Superfecta Of Summer

Corn and tomatoes are one of  my favorite parings and I have written about them before….here and here.

This time I paired them in a quiche. Easy and summer-y this quiche tastes like a fancy brunch dish and is so light that you feel almost like you are eating healthy! (never mind the eggs, cream and cheese in the mix!)

summer quiche The key was the fresh corn – sweet and in season now –  I carved it raw off the cob making sure to include all the “milk” into the bowl as well. I had never used a soft, fresh cheese like goat cheese before, in a quiche, but I had some already crumbled in the fridge and decided to throw it in. The fresh basil and cherry tomatoes cut in half rounded out this trifecta (or perhaps its a “superfecta?”) of ingredients. The moist goat cheese added a bit of luscious-ness to it.The quiche is rich but not heavy.

Production Notes

I just use a store-bought crust that I blind bake for 10-15 minutes so the crust will be crisp and not soggy. I also firmly believe that glass pie dishes get the best result with crust. For the liquids I simply start with 6 whole eggs and about a cup of dairy – milk cream or even half and half. I fill the cooled crust with the filling of the choice and carefully pour the liquid mix over it all. Be careful not to pour to fast as sometimes the liquid doesn’t get into the nooks and crannies as fast as it should and you can easily spill over the edges! S & p to taste.

Bake in a preheated 375 degree oven until set in middle. Cool a bit before slicing.

quiche ingredients

The “superfecta” of summer ingredients!

 

Can You Really Ever Get Enough…

…of grilled food?

on the grill

Especially in the short New England summer season?

I can’t. I just love to take advantage of the grill for dinner (or lunch or breakfast even) and getting outside to cook. It also reminds me to water the garden too. (Although that sometimes leads to “well-done” grill food. But the “flavor is in the brown right?”)

Here is a classic grilled meal!

grilled chicken dinner

Marinated & grilled chicken with grilled veggies and cole slaw!

Like my meatloaf, my marinades are never the same!

To make my marinade, I simply combine some oil, (extra virgin olive is nice but almost any will do) some acid, (lemon juice or vinegar) salt/pepper and whatever spices strike my fancy that day. Mix it up in a little dish as a “flavor concentrate” – tasting it until you basically have the same balance as a strong salad dressing, then add a little cold water to “extend” the volume of marinade to cover whatever cut of meat you plan on using. Pour over meat and refrigerate until grill time! This could be an hour or it could be a day.

This chicken had a citrus influence with lemon-pepper seasoning, coriander seed, and cumin.

 

Cream Bread

Sometimes you stumble upon something so unique that you immediately and without any hesitation need to try it.

That’s how it was one Saturday morning when I wandered into D’Amici’s bakery. “what’s that round loaf of bread all about?” I asked. ‘cream bread’ was the answer. Apparently made with cream instead of eggs?? I am no bread maker and my mind was already racing with possibilities. I just had one wrapped up for me and ran home, stopping off only at the store to pick up a few ingredients…I had the perfect sandwich in mind.

cream bread

The bread has a really even, dense but tender “crumb” and a mild flavor. It’s like a really good quality white sandwich loaf.

 

…please meet the BEST patty melt you ever had:

patty melt

 

Caramelized onions, griddled beef patty, swiss cheese, griddled bread….. I can’t go on…

I have to go recreate this meal again, NOW!

Tropical Twist

Recently I was inspired to put a tropical twist on an old favorite: stuffed peppers.

It might have been the gorgeous colored bell peppers at the store inspiring me or perhaps I was just craving a lighter version of this dish. Whatever it was – I am pleased with the results.

tropical stuffed pepper

I also decided to keep things light by using ground pork instead of beef.And of course I used some rice – a lazy bag of frozen white/wild rice blend. I also added in some frozen corn kernels and a bit of leftover shredded carrots that was kicking around the fridge.

But the real tropical twist was the use of fresh pineapple!

Chopped fresh Pineapple along with the diced tops to the peppers, Maui sweet onion and garlic!

Chopped fresh Pineapple along with the diced tops to the peppers, Maui sweet onion & garlic!

A good dose of teriyaki sauce (use your favorite brand) and some freshly grated ginger also packed some flavor into this dish!

Light, tasty and many tropical miles away from your standard stuffed pepper recipe, this really delivered!

 

The Recipe:

Note:  Mine made plenty of filling for 4 decent size peppers, but I only had two HUGE peppers so I just cooked the extra filling in the dish along with the stuffed peppers and then used it to help the peppers stand up on the plate.

 

3/4 lb +/- ground lean pork

7 oz cooked rice (could be a bit more or less)

2-3 garlic cloves, minced

1 small onion or half of a sweet onion like Maui or Vidalia

2-4 large peppers to stuff

1 tb minced fresh ginger

1 cup small diced fresh pineapple

the pepper “tops’ diced small

4-5 tb teriyaki Sauce

Salt and pepper to taste

Oil for browning meat in pan

Brown the onions, diced pepper tops and meat in a bit of oil in a saute pan. (pork is really a ‘white’ meat so it won’t really get too “brown” but use some butter too if you really want some color!) Add the garlic about 1/2 way through so it doesn’t burn. Add S&P to taste along the way. Add the fresh pineapple, ginger and teriyaki sauce to deglaze the pan and coat everything. Take off heat and add cooked rice, stirring to combine. At this point you could cool the filling and fill the washed, cored and topped peppers and refrigerate until time to bake. Otherwise stuff the peppers and surround them with any remaining filling. (personally I like to spray the baking dish with cooking spray to make sure nothing sticks) Bake in preheated oven at 375 degrees, covered tightly with foil to keep things moist for about 30-40 minutes. Check and see how tender the peppers are – if they need more time to get tender then recover and bake longer. I like to finish my peppers by removing the cover and baking about 10-15 mins just to get a little brown on top.

