Cooking Kowalski

Chicken Cacciatore

Got to love those one-pot meals!


  • 1/4 c. flour for dredging
  • 3-4 lbs bone-in chicken (skin on or off, your choice thighs, legs, breasts)
  • olive oil
  • S&P
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 large red bell pepper, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 c. dry red wine (merlo is good)
  • 1/2 c. low-sodium chicken broth
  • 28 oz. can diced tomatoes
  • 4 tsp. dried oregano
  • 2 tsp. dried thyme
  • 1/3 c. fresh basil for serving
  1. Combine flour with 1 tsp. each salt and pepper.  Sprinkle chicken with S&P also.  Dredge the chicken in the flour and shake off excess.
  2. Heat oil in a very large saute pan or a dutch-oven over medium heat.  Brown chicken on both sides (may have to do it in two batches.)  Set chicken aside.
  3. In the same pan, add onions and peppers.  Saute until tender.  Add garlic and saute another minute.
  4. Add wine and reduce heat to simmer until reduced by half.  Then add broth, tomatoes, oregano, and thyme.  Return the chicken to the pan.  Bring back up to a simmer, cover and cook for 40 minutes.
  5. Serve over pasta, polenta, mashed potatoes, whatever you like, topped with basil! =)

Be sure to add S&P as you go, to the onions, peppers, tomatoes….taste as you go too! 😉  Such a comforting family meal and only one dirty pan!

*adapted from


Mango Chicken Teriyaki

This dish uses dates instead of sugar in the sauce, and I’m absolutely in love with it (of course the mangoes are amazing too!)


  • 1/2 c. dried dates, soaked in warm water till falling apart
  • 3/4 c. soy sauce, reduced sodium
  • 1/4 c. rice vinegar
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 tsp. sambal chili paste
  • 2 tsp. ginger paste (or grated fresh ginger)
  • 1/2 c. chicken broth
  • 1 onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 lbs. boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut in bite-sized pieces
  • 1/4 c. flour
  • generous pinch salt and pepper
  • generous pinch chili powder
  • 1-2 T. olive oil
  • 2-3 c. fresh or frozen mangoes, bite-sized pieces
  • for garnish: sesame seeds and green onions
  • rice for serving
  1. In a food processor, blend dates with the water, garlic, ginger, and sambal until smooth.  Stir in soy sauce, vinegar, and broth.  Set aside.
  2. Combine flour, S&P, and chili powder in a shallow dish.  Dredge chicken in mixture lightly.
  3. Heat oil in a large skillet.  Add onions and stir fry a few minutes.  Add chicken and stir fry until browned.
  4. Turn down the heat and add the sauce.  Simmer for about 10 minutes.  Then add mangoes and simmer another 5 minutes.
  5. Serve over rice, topped with green onions and sesame seeds.

*adapted from

Pesto Shrimp with Pasta

Basil Pesto

  • 3 c. fresh basil (I used what was on hand: 2 c. basil + 1 c. parsley)
  • 1/3 c. + 2 T. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/3 c. pine nuts (other nuts work too)
  • 2-3 cloves garlic
  • 1/3 c. grated parmesan
  • zest of one lemon (optional)
  • salt and pepper

Add all ingredients (except 2 T. EVOO) to a food processor and blend until smooth.  Scrape sides to make sure it’s all incorporated.  Stir in the last 2 T. oil.

Pesto will last 5-7 days in refrigerator or freeze for up to 4 months.


*adapted from

Make it a meal…

  • 1 lb. shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1/2 lb. spaghetti (I used whole wheat)
  • Sriracha hot sauce to taste
  • lemon wedges for serving
  1. Cook pasta according to directions.
  2. Mix a good amount of pesto with shrimp and sautee in a skillet until pink, 3-4 minutes.  I’d use at least half of the pesto, but it’s however you like it.  You can add more later if you want.
  3. Drain pasta, saving about 1/4 c. to add to your shrimp.
  4. Toss pasta and reserved water with shrimp and pesto.  Add sriracha sauce if you like a bit of spice.
  5. Serve with lemon wedges.
Use whole wheat pasta and you've got a quick and very healthy dinner!
Use whole wheat pasta and you’ve got a quick and very healthy dinner!

