Bacon-Wrapped Tenderloin Steaks, Green Beans with Bacon and Onions, Caesar Salad

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It’s  Valentine’s Day!  I know it’s been a while since my last post and I promise to be back soon with new material.  But this one is just too good to not share again on this day of love 🥰  Enjoy this throwback post and let me know what your Valentine plans are this weekend!


Doesn’t Valentine’s Day always make you think of the great things you and your loved one do for each other?  Don’t the little things make your day feel big?  Indulge me a little as I think about the first Valentine’s Day Will and I spent together way back in 2010. It was the first “fancy dinner” Will ever made for me and it left a lasting impression… this guy can cook!  It definitely made me feel loved. This post is all about that first Valentine’s dinner with three recipes tucked into one post as my Valentine treat to you.

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What’s your favorite Valentine memory? I hope you enjoy one of mine and make this dinner – let me know who you make it for and how they enjoyed it!


Caesar Dressing

  • 1 cup mayo
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 tsp anchovy paste
  • 2 T lemon juice
  • 1 tsp balsamic or dijon mustard
  • Salt & pepper
  • ½ cup parmesan, shredded

The easiest way to mix this dressing up is in a blender or small food processor.  Simply add all the ingredients to your blender and process until smooth.  If the dressing seems a little thick, add about a tablespoon of  milk or cream at a time until you get the consistency you like best.  I must admit that we do prefer a thicker dressing.

Let me tell you about a few of the ingredients in this dressing:

First of all – don’t be scared of the anchovy paste.  It brings a salty, tangy flavor to the dressing that you can’t really replicate with anything else. We find the paste in a tube near the canned tuna in our  local grocery store.

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For the mustard, we use Turtlefly Fields Balsamic Mustard – a grainy, balsamic vinegar-based mustard.   You can also use a dijon mustard in this dressing.

Full disclosure, my sister and I started Turtlefly Fields a few years ago. We sell pickles and jellies at local craft fairs and Will gets in on the action with this Balsamic Mustard and a few other seasonings (as you will see below).  Come see us this March at Angleton Market Days!

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Finally, be sure to use a quality parmesan for this dressing.  Grate the parmesan fairly small to blend into the dressing, keeping in mind that this, along with the anchovy paste, will be your main source of salt for the  dressing.  Shave a few layers of parmesan to top your salad with as well.

The flavors of the dressing will develop as it sits so let is chill in the refrigerator for a couple of hours before you want to serve it.  The dressing will keep in the refrigerator up to a week.  If the dressing thickens up as it sits, loosen it up again in your blender or food processor with a little milk or cream.

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Green Beans with Bacon and Onions

  • 1 pound fresh green beans, trimmed and rinsed
  • 1 cup pearl onions, peeled and halved
  • 4-5 strips bacon, chopped
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • ¼ cup raw sugar

Trim the green beans by snipping off each end – you did this with Grandma, didn’t you?!  Rinse them under cool water.

Steam the green beans until they are al dente, or still have a good bite to them.  Using my rice cooker, this typically takes about 12-15 minutes.

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This recipe calls for pearl onions, because that’s how Will made it for the that first Valentine’s Day.  To prepare the pearl onions, trim the top and bottom root areas and slit the skin of the onion down one side to easily peel off the papery skin.  Then slice the onion in half.  If you can’t find fresh pearl onions, check the freezer section – the peeling is done for you!

For this instance… we couldn’t find fresh or frozen pearl onions at our local grocery store. We went back to the produce section for the next best thing – shallots.

Saute the bacon on medium high heat until about halfway crisp.

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Add the pearl onions, or shallots, and about half the garlic.  Cook the mixture until the onions and garlic begin to carmelize.

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Add the rest of the garlic and the raw sugar.  If you don’t have raw sugar, use just a little less brown sugar.  Saute the mixture until the sugar begins to melt.

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Toss in the steamed green beans, coating with the bacon mixture. Check the seasoning, adding salt and pepper as needed.  Saute a few minutes until beans are as tender as you like them.

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These green beans are sooooo good and have become a staple in our menu rotation!


Bacon-Wrapped Tenderloin Steaks

  • Tenderloin steaks, about 1 1/2 – 2 inches thick, trimmed
  • Steak rub or salt & pepper
  • 2 strips of bacon per steak
  • 2-3 T unsalted butter

You can adjust this recipe to as many steaks as you are cooking.  For our Valentine’s dinner… well, just two 😉

Season each side of the steaks with steak seasoning or salt and pepper. We use Turtlefly Fields Steak Rub.  Will makes this rub… and he is never giving up the recipe.  But, you can come see Turtlefly Fields at Angleton Market Days coming up in March!  We’ll sell you a jar or two!

Let the  steaks rest at room temperature for a couple of hours.

Lay a strip of bacon across a plate or cutting board, then lay another strip slightly overlapping to fit the width of the steaks.

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Season the bacon with freshly ground pepper. Wrap the sides of the steaks with the bacon, pepper side in.  Secure the bacon to the steak with a couple of toothpicks.

Line the bottom of a sheet tray with foil or parchment paper and place a rack on top. Place the bacon-wrapped steaks on the rack and bake at 275 until the steaks reach an internal temperature of 125 for medium-rare, about 45 minutes to one hour. 

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Heat a cast iron skillet over high heat and add a tablespoon of butter to the skillet. Brown the bacon around each side of the steaks.

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Add another tablespoon of butter to the skillet. Sear each the top and bottom of each steak, a couple minutes per side.  Let rest a few minutes before serving.

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Pour a glass of wine and plate up this dinner for your Valentine!  Stay tuned… my favorite dessert to cap off this nice, romantic dinner is coming up!


