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!

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.

Simple Smoothies

Raise your hand if you thought you would get on the smoothie band wagon with Doctor Oz, Daphne and the whole gang!

Raise your hand if that lasted even a week.

All that shopping, cleaning and chopping of various ingredients is too much! I love and recognize kale’s magical benefits along with the rest of the world, but frankly I would rather eat it for dinner in a savory dish than hide it in a fruit smoothie. Or how about lime and cucumber? Some how I don’t think they belong in the same glass unless it is with vodka at some over-priced, trendy Boston bar specializing in “hand crafted” everything.

So I like to keep it simple when it comes to smoothies. Banana plus 1 fruit. Usually a berry. Could be fresh or could be frozen. Depends on the time of year. I add one unexpected surprise in the form of a spice. Usually a dash of cinnamon. It goes beautifully with all berries. Not too much – just a couple of dashes. Now add milk. And if you are feeling sweet – a little honey or agave. Blend and drink. No fuss, no muss – tastes yummy. Like a healthy shake. No sneaky stuff. (Plus it is a nicer color than puke green don’t you think?)

Cookie Rehearsal

Recently I was invited by my neighbor to a cookie swap. Of course she knows I love to cook – but I am not sure she knows about my lack of baking skills. On top of that she and her daughter are practically professionals in the baking department. So there is a fair amount of pressure here to make some good cookies! I have never been to a cookie swap but I am pretty sure the concept is arrive with a bunch of cookies you made and leave with a similar amount of cookies, except they will all be the different kinds that everybody brought. i.e “the swap!”

So just as I was thinking about whether or not I wanted to accept this challenge invitation, fate inserted itself in the form of a recipe posting on Facebook! 4 ingredients! One of them from a box! It seemed easy enough for even me!

Peanut Butter Cake Mix Cookies….

Yup – I know the baking purists are gasping out there, never mind the anti-processed food crowd! I like to think I am just as organic, healthy and veggie eating as the next but sometimes you just gotta break down and go with it.

Simply mix 1 box of yellow cake mix (no I didn’t worry about box size or ounces, just grabbed one, off the shelf) and 1/2 cup canola oil, 2 large eggs and 1 cup of peanut butter. (and for some reason I had 3 open jars of 3 different kinds of peanut butter and I used up 2 to consolidate – yay!)

cookie dough

Now simply form small balls – about golf ball shape – and place on the cookie sheet. No spraying of the sheet needed (I guess) but I did use parchment paper. (not sure if it needed it – just seemed like the thing to do.) Squish each twice (opposite directions) with a fork to form the classic peanut butter cookie look.

forming the cookies

Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 10-12 minutes until browned perfectly. Watch them in last couple of minutes because they can turn on you quickly. Makes 2 dozen cookies.

ready to eat

Easy and delicious – these not-to-sweet cookies came out perfect! hmm…What would happen if I used chocolate cake mix? Watch out neighbors – here I come with cookies!

A Round Dough In A Square Pan

dough

That’s what happens when you are coming off apple pie season and you realize your good pie/quiche dish has been lent out. (With a pie in it of course!)

I had no choice but to make it work…so into my glass brownie pan it went!

If you know me at all – you know that I will throw just about anything into a quiche. And I know for a fact that “real men do eat quiche!” Just ask my husband!

I have posted about quiche before, here and here, and I consider it the perfect vehicle for small bits of things: leftovers, extra parts, frozen things, you name it! So this time around I had some sweet peppers and onions to use up. Of course I always have a ham steak in the freezer if not in the fridge. Cheese of some sort is mandatory.

This is the latest version…I like to think of it as a Spicy Ham Italian Quiche – kinda like a “sandwich-as-quiche!”

Production Notes:

I poke the crust liberally with a fork and prebake the crust in a 400 degree oven for about 8 mins or so. This keeps the crust from getting soggy.

I usually use a filling ratio that is heavy on the eggs but has a little dairy (half and half or whole milk) in it too. I usually start with 6 eggs to about 1/4- 1/2 cup dairy but this dish was big, so 10 eggs plus enough dairy to make 2 cups of liquid, for this one.

I cover it loosely with foil for the first 20 mins of baking time so the crust edges wouldn’t get too dark. Uncover for the last 15-20 mins. Total baking time is around 40 mins but basically as soon as it is firm but tender – take it out!

Let it cool a bit before slicing – it will slice better!

Don’t forget to season! Salt, Pepper, Dried Oregano, Hot Chili flakes – whatever floats your boat!

And no I don’t make my own crust – mine comes rolled in a red box – get crazy and make your own if you want.

