Baked Pasta & Mini Meatballs

DSC_0530-1-710It’s hard to believe October is here! And now that we’re firmly entrenched in the fall season our appetites and meal preferences have changed. We are in the mood for comfort meals. So this week we’re featuring a perfect cold weather, family meal from The Parsley Thief. It’s easy to make it ahead, store it & heat it up when you’re in a pinch…trying to come up with something quick to make for dinner. Something that the whole family will eat. This recipe is my spin on the classic Baked Ziti. I added some mini meatballs, because I knew my kids would go nuts for them.
It deviates from my traditional meatball recipe, because I have added some ground pork to these. I thought it would keep the meatballs moist, since they are getting fried, simmered & then baked. It worked.
The sauce is a version of the Tomato Sauce with Onions & Butter I made recently, from Marcella Hazan. So good! I’m a seriously hooked on that stuff. I added a bit of garlic & pureed the sauce through a food mill…the smoother texture goes over better with my kids. But, you can easily leave it chunky…or, even use a good quality jarred sauce to save time.
Baked Pasta & Mini Meatballs by The Parsley Thief

Serves 6
This is my spin on the classic baked ziti, with the addition of mini meatballs…making it even more kid-friendly. This dish can be split in two & one batch reserved for another meal. Cool the baked pasta completely, wrap well & freeze. Reheat in a 350 degree oven, covered in foil, until hot, about 30 minutes.
I added ground pork to my basic meatball recipe to help insure they would stay moist. But, you can use all beef, if desired. The sauce is a version of Marcella Hazan’s delicious Tomato Sauce with Onions & Butter.1 cup chopped onion
3 small cloves of garlic, smashed
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 35 ounce can whole tomatoes, chopped
1/2 pound ground pork
1/2 pound lean ground beef
1 1/2 cups grated Parmesan cheese {divided}, plus more for garnish
1/4 cup plain breadcrumbs
2 tablespoons milk
1/2 cup finely chopped fresh parsley {divided}
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/2 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup part-skim ricotta cheese
pinch of freshly ground nutmeg
1 pound pasta
1/2 pound fresh mozzarella, cubed
kosher salt & freshly ground pepper
For the Sauce: Add the onions, garlic & butter to a medium saucepan & cook over moderate heat, until the onions are softened lightly, about 5 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes & season with some kosher salt & freshly ground pepper. Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce the heat to low & cook for 45 minutes.
When finished, run the sauce through a food mill & transfer back to the saucepan.
For the Meatballs: While the sauce is cooking, prepare the meatballs. Add the pork, beef, 1/2 cup of Parmesan, breadcrumbs, milk, 1/4 cup parsley & egg to a mixing bowl. Add a generous sprinkle of kosher salt & freshly ground pepper. Gently mix until all the ingredients are just incorporated. Do not over mix. Roll out into small meatballs {each meatball is approximately 2 tablespoons}.
Heat the olive oil in a medium, non-stick skillet. Add as many of the meatballs as possible, without over-crowding the pan. Cook, flipping the meatballs around frequently, until golden brown {they don’t have to be cooked through}. Continue with another batch, if necessary, until all the meatballs are browned.
Add the meatballs to the sauce. Cover the pot & keep the sauce on low. Cook for an additional 10 minutes, or until the meatballs are completely cooked.
To Assemble: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Into a mixing bowl, add the ricotta cheese, 1 cup of Parmesan, 1/4 cup parsley & the nutmeg. Stir to combine. Cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling, salted water until barely al dente. Drain & transfer back to the pot. Add the ricotta mixture, fresh mozzarella, meatballs & most of the sauce. Stir to combine & transfer to a large, greased, oven-safe casserole dish. Cover with foil & bake for 15 minutes. Remove the foil & sprinkle a bit of grated Parmesan over the top. Return to the oven & bake for another 5 minutes, or until the cheese is melted. Serve with some of the remaining sauce on the side.
Click here for the printable recipe.

