Sunday, December 30, 2012

Sunday Meatloaf w/ Tangy Pepper Jelly Glaze

This recipe is full of complimentary flavors and colors, while also being high in vitamins, minerals, and iron.   This is also great for people who don't feel the need to have gravy with their meatloaves at least not all the time anyway.  Meatloaf has been an affordable mainstay to the American family surfacing here in and around the Great Depression, as a great way to stretch your proteins, especially with a larger family. Various grains and cereals such as oats and rice were used in doing so, which were more prevalent.  Meatloaf has  European origins, traditionally in Germany and Belgium, with references made to it as early as the 5th century, in Roman books of cookery.
There is no right or wrong way Per Se to prepare a meatloaf and it can be made as casual or as upscale as you want.  Many meat loaf recipes call for a tri-fecta of meats like beef, veal, and pork, but lamb, venison and organ meats are also included in some cultures.   Because of availability, I generally opt for beef and pork or beef and ground turkey.  Careful though when choosing ground turkey and chicken, as some suppliers grind the skin as well, making a protein as fatty as if not more so than traditional 75/25 ground beef.  The cooking process will undoubtedly render the loaf of much of it's excess fat, but sometimes it's better and neater to be safe than sorry.
Today's recipe is one of many varieties of the meatloaves I make sans brown, tomato or onion gravy!  This is also a meatloaf that I prepare without eggs.  Breadcrumbs serve as the binding agent, so I can shave off about 200 calories and 10  grams of fat, without missing out or skimming on taste. Green and red peppers, spinach, onions and  garlic make up the powerhouse of antioxidant and vitamin rich produce, that serves as flavor builders and part of your "5 a day's" and served alongside your favorite starch and steamed, blanched or baked veggies, makes for a meal good enough for a special Sunday dinner.  This recipe is also good to help utilize the red pepper jelly called for in some of my other blog entries, and cut down on condiment waste.
2 lbs. ground beef, preferably round or chuck
1 lb. ground pork
1 tomato and chicken soft cube
1 beef soft cube
1 c. chopped onion
4 cloves garlic, pressed or finely minced
1/4 tsp. celery seed
1/4 c. mini or regular red peppers, chopped
1/4 c. green pepper, chopped
2 c. chopped fresh spinach
2 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
1/4. c. good quality ketchup
2 tbsp. medium chunky salsa
1/4 c. Parmigiano Reggiano
1 c. fresh bread crumbs
2 tbsp. good quality ketchup
1 tbsp. hot pepper jelly
1/2 tsp. Tamari
Preheat oven to 375*F.
In a large bowl, add beef and pork. Grate in bouillon, stir and let stand for about 10 minutes for flavors to
Microwave or saute until softened onions, garlic, celery seed and peppers drizzled with olive oil and a scant amount of SPST.  Set aside to cool slightly before mixing with other ingredients.
Add remaining wet and dry ingredients to beef mixture and combine well without overworking the meat.  SPST.
Shape into elongated oval  and put in suitable sized loaf pan or baking dish.  Bake until juices run clear and the internal temperature is 170 degrees, about 40 minutes, carefully pouring off excess fat and discarding.
Combine glaze ingredients and paint onto loaf in two batches during last 5-10 minutes of cooking.
You may microwave the hot pepper jelly briefly to aide in blending process.
Let stand for 10 minutes before slicing.
Serves 8-10.

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Saturday, December 29, 2012

Green Bean Casserole, Revisited

Looking for a fast and wonderful side dish popular around the board and fancied up on taste, then this recipe fits the bill.  Instead of traditional green bean casserole, which has almost lost some of it's seemingly traditional and festive nostalgia, at least in my opinion and is usually either highly revered or religiously abhorred,  try some variations you may enjoy!
  The popularity of this dish is one of circumstance.  In  1955, Campbell Soup Co. wanted to create a dish that was affordable and of on hand pantry ingredients, which included mushroom soup and canned green beans.  After that, this dish has been a go-to especially during Thanksgiving and major holidays like Christmas.
 For myself, using the can variety of cream of mushroom, adds an exorbitant  level of sodium that can be avoided  simply by making the cream of mushroom from scratch, following the basic premise of a bechamel after the mushrooms have been lightly sauteed  and simmered in butter.  Flour and milk soon follow and the thickened sauce is one to rival that of any Michelin starred restaurant or bistro.  Fresh green beans are fabulous, making sure you remove the stringy and fibrous parts before blanching.  These two simple steps will bring your green casserole back to the forefront and high in flavor, not sodium!!  If time is of the essesence, try my version of a green bean saute, mimicking the flavor components and just a tad flashier than the oven baked version!
Green Bean and Mushroom Saute w/ Red Miso and Garlic
1 lb. fresh green beans, stringy fibers removed and trimmed
4 oz. sliced button mushrooms
1 clove garlic, pressed or fnely minced
2 tbsp. butter
1 tsp. Red Miso
Splash Sherry
Splash seasoned rice vinegar
French fried onions for garnish
olive oil for drizzling
In a large saute pan over medium high heat, drizzle with olive oil  and melt butter.
When tiny bubbles form, add mushrooms and saute for about 2 minutes or until fragrant.  Add garlic and green beans and toss.  Saute about 4 more minutes until green beans are tender crisp and stir in Miso.
Add sherry and vinegar to de-glaze pan and toss to coat.
Garnish with french fried onions.
Serves 6 to 8.

The picture shown is of my original recipe Green Bean Saute w/ Red Miso and Garlic featured with another recipe called "Everything Gravy", posted in September.  The revamped recipe is the same with the addition of sauteed mushrooms and french fried onions, creating the green bean casserole effect.

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Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Hoisin Baked Country Style Ribs

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There are more ways to prepare ribs than just smoked or with a traditional bbq sauce.  I like to mix and match sauces from different cuisines that complement Southern American  dishes and flavors.  The sauce in particular that I chose for this recipe is hoisin sauce.
Hoisin is sometimes referred to as Chinese BBQ sauce and is made from a soybean paste, starch of some type and some spices that vary by recipe. The name is translated to literally mean "Seafood Sauce". It is  generally thick and somewhat creamy sauce, thinned with water or oil if desired, that may be used for marinades, bastes, and  dipping sauce, especially for Pho, a Vietnamese noodle bowl with slivers of tender beef .  This recipe is virtually maintenance free, other than some last minute basting , and goes well with rice or your favorite starchy grain.
The following picture is borrowed because I had a long evening this particular day and neglected to log a photo.  The color is accurate and the portion size of the country style ribs is accurate in comparison to my actual recipe. The link will take you to the recipe on another site, which is amazing.
4 lbs. country style bone in ribs
2 stalks celery, cut into thirds
1 large onion, sliced
2 bay leaves
4 cloves garlic, pressed or finely minced
1/2 c. hoisin sauce, mixed with about 1/4 c. broth or water
pinch of red pepper flakes
Preheat oven to 300*F.
Spread veggies in bottom of cooking vessel and lay ribs atop.  SPST
Spoon about 1 tbsp. atop each rib and cover tightly with foil.
Bake until tender, about 2 hours.
Pour off excess fat and coat ribs with remaining sauce.
Bake an additional 20 minutes with foil tented loosely until ribs are glazed over.
Serves 6 to 8.

