BLT Pasta Salad with Romaine Lettuce Dressing

BLT Pasta Salad.jpg

On The Wendy Williams Show I showed everyone how to make a dish that will be your go-to this spring and summer, BLT Pasta Salad with Romaine Lettuce Dressing.

Yes, the dressing is actually made with lettuce!

Combined with the classic flavors of a BLT sandwich (minus the bread), it's the perfect dish to ring in Spring!

BLT Pasta Salad with Romaine Lettuce Dressing

servings: 4 to 6 servings, with about 2 cups Romaine Lettuce Dressing

Romaine Lettuce Dressing:

  • 2 romaine hearts, halved
  • 5 tablespoons olive oil
  • ½ cup Greek yogurt
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper

BLT Pasta Salad:

  • 1 pound short-cut pasta
  • 4 strips extra thick-cut bacon
  • 2 cups Romaine Lettuce Dressing
  • 2 cups lightly packed baby spinach or chopped romaine
  • 2 cups halved grape tomatoes
  • 1 cup finely chopped sundried tomatoes
  • 1 small red onion, very thinly sliced (about 1 cup)
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper

Romaine Lettuce Dressing:

  1. Heat a grill pan over high heat. Then brush the 4 lettuce halves on the cut side with 1 tablespoon of the oil. Grill the lettuce cut-side-down until it is slightly charred and wilted—about 2 to 3 minutes. Remove the lettuce from the grill pan, coarsely chop it and discard the stems.
  2. Combine the lettuce, remaining 4 tablespoons of oil, yogurt, lemon juice, mustard, salt, and pepper in a food processor or blender. If all of the lettuce does not fit at one time, puree a portion of it, adding more as you do, until it is all in the food processor. Once it has all been pureed, set it aside for later.

BLT Pasta Salad:

  1. Place a large pot of salted water over high heat. When the water boils, add the pasta and cook it according to the package directions. Then drain it, rinse it under cold water, and set it aside.
  2. While the pasta cooks, in a large skillet over medium heat, cook the bacon until it is crispy—about 7 minutes. Transfer the bacon to paper towels. Once it is cool enough to handle, coarsely chop it; this should give you about 1½ cups of bacon pieces. Set the bacon aside for later.
  3. Toss the pasta with the Romaine Lettuce Dressing, spinach or romaine, grape tomatoes, sundried tomatoes, onion, salt, and pepper. Top it with the bacon and serve!
: @NikkiDinki

: @NikkiDinkiCooking
 

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Fully-Loaded Broccoli Crust Pizza

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Remember that time on The Wendy Williams Show when I showed everyone how to make a fabulous Fully-Loaded Broccoli Crust Pizza?!

Well, I still can't decide which is my favorite part—the super flavorful crust, the melty cheese (always in the running!), the crispy bacon, or the warm and savory potatoes!

I think you owe it to yourself to cook up this amazing pizza and help me be the judge!

Fully-Loaded Broccoli Crust Pizza

servings: 3; makes one 10- to 11-inch pizza

Ingredients:

  • 2 heads broccoli (about 2 pounds)
  • 3 cups shredded cheddar cheese (about 12 ounces)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • ½ + ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 slices bacon, coarsely chopped
  • 3 medium red potatoes cut into about twenty-five ⅛- to ¼-inch slices
  • ⅛ teaspoon black pepper
  • 4 tablespoons sour cream, for a garnish
  • 3 tablespoons chopped scallions, for a garnish
  • Hot sauce, for a garnish

