Monday, September 16, 2019

Slow Cooker Beef and Noodles


  Well, once again, I'm turning to my trusty slow cooker for a delicious time saving meal. What can I say? I love slow cookers! Actually, I think "obsessed" is probably a better word. How obsessed? Well, frankly, I don't have just one slow cooker or even two. I have a collection of EIGHT slow cookers, all in different sizes, and I use all of them!! I've literally made an entire Turkey Dinner using only slow cookers, including the turkey! How fun is that??? But wait, we're getting off topic.. let's get back to the beef and noodles, shall we?
 This dish is so easy and delicious, it's an absolute must in your cooking repertoire. You just throw everything in the slow cooker and turn it on. It doesn't get much easier than that! And then at the end you just add some boiled noodles and frozen peas. So it's kind of like a beef stew with noodles sort of a vibe. It's definitely a no brainer for a Sunday dinner when you have errands to run all day. And now that we're back to school in full swing and we have a million schedules to manage, coming home from work to a slow cooker dinner is a midweek life saver. And even the cooking novice can handle it, no problem! It's very simple, but sometimes, that's what hits the spot.
 Oh, one other thing. This is another one of those recipe I saw about a million years ago, and then tucked away in my archive, but I have no idea where I found it. Maybe it was one of those food videos you see bouncing around the interwebs. Who knows? Anyway, I hope you try it!




1 1/2 to 2 pounds beef stew cubes, well-trimmed
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
3/4 tsp dried oregano
1/2 cup sliced white onion
1 1/2 cups sliced mushrooms
2 10.75-ounce cans cream of mushroom soup
1 (12oz) package egg noodles (cooked according to package directions on the stovetop)
2 cups frozen peas
Salt to taste



 Add the beef to a 6-quart or larger slow cooker. Sprinkle the pepper, oregano, onions, and mushrooms on top. Spread the cream of mushroom soup over all. Cover and cook on high for 5 hours without opening the lid during the cooking time. Toward the end of the cooking time, cook the noodles according to the package directions. Drain. Add the cooked noodles on top of the meat and sauce in the slow cooker. Add the peas. Stir until everything is combined, and let it continue to cook just a few more minutes until the peas are done. Add salt to taste and serve with warm crusty bread.




Tips:
So, when I made it, I used fresh oregano instead of dried. I think fresh thyme would be a lovely addition as well. Also I didn't even pay attention to the amounts. I used a little more than 2 lbs of beef, I used 2 big onions, (why? because I like a lot of onions!) I used a 10 oz pkg of cremini mushrooms, and a 10 oz box of frozen peas. Oh, and since I knew I was adding more than the original recipe, I added an extra can of condensed soup. Turns out this was a good idea!

Monday, September 9, 2019

Piña Colada Ice Box Cake


  If you follow my blog at all, it's very easy to see how obsessed with pineapple I am. I'm pretty sure I never met a pineapple I didn't like. It's literally the number one flavor of jam in my canning repertoire, and I've paired it in jam with everything from apples to berries and even fresh basil. I've also pickled it, which is my new favorite thing on the planet. It's just so good with everything! So, of course, anytime I see a recipe for a pineapple dessert, I have to try it.
 I made this "cake" for a family shindig a few weeks ago, and it was a big hit! It's the perfect time saver for any occasion because it's a 'must-do-ahead' sort of a thing, and then it sets up into a rich and creamy dish of fabulous that will always get rave reviews!
 Btw, the reason that I said "cake" is that it's really not a cake at all. The graham crackers soften to a cake like texture as it chills in the fridge, just like they do with the Eclair Cake that I shared a while back. Make sense?
 So there you have it. Sweet. Simple. Perfect. Love it. Definitely give this one a try!





1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
1/2 teaspoon rum extract
1 can (13.66 ounces) coconut milk, divided
1 package (3.4 ounces) instant vanilla pudding mix
1 container (8 ounces) frozen whipped topping, thawed
15 whole graham crackers
1 can (20 ounces) crushed pineapple, drained
1 cup sweetened shredded coconut, toasted



 In a large bowl, beat cream cheese, confectioners' sugar and extract until smooth. Gradually beat in 1 cup coconut milk. Add pudding mix; beat on low speed until smooth. Fold in whipped topping. 
 Pour remaining coconut milk into a shallow dish. Quickly dip half of the graham crackers into milk; allow excess to drip off. Arrange in a single layer in the bottom of a 13x9-in. baking dish, breaking to fit as needed. Layer with half each of the cream cheese mixture, pineapple, and coconut. 
Repeat layers. Refrigerate, covered, at least 4 hours before serving.

For golden color and a nutty coconut flavor, toast the 1/2 cup of coconut that goes on the top layer.

To toast coconut, bake in a shallow pan in a 350° oven for 5-10 minutes or cook in a skillet over low heat until golden brown, stirring occasionally.



Tips:
Instead of using canned, I used fresh pineapple. I just like it better! And most supermarkets sell fresh pineapple already prepped and cut into chunks. That makes it SO much more convenient! I also probably used more than you'd get from a 20 oz can. I probably added more coconut too.
More is more! 
 

