Sunday, June 13, 2010

Mexican Meat- Crock It

Do you own a crockpot? You should! I've owned one for at least 15 years and can't even count how many times I have used it. It's such a wonderful feeling to have your dinner cooking for you while you're at work or tooling around the house! Our standards are typically chili, pulled pork, and I often will cook bone-in chicken breasts to get shredded chicken for recipes. The leftover stock can keep in the fridge for various uses, too. Love it!

When I first bought my crockpot I purchased two cook books, one of which was "Crock-It". It's a great book- filled with simple recipes and hand written with one recipe per page, which makes it easy to read. One of my favorite chicken recipes came from here and I've always been intrigued by this Mexican Meat recipe because of two things. One, it is simple as anything and two- she states that it's the recipe that started the book. If that's not an incentive to make something I don't know what is! I really can't believe it's taken me this long to actually make this. Shawn picked up a rump roast and I decided that cooking it in the crockpot would be the best bet. It's summertime and stews seem just too hot and heavy for this time of year. I was so excited when I remembered this recipe because I had all the ingredients in the pantry!!

To make it, there's really not much that is simpler. I opened a can of cream of celery soup. I opened a can of diced green chilis. Combined them in my crockpot with the beef, turned it on, and walked away. OK- I lied. I'm me and despite the fact that I shouldn't be futzing around with the crockpot (something I have nagged roommates and husbands incessantly about); I couldn't help but mess with the meat after 5 or 6 hours. It is inevitably supposed to shred, so I eventually went and sliced the meat into a few pieces to keep them in the liquid and aid in the shredding process. It took quite a bit longer to shred than stated in the recipe. I don't know if it was because I didn't cut the meat up right away or because I opened the pot to play with it. Probably a combination of the two.

This came out good, not great. I feel like I may have not been the best judge because I have a bit of a head cold, but I needed to add some hot sauce to mine. I tried this two ways- the first was rolled in some corn tortillas with cheese. This was kind of boring, so I then scooped it up with some Tostitos which was much tastier. I think I might try a casserole with the leftovers- mix it with tomatoes, black beans, and corn and top with corn bread... I think that would be a much better version than what I had! I did put some of the leftover meat in the freezer to doctor up on another occasion and I will let you know when I try my new variation!

I made burritos last night with the leftover meat by putting about 1/2 cup of the mixture in a whole wheat tortilla with some sauteed onion and shredded cheddar cheese. I drizzled them with Trader Joe's enchilada sauce (I love this stuff- it's a must have in my pantry), some cheese, and baked them for 20 minutes at 350. I topped them with some sliced green onions and served it with sauteed vegetables and a corn & tomato salad. Unbelieveable!! The meat was so much tastier when featured in a recipe like this.

Mexican Meat- Crock-It

3lbs stew meat
1 (10oz) can cream of celery soup
1 (4oz) can chopped green chilis

Combine all ingredients in crockery, stir well to coat meat. Cook on high 6-8 hours. Use a potato masher to blend liquid and shred meat. It should just fall apart when done.

Use this recipe for Burritos, Soft Tacos, Tostatos, Bean Dip or serve over rice.

Backyard BBQ with Confetti Orzo Salad & Curry Dip

We had a small BBQ last night to show off Shawn's smoker skills and go over planning details with some friends whose wedding I'm helping out with. There were about 8 of us, plus the boy, and I knew it'd be hot so I wanted to do a few quick sides and apps to let the meat be the star of the show. Shawn was making a chicken and brisket and I had planned to do a BLT salad, but due to some suspect bacon in my fridge I changed things up at the last minute and found a quick orzo salad to prepare. The book is called 365 Ways to Cook Pasta and I couldn't even tell you where I got it from! Probably a clearance rack somewhere, but I like that there are so many options in the book to choose from.

I cooked up the orzo that was left over from earlier in the week and added some cut veggies. Mixed it with lemon juice and zest, olive oil, fresh parsley, and garlic and put it all in the fridge for later.

I also wanted an easy dip for veggies and whipped up a curry dip that I found on chowhound. 2 parts sour cream to 1 part mayonnaise and add some fresh lemon juice and curry to taste. Stir, chill, and serve. It was so easy and completely delicious. The dip complemented everything, but my favorite pairs were the broccoli, the mushrooms and, surprisingly, grilled shrimp! Thanks, Meg, for the tip! I have a feeling that I'll be making this dip many many times in my life.

The smoked meat was spectacular, as always! I'm really glad that I went with the orzo salad because the BLT would have been too much. I thought that the simplicity of the salad made it really work with everything else. There were so many strong, spicy flavors and the light vinaigrette and the vegetables were really refreshing. I tossed some of the leftover pasta with a salad and some leftover chicken the next day and it was excellent!

Confetti Orzo Salad- 365 Ways to Make Pasta
1 1/2 cups orzo, or small solid pasta
1/3 cup light olive oil
3T fresh lemon juice
1/2 tsp lemon zest
1/2 tsp salt
1/8 tsp fresh ground black pepper
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 medium carrot, cut into 1/8 inch dice
1 1/4 cups finely diced red, green, and/or yellow bell pepper
1/2 cup peeled, seeded, and finely diced cucumber
1/4 cup finely chopped scallion
1/4 cup finely chopped red onion
1/4 cup chopped flat leaf Italian parsley

1. Cook orzo in plenty of boiling, salted, water until tender, 10-12 minutes. Drain, in wire mesh strainer, and rinse under cool water

2. Whish oil, lemon juice, lemon zest, salt, pepper, and garlic until blended. Toss diced veggies, orzo, and dressing together. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Curry Dip-
1/2 cup sour cream
1/4 cup mayonnaise
lemon juice
curry powder

Stir and serve

Monday, June 7, 2010

Satueed Pork Cutlets & Orzo "Risotto"

I bought a pork loin last week and was debating a few different things that I could make with it. I gave Shawn three choices for dinner (Zucchini Wrapped Pork, Sauteed Cutlets, and the Fiesta Pork from earlier this year, but with grits instead of polenta). He picked the cutlets and I decided to finally try out this orzo recipe that has intrigued me for years. It's in my HTCE book and I mentally flagged it as a simple dish that I could make with a few key ingredients. Thanks to my fabulous pantry stocking skills I was set!

I started by chopping up my onions and measuring all of the ingredients that I would need for both dishes. I melted some butter until it foamed and added the onions; sauteeing for a few minutes before adding the orzo. I toasted the orzo for a few moments (a la Rice a Roni) and added chicken stock, salt & pepper. I covered it, turned it down to low, and stirred it every few minutes while I cooked the pork.

This pork recipe is another one that I have tossed around for years as an easy dish in a pinch. I got it from an old Martha Stewart magazine that I purchased when we first moved into our house. I actually just realized that detail at this very moment; when looking at the recipe while typing up this blog. What fun! For one reason or another I never made the recipe, but tonight I had everything I needed and was finally ready to try it.

I sliced up the tenderloin, pounded the cutlets, and seasoned with salt & pepper. I sauteed them up in olive oil, a few cutlets at a time, for 2 minutes on each side (stirring my orzo all the while). When ready, I transferred them all to a dish and then drizzled fresh lemon juice over the cutlets and topped with a touch of parmesan.

The orzo was ready at about this time, so I added some parmesan to that as well, stirred and it was ready to eat.

The pork was delicious- the lemon wasn't overpowering and it really was complemented by the parmesan. I should have checked them from the pan- they weren't cooked enough and I had to cook them for a few minutes more after we sat down to eat. C'est la vie! They were delicious when we could finally eat them! The orzo was also quite tasty; the onions gave a nice sweetness and the texture really was like a risotto. I think a little swiss would have been absolutely fabulous with this, too. Maybe next time....

All in all it was a successful, two recipe meal and both were dishes that I would make again and again. The meal took very little time to prepare and it really tasted delicious and could also be modified to incorporate a lot of different flavors.

Sauteed Pork Cutlets- Martha Stewart Living: October 2006

Orzo "Risotto"- How to Cook Everything: Mark Bittman
2T butter or olive oil
1 small onion, minced
3 cups chicken, beef, or vegetable stock, plus 1/2 cup more if needed
1 1/2 cups orzo (rice- shaped pasta)
salt & fresh ground pepper
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup minced fresh parsley leaves

1. Place butter in 3 or 4 quart saucepan and turn heat to medium, when the foam subsides, add the onion and cook, stirring, until it becomes transluscent. Meanwhile, heat up the stock in a separate pan.
2. Add the orzo to the onion and stir once or twice; season with salt & pepper and add the stock, all at once. Cover and reduce heat to medium.
3. Cook, stirring every few minutes to prevent sticking, until the liquid is absorbed and the pasta is tender, about 15 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasoning, if needed. Stir in half the parmesan cheese and parsley. Garnish with the remaining parsley and serve with Parmesan on the side.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Spicy Shrimp and Grits- Cooking Light

I was on my own for Saturday dinner this weekend and decided to prepare a recipe that Shawn wouldn't normally want to try. Shrimp was on sale this week so I went through my trusty collection of recipes to find something fun to try. I decided on Spicy Shrimp with Grits from my Cooking Light magazine since it had a lot of items that I already had in my cabinets. Plus, I'm just a sucker for Shrimp and Grits and the recipe has bacon (BACON) in it. Cooking light has a theory that if you use small amounts of bacon in place of cream and butter you can add way more flavor, plus protein, with similar calories. You can't eat like this every day, but it's nice to be able to fit in delicious food and not feel overly guilty about it.

