Monday, July 31, 2017

One Pot Clam Bake

  Here's a dish that I've been wanting to share for quite a long time! I was going to post it last summer (since this is clearly a summer dish), but I had quite a lot going on at that time and before I knew it, the season got away from me. Luckily I was able to get my act together in time to post it this year!
 Ok so lets get  to it! The first time I made this was once upon a long long time ago... like, literally decades ago... and it was SO delicious! But when I went to do it again, I swear I could not remember what recipe I used. All I knew was that it had clams, potatoes, and corn on the cob... and that the sauce had white wine, butter, and garlic.  Sounds good, right? But I had no clue what I did or where I got it. So I did some googling, and finally decided that THIS recipe came closest to what I remembered doing that one time all those years ago. It's from Martha Stewart's Everyday Food, and it's absolutely delish! Not only that, it's really super easy to do. Wait, it's not even super easy... it's STUPID EASY to do. I'm not even kidding. You literally just keep adding things to the pot, and in less than a half hour, boom, dinner's ready! Make it for friends and you'll impress the hell out of everyone. (No one needs to know how easy it was!) Serve it with the rest of the bottle of white wine, (or 2 or 3 bottles LOL) and it's a "summer by the shore" party! Oh, and don't forget the crusty bread for dipping into the sauce. That's key! I'm definitely putting this one on my summer menu and I think you should too! This one's a keeper!

1 1/4 cups dry white wine 
6 cloves garlic, peeled  
2 large shallots, quartered and peeled (root end left intact) 
1 1/2 pounds small red potatoes  
1/2 tsp Red-pepper flakes (optional) 
6 ears corn, shucked and halved  
5 dozen clams, cleaned*
2 lemons, quartered 
1 pound shell-on extra-jumbo shrimp (16 to 20)  
4 tablespoons unsalted butter 
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley  
2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano leaves 

  In a 12-quart stockpot, bring wine and 3/4 cup water to a boil. Add garlic, shallots, potatoes, and 1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon red-pepper flakes, if using; cover and cook 8 minutes. Add corn, clams, and lemons; cover and cook until clams have opened, 10 to 12 minutes. Add shrimp in a single layer, cover, turn off heat, and let sit until shrimp are opaque throughout, about 3 minutes.
 With tongs or a spider, transfer shellfish and vegetables to a serving platter, setting lemons aside; discard any unopened clams. Pour broth into a bowl and whisk in butter, parsley, and oregano. Scrape flesh from half the lemons into broth, discarding skins. Serve shellfish and vegetables with remaining lemons and broth for dipping.

*Joey's tips for cleaning clams:
First, inspect the clams and remove any that have broken shells. If any are slightly open, give them a little tap. If they don't close immediately, then toss them too. Now place all of the clams in a large bowl of cold water. Let them sit for about a half hour. This will encourage the clams to expel any sand. I've heard that sprinkling a little corn meal into the water will help to facilitate that process. When they're finished soaking, you want to lift them out of the water with your hands or tongs. Don't just dump them out into a strainer because then all of the sand that is at the bottom of the bowl will just pour back on top of the clams again. I usually give them a good scrub with a brush as I'm removing them from the bowl. Rinse the bowl of any sand or grit, and then place the clams back in the bowl for one more final rinse. Now you're ready to proceed with the recipe!

I always prefer using fresh herbs over dried, but you can use dried oregano if you don't have fresh. Just use about a teaspoon, since dried is much stronger than fresh. But definitely do NOT use dried parsley. It just doesn't compare to fresh.
I think maybe the next time I make this, I'll pull back a little on the lemon and oregano, and add a little more butter.  Just sayin!
If you like it a little spicy, add more crushed red pepper flakes! You do you!
Also, I used peeled and deveined shrimp, but just left the tails on so you have a little handle to pick them up. I just found it to be easier and more preferable!

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Joey's Maple Bacon Baked Beans

 There are certain foods that just scream SUMMER to me. Hamburgers and hot dogs, corn on the cob, ice cold watermelon, iced tea, and of course baked beans!! What would a BBQ be without them???? So, of course, I like to come up with lots of different versions. I have my own go to Favorite Baked Beans, my Pineapple Baked Beans, and Trisha's Baked Bean Casserole, to name a few. But one can never have too many variations, am I right?
 I decided to try a maple variation when Tory and Ryan were coming over for our almost weekly dinner and a movie night. It was a big hit! Just that tiny little hit of maple gives it just enough of a twist to be something new and exciting, but it's still your classic baked beans. It's definitely a keeper and it's perfect for your summer BBQ. MMM, I'm thinking this would be AWESOME with some BBQ ribs. Who's with me???

