Tag Archives: weekend dinner

WEEKEND CHEF! Hot Wings With Festive Rice (serves 4)

 I married a man who can’t cook but always wished he had learned the basics early on. Everything is so much harder to grasp when you are older (you know, like learning Japanese or ice skating!). Well, I am determined that this doesn’t happen to my kids, at least when it comes to cooking. It would be sinful not to teach them a little of what I have learned over the years, and keeping children out of the kitchen because they make a mess is a poor excuse when you think that one day they could make a dinner like the one my 14-year-old son made for us all this weekend!

Chef Special

Chef Special

Granted he needed a nudge to get going, and he thought because he had watched me for so long he would magically be able to dice an onion into minute uniform squares. He soon realized the only way to learn is by doing it over and over again. My two children have always helped doing “jobs” in the kitchen (my son’s favorite being to chop herbs to a fine powder!), but the other night when I looked at my son as he towered above me I had this vision of him four short years from now in some college wondering how to make good basic dishes to sustain him – panic!

The inspiration

The inspiration (The Sriracha Cookbook)

The two of them certainly know a lot about food and they know how most basic dishes are made (stews, curries, noodle dishes, sauces, stocks, soups etc), but this year I want my son to be our Weekend Chef. This past Saturday his job was to grab any cookbook magazine or food idea, tell me what it was and I would give him free reign in the kitchen (with me of course hovering to impart any wisdom I might want to force upon him). He loves Asian flavors (and sriracha hot sauce) and decided on Hot Wings from a new cookbook (present for my husband which he will probably never open!) and a rice dish I make variations on quite a bit.

uhi

Squeezing lime juice into his sauce (He told me it was “harder than it looked” – “isn’t everything!” was my reply.

He did an amazing job and from watching him I am pretty confident that in the next few months he will be slicing and dicing better than me. He was very specific about his rice and when he tasted it, he only added a little mirin to the end result because he wanted a little “sweetness to balance the fire from the Hot Wings Sauce” We didn’t fry the wings as in the recipe. I think it is a tad dangerous and the risk of crisping them up too much was a factor. He argued that cooking them in the oven would not get the same effect but then seeing the result was happy enough with the crisp skin. I also told him the quantity of sauce was way too much for the amount of wings so he halved the recipe (again arguing with me) and it turned out to be an ample amount of sauce for everyone. He’s already learning that cookbooks should be a guide-book not a Bible.

Last night (as I cooked dinner) he came by to help - see, it's working already!

Last night (as I cooked dinner) he came by to help – see, it’s working already!

He tried to be cool about the whole “making dinner” thing but when we all thanked and complimented him he got to feel the pride and satisfaction that comes with doing something for someone besides yourself. There will be star meals and bombs made over the next year of Saturdays, but I can’t wait for each and every one.

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Hassle-Free Wings:

3 lbs chicken wings – tips removed (demo picture below)

2 tbs olive oil

1 tsp salt

Method:

Preheat oven 400*

1 – Prep wings (see picture below) and place in big bowl with oil and salt. Mix everything together to coat the wings with oil.

iuyg

Take a wing, chop off the tip (discard or keep to use in a homemade stock). Cut the rest of the wing in two. you’ll get the hang of it after a couple of tries.

2 – Place a cooling rack or some sort of oven rack into a baking tray (it will keep the wings separated from the dripping fat) and add the wings in an even layer. Place in oven for between 40 to 50 minutes, or until the wings look nice and crispy.

place wings on rack

place wings on rack

Remove to a bowl and coat with half of the hot sauce (recipe follows)

Coat crispy wings with hot sauce

Coat crispy wings with hot sauce

Hot Sauce for Wings:

1 stick unsalted butter

1/3 cup sriracha sauce

1/4 cup honey

1 tsp salt

1/2 lime – juiced

Method:

Add butter to a pot set on low heat and dd the sauce

Add butter to a pot set on low heat and add the sriracha sauce

Add the honey, lime juice and salt

Add the honey, lime juice and salt

serve warm beside wings or coat wings with sauce

serve warm beside wings or coat wings with sauce

Festive rice Just For You (serves 4-6)

This recipe should be tailored to veggies you like and what you have available in your kitchen. In other words, treat everything as optional, except for the rice!