Full Recipe

Bacon-Wrapped Tenderloin Steaks, Green Beans with Bacon and Onions, Caesar Salad

Bacon Wrapped Tenderloin Steaks

  • Tenderloin steaks, trimmed
  • Steak rub or salt & pepper
  • 2 strips of bacon per steak
  • 2-3 T unsalted butter

Season each side of the steaks with steak seasoning or salt and pepper.

Let the  steaks rest at room temperature for a couple of hours.

When ready to cook, preheat the oven to 275.

Lay a strip of bacon across a plate or cutting board, then lay another strip slightly overlapping to fit the width of the steaks.

Season the bacon with freshly ground pepper.

Wrap the sides of the steaks with the bacon, pepper side in.

Secure the bacon to the steak with a couple of toothpicks.

Line the bottom of a sheet tray with foil or parchment paper and place a rack on top.

Place the bacon-wrapped steaks on the rack and bake until the steaks reach an internal temperature of 125 for medium-rare, about 45 minutes to one hour.

Heat a cast iron skillet over high heat.

Add a tablespoon of butter to the skillet.

Brown the bacon around each side of the steaks.

Sear each the top and bottom of each steak, a couple minutes per side.

Let rest a few minutes before serving.


Green Beans with Bacon and Onion

  • 1 pound fresh green beans, trimmed and rinsed
  • 1 cup pearl onions, peeled and halved
  • 4-5 strips bacon, chopped
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • ¼ cup raw sugar

Steam the green beans until al dente, 12-15 minutes.

Over medium heat, saute the bacon until beginning to crisp, season with fresh black pepper.

Add the pearl onions and half the garlic and let the veggies begin to caramelize a few minutes.

Add the rest of the garlic and the raw sugar, tossing as the sugar begins to melt.

Toss in the steamed green beans, coating with the bacon mixture.

Check the seasoning, adding salt and pepper as needed.

Saute a few minutes until beans are desired texture.


Caesar Dressing

  • 1 cup mayo
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 tsp anchovy paste
  • 2 T lemon juice
  • 1 tsp balsamic or dijon mustard
  • Salt & pepper
  • ½ cup parmesan, shredded

Blend ingredients together; adjusting seasoning as necessary.

Keep dressing stored in refrigerator, up to 1 week.

Mexican Pesto Pasta with Shrimp

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I love a good pesto.  They are packed with bold flavor, easy to pull together and completely customizable to any recipe theme.

A basic pesto is basil, pine nuts, garlic, parmesan and olive oil.  You can’t go wrong with the classic, but why stay there? You could swap the basil for parsley, kale, spinach, collard greens or cilantro as we have here. Pine nuts can be pricey and a little more difficult to locate than their more common counterpart – walnuts, always a good substitute in a pesto. I’ve played around with a few different versions, I’m sure  you’ll see more recipes sneak in on this blog, but this one has quickly held it’s place at the top of my list.  The pepitas and cilantro play together nicely for a light summer dinner when paired with the angel hair pasta and shrimp tossed in cumin and lime.

Have you ever played with pesto? What’s your go-to combination or favorite flavor find?


Mexican Pesto Pasta with Shrimp

  • 1 cup raw pepitas
  • ½ cup raw pecans
  • 2 bunches cilantro
  • 2-3 cloves garlic
  • ½ cup grated parmesan
  • EVOO
  • ¼ – ½ cup half and half
  • 1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1-2 tsp cumin
  • 1 lime, zest reserved
  • Angel hair pasta
  • 1-2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • ½ cup white wine

Start by making the pesto.

*First a note about the nuts used in this pesto: Pepitas are just pumpkin seeds. I was able to locate them, both raw and roasted & salted, in the bulk section of my local grocery store.  If you can’t locate pepitas, this pesto is just as tasty with all pecans or a mix of pecans and walnuts.

You want to toast the pepitas and pecans to develop their nuttiness a little and make for a more flavorful pesto.  Starting with raw nuts that haven’t been toasted or salted yet helps you to control those elements as you cook. To toast the nuts, simply place them in a dry skillet over medium heat.  Stir the nuts every few minutes, keeping close by – you’ll know the nuts are ready to pull when you can smell them!  Don’t leave them too long after you catch their aroma, they can quickly go too far and taste burnt.

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Place the toasted nuts in a food processor and add the cilantro, garlic and parmesan.

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Stream in the olive oil (EVOO) with the food processor on low until the pesto is a paste to the consistency of your liking.  I prefer the pesto to be well-chopped and more on the thick side than a normal thinner pesto before adding the half-and-half.  Taste the pesto and add salt, freshly ground pepper and parmesan, as needed.  If you want to kick it up a bit, this would be a good time to add in red pepper flakes.  With or without the red pepper flakes, a touch of granulated sugar, up to about a teaspoon,  will help balance flavors and bring your pesto together.  Play with the flavors a bit until you get what you are looking for!

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Place the pesto in a bowl.  Stir in the half-and-half and check the seasoning again,  adjusting if necessary.  Set the pesto aside as you prep the shrimp and cook the pasta.

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Bring a large pot of water to a boil.  Add a healthy amount of salt to the water – this is your chance to flavor the pasta itself.  Cook the angel hair pasta to al dente.

Season the prepared shrimp with the cumin, salt, pepper and lime zest.  If you are not quite ready to cook the shrimp, hold off on adding the lime juice until right before they are ready to hit the pan.  Citrus juice will ‘cook’ seafood as it sits together (think: ceviche) and this is not quite what we are going for here.  We want the lime juice to flavor the shrimp as it sears instead.

Saute the shrimp in the butter, a couple minutes per side. When cooked, remove the shrimp to plate and set aside.

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Deglaze your pan with the white wine.  You can use any white wine here… just remember this one rule:  cook with wine you would drink.  Reducing the wine intensifies the flavor, so if you wouldn’t drink it, you shouldn’t eat it 😉  Tonight, I’m drinking/eating Joel Gott Sauvignon Blanc – I tend to enjoy any varietal from the Joel Gott family and they are reasonably priced and easy to find in my grocery store.

