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.

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!)

Level 3

Level 3 refers to ( in this case ) the level of hot in my jar of Korean hot pepper paste!

level 3

Recently I had a hanker-ing for some Korean BBQ and with no food trucks in sight I was forced to search the aisle of my supermarket for just the right stuff. There was only level 3 available, no #1 or #2 . I was worried this might blow the roof off my mouth, but I was brave and tried a tiny bit as soon as I got home. Straight up from the jar. It wasn’t bad. Downright tasty even. In fact I bet I could handle up to “level 4″ should I come across it some day!

First, I applied a dry rub to the pork spare ribs I decided to use. A quick mix of ground ginger, seasoned salt, onion powder and smoked paprika did the trick. (I used 1 tsp each for about 2 lbs of spare ribs.) I let that hang out on the ribs for a few hours during the day while I did errands, etc.

Second, since I didn’t have all day to fire up the smoker in the back yard – oh wait I don’t have a smoker – I simply put them into a foil-covered baking dish into a 375 degree oven for about an hour to steam them to delicious. (longer if you have more ribs, use a thermometer if you want.) So at this point the ribs were cooked through and tasty but lacking the caramelized, charred outside that we all love.

Thirdly, I put those ribs directly onto a hot gas grill in my backyard – that I do have – and charred them a bit until they looked good enough to eat.

But wait!

The final step was to brush on my homemade “Korean BBQ” sauce and char the ribs even more. Watching carefully that they didn’t cross the fine line of deliciousness to burned. With all that sugar in the sauce you have to be careful not to apply the sauce too soon.

Like all good BBQ, serve with homemade slaw and some sweet pickles! Extra sauce on the side too!

Like all good BBQ, serve with homemade slaw and some sweet pickles! Extra sauce on the side too!

The Sauce:

1 tb +/- finely diced(minced) onion

1 tsp of oil for sautéing onions

2 small garlic cloves, super finely minced

1 tsp fresh ginger, super finely minced or paste

1/2 cup Ketchup

1 tsp low sodium soy sauce

2 tsp rice vinegar ( plain or low sodium seasoned)

1 tsp toasted sesame oil*

2 tsp ( or more if you want it hot!) Gochjang paste ( Korean Hot Pepper Paste)

1 cup pan drippings from your spare rib oven-roasting pan or just plain water.

Saute the onion in the oil till nice and soft, and a bit brown. Turn off the heat and add the garlic and ginger in. The residual heat kind of warms the garlic and takes some of the raw “bite” out without really cooking it. (at least I thought so) Add the ketchup, soy, vinegar, oil and pepper paste to the warm sauce and stir thoroughly. It will be thick. Add enough pan drippings from your rib oven roasting dish or even just plain water to thin it to your liking. Sauce will end up being about 2 cups +/- of liquid.

This sauce can be served as a table condiment as is, used for a glaze in the last 10 mins on your grilled food or just eaten with a spoon. Probably keeps in the fridge for at least 5 days but I am no expert and frankly it was just the perfect amount for 2 lbs of ribs!

*due to sesame allergies in the house I actually used Pumpkin Seed oil but toasted sesame oil would be more traditional.

Note: gluten free folks – read your labels on the hot pepper paste – not all are created equal.

Mexican Lasagna

or maybe Enchilada casserole? But if I call it that than we have to immediately break into the a rendition of “Desperado” – replacing the word “Desperado” with “Enchilada.”   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.

Anyway I digress…Back to dinner.

I simply diced up a small onion, cut 2 small chicken breasts into small pieces and browned them in a pan with oil. ( or butter or whatever you like) Prior to going into the pan, I coated the chicken pieces in little mixture made with 2-3 three tablespoons of AP flour mixed with 1/2 tsp -1 tsp each of these ground spices: cumin, chili powder, salt/pepper, oregano, and a little smoked paprika. (Kinda like you might coat stew beef pieces in seasoned flour before browning them.) Once everything was browned and getting delicious I “de-glazed” the pan with a small amount of warm water and some healthy dashes of hot sauce. This formed a small bit of a thick sauce. ( add some more water if you need to) Turn off the heat and add 1 regular size can of drained black beans.

Now the assembly: Spray an oven proof dish with non-stick spray, coat your flour tortilla by dipping it into a bowl of enchilada sauce** and place it as the first layer. Be generous with the sauce on the tortilla. Now spoon some of the saucy chicken and bean mix on top, add a thin slice or two of your favorite cheese (I used Munster) or a small handful of shredded. Top with another coated tortilla and repeat. End with a tortilla on top, pour the rest of the enchilada sauce over the top and down the sides and top with a little more cheese. ( I switched to a handful of shredded for the top.)

