Thursday, May 5, 2016

Stuff it!

I am cranky today. The weather has been damp and cold and shitty for a week solid, despite all my efforts I haven't lost a single pound, work is boring me to death, and now my husband informs me we may have to cancel one of our (already paid in full) vacations because his asshole bosses are giving him shit for taking too much time off (he has been having back pain issues and has been out for medical reasons lately). Fuckers. So, now here I am at work with no motivation to do anything and a very strong urge to just say, "fuck it" and walk out. Unfortunately, this whole adulthood thing prevents me from doing just that and the alternative is to spill my guts here in a last ditch attempt to regain my sanity. Some days the daily grind REALLY wears me down. Anyway, back to the topic at hand, which is always FOOD. I did go home yesterday with the full intention of making something post worthy. I got my inspiration from Marie over at "Proud Italian Cook". She makes such wonderful things. I really do love her blog. And the pictures. Well, let's just say that if you want an idea of what this recipe looks like, check out her pictures. It is no secret that mine suck. In fact, I intentionally did not take pictures of my recipe because I didn't think people would want to eat it if they saw my crappy picture of it, lol. I have been on a real veggie kick lately and wanted something that I haven't had in a while. When I saw Marie's recipe for stuffed eggplant I knew immediately I wanted to do something along those lines. I have actually been wanting to try stuffing eggplant since seeing Lidia B. do it on TV several months ago. Marie's version was lower in carbs so I went with her rendition (Sorry, Lidia!). Since, I was going to try to feed it to my husband I tweaked it a little by adding sweet Italian sausage and subbing the artichokes with sun dried tomatoes. Once it went into the oven, I came back to reality and knew he wouldn't eat it because. "it looked funny". So I took the unused sausage and made his favorite sausage and broccoli (I didn't have broccoli rabe) with pasta and parmesan. I was too tired to have to sell dinner to him. Just fricking eat it or die! For those of you who actually like to try new things, the stuffed eggplant was delicious and the recipe, as best as I can recall, is as follows:

Erika's Stuffed Eggplant

1 medium sized purple globe eggplant
olive oil
1/2 Cup fresh spinach
1/4 Cup marinated sun dried tomatoes, chopped
1 Cup loose Italian sausage, browned
1/2 Cup ricotta cheese
1/3 Cup shredded mozzarella

salt to taste

Pre heat over to 400 F

Silce eggplant in half lengthwise and carefully scoop out insides leaving the exterior intact. You should have 2 eggplant boats.

Coat eggplant boats as well as the scooped out eggplant "guts" in olive oil and place on a baking sheet. Roast for 20 minutes or until soft.

While eggplant is roasting, combine remaining ingredients in a mixing bowl to make stuffing.

When cooked, add eggplant guts to stuffing mixture and combine.

Scoop stuffing mixture into the eggplant boats and return to the 400 F oven for another 15-20 minutes until cooked through. Let cool before serving.

UPDATE: Ok, so this is definitely one of those dishes that tastes better leftover. Don't get me wrong, it was great right out of the oven but I had the leftovers last night and I swear it tasted even better. I also gave it a drizzle of balsamic glaze right before I ate it which REALLY made it outstanding. Go for the glaze, you won't be sorry!

Thursday, April 21, 2016

A Honey of a Meal

So yesterday was not a great work day. It was stressful and I came home grumpy and irritated and wanting wine, lots and lots of wine. To top it off, I got home and realized I forgot to put the damn trash can up and the dogs had a field day with it. GAH! Thankfully it was practically empty so the mess wasn't too horrible but it was still the last thing I wanted to deal with when I got home. I decided I wanted something quick and easy and that I could make while roasting up all the lovely veggies I bought last week. That's when I remembered that I hadn't made honey mustard chicken in a while and that would be super easy to make once the veggies were all prepped and in the oven. The larger roasting venture included 6 peppers, 5 zucchini and 2 onions. That's for sandwiches and salads and where ever else I can use them for the next few days. For dinner, I roasted broccoli and zucchini. I simply tossed the chopped veggies in salt garlic powder, parmesan cheese and olive oil and threw them in a 400 F oven. I also did a pan of new potatoes. Those were cut in half and tossed with salt, onion powder, and olive oil before getting tossed into a second pan and topped with chopped onion and strips of bacon. On to the chicken. I cut 2 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves into large strips and tossed them into a mixture of raw honey, yellow mustard, garlic powder and salt.  I let them sit and stew for a few before tossing into a hot pan with a little olive oil. You can leave the breasts whole if you want but I would suggest getting them prepped well ahead of time so they have more time to stew in the sauce before you cook them.I cut them because I knew they would only have a few minutes before hitting the pan. Once the chicken was cooked through I gave the sauce a little tastes and added more mustard and garlic. It was a tad too sweet. Once everything was the way I like it, the veggies were done and it was time to eat! YUM!

