Monday, June 10, 2019

Strawberry Chipotle Barbecue Sauce


   A few years ago, I came up with a recipe for Blueberry Chipotle Barbecue Sauce, and it was fun and unexpected and a fabulous big hit. It was sweet and tangy and smoky and zesty and everything you want in a barbecue sauce. So then I thought, I wonder how it would taste with strawberries instead of blueberries! Wouldn't that be amazing? At first, I figured I'd just use the same recipe and swap out the blueberries, but then I thought, wait... let's make a new recipe for strawberries and let them have their own moment in the spotlight!
  As always, when I want to find a new recipe, I do some googling to see who else might be thinking of the same idea. I happened to find a recipe on a blog called The Stay At Home Chef, and I gave it a try. It's so good! But then I thought, lets turn this from good to GREAT! So, this is basically the same recipe, but I added a couple tiny tweaks to it. (You know me. I can't leave well enough alone.) The final result is a revelation! Who knew that strawberries would pair so well with smoky Chipotles??? And since Chipotles are just smoked jalapenos, this sauce has a nice little kick to it. Not like a burn-your-face-off kind of a kick, but just a nice heat that sneaks up on you a little. I'm not a spicy guy, but I'm definitely a fan of a slow burn.
  So the next time you're grilling up some chicken or ribs, or maybe doing a slow cooker pulled pork, give this one a try. It's really awesome!



2 tablespoons olive or vegetable oil 
1 large sweet onion diced 
3 cloves garlic minced 
2 cups strawberries hulled 
3 chipotles in Adobo sauce 
1 cup ketchup 
2/3 up brown sugar tightly packed 
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce 
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard 
1/2 cup honey
1 tbs lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon black pepper 
1/2 teaspoon salt


 In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, heat oil. Add in onion and saute for about 5 minutes. Add in garlic and saute for 60 seconds. Stir in remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 5 minutes. Use an immersion blender to puree the sauce or transfer to a blender. Puree until smooth. Return to heat and simmer another 10 minutes. Cool completely and store in an airtight container. Refrigerate up to 5 days.


Tips:
If you would like more heat, go for it! Add some crushed red pepper flakes for another layer of heat. Or you could even add in some chopped jalapenos or a bit of Tabasco.
If you would like a sweeter sauce, bump up the brown sugar and honey.
If you want a little more tang, try adding a little more mustard or lemon juice or even a little splash of apple cider vinegar. 

Monday, June 3, 2019

Joey's Creamy Fettuccine with Zucchini and Peas





  OK, so, I have a confession to make. I don't eat pasta very often. Like, maybe only a few times a year. There. I said it. I know. I know. That's blasphemy in some households, right? I mean, of course, I do LOVE it, but very often I find it to be a little bit heavy. So, unless I'm doing a big spaghetti dinner, or maybe doing fresh pasta for friends, I kind of have to be in the mood for it. That's not a crime, is it? Actually, one of my favorite ways to have pasta is with a bunch of fresh vegetables. Since I live in The Garden State, I absolutely can't wait for the warmer months of the year and all of the fabulous produce that comes with them. THAT'S when I'll definitely be in the mood for a nice dish of pasta and some of Jersey's freshest veggies to go with it.
 For this one, I decided to go with zucchini. I saw it at a local farm stand, and it was so brilliantly green that I was inspired to keep with that theme and add peas and fresh herbs. The result was an amazing pasta dish, perfect in its simplicity, kind of similar to an alfredo, but a little bit lighter.
 So if you're a "pasta every week" kind of household (or even more), you should definitely add this one to the rotation. It was quick and easy and it was just the thing to hit the spot! Hope you like it!


1 lb fettuccine
1 stick butter
1 medium onion
4 or 5 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 large (or 2 small-ish) zucchini, cut into large dice
Salt and crushed red pepper flakes
1 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
1 10oz box of frozen peas
5 or 6 large leaves of fresh basil
Fresh parsley


   Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add a handful of salt. Boil fettuccine according to package directions to reach desired doneness. While your waiting for the water to boil, make the sauce.
  In a large pan, melt butter over medium heat. Add diced onions. Saute until they soften a bit. Add chopped garlic and continue to saute. Add diced zucchini, season with salt and crushed red pepper flakes, and continue to saute, stirring frequently. When the zucchini are tender, add chicken broth, cream, and grated cheese. Stir all until well combined. Reduce heat to simmer. Let the sauce reduce a bit until the pasta is done. At the last minute, add the frozen peas and fresh basil. Give it a good stir. Taste and adjust seasoning, if needed. Add drained pasta and toss all together. Let it sit for a few minutes before serving. Top with chopped fresh parsley and a bit more cheese.