Monday, September 2, 2019

Tomato Cobbler


 I suppose I'm biased since I live in The Garden State, but you just can't tell me that you'll ever have anything better than JERSEY Tomatoes. Nothing else compares!! I mean, you may THINK you've had a tomato before, but you've never had one until you've had a Jersey tomato, that's all I'm sayin'. Quick story... Years ago, I took a road trip down to visit my friends Carol and Tom in Florida, and I brought an entire bushel of Jersey Tomatoes with me. As soon as I got there, Carol immediately grabbed one of the tomatoes and a shaker of salt, sat down at the kitchen counter, and ate it right out of her hand like it was an apple. True story! They're just that good! And at the end of summer, we have tons and tons of them. It's actually not uncommon for my sister Cathy and me to put them up in jars, literally over 100 lbs at a time, just to preserve them for the rest of the year. YUM. So this year, I was thinking of different tomato recipes, and I thought "How about a cobbler?"
  Usually when you think of a cobbler, you think of a dessert made with apples or peaches or any of your favorite fruits, with sweet biscuits on the top, am I right? But have you ever had a SAVORY cobbler? I once made a Savory Corn Cobbler (which was fabulous btw), and so this year, I thought "Why not make a cobbler with tomatoes?" YES. ABSOLUTELY. You basically stew some tomatoes on the stove with some herbs and aromatics, top 'em with some home made drop biscuits, and then bake the whole thing until golden and bubbly. How can this not be good? I took one taste and immediately wondered where this had been my whole life. It's just SO good! This recipe has two kinds of tomatoes in it, so that's doubly delicious in my book.
 So if you have any tomato lovers in your life, or if maybe you have a garden with a surplus tomato crop for the end of summer, THIS is the recipe for you. It's from Food Network Magazine and it's one of my new favorite things. Like, ever. In life. I literally just made it and now I want to make it again. Yes, there are a few steps, but it's all very easy, even for the cooking novice. Maybe serve with a nice salad for dinner or even for brunch?  Yes please!



For the filling:
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 medium onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
3 large tomatoes (about 1 3/4 pounds), cut into 1-inch chunks
1 teaspoon packed light brown sugar
Kosher salt
2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

For the topping:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, thinly sliced
2/3 cup milk, plus more for brushing
2 teaspoons whole-grain mustard
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme



Preheat the oven to 350ºF. 

Make the filling: 
 Heat 2 tablespoons butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft and lightly golden, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, thyme and cayenne and cook 1 more minute. Add the chopped tomatoes, brown sugar and 1 1/4 teaspoons salt. Bring to a simmer and cook until the tomatoes just begin to soften, 4 to 5 minutes. Remove from the heat, then gently stir in the cherry tomatoes and flour. Transfer to a 2-quart baking dish and dot with the remaining 1 tablespoon butter. 

Make the topping: 
 Whisk the flour, baking powder, granulated sugar, 3/4 teaspoon salt, and black pepper to taste in a medium bowl. Add the butter and use a pastry cutter or your fingers to rub the butter into the flour until it resembles coarse meal with pea-size pieces of butter. Add the milk, mustard and thyme and gently mix with a fork just until a sticky dough forms, being careful not to overwork the dough. 

 Drop balls of dough over the tomato filling and brush the dough with milk. Place the cobbler on a baking sheet and bake until golden and bubbling, 50 minutes to 1 hour. Let rest 15 minutes before serving. 



Tips:
One of the keys to this dish's success is the fresh thyme. Yes, you could use dried thyme, but the fresh is just so much better, in my opinion. I literally made a special trip to the store to get it.
Instead of using cayenne pepper, I used crushed red pepper flakes. Why? Because I like them! I also used half and half instead of milk because that's that I had on hand.
When I added the flour to the sauce, I took some of the juice from the tomatoes in the pan, let it cool for a bit in a small bowl, and then whisked in the flour to make a slurry. When it was well mixed, I stirred it back into the pan. This insured that there wouldn't be any big lumps of flour in the sauce. 
 Oh, one other thing.. The recipe doesn't say to peel the tomatoes, but I did anyway. Well, not the cherry tomatoes, but just the large ones. It's just a personal preference!
For a quick tutorial, watch my video How To Peel A Tomato !


Monday, August 26, 2019

Joey's Pickled Peaches


   Have you ever had a pickled peach? Did you even know that you could pickle a peach? Actually, you can pickle just about anything, but even so, who knew that pickled peaches were such a big thing?
 I must confess that they're not the most common thing in my neck of the woods. If fact, as I was searching recipes and asking for feedback, most of my friends and family had never even heard of them let alone tasted them. Quite honestly, the idea of a pickled peach didn't really go over too well with everyone I asked. (Frankly, it sounded pretty good to me!) And then I read one recipe that said "In the South, it just isn't Thanksgiving without a cut glass bowl of pickled peaches on the table." I thought "well, that settles it. Clearly it's a THING, so I need to try it."
  Of course that brought me to my next question: Which recipe??  I found MANY recipes that were very similar. Vinegar, sugar, and warm spices like cinnamon and cloves. Hmm.. I'm not so sure that's the way I want to go. Earlier this summer when I made pickled watermelon rind, I used cinnamon sticks, and the rind came out tasting very little like watermelon, and very much more like apple pie. I mean, I guess it makes sense.... You have a surplus crop of peaches or watermelons, you preserve them with warm Autumn spices, and then you enjoy them for the rest of the year through Fall and Winter. Not that there's anything wrong with that, but that's not what I wanted this time. I wanted something more like a PICKLE than a spiced peach, know what I mean?
  So then I found a recipe that used regular pickling spice, which is a blend of mustard seeds, coriander seeds, bay leaves, and allspice, among other things. Hmm... maybe that could work? I also saw a youtube video where they added shallots and cardamom to the brine. This basically showed me that you can really go any way you want with it and it'll still work. So I thought, ok lets think.. what exactly do I WANT? Well, I want them to have a strong hit of sour to go with the sweet, I don't want them to taste like apple pie, and I do like the idea of adding some kind of spice. And that's how I landed on this recipe. I decided to go with cider vinegar. Why? Because I like it! And I also upped the vinegar to sugar ratio for that stronger hit of sour I was after. I went with the regular pickling spice because that seemed to be a departure from apple pie, but then still added a cinnamon stick, just to get the best of both worlds. It turned out great!!
 So now that you know about pickled peaches, you should give them a try! Go out and buy some deliciously juicy ripe peaches while they're still in season, and then preserve them to enjoy throughout the year. Come to think of it, I think I've just discovered this year's Christmas gift! oooo now there's a great idea!!



