Thursday, June 27, 2024

Creamy Tuscan Parmesan Beans

 Usually when the summer heat hits, I look for recipes that are quick and easy and don't heat up the whole kitchen. I also look for recipes that aren't too heavy, but still have great flavor. 
That's basically how I found this recipe. It's an ever so slightly tweaked version of a recipe I saw on a site called The Mediterranean Dish. 
 The original recipe started all the way back at soaking the dry beans, but for me, that takes FAR too long.  Besides, I have jars and jars of my own home canned beans that are already ready already, so thats the route I went. The whole dish came together in less than 15 minutes and it was absolutely delish! 
Side note, it's also a great recipe if you're choosing to limit your carb intake. Win-win!
Let me know if you give it a try! 

2 tbs olive oil
4 large cloves garlic, minced
2 cans cannellini or any other favorite beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup water
1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup combination of chopped fresh herbs: parsley, oregano, basil, rosemary, and/or thyme
Pinch crushed red pepper flakes
Splash of fresh lemon juice, about 1/2 of a lemon

In a large shallow pan, add oil over medium heat. When the pan is hot, add the garlic. Let it get a little brown, being careful not to burn.
Add the beans, water, and tomatoes. Stir and simmer for about 10 minutes.
Add remaining ingredients, and continue to simmer and stir until slightly thickened.
Serve on toasted crostini as an easy appetizer or with some crusty bread as a side dish with your main entree.

Usually, at this time, I would mention what ingredient or part is key to the recipe's success. But in this case, each ingredient brings its own fun to the party. The only thing I'll mention is to be careful when adding the herbs. I find fresh oregano to be quite strong. It's the same with fresh rosemary. Be sure your herbs are balanced!
Also, the cheese is quite salty, so there's no need to add more.
Just sayin'!

Monday, April 1, 2024

Sweet Potato Home Fries


First question: Do you like potatoes as much as I do? 
Second question: Do you like sweet potatoes even more?
I have to say, when it comes to potatoes, I've never met one I didn't like. Any kind, any color, I love 'em all. But if I had to choose between a regular white potato and a sweet potato, I'd most likely choose the sweet potato every time. Mmmmm... especially if they're mashed or fried up in a pan, as with this recipe. 
  I'm not even sure where I got this recipe, but it's one of my faves. I realized a few years ago that I tend to enjoy a sweet potato more when it's not completely covered with all the sugary bells and whistles. Don't get me wrong.. Yes, I LOVE the candied ones with butter and brown sugar (and just a touch of orange marmalade), but more often than not, I find myself preparing sweet potatoes as one would prepare a regular white potato. A rich and cheesy gratin would be amazing. Or a nice twice baked sweet potato topped with sour cream and chives... HEAVEN! I just think you can taste the actual potato a lot more. 
 This recipe falls right into that idea. No brown sugar, and for heaven's sake NO MARSHMALLOWS!
Just some roasted sweet potatoes, fried up with some savory aromatics and fresh herbs. Simple and easy! Serve it for breakfast with your perfectly fried eggs, or pile 'em high on top of a big ol' steak just off the grill. I think you just might be surprised at how much you won't miss all that sugar! Enjoy!


Sunday, March 24, 2024

Joey's Pasta and Tomatoes with Tuna Sauce


  Usually, when you think of tomato gravy, (or sauce as you may say in your family), you think of meatballs, am I right? Or probably at least some sort of long-simmered meat sauce.... mmm you just can't beat a delicious Sunday Gravy that has cooked all day. You may also think of adding hot or mild Italian sausage, sometimes even chicken or crabs. (OMG I LOVE linguine with crab gravy). But have you ever made a tomato sauce with tuna??
 I must say it's not usually my go-to, but I was in a pasta kinda mood, and I was looking in my pantry for something to add to the pan along with my jars of home canned Jersey tomatoes, and then I saw a big can of tuna. I immediately remembered when my sister, Jeanie, made a rigatoni dish with tuna many many years ago, and I thought AHA! This is the answer! 
 Well, of course, I had no recipe.... I just started throwing things into a pan, whatever sounded good, whatever I had on hand. Lo and behold! It turned out great!! Like, much better than I expected, if I'm being honest. The most surprising thing I noticed is how fresh and light it was. Do you know how sometimes you eat a big dish of pasta and you feel like a ton of bricks afterward? That was not the case with this one. I even had seconds, and it was just enough to hit the spot without being to much.
 So then I got to thinking, this is the perfect dish to serve if you like to do Meatless Mondays (yes, thats a thing) or if you religiously choose not to eat meat on Fridays. Serve it with some warm crusty bread and a nice schmear of butter and you'll be living your best life. I promise! Try it!

