Wednesday, December 28, 2016


This year started full of hope and anticipation and it is leaving like the bastard motherfucker it turned out to be. I know this year has been a hell of a lot worse for many than it was for us but I still am happy to see it end. It seems this year just threw every curve ball in its arsenal at us and isn't going to stop until the very end. Office closings, new car payments (because BOTH vehicles died), shitty or nonexistent  pay raises, looming surgeries and on and on and on. GAH! I would say 2017 can't possibly be worse, but we all know that isn't true and I don't want to jinx myself. BUT on the plus side, we all survived the holidays. We have a roof over our heads, food in our pantry's and are in relatively good health so we will keep counting those blessings and hope for a prosperous 2017. Oh and check out my epic Christmas cheese plate.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Humble Pie

So, I FINALLY got a service technician out here to look at my oven. Turns out the idiots who installed it didn't do the LP conversion properly. Not only did they do it wrong the first time but they also couldn't figure out they did it wrong when I called them to check it. MORONS! The service tech who came today took all of 5 minutes to figure out the problem. Now I feel bad for screaming at all those telephone operators at LG. Their customer service really is horrible but after a week and a half of jumping through their hoops, my oven appears to be OK. It did take about 2 hours of scrubbing to get the soot off the inside of it. There is still some but I got 95% of it off. I am exhausted now.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Life is NOT Good with LG

So, my brand new LG oven got red tagged by the gas company this week. The convection oven was producing soot and carbon monoxide. The gas company checked the installation and deemed it a manufacturing defect. It is still under warranty so I called Sears since they sold it to me, who then said I had to call LG directly. LG is the WORST appliance company to deal with regards to service. I had to call them 3 times for authorized service providers to repair it and none will travel to where I live. So, now They are supposed to take 3-5 business days to find somebody to fix it. If that doesn't work then I don't know what will happen. They will likely stall me until the warranty runs out in February. I should have listened to that sales kid and bought American! Next time I will! FUCK YOU LG!

I should mention that the oven is a double oven and I can still use the top oven BUT the ham I bought for Christmas dinner won't fit in it. Thankfully I have wonderful neighbors who will let me use theirs if I need to. Still, FUCK YOU LG!

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Simple and Delicious

So, my work has been crazy lately. Lots of travel and hurry up and wait going on. It is exhausting. So last night I managed to crank out a really nice dinner for myself (hubs was on the road) without too much effort AND while simultaneously assisting co-workers with report edits. Sometimes I amaze myself with my multi-tasking prowess. It all started with a steak that I had marinating in the fridge. I intended to cook it Sunday but that didn't happen so it was ready for cooking yesterday. The marinade was a store brand balsamic vinaigrette - Wishbone I think.  I seared both sides in a cast iron pan and threw it in a preheated 350F oven. After a couple minutes my phone starting ringing with work stuff and I knew I would not be able to keep an eye on the steak so I turned the oven off and address the work stuff. The steak was fairly thick and it needed a tad more time than most steaks so I wasn't too concerned about neglecting it for a bit as long as the oven was off. I then transferred the left over marinade to a frying pan and cooked it with a tsp of garlic powder and half a container of cherry tomatoes. I let that cook over medium heat until the tomatoes were soft. I then squished the tomatoes with a spatula to get them to give up their juices. Another five minutes or so and they were done. I then sliced the steak thinly and served it over a plate of fresh hot polenta (cooked with water, milk and chicken base) and poured the tomato mixture over. After a 2 day bath, the steak really had picked up the flavors of the marinade quite nicely and those flavors carried over to the tomatoes. It was so good I went back for seconds.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

The Flavor of the Season

I am not one to buy into fads. Here in New England in the Fall it is pumpkin spice EVERYTHING! I like pumpkin. I don't LOOOVE it.  I am not a big fan of it in pie and certainly don't want it in my coffee. Pumpkin muffins and cakes on the other hand.....YUM! Today I baked and pureed my first pumpkin. I got it from my CSA and, after reading that the canned stuff isn't really pumpkin at all, I decided to try and make my own pumpkin puree from scratch. Turns out it is super easy AND the resulting baked goods turned out delicious. This recipe certainly doesn't require freshly roasted pumpkin but if you have one on hand use it! You won't be disappointed.

Pumpkin Spice Whoopee Pie with Maple Whiskey Cream Filling

1/2 C butter
3/4 Cup brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 Tbs Cinnamon
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1 1/2 cup pumpkin puree
1 3/4 cup flour
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
2 Tbs heavy cream

Pre heat oven to 350F

In a stand mixer cream together butter and sugars, add pumpkin puree and mix until smooth. Combine dry ingredients in a separate bowl. Add eggs vanilla and cream to mixer. Gradually add dry ingredients until incorporated. Spoon batter onto cookie sheets and bake 12-15 minutes until a toothpick come out clean. Let cool and fill cookies with 1/2 recipe of Maple whiskey cream filling (Click here for recipe). Makes about 1 dozen whoopee pies.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Cooking for a Cause