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Once the wine has reduced a bit and you have stirred up all those tasty brown bits from the bottom of the pan, add the cooked and drained pasta to the skillet.  Toss it around to coat the pasta with the pan sauce.

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Turn off the heat source and stir in the creamy pesto, a little at a time, until the pasta is coated and to your desired consistency.  I typically work in 1 1/2 – 2 cups of the pesto.

*Storage tip for leftover pesto: To store any remaining pesto in the fridge, place the pesto in a sealable container and smooth over the top.  Cover the entire top of the pesto with EVOO, place the lid on the container and store in the fridge for 3-4 days.  You can also freeze the pesto at this point.  The EVOO protects the pesto from browning, leaving it that vibrant green for your next cooking adventure.

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Top the pesto pasta with the cooked shrimp.  Sprinkle on extra parmesan and chopped cilantro, if desired, and enjoy!

*To change it up and enjoy your grill in the summer:  a nice update to this recipe would be to grill the shrimp for an added char to the shrimp.  Cut back a little on the garlic in making the pesto and then saute some fresh, chopped garlic in the 1-2 tablespoons of  butter in a skillet.  When toasted, add the wine to deglaze and follow the original recipe from there!

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Full Recipe

Mexican Pesto Pasta with Shrimp

  • 1 cup pepitas
  • ½ cup pecans
  • 2 bunches cilantro
  • 2-3 cloves garlic
  • ½ cup grated parmesan
  • EVOO
  • ¼ – ½ cup half and half
  • 1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1-2 tsp cumin
  • 1 lime, zest reserved
  • Angel hair pasta
  • 1-2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • ½ cup white wine

Make the pesto:

Toast the nuts in a dry skillet.

Place the toasted nuts in a food processor and add the cilantro, garlic cloves and parmesan.

Stream in EVOO as you pulse until the pesto forms a paste to the consistency of your liking.

Season with salt, pepper and more parmesan, if desired. (adding a little sugar will balance out the blend)

Transfer the pesto to a bowl and stir in the half and half to desired texture and check for seasoning again.

Make the pasta:

Boil pasta in salted water to al dente.

Prepare the shrimp:

Season the prepared shrimp with cumin, salt, pepper, lime and lime zest.

Saute in butter, a couple minutes each side.

Remove shrimp from pan, set aside.

Deglaze the pan with white wine.

Toss the pasta in the pan to coat with sauce.

Remove the skillet from the heat.

Add the creamy pesto, slowly to desired thickness, and toss.

Top with cooked shrimp and serve.

Polenta-Crusted Fish and Cilantro Risotto

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Summer- summer- summertime!  Yeah!

Does everyone just pause and take a breath when summertime hits?  Being in the world of education, I can tell you I do!  Even though I work throughout the summer, once the break hits for students and teachers everything just mellows out a bit.  Days are longer so there isn’t a rush to run those errands post-work and before heading home.  Fridays off mean that I can join those summer revelers a little bit and still have a weekend.  Road trips come a little easier.  It’s hot out… but it’s supposed to be, amiright?

Summer dinners also lighten up.  Crockpots are put away and grills are brought to the forefront.  Heavy stick-to-your-ribs dinners make way for salads, kabobs and, as we have here, fish.  I love fish. I love my fisherman husband and his knowledge of how to catch and prepare fish.  Fried, baked, grilled, sashimi, sushi, ceviche… we could go all Forest Gump here in the multitude of ways we can cook fish but today we going to focus on a winning style we found on our Honeymoon.

Just about five years ago (this Friday!) Will and I said our “I dos” and then headed out for a week of fun and sun in Costa Rica.  It was such a memorable, exciting trip filled with many, many great meals.  One of my absolute favorites came from a meal provided after an excursion.  Several places offer a breakfast before or lunch after their scheduled activities so we weren’t surprised that the zipline adventure we chose provided lunch at the end.  We made our way out to MidWorld Costa Rica and had an absolute blast on our zipline courses.  If you ever travel to the Manuel Antonio area of Costa Rica, do yourself a favor and look them up.  They have several fun options including ziplines and four-wheeler routes, are so professional and friendly, offer the longest double-cabled line in Central America (the Superman) that give amazing views of the landscape and, as a major bonus, have great food!  The lunch we were provided was so good – we even had to get a little information about it from the chef before leaving MidWorld.  We feasted on fish, plantains and the typical gallo pinto found accompanying most meals in Costa Rica.

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The fish is what really got me.  (Obviously, as I had to remind myself to put the fork down and snap a quick pic of it!)  It was so simple but had the perfect, light fry to it that makes for a great summer meal.  When we asked the chef she simply said “polenta, salt and pepper”.  Without the heavy breading of a flour-based coating the fish was left to shine and truly made for a meal that I remember often.

We’ve made this polenta-crusted fish now several times.  Here, we forgo the gallo pinto (which is soooo good we will have to devote a whole other post to) and sub in Cilantro Risotto, another summertime fave of mine.  Polenta-crusted fish always satisfies – both in taste and in memories recalled.