1 lb box of your favorite shape of cut pasta (I used cavatappi)
several big glugs of good olive oil 
1 small onion, minced
3 or 4 large cloves of garlic (or more to taste), sliced
A dozen or so fresh cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
2 heaping tbs tomato paste
2 large cans crushed tomatoes (or your home canned tomatoes)
a sprinkle of salt and crushed red pepper flakes to taste
1 large (or 2 small) cans white albacore tuna, drained well
a handful of fresh basil, chopped
Grated Parmesan cheese
  In a large pot of boiling salted water, add your pasta and boil until it's just about but not quite tender. 
Meanwhile, in a large sauce pan or pot, heat olive oil over medium heat. Now add the onions, grape tomatoes, and garlic. Saute and stir until everything starts to break down a bit. The onions will soften, the tomatoes will give off their juice, the garlic with soften and sizzle. Now add the tomato paste. Stir well so that it mixes with the oil and starts to become a deeper crimson color. Now it's time for your crushed tomatoes. Add them, juice and all, to your pan. Give it a good stir, add your seasonings and basil. Let it simmer for a few minutes while you drain your can(s) of tuna. Add your tuna to the sauce and give it gentle stir, breaking it up slightly, but not completely. I like to leave a few chunks in tact. 
 Drain your pasta well. If your sauce pan is large enough, drop your pasta into the sauce, and gently toss to combine. If your pan isn't that big, place the pasta in a large serving boil, and pour sauce over it. If you want your pasta to be a little more saucy, just add a little bit of the pasta water to it. 
Top with grated Parmesan cheese and serve.

If you're so inclined, try this recipe with the tuna that is packed in olive oil and imported from Italy. It's a bit softer and a little more expensive, but boy is it good!
Be sure to add enough salt to your pasta boiling water. A little sprinkle isn't gonna cut it. Try an entire handful instead. The water should taste salty like the ocean!
This sauce loves a little extra spice, do you? Add a bit more of the crushed red pepper flakes!
Would you like to stretch this recipe to feed more people? Try adding some sliced zucchini or yellow summer squash with your sauteed grape tomatoes. It goes really well with this sauce and you'll have enough to feed an army!

Monday, March 18, 2024

Joey's Pickled Garlic


    A few weeks ago, my nephew, Dan (aka Daniel Boone), sent me a picture of one of his favorite things... a jar of pickled garlic. I said "oh, I could make that for you, no sweat!" So I went to Amazon and ordered a big bag of already peeled garlic, and when it arrived I started throwing pickling ingredients into a pot. I figured, how hard can it be, right? Pickling anything is just about as easy as it gets! I asked him if he wanted it more on the sweet side or more savory? More savory won the coin toss, and this is where I landed. (I still added just a little bit of sugar, just to balance everything. )
OMG it turned out so good!
 So now, just like pickling anything, the longer you let it stay, the better it tastes. Daniel Boone's birthday is in a few weeks, so it'll be perfect by then!! Boom.
Oh, one other thing... This recipe filled EIGHT pint jars. If you have no need for that much pickled garlic in your life, feel free to cut the recipe down to suit your needs. Great then.

5 lbs peeled whole garlic cloves
4 cups apple cider vinegar
3 cups white vinegar
1 cup sugar
1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1 tbs pickling spice blend
1 tsp celery seed
1 tsp yellow mustard seeds
1 tsp dried dill weed
1/2 tsp cracked black pepper corns
3 bay leaves
Wash and rinse 8 pint size mason jars. Fill each jar with whole raw cloves of garlic.
In a medium pot, place all pickling ingredients. Simmer over medium heat for about 10 minutes, making sure all the sugar is dissolved. Let cool slightly. Pour vinegar mixture over garlic to fill each jar. 
Place two piece lids on each jar. Store in the fridge for several weeks.
To seal the jars: After pouring the warm vinegar over the garlic, use a skewer or chopstick to get out all the air bubbles, adjust the level of brine to one inch head space, then process the jars in a water bath canner for 20 minutes. Remove to a cloth lined tray or countertop until completely cooled, (several hours or overnight.) Best to leave them to marinate for a few weeks before cracking into them!