Tips:
The sauce is meant to be kind of thin so that the pasta will really drink it in.
Be sure to taste it and adjust the seasoning. It will need a bit more salt than you think it will. If you don't like crushed red pepper flakes, then just use black pepper.
For an extra punch of flavor, add a splash of white wine to the sauce!


Monday, May 20, 2019

Blueberry Lemon Cake



OK, first, lemme just say that I made this cake a few weeks ago with the intention of posting it for Mother's Day, but then schedules got crazy and life got in the way and things got pushed to the back burner, so to speak. Ah well, what can you do? But the good news it's here NOW and it's definitely worth the wait!
 I found this cake on a blog called Natasha's Kitchen. It's light and tasty, so it's just the perfect thing to have with a cup of tea for an afternoon treat. Doesn't that just sound lovely?
 I also love the fact that the recipe uses an entire pound of blueberries. I'm kind of a stickler for that sort of thing. If I'm making something that has a specific flavor, I want A LOT of that one key ingredient, know what I mean? In other words, if I'm gonna make, say, a peanut butter cookie, I want a recipe that uses A LOT of peanut butter! (Hence the Whole Jar of Peanut Butter Cookies.) It makes sense, right? And that's what we have here! LOTS of plump delicious blueberries. Yum. Btw, this cake is also a snap to throw together, so it's the perfect thing when you need something to sweeten your day. Hope you like it!



2 large eggs 
1 cup granulated sugar  
1 cup sour cream (8oz) 
1/2 cup vegetable oil  
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/4 tsp salt  
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder  
1 medium lemon zest and juice, divided 
1/2 tbs corn starch  
16 oz fresh blueberries
Powdered sugar to dust the top, optional


Preheat Oven to 375˚F.
Lightly butter a 9-inch springform pan and line the bottom with parchment.
Beat eggs and sugar with whisk attachment on high speed 5 min, or until light in color and thick. Add sour cream, oil, vanilla extract, and salt, and whisk on low speed until well combined. Whisk together the flour with the baking powder, then add to batter 1/3 at a time, whisking to incorporate with each addition (DO NOT OVERMIX). Finally, add 1 tbs lemon juice and 1/2 tbs zest.
  Rinse blueberries and drain well. In a medium bowl, toss blueberries with 1/2 tbs corn starch and 1 tsp lemon juice, stirring until well combined and no dry white cornstarch remains.
 Pour half of batter into prepared springform pan and spread evenly. Top with half of the blueberries. Spread with remaining batter then sprinkle the rest of the blueberries evenly over the top, pushing them slightly into the batter (about halfway). Bake for 45 to 55 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Let cake rest in the pan 15-20 min then remove ring and cool until room temp or just warm. Serve dusted with powdered sugar.




Tips:
Full disclosure, the blueberries are supposed to stay suspended in the cake, but as you can see from the photo, mine sank to the bottom. Tbh, I didn't even mind it. But if you want yours to stay suspended, I've always had better luck tossing the blueberries with a tbs of flour, instead of tossing them with cornstarch.
Be sure to include the lemon zest. It really bumps up the lemon flavor in a cake without adding any liquid to the batter!
 Also, I used a 9" tart pan with a removable ring instead of the springform pan and it worked beautifully!
 

Sunday, May 5, 2019

Creamy Caramel Flan



 This is one of those dishes that I made literally YEARS ago, but then never got around to posting. In fact, it was so long ago, I couldn't even remember which recipe I used. Luckily, my sister Cathy remembered getting the recipe from her friend, Marcy. It's actually quite popular because I've seen it on several websites. Clearly this one is a winner! 
 The custard is silky smooth, the caramel hits all the right sweet and bitter notes that you want and expect from a home made caramel, and the whole thing just SCREAMS special occasion! It's really not difficult to make, so go ahead and try it! I promise you'll impress everyone!




