Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Friday Wine Day

So, lately I find myself in the habit of cooking with wine on Fridays. This allows me to justifiably imbibe because we can't let the wine go bad now that the bottle is open! HA! Works for me. Anyway, last Friday was a particularly gloomy and raw day so I thought it would be the perfect time to make this Braised Oxtail Ragu recipe that I saw on The Cozy Apron [HERE]. I had a bunch of oxtails (or maybe they were shank slices?? whatever they were they were just fine in this recipe) from the hind quarter we bought and that recipe looked like a darned good way to use them. I followed the recipe as written and it was super good over polenta and over egg noodles. So warm and hearty and comforting. This one will definitely be made again!

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Cold Weather Win

So, yesterday was Blizzard Day. That's right a foot of snow followed by sleet and freezing rain. Everything outside is coated in ice. As a full time work-at-home employee, snow days no longer mean anything to me. It is business as usual here. BUT, in preparation for the event, I decided to try one of the recipes in the new pressure cooker cookbook that my mother gave to me. I was a tad reluctant to try it because it used soda. I always figured the end result would be overly sweet. But I decided what the hell, lets give it a shot. I had all the ingredients I needed in the house and, really, how bad could it be? I have to say this was by far one of the best hunks of meat I have ever cooked. I could not believe how good it was....and not sweet at all! I urge you to try it. Me, I think I am going to explore this cooking with soda idea a little more!

Cola Beef Roast with Sweet Onion Au Jus (adapted from Miss Vickie's Big Book of Pressure Cooker Recipes)

4 Tbs Butter
2 sweet onions sliced
1 boneless beef roast (I used a spoon roast)
1 can cola (not diet)
1/4 Cup soy sauce
1 and 1/2 packets dry onion soup/dip mix
1 Tbs garlic powder

Melt the butter in the pressure cooker and add sliced onion. Saute a bit until onions begin to soften.
Add roast and remaining ingredients.
Cook in pressure cooker for 1 hour (my cooker is very basic and has no adjustments for pressure or temperature, only a timer)
Allow to decompress naturally. When pressure drops open lid a serve with pot juices. You can thicken juices to a gravy if desired.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

All for Me

The hubs underwent back surgery on Monday to replace some bulging discs that were causing nerve pain. He has been in the hospital all week and hopefully will come home tomorrow. I have been spending my days at the hospital keeping him company while trying to get a little work done on my laptop. Nights are spent at home. There is no way in hell I am staying there all night getting no sleep. Because I am by myself I get to cook spicy food, which is nice. Last night I adapted a recipe for stuffed poblanos that I found HERE on finecooking.com. True to form, I adapted the recipe to suit my needs and tastes The end product was quite tasty and wasn't nearly as spicy as I thought it would be. My husband might have even been able to handle it!

Chicken Stuffed Poblanos

2 large poblano chiles 
1/2 container of cherry tomatoes, chopped
1 can Rotel
1/2 medium white onion, chopped 
2 large cloves garlic, chopped  
1 tsp. dried oregano, crumbled 
2 tsp. ground cumin  
Generous pinch ground cinnamon 
Kosher salt  
1 Tbs. olive oil 
2 cups shredded cooked chicken  
1-1/2 cups cooked brown or white rice (I used cooked Farro) 
1 cup corn kernels
2 cups grated Cheddar
2 Cups salsa verde
1/4 Cup half and half

Roast and peel poblano peppers. Make a slit down the side and remove seeds and core. Leave stem intact
Purée the tomatoes, onion, garlic, oregano, cumin, cinnamon, and 1/2 tsp. salt in a food processor. Heat the oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium heat. Add the purée and cook, stirring frequently, until the liquid has evaporated and the mixture looks thick and pulpy, 8 to 11 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat. Stir in the chicken, rotel, corn and rice, and then 1 cup of the cheese. Season to taste with salt. Divide the filling among the peppers, wrapping the sides of the peppers up and around the filling, some of which will still be exposed.
Combine salsa verde and half and half and pour onto the bottom of a baking dish. Add peppers and top them with additional cheddar cheese. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes or until cheese is melted and sauce is hot. Spoon pan sauce over peppers before serving