Erika's Honey Mustard Chicken

 (all measurements are approximate)
2 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
1/4 C honey
2 Tbs yellow mustard
1 tsp salt
1/2 Tbs garlic powder
2 Tbs oil

Combine honey, mustard, salt and garlic powder in a bowl and toss with chicken breasts. Allow to marinade for 20 minutes if breasts are whole. For shorter marinading cut chicken into strips.

Heat oil in a large saute pan. When hot, add chicken and marinade. Cook until chicken is cooked through. Serve Hot.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Do You Know the Muffin Man?

Ok, so here's the thing. I really, really, REALLY dig blueberry muffins. When I was a kid we used to love to make the boxed ones that came with the little can of wild Maine blueberries. So delicious with the sweet, purple stained muffin matrix surrounding those tart berries. I have always wanted to be able to re-create them at home. Admittedly, those Maine blueberries are key and are only available at the end of July, early August IF you are lucky enough to find them. I am not a big fan of the muffins at the grocery store or any of the coffee shops. Sure they are tasty, but am I the only one who finds them grossly oversized? Even the nutrition information on them says that 1 muffin is 2 servings - sometimes even 2.5 servings. Who the hell shares a muffin? Left over muffin sucks. So, you either waste half or eat way too much (I am guilty of the latter. Every. Time.). My attempts to bake muffins at home, where I can control the size and sweetness have never been really successful. They always seemed too dense and heavy. This weekend, since I had a lazy Sunday, a pint of blueberries in my freezer from the summer, and a new oven to break in, I decided to give muffin baking another shot. I had stumbled across a recipe claiming to be the BEST! Yeah, we will see about that. I had been made that promise before with a peach cobbler that was FAR from being even remotely good. Anyway, the ingredient list looked promising so I gave it a shot. This time I will concede, the muffins came out pretty damn good. They certainly were the best I had ever made. The recipe did not make a huge batch either, which was kind of nice since there was less change for waste. I absolutely abhor wasting food. It turned out 6 large (not Jumbo) muffins with enough batter leftover to fill a custard ramekin. The muffins were light and moist with just the right sweetness for me. A sprinkle of turbinado sugar on the top added a nice crunch too. So, I highly recommend giving these babies a try.

Blueberry Muffins
(recipe Courtesy of: Yammie's Noshery
2/3 cup white sugar
1 large egg
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon vanilla butter emulsion (optional)
1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour 
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup sour cream
1 cup blueberries
Turbinado sugar for the top (optional)

Preheat oven to 375ºF. Place muffin liners in a muffin/cupcake pan.

Combine the sugar, egg, oil, milk, vanilla emulsion, and vanilla in a bowl and stir until well combined.

In a separate bowl mix the flour, baking powder and salt.  Once combined, stir dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until combined. Don't over-mix.

Stir in the sour cream just until well distributed. Fold in the blueberries.

Evenly distribute the batter in the muffin tin. Sprinkle the tops with the turbinado sugar.

Bake muffins for about 25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. If you're using frozen berries it will take about 5 minutes longer.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Not an Easter Post!

While everybody else is posting their Easter inspirations, here I am with a nice heavy pasta dish, lol. In all honesty, I did not intend for this dish to be so rich. I was going for a light wine and cream sauce but what I got was quite the opposite. That doesn't mean it wasn't delicious. I was just REALLY filling. Last weekend my BFF and I dragged our hubs to the city with us for what I call a "food blitz". Actually, since we had the whiney men with us, this was a truncated blitz because we did not hit the west village for meatball grinders, arancini and sausages (next time Fiacco's!). This trip was all Little Italy and Chinatown. YUM! The hubs and I decided to try a new variety of ravioli from Piemonte - Pesto! This is the result. I have to admit it was tough to decide whether to go red or white as either would have been tasty. We had already had red sauce twice this week so white won out. It was delicious and filling. If you ever find yourself on the corner of Grand and Mulberry, definitely check out Piemonte! You won't be disappointed!

Pesto Ravioli with Italian Sausage, Marinated Roasted Tomatoes, and Rapini in a Creamy Alfredo (ish) Sauce.

1 box fresh Pesto Ravioli
2 Tbs Olive oil
1 lb sweet Italian Sausage
1/2 bunch Rapini (broccoli rabe) rinsed
5 cloves garlic, chopped
1/4 C marinated Roasted Tomatoes (I get mine at Murray's Cheese)
1/2 C white wine 
6 oz cream cheese
1 C milk
1/2 C Parmesan cheese
s&p to taste

In a large pot bring salted water to a boil. cook ravioli until al dente.