3/4 cup sugar
1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened
5 large eggs
1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
1 can (12 ounces) evaporated milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract


 Preheat oven to 350ºF.
In a small, heavy saucepan over medium-low heat, cook sugar, stirring, until golden.  Pour into a 10" round baking dish, tilting to coat bottom and sides.  Set aside. Put a kettle of water on to boil so it is ready when you need it for the hot water bath. In a large bowl, beat cream cheese until smooth.  Beat in eggs, one at a time, until well incorporated.  Beat in condensed and evaporated milk and vanilla until smooth.  Pour into caramel coated pan.  Line a roasting pan with a damp kitchen towel.  Place baking dish on towel inside roasting pan and place roasting pan on oven rack.  Fill roasting pan with boiling water to reach halfway up the sides of the baking dish.  Bake in preheated oven 50-60 minutes, until center is just set.  Cool one hour on wire rack then chill in refrigerator 8 hours or overnight.  To unmold, run a knife around edges of pan and invert on a serving platter. 




Tips:
First and foremost, be VERY careful when melting sugar. It is LAVA HOT, so make sure the little ones are occupied and entertained elsewhere in the house whenever you make caramel.
Instead of just throwing the sugar into a dry pan (which can sometimes burn too quickly), try adding a few tablespoons of water to the sugar. It gives you a little insurance, because the water will take some time to evaporate, and then you can control how dark you want your caramel to be. Instead of stirring the sugar, (which can cause it to crystallize), just swirl the pan around in a circular motion until it turns a lovely dark golden color. Once it starts to darken in color, it goes pretty quickly, so keep a constant eye on it, and immediately remove it from the heat when you reach the perfect caramel color!
 

Monday, April 22, 2019

Joey's Sriracha Egg Salad


  This is a great way to use up all of your colored Easter eggs. I mean, I know making egg salad on the day after Easter isn't exactly a revelation, but adding Sriracha to it certainly is! If you've never tried it, you certainly must! Yes, it adds heat, but it also adds a fabulous savory flavor and it works perfectly! It's great in sandwiches (even better on toast!) or in wraps with freshly sliced tomatoes and crisp fresh lettuce. You can also use it for hors d'oeuvres, on crackers or crostini with a little slice of ham or crumbled bacon, or your choice of meat/veggies. Oh! It would be great with thin slices of plum tomato, zucchini, cucumber, garnish with a little chopped chives. Anything you like! I always like to make a double batch because it always seems to disappear too quickly. Just sayin'!
Hope you like it!




6 hard boiled eggs, peeled
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1-2 tbs Sriracha
2 tbs chopped sweet pickles (can also use Kosher dills)
salt and pepper to taste
paprika for garnish, if desired


 Using an egg slicer, slice your eggs in 2 directions. In other words, first you slice it north to south, then (holding the slices together) you place the egg back on the slicer and slice it east to west. You could also just throw your peeled eggs into a food processor and pulse it a few times. Bottom line, you just want the eggs to be finely chopped. Add the remaining ingredients and stir until well combined. That's all there is to it! Serve immediately or chill.




Tips:
 If you're not sure how hot you like it, just add one tbs of Sriracha and then give it a taste. You can always add more, but you can't take it out! So just add a little at a time to see how you like it!
I always prefer egg salad to be well chilled when I serve it, so I like to make it in advance and then let it get nice and cold in the fridge.
As always, if you like a lot of something, add a lot! Want more Sriracha? Go for it!
Optional add-ins: chopped celery, minced onion, garlic powder. Add as much as you like!
You can use regular sweet pickle relish instead of the chopped sweet pickles, but they do taste slightly different. I prefer the sweet pickles! It's just enough to balance the heat with the sweet!

Monday, April 15, 2019

Almond Bars


 Ok, so before we talk about this week's recipe, let me give you a little bit of a back story.
For years and years, I've had a tradition with my niece, Terri, on the night before Thanksgiving. At first, it started out as "Uncle Joey, will you please help me make stuffing for my in-laws?" It has now turned into "how about you make the stuffing, and I'll have a glass of wine?" Either way, we always get together, and it's always a fun night.
 So, last year, we were discussing our cooking agenda for the night, and at the last minute, Terri decided that she wanted to make a dessert. I said, "ok, what ingredients do you have?" She mentioned a few things and it became very apparent that we'd be baking an apple pie. Perfect. As I was tossing the sliced apples with cinnamon, nutmeg, and sugar, she said "let's throw in a little almond extract!" Now, that's not usually one of my go-to add-ins for an apple pie, but she declared how much she loves anything with almond extract in it, and I figured, "hey, it's your pie, you can throw in anything you want!" So I added a few drops. It was delicious! Honestly, we couldn't stop stealing the apples out of the bowl while I was rolling out the crusts. And then I thought, "wait, how did I never know that you like almond this much?" I would search for an almondy something for you!"
 And now you're up to date with my inspiration for finding this recipe. To be quite honest, I found several almondy type recipes, and this is just the first (from a site called Genius Kitchen). Something tells me I'm gonna be making ALL of them for Terri until we find the favorite one. I guess I have several months of testing before we have our next Thanksgiving Eve cooking event. In the meantime, these almond squares are the perfect little sweet treat to bring to a brunch or a BBQ or a potluck. They're so tasty and they're super simple too!! And yes, of course, I'll be sure to let you know if we ever settle on a favorite!