Polenta-Crusted Fish and Cilantro Risotto

For the fish:

  • fish fillets – grouper, snapper, tilefish, etc
  • s&p
  • 1 egg
  • 1 T of water
  • 1 cup polenta
  • ¼ – ½ cup veggie or frying oil

For the Jalapeño Cream Sauce:

  • 3-4 jalapeños, roasted, seeded and sliced
  • ½-1 cup fresh cilantro
  • 1-2 garlic cloves (fresh or roasted)
  • ½ cup sour cream
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • ¼-½ cup cream
  • Salt & pepper

For the Cilantro Risotto:

  • 6 cup chicken stock
  • 3 T butter
  • 2 T onion, finely diced
  • 5 small cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 1 ½ cup arborio rice*
  • 1 cup white wine (pour it, then let it sit on the counter as you start prepping)
  • ¼ tsp salt & pepper
  • ¼ cup parmesan cheese
  • 1 cup cilantro, chopped

For the purposes of cooking this meal all together, we will start with the Jalapeño Cream Sauce so it can chill in the fridge and allow the flavors to all meld together.  Then we’ll move on to the risotto and then quickly wrap up with cooking the fish.

A quick note regarding risotto:  it is a labor of love.  Risotto-making really is a simple process – start with onions, toast your grains, slowly add warm liquid and let it absorb in and develop the starch as you stir.  You are somewhat shackled to the stove as you stir but the results lend itself to a silky, creamy rice dish that looks so impressive as it pours out on a plate.  You can easily swap out the flavors but the process remains the same – toast, slowly add warm liquid, stir until absorbed, add more liquid, repeat.  Try it out – you’ll impress yourself and your dinner guests!

Alright – let’s cook.

Start with the Jalapeño Cream Sauce:  you’ll need 3-4 roasted jalapeños to start with.  Simply place your jalapeños on the grill or beneath a broiler until the skin starts to blister and blacken.  When they are all blistered up, put them in a bowl and cover them with saran wrap or a towel for a few minutes so that they steam and the skin loosens from the meat a bit.  After a few minutes, you should be able to slide the charred skin off of the pepper “meat”.  Then, simply slice them open to remove and discard the seeds.

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Place the jalapeños, cilantro and garlic in a food process and pulse until you have a smooth consistency.  You may add a little olive oil as you puree, if needed, to keep the consistency smooth.  Blend in the sour cream and lime juice. Taste the sauce and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper, to your taste.  Place the sauce in  the fridge for later use.

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Now, start the risotto.

In a medium pot over medium heat, warm the chicken stock.  If you are going for a vegetarian risotto, sub in veggie stock here.  Two things about the stock:  First, please do not use water as a replacement.  This is your chance to sneak some great flavor into the rice. Use a low-sodium stock so that you can control the salt added in to the dish as you cook.  Second, make sure you warm up with stock.  If you were to add in a cold/cool stock to the rice as you cook, you are dropping the temperature of the dish, bringing it back up, dropping the temp down, etc.  Keep your liquid warm for a consistent cooking temperature that will keep your risotto rocking until the end.

Heat a large skillet with edges (you’ll be stirring quite a bit and want those sides to help you keep in all contained) over medium-high heat.  Add the butter, onions and garlic and saute until the onions are translucent.

Add the arborio rice and saute, stirring until the rice is slightly toasted.

*Why arborio rice? Arboria is a short-grained rice full of starch. It’s a short, fat, oval-shape rather than the longer, rod-shape of traditional rice.  As you cook and stir, the release of the starch is what gives risotto its signature creaminess.  You won’t get quite the same effect with a traditional white rice.

When toasted, add the white wine to the pan and stir until most of the wine has been absorbed.

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Notice my setup here with the risotto pan and the stock pot?  Keep the stock close, you’re gonna need it!

Add about a cup, or a good ladle-full, of warm stock to the risotto.  Stir constantly until most of the liquid is absorbed.  For this first ladle-full, you want to stir constantly and it will absorb somewhat quickly.  Keep stirring until you can pull the rice back and the liquid doesn’t instantly fill the track in, as pictured below.

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Add another 1/2- to 3/4- ladle-full to the skillet stir until the liquid absorbs into the rice. As you add liquid, you will be able to back off on the stirring a bit as it won’t absorb as quickly.  But don’t wander off – keep an eye on the skillet so that it never completely absorbs all the liquid. You don’t want the rice to sit on the hot skillet and form a crust along the bottom.  Keep it moist and moving so that the starch of the rice creates a creamy, silky texture as it cooks.  When you pull back the risotto with the spoon and can see that track along the pan, it’s time for more stock.

You will repeat this process until the rice is al dente, or to your desired texture.  This usually take about an hour or so, depending on heat levels and the texture you want to achieve.  I like my risotto to be just a little past al dente – still leaving a bit of a bite to the rice.

When it looks like you are reaching the end of risotto-stirring, grab the Jalapeño Cream Sauce from the fridge and place it in a small pot over low heat.  Whisk it up with the cream until you have your desired temperature and consistency. Check your seasoning again and set it aside for topping later.

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Now, prep your fish fillets so that they are ready to cook:

Make sure your fish fillets are cleaned and bone-free.  Here, we had a nice grouper Will cleaned up and portioned out for dinner but we have also used tilefish and snapper in this preparation.  Any flaky, firm white fish is perfect for polenta-crusting.  Lightly season the fish with salt and pepper.  Grab two shallow bowls – one for the polenta seasons with salt and pepper, the other to whisk in the egg and water for a light egg wash.

Lightly dredge the fish fillets in the egg wash, then the seasoned polenta.  You want just a light covering on the fish, not a thick crust at all.  Set this aside on a plate until you are ready to pan fry the fillets.

Back to the risotto:

When the rice has reached your desired texture and consistency, remove it from the heat. Add the parmesan cheese and black pepper.  Check the seasoning, adding more salt and pepper if needed.

Fold in the chopped cilantro and serve the risotto warm!

Finally… let’s finish the fish.

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Cover the bottom of the skillet with a light coat of oil, just so the oil is about 1/4-inch thick across the bottom.

Pan fry the fillets in the skillet, about 3-4 minutes on each side, just until they are golden brown.

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Top the fillets with the Jalapeño Cream Sauce and serve with Cilantro Risotto!