If you're not familiar with water bath canning, it's easy to learn. Just watch a few youtube videos. You'll be canning like a pro in no time. 
Feel free to adjust the flavors. If you want it sweeter, add up to another cup of sugar. 
if you want more heat, add a hot pepper to each jar, or add some more crushed red pepper flakes. 
Don't like apple cider vinegar? Use any kind you like! Just be sure that it's 5% acidity if you plan to do the water bath canning. 

Oh wait! I forgot to mention one other thing!
It doesn't happen all the time, but it's very possible that your garlic might turn blue when you pickle it. Yup! It's a thing!  Blue garlic. Like, BRIGHT BLUE. But fear not! This is perfectly natural and perfectly edible!
It's caused by an enzyme in the garlic that reacts with any kind of acid. You might have experienced this in your regular cooking when you add lemon juice to your garlic. Crazy, huh? True story.


Monday, March 4, 2024

Slow Cooker Korean Beef


  This year, the Summer Olympics are being held in Paris, France. So, naturally, I decided to host a party to celebrate! Actually, we used to have parties all the time to celebrate the Olympics Opening Ceremonies, but it's been a while. So I decided to bring it back this year. It's always so exciting to see the lighting of the Olympic Cauldron, and of course The Parade of Nations (Tonga's shirtless flag bearer anyone??)
  So, in addition to having several screens for viewing, my party will also feature a smorgasbord of different international foods. Normally, I would choose just a few things for a cohesive menu, but for this party, all bets are off. It'll be a huge variety of International foods for everyone to sample. I've already decided on a few things.. but I'm still looking for other recipes to include. And that brings me to this one!!!
 OMG... I need to say right off the bat that this is one of my favorite dishes that I've made in quite a long time! It's sweet, it's savory, and it has HUGE flavor. I found it on a website called The Recipe Critic, and it's SUPER easy to throw together. I did tweak it ever so slightly, just because I thought the soy sauce and the brown sugar were just slightly too much, and this is a better balance. But other than that, it's perfect!!!! Seriously, I couldn't stop eating it. So, there we go! I think this wins a place on the Olympic Menu! Hmm.... which other countries to feature? Definitely some Italian and German dishes ... and, of course, France! Maybe I'll make some French pastries for dessert.... Hmm.. So many options! 

1-2 lbs London Broil, Flank, or Skirt Steak
2 tbs baking soda
2 tbs toasted sesame oil
1 tsp minced garlic
1/2 cup soy sauce
1 cup beef broth
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes (or to taste)
1/4 cup corn starch
Sesame seeds and sliced scallions for garnish

  Using a very sharp knife, slice the meat against the grain into small bite-sized pieces. Place the slices in a bowl, sprinkle with baking soda. Toss well. Cover and place the bowl in the fridge for about 30 minutes. 
In the meantime, in a slow cooker, stir together the toasted sesame oil, garlic, soy sauce, beef broth, brown sugar, chopped onions, and crushed red pepper flakes.
Remove the beef from the fridge. Rinse the beef very well under cold running water. Use a clean tea towel to pat dry. Now toss the beef strips with cornstarch and add to the slow cooker. Stir until well coated with mixture. Set your slow cooker to low, cook for 5-6 hours.  Serve over rice.
Garnish with sesame seeds and sliced scallions.

-- Be sure to marinate the beef in the baking soda as directed. This technique is called "velvetting" , and it's the key to making melt-in-your-mouth-tender beef.
--After your beef is cooked, if the sauce isn't thickened to your liking, mix a few more tablespoons of cornstarch in some COLD water. Stir it into the sauce, turn your slow cooker to high. It will gradually thicken.