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Remove most of the tough, thick stems of the broccoli. Working in batches, place the remaining broccoli in the bowl of a food processor and pulse it until it is finely ground. You may need to stir as you go to make sure the bigger pieces don’t sit on the top. After grinding the broccoli, you should have about 5 cups.
  2. Place the broccoli on a microwave-safe plate and microwave on high heat for 6 minutes, stirring halfway through. Once it is cool enough to handle, put the broccoli in a kitchen cloth or a piece of cheesecloth; roll up the cloth and twist and squeeze out as much liquid as you can. When you are done, you should have about 2 cups of dry, packed broccoli.
  3. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In a large bowl, combine the broccoli with 1 cup of the cheese, the eggs, chili powder, and ½ teaspoon of the salt. Transfer this mixture to the baking sheet and shape it into a 10- to 11-inch diameter round, about ½-inch thick.
  4. Bake the crust until it is firm and brown around the edges—about 20 to 25 minutes. While the crust bakes, heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add the bacon and cook it until it is crisp—6 to 7 minutes, stirring occasionally. Transfer the bacon to a paper towel (leaving the bacon fat in the pan) and turn the heat up to medium high. Add the potatoes to the pan along with the remaining ¼ teaspoon salt and the pepper. Cook, stirring frequently, until brown all over and tender—about 7 to 10 minutes
  5. Remove the crust from the oven and top it with the remaining 2 cups of cheese. Return the pizza to the oven and bake it until the cheese is melted—about 5 minutes. Top the cheese with the potatoes and bacon and cook until the potatoes and bacon are warmed through —about 2 to 3 minutes
  6. Remove the pizza from the oven and top it with dollops of the sour cream, the scallions, and a dash of hot sauce. Cut and serve it immediately.
: @NikkiDinki

: @NikkiDinkiCooking
 

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Lasagna Soup

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Lasagna Soup

servings: 6

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • ½ pound ground sirloin
  • ½ pound hot Italian Sausage, casings removed
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper, more for a garnish
  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 5 garlic cloves, sliced
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • Two 32-ounce boxes chicken stock (8 cups), plus extra stock or water to thin as needed
  • One 28-ounce can crushed fire roasted tomatoes
  • 1 cup marinara sauce
  • 1 pound lasagna noodles, broken by hand into 1-inch pieces
  • ¼ cup coarsely chopped lightly packed basil, plus more for a garnish
  • Shredded mozzarella cheese, for a garnish
  • Ricotta cheese, for a garnish

Directions:

  1. Heat the oil in a large pot over high heat, then add the sirloin, sausage, 1 teaspoon of the salt, and the pepper. Cook, breaking up the meat with a spoon, until it is very brown and mostly cooked through; try not to stir too much to allow the meat to really brown—5 to 7 minutes.
  2. Turn the heat to medium and add the onion, garlic, bay leaves, and Italian seasoning. Cook until the onions are mostly tender and translucent—about 5 minutes. Add the stock, crushed tomatoes, marinara sauce, and the remaining 1 teaspoon of salt. Bring the mixture to a simmer and cook until it reduces slightly and the flavor intensifies—about 25 minutes.
  3. Add the noodles and cook until al dente—about 8 minutes, then stir in the basil. Taste, and add more salt if needed; this will depend on how salty your stock is. Also, add more stock or water if your soup is too thick (if your soup sits, it may thicken and you may need to add more stock or water later on).
  4. To serve, divide into bowls and top with the mozzarella cheese, a dollop of the ricotta, a sprinkle of black pepper, and extra basil.

Notes:

  • You could cook your noodles separately and then add them individually to each bowl. This way, if you have leftovers, your noodles won’t get “water logged.” In this case, you should use 2 cups less stock.
: @NikkiDinki

: @NikkiDinkiCooking
 

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Beer Cheese Soup

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Beer Cheese Soup

servings: 4; makes 8 cups of soup

Ingredients:

  • Four 6-inch-round loaves sourdough bread
  • 1 small butternut squash (about 1 pound)
  • 1 medium head cauliflower (about 2 pounds)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, sliced
  • 2½ teaspoons kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • One 12-ounce beer, pilsner or your choice
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • 2 cups shredded extra-sharp cheddar cheese (8 ounces)
  • 8 ounces American cheese
  • ½ cup grated parmesan
  • ½ cup heavy cream