Since I was cooking for myself, I decided to cut the recipe in half so I wouldn't have a ton of leftovers. I figured that a recipe for four, cut in half, would yield a portion for dinner and a portion for breakfast. I was right:) I should have taken a tip from my college classes in yielding and written down the new ingredient measurements on a separate piece of paper. I didn't make any mistakes, but had to go back and reference the recipe about 10 more times than I should have.

I started by frying up 2 pieces of applewood smoked bacon. When it was crisp, I drained the bacon on a paper towel and removed most of the grease. I sauteed the shrimp for 2 minutes on each side and removed them from the pan. I then added the sliced onion, sauteeing for one minute, and then the grape tomatoes and crumbled bacon. I did make one slight step away from the recipe by adding the teeniest bit of chicken stock to the pan with the onions. There was this gorgeous layer of bacon, shrimp, and spices at the bottom of my pan and I couldn't resist bringing the flavor up on the onions. I'm glad I did! I added the shrimp back to the pan with a touch of Sriracha to finish the dish.

While this was going on, I prepared the grits and added the parmesan as the last step. Topped the grits with shrimp and sat down for dinner.

Wow. This was sooo good! The grits were creamy with just the right texture. The shrimp was delicious!! A hint of spice and the vegetables were perfectly cooked. I loved it! The portion was quite ample and looked fantastic on the plate. It heated up well the next morning, too; holding its texture and not getting greasy at all. I would make this again without a doubt, either for dinner or maybe as a fun tapas dish for company. Shawn likes grits, just not shrimp, so I might try it again with veal scallops and see how that turns out.

Spicy Shrimp with Grits- Cooking Light March 2010

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

My Infamous Breakfast Potatoes

OK, so this isn't a new recipe for me but how can I have a food blog and not mention one of the tastiest and most requested dishes that I make?? It's a recipe that I inherited from my dad, but have tweaked and mastered it to the point that I can comfortably call them mine now. But it all started back when I was a little kid and would ask for "Daddy's home fries" whenever visiting my father. I don't like eggs (never have) and after getting tired of making pancakes he decided to whip up various ingredients to create his version of home fries, which is basically a potato omelette. This was before the days of "skillets" at the breakfast chains but it's a similar idea. When Shawn and I were dating I made them for Christmas breakfast one year and it's been a tradition ever since. Now I usually make it two or three times a year, as it takes forever to make and is so fattening and heavy despite it's deliciousness.

I start by browning bulk breakfast sausage in a large frying pan. I have a chicken fryer pan that works perfectly. I used to use links but find that the bulk sausage disperses better through the dish. Once browned, I remove the sausage and most of the grease, and sautee diced onion and green pepper in the pan. Then I add diced raw potatoes to the pan (red work best, but any type is fine) and let it sit for about 5-10 minutes at medium before mixing, adding the sausage, and turning down to low. Cover loosely, so that steam can escape, and let cook at low for about 30 minutes or so. Turn potatoes, add diced ham salt & pepper, cover and cook another 30 minutes or so. Top with American cheese, cover and cook until melted or ready to serve.

Note- if you cover the dish fully the vegetables will create a liquid which will make the dish very moist. It'll taste good, but there will be a 1/2 inch of water in the pan which will keep it from crisping up.

The key to this dish is patience. The potatoes are ready to eat after 30-60 minutes, but the longer you wait the better they taste. I could never quite get them right and it took years to realize that the main difference between my dad's and mine was about an hour! I find this to be a great holiday dish because we open presents while they cook and eat when we're done. It's also great for a brunch because they can sit on low until people are ready to eat. If you get them just right there's a fantastic crunch layer at the bottom of the pan that people have been known to fight over.

Try out your own variations, too- you can add mushrooms, use different cheeses, etc. I prefer American for the melt consistancy, but many people have tried it with cheddar and enjoyed. Sometimes I use lunchmeat ham, sometimes I use ham steak- have fun!

Breakfast Potatoes

Approx 5lbs potatoes (average 2 per person), large dice. Peel if you want to- I peel about 1/3 of them
1 package bulk breakfast sausage
1 green pepper, diced
1 large onion, diced
1/4lb ham, diced
1/4lb American Cheese
salt & pepper to taste

1. Spray a 15 inch frying pan with non-stick spray.
2. Brown sausage on Medium High heat, breaking apart while cooking.
3. Remove sausage and drain, reserving 1T of pan drippings
4. Add peppers and onions to the frying pan and sauté on medium high heat for 5 minutes
5. Add potatoes to the pan and stir. Let brown, without stirring, for 5-10 minutes then turn heat down to Low.
6. Add Sausage, stir, and season with Salt and Pepper. Cover, leaving cracked so some steam can release, and let sit on Low heat for 30 minutes.
7. Add ham and flip potatoes, making sure to scrape any crust off of the bottom of the pan. Cover lightly again and let sit on low heat for 30 minutes
8. Flip potatoes, then top with Cheese, cover, and let sit on low for another 20-30 minutes before serving

Monday, May 24, 2010

Thai Chicken Curry- Family Circle & Stir Fried Beef with Onions- HTCE

For 6 years I have committed myself to a wonderful television show by the name of Lost. Many memories and nights with friends have been spent in wonder, amazement, confusion, and heartbreak and all of it came to a resoltion last evening. I was sad in the days leading up to the finale. After living with the characters and storylines for so long it was tough to know that the story would be ending and I would only have the memories (and DVDs) to bring me back to it. I won't wax poetic about the finale, or my thoughts on it, because that's not what this blog is about... it's about food.

That being said, I wanted to make something fun in honor of the finale event! I had a thai chicken recipe that I had been wanting to make for months now and thought it would be a good dish for the evening. I also wanted to do one other item and after some deliberations decided to add a second entree. Steak was on sale and the recipe from my How to Cook Everything cookbook seemed simple and incorporated ingredients that I had available.

I started by getting everything prepped up while John was still up so that once he went to bed I could quickly whip up the meal and we could get in front of the flatscreen for Lost. I sliced up the steak, chicken, & onions; minced up the garlic & ginger, and had everything set aside for take off. Once the boy was in bed I started the rice and got started with the stir fries. I wouldn't attempt this again with the two stir fry dishes at once. It got a little hectic for me as I tried to coordinate them both. It worked, but it was way more stressing than it should have been!

For the curry sauce, I combined 2/3 of the can of light coconut milk with curry paste. I used a little less paste than it called for because I didn't want to scare Shawn off. I simmered the sauce for a minute and then added the remaining milk with sugar, soy sauce, and cornstarch and simmered for another minute. I added the chicken to the mix and it actually cooks in the sauce! Kind of neat to see chicken cooking in a cream sauce. Italians- do not try this with your alfredo!! Once the chicken is cooked through I added a thawed bag of asian frozen mixed vegetables until heated through and it was done! While this was going on.....

I sauteed the onions in sesame oil until they were charred and removed from the pan. I then added the garlic and ginger, sauteed for a minute, and added the beef. Once the beef was browned I added the onions back to the mix, added stock and hoisin, and it was ready for serving.... unfortunately my rice was not yet ready. I don't understand my challenges with rice!!! It's so annoying when everything is set to be ready at the same time and one item is lagging behind. It took almost an additional 10 minutes for my rice to fully absorb the water. Grrr....

So once it was ready, I heated the dishes up quickly and we were ready to try it all. Despite the holding time everything came out delicious! The steak was tender and flavorful and the onions were delicious with it. I love the combination of ingredients for the beef dish so I knew I would love it. You really can't go wrong with garlic, ginger, onions, and sesame oil. The chicken was fantastic! The curry was subtle and it all worked out beautifully. Shawn and I kept going back and forth which of these were our favorites and the chicken won out by only a little. It's also the heathier of the two!

I was so excited that Shawn really liked the curry. I loooove curry and this dish is super easy to make and healthy to boot. I'm definitely making it again!!

Thai Chicken Curry with Jasmine Rice- Family Circle 10-09

Stir Fried Beef with Onions- How to Cook Everything- Mark Bittman
3/4- 1lb flank or sirloin steak
salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
2T peanut or vegetable oil
2 large or 3 medium onions, sliced thinly
1t minced garlic
1T peeled and minced ginger or grated fresh ginger, plus 1 teaspoon
1/2 cup stock or water
1T hoisin sauce or soy sauce

1. Slice beef as thinly as you can; it's easier if you freeze it for 15- 30 minutes first. Season with salt & pepper and set aside.
2. Heat a wok or large skillet over high heat until it smokes. Add 1 tablespoon of oil and the onions. Stir immediately, then stir every 30 seconds or so until the onions soften and begin to char slightly, 4-5 minutes. Season the onions with salt & pepper then remove them; keep the heat on high
3. Add the remaining oil to the pan, then the garlic and 1 tablespoon of ginger; stir immediately and add the beef. Stir immediately, then stir every 20 seconds or so until it loses color, just a minute or two longer, then stir in the onions. Add the stock or water, the hoisin or soy, and the remaining ginger; let some of the liquid bubble away and serve immediately, over rice.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Simply Sensational Potato Salad- Marukan Rice Vinegar Bottle

Shawn recently got a new smoker for his birthday and we are very excited to be trying out new things on it! I love when spring rolls around and the weather starts getting nice.... we have a beautiful screened in porch with speakers outside for music and we really try and take advantage of it when the weather is nice. I especially love this time of year because a lot of the cooking responsibilities shift over. Shawn's the griller of the family so instead of complete dinner management I get downgraded to sides and sauces. I don't mind- it gives me a little extra free time at the end of the evenings.

