Monday, December 29, 2014

Holiday Feasting


Crab Stuffed Mushrooms

1 large container white button mushrooms
1 carrot, grated
3-4 cloves garlic, chopped
3-4 green onions, white and green parts, chopped
2 Tbs Butter
seasoned salt (to taste)
1/2 Tbs Italian seasoning
1 cup crab meat
2 cups bread crumbs (I mixed plain and Italian seasoned)
2 eggs
1 cup shredded mozzarella
1/2 Parmesan cheese
4 Tbs Melted butter
Thinly sliced mozzarella

Rinse mushrooms, and remove stems. Slice off the bottom of each stem and finely chop the remainder. Set caps aside.
Place chopped stems, carrot, garlic, green onion, Italian seasoning and 2 Tbs butter in a pan and saute over medium heat until softened. salt to taste
In a separate large mixing bowl, place crab meat, bread crumbs, eggs, shredded mozzarella and Parmesan cheese. Add saute mixture and stir until everything is combined and moist.
Place a large ball of stuffing mixture in each mushroom cap and arrange on the bottom of roasting pan. You may have stuffing left over - It's great in filet of sole. Once all the caps are filled, top with a slice of mozzarella and drizzle melted butter over them. Cover with foil and bake at 350 for 30 minutes or until mushrooms are soft. Serve warm.

Almond Joy Bars (Keeping this recipe a secret for now)

Death By Chocolate Ice Box Cake (Click Here for Recipe!)

Customized my KitchenAid (Way cool!!!)

Met Jeff Beukeboom! (EEEE!)

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Fowl Weather

So yeah, we haven't seen the sun here in days. It's been damp and cold and just generally sucky. BUT That didn't stop me from making my latest creation - it came out fantabulous! Husband is STILL praising it. It was (drum roll, please). Italian Chicken Lasagna with Creamy Pesto Sauce. Woo Hoo, it was so good. It was inspired by my need to use up the cheeses and other whatnot that I brought home on my last NYC trip. This consisted of ricotta, marscapone, Proscuitto de san daniele, pana gradano, pesto, and marinated sun dried tomatoes. Here is how it went down:

First, I poached 2 chicken breast in water (reserve that poaching liquid!). When they were cooled, I gave them a rough chop into bite sized pieces. The chicken got mixed with chopped, fresh spinach and chopped, marinated sun dried tomatoes. To put it over the top I chopped up some Proscuitto de san Daniele and mixed that in there too! Yeah baby!

For the cheese layer I mixed some high quality ricotta, marscapone and pana grandano along with some Italian seasoning. For good measure I added a couple eggs, too.

Then the sauce, first I melted about a half stick of butter and added 3 cloves of sliced garlic and let them meld together over low heat. To that I added some flour to make a roux and let that cook a bit to get rid of the raw flour taste. Then, I added my container of quality pesto sauce, some milk and some half and half (because the milk was 1%) and raised the heat to thicken it all up.

To assemble it all, I spooned some sauce on the bottom of the pan and topped it with a fresh lasagna sheet. Then, I spread a good thick layer of the ricotta mixture on that, which I topped with some shredded Mozzarella. Then came another pasta sheet followed by the meat mixture. That also got covered with some of the sauce and some shredded Mozzarella. Finally, the last pasta sheet went on with some more sauce and Mozzarella and pana grandano. I baked the whole thing at 350F for about an hour and let it sit a good 15 minutes before serving. It was absolutely delicious and the leftovers were even better!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Things to Try this Fall

So rather than post all the turkey recipes I have used this week (It takes a long time for 2 people to eat a Turkey, lol). I have decided to post a few recipes that I saw online and want to try (and won't pin to pinterest properly, lol) It's pretty obvious that I didn't take the pictures, lol. They look delicious and share worthy so I hope you try them as well if they appeal to you too!

Cast Iron Blistered Brussel Sprouts

1 pound fresh Brussels sprouts
3 tablespoons canola oil
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon hot water1 tablespoon minced garlic (about 2 cloves)
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1/4 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper $1/2 cup torn fresh mint leaves

Heat a 12-inch cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat 5 minutes. Trim Brussels sprouts, and cut in half lengthwise. Add canola oil to skillet, and tilt skillet to evenly coat bottom. Place Brussels sprouts, cut side down, in a single layer in skillet. Cook, without stirring, 4 minutes or until browned. Sprinkle with kosher salt; stir and cook 2 more minutes. Stir together honey and hot water. Stir minced garlic, soy sauce, dried crushed red pepper, and honey mixture into Brussels sprouts. Stir in mint leaves, and serve immediately.

Charred Peppers with Feta Dipping Sauce 

1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
1/4 cup Greek yogurt
1 green onion, minced
2 teaspoons chopped fresh mint
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste 1 (8-oz.) package assorted mini sweet peppers
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Heat a 12-inch cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat 5 minutes. Whisk together feta cheese, yogurt, minced green onion, mint, 2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice, and 2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil in a small bowl. Stir in salt and pepper to taste. Let stand at room temperature until ready to use. Toss mini sweet peppers with 1 Tbsp. oil; sprinkle with desired amount of salt. Cook peppers in hot skillet over medium-high heat, turning occasionally, 8 minutes or until charred and slightly wilted. Transfer peppers to a plate; drizzle with 2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice. Serve with feta mixture.

