Monday, August 16, 2021

Cowboy Beans



If you know me, you know that I LOVE baked beans. I love 'em in any kind of casserole, and yes, I happen to be famous for my own baked beans, thank you very much.
So, when I happened upon this recipe for Cowboy Beans, I knew I'd be making it sooner than later. It comes from one of my favorite Youtubers, Miss Lori, from Whippoorwill Holler.
Now, usually, I would google a million other recipes, just to compare ingredients and methods, but this one looked so good, I didn't even bother. (I even texted a couple of my nephews to say "how can this not be good?) The recipe below is almost exactly as dictated in her video, only I swapped red and green peppers for the yellow ones that Miss Lori used, and I guessed at the amount of BBQ sauce. Pretty much everything is to taste anyway, so if you like a lot of something, add a lot!
Thank you Miss Lori for another great recipe! I'm sure I'll be making this one again!



1 lb ground beef
1 (14oz) pkg smoked sausage
1/2 lb bacon
2 (28oz) cans baked beans
1 red bell pepper
1 green bell pepper
1 onion
1 cup BBQ sauce
Salt and pepper

In a large pan, brown your ground beef. Drain excess fat and place beef in a large mixing bowl. While the beef is browning, slice your smoked sausage and bacon strips into bite sized pieces. Place the bacon and sausage into the pan. Sauté until browned and slightly crispy.
While the bacon is cooking, dice your onion and peppers.
When the bacon and sausage are done, use a slotted spoon to place them in the bowl, but leave the fat in the pan.
Now add your vegetables to the pan and sauté until they begin to soften. While they're cooking, add your cans of baked beans, and your BBQ sauce to the bowl.
Add your vegetables to the bowl and give everything a good stir.
Add salt snd pepper to taste, and more BBQ sauce, if desired.
Pour into a big casserole dish, and bake uncovered for  about 45 minutes to an hour at 350.
Serve as a stand alone dish with some corn bread, or as a side dish with your favorite barbecue, some tater salad, and a mason jar of sweet tea.



Tips:
I love the idea of making this a stand alone dish, so I think next time I might just treat it like a bowl of chili and melt some Cheddar cheese over the top with a big dollop of sour cream. Doesn’t that sound awesome?
If you'd like to add some heat, add a diced jalapeño or some Tabasco sauce to taste. You do you!
 

Monday, August 2, 2021

Simple Summer Squash Starter

 

This is an easy side dish that is as simple as can be. If I’m being completely honest, I debated on whether or not to post it, because it’s not really a recipe, exactly. It’s just a few veggies sautéed together. Does that count as a recipe? I guess it doesn’t really matter. Anyway, I’ve made it several times over the last few weeks because it’s just so good, so I figured I’d share.
 So lets talk about it for a second. Want to?
It’s just any combination of sliced summer squash… Zucchini Yellow Crookneck, Pattypan, any kind you like… sauteed together with tomatoes, onions, garlic, and fresh basil. Thats it. No bells and whistles, just as simple as that. But here’s the thing.. You can either serve it as its own side dish, along with grilled chicken, or fish or any other main dish you like. Or else you can use it as a starter for other dishes. Toss it with any kind of pasta for a main dish. Add some sautéed diced chicken and a little heavy cream for a rich and creamy sauce. Toss it into any casseroles, soups or stews whenever your dish needs some fresh vegetables. The possibilities are endless!
Last week, I made a casserole that I’ve been calling the Kitchen Sink Casserole, because it had everything in it but the kitchen sink. I started with the summer squash, added cheese tortellini, then added shredded chicken, basil, oregano, parmesan cheese, shredded mozzarella cheese on top, and then baked it in a giant casserole dish. It was a HUGE hit and it fed a crowd. Doesn’t that sound amazing?? it’s also a great way to use up all that extra zucchini from your garden. So, I hope you’ll give this a try. I’m sure you can think of loads of other ideas! Enjoy!


vegetable oil
Zucchini or any other kind of summer squash, sliced or diced
Onions, diced
Tomatoes, either fresh or canned
Garlic, minced
Fresh herbs, such as basil, oregano, thyme
Salt and pepper to taste

Use as much or as little of each item as you like.
Slice or dice all the veggies. Toss them into a big skillet or wok with a little oil. Toss them around the pan until they’re tender and cooked through. That’s all there is to it. Add fresh herbs, and season to taste.
Depending on the size of your skillet and how many veggies you have, you might want to sauté them separately or in batches, and then toss everything together after they’re cooked. That’s it!


Tips:
I like to use canned sliced stewed tomatoes. You could also use diced or whole canned tomatoes and then cut them up. I wouldn’t use puree or crushed, because I like the large pieces of tomato. If you’re using fresh, you can choose to peel them or not. Either way would be fine.
If your squash is not too large, you don’t have to peel it. The skins are very tender and add delicious color to your dish. If you let your garden squash grow quite large, then the peels became quite tough and much less palatable, so peeling them would definitely be a must.
You can make a big batch and then just store it in the fridge or freeze in ziploc freezer bags. I made a giant batch and then pressure canned it in jars (which is actually not recommended, but what can I say… I’m a rebel.) You do you!