This weekend was our second foray into the world of smoking meats. Shawn has been having a lot of fun looking up BBQ sauces and rub recipes and will be hijacking this blog on a occasion to discuss his new adventures. We picked up some ribs from the supermarket and I decided to make some potato salad to go with it. Originally I was going to make the potato salad from my earlier blog posting, but realized at the last minute that I didn't have white wine vinegar. I went to replace it with rice vinegar and then realized that there was a recipe on the back of the bottle for potato salad! It was simpler than the one I was about to make, slightly healthier, and qualified as a new recipe, so I went for it!

I boiled the potatoes for 20 minutes, until tender, and whisked the dressing while the potatoes cooked. It was simple as anything- equal parts of mayo, dijon mustard, and vinegar with green onions. Mix while hot, and then let the salad cool in the fridge for a few hours.

I brought it out when the time came for dinner- quick and easy. The dressing had a nice color, but the salad itself wasn't very aesthetic. It had a yellowish color from the mustard and only the touch of green from the scallions to take away from it. It was a little heavier on the vinegar than I prefer, but I should expect that when the recipe comes from a vinegar bottle! I enjoyed it this time around, but will probably make the other recipe the next time I make an attempt.

Simply Sensational Potato Salad- Marukan Rice Vinegar Bottle
1/4c mayonnaise
1/4c rice vinegar
1/4c dijon mustard
4 large red skin potatoes, skin on, cooked, & cubed
3 green onions, sliced

Whisk together the first three ingredients until smooth. Place potatoes & onions in bowl. Pour sufficient mayonnaise mixture to coat, toss well. Chill for at least one hour.
Serves 6

Friday, May 14, 2010

Spoon Bread-

You know you're getting older when you think back to how long you've been on a messageboard/ online community and realize how long it's truly been... I first heard about chowhound when Shawn and I were planning our first trip to New Orleans in 2004. I was at a networking event and started chatting up some strangers about my trip and they suggested I check it out for ideas on where to eat. I wish I could find those folks and thank them, because that was 6 years ago and since then has become a staple in my culinary life. I use it for vacations, for recipes, or just for reviewing and discussing restaurants in my area. The website consists of messageboards for different regions, plus discussion pages for chains, general topics, food in media, etc. It's an excellent form of time suckage for those of you who are as obsessed as I am about food and restaurants!

I was reading a thread on the Home Cooking board where people were discussing different things to do with Jiffy cornbread mixes. The common thought was that on it's own it's not the greatest product, but can be a base for many good recipes. Someone posted a spoonbread recipe, which intrigued me for two reasons. One, it features items that I regularly keep in my pantry and two, it sounded similar to the awesome corn cake that we used to have when I worked at ChiChis.

I've been wanting to make the recipe for a while, but was concerned about Shawn's interest in something like this. I knew that he would like it, but would freak out about the concept of "spoonbread" and inevitably freak himself out of liking it. Sorry, honey- we both know it's true! I was thankful that on our recent trip to New Orleans we went to a wonderful Caribbean restaurant where we tried a corn stuffing. It was more spoonbread or corncake than stuffing, but it was awesome and we both loved it. So last night, when I decided to make this to go with some leftover chili in the freezer, I told him I was making "corn stuffing" and left it at that.

The prep on this was simple- open some cans of corn, creamed corn, and green chilis and combine it with sour cream, eggs, dried onions, and diced red pepper. Combine it with the Jiffy Mix and bake for 45 minutes at 375.

For anyone who's never had spoonbread or corncake, it's a softer version of cornbread. You actually scoop it out with a spoon or ice cream scooper; hence the name. It came out with a nice, golden crust and I tested the bread with a toothpick to ensure it was done. My baking skills are typically on par with my rice skills, so I was a little concerned! Luckily, it came off clean and we were ready to eat.

It was awesome. It was moist and sweet and the crust had a slight chewiness. The bits of corn and peppers gave it a great texture, too. I had been hoping for the green chilis to give it a little kick, but it wasn't spicy at all. If Shawn was more into spicy I would consider adding a few shots of Sriracha hot sauce next time to kick it up a notch, but it isn't necessary. I loved the spoonbread as a complement to the chili, too. I ate it together in the bowl and it really worked for me! Shawn loved it, too, but preferred it as a side dish.

Great dish and I'd totally make it again! It was so easy and something different from the norm. Cheers!


1 package Jiffy cornbread mix
2 eggs
1/2 cup sour cream
1 can corn, drained
1 can creamed corn
1 can diced green chilis
diced red peppers
2T dried onion

Preheat oven to 375 F. Combine all ingredients in a bowl and pour into a 9 x 13 pan sprayed with nonstick spray. Bake for 45 minutes and cool. Scoop and serve!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Creole Seasoning- Prime Time Emerill

So now that I recommitted I had a really hard time this week picking a recipe. What I need to start doing is picking my recipe over the weekend, prior to my weekly Acme visit, to ensure that I have absolutely everything I need. I was planning to try something Latin for Cinco De Mayo, then was going to try a Corn Jalepeno Cake, but didn't have what I needed and just didn't feel like stopping at the store..... this is how these weeks get away from me, so I sat down on Thursday (OK, not literally, but mentally) and decided that I wasn't getting out of this meal without using a recipe!! We had some honkin big pork chops that I had pulled out of the freezer and I was making some boxed red beans and rice, so I pulled out my trusty Emeril cookbook! I found the Creole Seasoning, which I thought would complement the chops and the rice. Whenever I mix rubs, I try to make extra to have on hand, so I made the full recipe to keep for summer grilling.

I took out the container where I planned to keep the spice and just added each item one after the other. It fit perfectly in the container and looked a little like the sand things that we used to make at the shore or at carnivals. I shook it up and added it to the one side of the pork chop before searing it.

TIP!!! One of the best tips I ever got was from Bobby Flay a few years ago, where he suggests adding rubs to only one side of meat instead of coating both sides. I tried it once and never looked back. This keeps the rub from overwhelming the meat so that you get the flavor of the rub, but still taste the pork/chicken/steak flavor. Brilliant!

We didn't feel like pulling out the grill, so I used my new grill pan that I earned from a recent Acme promotion. I multitasked by reading chapters of my text book while restraining myself from turning the chops over and over again. I seared both sides, turned it down to medium, and the chops were absolutely perfect! The rub was slightly spicy- perfect for me and just at the edge of Shawn's threshold. I found it too be a little bit salty, but am curious if it was from the beans and rice and not the rub.

Creole Seasoning- Prime Time Emeril
2 1/2T paprika
2T salt
2T garlic powder
1T ground black pepper
1T onion powder
1T cayenne
1T dried oregano
1T dried thyme

Combine and store in an airtight container away from light. Use within three months.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

New Potato & Chive Salad with a Side of Sheepishness

Sorry I have been so slacking! I am embarrassed to have stepped away from my blog and my project for so long. I could provide all of the things that have taken up my time (CMP certification, new Mary Kay business, overscheduling myself) but really I should keep to my committments instead of moving on to new ones!! So here it is- my recommitment toward my resolution. Now where to start.....

I did prepare one new recipe in the down time. It was for John's 2nd birthday party! We made a lot of our usual dishes (pulled pork, Shawn's homemade slaw, my mac & cheese) and I wanted to do one new thing. I had a bunch of potatoes that needed to be prepared and decided that potato salad would fit in perfectly.

The next step was to take out all of my recipe books and create just the right one! I found an old book that I rarely use called "500 All Time Greatest Recipes". It's a bold statement, which the book doesn't totally live up to, but there are some really good things in here. The best thing about this book is an inscription under the front cover where my friend, Dana, wishes me a happy birthday (in 1999) and hopes that I'll be using it to cook for her when we're 50. Unfortunately, we're getting closer and closer to that prophecy!!!! The potato salad recipe looked simple but delicious, so I added it to the menu.

One thing that intrigued me about the method was that the recipe has you mix the oil, vinegar, and mustard and toss the hot drained potatoes with the vinaigrette and scallions before cooling. Once cooled, I added the mayonnaise and chives and chill in the fridge until ready to serve. The vinaigrette gave such a wonderful flavor to the potatoes, but the simplicity of the mayo and fresh herbs still shone through. It was so delicious!! It's funny- I made this over a month ago and the part I remember most is a few of us eating it out of the bowl at the very end of a long party. It's the true test of a good party dish!!

Simple, inexpensive, and delicious- I'd make this again in a hearbeat.

New Potato & Chive Salad- 500 All Time Great Recipes
1 1/2 lbs new potatoes
4 scallions
3T olive oil
1T white wine vinegar
1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
1/4 cup good quality mayonnaise (I used Hellmanns because it's the best, in my opinion)
3T chopped fresh chives
salt & pepper

1. Cook the potatoes, unpeeled, in boiling water until tender. Meanwhile, finely chop the white parts of the scallions along with a little of the green parts.