Summer Squash Salad

summersquashsaladSummer salad options are many with all the fresh vegetables coming in here at Stewart’s daily from local Connecticut farms. Katie from The Parsley Thief  shares a special summer salad her Pop served up with all fresh ingredients using squash which is just becoming available. Enjoy!
Summer Squash Salad
1 pound of fresh peas
2 red scallions
1 zucchini squash
1 summer yellow squash
1 Tablespoon minced fresh basil
2 Ounces Feta cheese
3 Tablespoons of olive oil
Juice of ½ a lemon
Salt and pepper to taste.
Shell the peas into a bowl. Then you need to bring a small saucepan of salted water to a boil, and blanch the peas for about 2 minutes, and drain. Next, take 2 red scallions, clean them up, and thinly slice them. Add this to the bowl with the blanched peas.
Next, take the zucchini & squash, and thinly slice them. Put them in the bowl.
Then you’ll need to mince up some fresh basil. You only need about a tablespoon of minced basil, but Katie used a bit more. Add that to the bowl.
Sprinkle about two ounces of crumbled feta cheese into the bowl.
Lastly, add 3 tablespoons of olive oil, the juice of half a lemon, some salt and pepper to taste.

Brown Butter Soda Bread

DSC_0001-710In celebration of St. Patrick’s Day we are sharing a delicious Soda Bread recipe from the Parlsey Thief (adapted from Bon Appetit). “This evening, I am making the traditional St. Patrick’s Day dinner of corned beef & cabbage. It’s my first time attempting it, as we usually go to my Mom’s house for the holiday. I won’t be documenting the meal, due to the fact that we will be eating late. But, I did make the bread early enough to share that! My Mom makes the best Irish soda bread. We’ve already had quite a bit of it over the past few days. She makes hers with raisins. And if there are raisins in anything, I can be guaranteed that the Bozo’s will go no where near it. Irish soda bread is an American tradition. It’s typically made with raisins & caraway seeds. Ironically, they don’t make Irish soda bread in Ireland…there, it’s called Brown bread & has neither of those ingredients in it. I am hoping the Bozo’s will eat it, as I see very little corned beef & cabbage being ingested by them tonight.” Katie, The Parsley Thief
Brown Butter Soda Bread 
Adapted from Bon Appétit, February 2006 
Makes 2 loaves
3 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup old-fashioned oats
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon caraway seed, plus more for top of loaves
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt 1/2 stick unsalted butter
1 3/4 cups buttermilk beaten egg white Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
Combine the flour, oats, sugar, caraway seeds, baking powder, baking soda & salt in a large mixing bowl. Whisk to blend. In a small saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat, stirring, until it begins to brown {about 3 minutes}. Add the melted butter & buttermilk to the dry ingredients. Stir with a fork until the flour mixture is moistened. Dump the dough out onto a floured work surface & knead gently, until the dough just comes together {about 7 turns}, do not overwork the dough! Divide the dough in half. Shape each half into a ball. Place the rounds on an ungreased baking sheet, spacing about 5″ apart. Brush the tops with the egg white & sprinkle with caraway seeds. Using a sharp knife, cut a 1/2″ deep X in the top of each loaf. Bake until the bread is golden brown & a tester inserted into the center comes out clean, about 45 minutes. Transfer the loaves to a cooling rack & cool for 30 minutes before serving. Serve the bread warm with butter. Click here for the printable recipe.