Add extra cheese about 10 mins before the end for extra yummy presentation!

ready to eat

Spicy Peppers

Spicy filling, sweet peppers!

Recently while visiting New Hampshire I acquired the most wonderful local goat cheese and the cutest mini sweet red peppers. (Thanks mom!)

After I got them home it occurred to me that with a little help from the basil and oregano lingering in my garden and a couple pantry ingredients I could have myself a nice little snack or game day party bites. GO RED SOX!!  So the “spice” in this case wasn’t from the peppers but the filling I made for them.

3 main ingredients

Little spicy bites!

pepper for sizeI mixed the goat cheese and chopped herbs with a healthy dose of seasoned salt, black pepper, plenty of spicy, red chili flakes, some dashes of hot sauce, dash of garlic powder and some EVO oil to thin the consistency and add flavor. I also added a very small amount of “half and half” (you could use milk or cream too) to make it more creamy and spreadable. The mixture becomes a wonderful mix of tang and spice!

Stuff it into peppers or dip into it with veggies or use as a sandwich spread!

If I wasn't so lazy, I would have used a piping bag to neatly and prettily fill the peppers. But they tasted just a good stuffed all messy with a spoon!

What a perfect snack for the Red Sox game! (oh and if I wasn’t so lazy, I would have used a piping bag to neatly and prettily fill the peppers. But they tasted just a good stuffed all messy with a spoon!)

Farmstand Nachos

Who doesn’t love nachos? To me nachos mean anything on a tortilla chip! So why not put one of my favorite combinations – corn and tomatoes – on some chips.

nacho 3

I lightly sautéed some finely diced onion and some fresh corn off a random couple of leftover cobs.

I added some leftover white garlic sauce to the pan to heat through. And a little extra shake of grated Parmesan cheese.

I simply poured this on top of my chips with some freshly halved cherry tomatoes and torn basil leaves. Fresh cracked pepper completed the dish.

Fresh ingredients from the farm stand (or your backyard) make these a great snack or party appetizer for a late summer evening!

Heirloom Pie

the stars

I recently acquired a small batch of heirloom tomatoes from the local farm stand and after thinking about BLTs and Panzanellas, I settled on pie. “Pizza Pie” that is! Basically a cross between a white pizza and a Margherita pizza, I piled on slices of the fresh tomato on top of a crisp thin crust, that had been spread liberally with a garlic- cheese white sauce.

Fresh basil snipped from my back yard pot, gave the pizza that undeniable flavor and freshness. A touch of sea salt and cracked black pepper were the only finishing touches. A drizzle of good extra virgin olive oil would also be a nice addition.

The White Sauce

I simply sautéed some finely minced garlic in butter until soft and very fragrant. At this point I decided to make a classic roux by adding some flour and browning it for a minute. But if you wanted to make this gluten-free (and use a gluten-free crust) you could skip ahead to adding some “half and half” then stirring in a slurry of arrowroot to thicken it. Add in some finely grated Parmesan cheese. Whisk and cook until desired thickness – you can add more milk/cream to thin or more cheese to thicken.

Salt and pepper to taste. Refrigerate any extra for up to 5 days.

(oh and yes it is yet another post about tomatoes!)

Strawberry Memories

The month of June means a lot of different things to people.

To my dad it made him think of D-Day and actually landing on Normandy beach  in 1944 as an innocent 18-year-old kid. To my brother it means a birthday.  And of course to my mom that same special day of June reminds her of giving birth to my brother, her first baby.

For me: it is strawberries.

I can mark my “Junes” throughout my life by strawberry memories…

homegrown

Homegrown: not perfectly shaped but sweeter than any supermarket variety!

As a small child sitting among the PYO fields in New Hampshire – eating more than I was picking, wishing we could get out of the hot sun.

Later as a middle-school child visiting the relatives in California and having my first real “diner-style” strawberry pie. I remember picking it out from the glass case and how REALLY delicious it was. (We went back for another piece the next day!)

In high school, on a family trip to France, we strolled through a farmer’s market outside of Chartres Cathedral near Paris and discovered the most delicious strawberry tart ever.  To this day. Just sat there in the sun and enjoyed every bite of it.

In my 20’s, living away from home, returning to visit mom and having her famous strawberry shortcake on the porch. We have been known as a family to eat that, and only that, for dinner.

And now as a grown up, with my own house, with strawberries growing in my front yard. The sunny patch has grown from one small pot to rambling all over the place, among the grass and  flowers at the base of the chimney. Each year yields more and so far this year I have harvested about a quart!

