Open-Face Grilled Ham & Cheese with Roasted Asparagus

It is crazy in our house this week. Anthony is super busy at work and I am putting together some awesome wedding invitations, making guest gift bags for a wedding, and baking 100 sugar cookies for a shower. It’s also about a billion degrees outside, so I am continuing my summer trend of low-effort dinners.

I love anything that has melted cheese on it, so I picked up some good bread, asparagus, scallions, ham and mild cheddar at the store on Sunday and made yummy grilled sandwiches that night.

Open-Face Grilled Ham & Cheese with Roasted Asparagus

Ingredients:

- 1 bunch asparagus, ends trimmed
- 1 bunch scallions, ends trimmed
- Several slices thick french bread
- 6 oz mild cheddar cheese, shredded
- Several slices thin sliced ham
- Olive oil
- Fresh thyme

1. Set over to 400 degrees. Spread asparagus and scallions on a cookie sheet, toss with a little olive oil to coat. Roast for about 10 minutes or until asparagus is tender.

2. Remove vegetables from the oven and assemble sandwiches on a cookie sheet sprayed lightly with olive oil. Bread first, then ham, then vegetables, then cheese and herbs.

3. Bake for about 10 minutes at 400 degrees until cheese is melty and edges of bread are crispy.

Thai Steak Salad

It was super hot here last week, and the last thing I wanted to do was cook dinner. I made this delicious salad that was pretty good the first night warm, but even better the next night cold. The key to this one is the dressing, and you can really add just about any vegetables you have around.

Ingredients:

- 1 pound grilled steak (can substitute chicken or shrimp)
- 8 ounces rice noodles, cooked according to package directions
- 1 cucumber, diced
- 2 cups salad greens (I used arugula)
- 1/2 cup fresh basil, chopped
- Shredded carrots, chopped peppers, or any other vegetables you love

Dressing

- 1/2 cup soy sauce
- 1/4 cup sesame oil
- 2 tablespoons Sriracha (a little more if you like it hot)
- 1 tablespoon lime juice

1. Toss cooked rice noodles in half of the sesame oil.
2. Combine soy sauce, remaining sesame oil, Sriracha, and lime juice and shake until emulsified.
3. Add steak, cucumber, salad greens, basil, and any other vegetable to the rice noodles and toss with dressing until everything is coated.

The salad keeps well in the refrigerator for several days and can be served hot or cold. Make a big batch for a busy, hot summer week and you’ll have dinner waiting for you every night!

Favorite Dinner – Chicken Piccata

I decided to treat myself to one of my favorite foods in the entire world tonight – Chicken Piccata. There aren’t too many recipes that combine as many of my favorite things (lemon, capers, and butter in this case), and it’s actually a fairly quick and simple process.

- 1 lb thin-sliced chicken breasts
- 1 egg, beaten
- 1/2 cup flour
- 2 tablespoons grated parmesan or romano cheese
- olive oil
- 1/2 cup white wine
- 1/2 cup chicken stock
- juice of 1 lemon
- 2 tablespoons capers
- 2 tablespoons butter

1. Heat olive oil on medium-high in a large skillet. Beat egg in a small bowl, then mix flour and cheese in a separate bowl. Coat chicken in egg then flour and saute in the hot oil until golden and crisp, a few minutes on each side. Be careful not to crowd the pan, cooking the chicken 2-3 pieces at a time. As they are done, move chicken breasts to a platter and cover with foil.

2. Once all of the chicken is cooked and removed from the pan, add white wine and deglaze, scraping the bottom of the skillet to get the brown bits (that’s the tasty part). Cook the wine on medium high heat for about 3 minutes, then add the chicken stock and continue cooking for another 10-15 minutes, until the liquid reduces a bit.

3. Finally, add the lemon juice, capers and butter and stir until the butter melts. Pour the liquid over the chicken and serve immediately.

Citrus Roasted Salmon & Barley Risotto

I made the BEST dinner the other night from Power Foods - a cook book that I have had for over a year, but never used. Anthony has been keeping up with his vegetarian diet, so the salmon was just for me. The risotto is made with barley instead of rice, and it was really delicious.

The salmon is roasted on orange and lemon slices for 17 minutes at 400 degrees and topped with a puree of fresh peas and watercress. The risotto has leeks, asparagus and peas, and is prepared just like regular risotto. Delicious

Here is the recipe for the Spring Barley Risotto.

Roasted Broccoli and Tomatoes with Balsamic Vinegar

I love roasted asparagus. Seriously, it is in my top ten favorite foods, definitely near the top. I love the way it changes the flavor and texture of the asparagus, and now I won’t eat it any other way.

I need to add some new vegetable recipes to our rotation, and I have read about how fantastic roasted broccoli is, so I decided to give it a try with tomatoes, balsamic, garlic and some cheese on top. It worked out really well and we ate it over some pasta, but it would work perfectly as a side dish to some yummy chicken or fish.

