Mushroom and Goat Cheese Toast

If you know a local mushroom farmer or grow your own mushrooms, you are so lucky and I am a little jealous. I created this recipe when I had access to weekly fresh mushrooms at a Farmers’ Market when we lived in Wisconsin. Most Saturdays I would make this recipe as soon as I got home from the market and serve it with a fried egg for breakfast or side salad for lunch. I couldn’t wait to eat these mushrooms and this simple and quick dish made it possible to get them on my plate in about 15 minutes. The recipe quantities below make this a great appetizer for a small group, but just trim the amount back if you want to enjoy this as a meal for one or two.

Ingredients:
14 inch baguette
8 ounces shiitake or white button mushrooms
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons fresh thyme, finely chopped
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
4 ounces goat cheese

Directions:

  1. Turn oven broil setting to low heat. Slice bread into about 16 pieces and place on a baking sheet. Set aside while preparing mushrooms.
  2. Remove stems from the mushrooms and gently wash the tops before thinly slicing. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms and sauté for about four minutes. Add 2 tablespoons of water and continue cooking for another 4 to 6 minutes, until tender and golden brown. Add thyme, salt and pepper to the mushrooms and stir to evenly coat.
  3. Broil baguette slides on each side for 1 to 2 minutes. Top with equal amounts of mushrooms and goat cheese and continue broiling for another 2 minutes until cheese is warm. Serve immediately.

Servings: 8 (2 slices as appetizer)

Grilled Tilapia and Field Pea Succotash

Growing up in the south, black-eyed peas were a staple in our house and they will always be one of my favorite vegetables. This dish brings back childhood memories of family potlucks with tables full of farm-fresh vegetables for supper and homemade pies for dessert. We might have had fried catfish with our field peas back then, but I’ve lighted things up with grilled tilapia. This succotash also pairs well with scallops, shrimp or any white fish of choice.

Ingredients:
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 yellow onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 green bell pepper, seeded and diced
2 cups cooked black-eyed peas or field peas, drained
1 cup frozen corn
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
4 (6 ounce) tilapia fillets
1 teaspoon lemon pepper seasoning

Directions:
  

  1. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat, add onion and sauté until translucent and fragrant. Add garlic and bell pepper and continue cooking a few more minutes until tender.
  2. Add peas, corn, salt and pepper. Cook for a couple of minutes, and reduce heat to low to keep succotash warm while grilling tilapia.
  3. Season tilapia fillets with lemon pepper seasoning and brush with remaining olive oil. Prepare grill for medium heat. Grill fish for 3 to 4 minutes per side, until fish flakes with a fork. Serve fish over succotash.

Servings: 4

Pantry Pasta

We all have those busy nights when the fridge is sparse and we don’t have time to pick up fresh ingredients for dinner. My Pantry Pasta dish is the perfect meal to make during those moments. It takes less than 15 minutes to prepare, giving you more time to relax at the end of the day.

For a fresh version of this recipe during summer months, replace the canned tomatoes with vine-ripened tomatoes fresh from the farm or your backyard. Cheers to making meals that are both healthy and convenient.

Ingredients:
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 (15.5 ounce) can Great Northern Beans, rinsed and drained
1 (14.5 ounce) can diced and no-salt-added tomatoes
¼ cup red or white wine
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon fresh ground pepper
½ pound whole wheat spaghetti noodles

Optional Ingredients for Serving:
Fresh basil, cut into ribbons
Parmesan cheese, grated

Directions:

  1. Cook pasta according to package directions.
  2. Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about one minute. Add beans, tomatoes with juices, wine, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil and simmer for about five minutes.
  3. Serve over spaghetti noodles. Top with basil and Parmesan cheese if desired.

Servings: 4

Open-Faced Turkey Burgers

There is something about eating a burger with a knife and a fork that makes it seem more classy than something you would order at a burger dive. And who can resist the freshly made bread these turkey burgers sit on. This recipe will elevate your next backyard cookout.