Crispy Sweet Potato-Green Onion Cakes 

4 medium-size sweet potatoes (about 2 1/4 lb.)
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup flour
2 red jalapeƱo peppers, chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 cup thinly sliced green onions, divided
1/4 cup canola oil
Lime wedges

1. Pierce 1 sweet potato several times with a fork. Place on a microwave-safe plate; cover with damp paper towels. Microwave at HIGH 8 to 10 minutes or until tender. Let stand 5 minutes. Peel potato, and place in a medium bowl; mash with a fork. Peel remaining sweet potatoes, and grate, using the large holes of a box grater. Stir grated potatoes into mashed potato. Gently stir in eggs, next 3 ingredients, and 1/4 cup green onions just until combined.

2. Pour oil into a 12-inch cast-iron skillet, and heat over medium heat to 350°. Carefully drop mixture by tablespoonfuls, in batches, into hot oil, pressing lightly to flatten. Cook 5 to 6 minutes on each side or until golden brown. Drain on paper towels. Place drained sweet potato cakes on a wire rack over an aluminum foil-lined baking sheet. Keep warm in a 200° oven up to 30 minutes. Sprinkle with remaining 1/4 cup green onions just before serving. Serve with lime wedges.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Dining Out!

Hubs and I like to have "date night" on Friday evenings. It's really fun for us since we are so busy during the week sometimes it feels like we don't really see each other. We try to pick a different restaurant each week depending on what we are in the mood for and how far we feel like traveling. There aren't a lot of choices in our little home town so we try to branch out if we aren't completely exhausted. A few weeks ago we went to an old favorite, Angellino's in Mansfield. I love this place and was surprised it wasn't busier on a Friday night considering the quality of the food and the generous portions. I guess people are happy going to Crapplebee's down the street - whatever! I had Angellino's Milanese with broccoli over angel hair. So delicious. I get this dish every time because it is so good. It took me a couple of days to eat it all but nothing went to waste. So good!
Angellino's Milanese with Broccoli

the next new place I tried was a breakfast joint in Waterford called When Pig's Fly Cafe. It was a haul from my house but I planned on doing some shopping in that area so it was a good way to start the day. What drew me to the place was that they make their own corned beef hash. I love a good corned beef hash but that stuff in a can is DOGFOOD in my opinion. So gross. I am always so disappointed when I see it on breakfast menus and find out that it is canned. I ordered the Irish Omelet which was eggs, corned beef hash and Swiss cheese and a side of homefries.  It came with toast and I ordered Rye. I have to say I really liked this little cafe. The omelet was fantastic and there were some cinnamon scones on the counter that looked REALLY good! I also like that the coffee was self serve. No waiting for the waitress or having them continuously interrupting you for a "warm up".
Irish Omelet, Homefries and Rye Toast

Monday, October 6, 2014

Leftover Takeover

So,  the last weekend of September we decided to have a cookout and invite over our friends. It was a gorgeous day and there were tons of things going on all over the state. When that happens, you can never really accurately gauge how many people will actually show up. We always plan for 100% turn out and that never happens but we feel better when we are prepared and know there will be plenty of food for everyone. In this instance, we were completely overwhelmed with leftovers. Thankfully, some we could freeze and we got people to bring a good chunk of what we couldn't home with them; but we were still left with lots of chicken and shrimp. So I said, I will use up all those leftovers by making a BIG pot of jambalaya. I knew I had a ham steak in the freezer and I could pick up killer andouille sausage and all of the veggies I needed at the farm. BAM! Problem solved, leftovers consumed. Well, let me tell you, once it was all made, I had MORE leftovers than I started with! LOL! I probably had 8 pounds of the stuff! I had my parents come and help me eat some, I ate it for a few days (Hubs thought it was too spicy - the big sissy), thankfully I was hitting the Flea Markets with my bestie and her son eats like a horse so I probably sent a good 5 pounds of it home with her. I am now, thankfully, down to 1 container full! YAY! So, despite the short takeover, nearly all of the BBQ leftovers have been used and have not gone to waste!

Jamming Jambalaya (adapted from Emeril's recipe)

1 bag medium sized cocktail shrimp, thawed
4 chicken breast halves, diced
1 large ham steak, diced
1-2 tablespoon Creole seasoning, I use Tony Charchere's
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 chopped onion
2 chopped green bell pepper
4 -5 stalks chopped celery
5 cloves chopped garlic
1 chopped tomato
1/2 C white wine
1 can diced tomato with juice
3 bay leaves
1 Tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
hot sauce to taste
4 cup rice
8 cups chicken stock
8 Andouille sausage, sliced
Salt and pepper

In a VERY large saucepan heat oil over high heat with onion, pepper and celery, 3 minutes.  Add garlic, chopped tomatoes, bay leaves, Worcestershire, sausage, chicken, ham and hot sauces. Saute until meats are mostly cooked. Deglaze bottom of pot with wine, let simmer. Add canned tomatoes, chicken stock and rice. Stir. Lower heat to a simmer and place lid. Let cook low until rice is cooked and most of the liquid is absorbed. Stir in shrimp just before serving and let heat through.