Yesterday was the benefit for my dear friend who was in a very bad motorcycle accident this summer. Thankfully he will be ok although he will probably walk with a limp for the rest of his life. Sundays at my house are usually spent on the sofa watching football, especially when it is as dreary as it was yesterday. But, I promised that I would make an appetizer. I really didn't want to leave the house and with money being so tight lately I need to come up with something low effort and low budget but tasty. We have a ton of beef in our freezer since we bought a hind quarter in the spring, so I came up with these tasty little french onion sliders. All I needed to buy was the rolls. I got dinner rolls from the bakery department of our local grocery store. The kind that come in a sheet and you have to break them apart. They looked kind of like this (but mine came 12 to a sheet):

 This allowed me to slice them all open, toast and fill all at one time, thereby allowing me to make them in batches of 12. As a bonus, each pack fit perfectly in the disposable aluminum pans I bought for the occasion. It worked perfectly! Here is how I did it.

French Onion Roast Beef Sliders

2-3 pound chuck roast
2 cans french onion soup

4 Tbs Butter
2-3 Tbs flour
1 Tbs garlic powder
1-2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp Gravy Master
1 Tbs beef base
salt and pepper to taste

3 dozen small dinner rolls
1 stick butter
1 lb mozzarella cheese, sliced

Place roast and soup in a slow cooker, set low and cook overnight (8 hours minumum).
When cool enough to handle, remove roast from slow cooker (reserve cooking liquid), separate fat and shred meat. Place meat in a bowl and cover with cooking liquid from the slow cooker to keep meat moist.

Melt butter in a large skillet and add flour and garlic powder and make a roux. Add cooking liquid, Worcestershire, gravy master, and beef base and stir to create a thick sauce. Add meat to the pan and continue to add cooking liquid until meat and sauce are of a sloppy joe like consistency. You don't want it to be pasty but if too runny bread will be soggy. Once desired consistency in achieved, salt and pepper to taste, and remove meat from heat and set aside.

Slice rolls open. Melt butter in a skillet and place rolls cut side down to toast. I used a table top electric skillet and was able to toast and entire package of rolls at one time. I was able to do three batches with 1 stick of butter. Once toasted, place a slice of mozzarella on each roll, then top with meat mixture, and then the top of the roll.

To serve, cover with foil and bake at 350 for 10-20 minutes or until rolls are hot.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

What's Stew With You!

It seems that Fall is most definitely upon us now. I have to admit I am loving these cool nights and have been sleeping like a champ! This past weekend was pretty damp and gloomy so I decided that it was a perfect day to make one of my favorite things, beef stew. Growing up I used to love eating Dinty More Stew from the can. So what if it smelled like dog food when you opened it, lol! This recipe of mine captures that same beefy flavor but with ingredients you can identify! I don't normally put green beans in my stew but since I had some from my CSA that needed to be used pronto, I included them this time. They were quite good and I will likely use them again in the future if I have them. You can certainly leave them out if they aren't your thing.

Erika's Beef Stew

1-2 pounds beef stew meat
1-2 Cups flour
1/4 oil
2 onions, chopped
4 large stalks celery, chopped
1 can beer
1 box beef broth
2 Tbs beef base
2 Tbs molasses
1-2 tsp fresh thyme
2 Tbs fresh parsley, rough chopped
4 large potatoes, cubed
1 small bag baby carrots (or 4 large carrots, chopped)
2 Cups fresh green beans, cut into 2-3 inch pieces (optional)

In a large pot heat oil over medium-high heat
Meanwhile toss stew beef in flour to coat
In batches, brown beef in hot oil. remove from pot when browned
Deglaze pot with half of the can of beef scraping the browned bits from the bottom
Add celery and onion to pot and saute until soft.
Return beef to pot and add remaining beer, broth and base.
Simmer uncovered on low heat for 1 hour
After 1 hour remaining ingredients and continue simmering until vegetables are soft
Once vegetables are soft, add salt and pepper to taste

Thursday, September 22, 2016

CSA Overload

My parents have been on vacation the past couple of weeks. This means that I am getting the entire CSA share. I am bursting at the seams with fresh vegetables. While this is certainly not a bad thing, some of them were starting to look VERY sad and rather than let them be wasted I came up with this dish to maximize their use. I STILL have a ton left to use but this seemed to  at least make use of the ones that were closest to becoming inedible. It is a mash up of a pot pie and a shepherds pie and the hubs and I both found it to be tasty and filling. I does call for canned soup so if you are against that sort of thing you could certainly whip together a quick sauce with butter, flour and chicken broth. I wasn't feeling like adding any additional work to the dish so I used the can of soup I found in the cupboard.

Chicken Pot Shepherds Pie With Mashed Cauliflower

For the Mashed Cauliflower
2 small heads cauliflower, broken into florets
 2 Tbs butter
 3 small leeks, rinsed and sliced thin
1 Cup chicken broth
1/2 Cup half and half
S&P to taste

For the Pot Pie
3 small heads broccoli, cut into florets
3 carrots, sliced thin
3 stalks celery, sliced
1/2 onion, sliced
2 cloves garlic, sliced
2 Tbs olive oil
1 large boneless skinless chicken breast, diced
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 can half and half
S&P to taste

1 cup shredded cheddar cheese, divided

Preheat oven to 350F

Prepare the Mashed Cauliflower
Add butter and leeks to a sauce pan over low heat. Stir and let leeks soften a bit. Add cauliflower and chicken broth. Cover pot and let simmer on low heat until cauliflower is soft. Add half and half in increments and blend with an immersion blender until smooth. Salt and Pepper to taste. If cauliflower is too thin you can thicken it up a bit with almond flour without affecting the taste. When done remove from heat and set aside.