However, strawberry shortcake season is short, and one needs to supplement the fruit with purchases from the local market or farm stand. That way you can have  lots of “strawberry shortcake dinners!”

strawberries shortcake dessert

Big, ripe, perfect, in-season strawberries can not be beat in the beauty department!

P.S. If you are not a baker, or gluten-free, or just don’t want the biscuit
- I find serving this with vanilla ice cream instead just divine!
 
P.P.S In case you missed it, June 14 was National Strawberry Shortcake day!

Thank You TJ’s

That is “Trader Joe’s” for the uninitiated.  I like this store for certain things – organic frozen items, unusual but healthy snack things, and prepared things like: already cooked beets or in this case already cooked lentils. Yup admitting it right here and now. I purchased precooked lentils. And I can justify the under $3 price for like 10 servings of lentils. (I already threw the box out, but it was a lot, like enough-for-a-party-lot.)

And by the time I truck over to “whole paycheck” and buy in bulk, bring them home and inevitably over cook them, I already have enjoyed a quick nutritious lunch. For several days.

It couldn’t have been simpler: A chopped sweet red pepper, some finely diced red onion, some cubed bits of cucumber, some crumbled feta and a quick dressing of oil, vinegar and Italian seasoning. What could be easier. That is why I thank TJ’s – for making my healthy eating just a little bit more convenient.

lentil salad

P.S. for some fun reading check out the raging debate over these very lentils at chowhound. Jeez these people ought to lighten up!

P.P.S. I did not receive any promotional considerations for this product review but TJ’s if you are listening.. feel free to send free stuff!

Chasing JoJos

Still trying to recreate the mythical JoJos of my youth.

If you haven’t had or heard of JoJos – you can read my last posting about them here or if that is too much clicking here is a short review…

Potatoes, scrubbed but skin on, cut length-wise, quarters and maybe quarters again. Coated in a delicious crispy coating, crunchy on the outside, fluffy on the inside.

But these are not steak fries. They are JoJos – think “chicken fried potatoes.” Except the real ones are “broasted!”

But on this JoJo day I was inspired to make some crispy coated, oven-baked versions.

Mary was my husband’s uncle’s mother-in-law (better take a minute on that one) and she apparently made the best potatoes. One time last summer I actually had the pleasure of meeting her and of course I managed to work the topic into conversation and although no real recipe was given – I gleaned enough to get the idea that she was basically making an Italian oven-baked JoJo.

From what I could gather there was butter and lots of it. Some breadcrumbs. The seasoning – Italian blend in her case. And don’t “fahget the Paaaarmm Ma.” (That is Massachusetts vernacular for “don’t leave out the Parmesan cheese mom.”) And plenty of tossing and turning in the pan during cooking time.

So I blended up a mix of seasoned bread crumbs, grated Parmesan cheese, some seasonings (mostly Italian in nature) that I annoyingly and uncharacteristically forgot to write down and tossed the raw potato wedges in hot melted butter before coating them in the breadcrumb mix and baking in a hot (400-425 degrees) oven. I tossed them carefully, several times, during cooking to ensure even crispy-ness and to make sure no butter got left behind in the pan. About a total of 30 mins +/- Basically until the thickest wedge is fork tender.

They were delicious!

Crispy and delicious, but definitely not "broasted!"

Crispy and delicious, but definitely not “broasted!”

Holiday Snacking

I never met a cheese I didn’t like and of course we all know my obsession with Robusto. So it seems shocking that I would consider any other cheese. However, just before Christmas, when I was perusing the Whole Foods cheese department (okay you got me…I was actually eating them out of all their samples)- I was inspired to set up a little cheese board.

Anybody who has shopped there and spent any time in the cheese department may have seen a little basket tucked away by the olive bar full of cheese odds and ends. I love it because it is a great way to sample some pretty fancy cheeses without committing to a big expensive piece. On this day I struck gold with some fairly decent size pieces. I saw a plan for a forming.

I got a little fancy on the cheese board and offered the fig spread that is so good with cheese and crackers. And when I was over in produce they had the most beautiful little Satsuma Mandarins, so I peeled a few of those into a pretty dish and used some whole ones with their wonderful greens.

I didn’t worry about “pairing” my cheeses or complimenting flavors, I just went with what was in the basket of odds and ends. Oh, but I must confess, after eating an embarrassing amount of samples I did buy a full size wedge of the Parrano Gouda. It was the least I could do.  But no need to worry Robusto – you remain my first and true love!

