Pull Apart (Stuffed Garlic Knots) Christmas Tree

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So these delicious garlic knots were originally in the shape of a Christmas tree however, in my haste to serve and eat I forgot to take a picture.The original recipe from Southern Living Magazine® Magazine can be found right here and you can see what the finished product will look like. It makes for a great holiday presentation on your appetizer table and it was absolutely delicious too!

In my version, I substituted the cream cheese with ricotta cheese. I felt that was more in line with the flavors of this dish and I do not care for hot cream cheese. However, feel free to use whatever is more to your liking as both cheeses work equally well in this dish. I also made a quick marinara sauce to serve alongside the garlic knots but you can also use a store made or jarred version as well. I skipped the pepperoni and bell pepper garnish this time around but it definitely makes for a festive presentation if you choose to include it!

Ingredients

  • 1 can of refrigerated pizza dough
  • 4 oz. cream cheese OR ricotta cheese
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella
  • 7 oz. basil pesto
  • 2 tbs melted butter
  • 1-2 garlic cloves, minced
  • fresh parsley, for garnish
  • Rosemary sprigs, for garnish
  • 1/4 – 1/2 cup diced red bell pepper, optional
  • Bite-size pepperoni pieces, optional
  • Marinara sauce, for serving

Instructions

Preheat oven to 400ºF. Line a cookie sheet pan with parchment paper.

Roll out the pizza dough on a flat surface. Using a pizza cutter, cut the dough into 36 squares.

In a bowl combine the cream cheese OR ricotta, mozzarella cheese, and basil pesto.

Add a spoonful of the cheese and pesto mixture to each pizza dough square. Pinch the corners together then close up the seam of the dough square to form a ball around the mixture. Place the ball seam-side down on the pan. As you place the mixture filled dough on the sheet pan, arrange the dough balls in the formation of a Christmas tree.

Bake the completed Christmas tree for about 15 minutes or until golden brown.

While the Christmas tree is in the oven combine the butter and minced garlic in a small bowl. Melt the mixture in the microwave for about 20 seconds.

After taking the Christmas Tree out of the oven, brush it with the fresh garlic butter. Garnish with chopped fresh parsley, chopped red bell pepper, and mini pepperoni for a festive holiday look. Tuck the sprigs of fresh rosemary under the edges of the Christmas tree for a final festive touch. Pair with a bowl of marinara sauce for dipping.

 

 

 

One Pot Garlic Parmesan Pasta

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This is a fantastic pasta to serve as a side dish or even as a main meal. The nice part is that it’s made in one pot and basically cooks itself. It doesn’t get much easier than that! To serve this as a main meal, simply add in some grilled chicken and steamed broccoli and you have a nice, quick dinner. To save even more time, use a rotisserie chicken instead of grilling your own.

I came across this recipe online at Damn Delicious blog, you can find the original recipe right here . I followed the recipe pretty much “as is” with only a few minor substitutions. Instead of chicken broth I used chicken stock which is more flavorful and rich and I used Pecorino Romano cheese in place of the Parmesan. Since it was the only side dish that I was serving alongside my Chicken Caprese , I doubled the recipe.

This pasta is best when it is served right away so that the sauce is silky and smooth. Once it stands, it tends to clump. If that happens, just return the pasta to the pot over medium low heat and stir in a little extra milk until the sauce loosens back up. Serve hot and enjoy!

Ingredients

  • 1 tbs extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cups chicken stock (I like Kitchen Basics brand)
  • 1 cup milk, more as needed
  • 2 tbs unsalted butter
  • 8 oz uncooked fettuccine or thin linguine
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese or Pecorino Romano
  • 2 tbs chopped fresh parsley leaves

Instructions

Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add garlic and cook, stirring frequently, until fragrant, about 1-2 minutes.

Stir in chicken broth, milk, butter and fettuccine. Season with salt and pepper.

Bring to a boil then reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until pasta is cooked through, about 18-20 minutes. Stir in Parmesan cheese. If the mixture is too thick, add more milk as needed until desired consistency is reached.

Serve immediately, garnish with fresh parsley.