Fiesta Stuffed Mushrooms w/ Chardonnay Dipping Sauce

This recipe is a quick and easy way to add a little spark to any menu or gathering.  It's just in time for the holidays and the wonderful dipping sauce can be made with the wine you plan to serve for the occasion.  The ingredients can be grouped as decidedly Latin inspired with the incorporation of the bollio roll, in conjunction with the peppers and jack cheese.  These puppies keep well at room temperature and re-heat well also.  For a vegetarian fare, simply omit the sausage and add a pinch of sage, maybe even a pinch of cumin, for a well rounded Latin effect.  Boca crumbles may be added instead if you prefer for texture variance.  This recipe makes 14-16 stuffed mushrooms or 6 to 7, 2 'shroom appetizer servings.
1 lb. baby bella mushrooms, wiped clean, stems removed
1/3 lb. good quality sage sausage
1 small shallot, small dice
2 tbsp. mini peppers, various colors
pinch celery seeds
1/2 bollio roll, crumbled roughly
2 tbsp. butter
4 oz. Monterey Jack cheese, plus more for broiling
Preheat Broiler.
Brown sausage over medium high heat.  Add shallot, peppers, celery seed and bollio.  Cook for about 2 minutes and stir in cheese and remove from heat.
Divide stuffing equally among mushrooms, depending of course on size of the mushroom.
Sprinkle a scant amount of cheese atop each mushroom and broil on bottom rack until cheese melts and mushroom is heated through, about 5 minutes.
Chardonnay Dipping Sauce:
2 tbsp. red pepper jelly
2 tbsp. tamari
2 tbsp. Chardonnay
In small saucepan, bring up to a boil, stirring constantly and continuing a rolling simmer until alcohol is cooked off, about 4 minutes and reduced by about 1 tbsp.
Remove from heat.
Makes about 1/4 cup.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Frenched Teriyaki Chicken Drummettes

I saw the technique for these drummettes in a cookbook from the early 90's called "What's Cooking". It is a wonderful and informative book, with lots of exercises and terms of proper French cooking, as well as tons of ideas and to spark your interest and creativity. The sauce of course is at your discretion. I happen to be partial to the Teriyaki wings at Buffalo Wild Wings, so when thinking of a great snack wing, they instinctively popped into my mind. "B Dubs" as my friends and I called it substantiated much of our free time, during and after college, when we were not working, and was the hub of our social lives while attending Bridgewater College and living in Harrisonburg, also the home of James Madison University and Eastern Mennonite. I can only imagine how many gallons of big Bud Lights and pounds of wings of various sauces and degrees of heat. Lest I fail to mention, it had the longest and most stocked bar in town. Alas, I digress. I have only been to Buffalo Wild Wings maybe twice in the past 10 years. Thanks for the memories. Anywho, back to the recipe, feel free to toss in the sauce of choice, since the overall effect will be gained from the unique and fabulous way in which the drummettes will be fashioned. This style reminds me of the Frenched bone of a lamb chop or bone-in rib roast of beef or pork. The technique is worthy of a place even at a formal social or dinner party, as the guests' fingers will be virtually free from the sometimes problematic sauce if one is wearing their best digs. There is less waste when consuming this drummette also and one won't have to feel as though they've reverted to the days of a caveman or primate!! The fun of the wing will remain, but you probably won't go back to eating wings at home the same, this way is just too darn cute and fun and your friends will think you've taken a cooking class!!
 2 lbs. chicken drummettes
salted water
seasoned flour
oil for fryng
Teriyaki or your favorite sauce for wings
 With a sharp knife, par the skin and meat away from the bone starting at the smallest end of the drummette, scraping the bone clean,coaxing it down to the meatiest side, pulling the meat and skin over the rounded end to form a sort of meaty base. It should look like an inverted, miniature version of a candy apple of sorts. 
 Soak in salted water for 30 minutes to 1 hour, or until ready to prepare. Preheat cooking oil to 375*F. Drain and rinse chicken thoroughly in colander or strainer. 
Toss chicken pieces in seasoned flour, shaking off excess and frying in batches until crispy and golden, about 3-5 minutes, drain on paper towels.
 Once all chicken has been cooked, in a large bowl, toss in Teriyaki until desired wetness is achieved. Plate and serve. 
 Makes about 30 drummettes, portion size for appetizers being 3 per person.
NOTE:  These wings do not have to be dredged in flour before frying and they will be just as enjoyable.  I prepared them both ways and never missed out on overall appearance or flavor!!!
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Saturday, December 15, 2012

Swamp Punch!!

This quick and fun drink recipe is from the archives of our Halloween escapades!  The kids, my sister Hollie and I went trick or treating, then returned home for a small Halloween dinner party.  The kids had a blast visiting the ornate and elaborate decorations and scenes set up on Broad Street and the  homes on both sides, near the high school in Altavista.
 I came up with a hauntingly fun and entertaining menu, souped up with macabre names for finger foods and appetizers for overall effect and spooky genius of Halloween.  They had everything from Werewolves Loins (fried chicken drumsticks) to Critter Cakes (chocolate cupcakes with multi-toned toasted coconut) to witches' skin (sour cream and onion chips), graveyard bones (pretzel stix), ghoulish pizza bites (mini pizza cups with green dough) and Swamp Punch, which recipe follows.  I will be posting the rest of the menu shortly, but for now I hope this one makes you smile, like the kids and I did.  This punch is sure to liven up any occasion, or at least make for an interesting conversation starter!
1 3 liter lemon lime soda, chilled
1 quart lime sorbet
1 pkg. plastic eye balls
Large serving bowl
Place half the contents of the sorbet into serving bowl.
Pour soda atop.  you may need to break down the sorbet faster by using a potato masher!
 We had a great time as a rag doll, Bronwyn, a rock and roll princess, me, a witch, Genesis, and an action figure, Braelyn!

Serves plenty!

Chocolate Eclair-Gone Bananas, Sweets to the Sweet!

The following recipe is inspired by a recipe of my sister Brenda.  She has been making a Chocolate Eclair recipe our family loves for years and years.  Brenda's recipe involves whole graham cracker squares, vanilla pudding, whipped cream and chocolate, organized in a layered fashion with the cream in the middle and spiked with a touch of cinnamon.  The preparation is minimal, and the results are deliciously wonderful.  Her recipe crossed my mind one day, and I started out constructing  it myself, with some prompting from my niece Laura.  The components are similar to that of a banana pudding to a degree, and I happened to have 3 bananas that were still firm, but the peels had turned brown from refrigeration.  I thought it would be nice to incorporate them into her recipe, for an original take of my own.  I hope you enjoy this super simple, simply delicious rendition of a Chocolate Eclair-Gone Bananas!
2 pkg. cinnamon graham crackers, pulverized or smashed into crumbs, leaving a slight variation in texture
2 boxes french vanilla instant pudding, prepared using 3 cups of milk, instead of 4.
1 8 oz. container whipped topping
3 medium bananas, sliced
1 regular sized container chocolate frosting
In an 8x11x2 baking dish, spread 1 c. of graham crumbs.
In a medium bowl, fold pudding and whipped topping together, just until blended.
Fold in bananas.
Add Cream mixture to baking dish atop crumbs.  Add remaining crumbs to top of cream, spreading carefully as not disrupt layering effect.
Heat frosting in water bath in container, just until it becomes pour-able  about 3 minutes, and pour evenly atop the crumbs, spreading as evenly as possible.  Use a rubber spatula or a fork to add texture and design to the frosting as it comes back to room temperature.  Let stand for several minutes.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for several hours or overnight until serving.

Use a moistened knife to create serving lines, and a deep spoon to plate.
Makes 12 or more servings.