2. Whisk together the oil, vinegar, and mustard. Drain potatoes well, then immediately toss with the vinegar mixture and scallions and allow to cool. Stir in the mayonnaise and chives and chill in the fridge until ready to serve.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Shrimp Scampi- Kitchen Secrets

If I had to pick my #1 all time favorite cookbook, it would be Kitchen Secrets by Readers Digest. I don't even remember where I got my first copy, but it was definitely one of the first cookbooks that I owned. I'm on my second copy now, as the pages tend to fall out after a while, and have given copies to friends and family as well.

The book is more of a method type of book. It's split into chapters (like soups and stews, pastas, vegetables), and each chapter features sub-chapters (tomato sauces, cream sauces, layered pastas, filled pastas) to break it down more specifially. The sub-topics take up the left and right pages when the book is opened. The left side features the theorys of the item, varieties, storage and reheating, and best ingredients for the use of it. With tomato sauce, for example, it discusses canned versus fresh; the best way to store and reheat, what pastas and recipes are better with sauce and various add ins that would work. The page on the right features a recipe for tomato sauce and then there is always a second recipe that is a variation, like fra diavlo. I have read this book from cover to cover on many, many occasions. Mainly, I chose this recipe from here simply so that I could tell you about the book!

So, on to the recipe..... my best friends and I have what we call our "ladies club" where a small group of us get together on a monthly basis. It used to be at restaurants, and then fell to the wayside, but we started it off again in 2010 with the idea of going to each others houses. Month #2 was at Dana's house and she decided on an Italian theme. Shrimp was on sale this week, so I decided on the scampi. I love shrimp and know that the girls do, too. Plus. I liked that it was a quick dish that I could make there instead of finding time in my own kitchen!!

I packed up the shrimp, a small container with the garlic & parsley, and a lemon in a cooler and was on my way. We peeled and rinsed the shrimp and then I got started on the sauce. Melted some butter in a sautee pan, added the garlic & spices, and then tossed the shrimp until it was cooked. Voila!

The shrimp was delicious, but probably should have been served with rice or noodles. I didn't think it went with the other dishes as well as it could have (all of which were fantastic). The butter was very heavy and just kind of sat there on the side of everything else. I will definitely make this again, but will serve it as its own dish rather than in addition to other items.

Curry Chicken Salad with Cucumber- Dr. Atkins

A few of my girlfriends were coming over and I wanted to have a few simple things for dinner with little fuss, since it was mid-week. My one friend tries to eat a low carb diet whenever possible, so I decided to give my Atkins cookbook a whirl. I found a few things that I thought could be tasty, before settling on chicken salad. I knew that I would have leftover chicken from the Tandoori recipe and found a curry chicken salad that sounded delicious.

Man, do I love a good chicken salad. It's an interesting food, since everyone has their favorite way to make it and most people are pretty particular about their preferences. I like all white meat, no fruit, diced meat versus shredded, and a little vegetable crunch for texture.

I started by whisking mayonnaise, vinegar, & scallions with the spices, and then added chopped cucumber & celery. I diced up the chicken, put it in a serving dish and was done. So simple! I served it with sliced bread, cut celery, & baby spinach leaves. Not to toot my horn, but this was fantastic!!! Creamy but not too creamy, extremely flavorful, and just the right amount of crunch. The curry gave it a great flavor and nice color. The recipe also calls for a touch of cinnamon which gives it a "hint of intrigue". I'm not the hugest fan of cinnamon, but took their word for it. I couldn't taste the cinnamon, thankfully, but whatever it added- it worked!

Curry Chicken Salad with Cucumbers- Dr. Atkins Quick & Easy New Diet Cookbook

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Tandoori Chicken- Madhur Jaffrey's Indian Cooking

When my mother passed away, I kept about a dozen of her cookbooks to add to my collection. It wasn't in an effort to gain her fabulous recipes (she wasn't really much of a cook, God rest her soul) but I love good cookbooks and figured I could add some fun things to my repertoire. Most of them are natural cookbooks, a few Jewish ones that I'll break into when I'm ready, and some ethnic ones. Some I've browsed through, some I haven't.

One of these cookbooks is Madhur Jaffrey's Indian Cooking. It's an interesting book, written from a novice perspective, and features a lot of recipes with suggestions on what to serve them with. Up until a week ago I hadn't ever opened it, but knew it was there as I started looking to prepare an Indian dish. I've tried Indian food a few times and it's definitely growing on me. The chef at my hotel gave me some spices after an event that we did and I decided to try out something on my own. I know for a fact that Shawn has never touched Indian food, so I figured I'd try something simple and low key.

I took the book off the shelf, pondering what I could make... chicken tandoori was #1 on my list, but I was also considering a saagwala or maybe just doing some samosas to introduce him to the spices. I opened the front page of the book and was shocked to find a post it note stuck under the front cover. It was a recipe for Tandoori Chicken, written in my mothers shorthand, and it almost waiting for me to find it. Anyone who's lost someone close to them can understand the moments like this..... they tend to take your breath away. I burst into tears, not from sadness really, but just from the shock of finding what I wasn't expecting. I wiped the tears away and told Shawn that we were most definitely having Tandoori Chicken this week.

I bought some chicken breasts on sale and proceeded to make the recipe. The cookbook suggests using either chicken legs, breasts, or a combination of both. I went with breasts and ended up boning them as I tried to cut them into the small pieces required. Whoops! Didn't matter, really- I almost prefer it that way! I combined yogurt with onion, garlic, ginger, green chili, garam masala, salt & pepper in my blender. The recipe said I was to get a paste, but mine was more of a liquid. The recipe calls for you to strain the mixture through a sieve; pushing out the paste onto the chicken. Well, if anyone has never pureed onions in your blender/ processer; beware!! It will kill your eyes when you take off that lid. I had the door and the fan going as I strained that stuff and I still almost had to leave the room. I marinated the chicken overnight and then took it out the next day for preperation.

The original method for Tandoori Chicken requires a claypot, but the book's theory is that if you cook it at your oven's highest temperature you can maintain the same texture and quality. I haven't had the dish to really compare, but I followed the directions and the chicken was very moist and delicious! The flavor was a bit bland, though. The onions were the prominent flavor but the garam masala was extremely subtle. Interestingly enough, my mother's cooking was pretty bland so I guess it makes sense! I served it with brown rice and broccoli and it was a boring meal. I'd make it again, but will serve it with something a with a little more pop.

I used the remaining chicken for curry chicken salad the following day and it was off the hook. Check out my next blog for a little about that!

Tandoori- style Chicken- Madhur Jaffrey's Indian Cooking
2lb chicken pieces, skinned (you may use legs, breasts, or a combination of two)
1tsp salt
1 juicy lemon
1 3/4 cup plain yoghurt
1/2 medium onion, peeled & quartered
1 clove garlic, peeled
a 3/4 inch cube of fresh ginger, peeled & quartered
1/2 fresh hot green chili, roughly sliced (or diced green chilis)
2tsp garam masala
Wedges of lime, optional

Cut each leg into 2 pieces and each breast into four pieces. Cut 2 long slits on each side of each part of the legs. The slits should never start at an edge and they should be deep enough to reach the bone. Cut similar slits on the meaty side of each breast piece.

Spread the chicken pieces out on one ore two large platters. Sprinkle 1/2 the salt and squeeze the juice from 3/4 of a lemon over them. Lightly rub the salt and lemon juice into the slits. Turn the chicken pieces over and do the same on the other side with the remaining salt & lemon juice. Set aside for 20 minutes

Combine the yoghurt, onion, garlic, ginger, green chili, and garam masala in the container of an electric blender or a food processor. Blend until you have a smooth paste. Empty the paste into a strainer st over a large ceramic or stainless steel bowl. Push the paste through.
Brush the chicken pieces on both sides with the food colouring* and then put them with any accumulated juices and any remaining food colouring, into the bowl with the marinade. Mix well, making sure that the marinade goes into the slits in the chicken. Cover and refrigerate for 6-24 hours (the longer the better).
Preheat oven to its maximum temperature. Take the chicken pieces out of the bowl, shaking off as much of the marinade as possible. Arrange them in a large shallow baking tray in a single layer. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until just done. You might test the chicken with a fork just to be sure. Serve hot, with lime wedges.

*The traditional orange colour of cooked tandoori chicken comes from food coloring. You may or may not want to use it. If you do, mix 3 Tbsp yellow and 1/2 to 1 1/2 Tbsp red liquid food colours to get a bright orange shade. If your red is very dark, use only 1/2 Tbsp of it.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Turkey Chili- Prime Time Emerill

I've decided to start targeting cookbooks for a while so that I could make my way through each one that I own. Prime Time Emerill was actually one of Shawn's cookbooks from before we met. I say "was" because I consider them all to be mine now (sorry, babe!). I've made one other recipe from this, but have been peeking through for the past few weeks in search of whatever dish I was making that week and decided that this week I would just pick something from it.

That something was chili! I make turkey chili all the time, but typically do it armed with my crockpot and canned beans. I already love my chili, but figured I could try another variation to see if there was anything that I could do to make mine even better. The recipe seemed pretty simple and wasn't too crazy on the ingredient end. With the exception of beans from scratch... attempt number two!!

Like a good girl, I soaked my beans overnight this time! I wasn't sure how much to make.. I know that pasta and rice double up when cooked, but didn't know if dried beans did the same. I couldn't find any feedback on that, so decided to make the 4 cups needed for my recipe and I could use any extra in another dish later in the week. Turns out I'll be making something else this week because beans do, in fact, double when you soak and cook them. The next day, I found a larger batch of black and purple beans! It also turns out that you should soak white and black beans separately, or else you end up with colored white beans. It looks odd at first, but they settled into a greyish color that wasn't as noticable when in the final product. I rinsed them and simmered for another hour, skimming that nasty foam off it, and put them back in the fridge.