Homemade Mashed Potatoes

 

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I could eat homemade mashed potatoes allllllll day long. Seriously. They are awesome! Not to mention super easy to make and WAY better than any store bought or boxed version of mashed potatoes. To make mashed potatoes you can use any basic, high starch potato such as a Russet however, I think that Yukon Gold potatoes make the absolute best potatoes because they are so buttery and creamy. Trust me, use Yukon Golds and you’ll never go back to your old potato again!

There are a few key tips you should follow in order to get a good quality bowl of mashed potatoes:

  • Cut the potatoes into even sized pieces – Irregular cut potato chunks will result in uneven cooking, some pieces will be mushy while others will remain too firm
  • Start them in COLD water If you start the potatoes in hot water they will cook unevenly
  • Generously salt the water – The salt will be absorbed into the potatoes as the starch granules swell
  • Drain them well – Soaked, wet potatoes won’t make for a good final product
  • Add room temp or warmed ingredients – Cold ingredients won’t be absorbed as well and they will also cool down the potatoes 
  • Season them wellPotatoes that aren’t properly seasoned will taste bland and boring
  • Don’t overwork them – If you mix them too much or over beat them you will release all of the starch in the potatoes and the result will be gummy, gluey potatoes

Personally, I don’t scrimp when I make mashed potatoes. I go all out with a lot of butter, heavy cream, and loads of salt and pepper. If you’re looking for a lighter version you can always reduce the amount of butter as well as replace the heavy cream with half and half or milk. The potatoes won’t be as rich but they will still be good.

Ingredients

  • 4 lbs Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • 1 stick salted butter, melted
  • 1 cup heavy cream, warmed
  • Kosher salt and ground pepper, to taste

Instructions

Place the cubed potatoes in a large pot, cover with cold water, and add a small handful of salt to the pot.

Bring the water to a boil and then reduce the heat down to medium high. Cook the potatoes until a knife can easily poke through them, about 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and drain the potatoes well.

Using a ricer, squeeze the potatoes through into the bowl of a stand mixer. Add in the salt and pepper, all of the butter, and about half of the warmed heavy cream. On the lowest setting, mix the potatoes using the paddle attachment. Slowly drizzle in more heavy cream until your mashed potatoes reach the desired consistency. Be sure you don’t overwork the potatoes. Adjust seasonings. Serve hot.

**Tip** – If you prefer a more chunky mashed potato, skip the ricer and just use a potato masher to break up the potatoes. Also, if you don’t have a stand mixer, an electric mixer set to low will also work fine.

Variation – For garlic mashed potatoes add 1-2 heads of roasted garlic to the potatoes during mixing. Use 2 heads of garlic if you like a stronger garlic flavor.

To make the roasted garlic simply cut the top off of a head of garlic and remove as much of the papery skin as you can. Place the garlic heads in a tin foil “pouch” and drizzle them generously with a good olive oil. (I happen to LOVE the flavored oils from The Amazing Olive in Port Jefferson, NY) Sprinkle the garlic with Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper, seal the tin foil pouch, and bake in a 450 degree oven for about 40-45 minutes. 

When you remove the garlic from the oven, it should look nicely browned and roasted through. Let the garlic cool off for a few minutes and then very carefully lift one bulb at a time and squeeze from the bottom until all of the delicious roasted garlic is released. It should slide out VERY easily from its skin at this point. Give the roasted garlic a little stir to break everything up and then it’s ready to go! 

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Nothing Better Than Roasted Garlic

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I love garlic! Not only does it taste delicious but it’s REALLY good for you too! Garlic is packed with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants and it’s even been proven to lower cholesterol and combat heart disease! Let’s face it, everything tastes better with a little garlic and roasted garlic really ups the deliciousness quotient in spades!

Roasting garlic mellows out the bitterness that raw garlic usually has and after roasting it in the oven it develops a really nice deep, sweet flavor that is just amazing. You can use roasted garlic in almost anything such as: tomato based sauces, soups, vegetables, cooked pasta, salad dressings, meat dishes, and even spread on Italian bread. Pretty much any recipe that calls for garlic, roasted garlic can be used in its place.

This evening I am making braised short ribs for dinner and I thought homemade garlic mashed potatoes would be the perfect side dish. The roasted garlic was super simple to make and will definitely make my mashed potatoes sing!