Sweet and Sour Marinated Flat Iron Steak

I am a huge steak and beef  fan. To me, there's nothing quite like a fabulous, well seasoned, medium rare cut of tender beef, alongside a baked potato with all the fixins' and fresh steamed veggies with a green salad in tow.  Today's featured recipe is a marinated flat iron steak.   Flat iron steak is a term used by Americans.
This same cut is referred  to as a "butler"  or "oyster blade" steak in countries like the UK and New Zealand.  Other names for this cut include petite steak, top shoulder blade, top boneless chuck, lifter as well as book steak and chuck clod.  The flat iron is a more affordable way for people to enjoy a steak, but is somewhat tougher, because it is cut with the grain, as opposed to across.  This steak comes from the shoulder with normally fantastic marbling that generally weighs between 2 to 3 pounds, and is cut several times to make smaller marketable portions.  This is a piece of beef that responds well to marination, and care to cooking it only to medium rare for maximum tenderness and flavor. The marinade for this recipe consists of a sweet/salty/spicy which I favor highly, and is inspired by those flavors and spices familiar in Asian cuisine, as you can probably see from some of my recipes prior.  Feel free to use this marinade on your personal favorite proteins, including but not limited to tofu and Portobello mushrooms.  I served these sumptuous medium rare steaks with Stir-fry veggies and Couscous steamed together and tossed with a Thai Green Curry Spice blend.  Stay tuned for more recipes that utilize this spice to make the best of it's freshness and shelf life.  Also, look for recipes that I've created that involve the use of uncommon ingredients called for in some of my recipes to explore it's diversity and save on waste, i.e red pepper jelly, pickled ginger slices etc... in publications to come.
1 1/2 lb. flat iron steak
2 tbsp. tamari
2 tbsp. brown sugar
1 tbsp. less sodium soy sauce
1 tbsp. garlic flavored red wine vinegar
1 tbsp. pickled ginger slices
pinch of red pepper flakes
SPST (Salt and Pepper to Suit your Taste)
Black and plain sesame seeds for garnish
Combine all ingredients in resealable bag and shake until blended.
Pierce rinsed steak with a knife or fork and place slices of ginger atop.  Place in resealable bag and turn to coat.
Press out excess air and seal.  Marinate refrigerated for up to 24 hours and at least 4.  Take out of refrigerator 1 hour before cooking
Preheat grill or grill-pan to medium high heat.  Remove meat from marinade and pat dry.  SPST
Cook until desired done-ness, flipping once, with medium reached at 145*F.

Let rest and slice on a bias.  Serves 6 to 8.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Kamikaze Shrimp w/ Thai Clam n' Coconut Jasmine Rice

My family enjoys the recipes that I create and often stop by to bring ingredients for me to experiment with or to see the direction in which I can take them.  Most recently, my niece Laura, named so by my oldest sister Cherie, after our mother, requested that  I come up with some "deliciousness" for her to nosh on while stopping in on one of her multitudes of weekly visits.  She gave me the money and requested that I just 'get some stuff to make something good", so I opted for a 3 lb. bag of shrimp, that was on sale for less than twenty dollars.  These fresh frozen shrimp were absolutely gorgeous and of the 21-25 count variety.  I set out to prepare 3 recipes using 1 lb. of shrimp each, and have them all taste  and exhibit different flavor and texture profiles and equally satisfying.  The first recipe of course was a simple butterflied shrimp, fried and served along side other appetizers of different and colorful flavor notes.  The second recipe was comprised of a garlic, olive oil and butter sauce and pasta, tossed with fresh spinach and lemon, showered with Pecorino Romano and served with an awesome SP Mozzarella Cheesey Bread   The third recipe and the one I am most proud of consists of  Asian style marinated shrimp, rolled in Panko, fried and served along side a sultry and flavor packed dish of Thai flavor infused jasmine rice and a wonderful sauce made with hot pepper jelly and Tamari, spiked with a little sesame oil.  My family of testers thought very highly of this recipe, as did I and I felt it worthy of sharing!  The portions are designed to please without overwhelming, and you can mix and match the different counterparts of this recipe with other dishes that you may already prepare.  Enjoy!
For Shrimp:
2 tbsp. Red Miso paste
1/2. pineapple juice
2 tbsp. Tamari
1/4 tsp. Sambal Oelek
2 tbsp. bread and butter pickle juice
1 lb. 21-25 count thawed  raw shrimp
Whisk all ingredients in a bowl until smooth and fold in shrimp. Place in resealable bag.  Marinate for 30 minutes to 4 hours.  Refrigerate until ready to use.
For Frying:
seasoned flour
egg wash
oil for frying
Heat cooking oil to 375*  F.
Peel and butterfly shrimp and dredge in flour, shaking off excess.  Dip in egg wash and roll in Panko.  Fry until golden n small batches, about 3 minutes.  Drain on paper towels.  Serves about 7, 3 shrimp each.
For Rice:
1 c. jasmine rice, rinsed under cold running water in strainer several times
1 c. Thai coconut milk
1 6.5 oz. can chopped clams, juices reserved
1/2. c. clam juice
1 pkg. powdered chicken bouillon
1 tsp. granulated sugar
1/2. tsp. onion powder
1/4 tsp. Sambal Oelek
1 tsp. sesame oil
Parsley for garnish (optional)
Bring milk and clam juice up to a boil medium high heat and add rice over .  Bring back up to a boil and stir in remaining ingredients except clams and sesame oil, then reduce heat to simmer and stir in clams.  Cover tightly and cook until rice is tender, about 20 minutes.  Drizzle w/sesame oil and toss with a fork before serving.  Makes about 6 1/3 c. servings.
Kamikaze Drizzlin' and Dippin' Sauce:
1/4 c. hot pepper jelly
2 tbsp. Tamari
dash of sesame oil
Combine until smooth, heating slightly if desired to encourage blending.  Makes 6, 1 tbsp.servings.
Serve as desired, a la carte or plated as shown.

A Delicious Quiche on the Cheek!

I have always adored quiche and the simple elegance of it's ingredients and design.  My nephew and fellow foodie Rob Holland often made the quiches served at the Peaks of Otter Retreat and Restaurant, a beautiful lodge nestled in the Bedford area of the Blue Ridge Mountains, which sadly closed it's doors just last week.  One day while reminiscing about the decadence of his quiches, I decided to create one of my own, using some apples that my sister Terry and I picked fresh from the trees and along the ground one day whilst dropping by to see Robbie at work.    I wanted a unique quiche but with traditional and easily accessed and  less expensive ingredients, and I came up with this crowd pleaser.  The recipe makes 2 9 inch deep dish quiches that will freeze well, if you only need one.  It is amazingly simple to prepare and will have your family thinking you spent hours preparing this savory dish perfect for a casual breakfast,  brunch or lite dinner. Just pair this with some fruit or a green salad for a complete and satisfying meal, strutting your inner gourmet stuff!  Vegetarians or less meat enthusiasts can simply add sauteed mushrooms in place of the sage sausage for a wholesome, filling and hearty cacophony of wonderful flavors.  The taste is as exciting and warm like your first kiss from the beginning, to the end.
Sausage, Apple and Spinach Quiche
2 deep dish pie crusts
1/2 lb. good quality sage sausage
1 c. chopped onion
4 tbsp.salted butter
2 c. fresh tender spinach
1 c. firm apples, small dice
1 can evaporated milk, plus 4 oz. water to make 2 c.
4 large eggs
1/2 tsp. Sriracha
1 1/2 c. shredded mozzarella cheese
1 c. shredded cheddar cheese
1/4. c. Parmigiano Reggiano
Preheat oven to 425*F.
In a cast iron skillet over medium high heat, cook sausage and onions until sausage is no longer pink. Drain.
Add butter and stir until melted
Fold in spinach until wilted and turn off heat.  SPST
Fold in apples and set aside.
Meanwhile, slightly beat eggs, milk and Sriracha until blended.  SPST
Divide sausage mixture b/t crusts and sprinkle with Parmigiano Reggiano, then mozzarella, then cheddar.
Pour egg mixture equally over cheeses.
Bake at 425* for 15 minutes.  Cover loosely with foil.
Reduce heat to 300* and bake an additional 35-40 minutes or until a knife inserted into center comes out clean.
Let stand 10 minutes before slicing.  Each quiche makes 6 servings.