You will need:

Basmati Rice – stove top made rice: 2 cups (16oz) and follow package instructions and for Rice Cooker: 3 cups in rice cooker measuring cup and follow rice cooker instructions (my ratio is 1 cup rice to 1 cup water)

2 to 3 tbs olive oil

Pick up to three or four of the following:

1 onion – diced (can be sweet, yellow, white or purple)

2 ribs celery – diced (optional)

1 cup diced or Julienned carrots (optional)

8 oz mushrooms – thinly sliced (can be any kind of mushroom)(optional)

2 small yellow squash or zucchini or 1 of each – diced (optional)

4 cups spinach or kale – chopped (optional)

2 large cloves garlic – roughly chopped (optional)

1 to 2 tbs various chopped fresh herbs (optional)

1 to 2 tsp spice (curry powder, mix of cumin, ginger and coriander or anything else you like when it comes to spice flavors) (optional)

Method:

1 – Put rice on to cook and then set aside.

Pari Basmati Rice

Pari Basmati Rice

2 – Put a big saute pan on medium heat and add 2 tbs of oil. When it has heated up a little add the veggies that will take the longest to cook, ending with the veggies that cook quickly. So, add things like onions and garlic first for 3 minutes, next the mushrooms, and then the carrots and squash, and ending with quick cooking things like the chopped greens.  Add more oil if necessary.

Add long-cooking ingredients forst

Add long-cooking ingredients first

2 – So, add things like onions and garlic first for 3 minutes, next the mushrooms, and then the carrots and squash, and ending with quick cooking things like the chopped greens.  Add more oil if necessary. Everything should be cooked within 10 minutes. 

keep adding veggies

keep adding veggies

3 – If going to use herbs and spices, add after the base ingredients like the onions and garlic.

Add rice

Add rice

4 – Add cooked rice and stir. Keep warm until ready to serve.

My son served this to us this past Saturday night!

My son served this to us this past Saturday night!

Quick Weekend Pasta Dinner (Rigatoni with Savory sausage & Sweet Onions) – Serves 6

I don’t know what your weekend is like but for me I always move a little slower on Saturdays. The weekdays I am up early, busy all day and fall into bed exhausted each night, and so Saturday I think my body and brain go on strike in order to recoup. This means that making an easy dinner fits right into the relaxed pace I am in dire need of.

The easiest dinner in the world!

The easiest dinner in the world!

This is a family day for me, a day when I try to avoid having anyone over for dinner (unless of course it is a “weekend guest” weekend!) preferring to close the door on all things that are a hassle on Friday night. I love having friends over Friday as I am in work mode anyway and it is a great way to celebrate the beginning of a couple of days that are different from the rest.

Herbs from my garden save my life most nights

Herbs from my garden save my life most nights

If I go grocery shopping on Saturday I make sure to buy some very convenient items with an eye on making my dinner prep a breeze. This Saturday I found some great seasoned sausage and knew it would be all I would need to flavor the whole dish (save for throwing a few fresh herbs snagged from my garden).

Remove sausage casing by cutting the entire lenght of the sausge adn sliding it off. then it is easy to cut or break the sasge into your pan

Remove sausage casing by cutting the entire length of the sausage and sliding it off. After that it is easy to cut or break the sausage into your pan

 A good pasta dish can be one of the most delicious things in the world to eat if it is mixed with the right combo of flavors. It was so good that if I had happened to get in over my head and invite people to dinner it would have worked out very well indeed.

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You will need:

3 to 4 tbs extra-virgin olive oil

2 tbs unsalted cold butter

1lb savory sausage (I used an apple and onion sausage, but any flavor combination that appeals to you and is available will do!) – removed form casing

3 small/medium sweet onions – diced

2 cloves garlic – finely chopped

1 small sprig fresh rosemary

3 or 4 sprigs fresh thyme

1/2 tsp cayenne pepper flakes (optional – I always like a bit of heat!)

1/2 tsp salt (but taste dish before adding)

4 cups chopped greens (spinach, kale or chard work great)

1lb rigatoni (I use Barilla brand with ridges)

1/2 to 3/4 cup pasta cooking water (this is water reserved after cooking the pasta)

Method:

*Place the water on for the pasta. Rigatoni takes between 12 to 14 minutes to cook so plan on timing it to be ready when the rest of the dish is cooked. BEFORE YOU DRAIN THE PASTA WATER SCOOP OUT ABOUT 1 CUP AND SET SIDE.

1 – Place large pan (large enough to hold the entire finished dish) on low/medium heat and add 3 tbs of the oil. When it has wormed, Add the onions and garlic and cook stirring occasionally for 10 minutes, until nice and soft. Add the herbs and pepper flakes (if using).

Saute onions in oil, add herbs after a bit

Saute onions in oil, add herbs after a bit

2 – Add the sausage either by cutting it was a scissors or breaking it off with your hands into the pan. Break it up further with a wooden spoon as it is cooking. Turn the heat up a little and cook until the sausage begins to brown a little and is cooked through (depends but anywhere up to 15 minutes).