Prepare Filling
Add oil and chicken to a large saute pan over medium heat and brown. Once browned, remove from heat and set aside. Leave juices in pan. Chicken does not have to be cooked through, it will finish in the oven.
Add vegetables to pan and continue to saute until just beginning to soften. Return chicken to pan and add soup and half and half and stir to incorporate. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Transfer filling mixture to a casserole dish. Sprinkle 1/2 Cup shredded cheddar cheese over the top of the filling. Pour mashed cauliflower over the filling and spread it to cover. Bake for 50 minutes. top casserole with the remaining 1/2 cup of cheddar cheese for the last 15 minutes of baking. Let stand a few minutes before serving.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Quick Hit

Wednesdays sometimes don't afford me much time for dinner. I am a volunteer on my hometowns Conservation Commission and we meet the second Wednesday of every month at 7PM. While I do enjoy being involved with local decision making, I have to admit that when meeting time rolls around I am never very excited to go. What can I say, once I get home I like to stay there. But since I planned ahead, I had an idea of what to do for dinner in the hour and I half that I had between getting home from work and having to leave for my meeting. I had some prepared veal cutlets that I had defrosted in the refrigerator overnight. I get them from an Italian market in New Haven and they are always excellent. Plus, it saves me the mess of having to bread them myself. YAY! I fried those up like one traditionally does in my cast iron skillet and topped them with what I call, "hot Italian salsa". That was really a jumble of things from my CSA share but I have to admit it was superb. You could pour this concoction over veal, chicken, fish or even eggplant cutlets and it would be delicious.

Hot Italian Salsa

2 Tbs butter
2 leeks, sliced
4 cloves garlic, sliced (my cloves were small so I used 4)
1 medium zucchini, diced
2 tomatoes, diced (or a generous Cup of cherry tomatoes, halved)
1/2 C Parmesan cheese
1/4 C balsamic vinegar

In a large frying pan, melt butter over low heat. Add leeks, garlic and zucchini and saute until vegetables begin to soften.
Add tomatoes and continue to saute.
Once tomatoes have release a fair amount of liquid, add cheese and vinegar and let simmer to reduce. Be careful not to scorch the vinegar.
Once veggies are cooked through, remove from heat and serve over cooked cutlets

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

It's the Little Things

Yesterday was CSA share pick up day. In this weeks share we had a reappearance of leeks. I love those things. So many delicious ways to use them. However, hubs mentioned Monday on our way home from camping that, if time permitted today, we would go visit a couple of friends who are in the hospital up in Hartford. One is there to get his foot amputated after a terrible motorcycle accident. The other is there recovering from yet another motorcycle accident. He will hopefully be keeping all of his limbs. With that in mind, I decided that I would use the leeks to make a big batch of chicken noodle soup to share with them both. Hubs didn't seem to think that either of them would want soup. He said they would want pizza and sandwiches. UM, what do you think everybody else is bringing. I am fairly confident nobody else would bother to actually make something. Any shmuck can stop at Subway or Dominoes to pick up some lousy thoughtless food stuffs. In fact, I think they are both right next door to the hospital just for that purpose. I would certainly appreciate the thought and effort put into a homemade offering over shitty take out any day! PLUS, after multiple surgeries and tubes and shit shoved down their throats, I would bet soup would be quite soothing. So, I am bringing them soup. Eat it or Die!

Erika's Chicken Noodle Soup
4 bone in chicken breasts (or a whole chicken if that is what you have - cut up or not - it doesn't matter)
2 Tbs olive oil
2 leeks (can sub with onions), cleaned and chopped
6 stalks celery, rinsed and chopped
8-10 carrots, cleaned and chopped (peel if you want but it isn't mandatory)
1-2 cups small pasta
1 large can chicken broth
2 Tbs fresh dill chopped
1/2 Tbs Bells poultry seasoning (optional)
3 TBS chicken base
salt to taste

Place chicken breasts is a large pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer. Continue cooking until chicken is cooked through. Remove chicken to cool and RESERVE COOKING LIQUID! You can strain it if there is a bunch of icky shit floating in it. When cool enough to handle, shred/chop chicken meat.
In a second large pot, heat olive oil until shimmering. Add vegetables and saute for a few minutes. Add dill and continue to stir. Add chicken broth, chicken base and reserved chicken cooking liquid. Bring everything to a simmer.
Add cooked chicken.
In the pot that you cooked the chicken in, cook pasta until al dente (no sense dirtying another dish). You can add the pasta right to the soup to cook but you will lose practically all of your soup liquid so just cook it separately. When cooked, add it to the soup along with the Bells seasoning. Add salt to taste. Let cool a bit before you try to eat it. Trust me, it's too hot.