This recipe freezes well when wrapped tightly with plastic wrap and will keep for 3 months.
Variations may be made to this recipe to reduce fat and calories like using extra lean turkey, fat free evaporated milk and/or reduced fat cheeses.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Gourmet Chicken Salad for the Soul!

Starting last fall, my family and I started using our smokehouse again.  This cinder-block and cement structure was originally built about 45 years ago by my father, now an angel and ethereal guardian, Douglas Smith.  Decades ago, our family would raise, slaughter, smoke,can, and freeze much of our family's diet, which  made perfect sense, considering our brood's size.  Our family numbers also included some of my parents siblings' children as well.
My siblings and I have been blessed with parents any person would be honored to have, and even though we have never been what one would call wealthy or rich by monetary standards, our parents managed to provide, nurture and bring whole-hearted help, comfort,  spiritual guidance, divine love and encouragement for many, and are respected pillars in our small, lake locked community to this day!   Our diet included a large garden, where corn, green beans, potatoes, tomatoes, cabbage and a host of other veggies grew.
 I remember as a young girl the 'canning days', which consisted of early rising and gathering of the crops to be preserved respectively, digging, picking, shucking, snapping, par-boiling, canning and freezing which usually ran into the late evening hours of that particular Saturday, as that was one of the only two days our working parents were permitted to conduct the chores at home.  We generally kept two hogs at a time and would slaughter either just before Thanksgiving or Christmas.  The hogs were fattened throughout the year with store bought feed, as well as corn and apples from our own garden and apple trees.
 One of  my most favorite and memorable recollections is of the hogs and the way they consumed fresh apples.   The sound of the crunching apples bespoke  juiciness and obvious satisfaction.  After tending to and feeding them all year, not to mention giving the hogs names, this time of year, though necessary, became a tearful farewell.  I knew "Suzy" would be no more, the romping, carefree, apple snacking behemoth I had  help her become.  Alas, I digress!

It was important that the temperature be cool enough to facilitate the smoking and curing process of the hams, shoulders and side meat.  The day of slaughter started as did the garden harvesting, EARLY!, but also with a blooming fire underneath the scalding tub.  The animal, once killed, is submerged in the water to aid in the sloughing off of it's hair and initial sterilization.  The carcass would  then be hung, gutted and bled.  After the carcass is broken down, the process of smoking and preparation of the home-made and manually ground sausage would ensue.  This has always been one of the best sausages  I have ever tasted.  The small brown bags of country sausage seasonings would be purchased from the local hardware and farm supplies store, Rountrey's.  The rewards of this toiling day would  consist of fresh, hot 'hoe cakes',  harnessing the end product of  sausage blended just right, with a perfect fat/lean ratio.   A portion of the batches would be hot, the others mild, with a sumptuous fried egg in tow, absolute bliss!  We savoured the harmonious balance of the sausage and it's complementary seasonings; sage heavy, paprika, red and black pepper.  We were tasting the hard work, long grueling  hours and sacrifice; Also, we  secured sustenance for the long hard winter yet to come.
Wintertime country breakfasts could often manifest themselves in the form of fried apples (fresh frozen from summer), steamed or fried potatoes, from the cool, dark storage bin in our "Corner House", homemade biscuits, hot from the oven, fresh, aromatic coffee and hearty cakes of organic and wholesome sausage, locally owned, grown and operated!!
I love the beautiful country-ness of my existence, growing up in rural Leesville, 10 miles from the nearest town, lots of trees and a winding river to cross, a nightmarish and slippery upgrade in the then treacherous winter weather ... These recollections echo throughout my mind and time, forever embossed and illuminated as some of the best times of my life, which had not occurred to me until I was blessed enough to live to adulthood. Thanks Dad and Mom!
Are you smiling as I am as I write this?  Good, now back to the recipe.
Today's recipe is a delicious creation containing chicken, smoked to mahogany, hickory infused perfection in our adorable little smokehouse, retrofitted with a grilling/smoking grate, cooled, shredded and tossed with a gaggle of sultry veggies, fresh herb and spices.  This chicken salad is one I would consider "gourmet", in appearance and in the deviation of ingredients normally found in a sometimes one dimensional, store purchased variety.  Housed in a wonderful whole wheat pita, and bedazzled with fresh kale, this recipe screams EAT ME! and HAVE SECONDS!
 I hope you enjoyed this walk down an aromatic and sensory response filled  memory lane and may your mind be catapulted back, in the future, to this stroll you just took with me, holding hands, swinging back and forth, meandering down a crisp late fall lane, laden with leaves of oranges, reds, yellows and browns, smiling, happy!
2 cups smoked, cooked shredded chicken
1 lime
1/ 4 tsp. cumin
1/8 tsp. celery seeds
2 tbsp. small dice mini yellow peppers
2 tbsp. thinly sliced red onion, halved, then quartered
1 tbsp. sun-dried tomatoes with herbs, small diced
2 tbsp. mayonnaise or avocado
1 tbsp. julienne of fresh mint
small pinch red pepper flakes
2 whole wheat pitas, halved
1 1/3 c. fresh chopped kale
In a medium bowl, add chicken,  juice of lime, cumin and celery seed and toss to evenly coated.
Add  ingredients down to the pepper flakes, and fold together until well and evenly incorporated.  SPST.
Line pita pockets with equal amounts of kale.  Use a fork to stuff chicken filling into place.  Serves 4.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Fiesta Spiced and Spiked Pork Chops

Pork is a delicious and wonderful addition to any occasion or menu.  White meat pork is just as low in saturated fats and cholesterol as white meat chicken.  Pork makes a great canvas for just about any marinade and cooking medium, depending of course on the cut and location on the animal.  Some cuts, as with other animals, are more suited for searing, sauteing, frying, baking etc or gentle methods of cooking  like cutlets, thin chops and tenderloins.  Other cuts like roasts, ribs, country style and spare variety, shoulders, ears, feet and organ meats like chitterlings require more aggressive cooking methods or a combination of the two.  Searing and braising or searing and baking is popular, especially for this featured recipe and cut, 1 inch thick bone-in chops.  Offal, also known as "sweetbreads", or the thymus gland of the pig and the liver  are the exception, which needs gentle preparation, to retain it's shape and preserve it's delicate flavor.
Pork is a staple in many ethnic groups all around the world.  We love our pig products here in the U.S., but it's also popular in Latin American locales  Mexico as well areas of Asian ethnicity like  Thailand and Vietnam, bottom line, everywhere!  Markets in my area do not offer chops this beautiful often, so I took advantage of the opportunity and came up with a recipe to do them justice! I hope you get the chance to try it and love it as my family and I did.  Enjoy.
2 1 inch thick pork chops, bone-in
1 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. chili powder
1/2 tsp. Himalayan Pink Salt
1/4 tsp. Sazon seasoning
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
4 brandy soaked pineapple rings (marinate in 1 oz. brandy for 30 minutes to 1 hour in resealable bag) Drink or discard pineapple marinade:)
fresh cracked pepper
olive oil for drizzling
Sprinkle chops with seasonings and drizzle with olive oil.
Rub chops vigorously to work spices into meat, both sides.
Place in resealable bag and position a pineapple ring on top and bottom of each chop.  Squeeze out excess air and seal.  Marinate in refrigerator for 3 to 24 hours,  the longer the BETTER!
Let stand at room temperature before before searing and baking or grilling.
Remove pineapple slices.  Drizzle with olive and grill over medium high heat or Foreman type grill until juices run clear and pork is opaque, about 155 degrees for medium well. SPST.   Let rest for several minutes before serving.
Pineapple may be grilled separately and served with pork if desired
Serves 2 for special dinner occasion or serves 4 sliced and pre-plated.
Recipe shown with Asian inspired Couscous.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Hum-Burger Deluxe!

