Tag Archives: family dinner

Pasta alla Formiana

23 Jan Pasta alla Formiana

The first Saturday of December I decided to stay in for the night to start my annual Christmas baking. But before I could start baking I had to make dinner (duh!), and for that I once again went to the kitchen goddess Giada de Laurentiis and her “Weeknights With Giada” cookbook. Before leaving that afternoon for an audition I grabbed the cookbook to make a decision while out. After flipping through the pages I landed on her Pasta alla Formiana. It was a simple recipe (which in my eyes is always a good thing) and it made enough that I’d be able to enjoy leftovers (which I added cheese on top to!) and share with my roommate (and she loved it!). Because of how easy and good it was I ended up making it for my holiday party later in the month.

Pasta alla Formiana Ingredients L-R: Mezze Penne, Salt & Pepper, Oregano, Garlic, Beefsteak Tomatoes, Crushed Tomatoes, Chicken Broth, Olive Oil

Pasta alla Formiana Ingredients L-R: Mezze Penne, Salt & Pepper, Oregano, Garlic, Beefsteak Tomatoes, Crushed Tomatoes, Chicken Broth, Olive Oil

PASTA ALL FORMIANA (serves 4 to 6)

  • 28 oz Can Crushed Tomatoes (1 Can)
  • 1/2 Cup Low-Sodium Chicken Broth
  • 1 Garlic Clove
  • 2 Cups (8 oz) mezze penne (or other small pasta)
  • 1/3 cup Olive Oil
  • 2 Tbsp Dried Oregano
  • 2 Tsp Kosher Salt
  • 1/2 Tsp Black Pepper
  • 3 Very Ripe, Extra Large Beefsteak Tomatoes (Giada calls for 5, but I found 3 worked just fine with my 8×8 dish. If using a bigger dish add another tomato.)
  • Vegetable Oil Cooking Spray
  • Shredded mozzarella or other favorite cheese for topping (optional)

Place your oven rack in the upper third of the oven and preheat it to 450 degrees. Coarsely chop your garlic then pull out your trusty food processor (or blender if you don’t have a food processor) and blend together the can of crushed tomatoes, chicken broth and garlic. Pour the mixture into a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat (less than 10 minutes).

Chopped Garlic

Chopped Garlic

Boiling the crushed tomatoes and chicken broth

Boiling the crushed tomatoes and chicken broth

While you wait for the tomato mixture to boil, slice your tomatoes into about 1/4 inch thick slices. Spray your 8×8 baking dish with your cooking spray and then line the entire dish (the bottom and the sides) with your tomato slices. I ended up cutting a couple of slices in half for the odd spots. You should have about 9 slices left.

Sliced Beefsteak Tomatoes

Sliced Beefsteak Tomatoes

My 8x8 baking dish lined with tomato slices

My 8×8 baking dish lined with tomato slices

My 8x8 baking dish lined with tomato slices

A closer look at the lined baking dish.

Once the tomato mixture is boiling stir in the (uncooked) pasta, olive oil, oregano, salt and pepper. Turn off the heat and pour into the tomato lined dish and be sure it fills the dish evenly. With the remaining slices cover the top of the pasta mixture, overlapping the tomato slices so that it’s completely covered. Drizzle with a little olive oil. Bake for 30 minutes.

Pasta alla Formiana

You can see the steam rising from the crushed tomato with uncooked pasta mixture after pouring into the baking dish.

Pasta alla Formiana

I’ve covered the dish with more tomatoes and now it’s ready for the oven!

The tomatoes should be slightly crispy, and yes, the pasta will be cooked. Let cool for about 5 minutes, serve and enjoy! Top with cheese of your choice if you wish.

Pasta alla Formiana

Fresh from the oven, my Pasta alla Formiana smells delicious!

