Rica’s Pasta Salad

This pasta salad never lasts long in my house. Everyone goes for a second helping, a third and a fourth. Before I know it, it’s alllll gone! This dish is a hit and a must have for BBQ’S get together parties. It’s really easy and a great dish loved by many. 


Ingredients:

For the salad:

  • 1 box (12 oz) tricolor rotini pasta
  • 1 large red bell pepper (or you can use two small ones), diced
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1/4 lb pepperoni slices diced
  • 1 small or medium red onion, diced
  • Between 1/3 to 1/2 cup of sliced black olives (amount depends on your personal preference)

For the dressing:

  • 3/4 cup olive oil 
  • 3/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

Directions:

  1. Cook pasta to instructions on box. Drain. Run under cold water to stop it from cooking and drain again. 
  2. Mix all other ingredients in with the pasta in a large mixing bowl. 
  3. Whisk all the dressing ingredients together and pour into the salad. 
  4. Mix well. 
  5. Use Saran Wrap to cover the bowl and place in the refrigerator for at least 1-2 hours. The more it sits there, the more time it has to “marinate”. It tastes better that way. 

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Quick Salsa Chicken

This recipe is quick, easy and cheap to make. It actually costs under $10 and it feeds a family of 4. You could serve this over some white rice or actually use this in burritos or enchiladas. 


Ingredients:

  • 1 pound chicken breasts, cut into bite sized pieces
  • 1 jar (16 oz) salsa 
  • 1 can (15 to 16oz) black beans, drained and washed
  • 1 can (15 to 16oz) corn, drained and washed
  • 1 to 2 cups of shredded Mexican cheese
  • olive oil

Directions:

  1. Add bite sized chicken pieces to the pan. Drizzle a little olive oil over it. Cook over high heat until the chicken is fully cooked. 
  2. Add in black beans, corn and salsa. Stir and let it cook for another 1-2 minutes to make sure everything is warmed up nicely. 
  3. Add in between 1 to 2 cups of shredded Mexican cheese. The exact amount to use depends on how cheesy you prefer your dish to be. Stir until melted. 
  4. Serve over white rice or use in burritos, enchiladas, etc. 

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Italian Sausage, Peppers, Onions and Potatoes Bake

This is an easy dish to make. It does make a great dish to bring to parties. 


Ingredients:

  • 2 lbs sweet Italian sausage, cut into half
  • 4 large potatoes, peeled and sliced into chunky pieces
  • 2 red bell peppers, seeded and sliced
  • 2 green peppers, seeded and sliced
  • 2 large onions, sliced into wedges (I used sweet Vidalia onions)
  • 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • Salt and pepper
  • Olive oil 

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. 
  2. Cook sliced Italian sausage with little olive oil in a pan. Make sure the outside is browned all over before moving it to a baking dish. Don’t worry if it isn’t fully cooked inside, it will finish cooking in the oven. 
  3. When the sausage is moved, throw in sliced potatoes in the pan. Add more olive oil if needed. Season with salt and pepper. Stir once in a while. Let it cook for approximately 10 minutes. Then move to the baking dish. 
  4. Add peppers and onions to the pan. Add more olive oil if needed. Season with salt and pepper. Cook for 5 minutes or until the vegetables are soft. You can add in some minced garlic or garlic powder or even garlic salt at this point. I do that sometimes. 
  5. Move peppers and onions to the baking dish. Add in chicken broth, Italian seasoning and the white wine. Mix well. 
  6. Bake for 20-25 minutes. 

Tips: you could easily replace the Italian sausage with turkey sausage or kielbasa. You could also add in baby carrots or sliced mushrooms if you want to add more vegetables to the baking dish. 

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Baked Chicken Roll Ups with Mozzarella and Ricotta Cheese

Nom nom! This is easy to make and it never fails my family. And what’s to love?! The cheese! I *LOVE* anything that has cheese in it!


Ingredients:

  • 5 oz baby spinach leaves, coarsely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • drizzle of olive oil
  • 1/2 cup Ricotta cheese 
  • 5 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese (divided)
  • 3 eggs, beaten (divided)
  • salt and pepper to taste 
  • 3/4 cup Italian bread crumbs
  • between 1 1/2 to 2 lbs of thin chicken breasts
  • 1 cup of tomato sauce (it can be any kind, I personally use mariana sauce for this one)
  • 3 to 4 oz of Mozzarella cheese, sliced (I bought the ball kind but you could probably use the shredded kind if you prefer 

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. 
  2. Place the chopped spinach leaves in a large pan. Add in the minced garlic and drizzle olive oil over it. Cook over high heat for 2-3 minutes. The spinach leaves will wilt and shrink in size. 
  3. Place the spinach mixture in a bowl. Add Ricotta cheese, 3 tablespoons of grated Parmesan cheese, 1 egg and season with salt and pepper. Mix all of this together well. 
  4. In a separate bowl, whisk two eggs. 
  5. In another bowl, mix 3/4 cup of Italian bread crumbs with 2 tablespoons of grated Parmesan cheese. 
  6. Grease a 13″ by 9″ glass baking dish with olive oil spray and set aside. 
  7. Lay your chicken breast flat and start with the smaller end. Scoop a small amount of filling and roll towards the bigger end of the chicken breast. Take the rolled up piece and dip into the egg bowl then dip into the bread crumb mix. You’ll want to make sure it’s fully coated before placing it seam down in the baking dish. 
  8. Bake in the oven at 450 degrees for between 20 to 25 minutes. 
  9. Take dish out of the oven and pour tomato sauce on top of the roll ups. 
  10. Place the sliced Mozzarella pieces on top of the chicken roll ups and bake again for 5 minutes or until the cheese melts. 