 

 

Show Me The Beef!

Sorry mom , but I love a good steak sandwich! And this one was made by my husband so I love it even more!

He started by marinating a London Broil cut overnight in one of those “flavor injector” packaged marinades. It must  a “guy thing” to use those, it just sounds masculine and impressive!

To prepare the sandwiches, he fired up the grill, cooked it perfectly, sliced it thin and added some grilled mushrooms as well before piling it all onto some toasted, cheesy-topped “scali” bread!

open face steak sandwich

The only way this sandwich could be better is with some juicy sliced garden tomatoes

My Perfect Supper

Everybody has one. For some it might be simple and for others it could be quite gourmet.

For me it always have to involve tomatoes in some way. And beef.

There is just something magical about that combination that really works for me. Any combination will do: from meatloaf and ketchup all the way to a more “high-brow” Beef tenderloin stuffed with sun-dried tomatoes! I love it all!

Somewhere in the middle of homespun and gourmet is where my simple, perfect supper is:

perfect supper

Grilled steak with juicy sliced fresh tomatoes (Big slices of “brandywine” variety are best but really any tomato works) and a simple potato salad, best enjoyed on a perfect New England summer evening, on the porch.

 

What’s your idea of a perfect supper?

Back To Basics

Before TV networks were devoted to food, endless magazines dedicated food and in general a whole niche industry revolving around food (I am not complaining) there was… well just some basic recipes and every once in a while some relative or friend of the family might have a twist on a basic recipe.

Sometimes I just like to revisit the basics.

basic pasta salad

Nothing is more basic than standard pasta salad. This kind of pasta salad is as simple as it gets and in its “heyday” was the star of the summer side dishes. It still a great simple salad, it’s just been forgotten amid all the fancy variations these days. The only thing “new” about it is the tri-color rotini. (Remember when pasta only came in “white” and the tricolor was revolutionary? I do.)

The ingredient list is simple: boiled, drained and cooled al dente pasta, diced green bell pepper, diced red onion, diced pepperoni and a bottle of your favorite Italian dressing. This salad is easy and can feed a crowd. But it can be the basis for some other more exotic ideas too. Add sun-dried tomatoes and cubed mozzarella for a twist on antipasti. Add feta,olives and pepperoncini for a Greek-inspired version. Substitute the pepperoni  with chickpeas for a vegetarian version. You get the idea. Make it  your own.

or leave it as a good, solid basic.

 

Production Tip

As with all pasta salads, its good to dress it liberally with the dressing while the pasta is just a tiny bit still warm. Refrigerate, taste after a while and add a bit more dressing in. The pasta really soaks up the flavor if you do it this way.

Sully’s Sauce

My husband always said “Sully made the best sauce!”

“Sully” (a nickname for his last name of “Sullivan”) was good friend of my husband’s father and a central figure from the neighborhood back in the day, so when my husband mentioned that Sully’s daughter Karen had recently come across the recipe card for his sauce, I knew immediately I had to make it.

What better way to pay homage to fathers who are no longer with us then by recreating something so special and lost in time?

sullys recipe

I just love the “here’s what’s cookin” part of this card – don’t you?!

I asked if there was a “back-side” to the card that might give away his technique but no such luck. Only Sully knows how it all went together originally, but I took my best guess and here is how I did it…

I used 85/15 blend ground beef and started it browning in a hot, dry pan so that I could decide how much fat I wanted to leave in the pan. I got the meat browned and decided to spoon off most of the fat. I chose to re-hydrate some fat back in the meat in the form of the 2 tablespoons of olive oil. I am not sure at what point in the process Sully would have used the olive oil, perhaps right at the beginning while browning the meat? or maybe he used it to get the onions and garlic started first? Wish I knew.

Anyway after the olive oil went in, I added in a dash of salt/pepper, onions (2 cups!) and garlic and let those soften a bit before I added in the dry spices to toast a minute. After that I added in the tomato paste and gave that a minute to cook a bit. I de-glazed the pan with the wine. (1 whole cup!)

Next up: the tomatoes. I am certain that by Sully noting that these were “imported” he meant the famed “San Marzano” tomatoes so that is what used and I do think it makes a difference. Also I know that everybody has their own texture technique – some squish the canned tomatoes in their hands, some break them up with a spoon, some use scissors. I broke up 4 of the 6 cups with kitchen scissors, cutting up the whole canned tomatoes into small chunks right in their own sauce from the can. For the last 2 cups I actually used my immersion blender to puree it (not too much) so the whole 6 cups I added in ended up being saucy but with small chunks. I hope Sully would approve.