Pasta alla Formiana

Dinner is served! Pasta alla Formiana

Chicken With Tarragon White Wine Sauce

10 Dec

There are many times that I open my “Weeknights With Giada” and look for something that I already have the ingredients for. And occasionally I look through the book first and then go buy the ingredients. This time it was one of the latter. It was a Saturday and I had errands to run during the day so I grabbed the cookbook before I left and decided to choose once I got to the store. After careful consideration I landed on her Chicken with Tarragon White Wine Sauce. It sounded delicious and I easily found all the ingredients at Ralph’s Grocery Store. Her recipe calls for both chicken breasts and chicken thighs, however I just made the thighs since I was just cooking for myself. And of course I halved the recipe since hers are for a family of four and I’m a family of one who enjoys leftovers. Feel free to pick any starch as your side dish. I went with brown rice. I hope you enjoy this as much as I did!

Chicken Tarragon With White Wine Sauce Ingredients L-R: olive oil, butter, flour, chicken thighs, tarragon, onion, garlic, chicken broth, dijon mustard, white wine, salt and pepper

Chicken Tarragon With White Wine Sauce Ingredients L-R: olive oil, butter, flour, chicken thighs, tarragon, onion, garlic, chicken broth, dijon mustard, white wine, salt and pepper

CHICKEN WITH TARRAGON AND WHITE WINE (serves 2)

  • 2 Tbsp Vegetable or Olive Oil
  • 4 Boneless and Skinless Chicken Thighs (small ones, serve 2 for each person)
  • 2 Tbsp Flour
  • 1 Small Yellow Onion
  • 2 Garlic Cloves
  • 1/2 Cup Dry White Wine
  • 1 Cup plus 2 Tbsp Chicken Broth
  • 1/4 Cup plus 1 Tbsp Chopped Fresh Tarragon
  • 1/4 Cup Dijon Mustard
  • 1 Tbsp Unsalted Butter
  • Salt and Pepper to taste

Prep your vegetables first. Chop your onion and garlic and set aside. Chop the tarragon leaves and set aside and have the white wine ready. I chose to make brown rice to serve with the chicken so I set up my rice cooker before I started the rest of the meal. If you want to make pasta, make it later, when the chicken has about 15 minutes left to simmer.

chopped onion

Onion all chopped

chopped garlic

Chopped Garlic

Fresh chopped tarragon

Fresh chopped tarragon

On a plate lay out the chicken pieces and season with flour, salt and pepper on both sides. In a large saucepan (use one with a cover, or a large dutch oven), heat the oil over medium-high heat. Once hot add the seasoned chicken and turn occasionally until the pieces are browned on both sides, about 5 minutes total. Remove the chicken to the plate and set aside until later.

Season both sides of the chicken thighs with flour, salt and pepper.

Season both sides of the chicken thighs with flour, salt and pepper.

Browning chicken

Brown both sides of the chicken

In the same pan add the onion and season with salt and pepper. Stir frequently until softened and then add in the garlic and cook for about 30 seconds then increase the heat to high and add in the wine to deglaze the pan. To deglaze a pan, use a wooden spoon to scrape up the food that has cooked to the pan.

Sauteing onions and garlic

Sauteing onions and garlic

Onions, garlic and chicken broth simmering

Onions, garlic and chicken broth simmering

Continue until the wine has reduced and the pan has been scraped up. Return the chicken to the pan  and add in the chicken broth and the 1/4 cup chopped tarragon. Bring it to a boil and reduce the heat to simmer. Cover the pan and simmer for 30 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through. Remove the chicken to the plate and cover with foil or another plate to keep warm.

Chicken Tarragon with White Wine Sauce

Simmering the chicken in the beginnings of the white wine sauce.

While the chicken is simmering take out a small bowl and whisk together the remaining two tablespoons chicken broth  and one tablespoon of flour  until smooth. After removing the chicken, whisk this mixture into the simmering cooking juices. Next whisk in the mustard and bring the mixture to a boil and cook for another five minutes. Turn off the heat and stir in the butter until smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Flour and Chicken Broth

The flour and chicken broth ready to be added to the white wine sauce.

white wine sauce

The tarragon white wine sauce is all ready

Place your starch on the plate or bowl first, then two pieces of chicken. Spoon the sauce over the chicken and garnish with some of the remaining chopped tarragon. Serve and enjoy!

Chicken Tarragon with White Wine Sauce over brown rice.

Chicken Tarragon with White Wine Sauce over brown rice.