The secret to creating open-faced burgers is topping them with delicious ingredients. And you don’t have to worry about cramming all those ingredients under another slice of bread. Get creative and try piling on your favorite seasonal vegetables, like grilled zucchini and asparagus.

Ingredients:
1 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
2 large onions, peeled and thinly sliced
1 teaspoon sugar
3 tablespoons mayonnaise
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
1 pound ground turkey
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
4 slices fresh bread, preferably homemade or from a local bakery
4 slices gouda cheese
arugula (or other seasonal vegetables) for topping

Directions:

  1. In a large skillet, heat olive oil and butter over medium-low heat. Once butter has melted, add onion slices and sprinkle with sugar. Stirring occasionally, let the onions cook about 20 to 25 minutes, until caramelized and golden brown.
  2. In a small bowl, mix mayonnaise and balsamic vinegar and set aside.
  3. Form turkey into patties and season with salt and pepper. Prepare grill to medium-high heat. Grill burgers until they reach 165 degrees with a meat thermometer, which should take about 5 minutes per side. During the last three minutes of cooking, top each burger with a slice of cheese and allow to melt while burgers continue cooking.
  4. Grill bread slices for about a minute per side, until light brown grill marks appear. Spread each slice with balsamic mayonnaise. Top turkey burgers with caramelized onion and arugula.

Chicken and Cheese Ravioli

Homemade pasta is one of my favorite things to eat, and it is surprisingly simple to make. Many restaurants have gotten away from the art of making dough by hand and our culture has become accustom to the taste of store-bought pasta. I savor the practice of making pasta by hand, and it has become a favorite stay-home, date night activity. The experience of making the pasta together creates much anticipation for enjoying this delicious meal, and it tastes like takeout from a family-owned Italian restaurant.

With Italian music playing in the background and glasses of our favorite Pinot Noir in hand, my husband and I begin the process of creating pasta dough. We use this recipe for Food-Processor Pasta Dough from William Sonoma, and once it’s ready we roll the dough into thin strips with an old-fashioned style pasta machine just like the one pictured in the pasta recipe photo. One of us turns the dough crank and feeds the ball through the machine, while the other catches the flat sheet of pasta from the other side. We use a ravioli mold to create our stuffed pasta, but you can also make tortellini without any equipment.

Ingredients for Pasta Filling:
1 large chicken breast, cooked and diced
1 (15 to 16 ounce) container of ricotta cheese
⅓ cup freshly grated Asiago cheese
¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper

Other Ingredients:
Pasta dough
1 (26 ounce) jar of marinara
Parmesan cheese for grating

Directions:

  1. Place chicken, ricotta and Asiago cheeses, nutmeg, salt and pepper in a food processor and pulse, until chicken is finely chopped.
  2. Follow recipe for Food-Processor Pasta Dough and roll the pasta into thin sheets as directed in the recipe, but do not cut pasta. If you don’t have a pasta machine, you can use a rolling pin.
  3. To make ravioli, place a sheet of pasta dough over a ravioli mold and gently press down to add space for the filling. Use a spoon or small scoop and place an equal amount of filling into each square. Brush the edges of the dough with a small amount of water and top ravioli with another sheet of pasta dough. Gently roll over the top sheet of dough with a rolling pin to cut and seal the ravioli.
  4. To make tortellini, cut the sheets of pasta into 3 inch by 3 inch squares. Place your filling into each square and brush the edges of the dough with water. Fold into triangles and wrap the bottom two corners together to seal tightly in a kerchief shape.
  5. Heat marinara sauce and serve ravioli or tortellini with desired amount of sauce and grated Parmesan cheese.

Turkey Taco Soup

This soup is perfect for those chilly spring days when you want a fun and festive meal. The weather may not be warm enough to grill fajitas, but you can serve up a pitcher of margaritas and invite your friends over for a bowl of my Turkey Taco Soup. Don’t let the long ingredient list make you think this recipe is hard to make. It’s super simple, but instead of using a ranch seasoning packet that’s high in sodium, you create the flavor with ingredients you most likely already have in your pantry. Turkey and black beans are great lean protein choices for this dish. If you have farm-fresh canned tomatoes or summer corn stored in your freezer, this is a great use for those gems!