No wonder I use canned beans..... this doesn't seem worth the hassle in my opinion.....

Anyhow, I browned my ground turkey and spices, added the veggies, and simmered it all together with my homemade chicken broth for an hour and a half, until it got a little thicker. I took Emerill's advice and put it all away in the fridge to eat the next day- because that's when chili is at it's best.

Side Note/ Cooking Tip- I get a big package of split chicken breasts when they are on sale for $1 a pound; skin them, and put them in the crock pot overnight. Even better, sometimes I add the leftover carrots and celery that I keep in a bag in the freezer. The next day you end up with beautifully shredded chicken and about a gallon of homemade chicken broth. I keep the broth in a Rubbermaid pitcher in the fridge and use it for everything- basting, sauces, whatever. It's easy to pour and stores right on the door. Fabulous.

The next day, I heated up half of the chili on the stove. It was a little watery but the beans were, thankfully, cooked to the right consistancy. Score for me! The taste was nice, and the consistancy was great, but I have to be honest- I like my own better. I prefer the thickness that crushed tomatoes give and I add corn and more vegetables which is just a personal preference. Oh, and mine is made in the crockpot, so it cooks while I'm at work. I did, however, like that making this recipe gave me tips to improve what I already do! I loved the addition of fresh cilantro and think I also might try replacing jalepeno with a shot of Sriracha hot sauce, which I did my bowl when I needed an extra kick. And best of all; I finally made dried beans that tasted good!

I had just enough left over to put aside in the freezer for chili mac in the future. I love a meal that keeps on giving!

Turkey Chili- Prime Time Emerill
2T olive oil
1- 1 1/4 lb lean ground turkey
2T chili powder
2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1 cup chopped yellow onions
1/2 cup green bell peppers
1/2 cup chopped celery
1/2 cup chopped & seeded tomatoes
2T minced fresh cilantro
2 tsp seeded & minced jalepenos
2 tsp chopped garlic
2 cups each black & whilte cooked or canned beans
4 cups chicken stock

1. Heat the oil in a large heavy stockpot over med-high heat. Add the turkey, chili powder, cumin, salt and cayenne, and cook, stirring to break up the meat, until the turkey loses it's pink color, about 5 minutes. Add the onions, bell peppers, celery, and cook until they soften, about 4 minutes. Add the tomatoes, cilantro, jalepeno, and garlic and cook to blend the flavors, about 3 minutes.

2. Stir in the beans and chicken stock. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to med-low. Simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the mixture has thickened, about 45 minutes. Serve immediately.

Overnight Honey Almond Multigrain Cereal- Cooking Light

Like millions of Americans, I have high cholesteral. I know what I'm supposed to eat, and not eat, but my love of good food makes it so tough! I try to incorporate things into my diet to improve my numbers, specifically oats. One of my biggest challenge with this is that I am not the hugest fan of oatmeal. I've tried it again and again and am finally at the point where I can stand it. I used to work at a hotel where I could get fresh oatmeal whenever I chose and always prefer when it is a little dryer versus when it's runny. Because of this, I just cannot wrap my palate around instant oatmeal. Since leaving that hotel, I'm stuck trying to find options of how to eat oatmeal at work and came across this recipe in Cooking Light.

The recipe calls for steel cut oats, which is my favorite variation of oatmeal. It's cut into small pieces, rather than flakes, and ends up with an almost crunchy texture, similar to tobiko or caviar. You also add barley, which is a softer texture and a nice compliment.

It's pretty easy to set up- you combine the steel cut oats and barley with water, soak overnight, then microwave for 6 minutes, stirring at 3 minutes. Add salt, nutmeg, and cinnamon and top with almonds and honey. I took the spices in a little container to add and always keep nuts and honey in my desk, so I was ready for that part.

The cereal was delicious! I had to cook it a little longer than it called for, but it was really tasty and filling. My coworker was jealous over the fabulous smell that came from the spices. I could barely finish what I had, so I could definitely share with someone next time.

Overnight Honey Almond Multigrain Cereal- Cooking Light

Monday, February 15, 2010

Fiesta Pork and Cheesy Polenta- Rachel Ray Everyday

I picked up a copy of Rachel Ray's magazine, Everyday, last month to see if I could find something interesting. A lot of people find Rachel annoying, but I love her. The fact that she has inspired millions of people to start cooking negates any lack of culinary training, in my opinion. She finds ways to make delicious things in a quick amount of time, which is right up my alley.

So, I'm really excited because this recipe completed a 2 recipe day!! After making the corn & cheese enchiladas for lunch I confirmed that a friend would be coming over for dinner. I'd been wanting to try this recipe out and had everything on hand, so I went with it!

I bought a pork tenderloin at the supermarket. It was about 1/2 of what I needed, so I cut it in half and put the rest in the freezer for another time. I sliced up the pork, coated with the spices, and set aside. Then, I sliced up the scallions and peppers, measured out my ingredients and put everything aside for when it was time to make dinner. Once it was time, I can't believe how quick this was to make! By the time the polenta was done (instant polenta, mind you) the pork and veggies were ready to go! The polenta itself was a little intimidating. I've never made it before, so I made sure to follow the recipe to a T. I boiled the water and added the polenta, salt, and pepper. It clumped up quickly, which really worried me! Once it was stirred, I added the cream and cheese and just kept stirring like crazy. Luckily, the clumps were nonexistant when all was said and done.

I put the polenta on the plate and topped it with the pork mixture. It was such a beautiful presentation! The pork was so tender, the spices worked nicely, and I loved the contrast in textures between the corn and the polenta. I really found this to be a fantastic dish. Shawn wasn't thrilled with the texture of the polenta- it is similar to cream of wheat and he didn't like how it starts to firm up as it cools down. Dana and I disagreed and thought it made the dish.

All in all, I think this is a fabulous dish to make when you have company and want to impress with little fuss. It took me 10 minutes to prep, 10 minutes to cook and voila! Fabulous dish that looks amazing.

Fiesta Pork with Cheesy Polenta- Rachel Ray Everyday

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Corn and Cheese Enchiladas- All You

A few years ago I found this cheesy magazine at Walmart called "All You". Granted, it's sponsored by Walmart, but I have come to love it over time. They always have a lot of simple and inexpensive recipes and, more importantly, there are about $75 worth of coupons in each issue. I'm an avid coupon clipper so for me, it pays for the issue and then some. I finally subscribed to the magazine, since I typically prefer Target for my superstore shopping.

My sister in law came to visit us this weekend and was nice enough to give us a night off from the boy. She follows this blog so I promised to make her something while she was in town. This morning I gave her a few recipes to choose from; she narrowed it down to two and Shawn chose the enchiladas. I was happy about this, being that I love any type of Mexican food!

The recipe takes about 30 minutes from start to finish, which is my kind of thing. I wrapped the corn tortillas in foil and put them in the oven while it preheated. I heated some oil in a skillet and added scallions and garlic, sauteed for 1 minute, and then stirred in the corn & milk and cooked, stirring, until thickened. The mixture never really got thick, but I used a slotted spoon and it was fine. I removed the tortillas and scooped a spoonful of the corn mix and 1 Tbsp of cheese into each one, then put in the baking dish, seam down. Some of them broke apart, but that happens to me every time I make enchiladas and they taste and look just fine when finished.

I almost made a big mistake!! I forgot to grease the pan and added all the enchiladas... thankfully, I remembered this before pouring on the sauce and was able to transfer everything to another dish before adding the sauce and cheese. I used Trader Joes enchilada sauce, which is my absolute favorite.

I baked it for 20 minutes at 350 and it was DONE! Perfect texture and the corn added a nice sweetness. I will definitely make this again, but maybe add some chicken or sausage to the mix. I bet spinach would be good, too.

Corn and Cheese Enchiladas- All You

Asparagus with Shallot Butter- Minute Meals; 3 ways to Dinner

I received this book about 5 years ago as a holiday gift and I've made one or two thing from it. I like the format- it basically breaks an entire 30 minute meal into steps and gives you a shopping list for everything in the meal. The book breaks itself down by the main ingredient, so the book starts with 3 recipes for boneless chicken breasts, then 2 for chicken thighs, 3 for chicken tenders, and so on. The recipe I picked came from a meal with chicken and sweet potatoes, but I used it as a side with my standard pork chops with gravy and stuffing. I wanted to make an asparagus dish and had shallots on hand, so it was an easy pick!

I started by boiling the asparagus in a large skillet for 4-6 minutes. I drained them and added thinly sliced shallots with butter & lemon juice. The end result was delicious! I loved the addition of the shallots and the lemon added a nice touch to the dish.

Asparagus with Shallot Butter- Minute Meals
1 lb thin asparagus
2 shallots, thinly sliced
3 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice

1. Trim asparagus
2. Fill a large skillet with 1 inch water, cover, and bring to a boil. Add asparagus, bring water back to a boil, and simmer for 4-6 minutes, or until just crisp tender. Drain and transfer to serving dish
3. In the same skillet, melt butter over medium heat for about 1 minute, or until beginning to brown. Add the shallots and cook, stirring, for 1 minute or until softened. Swirl in the lemon juice and season with salt & pepper. Pour butter over asparagus. Cover to keep warm.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Red Beans & Rice- How to Cook Everything

"Even Babe Ruth strikes out sometimes".....

