Monday, February 26, 2018

Roasted Broccoli and Bacon Cornbread

 Nothing says lovin' like a delicious piece of Southern American cornbread.  There are virtually endless possibilities to diversify the moist and fluffy interior. Jalapenos, fresh corn and caraway seeds are just a few of the ways I've jazzed it up for my family.  Cornbread has a rich and colorful history in our heritage, and is a staple among many homes, especially around the Southern belt and below.  This recipe is another one of my latest featuring roasted broccoli and bacon,  inspired by a recipe a dear friend told me about, from his past.
The bacon is actually cooked ahead of time and chopped before adding to the broccoli that roasts right in the cooking vessel before adding the cake-like batter and baking to golden perfection. I used my Red Copper Square Pan to achieve the gorgeous brown crust.  Prep is a cinch and the results are amazing.  I used store bought cornbread mix, just because I had some on hand.  This recipe is delicious alone, with butter, or served alongside a steaming hot bowl of homemade pinto beans! 
2 c. fresh broccoli florets, cut into smaller florets
4  slices of cooked bacon, chopped
2 pkg. corn muffin mix
2 eggs
2/3 c. milk, I used 2%
2 tbsp. butter
2 tbsp. raw organic honey
Olive oil for drizzling
Heat oven to 425*.
Place pan in oven to heat simultaneously.
Toss in broccoli, bacon and butter.
Drizzle in a little olive oil and SPST.
Stir around melt butter and coat broccoli.
Let Roast for about 5 minutes, tossing midway through, careful
to use an oven mitt or towel for the handle.
Meanwhile prepare the corn muffin mix, according to instructions on box, including the honey.
Carefully slide out rack or remove the pan and pour in the batter.
Bake until golden brown and knife or toothpick comes out clean.
Remove from oven and let sit for a few minutes.
Flip the cornbread out onto a large plate.
Let stand for several minutes before cutting.
Makes about 12 servings.


Saturday, February 24, 2018

Rosemary Garlic Corned Beef Brisket w/ Stewed Potatoes and Butternut Squash

Corned beef is a favorite in my family, and has been for generations.  Until I was older, the only corned beef I knew, came in a can.  My mom would use the canned corn beef to make a stew, adding potatoes and onions and becoming a meal. My mom would also bake some homemade bread or 'hoe cakes' with butter to round out the meal, a very filling and satisfying one, made with love.  This was welcome and warming to our bodies, during the harsh winter months of days old. This was a way my parents stretched what they had to feed the brood, which consisted of their many children, as well as some of their siblings' children. We also had a massive garden and livestock, so most of our food was literally organic and homemade, winning!  We had a large extended and blended family.  I was never as fond of corned beef then as I am now.
Grub Rubbed and Smoked Corned Beef BrisketLater in life, I discovered the corned beef pictured above. I have been smitten ever since.  I usually take my corned beef brisket and rub it with a spice blend I created called Neillio's Grub Rub, then refrigerate overnight, then smoke and grill the amazing piece of protein for several hours, then finish in the oven.   I would serve this masterpiece on a hot dog roll with a Warm Asian Slaw I created as well, and a slathering of jazzed up BBQ sauce.
The following recipe is my "lazy day" brisket and doesn't require nearly as much commitment, but the satisfying results will not give it away.  This is a one pot meal, based mostly on timing, as opposed to technique.  It is a simple and rustic rendition of a pot roast of sorts.  The flavorful cooking liquid will serve as the vehicle to steam and stew the potatoes and butternut squash.  For best results, it is advisable to let the brisket cool at room temperature for at least 20 minutes before slicing.   Make sure your knife is sharp.
1 corned beef brisket, about 4 lbs, (save pickling spice packet for another use)
Beef stock or broth, diluted with water, about 3:1 ratio
2 medium onions, halved and quartered
3 MINI sweet peppers, halved, seeds removed, optional
2 c. potatoes, I used russet,  halved and cut into 1/2 inch slices
1 medium butternut squash, about  2 lbs. peeled, halved, seeds removed, cut into 1/4 inch slices
3 sprigs fresh rosemary
5 cloves garlic, pressed or finely minced
pinch red pepper flakes
2 pats of unsalted butter to finish
Olive oil for drizzling
SPST (Salt and Pepper to Suit Taste)