5 lbs peaches
2 1/2 cups cider vinegar
3 cups sugar
1 1/2 tsp pickling spice blend
1/2 tsp salt
1 cinnamon stick



First prep your peaches:
If your peaches are ripe, cut a small X on the bottom of each peach, then carefully drop them into rapidly boiling water for a minute or two. Then plunge them into ice water. The peels should easily slip off. If your peaches are not quite so ripe, just use a peeler.  Cut your peaches into halves or quarters, depending on the size.

Make the brine:
Add all remaining ingredients to a large pot. Bring to a rolling boil. Continue to boil for about 10 minutes. Add prepped peaches to the pot. Let them cook for about 5-10 minutes, until they are just barely tender.

Fill and process:
Spoon peaches into hot sterile quart-size jars and ladle enough of the hot brine until you reach about 1/2 inch from the rim. Wipe the rims with a clean damp cloth, and seal with lids and rings. Process in a hot water bath for 20 minutes. Remove from pot to a towel-lined kitchen counter or tray. Allow to cool for 12-24 hours before moving them to insure a proper seal. Properly sealed jars will last for easily a year. If you don't plan to seal your jars in a water bath, they will last up to 3 months in the refrigerator.

 Serve them on sandwiches, with ham, chicken, pork, turkey, anything you want! They're also fabulous poured over vanilla ice cream. Yes, really!



Tips:
I like to wait at least a week or two after filling the jars before opening them. The longer the peaches are in the brine, the more they'll absorb that delicious sweet and sour flavor.
I didn't want the peaches to be over cooked, so I only poached them in the brine for about 5-10 minutes instead of 20 minutes or even longer, as with some recipes. I figured the jars have to process for 20 minutes in the boiling water anyway, so that would cook them further. I also used peaches that were not over ripe.
I literally quintupled the recipe and pickled 25 lbs of peaches. But I still only threw one cinnamon stick in the pot. Feel free to add more, though, if that suits your fancy.
This recipe is also... dare I say it... LIFE CHANGING when you do it with pineapple. Like, seriously, if you like fresh pineapple as much as I do, you MUST try pickling it. You won't even believe how delicious a pineapple can be.

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Joey's Garlic Butter Shrimp Scampi



 This is one of my favorite things, like ever in life, so it kind of amazes me that I somehow never posted a recipe for it. UNTIL NOW!! You can call it garlic butter shrimp, you can call it shrimp scampi, I call it both! It's basically shrimp in a fabulous butter and garlic sauce, usually (but not necessarily) with white wine and it sounds A LOT more swanky and fancy than it actually is. It only takes a few minutes to prepare and it's sure to impress. An added bonus is that it just happens to be like WAY low in carbs, in case you happen to be making low carb choices.
 There are many versions of it out there, and this one is my slightly tweaked version of a recipe I found on a blog called Damn Delicious. As always, I love to take other peoples' recipes and turn them into my own. I encourage you to do the same! Then again, if you happen to love my version just as it is, I won't mind it at all if you make it as written! Hope you like it!




8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
2 pounds large shrimp, peeled, deveined, tails removed
Kosher salt
Crushed red peppers flakes
5 cloves garlic,sliced
1/2 cup shrimp stock*
1/2 cup white wine
Juice of 1/2 lemon
Chopped fresh parsley leaves or green onions


*To make shrimp stock:
Add shrimp shells and tails to a small pot, add water until just covered. Bring it to a boil, then reduce the heat to simmer for about 10-15 minutes. Pour through a sieve to remove shells. That's all there is to it!


Melt a couple tablespoons butter in a large skillet. Add shrimp to pan, all in one layer. (work in batches, if you need to). Season shrimp with a pinch of salt and a few shakes of crushed red pepper. Cook shrimp, stirring occasionally, until they just barely turn pink. Don't overcook! Remove shrimp from pan and set aside. Add garlic to skillet. Saute for just a minute, then add shrimp stock, wine, and lemon juice. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to simmer until the sauce reduces by about half. Add remaining butter a little at a time, stirring until it's melted and the sauce is rich and glossy. Add the shrimp back to the pan. Stir to coat with sauce. Top with chopped parsley or green onion.  Serve with warm crusty bread or pour it over your choice of long pasta.



