Monday, February 22, 2021

Joey's Favorite Broccoli and Cheese Mac


 

 Ok ok, I know I have MANY recipes for mac and cheese, but seriously, can one have too many?? I think not! So this is another variation. It’s literally as simple as it sounds: Regular mac and cheese with broccoli added to it. Simple, right? But it’s definitely proof that sometimes the simplest things are the best.  
 Now, before you cheese purists out there go all Judgey McJudgerson on me about using Velveeta “processed cheese product”, all I have to say is don’t knock it ’til you’ve tried it! I’m not saying I don’t love cheddar or Swiss or any other variety of gooey cheese… but I just love how Velveeta melts, and it’s ALWAYS a big hit. Not only that, I just love how it tastes. I don’t even care if it’s not REAL American cheese. I still wind up cutting off little chunks for tasting whenever I use it. (It’s great in an omelette btw, and it makes fabulous queso!)
 This recipe is basically a riff on my sister Jeanie's recipe, and it's my go to for all things mac and cheese. It's a great side dish for, say, a ham dinner, and it also goes great with your Sunday roast. You can also just leave it as a stand alone dinner. This is definitely a great one to keep in your arsenal of recipes!


2 crowns fresh broccoli, cut into florets
1 lb cavatappi noodles or other favorite cut pasta
4 tbs butter
4 tbs flour
4 cups milk
2 tbs prepared mustard
1 lb Velveeta cheese, cubed


Heat oven to 350ºF.
Spray a large casserole dish with nonstick cooking spray.
In a large pot of salted boiling water, add broccoli florets. Stir them around for a minute or two, and then scoop them out, using a slotted spoon. Place them in the casserole dish. Set aside.
Add the pasta to the same boiling pot of water. Stir them around so they don’t stick together. Let it boil until about 2 minutes before they’re done.
Meanwhile, in another sauce pot, over medium heat, add the butter until melted. Add the flour and whisk to form a paste. Let it cook for about a minute, then add the milk, mustard, and cubes of velveeta. Stir over medium heat until the cheese is melted, and the sauce has thickened.
Drain the pasta, then add to the broccoli. Now pour the cheese sauce over the broccoli and pasta. Stir to coat well and evenly distribute the broccoli throughout the dish. Place casserole in oven, and bake for about 30 minutes or until bubbly. Let stand for a good 10 minutes before serving.

Tips:
Make sure you include the mustard. It makes the sauce taste cheesier!
Don’t like broccoli? Try another veggie instead! How about asparagus? or how about carrots and cauliflower? Seriously any veggie will work.
For an added touch, sprinkle some shredded cheddar over the top before you bake.
For an EXTRA added touch, add some panko bread crumbs and grated Parmesan cheese to a little melted butter. Then sprinkle the buttered bread crumbs over the top for the last 10 minutes of baking. Perfectly golden crust!


Monday, February 8, 2021

One-Bowl Chocolate Chip Bread



OK, this one is so quick and easy, you won't even believe it.
I was browsing some recipes to use up a bag of chocolate chips, and I found this one on Taste of Home. I knew at once that I needed to test this one for my sister, Cathy, because (as I immediately texted her), this one has her hubby, Gregg's, name written all over it. Seriously, though, that's the absolute truth. You could bake ANY kind of cake or bread, and he'll say "it's great, but it would be better if it had chocolate chips in it." Not even kidding.
 Anyway... whenever I read recipes on different websites, I'm always sure to read the comments below. More times than not, it aggravates the hell out of me when someone says all the changes they made to the recipe, and then only give it one star because they didn't like the way it turned out. Are you kidding?? I want to say "Just make it as directed and maybe it'll turn out!"
 So, with this recipe, I noticed a lot of the comments said that it needed to be split into two loaves, or that it was too dense, or that it had too many chocolate chips for one loaf (as if that's possible). Honestly, I have no idea what recipe they're talking about, because mine turned out perfectly. It was the perfect amount of batter for one loaf, it was just the right amount of chips, and in baked in exactly the time was supposed to. And, true to its name, I only used one bowl!  Sounds pretty perfect to me!
 So if you're looking for a not-too-sweet bread to have with your coffee or your cup of tea, you should try this one. I'm pretty sure if you just follow the recipe, it'll turn out perfectly for you too!
This one's for you, Gregg! Hope you like it!





3 large eggs, room temperature
1 cup sugar
2 cups sour cream
3 cups self-rising flour*
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

Heat oven to 350°F.
Beat eggs, sugar, and sour cream until well blended. Gradually stir in flour. Fold in chocolate chips. Transfer to a greased 9x5" loaf pan. Bake until a toothpick comes out clean, 65-75 minutes. Cool in pan 5 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool.