Since I was only hosting a couple of folks – this and some homemade cheese straws were all that was needed to kick off dinner!

holiday snacks

Hot Sauce And Cereal

Sounds weird, but not what you think…

Corn-flake fried chicken tenders flavored with Frank’s® Buffalo Wing Sauce!

Served with homemade diner style mac-n-cheese and bleu cheese dressing for dipping.

SO YUMMY if I say so myself!

The whole thing started with a stroll thru the hot sauce aisle  – that started an immediate craving for wings. But being a bit lazy I decided that I didn’t want to deal with bones. So as I picked up some chicken tenders, I thought about how I would get a crisp exterior on them before tossing them in the tasty mix of hot sauce and margarine. (That’s tradition, don’t mess with tradition.)

As I was putting a box of corn flakes in the cart, I noticed on the back they had printed their recipe for “corn-flake” fried chicken. (If you haven’t tried this kind of fried chicken, try it.) So it was fate. I knew exactly how I would make my crisp chicken tenders. Buffalo-style.

I marinated my tenders in a mix of milk, hot sauce, salt and pepper. I think an hour is a minimum and longer would be better. Buttermilk would be good too, instead of milk, but who has that lying around?

Crush up plenty of corn flake cereal. It is good to have most of it pretty small, like bread crumbs, to get good coverage. But you also want some not as finely crushed so you have all the texture of the “crevices.” Now set up your stations: flour* – egg – crushed cereal. (standard breading technique, ya’ll) Tip: Let them rest on the rack for a few if you plan on shallow or deep-frying, so the coating can really adhere.

I was baking these – so I sprayed my pan and the rack I would be baking on with non-stick spray. Lay the tenders carefully on and now spray those with some “spray butter.” (This is a great – but – chemical- laden product that I keep on hand for “healthy” un-frying in the oven – you can lightly drizzle the tenders with some melted, organic, low-sodium, butter instead) It is important that the coating on the tenders have some kind of “fat” moisture so they will crisp up in the oven.

Bake in a preheated 375 degree oven for 30-40 mins depending on the size/thickness of your tenders. Watch carefully to be sure they don’t burn. Flip once if you dare – carefully – to crisp the other side. Drizzle with melted margarine-hot sauce mix and serve more on the side for dipping if you want.

The leftovers make spectacular sandwiches!!

Production Notes

The amounts I used…

2 lbs +/- boneless chicken tenders

1 cup milk

1/2 cup +/- hot sauce

*flour (or for gluten-free: use cornstarch or masa) for light dredging

1 egg

3 1/2 cups corn flake cereal (measured pre-crush)

Non-stick spray

“Spray butter”

For the sauce:

1 stick of margarine and 3/4 cup +/- hot sauce – melt together on low in sauce pan

Dad’s Pear Tree

There is a pear tree in my parent’s yard. It has been there forever. I don’t know if my dad planted it or if it was there when they bought the property and built the house over 40 years ago. It’s just always been there.

It has seen some history: I wiped out on my bicycle on the driveway below it and I am sure I had some near misses with it as a new car driver. I know my dad bit into a pear every year only to be disappointed in its impossibly tough and sometimes wormy interior. He would complain and ponder why such a promising fruit tree never amounted too much.

Then my dad passed away in early spring 2011 and that very year and this year too it made the most wonderful pears. Large and unblemished. He would have loved them.

So when my mother brought down a whole bag full on recent visit to my house, I decided to bake with them.

There is nothing easier than pulling open the freezer and grabbing a package of pre-made dough rounds, otherwise know as “discos.” So I mixed up the diced pears with a little brown sugar, ground ginger, dash of ground nutmeg, dash of salt , bit of cornstarch and a pat of butter for each little pear turnover.

Brush them with a little melted butter and sprinkle a little sugar on, bake them at 400 degrees until done. Don’t burn your mouth on the hot filling!

He would have loved these!

Corn & Tomatoes

Corn and tomatoes are a traditional marriage of flavors in New England and probably all over the country. But while I wait for tomato season to start here in Massachusetts, I decided to make a twist on this flavor combination. Sun-dried tomatoes and creamed corn! Before you click to another blog, let me clarify that I used this as a filling for some empanadas. And my husband (who tells it like it is) thought they were delicious.

The filling was simply: 1 and half 8oz blocks of cream cheese (softened at near room temp is best); approximately 20 sun-dried tomatoes, reconstituted and drained; 1 clove of garlic; 1 can (14.4 oz) creamed corn; salt and pepper to taste. Combine all into a food processor until smooth. Remove the mixture. For texture and more corn flavor, add 1 cup (+/-) of frozen corn kernels that are defrosted and have been roasted on a sheet pan with salt,pepper and oil in the oven.