1/2 lb bacon
1 medium onion
2 cans baked beans
1 tbs brown mustard
2 tbs ketchup
1/4 tsp liquid smoke
1/2 cup maple syrup
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat oven to 350ºF.
Cut bacon into small lardons. Place in a cold skillet. Turn the heat to medium, and let it gradually come up to heat so that the fat begins to render. Slowly cook until slightly crispy. Add chopped onion and continue to saute until the onions have softened.
 While the bacon and onions are cooking, add the remaining ingredients to a large bowl and stir well to combine. Drain any excess bacon fat from the pan and add the bacon and onions to the bowl. Taste it to see if it needs anything, then make adjustments if needed. Pour into a large casserole dish and bake at for 20-30 minutes or until bubbly. Let stand for a good 10 minutes before serving.

All of the ingredients are added pretty much to taste. Want a lot of bacon? Go for it. Want a lot of onions? Do it!  Want it to be sweeter? Add more maple syrup! The only ingredient you have to use sparingly is the liquid smoke. It's very important to the dish (one might even call it the secret ingredient!) but it is VERY strong. I'm talking just a few little drops and you're good to go. If you add more than that, you'll wind up with an unpleasant sort of artificial taste. But with everything else, add as much as you want! You do you!
If you don't have liquid smoke, you can just add 2 tbs of your favorite smokey BBQ sauce, and then omit the ketchup.
If you don't have pure maple syrup, go ahead and use your basic maple pancake syrup. It'll still be awesome and no one will be able to tell the difference!
I can't remember what size cans I used. They were the medium ones, not the ginormous ones, and not the tiny little ones. Like probably somewhere in the 24oz range. I'll have to get back to you on that!

Monday, July 24, 2017

Joey's Cheesy Tortellini and Veggie Bake

  One of my favorite things about summer is the huge bounty of fresh vegetables that comes with the season. Since I live in the Garden State, I have access to some of the best fruits and veggies you'll ever taste, so I'm all about adding them to my cooking. Sometimes I'll even just steam a variety of fresh veggies and there's dinner! But then sometimes I chop them up and add them to a delicious casserole like this one!
 I was kind of in a pasta mood, but wanted something a little different. So I decided to toss some tortellini in a creamy cheese sauce, add a few veggies, and here we are! It was SO fresh and delicious I couldn't stop eating it! I'm not even kidding. It's creamy and cheesy, but it's not as heavy as you might think because I used broth instead of cream. And the fresh herbs give it a brightness that works perfectly. And yes, I know there's a lot of chopping involved, but it really doesn't take very long.  And once you get everything chopped, that's half the battle! The final product is definitely worth it!
 So keep this dish in mind the next time you go to your produce stand or farmer's market. Look and see what is the freshest. Choose whatever veggies look the best. Use as many as you like! It will all work and I promise you'll love it!

1 medium onion, roughly chopped
1 medium zucchini, roughly chopped
1 medium yellow squash, roughly chopped
1 red bell pepper, roughly chopped
8 oz mushrooms, sliced
8 oz grape or cherry tomatoes, halved
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tbs flour
1 1/2 cups vegetable or chicken broth
8 oz cream cheese, cubed
1 lb tortellini
handful of fresh basil and/or parsley, chopped
salt and pepper to taste
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
Parmesan cheese

Heat oven to 350ºF.
Place a large skillet over medium heat. Add a few glugs of oil, and saute onions, zucchini, squash, and peppers. Season with salt and pepper. You don't need to brown them, you just want to soften them and let some of the moisture evaporate from them. Remove veggies from pan to a large bowl. In the same pan, add a few more glugs of oil. Saute mushrooms, tomatoes, and garlic until they soften up a bit. Season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with flour, and continue to stir and saute for another minute or two. Add broth and cream cheese. Stir until cream cheese melts and combines smoothly with the broth. Adjust seasoning if needed. Add sauce to veggie bowl along with basil and tortellini. (no need to boil the tortellini, it will cook in the sauce). Toss all to coat with sauce. Pour into a 9x13 casserole dish. Top first with mozzarella and then Parmesan cheese. Bake uncovered for about 30-40 minutes, or until bubbly.