Friday, September 2, 2016

For the Love of DOG!

So, one of the blogs I follow just announced that their dog has an inoperable brain tumor. Just hearing that makes me burst into tears. I am not even kidding when I say I like dogs better than I like most people. I lost my Daisy doggy four years ago and I still miss her so very much. Even though I have my two little monsters keeping me busy these days, once a dog is in your heart they stay there forever. Nothing compares to the love of a dog. Their trust and loyalty can't be found anywhere else.
 My Daisy Doggie. Forever in my heart.

 Max (a.k.a. Thing 1, asshole)
 Sophie (a.k.a. Thing 2, Ms. Thang)
 Twin Terrors Trying to Look Sweet and Innocent

Love My Doggies

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Taking it Easy

Yesterday was one of those days where I just didn't feel like messing around when it came to dinner. I had defrosted some ground chicken because I needed the space in my freezer but I had no clue what to do with it. So, while at work i pondered what to do with it.....and pondered, and pondered. I did a quick internet search and found my inspiration. I had broccoli from the CSA so I decided to make things easy on myself and go for a casserole. We have been eating pasta quite a bit lately so this time around I would use rice. During my lunch break I headed to the grocery store and there was also chicken breast on sale - cheap. So I grabbed some of that and a can of cheddar cheese soup and I had all I needed for a nice easy dinner - Cheesy Chicken, Broccoli, and Rice Casserole was born! The end result was quite good but I thought it could have used a little more salt. I didn't add any because I usually find canned soups to be pretty salty. Next time I will add a little but not much.

Erika's Easy, Cheesy Chicken, Broccoli, and Rice Casserole

1 pound ground chicken (can sub 1 chicken beast diced)
1 boneless skinless chicken breast, diced
3 cloves garlic, sliced thin
1 bunch Broccoli, trimmed and cut into pieces
1 can cheddar cheese soup
1/2 soup can half and half
3 Cups water
1 1/2 cups rice (I used Carolina white)
1 Cup Shredded cheddar Cheese
1 Sleeve Ritz crackers, crushed

Preheat over to 350F
In a medium sized saucepan, bring water to a boil. When boiling, add rice, cover, and reduce heat to a simmer.
In a large frying pan saute ground chicken, chicken breast and garlic until meat is cooked through.
Add broccoli and continue to saute until beginning to soften.
Add soup and half and half, stir to combine

Once soup and half and half is incorporated and heated through, add rice and any remaining water in the sauce pan - just dump it in. It should be 80% cooked and that is ok. It will finish cooking in the oven. Stir to combine.
Salt to taste
Pour chicken, broccoli, and rice mixture into a casserole dish. Top with crushed crackers and cheddar cheese
Bake for about 30 minutes. Let cool 15 minutes before serving.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

TV Ideas

So, last week I was flipping through the channels trying to find some garbage worth watching on television. On the Food Network was a show called The Greatest Thing I Ever Made that features their various personalities offering up recipes for their best dishes. This time around it was Marcela Valladolid. I have no idea what her culinary credits are but I knew she generally makes Mexican or Mexican inspired dishes. I like Mexican so I figured I would watch. What she made was a sweet corn and poblano lasagna. Now it being the peak of sweet corn season, I was really interested. I watched, and then I made the recipe at home. It was pretty darn good. Fattening as hell but good. I upped the garlic and corn content because I like those things....a lot. I could not find Oaxaca Cheese so I had to settle for plain old Mozzarella but I don't think that mattered all that much. I accidentally mistook a hot pepper from my CSA for a poblano (it looked similar and when I pick up my share I throw everything into 1 bag - oops). I did notice the mistake before I assembled the lasagna and tried to pick them all out but 1 or 2 pieces made it and gave the dish a nice kick that my husband did not care for. Oh well, I thought it was good. I would definitely make this again as a way to use up the summer bounty but not too often because it is certainly not low calorie.

You can find the recipe and photos HERE.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Summer Spoils

I don't know what to call this concoction, other than delicious. It sort of blurs the line between a lasagna and a gratin. Regardless, I ate WAY too much of it. But, seeing as it was vegetarian and used far less cheese than I normally use (I was running low), I regret nothing. It started with the abundance of summer vegetables in my CSA share. I wanted to use as much as I could because the stuff generally doesn't last long being that it is free of pesticides and preservatives. So, I started with a TON of tomatoes that were starting to get squishy,  1 small eggplant, 1 zucchini, 1 green pepper and 1 onion. I cut away all the icky parts on the tomatoes and cored and diced them to make a quick sauce. I didn't have any garlic left (the horrors!) but I did have some garlic scapes left in the back of my veggie drawer that were still hanging on so I cut them up and threw them in with the tomatoes along with a handful of fresh basil and let that all cook away (lid on). While the tomatoes were cooking I sliced my eggplant into planks, the zucchini into coins, the onion into rings and the pepper into somewhat flat planks. I cooked each of these in my grill pan until they were soft and pliable. You could certainly cook them on a grill but I didn't feel like sweating my ass off outside. The humidity has been off the charts lately and it is gross out there. The goal is to remove as much liquid from the vegetables as possible so you don't end up with a soupy mess of a casserole. Once that was done, my tomatoes were ready to process so I added a can of tomato paste to them and hit them with the immersion blender. BAM - sauce done. Next came the assembly. I coated the bottom of a casserole dish with sauce then I added a layer of eggplant followed by a layer of zucchini. Next came a layer of ricotta cheese - maybe 3/4 cup, followed by a layer of onion and pepper. Next came another layer of sauce topped with the last of the eggplant and zucchini. This was topped with more sauce and about a Cup of shredded mozzarella cheeses and a handful of Parmesan cheese. I baked this at 350F for about 40 minutes. Now, you should let this stand for a bit before eating it but I was hungry and dove right it. It was delicious.