Stuff 20 defrosted “discos”  dough rounds with a couple teaspoons of this mixture and fold over the edges, sealing with a little water and a fork crimp. Bake in a preheated 400 degree oven on sheet pans until the empanadas are puffy, golden brown and “polka-dotted.” For the non-dieters out there try frying these little beauties instead of baking.

“polka-dotted” empanadas!

Cravings

We all crave for something at one time or another. Sometimes its attention we crave, sometimes we long for the past and sometimes we just need some chocolate.

Last week I was craving Buffalo Wings. It was no wonder with all that Superbowl hype! It seemed like every channel I turned to, had some guest chef on making their versions of spicy Buffalo wings.

Well my craving was finally satisfied. Two-fold. I made traditional spicy Buffalo wings and my neighbor made spicy buffalo chicken dip!

The wings…

I have never actually made wings myself – usually I leave that up to the experts at the bar. But they were easy. Just oven bake a couple of pounds +/- of wings until crispy – nothing on them not even a speck of oil! Meanwhile mix a 12 oz bottle of Frank’s® Redhot® new thick sauce with 1/2 stick of margarine (yes margarine was part of the original wing invention) and a dash of soy sauce and a dash of Worcestershire sauce.  Heat until bubbly and slightly reduced. Coat the hot, roasted wings and serve with the usual blue cheese dip and veggies.

The dip…

If you haven’t tried the “dip version” of this game day treat – well you better make friends with my neighbor or look up a recipe on the internet because it is delicious and even better than the actual wings because you can eat more at a time on chips than you can get from a little wing!

Thanks for sending that over, Joanie!

Disco Party

I had a disco party last weekend.

And although we do actually own a mirrored disco ball (rumored to be an actual relic from the now defunct “Palace nightclub” in Saugus, MA!) it wasn’t that kind of party. It was the kind that uses the frozen dough rounds called discos from brands like Goya and LeFey. You find them in the freezer section and you can make instant little savory empanadas or delicious little hand-pies with them.

I made both that day.

Savory filling on the left: 1/4 lb of ground lamb with 1 small sweet Italian sausage crumbled, browned and cooled. 1 tiny jar (5oz) of pumpkin butter, 1 tablespoon of dried, rubbed sage and 1 can (15.5oz) of black beans, drained and rinsed. Pulse it in the Cuisinart and fill 7 discos, seal, bake and devour.

Sweet filling on the right: 1 small package (6oz) of blackberries, 6 teaspoons of brown sugar, 3 teaspoons of salted butter – divide 3 ingredients equally between 3 discos, seal, bake and devour.

Discos make fun “game day” food!

Waste Not, Want Not

I freeze everything – even if it is just a small amount. It can always be used. I waste almost nothing.

So if a recipe calls for a small amount of crushed pineapple and all I have is the big can size, I go ahead and open it anyway because I will just freeze the rest. If I have some BBQ sauce leftover – whether homemade or bottled, I go ahead and freeze it before it sits in the fridge for another month.

You get the idea.

The other day when I looked in my freezer with the intention of finding inspiration…I found it.

What do you get when you put a frozen, bought-on-sale mini pork roast together with some leftover frozen bits of crushed pineapple and some BBQ sauce and few things that you have on hand already?

Sweet and Sour Pork!

I added 1 medium onion rough chopped and a sweet red pepper that had been hanging around my crisper. Along with the last of my green, bell peppers from the garden!

I also added a hefty amount of low sodium soy sauce and a small dash of fish sauce – both from the pantry.

I put the whole thing in a low temperature slow-cooker at 7:30 in the morning and went to work.

I came home to dinner all ready and smelling good! Just add rice!

Oh and it makes great leftovers for re-heating!

Pineapple Tomatillos

Check out these beauties and yes, I got the “good” dishes out for this picture.

A couple of weekends ago, hanging out with my mom in NH, we were making our usual Saturday afternoon dash down the road to the local farm stand to buy our regular supper of corn and tomatoes on the porch when I spotted these out of the corner of my eye.

Upon first glance I just thought they were really little but typical Tomatillos. (You all know that green “tomato-like” thing that comes in a husk and is the base for Salsa Verde, right?) Well I LOVE Tomatillos so I looked closer and saw a sign that said “Pineapple Tomatillos.” I immediately yelled out for Steve.  Steve is the 6 foot plus muscular, tan, tank-top wearing farmer-owner at the farm stand. He is married to a pretty, gentle and knowledgeable lady named Kathy. Together they run The Depot farm stand – and you just know they have a great (but hard-working) life!