By now the whole creation was thick, yummy and begging to be tasted, so I did and adjusted the salt and pepper and turned the heat down to barely a simmer. I let it simmer with the lid on tight for about an hour. (keeping the lid on keeps things from drying out, but if it looks too dry, just add in a little water) I let it simmer another hour with the lid slightly off to allow it to actually thicken up a bit as mine was pretty juicy.

By then the delicious smell wafting through the house was more than we could take, so we boiled up some pasta and it was time…

sullys sauce

A special thank you to daughter Karen for letting me have the privilege to re-create her father’s famous sauce! And a happy father’s day to all the dads out there – the ones with us and the ones who have left us.

 

Interested in more ‘Irish-Italian” cooking?? Me too… read more about it here!

 

Author’s note: If you don’t want to use the Chianti wine – I would recommend using a cup of low sodium beef stock with a generous splash or two of red wine vinegar to give it that tangy richness that the wine adds.

 

Fruit Cubes

When I have extra fruit that I might not get to in time I like to puree it and freeze it for later use.  You can just simply puree the washed, clean fruit and freeze it or add some honey or sugar to it before freezing for instant drink mixes!

Certainly I didn’t invent this great idea but I do like to inspire and remind folks that it is a perfect way to have fruit on hand for blending smoothies, flavoring ice teas or my favorite adult beverage… “boat drinks!”

I use small 2-3 ounce containers so each one is just a portion size.

I use small 2-3 ounce containers so each one is just a portion size. (Make sure to leave a little room at the top for expansion!)

Parrot Head

I am a card-carrying member of the “parrotheads” elite.

And if you think I raise and breed birds you would be wrong.

For those who don’t know a “parrothead” is a big time fan of Jimmy Buffett’s music. We even have our own wiki page here!

So after having attended over 6 shows and many related events over the years, you would think I would have the lyrics to one of his most famous songs, “Cheeseburger In Paradise” perfectly memorized. Well I do, but recently I cleared up some grammatical confusion.

See I thought he was saying ” …not zucchini fettuccine or bulgar wheat…”  but what he was really saying was “not zucchini, fettuccine or bulgar wheat “

Small difference (see comma marked in red above) but it means the difference between 3 food items ( Zucchini AND Fettuccine AND Bulgar Wheat) instead of two food items. (Zucchini Fettuccine AND Bulgar Wheat)

Phew! glad I cleared that up!

zucchini 2

Actual “zucchini fettuccine” lightly sautéed in olive oil with fresh tomatoes, herbs, garlic,onions and a little feta cheese on top!

 

In case you want to verify the lyrics or maybe even catch a show…. www.margaritaville.com

Grilling Versus Braising

I have to admit that although I have enjoyed a classic Texas-style BBQ beef short rib many times, I never really made the connection that this was the same/similar beef “short rib” (sometimes just shorter I think and possibly called “English cut” sometimes) that we all like to cook during the New England wintertime in a slow braise of flavorful, red wine liquid served over something creamy like Polenta or garlic mashed. You can see my version of this here.

I still didn’t make the connection when I was at the store shopping for meat and thought to myself  “boneless short ribs on the grill, why not – it could work!” I thought I was breaking new grilling territory here.

So I brought them home and considered myself all clever by whipping up a little dry rub concoction of ground black pepper, kosher salt, ground cumin and ground ancho chili powder. After a suitable time I grilled them over high heat on my backyard grill till a perfect medium. (medium rare for the next time might be better as these were pretty lean cuts)

Served with grilled mushrooms, zucchini and onions, they made for a perfect “new” adventure on the grill!

(until I googled it and realized this was not “breaking new ground” stuff!)

grilled beef short ribs

These happen to be boneless and fairly lean, but on the bone would be delicious too and could benefit, I would imagine, from a wet marinade.

 

 

Mother’s Day On The Porch

This year Mother’s Day also turned out to be the “season opener” for her deck. And nothing is better than an early evening supper on the porch of corn and tomatoes…

And of course I brought her “flowers” (the edible kind!)

rose

The next morning we enjoyed last night’s leftovers in a whole new way…a savory breakfast bread pudding!

I simply cubed up about 8 slices of good quality bread ( something alike a “pullman loaf” but really anything you have would do) and let them get all toasty and dry in a low oven for a few minutes. I piled them into a sprayed oven-proof dish and threw in all the rest of the leftover corn and tomatoes. I added some generous dashes of dried oregano, a couple good pinches of garlic powder, salt and pepper to taste, some pats of butter ( maybe like 4) and about 3 ounces of sharp cheddar. (Some grated and some chunked.) Now the wet stuff: whisk 6 large eggs with about 2 cups whole milk and make sure to use the back of your knife down the corn cobs and get all that delicious “milk” hiding in the cobs.  Pour it all over the top of everything.

Into a preheated 375 degree oven – covered tight with foil- for about 20-25 mins. No peeking under the foil. Remove the cover when the liquid is firm and edges just starting to take on some brown. (this is nice and easy to see in a glass baking dish!) Let it baked uncovered 8-10 mins longer just to dry out the top a bit as needed. Remove from the oven and let it cool a bit, just like lasagna, this is better served warm and not piping hot!

Read about my other “corn and tomato” adventures here!