Grilled Summer Vegetable Bake
2 Cups tomato sauce - jarred or homemade
1 small eggplant - cut lengthwise into planks
1 medium zucchini - cut into coins
1 medium onion - slice into rings (do not separate rings, leave in disks)
1 green pepper - cut into planks
3/4 Cup Ricotta Cheese
1 Cup Mozzarella Cheese
1/2 Cup Parmesan Cheese

Preheat over to 350F

Grill vegetables on both sides until soft and pliable. Set aside.

In a casserole dish layer vegetable, cheeses and sauce as follows:
Ricotta cheese
(Repeat with what ever veggies are left - I had enough eggplant and zucchini for 1 layer using them together)
Mozzarella cheese
Parmesan Cheese

Bake uncovered for 40 minutes. Let sit 10 minutes before serving (or not if you're hungry).

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Summer YUMs

I am so tired right now I could cry. The hubs and I are leaving for vacation tomorrow and I have been frantically trying to prepare for the trip while working and doing a million other things. It doesn't help that hubs scared the shit out of me last night when he left for work and it took me 3 hours to get back to sleep. UGH! Last night I was up late trying to cook up all the CSA produce that I had in the fridge that would not be coming with us on vacation. I was inspired by a stuffed pepper recipe I saw on the blog Proud Italian Cook (click here to see her beautiful recipe photos). I had a bunch of cubanelle and hungarian wax peppers that fit the bill perfectly. Plus I had tons of tomatoes from the CSA and my own garden that needed to be used along with a bulb of fennel. So I made a nice marinara with tomatoes and fennel to go with this take on stuffed peppers:

Stuffed Italian Peppers

1 bunch broccoli rabe
5 cloves garlic sliced
2 Tbs oil
6 cubanelle peppers
1 pound Italian sausage
1Cup mozzarella cheese
1/2 Cup parmesan cheese

Preheat over to 400F

In a large pan saute broccoli rabe with oil and garlic until soft. Chop and set aside.

Cut tops off of peppers and slit down one side. Remove core, membranes and seeds.

In a bowl mix sausage, cheeses and broccoli rabe  until combined.

Stuff mixture into peppers and place in a baking pan

Bake for 40 minutes

Serve with warm marinara.

Friday, July 15, 2016


Sometimes even the best laid plans end up a disaster. Most people wouldn't share a culinary fail as epic as mine on their blog, but then I am not most people. You have to take the good with the bad and you just can't hit it out of the park every time. Honesty and humility are qualities that I personally embrace.  Hubs and I went on vacation last week with a bunch of friends. We do this every year and rent a beach house in Rhode Island. Normally we have a big pig roast but this year we decided to scale it back and just have a regular old cookout. However, to keep the spirit of the pig alive, I bought a 4 pack of baby back ribs and made a batch of pulled pork. The ribs were pre-cooked and vacuum sealed. I didn't have high hopes for them but the price was right so I figured what the hell. Well, due to the abundance of foodstuffs at the beach house, they never got eaten. So, I brought them back home and finally got around to cooking them this week. I halved the racks, doused them with BBQ sauce, threw them in the crock pot, and went to work. As straight up ribs they were much better than I thought they would be. A little salty for my taste but otherwise just fine with some mashed cauliflower and sauteed fresh zucchini. However, 4 racks of ribs for two people is beyond excessive and I have leftovers up the wazoo! So, yesterday I formulated a plan to use some of the leftover rib meat. I even cam up with a cool name and everything, "BBQ Swineapple Pie". In concept, the idea seemed solid. I lined a pie plate with masa dough (because BBQ pork and corn go well together), then I sauteed some of the leftover rib meat with onions and a little more BBQ sauce. I mixed in some fresh pineapple (because pineapple and pork go well together) and poured it into the masa crust. Then I topped it with a mix of cheddar and mozzarella cheeses (because BBQ and Hawaiian pizza is yummy) and baked it for 40 minutes. When I pulled it from the oven it looked really good but when I ate it, it was not nearly as tasty as I was hoping it would be. It wasn't horrible but I really didn't enjoy it all that much. I don't know if maybe the masa could have been better seasoned. I admit I was in a rush and just threw the crust together without much thought. Maybe it needed more BBQ sauce - it was a tad dry. I thought the pineapple would release more liquid when cooked. Regardless, I was glad my husband grabbed dinner on the road and didn't want any because if I didn't really care for it, he most assuredly would hate it. Yep, kitchen fail. Oh well. Live and learn and try again later.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

One Pan Wonders

Hubs: What's for dinner?
Me: I don't know. Something with sausage.
Hubs: Like what?
Me:  I'll make it up as I go.