Appetizers (cream cheese!)

Okay, honestly, who doesn’t like cream cheese.  It’s a love-hate relationship because I know how bad it is for you, but oh it tastes so good!  So here are a couple of my favorite apps (…to eat in moderation, kind of 😉 )

Jalapeno Poppers – approx. 6 servings

  • 12 jalapenos
  • 1 8-oz pkg cream cheese, softened (I always use 1/3 less fat cream cheese)
  • 1/2 c. shredded cheese, any kind (sharp cheddar, mozz, smoky cheeses are especially good)
  • 2 oz feta cheese
  • 1 tsp grated fresh onion
  • fresh herbs optional (cilantro, parsley, chives)
    1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
    2. Cleaning the peppers:  I like to make boats.  You leave the stem on and cut a thin slice off the long ways of the pepper.  Then use a spoon to scrape out all the seeds and innards.  You can save the sliced-off pieces and add to the filling or use for something else, like eggs or hash the next morning 🙂  Rinse peppers and set aside.
    3. In a bowl mix softened cream cheese, your choice of shredded cheese, feta, onion, and herbs if you choose to use them.
    4. Stuff peppers with cheese mixture.  You can pile it up in those babies too.
    5. Bake for 15-20 minutes and then I like to broil for a few extra minutes just to brown the cheese a bit.
    Cheesy, spicy, sinful. It's a game when choosing your pepper whether you get a mild one or one that burns your face off! lol I always have milk on hand when I make these!
    Cheesy, spicy, sinful. It’s a game when choosing your pepper whether you get a mild one or one that burns your face off! lol I always have milk on hand when I make these!

    A variation of this recipe that my husband just loves is with bacon.  Basically the same concept, but then wrap a half slice of bacon around the peppers (don’t fill quite as full with cheese) and secure with a toothpick.  We find instead of baking these that broiling works better in making the bacon crispy.  Keep an eye on them; they’ll take 10-15 minutes.  We use a small roasting rack in a baking pan, which holds the peppers upright and the bacon grease drips to the bottom.


    Pizza Dip –  about 22 servings

    Even the black olive haters like my hubby rave about this dip!

    • 2 8-oz pkgs cream cheese
    • 1 15-oz can pizza sauce
    • 1 8-oz pkg mini pepperonis
    • 1 3.8-oz pkg chopped black olives
    •  2 c. (8oz) shredded mozzarella cheese
    • pretzel sticks, tortilla scoops, garlic toast, etc. to serve with
    1. First off, I make this recipe in one of those super small crockpots that’s perfect for warm appetizers.
    2. Place cream cheese in crockpot followed by pizza sauce, pepperoni, olives, and cheese.  No need to try and stir.
    3. Cover and cook on low for 1-2 hours until cheese is melted.  Now you can stir.
    4. Serve with chips or whatever you like!
    Pickle Wrap Dip – about 12 servings
    This dip gets brought to Thanksgiving or Christmas every year and is a huge hit! 
    • 8 oz cream cheese, softened
    • 16 oz sour cream
    • medium jar baby dill pickles, chopped
    • 4-5 oz dried beef, chopped

    Combine cream cheese and sour cream.  Add pickles and dried beef.  Serve with crackers!  So simple and so yummy! 🙂

    Sweet tooth

    Scotcharoos – 9×13 pan

    • 6 cups of Rice Krispies
    • 1 C light karo syrup
    • 1 C sugar
    • 1 C peanut butter
    • 6 oz. butterscotch chips
    • 6 oz. chocolate chips
    1. In a large pot, mix karo and sugar until it barely boils, mixing often.  Add peanut butter and stir until incorporated.
    2. Add Rice Krispies to pot and mix well.
    3. Spread in a pan with a rubber spatula.
    4. Place chips in microwaveable bowl and microwave 1 minute, stir.  Microwave an additional minute and stir again.  When they are melted, smear all over bars. Mmmmmm.