A Match Made In Heaven

Name two things that are just destined to go together and I bet spinach and eggs would not be on the top of your list. But I often put these two together, in fact I almost always pair them up unless I am doing a straight up fried egg. (and even then a fried egg on a bed of wilted spinach would be great!)

Some classic pairings include:

spinach omelets

spinach salad with hard-boiled eggs

spinach frittata

scrambled eggs with spinach and Parmesan cheese

baked eggs in creamed spinach

There are probably more.

Here is one I made recently….

sliced

Spinach, potato and sweet onion frittata.

I happened to have some extra baked potatoes (because when I fire up the oven to bake two, I bake four.) and adding these in gives this frittata some “heft.” And my husband is more likely to eat it if it’s packing some “heft” in lieu of “meat.” :)

Production Notes:

Be sure to spray your pan liberally with cooking spray, and I use a large pat of butter as well, heat till bubbly on the cooktop and layer in the potatoes, onions, spinach and S &P to taste. Once that gets going, I pour in 6 eggs (+/- depending on pan size) that have been whisked with a little bit of (1/2 cup?) of whole milk or cream or half-n-half or whatever you have on hand. Add a little optional crumbled cheese (sharp cheddar or feta is nice) and some dried thyme and bake in a preheated 350 degree oven (right in the same oven proof skillet you started with on the cooktop) till firm and starting to brown and pull away from edges. (30 mins +/-)

Notice I am NOT using a non-stick pan… I am not afraid.

 

 

 

Holiday of Obligation

I have emerged from a semester of researching my thesis and as I reflect back on my spring of research and very little cooking, one day stands out for me…(in Massachusetts this day is three holidays in one)

1. “Patriots’ Day” – A day commemorating the first battles of the American Revolution (battles of Lexington & Concord)

or perhaps it was a day of meaning for you as…

2. “Easter Monday” – The second day of the octave of Easter Week and/or second day of bright week. (not quite sure what all this means but wikipedia says it true, so it must be, right?)

or perhaps for you it was…

3. “marathon monday” – This is the day that the Boston Marathon is run and of course a Red Sox game is always scheduled around 11am.

Or maybe it was simply….just a Monday.

cookbookFor me it meant a rare whole day off without having to report into work or attend a class. And that gave me a day to actually cook.  Since my husband and I both worked the day before on Easter, I decided to make a delayed Easter dinner.

And what’s more delicious than a leg of lamb? Plus my local butcher was having a sale on lamb. Of course when I arrived at the store I forgot that a “leg of lamb” is actually quite big – like “feed 20 people big.” So I had to settle on a 4 lb de-boned top portion of a leg that the butcher mercifully had for me.

I took it home, rinsed it and patted it dry and ended up flapping it out flat, coating on all sides with the wonderful lamb seasoning from Penzey’s and rolling it back up and tying it with string.  (kinda like a porchetta)

I stuck to the classics and roasted cut potatoes and onions with fresh rosemary and sage and served sautéed asparagus along side. No mint jelly here but if you need it, serve it.

lamb

Full disclosure: I was working at home that day on editing my thesis research and I may have left it in the oven a teeny bit too long, but it was still delicious!

Late update: Apparently May 7th is “National Leg of Lamb” Day so next year I will cook my leg and do  homework on that day instead!

 

Easter Pineapple

Happy Easter and Happy “National Pineapple Upside Down Cake” Day!

yup its a real day and you can read all about it here.

While I didn’t make cake, I did make muffins. With one simple substitution to basic corn muffin mix I was able to turn something ordinary into something special.

pinneapple corn muffins

Simply substitute the oil called for in your cornbread recipe/mix with equal amounts of pureed pineapple. This gives a nice citrus zing to the muffins. If you want it a little sweeter, add in some honey or brown sugar to the batter – or better yet serve with honey butter!

 

On Another Note…

Please forgive my lack of blogging/cooking lately as I am finishing up a crucial semester in grad school and thesis deadlines are making it almost impossible to cook at all! Be done soon and looking forward to more cooking!

 

 

A lot Like Matt

Have you ever had the pleasure of meeting Matt? As in “Fat Matt?”

No really that is his real name!

Well I had the pleasure some years back of going to see him in his hometown of Atlanta Georgia. Yup some of the finest BBQ you will ever experience. None other than “Fat Matt’s Rib Shack!”

While I can’t imagine be able to replicate BBQ anywhere near what they do so well down there, I do try on occasion to make an old-fashioned plate of BBQ.

served

Serve it like Matt does with slaw, white bread and pickles but this could easily be on a bun or over rice and beans!

While they didn’t ask me or pay me to talk nice about them – if anybody out there wants to send some of their food my way – email me and we can make it happen!

In the meantime I can’t emphasis how easy it is to make some more than acceptable BBQ at home. With your slowcooker. Yup no grill and no smoker needed, just the slow cooker.

The secret to sucess is that you purchase a high quality jar of sauce – preferably one with a “smoky” flavor built-in. I simply pour a jar of sauce over a small roast (usually 3lbs+/- for me) into my relatively small slow cooker, cover and cook on high for at least 4-6 hours. If you are feeding a crowd or want lots of leftovers (freezes well!) you can double the meat and use two jars of sauce. You don’t need to add anything else unless you want to.