Be sure to season everything as you go! Adding a little salt at the end is just not gonna cut it.
Not a fan of summer squash? Use whatever veggies you like! Broccoli, carrots, peas, it will all work!

Monday, July 17, 2017

Lemon and Dill Chicken

 Here's a light summery dish that is the perfect weeknight supper. It's super easy to make and you can have it on the table in under 30 minutes. How does that sound??
 My friend Jason and I were recently planning to get together, and when I gave him a list of the fresh herbs I have growing, he chose dill. After a quick google search, I found this Eating Well recipe and it was exactly what I wanted. The flavors are bright, the dish isn't too heavy, and you do it all in a pan on the stove top, so there's no need to turn on the oven. It's definitely a welcome break from the endless burgers that summer sometimes brings. (No one loves a burger more than I do, but a little variety is always a good thing, dontcha think?) And as soon as I tasted it, I thought, "OMG this needs to be in the regular rotation of go-to meals!" It was a big hit with Jason too. Win/win! Serve it with steamed or roasted green veggies or my Summer Squash Sauté, which is how I served it. You could also serve it with rice, which would be ready in the same amount of time!
 The next time I make it, though, I think maybe I'll try using a different fresh herb, just to see how far a little variation would go. (You know I can never leave a recipe alone!!) Lemon goes so well with so many fresh herbs, I think that might be next on my to do list. Thyme, basil, and oregano are the front runners, I think. I'll be sure to let you know how they turn out! In the meantime, you should definitely give this one a go. It's absolutely one of my new faves and it's definitely a keeper!

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts,
Salt & freshly ground pepper, to taste 
3 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil, or canola oil, divided 
1/4 cup finely chopped onion 
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth 
2 teaspoons flour 
2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill, divided 
1 tablespoon lemon juice

  Season chicken breasts on both sides with salt and pepper. Heat 1 1/2 teaspoons oil in a large heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chicken and sear until well browned on both sides, about 3 minutes per side. Transfer chicken to a plate and tent with foil. 
Reduce heat to medium. Add the remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons oil to the pan. Add onion and garlic and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Whisk broth, flour, 1 tablespoon dill and lemon juice in a measuring cup and add to pan. Cook, whisking, until slightly thickened, about 3 minutes. 
Return the chicken and any accumulated juices to the pan; reduce heat to low and simmer until the chicken is cooked through, about 4 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a warmed platter. Season sauce with salt and pepper and spoon over the chicken. Garnish with the remaining 1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill.

Be sure to whisk the flour into the cold chicken broth before you add it to the pan. If you just add the flour to the pan, you'll be more likely to get lumps. Also, if you'd like your pan sauce to be a little thicker (more like a gravy), add a little extra oil and a little extra flour. it doesn't take much, but just that little extra bit will give you the perfect sauce to pour over the chicken.
I didn't have any onions, so I just added some onion  powder. Of course I would have preferred to add the onions, and I probably would have added more than 1/4 cup, but I just went with what I had on hand. 

Monday, July 10, 2017

Joey's Ginger Peachy Pulled Pork

  Do you love peaches as much as I do? Seriously, when peaches are at the peak of their season, I just want peach EVERYTHING. I'm forever making jams, cakes, pies, you name it, I love it all.
 So with that in mind, here was my flight of ideas....
I was recently trying to think of new ideas to cook in a slow cooker (which is often my go-to during summer). And then I thought, ok lets come up with a new version of a classic... about a pulled pork? And since I was already in peach mode, I thought, ooo there we go ...pork with peaches...perfect...  now lets see how we can make it work!
 And this is where I landed! I purposely didn't go crazy with a million ingredients. I basically tried to keep it simple and think of flavors that I know go well together. I had made a ginger ale ham (which worked famously, btw) so I knew that it would work with a slow cooker pork, and of course Peach and Ginger are fabulous dance partners as well, so I thought, why not put them all together! I must say I'm thrilled with the final result. It's a perfect summer dish because the peaches are gorgeous and juicy and ripe, and you don't have to turn on the oven. It's also a time saver because you can prepare it the night before, and then let it cook all day while you're at work. Dinner's ready by the time you get home! Easy! So if you're looking for a new peach something, I think you should definitely give this one a try! It's definitely a new favorite!