That's what Shawn said when all was said and done. I have to say that this was my biggest disappointment so far. It took a lot of time and preparation and the end result wasn't at all what I had hoped for.

I'll start at the beginning by letting you know that I am severely challenged when it comes to cooking rice. I wish I could blame it on something else, like my pans or my stove, but it's always been this way. It comes out too watery, too underdone, too overdone.... I could follow the recipe to a T and it never works. Even rice a roni. It's pretty bad. So, I was hoping that with my new endeavors that I would be able to overcome this problem. Not so much.

The recipe started out the night before the Superbowl. We were in the midst of a snowstorm and I was a cooking fool. I got out my trusty HTCE cookbook, which actually breaks this down into two recipes- Red Beans with Meat that you later include in the Red Beans and Rice recipe. The thing that made me choose this over others is that I could use the pork bone I had in the freezer from my roast pork and the chicken andouille sausage I keep on hand for jambalaya. It also requires the use of coconut milk, which really intrigued me.

My first mistake was that the since the recipe didn't mention to soak my beans overnight I did not take this step. It resulted in my beans never really getting soft enough. I rinsed and picked over the beans, then put them in a pot with water & the pork bone. While this simmered, I sauteed the sausage and added the onions, peppers, & garlic to the fat. When it was soft, I added back the sausage, then added the spices and tomatoes. Chopped the pork left on the bone and added it to the mix. Then I mixed it all together and cooked until beans are soft. I thought they were soft enough, since I cooked well beyond the time required, but not so much.

I'll take this moment to offer a great tip that I love to use when cooking with a lot of ingredients. You know those little white coffee filters that come in a big pack for $1? I love these!!!! I use them to hold my garlic, spices, whatever items I have prepped and toss them when I'm done. So quick and easy.

The next day, I reheated the mixture on the stove and then added the rice and coconut milk and cooked on low until the rice was tender. Of course, when the requested 20 minutes had completed the rice was no where near cooked. I cooked it for probably another 20 minutes until it was ready and even then it had a risotto consistancy that would have been nice if it was risotto, but not so much in this case. The meat and flavor was fantastic, but between the firmer texture of the beans and the rice, it was not something we wanted to finish. Thankfully, it was the superbowl and there were other things to eat, but I felt like I had wasted a lot of time and food on this recipe.

I guess that after all of the great results that I've accomplished one bad dish isn't so bad....

Red Beans with Meat- How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman
Makes 6-8 servings

2 cups kidney, pinto, or other beans, washed and picked over
1 or 2 meaty smoked ham hock, 1 chunk of bacon, or salt pork, or 1 meaty ham or pork bone.
1/2 lb sweet Italian sausage or spicy Cajun sausage
1 large onion
1 bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, & chopped
1 Tbsp minced garlic
4-5 springs thyme or 1 tsp dried thyme
2 bay leaves
1/4 tsp ground allspice
1 c chopped tomatoes (canned are fine)
salt & pepper to taste

1. Place beans in a large pot with water to cover. Turn to high and bring to boil; skim foam if necessary. Add ham hock and turn heat to simmer. Cover loosely and stir very occasionally; add extra water if needed
2. Place sausage in skillet and turn heat to medium. Cook, turning occasionally, and pricking sausage a few times to release it's fat. When they are browned, remove; don't worry about it being done. Cut into small chunks.
3. Cook onions, pepper, and garlic in fat, stirring frequently, until peppers are softened, about 10 minutes. Remove with slotted spoon. Return sausage to skillet and cook, stirring occasionally, until chunks are browned all over. Return veggies to the pan, along with thyme, bay leaves, allspice, and tomatoes. Turn to med-low and cook, stirring, until tomatoes break up, 10- 15 minutes.
4. When meat in beans is soft, remove. When cool, chop all the meat and return to the pot, along with sausage & vegetable mixture. Cook, until the beans are very tender. Remove and discard bay leaves. Taste & add S&P to taste.

Red Beans and Rice- How to Cook Everything; Mark Bittman

3 cups Red Beans with Meat
1 1/2 cups long-grain rice
3 cups canned or fresh coconut milk, warmed
salt & pepper, to taste
minced parsley, for garnish

1. Place beans in a saucepan that can hold at least double their bulk comfortably. Turn heat to med-low and warm gently. If there is a great deal of liquid in the beans, cook them, stirring frequently, until they are moist but not swimming in liquid
2. Add the rice & coconut milk to the beans. Cover & turn heat to low. Cook for about 20 minutes, or until rice is tender and the liquid is absorbed. If necessary, uncover & raise heat to med-high; cook, stirring, until liquid is absorbed. Season with S&P.

Stromboli- Parenting Magazine

We just got smacked with a crazy snow storm, which led me to cook all weekend long. A lot of what I made were old favorites (lasagne, turkey BLTs, buffalo chicken dip) but I wanted to get a few new ones rolling, too. I thought stromboli would be a good Superbowl Day option.

I found this in an old Parenting Magazine and copied it down, knowing I'd try it out one day. I looooove stromboli, but haven't been able to master the cooking times. Another weird thing is that very few places in this area actually roll their stromboli- they make it more like a folded pizza. This is ridiculous to me! I finally found a place that folds it at least in a stromboli shape and has flavor, but this is definitely something that I want to master on my own.

The recipe calls for Pillsbury pizza dough, which is simple enough. Baking is not a strong suit of mine and I like that the pizza dough comes in a square already!! Makes life a little more simple. I have minimal counter space, so I wrapped the cookie sheet in saran wrap and used it as my work station on the stove. Sprinkled flour, rolled out the dough, and topped with turkey pepperoni and cheese. I rolled up the stromboli, brushed it with an egg mixture and bake @ 400 for 20 minutes. Not only did the saran wrap make for easy cleanup, but it also made rolling the stromboli a cinch!

First off, I love the use of turkey pepperoni instead of regular for this!!! It gave flavor with less grease. The best part was that the cooking time was spot on. The egg wash gave it a nice, cripsy, golden crust and the inside was perfectly cooked. I'll add a little more cheese next time (because cheese is delicious!) but I was really happy with the end product.

Stromboli- Parents Magazine
1 canister pizza dough
1 cup mozzarella cheese
2 oz pepperoni

1 egg, mixed with 1 Tbsp water

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Fettuccini Alfredo with Bacon- Cooking Light

OK, so now that I'm truly tracking these I can see that I'm totally getting my moneys worth on my Cooking Light subscription! I was excited that just when I started getting into using applewood smoked bacon, Cooking Light featured thick cut bacon in an issue. The theory is that when sparingly used, and in substitution of another meat, it can add a lot of flavor with less calories than a full serving of protein. I decided to try the fettuccini recipe because fettuccini alfredo is one of Shawn's favorite dishes.

I've been buying bacon at Trader Joe's (my favorite store in the world) and love it!! The applewood smoked one has about 12 slices per package and is about 1/4 inch thick. I love my bacon a little well done and when you use this type it still keeps a chewiness to it. Yum! I started by chopping the bacon and sauteeing it on medium heat for a few minutes, until crisp. I added garlic & flour to the grease to create a roux, then added milk and stirred to make the cream sauce. Then you add the parmesan cheese a little at a time. Stir with cooked pasta and top with bacon!

I used Springfield garlic & basil fettuccini (a local brand) that I got at the nearby bodega. I liked the texture, but the flavor didn't quite go with the sauce. Shawn didn't notice it, but I definitely did. The sauce was very tasty and I loved the crisp bacon. You could tell that the sauce was a light version, as it wasn't as creamy, but it had a nice texture and tasted delicious. I would definitely make this again, but with a different pasta.

Fettuccini Alfredo with Bacon- Cooking Light

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Steak Tips with Peppered Mushroom Gravy- Cooking Light

When I first started on my project, I was adament that I had to follow the recipe 100% to have it count. Now that I'm further along, I am realizing that I need to have some flexibility to make it really work. Take this recipe for example.... I love mushrooms and have always tossed aside recipes with it. Shawn finally agreed that I can make things with mushrooms as long as they are easy to locate and pick out. So, it's on!!! He also loves steak tips, so I picked this as the recipe of the week and decided to add onions along with the mushrooms so he could enjoy the added texture of the veggies.

This was another really easy recipe to make. I sliced up the steak and sauteed it until browned, then set aside. Then I sauteed up the shallots, mushrooms, and onions, added the soy sauce, and sprinkled the flour over it to thicken. After a minute I added the broth and stirred constantly until the sauce was smooth and all the bits from the pan had come up. I am becoming a deglazing master! I love the added flavor and getting up the bits from the pan when I'm sauteeing makes it easier to clean later. Added bonus!

Another subsitution, and a big one, but I took a tip from the comments section and served everything over mashed potatoes. We've been having pasta so often that we needed a switch up! It was delicious!! The meat tasted great and the soy sauce gave a wonderful flavor to the dish. I definitely want to try this with noodles next time and will probably cook the onions a few minutes longer than I did this time.

Another tasty addition!!

