Steak and BLT Salad

Meat lovers rejoice for this salad that was made for you. The classic bacon, lettuce and tomato (BLT) sandwich is one of my favorite meals to make with farm fresh tomatoes. As an alternative to this time-honored dish, I created a salad and took it up a notch by topping it with grilled steak and blue cheese dressing. This hearty salad is perfect for a relaxing summer weekend and pairs well with your favorite red wine.

Ingredients:

2 (4 to 6 ounce) boneless rib-eye steaks, well-trimmed
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons plain Greek yogurt
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
4 tablespoons blue cheese, divided
4 slices bacon, cooked and chopped
2 cups spring mix lettuce
2 medium tomatoes, diced

Directions:

  1. Bring steak to room temperature and season with salt and pepper. Preheat an outdoor grill to medium-high heat and cook steak to desired doneness. Remove from grill and let rest for a few minutes before carving into thin strips.
  2. Combine yogurt, vinegar and 2 tablespoons blue cheese in a mason jar with a lid and shake until salad dressing is well combined.
  3. Add equal amounts of bacon, lettuce and tomatoes to two plates. Top with steak, remaining blue cheese and salad dressing.

Servings: 2

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 for me and my husband.

With Italian music playing in the background and two glasses of our favorite Pinot Noir, we begin the process of creating pasta dough. We use these Ravioli Dough and Making Ravioli recipes from William Sonoma, but we knead the dough with an old-fashioned style pasta machine. 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. Then we stuff, mold and trim the ravioli before cooking. The experience of making the pasta together creates much anticipation for enjoying this delicious meal, and it tastes like it was made in a family-owned Italian restaurant.

Ingredients for Ravioli Filling:
1 chicken breast, cooked and diced
1 cup ricotta cheese
¼ cup freshly grated Asiago cheese
¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper

Other Ingredients:
Ravioli dough (see recipe above)
Homemade or good quality store-bought marinara
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese

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 recipes for Ravioli Dough and Making Ravioli.
  3. Heat marinara sauce and serve ravioli with desired amount of sauce and grated Parmesan cheese.

Makes 40 to 48 ravioli

 

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Hazelnuts

I love the way the leaves fall off Brussels sprouts when you quarter them, resembling flower petals and creating a beautiful centerpiece for your plate. This cooking method caramelizes the vegetable, bringing out its natural sweetness. If your family members don’t love Brussels sprouts, this recipe may just change their mind.

This dish is so simple and mostly hands off, which is why I love roasting vegetables. You can step outside and grill your favorite lean protein while your Brussels sprouts roast. Pair this side dish with grilled salmon, a simple salad, fresh whole grain bread and your favorite white wine for an elegant and easy stay-at-home, date-night meal.

Ingredients:
2 pounds Brussels sprouts
1½ tablespoons olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
⅓ cup hazelnuts, toasted and chopped

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Trim the ends off the Brussels sprouts and cut into quarters, keeping the leaves (or as I like to call them, petals) that fall off.
2. Place Brussels sprouts on a large baking pan and drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle minced garlic, salt and pepper on top and toss with a spatula to evenly coat.
3. Roast for 30 minutes, tossing halfway through the cooking cycle. Brussels sprouts will be tender with dark brown outer leaves. Sprinkle with hazelnuts, toss and serve.

Note: While I love this as a side dish, it’s just as tasty for breakfast topped with a fried egg. It’s a great way to reinvent those leftovers.

Servings: 6

Chicken Sausage and Spinach Manicotti

This recipe was developed for a quick weeknight meal, but it is adaptable for a homemade upgrade that is perfect for a stay-home, date night dish. For a busy weeknight, this recipe incorporates packaged noodles and jarred marinara. You can make it on the weekend for an even quicker version of a weeknight meal that just requires heating.

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. When time allows, I like to switch out the store-bought noodles and marinara for homemade. This meal pairs well with your favorite red wine, and I find that drinking wine while making homemade pasta is half the fun. Try adding some Italian music and making this meal together for a lovely date night.

Ingredients:
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 pound or 3 mild Italian chicken sausages, casings removed
1 (8 ounce) package 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 (24 ounce) jar marinara
½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit, and spray an 8 by 10 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.
3. Cook noodles according to package instructions. Drain noodles and allow to cool enough to handle.
4. In a large bowl combine Italian chicken sausage, spinach, ricotta cheese, nutmeg, salt and white pepper. Stir until well combined. Place mixture in large zip top bag. Cut a small slit in the corner of the bag. Pipe mixture into manicotti noodles, filling evenly and then placing in the baking dish.
5. Cover stuffed manicotti 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.

Note: You can freeze leftovers for a homemade microwaveable meal or lunch.

Servings: 7 ~ Serving size: 2 stuffed manicotti