Exhibit 1:

mexicanlasagana prepped for oven

A couple stray black beans got on top!

Now bake covered in a preheated 375 degree oven for about 25 mins, uncover and bake another 10-15 mins till browned, bubbly and extra sauce around edges seems thicker. Like all lasagna this will cut and taste better if allowed to cool a bit at first. (Will somebody help convince my husband?!) Or better yet cool completely, cover and freeze for another time or reheat later and bring this to your next potluck party!

I made mine using 2 quite small chicken breasts and 6 small tortillas as I was practicing cooking for two instead of my usual 10 but this could easily be made in a huge batch!

** Enchilada sauce can be made easily using a recipe such as this one. Or you can purchase it in cans/jars in the supermarket. Try the “ethnic” aisle or wherever the taco kits are sold in your store.

I used about 1 cup +/-  Any extra sauce can always be frozen and later thrown into soups ( spicy tomato soup!) or used as a marinade or glaze for meat or veggies.

hot from the oven

Waiting for it to cool a bit before cutting into it!

Arroz con carne de cerdo

Rice with pork.

Not an expert here by any means – in fact had to look this title up – so hopefully we can trust the internet on this translation!

Anyway, that is what I made the other day. Some “spanish style rice” and some grilled pork chops to go along with it. A true “Arroz con carne de cerdo” or its cousin “Arroz con pollo” (chicken) would have the meat browned and finished with the rice. My variation was separate items, but still very yummy if I say so myself!

arroz con pork

I started with butter, onion, diced sweet red pepper and garlic in a pan. I added the dry rice to the pan after things were browned up nicely to toast it a bit. I also threw in my dry spices at this point to also “toast” them a bit. Adobo seasoning, ground cumin, smoked paprika, chile powder and ground annatto seed along with black pepper. A few mins after that, the liquids went in. I used both stock and a small can of tomato sauce. Simmer covered for 35-40 mins or until the rice is cooked and the liquid evaporated. Add some frozen peas in the last 10 minutes or so of cooking. Before serving, taste for seasoning. (you may want to add more salt or a bit of hot sauce)
As for measurements… just use your basic 2:1 ratio of dry rice to liquid and just sprinkle in a teaspoon or two of each seasoning depending on how much rice you are cooking.
Shhhhhhh.. I used healthy whole grain brown rice since the color was going to be hidden from my husband anyway!

Snow Day Chili

Chili and a blizzard go hand in hand. So that is what I made this past weekend when the “blizzard of 2013″ hit our Boston area!

After hours of digging out, (but kudos to the neighbors with snowblowers for doing most of our heavy lifting!!) coming in to chili to warm us from the inside out was perfect!

Chili is such a great thing to eat in general but it is always good on hot dogs, burgers, tortilla chips,salad and my favorite: baked potatoes! I remember when the “Wendy’s” restaurants arrived in New England with their salad bars and baked potatoes. (Yup Wendy’s had salad bars and a good ones too at that time.) My dad and I would sneak down there on the night it was his turn to make dinner and get the salad bar with a cup of chili and the chips. We would crumble up the chips and pile on the cheese. Sometime we got the baked potatoes with the chili and extra fresh chopped raw onion of course! They still offer a “taco salad” and the baked potato with chili but somehow it is just not the same.

My version is fancied up with a little sweet Italian sausage and a can of “Ro*tel” to keep it easy. It is also not crazy spicy (like some of my other chili’s – Holy Mole!) so everybody can enjoy and add their own level of heat with hot sauce of their choice.storm day chili

Production Notes

1 lb sweet Italian sausage, out of casing and crumbled

1 lb ground beef (leaner is nice)

1 onion, chopped small

1 lg garlic clove, minced

1 can (10oz) original “Ro*tel”

1 can (13oz +/-) red beans or black beans or whatever bean you like

2 Tb ground cumin ( less if you don’t love as much as me)

2 Tsp ground chili powder

2 Tsp smoked paprika (sweet not spicy- or spicy if you like it)

2 Tsp ground Ancho Chili powder

salt and pepper to taste

1 Large can (28oz) crushed tomatoes

2 Tb brown sugar (you can omit or cut in half if you don’t want it too sweet)

1/2 a can ( the 28oz one) of water

Brown the meats (no extra oil needed) in a heavy bottomed dutch oven, until done. Scoop meat out and set aside. Pour out about 1/2 the fat. In the remaining fat in the pan add the onions and garlic and saute a few minutes. Add all the dry spices and kinda toast for a minute. Deglaze the pan with the tomatoes and Ro*tel. Add the meat back in, stirring to combine everything. Add the water – you may want less for thicker chili or more for thinner chili – also depends on how long you want to/plan to simmer. Add additional hot sauce at this point – I like a good vinegar based one like Tabasco or Texas Pete but you can use your favorite. Add the beans (drain them first) and simmer on low for anywhere from 1- 4 hours to let flavors develop and deepen.  This could be transferred to a low slow cooker for the day too.  Serve with all the fixin’s! Freeze the extra until the next snow day! It makes a lot!