    Chocolate will set up as they cool, or you can put them in the refrigerator to set up faster.

    *recipe from

    Tomato canning recipes (2 recipes)

    Spaghetti sauce/marinara sauce – Made about 4-5 pints with this recipe, but it always seems to vary.  Good for just about anything: pasta, pizza, dipping sauce 🙂  

    • 10 lbs. tomatoes, cored, blanched, and skinned
    • 4 T. olive oil
    • 3 cloves garlic, minced
    • 2 T. grated onion, or finely minced
    • 1/2 tsp. red pepper
    • 1/4 c. red wine vinegar
    • 1 6-oz can tomato paste
    • 1 tsp. dried oregano leaves
    • 1/2 tsp. dried thyme leaves
    • 1/2 tsp. dried marjoram leaves
    • 1/4 c. chopped fresh basil (or 1 T. dried)
    • 1/4 c. chopped fresh parsley (or 1 T. dried)
    • 1 tsp. sugar (may need to adjust depending on tomatoes)
    • 2 tsp. salt
    • 1/2 tsp. black pepper
    1. First off, I like to squeeze out most of the seeds and juice by hand before blending the tomatoes.  If you’re using plum or roma tomatoes, you probably can skip this step.
    2. Next heat oil over medium-high heat.  Add the garlic, onion, and red pepper flakes and cook about a minute making sure not to burn the garlic.  Add in the blended tomatoes, which you’ll need to do in multiple batches in the blender.
    3. Then add the vinegar, tomato paste, and all seasonings.  Bring to a boil, lower heat, and simmer uncovered for an hour or until mixture is desired consistency.
    4. To can the sauce:  Be sure you’ve sterilized your jars and lids (I like to do my jars in the dishwasher while I’m preparing the sauce.)  It’s a good idea to add lemon juice to each jar before filling to make sure your sauce doesn’t go bad in storage (might add some extra sugar to compensate.)  Ladle into sterilized jars, leaving 1/2 inch headspace.  Process in a water bath for 20 minutes.

    *adapted from


    Green Tomato Relish – Made about 5 4-ounce jars

    Just like pickle relish, but possibly even better!
    Just like pickle relish, but possibly even better!
    End-of-the-year green tomatoes - don't let them go to waste!
    End-of-the-year green tomatoes – don’t let them go to waste!
    • 4 c. green tomatoes, chopped
    • 1 small green pepper, chopped
    • 1 small onion, chopped
    • 1.5 T. salt
    • 1 1/4 c. cider vinegar
    • 1 1/2 c. sugar
    • 1 1/2 tsp. celery seed
    • 3/4 tsp. allspice
    • 2 tsp. dry mustard
    • 1/2 tsp. turmeric
    • 1/2 tsp. ground ginger
    1. Place tomatoes, peppers, and onions in a bowl and sprinkle salt over.  Let sit 2-3 hours.  Drain well.
    2. Combine vinegar, sugar, and spices in a pot and simmer 10-15 minutes.
    3. Add vegetables and simmer 10-15 minutes longer.
    4. Bring to a boil and pack into hot jars leaving 1/4 inch headspace.
    5. Process in water bath for 10 minutes.

    *adapted from

    Cherry Tomatoes! (4 recipes)

    Fresh from the garden an hour ago - thee best!
    Fresh from the garden an hour ago – thee best!

    These adorable, sweet gems are great, not only for snacking or in a salad, but for cooking!  This recipe is fresh and delicious served on pasta.

    Roasted Cherry Tomatoes – about 2-4 servings

    • 2 pints cherry tomatoes (50-60)
    • 4 cloves garlic, minced (if you’re not using fresh garlic in your cooking by now, please make the change now-don’t look back! 😉  Garlic is so good for you and the flavor is so much better)
    • 1/2 tsp. dried basil/oregano/thyme (your choice, really)
    • Olive oil (I always use Extra Virgin olive oil)
    • Salt and pepper
    • Fresh basil
    • Grated parmesan
    • Pasta to serve with
    1. Place tomatoes in a baking dish in single layer and drizzle generously with olive oil.  Add garlic, seasoning and S&P.  Mix.
    2. Place in preheated 375 degree oven for 25 minutes.
    3. In the meantime, boil pasta in salted water.
    4. Serve tomatoes over pasta with fresh basil and parmesan.