So if you can’t get down to Atlanta, this could be an easy alternative!

 

Empanadas #92

There was something about the turnip in my crisper drawer that spoke to me one day. It somehow begged to be roasted and stuffed into little dough pockets. And of course some diced ham seemed like a nice match too. Feeling like I needed something green to tuck in there too, frozen peas seemed easy. (Like “Samosas” according to my husband.)

So that is how these empanadas were created…

empanada

I bake mine but I can’t emphasize enough how delicious they would be/are deep fried!

Surprisingly easy, I prefer to roast rather than steam/boil my turnip. And yes that is some sweet potatoes on the pan too. I figure if I am roasting anyway why not throw some other stuff on there too. And I often roast the a day or two ahead when I have the time so these can come together quicker. Saute the onion and ham first to get a little more flavor and color on them. Be sure to let the filling cool before you stuff the dough rounds.

I usually use the larger “disco” dough rounds from brands like Goya or LeFey. These are found in the freezer section, perhaps in an ethnic foods part of the freezer. If you can’t find these you could definitely use some refrigerated dough product or if you are really ambitious maybe make your own. They are essentially just thin dough rounds that get stuffed, sealed and baked. Or Fried. Have I mentioned that these really are delicious deep-fried. Sadly (Insert sad sigh here) I never fry anything at home. I reserve fried treats to occasional indulges when out at restaurants. It’s the same with ice cream. (Another sad sigh here.)

ready-for-the-oven

bake at 375 degrees on parchment lined sheet pans for 20-30 mins until browned

These are great to make ahead and have around for parties, lunch/dinner on the go, or an office pot-luck. The only advantage to the non-fried version like these,  is they are good room temperature or warm and will re-heat easily and beautifully.

The Recipe:

dough rounds (10-15 of the larger 6″ +/-size or 20 of the smaller 4″+/- size) and it also depends on how full you fill each one…but the dough rounds can be frozen/re-frozen.

1 med turnip (couple pounds??) peeled, cut, roasted on  a sheet pan with a little oil oil, S&P at 400 degrees till tender and yummy. Mashed and cooled.

1/2 large sweet onion diced ( I used “Maui”)

1-2 cloves of garlic minced fine – more if you like

3/4 lb +/- diced cooked ham

2 tsp ground cumin

1/2 tsp chili flakes

3/4-1 cup of frozen peas

Salt and pepper to taste and a couple of tablespoons of olive oil to saute

Saute the onion garlic and ham in the Olive oil. Add the dry spices and stir for a minute or two. Add the frozen peas and stir a few more minutes. Take off heat and combine with the mashed turnip. Taste for seasoning. After the filling has cooled, spoon a few table spoons onto a dough round. Flap over the dough and use a little water on your finger on the outer edge to seal them shut. Now either use a fork along the edge or roll the edges onto themselves. Brush with melted butter or spray with butter spray and bake at 375 degrees on a parchment/silpat lined sheet in the preheated oven for 20-30 mins till puffed, golden brown and delicious. These freeze beautifully either stuffed and not baked off or baked and cooled.

See some of my other stuffed creations here, here and here!

Convenient Calzone

Sometimes you just have to use convenience foods to get it done!

lazy fried peppersAnd this time around I used one of my favorite convenience foods… a jar of “fried peppers” from Mancini packing company. A nice little new England company with another factory in Florida as well – you can read about their history here.

This little jar packs lots of flavor – sweet bell peppers sautéed in olive oil and packed into the jar. An open jar is like arriving at the sausage carts lining Yawkey Way at Fenway. Just add Sausage.

And that is what I did. I managed to work up the effort to cut up a few sweet Italian sausages ( or hot if you prefer) and a white onion and get those into a pan for some browning and precooking.

Actual cooking here folks!

Actual cooking here folks!

Add in the jar of fried peppers and honestly dinner is almost ready! Even if I happen to have some fresh sweet bell peppers in the fridge and was inclined to slice them up, the long cooking time and patience required to get that “fresh from the sausage cart” flavor was more than I had this day.

After the sausage and onions had some brown to them and the peppers were mixed in, I also added a small can of tomato sauce (another favorite convenience item of mine) and a heavy pinch of Italian seasoning with some salt and pepper.

I let the mixture cool a bit while I rolled out some pre-made pizza dough (you see the “convenience” theme here!) and laid half the dough as the bottom on a parchment lined sheet pan. Next I spread the somewhat cooled filling onto the dough – not quite to the edges – and put the top half on, rolling up and crimping the edges.

Feeling slightly more energetic, I sprinkled some shredded Parmesan cheese on top with a little dash of garlic powder to just give some extra zip to the top.

Into a preheated 425 degree oven for about 20-25 minutes or until the dough seems done and not overdone like mine.

20 mins to prep, 20 mins to cook and very little clean up!

20 mins to prep, 20 mins to cook and very little clean up!

This makes about 9-12 large squares on a “half” size sheet pan, depending on how thin you stretch the dough. This cuts better if it is allowed to cool a bit first. (A tricky subject around my house!)

Notes: leave the cheese off the top for dairy-free and use any kind of sausage you want, including turkey or even tofu. I won’t tell, if you don’t tell!

