Food for Thought: Birthdays!

Today was my birthday, and in an odd twist of fate, I had a random day off thanks to a company-only holiday, so instead of cooking a favorite meal, I decided to treat myself to a bunch of stuff I love, including driving up to one of our old ‘hoods to pick up a favorite meal we haven’t had in a while. But as I treated myself with edible/drinkable goodies all day (okay, fine, all weekend), it occurred to me how much food is a part of celebrating. My go-to birthday foods and sweets have changed a little over the years, but so have I, so I guess that makes sense. Anyway… so I wondered. What are your birthday food MUSTS? A favorite homemade dinner? A special restaurant? A cocktail toast? Ice cream cake? Here’s a sampling of how I food/drink celebrated my birthday the past few days. Now tell me how you do yours.

Quick Side: Garlic-Parmesan Potato Wedges

YOU GUYS. I promised these yesterday and I couldn’t wait another day – I had to give you these right away because, YOU GUYS. They’re so ridiculously good it’s not even right. And so CRAZY easy. You barely have to think and you get the most delicious, perfect baked potato wedges on the planet. I’m not even joking a little bit. I’m going to probably make these every week now. Like, I’ll design whole weekly meal plans around making sure I can make and devour these. I’ll have to start coming up with dipping sauce recipes so that I’ll *have* to make those potato wedges again. What? I have to! It’s for the blog! No, but seriously. SO SO GOOD. Make them tomorrow. Here you go.

WHAT YOU NEED
* 1-2 large russet potatoes (depending on how much you want to make–1 large potato made about 16 wedges, which was great alongside a steak dinner for four people)
* olive oil
* 4t minced garlic
* 1t Italian seasoning
* 1/2C grated Parmesan cheese
* salt
* pepper

WHAT TO DO
Preheat the oven to 375F.

Cut your potato (skin on) in half lengthwise, and then cut each of those halves in half lengthwise, and each of those halves in half lengthwise. If you’re working with a long potato, you may want to cut each of those wedges in half width-wise, too (I did).

Put your potatoes on a baking sheet in one layer. Add about 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil and then distribute the garlic, Italian seasoning, Parmesan cheese, and salt and pepper to taste. Then use your hands to toss and coat all of the wedges with all of the goods. Distribute the wedges again into a single layer on the baking sheet and bake 25 minutes.

After 25 minutes, turn the oven off and the broiler on. Broil about 5 minutes to get a nice crusty finish on those wedges and serve! HELLO?! OH YEAH.

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Quick Side: 5 Ingredient Parmesan Brussels Sprouts

My love affair with Brussels sprouts is well documented by now. I don’t think I need to, but I’ll say it again, I could literally eat them every day, any way, and never get sick of them. I would actually love for someone to challenge me to that so that I could prove it. But I digress. I actually planned to cook these on a sheet pan in the oven with steak and potato wedges (OMG – the potato wedges. That recipe’s for another day.), but then I didn’t really have room on the sheet pan so I decided to change the plan up. YUMM-O. Here you go.

WHAT YOU NEED
* ~1lb fresh Brussels sprouts, ends trimmed, cut in half lengthwise
* 2T olive oil
* ~1/4C grated Parmesan cheese
* 1-2t garlic salt
* fresh ground pepper

WHAT TO DO
Heat the olive oil in a large skillet (again, this Cuisinart Everyday Pan is my go-to) over medium heat. Add the Brussels sprouts, Parmesan, garlic salt, and pepper to taste, gently toss to coat, and saute about 20 minutes, mixing occasionally, until your sprouts begin to get a nice char on the cut side, and some of the leaves begin to crisp up. Serve hot.

ParmBSprouts

Stovetop Macaroni with Chicken Sausage and Spinach

This is a nice, easy, light, weeknight-friendly, seasonally-transitioning dinner. The chicken sausage gives it the heartiness of a cold-weather comfort meal, while the use of a smaller pasta and no sauce keeps it lighter and springier. You could easily change out the pasta and add a little white wine sauce or marinara or pesto and change the whole thing up. But this is the basic version, and it’s perfect just the way it is (if you ask me). Here you go.

WHAT YOU NEEDmacsausspin1
* ~10oz small elbow macaroni pasta (I had a 32oz box, and used approximately a third of it for three people)
* 1 small sweet onion, diced
* olive oil
* 1 package sweet Italian-style precooked chicken sausage, sliced into rounds
* 2t minced garlic
* a few healthy handfuls baby spinach
* Himalayan pink salt (you can get this at Trader Joe’s!) or sea salt, to taste
* lemon pepper, to taste
* 1/4C sundried tomatoes in oil, drained
* ~1/4C grated Parmesan cheese
* fresh basil, for garnish

WHAT TO DO
Boil water for pasta in a pot and cook the pasta to al dente. Drain almost completely, but reserve a tiny bit of the pasta water in the pot to keep the pasta from sticking (this will also help all of the other ingredients and flavors to stick to the macaroni when you combine everything later!).

While the macaroni is cooking, heat a little bit of olive oil, about a tablespoon, in a large high-sided skillet (I like this Cuisinart everyday pan – I actually use it almost every day – but anything like this works fine – so would a large pot) over medium heat. Add the diced onion and cook about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onion softens and becomes translucent. Don’t let it start to brown. Add the chicken sausage and cook another 5 minutes or so, stirring and turning occasionally to allow the slices to brown on both sides. Add the garlic and stir to combine.

Reduce heat to low. Add the cooked pasta to the pan, and again, stir to combine. Add in the spinach, a few handfuls at a time, and allow it to start to wilt by folding it in carefully with the contents of the pan. Add more as it wilts until you have a nice balance. Season lightly with salt and pepper, then add the sundried tomatoes and Parmesan and again, mix carefully to combine.

Cut the basil into ribbons to garnish and serve! Buon Appetito!

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