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Miso Soup! 

I can never get sick of miso soup. It’s one of my favorites. For this recipe, you can save a lot of time by using instant Dashi. It’s like the Japanese version of chicken bouillon except it isn’t chicken. Traditional Dashi is actually made with kombu and bonito flakes. If you’re not sure what kombu is, it’s an edible kelp aka seaweed. Bonito flakes are dried, fermented, and smoked young bonito (type of tuna fish – similar to skipjack tuna). Using instant Dashi will save you time and I do also go for Shiro Miso because it’s lighter and less salty. 


Anyway, here’s a picture of the ingredients I used to make this soup. I’m sure some of you guys will appreciate a photo reference since some of these products are found in Asian food stores. I bought these ingredients from an amazing Japanese supermarket called Mitsuwa and it’s in Edgewater, NJ! Make sure you go visit if you’ve never been there before. It’s AMAZING. 


Ingredients:

  • 8 cups water
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon instant Dashi (I used the HonDashi brand – it does say Bonito Soup Stock on the label)
  • 1/4 cup miso paste (I used Honzukuri’s Shinshu Shiro Miso)
  • 1 tablespoon dried seaweed (soak in a bowl of cold water so it can expand) 
  • 1/2 cup soft tofu (I used 1/2 of a 14oz package)
  • 2 tablespoons chopped green onions/scallions

Directions:

  1. Pour 8 cups of water in a soup pot. Bring to a boil. 
  2. Add the instant Dashi to the pot and whisk to dissolve. 
  3. Turn heat to medium-low. Add in tofu and drained seaweed. Let it simmer for 2-3 minutes. 
  4. Turn the heat off. Put miso paste in a small bowl and pour 1/2 cup of soup broth from the pot into the bowl. Whisk the miso paste/soup mixture until it’s smooth. 
  5. Pour this miso paste mixture back into the pot. Stir well. Taste the soup and see if it tastes fine to your liking. You can add 1 or 2 tablespoons of miso paste if you feel like the soup needs more. 
  6. Ladle in bowls and serve with chopped green onions on top. 

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Veal Piccata Meatloaf 

This lemon-scented loaf is delicious! Veal is tender and is considered a delicacy. It is sometimes hard to find ground but your butcher should be able to prepare it for you. This meatloaf is made with ground veal with mushrooms and the flavors of the famous Italian dish veal piccata. 


Ingredients:

  • 1 pound ground veal
  • 2 shallots, diced
  • 4 oz mushrooms, chopped 
  • 3/4 cup dried bread crumbs
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon capers, drained 
  • 2 tablespoons fresh chopped parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teasooon pepper
  • 1/2 lemon slices (approximately 3 slices)

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. 
  2. Mix everything EXCEPT for lemon slices. 
  3. Place mixture in a greased 9″ x 5″ loaf pan (I prefer a glass loaf pan for this)
  4. Gently pat down the mixture. Make sure it’s even. Bake for 45 minutes. 
  5. Top meatloaf with three slices of lemon and bake again for about 15 minutes. 
  6. Let it stand in the loaf pan for 5 to 10 minutes before serving. 

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Baked Spaghetti Squash with Beef and Vegetables Casserole 

This is a very delicious healthy casserole! The spaghetti squash is the star in this recipe. 


Ingredients:

  • 1 large spaghetti squash, halved and seeded
  • 1 pound ground beef (I always go for the most lean kind)
  • 1 green bell pepper, diced
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 14.5 oz diced tomatoes with basil, garlic and oregano in it (I use the Tuttorosso brand) – drained
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 1/4 cups shredded cheddar cheese

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. 
  2. Place squash on a baking dish with the cut half side up. Bake for 40 minutes. Remove from heat and let it cool. When cool, shred the pulp with a fork. 
  3. Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees. 
  4. In a skillet on medium-high heat, brown ground beef until evenly browned. Add diced peppers and minced garlic. Cook until vegetables are tender. 
  5. Add in shredded spaghetti squash and drained diced tomatoes. Cook until heated through. 
  6. Add in 2 cups of shredded cheddar cheese and make sure it’s melted before you remove it from the heat. 
  7. Grease a 13″ x 9″ glass baking dish. Pour contents in this dish. 
  8. Bake for 25 minutes. Then take it out. 
  9. Add 1/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese, bake again for 5 minutes or until the cheese is melted.

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