Heat oil in a large skillet, add sausage. Brown on all sides and set aside (does not have to be cooked through at this point)
Add additional oil if needed and add rapini to the pan. Saute until soft. (once soft you can choose to chop the rapini or leave it whole - we like it chopped)
Add garlic and continue to saute until fragrant
Add tomatoes, saute
Deglaze pan with white wine.
Add cheeses and milk
Slice sausage and return in to the pan. If sauce is too thick add more milk.
Cover and simmer on low until sausage is cooked through.

Gently fold in cooked ravioli or serve over ravioli - your choice!


Friday, March 4, 2016

Cracking Up

So, if any of you are familiar with the blog Plain Chicken, you are fully aware of her love for all things ranch. She uses ranch seasoning in a lot of her recipes. She also has a favorite flavor combination of ranch, bacon, and cheddar that she affectionately refers to as "crack" because it is so addicting.  When she applies this flavor combination to other recipes, like say hash browns, she calls them "cracked out". I have to admit that combination is seriously good. I first tried it with her recipe for Cheddar, Bacon, Ranch Pulls, which I made for a party. They were a HUGE hit and pretty simple to make. Fast forward several months, I used the same flavor combination to make a sandwich for hubs lunch. He actually called me at work to tell me how good it was and how perfect the flavors went together. Yeah, he liked it. He really, really liked it. So, yesterday I realized that I had half a package of bacon sitting in the fridge that needed to be used up along with some chicken and so I decided to cook up a little chicken crack for dinner! (That's doesn't sound good, does it, lol).

Crack Chicken Skillet

2 TBS oil
1 1/2 lbs chicken breast diced
3-4 TBS ranch seasoning
1 1/2 Cups Chicken broth
1/3 of a large block of low fat cream cheese
6 slices bacon, cooked and chopped
1 Cup shredded, sharp cheddar cheese

Toss diced chicken pieces with 1-2 TBS ranch seasoning to coat

In a large skillet heat oil until shimmering. Once heated, add chicken and saute until cooked through. Remove chicken from skillet and set aside.

Add chicken broth and cream cheese to hot skillet. Whisk until cream cheese in incorporated and smooth. Add remaining ranch seasoning to taste.

Return chicken to skillet and stir to combine.

Add bacon pieces and stir to combine.

Sprinkle shredded cheese over the top of the skillet and turn of heat. Let sit until cheese is melted.

Spoon over pasta, rice or spaghetti squash to serve.

I have to say the the hubs really enjoyed this over his pasta (I had mine over squash and it was damn good). He even took the leftovers for lunch today, which is something he rarely does. I didn't forget to take a picture of this recipe. It just wasn't very photogenic, lol. But, as we all know, when it comes to good eats, looks aren't everything! This will definitely be something we will be making again and again.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Warm Treats, Stupid Cold.

Hey look, I finally came up with a February post! I am happy to say the office crazy has dropped a little giving me a little free time and motivation to cook up something yummy and share worthy. This weekend was Valentine's Day. I used to hate Valentines day when I was a kid. It was fun in Elementary School when everybody passed out valentines to the entire class. But later in life it wasn't so much fun. In High School, they always had carnation sales and, never being a recipient, I found them to be isolating and painful reminders of my awkward and insecure teenage self. Self loathing teenage years aside, I still don't consider Valentines Day super important but it is fun to exchange cards and small tokens with my husband and have a nice meal together - usually out, but not extravagant, and with reservations made well in advance. He is so silly and thoughtful and I love seeing what sort of things he comes up with to surprise me.  This year Valentine's Day fell on a Sunday. A Sunday when temperatures were well below zero all friggin day! Yeah, so not fun! Saturday wasn't much warmer and, since neither of us wanted to set foot outside, it gave me the opportunity to make something I have always wanted to make for him on Valentines Day but never had the time. Cinnamon Rolls! MMMM I love these things, but the ones from a can always have that chemical taste to them that I find really off putting. I know there are quick versions out there that use a biscuit dough but I wanted real deal, yeast-risen rolls since I had the time to do it. You should have seen hubby's eyes light up when I told him what I was doing! Let me tell you it was worth the work involved. They came out fantastic!  I am sure I could have made twice as many but we like them big! So now we are trying to give away the leftovers to keep ourselves from eating them all and gaining another 5 pounds! Here is the recipe. I hope you give them a try. They are totally worth the big fat ass they will give you!