Even the trash needs shoveling out!

Even the trash needs shoveling out!

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!

Tostada [tosˈtaða]

However you want to pronounce the word, you have to pronounce the dish “delicious.”

Warm and crunchy on the bottom and topped with delicious toppings.

(And fairly healthy in this case!)

I was hankering for some spice recently but didn’t want to go too heavy. (Read: oozing, cheesy goodness) Also I had just purchased some golden beets and was looking for a unique way to use them. Plus I had some rotisserie chicken on hand and what is easier than that?

So I simmered the chicken in a can of fire-roasted tomatoes from my pantry, plus a hefty amount of ground cumin and some “Arizona dreaming” blend from Penzeys that I got as a gift this past Christmas.

I simply peeled and quartered my beets; sliced and seeded one large Poblano pepper; and roasted them on a sheet with olive oil till tender and caramelized.

I also seeded and finely diced some fresh Poblano pepper on the side for a hot-as-you-want topping.

To assemble: Warm the tostadas in a foil pack in a low 250 degree oven. Spoon the warm chicken mixture on top, add sliced roasted beets, diced roasted Poblano peppers, chopped fresh cilantro, fresh Poblano pieces, and some salty, crumbly Mexican cheese like Queso Seco para Freir or use a more-commonly found Cotija Anejo.  (or just use a dry feta and don’t tell anyone!) Squirt with fresh lime juice and you are ready for a party in your mouth!

Warning: these can be very messy! If you want more of a “glue” to keep the toppings on, spread some re-fried beans on the tostadas first, but if you want to keep it a little lighter, than use napkins and don’t serve this on a first date!

Meatballs # 352

No doubt you have already realized that one of my life’s pursuits is to make the perfect meatballs. I don’t just mean Italian style – I mean all of them. Big, small, Swedish, veggie, sweet and sour, cocktail; you name it.

Recently I was inspired to get the polenta out of my cabinet and actually try making it. The original recipe of inspiration had a delicious chuck roast done Osso Bucco style on top of the polenta. When I was at the store I just didn’t see any chuck roast under 13 lbs and that is just too much even for professional eaters like me and my husband. The ground pork was on sale and besides I had been craving meatballs ever since I watch Alex Guarnaschelli make her crispy, spicy ones on her “day off.”  Than I noticed the zucchini was on sale too.

As they say in sports talk “now we have ourselves a ballgame!”

Spicy, pork meatballs with sautéed zucchini in a light tomato sauce over Parmesan sage polenta.

Now I don’t want to brag or anything, but these meatballs were the best I ever had. Just the right level of spice for us – probably not hot enough for the heat-lovers among us – but enough to get the idea without overwhelming the dish. The addition of sour cream to the meatball mix was a genius tip from Alex. But the rest was all my creation. I added a little ground beef chuck to “up” the fat and flavor because I find that ground pork can still be a little too lean unless you are grinding your own from a fatty cut. I was not on this day.

I fried these in a generous amount of olive oil.  And this time while I was frying them all crispy – I stayed close to make sure they didn’t burn! I like small meatballs in general and I made these extra small (1/2″ to an 1″ diameter) so they could be fully cooked in the pan frying. I worked patiently in batches and kept them in a warm (200 degree) oven while I sautéed the sliced zucchini, a little diced onion and added some light, fresh, chunky style tomato sauce to the pan.

The meatball recipe

1.5 to 1.75 lbs of ground meat (I used a 2:1 ration of pork to beef)

1 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp celery seed

1 tsp smoked sweet paprika

1 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp chili flakes (more if you like)

1/2 cup sour cream (low-fat if you feel you must)

2 eggs, lightly beaten

1 cup bread crumbs, toasted (plain or seasoned would be fine)

1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1/8 cup +/-  fresh herbs chopped (I used fresh sage and flat leaf parsley – but your favorites would be fine)

salt and pepper to taste

olive oil for frying

Mix all but the olive oil together using clean hands until just combined. Keep hands damp and form meatballs sized 1/2″ to 1″ in diameter. Fry on med-high heat in batches, in plenty of olive oil in a saute pan. Don’t use a non-stick if possible as the crust on the meatballs won’t form as well. Be generous with the olive oil keeping at least 1/8″ deep in pan. Turn the balls gently and frequently to keep them round and evenly browned. I went about 12-16 mins total for each batch of meatballs. The larger the ball the longer the fry time and the heat must be moderated. Tip: Fry one meatball first to test for seasoning and fry time before forming the rest of the balls. Also these can be done ahead, cooled and refrigerated or if to be used right away keep cooked batches warm in a 200 degree oven in a loosely covered dish. Makes about 50-55 balls.