Red Velvet Cupcakes

theparsthief-redvelvet-1This week’s recipe is brought to you by The Parsley Thief, a great Valentine’s day holiday classic — Red Velvet Cupcakes. Give the gift that really screams “I love you!” yummy sugary treats!
Red Velvet Cupcakes
When my son, who turned 11 years old last week, specifically requested “Red Velvet Cupcakes” when I offered to bring a treat into his classroom, I was quite surprised. For one, neither of my boys are big “cake” kids {weirdos, I know} and secondly, I don’t remember my son ever having a red velvet cupcake before. But he must have gotten it in his head from somewhere, because he was very clear about it. Even requesting the cream cheese frosting that traditionally tops them.
Adapted from The Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook by Tarek Malouf and Brown Eyed Baker
These are not only the best Red Velvet Cupcakes I’ve ever tasted, but they could easily sit atop my list of the best cupcakes I’ve ever tasted. I love the Hummingbird Bakery’s method of adding the cocoa powder to the batter {instead of the traditional red food coloring only}, because not only does it give the cupcakes a half-vanilla half-chocolate flavor, but it also gives them the prettiest deep burgundy color. However, what makes these truly over the top is the cream cheese frosting recipe, by the Brown Eyed Baker — which is easily the best I’ve tasted. I was hesitant to use a whole tablespoon of vanilla extract in the frosting, but I was so glad I did! The result is a perfectly balanced, sweet vanilla frosting that I’m fairly certain will have everyone who tastes these begging you for the recipe.
ingredients for the cupcakes:
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons flour
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tablespoons red food coloring
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon water
4 tablespoons {1/2 stick} unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cups sugar
1 large egg
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons distilled white vinegar
ingredients for the frosting:
4 ounces {1 stick} unsalted butter, room temperature
4 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1/2 to 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
clear sanding sugar and white nonpareils for decorating {optional}
Preheat the oven to 350 F and line a standard size muffin pan with paper liners. Prepare the dry ingredients by whisking together the flour and salt in a mixing bowl, and setting it aside.
In a separate small bowl, mix together the cocoa powder, red food coloring, vanilla extract, and water with a small spatula, or the back of a spoon until evenly combined into a slurry-like thin paste. Set aside.
Add the butter and sugar to the bowl of a stand-mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat on medium-high speed until the mixture light and fluffy, about 3-4 minutes. Add the egg, and continue beating until incorporated, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Add the cocoa powder/food coloring mixture to the mixer, and beat, scraping down the sides of the bowl occasionally, until evenly distributed into the batter.
Add half of the buttermilk, followed by half of the flour/salt mixture, beating and scraping down the bowl after each addition. Repeat with the remaining buttermilk and dry ingredients, and beat until smooth. Add the baking soda and white vinegar, and beat once more until smooth.
Divide the batter between the 12 liners {they should be about 3/4 full} and bake for 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Transfer the pan to a wire rack to cool slightly. When cool enough to handle, remove the cupcakes from the pan and place them on the wire rack to cool completely.
Add the butter and cream cheese to the bowl of a stand-mixer, fitted with the whisk attachment, and whip on medium-high speed for 5 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl occasionally. Reduce the speed to low and add the powdered sugar, a cup or so at a time, beating until incorporated after each addition. Add a 1/2 to 1 tablespoon of vanilla {depending on how vanilla flavored you’d like your frosting to be}, and beat on high speed until the frosting is light and fluffy, about a minute or two longer. Frost the cupcakes and decorate by sprinkling the tops with the sanding sugar and nonpareils, if desired. Enjoy!

Simple Beef & Kidney Bean Chili

chili8-3-710This week we are featuring a seasonally-apropos Beef Chili recipe by The Parsley Thief. Seek comfort from the cold with this simple and delicious take on beef chili and with the NFL playoffs in full gear and the Super Bowl right around the corner this recipe doubles as a great big game crowd pleaser!
Simple Beef & Kidney Bean Chili
I have been searching for a really simple & delicious crockpot chili recipe for a long time now. Not something exotic, or gourmet. Just super basic.
This is the recipe I was looking for. And, with Super Bowl Sunday around the corner, I figured now would be a good time to post it. You can play with the spices as much as you’d like. I kept them pretty low key, as I was serving this to the whole family & I wanted everyone to enjoy it.
If you don’t have a slow-cooker, you can cook the chili in a stockpot over low heat for 2 hours. It will keep in the fridge for up to 5 days {it tastes even better after sitting a day, or more}. It can also be frozen for up to a month.


Begin by finely chopping 2 medium onions, cutting 1 red bell pepper into 1/2″ chunks & mincing 6 cloves of garlic. Heat 2 tablespoons of canola oil in a large stockpot, over medium heat & add in the chopped veggies, along with a whole bunch of spice. You’ll need a 1/4 cup chili powder, 1 tablespoon of cumin, 2 teaspoons ground coriander, 1 teaspoon of red pepper flakes, 1 teaspoon of dried oregano & 1/2 teaspoon of cayenne pepper. You can adjust the heat of the chili by omitting, or reducing the red pepper flakes & cayenne…or, adding more, if desired. Saute the veggies & spices until they are beginning to soften & brown {about 10 minutes}.