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*As you can see here, the scallops looked so good in the fish market we just had to grab a couple to serve as well!  A couple tips for cooking scallops:  First, pat them dry with a paper towel before seasoning and placing in the pan.  If they are wet, the scallops will steam rather than sear.  Second, sear them for just about 90 seconds on each side with a little butter in a screaming hot pan.  You want a crust, but you don’t want to cook them all the way through so that they become tough or chewy.

We hope you enjoy this recipe!  It’s a favorite in our house that always brings back some good memories of Honeymoonin’ in Costa Rica.  What are some of your food-related travel memories?


Full Recipes

Polenta-Crusted Fish

  • Fillet fish – grouper, snapper, tilefish
  • s&p
  • 1 egg
  • 1 T of water
  • 1 cup polenta
  • ¼ – ½ cup veggie or frying oil

Make sure fish fillets are cleaned and bone-free, lightly season with salt and pepper.

Season the polenta with salt and pepper in a shallow bowl.

Whisk together the egg and water in a shallow bowl.

Lightly dredge the fillets in the egg wash.

Lightly dredge the fillets in the seasoned polenta – this is a light covering, not a thick crust.

Heat a large skillet on medium-high heat.

Cover the bottom of the skillet with a light coat of oil, just about ¼-inch thick.

Pan fry the fillets in the skillet, about 3-4 minutes per side, just until golden brown.

Jalapeño Cream Sauce

  • 3-4 jalapeños, roasted, seeded and sliced
  • ½-1 cup fresh cilantro
  • 1-2 garlic cloves
  • ½ cup sour cream
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • ¼-½ cup cream
  • Salt & pepper

Puree the jalapeños, cilantro and garlic in a food processor until smooth.  

Add a little EVOO as you puree, if needed, for a smoother consistency.

Blend in the sour cream and lime juice.

Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper, as needed.

Before serving, place sauce in a small pan over medium-low heat.

Whisk in cream as it warms to desired consistency, checking for seasoning.

Cilantro Risotto

  • 6 cup chicken stock
  • 3 T butter
  • 2 T onion, finely diced
  • 5 small cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 1 ½ cup arborio rice
  • 1 cup white wine
  • ¼ tsp salt & pepper
  • ¼ cup parmesan cheese
  • 1 cup cilantro, chopped

In a medium pot over medium heat, warm the chicken stock.

In a large skillet, add butter, onions and garlic.

Saute over medium heat until onions are translucent.

Add rice and saute, stirring until rice is slightly toasted.

Add the white wine and cook until the wine is absorbed.

Add 1 cup of chicken stock stir constantly until liquid is absorbed.

Keep adding chicken stock 1/2 cup at a time stirring constantly until all chicken stock has been used and absorbed into the rice.

Once rice is al dente and to desired texture, remove from the heat and add parmesan cheese, salt & pepper.

Stir until well combined.

Fold in cilantro and serve warm.

Bacon-Wrapped Tenderloin Steaks, Green Beans with Bacon and Onions, Caesar Salad

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It’s just about Valentine’s Day.  Doesn’t Valentine’s Day always make you think of the great things you and your loved one do for each other?  Don’t the little things make your day feel big?  Indulge me a little as I think about the first Valentine’s Day Will and I spent together way back in 2008. It was the first “fancy dinner” Will ever made for me and it left a lasting impression… this guy can cook!  It definitely made me feel loved. This post is all about that first Valentine’s dinner with three recipes tucked into one post as my Valentine treat to you.

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What’s your favorite Valentine memory? I hope you enjoy one of mine and make this dinner – let me know who you make it for and how they enjoyed it!


Caesar Dressing

  • 1 cup mayo
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 tsp anchovy paste
  • 2 T lemon juice
  • 1 tsp balsamic or dijon mustard
  • Salt & pepper
  • ½ cup parmesan, shredded

The easiest way to mix this dressing up is in a blender or small food processor.  Simply add all the ingredients to your blender and process until smooth.  If the dressing seems a little thick, add about a tablespoon of  milk or cream at a time until you get the consistency you like best.  I must admit that we do prefer a thicker dressing.

Let me tell you about a few of the ingredients in this dressing:

First of all – don’t be scared of the anchovy paste.  It brings a salty, tangy flavor to the dressing that you can’t really replicate with anything else. We find the paste in a tube near the canned tuna in our  local grocery store.

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For the mustard, we use Turtlefly Fields Balsamic Mustard – a grainy, balsamic vinegar-based mustard.   You can also use a dijon mustard in this dressing.

Full disclosure, my sister and I started Turtlefly Fields a few years ago. We sell pickles and jellies at local craft fairs and Will gets in on the action with this Balsamic Mustard and a few other seasonings (as you will see below).  Come see us this March at Angleton Market Days!

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Finally, be sure to use a quality parmesan for this dressing.  Grate the parmesan fairly small to blend into the dressing, keeping in mind that this, along with the anchovy paste, will be your main source of salt for the  dressing.  Shave a few layers of parmesan to top your salad with as well.

The flavors of the dressing will develop as it sits so let is chill in the refrigerator for a couple of hours before you want to serve it.  The dressing will keep in the refrigerator up to a week.  If the dressing thickens up as it sits, loosen it up again in your blender or food processor with a little milk or cream.

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Green Beans with Bacon and Onions

  • 1 pound fresh green beans, trimmed and rinsed
  • 1 cup pearl onions, peeled and halved
  • 4-5 strips bacon, chopped
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • ¼ cup raw sugar

Trim the green beans by snipping off each end – you did this with Grandma, didn’t you?!  Rinse them under cool water.

Steam the green beans until they are al dente, or still have a good bite to them.  Using my rice cooker, this typically takes about 12-15 minutes.