Gift Basket Clean-Out

 
 
This marmalade  Plus This  the main players 
 
Equals  ↓dinner

Whenever you get those gift baskets at the office or home, all the good stuff is immediately eaten. (cookies, crackers, nuts and candy) But the little hotel size jars of jelly and marmalade always seem to get left behind. Maybe because making toast at the office just isn’t an option! I like to use them to make a sauce or glaze.

I grabbed a few things from the cupboards to mix in and you can basically take any direction…I went a little Asian with my last one. Soy Sauce, vinegar, chili flakes, Chinese 5-spice and ground ginger powder (not shown) and some crushed dried rosemary… just because. Unfortunately a sesame allergy prevents me from using any type of sesame oil but that would be just perfect to add to this sauce for a distinct Asian flare.

The Recipe

6 oz orange marmalade

1/4 cup warm water

1 1/2 tbsp champagne vinegar

2 tbsp low-sodium, gluten-free soy sauce

2 tsp ground ginger powder

2 tsp chinese 5-spice powder (divided)

1 tbsp dried rosemary

1 tsp chili flakes

2 large chicken breasts cut into 1″ pieces

1/4-1/2 cup diced onion

2 tbsp oil of choice for saute

1 1/2 cups +/- diced onion

Whisk the top 8 ingredients using just 1 tsp of the Chinese 5-spice powder. Coat the chicken pieces  in the remaining teaspoon of Chinese 5-spice and salt/pepper to taste. Sauté the chicken and onion in the oil on med-high heat till each side has a bit of brown. Add the sauce and cover for a few minutes to let the chicken cook thru. Remove cover and add peas and let sauce reduce for a few minutes more. Serve over rice.

Light And Bright

That’s how I like my chicken soup.

I like a broth that is flavorful and rich but still light and little sparkle from some lemon never hurt any chicken soup.

This soup makes a nice cheerful bowl in March, especially when winter never seems to end !

chicken soup

This soup couldn’t be easier…

I started out with some diced chicken breast and onions in a slow cooker with enough water (fortified with a bouillon cube)  to fill the cooker. (I was out of box stock but you could use that too or homemade if you had it!) I added carrots and lima beans from the freezer about halfway through.  I cooked the light egg noodles separate and just spoon the soup over at serving time with plenty of salt and pepper and a generous twist of lemon when you serve. If you had some leftover rice, that would be nice too. Cooking times vary depending on your slow cooker and whether you use the low or high setting, but basically you need the chicken to be cooked through and frozen veggies too.

Devils on Horseback

There are many obscure food nicknames/references in the world but with advent of the internet most of the time the origins of these can be tracked down. Not as easy with “devils on horseback.”  Or “angels on horseback.”

Google it and you will find some stories about English pub snacks and horseback warriors wielding meat-covered shields. However these snacks got invented and why they have this name, I may never really know. But in the meantime I shall just make and eat dozens of them.

I can’t take credit for inventing this. I first heard about these from a friend and colleague at work . We carpool once a week and torture ourselves discussing food all the way home, hungry for dinner after the work day!

She had the pleasure of eating at the Chicago restaurant, “Avec that invented these.  As she described them to me,  I knew immediately that I would need to make these.

My variation of "devils on horse back"

My variation of “devils on horse back” – dates split and stuffed with a lardon of smoked Spanish Chorizo and wrapped in bacon. Smothered in a smoky tomato and red pepper sauce.


Production Notes

The rolled, stuffed dates bake in a pre-heated 350 degree oven for 20-30 mins.

You can double roll them with bacon and if you do you may want to bake them on their end so all sides get a little crispy.

These could also be made with raw, uncooked Chorizo – just make sure to cook them long enough that they are done. Use a thermometer if need be to test for temperature.

The sauce is basically finely minced onion and garlic sautéed in a little olive oil, add a 7 ounce jar of roasted peppers diced up, a 15 ounce of diced tomatoes, some garlic powder, ground cumin and smoked hot paprika, salt and pepper. Let it simmer for 20-30 minutes on med-low. Taste for seasoning and add salt/pepper and a tiny bit of Agave to smooth it out. This makes plenty of sauce for the approximately 36 dates I made.

Scooby Snacks

Have you seen this new trend where 3 or 4 pictures give the whole recipe? Especially popular on Pinterest.

Well here is my version…

Any questions…

beauty shot

Production Notes

I used a smoked, fully cooked chorizo – but a raw version would work too – just make sure it cooks fully.

I also used a pre-made “crescent roll” dough that comes in a “blue can” – they have a seamless “1 piece” version but you could easily adapt this for the traditional crescent style. Or I guess if you are handy – make your own dough from scratch.

A layer of cream cheese or even just a sprinkle of Parmesan might have put these over the top – just sayin.

January Is “Tostada Month”

Only (and unofficially) in my house anyway. There must be something about the cold, snowy month of January that has me craving food from warmer regions. Because when I went back to look at my other posting on Tostadas I noticed it was January of last year. That version was a wonderful light, bright spicy combination of chicken, tomatoes and golden beets. You can see that here.