1 large onion, peeled and sliced
1 3-4 lb boneless or semi-boneless pork shoulder
3 or 4 fresh ripe peaches, peeled, pitted, sliced
1 cup ginger ale (not diet)
1 cup peach preserves
1 tbs balsamic vinegar (can use other kinds, such as apple cider or red wine)
Salt and Pepper

 Place onion slices in a slow cooker and spread them out to cover the bottom. Trim any excess fat from pork, and place on top of onions. Places sliced peaches on top of pork. In a small bowl, whisk together the ginger ale, preserves, and vinegar. Pour over all. Season generously with salt and pepper. Cover and cook on low for 8-10 hours. (can also cook on high for 4-5 hours).
 Carefully remove cooked pork from slow cooker to a large bowl. Using two forks, pull the pork into shreds, discarding any undesirables, such as bones and/or excess fat. Using a slotted spoon, remove the peaches and onions and add to the pork.  If you like a thin gravy, just add some of the liquid from the pot until the pork is as saucey as you like it. If you like a thicker gravy, make a quick slurry of flour and cold water, (a couple tbs of each), then whisk it into the crock pot and turn it onto high. Continue to stir until the gravy thickens. Adjust the seasoning if needed. Serve on fresh bakery rolls.

Be sure to add the vinegar. You definitely need a little acid in there to brighten everything up. I used balsamic vinegar, but I think next time I'll use apple cider vinegar. You could even just use lemon juice. Also be sure to season it very well. I added salt and pepper in the beginning, and it still needed more salt at the end.
You can use apricot preserves instead of the peach, or a combination of the two! And another fun AHA moment was when I discovered that Duck Sauce works just as well! (Makes sense, since it's made with peaches and apricots!)
Even though you have the ginger ale and the preserves, this dish is not very sweet at all. The pork juices and the onions temper the sweetness in a big way, and it turns out more on the savory side. If you'd like to pump up the ginger, go ahead and add a little grated fresh ginger root. If you'd like it to be sweeter or peachier, just add more preserves!

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Red White and Blue Velvet Cupcakes

  I'm sure you've probably heard of Red Velvet Cake, but have you ever heard of BLUE velvet? Apparently blue velvet cakes became a thing in the early 80s, inspired by the Royal Heirloom Sapphire Engagement Ring. Who knew? I mean, I guess it makes sense. Why do just a red velvet cake when you can make a velvet cake in any color you want?? (I'm thinking maybe green will be next for St Patrick's Day, no?)
 So when it came time to choose a red white and blue something for the 4th of July, I decided that this would be the one to try. The recipe is from, and I'm really pleased with how they turned out! I must admit, they looked like Cookie Monster when I was scooping batter into the cupcake tins, but they look so great under a swirl of cream cheese icing and topped with a red raspberry, they look nothing short of patriotic!
 They're moist and dense with just a hint of that signature buttermilk tang, just as you'd expect from any velvet cake. Also the brilliant blue is so unexpected and just enough of a showstopper to make them the talk of your 4th of July celebration.  If you like red velvet cake, then give this one a try.
I PROMISE you'll love it just as much!

2 cups sugar
2 sticks butter, at room temperature
2 eggs
1 tbs cocoa powder
1 tbs Wilton royal blue gel food coloring
1 small dab of Wilton violet gel food coloring
2 1/2 cups cake flour
1 tsp salt
1 cup buttermilk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tbs vinegar

Cream Cheese Frosting
Fresh raspberries

 Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare cupcake pan(s) with 24 paper liners.
In a mixing bowl, cream the sugar and butter, mix until light and fluffy. Add the eggs 1 at a time and mix well after each addition. In a small bowl, mix cocoa and food colorings together to form a paste, and then add to sugar mixture; mix well. Sift together flour and salt. Add flour mixture to the creamed mixture alternately with buttermilk. Blend in vanilla. In a small bowl, combine baking soda and vinegar and add to mixture. Pour batter into cupcake papers. Bake for 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove from oven and cool completely before frosting them with cream cheese frosting and then top each one with a fresh raspberry.

The original recipe said to bake the cupcakes from 25-30 minutes. I immediately thought "Oh that's WAY too long" and decided to check them at 20 minutes. Turns out this was a good idea!
Not a fan of raspberries? Use strawberries instead!!
And about the food coloring.... the Wilton Food Coloring Gels were easy to find at Michaels craft store. I've read a few articles that said that the addition of the violet food coloring is absolutely crucial to achieving the perfect shade of sapphire blue. Otherwise, they might turn out more of a dark denim blue. Also, if you just add regular blue food coloring instead of the gel, not only will you not get the right color, but your tongue and teeth are more likely to turn blue when you eat them! EEK!