To make the roasted garlic simply cut the top off of a head of garlic and remove as much of the papery skin as you can. Place the garlic heads in a tin foil “pouch” and drizzle them generously with a good olive oil. (I happen to LOVE the flavored oils from The Amazing Olive in Port Jefferson, NY) Sprinkle the garlic with Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper, seal the tin foil pouch, and bake in a 450 degree oven for about 40-45 minutes.

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When you remove the garlic from the oven, it should look nicely browned and roasted through.

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Let the garlic cool off for a few minutes and then very carefully lift one bulb at a time and squeeze from the bottom until all of the delicious roasted garlic is released. It should slide out VERY easily from its skin at this point.

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Give the roasted garlic a little stir to break everything up and then it’s ready to go! You can store the roasted garlic in the fridge for up to 2 weeks……………….if it lasts that long!

**Quick Suggestion** – Make your own compound butter for garlic bread! It’s so much better than the store bought version that is loaded with odd ingredients to preserve its flavor.

To make the compound butter – Soften a stick of unsalted butter and mix in a whole roasted head of garlic. Stir to combine and then scoop onto a piece of wax paper. Roll the compound butter mixture into a log shape, seal, and place in fridge until slightly firm. If you prefer a stronger garlic flavor, use 2 heads of roasted garlic.

To make the garlic bread – Slice a loaf of fresh Italian bread lengthwise through the middle. Spread each side generously with compound butter, sprinkle with a little grated cheese, salt and pepper and bake at 350 degrees until the bread is nicely browned and the cheese is slightly bubbly. Slice and serve hot.

 

Garlic Oil Pasta with Broccoli and Sausage

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This is my go to dinner when I need something quick and easy. It’s absolutely delicious, very versatile, and even my kids love it! The key to this dish is in the garlic preparation, you don’t want to just chop up raw garlic and toss it in or ((GASP)) use something like garlic powder. I always use fresh garlic and I cook it until is softens which allows it to take on a nice, mellow flavor that really enhances the flavor of the meal.

For every pound of pasta I use a full head of garlic however, if you like a more subtle or even stronger garlic flavor feel free to use less or more depending on your taste. You can also switch out the sausage for thinly sliced chicken or even mini meatballs.  Don’t like broccoli? Use spinach, zucchini, kale, or whatever produce you prefer.  I happen to love penne pasta but you can make this recipe with angel hair, spaghetti, rigatoni or any other pasta that suits you. You can really experiment and make this dish your own.

Ingredients

  • 1 lb pasta, any
  • 1 lb sausage links (I like sweet sausage with fennel)
  • 1 head of garlic, smashed and roughly chopped
  • 1/2 – 3/4 extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 bag of broccoli florets (I like the Bird’s Eye Steam Bags)
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Pinch of red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 cup of grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup shaved Parmesan
  • Handful of fresh basil leaves

Instructions

Bring a pot of water to a boil and cook the pasta al dente.

In the meantime, smash the garlic cloves with the back of a knife, give them a rough chop and add them to a small saucepan. Cover the garlic with the olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and turn the stove to medium high heat. Once the oil starts to bubble bring the heat down to low and let the garlic cook until slightly browned, about 10 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and let the garlic infuse into the warmed oil.

Thinly slice the sausage or remove from the casings all together. Heat up a small pan on medium heat and drizzle a little olive oil in. Add the sausage and cook until nicely browned and cooked through, about 15 minutes. Set aside and reserve the cooking oil.

Remove the garlic from the oil and using kitchen sheers, mince up the softened garlic. Add the garlic back into the oil and then prepare the broccoli. Allow the broccoli to cool for a minute and then chop the stems and discard.

Drain the pasta and add to a large bowl. Tear a handful of basil leaves and toss them in along with the sausage, broccoli, grated cheese, and a pinch of red pepper. Drizzle in some of the oil from the sausage pan along with all of the garlic infused oil. Season with salt and pepper and toss until everything is evenly coated and combined. Adjust your seasonings, sprinkle with shaved Parmesan cheese, and serve hot.

**Note** – I always keep fresh basil on hand in my freezer. Buy a bunch of basil, tear off the leaves, wash, allow them to dry in between paper towels, and then toss them into a Ziploc bag and freeze. Whenever a recipe calls for fresh basil just grab what you need and crumble it right into whatever you’re cooking.

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