Add 2 pounds of ground beef, raise the heat to medium high & cook, until no longer pink {about 5 minutes}. Transfer to slow cooker.



Add in 2 {15 ounce} cans of red kidney beans {drained & rinsed},


1 {28 ounce} can of fire roasted diced tomatoes and 1 {28 ounce} can of pureed tomatoes. Give the mixture a stir & cook for 4 hours on high.


Serve with lots of yummy condiments. Such as, fresh diced tomatoes, diced avocado, sliced scallions, chopped red onion, chopped cilantro & shredded Monterey Jack or cheddar cheese.

Simple Beef & Kidney Bean Chili

Adapted from Cooks Illustrated magazine; March 2003
Serves 8-10
2 tablespoons canola oil
2 medium onions, finely chopped
1 red bell pepper, cut into 1/2″ chunks
6 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup chili powder
1 tablespoon ground cumin
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 pounds ground beef
2 {15 ounce} cans red kidney beans, drained & rinsed
1 {28 ounce} can fire roasted tomatoes
1 {28 ounce} can pureed tomatoes
kosher salt & freshly ground pepper, to taste
Heat the oil in a large stockpot over medium heat. Add the onions, bell pepper, garlic, chili powder, cumin, coriander, red pepper flakes, oregano & cayenne pepper. Saute until the vegetables begin to soften & brown {about 10 minutes}. Add in the ground beef & cook until it is no longer pink, breaking it up as it cooks {about 5 minutes}. Transfer the beef mixture to a slow cooker. Add in the kidney beans, diced tomatoes & pureed tomatoes. Stir & cook for 4 hours on high. Season with kosher salt & pepper, if needed & serve with optional condiments…Such as, diced fresh tomatoes, diced avocado, sliced scallions, chopped red onion, chopped cilantro, sour cream, Monterey jack, or cheddar cheese. The chili is best made a day ahead & can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 5 days, or frozen up to 1 month.
Click here for the printable recipe.

Guinness Beef Stew by the Parsley Thief

beef9-710From our friend Katie, The Parsley Thief, a hearty winter-time comfort food recipe. It’s the time of the year when I dust off the old crockpot {nowadays, called a slow cooker} & get to cooking up some stews, chili, or pot roasts. On Saturday, it just felt like a good beef stew day. No plans. Just a family day, with a few hours of hockey thrown in there. I dug around in my bulging recipe file {a manila folder stuffed with torn out magazine pages} & came up with this recipe from Cooks Country magazine. This recipe makes for a great weeknight meal, even if you’re gone all day at work, because the prep can be done the night before & it takes all day to cook {on it’s own}. I love the addition of Guinness & bittersweet chocolate. It makes an amazingly rich, dark sauce. I know it will be a hit with whoever you make it for.

Guinness Beef Stew

Adapted from Cooks Country magazine, February 2007
Serves 6-8
3-4 pounds boneless beef chuck stew meat
3 tablespoons canola oil, divided
2 small onions, chopped
4 cups low-sodium, or homemade chicken stock
1 3/4 cups Guinness Draught, divided
1 tablespoon light brown sugar
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 ounce bittersweet chocolate, chopped
2 bay leaves
5 carrots, peeled & cut into 1″ chunks
1 pound parsnips, peeled & cut into 1″ chunks
1 1/2 pounds baby red potatoes, scrubbed & halved
1/4 cup flour
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
Pat the beef dry with paper towels. Season with a generous sprinkle of kosher salt & freshly ground pepper. Heat 2 tablespoons of canola oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Cook the beef in batches, until browned on all sides {about 8 minutes total}. Transfer to a slow cooker. Continue until all the beef is browned & add more oil to the skillet, if necessary.
Add the remaining tablespoon of oil to the same skillet & add in the onions. Cook until softened & beginning to brown, about 5 minutes. Add in the chicken broth, 1 1/2 cups Guinness, light brown sugar, thyme, chocolate & bay leaves. Bring to a boil & using a wooden spoon, scrape up any brown bits from the bottom of the skillet. Transfer to the slow cooker.
Add the carrots, parsnips & potatoes to the slow cooker. Cook on low heat for 9-10 hours {or on high for 6-7 hours}.
At the end of the cooking time, turn the slow cooker up to high. Whisk the flour & remaining 1/4 cup of Guinness until smooth. Then stir the mixture into the stew. Cover & cook an additional 15 minutes, or until the sauce thickens. Stir in the parsley, discard the bay leaves & season with salt & pepper.
You can brown the beef & prepare the onion mixture the night before & add to the slow cooker in the morning, if desired.