Anyway he immediately offered me a sample and I was smitten. Pineapple-flavor but not citrus-y. Sort of rich like a jam. The smaller green ones have little more sour to them but nothing crazy. I instantly had visions of how to prepare these. Certainly nothing as pedestrian as a salsa with corn chips. More like a warm sweet salsa to serve with spicy pork chops. Kinda New England fall-meets-Hawaii-meets-Jamaica. Or maybe as an exotic croissant filling?  But just enjoying these freshly husked and popped right into your mouth might just be the best way.

 

Jojos on the grill

Ever had a Jojo? How about grilled Jojos?

That’s what I thought. You aren’t even sure what a Jojo is. When I had my first Jojo I didn’t know what they were called but they were delicious.

A Jojo is essentially a potato that is cut in quarters, lengthwise with skin left on. Than it is coated in a light, crisp, highly seasoned coating and fried. The best ones are actually “pressure-fried” as in “broasted.”

Now I know what you are thinking…”steak fries, I have those all the time.” Nope these are not steak fries – they are Jojos. (steak fries are thinner and don’t have a coating.)

The first ones I ever had, and these are the stick by which I measure all others, had a coating similar to fried chicken but not as thick. My mouth waters just thinking about it. And to think that was over 30 years ago at a very small town convenience store in the middle of rural New Hampshire!

My husband had his first Jojos about 15 years ago at a local joint in his neighborhood of Cambridge, MA.  A place that happens to have the best fried chicken in the area. No surprise there – they go hand in hand.

Anyway this past weekend I thought it might be fun to try a “grilled Jojo.” I coated the cut potatoes in oil and after perusing several variations of the coating recipe on the web, I settled on simple coating of seasoned salt and granulated garlic powder. I didn’t want to try to grill a potato coated first with a light egg wash and then lightly coated in seasoned flour, but that would have been much more traditional. If I was frying or even oven-baking that is what I would have done. But since I was grilling I didn’t want to risk it.

They came out pretty good and even my neighbor thought so when we shared a few across the fence. I will admit that although delicious, they were more like a grilled steak fry and not as much like the crispy, coated “fried” Jojo of my youth that I was hoping to recreate. Once this heatwave is over – I will be firing up the indoor kitchen and making some proper fried Jojos!


Author’s Notes:

I felt it only made sense to serve these with grilled brats as a nod to the Wisconsin origins of the original “broaster” machine that has made so many delicious Jojos throughout the years.

Also a little roasted corn on the grill is always delicious.

This lovely blog (click here) posted a similar nostalgia for Jojos back in January 2008 and has posted a great recipe as well.

Discos & Desperados

Lately I have been “eating” my way through the freezer in an attempt to clear some space for my anticipated summer garden harvest. (The first tomatoes and peppers are forming right now – yay!)

So the other day I was fishing around and found a package of Goya “disco” dough rounds and a forgotten pound of ground meat.

Empanadas!

In order to make empanadas in my house you have to sing the song “Desperado” – replacing the word “desperado” with “empanada.”   What!   You are not familiar with the 1973 soft rock hit by The Eagles?!  Well give it a listen here.  You won’t regret it.

So now that I have set the mood by describing a middle-aged couple singing and cooking “desperado” – I mean “empanadas” …

…on to the actual cooking part of the blog.

The filling:

Ready for the oven:

(yes I poked a hole in that back one!)

Ready to eat:

The beauty shot:

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Production notes:

I used ground pork because that is what I had – you could use ground beef, turkey, chicken or whatever.

For a vegetarian option use cooked black beans instead of meat.

I roasted and diced Acorn Squash for the filling but your favorite kind of squash will do.

Along with the usual onions and garlic browned with the meat I used some cumin powder, ground Ancho chili pepper and some smoked sweet paprika. However I would have liked it a little Zingy-ier than my husband and would suggest a high dose of your favorite vinegar-based hot sauce to brighten things up.

I baked mine, but frying them would be divine.

Weeknight Night Grill Session

What’s better than a weeknight grill session?

A weeknight fancy dessert!

We had both this past week. Looks fancy but was really easy.

I had made the potato salad the night before – boiled the little red guys and dressed simply with a combination of yogurt and low-fat mayo. Add lots of chopped celery for crunch and shallots for …well because I have a shallot addiction. Lots of flavor that included dried dill., seasoned salt, black pepper and apple cider vinegar.

The steak tips just get a standard treatment of S&P with a little red wine vinegar to liven things up. Grilled sliced onions too!