Friday, July 2, 2021

Red, White, and Blueberry Cheese Icebox Cake

 


 Here’s another no-bake dessert that is perfect for your 4th of July celebration. It’s an ice box cake!! Have you ever had one? It’s actually nothing new, and not even really a cake. It’s just layers of sweet creamy deliciousness sandwiched between layers of graham crackers, (in this case with added strawberries and blueberries). And then as it chills, the graham crackers become soft and more like cake. So you can slice it into squares, and it sets up just like cake! Clever, huh?
 I recently made it for my niece, Terri, and her family, and it got RAVE reviews! It’s kind of one of those desserts where everyone goes back for just a little bit more. No judgement here! And it’s easy enough for the cooking novice to make. Perfect! If you’ve never tried one, you absolutely must!




8oz pkg cream cheese
2 cups powdered sugar
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
3 cups heavy cream

2 lbs strawberries, washed, hulled, and sliced
1 lb blueberries, washed and picked over of any stems
2 sleeves graham crackers


In a mixing bowl with a wire whisk attachment, starting on a low speed, whip together the cream cheese, sugar, and vanilla extract. Scrape the bowl and gradually add speed until the mixture is smooth. Turn mixer back to low speed. Add all of the cream. Slowly increase speed again all the way to high. Mix until the cream is thickened to a nice spreadable consistency.

In a glass 9x13 dish, spread a thin layer of the cream mixture across the bottom, just to give the crackers something to hold onto. Place a layer of graham crackers, breaking them as needed to fit. Do another thin layer of cream. Now do a layer of sliced strawberries, and another layer of cream.
Do the same thing again, only with blueberries this time. (crackers, cream, blueberries, cream.)
The last layer of cream should use up the remaining cream. Arrange strawberries and blueberries on top in any decorative pattern.
Cover with foil and chill for at least 4 hours or overnight.


Tips:
When I say 2 sleeves of graham crackers, I just mean that usually they come 3 sleeves in a box, and I used 2 of them. Just use as many as you need to cover each layer.
Be sure to do this way in advance to give the graham crackers time to absorb the cream. That’s key to making it more like a cake texture!
 Also if you’d like to make this for July 4th, you could easily make a flag design on the top. Just put a square of blueberries in the upper left corner, and stripes of red strawberries with the white cream mixture showing between them.
Don’t like strawberries?  Use raspberries or cherries instead!
Not going for a patriotic theme? Use any kind of fruit you like! Blackberries, peaches, pineapple, any fruit will work!

 

Wednesday, June 30, 2021

No Bake Banana Split Dessert

 



 I was looking for something that SCREAMED summer dessert. You know, something to bring to a BBQ, something that would feed a crowd, something that you know everyone would love.
 Then I remembered seeing something similar to this about a million years ago, and immediately knew that this was what I wanted.  “….now…if I could just remember who had that recipe… was it my sister in law Terri? hmm… I can’t remember.” Then I figured there MUST be one online somewhere, and of course there was. Actually, there are a million versions. I just picked this one (from Browneyed Baker) because it most closely resembled what I was picturing in my memory.
 It’s the perfect thing to bring to your 4th of July BBQ, or frankly any summer event. And it’s the perfect thing to make the day before. Have fun and customize it with your favorite banana split toppings! No matter how you do it, I’m sure it’ll be a hit! I mean, come on… who doesn’t love a banana split??

For the crust:
2 cups graham cracker crumbs

1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
1 tbs sugar


For the filling:
12 ounces cream cheese (at room temperature)

1/4 cup granulated sugar

8 oz Cool Whip


For the fruit and toppings:
3 to 4 bananas (sliced)

20 oz canned crushed pineapple, drained well

16 oz strawberries (hulled and sliced)

8 oz Cool Whip

1/2 cup walnuts or pecans, chopped (optional)

Chocolate syrup

Maraschino cherries

Grease a 9x13-inch baking dish; set aside. 
In a medium bowl, mix the graham cracker crumbs and melted butter with a fork, stirring until all of the crumbs are evenly moistened. Dump the crumbs into the prepared pan and press firmly into an even layer. Refrigerate while you prepare the next layer.
 In a medium bowl, mix together the cream cheese and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Using a rubber spatula, fold in the Cool Whip until thoroughly combined. Spread the cream cheese mixture on top of the graham cracker crust.
Arrange the banana slices in a single layer on top of the cream cheese filling, top with an even layer of the crushed pineapple, and then an even layer of the sliced strawberries.
 Cover with the Cool Whip, smoothing the top. Sprinkle with the chopped walnuts, then drizzle with chocolate syrup and top with maraschino cherries. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours, or overnight. Leftovers can be stored, covered, in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.



Tips:
Instead of refrigerating my crust, I baked it at 350ºF for about 10 minutes. I know, I know, it’s supposed to be ‘no bake” right? Well, what can I say? I like a baked crust!
Also I used pineapple ice cream topping instead of crushed. A, because I had it on hand, B, because I worried that the juice from the crushed pineapple would make it too runny. Hindsight, I think I would have liked the crushed pineapple better. Turns out that the pineapple topping made everything VERY sweet, and I think the crushed pineapple would have tasted a little bit more fresh. So now we know! I’ll just be sure to really drain the pineapple very well!
Btw, I used WAY more bananas than the recipe says. I just sliced enough to make a solid layer!