Click here for the printable recipe.

Chestnut Stuffing with Leeks & Apples

DSC_0302-1-710With Thanksgiving right around the corner and a festive selection of chestnuts in our produce aisle, we’re featuring a holiday recipe from our friend Katie, the Parsley Thief. Katie writes: When I was a kid, my grandmother would serve roasted chestnuts after dinner this time of year. They frequently capped off all of our special gatherings…especially Thanksgiving & Christmas. I think I was probably the only kid who actually liked them. My husband’s family has the same tradition & to this day I still love ’em. I made this stuffing for the first time last year. I chose this recipe because we were hosting Thanksgiving & one of our guests was a vegetarian [but, really I just liked the idea of having a stuffing with chestnuts in it!]. If you love chestnuts, you will love this recipe…if not, not so much. But, the other leading flavors…the leeks and tart apples make it worth a try. I halved the recipe here, but it can easily be doubled, if you’re serving a large crowd.

Chestnut Stuffing with Leeks & Apples

Adapted from Gourmet magazine, November 2008
Serves 4-6 {This recipe can easily be doubled for a big crowd}
Roasted chestnuts in a bottle are quite pricey. Although time consuming, you can save money by roasting your own. The bottled chestnuts can be found in most specialty grocery stores.
3 cups cubed white sandwich bread, crusts removed
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 cups sliced leeks {white & light green parts}
1 rib celery, chopped
1 teaspoon chopped thyme leaves
1 Granny Smith apple, peeled & diced
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper {to taste}
7-8 ounces bottled roasted chestnuts, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup minced fresh parsley
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lay the cubed bread out on a baking sheet & bake for about 8-10 minutes, or until mostly dried. As an alternative, you can also leave the bread out at room temperature for 24 hours to let it dry. Transfer to a mixing bowl & set aside.
Raise the oven temperature to 425 degrees. Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the leeks & celery. Cover & cook, stirring occasionally for about 8 minutes, or until the leeks are tender. Add in the thyme leaves, apple, salt & pepper. Cook, covered, for an additional 5 minutes.
Add the leek mixture to the mixing bowl with the bread. Stir in the chestnuts, cream & parsley. Check for seasoning & add a bit more salt & pepper, as desired.
Transfer the stuffing to a buttered casserole dish & bake for 20 minutes, or until heated through & the top is golden brown {For a larger batch, increase the cooking time to 30 minutes}.
Click here for the printable recipe.
Here’s a step by step photo guide to this recipe from The Parsley Thief:

Begin with 3 cups of cubed, white sandwich bread. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees & lay the bread out on a baking sheet. Toast for 8-10 minutes, or until mostly dried. As an alternative, you can also leave the bread out at room temperature for 24 hours to let it dry. Transfer to a mixing bowl & set aside.




Raise the oven temperature to 425 degrees. Melt 4 tablespoons of unsalted butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add 2 cups sliced leeks {white & light green parts} & 1 rib of celery {chopped}. Cover & cook, stirring occasionally for about 8 minutes, or until the leeks are tender.




Add in 1 teaspoon of thyme leaves, 1 Granny Smith apple {peeled & chopped}, 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt & some freshly ground black pepper {to taste}. Cook, covered, for an additional 5 minutes.