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This recipe calls for pearl onions, because that’s how Will made it for the that first Valentine’s Day.  To prepare the pearl onions, trim the top and bottom root areas and slit the skin of the onion down one side to easily peel off the papery skin.  Then slice the onion in half.  If you can’t find fresh pearl onions, check the freezer section – the peeling is done for you!

For this instance… we couldn’t find fresh or frozen pearl onions at our local grocery store. We went back to the produce section for the next best thing – shallots.

Saute the bacon on medium high heat until about halfway crisp.

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Add the pearl onions, or shallots, and about half the garlic.  Cook the mixture until the onions and garlic begin to carmelize.

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Add the rest of the garlic and the raw sugar.  If you don’t have raw sugar, use just a little less brown sugar.  Saute the mixture until the sugar begins to melt.

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Toss in the steamed green beans, coating with the bacon mixture. Check the seasoning, adding salt and pepper as needed.  Saute a few minutes until beans are as tender as you like them.

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These green beans are sooooo good and have become a staple in our menu rotation!


Bacon-Wrapped Tenderloin Steaks

  • Tenderloin steaks, about 1 1/2 – 2 inches thick, trimmed
  • Steak rub or salt & pepper
  • 2 strips of bacon per steak
  • 2-3 T unsalted butter

You can adjust this recipe to as many steaks as you are cooking.  For our Valentine’s dinner… well, just two 😉

Season each side of the steaks with steak seasoning or salt and pepper. We use Turtlefly Fields Steak Rub.  Will makes this rub… and he is never giving up the recipe.  But, you can come see Turtlefly Fields at Angleton Market Days coming up in March!  We’ll sell you a jar or two!

Let the  steaks rest at room temperature for a couple of hours.

Lay a strip of bacon across a plate or cutting board, then lay another strip slightly overlapping to fit the width of the steaks.

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Season the bacon with freshly ground pepper. Wrap the sides of the steaks with the bacon, pepper side in.  Secure the bacon to the steak with a couple of toothpicks.

Line the bottom of a sheet tray with foil or parchment paper and place a rack on top. Place the bacon-wrapped steaks on the rack and bake at 275 until the steaks reach an internal temperature of 125 for medium-rare, about 45 minutes to one hour. 

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Heat a cast iron skillet over high heat and add a tablespoon of butter to the skillet. Brown the bacon around each side of the steaks.

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Add another tablespoon of butter to the skillet. Sear each the top and bottom of each steak, a couple minutes per side.  Let rest a few minutes before serving.

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Pour a glass of wine and plate up this dinner for your Valentine!  Stay tuned… my favorite dessert to cap off this nice, romantic dinner is coming up!


Full Recipe

Bacon-Wrapped Tenderloin Steaks, Green Beans with Bacon and Onions, Caesar Salad

Bacon Wrapped Tenderloin Steaks

  • Tenderloin steaks, trimmed
  • Steak rub or salt & pepper
  • 2 strips of bacon per steak
  • 2-3 T unsalted butter

Season each side of the steaks with steak seasoning or salt and pepper.

Let the  steaks rest at room temperature for a couple of hours.

When ready to cook, preheat the oven to 275.

Lay a strip of bacon across a plate or cutting board, then lay another strip slightly overlapping to fit the width of the steaks.

Season the bacon with freshly ground pepper.

Wrap the sides of the steaks with the bacon, pepper side in.

Secure the bacon to the steak with a couple of toothpicks.

Line the bottom of a sheet tray with foil or parchment paper and place a rack on top.

Place the bacon-wrapped steaks on the rack and bake until the steaks reach an internal temperature of 125 for medium-rare, about 45 minutes to one hour.

Heat a cast iron skillet over high heat.

Add a tablespoon of butter to the skillet.

Brown the bacon around each side of the steaks.

Sear each the top and bottom of each steak, a couple minutes per side.

Let rest a few minutes before serving.


Green Beans with Bacon and Onion

  • 1 pound fresh green beans, trimmed and rinsed
  • 1 cup pearl onions, peeled and halved
  • 4-5 strips bacon, chopped
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • ¼ cup raw sugar

Steam the green beans until al dente, 12-15 minutes.

Over medium heat, saute the bacon until beginning to crisp, season with fresh black pepper.

Add the pearl onions and half the garlic and let the veggies begin to caramelize a few minutes.

Add the rest of the garlic and the raw sugar, tossing as the sugar begins to melt.

Toss in the steamed green beans, coating with the bacon mixture.

Check the seasoning, adding salt and pepper as needed.

Saute a few minutes until beans are desired texture.


Caesar Dressing

  • 1 cup mayo
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 tsp anchovy paste
  • 2 T lemon juice
  • 1 tsp balsamic or dijon mustard
  • Salt & pepper
  • ½ cup parmesan, shredded

Blend ingredients together; adjusting seasoning as necessary.

Keep dressing stored in refrigerator, up to 1 week.

Ravioli with Two Fillings – Mushroom and Sausage

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One of our favorite foods is pasta.  There are a million different ways you can cook pasta – tomato sauces, brown butter sauces, dried, fresh, stuffed, ribbons.  It can be a quick go-to weeknight dinner or, as we have done here, a Sunday project that takes a little more time and care. One of our first true “food adventures” would have to be making fresh pasta at home.  I won’t say we mastered it right away, our kitchen has most definitely been covered in flour…, and I will wholeheartedly admit that Will is much better at it (and bread making!) than I am.  However, we always have fun experimenting with fresh pasta.

Pasta dough itself is very simple.  It’s just flour and eggs kneaded together to get the gluten going and make a starchy pasta.  Will played with a basic recipe to find the mix we like the best, about 3:1 semolina flour and all purpose flour.  We have decided that we like the addition of the all purpose flour to make a smoother, less grainy dough.  You can most definitely play with the proportions to get the mix you like the best.  Several recipes we found use some egg yolks, make a well in the flour and knead in the eggs one at a time.  We kinda skip all that and keep it pretty simple with a stand mixer.  It shouldn’t be that complicated to make a good dinner, right?