*As a substitute for 3 cups of self-rising flour:
Place 4-1/2 teaspoons baking powder and 1-1/2 teaspoons salt in a 1-cup measuring cup. Add all-purpose flour to measure 1 cup; combine with an additional 2 cups all-purpose flour.




Tips:
OK, usually this is where I would tell you everything I would do differently, but like I said, I wouldn't change a thing. It took literally only 5 minutes to prep and get into the oven, it baked perfectly (right at the 65 minute mark for me), and it was exactly perfect in one loaf pan. The only thing I can think of that I would do differently is maybe to try adding different mix-ins. Cinnamon chips? Peanut Butter Chips? Butterscotch chips? I bet they'd all be pretty fabulous!


Monday, February 1, 2021

Chocolate Cherry Cobbler

 

 

 Usually, when you think of a cobbler, you think of apples or peaches, correct? Or maybe even blackberries, and yes definitely cherries. But most times, we think of a simple biscuit topping. Well, at least I always do. But what if we took that biscuit topping and made it a CHOCOLATE biscuit instead? Now we’ve bumped up the decadence factor a few notches! Of course chocolate and cherry are a wildly famous couple, and it comes together in no time at all. They’re even better when you serve them warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Btw, speaking of couples, if you’d like to make this for your special someone, this has romance written all over it! Enjoy!



1  1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup butter
1 cup chocolate chips
1 egg
1/4 cup milk
1 (21 oz) purchased cherry pie filling or your own


Heat oven to 350ºF.
Coat a 2 quart casserole dish with vegetable cooking spray. Melt chocolate chips in a measuring cup in the microwave, stirring every 20 seconds until smooth. Let stand for 5 minutes to cool slightly.
In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Cut in butter until the dough is a uniform crumbly texture. Beat the egg into the melted chocolate chips, then stir the milk in. Pour the chocolate mixture into the dry ingredients, and stir until well blended.
Pour the cherry pie filling in an even layer in the bottom of the greased casserole dish. Drop spoonfuls of the chocolate batter over the cherries in a random pattern.
Bake for 40 to 45 minutes, until top crust is not doughy when lifted.
Serve warm.




Tips:
Be careful of scorching the chocolate chips in the microwave. Just take your time and stir at 20 second intervals as directed. Another way to do it would be to place your chocolate chips in a heat proof bowl, then place the bowl over a small pot of simmering water. Let the steam from the water gently melt the chips, then stir until smooth.
Not a fan of cherries? Use another kind of pie filling! How about strawberry?!

Monday, January 25, 2021

Joey's Slow Cooker Hoisin Beef Stew

 

 

Lately I’ve really been in the mood for a nice hearty beef stew. Maybe it was the recent blast of cold air, maybe it’s because I haven’t had it in a while. Maybe it’s because a new house immediately smells like home when you have a slow cooker of beef stew cooking all day.
 Whatever the reason, I started looking at new and different beef stew recipes, and I saw a few Asian inspired recipes that use Hoisin Sauce as a base. I thought “OK now THAT sounds fabulous.” It reminded me of when my sister, Cathy, and I decided to make our own Hoisin sauce (which was fabulous, btw. I think we need to do that again, Sis!) This time, I just used jarred sauce, which is perfectly fine. Of course, I didn’t follow just one specific recipe. I took what I liked from a few different recipes and made my own. It turned out perfectly!!
 The other thing I like about this recipe is that you can prep it the night before, keep the insert chilled in the fridge overnight, and then place it in the slow cooker in the morning. All that’s left is making the rice for dinner! Easy peasy!
I’m definitely adding this one to the repertoire!




3-4 lbs beef chuck cubes
3 large carrots
4-6 large scallions
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbs fresh ginger, minced
8 oz fresh or frozen sugar snap peas
2 cups jarred (or homemade) Hoisin Sauce
Pinch of Kosher salt
pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
Cooked rice for serving
Sesame seeds for garnish, optional


In a large skillet, add a few glugs of vegetable oil and place over medium high heat. Arrange beef cubes in one layer. Do this is batches so as not to crowd the pan. Resist the urge to stir them! Just let them brown on one side to a deep dark brown. Turn the pieces over, and brown on the other side. As the pieces brown, remove them to a slow cooker. Repeat with remaining beef cubes.
 While the beef is browning, peel and slice the carrots, slice half of the scallions, and add them to the slow cooker along with the Hoisin sauce, garlic, ginger, salt, and red pepper flakes. Add a half cup of water to the now empty saute pan, and place over high heat. Using a wooden spoon, scrape up all the browned pits that are stuck to the pan, and add to the slow cooker. Give everything a good stir until well coated with the sauce. Cover and cook on low for about 7-8 hours. You could also cook on high for 3-4 hours. Add the snap peas for the last hour of cooking. When everything is finished cooking, top with remaining chopped scallions. If you’d like a thicker stew, just add a couple tbs of corn starch or tapioca starch to about 1/2 cup cold water, then stir it into the hot stew. Let it continue to cook until it becomes rich and thick and glossy. Serve over rice. Garnish with a sprinkle of sesame seeds, if desired.