Way Too Much Leftover Jambalaya!

Monday, September 22, 2014

Picnic With Willie

This weekend the hubs and I were privileged to see Willie Nelson in concert. WILLIE NELSON WILLIE NELSON! I never get tired of yelling it! LOL! Not only is he just an all around cool guy, but, at 81 years old, the man can still rock the house. I never considered myself to be a huge fan of his but I sure as hell am now. This was hands down one of the BEST concerts I have been to. Everything about it was spectacular, the crowds, the venue and the food. Well, there was one douchebag security guard/cop with a shitty attitude but there ALWAYS seems to be one no matter where you go. The concert was held at a campground in Webster, Mass called Indian Ranch. I don't know why I have never been here before as it is close to home and just a really cool place. The concert area actually has a picnic area with grills and you can bring in coolers and cook up food right there! How cool is that! Many people bring up campers and RVs and catch the show and stay the night - great idea especially if you plan to drink a few cocktails. For a small place they book some really big name acts too. I really can't wait to go back! This was the last weekend for this years concert season so I will have to wait until next year but I can't wait to see what they have lined up. Anyway on to the food! For this concert I packed us a nice picnic lunch that consisted of Pressed sandwiches and tortellini salad and chocolate chip cookies. YUM! I Even remembered to take a picture before I finished my sandwich! LOL!

Pressed Picnic Sandwiches
1 Loaf Ciabatta bread
1/2 Cup pesto sauce
2-3 oz goat cheese (can sub fresh Mozzarella)
Fresh spinach leaves
3-4 grilled, thin chicken cutlets
5-6 slices prosciutto de parma
2-3 roasted red peppers
1/2 cup sun dried tomato spread (Click Here for recipe)

Cut Ciabatta loaf in half and spread 1 side with pesto and the other side with the sun dried tomato spread, Layer remaining ingredients on one half of the bread and top with remaining half of the bread. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate overnight. Place a heavy book or other object on the sandwich while refrigerating. The next morning cut into individual sandwiched and enjoy!

Here I am before the show hanging with my new friend, Not Willie Nelson. LOL! I told you the crowd was great!

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Monster Chicken

This is not only what I call this recipe but also describes the bird the breasts must have come off of when I made it last night! Seriously! One HALF of the breast was enough to feed Hubs and I WITH LEFTOVERS! Crazy what they are doing to these poor birds! Frankenfood at it's finest if you ask me. Honestly, I don't know how I feel about it but we ate it and enjoyed it nonetheless. This recipe came from my Ex-MIL and everybody that tries it loves it. It is super simple to make and comes out juicy and delicious every time so give it a go and feed it to some friends.

Chicken Cutlets with Muenster Cheese (a.k.a.Monster Chicken)

1-2 chicken breasts, thinly filleted - No Joke - fillet them as thin as you can
2-3 eggs lightly beaten
2 Cups seasoned bread crumbs
1/2 Cups Parmesan or Romano cheese
Frying oil (I use peanut)
1/4-1/2 lb deli sliced muenster cheese
1 can chicken broth

Preheat oven to 400F
Heat frying oil in a wide shallow pan to 350F

Place beaten eggs in a wide, shallow bowl
Soak fillets in egg mixture and toss them to coat - you can work in batches if you have a lot of fillets.
In a separate shallow dish, mix bread crumbs and Parmesan/Romano cheese
Remove a fillet from the egg mixture and dredge in breadcrumb mixture to coat evenly and place in hot oil to fry - repeat until pan is full. Turn fillets once to brown on both sides.
Once browned on both sides remove fillets and place on a paper towel lined plate to drain.
Once all of the chicken is cooked, arrange cooked cutlets in a single layer in a baking pan/casserole dish - you need something with a little depth.
Pour chicken broth over the cutlets. You do not want to completely submerge them but want all of them to be sitting in as much broth as possible
Top cutlets with muenster cheese (you can substitute mozzarella) and bake for 30 minutes or until cheese is melted and broth is bubbling

Serve Hot! YUM!

I traditionally serve this with angel hair pasta as the broth makes a nice light sauce for the thin pasta. The leftovers make fabulous sandwiches.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Summer Bounty

Man, am I wiped out today. Last night was a late one but it had to happen. There was no way I could, in good conscience, let all those beautiful tomatoes and tomatillos of mine rot on the counter. So, even though it was a school night, I stayed up late for a hot and sweaty canning marathon. While I am quite pleased with myself today, I have to admit for all the work it takes to can veggies, I sure thought I would end up with more! LOL! Canning really isn't all that difficult it is just a tad time consuming and HOT! Even on a cool evening that big pot of boiling water really heats up a room (or 2). But now I have lots of tomato puree, enchilada sauce and salsa verde to get me though the winter without having to use any chemical laden canned stuff. yay me! If my house were bigger I'd invest in a big-ass freezer and forgo the canning process altogether but unless I hit Lotto that won't be happening anytime soon, which means my little deep freezer is reserved for meats only!