In this recipe we are using the fresh dough to make a couple different raviolis – an Italian sausage and pepper mix and a mushroom ricotta mix.  Will and I have an ongoing battle about ricotta.  For a man that loves cheese, he has some strong opinions about ricotta.. so we split the recipe and work together 😉 We finish the ravioli in a simple tomato cream sauce.  This tomato sauce is way less involved than the meat sauce in the previous lasagna recipe and can easily be put together for a weeknight dinner in about twenty minutes.

Try it out!  And as always, let me know what you think!


Ravioli with Two Fillings

Pasta Dough

  • 1 ½ cups semolina flour
  • ½ cup all purpose flour
  • 4 eggs
  • Pinch of salt

Tomato Cream Sauce

  • 2 T olive oil
  • 2 T butter
  • 1 sweet onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced or grated
  • 14 oz can tomato sauce
  • 28 oz can whole peeled tomatoes
  • kosher salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • ¼ cup fresh parsley, chopped
  • ¼ cup freshly grated parmesan cheese, plus more for serving

Mushroom Ricotta Filling

  • 4 oz fresh mushrooms, finely chopped
  • 1 T olive oil
  • 1 T butter
  • 1 T snipped fresh Italian (flat-leaf) parsley
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ⅛ tsp ground black pepper
  • ¼ tsp red pepper flakes
  • ½ cup red wine
  • 1 egg yolk, lightly beaten
  • ½ cup ricotta cheese

Sausage and Sweet Peppers Filling

  • 1 lb ground Italian sausage
  • 1 cup sweet bell peppers, diced
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes

 

Start with making the pasta dough as it will need time to sit and rest.

You can play with the amounts of semolina and all purpose flours to get the texture you like best.  Our favorite is 1 1/2 cups semolina to 1/2 cup all purpose flour.  The semolina makes a nice, starchy dough but the all purpose keeps it from getting too grainy for our taste.

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Knead the semolina, all purpose flour eggs and salt in a stand mixer.  Knead until it becomes a smooth ball of dough.  If it is looking a little dry, add a tablespoon of water at a time until it reaches the desired consistency.

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Roll the pasta dough into a ball and wrap in plastic wrap.

 

Let the dough sit for at least 30 minutes at room temperature.  If you aren’t using the dough for a while, it can chill for an hour or two in the fridge, you’ll just want to get it back up to room temp before rolling it out.  If you aren’t using the dough on the same day it will nicely freeze until you are ready to thaw it out.


In the meantime, make your fillings so they can cool – you don’t want the filling to be too warm when you stuff your fresh dough so that the pasta will hold its shape nicely.

For the Mushroom Ricotta Filling:

In a saute pan on medium-high heat, add the olive oil and butter.

Add the finely chopped mushrooms and saute for a few minutes, being careful not to crowd the pan too much.  *NOTE:  don’t add salt yet.  Salting will draw out the moisture of the mushrooms and cause them to steam more than saute.  By upping the heat, spreading out the mushrooms and waiting a bit to salt them you are giving them a chance to brown and get flavorful rather than just moisten.

 

Add the minced garlic and chopped parsley, saute a few more minutes until garlic starts to soften.  This is where you now want to season with salt, pepper and red pepper flakes.  Adjust the amount of red pepper flakes to your liking – I used about 1/2 a teaspoon here.

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Add the red wine, scraping up any brown bits from the bottom of your pan, and cook until most of the liquid is evaporated.  Check your seasoning again!

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So… this is my all-time favorite wine.  Bogle Phantom.  It’s released once a year and I may or may not save a bottle every year for an eventual vertical tasting.  Will’s also been known to spoil me with a double magnum of Phantom that then just lends itself to having friends over for a wine dinner.  I’d say my love for Phantom is a problem… but it’s just not. 😉

 

Remove the mushroom mixture from the heat and let it cool little.

In a separate bowl, combine the egg yolk, ricotta cheese, and mushroom mixture.  Cover and chill until ready to use.

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For the Sausage and Peppers Filling:

Add a little olive oil to a skillet on medium-high heat. Saute the sausage for 4-5 minutes.

In this particular recipe, Will used some of his homemade Italian Sausage.  He often hunts, then will grind the venison/pork for our home use.  We have a great recipe for this Italian Sausage blend that you could use on store-bought ground pork.  Be looking for that in a future post!

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Add the sweet bell peppers.  We like the peppers to have a little bit of texture left to them, if you prefer them softer, you can definitely add them right with the sausage at the beginning.

Season with salt, pepper and red pepper flakes.  Again, play with the amount of red pepper flakes to your taste!

 

When the sausage is fully cooked, set aside to cool until ready to fill the pasta.


Prepare the Tomato Cream Sauce:

Heat the butter and olive oil over medium heat.

Add the onions and saute for 5 minutes, or until they begin to soften and caramelize.

Add the garlic, salt and pepper and saute for a couple of minutes, until the garlic begins to soften.

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Pour in the whole tomatoes and tomato sauce.  Break up the tomatoes a little bit with your spatula, just so they start to break down.

I am a big fan of the San Marzano tomatoes. I like their sweet flavor and they are less acidic than other tomatoes. I think they just have a good, consistently sweet tomato kick.  If you can’t find them, or have a diced variety in your pantry, no worries!  You may want to add a tablespoon or so of sugar to your sauce to help cut back on some of that acidity.

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Stir the sauce and cook over low heat for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Use an immersion blender to smooth out the sauce now that the tomato chunks have cooked down.  Don’t have an immersion blender?  You can either transfer to a blender or just use a fork to break up any large chunks of tomato.  If you like a chunkier sauce just let it keep simmering away.