Steak Tips with Peppered Mushroom Gravy- Cooking Light

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Penne with Sausage, Garlic, & Broccoli Rabe- Cooking Light

Once I decided that I really want us to start eating healthier I subscribed to Cooking Light magazine. This is such a great magazine- I can't believe I waited so long for it to go on my radar! They always have heathy recipes at various skill levels. When I received my first issue, I saw this recipe and smiled to myself. The previous day, my boss had mentioned a great meal that his wife had made and it looked suspiciosly like the one I was looking at! I asked if she was a subscriber and he confirmed it!

I have never cooked with broccoli rabe before. Shawn's a big fan, but I've always preferred spinach with it's milder flavor. I found it amongst the greens in the produce section and decided that this was the week to try the recipe! Of course, as the week went on I kept pushing it back and by last night I was seriously torn between the pasta and ordering some takeout!! Economics and healthy eating willpower won over and I started on the dish.

With only 5 ingredients, it's extremely simple. I started trimmed the broccoli rabe and realized that I wasn't entirely sure how much to trim off. I had more than needed, so decided to be a little agressive with my trimming, then added the stalks to the veggie parts I keep in the freezer for stock making. I kept only the buds on the top with some leaves for good measure. Per the recipe, I put the greens in boiling water for 2 minutes, then plunged it in ice water to set (also known as blanching). It brings out the green color and partially cooks the greens. This method is also great for plain broccoli or asparagus.

Once the broccoli rabe was out of the pot, I kept the water boiling and added the pasta. I sauteed the turkey sausage til browned and added the garlic, then the rabe, chopped coarsly. The pasta finished around the same time everything else was done. You save 1/4 cup of the liquid, which makes for a nice dimention to the sauce, and drain. Add pasta & liquid, cook one more minute, and voila! Dinner!

Again, simple easy meal. I used a few more pots than I like to with a quick meal, but it was really delicious. The rabe was perfect- not too bitter, great consistancy.... Shawn declared that I "nailed it".

Penne with Sausage, Garlic, & Broccoli Rabe- Cooking Light Magazine

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Mango Salsa and the Mexican Fiestivities

I have been so slacking! My newest recipe was almost a week ago, so I've decided to finally blog about it while waiting for my jambalaya to cook. We had invited some friends over last weekend with their two kids and I'd been toying around various ideas of what to make all week. The visit was postponed but we ended up with an impromptu gathering, so I went with my original menu plans since I was so excited about it! My plans were to redo a few things that I had made somewhat off course the first time and try out one new recipe. I love Mexican food and can eat it almost every day, so I decided to redo the tacos with avocado salsa, the cheesy chile rice, and try out a mango salsa. Being that the first two items were pre-blog I figured I could loop the recipes in here for you. Enjoy!!

The tacos come from my first issue of Cooking Light. They're delicious, simple, healthy, and inexpensive. More importantly, they're the recipe that started this whole thing! I couldn't believe how simple it was and loved the few tips I learned from it and decided to keep on logging recipes. The cheesy chile rice came quickly after from an older version of "All You" magazine, and the mango salsa was picked (after much deliberation) from You Enjoy My Cookbook. Another recipe from Cap'n Mike! I promise to show others some love as time goes on.....

I originally had made the tacos with chicken since the recipe declared it an acceptable substitution, but this time I used steak as was inteded. I also bought some medium sized shrimp and had some chicken short cuts on hand for a third protein. I know, I know... short cuts in a recipe blog?! Well, they're convenient and taste good and I threw it in as a last minute "I might not have enough meat" moment and was glad that I did! Ok, this is my issue, not yours... sheepish moment over.....

I started out by preparing the salsas earlier in the afternoon. It was just as easy to make two different salsas as it is to make one! They pretty much have the same base ingredients and all of the items compliment each other so I could use the same cutting board & knife. I kept them in the fridge and brought them out about 30 minutes before serving.

Right before everyone arrived, I rubbed the sirloin with spices and marinated it with the juice from one lime. Then I peeled and deveined the shrimp and tossed them with some paprika, cumin, garlic, salt, & pepper. Once it was time to prepare everything, I pulled out my trusty double burner flattop pan. I love this pan!!! It works for so many types of things- pancakes, bacon, burgers, fajitas, and for cooking two types of meat at the same time! I seared the steak and sliced against the grain, serving with a little pink in the middle. I sauteed up the shrimp, heated the chicken, and put them on a platter.

What I love most about these tacos is that it turned me on to corn tortillas. I never really liked them, but always felt like I should. This method calls to place the tortillas over an open flame for 10 seconds on each side. It really gives the tortillas a nice texture. As a bonus, they're a little thicker than flour tortillas and can really hold up to whatever you put in them. They're quickly becoming my favorite way to eat tacos.

Finally, I wanted to serve an awesome side dish and decided to do the cheesy chile rice again. The first time that I made this I didn't have scallions, which is an ingredient, and left them out. It was definitely missing something. Well, that something was scallions!! I made the rice again this time, using brown rice instead of white. I mixed the rice with sour cream, cheese, diced green chilis, scallions, salt, and pepper, topped it with parmesan cheese, and baked in the oven. Wow!!! So amazing, Creamy, cheesy.... loved it. And I couldn't tell that the rice was brown versus white.

Once everything was out, my table looked so pretty! The taco presentation was beautiful. The salsas were so colorful and I put out shredded cheese, tomato salsa, sour cream, and cabbage for those who wanted it. The avocado salsa is fantastic and goes really well with the lime marinade in the steak. It really works and has tons of flavor and great textures. The shrimp tacos were amazing with the mango salsa! It was a little heavy on the onions, but so delicious.

I love the taco options and will be fine tuning the salsas to create something perfect. Without a doubt I'll be making this again and again and again.

Tacos with Avocado Pico De Gallo- Cooking Light Magazine

Mango Salsa- "You Enjoy My Cookbook- Cap'n Mike"
1 ripe mango
1/2 small red onion
1 jalepeno
1 red hot pepper
2 cloves garlic
Cilantro (leaves from a few stalks)

Cut flesh from mango pit. Peel the mango skin and cube to 1/2 inch pieces. Then, remove tips, stems, & seeds from peppers. Chop the peppers, onions, and garlic coarsly.
Add mango, peppers, onion, garlic, cilantro and a pinch of salt to food processer and pulse to desired consistancy.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Roast Pork with Garlic & Rosemary- How to Cook Everything

Mark Bittman's "How to Cook Everything" is another one of my favorite cookbooks. My sister in law, Laurie, got this for us as an engagement gift (I think?) and I refer to it constantly. It is exactly what it says. The Basics. They discuss every type of food and each section discussed the types and then a basic recipe with variations. This is a must cookbook for anyone, in my opinion.

This week's project was pork roast, which was (of course) on sale at Acme. I picked up a 4lb roast and decided to do a simple method, as this is my first time ever working with pork when it isn't in the crock pot.

The reason I like HTCE is that it's perfect for something like this. The "Basics of Pork Roast" section starts with a discussion on the various types of roasts available and what they are best used for. There was the standard recipe, which I went with, and another variation with sage and potatoes that also looked tasty. I opted for the simpler option.

I started by cutting small deep slits around the roast and inserting slivers of garlic into the roast. I rubbed it with salt, covered it back up with saran wrap and put the roast back in the fridge for about 2 more hours. When the time came for roasting, I made a rub with rosemary, minced garlic, salt, pepper, sugar, and cayenne and rubbed it all over. Cooked the meat for 15 minutes at 450, then for another hour at 325, pouring a 1/2 cup of stock over the meat every 20 minutes or until it starts producing enough juices for basting. My oven is notoriously long when it comes to meats, so I ended up cooking it another half hour to temp. The roast is to be cooked to 145 or 150 in the center and then sits while you prepare the rest of the meal. I have such a hard time wth meat thermometers- I don't know why but I always end up stabbing the poor thing to death trying to figure out if it's done.

Once we were ready for carving, I called in my father in law for assistance. Carving is another one of my weak points and his wife volunteered him for the job. I'm glad, too, because it was carved perfectly! The meat was fantastic- moist and delicious and I loved the little surprises of garlic inside the roast. I saved the bone in the freezer to make red beans and rice, which I'm sure you'll read about at a later date!

For a sauce, I heated up the roasting on the stove top and whisked it a bit to gain juices and reduce it down. I got a little impatient with this, so I added a little corn starch to the juices to thicken it up and voila! Sauce!

The meal was served with mashed potatoes, broccoli, and.....

Spinach to Like
(Unfortunately, I don't know where the recipe came from as it's in a book that I wrote stuff in years ago)
2 pkgs frozen spinach, thawed and drained
8oz sour cream
1/2 pkg onion soup mix
1/2 cup breadcrumbs

Mix spinach with sour cream and soup mix, put in a casserole, top with breadcrumbs and bake for 30 min at 350.
This tasted good, but was a little overcooked and the cream was almost a little curdled. I love my spinach gratin recipe and hoped this might be an easier way to make something similar. I probably wouldn't make this again, though.

All in all, great meal! The pork was about $8 and fed 4 of us with leftovers and a bone for future use! Not bad....