I came up with this recipe on a typical day, when I wanted to WoW!  the family and introduce an unfamiliar food item to the ones leery of diversity.  I chose a neutral medium like hamburgers to showcase the special ingredient for this particular day. Hamburgers are virtually fail safe and depending upon your cooking method, the fat can be all but eradicated, especially when using a Foreman type grill or grill pan.  A new recipe is just around the corner by changing out the bun, condiments, cheeses and veggies in no time.  Cheeseburgers are one of my favorites, no matter what time of year.  For those extremely conscious of their red meat intake, substitutions of lean ground turkey and chicken can be made.  .  Be careful to read the nutritional information on some of these blends, because they may harbor more fat than ground red meat, that's if the skin is ground along with the lean.  Typically for a good beefy tasting burger that's moist and flavorful, one would opt for ground chuck or ground round.  Regular ground beef is fine too, just make sure you aim for the 75-80/25-20 percent fat ratio for a more satisfying, economical purchase.  This burger is quite delicious with the implement of spinach instead of lettuce.  lettuce is about 95% water, while fresh tender spinach is loaded with essential B vitamins, calcium, fiber and Vitamins C and A, zinc, niacin and surprisingly enough, protein!
The special ingredient for these burgers is Spinach and Artichoke hummus, a delicious and nutritious creamy spread loaded with with protein, fiber and vitamins, revered in the Mediterranean, and now here in the U.S.
2 lbs. ground chuck
1 tbsp. onion powder, plus more for sprinkling
1 tsp. Himalayan Pink Salt
6 Ciabatta buns
12 slices tomato
1 1/2 c. fresh julienne of spinach
1/2 c. mayonnaise, optional
6 slices American cheese
3/4 c.  prepared Spinach and Artichoke Hummus
olive oil for drizzling
Preheat grill pan.  Mix onion powder and Himalayan salt gingerly into ground chuck, careful not to overwork.
While grill pan heats, turn on broiler and place buns on a large cookie sheet.  Sprinkle with onion powder and drizzle with olive oil.  Toast til lightly golden, about 3 minutes.
Place burgers on grill and SPST.  Cook burgers until juices run clear and no pink remains, unless you care for medium to medium well.
*As a general rule of thumb, only eat ground meats medium well or less from a trusted butcher or market, where the product and quality is optimal.  Cook for about 5 minutes on Foreman type grill or 4 minutes per side on a flat grill pan.
Spread equal portions of mayo on bottom bun.  Add 1/4 c. Spinach and two slices of tomato.  Add
burger and slice of cheese.  Spread 2 tbsp. Spinach and Artichoke dip on top bun and drizzle with olive oil.  Serves 6.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Mediterranean Grilled Chicken w/Couscous Salad

This recipe is another wonderful installment of the 5 ingredient recipes featuring chicken.  This creation  is also currently in a Bare Chicken recipe contest, and hopefully progresses to the top 20 for voting coming up on Facebook starting November 5.  Wish me Luck!!  Inspired by beautiful and rustic flavors of the 21 countries surrounding the Mediterranean Sea including Morocco, Greece, Italy, Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Cyprus, Jordan, Spain to name a few.  These amazing sea side countries enjoy a diet rich in fresh fruits, veggies, and a host of grains, seeds, nuts, pasta as well as yogurts and cheeses, with a focus on poultry and seafood, that is usually grilled.  Olive oil is the fat of choice and a plethora of fresh herbs and spices are used respectively.  I enjoyed creating this quick and easy recipe and the flavor profile is bursting with color and taste.  There are only 5 ingredients and not an inch of flavor is compromised in this super simple, simply delicious recipe.  My 5 year old Bronwyn loved it and said "It's delicious Mommy", as did my sister Hollie and my niece Laura.  Their ages are 5, 28 and 23, so I feel it is safe to safe it can appeal to  wide age groups with equal satisfaction.  Enjoy!

1 lb. Chicken tenderloins, Just Bare if available
1 box Parmesan couscous
1 jar whole Greek Kalamata olives
1 jar sun-dried julienne cut tomatoes with herbs
fresh mint

Place tenderloins in a resealable bag with 1 tbsp. sun-dried tomato oil and 2 tbsp. olive brine. Massage tenderloins with marinade until equally coated.   Press out excess air and seal.
Marinate 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, prepare couscous according to package instructions, omitting the olive oil and salt. Heat grill pan to medium high.  De-seed 12 olives and roughly chop.  Roughly chop 2 tbsp. of sun-dried tomatoes.

After marination, discard marinade and grill chicken until no longer pink and the  juices run clear,  or the internal temperature reaches 165* F, about 2 minutes for double sided grill or 4 minutes per side on a stove top grill.
 Let rest for about 2 minutes.  
Toss prepared couscous with sun-dried tomatoes and olives until desired texture.  Toss with 1 tbsp. julienne of mint.
To serve, mound equal portions of couscous on serving plate and arrange an equal portion of grilled chicken as desired along side or atop couscous salad. Garnish with mint leaves.   Serves 4.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Rigatoni and Ricotta Bake

Pasta is popular all over the world and justly so.  There are literally hundreds of different types to cater to your sauces and recipe profile.  The perfect pasta shape for your specific needs is possible by way of ready to cook, store bought fresh or home made means.  Fresh pasta obviously cooks twice as fast and and would add a fresher flavor to the dish, but I generally go for the 'boxed and ready' for convenience.  There are recipes that call for thin sauces, so you would consider a pasta that has length like spaghetti, capellini, fettucine, linguine etc...and can be coated easily with thinner sauces and have surface area to accommodate.  Some recipes call for thicker, heartier sauces that need pasta it can cling to and has textured surfaces like rigatoni, farfalle, penne, and penne rigate or super absorbent pastas like ziti and macaroni, which allow sauces to coat the insides as well as the outside and hold their shapes well during baking.  Shells and orecchiette are excellent pastas for holding mass amounts of flavor and creamy sauces.
This recipe is mentioned in a previous article, Long Lost Cousins and Buttery Shrimp Bruschetta, which I served as the appetizer to this featured dish!  Generally speaking, I serve dishes like this family style for low maintenance, Friday Nite Cuisine.  This recipe is easy to make and has gobs of flavor and little finesse.
1 lb. rigatoni, cooked according to package instructions, just short of al dente, about 5 minutes
1 lb. good quality ground beef
1 small onion, small dice
2 cloves garlic, pressed or finely minced
1.75 oz. sliced pepperoni, optional
1 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
1 tbsp. brown sugar, optional
1/4 c. fresh herbs like oregano, basil and parsley blend
1 15 oz. container ricotta cheese
2 c. mozzarella crumbles
Parmigiano Reggiano for serving and garnish (Pecorino Romano if desired
Olive oil for drizzling
Preheat oven to 375*F.
Cook pasta for about 5 minutes, drain, do not rinse, drizzle with olive oil, toss to coat.  Set aside.
Meanwhile brown beef and pepperoni with onion and garlic, until no longer pink and onions are translucent, about 5 minutes.  Drain off excess fat and discard. Add tomatoes, brown sugar and herbs. SPST.   Simmer for about 10 minutes and turn off heat.  Stir in ricotta.  Place in baking vessel.  Spread mozzarella atop, and drizzle with olive oil and cover tightly with foil and bake for about 30 minutes, until pasta has absorbed all the excess juices. Remove foil and continue to bake until golden, about 15 more minutes. Garnish with liberal shavings of Parmigiano Reggiano or Pecorino Romano.   Let stand for 10 minutes before serving.
Serves 10-12.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Braised Turkey Wings and Farfalle w/ Green Peas