In a heavy bottomed pot or dutch oven with lid, over medium high heat, drizzle bottom with olive oil when hot, SPST and sear the brisket on both sides, about 2 minutes each side.
Add stock until brisket is just covered.
Add garlic and onions.
Reduce heat to medium, cover with tight fitting lid and cook until fork tender, about 2 1/2 hours, or until easily flaked with fork.
You may have to add more stock during the cooking process.
After brisket is just tender, add potatoes, rosemary and red pepper flakes.
The liquid should be minimal at this point, about 1 inch.
TASTE the cooking liquid for saltiness, if too highly seasoned, dilute with a bit of water.
Reduce heat to medium low.
The potatoes will take about 20 minutes to stew in liquid.
Before potatoes finish cooking, gently push them off to one side of the cooking vessel.
Add the butternut squash to the other side during the last 5 minutes of cooking the potatoes.
Add 2 pats butter to finish. 
Remove veggies before attempting to remove the brisket, to help veggies retain shape.
Serves 4, plus brisket for later!

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Cauliflower Egg Rolls w/ Awesome Sauce Sauce

These little egg rolls pack a mean punch, filled with good for you vegetables, and perfect, even for the eaters that feel a meal isn't complete without meat.  This recipe features a 'stir fry' blend that includes cauliflower rice, with diced carrot and green onion.  I had actually created a recipe similar this blend, before I knew it was already mixed in the store.  Of course you'll be paying for the convenience, which sometimes is necessary, especially when time is of the essence. I use red miso in this dish to bring on the Umami flavors and deep fermented flair.  I also use a scant amount of potato starch to grab hold of excess moisture and help the eggroll keep it's crunchy edge.
My little brother came into town by surprise and our family was elated.  He and his family live in Niagara Falls, New York. Last time he popped in, I told him about this recipe and he was interested in trying it.  I set to work to execute these little guys in time to have them ready before he hit the road again, long haul from here to New York, but unfortunately, he'd left before coming back by and he missed his snacks, homemade, with love.  I did however get to prepare him a good ole cookout style meal yesterday, complete with juicy hand prepped market ground burgers, with American and Pepper Jack, spiked baked beans and hot dogs, with chili and freshly chopped onion. Well heck, that's the least I could do, considering he went out and shopped for all the items needed for the meal.  I love my little brother.   Granted, Allyn is in his mid thirties, but he'll always be my little brother.
This recipe requires a bit of commitment, mostly from the individual rolling of the pinky sized rolls, but everything else is smooth sailing.  They may be frozen in a single layer on a sheet pan, then  transferred to a zipper type bag, for handy, ready-to-cook snacks in the future.  They'll also taste fantastic along with your homemade Chinese Takeout.  Perhaps you may even convince some anti-veggie or anti-cauliflower folks to get on board.
Cauliflower is packed with vitamins and minerals, from the same brassica family as broccoli, kale, brussel sprouts, collards, cabbage etc.. to name a few.  Vitamins include A and C, as well as manganese and phytochemicals.  Studies have also linked cauliflower to helping to reduce cholesterol, blood pressure and and inflammation. Plus, you get the benefits of fermented foods from the red miso!  Happy Snacking!
1 lb. bag Cauliflower Rice Stir fry blend
1 tbsp. red miso
2 tsp. onion powder
2 cloves garlic, pressed or finely minced
2 green onions, sliced, white and green parts
1/2 tsp. Five Spice
pinch of hot pepper flakes, optional, more or less according to taste
1 tsp. potato starch, optional
Wonton wrappers
Olive oil for drizzling
Oil for frying or cooking spray for baking.
Preheat cooking oil to about 350* F. (if using oven heat to 375*F. and bake until golden)
In a large saute pan over medium high heat, drizzle pan with olive oil and add all ingredients, except potato starch.
Saute for about 2 minutes, just until fragrant, then, add potato starch.
Remove from heat and let cool enough to handle.
Handle wonton wrappers according to instructions.
Use a heaping teaspoon for each roll.
Make egg rolls like you were using egg roll wrappers, according to package instructions.
Ready when golden and floating, about 3 minutes.
Fry in several batches as not to crowd pan, and drain well on paper towels.
Makes 32 egg rolls.
Serve with Sweet Chili Sauce, Hot Mustard or your favorite dipping sauce.  If you like Yumminess, try my Awesome Sauce Sauce!