But dessert was the showstopper.

Just open up that puff pastry – you know the one already made in the freezer section – peel and slice 1 peach down the middle, add some frozen raspberries that you have in your freezer from last year’s harvest. Add some butter, sugar and a little cornstarch. Bake until yummy!

Three Goddesses & Lunch

We spent Easter Sunday in the presence of Three Goddesses at the Massachusetts Horticultural Society.

Ceres, Pomona & Flora (grain, fruit and flowers respectively) – shown below

Along with these ladies we saw a few spots of early spring blooms -


And some things not in bloom but very old…

… Back at home for lunch, we enjoyed a trio of three delicious things …

Tomato and Feta tart with Brussels Sprouts salad with roasted apples and toasted walnuts.

and a sweet treat at the end of cinnamon pear and banana coffee cake.

Special thanks to Lydia  (pantry goddess) for inspiring this menu!

“Philly Style” White Pizza

Full Disclosure: I have not been compensated in any way to endorse the new Kraft brand Philadelphia Cream Cheese line of “Cooking Cremes.”

However…I did get a free sample handed to me the other day as I exited the subway. (“T” for those of us from Boston.)

Ironically, I had just seen a magazine ad for this new product from the Kraft family a few days ago. So clearly the marketing campaign is working.

Now for those of you under the illusion that I eat totally organic and never any processed foods…you may want to cover your eyes now. That means you mom. I know you raised me better than this but I can’t help myself; I am intrigued with all things food and will try most anything at least once. And frankly I like some of it. In moderation of course. At least I am willing to admit it.

So I gladly held out my hand for the free sample of the 10 oz Italian herb flavor Kraft Philadelphia Cooking Creme with coupons for more.

My mind immediately started ticking – what could I make with this?

Since I already have a love for all things white-sauce, creamy and cheesy, I had no problem thinking of things.

Pizza

Could I spread this on a pizza shell? Would this work and would 10 mins in the oven be long enough time for this product? I checked out their website and only found 1 recipe for pizza – essentially a Margherita pizza with a white sauce. (Philly Creme)

So I used 5 ounces as my base and added my own variation on toppings.

I added tomatoes, thinly sliced red onion, cooked chicken and fat-free feta.

Of course I brushed my pre-baked thin crust, front and back, with a tablespoon of olive oil first and drizzled another tablespoon on top of the toppings just to keep things moist and yummy.

Into a well-preheated 450 degree oven – on to the screaming-hot pizza stone. (This is the secret to a crispy crust.)

10 minutes later a warm, toasty delicious and fairly healthy (low-fat) dinner!

(Kraft- you can email me for an address to send the royalties! Or at least some more coupons!)

Suggestions:

Leave off the chicken and add some thin sliced green bell pepper for a vegetarian option!

Black olives make everything better – add some!

Use a whole wheat crust for a nutritional boost!

I think some leftover blanched broccoli would be delicious!

More tomatoes = more juicy pizza – you decide how many!

“Box Stew” Quiche

Remember this?

That was one the items from Aunt Barbara’s clever “cabinet stew in a box”  Christmas gift to me.

Well after I made a toasted tortilla snack with some, the rest went to the fridge to await another use.

Quiche.

I just love using up random ingredients in quiche.

You can almost put anything in them – they are quick, easy and can be eaten all week as a snack, lunch or dinner. That is what we do in my house.

So this quiche has some cubed cooked ham, the rest of that jar of corn salsa and some shredded Monterey Jack Cheese.

You could easily leave out the ham to make this vegetarian.

You could also add a few black beans to make it more filling.

Ironically my friend over at The Perfect Pantry just posted about Quiche Lorraine. There is actually some interesting history behind that traditional form of quiche.

In the meantime….enjoy my southwest version of this classic.

Not-So-Cliché Nachos

Nachos can be boring and they can be predictable. Cliché game day food. Especially on Super Bowl Sunday. Don’t get me wrong – I enjoy nachos as much as anybody – but when my husband told me he wanted nachos for a half-time snack, I thought to myself, “Really? Can’t we be more interesting than that?” But I didn’t have any better ideas…

Then he dropped a bombshell right there in the store. (In front of the dairy case to be exact.)

He said “How about with turkey?”

“Turkey?” I asked. As in ground turkey? This can’t be true.

I couldn’t believe my big, burly, partner-in-crime would betray his first love! (Red-meat that is.)

In the past when I have suggested tacos made with ground chicken, he actually ignored me. I have to sneak ground turkey into a ground pork mix when he is not looking to make a healthier meatloaf.