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Simple is Better

Well, the summer is officially over. BOOOO! Thankfully, the relatively cool start has resulted in a bumper crop of end of season tomatoes and man are they good! To celebrate the Labor Day weekend the Hubs and I, along with some friends, decided to hit the Big Apple. You know what that means.....FOOD! First we hit Lombardi's for some pizza - YUM! Then off to the heart of Little Italy for cheese and deli meats and sausages and cannoli! They were gearing up for the Feast of San Gennaro so between that and the holiday the scene was happening. The result of our trip was one of the best sandwiches EVER! A simple thing made with good fresh Italian Bread, fresh ricotta cheese, good pesto sauce and a ripe tomato straight from the garden. HEAVEN! Seriously, my husband and I ate nearly the entire loaf of bread because we couldn't get enough of this sandwich. Silly me forgot about the prosciutto cotto I had bought - it also would have been an excellent addition to this sandwich.  But in all honesty we didn't miss it and appreciated the lightness of this combination. I highly recommend that you try it while the fresh tomatoes are still with us!

UPDATE: I revisited this sandwich this week and added a little prosciutto cotto and prosciutto di san daniele. OMG so over the top I can't even describe it. This sandwich went from being awesome to completely off the chain!

Friday, August 15, 2014

Going Green

With Salsa Verde, that is! oh how I adore this stuff and thanks to my beloved public TV cooking show line up I now have a recipe that I simply adore! It all started with an episode of Pati's Mexican Table. There she was making her rendition of the sauce I loved but had yet to master. Fast Forward to this weeks CSA share - tomatillos, jalapenos, while onions - practically all the ingredients I needed. I had a bunch of cilantro in the freezer from the spring so I knew it was time to give this sauce a try albeit with a few tweaks cuz that's just how I am, lol. I am so happy I did. It was perfect! No more canned stuff for me. I will be canning my own from now on. My CSA farmer said we would have tomatillos and hot peppers for several more weeks so I will be making this several more times I am sure! I recommend that you make some too. This stuff is great with tamales or enchiladas or just as a dip for plain ol' corn chips! Thank you Pati!

about 10 green tomatillos, husks removed and rinsed
2 garlic cloves, peeled
2 jalapeno chiles, or more to taste
1 cup cilantro leaves
1/4 cup white onion, roughly chopped
2 packets chicken bouillon powder, or to taste
2 tablespoons oil (I used olive - it's what I had but any cooking oil would do)

Place the tomatillos along with the garlic cloves and the jalapenos in a pot and just cover with water. Place over high heat until it comes to a boil. Simmer at medium for about 10 minutes, or until tomatillos change their color from a bright to a pale green, are cooked through and are soft but are not coming apart.You may need to turn them because they float. I actually forgot to put the jalapenos in and just threw them in the blender in the next step. The end product was still delicious.

Place tomatillos, garlic and jalapenos (you may add one chile first) and the cooking liquid in the blender and puree until smooth (if you used a LOT of water only add 1/2 Cup for now - you can add more later if you need it). Add the cilantro, onion and 1 packet of bouillon to the blender and process again. Taste for salt and add more bouillon (and/or cooking liquid) if need be. Also taste for heat, you may add more jalapenos until you reach your desired heat level. 

Heat the oil in a pot over medium heat. Once it is hot but not smoking, pour in the sauce and bring it to a boil (watch for splatters). Simmer over medium heat for 6 to 7 minutes, until it thickens a bit and deepens its flavor and color. Turn off the heat. 

Once it cools down, you may store it in a closed container in the refrigerator for weeks. However, the heat level of the sauce will diminish as the days go by.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Tomato Season

I am happy to say that my stubborn tomatoes have FINALLY started to ripen. However, my plants are not looking all that great these days. Wouldn't it be just my luck that the moment they finally decided to ripen they get some sort of disease and croak entirely. Hmph! I will be keeping an eye on them and hopefully that doesn't happen. Good thing I have lots of windowsill space for them to finish off in case the unthinkable happens! While I don't have quite enough to start canning like a maniac, I did have enough for some lovely tarts. I made a French version with asiago cheese that I fell in love with last summer as well as this Italian version I saw on Proud Italian cook. I did deviate from recipe a bit in that I used a regular pastry crust instead of brown rice and garlic powder instead of grating the fresh stuff - I was in a rush and didn't feel like peeling garlic. The end result was still quite yummy and husband an I enjoyed it with some chicken parmesan for dinner. These tarts come together so quickly and are so delicious with fresh summer tomatoes it is really hard to refrain from eating them all in one or two sittings! They would make excellent additions to any meal any time of day.