Thursday, June 17, 2021

Caramelized Onion and Bacon Dip

 


 This recipe comes to us from one of my favorite youtube channels, Whippoorwill Holler. Miss Lori and Mr Brown recently posted a video of how to make this dip, and I immediately knew that this would fall into the category of “how can this not be good?”
 And I have to say the timing of their video couldn’t have been more perfect. A day or two before, I had cooked a dinner of Salisbury steaks for my niece Terri and her family, and I had LOTS of caramelized onions leftover. This would be the perfect way to use them up!
Then I was invited to my sister Cathy’s for a little outdoor hang. Now I had the perfect occasion to try it! Clearly, all the stars were lining up for me try this recipe! I even had all the other ingredients on hand. How perfect is that?
 And OMG is it good!!!!! It’s everything you want in an onion dip, only better. Keep this one in your arsenal of party foods. I guarantee you’ll come back to it again and again!
 

1 cup sour cream
3 oz. softened cream cheese
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp white wine vinegar
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
4 to 6 slices crispy bacon, chopped
1 pound sweet onions
Salt and pepper to taste


Place bacon in skillet over medium low heat. Slowly render the fat and cook bacon until it’s crisp. Remove from pan. Chop bacon to small bits. set aside.
Using the same pan, pour out all but about 2 tbs bacon fat. Add sliced onions. Sauce over medium heat until caramelized. This should take a good 20-30 minutes. Don’t rush!
While your onions are caramelizing, mix together the rest of the ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Let the bacon and onions cool, then add them to the mixture. Adjust your seasonings. Chill until ready to serve with potato chips or Doritos.

Fun fact: You can make caramelized onions in your slow cooker! It’s true! Just throw a few pounds of sliced onions into your slow cooker, toss with a few tbs melted better, salt and pepper, turn it to high, and in about 5 hours, you’ll have caramelized onions! Just be sure to leave the lid slightly ajar so that the extra moisture can evaporate.

Tips:
This dip is the perfect example of how my Mom used to always say “if you like a lot, add a lot.” Do you like a lot of bacon? Do you like a lot of black pepper? Add as much as you like. I added extra bacon and a little extra splash of Worcestershire sauce. YUM.
Btw, full disclosure, since I had LOTS of caramelized onions, I basically doubled the whole thing, although my amounts may or may not have been exact. I just used what I happened to have on hand. Speaking of which, I used regular vinegar instead of white wine vinegar.
For a little extra oniony garnish, sprinkle with chopped chives or scallions for a pretty presentation.

 

 

Monday, June 7, 2021

Miss Dot's Pound Cake

 I was recently watching an episode of Home Town. If you’re not familiar with the show, it’s an HGTV show where home renovations are done in a small town in Mississippi. So, in this one particular episode, they were talking about the house being renovated, and that it used to belong to someone that everyone in the neighborhood knew simply as Miss Dot. And Miss Dot was famous for baking pound cake and bringing it to any new neighbors who happened move into the neighborhood. Well, during part of the renovation, they discovered the famous pound cake recipe and they even contacted Miss Dot to see if she’d bake a cake with them to give to the new homeowner. Awesome. Love it.
  So, of course, you know I wanted to try the recipe. I know, I know, shocker. I googled and found the recipe that the show posted on IG. I already had all the ingredients, so I made it that very day. It was SO good! delicious and buttery, and so moist you don’t need any icing at all.
 OK, so, I’m so thrilled with it, that I decided to call my sister Jeanie to tell her about it. Coincidentally, she had just baked her favorite pound cake recipe a day or two before. I said, “omg great minds, right???” And when I asked her what recipe she used, she said it’s her favorite pound cake recipe, and that it’s from Southern Living. (You know where I”m going with this, right?”)
Yup, as we compared recipes, we discovered that Jeanie’s Southern Living recipe was exactly the same recipe as Miss Dot’s! I think it’s pretty funny that Jeanie and I both decided to make the same pound cake at the same time and received the recipe from two different sources. Seriously, great minds think alike!
 OK, so, can we talk about the actual cake for a minute???? OMG it’s SOOO good! Like, seriously, you don’t need any other recipe after this one. This is THE only pound cake recipe you’ll ever need from here on out. It’s just that good. And it couldn’t be easier. You just mix up the ingredients, (which you probably already have on hand) pour them into a pan, and bake. That’s it!
And if you don’t own a bundt pan, this cake is reason enough to buy one. I think I need to bake another one because the first one’s already gone!



(all ingredients at room temperature)
3 cups flour
3 cups sugar
3 sticks butter
8oz bar of cream cheese
6 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp salt

Beat all ingredients well.
Pour into a greased and floured bundt pan.
Place in a cold oven.
Bake at 300ºF for an hour and a half.



Tips:
The most important thing s to make sure you let everything sit out until room temperature. Otherwise everything just doesn’t mix as well.
Even though the recipe includes a 1/2 tsp salt, I used salted butter. Full disclosure, I use salted butter for everything. I just think it tastes better.
And my best tip for a moist cake… double the amount of vanilla extract, and don’t over bake. You want to take it out of the oven as soon as it tests done with an inserted tooth pick.