Roast Pork with Garlic & Rosemary
salt and freshly ground pepper, to tast
2 Tbsp minced fresh rosemary leaves, or 1t dried rosemary
1/4 tsp cayenne (optional)
1 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp minced garlic
1 (3-4 lb) pork loin roast, bone-in, or 1 (2-3 lb) boneless roast, or a similar size portion of fresh ham
1 1/2 cups dry white wine, or stock, approximately
1 Tbsp butter, optional

1. preheat oven to 450F. Mix liberal amounts of salt & pepper together with the spices and garlic, and rub it all over the roast. Place the meat in a roasting pan (use a rack if the roast is boneless, but don't bother if the bone is still in) and put in the oven. Roast, undisturbed, for 15 minutes
2. Open the oven and pour about 1/2 cup of wine or stock over the roast; lower the heat to 325F. Continue to roast, adding 1/4 cup of liquid every 15 minutes or so. If the liquid accumulates on the bottom of the pan, use it to baste. If not, add more.
3. Start checking the roast at 1 1/4 hours of total cooking time (it's likely to take about 1 1/2 hours). When it is done- a meat thermometer will register 145F to 150F- remove it to a warm platter. Pu the roasting pan on the stove top set to medium high. If there is a great deal of liquid in it, reduce it to about 3/4 cup, scraping the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon to release any brown bits that have accumulated. If the pan is dry, add 1 cup of liquid and follow the same idea. When the sauce has reduced some, stir in the butter if you like, slice the roast, and serve it with the sauce

Friday, January 15, 2010

Becoming Creative with My New Techniques

I didn't exactly make a new recipe, but had a lot of fun last night making something new by using techniques from different recipes that I've used throughout the project. I had some ground turkey and wanted to make something Mexican-ish. I was originally going to try a mexi-meatloaf, but the meat wasn't quite thawed enough to mold, so I decided to get creative.

First, I browned the turkey and added Old El Paso Reduced Sodium Taco Seasoning. Basic, but this is an old staple of ours. In another pan, I used the theory from my Black Bean Tostatos to create a bean dish. The original recipe called for sauteeing one chopped onion & one minced garlic clove for a few minutes, then adding a can of drained and rinsed black beans, salt, pepper, and mash with a potato masher. It was easy and delicious. I only had half an onion and wanted to add some veggie element to my dish, so I used less onion and added half a zucchini, cut in a small dice, to the onions before adding the beans.

Side note- I love onions and in creating these recipes I have realized that I don't use enough when I cook. A whole onion seems like a lot to me, but when using only half I could really tell the flavor difference. It was bland and needed more salt than the first time I made it. Interesting....

Anyway, the zucchini was perfect with the beans and was a nice way to add a green vegetable to the meal. I'll have to try this method the next time I make my mexi lasagne!

To finish off the meal, I took some corn tortillas and (using the method from my Chicken Tacos with Avocado Salsa) placed them one at a time directly over the flame on my gas stove. 10 seconds on either side browned them a little and gave a nice consistancy to them.

I really liked this quickly thrown together meal! We put beans and meat on the tortillas with some cheese and a little sour cream. Fantastic! The corn tortillas did a good job of holding everything together without breaking and I was filled from 3 tacos.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Yankee Doodle Beef Stew- Better Homes & Gardens

Another one of my favorite cookbooks is my Better Homes & Gardens 75 Anniversary Cookbook. It's a fun one to browse through, as it has pictures and stories of when the recipes were published. They also include old articles from the 50's on how to host a dinner party, and things like that. This book, like many others, holds lots of recipes that I want to make but have not gotten around to!

My Dad & Joyce came over for a late lunch/ early dinner yesterday so I chose this meal for my attempt. I picked up some chuck roast on sale and browsed a few beef stew/ pot roast variations before deciding on this one. It was a long meal to prepare. East to cook, but lots of prep work! I trimmed and sliced the chuck in to 1 inch pieces, dredged in flour and sauteed in a kettle. I added water and spices and simmered for 1 1/2 hours before adding carrots, potatoes, & baby onions. I've been on a boiling onion kick and this was my first time making them. The book lists a tip to boil them for 3 minutes and they pop out of the skin. After trying to peel one of them, I decided to go with their tip. It worked, but took about 20 minutes to get 1 lb of onions peeled! Quite annoying.... The stew cooks for another 30 minutes, then you make a gravy with the liquid.

The stew itself was very good, but a little boring. The gravy had a nice consistancy and a good taste, but needed a little oomph. The meat was fantastic- really tender and delicious. I would make this again, but maybe would sautee the onions and carrots up a little, or add to the stew 20 minutes before the potatoes. I like my stewed veggies to be a little more done than these were. All in all, it was a good and inexpensive meal.

One of the things that I like about my experiment is that I'm really forcing myself to follow the recipe. In situations like this one, I may have made the meal a little better by following my instincts, but I really think that overall my cooking skills will improve by learning new methods.

Yankee Doodle Stew with Vegetables
link to website:

Thursday, January 7, 2010

The Stuff- You Enjoy My Cookbook

A few years ago my friends Jennie and Kristina created a cookbook. They collected recipes from a group of friends who are bonded together by their love of music and created a wonderful collaboration titled "You Enjoy my Cookbook". Of all the cookbooks that I drag out and leaf through on a regular basis, this is one of my favorites for a few reasons.
1. The recipes are recommended by people that I know and trust.
2. Some of the recipes were submitted by yours truly!
3. It's a lot easier to get Shawn to try new foods when they come from someone he knows!

I bought a package of turkey sausage on sale at the Acme this weekend and decided it would be the subject of this week's project. After toying with a few recipes, I opted for "The Stuff" because it featured my key ingredient with other simple ones and, hell- it has an awesome name. It features turkey sausage, onions, garlic, bell peppers, kidney beans, and diced tomatoes served over pasta. You sautee up the onions and garlic, add the sausage. Brown and at the last minute add the peppers, then the beans and tomatoes. Serve.

The recipe was super easy to make and took all of about 20 minutes start to finish. The finished product was beautiful, kind of like chili but cleaner. I wasn't sure how I'd like it though- I thought it might be bland and was unsure about the recipe's instructions to leave the peppers crisp. Was I wrong! This recipe really surprised with how much we enjoyed it! The flavors and textures worked together beautifully. Shawn loved it, too. It was quite filling and the meal made enough for us each to pack some for lunch tomorrow. I may, however, forgo my leftovers to see how my son, John, would like it. I think he'll like the colors and the fact that he can see what it is he's eating, but you never really know with him! One day he loves something and the next it's cause for meltdown... but I digress...

Overall The Stuff is a keeper and with the cost, ease, and healthy factors it's definitely getting put into our rotation. Thanks, Capt Mike!

The Stuff
1 pkg turkey sausage
2 bell peppers of different colors
1 red onion
2 cloves garlic
1 jalepeno (optional)
1 small can kidney beans (drained and rinsed)
2 small can diced or crushed tomatoes

1. Chop onion into bite sized pieces and mince or press garlic. Sautee in 1Tbsp olive oil for 1 minute
2. If you like, remove casings from sausages- chop into bite sized pieces. Add to onions and garlic. Brown thoroughly.
3. You can drain the fat from the sausage, or leave it in. Add peppers.
4. Drain canned beans & tomatoes, add. Cook until just hot (peppers should still be crisp. If there's a lot of juice, you can drain or simmer on low, but don't overcook the peppers
5. Serve over rice or pasta

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

My first blog!

I love cookbooks. I have a shelf full of them, cut them from magazines, but oddly enough, I rarely use them! When I want to try something new I'll typically take out 4-5 cookbooks and create my own version of making what I want to make. My birthday waas in November and I decided on a resolution that, I'm excited to say, I have kept all the way into the holidays!
I decided that for the next year I would make at least one new recipe every week. The key is that the recipe has to be created to spec and it has to be something I haven't made before. It's been so much fun and is also helping us to be more frugal with groceries and planning menus. I'm also making a point to try and do some healthier recipes to make cutting fat and/or carbs more fun. I use the circular each week to see what's on sale, then get out my recipe books and decide what to make.
Here's a quick update on what I've made so far. I missed only one week, which was this past week, and am ready to go full force into 2010! Since some people have shown some interest, I figured I'd share my recipes (good and bad) in my very first blog. Enjoy!

Spice Rubbed Braised Beef- Cooking Light
very tasty and well cooked. I liked the sauce method and think I might use it next time I make red gravy.
Chicken Taco with Avocado Salsa- Cooking Light
these were fantastic! This was also the recipe that got me started on my resolution:)
Best Darn Meatloaf- You Enjoy My Cookbook
thanks, Jennie!! So good- love the cheese in the middle
Baked Pork Chops with Brown Rice- Kitchen Secrets
these were delicious, but looked really plain. I'd add some parsley or something the next time.
Brussel Sprouts- All You
needed to be boiled for longer than called for. they were good, but still won't be good enough to talk SB into loving sprouts!
Spinach Gratin- Barefoot Contessa
OK, so this isn't a new recipe, but so great I had to put it on here!
Bolognese Sauce- Emeril
I was really excited for my first attempt at ragu, which was my most elaborate foray in my new recipes. It was fantastic!! I also used the leftovers for baked ziti, which rocked the house.
Corn, Bacon, Potato Chowder- Aunt Jill
Black Bean Tostados- All You
The method to cook the beans is a keeper, but we weren't a fan of the tostados themselves. SB told me that he's never been so annoyed at a food before!
Rocky Road Fudge- Peeps Cookbook
I tried this at a party and went home to make two more batches. So easy and so delicious!!
Cheesy Chile Rice- All You
This was fantastic! Nice switch up from usual rice or potatoes

So, here I am! In the new year and haven't made anything yet, but am planning on trying out a newbie tomorrow. I'll keep you posted and hope you all enjoy my findings.