/4 cup milk
2-3 slices stale bread (at least 1 1/2 cups worth when torn)
1 medium onion, chopped
2 lbs ground beef
8 ounces cheddar or pepper jack cheese, grated
1 ½ cups cherry tomatoes, chopped in a food processor
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

8 ounces large stuffing mushrooms

Make a panade by soaking the torn pieces of bread in the milk for ten minutes.

Combine panade with all the rest of the ingredients (reserving a small handful of cheese to top the mushrooms) together in a large bowl. Mix with your hands.

Clean mushrooms and remove stem. Coat with olive oil and place on rimmed baking sheet large enough for the mushrooms and the rest of the meat loaf. Fill each mushroom with 1-2 tablespoons of meatloaf filling. Sprinkle additional cheese on top.

Form a loaf from the remaining filling and bake at 350 degrees F for 60 minutes (or until the loaf reaches an internal temp of 160 degrees). The mushrooms should be done at an hour but the meatloaf may take 75 to 90 minutes.

Remove from the oven and serve.

Simple Bean, Sausage and Tomato Cassoulet

I needed a quick and filling dinner the other night and went to the pantry for a can of beans and can of tomatoes. I also grabbed the remains of the focaccia I made over the weekend – any rustic loaf will do. From the freezer, I pulled out some German sausage (you can use any link sausage you have around – Italian, Chorizo, etc).

This is dish that can be done as a dump and go, as my Mom would call it, or you can go all out with a Dutch oven by sautéing onions, adding garlic and even a splash of red wine vinegar before browning the sausage and tossing in the beans and tomatoes and covering the top with the bread and placing it in the oven for 30 minutes. It just depends if you want to be a French peasant or a member of the bourgeoisie.

My way is simple and substantial and that’s what exactly what I needed Monday night.

Simple Bean, Sausage and Tomato Cassoulet

1 – 14.5 ounce can Great Northern or Cannellini beans
1 – 15 ounce can diced tomatoes
½  loaf rustic bread or focaccia
4 – 6 inch links of sausage

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Tear the bread into bite sized pieces and place in a 9X13 pan. Pour in the can of beans and the can of tomatoes (with all their liquid) and mix together with your hands. Remove the meat from the sausage casing and cut into bite sized pieces, tucking the sausage pieces among the bread and beans. Leave some of the sausage peeking out of the cassoulet so it can brown.

Bake for 45 minutes. It will be bubbling and golden when done. Check at 30 minutes and if the bread is toasting too quick, lay aluminum foil over the pan. Don’t put it on tightly, as you are looking for a combination of some toasty, crunchy bites of bread and some soaked with the tomato and meat juices.



Pork Loin with Apples and Onions

I’m cooking out of the freezer and fridge as my house is about to be fumigated for termites, so in searching around the crisper drawers, I found several slightly bruised Granny Smith apples and medium onion. Instead of sweet applesauce to go with a pork loin I found, I decided to do an apple and onion accompaniment.

Slicing the onions thin allows them to become sweetly caramelized in a fairly short cooking time. They are a perfect way to tone down the sour apples without adding sugar. Michelle thought a sprinkle of pepper would be a good taste and I think she’s right, so I added pepper to the to taste seasonings.

Pork Loin with Apple and Onions

1 – 3 lb pork loin
⅓ cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons lime juice
2 tablespoons Creole seasoning
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, chopped fine
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
2-3 Granny Smith apples, diced
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
salt and pepper to taste

Make a marinade by mixing together apple cider vinegar, olive oil, garlic, honey, lime juice, Creole seasoning and rosemary. Put loin in zip top bag and pour marinade over pork. Seal and marinate for at least an hour and as long as 4 hours.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Discard marinade. Brown all side of pork in 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium high heat in a skillet. Place pork in roasting pan and cook for 30 to 40 minutes until meat thermometer registers 140 degrees F.

Deglaze the skillet with with 1 cup of water. Add onions and cook for 5 minutes. Add the apples to the pan and cook over medium heat until apples soften and onions are golden and all the water has steamed away. Add 2 tablespoons butter and stir until melted. Continue to cook until apples are fork tender. Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper if necessary.

Remove loin from oven when done and allow to rest for 5 minutes before slicing. Spoon apple and onion mixture over top.


Cheesy Chicken Calzone

I had been watching soccer all day Sunday (and don’t get me started on FIFA scheduling men’s final games on the day of the Women’s World Cup Final – here’s an article on why it is insulting. Here is another.) so I needed something I could eat in front of the TV. I decided a  calzone (basically a pocket pizza) was the way to go.

The entire dough recipe will make 4 good sized calzones. I divided the dough in half so I could have one calzone to eat, one for dinner later in the week and made pretzels with the rest.

I started on Saturday with an easy pizza dough in my new-to-me bread maker:

Basic Pizza Dough

3/4 cup tepid water
1/4 cup whole milk
3 cups bread flour
2 1/4 teaspoons yeast
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon olive oil

Place all the ingredients in order in the bread machine on the dough setting. When the machine is done with its cycle, divide dough in half and place one part in a well oiled bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Put it in the refrigerator for 24 hours.

Use the other half, after an hour’s rest, for pizza or pretzels or wrap it well and put in the freezer for another meal.

I had a chicken breast thawed that I decided to use instead of more traditional sausage and pepperoni. After a quick browning of the chicken, I made a basic marinara sauce in the same skillet. I let the meat and sauce simmer together and then added to it cottage cheese (I was out of ricotta), mozzarella and Parmesan to make it very cheesy. All together, it resulted in a delicious meal that will stick to your ribs.

I used tomato sauce instead of tomatoes as I wanted to reduce the liquid in the dish.

Cheesy Chicken Calzone

1/2 recipe of pizza dough
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 chicken breast, boneless, skinless
1 cup tomato sauce
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 cup ricotta cheese (or cottage cheese)
1 cup mozzarella cheese, grated
1/4 Parmesan cheese, grated
2 large eggs, divided

Remove the dough from the fridge and allow to rest and relax in a warm place for an hour.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high. Sauté the onion until translucent. Stir in the garlic. Cut chicken into 1 inch pieces. Lightly salt chicken. Add chicken to skillet and cook, stirring often, until browned on all sides, about 10 minutes.

Stir in tomato sauce. Add basil, oregano, remaining salt and pepper, and bring to boil over medium-high. Add in red pepper flakes. Reduce heat to low and simmer 10 minutes. Remove from heat. Use a fork to pull apart any large pieces of chicken. Stir to coat with sauce.

In a bowl, combine the ricotta, mozzarella, Parmesan and 1 egg. Mix in the cooled chicken mixture and stir to combine.

Divide dough into two pieces. Roll each piece out into about an 8 inch circle. Don’t make them too thin or it could blowout during baking. Set the rounds on a parchment paper covered baking sheet. Place about a cup of filling on each round.

Lightly beat the remaining egg with a teaspoon of water. Brush the egg wash on the border of the dough, fold over in half and press the edges together with a fork. Brush the top with egg wash and score the tops with a knife to allow steam to escape.

Bake for about 15-20 minutes, until golden brown. Let cool for 5 minutes before eating.

Baked calzones can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 3 days or frozen for up to 3 months. Thaw frozen calzones in the refrigerator before reheating in a microwave. If you want the crust crispy again, get it mostly warm in the microwave and finish warming it up in a toaster oven.