    Up next, Rachael Ray’s take on a fresh cherry tomato sauce Greek-style!  Will update after dinner 🙂


    Update:  Rachael Ray is on point with this one!  Also, this is the original recipe, but I halved it and thought there was plenty for four if you’re serving it with anything else.

    Greek-style Fresh Tomato Penne – serves 4-6

    • Salt
    • 2 T. EVOO
    • 2 T. butter
    • 1 T. fresh oregano (I used 1 tsp. dried)
    • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
    • 1 large red onion, chopped
    • 1/2 c. dry white wine
    •  2 pints cherry tomates
    • Pepper
    • 1 lb. penne rigate (with lines)
    • 12 oz. feta cheese (use the block stuff packed in water)
    • 1/4 cup fresh mint leaves
    • 1/2 cup flat leaf parsley (again, I used dried because that’s what I had available)
    1. Heat olive oil in large skillet with tight-fitting lid over medium to medium-high heat.  Melt butter in oil.  When the butter begins to foam, add oregano, garlic, and onion and cook until softened, about 5 minutes.  Add the wine and cook for 1 minute.  Add the tomatoes and season with S&P.  Cover and turn down heat.  Simmer until tomatoes have burst and sauce is thickened, about 12-15 minutes.
    2. Meanwhile, cook pasta in boiling water till al dente.  Reserve 1/2 c. starchy cooking water when you drain it.
    3. Stir the sauce, then crumble the feta in and cook until melted, about 1 minute.  Add the pasta and reserved cooking water and toss, 1-2 minutes.  Turn off heat and top with mint and parsley.
    Dinner tonight!

    *Recipe from


    Two more recipes to use up those cherry tomatoes and to make them last longer!  This first one is super easy “sun-dried” tomatoes and the second, a tomato jam, sweet with a little spice. 

    Sun-dried Tomatoes (in the oven) – makes about one 1/2 pint jar

    • 2 pints cherry tomatoes (about 50-60)
    • 2 T. olive oil, plus more to fill jar
    • 1 tsp. sea salt
    • 1/2 tsp. Italian seasoning (or whatever you like: oregano, basil, garlic, thyme, pepper, so on and so forth 😉 )
    1. Preheat oven to 225 degrees.
    2. Line a baking sheet with foil (for easy cleanup.)  Cut tomatoes in half and place on baking sheet cut-side up.  Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle on seasonings.
    3. Place in the oven for 2 hours, and then bake an additional 1-2 hours, checking every 30 minutes for even drying.  Rotate pan if needed.
    4. They are ready to eat right away.  OR you can pack them in your jar by putting a bit of oil in the bottom, pack to about a 1/2 inch of the top, and then fill with more olive oil to completely cover the tomatoes.  They will be good in the refrigerator for about three weeks.
    Seasoned and ready for the oven
    Seasoned and ready for the oven
    Great on pizza and pasta!
    Great on pizza and pasta!


    *Recipe from


    Cherry Tomato Jam – makes approx. four 1/2 pint jars

    If you don’t have a canner, no problem.  I used my large stock pot, which fit four 1/2 pints perfectly.  Be sure to sterilize jars and lids beforehand.  Also, the yield on this can really vary, so might want to grab a couple extra jars just in case.