Add sausage

Add sausage

3 – Add the spinach and stir quickly. Turn heat off, taste for addition of salt and add if you think it needs it.  Cover with lid. until the pasta is ready.

Add greens

Add greens

4 – Add the pasta directly from draining into the pan (DO NOT RINSE PASTA UNDER COLD WATER), al with 3/4 cup of the reserved pasta water and cold butter. Replace lid and after a minute stir everything gently.

add cooked pasta and pasta water

add cooked pasta, cold butter and pasta water

Serve in warmed bowls and pass the cheese if you have it on hand. A few extra pepper flakes wouldn’t go astray either!

Did I menton how great this tastes topped with the cheese of the gods: Parmiagiano reggiano!

Did I mention how great this tastes topped with the cheese of the gods: Parmigiano Reggiano!

Really Great Smokey Baby-Back Ribs (serves 6-8)

This past weekend was a hectic one to say the least and I had to be smart about what to cook. The best kinds of dishes to cook when you have guests and are on the go are ones that demand little time to prepare, slow cooking and are hearty enough to keep everyone happy for hours.

This dish most certainly fit all the criteria and was more delicious than I could have imagined.

This Weekend: Really Great Smokey Baby-Back Ribs

This Weekend: Really Great Smokey Baby-Back Ribs

I implore you to add this to your list of ways to cook my favorite kind of pig: Baby-Back ribs!

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You will need:

4 tbs olive oil

2 racks baby-back ribs, cut into 2 to 3 rib pieces, seasoned lightly with sea-salt and black pepper.

1 large (not huge) Vidalia onion

4 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1 cup roughly chopped flat-leafed parsley leaves

2 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, chopped (click here if you don’t know what this is)

1 tbs adobo sauce (use 2 tbs if you want more smokey heat)

1 28 oz can crushed tomatoes (I used San Marzano tomatoes)

1 tsp sea-salt (if using a fine-grained salt, start of with a 1/2 tsp)

Freshly ground black pepper

4 cups chicken broth OR 1 good quality bouillon cube (Rapunzel) and 4 cups of water)

Equipment: you will need a very large casserole with lid for this dish.

* I served this with basmati rice but you can serve with a pasta, like spaghetti*

Method:

Preheat oven 400*

1 – Sear the prepared ribs (see ingredients list instructions) in batches on high heat in large saute pan until browned on both sides. You will need to add more oil as you go. Transfer to a big casserole (with lid) that can be put into the oven.

sear ribs

sear ribs

2 – turn heat down to medium and add the onions and cook for about 5 minutes before adding the chopped chipotle peppers, adobo sauce and parsley.

saute onions, add seasonings

saute onions, add seasonings

3 – Add the tomato puree, broth (or water and bouillon cube) and salt and bring mixture to a boil.

add liquids

Add liquids

4 – Pour this mixture into the casserole over the ribs and place in the oven for 1  1/4 hours. Remove from oven and check meat by piercing with a sharp knife. If it is very tender you can remove it from the oven. Let it sit covered for about 10 minutes before serving. Taste the sauce for additional seasoning. Also, if the sauce is very thick you can add a little more water to thin it out to your liking.

assemble dish and cook

Assemble dish and cook

Serve each person 2 or 3 rib sections with whatever you like, (suggestions below). You can also have some cayenne pepper flakes on the table for those of you who like more heat. A sprinkle of some flat-leafed parsley would not go astray either!

Serve alone or with rice, pasta or bread

Serve alone or with rice, pasta or bread

The meat can also be removed from the ribs and returned to the sauce which makes it easier to eat, especially if you serve it with a long pasta like spaghetti or tagliatelle.

Quick Pork Ragu (serves 6 with Pasta)

Okay, this is a crazy weekend with far too many things on my plate to wax on about how great this easy-peasy (lemon-squeezy!) pork dish tasted. As is pretty obvious I love to cook, but sometimes the pressure of time makes it an activity that is squeezed in between all the other things that are part of my life.

A great speedy ragu

A great speedy ragu

The same goes for the writing. I have only time enough to give the recipe before zooming off to do the million things that very inconveniently came crashing down on me all at one time! I don’t like when my weekend is taken up with things that are not so important to me but still need to be done.

On the bright side, if you only came to my blog for a recipe then it will be convenient as you to not have to scroll through a lots of extra stuff to get to it!

This is a great dish if you too find yourself short on time this weekend. You can also double up and feed a crowd!

