Roasted Asparagus & Pancetta Quesadillas

A perfect combination of ingredients to make your mouth water: roasted asparagus seasoned with salt and pepper, crisp pancetta and mozzarella cheese sandwiched between two flour tortillas. If you’re in the mood for a little bit of saltiness and tang, this will fit the bill.

I thought of this one day when I had leftover roasted asparagus and wanted something more exciting for lunch. At the time, all I had on hand was bacon. Bacon will work fine with this, but the pancetta just adds something special. It’s Italian bacon that is salt-cured with spices and garlic, so it compliments the asparagus perfectly. I use mozzarella cheese because it is so mild and I want the other two ingredients to stand out.

Ingredients for Quesadillas:
4 flour tortillas
2-3 cups shredded mozzarella cheese (you adjust for how much cheese you like)
1 package thinly sliced pancetta (about 6-8 slices)
1 bunch of fresh asparagus (you will not use the whole bunch, but roast it all for leftovers!)
Salt & pepper, olive oil
Cooking spray

(Makes 2)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Start by rinsing the asparagus and pat them dry. Cut off the woody ends. {Take one stalk and bend it until it snaps. Use that one as a guide to cut the rest.} Put asparagus into a shallow baking sheet in a single layer, drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Use your hands to toss it around so the asparagus gets coated evenly with the olive oil. Roast in the oven for about 10-12 minutes. I like the asparagus tips to get a little crispy.

While the asparagus is in the oven, crisp up the pancetta in a round non-stick skillet over medium heat. Drain on paper towel. Crumble and set aside. Drain out the extra fat left in the pan and give it a quick wipe with a paper towel. You can use this same pan to cook your quesadilla.

When the asparagus is done, cut it up into approx. 1 inch pieces. Now get your tortillas and all your fillings ready and place near the stove.

Give the pan a light coating using cooking spray. Heat up pan over medium heat. Place one tortilla in the pan and evenly sprinkle with mozzarella cheese. You can use as much cheese as you want here…who am I to judge? I usually just cover the tortilla moderately because I want to taste the other additions, but there needs to at least be enough cheese to hold both tortillas together. The cheese is the glue! Next, randomly add the asparagus and then sprinkle on the crumbled pancetta.

Add another layer of cheese on top of the asparagus and pancetta…

and then place the other tortilla on top. At this point I usually press it all down with my hands to help it stick together before I flip it. It should be ready to flip by now so grab a big spatula! When the bottom has become crispy with some golden brown color happening, give it a flip. If you don’t have a huge spatula like I do, use your other hand to help guide it. If the cheese is melting nicely, it shouldn’t come all apart during the flip. Crisp and brown up the other side. Remove from pan and give it a minute or two to rest so all the cheese doesn’t pour out when you cut into it. Slice into quarters and enjoy!

Doesn’t that look good? You can also do this on a grill. I’d love to hear what kind of quesadillas you make…
~Micha

Red Hot Love Fudge

No, you are not seeing things. Yes, Valentine’s Day is over. But it’s still February so I didn’t think you’d mind too much. Besides, think how prepared you’ll be for next year!

I had every intention of posting this for Valentine’s Day, but I wasn’t happy with my recipe until now since I had to order one of the ingredients. “Red Hot Love Fudge” should deliver what it promises! Well, at least it should have enough cinnamon in it to live up to its name.

I have always loved those little red hot candies and when I came across a website that sold a similar type of fudge for Valentine’s Day, I had to figure out how to make my own. Occasionally I whip up some of the easy chocolate fudge from the Eagle Brand’s website, so that’s where I started. I took it in a whole new direction. It’s super easy and I think I got it just right…

Here are the ingredients you need:

Ingredients:
1 – 14oz. can of Eagle Brand sweetened condensed milk
1 – 12oz. bag of white chocolate chips (I used Nestle)
2 – 4oz. baking bars of Ghirardelli White Chocolate
2 – jars of red hot cinnamon candies (Cake Mate Cinnamon Decors)
12-14 drops of Cinnamon Flavoring Oil (I use Lorann and bought the 1 dram bottle plus dropper. I had to order this, but you might be near a cake or candy supply store to purchase it there)

Instructions:
Before you start working with the chocolate, line an 8×8 square pan with wax paper, making sure it comes up on all sides.

Pour the sweetened condensed milk into a medium saucepan. Add the bag of white chocolate chips. Break up the white chocolate baking bars into smaller pieces and add them as well. Melt together over medium-low heat, stirring constantly so you don’t burn the chocolate at the bottom of the pan and everything melts evenly. Do not walk away!

When it has completely melted and looks nice and creamy, remove from heat.

Using the eye dropper of your cinnamon flavoring oil, add in about 12-14 drops. Feel free to taste as you go, in case you like yours with less cinnamon. The candies will give it a cinnamon flavor, but in my opinion it wasn’t dominant enough. I felt it needed the flavoring oil as well. My perfectionism cost me a timely Valentine’s Day post, but you’ll have that here occasionally. :)

Now stir in one bottle of the red hot candies. Add some of the second bottle, but you want to save some to sprinkle on top of the fudge. I think I used about 1 1/2 bottles to mix in, and half of a bottle for decorating. It’s up to you.

When all is combined, pour that delicious goodness into your prepared pan. (You used wax paper, right?) Spread the fudge so it gets in all the corners and is somewhat even on top. Plop on the rest of those candies wherever your heart desires. Keep in mind how you will be cutting it so that each piece will have the candies on top.

Chill in the refrigerator for at least 2-3 hours, or until firm.

When it is firm enough, simply peel away the wax paper and place the block of fudge onto a cutting board. You can cut it into squares using a big, sharp knife or use heart cookie cutters. (The cutters take a little bit of muscle, but they look really cute.) If you are giving this as a gift, you’ll want to cut off the wrinkly edges and keep them for yourself.

So there you have it. Enjoy it now or wait until Valentine’s Day next year. Let me know what you think! (P.S. Use some of that cinnamon flavoring oil and make your own cinnamon toothpicks…remember those?)

~Micha

Grow your own green onions!

When I first saw this genius idea here, I had to try it to see if it was really true. I can’t tell you how many times I go to make a Mexican dish and, low and behold, forget the green onions at the store! They are also wonderful sprinkled on fried rice, or swirled around in a big bowl of soup. When I do buy them, I end up only using a small amount and then I usually have to toss the rest because they get all mushy. This is the answer to my green onion mental block and food waste dilemma! This, my friends, is a good find. (By the way, I have tried growing them in my Northeastern garden and they just came up like sad, little, withered stalks…)

Here’s all you need to do:

After you cut what you need from your stalks, save the white ends and place them in a small glass of water, leaving the tops exposed to air. Stick your glass in a sunny area, such as on a kitchen windowsill.

You won’t believe how quickly they start growing. In a day or two, you will start to see the green shoots. In less than 2 weeks, you will have usable green onions! Just take some kitchen shears and cut off what you need. They will continue to grow and grow and can be harvested indefinitely! Just make sure to change the water in the glass every so often, rinsing off the slimy ends as well. I do this every few days, or at least once a week. If you notice your new stalks keep coming up thinner and thinner, try to remember to cut them off whether you use them or not. This will keep them healthier. I alternate stalks so I always have some to use!

Green onions at your fingertips ~ whenever you need them! Thank you “Homemade Serenity” for this money saving idea!

~Micha