Next, you will need 7 ounces of roasted chestnuts {coarsely chopped}. The recipe calls for the bottled variety, which is what I used here. They can be a bit pricey. You can opt to roast your own instead, if desired.





Add the leek mixture to the mixing bowl with the bread. Stir in the chestnuts, 1/2 cup of heavy cream & a 1/4 cup of minced fresh parsley. Check for seasoning & add a bit more salt & pepper, as desired.




Transfer the stuffing to a buttered casserole dish & bake for 20 minutes, or until heated through & the top is golden brown {For a larger batch, increase the cooking time to 30 minutes}.





Serve right away, or reheat later. To reheat, cover the stuffing in foil & bake at 350 degrees until hot.

Spicy Grilled Chicken Salad

P1010702This week we feature a recipe from Katie the Parsley Thief that would normally be reserved for the heart of grilling season, but with the weather still summery why stop grilling now?  From the Parsley Thief: I have posted so many chicken recipes, and nothing else. I promise you, we eat other foods. Although, we do eat a lot of chicken….as I am on the perpetual uphill journey of watching the waist line. But, it just so happens, I have the time to post when we are having chicken for dinner. Next time….beef. This salad is a variation on a recipe I found this month in Sunset magazine.
Spicy Grilled Chicken Salad
Adapted from Sunset magazine
Makes 4 main course salads
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
juice of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 tablespoon kosher salt
freshly ground pepper
2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts
8 cups mixed greens
2 medium carrots, peeled & sliced into matchsticks
1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
1/4 cup sliced pitted kalamata olives
1/2 medium red onion, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon harissa

Pound the chicken breast thin between pieces of plastic wrap. Whisk the lemon zest, lemon juice, olive oil, cumin, smoked paprika, kosher salt & pepper together in a small mixing bowl. Pour the marinade over the chicken & toss to coat. Cover & chill for 3 hours, or overnight.
Prepare a grill. Cook the chicken for about 4 minutes per side, or until cooked through. Transfer to a cutting board & cover with foil to rest.
While the chicken is cooking, whisk the dressing ingredients together in a small bowl.
When ready to serve, slice the chicken into strips. In a large serving bowl, combine the mixed greens, carrots, bell pepper, olives, red onion & sliced chicken. Toss with the dressing & serve.
A full photo tour, as demonstrated by Katie’s son Miles:

Click here for the printable recipe.

Pesto Pasta Salad with Grilled Chicken by The Parsley Thief

katie_pestopastasalad“As promised, more from Cooks Illustrated ’30 Minute Meals’ mag. How could I resist making this meal? It’s perfect in every way. It’s has all of your typical dinner food groups, all in one bowl. It can be served warm, room temperature, or cold. It tastes delicious the day of, or days after. It’s simple, nutritious & quick. Then, the sugar on top…everyone in my family will eat it!  If you’ve never served pesto to your kids & you’re not sure how they will like it…this is a great start. As, this particular recipe for pesto is pretty mild. It contains more nuts than typical versions & less garlic. Not like the pesto I am used to, but so good!” Katie, The Parsley Thief
Begin by cooking 1 pound of Campanelle pasta in a large pot of salted water. I love using Campanelle, or bell flower shaped pasta…especially, for pasta salads, as it’s such a pretty shape & holds dressings, or sauces very well. But, you can use whatever pasta you have on hand. Cook the pasta about 1 minute less than al dente. The pasta will absorb the dressing & swell. So, it’s best to under-cook it. Drain & rinse under cold water. Set aside for now.

For the pesto dressing, grate a 1/2 cup of Parmesan cheese & toast a 1/2 cup of pignolis {pine nuts}. I put them in the toaster oven, at 350 degrees, for about 5-7 minutes, or until golden brown. Watch out, because they have a high oil content & will burn very quickly.

Next, measure a {packed} 1/2 cup of fresh basil leaves. Add all of these ingredients to the bowl of a food processor, along with the juice of 1 lemon & 1 coarsely chopped garlic clove. Blend until smooth. Then, with the motor running, slowly add 2/3 cups of extra-virgin olive oil & process until incorporated.