Ingredients:
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 pound ground turkey
1 bell pepper, seeded and diced
2 medium jalapeños, seeded and finely diced
1 tablespoon chili powder
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
2 (14.5 ounce) cans no salt added diced tomatoes
2 cups frozen corn
1 (14.5 ounce) can no salt added black beans, rinsed and drained
6 ounces tomato paste
6 cups water
shredded cheddar cheese
light sour cream
scallions, sliced

Directions:

  1. Heat oil in a large stock pot over medium-high heat. Add onion and sauté until translucent. Add garlic and cook another minute until fragrant.
  2. Add turkey and cook, breaking up with a spatula. Add bell pepper and jalapeños and sauté for a couple of minutes. Add chili powder, cumin, oregano, smoked paprika, salt and pepper and continue cooking for another minute.
  3. Stir in tomatoes, corn, beans, tomato paste and water, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 20 minutes.
  4. Serve with cheese, sour cream and scallions as toppings.

Servings: 6

Mushroom and Black Bean Omelet

When I make my Sweet and Spicy Veggie Quesadilla, I don’t always make six servings, which means I have extra black beans and sautéed mushrooms on hand. That’s where the inspiration came from for this Mushroom and Black Bean Omelet. Treasure those leftovers and use a little creativity to transform them into a new delicious meal.

Breakfast is one of my favorite meals and I think weekday meals should be just as delicious as slowly savored weekend brunches. This recipe is fast and easy to make any day of the week. Create your own version by substituting the mushrooms and beans for last nights’ leftover vegetables, such as steamed broccoli and roasted potatoes.

Ingredients:
2 eggs
⅛ teaspoon salt
⅛ teaspoon black pepper
¼ teaspoon chipotle Chile powder
½ teaspoon butter
¼ cup black beans
¼ cup mushrooms, sautéed
¼ cup mozzarella cheese, shredded
light sour cream and salsa for serving

Directions:

  1. Crack eggs in a small bowl. Season with salt, pepper and chipotle Chile powder and blend with a fork.
  2. Melt butter in a small non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Pour eggs into skillet and lightly stir with a spatula, until the eggs start to come together. Use the spatula to start to loosen the edges of the omelet by gently peeling it away from the pan.
  3. When the eggs are almost set, add black beans, mushrooms and mozzarella cheese to one side. Fold omelet in half to cover ingredients. Cook for about a minute longer. Flip omelet and cook an additional minute, until outside is lightly browned and cheese has melted. Top with light sour cream and salsa before serving.

Servings: 1

Chicken Sausage and Spinach Stuffed Pasta

This meal was inspired by a dish at one of my favorite Italian restaurants, where the noodles are made from scratch daily and you can taste the love and attention that went into creating the pasta from this family-owned establishment. At Carmelo’s Italian Restaurant in Wausau, WI they stuff their homemade shells with a similar combination of ingredients. While my take on their recipe is designed for a quick weeknight meal, when I have more time I switch out the store-bought noodles and make some from scratch just like they do at this charming local restaurant in Wisconsin. When preparing the meal with dry noodles, it works equally well with either large shells or manicotti. Pair this pasta well with your favorite red wine, and add some Italian music for a date night experience at home.