Monday, May 31, 2021

Peas and Pasta Salad

 

 I was recently making a giant VAT of BBQ sauce, you know, just to have on hand for all of my favorite summer BBQ dishes, and I was trying to think of side dishes to go with them. In my world, that usually means potato salad, cole slaw, or macaroni salad. MMM macaroni salad… now there’s something I haven’t had for a while… maybe lets try to find a new variation? Want to?
 So I did some searching, and here’s where I landed! It’s a Food Network recipe from Sunny Anderson, and I figured, why not?
 So.. here’s the thing.. full disclosure.. I made the recipe exactly as written.. and I already decided to change a few things. Usually I would save all the tips and variations for after the recipe, but I think this one needs to be said first.
 Well, first, as I was making it, even before tasting it, I wanted more color.. so I added some red bell pepper.. chopped down to a fine confetti. Looks great! OK now to taste it…
whoa… it’s very sweet. Like, VERY sweet. I mean, it does make sense, sweet side salads are a very Southern thing, so that tracks. But it was just a little too sweet for me. The Miracle Whip is very sweet, the peas are sweet, and she even adds sugar. Then I went and added the red bell pepper, which is also sweet.
 My brother Denny was here while I was making it, and we decided that the bacon, onion, and cheddar cheese go a long way to balancing that sweetness, as well as a good hit of salt and pepper.
 So there we have it! A new macaroni salad recipe to try! How sweet do YOU like it? Give it a try and let me know!



1 pound cavatappi pasta
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup finely chopped red onion
1 (15-ounce) jar salad dressing (recommended: Miracle Whip)
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
10 ounces frozen peas, thawed
1/2 cup shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
6 slices bacon, cooked until crisp and crumbled


Cook the pasta in salted boiling water as directed on box for al dente, about 8 minutes. Drain and place the cooked pasta in a large bowl filled with ice water to stop the pasta from over cooking. Stir until the pasta is cool, then drain in a colander shaking to release as much water as possible.
To make the dressing: In a large bowl mix the red onion, salad dressing, apple cider vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, and sugar. Taste and then season with a pinch of salt and grind or two of pepper. Add the pasta and completely coat with the dressing. Add in the peas, cheese, and bacon. Cook's Note: If making ahead, cover and refrigerate the salad until ready to serve, then add the bacon right before serving.



Tips:
As I said, it was just a little too sweet for me. I think I’d prefer to get the natural sweetness from the veggies, rather than adding sugar and Miracle Whip. So I would just use regular mayonnaise, (and by that I mean Hellman’s) and then just omit the sugar completely. Also, I liked it better after it had a chance to sit for a while, so, if you can make it a little ahead of time, do it!

Monday, May 24, 2021

Cioppino Linguini

 


 Have you ever heard of a dish called Cioppino? It’s seafood stew from San Francisco that was originally meant to use up the extra sea critters that were accidentally caught in fishermens’ nets. From what I understand, it was originally served as a stew, but I’ve also seen it served as a soup along with some hearty crusty bread. Well, I thought, what if we make it into a thicker sauce and pour it over linguini??? That’s gotta be nothing but fabulous, right?? Now all I needed was an occasion to cook up all this wonderful seafood.
  AHA! I know.. I’l cook it for my gang of friends! Since we’re now all safe and healthy, and we can FINALLY have group get togethers, and since most of them have not seen my new house, this was the perfect time to try out my Cioppino idea. I made it an entire seafood night!  
Mini salmon cakes (which were a HUGE hit) and crab dip were my appetizers, and this linguini was the main course. I used a Tasty recipe as a base, and then just tweaked it ever so slightly…Served with a nice salad, and then followed up with carrot cupcakes and lemon trifle for dessert. I’m pretty sure no one was hungry by the time they left! And everyone LOVED the pasta.
 So whether you serve it as a stew, a soup, or poured over linguini, this is the dish you need to serve to the seafood lovers in your life. Definitely good enough for your next celebration meal!




2 large carrots, peeled
2 ribs celery
1 bulb fennel
1 large leek, rinsed well
1 onion
1 red bell pepper
1 green bell pepper
6 or 7 cloves garlic
1 tbs EACH dried oregano, basil, thyme leaves
2 bay leaves
1 6oz can tomato paste
1 bottle clam juice
3 cups white wine, divided
2 28oz cans crushed tomatoes (with water to rinse out cans)
A couple big pinches of salt
1-2 tsp (or more) crushed red pepper flakes
A dozen little neck clams
1/2 lb mussels
1/2 lb shrimp
1/2 lb large scallops
1 lb cod fillet


 Finely mince first 8 ingredients. (It's easiest to pulse everything in a food professor until almost pureed). Add a few tbs olive oil to a large pot over medium heat. Place minced aromatics in pot. Stir well. Let them cook for a good 10-15 minutes, stirring often, until they begin to soften.
Add oregano, basil, thyme, bay leaves, and tomato paste.
Continue to cook and stir for another 5 minutes.
Add clam juice, 2 cups white wine, and the canned tomatoes. Swirl each can about half full with water, add to the pot.
Add a big pinch salt and a tsp or two crushed red pepper flakes.
Bring the sauce up to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer. After it simmers for about a half hour, it's ready for the seafood, but you can let it go longer. (I let mine go for at least an hour). You can even go up to this point a day in advance. While your sauce is simmering, prepare your seafood.
Remove shells and devein shrimp. Keep cold. Set aside.
Scrub mussels and clams. Discard the ones with broken shells. If you see one that is open, give it a little tap tap with your finger. If it doesn't close, discard it.
If the mussels have a beard, just pull it off. Now soak the clams and mussels in a bowl of ice cold salty water. Let sit for 15 minutes. Do this two more times.
Keep ice cold.
Cut the cod into bite size pieces.
Now it's time to add the seafood to the sauce.
Shrimp and pieces of cod can be added directly to the sauce.
In a large skillet, place a little olive oil over high heat. Place scallops in hot pan. Sear on each side. Set aside. Add a little butter to the pan. Add the clams and mussels and a cup of white wine. Cover. Let stem for a good 10 minutes. Remove cover and dump the clams and mussels along with wine and butter into sauce. Fish out the bay leaves. Stir it all together. Let it simmer until all the seafood is cooked in the sauce. Taste to adjust seasoning.
Boil linguini to desired doneness.
Place in giant pasta bowl, pour sauce over all. Top with a little chopped parsley, if desired. Serve with lots of hearty crusty bread.


