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Portobello Mushroom Pizzas

Portobello Mushroom Pizzas

I love pizza. Let me be very clear, I could eat pizza every single day of my life. I am not necessarily proud of that fact but it is the truth. For me, there is no greater comfort than warm, melted cheese stretching from the plate to my mouth. Bring it on.

But honestly, sometimes I don’t feel like messing around with dough. I am one messy cook, I get flour everywhere even if I am only rolling out store-bought dough. Enter Portobello mushrooms. They are perfect stand-ins for pizza crust. Mushrooms are hearty and meaty and their cup shape perfectly holds sauce, cheese, and any toppings that you enjoy.

Portobello Mushroom Pizzas

For a quick and easy weeknight dinner use jarred or canned tomato sauce. I use for mozzarella for its ability to melt into stringy gooeyness, provolone for its flavor, sand parmesan for its sharp bite. I like the combination of cheeses but you can skip the provolone and I still think you will be happy with the result.

For the toppings of this Portobello mushroom pizza, I love sun-dried tomatoes and pine nuts with a drizzle of balsamic vinegar, a pinch of crushed red pepper flakes, and ribbons of basil. But, you can swap out these toppings for anything that you prefer.

Portabello Mushroom Pizza-8

I also love olives and onions. Sometimes I use pesto for the sauce instead of marinara sauce. I have a stash of pesto in my freezer from last summer’s bounty. I freeze the pesto in an ice cube trays. Make these your own with your favorite toppings or whatever you have on hand.

The secret to pump up the flavor of the Portobello mushrooms is brush them with a garlic butter mixture before you fill them with sauce and toppings and pop them in the oven. Trust me, it is delicious.

Other mushroom recipes you may be interested in:

Portobello Mushroom Pizza

Eggplant Parmesan

Eggplant Parmesan-8

Are you an eggplant lover or an eggplant hater? People seem to fall firmly into one camp or the other. Growing up in an Italian family, eggplant was a staple on our dinner table. That purple beauty was most commonly served in the form of eggplant parmesan.

Fun fact, when my son was a little boy he called eggplant ‘the punching bag fruit’. I still think that this is the cutest thing ever. The punching bag fruit. When buying eggplants at the market you want to look for ones that have smooth purple, shiny flesh and that feels heavy for its size.

Breaded eggplant slices

If you are feeling unsure of how to buy and prepare eggplant you can check out this video. For eggplant parmesan, I don’t typically salt the slices of eggplant but I do if the eggplant will be used in a dish that isn’t covered in sauce and cheese.

There are as many variations of eggplant parmesan as there are Gambino families. Some family recipes call for slicing the eggplant thick, some thin, some peel the eggplant, and others don’t. Then there is the fry their eggplants slices devotees versus the eggplant slice bakers. Personally, I like my eggplant peeled, thinly sliced, coated in panko, parmesan, and baked.

Finished pan of eggplant parmesan

The process of making eggplant parmesan isn’t that much different than making lasagna. Instead of layering noodles, you layer slices of eggplant with marinara and seasoned ricotta cheese. This recipes calls for two eggplants and will fill a 9 x 13 pan but you can also just use one eggplant and bake it in a 9 x 9 or small round casserole.

Side view of eggplant parmesan

This may sound weird to anyone who didn’t grow up in an Italian family but leftover eggplant parmesan makes a divine filling for a sandwich. But, the bread must be a crusty loaf of Italian bread or a baguette if you don’t have good Italian bread in your part of the world.

How to Make Eggplant Parmesan

Other Italian recipes you might enjoy:

Eggplant Parmesan

Colcannon

Colcannon-6

St. Patrick’s Day is just over a week away and what better way to celebrate with a traditional Irish dish. Colcannon is mashed potatoes with cabbage or kale. As with many traditional dishes, every family has its own way in which they make it their own. But, the basics include creamy mashed potatoes with softened greens, and scallions or chives. I added garlic to this Colcannon recipe because it is delicious and while I am half Irish, I am also half Italian.