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Prepare the bread bowls by slicing the top inch or top third of each sourdough loaf. With a paring knife, cut a circle about an inch from the edge all the way around the loaf, being careful to leave about an inch of bread on the bottom as well. Gently remove the bread from inside the loaf, reserving it for another use.
  2. Brush the insides of the bowls with melted butter or olive oil, or spray them with olive oil spray, then place them on a baking sheet. Bake until the bread bowls are warmed and begin to brown—12 to 20 minutes.
  3. In the meantime, peel the squash. Cut it in half and then use a soupspoon to scoop out the seeds. Chop the flesh into 1-inch cubes; you should have about 3 cups of squash cubes. Remove the base of the stem and leaves from the head of cauliflower and roughly chop into florets; you should have about 4 cups of florets. Set the veggies aside.
  4. Heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic, ½ teaspoon of the salt and the pepper and sauté until the veggies are tender—5 to 7 minutes. Add the beer and cook for 3 minutes, scraping the bottom of the pan if necessary.
  5. Add the squash, cauliflower, stock and 1 teaspoon of the salt to the pot. Cover the pot and let the mixture cook until all the vegetables are very tender, stirring occasionally—about 30 minutes.
  6. Transfer the soup to a blender, working in batches if necessary, and blend until it is very smooth. Place the soup back in the pot over low heat, then stir in the cheddar, American, and parmesan cheeses. Continue stirring until all of the cheeses are melted, then stir in the cream. Taste the soup and add up to another teaspoon of salt if needed (this is dependent on how salty your stock and cheese are).
: @NikkiDinki

: @NikkiDinkiCooking
 

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Eggplant Parm Meatballs

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I love it when I get to be on The Wendy Williams Show!

Today I showed everyone how to make one of my favorites—Eggplant Parm Meatballs!

They're an amazing add to your favorite pasta dish, but also pretty delicious all on their own!

 

Eggplant Parm Meatballs

servings: Thirty 1½-inch meatballs

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium eggplant (about 1 pound)
  • 3 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 16 ounces ground beef
  • 1 cup Italian breadcrumbs*
  • ½ cup grated parmesan (about 2 ounces)
  • ½ cup marinara sauce + more for serving
  • 1 large egg
  • ½ teaspoon onion powder
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • Mozzarella cheese, grated

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 425°F. Cut the eggplant in half lengthwise and place the halves cut-side-up on a rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle them lightly with 1 teaspoon of the oil and then sprinkle ½ teaspoon of the salt and the pepper over them. Bake the eggplants until they are very soft—about 30 minutes.
  2. When the eggplant is cool enough to handle, use a spoon to scrape the flesh of the eggplant into a food processor or blender; discard the skin. Process until everything is completely pureed; this should give you about ¾ cups of eggplant puree. Note: If your marinara sauce is very chunky, puree it with the eggplant.
  3. Transfer the puree to a large bowl, then add the beef, breadcrumbs, parmesan, marinara sauce, egg, onion powder, garlic powder, and the remaining ½ teaspoon of salt. Mix to combine well and then form the mixture into tablespoon-sized balls by hand.
  4. Heat a large skillet over medium heat and add the remaining 2 teaspoons of oil. Place the meatballs in the pan and brown on all sides, working in batches if necessary, cooking until the center is no longer pink—5-7 minutes.
  5. Preheat the broiler to high. Place the meatballs in a serving dish and cover with marinara sauce and mozzarella cheese, then place under the broiler until the cheese is melted. Serve and enjoy!

Notes:

  • If you wish, you can bake the meatballs at 400°F for about 30 minutes.
  • *Depending on the amount of moisture in your eggplant and sauce you may need more breadcrumbs to ensure your meatballs hold together nicely.
: @NikkiDinki

: @NikkiDinkiCooking
 

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Red Cabbage + Raspberry Grilled Cheese

So great being on The Wendy Williams Show today! Check out the clip--and the recipe!--for my Red Cabbage + Raspberry Grilled Cheese.

