Roasted Red Peppers with Pesto and Goat Cheese

Serves 4-6

INGREDIENTS:

  • 8-12 baby red bell peppers (or a combination of red, yellow and orange)
  • 2 heaping tablespoons prepared pesto (I love using Kirklands from Costco)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 3-4 ounces goat cheese
  • fresh oregano (optional)

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Slice mini bell peppers in half and remove stem and seeds. Place in a large bowl (or large ziplock bag) and toss with pesto, olive oil and balsamic vinegar until peppers are completely covered.
  3. Line up peppers on a baking sheet and place into oven. Bake for 15 minutes.
  4. Take peppers out and carefully add crumbled goat cheese to insides of pepper halves.
  5. Place back into oven and bake for another 3-5 minutes or until goat cheese is melted.
  6. Optional: sprinkle chopped fresh oregano over peppers before serving.
  • Psst!  You can marinate and place peppers on a foil lined tray up to the night before if you want to shorten the preparation time right before serving.
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Roasted Vegetable and Orzo Salad

Orzo with Roasted Vegetables

  • 1 eggplant, peeled and 3/4-inch diced
  • 1 red bell pepper, 1-inch diced
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, 1-inch diced
  • 1 red onion, peeled and 1-inch diced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/3 cup good olive oil
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 pound orzo
  • 32 oz. Chicken Broth
  • For the Dressing:
  • 1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (2 lemons)
  • 1/3 cup good olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • Finishing touches:
  • 4 green onions, minced (white and green parts)
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted
  • 3/4 pound good feta, 1/2-inch diced (not crumbled)
  • 15 fresh basil leaves, cut into chiffonade

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. combine the chopped eggplant, bell peppers, onion, and garlic with the olive oil, salt, and pepper on a large baking sheet or jelly roll pan. Roast for 40 minutes, until browned, turning once with a spatula.

While vegetables are cooking, bring salted chicken broth to a boil in a medium pot . Add orzo and  cook for 7 to 9 minutes, until tender. Drain and transfer to a large serving bowl to cool.

Add the roasted vegetables to the pasta, scraping all the liquid and seasonings from the roasting pan into the pasta bowl.

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For the dressing, mix the lemon juice, olive oil, salt, and pepper and pour on the pasta and vegetables. Let cool to room temperature or refrigerate.

Just before serving, add the green onions, pine nuts, feta, and basil. Can be served at room temperature or refrigerated.

Enjoy!

Note: I adapted this delicious side dish recipe from Ina Garten.  I originally found it in my now dog-eared Barefoot Contessa Parties! recipe book.  I love almost every recipe in this publication.  Thank you Ina!

Psst! You can boil the orzo in water instead of chicken broth if you want to go vegetarian.

BBQ Chicken Flatbread

BBQ Chicken Flatbread

Need an easy appetizer for a party?  Try this one.  It’s always a crowd-pleaser.

Ingredients:

2 flatbreads (sold at specialty stores and some grocery stores)
1/4 cup shredded chicken breast
2-4 T. BBQ sauce (I like Trader Joe’s Bold and Smokey Kansas City Style)
5-8 sprigs of fresh cilantro
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
3-4 thin slices of a small red onion (peeled)

Directions:

Place the flatbread on a cookie sheet and place in a 350 degree oven for 2-3 minutes.
Remove from oven and spread a thin layer of bbq sauce on the flatbread.
Add shredded chicken and red onion slices.
Add a thin layer of mozzarella cheese.
Bake for 10 minutes or until cheese is bubbly and edges of bread are lightly browned.
Remove from oven and add fresh cilantro leaves.
Slice and place on a serving dish and serve immediately. Enjoy!

PSST! Shred the chicken from a leftover piece of grilled chicken breast from the night before or cut from a roasted chicken from the deli section of most grocery stores.  If you can’t find flatbread, you can use a lavosh bread instead.

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Grandma’s Make-ahead Mashed Potatoes


Make-Ahead Mashed Potatoes

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 40 minutes

Yield: Makes 12 to 15 servings

 

Ingredients:

15 medium (5 pounds) potatoes peeled and quartered
6-8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1 cup  light sour cream
2 teaspoons onion powder
salt and freshly-ground black pepper to taste
2 egg whites slightly beaten (or one whole egg)
2-4 tablespoons butter
1/3 cup chopped chives (optional)

Instructions:

Preparing Make-Ahead Mashed Potatoes:

In a large pot, add cut-up potatoes and just enough cold water until potatoes are covered; bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to medium; cover and let simmer 15 to 20 minutes or until potatoes are tender when pierced with a fork.   Overcooking can cause the potatoes to become gummy.

Remove from heat and immediately drain potatoes thoroughly in a colander.  Return to saucepan; heat over medium-low heat approximately 1 to 2 minutes to dry potatoes, stirring occasionally.  NOTE: Boiled potatoes left in water will start to jellify and may even increase in volume (becoming swollen and watery).  That is why it is important to let the potatoes drain for a couple of minutes in a colander immediately after they are cooked.

In the same cooking pan, mash potatoes with a potato masher or potato ricer until there are no lumps.

TIP: NEVER use a blender, electric mixer, or food processor to make mashed potatoes.Gluey or gooey mashed potatoes are caused by vigorous over mashing, When potatoes are boiled, their starch granules swell.  If those granules are broken too vigorously, the cells release copious quantities of starch, resulting in a potatoes with the consistency of wallpaper paste.

Add cream cheese, sour cream, onion powder, salt, pepper, egg whites, and chopped chives (if desired); blend well.

Spray a large casserole dish with vegetable-oil cooking spray. Add potato mixture and dot with butter.

Cool mashed potatoes slightly, cover, and then refrigerate.

The prepared mashed potatoes may be made up to 7 days ahead of time.  If preparing ahead, remove from refrigerator 30 minutes before baking. Place in an ovenproof baking dish if not already stored in this dish.


When ready to heat the potatoes:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Take potatoes out of the refrigerator 30 minutes before baking.
Bake, loosely covered, 40 minutes or until steaming hot in center.

Crock Pot – Slow Cooker Make-Ahead Mashed Potato Recipe:

Mashed Potatoes in slow cookerYou can use this crock pot/slow cooker version, if you need to free up your oven for other dishes when making my holiday meals.

Take the prepared mashed potatoes out of refrigerator about 3 1/2 hours before serving time.  See Preparing Make-Ahead Mashed Potatoes above.  Place the mashed potatoes in the crock-pot/slow cooker.  Cover and use low heat for approximately 3 hours, stirring once or twice.

When you are ready to serve the mashed potatoes, stir, and then add some additional dollops of butter.