Yesterday was one of the days when we wish it were the next or day before, considering the weather, that was rainy and dreadful looking.  My children, Genesis and Bronwyn, my nephew Braelyn and my sister Hollie were tentatively scheduled for a trip to the "Pumpkin Patch", filled with corn mazes, farm animals like goats, pigs and geese, pumpkin hunts and tall structures built entirely of bales of hay, to climb, slide and ramble throughout!  Unfortunately, the weather had different plans, and the trip was postponed until the following Monday.  The children were devastated.  They had already placed their 'orders' for golden, delicious, pumpkin pies, made fresh from the take-home pumpkins picked fresh from the patch!  In a perfect world, Mommy could wave her magic wand and the hay would magically refurbish itself, the ominous clouds would bow their heads and gracefully bow out to expose the beautiful blue flecked Autumn sky, with the brilliant rays of a crisp day's Sun, shining and gingerly drying the chilly dew, that would make running a hazard and a hindrance to scavenging for the mini gourds scattered about the immense hunting field.  The call for the postponement came shortly after the children reached the school, around 8 am, and with a shrug of dismay, I threw the careful packed spoils of Sliced deli turkey, ham, bologna with American cheese on Bollio rolls, Fruitables, and Doritos into the freezer for the "to be continued" picnic on the farm with the gang! I then had a a notion for comforting foods, aromatics, fragrances of grandeur, to warm  and necessitate this Day of Gray, we desperately needed the rain anyway.  I had picked up some fresh turkey wings from the market, and considering the forcast, they made the perfect fit for something to cook slowly, with low maintenance, and maximum flavor rewards.  Turkey should not be shunned or denied until Turkey Day, as it provides and evokes warm and fuzzy thoughts, as with holidays and not to mention a healthy dose of trytophan for a lulling rainy day nap, if the opportunity arises!  Wings contain a sizable amount of fat as compared to breast meat, but this can be skimmed during the braising process, and after cooking, the skin may be easily removed as not to pose a threat to the nutritional aspect of the meal as a whole.  These wings are braised  in a vegetable stock, a Mirepoix, fresh garlic and a soft chicken bouillon cube for depth to it's flavor profile.  They are braised for several hours, and finished in the oven if desired.  These wings are served best just before falling off the bone, and the moisture levels will remain, as with rich flavor.  I paired these wings with Farfalle or bow tie pasta, cooked in the reduced juices of the wings and tossed with green peas for a wonderful color implement, and filling bluster!  The sun had returned by the time dinner came around, but thankfully, these recipes provided the rays of aromatic, and rainy day comforting bliss during it's down time!
4 lbs. Turkey wings with tips if available
2 large carrots, sliced lengthwise, then halved
2 large stalks celery, cut into thirds
1 large onion, cut into eighths
3 cloves garlic, pressed or finely minced
2 soft chicken bouillon, cubes
olive oil for drizzling
For Pasta:
2 tbsp. corn starch, mixed with a little water
1 lb. bow tie pasta
3/4 c. green peas
additional water if needed
In a large heavy bottomed or dutch oven over medium heat, place veggies, drizzled with olive oil and cook until aromatic, about 3 minutes.  Add bouillon.  Cook additional minute and add washed wings to vessel.  Fill until wings are just covered with water and cover, bringing up to a boil, over medium high heat.  Reduce back to medium and cook wings in a rolling simmer for several hours or until tender, but not falling off bone and cooking liquid is reduced to about 1/3.*
Begin to skim fat as the wings cook, and discard.
Once the wings are tender, place in baking vessel,  Spoon some of cooking liquid over each wing arranged in dish, about 1 cup total.  Remove carrots and arrange alongside wings. Cover tightly with foil and bake in oven at 350* for an additional 45 minutes to 1 hour.
 Add enough water to liquid reduction to make about 6 cups.  Remove from heat and whisk in cornstarch.  Bring up to a boil until thickened.  Add pasta.  Cook over medium heat until pasta is al dente.  Stir in peas. Turn off heat. Cover with tight lid and let pasta to absorb the juices.  SPST and drizzle with olive oil if desired.
Serves 6 to 8.
*Note:  I like the rustic note the simmered veggie bits add to the pasta, but feel free to strain them off for a more refined sauce!

Monday, October 8, 2012

5 Ingredient Recipe featuring Chicken!

This recipe is one of the approximately 33/5 ingredient rough drafts I came up with for a recipe contest.  The goal is simple, 5 ingredients from start to finish.  Sounds kinda futile at first until you stop and give it a try.  Once I factored in the idea of having ingredients that bring their own flavor like marinades and ready made sauces, it became a lot easier. This is a simple one that can be taken as is or morphed into a wonderful salad.  Chicken of course is the main ingredient.  Next, there's Caesar dressing to serve as the marinade for the chicken as well as the dressing and moisture for the dish as a unit.  An Italian Loaf with Sesame Seeds is the starch, and Romaine the vegetable.  Lastly, there is olive oil to infuse flavor and prevent sticking.  This recipe worked like a charm and can be prepared in about 15 minutes not including marination time.  I used a Foreman Grill Mate which cut the normal stove top preparation time virtually in half!!!
Grilled Chicken Caesar Salad Sandwich
1.1 lbs. chicken tenderloins, preferably Bare Chicken
1 lb. loaf Italian bread with Sesame Seeds
1 bottle Caesar dressing
1 head Romaine lettuce
olive oil for drizzling
Place chicken in resealable bag and add 2 tbsp. dressing.  Turn until all pieces are coated.
Marinate for 30 minutes in fridge and up to 24 hours.
When 20 minutes marination time remains or when ready, heat grill pan or Grilling apparatus until hot.  Drizzle halved loaf with olive oil and grill until golden, about 3 minutes per half.  Set aside to cool slightly.
Next, wash, dry and half Romaine and drizzle with olive oil, grill until has char marks, about 2 minutes per half.  set aside to cool slightly, before chopping and tossing with 1/2 cup Caesar dressing, less if desired.
Once chicken has marinated and bread and lettuce has been grilled, place chicken drizzled with olive oil on grill and cook until no longer pink and juices run clear, 2 minutes (I used a two sided grill).  this time will be longer on a flat top grill, about 4 minutes per side.
Place bread halves together and cut into 5 servings, rendering 5 sets of sandwich bread.
Assembly:  Divide chicken tenders equally among sandwiches and top with about 1 cup of romaine.  Add sandwich top.
Serve additional Caesar on side for personal preferences.
Slice each portion of bread 3 times lengthwise and 3 times crosswise to form croutons.
Slice chicken on bias and distribute evenly atop each mound of Romaine
Place equal portions of lettuce among 5 to 10 plates and top with equal portions of chicken and a the portioned out croutons.  Makes up to 10 first course salads.

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Monday, October 1, 2012

Asian Fusion Baby Back Ribs

This recipe is a delicious variation of the way a lot of us enjoy baby back beef ribs.  I created this recipe in the style of  Asian Fusion, considering the ingredients are commonly used to prepare that particular cuisine.  The sauce is not a typical barbecue in that it is not tomato based,  rather one using Hoisin, soy, brown sugar and fish sauce.  I also incorporated green onion.  Since these ribs are on the not so meaty side, I bake them with a generous layer of peppers and  onions, plus a hefty 5 cloves of garlic, infusing lots of fat free flavor, and adding some bulk to the dish respectively.  The end product is a taste bud orgy with a sweet/salty/savory/umami mystique served simply w/a seasoned turmeric  tinted Jasmine Rice.
5 lb. beef baby back ribs
6 mini peppers, various colors, sliced
2 onions, sliced
5 cloves garlic, pressed or finely minced
1 tbsp. sambal oelek
1 soft beef bouillon cube
1 tbsp. fish sauce

1 c. beef broth
3/4 c. Hoisin
1/4 c. soy sauce
1/2 c. brown sugar
1 tsp. ground ginger
3 tbsp. fish sauce
2 green onions, thinly sliced
Preheat oven to 350*.
Wash and pat ribs dry.  Toss veggies together with sambal oelek and smother ribs evenly in a large roasting pan.
Mix 1/2 c. hot water with cube and fish sauce.  Pour over everything.
Cover tightly with foil and bake until tender, about 2 hours, basting periodically with juices and fat.*
When ready, combine all sauce ingredients in small saucepot and bring to a boil.
Reduce heat to a simmer and cook additional 5 minutes until reduced slightly.  Adjust to desired thickness by adding water or broth or by simmering until desired consistency is reached.
Pour over ribs and bake uncovered for an additional 25 minutes, basting every 5 minutes or so.
* After ribs have baked for first 2 hours, pour off rendered fat before adding the rib sauce!
Serves 8 to 10.