Slow Cooker Leg of Lamb


  Not too long ago, a friend was kind enough to gift me a huge leg of lamb. (Yes, I have pretty awesome friends!) My first thought was "ok.. I've never cooked a leg of lamb before... how am I gonna tackle this?" It sounds a little daunting doesn't it? Seriously, the only lamb dish I've ever made was a stew that I made from cut up pieces of lamb stew meat (which was AMAZING btw) but it wasn't an entire leg roast. 
  But then I thought of the slow cooker. That makes easy work out of a pot roast or a pulled pork, right? How hard can it be? I'm sure it would be the same thing with lamb. So that's exactly what I did! This recipe is the same exact thing as one would do for a beef roast, and it all works perfectly with lamb. Potatoes, carrots, onions, fresh and/or dry herbs, and few seasonings.. that's all there is to it!
  This is the perfect thing for your Easter holiday meal, but it would be equally good for any week night dinner. No muss no fuss! Doesn't seem so daunting now, does it?!
 So the next time a friend gifts you a four-pound leg of lamb, now you know what to do! 
1 4lb leg of lamb 
1 onion, roughly chopped
4 or 5 potatoes, cut into quarters or eighths 
1 lb carrots, peeled and cut into chunks (can also use baby carrots)
a few springs fresh thyme or a tsp dried thyme leaves
1 few sprigs fresh rosemary or a big pinch of dried rosemary leaves
a good pinch each of salt and pepper
2 or 3 bay leaves
5 or 6 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup of chicken broth
a few splashes of Worcestershire sauce
1 cup of red wine, or a few splashes of good balsamic vinegar

Place all ingredients in a large slow cooker.
Cover and cook for 8 or 9 hours on low. 
Remove all items from the slow cooker to a large serving platter.
Discard sprigs of herbs and bay leaves.
Slice the meat. It will be fall-apart tender.
Using a ladle, spoon away some of the fat from the liquid in the pot.
Make a slurry of about 1/2 cup COLD water or chicken broth and a couple tbs flour. Vigorously stir the slurry into the liquid and turn the slow cooker to high. Let it thicken for about a half hour or until desired consistency. Season with salt and pepper. Pour gravy over all and serve.
If you want to, you can brown the lamb on all sides in a hot pan before you add it to the slow cooker. That makes a deeper richer flavor, but it's still delicious even if you don't. I didn't feel like washing a pan this morning, so I just threw everything into the slow cooker, boom, done.
Instead of cooking all day on low, you can cook it on high for 4-5 hours. Personally, I think low and slow is the better way to go. It really takes a while for that meat to break down and fall off the bone.
Use any kind of root vegetables you like. I used carrots and potatoes because I had them on hand, but feel free to use parsnips or turnips, anything you like!
When you make the gravy, be sure to use COLD water or broth to make the slurry. If you use hot water or just throw flour into the hot liquid, the flour will clump and you'll have lumpy gravy. Nope!


Thursday, February 22, 2024

Pulled Pork and Sweet Potato Casserole

  Lately I've been seeing Youtubers and Tiktockers participating in a month-long collaboration known as the "pantry challenge." Have you heard of it? Basically, it means you're being challenged to use what you already have in the pantry, for an entire month, instead of constantly ordering take out, or running back and forth to the store a million times a week. This way, you won't spend as much money, and hopefully you won't waste as much. Frankly, I think it sounds like a GREAT idea. (A much better one than "Dry January" if you ask me, but I digress).  It also gives you a chance to clean out the fridge, rearrange or reorganize your pantry shelves, and rediscover what canned or packaged goods are hiding on the shelf in the back where no one can reach. 
 So I took idea and ran with it, just to see what kind of new something I could come up with, just from leftovers and pantry items. And this recipe is where I landed! It's basically a spin on a Cottage or Shepherds' Pie, only instead of beef or lamb, I added shredded pork, and I used sweet potatoes instead of white ones. It turned out great!! It's hearty, comforting, feeds a crowd, and hits the spot on a chilly February night! And I used up a bunch of items that were leftover. It was the perfect round two!
 So, whadya think? Are you up for the Pantry Challenge? Go for it! I'll bet you'll be glad you did! Also, try this recipe. I know you'll love it! (I think I ate half of it on the very first night! lol) 
Great then! Good times.
1 stick butter
1 medium onion, roughly chopped
2 tart apples, peeled, cored, and sliced
A small bag frozen peas and carrots, or as much as you like
1-2 lbs shredded pork 
1 tbs roasted chicken flavor Better Than Bouillon (optional)
A slurry made from 1 small can cold chicken broth plus 3 tbs flour
1 tsp dried thyme leaves or poultry seasoning
a shakes of Worcestershire sauce
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp kosher salt 
1/2 tsp cracked black pepper
3 or 4 medium sized sweet potatoes, boiled, peeled, and mashed
 1/2 cup EACH of Panko bread crumbs and grated Parmesan cheese
In a large skillet or saucepan, melt butter. Add onions and apples. Saute until softened. Add frozen vegetables and pulled pork. Give everything a good stir and bring the pan back up to heat. Now add your bouillon and slurry of chicken broth and flour, dried thyme leaves, and salt and pepper. Stir well until it begins to thicken. Pour skillet into large casserole dish. Top with large spoonfuls of mashed sweet potatoes. Use a spatula to spread the potatoes across the entire casserole. Sprinkle with Panko bread crumbs and Parmesan cheese on top. Bake in a preheated 350ºF oven until everything is well heated through and bubbly. 