Tips:
I chose these kinds of seafood because they’re the ones I like best. Choose which ones you like! I’ve seen recipes where people add salmon, even squid. You do you! I bet a big ol’ crab leg or two would be heavenly. If you want to add more seafood than the amounts I've listed, go for it!
I found that adding about 1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes brings just the right burn to the dish… but if you want  it to be really spicy, feel free to add more.
I you’d rather have it as a soup or stew, just use an immersion blender to blend the sauce smooth before adding the seafood, and then skip the linguini. Frankly, I love all the chunky bits in the sauce, so I just left it as it was!




Monday, May 10, 2021

Smothered Pork Chops

 


  Many years ago, when I was first learning how to cook, my Mom used to have a big dinner every Sunday night. On one occasion, I asked her how she decides which foods to cook. I said “how do you know what foods to make?: She responded “You need to have all the parts.” In other words, you have your main component such as a protein, and then you have your sides, such as your starch and your veggies. She also told me that we eat with our eyes first. I’d have a plate of baked chicken, mashed potatoes, and green beans.. and she’d say “you need something red or orange on that plate.” Carrots or cranberries would do the trick, and now I’d have “all the parts.” Makes sense, right?
 Ever since then, that’s how I plan my dinners.
 So when I started to make THIS recipe.. I thought.. “uh oh.. everything on the plate is looking very BEIGE… pork chops, gravy, mashed potatoes, apple sauce… they all taste great, but I need a little color on the plate.. so I added some grilled vegetables… MUCH better. Even though I was only cooking for myself, I still needed to eat with my eyes first.
 Ok, so lets talk about this recipe, shall we? SMOTHERED PORK CHOPS! Serious yummy Sunday Dinner factor going on here. I first saw it on one of my favorite Youtube channels, Whippoorwill Holler. Miss Lori was making some Smothered Chicken, and she mentioned that she likes to do pork chops the same way. I thought, oooo YES, I need to do this. They turned out exactly as perfectly as I imagined they would. Simple, delicious home cookin’, and no experience needed!
 So, add this to your Sunday Dinner rotation. Your family will love you for it! And don’t forget to include all the parts!


6-8 pork chops (with or without the bone)
1-2 cups seasoned flour*
1/3 cup oil
1 large sliced onion
minced garlic to taste
2 cups chicken broth
1 cup milk


*Use any kind of seasonings you like. Miss Lori used salt, pepper, celery seed, onion powder, poultry seasoning, garlic powder, and smoked paprika. I used salt, pepper, thyme, and garlic powder.


Heat oil in a large wide shallow pan over medium heat. Dredge the pork chops in the flour, then shake off excess. Brown the pork chops on both sides. We’re not cooking them all the way through, just browning on both sides. Remove the chops to a side plate.
Add sliced onions and minced garlic to the pan. Add a little more oil, if necessary. Sauté for 5-10 minutes until they soften a little bit. Take a few heaping tablespoons of the leftover seasoned flour, and add them to the pan. Stir well to coat the onions and garlic. Let it cook for a minute or two. Now add the chicken broth. Use a wooden spoon the scrape up any browned bits in the pan. After a few minutes, add the milk. Continue to cook just a few more minutes until everything is well blended, and the gravy is slightly thickened. Now add the pork chops back to the pan, (along with any accumulated juices) and be sure to smother them with the gravy. Cover the pan, and turn the heat down to medium low. Let it simmer for about 25-30 minutes.
Serve with mashed potatoes, grilled veggies, and applesauce!


Tips:
If you’re using this recipe with bone-in chicken, it will probably take 35-45 minutes.
Instead of cooking on the stove top, you can use an oven proof pan, and place the whole thing in a 350º oven. I think I might do that next time!
 

Monday, May 3, 2021

Mini Lemon Drop Cupcakes

 


   Over the years, I’ve noticed my blog definitely has a pattern. Of course, it’s seasonal…. warm spices in Autumn, hearty stews and soups in Winter, fresh fruits and produce in the Summer. But in the Spring, it’s always a little bit of a variety. Very often, I’ll do Brunch recipes, or the odd novelty dish that I’ve seen bouncing around the interwebs. But another thing that says SPRING to me is something lighter and brighter, specifically, citrus. Lemons, oranges, limes, grapefruits… there’s just something about them that makes me think of brightness and freshness… a fresh start, if you will.
 So today, I’m sharing these perfect little jewels of lemon-ness that I found on a blog called Butter with a side of Bread. They’re so easy they come together in no time, and they bake in half the time as regular cupcakes. Simply delicious! I made them for Easter… brought half to Cathy’s house for brunch, brought the other half to Jeanie’s house for dinner. They were a big hit at both events! Definitely a dessert to add to your repertoire. They’re irresistible!