Friday, February 24, 2017

Talking Turkey

Lent is just around the corner, and while I have never been a practicing Catholic, I figured it is as good a time as any to try and make some lifestyle changes. HA! How many times have I said that on this blog! LOL! Seriously though, the last doctor appointment I had I was shocked to see the number on the scale. I knew I had been gaining weight but never dreamed that it was that much. Something has to change because I am not happy about my weight and the affect it could have on my health. I was thinking of doing the Atkins route for Lent since that worked for me in the past but I know that once you introduce carbs back in it's really hard to maintain the weight loss. Then I thought about 21-Day fix since that offers a wider array of food choices. The only think I don't like is that you are not supposed to have cream in your coffee. I like cream in my coffee and, even though it is a small thing, it is one of the few things that I don't want to give up. It is part of my morning ritual and I enjoy it. If it makes me happy, I am keeping it. So, what I figured I would do is try to meld the two. I will use 21-day fix to guide my portion sizes and allotments and try to trim carbs wherever possible and opt for whole grains over any white carbs. I am gradually easing into this program and trying new things. This week I tried cottage cheese for the first time. It wasn't horrible but I found it to be surprisingly salty. I wasn't expecting that and have to admit it wasn't my favorite. I think I will be sticking to plain Greek yogurt to go with my frozen berries. I also made this turkey meatloaf last night. Again, it is not completely healthy because I used stove top stuffing in it but it is far healthier than the beef meatloaf I usually make. When I told the Hubs I was making turkey meatloaf he made his usual "face". (EAT IT OR DIE!) When I said I was making Farro to go with it you would have thought I ripped one of his toenails out. However, once he tried it he changed his tune and really enjoyed it.

Erika's Turkey Meatloaf

1.3 pounds ground turkey
1 Tbs butter
1/2 medium onion, chopped fine
4-5 cloves garlic, minced
4-6 medium cremini (small portobellos) mushrooms, chopped fine
1 box stove top stuffing mix (chicken)
2 eggs
1/2 Cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/4 C ketchup
1 Tbs dijon mustard
pinch of salt/pepper

Preheat oven to 350F

In a frying pan, saute mushrooms, onions and garlic in the butter until mushrooms are soft and most of the liquid has evaporated. Let cool
When mushroom mixture has cooled, place in a large mixing bowl with the remaining ingredients. Mix until thoroughly combined

Place meat mixture in a roasting pan and shape into a log. OPTIONAL - coat outside of loaf with a thin layer of ketchup. Bake for 1 hour. Let stand before serving

Farro with Roasted Vegetables 

1 cup cooked Farro
3 plum tomatoes, sliced thick
1 medium onion, sliced
1 medium zucchini, cubed
2 Tbs + olive oil (i used a lemon infused olive oil)
Splash (2-3 Tbs) balsamic vinegar
salt to taste
1-2 Tbs garlic powder
1-2 Tbs onion powder (granulated)

Preheat over to 425F
Place veggies in a roasting pan. Sprinkle with salt, onion and garlic powders. Toss with oil and vinegar to coat. Roast for 20 minutes. When veggies are soft, transfer veggies and pan liquids into a bowl with the cooked farro. Toss to combine. OPTIONAL - you could add some grated Parmesan cheese to the bowl if you would like. This is how my hubs likes to eat it.


Monday, February 13, 2017

Old School

In the summer time I love to hit the outdoor flea markets in search of ancient treasures. I have to admit that over the years I have found some really cool and interesting things. I still regret not buying the victorian olive pitter I saw. When I went back the following weekend the vendor had sold it. Even he regretted letting it go. It was really cool. Vintage pyrex and cut glass servingware are always on my radar, as well as good, old cast iron. I just love that stuff! I must say that over the years I have collected some nice pieces but it seems that they are becoming harder to find....cheaply that is. Sometimes I shake my head when I go to the flea and see the prices that some people are asking. This is a flea market not antiques road show! Oh and that show flea market flip. I laugh so hard! I used to live near the Elephants Trunk and I can tell you those vendors never let their stuff go that cheaply. You know it's all for TV! But back on point. The other thing I always look for are vintage cookbooks. Especially the old church fundraiser types. They are easy to spot because they are usually small booklets. This past summer I scored a whole stack of them for like $3. What a steal. The ones with dates in them range from 1936 to 1949. Now, I will admit some of the recipes were a little strange to me like Pork Cake (whaaat???) and Tuna Fish, Pineapple and Banana Salad. But there are some real winners in there too. Especially, the desserts and muffins. Huckleberry pancakes is on my list of things to try and soon as I find a source for huckleberries. I don't think I have ever seen them for sale here in the northeast. I winder if I could get them a whole foods for $80/lb (haha). If you are really lucky there will be some handwritten favorites written in the back or notes made in the margin identifying favorite recipes or good modifications. Yesterday, I was perusing one of those old books. It was not dated but was published by the Sumner Volunteer Fire Department in Sumner, Maine. The recipe was for something called Coffee Squares. Sounds good right! I had all the ingredients on hand so I decided to give it a go. I did make a couple of modifications. The recipe called for margarine (I told you it was a vintage recipe). I opted to use half butter and half crisco. I also added a teaspoon of espresso powder to up the coffee flavor and I added a teaspoon of butter vanilla flavoring since I used crisco. Rather than rewrite the recipe I took a picture of it. The notes in the margin are mine.