Tips:
If you're using salted butter, don't add salt until the very end. Then taste it and adjust the seasoning.
I only did a few shakes of crushed red pepper, but if you like a spicier hit, go right ahead and add as much as you like!
I like big honkin' pieces of garlic, so I like to just slice it instead of mince it. This also makes it easier to push the garlic aside of you just want to flavor the sauce but don't want to bite into it. But really, they turn so mild and sweet, I never push them aside!
For a little extra texture and a slightly thicker sauce, you can dredge the shrimp in a little bit of flour before you saute them in the pan. Just make sure you pat away as much of the flour as you can. You just want a tiny coating of flour. Then saute as directed.
If you don't have wine and you don't feel like making the shrimp stock, just use an equal amount of chicken broth. It will still be fabulous!


Monday, August 12, 2019

Basil, Corn, and Tomato Bake




  OK, first, let me just say that this is a FABULOUS casserole, but here's the thing...I don't like the name. There. I said it. It's a Taste of Home recipe, and this is what they named it, but if this were my recipe, I'd called it a Zucchini, Corn, and Tomato Bake. Doesn't that sound better? I mean, clearly zucchini is one of the stars in this play, so why would you leave his name off the marquis? That just makes no sense to me. Who's with me on this? Anyone? Anyone? OK rant over.
 I made this dish for a family event a few weeks ago, and it was a big hit. If you know me, you know how much I love Jersey corn and tomatoes, so this was the perfect vehicle for them. And with the fresh basil, it tastes like summer in a casserole. So fresh, so flavorful! To be honest, I thought of adding bacon to it, because BACON, but then I kind of liked the idea that this was a vegetarian option at a barbecue with all kinds of big meats happening on the grill. Still, I'm sure bacon would be a good option. Or maybe some other kind of protein. Maybe some shrimp? ooo that sounds good! (You know I can never leave well enough alone, right?).  Anyway, definitely give this one a try. And let me know if you agree with me about the name! hahaha




2 teaspoons olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 large eggs
1 can (10-3/4 ounces) condensed cream of celery soup, undiluted
4 cups fresh or frozen corn
1 small zucchini, chopped
1 medium tomato, seeded and chopped
3/4 cup soft bread crumbs*
1/3 cup minced fresh basil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
Additional minced fresh basil, optional



Preheat oven to 350°. 
In a small skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add onion; cook and stir until tender. In a large bowl, whisk eggs and condensed soup until blended. Stir in vegetables, bread crumbs, basil, salt, and onion. Transfer mixture to an 11x7-in. baking dish coated with cooking spray. Bake, uncovered, 40-45 minutes or until bubbly. Sprinkle with cheese. Bake 5-10 minutes longer or until cheese is melted. Let stand 10 minutes before serving. If desired, sprinkle with additional basil.

* To make soft bread crumbs, tear bread into pieces and place in a food processor or blender. Cover and pulse until crumbs form.

Tips:
Whenever I add zucchini to a casserole, I like to saute it a bit before assembling everything. This helps to evaporate some of the excess water from the zucchini. So I just added it to the pan when I sauteed the onions. Also make sure to seed the tomatoes before you add them. Again, you don't want all that extra liquid going in. No one likes a runny casserole!

Monday, August 5, 2019

Joey's Slow Cooker Ratatouille


  Do you have a vegetable garden? I must say that one of the drawbacks of living in an apt building is that I don't have a back yard in which to grow my own vegetables. I just love the idea of planting tons of zucchini and eggplant and peppers, and of course I would also grow lots of fresh herbs. I remember my brother Denny used to have a garden when I was growing up and I loved all the fresh tomatoes an basil he would grow.
 Anyway, when Denny had his garden, I remember thinking "what are we gonna do with all of this extra eggplant and zucchini?" Well, ladies and gents, here's your answer! You throw them into a slow cooker and you make ratatouille! Now, I know that this is not the same ratatouille as in the Pixar movie (eventually I'll get around to making that one). This one is just a basic vegetable stew, and it's absolutely fantabulous. It's super simple too! Make as much or as little as you like. Then serve it with some crusty bread. YUM. Sounds like the perfect summer dinner to me! And you didn't even need to turn on the oven.  Hmm.. maybe SOME DAY I'll have my own garden!!! Who knows?



1 large eggplant
2 medium zucchini
2 medium yellow summer squash
1 large red bell pepper
1 large green bell pepper
1 large yellow onion
2 large tomatoes
3-4 cloves garlic
1 small can tomato paste
1 bay leaf
6-7 sprigs of fresh thyme
a pinch or two of crush red pepper flakes
kosher salt to taste
1 tbs sugar
fresh basil
grated Parmesan cheese


Cut eggplant into large cubes (no need to peel). Lay the cubes in one even layer on a baking sheet. Sprinkle with a few teaspoons of kosher salt. Set aside for at least 30 minutes. In the meantime, slice all other veggies into large chunks. Chop garlic. Tie a few sprigs of thyme together with cotton twine.
 Rinse eggplant cubes of excess salt and drain well. Pat extra liquid dry with paper towels.
 Add everything to the slow cooker except for the basil and grated cheese. Stir well until the tomato paste is mixed throughout. Cover and cook on low for 5 hours, stirring about halfway through.
To serve, sprinkle with grated cheese and chopped basil. Can be served hot, chilled, or at room temperature.



Tips:
Fresh herbs are definitely the way to go. Just sayin! I mean, sure you could use dried herbs but it won't be the same. 
Be sure to salt the eggplant for at least a half hour before you cook it. It helps pull out all the bitter liquid inside the eggplant, so I stand by it for all eggplant dishes. This is one rule that I NEVER skip!!