Turkey. He suggests one of those rotisserie turkey breasts all cooked and yummy from the deli. I immediately visualize turkey sandwiches and head for the counter.

“Production notes”

We already know that I top the corn chips with cheese and ground cumin and broil them till crispy to make a crispy bottom to the nachos.

Next I scattered thin strips of turkey that came from the thin slices of the breast. I added a can of sliced black olives; some frozen corn kernels from the bag in the freezer and little dollops of my favorite jar of salsa.  A little more cheese and a squeeze of lime juice before putting under the broiler for 45 more seconds!

Light, easy, crunchy – not at all greasy….”not-so-cliché-nachos!”

“Box Stew”#1

Remember when Aunt Barbara gave me that clever gift this past Christmas… “Cabinet Stew in a Box.”

Well I made the most delicious snack the other day with something from it.

I will admit that when I opened the jar of “corn-chile tomato-less salsa” … I frantically considered running out for some tomatoes since I didn’t have any on hand. At least until I see my mother again. :-)

But I took a deep breath and told myself  “you can get thru this.”

(Small tomato addiction.)

I spread some of the salsa on a broiled/toasted tortilla; added cheese and plenty of cumin.

One more minute under the broiler and ….

Till the next snack time….

Tomato Confessions

I am always raiding my mother’s tomato supply. I know she doesn’t mind. I secretly thinks she keeps a supply on hand to feed my tomato addiction.

I could be addicted to worse.

Last weekend I literally took a tomato when she wasn’t looking. I couldn’t resist. She had three on the counter just begging me to take one. I took it and secreted it away in my bag before anybody noticed. A tomato that good has to be enjoyed in private with wonderful, simple accessories like sea salt, good olive oil, luscious bread, olives, cheese, soppressata and fresh basil if you have it – that kind of thing.

I think she has good tomato karma.

She always gets the most amazing tomatoes. Year round even! I think she has a secret source. A tomato dealer.
She always has the organic ones still on the vine. All ripe and juicy, bursting with flavor.

Summer is no problem – I grow my own or supplement with farm stand purchases. But winter is a sad time for me. Every time I go to the store in the winter all I see are those off-season, pinkish, tasteless hot-house varieties. I think they actually wax the skin- yuk!! But I can always relay on mom. And since I visit a lot, I can usually secure the “goods” at least once a week.

Last night’s dinner consisted of:

Stolen tomato, toasted and torn olive roll, Parmesan cheese, soppressata, olive oil, drizzle of balsamic vinegar, sprinkle of dried oregano, sea salt and fresh cracked black pepper.

Mom’s reply to this post sent via email…..

” Just so you know, I reported you to the Tomato Police!!  Not only that, you shouldn’t be putting salami on my vegetarian tomatoes!! (I had to look up soppressata) “

Sandwiches…I Mean Pizza…Three Ways

The other night in the grocery store I couldn’t locate my favorite brand of pre-baked pizza dough.  I had some “hot ham” from the deli in my fridge just begging to be used up and this inspired me to try to recreate a Cuban sandwich as pizza, therefore I found myself shopping for the pizza crusts.

Finally I found it but only in the 3-pack personal pizza size. I bought them anyway!

“Sandwich as pizza!”

That is when you convert your favorite sandwiches into pizza. It is practically a hobby with me. If it is good between slices of bread; why not on top too? Check out my previous creations: “Yawkey Way” & “Green Chilie Cheeseburger”

But since I had to get the 3-pack of crusts, I still had two other crusts in the package to consider.

So for my husband who is not so spicy – a traditional Hawaiian pizza would be just fine.

And just for fun, why not try to recreate those delicious Chilean sandwiches from the Boston restaurant Chacarero.

So on a cold snowy night – the “three amigos” of pizza were created!

Hawaiian style - everybody’s knows this favorite: red sauce, ham, pineapple and mild mozzarella cheese. (Although this one didn’t start out as a sandwich-it would make a delicious one!)

Cubano Style - to do it right…pieces of roast pork, glazed ham, swiss or provolone cheese, mustard and pickles. I didn’t have roast pork on hand so I used the hot ham instead and I used a mild cheddar. To keep it pizza-like I kept the red sauce and left off the mustard. But I think a daring person would get the mustard in there somewhere. Next time.

Chilean Style - my own version: red sauce, hot ham, Munster cheese and “banana peppers”. However, grilled marinated chicken, green beans and avocado spread would have really made this feel authentic but I wasn’t going back to the store – so next time.

I think these pizzas may need to spend some more time in R & D, but they have potential!