The resulting dessert was something between a cake and a brownie and it was delicious. I used slivered almonds for the nuts because that is what I had on hand, but really anything would work. Next time I might try toasted hazelnuts but walnuts or pecans would also go well. I also recommend lining your pan with parchment. I greased mine but it was still tough getting these babies out.


Friday, February 3, 2017

A Taste Of Philly

Philadelphia may be famous for cheese steaks but that is not the only sandwich this city is known for. They also make a serious roast pork sandwich! Personally, I think the Philly style roast pork Italian is far better than ANY cheese steak. There is certainly no shortage of BAD cheese steaks in that city but the pork always is a hit. The 2 most popular locales for the roast Pork Italian are DiNic's in the Reading Market right downtown and Tony Luke's in South Philly. On a recent trip through the Philly Airport I was greeted with a Tony Luke right there in the Terminal. Damned if I didn't get sandwiches on may way out and on my way back! So yesterday, as I was staring in my deep freezer looking for inspiration for something different for dinner, I happened upon a pork roast WAY in the back. The light went on! I was going to recreate those sandwiches I love so much. After a little research, I realized I wouldn't be able to do it exactly the way they do. It takes them 3 days to to it right! They season the pork the first day, slow roast it the second, and serve it the third. For me, it was a 1 day event. As a result, my pork wasn't quite as flavorful (it was still damn good) and it could not be sliced like they do in the sandwich shop. In order for that you need to chill the meat, then slice it, and reheat it in it's juices. SO, my pork was more pulled in texture. Still delicious! Also essentisl for this sandwich are a good, sharp provolone and a GOOD crusty roll. Do NOT use any pre-bagged bread aisle rolls. Go to the bakery and get the good bread. It need to be sturdy enough to hold this sandwich together. I took a 30 minute drive to hit the Italian market for the good bread and cheese. They also have pre made broccoli rabe (rapini) which also made my life a hell of a lot easier. If you don't have access to prepared broccoli rabe and have to make it yourself I highly recommend Lidia Bastianich's recipe. You can find it here.

Philly Style Roast Pork

1 Pork Rib Roast
1 head garlic, separate and peel cloves
2 Tbs fresh rosemary
2 Tbs parsley
1 Tbs salt
2 tsp black pepper
4 Tbs olive oil
2 Cups white wine

Pre heat over to 275

Debone and butterfly rib roast, remove fat cap
Add garlic, herbs and olive oil to a food processor and chop until fine.
Rub herb and garlic mixture all over pork roast
Roll and tie pork roast

At this point you can place the roast into the refrigerator overnight to really let the seasoning permeate the meat

OR

Place roast into a baking pan and add white wine, also add the bones and some of the fat that was trimmed away.
Cover tightly with foil and roast for 5-6 hours.

Once roasted, Ideally you should let if cool and refrigerate overnight. This will allow the meat to rest and reabsorb its juices. It will also become sliceable.

OR

Let cool until you are able to handle the meat without burning yourself. Slice into thick pieces, the meat will crumble. Place meat back into pan with juices for a few minutes while you prepare the sandwiches.

Assemble Sandwiches

For the sandwiches, slice open rolls and add a layer of sharp provolone. Add the porck pieces, top with warm broccoli rabe, pour a couple spoonfuls of the pork juices over the sandwich (Do not skip this step). Devour!

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

It's OK to be Blue

It is OK to be Blue.....CHEESE! I never used to like blue cheese but all of a sudden I find I can't get enough of it. Funny how tastes change over time. Whenever the hubs and I go out to eat these days blue cheese is always my salad dressing of choice. I even ask for blue cheese dressing on my Cobb Salad, which (if made correctly) already comes with blue cheese! I can't seem to get enough of it!  I have also always noticed how much better restaurant blue cheese dressing is compared to anything you can buy in the store. Of the store brands, I like Wish Bone blue cheese dressing the best but it still doesn't compare to making it yourself. This way you can really load it with cheese. Here is my recipe for blue cheese dressing. I won't claim it is the BEST ever, but it's pretty darn tasty!

Erika's Blue Cheese Dressing
1 Cup Mayonnaise
1 Cup Sour Cream
1/3 Cup half and half
1 tsp white wine vinegar
1/4 tsp cracked black pepper
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp worcestershire sauce
1/4 tsp dry mustard
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp sugar
1/8 tsp cayanne pepper
7 oz blue cheese, crumbled. (adjust to your level of cheesiness!)

Mix all indredients except blue cheese until smooth. Stir in blue cheese crumbles.

Yields about 1 qt of dressing