Category Archives: Entertaining

Savory Cavatappi with Pork Sausage and Veggies


I truly love discovering quality foods to cook with…recently I came across Applegate Farms Breakfast Sausage at my local Whole Foods Market.  The sausages are really, really, really good. Really. So, I thought, why limit myself to just breakfast?  Inspired by my dad’s recipe for a 1960s favorite—Egg Noodles and Sausage Toss—I devised this recipe. It’s a hit, except with my son who dislikes green things in his food. Oh well, like so many good-for-you foods, in Sam’s case, the spinach is optional.

Savory Cavatappi with Pork Sausage & Veggies

(serves 6)

  • 1 package (16 ounces) Cavatappi (corkscrew) pasta (or try bowties, penne, etc., any shape will do!)
  • 4 tablespoons good quality olive oil, divided
  • 1 package (8 ounces) Applegate Farms Classic Pork Breakfast Sausage
  • 1 medium red onion, sliced
  • 2 large cloves garlic, chopped
  • 8 ounces grape or cherry tomatoes (any colors and varieties), halved
  • about 6 ounces  baby spinach leaves, rinsed and dried
  • 1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • small basil leaves, optional

Cook the Cavatappi according to package directions. Before draining it, reserve 3 tablespoons of the cooking liquid. Drain the pasta and transfer it to a large bowl. Drizzle it with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and the reserved cooking liquid, and toss. Cover the pasta to keep it warm.

While the pasta is cooking, add 2 tablespoons olive oil to a large skillet, and saute the sausage  over medium low heat. Remove the sausage to a cutting board.  Slice the sausage diagonally into 1 inch pieces.

Keeping the heat on medium low, add the onions and garlic to the pan, and saute them for a few minutes until they soften.  Add the tomatoes and cook them for 2 minutes, then add the sliced sausages. Next, add the spinach and cook it until it just begins to wilt. Be careful not to overcook it, since it will become mushy and lose its brilliant green color.

Pour the sausage mixture over the pasta, and gently toss it. Sprinkle it with the Parmesan cheese, then add salt and pepper to taste, and  toss it again.

If you like, add some small basil leaves and a sprinkling of extra Parmesan cheese to each serving.

This recipe lends itself to all kinds of good veggie variations, so have fun experimenting!

Heather

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3 Comments

Filed under Entertaining, Pasta, Pork, Sausage, Vegetables

Not Just for Vegans….Nutritional Yeast

Does Nutritional Yeast sound good to you? Me either. But, I was introduced to it recently, and guess what? It’s actually really good—and better yet, it’s good for you.

Sugar-free, dairy-free, & gluten-free, nutritional yeast is naturally low in fat and sodium. Since it has a cheesy, nutty flavor, it works as a cheese replacement in many recipes, making it a vegan’s best friend. Since it’s healthy and tasty, I’ve made friends with it too.

So, what the heck is it? Well, for the full scientific explanation, check it out on Wikipedia….but in short, it’s a deactivated yeast sold as powder or flakes. It’s a source of protein and vitamins, and it’s often available fortified with vitamin B12.  You can find nutritional yeast in health food stores….I bought it at Whole Foods. It’s not cheap, but neither is cheese, and a little goes a long way.

I’ve used nutritional yeast in pesto, I’ve breaded chicken cutlets with it, and I’ve sprinkled it and on pasta and salads. Nutritional yeast makes a really tasty topping for popcorn, too, plus you can really enjoy it knowing it’s good for you.

Not-So-Cheesey Popcorn

(makes eight 1-cup servings)

  • 8 cups air-popped popcorn
  • 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, or to taste
  • • 2 tablespoons of melted clarified butter, or 2 tablespoons of a vegan spread, melted
1. Place the popcorn in a large bowl.
2. Mix the nutritional yeast, italian seasoning mix and garlic powder together in a small bowl.
3. Drizzle the melted butter over the popcorn and toss it.
4. Sprinkle on the nutritional yeast mixture and toss again.
5. For a little extra zip, sprinkle on a little Cajun seasoning.

2 Comments

Filed under Appetizer, Entertaining, Popcorn, Snacks, Vegetarian

Party Cake Pops

Every year when the kids’ birthdays roll around, my wife Carol tries something different to celebrate. As a creative director, she is, well, pretty creative, so I’m always expecting something new & exciting. This year she decided to try her hand at making cake pops.

Cake pops have been “all the rage” ever since Angie Dudley of Bakerella fame published her recent book. Although Angie forms her pops from crumbled cake, Carol decided to try baking them from a set of Bake Pop trays. Carol also wanted her pops to have a soft exterior coating of frosting, rather than the harder candy melt surface that Angie suggests. Either way, cake pops are all about the decorating, and, as you can see from our photo above, anything goes!

You will need…

  • cake mix
  • bake pop tray or baking pan
  • candy melts and your favorite frostings
  • lollipop sticks
  • piping bag & tips
  • sprinkles, nonpareils, etc. (for decorating)
  • styrofoam board (for drying)

Bake cake mix in bake pop trays. Allow to cool. Remove pops from tray.