Monday, July 29, 2019

Joey's Pepper Jack Chicken Mac


  When the weather is warm, I usually tend to set the baked casseroles aside, because most times I'd rather not turn on a hot oven. But this one was so good, I think it's worth cranking up the AC!
 I originally got the idea when I was watching a cooking show, and they did a jalapeno mac and cheese. But then I thought, what if I turn that from a side dish into a one dish meal? I could add shredded chicken and a few other things, and it would be perfect! So that's exactly what I did. And it turned out great! The onions and garlic add a deeper savory-ness to the dish, and the different cheeses add to the depth of flavor. Yes, yes, all you cheese purists, I used Velveeta processed cheese. Judge me all you want, but I'm owning it. It makes the dish so much more gooey and creamy, so I stand by it! And as far as the heat goes, I used just a couple jalapeño peppers, but you can add as many as you like! SO good!
 This dish is pretty hearty, so you don't need anything else but maybe a light side salad to go with it, and then maybe cool off with some fresh fruit for dessert. Sounds like a perfect dinner to me! No matter how you serve it, if you're a fan of mac and cheese, then I know you're gonna love it!




1/2 lb large elbow macaroni
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 tbs butter
4 tbs flour
4 cups milk
1 tbs mustard, any kind
1/2 lb pepper jack cheese
1/2 lb Velveeta processed cheese
1/2 lb cheddar cheese
1-2 Jalapeño peppers, sliced, can be fresh or pickled
2 cups cooked chicken, diced or shredded


 In a large pot of salted water, boil the elbows until al dente. Drain and set aside in a large bowl.
In the meantime, melt butter in a large saute pan. Add onions and garlic. Saute until the onions are soft and fragrant. Add flour to pan, stir to combine. Add milk and mustard. Use a wire whisk to break up the lumps of flour. Add cheeses to the sauce, reserving half of the cheddar. Continue to stir until melted and bubbly. Add a couple tbs of chopped jalapeños. Add cheese sauce and chicken to the bowl of drained elbows. Toss all until well combined. Place in a large casserole dish. Top with slices of jalapeño and reserved cheddar. Bake 30 minutes or until bubbly and slightly browned around the edges. Remove from oven and let it stand for a good ten minutes before serving.



Tips:
For the chicken, I just used a store bought rotisserie, but you can use whatever leftover chicken you have. Or you could roast a couple chicken breasts in the oven. Just bake them on a sheet tray with a little salt and pepper, then cut into chunks, or shred. Easy!
For the pasta, use any favorite large cut pasta. It's all good!
Wanna really bump up the heat? Use Serrano or even hotter Habanero peppers!

Monday, July 22, 2019

Joey's Pineapple Chicken Salad


 I've always been a huge fan of pineapple, but it seems that lately, I just can't seem to get enough! I could say that it's only a summertime thing, but that's simply not the case. It's not uncommon for me to sit down with a big bowl of fresh pineapple chunks and that's dinner. So, of course, I'm always looking for ways to add it to other dishes. I've paired pineapples in jam with everything from basil to jalapenos to strawberries to apples. I've done pineapple baked beans, pineapple relish, and of course you know you can't go wring with pineapples and ham. And yes, for the record, I LOVE pineapple on pizza. But have you ever thought of adding it to chicken salad? It's fabulous! Especially when you add something that has some crunch to it, such as celery or bell peppers or chopped pecans. It's kind of like a riff on Waldorf Salad, which has apples and walnuts in it. My favorite way to serve it is on a croissant, but it's just as fabulous on your choice of any sandwich or hors d'oeuvres vehicle.
It's turns your same old chicken salad into something with a little twist! Yum.


2 cups cooked chicken, diced
1 cup fresh pineapple, diced
1/2 red bell pepper, chopped
3 scallions, chopped
2 ribs celery, chopped
1/2 cup pecans, chopped
1 cup mayo
Salt and pepper

For the sake of making it quick and easy, I just used a store bought rotisserie chicken and then pulled all the meat off the bones, but you can certainly poach or roast a couple chicken breasts, then just dice or shred the meat. You could also just use leftover chicken. Easy!
Then simply mix all ingredients together in a large mixing bowl.
Taste and adjust seasoning. That's all there is to it!


Tips:
Chop each item to the size you like. I like larger pieces of pineapple, but I like finely chopped celery and scallions. You do you!
All of the ingredient amounts are just guidelines. If you think it needs more or less mayo, adjust it to how you like it. TBH, I didn't even measure the mayo. I just added it until it was the right amount. And the same with the other ingredients. If you like a lot of something, add a lot!

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Lemony Dill Red Potato Salad



  Here's another quick and easy cold salad to bring to your next cookout. It's familiar enough to please the crowd, but just different enough for everyone to sit up and take notice.
 I was kind of in the mood for a really good potato salad, but didn't want to go through the trouble of making an entire 5 lbs of my Mom's recipe (which is the only way I know how to make it... in 5 lb increments.. I'm not even kidding.) So this one seemed to be a good swap (no peeling!) It's inspired by a recipe from a blog called Barefeet in the Kitchen. And yes, I tweaked it a little because you know I can never leave well enough alone.
 So lets break it down, shall we? The fresh dill is SO good in this, it makes me think "why don't I use this herb more often?" And the lemon gives it such a bright tang that it has summer freshness written all over it. I also added some diced celery for a nice little crunch. And well, frankly, for me, potato salad is not potato salad unless it has eggs in it. So there you go!
Give this one a try and let me know how you like it!