1/2 c. Sour Cream
1/4 c. Thai Sweet Chili Sauce
1/2 tsp. powdered jalapeno
Pinch of each dried Cilantro and Parsley OR 1 tsp. each fresh finely chopped
SPST (Salt and Pepper to Suit Taste)
Combine all ingredients in a small bowl and mix well.
Serve immediately or chill until ready to use.
Great on virtually anything you want to elevate.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Roasted Pumpkin Cream Pie

It's Fall and all is well, now comes the question, Sweet Potato or Pumpkin Pie?  The polls seem to always lean towards the sweet potato, leaving poor pumpkins to sit idly by, watching the party from the sidelines.... Not anymore!
This recipe quickly became popular with my family.  As picky as some children are, even my nephew Braelyn and daughter Genesis loved it! I am particularly proud of my 'baby' too. For a while, I considered saving this recipe for my private archives and for special family affairs, but I finally figured a recipe like this should be enjoyed by all.  The pumpkin for this recipe was hand picked by me and roasted off in a 400* convection oven.  The recipe from there on, is relatively easy and  makes two deep dish, 9 inch pies.

 I created this recipe with more than just a dollop of cream on top, as I felt like the best part of a pumpkin pie was a bit the whipped cream mixed with the bite of pie. At least until now!
The cream of this pie is a combination of flavors, warm, tangy, not too sweet and harmonious with the spices of the pie.   I actually came up with the topping for another recipe of mine, and loved it so much, I wanted to find other places that it would work well.  I hope your family enjoys this recipe as much as mine does.   I feel good about the prospect of someone outside of my normal circle of friends and family appreciating something that I created and quite literally, tasting my passion for cooking, on a plate!   Get ready to change your whole opinion about Pumpkin Pie!!  Fresh Pumpkin is cut into equal parts, drizzled with a little light tasting oil, and sprinkled with a scant amount of kosher salt.  Roast uncovered in a 400* oven until soft, about 40 minutes (and up to 1 hour in a regular oven, depending on size of sliced pumpkin portions.)
 Allow pumpkin to cool slightly.   Cut or peel rind away from pumpkin meat and the roasted pumpkin is ready to use.
2 c. roasted pumpkin
1- 12oz. can evaporated milk
2/3 c. lightly packed, light brown sugar
1/2 c. granulated sugar
1 tbsp. ground spice blend*
3 large eggs
1 tsp. Madagascar Bourbon vanilla bean paste or pure vanilla extract
2 - 9 inch deep dish pie crusts

To Make your own Spice Blend:
1 1/2 tsp. Roasted Cinnamon Spice
 1/2 tsp. Freshly crushed Cardamom, pods removed and seeds ground in mortar and pestle
 1/2 tsp. Freshly grated Nutmeg
 1/4 tsp. ground Ginger
  1/4 tsp. freshly ground Allspice
Mix spices together in a small bowl or in the mortar, pour contents into pumpkin blend.

Preheat oven to 350*F.
Place all of ingredients into bowl and blend until smooth, about 2 minutes.
*You may use an emersion blender to cream the roast pumpkin before adding into recipe.
Pour equal amounts into pie crusts.
Bake on baking sheet for about 40 minutes, or until toothpick inserted, comes out clean.
If the edges of the pies brown too quickly, cover with foil for the remaining baking time.
Remove from oven to cool for 1 hour before placing in the refrigerator to cool an additional 1/2 hour.
Meanwhile, prepare the topping.
Cream Topping:
8 oz. whipped topping
8 oz. sour cream
1c. confectioner's sugar
pinch of kosher salt
Zest and juice of one lemon
Freshly grated Nutmeg
In a medium bowl, combine the sour cream, confectioner's sugar and salt.
Once blended, add whipped cream.
Zest the lemon atop whipped cream.
Grate a scant amount of nutmeg atop also.
In a FOLDING fashion, combine the sour cream mixture with the whipped cream mixture.
Taste For Balance.
Place in refrigerator while pies cook and cool.
After pies have cooled for at least 1 hour and a half, divide the Cream topping and spread evenly atop pies.
Add toothpicks if desired to keep plastic wrap from sticking to top.
Chill for at least another 1 1/2 to 2 hours for best slicing results.
Makes 2- 9 inch pies.
*If you are unable to freshly grind above spices, store bought Pumpkin Pie Spice will substitute.
 Also, plain canned pumpkin can be substituted for fresh roasted.
***Lighten the recipe by using one or more of the following; fat free evaporated milk, light sour cream and egg substitute!!