Cupcakes
1 box lemon cake mix
1 box instant vanilla pudding 3.4 oz, dry mix
4 large eggs
1 1/4 cups sour cream or yogurt
1/2 cup milk

Lemon Glaze
3 1/2 cups powdered sugar
2 tsp grated lemon zest from 1 lemon
2 tbs unsalted butter melted
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice from 1 lemon
1/4 cup hot water



For the cupcakes:
Preheat the oven to 325 F. Coat mini muffin tin with cooking spray. 
Beat the ingredients in a large bowl with a mixer for several minutes until blended and smooth. Fill each muffin about 1/2 full. (Use a small cookie scoop!) Bake for about 12 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
Cool the pan on a wire rack for about 2 minutes and then turn the muffin pan over on a wire rack so that all the muffins are upside down.
Cool completely. Meanwhile,  make the glaze.


For the glaze:
Place the wire racks over waxed paper. Beat the glaze ingredients in a medium bowl until smooth.
Dip muffins in glaze to coat the bottoms (which are now the tops!) and the sides and let the excess drip off back into the bowl.
Place each lemon drop back on the wire racks until the glaze is set.



Tips:
The best tip in this entire recipe is to use the small cookie scoop. It’s the perfect tool for filling your cupcakes!
Usually this is where I would add a tweak or two, but not this time! This recipe is awesome, just as it is!
The only tweak I can think of is maybe trying an orange or lime version. I bet that would be pretty awesome, dontcha think?

Monday, April 12, 2021

Gulf Shrimp Jambalaya


When I first made this dish a few years ago, my thought was to save it and post it for Mardi Gras. But it seems that every year, some circumstance comes along and I wind up posting something else, or I just don’t have my act together in time.
 So, since I’ve been in a seafood mood lately anyway, I decided to post it now, because who cares if it’s not Mardi Gras, right? It’s just too delicious to wait any longer! And if you’re looking for something hearty and flavorful and seafood, then this one is for you. The recipe is from Chef Anne Burrell, and it’s everything you want in a jambalaya. It’s VERY easy to make too, so you should give this a try, even if you’re a novice cook. You’ll be thrilled that you did and I guarantee it won’t be the last time you make it! Thanx Chef Anne!


2 pounds medium gulf shrimp, peeled and deveined, shells reserved
Extra-virgin olive oil
1 pound andouille sausage, cut into rounds
2 green peppers, seeded and cut into 1/4-inch dice
3 ribs celery, cut into 1/4-inch dice
1 Spanish onion, cut into 1/4-inch dice
Kosher salt
Pinch crushed red pepper
3 cloves garlic, smashed and finely chopped
1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes
1 tsp cayenne pepper
2 cups long-grain rice
2 fresh bay leaves
1 bundle fresh thyme
5 scallions, whites and greens thinly sliced, for garnish


For the shrimp stock: toss the shrimp shells in a large pot and fill with water. Bring the water to a boil, turn off the heat and let sit for at least 15 to 20 minutes, although longer is fine. Strain the shells and discard.
Coat a large, wide pot with olive oil and bring to medium-high heat. Add the andouille and cook for 4 to 5 minutes, or until the sausage starts to brown. Add the peppers, celery, and onion to the pan, season with salt and a pinch crushed red pepper. Cook 7 to 8 minutes or until the mixture has softened and is very aromatic. Toss in the garlic and cook for 2 to 3 more minutes. Add the tomatoes and cayenne. Stir in the rice.
Add 4 cups shrimp stock, bay leaves, and thyme bundle. Season with salt and taste it to make sure you are on the way to something delicious. Cover and cook over medium heat for 25 minutes.
Stir in the shrimp and cook for another 5 to 7 minutes or until the shrimp turn pink. Serve garnished with chopped scallions.


Tips:
Usually, this is where I would talk about how I would tweak the recipe, or change it in some way. But this time, I’ll tell you not to change a thing! This recipe's absolutely perfect as it is! Follow it exactly as written, and you’ll be a hit every time!

Saturday, April 3, 2021

3 Ingredient Slow Cooker Biscuits and Gravy


 OK here’s a recipe that you simply MUST add to your repertoire. It’s one of the easiest recipes you’ll ever see, it feeds an army, gives you a ton of bang for your buck, and it’s delicious! I’ve seen it bouncing around on social media, and it’s been on my to-do list forever.
 Funny story.. when I was testing it, I needed feedback.. so I grabbed my crock pot and off I went to my sister Cathy’s house for everyone to have a taste. She said “you brought the whole crock pot?” I said “well of course! That’s not unusual is it? to just show up at someone’s house with a crock pot? I think not. “
 Anyway, I found this recipe on a site called groceryshrink.com. I’m not sure if it’s her recipe or not, but that’s where I got it, so she gets the credit! If you like biscuits and gravy, then you will absolutely LOVE it. Not even kidding.



1 lb breakfast sausage (in a bulk log)
2 cans refrigerator biscuits (the small ones that come 10 to a can)
2 cans cream of mushroom soup


Brown and drain the sausage.
Layer 1 can of biscuits in the bottom of a greased slow cooker.
Top with half the sausage and then 1 can of cream of mushroom soup.
Repeat the layers once more.
Cook on high for 2 hours just before time to serve breakfast.
Or 4 hours on low.



Tips:
When I made it, it tasted very salty to me. I mean, I know that different brands of sausage have different amounts of sodium, but just keep an eye on that. Maybe use a low sodium cream of mushroom soup? I think I will next time.
Not a fan of cream of mushroom soup? Try cream of something else instead!
Don’t want to use the slow cooker? Bake it in a casserole dish at 350F or until golden.
One other thing… the original recipe suggested setting your slow cooker to a time delay, so it would be ready for breakfast first thing in the morning, and if your cooker doesn’t have a time delay setting, you could also use an outlet timer. If you don’t feel comfortable setting it out on the counter for that long before it cooks, then you could just leave it in the fridge overnight, take it out early in the morning, and add another hour for the cold crock.