The first consideration is which type of potatoes to use. Colcannon is traditionally made with russet potatoes but I have made it with Yukon gold potatoes too and love the way it turns out. For the greens, you can use cabbage, kale, or Swiss chard. The cabbage maintains more crunch which is a nice contrast to the mashed potatoes. Kale and Swiss chard with soften more but they do share a more vibrant green color which is pretty. My recommendation is to use whichever green you prefer.

Colcannon-4

A few more words about greens. Do you grow your own greens? They are so easy to grow! Now is the time to start planting seeds. I grow greens in raised beds, window boxes, and various sized pots. Some of my favorite greens to grow are arugula (sometimes called rocket), mesclun mix, kale, and Swiss chard.

I adore Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds and pleasure read the catalog all winter long. Visit their website for inspiration. Seriously, can we talk about the gorgeously colored stems on this Swiss chard? In the garden, greens keep on giving all until the summer heat makes them bolt. The good news is that you can replant again in the fall.

Colcannon-1

Colcannon and St. Patrick’s Day

Fun fact: St. Patrick’s Day falls during the Lenten season for Christians but the restrictions on eating and drinking alcohol are lifted which is one of the reasons that the holiday is associated with rowdy behavior. Another thing you may not know about Irish culture is that Colcannon is not only a traditional Irish dish, it is also a song!

This recipe was created in partnership with We Olive. 

If you are are interested in hearing more about Ireland you may want to check these posts:

Colcannon vertical image for Pinterest

Welsh Rarebit

Welsh Rarebit with arugula salad

When I was a kid I thought Welsh rarebit was dish featuring rabbit. I don’t know why, I just did. Did you?  I also thought that the expression ‘making ends meet’ referred to a recipe for dinner. I am embarrassed to tell you that I was well into adulthood before I figured out that Welsh rarebit is another name for fancy cheese toast and cheese toast is something that I can get 100% behind.

My intention for this post to gather some background information about why the recipe is called Welsh rarebit and I started with Wikipedia and surprise!  It sounds like many people thought Welsh rarebit was made with rabbit meat. Perhaps I wasn’t such a dummy when I was a kid.

Welsh rarebit - Wikipedia

But now I know better and I want to make sure that you know about Welsh rarebit and that you try and fall in love with it like I have. I mean toasted bread with cheese sauce ladled over it. C’mon, what is not to love?

Welsh Rarebit-5

I love to use slices of leftover baguette to make Welsh rarebit. If you slice the bread on a diagonal you will get a little more toasty surface to soak up the cheese sauce. I like to melt a little butter to a cast iron skillet and then add the slices of bread. Cook until golden and then flip to toast the other side.

Toasting bread for Welsh rarebit

Remove the toast from the skillet and place on a plate while you make the cheese sauce. Adding beer, Worcestershire sauce, and dry mustard add savory notes to the cheese. I recommend using sharp cheddar for a little extra punch. Adding an egg yolk to the cheese sauce at the very end also makes the sauce rich and silky.

How to Make Welsh Rarebit

I like to serve Welsh rarebit alongside an arugula salad that is lightly dressed with olive oil, a squeeze of fresh lemon juice, sea salt, and fresh cracked pepper. The combo is delicious! 

 

If Welsh rarebit sounds good, you may also like these recipes:

Welsh rarebit vertical image

 

Carrot Scallion Coriander Salad

3/4 shot of carrot scallion coriander salad

Have you seen the beautiful colorful carrots in the market lately? I have been seeing bags of full-sized colorful carrots for a while now in grocery stores. But, just recently I have seen bags of colorful baby carrots too. So, recently I picked up a few bags of those colorful babies and wanted to figure out a way to showcase their bright colors in a crisp carrot salad.

In case you were wondering, the colorful carrots while a bit bling-y taste just like orange carrots but the range of colors are best showcased in raw carrots. Cooking or roasting the carrots will mute their vibrancy a little. Fortunately, no cooking is necessary for this recipe. All you need to do is a little slicing and chopping.