Tips:
When you’re browning your beef cubes, really take the time to do it properly. Be patient! This is not a time for taking short cuts. And when I say not to crowd the pan, I mean it! There should be space between them. And I know you want to stir them around. Don’t do it! Resist the urge! Just put them in the pan, and don’t touch them. You want a nice dark sear. And if you try to turn them over and they’re stuck to the pan, it means they’re not ready yet. They’ll release from the pan when they’re ready.
This brings me to my next tip: Unless it’s the only kind of pan you have, don’t use a nonstick pan. You really want all the bits to brown on the pan. They add so much flavor!
 Don’t have snap peas? Use snow peas instead. Don’t like peas at all? Leave ‘em out! Want more carrots? Go for it! You do you!
One other tip.. when you’re making rice… saute some chopped onions or scallions in a little oil… then add the rice to the pot. Stir to combine. And here’s the real tip: Use chicken broth instead of water to cook the rice. Game changer! Best. Rice. Ever.


Monday, January 18, 2021

One Pot Creamy French Onion Pasta Bake

 


 So, I was trying to remember where I first saw this recipe. I think it was in a text thread with one of my sisters..or my nieces… but I have no idea.. anyway… it was one of those “We should make this some time” sort of texts, and I immediately added it to my list of foods to try. (Yes, I have a list. Don’t you?)
 It seemed like the perfect thing to make during the colder months when everyone is looking for something warm and comforting. It’s from a blog called Half Baked Harvest, and it was described as being a cross between mac and cheese, and French onion soup. You can’t get more warm and comforting than that!!!
 First of all, is was REALLY easy to make, especially since you do everything in one pot. I transferred it to a baking dish, but if your pot is oven proof, you could just put the whole thing in the oven. One less dish to clean!
 So if you like French onion soup. This has your name written all over it. Thank you again to Tieghan over at Half Baked Harvest for the fabulous recipe. I’ll definitely be making this one again soon!

4 tbs butter  
2-3 medium yellow onions, thinly sliced
2 tsp honey
1 cup dry red wine, such as Cabernet Sauvignon
2 cloves garlic, minced or grated
2 cups cremini or wild mushrooms, sliced
2 tbs fresh thyme leaves (or 2 tsp dried thyme)
Kosher salt and black pepper
3 cups low sodium chicken broth (use vegetable broth, if vegetarian)
1 tbs Worcestershire sauce (use soy sauce, if vegetarian)
2 bay leaves
1 pound of your favorite short cut pasta
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper, using more or less to your taste
1 1/4 cups heavy cream, whole milk, or canned coconut milk
1/3 cup crumbled gorgonzola cheese (optional)
2 cups shredded gruyere cheese


Heat the oven to 400ºF.
Melt the butter, onions, and honey together in a large pot over medium-high heat. Cook, stirring occasionally until softened, about 5 minutes. At this point, you want to slowly add 1/2 cup of the wine, 1/4 cup at a time, until the wine cooks into the onions. Continue to cook another 8-10 minutes until you've used the 1/2 cup of wine and the onions are deeply caramelized.
Add the garlic, mushrooms, thyme, and season with salt and pepper, cook another 3-4 minutes. Add the remaining 1/2 cup wine, the broth, Worcestershire sauce, bay leaves, and the pasta. Bring the mixture to a boil. Stir frequently until the pasta is al dente and the broth has been absorbed, about 8-10 minutes. Stir in the cayenne, cream, gorgonzola, if using, and 1/2 cup gruyere cheese. Remove from the heat.
If needed, transfer the pasta to a baking dish. Top with the remaining gruyere cheese. Transfer the baking dish to the oven and bake 20 minutes or until the cheese has melted and is lightly browned on top. Cool 5 minutes before serving. Serve with fresh thyme. Enjoy!


Tips:
Even if you’re not a fan of bleu cheeses, I definitely recommend adding the gorgonzola to the dish. You won’t even taste the “bleu-ness” of it, but it makes the flavor SO much deeper and richer. SO good!
If you can do free thyme instead of dried, DO IT. I always prefer fresh herbs over dried ones. It makes all the difference in the world. I also added a little fresh parsley over the top for a little pop of color!
Btw, one of the notes listed with the recipe is that you can use half pomegranate or cranberry juice and half chicken broth in place of the red wine. I was actually wondering if pomegranate juice was an option even before I read the note. It’s nice to know my hunch was correct!