Red Cabbage + Raspberry Grilled Cheese

servings: 2 Sandwiches

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 6 cups lightly packed shredded purple cabbage (12 ounces)
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ cup raspberry jam
  • ¼ cup champagne vinegar
  • 8 ounces Fontina fontina cheese, sliced
  • 4 slices sourdough bread
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature

Directions:

  1. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Stir in the cabbage and salt and cook until tender but not mushy, —3 to 4 minutes. Stir in the jam and vinegar and cook until most of the liquid has evaporated and the cabbage is completely tender, —2 to 3 minutes more. Remove the skillet from the heat.
  2. Heat a second large skillet over medium-low heat. Butter 1 side of each slice of bread. Place 2 pieces of bread, butter- side- down, on a plate. Top each with 3 alternating layers, : first of cheese, then cabbage, and then the rest of the cheese, dividing them equally, and then finish off with another slice of bread, butter- side- up. Place the sandwiches in the skillet and cook them until browned on the bottom, —3 to 5 minutes. Then fFlip them over and cook until the other side is has browned and the cheese is has melted, —3 to 5 minutes more, gently pressing the sandwiches as they cook. Cut in half and serve.

Notes:

  • You can really customize this sandwich: just use what you have in the pantry. Any sliced bread works fine, you can substitute any jam flavor that you like, and instead of champagne vinegar feel free to use red wine vinegar, white wine vinegar, or apple cider vinegar.
  • Purple cabbage is also known as red cabbage and may be labeled that way.
  • I can usually find purple cabbage freshly shredded by the store in my produce section. You can also use green cabbage for a similar taste but a slightly less exciting color.
  • Because of the sweetness of the cabbage and the fact that it’s a grilled cheese, this sandwich should be a hit! Not convinced? Use half that amount of cabbage mixture for super- picky eaters; the cheese will melt all around it, mostly concealing our little secret.
: @NikkiDinki

: @NikkiDinkiCooking
 

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Spicy Brussels Sprout + Lentil Soup

So great being on The Wendy Williams Show today! Check out the clip--and the recipe!--for my Spicy Brussels Sprout + Lentil Soup.

Spicy Lentil + Brussels Sprout Soup

servings: 4 Makes about 8 cups of soup

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 ½ cups yellow onion (1 medium onion), finely chopped
  • 1 cup red pepper (1 large pepper), finely chopped
  • 1 cup carrots (about 3 medium carrots), finely chopped
  • 1 cup celery (2 stalks of celery), finely chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 ½ teaspoons kosher salt *check
  • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 8 cups veggie or chicken stock
  • 1 ½ cups brown or green lentils
  • 1 pound Brussels sprouts (7-9 large Brussels sprouts), shredded (2.5 cups packed)
  • 1 ½ tablespoons chipotle peppers in adobo sauce*
  • 1 avocado, pitted + chopped into ¼- to ½-inch dice
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro

Directions:

  1. Heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat, and add the onion, peppers, carrots, celery, garlic, 1 teaspoon of the salt, and the pepper. Cook this mixture until the veggies are tender—about 7 minutes.
  2. Then add the stock, lentils, 1 ½ cup packed shredded Brussels Sprout, chipotles, and another 1 teaspoon of salt to the pot and bring to a simmer. Cook 35-40minutes until the lentils are al dente. Taste soup and add salt if necessary and more stock or water if soup is too thick
  3. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, toss the remaining 1 cup of Brussels sprouts, the avocado, lime juice, and remaining ½ teaspoon of salt together until well combined.
  4. To serve, divide the soup into serving bowls and top it with the Brussels sprout mixture from Step 4 and some cilantro.

Notes:

  • Puree or finely chop the entire can of chipotles in adobo and use 1.5 tablespoons for this recipe. Store the remaining in the bottom of a Ziploc bag in the freezer and cut of tablespoon amounts as needed.
: @NikkiDinki

: @NikkiDinkiCooking
 

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