Later that Evening

Hubs: You sure you know what you're doing?
Me: Don't worry about it.
Hubs: It smells good.
Me: Blank stare

Even later that evening

Hubs: This is delicious.
Me: Told you not to worry.

This conversation or various iterations of it happen at my house on a weekly basis. You would think after 6 years of marriage and nary a kitchen failure to be had, my husband would be a little less concerned about what I am doing in the kitchen, lol! I suppose when he sees me whip out an bunch of Swiss chard he wonders how the hell I'm going to sneak that into his dinner without him noticing. It's amazing how much his veggie consumption has expanded without his knowledge. It makes me laugh every time! So, yesterday I was really dragging ass....all day! I don't know why but I was and I was in no mood to prepare a complicated dinner. I had defrosted some Italian sausage and that was really all I had as far as a plan. Being tired, I also was not looking to do a boat load of dishes after dinner either. So, after a quick browse through the fridge and the cupboards I came up with this little beauty of a meal. All prepared in a single large skillet. It really was pretty darn good and used up all sorts of odds and ends that were begging to be finally used up. Oh look, pictures too!

Sausage, Vegetable, and Pasta Skillet

1-2 pounds sweet Italian sausage, bulk or with casing removed
3 large cloves garlic, sliced
1 bunch Swiss chard, washed, trimmed and chopped
1 can diced fire roasted tomatoes
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 zucchini, peeled and sliced into half rounds
3 oz asiago cheese, chopped rough
1/2 cup grated parmesan
1/4 cup sharp cheddar, shredded
2 oz mozzarella, diced
1-2 cups water
1/2 box rotini pasta

Brown sausage with garlic until cooked. If your sausage was fatty uou may opt to drain some of the fat. I did not. It is not mandatory.
Add chard to pan and continue cooking until soft.
Add bell pepper and tomatoes (with liquid). Continue to saute
Add remaining ingredients and stir to combine.
Reduce heat to low and cover. Allow to simmer, stirring frequently, until pasta is cooked. Add more water if needed.

Let sit a few minutes before eating. Good Stuff!

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Memorial Day Winners!

So this year the Hubs decided he wanted to have a Memorial Day party at the house. No biggie. We sent out invites probably a month ago and apparently that sort of pre-planning results in a lot of party attendees! Ok, now its a biggie. We spent every waking hour on Thursday and Friday cooking and cleaning and preparing for the party. I was exhausting but oh so worth it. We had a great turn out despite the oppressive heat and humidity and it was so wonderful to have all our friends together. We really had a ball. For this cookout I came up with 2 great dishes that went over really well. One was an appetizer - Pizza Stuffed Mushrooms - and the other a dessert - White Chocolate, Coconut and Strawberry Shortcake Kabobs. Both were super easy to put together and were made in advance. I almost took pictures of them but didn't want to dig out my phone - I was afraid it might actually ring and distract me from all the fun, lol! Anyway, Here are the recipes for you to try.

Pizza Stuffed Mushrooms

3 packages white button mushrooms
2 Tbs olive oil
8-10 saltine crackers
2 Cups pizza sauce, divided
3 cloves garlic
2 Cups mozzarella cheese, shredded
20-25 pepperoni slices

Preheat over to 350F
Rinse mushrooms and remove stems. Place caps bottom side up in a baking dish
Remove woody parts of mushroom stems and mince remaining stems.
Mince garlic and combine with mushroom stems
Add olive to a saute pan and heat, add minced mushrooms and garlic and saute until soft.
Add 1 Cup of pizza Sauce and stir to combine
Crush saltine crackers and add to pan. Stir to combine and remove from heat.
Take stuffing mixture and fill each mushroom cap.
Top stuffed mushrooms with a spoonful of the reserved pizza sauce
Top stuffed mushrooms with mozzarella cheese and then with a slice of pepperoni
Bake uncovered for 30 minutes
Serve hot

White Chocolate, Coconut and Strawberry Shortcake Kabobs

2 pounds fresh strawberries
1 prepared angel food cake
1 bag white chocolate chips
1 cup sweetened coconut

Rinse and hull strawberries
Remove Angel Food Cake from packaging and cut into cubes
Thread strawberries and cake cubes onto skewers, alternating between them
Once skewers are prepared, gently melt white chocolate in a double boiler
Drizzle melted chocolate onto skewers
While still warm press coconut flakes into the chocolate and allow chocolate to harden
Watch them disappear!

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 chance 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!

Monday, January 25, 2016

Shelling it Out!