Monday, January 11, 2021

Poppy Seed Almond Cake

 

   Since we're all spending much more time at home these days, I started doing what many people do... YOUTUBE. Seriously, is there anything that ISN'T on Youtube? Need to learn how to work your digital thermostat? There's a how-to video on Youtube. Wanna learn how to use a pressure canner? Youtube. Need to learn how to do a British accent? Youtube. (yes, I've literally done all of those things). And since I've started watching Youtube videos, (or as I call it, going down the Youtube rabbit hole) I’ve started to follow specific channels.
 This cake comes from Claire Staffitz, who was on Bon Appetit’s Test Kitchen channel, and now she has her own channel from her own home kitchen. She talks about many recipes from her book “Dessert Person”, and says that THIS cake is her most favorite. In her words: “It’s scented with almond extract and studded with poppy seeds, and it’s the most tender flavorful snacking cake. It’s is just a perfect cake…..It’s so easy you can bang this cake out and have it in the oven in 15 minutes.” I also love that she says “You don’t need an occasion to bake a cake.” So true! It actually reminds me of the kind of cake my Mom used to make. I noticed that the recipe uses 3 cups of flour, and I remember once upon a time, my Mom noted that using that much flour “makes a nice sized cake.” (I’m pretty sure she was talking about the favorite 7 Up Cake when she said that, and for some reason that always stuck with me).
 The other thing that makes this cake so great is the thin glaze that goes over the cake after it’s finished baking. So delicious and sweet. What’s not to love?
 Make this on a Sunday afternoon and have it with a cup of tea, for dessert, or whenever you want a late night something sweet. It really is a perfect cake!


For the Cake
2 1/3 cups granulated sugar
2 tbs poppy seeds
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1 1/3 cups vegetable oil
3 large eggs
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 tsp almond extract


Heat oven to 350ºF. Grease and flour your Bundt pan.
To make the batter, whisk together all the dry ingredients (the first 5 ingredients listed) in a mixing bowl. (In this case, the sugar is a dry ingredient, even though it’s technically classified as a wet ingredient.)
In a separate bowl, combine wet ingredients. Pour the combined wet ingredients into the dry. Mix well for a couple minutes. Pour into prepared pan. Bake for 80-90 minutes. Let cake cool in pan for 15 minutes before glazing.


For the Glaze:
3/4 cup powdered sugar
1/4 cup orange juice
2 tb
s butter, melted
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp almond extract

While the cake is still warm, use a skewer to poke holes over the entire surface of the cake. Whisk together all of the glaze ingredients. Brush glaze all over the cake and let it sink in.




Claire’s Tips:
It’s best to use room temperature ingredients because the cake will bake more evenly. Don’t have a bundt pan? Use two loaf pans and bake them for almost the same time, 75-80 minutes.


Joey’s Tips:
Make sure you keep an eye on the baking time. All ovens are different! Mine was perfectly finished about 15 minutes earlier than expected. Remember, always to watch the cake, not the timer! Also, in the video, to prepare the pan, she brushes it with oil and then dusts the pan with flour. I just used a baking spray, which is basically the same thing. It’s non-stick oil spray that has the flour already in it. So much easier! Just be sure to spray it over the sink!

Monday, January 4, 2021

Joey's Unstuffed Pepper Casserole

 


 Usually at the start of the new year, I like to do recipes that are warm and hearty and comforting. Nothing does that like a casserole, am I right? But right after the holidays, I’m not so inclined to have a casserole that is so heavy you need to take a nap after you eat it.
 So that brings me to this one. It’s just like the classic stuffed peppers, but it’s all mixed up together in a casserole. It has the standard combo of beef and rice, and it cooks in a nice hearty tomato sauce that won’t weigh you down. Feel free to add more vegetables to it if you like! That’s the beauty of casseroles. You can  add anything that suits your fancy! Serve it up with a fresh crisp salad and you’re good to go! Enjoy!

 

1 lb ground beef
1 medium onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, (or more) minced
2 medium (or 1 large) bell peppers, chopped
1-2 cups cooked rice
1 29oz can crushed tomatoes
1/2 cup water
a few splashes of Worcestershire sauce
1 tbs sugar
salt and pepper to taste
chopped fresh basil to taste
1-2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese


Saute onions and peppers in a little oil in a large skillet. Add ground beef and cook until browned. Drain excess fat. In a large mixing bowl, combine beef mixture and remaining ingredients, adding only half of the cheese. Pour into a casserole dish. Cover and bake 30 minutes. Remove cover, top with remaining half of cheese. Bake another 15-20 minutes or until the cheese is melted and bubbly.


Tips:
This is a great way to use up leftover rice whenever you order take out. Just sayin!
If you’re not a meat person, go ahead and swap out the beef for something else. You could do hearty chopped cremini mushrooms, or any other vegetable, or choose your own protein!
Btw, the sugar is there just to offset the acidity of the tomatoes. Plus I do like a slightly sweet tomato sauce on my stuffed peppers. Same idea!
Don't have mozzarella? Use Cheddar instead!