Italian Tomato Tart (adapted from Proud Italian Cook)

  • 9 inch deep fluted tart pan with removable bottom or a deep dish pie pan
  • 1  disc pre-made pie crust dough
  • 2 cups ricotta cheese, drained
  • 1 egg
  • 1 Tbs garlic powder
  • 1/3 cup of grated romano cheese
  • 1/2 cup of shredded mozzarella
  • basil and parsley, fresh chopped, 2 tablespoons each
  • vine ripened tomatoes, any kind, sliced
  1. Turn up oven temp to 350 degrees.F. 
  2. Line tart pan with pie crust dough
  3. Mix ricotta, cheeses, herbs, egg and garlic for the filling then spread evenly onto the crust.
  4. Place your tomatoes all over,slightly sinking them into the ricotta mixture.
  5. Drizzle olive oil on top of the tomatoes and tart then bake for 30 minutes or until ricotta is set.
  6. To finish it, I like to place mine under the broiler to get it a nice golden color on top, but if you do that, keep checking and don't walk away from the stove!
  7. Let it cool a little before slicing.
  8. Garnish with chopped fresh basil.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Peachy Keen

So for some mysterious reason I have been craving peaches lately. Can't tell you why since I have never EVER been a fan of them. Something about that fuzzy skin was always so off-putting for me. This weekend I decided to satisfy my craving now that peach season is in full swing. I found a recipe claiming to be the best peach cobbler I'd ever have- a claim, in hindsight with which I do not agree. Don't get me wrong, it was good, but I found it to be much too sweet for my tastes. The recipe was easy and I had everything I needed on hand but I doubt I would make it again. the recipe says you can use other fruits so maybe something more tart would offset the sweetness of the dessert.  I actually enjoyed eating the peeled and cubed pieces of fruit better than the cobbler itself. But, if you would like to try it here is the recipe.

 Best Cobbler You’ve Ever Had

1 box yellow cake mix (not baked, just the powder)
1/3 cup butter, softened
2  eggs
30 ounces canned peaches, drained (or 4 fresh peaches, peeled and pitted)
8 ounces cream cheese
1/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
Vanilla ice cream

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, combine cake mix, butter, and 1 egg. Mix ingredients until crumbly. Separate ½ cup of crumble for topping.
  2. Spray a 9x13 glass dish with cooking spray. Press remaining crumble into base of dish.
  3. Bake for 10 minutes. While crust bakes, slice peaches into small, 1 inch pieces.
  4. Beat together cream cheese, sugar, 1 egg, and vanilla until creamy. Layer peaches on top of baked crust. Spread cream cheese mixture on top of peaches.
  5. Top with reserved crumbs and bake for 30 minutes. Allow to cool for 30 additional minutes and serve with vanilla ice cream.

Monday, June 23, 2014

2014 Mermaid Parade

Yep, it's that time again and what a parade it was! The day started with my traditional hot dog from the original Nathan's. I swear hot dogs here just taste better! Skip the mall versions and head to Brooklyn for the original experience. You won't regret it!

I always get mine with their pepper and onion sauce - so delicious. You have to get them right when they open or you wont get within 30 feet of the place. See what i mean:

Anyway, this years costume was a traditional mermaid in blue. It was a mad dash to finish it when my sewing machine decided to shit the bed but with the help of my Mom (Thanks Mom) we managed to pull it together. I think it came out pretty darn good! I am already starting to mull over idea for next year!
After 8 or so years of attending this parade, I finally have it down to a science! There is no WAY you will get near any of the food stands once this thing gets going so you have to pack food if you plan to eat anytime after noon. Since my fellow marcher was a vegetarian, I brought some hummus and whole grain tortilla chips for us to snack on. I also packed some cheese, dried sausages and crackers (for the rest of us) and plenty of water. Sodas were also on hand but were more to keep us awake for the ride home. I also had buffalo chicken salad sandwiches to satisfy the bigger appetites. We used 2 coolers - 1 smaller one for our food that stayed at the car and need to be kept cold and one with wheels to bring with us as we marched that had plenty of water and our bribes for the judges (Wine, Rum, coke, cups and ice). Marching generated quite an appetite and having those snacks waiting for us at the end made us very happy!

Erika's Roasted Red Pepper and Garlic Hummus

1 can chick peas, drained
1 large roasted red pepper (I used jarred)
1-2 cloves garlic (or garlic scapes if you have them, roasted garlic works too)
1 Tbs tahini paste
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1 tsp salt
Olive oil

Dump everything but the oil into a food processor. Turn on processor and slowly pour oil through the feed tube until desired consistency. Adjust salt to taste. Enjoy!

Monday, June 16, 2014

Happy Fathers Day

Happy Fathers Day to all and I hope you all got to spend it with family. We had a lovely cookout and put that grill to good use. I still can't believe how good everything that we cook on it turns out! This time it was the zucchini that really was the favorite (aside from hubbys awesome burgers). It is the simplest recipe ever and is just delicious! Enjoy!

