Roasted Brussels Sprouts

A few years ago, I was soo intimidated by brussels sprouts.  The thought of preparing them gave me cold feet. But once I saw someone prepare them and it was so easy; I got hooked! And at least once a week we prepare them as a side dish.  Below is a walk through on how to clean/prep brussels sprouts, using fresh brussels sprouts.

Brussels Sprouts taste amazing roasted, in olive oil and S&P as I walk you through below, but there is a product I want to share that goes amazingly with brussels sprouts. I really love love love to use a balsamic reduction, or as seen in the photo I am attaching, a balsamic cream. Drizzling a little bit over the roasted brussels sprouts takes the dish to another level with a sweet and sour flavor.  It’s a must try; and can be found at most grocery stores that have an international/Italian aisle.  This reduction is great on a variety of meats, vegetables, fruits and even ice cream!

Balsamic Glaze/Reduction.

What you’ll need:

1.5 lbs Brussels sprouts (prep directions below)
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
3/4 tspn salt
1/2 tspn freshly ground black pepper

1 cookie sheet covered in parchment.

Preheat oven to 400F.

Cut off the stems of the brussels sprouts and pull off the bottom and first layers of the outer, darker leaves.  Score the bottoms with an X.

A washed brussels sprout. Isn’t he cute?
Without top layer of leaves.
Without browned stem
Score the brussels sprout with an ‘X’.

Mix them in a bowl with the olive oil, salt and pepper.

Place them scattered on a cookie sheet, and roast until the outside is browned and some outer leaves are crispy, (and that they are tender in the center), about 35- 40 minutes.  I like to set the timer for 20 minutes, then shake the pan up a bit so they brown on all sides.

The finished dish! Roasted Brussels Sprout

☞I enjoy eating roasted brussels sprouts as a snack..with chopsticks.

T’is me. YUMMY! (with the balsamic on it!)

Vanilla Cheesecake with Oreo crust

20 Oreo cookies (about 2 1/4 cups finely crushed- also can subsitute WhoNu Brand)

3 Tbsp. butter or margarine, melted

5 pkg. (8 oz. each) PHILADELPHIA Cream Cheese, softened

3/4 cup sugar

3 Tbsp. flour

1 Tbsp. vanilla bean paste- you can find this at Trader Joe’s (or 1 Tbsp. vanilla extract)

1 cup low fat sour cream

4 eggs

Use a 9″ spring form pan.

Heat oven to 325ºF

Start with the crust.  Mix cookie crumbs, 3 Tbsp. sugar and butter; press onto bottom of pan. Bake 10 min.

You can breakdown the Oreos in an zip-loc bag using a rolling pin, but it’s so much easier in the food processor.

Filling.  Mix cream cheese, sugar, flour and vanilla paste with mixer until well blended.   Add sour cream; mix well.  Turn down mixer to low, add eggs in one at a time just until blended and smooth.  Pour over crust.

** If you would like to decorate the top with the cookies: before baking, take four cookie halves and place on top-pressing them into the filling enough to be stable.

Bake 1 hour 10 min. or until center is almost set. Cool completely. Refrigerate at least 4 hours before taking out of the form.

Fresh from the oven! The cheesecake rises a lot while it’s cooking, and when it’s cooled it deflates and settles into the pan.

Run knife or metal spatula around rim of pan to loosen cake and you are able to spring the form without any cake attached.

Vanilla Cheesecake with Oreo Cookie Crust! Soooo yummy!

Linguine Fini con Pane Grattugiato Tostato (toasted bread crumbs)

One of my favorite and super, quick dishes to make for my family is a long pasta with toasted bread crumbs. My pasta of choice is always a linguine fini, but any long pastas will work.
The great thing about making this dish is that it literally takes only a few minutes to make- in the time you boil the water and cook your pasta…you are done!

I love having toasted bread crumbs handy for a variety of dishes, as well; so in this recipe I made enough to keep on hand. Toasted bread crumbs last a long time in the fridge and can be kept easily in a plastic zip-loc.

1 cup plain bread crumbs (do not use flavored)

2 tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1 clove of garlic minced

salt and pepper to taste

1 lb cooked pasta

Put the bread crumbs in a small pan on high heat.  Add in the extra virgin olive oil and constantly stir until all is a golden brown.  DO NOT let the bread crumbs sit on the stove unattended as they will burn quickly. I like to stir and ‘flip’ the bread crumbs to get an even toasting.
Bread crumbs toasted in the pan.

In a bowl, take the cooked, strained pasta and mix it with the garlic, S&P, and extra virgin olive oil, make sure it’s all coated. Then add in a 1/4 cup bread crumbs that you toasted and toss them together.  Top with your favorite grated cheese.

Linguine Fini con Pane Grattugiato Tostato (toasted breadcrumbs)

Pasta with Sauce and Eggplant

2 tbsp olive oil

1 large eggplant partially peeled and cubed (partially peel the eggplant in stripes)

3 garlic cloves, minced

1/4 cup of water (room temp)

1.5 tbsp tomato paste

2 (28 ounce) can kitchen ready tomatoes,

3 fresh basil leaves

salt & pepper

Sautee Garlic
On medium-high heat, saute minced garlic, in 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, until the color is translucent.
Try to not brown or burn the garlic. If you end up doing so, you’ll have to start over with new oil.
sautee eggplant
Once the garlic is translucent, add in the cubed eggplant.
Eggplant acts like a sponge, and will soak in all the oil, quickly add in the 1/4 cup of water.
Cover. Let simmer until the eggplant is tender and has changed to a more brownish color. 
crushed tomatoes and eggplant
Add in 2 cans of kitchen ready crushed tomatoes.
Personally, I prefer using the homemade crushed tomatoes my mother makes, but I didn’t have them handy today.
Reduce heat to medium-low and let simmer for 10 minutes.
Adding Tomato Paste
Add 1.5 tbsp of tomato paste.
Once you have stirred the tomato paste in, it’s melted,  cover and let the sauce simmer on medium-low heat for 25 minutes. Stirring occasionally.  Though, like with most sauces, the longer the better.
At this point you can start to boil water for your pasta.  This way by the time your sauce is done your pasta will be ready. 
Add in the salt and pepper to your taste here.  Then turn down the sauce to low and add in the basil.  
Turn off the heat, and by now your pasta is fully cooked and ready to strain. 
Not Pasta Alla Norma
The finished product!
Serve with a sprinkle of pecorino Romano cheese on top.
Tonight we paired this with a simple salad of greens, topped with warmed porcini mushrooms, and, a bottle of Beaujolais Nouveau 2012.
Buon Apetito! 

Hope you enjoy making this dish as much as eating it!

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