Monday, March 29, 2021

Coconut Cream Puffs

 


 Very often, I’ll invite friends to come over to my house to cook with me. Of course, the first question I ask is “what is your favorite food?” Sometimes, we’ll do an entree, as in the case of my nephew Tommy, specifically Chicken Parm. Other times, as with my friend Maryann, we’ll learn how to make homemade jam. (that was a virtual lesson!)
 This time, I asked my friend, Chewie, what his favorite food is, and he said he loves coconut cream pie, and also cream puffs. So, naturally, I figured, why not combine them and make coconut cream puffs! Perfect, right?
 And then that thing happened again. That thing where I go looking on my website for a specific recipe, because “I’m SURE I had to have posted it during the last 13 years of blogging”… but no… it’s nowhere to be found. How does this keep happening? Has it really been that long since I’ve made cream puffs? Oh, well, it’s fine. No time like the present.
 So here they are. This recipe is from Tasty, and it’s a basic recipe for Choux Pastry (pronounced SHOO pastry), which can be used with any cream filling for cream puffs or eclairs. It may seem a little daunting, but it’s a pretty simple recipe to follow. And the payoff is HUGE. They turn out light and fluffy and perfect! Definitely worthy of your next holiday or special occasion! Thanx again for the suggestion, Chewie!



For the Cream Filling:
5 egg yolks
2 cups half & half
1 cup coconut milk
3/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup cornstarch
1 cup sweetened coconut flakes
1 teaspoon vanilla extract


For the Puffs:
1/2 cup unsalted butter, cubed
1/2 cup coconut milk
1/2 cup water
1 pinch salt
1 cup flour
4 eggs, plus 1 more for egg wash


Preheat oven to 425˚F (220˚C).
To make the cream filling whisk together egg yolks, half and half, and coconut milk in a medium saucepan over medium/low heat.
Once combined, add in sugar and corn starch, stirring constantly until the mixture thickens and comes to a light boil.
Remove from heat and mix in the shredded coconut and vanilla extract. Cover with plastic wrap and chill at least two hours.

To make the puffs, combine the butter, water, coconut milk, and salt in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Allow all the butter to melt and bring the mixture to a boil.
As soon as the mixture begins to boil, reduce heat to medium-low and add in the flour.
Using a wooden spoon, mix thoroughly to incorporate the flour. Continue stirring until the dough starts to pull away from the sides and a thin film forms on the bottom of the pan (about three minutes).
Remove the mixture from heat and transfer to a large mixing bowl. Let the dough cool slightly.
Add in the eggs, one at a time, being sure to fully incorporate each egg before adding the next.
Once the dough comes together, transfer it to a piping bag.
Pipe onto a parchment-paper-lined baking sheet into 1½-inch (3 cm) mounds.
Smooth out any peaks/ridges caused by piping with a wet fingertip (this will ensure your puffs cook evenly and maintain a nice ball shape).
Then brush the dough with egg wash and place in preheated oven.
Bake for 15 minutes at 425˚F (220°C). Then, without opening the oven, reduce heat to 350˚ (180˚C) and bake for an additional 15 minutes.
Remove puffs from oven. Using the tip of a knife, cut a small “x” into the bottom of each puff and transfer (“x” side up) to a cooling rack.
Just before serving (or up to two hours in advance), pipe the cream filling into the cooled puffs. Sprinkle with powdered sugar.


Tips:
You know I’m always one to tweak a recipe whenever I’m so inclined, but this recipe is pretty flawless. There isn’t much I would change! I will say, though, that I would add a little coconut extract to the cream filling, just to bump up the coconut flavor. And also the recipe doesn’t specify this, but it’s definitely easiest to use a mixer to add the eggs (still one at a time) to the dough, rather than stirring them in by hand. I mean, why wouldn’t you?
Oh, and one more thing… when I took the picture, it didn’t occur to me that maybe you’d like to see the yummy filling inside, and I didn’t slice one in half. You’ll just have to take my word for it that they’re filled with yummy coconut pastry cream !




 

 