A Taste of the Old Country!

It was a gorgeous sunny day.  The clouds were sparse and fluffy, like gobs of marshmallow creme on a brilliant blue canvas, decorated by my 5 year old Bronwyn.  The weather was pleasant, just shy of hot, and the breeze had the tiny wisps of hair silhouetting my face playing tag with my eyes, the wisps were winning!  Rays of sun danced about in midair, bouncing and reflecting off windshields, windows, fenders, hoods, rear-views,tiny shards of glass and pebbles, and various juxtapositional items here and there,  glass fronted businesses. I  had to squint often, since I was not wearing sunglasses.  The traffic had once again begun to rise and fall, speed and slow, nearing the top of the hour of 5 pm.  I walked to the shaded area underneath a canopy of foliage.  There were leaves, large and small, flat and curled.  There were vines, some elegant and slender, some gnarled and sinister.  There were items scattered about the foliage, and upon closer inspection, I realized that they were of the fruitful variety.  There were brown and fuzzy kiwi, small medium and large for their size, only a couple had fallen to the concrete below, indicating more time was needed before enjoying their citrusy tang, the wonderful green with speckled black interior hidden by a coconut like casing.  There were also pods that hung loosely amongst the kiwi.  They were as long as first grade pencils, fat pencils like snakes that had swallowed several grapes.  They were the pods of a Wisteria Plant.  Fragrant fruits that appeared as golden sunsets, side by side hung about the canopy as well.  These were the largest Persimmons I had ever seen.  The ones in my sister's yard were  mere dwarves in comparison to these gargantuan gems, that emitted it's glorious perfume to entice the soul and stimulate the appetite.  There were also grapes, bunches congregating throughout, the vines intermingled with the others, melting pot indeed.  I had never experienced figs from it's original source until now, and they were astounding and amazing.  They too will be enjoyed, in the months to come.  While walking this small stretch of paradise, cascading along the outer brick walls and dangling over the seated picnic area for dining outside, I missed my number being called.  The unforgettable Cheese Steaks my sister Hollie would bring home periodically were freshly prepared and waiting for me, this time I placed the order myself.   This was my first physical visit.   It was hard to believe I was actually standing outside of a fabulous restaurant in Vinton called The Original and Only New York Pizza, Inc, Italian Style.  The owner  brought these trees, bushes and vines over from the old country and planted them here himself.  They were bountiful and beautiful, lavish and lush, and in the middle of a busy town, your psyche transcends and it's like walking a country hillside in Sicily, from whence they came.  The grandchildren run the business now, which originally opened in 1983, but it's genuine character and integrity is unmolested and breathtaking, not to mention the food.   The menu is concise and encompasses things Italian, whether your taste is for Old World Style  Pizza, Neapolitan, Sicilian or Veal Sandwiches, this spot covers the gambit.  The staff is cordial and engaging, eager to share it's history,  that is if one asks, as did my sister Gayle and I.  This place is must visit!!  I can guarantee the visit will not be your last!!
The Original and Only New York Pizza, Inc.
708 Hardy Road
Vinton, VA 24179
540) 342-2933

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Flavorful and Fantastic, Loaded Potato Soup!

This recipe is a great way to stock pile on vitamins and minerals, while enjoying a rich and hearty fall favorite, Potato Soup.  This is loaded with delicious and nutritious garden veggies like carrots, celery, onion, garlic, mushrooms and zucchini, that are sauteed then pureed to form the creaminess of the soup itself.  These veggies really pack in essential building blocks for cells and body function, discreetly nestled among the tender chunks of potato. The implement of these veggies provide soluble fiber to help keep you full and  satisfied longer, and eliminate some of the starch and carbs, by using less potato.
 A recipe like this one is fabulous during cold and flu season to help supply the body with the fuel it needs to stave off  illness particularly during temperature transitions.  This is especially handy for picky eaters both young and old, and provide a substantial amount of your daily vegetable requirements in just one bowl.  The potatoes are diced in several sizes to provide body and texture to the chunky yet creamy dish as a whole, thus using less milk and butter.   A small piece of country ham provides an almost smoky and rich undertone.  Vegetarians and Less Meat fans, feel free to leave this out for a wholesome and delicious dish.  A hint of pumpkin pie spice warms and really rounds out the overall cozying effect created by this easy to make, easy on the waistline, and sure to please recipe. Plus, the spices that comprise pumpkin pie spice are rich in antioxidants! Serve with grilled cheese, crackers or whole grain breads for a well balanced and amazing cup or bowl of love and tenderness.
1 3 oz. slice of bone-in country ham, chopped w/bone reserved
1 c. EACH carrot, celery, onion, mushrooms,small dice
2 c. zucchini, chopped or shredded, no seeds
2 bay leaves, dried
7 c. Russet potatoes, small, medium and large dice
4 c. water
1 soft chicken and tomato bouillon cube
1 1/2 c. 1% milk
4 tbsp. butter
large pinch pumpkin pie spice
olive oil for drizzling
SPST (Salt and Pepper to Suit your Taste)

In a heavy bottomed pot or dutch oven over medium high heat, drizzle with olive oil.   Brown and render ham, about 4 minutes.  Add veggies bay leaves then cook until softened, about 7 minutes.  Remove veggies from pot and set aside to cool slightly before pureeing w/one cup water and bouillon cube.
Meanwhile, add potatoes to pot and stir to coat.  Add 3 remaining cups water and bring to a boil. Boil for 5 minutes, then reduce heat to a simmer and add veggie puree.  Simmer until largest potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes.  Stir in milk and butter.  Simmer additional 5 minutes until heated through again. Stir in spices. SPST.  Serve drizzled with olive oil if desired.   Makes a lot!!
Recipe may easily be halved or frozen in airtight containers for up to 3 months.

Happy Birthday to my big brother and buddy Ken!  We love you and wish you decades more, XOXO

Friday, September 28, 2012

Everything Gravy!