*Note: If you do use a normal blender to smooth out your sauce, make sure you vent the top/lid to allow steam to come out and shield the vent with a kitchen towel to protect yourself from any of the volcanic splatter.

 

Remove the sauce from the heat and stir in the cream.  Add the shredded parmesan and check your seasonings.  Remember that cheese = salt so be sure to taste before adding more!

Cover the sauce to keep it warm until ready to use.


Now it’s ravioli-making time!

Once your pasta dough has rested and come back up to room temp, flour your counter or cutting board.  Cut the pasta dough into halves, then each half into quarters.

 

Being sure to flour the pasta itself as well as the pasta roller, roll the pasta dough into sheets.  I’ve never given in to the temptation of buying the pasta roller attachment of our stand mixer.  Sigh… maybe one of these days.  However, we have had much success with this simple hand roller that clamps to the edge of the counter top.  If you don’t have a pasta roller, you can most certainly put a little elbow grease behind a rolling pin – just know that it will take a few passes, just like in the roller, to it the pasta thin enough.

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Place a heaping teaspoon of the ravioli filling along the bottom half of the pasta sheet, leaving about a two-finger width between each dollop. As you can see in the pictures below, Will also added a little parmesan on top of each sausage “heap”.  Fold the top half of the pasta sheet over the filling and press all around each dollop to seal the pasta sheet together.  Use a ravioli stamp (or a glass cup) to cut out the ravioli shape.

 

 

Pinch along the edges of the ravioli to make sure that all the edges are sealed – if not, the filling will leak out as it boils.

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Bring a large pot of water to a boil and salt the water.  This is your chance to season the pasta itself – don’t be shy with the salt added to the boiling water!

 

Carefully drop the ravioli into the boiling water.  Fresh pasta does not take long to cook, only about 3-4 minutes.  Use a slotted spoon or strainer to make sure the ravioli does not stick to each other as it cooks and notice when they really start to float.  Pull the ravioli out of the water as they are done.

Now… plate it up!  We like to put a little of the Tomato Cream Sauce on the bottom of the plate, top with ravioli, then a little more sauce, parmesan and chopped parsley on top.  How would you plate yours?

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Full Recipe

Ravioli with Two Fillings and Tomato Cream Sauce

Pasta Dough

  • 1 ½ cups semolina flour
  • ½ cup all purpose flour
  • 4 eggs
  • Pinch of salt

Tomato Cream Sauce

  • 2 T olive oil
  • 2 T butter
  • 1 sweet onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced or grated
  • 14 oz can tomato sauce
  • 28 oz can whole peeled tomatoes
  • kosher salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • ¼ cup fresh parsley, chopped
  • ¼ cup freshly grated parmesan cheese, plus more for serving

Mushroom Ricotta Filling

  • 4 oz fresh mushrooms, finely chopped
  • 1 T olive oil
  • 1 T butter
  • 1 T snipped fresh Italian (flat-leaf) parsley
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ⅛ tsp ground black pepper
  • ¼ tsp red pepper flakes
  • ½ cup red wine
  • 1 egg yolk, lightly beaten
  • ½ cup ricotta cheese

Sausage and Sweet Peppers Filling

  • 1 lb ground Italian sausage
  • 1 cup sweet bell peppers, diced
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes

Make the pasta:

Knead flours, eggs and salt in a stand mixer until incorporated.

If dough is looking dry, add a tablespoon of water at a time until desired consistency.

Roll the dough into a ball and wrap in plastic wrap.

Let rest at room temp for 30 minutes to an hour, or chill in the fridge until ready to use.  Bring the dough back up to room temp before rolling into sheets.

Make the Mushroom Ricotta Filling:

In a saute pan over medium-high heat, add olive oil and butter.

Add mushrooms, being careful to not crowd the pan too much, saute about 5 minutes.

Add the parsley, and garlic; cook and stir for 1 minute.

Add the salt, pepper, red pepper flakes

Add the red wine to the pan, scraping any browned bits from the bottom, and cook until most of the liquid is evaporated.

Remove from heat and let cool a few minutes.

In a medium bowl, combine egg yolk, ricotta cheese, and mushroom mixture.

Cover and chill until needed.

Make the Sausage and Peppers Filling:

Saute sausage until about halfway cooked, about 4-5 minutes.

Add the diced peppers and season with salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes.

Saute until sausage is fully cooked

Set aside to cool until ready to use.

Make the Tomato Cream Sauce:

Heat butter and oil over medium heat.

Add onions and saute for 5 minutes until they begin to soften and caramelize.

Add the garlic, salt and pepper  and saute for a minute or so.

Pour in tomato sauce and whole tomatoes.  Break up tomatoes a bit with your spatula.

Stir and cook over low heat for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Use an immersion blender or the back of a fork break any large chunks of tomato up.

Remove from heat and stir in cream.

Add cheese to taste, then check seasonings.

Make the Ravioli:

Flour your workspace and cut the rested, room temp pasta dough into halves, then quarters.

Being sure to flour the dough and the pasta roller, roll each quarter into sheets.

Place a heaping teaspoon of the ravioli filling on the bottom half of each pasta sheet, leaving about a two-finger width between each dollop.  For the sausage filling, add a little sprinkle of parmesan to each dollop.

Fold the upper half of the pasta sheet over the filling.  Press around each pile of filling to seal the pasta together.

Use a ravioli stamp, or a glass cup, to cut around each pile of filling.

Press the edges of each ravioli to ensure the edges are sealed.

Heat a large pot of water to boiling and add plenty of salt.

Gently place the ravioli in the boiling water and cook for 3-4 minutes, just to al dente.

Remove from the water with a slotted spoon or strainer.

Plate the ravioli with the sauce and top with shredded parmesan and chopped parsley.