Overhead shot of two plates of carrot scallion coriander salad

You know that I am a mandoline slicer evangelist. I use this kitchen tool ALL THE TIME! For example, here are a few recipes which are a breeze to make when you use a mandolin: Golden Beet and Cucumber Salad, Maple Walnut Crostini and Spicy Cucumber Salad with Peanuts.

How to Make Carrot Scallion Coriander Salad

But, back to this deliciously crisp and colorful carrot scallion salad. You can make the dressing ahead of time if you like. I toasted raw walnut pieces for a few a few minutes in a small pan on the stove top. Toasting the nuts brings out the flavor so don’t skip this step. I used my mandoline to slice the radishes and carrots. Instead of slicing the carrots into rounds, I held the carrots on the side and sliced them into ribbons. Don’t you think they look pretty?

Once your veggies are sliced, place them on a platter. You can also make four individual plates of salad if you prefer. Next drizzle the dressing evenly over the veggies and then top with walnuts. If you are a walnut fan you could substitute a different nut. I think pistachios would be very nice too.

Carrot Scallion Coriander Salad

Golden Beet and Cucumber Salad

Two plates of golden beet and cucumber salad

Sometimes the simplest food is the best food. I certainly think that this is the case with this Golden Beet and Cucumber Salad. I am an advocate for menu planning and grocery lists. But, sometimes you have to go to the market and buy what looks fresh and amazing. This was the case last weekend when I spied the most beautiful golden beets. The beets were small and their greens were incredibly lush and vibrant. I knew I had to build a salad recipe where the beets were the star.

So, the first thing that I did when I got home was removed the beet greens, ran them through the salad spinner, then separated the stems from the leaves. I sautéed the stems with onion and garlic until tender, added the thinly sliced leaves until wilted, and finished the greens with red pepper flakes, and a splash of red wine vinegar. I enjoyed the greens with some mashed potatoes. So good!

Overhead shot of golden beet and cucumber salad

But, enough about the beet greens, let’s get to the Golden Beet and Cucumber Salad. Trim both ends of the beets and peel to remove skin. I always use care when peeling the beets because I want to keep the round shape and avoid angular edges.

I like to use Persian cucumbers for this salad. They are small, sweet, and tender. If you can’t find Persian cucumbers you can substitute English (aka hothouse) cucumbers. If you must use regular cucumbers be sure to peel them and consider removing the seeds.

Thinly sliced radishes add a little heat and peppery crunch to the salad. If you hate radishes, then feel free to omit them from the dish. But, I like the contrast of flavor and color.

Golden Beet and cucumber salad

This Golden Beet and Cucumber Salad comes together so quickly if you use a mandoline. I use these mandoline from OXO several times per week. I ordered here from Amazon (affiliate link) It slices vegetables so thin that it is ridiculous. Most humans couldn’t achieve that thin slice with a knife.

Here are few other beet recipes that you may enjoy:

Golden Beet and Cucumber long vertical image for Pinterest

Cheddar and Cranberry Chutney Crostini

Cheddar Cranberry Chutney Crostini 9

It isn’t just the alliteration that I love about these Cheddar and Cranberry Chutney Crostini. I also love how you can transform a few simple ingredients into a festive and delicious bite. These crostini would be perfect when you have friends coming over for a drink or to accompany a pot of soup.

Let’s start at the base. For the crostini you can both buy a baguette and make your own by slicing it up, brushing each slice with a little bit of olive oil on both sides, and seasoning with salt. To crisp up the slices, just pop the slices under the broiler or on a grill for a few minutes be sure to flip during cooking so that both sides are crisp.

Another option is to buy sliced, crisped cocktail toasts at the grocery store. These packages are usually found near the deli section. They are great to have in your pantry and can be topped so many different ways for easy appetizers.