3 lbs baby red potatoes
4 hard boiled eggs, chopped
2 ribs of celery, finely diced
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup sour cream
2 tbs freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 tbs chopped fresh dill
1 tsp grated lemon zest
salt and pepper to taste



In a large pot of salted water, boil potatoes until fork tender. Remove potatoes from pot, drain, and set aside to cool completely. In the meantime, in a large bowl, combine remaining ingredients. When the potatoes are cool enough to handle, cut each one in half. Add potato halves to the bowl and toss to coat with the dressing. Chill until ready to serve.



Tip:
I don't mind if the potatoes are still slightly warm when mixing with the dressing. This lets the potatoes absorb all the yummy flavor.
When chopping the eggs, I just use an egg slicer and slice them in two different directions, you know, like you do for egg salad.
The amounts of lemon and dill are just suggestions. Whenever I'm making something with fresh dill, I find that I always end up adding more than a recipe says. Same with the lemon juice and zest. Add it until it's the right amount for you!
Also, if you garnish the bowl with a sprig of dill (and even a slice of lemon on top), then your guests will know what ingredients are in the dish!

Monday, July 15, 2019

Joey's Macaroni Cole Slaw



 OK here's a really quick no-brainer of a side salad that made me think "why have we never done this before?" It's exactly as it sounds: cole slaw with macaroni in it. In other words, if macaroni salad and cole slaw had a baby, this would be it! It's so summery and fresh, it's the perfect cold side dish for any BBQ or cookout event. But, like, seriously, why have we never combined the two before? Crazy, huh?
This is my riff on a Taste of Home recipe. Feel free to swap out the veggies with anything you like. The ToH recipe had water chestnuts in it, but I didn't have any on hand, so I just went with what I had. I swapped out a few other things too. Make it how you like it! Easy!




1/2 lb large elbows or other cut pasta of choice
1 bag cole slaw mix
1/2 cup diced cucumber
1/2 cup diced celery
1/2 cup diced red bell pepper
1/2 cup chopped scallion
1 cup mayo
2 tbs sugar
1/4 cup cider vinegar
Salt and pepper


In a large pot of salted water, boil the elbows until al dente. Drain and allow to cool completely.
Place in a large bowl with all remaining ingredients. Stir until well combined.  
 If you'd like to toss the ingredients and then mix the dressing separately before adding, that's fine, but I just dumped everything into the bowl and gave it a good stir. And that's it!



Tip:
I think the cucumber is key. It makes it so fresh! I used a hothouse (aka English) cucumber which is a little sweeter, has tiny seeds, and doesn't even need to be peeled. Use whatever kind you like!
I also went with scallions instead of regular diced onions because I wanted a milder onion flavor.
 To save time, this can be made a day in advance.
And as always, if you like a lot of something, add a lot!

Monday, July 8, 2019

Cinnamon Watermelon Rind Pickles


   OK, I have a question for you. What kind of eater are you? Are you an adventurous eater? In other words, do you purposely order something from a menu specifically because you've previously never tried it? Or are you a "stick to the plan , never stray from the path, stay with the tried and true" kind of eater? If you know me, you already know that I fall squarely into the former category, not that there's anything wrong with the latter. Some people know what they like, and that's fine, but I'm always one for trying new foods, especially when it comes to canning!
 I had heard of pickling watermelon rind, but I had never tasted it, and it has been on my to-do list ever since I learned how to preserve things in jars. And now I've finally gotten around to making it! So here we go.
 Where does one even find a pickled watermelon rind recipe? In my many google searches, I discovered that this is clearly a big Southern thing, and it's also very frugal since you are using up just about the entire melon. I discovered that many famous chefs and cooking personalities have their own versions of it, so it was kind of hard trying to decide which direction to go. I looked at Martha Stewart's recipe, Paula Deen's, Alton Brown's, and several others. I also immediately noticed that many recipes for pickling any kind of fruit often have warm spices in them. I found recipes with cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, allspice, cloves, and so forth. I guess that makes perfect sense that you would preserve your melon rinds and fruits during the summer, and then eat them in the Autumn and Winter months. So I needed to decide how spicy I wanted to go. For my first time pickling fruit, I thought "lets just keep it simple" (that's often the best rule in cooking). I decided to go with this recipe is from Ball Canning, or as I like to call them "the canning people." Side note, I ALWAYS use their line of mason jars and canning materials, and I have more than one of their canning cookbooks. As far as I'm concerned, they are simply the Canning Authorities.
 But anyway, lets talk about the TASTE! I mean, that what everyone is wondering, correct? I absolutely love them and could eat them right out of the jar, especially when they're chilled. In fact I'm already trying to find ways to use them in other recipes. My niece Attie's reaction was "interesting." (Still not exactly sure how she felt about them.) My nephew, Gregger, immediately said that it tastes like apple pie. Well, yes, you do get a hit of cinnamon at the first bite, and the texture is very similar to apples baked in a pie, but the vinegar syrup will quickly tell you that this is definitely not an apple pie. And my sister, Cathy, was too polite to say that they weren't exactly her favorite thing. But hey, I get it! Not every food is for every person! Like my Mom always said "You don't have to like it, you just have to try it." So I'm thrilled that Cathy was good enough to give it a try.
 So that brings me back to my original question: What kind of eater are you? If you're looking for a new something to try, this might be the recipe for you! It was DEFINITELY worth the effort for me, and I will absolutely be making them again. And yes, I bought the watermelon specifically so I could pickle the rind. (You knew I was gonna say that, right??) Let me know if you give them a try. I'm curious to know what you think!



Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Slow Cooker Milk and Honey Corn on the Cob


 Every so often, I'll stumble upon a recipe that makes me stand up and say "WHOA, where has this been all my life?" Yes, ladies and gentlemen, it has happened again! It's so good that I can't even wait until next Monday to post it (as is my usual. well, most of the time).
 This is corn on the cob cooked in a slow cooker! Whodathunkit, right? It's BRILLIANT! No steamy hot pots of boiling water on a swelteringly humid summer day! How perfect is that??? And adding coconut milk to corn, for me, is an absolute revelation. I never had it before, but now I want it in every corn dish I've ever made. They go SO well together. No, it doesn't taste like a coconut Easter egg. You use unsweetened coconut milk, which I've always found to be more buttery than coconutty. (Coconutty?) So it makes perfect sense to pair it with corn, right???
 The recipe is from a website called The Magical Slow Cooker, and seriously, this one is just that. MAGICAL! I think this is now my go-to recipe for corn on the cob. It's just absolutely delicious! Make this for your next cookout and I'll betcha there won't be any leftovers!


6-7 ears of corn shucked and broken in half 
13.66 oz. can light coconut milk 
2 Tbsp. honey 
1 stick salted butter

Add the corn to the slow cooker. Pour over the coconut milk. Drizzle over the honey. Cut up the butter into pieces and add to the slow cooker. Cover and cook on HIGH for 3 hours without opening the lid during the cooking time. (4 hours for frozen corn) To serve, roll each corn piece in the buttery coconut milk mixture.

Notes:
Be sure to use a large slow cooker. 6 Qts or larger.
If you don't want to use coconut milk, you can just you two cups of water or other milk of choice.



Joey's Tips:
Since I have a large slow cooker, I was able to do more than just 6-7 ears of corn. So just fill yours all the way up, fitting the ears in as best you can, and make sure the lid will fit snugly on top so the corn can steam.
 The original recipe says to use light coconut milk, but I used regular. The reason for using light is that is has more of a milk consistency, whereas the regular coconut milk is much thicker. And usually all of the fat solidifies in the can, but I just whisked it together until is was smooth and creamy and pourable.
If you only have unsalted butter, just add a pinch or two of salt over the top!
 

Monday, July 1, 2019

Hot Milk Cake



  I like to think of myself as being pretty knowledgeable about cakes. I can tell you why a 1-2-3-4 Cake is so named. I know that German Chocolate Cake is not from Germany at all. I can tell you the difference between a Swiss Meringue Buttercream and an Italian Meringue Buttercream. I know that all Jelly Rolls are Roulades, but not all Roulades are Jelly Rolls. I've heard of mayonnaise cake, tomato soup cake, potato cake, even sausage cake. (yes, that's really a thing.) I've baked King Cakes, Cheesecakes, Carrot Cakes, Red Velvet Cakes, Hummingbird Cakes, Tres Leches Cakes, even Wedding Cakes!  So I seriously can't even express how excited I get when I discover a new kind of cake! Well, actually, this is not new at all. New TO ME,  of course, but this cake goes back over 100 years! Nothing like standing the test of time, huh?
 I first read about it in an article about Depression Era foods, which talked about recipes that used simple ingredients that were stretched as far as a dollar could stretch. I love the idea of going back to basics and making foods that our grandparents and great grandparents made. Hmm... maybe I'll have to look into that a bit more and see what other delicious ideas I can discover.... but I digress...
 Lets talk about this cake! The flavor is a light vanilla, not unlike a pound cake, but the texture is much lighter and fluffier, and the crumb is much more delicate. You can enjoy it just as it is, maybe with a little powdered sugar over the top, you can bake it in layers or even in a bundt pan, or you can do a 9x13 pan and top it with berries and whipped cream frosting like I did. It's perfect for any holiday or special occasion because it feeds a crowd, and it's DELICIOUS!!! I think that pretty much covers all bases, right?
 So there you have it. As much as I love coming up with new recipes, I love going back to revisit some of the old and tried and true. Just like the song says, Everything Old Is New Again! You probably already have all the ingredients on hand anyway, so why not give it a try?
 It's definitely a keeper!


4 eggs
2 cups sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups flour
2 1/4 tsp baking powder
1 1/4 cups milk
10 tbs butter


In a large bowl, beat eggs on high speed for 5 minutes or until thick and lemon-colored. Gradually add sugar, beating until mixture is light and fluffy. Beat in vanilla. Combine flour and baking powder; gradually add to batter; beat at low speed until smooth. In a small saucepan, heat milk and butter just until butter is melted. Gradually add to batter; beat just until combined. Pour into a greased 13x9-in. baking pan. Bake at 350° for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack.


 Tips:
Originally, I was gonna top the cake with cream cheese frosting, but decided that would be a bit too heavy. So I decided to do a whipped cream cheese frosting instead. Just mix a bar of cream cheese with a cup of sugar VERY well until it's smooth, then fold in whipped heavy cream and a tsp of vanilla extract. Easy!
Oh, one other thing.. I almost forgot to mention that this recipe is from Taste of Home. I found several recipes, and they were all quite similar, but this one seemed to be pretty easy and straight forward, so I went with it! 