Ingredients:
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 pound mild Italian chicken sausage
1 (10.5 ounce) package large shells or manicotti noodles
2 cups frozen chopped spinach, defrosted
1 (15 ounce) container part-skim ricotta cheese
½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon white pepper
1 (26 ounce) jar marinara
½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit, and spray a large rectangular baking dish with cooking spray.
  2. Warm olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add garlic and cook for one minute, until fragrant. Add Italian chicken sausage and cook for 5 to 7 minutes, until browned. Set aside to cool slightly.
  3. Cook noodles according to package instructions. Drain noodles and let cool.
  4. Place the spinach in a cloth towel and squeeze to remove water. In a large bowl combine Italian chicken sausage, spinach, ricotta cheese, nutmeg, salt and white pepper. Stir until well combined.
  5. If you are using manicotti noodles or shells that are more tubular, place mixture in large zip top bag. Cut a small slit in the corner of the bag. Pipe mixture into pasta and place in the baking dish. If your shells are more open, simply use a spoon to fill them before placing them in the baking dish.
  6. Cover stuffed pasta with marinara and bake for 25 minutes, until edges are brown and sauce is bubbly. Remove and top with Parmesan cheese. Continue baking for about 2 minutes, until cheese has melted.

Sweet and Spicy Veggie Quesadilla

Sweet potatoes may not be a common quesadilla ingredient, but this puree — combined with black beans, mushrooms and jalapeño pepper slices — results in a delicious medley that gives your taste buds a little heat and sweet.

I love a reason to have a glass of wine with dinner. The mushrooms need some cooking wine, so there is my rational for opening a bottle and enjoying a glass with my meal. Cheers to good food, good wine and a different take on veggie quesadillas.

Ingredients:
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 (8 ounce) container white button mushrooms, sliced
¼ cup red wine (any varietal)
2 cups (1 recipe) Spicy Sweet Potato Puree
6 whole wheat tortillas
1 (15 ounce can) no-salt-added black beans, rinsed and drained
1½ cups shredded mozzarella cheese
hot and sweet jalapeño pepper slices
light sour cream for serving

Directions:

  1. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms and sauté for 5 minutes, until browned. Add red wine and cooking 4 to 5 minutes, until liquid is absorbed.
  2. Spread ⅓ cup of sweet potato puree evenly on one side of tortilla. Top with ¼ cup black beans, ¼ cup mozzarella cheese, 2 tablespoons mushrooms and desired amount of jalapeño slices. Fold tortilla over, completely covering ingredients. Repeat to create 5 more quesadillas.
  3. Heat a large non-stick skillet over medium heat. Place two quesadillas in the skillet and cook for 3 minutes on one side, until golden brown. Flip quesadillas and cook for an 3 additional minutes. Continue cooking remaining quesadillas two at a time. Cut each into 4 wedges and serve with sour cream.

Servings: 6

Grilled Garlicky Shrimp and Sweet Potato Pizza

If you made my Spicy Sweet Potato Puree and have leftovers, this recipe will put them to good use. Don’t worry if you do not have leftovers, the puree is easy to make and will not add too much preparation to this easy recipe.

Pizza is one of my favorite foods and I love trying unique combinations like this one with sweet potatoes, spinach and shrimp, with a nice earthy balance of savory and sweet with a slight touch of heat.

Ingredients:
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
¾ pound cooked frozen medium shrimp, defrosted, tail and peel removed
1 bunch or carton of fresh baby spinach
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
1 pizza dough ball (about the size of a grapefruit)
¾ cup Spicy Sweet Potato Puree
½ cup shredded mozzarella cheese

Directions:

  1. Warm olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add garlic and cook for one minute, until fragrant. Add shrimp and spinach to skillet and sauté for about 3 minutes, until spinach has wilted. Season with salt and pepper.
  2. Roll or stretch (I alternate rolling and stretching) the pizza dough to a thin layer, about ⅛ inch thick and 12 to 14 inches in diameter.
  3. Prepare the grill for medium-high, indirect heat. For a gas grill, leave one or two burners off and for a charcoal grill, place coals on one side and use the coal free side.
  4. Place crust on the grill (a pizza peel comes handy here) and cook for about five minutes, until top of crust starts to bubble and light brown grill marks appear on the bottom of the crust.
  5. Remove crust from grill. Spread Spicy Sweet Potato Puree on top of the cooked side of the crust. Add shrimp and spinach mixture and top with mozzarella cheese.
  6. Return pizza to the grill and cook for about five minutes, until cheese has melted and bottom of crust has light brown grill marks. Remove from grill, slice and serve.

Servings: 4