Grilled Sirloin Steak with Pepper and Caper Salsa

1 Aug Grilled Sirloin Steak

When my dad brought down his copy of “Weeknights With Giada” last year some of the recipes I wanted to try were her grilled steak recipes. Unfortunately it’s hard to grill without a grill, so I knew I had to wait. And wait. But when I finally bought my Lodge Grill earlier this year I knew I could finally grill some steak! And grill I did! And I invited friends Susan and Val over to enjoy the beautiful dinner. And some Doctor Who. And then they got me hooked on Sherlock. (By the way, you should all watch “Sherlock”. Right now.) There was also wine. And ice cream sandwiches. All in all, it was a great night of food, friends and British TV.

Grilled Sirloin Steak & Pepper and Caper Salsa Ingredients L-R: Salt & Pepper, Roasted Bell Peppers, Cilantro, Capers, Herbes de Provence, Balsamic Vinegar, Olive Oil, Sirloin Steak

Grilled Sirloin Steak & Pepper and Caper Salsa Ingredients L-R: Salt & Pepper, Roasted Bell Peppers, Cilantro, Capers, Herbes de Provence, Balsamic Vinegar, Olive Oil, Sirloin Steak

GRILLED SIRLOIN STEAK with ROASTED PEPPER & CAPER SALSA (serves 3)

  • 3 8-ounce boneless sirloin steaks or one 1.5 pound steak, about one inch thick
  • 1 Tsp Kosher or Smoked Salt
  • 1 Tsp Herbes de Provence
  • 3 Tbsp Olive Oil plus more for drizzling
  • 3 Tbsp Balsamic Vinegar
  • 1/4 Cup Capers
  • 2 Tbsp Parsley Leaves
  • 1/2 Tsp Kosher Salt
  • 1/4 Tsp Black Pepper
  • 1/2 Roasted Red Pepper
  • 1/2 Roasted Yellow or Orange Pepper (you can also buy jars of roasted bell peppers, use about half a cup)
Roasting a yellow and red bell pepper.

Roasting a yellow and red bell pepper.

I chose to roast my own peppers, mostly because it was cheaper than buying a couple jars and because I had the time (takes about half an hour or so). Since I don’t have a grill I used my stove top, much like my mom did with her eggplant for the babaganoush/hummus. Just set your burner to low and place your peppers over the flame. As the skin burns turn the peppers. Continue until the entire pepper is black. Remove and place in a paper bag or wrap in foil to let all the juices soak in and make the peeling of the burned skin easier.

Roasted Bell Pepper & Caper Salsa

Roasted Bell Pepper & Caper Salsa

While you’re letting your peppers sweat, marinate your steak(s) with the herbes de provence, one teaspoon of kosher salt and drizzle with olive oil. Heat your grill over medium high heat (or heat up your gas or charcoal grill) and once it’s hot grill your steaks for 4 to 6 minutes on each side for medium-rare, longer if you like your meat not so bloody. I cooked mine for about 7 to 8 minutes on each side. Remove from grill to a plate or cutting board and let rest for about 5 minutes to allow the steaks to finish cooking.

Grilled Sirloin SteakWhile your steaks are grilling work on the salsa (just watch the clock too so your steaks don’t become over cooked!). First peel the burnt skin off your roasted peppers. The peppers will be very soft and slippery and should be relatively easy to peel away. Cut each pepper in half and save one half of each in a tupperware for another day and slice the other halves into thin slices, about 1/4″ thick. Add to a small mixing bowl along with about 3 tablespoons of olive oil, 3 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar, 1/4 cup capers (be sure to drain and rinse from jar), about 2 tablespoons chopped parsley leaves, 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper. Stir together until peppers are well coated.

kale salad

The kale salad by my roommate. Had carrots, cranberries and cashews.

Grilled Sirloin Steak

Grilled Sirloin Steak ready for serving. I’m drooling already

Once steaks have rested, slice thinly, about 1/4″-1/2″, and top with the salsa, enough to have some with each bite. I served the steak with a kale salad that my roommate had left before she went on a trip the day before. You can also serve with a potato dish, corn on the cob, grilled zucchini, or anything else your heart desires. Val brought a bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon from Trader Joe’s and it was perfect with the steak. She also brought mini ice cream sandwiches. Eating those was real torture 😉 So until next time foodies….