This recipe is a simple and easy way to spruce up a meal in just a short moment while adding a bountiful flavor profile and lots of color and nutrients.   The sauce includes bright, beta-carotene and fiber rich carrots, while the onion adds essential flavanoids, the mushrooms, B vitamins, protein and magnesium, and the potatoes contribute potassium, fiber and more B vitamins still.  This recipe can be used to smother savory beef burgers, (which is what I did) chicken burgers or even turkey patties. Boneless, skinless chicken and boneless or bone-in pork chops will work well too. The possibilities are virtually endless.  Vegetarians can use  this sauce to smother rice, egg noodles or couscous, even quinoa for a hearty filling meal.  Further still, this sauce can be diluted with chicken broth or more milk and served as a soup with crackers or whole grain bread.  There's no wrong way and the taste is a warm, gratifying one. The moniker concludes that this recipe can complement anything, hence the  name, not to mention what you may come up with in your own kitchen.  This recipe is not really a gravy since that would entail a deglazing and browning of flour and bits from the bottom of a pan, but it smothers like a gravy, so gravy it is!  I hope you have just as much fun with this quick fix recipe as I did!
8 oz. sliced button mushrooms
1/3 c. matchstick carrots
1 small onion, chopped
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1/2 c. milk
6 small, cooked red potatoes, sliced into 1/4 inch slices, about 1 1/2 c.
olive oil for drizzling
SPST (Salt and Pepper to Suit your Taste)
In a medium saute pan over medium high heat, drizzle with olive oil and add mushrooms.  Cook until fragrant and mushrooms start to brown, about 3 minutes and add onions and carrots.  SPST.  Cook additional minutes until onions are softened and translucent.  Add mushroom soup and milk and bring up to a boil.  Reduce heat to a simmer and add sliced potatoes.Simmer until heated through, about 5 minutes.  SPST  Serve as desired.  Makes about 4 cups.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Long Lost Cousins and Buttery Shrimp Bruschetta

Bruschetta is a widely popularized food, graciously donated to us by the Italians.  The actual origins date back to around the 15th century and has been utilized since.  Traditionally, bruschetta consists of toasted bread, garlic, olive oil, salt and pepper.  There are a wide rage of variations to this dish, with the implement of tomato and sometimes cheese, being the most popular.  It is also common to serve bruschetta topped with other items including, but not limited to  veggies and cured meats, sliced thinly.   The variation I created wanted at the spur of the moment on Friday past, with some prompts from my sister Hollie.  We had the taste for  a repeat of the pasta that I had prepared for the wonderful lunch we had with our brother Ken, a couple of weeks prior.   She had really enjoyed the flavor profile created by the lemon in conjunction with the garlic and butter. The taste had lingered in her mind.  I too, reminisced about that mellifluous blend and wanted to either repeat the recipe or create another with a similar profile.  I whipped up a fabulous Rigatoni Bake for  an easy No-Fuss Friday, with seconds included.  I had a delicious loaf of Italian bread to serve either plain and toasted or garlic bread style so I concluded that I could combine the best of both worlds by turning the toasted garlic bread into amazing flavor filled loaf halves of buttery garlicky goodness, with a sweet spot.  This recipe packs a great punch with B vitamins, lycopene, vitamin C, omega 3's and monounsaturated fats, that help raise levels of HDL's or high density lipoproteins ( good cholesterol) and helps to lower  LDL's/low density lipoproteins(bad cholesterol).  The sesame seeds provide a substantial amount of the RDA for Vitamin C as well.
We had some surprise guests that evening including our close cousins ( our moms are sisters) Tricia and Brian, and his friend, Lynn, all hailing originally from Maryland, recently relocating here to Virginia.  Normally, we would see these cousins maybe once a year during our  family's reunion, if schedules permitted.  We now get to congregate like neighbors, which is awesome.  Friday, we enjoyed a pleasant evening filled with laughter, stories and libations, plates brimming with my bruschetta creation and the Rigationi Bake, showered in freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano.  My family thought the recipe was fab, and there were requests for seconds on the  Shrimp Bruschetta, which is a tell tale sign of a favorable dish.  I really appreciate when things come together, especially family and a new recipe, at the same time.  Happiness and contentment can be just that simple, and we are already making plans to get together and 'chilllax' again in the near future.  "Love Each Day" and I hope this recipe finds a place in your home too!
1 lb. Italian loaf w/ sesame seeds, cut in half lengthwise
4 tbsp. butter
4 cloves garlic, pressed or finely minced
16 31-40 count shrimp, peeled and rough chopped
zest of 1 lemon
juice of two wedges
2 small or 1 medium tomato, chopped
pinch of Old Bay
6 basil leaves, chiffonade
olive oil for drizzling
Parmigiano Reggiano for garnish, optional
In a medium bowl, combine garlic, shrimp, tomatoes, lemon zest, lemon juice, old bay, basil, drizzled olive oil and SPST.  Mix well, set aside.
Preheat oven to 400*F.  Drizzle loaf halves liberally with olive oil and place in oven.
Cook until toasty and slightly golden, about 8 minutes.
Meanwhile, melt butter in saute pan over medium heat and when small bubbles form, add shrimp mixture and cook gently for about 2 minutes.
Spread mixture over bread and place back into the oven and cook until golden and shrimp is cooked through, about 4 minutes.  Garnish with cheese if desired.  Cut into desired portion size and serve as appetizers or with pasta.
I added the shrimp mixture to only 1 side of the loaf for versatility and because my children's father has a shellfish allergy!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Capellini w/Lemon Garlic Shrimp and Anchovies with my Big Brother!

As hectic as schedules can get between balancing our personal work and family, it's nice to know we can touch base and share laughs with our siblings on an occasion or two.  "Time waits for no Man" is not just a euphemism, and each second, minute, hour is as precious and un-promised as the next.  I had not conversed with or seen my brother Ken, uber best friend and cut up buddy, in more than a month of Sunday's.  He dropped by the house to see the family and we were all surprised and elated at his arrival.  Oftentimes, Ken is super wrapped up with his own family's to do's, and doesn't get to take time for himself and his own sanity in the zoo that is our personal lives very often.  He shares his thoughts periodically, but more often than not, the build-up of anxiety is to the point where he has to 'escape' just for peace of mind.  We don't probe or try to give him sanctimonious advise, rather divert his attention with our candor and a memorable meal among friends, which has untold healing properties, especially within a genuine support system, that should be a family unit.  I  visited the supermarket two days prior and had some fresh oysters in shells on hand for a clam bake that never happened, so we needed to get those piggies to the market so to speak or risk having to throw them out.  I put together an impromptu affair with the fresh steamed oysters with all the amenities (butter, lemon wedges, cocktail sauce, Sriracha) and the Capellini or angel hair pasta with lots of fresh garlic, shrimp and lemon, and the rich and delicious implement of anchovies packed in olive oil.  My brother Ken had taken a 20 minute power nap, while letting the movie I insisted he see dawdle on,  Trailer Park of Terror, a hilarious, scary but not really, spoof about a zombie chick who lures people to the trailer park where she lived and ultimately died, scorned by her park mates, and seeking revenge on the passersby who happen to get stuck there! The jury is still out on his critique  of my 'must see' for his entertainment.!LOL When my brother and I get together, television and movies just become background fodder to our conversation, riddled with knee slaps, and "Hey let me tell you's" and "GTFOH"!
Ken woke to his alarm set on his phone and clipped to his T-shirt collar.  By then I finished preparing our late lunch and he was surprised and gracious at the fare that beset him.  We dined and laughed and talked some more, and when we finished lunch, he headed for the door and his daily grind of balancing work and family with a smile and a big hug. I think the rest of his day may have went a little better than the day before and we were happy, laughing and living to do it all over again sometime soon!
1 lb. Capellini, prepared according to instruction, just shy of al dente
1 lb. raw cleaned medium shrimp
1 stick butter
1/4 c. extra virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
5 cloves garlic, pressed or finely minced
pinch of red pepper flakes
1 small shallot, thinly sliced
1 lemon, thinly sliced
1 tin anchovies in olive oil
2 tbsp. fresh parley, rough chopped
Parmigiano Reggiano for garnish
olive oil for drizzling
In a large saute pan melt butter over medium heat and add olive oil.  When the butter forms small bubbles, add garlic and shallot.  Cook several minutes until fragrant, about 5 minutes and add anchovies.  Break down the anchovies with a rubber spatula and stir continuously until they have 'melted' into the garlic butter.  Add shrimp.  Gently cook shrimp until opaque constantly basting in garlic anchovy butter.  Add lemon slices, pepper flakes,Capellini and parsley.  SPST.  Cook for an additional 2 minutes.  Toss to coat.  Garnish with Parmigiano Reggiano and olive oil.  Serves 6-8.