4 eggs
2 cups sugar
2 cup (two sticks) butter, melted
2 cups flour
2 1/2 tsp almond extract
1 cup sliced almonds
1/2 cup confectioner's sugar



Beat together the eggs and sugar until lemon-colored. Add the butter, flour, and almond extract; mix well. Spread the batter in an even layer on a buttered 13x9-inch baking pan. Sprinkle the top of the batter with sliced almonds. Bake at 325° for 30 to 35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove pan from the oven and dust the top with a light sprinkling of confectioner's sugar. Cool completely before cutting into squares.


Tips:
Just as with any type of nuts, you definitely want to toast them before you use them.
Simply place them on a dry tray. Put the tray into the oven and let the almonds toast for a minute or two. As soon as you can smell them, take them out! (if you leave them in any longer, they will quickly burn!)

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Shrimp and Grits Bake


 Have you ever had grits? In case you're not familiar, grits is a sort of porridge made from boiling coarse corn meal. It's kind of like polenta, and it originated in Southern US. It's very often served as a savory breakfast food, alongside eggs and bacon or ham. In addition to being a breakfast staple in the South, it's also classically paired with shrimp and served for dinner.
 Admittedly, I did not grow up in a grits household. Yes, we had oatmeal, or cream of wheat, but never grits. It wasn't until I began cooking and searching for regional dishes from around the country that I discovered grits. As soon as I saw that they go well with shrimp, I was all in. (Frankly I never met a shrimp dish I didn't like.)
 So when I was looking for a brunchy sort of dish that could also be served as a dinner, I figured well, how about a shrimp and grits casserole? A quick google search and I discovered this recipe from Betty Crocker, and it was exactly was I was looking for.
 Side note..... I did see many other recipes that include lots of spicy cajun and creole seasonings and smoked andouille sausage, etc, but that wasn't what I was going for. I mean, I'm sure they're great and all, but I wanted to be able to taste the shrimp instead of covering it up with all those spicy bold flavors.
 So there you have it. It's really easy to put together and it doesn't take very long at all. And since the shrimp cooks right in the casserole, the flavor REALLY comes through. If you're looking for something different for your next brunch, or even just for a simple seafood dinner, give this one a try. If you're not sure if you'd like grits, I think this one will definitely convince you!!




olive oil
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 small onion, chopped
3 ribs celery, chopped
1 3/4 cups whole milk
1 cup chicken broth
1 cup uncooked quick cooking grits
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 (5.2oz) container Boursin cheese with garlic and herbs
1 lb uncooked shrimp, peeled, deveined, and tails removed
2 eggs, beaten
1 tbs flat leaf parsley, chopped
2 tsp fresh thyme leaves, removed from sprigs, chopped



Heat oven to 375°F. Spray 11x7-inch (2-quart) baking dish with cooking spray. In a large skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Cook chopped vegetables in oil 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until tender. In a large heavy saucepan, heat milk and broth to boiling. Gradually add grits and salt, stirring constantly with whisk. Cook 5 minutes, stirring constantly, until thickened. Remove from heat. Stir in pepper and cheese. Stir in vegetable mixture, shrimp, eggs, parsley and thyme. Spoon mixture into baking dish. Bake uncovered 25 minutes or until set.




Tips:
For me, the key is the fresh thyme. It adds the most perfect savory note to the shrimp.
Want to add other seafood? Go for it! I think adding lumps of crab meat would be FABULOUS.
Btw, if you can't find the Boursin cheese, just use any favorite herb flavored whipped cream cheese spread. It really adds tons of flavor and creaminess!
Speaking of creaminess, I think next time I may add a little extra milk or cream. The grits really absorbed a lot of the liquid and that little extra bit of cream would be just the thing!