This is the brand i use and can find readily in my urban-area stores. Picture courtesy of www.mexicorp.com

This is the brand I use and can find readily in my urban-area stores. Picture courtesy of www.mexicorp.com

The word “tostada” [tosˈtaða] means ‘toasted” in Spanish but usually refers to a particular dish made with a crisp fried corn tortilla on the bottom with yummy, spicy ingredients piled on top. There are many regional varieties.

You can get your tortilla maker out, along with your fry-daddy junior and knock yourself out making them from scratch or you can just buy the corn tortillas and fry them in a little oil in a large pan or better yet get your hands on some already done for you like I do!

This time around I used some re-fried beans to make them a little more ‘filling.” I also marinated some chicken strips in a quick marinade of oil, lime juice, hot sauce, salt and pepper, and a little dry BBQ seasoning and ground cumin. I reserved some of the marinade to use as a base for a pineapple, avocado and sweet onion salsa to put on top.

The chicken only was in the marinade for an hour or so and then I quickly cooked it in a hot skillet, to order, for each couple of tostadas. They cook really quick because they were thinly cut but, you could certainly do this ahead in a large batch.

Assembly just consisted of: Tosada on bottom, a smear of re-fried beans, the hot chicken with a few bits of sweet onion thrown in the skillet to cook too. Fresh salsa on top and some fresh minced cilantro leaves. ( or parsley if you hate cilantro) Shake on additional hot sauce as you wish!

chicken tostada

Everything Is Better When It’s Small….

Is it?

Recently I bought some baby kale. Yup little tiny baby leaves of kale. Very adorable.

Isn't it adorable?!

Isn’t it cute?!

Raw it tasted kind of like a mild cabbage. I love all veggies so it was cool with me.

Hmmmm but what to do with it?

I made a greek salad using some of the baby kale as my “lettuce” – good but maybe not for the non-adventurous.

Keilbasa, pasta and baby kale dinner

I decided that the rest of it should be treated as I would with baby spinach… throw it in at the last-minute of a “quick pasta dish.”

These kind of dishes are quick and you can use whatever you might have on hand for veggies… frozen peas, canned beans, squash….whatever you have. I happen to have some fairly decent fresh tomatoes on hand. (A miracle during the winter in New England!)

I sautéed some onions, garlic and kielbasa in olive oil, and threw in some “Al Dente” cooked bow tie pasta. ( I used the multi color veggie pasta.) The fresh tomatoes, cut into big chunks, went in just to heat up and release some juice along with a generous amount of dried Italian seasoning. Last but not least, the baby kale. Just long enough to start to wilt it.

Serve in big bowls with some freshly grated Parmesan cheese and you have a winter dish that just “hints” a little bit of summer!

Dinner For Dinner

If you have been reading this blog for a while, you may already know that my husband and I share a common love of “dinner for breakfast.”

But lots of times we just have “dinner for dinner” and this basic pot roast is one of his favorites. (mine too!) Simple and tasty – this can be made in one pot and put into a slow oven until you are ready to eat and if you are using one of those heavy cast iron dutch ovens like I do, it will stay hot for a long time in case you have family or friends wandering thru at different times to be fed.

Over the years I have picked up a few tips to really help make the dish shine.

1. Add lots of seasoning to the meat and make sure to brown it. I really think being generous with your spices and seasoning sets up the meat for not only a flavorful crust but tasty “au jus.”

2.Sauté those carrots. Take the time to really cook those carrots a bit along with the onions – it makes a difference!

carrots and onions

For the record… this picture was taken as soon as I threw in the carrots, so they were still raw, but they did get a nice saute in the pan!

3. Potatoes on the side please!

I used to put the potatoes right in with the roast but they were never as good as I wanted them to be, so when a TV cook from Oklahoma once suggested serving the pot roast on a mound of yummy, rich mashed potatoes, I have been doing it that way ever since! (plus this gives opportunity for extra flavor – like “garlic mashed potatoes!”)

dinner plate
My husband made these delicious mashed potatoes!

Production Notes

My basic spice blend for the meat contains sea salt, course ground black pepper, garlic powder and celery seed. In addition to this I can change the flavor profile depending on what else I add. For example…ground cumin, paprika and a tiny bit of cinnamon for an “exotic” pot roast. Or  crushed red pepper flakes for a “spicy” version.  Let your imagination run wild.

My basic “go to” for liquid is water mixed with a generous amount of Worcestershire sauce to de-glaze the pan and become the cooking liquid for the pot roast meat and veggies. But you can use stock, cider, beer or wine too. Each of this will add/change the flavor profile.

I usually add a small can of tomato paste (or a couple squirts from the tube) to the pan after I have browned the meat and veggies but before I de-glaze to add a real depth of flavor to the pot roast liquid and because I love tomatoes!

If you want a thicker consistency for the “Au Jus” than add a tiny bit of cornstarch or an arrowroot slurry about an hour before serving.

Let It Rest

Isn’t that the title to a Beatles song?

Oh wait that song is actually “Let It Be” – still… both are words of wisdom!

In my case “let it rest” usually refers to some big cut of meat like a roast or chicken or something, but in this case it refers to lasagna!

Good Old Fashioned "All American" Lasagna!

Good Old Fashioned “All American” Lasagna!

Letting lasagna rest is a must for a clean, neat cut and so you don’t burn the roof off your mouth!