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Thai Style Chicken and Penne with Broccoli

This recipe is an original and family favorite.  I came up with the initial recipe several years ago, but I have made some minor adjustments, though still retaining it's allure and harmony with the palate.  I enjoy the simplicity of the dish, along with the complex flavor profile that is presented, when combining items from one or more cuisines to make one mellifluous meal.
 I used a Thai ingredient call to complement an Italian pasta, any will do, Penne and Penne Rigate are two of my favorites for this.  Fettuccine also works well.  After the initial prep and marination time, this will come together quickly.  It even tastes amazing at room temperature.  I prefer to grill the chicken over hot coals, but it is not necessary.
A grill pan serves well for depth in flavor and for aesthetics.  This is soon to be one of your family's favorite dishes too!  The ingredient call sounds scary if unfamiliar with Thai cooking, but please trust, the proof is in the final product. This photo is my recipe served family or buffet style, but feel free to mix the chicken in with the pasta and broccoli for no-fuss serving, or arrange the chicken sliced atop or whole pieces along side the pasta/broccoli for even more exciting plating adventures!


1 1/2 lbs. chicken cutlets or breasts cut into 1/4 inch slices
1 lb. fresh broccoli florets
1 can unsweetened coconut milk
1/3 c. green onions, thinly sliced, divided
4 tbsp. fish sauce, divided
4 tbsp. unsalted butter
4 cloves garlic, pressed or finely minced, divided
3 tbsp. fresh cilantro leaves, rough chopped, divided plus more for garnish
2 limes
2 tbsp. Sambal Oelek
1 tbsp. lemongrass paste* if you cannot find, get a whole piece or use fresh  juice of half lemon and zest
1 Thai chile, if desired for extra spiciness(optional)
olive oil for drizzling
For Chicken:
Place in a resealable bag, 2 tbsp. fish sauce, juice of 1 lime,1 tbsp. cilantro leaves, half of garlic and a heavy drizzle of olive oil.
Shake bag around to blend.
Add chicken.
Press out excess air and marinate for 15 minutes to 1 hour.
Meanwhile, cook pasta according to package instructions in salted water, stopping a little short of al dente, adding the broccoli during the last two minutes of about 7 minutes.
Drain and rinse the pasta and broccoli briefly in cool water to slow the cooking process.  Set aside.
Grill or sear the chicken until no longer pink, set aside to rest several minutes before slicing.
Meanwhile, in a large saucepan, over medium heat, melt butter along with a small drizzle of olive oil.
Add remaining garlic, 1/2 green onions, and sambal oelek.
Cook for several minutes until fragrant, stirring often.
Add coconut milk, lemongrass paste, juice of second lime and fish sauce.
Optional:  (Here is where you add the Thai chile, split in half and diced, seeds removed for less spicy.)
Turn to medium high and bring up to a boil.
Check seasonings, adjust according to taste.
Reduce to heat to medium and add pasta broccoli blend.
Add remaining cilantro and green onions.  Fold pasta/broccoli blend into coconut milk until heated through and the liquid is absorbed.
Ways to Serve:
1.  Fold in the chicken to serve as an all-in-one meal or family style.
2.Leave the chicken cutlets whole and serve along side pasta.
3. Slice the chicken and serve atop the pasta/broccoli blend.
Garnish with cilantro leaves, sliced green onion tops and lime wedges, if desired.
Serves 6 to 8.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Pawpaw Beignets with Cinnamon Sugar and Blue Agave