Rinse & trim 1 whole boneless, skinless chicken breast. Then slice them down the middle, so that you have 4 thin pieces of chicken. Drizzle them with 1 tablespoon of extra-virgin olive oil & season generously with salt & freshly ground pepper. Grill for about 3-5 minutes per side {depending on how thin they are}, or until they are cooked through. Transfer to a cutting board & cut into thin slices.

Transfer the pasta to a large bowl. Halve 1 pint of cherry tomatoes & throw them in, along with 2 ounces of baby arugula. Add a splash of the dressing, just to loosen up the pasta & toss to combine.

Add in the sliced chicken, pour on just enough dressing to moisten the salad to your liking, toss & serve.

Pesto Pasta Salad with Grilled Chicken

Adapted from Cooks Illustrated, “30 Minute Suppers”, Summer 2010
Serves 4
Note: I love using Barilla’s Campanelle pasta for pasta salads, as it’s a pretty shape & holds dressings very well. But, any pasta can be substituted for it…Penne, Fusilli, Farfalle, etc.
1/2 cup toasted pine nuts
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 clove garlic, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup {packed} fresh basil leaves
juice of 1 lemon
2/3 cups + 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 whole boneless, skinless chicken breast
salt & pepper, to taste
1 pound Campanelle pasta
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
2 ounces baby arugula
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the pasta, according to the package instructions, until 1 minute less than al dente. Drain & rinse under cold water.
Meanwhile, combine the pine nuts, Parmesan cheese, garlic, basil & lemon juice in the bowl of a food processor. Blend until smooth. With the motor running, slowly add the 2/3 cups olive oil & process until incorporated.
Rinse & trim the chicken breast. Then slice them down the middle, so that you have 4 thin pieces of chicken. Drizzle them with the remaining tablespoon of olive oil & season generously with salt & freshly ground pepper. Grill for about 3-5 minutes per side {depending on how thin they are}, or until they are cooked through. Transfer to a cutting board & cut into thin slices.
Combine the pasta, tomatoes, arugula & sliced chicken in a large bowl. Add a bit of the dressing at a time & toss, until the salad is well coated with the pesto. You may not need all of it {If making ahead of time, or you end up with some leftovers, save the dressing to re-hydrate the salad later on}.
Check the salad for seasoning & serve.
Click here for the printable recipe.

Watermelon Margaritas by The Parsley Thief

pic1_watermelonmargaritaThe now-closed, Ocean Drive, in SoNo, used to make the most amazing watermelon margaritas in the summertime. Lately, I have been dreaming of one & decided to try to re-create them at home. These margaritas are very similar to the classic ones I make, in that they are real margaritas…and not some sickeningly sweet frozen concoction. If you are looking for something sweet, by all means, add some simple syrup, or superfine sugar to these & it should suit your taste.
Watermelon Margarita
Adapted from the Food Network
Serves 4
Ripe seedless watermelon, cut into 1″ cubes (about 3-4 cups)
2 limes, juiced
4 ounces good quality white tequila
2 ounces orange flavored liqueur (Cointreau or Grand Marnier)
Ice (2-3 cups)
Watermelon wedges, for garnish
Fill half a blender with the cubed watermelon. Add about 2 cups ice.
Add the tequila, liqueur, and lime juice. Blend until watermelon is pureed & the ice is crushed.
In a serving glass, pour the margarita over ice & garnish with a wedge of watermelon (if desired).
Note: If your watermelon is not particularly sweet you can add some simple syrup, or superfine sugar to the blender.
Click here for the printable recipe.
Begin by filling half your blender with some cubed, ripe watermelon.
Add in about 2 cups of ice, the juice of 2 limes, 6 ounces of good-quality white tequila & 2 ounces of Grand Marnier, or Cointreau. Blend & serve over ice, with a wedge of watermelon.


A bit about Katie, The Parsley Thief:
Being a mom of two boys, her blog, The Parsley Thief, focuses on family friendly, made-from-scratch recipes. The Parsley Thief has been named one of “50 Food Blogs You Should Be Reading” by Saveur magazine and was named one of the top 100 Mom Food Blogs by the family website, Babble.