Grilled Sirloin Steak

Dinner is served!

Spiced Pork Chops and Spinach With Tomatoes

20 Feb

Oh how I love pork chops. And yet this was the first time I’ve made them. My dad makes really good pork chops and it’s always difficult for me to make something for the first time that my dad has a special recipe for. But rather than try his recipe, I found one in my new favorite cookbook, Weeknights With Giada, as well as a delicious sounding side dish, wilted spinach with tomatoes and basil. Unfortunately there was absolutely NO basil to be found. Anywhere. I swear. All the produce guys I spoke with said the cold snap from the previous week took a toll on the basil shipments and they didn’t get any in. Boo! Oh well, I’d survive. Not only was I making pork chops for the first time, I was also going to be using my new deep skillet for the first time! (Yes, I was geeking out.) While each recipe was fairly simple, I didn’t do proper prep work and so my pork chops were done way before my spinach and tomatoes were. And because I was focused too much on my spinach, my pork chops were sitting a little too long, and while they were still yummy, I should have taken them off the heat a few minutes sooner. C’est la vie! Next time they will be even juicier! Oh, and the sweet and sour glaze is delicious and I’ve used it on chicken and salmon since then. (And yes, those are my new bamboo cutting boards!)

Spiced Pork Chop Ingredients L-R: Red Pepper Flakes, Garlic, Salt & Pepper, Butter, Boneless Pork Chops, Green Onions, Balsamic Vinegar, Honey, Olive Oil, Fresh Rosemary

Spiced Pork Chop Ingredients L-R: Red Pepper Flakes, Garlic, Salt & Pepper, Butter, Boneless Pork Chops, Green Onions, Balsamic Vinegar, Honey, Olive Oil, Fresh Rosemary

SPICED PORK CHOPS WITH SWEET AND SOUR GLAZE (4 servings)

  • 4 Boneless Pork Chops, about 1 inch thick
  • 1/4 Cup Olive Oil
  • Salt & Pepper
  • 1 Tsp Crushed Red Pepper Flakes
  • 1/2 Cup Balsamic Vinegar
  • 1/2 Cup Honey
  • 2 Garlic Cloves
  • 3 Scallions
  • 1 Tsp Fresh Rosemary Leaves
  • 4 Tbsp Unsalted Butter

Season both sides of your pork chops with the salt, pepper and red pepper flakes. Sprinkle about 1/4 tsp of salt and red pepper flakes and about half that of black pepper for each chop. In a large skillet (should be big enough to hold all four pork chops) heat your oil over medium high heat. Once the pan is hot, place your chops  in and cook about 8 minutes on each side. Then remove to a large plate or platter and cover with foil until ready to serve.

Pork chops in the pan

Pork chops in the pan

Spiced Pork Chops after being turned

Spiced Pork Chops after being turned

All done! I turned over one more time before removing from heat.

All done! I turned over one more time before removing from heat.

When you put your pork chops into the pan start on the sweet and sour glaze. If you don’t want so much extra (I still have about 1/2 cup in my fridge) then only make half this recipe. (I will probably do this next time.) Mince your garlic, chop your rosemary leaves and chop your scallions finely.

Sweet and Sour Glaze in progress. Green onions and garlic chopped up and all ingredients on the stove.

Sweet and Sour Glaze in progress. Green onions and garlic chopped up and all ingredients on the stove.

Only use the white and pale green parts of the scallions though, that’s where all the flavors lie. You can chop the dark green part and use as garnish. In a small saucepan or pot, combine your balsamic vinegar, honey, garlic, scallions, and rosemary over medium-high heat. Stir occasionally until the honey has dissolved. Lower the heat all the way down and simmer for 8 to 10 minutes. By this time you should have turned your pork chops over. The sauce should reduce slightly. Make sure your butter is at room temperature. It should be soft enough to easily squeeze with your fingers. Cut the butter into about 1/2 inch cubes. Remove from the heat and whisk in your butter until the sauce is nice and smooth and all the butter has melted. Your sauce and chops should finish at the same time.