Here’s what you need:
- 1 pint grape tomatoes, cut in half
- 1 large bunch broccoli, crowns only
- 4-5 cloves garlic, smashed
- olive oil
- 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
- parmesan or romano cheese

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine tomatoes and garlic in a small glass baking dish and coat with olive oil. Bake for 20 minutes.
2. While tomatoes are roasting, place the broccoli on a large baking sheet line with foil. Drizzle with olive oil and toss to coat. Sprinkle with a little salt and pepper. After the tomatoes have been in the oven for 20 minutes, increase the temperature to 425 degrees and place the broccoli in the oven for 1- to 12 minutes.
3. Once the broccoli is in the oven, remove the tomatoes, add the balsamic vinegar, and stir. Place back in the oven for the remainder of the time that the broccoli roasts.

4. Remove both the tomatoes and broccoli from the oven, and combine. Top with grated cheese and serve over pasta or alone.


The best part of the whole thing was the crispy bit on the broccoli, which look a little burnt, but taste delicious.

Cranberry Beans & White Zucchini

I went to the farmers’ market yesterday and bought 2 new kinds of vegetables – Cranberry Beans and White Zucchini. I have never cooked fresh beans before, but these were too pretty to resist.

They were just as pretty when I shelled them, and I did some research online to see how I should cook them.

The general consensus seemed to be that the beans should be sautéed with garlic or onions, then covered with just enough water to simmer until tender, adding more water as necessary.

As the beans were cooking, I cut and cooked my other purchase – white zucchini.

I combined the white zucchini with regular green zucchini and sautéed it in olive oil and red pepper flakes.

Once both the zucchini and beans were tender, I combined them and served them with grilled chicken. Yum!

Roasted Potatoes with Shallots and Fresh Herbs

I LOVE potatoes. I could seriously eat them for every meal. I bought some Rainbow Potatoes from Whole Foods tonight and roasted them with shallots and fresh herbs. This is my favorite way to cook potatoes and it goes with just about anything.

  • 1 lb small potatoes, cut into 1/2″ pieces (I used a mixture of red new potatoes, small white potatoes and small purple fingerling potatoes, but any small ones work)
  • 1 medium shallot, minced (you can also use garlic)
  • A handful of fresh herbs such as parsley, tarragon or rosemary, finely chopped
  • Olive oil
  • Salt & Pepper
Preheat oven to 400 degrees fahrenheit. Mix potatoes, shallots and herbs in a medium baking dish. Add just enough olive oil to coat the potatoes and toss with salt and pepper. Bake for about 45 minutes, turning once so both sides get crispy.
I served them with a pan-seared steak topped with goat cheese and roasted asparagus. Yum!

Yummy, Easy Pasta

Every once in a while I remember this yummy pasta recipe that includes tuna, feta cheese and capers. It is one of my favorites because I LOVE salty things, and this combo is perfect, because it’s not too salty for Anthony, who is less of a fan.

The other great thing is that it tastes great warm or cold, and only requires the ability to boil water. Here’s what you need:

- Half a 16 oz box of rotini pasta
- Big bunch of broccoli, chop off the crowns
- 2 cans White Albacore Tuna, drained
- Juice of 1 lemon
- 4 tablespoons olive oil
- 4-5 tablespoons capers (or more if you’re me and you love them)
- Feta cheese

Boil the pasta and steam the broccoli. I usually put the broccoli in a mesh strainer over the pasta water to steam it while the pasta boils. One pot = awesome. Whisk the olive oil and lemon juice together to make the dressing, and add in a little salt & pepper.

Once the pasta and broccoli are cooked, mix together and add in tuna, capers and dressing. Served topped with feta cheese – warm or cold.

Delicious!

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Italian Stir Fry

On of the favorite dinners in our house is what I call Italian Stir Fry. It’s just meat plus pasta plus vegetables with a little chicken stock and garlic.

Tonight I used tomato basil chicken sausage, tri-color tortellini, broccolini and sun-dried tomatoes. The chicken sausage was great because it was already cooked so dinner was done in no time.

This is a perfect dinner for busy days because you don’t have to spend too much time prepping or cooking, and you can use up leftover vegetables.

Here’s how I do it:

1. Put some water on to boil. We always start the water on first in our house so that is is ready as soon as we are ready for pasta (we make A LOT of pasta). If it boils before you need it, you can turn it down a bit. When you’re ready to put the pasta in, you can turn it back up and it will boil again.

2. Remove the sausage from its casing and sauté it in a large pan on medium-high heat, stirring it and breaking it up as it cooks. Once it is cooked through, remove it from the pan and set aside. If you’re using pre-cooked sausage, you can skip this step (just slice it up and throw it in the pan later).

3. Mince some garlic and add it to the pan, cooking it until it gets soft and smells good.

4. Add the vegetables and enough chicken stock to cover the bottom of the pan. Add the sausage back in and cover. Now is a good time to put the pasta in the boiling water.

5. In the time it takes the pasta to cook, the vegetables should get tender and the flavors will be starting to blend. Dump the cooked pasta in the pan, stir and serve.

Now for the best part – CHEESE.

Grate some parmesan cheese on top. The more cheese, the better. I bought a microplane grater a few years ago for lemon zest, used it once on a block of hard parmesan when our other grater was in the dishwasher – it was amazing. It makes tiny soft curls of cheese that melt into the pasta as you stir it. If you don’t have one, go out and get one now. It is on my list of things that will change your life (right above organic ketchup).

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