Place candy melts in narrow microwave-safe bowl and melt in microwave, per candy melt package directions.

Dip lollipop stick approximately 1/2″ into melted candy. Next, insert stick halfway into cake pop. Place pop on small baking sheet or plate. Repeat with remaining pops.

Place pops in freezer for 15 minutes to secure lollipop stick.

Place frosting in narrow microwave-safe bowl and microwave one minute. Tint if desired. Stir. Repeat until frosting is thinned enough for dipping. (Do not overheat or frosting may break down.)

Dip cake pops fully into melted frosting and allow excess to drip away.

Insert stick end of cake pops into styrofoam board to dry. Once the pops have dried, decorate as desired.

For more cake pop tips & methods check out Bakerella’s “how to” video.

-Joe

7 Comments

Filed under Cake, Chocolate, Cupcakes, Entertaining, Sweets

Please Pass the Sangria!

Is there anything quite as refreshing as a cool glass of Sangria on a hot summer evening? Try this white wine version I recently concocted for a studio party. It’s delicious!

Sangria is not an exact science. Try experimenting on your own with various fruits and sweeteners….the combinations are endless. And let us know if you come up with your own signature Sangria!

Sparkling White Sangria
Makes 8 servings

1 bottle white wine (such as Chardonnay, Reisling, or Chablis)
1/2 cup superfine sugar
1/4 cup orange brandy (such as Cointreau or Grand Marnier)
2 plums, pitted and sliced
1 peach, pitted and sliced
1 mango, peeled and sliced
2 cans (12 ounces each) club soda or seltzer
fresh mint

• In large pitcher, stir together wine, sugar and brandy until sugar is dissolved. Add fruit. Cover and chill for at least an hour (the longer the better!)

• Just before serving, stir in club soda. Serve over ice with mint. Sip!

Cathy

4 Comments

Filed under Drinks, Entertaining, Foodies, Fruit, Holidays, Vegetarian

Wait. What? Watermelon!

Take a close look at this picture. You’re right, that’s not chopped tomato; it’s fresh watermelon!

Last week Cathy was looking for a quick and easy summer appetizer that would take advantage of the season’s fresh produce. We think she scored a home run with this sweet ‘n tangy watermelon bruschetta. You’re gonna love it!

Watermelon Bruschetta

Makes about 2 1/2 cups

2 cups diced watermelon, drained on paper towel
1/3 cup diced yellow bell pepper
1/3 cup crumbled feta cheese
1 tablespoon diced red onion
1 teaspoon lime zest
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon snipped chives
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 baguette, thinly sliced

• Combine all ingredients except for the bread.

• Cover and chill at least 30 minutes. Serve with bread slices.

Tips

• Do not prepare more than an hour before serving or mixture will become too soft.

• Try the watermelon over grilled chicken or salmon. Yum!

3 Comments

Filed under Appetizer, Breads, Cheese, Entertaining, Foodies, Fruit, Snacks, Vegetarian

Little, Luscious and Easy-as-Pie!

SO simple.

SO cute.

SO luscious!

During some food-styling downtime at a recent location shoot, Cathy concocted this elegant little tart. Of course, we thought it was beautiful, so we raced to put it on the set, and voilà!  Do you love it??

Cathy started with a small, good quality shortbread cookie for the base. She used LU, a readily available shortbread cookie with an adorable crimped edge. She topped the cookie with a tablespoon of prepared lemon curd, then garnished with a tiny dollop of whipped cream, a blueberry, and some lemon zest.

This is the perfect no-cook, no-bake recipe for those last-minute get-togethers when you’re short of time,  but still looking for a dessert with some “wow” power. Just keep the ingredients on hand, and you can be turning out tarts at a moment’s notice.

Here are some other sweet tarts to consider:

Chocolate Tart:  shortbread cookie, a tablespoon of prepared chocolate pudding, a dab of whipped cream, a raspberry, & chocolate shavings
Butterscotch Tart:  shortbread cookie, a tablespoon of prepared butterscotch pudding, a dab of whipped cream, & chopped toasted pecans
Key Lime Tart: shortbread cookie, a tablespoon of prepared lime curd, a dab of whipped cream, & lime zest

Heather

4 Comments

Filed under Cookies, Dessert, Entertaining, Lemon, Sweets

Three Tasty Mice

 

Here’s the story behind these adorable little morsels!  I had dinner with my friends from PAWS (Pet Animal Welfare Society) last night. The conversation always turns to animals, and we all share our stories in one way or another.  At dessert time, my friend Alexis presented a tray of adorable edible mice.  They were actually quite simple in design: a chocolate-covered cherry (with stem) for the body and tail, a Hershey’s Hugs Kiss for the face, sliced almonds for the ears, and icing for the eyes and nose.  Serve them over a triangle of cheese… genius! Or should I say “Micey” Nice!

Cathy

24 Comments

Filed under Dessert, Entertaining, Snacks, Sweets