    I personally like mine just on toast or with eggs. Sooo good!
    I personally like mine just on toast or with eggs. Sooo good!
    • 3 lbs. cherry tomatoes
    • 1 1/2 c. sugar
    • Zest of one lemon
    • 5 T. fresh lemon juice (about two lemons)
    • 1 tsp. cinnamon
    • 1 tsp. ground ginger (I used the kind in a tube)
    • 1/4 tsp. ground cloves
    • 1/2 T. salt
    • 1/2 T. red chili flakes
    1. Combine all ingredients in a large stock pot.  Bring to a boil and reduce to simmer.  Be sure to keep an eye on it and stir frequently, breaking up the tomatoes as you go.  This will take about 1 1/2 hours for it to reduce to a jam-like consistency.
    2. Remove from heat and fill jars, leaving 1/4 inch headspace.  Wipe rims with a wet cloth and place sterile lids on jars with rings.
    3. Place in large stock pot of water (at least 1 inch above jars) and boil for 20 minutes.  Remove and let cool.  You should be able to hear a pop from each jar after a while to ensure it has sealed.  These can be stored up to a year.

    *Recipe adapted from

    Beginning to boil
    Beginning to boil
    Going good now
    Going good now
    Almost reduced to jam
    Almost reduced to jam

    *Recipe adapted from

    Crockpots can be your best friend!

    When it’s 90 degrees outside, like it has been here lately, the last thing you want to do is turn on your oven or be cooking over a hot stove.  Using a slow-cooker is the perfect solution.

    Don’t forget the sweet corn! 😉

    Beef Roast – 5-6 servings

    • 3 T. olive oil
    • 3 lb. beef brisket or top round
    • Salt and pepper
    • 2 medium onions, quartered
    • 4 medium potatoes, quartered
    • 4 carrots, chopped in 1-2 inch pieces
    • 4 garlic cloves
    • 2 tsp. dried rosemary
    • 3 bay leaves
    • 3 c. beef broth
    • 1 c. dry red wine
    1. Heat oil in large pot over medium-high heat.  Season beef generously with S&P and add to hot oil.  Brown on all sides, 2-4 minutes per side. **You can shortcut this recipe and skip this step, and it will still turn out delicious.
    2. Place onions, potatoes, carrots, garlic, and bay leaves in bottom of crockpot and sprinkle with S&P.  Then top with the beef.  Sprinkle with rosemary.
    3. Add broth and wine.  If need be, pour a little more water in covering to about 3/4 up the beef.
    4. Cook on low 8 hours and then on high 1 more hour until beef is fork tender.

    Be sure to remove the bay leaves.  I also like to find the garlic cloves and, using a fork, smear them over the beef.  Mmmm.

    *adapted from

    King of Mac & Cheese!

    This was a total hit with the family last weekend.  It’s ooey-gooey cheesy and a bit like a souffle.  It’s so indulgent, though, I can only make it when there’s plenty of people to share with!

    Mac ‘N’ Cheese – serves 10-15

    • 3 c. uncooked cellentani pasta
    • 1.5 c. half-and-half
    • 6 oz. American cheese slices, chopped
    • 6 oz. smoked Gouda cheese, shredded
    • 6 oz. Gruyere cheese, shredded
    • 6 oz. light cream cheese, cubed
    • 6 large eggs, lightly beaten
    • 3/4 c. light sour cream
    • 6 T. butter, melted
    • Salt and pepper
    1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease 3-quart baking dish and set aside
    2. Cook pasta in salted water according to package.  Drain and return to saucepan.  Stir in half-and-half and all the cheese.  Cook on low heat until cheese is mostly melted.
    3. In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs and sour cream until smooth.  Melt butter and let cool slightly, then add to eggs and sour cream mixture.  Add a pinch of S&P.
    4. Stir egg mixture into pasta and then spread in baking dish.  Bake, uncovered, 45 minutes.

    The original recipe adds a panko topping, but I skipped this and it was still fabulous 🙂  If you want, though, while the mac is baking, mix 1 c. panko breadcrumbs with 1 T. melted butter and 1 T. chopped parsley.  Sprinkle on top of the mac at about 30 minutes and then put back in oven for 15 minutes.

    *adapated from Hy-Vee Seasons, Fall 2014 edition

    Photo courtesy of Hy-Vee Seasons magazine (Fall 2014)
    Photo courtesy of Hy-Vee Seasons magazine (Fall 2014)

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