  It's Pawpaw or Asimina Triloba season and the race is on.  This fragrant and unique tropic style fruit is the largest fruit native to the Americas.  It's growth spans mainly along the Eastern United States and even up into parts of Canada. The harvesting period for pawpaws ranges from late August to Early October, depending on your region.  This sumptuous gem is a combination of flavors, akin to a banana, a melon and muted tones of pineapple. Pawpaws have many colloquial  references, including Indian banana, poor man's banana, Kentucky banana, custard apple and banango.  A friend of mine noted that the smell of a more firm pawpaw is very much like the smell of a cut pumpkin, and I agree.   The fully ripe pawpaw bursts with tropical fruit scents, like mango and pineapple, and wonderful citrusy notes as an afterthought.  The best tasting pawpaw is one that is admittedly not the most appealing to the eye.  I have tried this fruit in many stages, and the ugly state wins by a landslide.
Pawpaws have a very volatile shelf life, about 2 days once fully ripened. However, you may place them in the fridge to retard that process and keep them for about two weeks.  One thing I did notice was that the ones kept in the fridge for such a duration looked fine, but seemed a bit dry and not as fragrant as the one left to age naturally on  the countertop.  The pulp of the pawpaw however, may be frozen and used at your convenience, which is an awesome plus.  The process is a somewhat arduous task; peeling, removing the seeds and accumulating pulp, but well worth it.
Pawpaws have a system of seeds that run though the middle. They resemble kidney beans, and are about the same size as well.  The seeds are toxic to humans, so discard accordingly.  After the work, alas comes the play, which leads us to my take on the French Beignet, featuring pawpaws.  I made a 'master batch' of spiced pulp and used a portion to make these beignets, but you may use the pulp as is.
Dry Ingredients:
1 c. AP flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1 c. pawpaw puree
3 eggs
2 tsp. sugar
1 tsp.vanilla extract
Oil for frying
Cinnamon Sugar and Agave Nectar for garnish.
Heat about two inches of vegetable or canola oil until appr. 350 degrees.
Meanwhile prepare the batter.
Combine dry ingredients.
In a small sauce-pot or pan, heat puree and sugar to boiling over medium high heat.
Remove from heat and add dry ingredients.
Beat in eggs, one at a time and stir with wooden spoon until thick and batter pulls away from sides of pot.
Stir in vanilla.
Drop in oil using a tablespoon and without crowding, fry until golden, about 2 1/2 minutes.
Drain on paper towels and toss with cinnamon sugar while hot.
Drizzle with agave and serve immediately.

Spasagna, Two Comforts in One

 Spaghetti and Lasagna are two of America's favorite recipes to create at home and order out.  What do you get when you combine the two? This wonderful and family friendly recipe I created called Spasagna.  This is simply your favorite recipe for spaghetti, layered with mozzarella like lasagna and finished with a garlicky and cheesy topping consisting of store bought garlic bread pulverized into tiny pieces, tossed with shredded Parmesan and mozzarella cheeses, fresh parsley and olive oil, smothering the whole shebang and baked.  This topping rocks and helps to lend to a one dish meal, cutting the carbs by using the garlic bread as a garnish of sorts as opposed to a side item.
Everything in this recipe is essentially cooked already, so it is basically heating the Spasagna through to melt the wonderful sheet of mozzarella in the center.  I discovered this sheet of  fresh mozzarella put out by BelGioioso, that unrolls as would a sheet of paper.  It is fun and easy to use, the price around 6 dollars per 8 oz, I however caught mine on sale.   If you cannot find this in the deli section of your grocer, simply get the ball of mozzarella or burrata and slice thinly and layer accordingly.
1 1/4 lb. cooked ground beef, drained of excess fat
1 lb. spaghetti cooked just under al dente, about 6 minutes
2-23 oz. jars of your favorite spaghetti sauce or homemade,  preferably one chunky, one regular, reserving 2/3 cup for the top.
1 to 3 cloves garlic, finely minced or pressed
2/3 c. sweated onion, small diced
1 palmful fresh mixed herbs like parsley, oregano, sage, thyme and marjoram
1 8 oz. roll of fresh mozzarella
sugar to taste, optional
For Topping:
1/2 lb. day old garlic bread, pulsed in processor into smaller, uniform pieces
1/2 c. fresh parsley, rough chopped
1/2 c. shredded Parmesan cheese
1/4 c. shredded mozzarella cheese
olive oil for drizzling
Preheat to 375*F.
Combine the spaghetti ingredients down to the palmful of of herbs, sugar to taste if desired.
Drizzle baking dish with olive oil or spray with cooking spray and place half of the spaghetti  mixture in dish.
Unroll the mozzarella cheese and place it on top of the spaghetti.
Add Remaining spaghetti.
Spread  reserved sauce over spaghetti.
Top with parsley garlic bread-bread crumbs and cheese mixture.
Cover tightly with foil and bake for about 35 minute,or until dish is hot throughout and bubbly.
Remove foil and bake for another 5 to 7 minutes, or until lightly browned.
Let dish rest for several minutes before serving.
Serves Plenty!!! (8 to 10 as a main dish)