Spinach with Tomatoes Ingredients L-R: Cherry Tomatoes, Shallot, Garlic, Fresh Spinach, Salt & Pepper, Balsamic Vinegar, Olive Oil

Spinach with Tomatoes Ingredients L-R: Cherry Tomatoes, Shallot, Garlic, Fresh Spinach, Salt & Pepper, Balsamic Vinegar, Olive Oil

WILTED SPINACH WITH TOMATOES AND BASIL (6 servings)

  • 1 Pint Cherry Tomatoes
  • 3 Tbsp Olive Oil
  • 1 Large Shallot
  • 2 Garlic Cloves
  • 1 Pound Fresh Spinach Leaves
  • 1/2 Tsp Salt
  • 1/2 Tsp Black Pepper
  • 1/4 Cup Balsamic Vinegar
  • 1/3 Cup Chopped Fresh Basil Leaves (which I didn’t have)

Do your prep work first (when you are prepping your pork chops). Thinly slice your shallot, cut your tomatoes in half, and mince your garlic. Also chop your basil leaves. In a large skillet heat your oil over medium-high heat. Add in your shallots and cook for about 3 minutes, until they are soft and starting to turn translucent. Add in your garlic and cook briefly until you can smell it then add in your tomatoes and cook for another two minutes. In handfuls add in your spinach and stir slowly until wilted, about 5-7 minutes. Turn heat down to low, salt and pepper and stir in the balsamic vinegar and basil leaves. Let simmer for about a minute. Start this dish once you turn your pork chops over and you’ve turned the heat down on your sauce. It should all end about the same time. I only used about half a pound of the spinach and half a pint of tomatoes so I wouldn’t have too much leftover. (Re-heating cooked spinach isn’t always the best, it’s best fresh from the stove.)

Shallots cooking

Shallots cooking

Shallots and tomatoes cooking

Shallots and tomatoes cooking

Add in the spinach...

Add in the spinach…

Almost done....

Almost done….

Pour a large spoonful or two (depending on  your spoon) over your pork chops and enjoy! I paired this with a red wine I already had open, Poggiotondo Rosso Toscana 2010.

Spiced Pork Chops with Sweet and Sour Glaze and Spinach and Tomatoes

Spiced Pork Chops with Sweet and Sour Glaze and Spinach and Tomatoes

A Chinese Thanksgiving

20 Nov

While I’ve spent every Thanksgiving Day in Mill Valley, it has also been a tradition to go across the bay to Berkeley on Friday evening for a second Thanksgiving. This one is much less formal and is spent with my dad’s family. We also spend it at one of our favorite Chinese restaurants, Tai San. It’s situated on the infamous Telegraph Avenue just past all the busy shops and street vendors. My aunt and uncle use to live just around the corner and we’d go there often when I was younger. Now it’s our go to dinner place on Thanksgiving weekend. We eat family style at one big table all ordering our favorite dish and sharing. With a dozen adults and a few little ones running around it’s a great day. And who doesn’t love Chinese food? My go to choice for many years was Sweet and Sour Chicken. When I was little it was one of the only things I would eat there, but as I got older and my taste buds expanded, I looked forward to trying new things. It’s still one of my favorite dishes to get though.

Since dad doesn’t have to cook he can spend time with one of his granddaughters. Coloring: very important. (2009)

Thanksgiving isn’t about food. It’s about family and spending time with the people you love. The food is just a bonus in my opinion, a way to bring so many people together. Turkey with stuffing or sweet and sour chicken with rice, either way, I get a special dinner with my family. It’s the only time of year that I see some of them, especially now that I’ve moved down to Los Angeles. When we’re younger we take for granted the time we spend with our family, it almost feels like a chore. But now, I count the days till I see my family again. When you only see them once a year it changes everything. So this year at Thanksgiving, take an extra moment with your family, especially the young ones. Don’t let them feel like it’s a chore to have a big family dinner, share your own memories and then make new ones with them.

My niece Mykenzie showing off her chopstick skills in 2010

My cousin-in-law Brandon and his beautiful daughter Laurna in 2009

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