This lasagna was inspired by the green baking dish it was made in. I received it for Christmas this year from Aunt Barbara and I have been cooking in it a couple of times a week ever since! Mac and cheese, lasagna, you name it!  How did I ever live without this perfectly sized dish with handles!!

Production Notes

I used standard lasagna protocol here – nothing crazy or exotic. 3-4 layers of regular meat sauce, ricotta and noodles.  This time I used standard “boil first” noodles, but I have done it both ways… here and here.

Mother’s Challenge

My mom often has a little trouble in restaurants. She is a vegetarian. And she’s allergic to onions. And she only likes romaine lettuce. She doesn’t like heavily spiced food. Or salty food. And there are quite a few other things she doesn’t like. (mushrooms)

Now before you get all judge-y, just picture a nice little lady who wants a salad without iceberg lettuce and more veggies than old shredded carrots and radishes.  That doesn’t seem hard right? Especially in the nice restaurants where the chefs aim to please, where the fresh produce is in abundance, where the chef is professionally trained?

You wouldn’t believe how hard it is to get a decent salad these days. or heck, how about some pasta with a few hot veggies on it. Sometimes she even has trouble in vegetarian restaurants because this community relies so heavily on the use of onions (basis for just about everything) and mushrooms (often a “meat substitute.”)

It amazes me each time we go out to dinner how hard it is for a restaurant to accommodate. Sometimes they can’t even grasp substituting the romaine lettuce that they are already serving  for their Caesar salads as the lettuce for their garden salad. Anyway I digress.

Each time she comes to my house I make it my personal challenge to make delicious, vegetarian, onion-free food for her. (And of course it helps that I know all her likes/dislikes too.)

But if I can do this…

Onion-free, 5 ingredient Carrot Soup
Onion-free, 5 ingredient Carrot Soup with cream swirled in at serving time.

6-8 medium size carrots roasted on a sheet pan brushed with the tiniest bit of oil and the tiniest bit of salt and pepper.**

1 small head of garlic roasted in a foil packet with the same tiniest bit of oil.**

1 tsp fresh ginger, finely grated

1 tsp honey or agave syrup

1-2 tsp dried dill ( or 1 tbsp fresh if you have it)

blend the carrots, ginger, agave/honey and 2-3 of the cloves from the roasted garlic head in a medium size sauce pan over medium heat.  Add the dill. Add enough water till you have your desired consistency. Heat thru. Taste for seasoning and add extra salt and pepper if you need/want it.  Ladle into bowls and swirl a little cream, milk or half and half on top for extra creaminess.

**I roasted these a couple of days ahead when I had the oven on for something else. That makes this soup as easy as opening a can.

Author’s Notes

don’t add too much roasted garlic or this can easily become orange-colored garlic soup – which is okay if that is what you love.

Stock or milk could be used for all or part, as a substitute for the water.

Makes about 2-4 bowls depending on your level of consistency.

carrot soup in pan

The Last Potato

I have made my last batch of mashed potatoes. Ever. By request of my husband.

Yes it is true, and while many of the dishes that come out of my kitchen are delicious and get rave reviews, my mashed potatoes are not one of them. I can’t seem to get the hang of them. I can’t even make instant mashed potatoes properly! Even when I follow the box directions precisely, something is not quite right. No matter how much butter or cream or anything, there is something wrong. Sometimes it’s the texture and sometimes it’s the flavor.

The problem

First off I HATE peeling potatoes and that was the probably the final straw on this last go round.  Secondly I don’t like getting out the big pot and waiting forever for the water to come to boil. After all that, inevitably, I pull the boiled potatoes out either over-cooked or undercooked. Sometimes, in total laziness, I oven-bake the potatoes instead of boiling them to get them cooked. Than they get mashed, peels included. The peels hold all the nutrients, right? (At least I dig out all the little “eyes” on the potatoes first!)

This last (and final) round of mashed potato was used in a perfectly delicious Shepard’s Pie. But the un-peeled mashed potatoes didn’t go over so well. Or perhaps it was the carrots that I adventurous-ly included. Maybe I will never know. But the hubby has instructed me to leave the potato-making to him. He is after all a Boston Irish guy and if that doesn’t qualify him to know his potatoes, I don’t know what would!

Leftover Soup

"Everybody in the pool!"

“Everybody in the pool!”

Like most folks I had more food than people at my Christmas table, so that presents lots of leftover opportunities. And like most folks, soup was the perfect thing to throw some of the items into and create a whole new meal.

Leftover baked ham got sliced into bite size pieces. A random potato or two rolling around the crisper drawer was diced small. There is always an onion available in my kitchen. A can of beans and the extra kale from the salad made the “nutritious factor” sky-high.

Method

Saute the diced potato, onion and ham in a little butter (or fat of choice) and once they start to soften, add some smoked hot paprika, a dash of grated nutmeg and some red chili flakes. Now add a box of stock and another box’s worth of water. (Adjust the liquids based on your amount of leftovers and how hardy you want the soup.) Simmer for about 20 mins and add a small can of beans.(Rinsed and drained first.) I like to add my kale at the end and simmer about 10-15 mins more but if you want your kale cooked even more, than go longer.

I served it in bowls with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil! Some shaved Parmesan would have been good too!

hot soup 2