Erika's Grilled Zucchini

3-4 zucchini, cut into thick sticks
3-4 Tbs Olive oil
1-2 Tbs white wine vinegar
1-2 Tbs garlic powder
1/2 tbs seasoned salt

Throw all of the ingredients into a zip lock bag and massage so that all of the zucchini is evenly coated. let sit for at leash one hour, Grill on medium heat until cooked. Enjoy!

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Product Review - Saber Cast 500 Grill

So, I decided to surprise the hubs this year with a new grill for Father's Day. I had to do it early though because he was already talking about getting a new one and I didn't want him to beat me to it. A few years back I bought him what I thought was a fairly decent grill for Father's Day. Turns out it was a piece of shit! The entire interior of the thing rotted to pieces in about 4 seasons. Now, mind you, we keep the grill under a carport so it was never exposed to rain or snow and we don't go catering pig roasts either. Just normal summer use and it fell apart THAT fast. We looked into replacement parts, but to use anything of quality added up to more than what I paid for the damn thing new (F-U Home Depot!)! So, I decided to embark upon a quest to find a grill worth investing in. I decided on the SABER Cast 500. I spent more than the average person probably would but I wanted something that would last. I have to tell you I LOVE THIS GRILL!! Now Saber is actually made by Char-Broil but is a higher end product line. I have had good grill performance with Char-Broil in the past so I had faith in the brand. They did not let me down.  You can tell immediately that this grill is different when you lift the lid - it is HEAVY! The grill itself has a 10 year warranty and their customer service is top notch (I had some issues with the temperature gauges - I think they needed to break in a bit because they seem to be working fine now but SABER sent me a new set with no questions asked). But the burning question is, "How does it cook?". FAN-FREAKING-TASTIC!!!! Even heat within each cooking zone and no flare ups - NONE! I haven't yet put it through all the paces but we have done burgers, hot dogs, steaks and veggies and they all came out great. You can cook actually cook with 2 different temperatures AT THE SAME TIME. I have no plans on even using my stove or oven for the rest of the summer.

Oh, and since nobody actually reads this blog, nobody paid me for this review. It's all me, folks.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Food for the Masses

This past weekend was one of my husbands motorcycle events - a progressive dinner ride. Basically, they ride to various clubhouses and have snacks and appetizers at each spot until they get to the last stop where a steak dinner is served. This is the second time they have held this event so I already have my contribution down - chicken salad sandwiches. When I made these the first time it was because I wanted something fairly cheap that didn't require a ton of work to make in large amounts. Turns out they were a HUGE hit - didn't expect that at all! My SIL makes steak and cheese egg rolls - the thought of all the prep makes my head ache! For this latest event I made about 10 pounds of chicken salad (Thank the heavens for truckload meat sales, food processors and stand mixers) and about 75 sandwiches. There was about a quart of chicken salad left over that my husband has been happily eating for lunch all week. Here's how it came together:

Chicken Salad for a Crowd

10 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 30 oz container of Mayonnaise
1 large sweet onion
2/3 bunch of celery
1/2 Cup brown sugar
2 Tbs salt (or to taste)
1/2 Tbs black pepper (or to taste)

Place chicken in a VERY large pot and cover with water. Boil chicken breasts on high heat until cooked through. Turn off heat and let cool in water overnight. When cool, remove any remaining fate, cartilage or otherwise icky stuff from the breasts (if should come off easily now), cut breasts into thirds and shred in a stand mixer using a paddle attachment - work in batches. Place shredded chicken in a very large mixing bowl. (Save poaching liquid - it is now chicken stock)

In a food processor finely chop onion and celery. Add to shredded chicken along with remaining ingredients. Stir to incorporate. If mixture seems stiff or dry add about a half cup of reserved chicken stock to loosen or more mayo - or both! Adjust seasonings to taste. Let sit overnight to meld flavors.

As a rule I always serve these on Kings Hawaiian rolls. They just make it all taste better. I use the mini sub rolls because they are already split. I just cut them in half for perfectly sized appetizer sandwiches and top with a little lettuce for crunch. That's all there is to it!

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

2 National Championships and a Recipe

Way to go UCONN!

Ok, enough of that.

As promised I have the recipe for my stuffed shells experiment. I found that these tasted better the second day. I am not sure if it was because I was just more hungry or because that is the way some things are. Anyway, I am happy to report these came out super yummy and are sure to please any of the ranch fans in your life. I do have picture too! Woo Hoo! However, my computer is being a jerk at the moment so I will have to add them in later. Hope you try them and like them as much as the Hubs and I did.

Chicken, Bacon, and Ranch Stuffed Shells

1 box Jumbo Shells
Shredded Mozzarella and Cheddar Cheese for topping

Filling Ingredients
1 large boneless skinless chicken breast (we get these mutant things at out local butcher that are almost 1lb a piece, so if using smaller breasts you want about that much)
1/2 lb bacon
1 small container ricotta cheese
1 Cup shredded Mozzarella
1/2 Cup shredded Cheddar
1/4 Cup Parmesan cheese
1 1/2 envelopes Ranch dip/dressing mix

Sauce Ingredients
2 cups milk or 1/2 and 1/2 (or a combination of the 2)
8 oz (half a block) cream cheese, cubed
1/2 Cup Parmesan cheese
S & P to taste

Cook bacon using preferred method until crisp and set aside to cool (I used oven so I could make the filling at the same time). Once cooled chop fine.