Heat on Heat

Supposedly eating spicy foods in hot weather cools you off. Maybe it’s something about the spicy foods making you sweat? Maybe it’s just an urban legend.

But in honor of the heat wave I have been making spicy foods all week.

Wednesday night was “tostada” night. For anybody who might be wondering what a tostada is…. it is an open-faced taco on a crispy corn tortilla. I am sure there are some traditional fillings/toppings you can use; but in true “cabinet stew style” I just used what I had around the house.

A few hot Italian sausages broken out of their casings provided the spicy meat. A couple leftover ears of boiled corn-on-the-cob shaved off the cob added a nice southwest touch. One diced green bell pepper added a cool crunch. Onion of course because everything starts with sautéed onion. To up the heat factor, a few shakes of your favorite hot sauce. I toasted my corn tortillas in a dry skillet but if you wanted to fry them – that would of course be heavenly because everything is better fried.

To make things more substantial I made my own Spanish rice. It was easy. I cooked some brown rice, added a can of crushed tomatoes, some Adobo seasoning and cumin powder. Voila! Spanish rice. (This is a great way to sneak healthy brown rice into your husband as he can’t tell because of the tomatoes coating everything!)

To really bring the heat level up, I topped it all with shredded spicy Cabot Pepper Jack cheese!

A squeeze of lime juice and you are ready to “sweat it out!”

Are You Ready For Some Football?

I wasn’t. I mean I wasn’t ready snack-wise.

I am definitely ready for some football and some football weather but when I realized the first pre-season game was being broadcast this past Sunday night I went into “snack-panic” on Sunday afternoon. What could I throw together? What ingredients did I have on hand to roll out some football-worthy snacks?

Beef nachos were forming in my head for “football night in America!”

Of course I would need to avoid running to the store at all costs since that was more effort than I was willing to put out.  So I checked the cabinets and found corn chips. I checked the fridge and knew we had some cheese. Happily I found had a 1/2 lb of ground beef in the fridge too. I knew I could chop up some onions to brown with the beef and also those green peppers kicking around the crisper. Why not! But what about some seasoning and/or salsa? Can’t have nachos without some of that on hand. Or can you? As I checked the cabinets I found no salsa – so I improvised. I added a hefty amount of cumin to the browning beef, along with salt and pepper. I also added a half of a can of Chipotle peppers. Those spicy wonders would give a kick!

But I needed a little more tomato action. I decided to grab a can of diced tomatoes I had on hand; opting to save my precious few garden fresh ones to enjoy in a non-cooked way. I opened the can and to my surprise I had opened a can of diced tomatoes WITH oregano, basil and balsamic vinegar already in it. One of those crazy purchases I forgot I owned. That wasn’t going to mix well with the Tex-Mex flavors I had going! Desperate for a tomato product from the cupboard and not finding any plain diced, no sauce and no canned whole tomatoes – I made a bold decision.

I opened a can of Campbell’s tomato soup!

This product has stood the test of time through many a casserole and cabinet stew alike. I used about a half of a can just to get the browned beef, onions, peppers, cumin and chipotle the right consistency and tomato base.

No matter what you put on top of your nachos, here is my secret for crispy cheesy chips every time…

I like to broil the cheese onto the plain chips first.The cheese gets all melty and provides a moisture barrier between the chips and the spicy meat mix. The chips stay crisp once the meat mix goes on.  Most folks put the spicy meat mix on first, then the cheese and put the whole thing under the broiler – the problem with that, is the chips get soggy under there while the cheese is melting up on top.

Then once you add the spicy meat mix, if you feel you must, add more cheese on top. (and I often do) Add it real quick and broil for like 30 seconds more.

Oh and final tip… only one layer of nachos keeps it crisp too.  If you are feeding a crowd just use a huge sheet pan or do it in batches. It doesn’t pay to layer the chips and spicy meat mix – the chips get soggy.

My husband never knew about the Campbell’s soup but he loved the spicy beef nacho’s.