Erika's Cinnamon Rolls

1 C warm water
3/4 C half and half (room temperature)
1/4 C sour cream (room temperature)
2 envelopes instant yeast
1 C plus 2 teaspoons sugar, divided
2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 large eggs, lightly whisked
⅓ C oil
⅓ C melted butter
7 C all purpose flour
1 Tbs honey
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp butter vanilla emulsion (optional)
1 C cinnamon chips (optional)

For the Filling

12 Tbs softened butter, unsalted
2 C packed light brown sugar
½ C White Sugar
5 Tbs ground cinnamon
4 tablespoons cornstarch
1 C cinnamon chips 

For the Frosting

6 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
4 Tbs butter, softened
1½ Tsp vanilla extract
1½ Tbs light corn syrup
2 C powdered sugar

For the Rolls
In a glass measuring cup, add the water and 1/2 C half and half. Heat in the microwave until lukewarm. Add the yeast and 2 teaspoons of sugar. Set aside.

In a small bowl, add the 1/4 C half and half and 1/4 C sour cream. Whisk to combine and set aside. Add additional half and half if too thick.

In another bowl, add the remaining sugar, salt, oil, butter and eggs, whisking to combine.

After it has had plenty of time to bloom, add to the yeast mixture to the bowl of a standing mixer fixed with a dough hook. Add the half and half/sour cream mixture and the butter, sugar, egg, oil mixture. Stir a few seconds with the dough hook to combine.

 Add the flour, honey, butter-vanilla emulsion and vanilla. Mix until the dough begins to form a ball. The dough should be soft but not sticky so add more four or half and half if needed to get the desired texture. Remove the dough hook, cover bowl and put it in a warm, draft free location to rise. Let rise at least 1 hour.

Lightly flour the counter or a large pastry mat and roll the dough into a rectangle about 1/4 inch thick. The wider the rectangle the larger your rolls will be. Spread the soft butter all the way to the edges.

In a small bowl, mix the brown sugar, sugar and cinnamon with the corn starch. Sprinkle liberally over the butter, all the way to the edges. Then sprinkle with cinnamon chips.

Roll into a tight log (jelly roll style) and slice the rolls at desired thickness.

Place rolls on a parchment lined cookie sheet, cover and place in a warm, draft free location to rise. Let rise at least one hour.

Heat the oven to 350 degrees and bake for 20 minutes turning halfway through. Keep an eye on them and be careful not to over bake.

Remove from the oven, and add frosting while still warm.

For the Frosting (you can use a mixer or a whisk)

In a bowl, whip the cream cheese and butter together until softened.

Add the corn syrup and vanilla continue whipping.

Add powdered sugar and whip until desired consistency.

NOTE: Although I did not use them this time, chopped pecans would also be delicious in the rolls. just sprinkle them on instead of or in addition to the cinnamon chips!

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Trying New Things

So, last week was our big snow event. I love being snowed in as long as I am prepared for it! We knew the snow was coming so I had a few days to think about all the things I wanted to cook while being stuck in the house. I had a few packages of stew beef from the farm that I wanted to try. As I have mentioned before, the pastured, grass-fed beef we get from the farm has a completely different texture than commercially raised beef. It is very lean and chewy because the cows actually get to walk around all day if they feel like it. It takes some getting used to and the hubs doesn't really dig it. I wanted to try the stew beef to see how slow cooking worked to get the texture more akin to what he was accustomed to. IT WORKED! In fact it worked GREAT! The texture is exactly as you would expect stew beef to be. And bonus, it was ethically farmed and hormone free. WIN! As an added bonus, I used the meat to try something new. I had already made beef stew and chili and was feeling a little adventurous. So, I made Korean Beef Tacos with Asian Slaw! OMG was it good. The recipe called for a special ingredient that I didn't have - a fermented hot pepper paste with a name I am sure I cannot pronounce correctly. I subbed sriracha and it worked out just fine, so don't sweat it if you don't have it and don't go thinking you need to buy it special - you don't. At first, I was a little leery of the slaw. When I tasted it right after I made it it didn't really knock my socks off. It was kind of salty and I thought maybe I had overdone it with the sesame oil.  The flavor improved after I let it set for a while and the flavors melded a bit. But, I will admit I still wasn't super excited about it. However, when paired with the sweet/spicy stewed beef it was delicious. I got the recipe over on the Foodie With Family blog and seriously recommend that you give it a try next time you are snow bound and looking for a delicious, hearty meal to keep you warm!

Link To Slow Cooker Korean Beef Tacos

UPDATE:  So, the Asian slaw has been sitting in my fridge for a couple of days now and I have to admit that it is really good. It definitely improves over time. The hubs finally tried some of these tacos last night and really liked them a lot. He ate three giant ones, so that is saying something!