Be sure to season everything well enough. The potatoes, apples, peas, and carrots are all very sweet, so you need enough of the savory ingredients to balance everything out. For a little extra savory note, you can add shredded sharp Cheddar cheese to the mashed potatoes before spreading them on top. 
Don't like peas and carrots? Use green beans. Not a fan of green veggies? Try some adding some corn. Don't have any sweet potatoes? Use white potatoes. Better yet, use your leftover mashed potatoes or even white rice. The point is to use up what you have leftover!


Monday, January 15, 2024

Coca Cola Braised Chicken


Ok, I have a question for you. 
Do you know what it is to BRAISE? 
Braising is a cooking technique where you fry something then cover it and slowly stew it in just a little bit of liquid. It makes for the MOST tender fall-off-the-bone meats you've ever tasted and I'm a huge fan, especially when it comes to chicken or ribs or tough cuts of beef. I love cooking things this way so much that I even have a wide shallow cast iron pot and it's called a braiser!
 And that brings me to this recipe! I happened to be watching videos from my favorite Youtubers, and I found this one from Miss Lori over at Whippoorwill Holler. It looked so good, I immediately went to the store to get some chicken thighs (which are my favorite) and made it that very night. It's absolutely DELICIOUS and it smells SO good while it's cooking. It turned out great! The chicken was so tender and OMG can we talk about the sauce???? I poured it over some mashed potatoes but it would be equally good over rice. It has such a great flavor!
 Now, I know you must be thinking that it's gotta be pretty sweet with all that coco cola and brown sugar, right? Trust me when I tell you... it's not overly sweet. It's just the perfect balance of sweet and savory. Looking at the ingredients, I originally thought it would be like a sweet and sticky BBQ sauce, but it's more savory than that. The paprika gives it an almost chili like flavor. It made me picture a cowboy cooking it over an open fire. So I ran with that idea and served it up with some potatoes and baked beans! 
Absolutely delicious. I will surely be making this one again!
So, Thanx to Miss Lori for another great recipe. This just might be my new favorite!

1 whole chicken, cut up into individual parts
2 tbs oil
2 cans Coke or Dr.Pepper
1/2 cup ketchup
2 to 3 tbs brown sugar
3 tbs Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp oregano
1 tbs smoked paprika
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium onion, chopped

In a wide heavy pan, heat your oil. Place your chicken pieces, skin side down, and brown on all sides. 
Remove chicken pieces to a side plate. Add remaining ingredients, making sure to scrape up any browned bits in the pan. Place chicken pieces back in the pan including any accumulated juices. Cover. Place in a 300ºF oven for a good hour or until chicken is tender and falling off the bone. Remove lid, place the pan back on the stove top, and cook over low for an extra 15-20 minutes or until the sauce reduces. 

Note: You can also do this in a slow cooker. Literally follow everything as directed, and then throw everything in the slow cooker and cook on high for about 6 hours. 
Another cooking option is just to add the chicken back to the pan as directed, cover it and let it simmer on the stove top over low heat for about an hour. Be sure to turn the chicken pieces over about every 15 minutes. 

Be sure to use regular Coke and not any variation of Diet Coke. It's the sugar that you want and it makes for a deeper more caramelized flavor. 
Miss Lori used a whole chicken, cut up into pieces, but I just used thighs. Why? Because I like them best!
This recipe is conducive to tweaking and making your own. Would you like it to be more savory? Add cumin and/or chili powder. Would you like some heat? Add minced jalapenos or crushed red pepper flakes or a few shakes of Tabasco or Sriracha. Would you like it to be more sweet and sticky? Add some more brown sugar or maple syrup or molasses. 
You do you!