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You will need:

1 lb pork tenderloin, thinly sliced

3 tbs extra-virgin olive oil

2 stripes bacon, roughly chopped or sliced

1 medium sweet or yellow onion, small dice

1 tsp finely chopped rosemary leaves

1/2 tsp cayenne pepper flakes (chili flakes)

1/2 cup white wine

28 oz can tomato puree

1 tbs tomato paste (regular or smoked)

1 tsp salt

several grinds of black pepper

Method:

1 – Put sauce pot or deep saute pan on medium heat and add oil. When it warms add the onions and cook for 2 minutes before adding the chopped bacon. Cook for 8 minutes, stirring occasionally before adding the rosemary. Cook for another minute.

saute onions, bacon & rosemary

Saute onions, bacon & rosemary

2 – Season the pork with the sea-salt and pepper and turn up heat. Add the pork and cook for 5 minutes until it takes on a light brown color. Add the wine and turn the heat up to high. Let it bubble for about 1 minute.

add pork

Add pork

3 – Add the tomato puree, paste, and chili flakes and bring to a boil. Turn heat down, cover and simmer gently for 30 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.

et voila!

et voila!

Serve with spaghetti, ridged penne or pasta shells. A salad on the side would also be a nice addition.

Baked Chicken & Spinach Rigatoni – Really Great Dish! (Serves 6)

This was a great weekend dinner. I prepped it earlier in the day and then was free right up to dinner time to enjoy my busy weekend.

Baked Chicken & Spinach Rigatoni

Baked Chicken & Spinach Rigatoni

This dish  had everything needed in one big baked dish: protein, carbs, and greens. I made the bechamel-style sauce lighter by using more broth than milk and it really helped to eliminate that heavy feeling you have after eating a big bowl of pasta.

Think about making this next weekend!

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You will need:

4 tbs unsalted butter

2 tbs extra virgin olive oil

3 chicken fillet (4 if small), cut into small bite-sized pieces

10 oz mushrooms, sliced (about 3 cups sliced) – any mushroom: white, crimini, button

10 oz spinach, chopped

sea-salt & freshly ground black pepper (to season chicken)

3 tbs all-purpose flour

1 cup milk

2 cups chicken broth (or 2 cups water & 1 good quality bouillon cube)

1/2 tsp cayenne pepper flakes (chili flakes)

1 lb rigatoni pasta (I use Barilla brand)

1 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese (or another strong hard cheese of your choice: cheddar, Pecorino Romano)

Method:

Preheat oven 350*

Put the pasta water with plenty of salt and cook rigatoni according to instructions and rinse with cold water in colander. Set aside until ready to assemble dish.

1 – Season chicken with sea-salt and freshly ground black pepper. Put large saute pan on medium/high heat and add 1 tbs of butter and 1 tbs olive oil. Saute the chicken pieces in batches until cooked. As you cook sprinkle a little of the chili flakes over the chicken. Do not crowd the pan or the chicken will just get steamed and watery. Chicken batches will take about 5 to 6 minutes each.  You will need to add more butter and oil as you go (only use 2 tablespoons of butter for this stage). Transfer to a plate as you go and cover with another plate or shallow bowl.

saute chicken

saute chicken

2 – Turn heat down to medium and add the rest of butter (2 tbs). Add the mushrooms and saute until nice and soft and starting to brown (about 10 minutes). Add  chopped spinach and cover pan with lid for 1 minutes. Take lid off and stir. Turn off heat.

saute mushrooms, add spinach

saute mushrooms, add spinach

3 – Add the flour and mix well. Cook for about 1 minute before adding the milk and the broth 1 cup at a time, mixing well in between each cupful. The sauce will begin to thicken. Stir and continue to cook for about 4 or 5 minutes while sauce simmers and thickens. Turn off heat and stir in any remaining pepper flakes. Taste sauce for the addition of salt and pepper.

make sauce

make sauce

Assemble dish: Spread 1/4 cup of the sauce in the bottom of a buttered casserole (lasagna dish). Add 1/2 of the rigatoni.

Assemble ingredients

Assemble ingredients

Add all of the chicken in an even layer followed by the mushroom and spinach mixture. Top with 1/2 of the remaining sauce.

sauce, pasta, chicken, veggies, sauce, pasta, sauce

sauce, pasta, chicken, veggies, sauce, pasta, sauce

Cover veggie and chicken layer with the rest of the pasta followed by the remaining sauce. Sprinkle with the grated cheese.

Bake

Bake

Bake in preheated oven for about 35 minutes, covering 1/2 way through if top is browned.

Serve

Serve

Let dish sit for about 5 minutes before serving. Serve with more grated cheese if you like.