Monday, June 24, 2019

Candied Jalapeños aka Cowboy Candy



  Even though I'm not really a spicy food kinda guy, lately I've been kind of in the mood to push my own flavor boundaries and turn up the heat just a bit. In my neverending search for new and fun things to preserve in jars, I discovered these little gems of sweet-hotness that are absolutely amazing and delicious on EVERYTHING. I mean, yes, you can serve them on crackers with a schmear of cream cheese, but seriously, they're great on sandwiches, salads, you name it. They're sweet and syrupy, the spice is definitely there, and the pepper flavor is just as present. And the addition of the cayenne pepper gives it a slow burn that I just love in a sweet heat. I found the recipe on a blog called Foodie with Family, and I followed it EXACTLY to the letter. I know. I know. It's crazy that I didn't tweak it somewhere along the lines which is my usual MO, but for me, hot peppers are kind of uncharted territory, so I stuck with the plan and didn't stray from the path. I'm pretty thrilled with how they turned out! And I happened to find a few RED ones, so I added a slice or two to each jar for a little pop of color. I'm thinking this the current front runner for holiday gift giving this year.
They're just that good! Boom.




3 pounds fresh firm, jalapeno peppers, washed 
2 cups cider vinegar 
6 cups white granulated sugar 
1/2 teaspoon turmeric 
1/2 teaspoon celery seed 
3 teaspoons granulated garlic 
1 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper




 Wearing gloves, remove the stems from all of the jalapeno peppers, and discard. Slice the peppers into uniform 1/8-1/4 inch rounds. Set aside. In a large pot, bring remaining ingredients to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Add the pepper slices and simmer for exactly 4 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the peppers, loading into clean, sterile, hot canning jars to within 1/4 inch of the upper rim of the jar. Turn heat up under the pot with the syrup and bring to a full rolling boil. Boil hard for 6 minutes, (which means a full rolling boil that cannot be stirred away). Use a ladle to pour the boiling syrup into the jars over the jalapeno slices. Insert a chopstick to the bottom of the jar two or three times to release any trapped pockets of air. Adjust the level of the syrup if necessary. Wipe the rims of the jars with a clean, damp paper towel and fix on new, two-piece lids to finger-tip tightness.
Place jars in a canner, cover with water by 2-inches. Bring the water to a boil. When it reaches a full rolling boil, set the timer for 10 minutes for half-pints or 15 minutes for pints. When timer goes off, use canning tongs to transfer the jars to a cooling rack. Leave them to cool, undisturbed, for 24 hours. When fully cooled, wipe them with a clean, damp washcloth.  For best flavor, allow to mellow for at least two weeks, but preferably a month before eating.


Tips:
-This recipe makes quite a bit of syrup compared to the amount of jalapenos. The original recipe suggested canning the extra syrup in jars because it's so yummy brushed on meats or anything you grill, but even after doing that, there was still quite a bit. So I just used it to make a batch of candied Habaneros! If you plan to double the recipe, (and you definitely should!) don't double the syrup ingredients. You'll have plenty!
-Instead of using a food processor or mandoline, I chose to slice the peppers by hand. Yes, that's a little tedious, but I wanted to make sure they were all perfect little rings that were the perfect thickness. The food processor and mandoline weren't helping me to that end. You don't want the slices to be too thin, otherwise they'll just turn to mush. Oh, and definitely wear gloves and take care not to touch your eyes or any other part of your body. Oof.
-If you're not interested in preserving them in sealed jars, just follow the recipe up until you fill up your jars, then just keep them in the fridge. They'll keep up to 3 months.


Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Slow Cooker BBQ Pulled Beef



  When you think of barbecue, you usually think of firing up the grill, correct? Or if you're really hardcore, you think of firing up your smoker, am I right? Well, what do you do if you want something barbecue, but you live in an apartment with no way of grilling? You use your slow cooker, of course! That's usually my go-to when I want pulled pork, but this time I wanted to do a pulled BEEF.
 Now, normally, I would just pour some barbecue sauce over a chunk of meat and let it cook all day, but this time I kind of wanted to do a dry rub instead. Can you put a big beef in a slow cooker without any added liquid? Absolutely! For one thing, there will be a lot of juice from the beef itself. And for another thing, you really don't want to BOIL the beef in all that liquid. You just want it to slow cook in its own juices. And then, finally...FINALLY....., after patiently waiting for it to cook all day ... you pull apart the most tender beef you've ever cooked......  you add some barbecue sauce, just until it's enough, and then you serve it up on some fresh rolls with some cole slaw or potato salad and a crisp crunchy pickle spear.
OH. MY. GOD. Seriously, for me, that's Summer on a plate. All I need now is some Jersey corn and a few Jersey Tomatoes, and I'll be living like Royalty, wondering what the poor people are doing. SO GOOD! There's just nothing like it!
So, give it a try. If you're all about that beef, then this is one for you!


1 3-5 lb chuck roast
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 tsp smoked paprika
a few pinches of crushed red pepper flakes
1 sliced onion
Barbecue sauce


Mix together the spices and brown sugar. Using your impeccably clean hands, rub the spice mixture all over the beef. Place beef in slow cooker. Top with onion slices. Cover and cook on low for 8-10 hours or on high for 4-5 hours. When the beef is falling apart, use two forks to shred it. Add your favorite barbecue sauce until it's as saucy as you like it.


Tips:
If there is quite a bit of juice, just remove a little before you add the barbecue sauce.

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!