Boil chicken breast in a large pot of water until cooked through. Place in a stand mixer with a paddle attachment to shred meat (not burned fingers, yay). Add shells to now empty pot of boiling water and cook until al dente. drain.

A remaining filling ingredients to chicken and mix to incorporate evenly. At this point I would suggest tasting the filling to make sure it is "ranchy" enough for you. If not, you can add more of the mix until you get to a place that you like. Stuff filling into shells

For the Sauce - Mix ingredients in a sauce pan over low heat and whisk until smooth. Adjust cream/ milk or cream cheese to achieve desired consistency. Note: Sauce will tighten up upon cooling.

Place a small amount of sauce on the bottom of a baking dish. Add stuffed shells.

Pour remaining sauce over shells. Top with additional mozzarella and cheddar cheese.

Bake at 350 for about 30 minutes. Let stand 15 minutes before serving. Enjoy!

Monday, April 7, 2014

Having Some Fun!

So continuing on my stuffed shell explorations, tonights experiment will be chicken, bacon and ranch stuffed shells. The key will be to get them just ranchy enough without going overboard. It will either be a glorious triumph or and epic failure. Stay tuned to find out which!

Monday, March 31, 2014

Sacre Bleu!

So last Friday night my Husband and his friends had a little get together. Earlier in the week (like an idiot) I had offered to make a dish for it. Come Thursday, I was so tired I was praying that he had forgotten my offer - he didn't (note to self: shut your damn mouth!). So, there I was Thursday afternoon, trying to come up with something that would be fairly easy and inexpensive to make yet not run of the mill - baked ziti was not even being considered! Now, I knew I had chicken thighs in the freezer that I had bought on sale just for these sorts of things so I knew it had to be chicken something or other. What I came up with was Chicken Cordon Bleu Stuffed Shells. The dish came together remarkable easily and made enough to feed a crowd (not a huge crowd but a good number of people). The results got glowing reviews and they disappeared before I could take a picture. I call that a success! Here is the drill:

Chicken Cordon Bleu Stuffed Shells

6 Chicken thighs
16 oz Swiss cheese slices- divided
10 oz ham steaks (I used 4 sandwich sized ones) – chopped fine
8 oz container cottage cheese (I used the smallest individual container they had at the store – just estimating the size here but you could use more or none at all if you wanted to)
1 box Jumbo shells
2-3 cans cream of chicken soup
2 TBS Dijon mustard - divided

Boil chicken thighs in water for an hour or until tender and easily separated from bones. Remove from water and let cool. Add shells to chicken stock. When chicken is cool enough to handle remove skin, fat and bones and chop meat roughly. Add to a large mixing bowl.  Finely dice half of the cheese and add to chicken. Add ham, 1 TBS of mustard and cottage cheese. Add a tsp each salt and pepper and mix everything to combine. This is your filling.

When half cooked (Pliable but still al dente) remove shells from broth using a slotted spoon and let drain. Add soup to chicken/pasta water and 1 TBS mustard and stir until smooth. Coat bottom of roasting pan with soup. Stuff shells with filling and arrange in pan. Pour remaining soup over shells and top with remaining Swiss cheese. Bake 350 for 30 minutes (covered), then remove cover and bake an additional 15 minutes.

Now, as I previously stated, I was tired and in a rush when making these so I opted to use canned soup for the sauce. You could certainly make a lovely Swiss cheese based cream sauce from scratch if you have the time and energy - I won't discourage you. 

Thursday, March 27, 2014

I LOVE New York!

I do, I do, I do! It's my favorite place to get away for a day. Typically, I have to bring luggage (or friends or both) to carry all of my goodies. A couple weeks ago two friends and I embarked on a food blitz of Little Italy, Chinatown and the West Village with a quick stop in the Garment District for bagels. So much fun! These are our must stops whenever we go to the City:

Di Palo's - one of the finest Italian delis around, Proscuitto Cotto and di San Danielle, Pecorino tartufola (Black truffle romano), they had the most delicious imported sheeps milk ricotta I have ever taste too. I also tried some of their Sunday Gravy - SO GOOD! The best part is you get to taste everything but you have to be patient, the line moves SLOWLY! I can't wait to go back an try more things!

Alleva Dairy - the best ricotta cheese on the planet! Good stromboli too!

Piemonte Ravioli - I love their manicotti - we did not stop in this trip but it is another favorite place to go when we are on a pasta mission. 2014 UPDATE: I tried their sweet corn ravioli this summer and DAMN it's delicious! We topped it with some pesto from DiPalo's and it was ridiculous!

La Bella Ferrara - Cannoli.

Fiacco's - Sweet Cacciatori, home made sopressata, proscuitto balls, top notch fresh sausage and the best meatball grinder EVER. The chicken cutlet with mozz and pesto is no slouch either! The Italian combo has a good reputation too - I will be trying that next!