So, this weekend we were blessed with our first snowstorm of the year. Normally, I prefer them to hit during the week so I can work from home and avoid the office. This time it hit us on Saturday evening and, as luck would have it, we had no plans to do anything! This is a very rare occasion! So, I got to sit back and hang with the doggies while outside the snow just piled up. It's times like this I am so grateful to be fortunate enough to have things like a warn home to reside in and nourishing food to eat. Being home bound for a day and a half provided me the perfect opportunity to try out some new recipes and get creative with last weeks leftovers. Hubs was getting tired of all those chicken cutlets that I had baked off last week for his lunches so using those up was first and foremost on my mind. Waste not, want not! After a quick perusal through the back of the fridge and the cupboards I had an idea. I had left over Italian seasoned chicken cutlets in the fridge. I also had leftover roasted onions and mushrooms from our steak dinner and half a container of ricotta cheese and the ever present mozzarella and Parmesan (get where I am going here). In the cupboard I had 1/4 box of jumbo shells and a half a box of lasagna noodles. My stores of home canned tomatoes was still healthy as well! With all of this I came up with: Chicken Parmesan Stuffed Shells! Here is how it came together! First I prepared a quick marinara using 2 jars of tomatoes, olive oil, a bunch or garlic and basil, and some salt. While that was simmering away I got busy with the filling. First I put the leftover roasted onions and mushrooms in the food processor and whizzed them up until they were finely chopped. I mixed this in with the ricotta cheese along with a handful of shredded mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses. I added some Italian spice blend and salt to the mixture and set that aside. On to the chicken. I cut up the chicken cutlets and added them to the food processor. They got finely chopped up as well and added to the ricotta mixture. That was my filling. I boiled the shells and lasagna noodles until they were pliable but not cooked through and stuffed them up. When I ran out of shells, I spread the filling on the lasagna noodles and rolled them up. These all got placed in a sauce lined baking dish and baked, covered, at 350F for 20 minutes. After 20 minuted I removed the covering and topped the shells/lasagna rolls with grated mozzarella and baked another 10 minutes until melted. Once everything was done I removed the pan and let it sit for a bit before hubs and I devoured nearly the entire pan. It was good! I will admit I liked the lasagna rolls a little better than the shells. I like them being more noodley - It added more texture. In the future, I would chop the chicken more coarsely for the shells to add texture to the dish. But flavorwise both were great. Look, I even remembered to take pictures!

Chicken Parmesan Stuffed Shells

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Cooking from the Heart

That's FROM the heart, not WITH the heart. For the record - organ meat - EW!. Well except for liverwurst. I love that shit. Boudin too. I just never, ever, ever want to see it being made. But that's got nothing to do with todays recipe. it seems hubs and I have been so busy with work lately that we barely get to see each other. It's just work, eat, sleep, repeat. Tuesday was no different but we were both home early (relatively speaking) so we had time to actually sit down at the table and eat a meal together. And what a meal it was. We had hanger steaks over mashed cauliflower with balsamic roasted cippolini onions and portobello mushrooms and roasted broccoli with parmesan. So today I'll give you the rundown for the onions and mushrooms. I have always wanted to try roasting cippolini onions (i.e. tiny vidalias) so when I decided to burn my whole foods gift card and saw them in the store, I had to get them. The worst part of making these is peeling them. You need to blanch them for a couple minutes to loosen up the skins just like you do with pearl onions. It's tedious, I won't lie. But they make such a nice presentation and are so sweet and yummy that I think it is worth it on occasion. Next I rinsed and sliced 5-6 medium sized portobello mushrooms. Now let me mention that my onions were exceptionally small so I roasted them in the same pan at the same time as the mushrooms. Larger onions may need a head start.Once the mushrooms and onions were prepped I tossed them with salt and olive oil with a good splash of balsamic vinegar. I roasted them at 425 for about 20 minutes. When the onions were softened I pulled them out of the oven and noticed that all the vinegar seem to have disappeared! It was so strange since I was expecting a syrup-like reduction. Apparently, most of the vinegar was absorbed by the mushrooms (making them exceptionally delicious, I might add)! So I gave it another quick splash and let the residual heat in the pan cook it down. That's it. It was a great topper to a nicely cooked steak!

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Bulking Up

So, for this new year I an attempting to make my life a little easier by cooking things in larger quantities when I can in order to reduce meal time stress and effort later in the week. My first foray was yesterday and it began with chicken breasts. In reality I just didn't feel like breaking out the vacuum sealer to freeze all the chicken so I figured that now was as good a time as any to try out the bulk cooking thing. I had never been a fan of it because I loathe the idea of eating the same freaking thing all week long. I figured that if I seasoned the chicken a couple of different ways, then the meals I make with it during the week wouldn't seem so monotonous. I wanted to season the meat so that it would be compatible with salads and sandwiches and be good by itself. I also wanted to bake the chicken so it could all go in the oven at once and I wouldn't have to tend to it while it cooked. The fact that I used a disposable aluminum pan also made clean up a breeze. Since I was going for salad and sandwich applications I filleted the breasts. This was probably not the greatest idea unless you are meticulous about getting everything relatively the same thickness. I had a few very thin pieces that came out dry and tough. The thicker fillets were much better texture-wise. So, important lesson. Keep the fillets of equal thickness. Finally the last thing that probably would have improved these is to give them a quick blast under the broiler to crisp up the cheeses in the seasonings. I have a shitty circa 1982 gas range with the broiler drawer on the bottom so the disposable pan I was using didn't fit. Man, do I hate my oven. Hopefully, that no interest loan I gave the government last year will have a return on it that will allow me to buy something newer and a HELL of a lot better. But I digress. Back to the food! I have a feeling that the final product will not go to waste this week and we wont get too tired of eating chicken. I have included the recipes for the two flavor combinations that I used. You simply arrange your chicken in a baking dish in a single layer, spread the seasoning mix over the top of the meat, and bake it until its done. If you wanted to let it sit overnight and bake it the next day I am sure that would work well too.