Cheddar Cranberry Chutney Crostini-12

Once you’ve decided on your crostini base your next choice will be to consider the cheese.  I know it says cheddar in the title but there are so many things to think about! Firstly, do you like mild, medium, or sharp cheddar? I love sharp cheddar and think it pairs well with the cranberry chutney. But, if you prefer mild then by all means, go with mild cheddar. I used white cheddar when I took these photographs because I thought it would look pretty but yellow cheddar is perfectly fine.

Now to the fun part! Chutney. I am not going to lie. I love chutney. I always have some at the ready to add to a cheese plate or add some zing to grains or rice side dishes. Chutney is easily made by combining your ingredients (typically, fruit, nuts, and spices) into a small saucepan and simmering until the fruit softens and the mixture of flavors comes together. In this case, the cooking time on the chutney is about 15 minutes.

How to Make Cheddar Cranberry Chutney Crostini

Cheddar Cranberry Chutney Crostini-2

The last step is an assembly job. Line a baking sheet with parchment and place the crostini on the parchment. Add a slice of your delicious cheddar to the crostini and pop into the oven until the cheese melts. Remove from the oven and add a dollop of chutney to each crostini. You can finish it off with a bit of parsley (you can parsley your crostini a little less aggressively than I did if you wish).

Some other appetizer recipes that you might want to check out:

Cheddar Cranberry Chutney Crostini Pin

Crispy Artichoke Hearts with Lemon Aioli

Crispy Artichoke Hearts with Lemon Aioli

Artichokes have always been part of my family’s holiday traditions. As long as I can remember, my Grandparents would fly into town for Thanksgiving and my Grandmother would always make stuffed artichokes. Whole artichokes were ‘stuffed’ with breadcrumbs, parmesan cheese, and seasoning then steamed for 45 minutes. So, these crispy artichoke hearts with lemon aioli are a nod to her and my family’s Italian ancestry. Equally as delicious but much quicker to prepare and cost effective because you use frozen artichoke hearts instead of fresh whole artichokes.

Don’t get me wrong, I love whole artichokes and still cook them from time to time but I have fallen for this preparation of crispy artichoke hearts with lemon aioli as one of my go to appetizers. Another thing that I love about this recipe is that you can keep all the ingredients on hand fairly easily so no running to the store at the last minute because your friends are doing a pop in this evening for a drink. Doesn’t that sound good?

Crispy Artichoke Hearts with Lemon Aioli 3But first, I want to talk for a minute about growing artichokes in your garden. Have you grown them? Have you seen them growing in someone else’s garden? One of my friends had a neighbor who had them in her garden and they were rather magnificent. Check out the video below to see what they look like in the wild. Well, not the wild but not in the grocery store or Costco.

Okay, back to crispy artichoke hearts with lemon aioli. I keep a bag or two of artichoke hearts in my freezer all the time. With a simple egg wash, a dunk into bread crumbs, a quick bake in the oven, you can have an elegant appetizer ready in less than thirty minutes. Be sure to check out my recipe for Asparagus and Artichoke Frittata if you want more artichoke recipes.

You will also want a dipping sauce for these crispy bites. There are two sauces that I love to serve with crispy artichoke hearts. One is a lemon aioli which is luscious and a great companion for the artichokes. You can also serve them with marinara sauce which is a little bit lighter than aioli.

How to Make Crispy Artichoke Hearts with Lemon  Aioli

Whether you decide to dip in aioli or marinara sauce or both, let me know if you try these crispy artichoke hearts. You can be sure that I will be serving these up this holiday season.

Crispy Artichoke Hearts with Lemon Aioli

Maple Walnut Crostini

Maple Walnut Crostini with Goat Cheese-2Note: This post contains affiliate links*

Crostini are always on my appetizer short-list when I am planning a party. For those that aren’t sure, crostini are an Italian appetizer consisting of toasted bread with toppings. Crostini are great appetizers because you can toast the bread and make the toppings ahead of time. As the holiday season is upon us, I wanted to incorporate some seasonal flavors into the topping. Thus, the Goat Cheese and Maple Walnut Crostini was born!