Murray's - yes they have cheese but it's the marinated sun-dried and roasted tomatoes that stop me in my tracks. I also like their burrata the best and I make it a point to try EVERYONE's, lol! Not that there is such a thing as a burrata that I do NOT like, theirs just has the right amount of creaminess for me. Di Palo's comes in second. LOL!

Best bagel and coffee - the Garment District best kept secret. Shhhh - keep it under your hat!

Chinatown we get produce - specifically Asian eggplant. It's the only place I can get it out of season - hell, even in season it's tough to find! Why do I care, because it really makes for the best eggplant Parmesan. Just ask Mamma Agata! This summer I am going to try growing some myself! that should be interesting, lol!

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Saint Patty Melt!

I have become really disenchanted with Food network these days. They are going the way of MTV. Seriously, remember when they used to have cooking shows on that channel? I mean, I am as busy as the next person but I can get a meal on the table in 30 minutes without any help. However, when it comes to prepping an artichoke...... You see where I am going, right.  Fortunately we still have the original food network - PBS - to fall back on (and yes, I have personally learned to prep and artichoke via this channel).  Oh, how I love my weekends with PBS. Jacque Pepin, Sara Moulton, Lidia Bastianich, Cooks Country, even JULIA!!!! This past weekend it was Cooks Country that got me thinking about patty melts. Oh how I LOVE this sandwich! I hadn't made one in forever. Watching the episode on perfecting it had me thinking about it and salivating. As coincidence would have it, hubby decided to do some grocery shopping and comes home with a loaf of Rye bread. It was like kismet! I HAD to make this sandwich.....and I did! Now, let me tell you a little secret.....I am physically and mentally incapable of making a modest sized burger so I made the most monstrous patty melts EVER! Have a look for yourself:

Yeah Baby! This thing was so big that you actually needed to double up the bread to support it. Now, the Cooks Country recipe called for making a panade of rye bread and milk to keep the patty moist. I did follow their method but honestly, when you are working with patties this big you really don't need it. LOL! Just some well seasoned beef will do the trick. So here are the basics as I see them!

Monster Patty Melt

1/2 pound ground beef (80% lean is recommended)
1 large onion, sliced
4 slices Swiss cheese
Worcestershire Sauce
salt and pepper
4 slices rye bread

Add butter and sliced onions and a few shakes of Worcestershire sauce to pan over medium heat and saute. When soft golden, remove onions and set to the side
Season ground beef generously with salt and pepper and form into 2 patties and add to the pan, turning when browned. Cook patties to medium rare.
Butter the rye bread and assemble sandwiches by placing sauteed onions and 2 cheese slice on each. Top with remaining rye bread slices keeping the buttered sides out. and sandwiches to the pan and grill as if grilled cheese - you may need to turn heat down and I recommend covering the pan to get a good met on the cheese. Turn when bread is grilled and repeat on other side. ENJOY!

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Here I am!!!!

I know it's been a while! I guess I just lost my mojo there for a while. I certainly have been cooking but just not feeling anything was "noteworthy". I am sure my husband would disagree. Plus, it has been a long, cold winter up here in New England that even has ME in a funk. Normally, I like the snow but I can honestly say that I have had my fill this season and am ready for some non-turtleneck weather. Anyway, on to the food. A few weeks back our little local market had their annual "truckload meat sale". I had gone in with the intention of buying a half pound of bacon for burgers and walked out with that PLUS the most beautiful looking chuck roast I had ever seen - all 6 pounds of it. I couldn't help it - I see a good piece of meat and I am compelled to buy it. So, I brought it home and invited some people over for dinner and had at it! First I rubbed the roast with some Chicago Seasoning from Penzey's and browned it in oil on all sides in my "Le Creuset" knockoff dutch oven  then I deglazed the pan with a decent Cabernet. Back in went the roast along with a box of good beef broth, 4 cloves of garlic, 1 onion, 2 carrots and 2 stalks of celery. Finally, I added some thyme and some rosemary. I put that in the oven at 275 for 5 hours. It came out great! But even better were the French Dip Sandwiches that we had the next day. For that I pulled apart the leftover beef and put it in a saucepan with some of the leftover cooking liquid, a can of french onion soup and a few shakes of soy sauce. OH THE HORROR canned soup - What can I say, after a long day at work I don't have time to screw around - especially when my 4 year old grand daughter is tearing up the house. PLUS, I needed lots of extra liquid for dipping. You can certainly just use more beef broth seasoned up any way you like if you are one of those anti- canned soup people. Once all that was heated through I split some good crusty rolls and layered on the provolone cheese. I cannot stress enough the need for good rolls for these. Soft supermarket crap just will not do, so splurge a little here and go to a bonafide bakery and get the good stuff.   For my sandwich I even added some smooshed up cloves or roasted garlic (yum). Then on went the beef with a ramekin of the cooking liquid on the side. So good! Dip, bite, slurp and chew! Even the baby said it was delicious!