4 chicken breast halves, filleted to equal thickness

Cheddar Ranch Seasoning

1/2-3/4 C mayonnaise (I eyeballed it)
3 Tbs Ranch seasoning
1/2 C shredded cheddar cheese

Italian Parmesan Seasoning

1/2-3/4 C mayonnaise
1 packet good seasons Italian dressing
1/2T garlic powder
1/2 c Parmesan cheese

Mix seasoning ingredients into a thick paste. Arrange chicken breasts in a single layer in a baking dish. Spread seasoning mix over the top of the chicken. Bake at 350F for 20-25 minutes until done. If broiling (recommended) remove chicken when slightly underdone and place under hot broiler until tops are crispy and chicken is done.

Serve hot with rice and veggies and use leftovers in salads and sandwiches.

Monday, January 4, 2016

Happy New Year!

Hope everyone enjoyed their holiday. The hubs and I certainly did, although we are both probably 5 pounds heavier now. Yep, we are both resolving to eat lighter in the upcoming months. I actually started back on my exercise regime last week and have been constantly sore ever since. No pain, no gain, right. I had taken a break due to sciatic issues but am feeling much better now that I have incorporated some targeted stretches into my regime. No more excuses now. Anyway, one of the things that I am trying to do to help eat leaner and lighter is to cook up proteins in bulk over the weekends and freeze them in small portions so that when we get busy during the week I can just thaw them for use in salads, wraps, or stir fry's. This weekend I noticed I had a LOT of pork in my freezer. I buy it on sale but then never seem to cook it. Hubs never gets excited to eat pork so that is probably why. I know he likes breaded pork chops but I was looking for something leaner. I decided carnitas. The pork can be put into taco/burritos or on salads or just tossed with some sauteed vegetables. When it comes to Mexican food, I have 2 go-to recipe sources. Rick Bayless and Pati Jinich. Since I was using pork odds and ends rather than pork shoulder (traditional cut for carnitas), I opted for Pati's recipe. I have to tell you, I was a little leery about using orange juice and sweetened condensed milk, but once it started cooking the smell was so good that all my reservations went out the window. I followed her recipe as written and found the end result to be flavorful but not what I would normally consider for Mexican food. My Americanized palate anticipates Mexican food to be strongly seasoned with hot peppers, tomato, cilantro and cumin, whereas, these carnitas were very mild with subtle flavors. In my book this is fantastic as now they are a perfect canvas to be further seasoned for whatever application I choose to use them. When they were done, I quickly used some for a test taco with queso fresco, cilantro, pickled onions, hot sauce and a squeeze of lime. Delicious. I think the addition of some fresh salsa verde would definitely elevate them as the taco seemed a tad dry. I let the meat cool in the pan with the juices so that they could be reabsorbed. When cooled, I picked out the fat; shredded the meat; and placed it in ziplocks with some of the juices and froze them for later use. I am sure they will come in habdly later in the week when things get back to their normal level of crazy!

Pati's Pork Carnitas

Half a white onion, peeled and coarsely chopped
1 1/2 cups water
6 garlic cloves
1 teaspoon dried marjoram
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Pinch cumin
4 whole cloves, stems removed
1 tablespoon kosher or coarse sea salt, or to taste
1 tablespoon lard, vegetable shortening or oil
4 to 5 pounds boneless pork shoulder or butt, cut into 4-inch chunks, fat on! (I used a mix of country style ribs and assorted chops)
1/2 teaspoon kosher or coarse sea salt
2 bay leaves
1 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
2 tablespoons sweetened condensed milk

In the jar of a blender, place the water, onion, garlic cloves, marjoram, thyme, black pepper, cumin, stemmed whole cloves and 1 tablespoon salt. Puree until smooth. 

Set a large Dutch oven or heavy casserole over medium-high heat. Add the lard (or vegetable shortening or oil), and once it has heated up, add the pork chunks and sprinkle in 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Brown the meat on all sides, stirring and flipping as each side browns, about 10 minutes. 

Pour the onion mixture over the meat, let it come to a simmer and cook for 5 to 6 minutes. Pour in the orange juice and sweetened condensed milk, add the 2 bay leaves, and give it a good stir. Let it come to a simmer, then reduce heat to medium-low to low and cover. 

Cook covered, stirring and scrapping the bottom of the casserole 2 to 3 times along the way, until the meat is completely cooked and coming easily apart if you pull one piece, about one hour and a half. Remove the lid, cook for another 4 to 5 minutes. Scoop out the carnitas with a slotted spoon, leaving any fat behind, and serve in a bowl or platter. Shred with a fork, if desired, before tucking into tacos. Or do like we do, serve straight from the pot. 

Serve with warm corn tortillas and pickled jalapeños or salsa verde cruda on the side.