Let me lay down the process of making these crostini for you. First, you are going to make a batch of maple walnuts. You can do this step a few days in advance of when you want to serve the crostini. To make the maple walnuts, you will combine butter and maple syrup with spices. After adding the walnuts you will stir to coat and the sauce is reduced. You will want to cool the walnuts on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Be careful transferring the walnuts from the pan to the baking sheet. They are hot! I speak from experience.

Maple Walnut Crostini with Goat Cheese-2

The second step is to slice the Chiogga beets very thinly. Chioggas are sometimes called candy cane beets, not because of their flavor but because of their beautiful red and white striped interior. You can peel and slice the beets the day before you plan to serve the crostini. If Chiogga beets are your thing (as they are mine) you may want to check out my Smoked Salmon Beet Bites too.

If you have a mandoline, slicing the beets very thinly is a snap. I love, love, love my mandoline (to be clear, I am talking about a Japanese-style slicing tool not the musical instrument). I use it all the time when I need food sliced very thinly or very evenly or both! The XOX Brand Mandolin is my favorite. It is super affordable, dishwasher-safe, and easy to store. A word of caution: the V-shaped blade in mandolins are very sharp and you should always use the included food holder to protect your fingers from the blade. Again, I learned this the hard way. Twice.

The last do-ahead tip I want to share is to make the crostini up to three days before you want to serve them. I typically buy a baguette for crostini. I like the small size of the bread. It is the perfect bite. Slice your baguette into about 1/2’’ slices. Drizzle the slices of baguette with olive oil and a sprinkle or salt and pepper.

You can either make your crostini on the grill or under the broiler. Whichever way you decide to make your crostini, be sure to keep your eye on them. They can go from just about there to burnt mess in no time at all.

How to Make Goat Cheese and Maple Walnut Crostini

Once you have all your components ready, you just need to assemble the crostini shortly before you want to serve. Place crostini on a platter, place one slice of Chiogga beet on the crostini, top with a dollop or slice of goat and top with a maple walnut. I recommend taking the goat cheese out of the refrigerator an hour before you want to prepare the crostini.

Maple Walnut Crostini pin

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Cranberry Nut Bread

Cranberry Nut Bread overhead shot

Why do we only eat cranberries between Thanksgiving and Christmas? Why? They are delicious and nutritious! Dried cranberries broke through years ago to enjoy year-round glory but fresh cranberries still haven’t been able to escape the holiday niche. Enter Cranberry Nut Bread which is delightful in the morning with a cup of coffee or equally delicious in the afternoon with a cup of tea.

In recent years I have gotten a little bit better about stocking up at the grocery store on fresh cranberries in November and December but I have to admit that last weekend while doing a freezer inventory I found one unused bag of cranberries from last year. Sigh. Why? I love them. How did I let them linger in the freezer for nearly a year?

Cranberry Nut Bread sliced

I don’t know. I have no excuse, only the promise to myself to do better and to ask you to join me. Let’s liberate the cranberry to a year-round fruit. We love cranberries, right? Tangent: I want to make this Cranberry Lime Ginger Sauce for Thanksgiving this year! Doesn’t it sound amazing?

Did you know that cranberries are only harvested for 6-8 weeks per year? I learned that watching the video below. It’s fascinating to watch.

Okay, let me tell you about this cranberry nut bread. I have lightened it up using apple sauce instead of oil in the recipe. The result is a light, moist loaf. There is also a swirl of cinnamon, sugar, and pecans in the middle of the loaf which adds a nice crunch and sweet balance to the tart cranberries.

I would love to hear if you serve cranberries at Thanksgiving and how you serve them. Does your family like cranberries? Do they prefer homemade cranberry sauce or the canned stuff? Do you have a favorite recipe? If you do, drop it in the comments section below.

How to Make Cranberry Nut Bread

Cranberry Nut Bread Pin

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