Better than Plain Roasted Potatoes




   Roasted Potatoes. What's not to love, right? They're the perfect side dish and they go with anything and everything. So lets talk about 'em for a quick sec, want to?
  At the very base, roasted potatoes are just that.... potatoes that are often peeled and diced, seasoned, tossed with a little oil, and roasted in the oven. Fabulous. Can't go wrong. But there are a couple things I like to do to make them a little easier, and definitely better than plain.
 For one thing, I like to use baby potatoes. Red, gold, any color you like. The point is that they're small, they require minimum prep, and the skins are tender so they don't need to be peeled. All you need to do is cut them in half and they're good to go.
Now lets talk about seasoning. You can't go wrong with just your basic salt and pepper. But the thing about this one is that you need more salt and pepper than you think you do. My friends always rave about my potatoes, why? Because I aggressively season them! It really does make the world of difference. You can use other seasonings too.. Old Bay is a personal fave.. or you could even do curry or cumin, depending on which direction you'd like to go. Love it. You could even use herbs to flavor your potatoes. Just be sure to use herbs that can hold up to the roasting. Thyme and rosemary would be fabulous. I'm a HUGE fan of rosemary roasted potatoes with a nice roast beast. Yum.
Next... the other thing that I feel is a MUST with roasting potatoes is the addition of onions. Potatoes and onions are a match made in culinary heaven. Even when I'm out at a diner and ordering a fabulous breakfast, I always ask them to add onions to my home fries. The same applies here. Yes, you could just peel and chop up an onion and toss it with the potatoes or do the favorite Onion Soup Mix potatoes. YUM. But this time, I made it easy and just chopped up some scallions. No onion-peeling necessary, and you still get delicious onion flavor and the bonus of a nice pop of green. Easy!
 The only thing left to talk about is fat. You need some kind of fat to coat them for roasting. Usually, I just go with your basic vegetable oil. It's simple and does the job. Sometimes, if I happen to have some saved bacon fat, I'll use that (which is FABULOUS btw). You could also use olive oil, but that's a little more expensive. The one thing you don't want to use is butter. Why not? Usually you think of butter on potatoes.. perfect, right? Wrong! If you toss your potatoes in melted butter and then roast them, you run the risk of burning the milk solids that are in the butter. I suppose you could use clarified butter to eliminate that risk, but that adds more work. I'll just stick with vegetable oil, thank you very much. If you want buttery flavor, you can always toss the already-roasted potatoes with a little butter just before serving.
 So there we have it. Everything you need to know about roasted potatoes. Make a ton for dinner, and then serve the leftovers at breakfast the next day. SO good. You really can't go wrong!

 Even though I never really think about this as a recipe... this is how I do it..

2-3 lbs baby potatoes, rinsed, dried, halved or quartered
3 or 4 large scallions, sliced
kosher salt and black pepper, or other seasonings, if desired
vegetable oil or rendered bacon fat to coat

Heat oven to 400ºF.
Place all ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Toss until well coated.
Pour all onto a parchment lined baking sheet and spread into one even layer.
Roast in oven for 45 minutes until fork tender. Garnish with fresh chopped scallions.


Tips:
One of the great things about this is that you can cook these potatoes while you have something else in the oven, even though it may be at a different temperature. If you're roasting a chicken or a roast beast, you could place the potatoes in the same pan, and then baste them with the juices, or just roast them as directed on a lower rack in the oven. The lower temperature will just mean that the potatoes might take a little longer.
When you arrange them on your baking sheet, be sure to spread them out into one even layer. It really helps everything too cook evenly and aids in roasting instead of steaming. Also, arrange them so they're cut side down for best results. Also, I like to turn them about half way through the cooking. I just use a flat edged spatula to flip them over, like you're turning over a pancake. Helps to brown everything evenly, and also makes sure the potatoes aren't stuck to the pan!




Monday, March 15, 2021

Joey's Cabbage and Sausage Casserole


 

 Usually, when St Patrick’s Day approaches, I like to make some sort of dish with cabbage, just like my Mom used to do. Of course, we always had boiled ham and cabbage along with boiled potatoes (that my Dad always called “boilies”) but I like to mix it up from year to year. Yes, I’ve done the classic corned beef, (can’t go wrong there), but I think, for the most part, I like to stick with the pork dishes. One year I did roasted cabbage with bacon. I’ve also done cabbage and pork chops. This year, I thought I’d do a casserole with sausage. I mean, why not? right? It’s already a perfect pairing! Add some onions and a little tangy sour cream. Top it all off with a couple different kinds of cheese. What’s not to love???? It was super simple to throw together and it packs a PUNCH of flavor. Serve it with a pile of mashed potatoes and you’re all set!
So give this one a try. If you like cabbage, I KNOW you'll love it.





1 lb bratwurst links, casings removed
1 small onion, chopped
1 small cabbage, chopped
1 cup each, shredded Cheddar and Mozzarella cheese, divided
1 cup sour cream
salt and pepper
Chopped fresh parsley


Heat oven to 350ºF.
In a large oven proof skillet, brown the sausage, breaking it up as you go. Add the onions and cabbage. Stir and saute until the cabbage and onions begin to soften. Stir in the sour cream and half of each kind of cheese along with the salt and pepper. Place in oven and bake until bubbly and the top is slightly golden, about 30 minutes. Remove from oven. Top with remaining cheeses. Place in oven again for another 15 minutes until the cheese is slightly browned and ooey gooey. Remove from oven. Top with chopped fresh parsley.




Tips:
You can use other kinds of sausage, but you’ll definitely end up with a different product. I like to use Johnsonville brats, but if you can find Irish Bangers, even better!
When it was time to stir in the sour cream and cheeses, I found it easier to dump everything into a giant mixing bowl, stir it all together, and then pour it back into the big skillet. I know it’s another dish to wash, but it just made it easier!
Instead of serving it with mashed potatoes. if you want to feed a crowd, you could stretch the dish even further by adding a few diced boilies right into the casserole!

Monday, February 22, 2021

Joey's Favorite Broccoli and Cheese Mac


 

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


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


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

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


Monday, February 8, 2021

One-Bowl Chocolate Chip Bread



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





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

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

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




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


Monday, February 1, 2021

Chocolate Cherry Cobbler

 

 

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



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


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




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

Monday, January 25, 2021

Joey's Slow Cooker Hoisin Beef Stew

 

 

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




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


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




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


Monday, January 18, 2021

One Pot Creamy French Onion Pasta Bake

 


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

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


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


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

Monday, January 11, 2021

Poppy Seed Almond Cake

 

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


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


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


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

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




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


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

Monday, January 4, 2021

Joey's Unstuffed Pepper Casserole

 


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

 

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


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


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