The summer has been pretty fabulous despite some interesting incidents and misadventure as well as a family schedule that had me occasionally curled up in the fetal position in the corner of my living room (where I found enough dog fur to create a whole other creature - summer also put house cleaning on the back burner). With days at the beach, work related travel, college searches, soccer practices, camp drop offs and pick ups our door was a revolving one and there were rarely more than two family members at the dinner table at one time. The bonus: I was somewhat off the hook in terms of cooking. I would grill up massive amounts of chicken early in the week and we would find various ways to utilize it for several evenings: Chicken Caesar Salad, Pesto Chicken with Pasta, Chicken and Bacon Panini. I am pretty sick of grilled chicken at this point.
School starts on Monday and it is time to get back to a routine and I must say that I am looking forward to it. After a couple months of chaos, routine is most welcome in my little world. I will spend a better part of the weekend cooking in preparation for the coming week. A few treats to ease the pain of back to school, dinners that can be easily prepared after soccer practice and maybe one big back to school feast to say Arrivederci to summer. Here are a few of the items that I am planning:
1. Focaccia - earlier in the summer I posted my tips on making fabulous focaccia. One thing I probably neglected to mention is that it is best eaten warm from the oven or within a day of making it. I probably overlooked this because it literally never lasts that long in my house. I literally have hidden it in cupboards if it was intended for anything other than immediate consumption because with a hungry husband and three kids, that poor bread doesn’t stand a chance!
2. Pizzelles - These delicate, anise flavored cookies have a very special place in the hearts of the Turney family. For years, my father-in-law Paul was assigned with the task of manning the pizzelle iron and making huge cardboard boxes full of the cooking in anticipation of any family gathering. Miraculously, there is always a full platter of pizzelles on the table no matter how many grandchildren swipe handfuls on their way through the dining room. When Paul passed away, we decided it was a time for us to carry on the tradition and we bought our own iron. The kids love them and think of their grandfather whenever they eat them so the effort is well worth it. The littlest Turney prefers hers sandwich style with a layer of Nutella (thanks Sherrilyn!).
3. Farro Caprese Salad - This one is for Caitlin. She is not one for school lunches or sandwiches so I like to find recipes that are portable and filling for school. This is a favorite and is so easy. Farro (cooked per instructions on the package), olive oil, balsamic vinegar, cherry tomatoes, fresh basil and little mozzarella balls cut in half (I get these at the olive bar at my grocery store). Toss everything together and refrigerate.
4. Bolognese Sauce - some comfort food is in order this week and I am pulling out the slow cooker as the first week of school is always unpredictable. New schedules, new school etc. and who knows what is in store. Many years ago I found this fantastic recipe for Bolognese Sauce and it is a favorite in our house. It starts on the stovetop and then is transferred to the crockpot where it simmers all day long. I can no longer find the link so here is the recipe. Enjoy!
Slow Cooker Bolognese Sauce
5 strips quality bacon, finely chopped
¾ cup chopped onion
1 ½ lbs ground chuck
1 cup dry red wine
1 28 oz can whole peeled tomatoes, roughly chopped
2 Tbs. finely minced fresh basil
2 Tbs finely minced garlic
1 ½ tsp finely minced fresh thyme
1 ½ tsp finely minced fresh rosemary
1-2 Tbs. sugar
1 bay leaf
1 tsp salt
½ tsp ground pepper
Cook bacon, herbs and garlic in large skillet over medium high heat until bacon is soft (about 4 minutes). Add onions and cook until they are golden brown. Add the chuck and cook until browned. Add wine, bring sauce to a simmer and cook 2 - 3 minutes. Transfer mixture to a slow cooker and add remaining ingredients. Cook on high for 5 - 6 hours. Store in refrigerator for up to 3 days. Serve with copious amounts of freshly grated parmesan (of course).
Hope your summer was as wonderful as ours. Happy Back to School everyone!