Prime Rib and Friends – New Years’ Eve

New Years Eve plans I tend to leave what we do up to my husband since it is his birthday. Sometimes we go out to dinner; sometimes we stay in and if we do stay in I always try to make something special for dinner. This year we stayed in but had an impromptu dinner party. I say impromptu only because it was planned late in the afternoon on the 30th and came together quite nicely and very quickly. Just a few text messages between friends and voila we had an amazing meal planned.

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Before we started talking I wanted to make homemade pasta. So initially I was going to make it Italian night have a nice salad, some crusty bread, homemade ravioli and fettuccine I was going to make a couple of types of sauces to go with the pasta. By the time it was all said and done, Italian night ended up being come and cook what you want at my house and we will make it work.

Me multitasking - rolling pasta and drinking wine.

Me multitasking – rolling pasta and drinking wine – Life is Good!

We had Stuffed Mushrooms, Smashed Potatoes, and Four Cheese Ravioli with a Ragu Bolognese Sauce, Shrimp Cocktail, Tossed Salad, Crusty Bread and Prime Rib. It may have not been a conventional meal but everything went really well together. And all was delicious.

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Our friends’ family tradition was to cook a Prime Rib in rock salt (yup I said rock salt) for either Christmas or New Years’ luckily for us this year; they shared it with us. I had never heard, tasted or seen this method of cooking.  I have encrusted my share of meats in salt but never rock salt. It was quite interesting, incredibly simple and quite delicious.

Rock Salted Prime Rib

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Prime Rib

Tied

Olive oil

Thyme or your favorite herb(s)

Rock Salt

Roast at 500’ for 12 minutes per pound – or meat thermometer read 130’

Rub olive oil all over the roast, sprinkle with herbs, surround with rock salt and cook

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Ragu Bolognese

5 Tbs Olive Oil

3 Tbs Butter

1 carrot, finely diced

1 medium onion, diced

1 rib celery, finely diced

3-4 cloves garlic, smashed

1 pound ground veal

1 pound ground pork

½ tube tomato paste

1 can tomato sauce

1 cup of milk

1 cup dry white wine

Kosher salt

Freshly cracked black pepper

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In a 6-8 quart heavy bottom saucepan or dutch oven; heat the olive oil and butter over medium heat.

Add the onion, celery and carrot, sweat until veggies are soft and translucent but not browned, add the garlic in the last few minutes.

Add veal, pork and pancetta stirring into the vegetables, stirring to keep from sticking together and the meat browns.  Remove some of the grease, to make it a little healthier. Add tomato paste, sauce, milk and wine. Simmer over medium low heat for 1 – 1 ½ hours.

Season with salt and pepper – toss some with your cooked pasta evenly to coat and enjoy!

Happy Healthy New Year!!!!

Happy Healthy New Year!!!!

Chocolate Pie

I am sitting here staring at a blank page wondering what recipe I want to share with all of you. We are coming up on a new year; 2015 is fast approaching.  I have never formerly made any resolutions; out loud anyway. But I am going to consider 2015 as a blank page that I can fill however I want.

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I do want to fill my blank page with things that bring me joy, I love cooking and sharing recipes that I think everyone should try. I love showing people how to make delicious food in my kitchen.  I want to learn how to take better photographs; I would love to create a cookbook with my daughter even if it is just for the two of us; which in turn would help me organize my recipes, they are everywhere and sometimes hard to find when I want to make something.

I wanted something chocolaty for Christmas dessert this year.  It had to be something that came together pretty simple as I had a pretty ambitious menu for breakfast and dinner on Christmas day.  I did have a few sous chefs this year.

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Chocolate Pie

CRUST

To make it easier on yourself; you can use a pre-made crust from your local grocer’s freezer section. Or by all means make your favorite basic crust – you will need to blind bake and cool which ever you choose. Note this recipe will make 2 regular size pie shells. You can make 1 deep dish size crust but there should still could be some extra filling. You can also store the leftovers in small ramekins/glasses – makes a nice chocolate treat for later.

PIE

1 ½ cup sugar

¼ corn starch

¼ tsp salt

3 cups milk – I used 1%

4 whole egg yolks

6 ½ ounces bittersweet chocolate, in pieces

2 tsp vanilla

2 tbs butter

Whipped cream – optional – it cuts the deep chocolate flavor and also covers up less than perfect surfaces; if you need to.

Combine sugar, cornstarch, and salt in a medium saucepan. Whisk together

Pour milk and egg yolks. Whisk together

Stir over medium heat until the mixture just comes to boil and thickens 5+/- minutes. as soon as it starts to bubble and becomes thick similar to pudding; remove it from the heat. Add chocolate, vanilla and butter. Stir till combined.

Pour the pudding into the prepared pie crust.

Chill in the fridge uncovered for at least 4 hours.

Slice and serve with whipped cream!

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I want to wish you all a VERY Happy Healthy 2015 and keep exploring new foods and recipes

Hawaiian Ham & Cheese Sandwiches – and – a Goat Cheese stuffed Endives

Yesterday was filled with cooking, singing, laughing, eating and drinking!  We had our annual Christmas party.  It has come to be quite the event, my good friend plays the piano and we start out by singing Christmas carols and end the night singing anything from Billy Joel, James Taylor to Queen and finally some great Show tunes.

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The day was entirely for making all the pick up and go foods for the table and also having breakfast ready to go for the next day, there is nothing worse than having to feed a ton of people; OK maybe not a ton but we had 14 for breakfast this morning; regardless; making food with such little sleep and maybe a few too many glasses of wine is not the most enjoyable task so I make sure that breakfast is super simple while still being delicious. I made 3 dishes that either set up overnight or can wait for me to cook them.  I made a strata, hash brown casserole and French toast casserole and picked up some fresh cut up fruit as well as some fresh blueberries, raspberries and a pomegranate; combining them all in a bowl of fresh fruit to lighten up all the casseroles.

I tried out a few new recipes my daughter sent me and they all were excellent, there were definitely a couple of keepers that I want to share with all of you.  The sandwiches are warm and full of delicious flavors. The endives are crazy good and I really hope you take a chance on these and test them out. They may look like something outside your comfort zone but I think you might be pleasantly surprised by how well the different flavors work so well together. I also made a simple version of chicken and waffles that was a crowd pleaser. mini waffles oven toasted, frozen chicken tenders baked and covered with warmed real maple syrup.

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Hawaiian Ham and Cheese Sandwiches

20 +/- small Hawaiian sweet rolls cut in half crosswise (depends on what size pan you have)

1 Pound Black forest ham, sliced – you’ll want one piece per roll

20 +/- slices provolone cheese

8 oz. cream cheese – room temperature for spreading

1 tbs yellow mustard

1 tbs Worcestershire sauce

2 tbs dried minced onions

¼ cup grated parmesan cheese

2 tbs poppy seeds (optional)

Either preheat your oven to 350’ or make ahead and bake them 30-40 minutes before you are ready to serve them.

Coat a 9×13 baking dish with cooking spray. Line the bottom of the pan with the roll bottoms, top with a slice of ham on each; then the provolone. Spread the cream cheese on the bottom half of the tops and place them on top of their bottom mates.

In a medium bowl, combine the butter, mustard, Worcestershire sauce, onions and parmesan cheese.  Mix well and if baking right away pour evenly over the tops.  If making later wait to add just before baking; if using poppy seeds sprinkle on top of butter mixture.

Cover with aluminum foil and bake in preheated oven for 25-35 minutes, or until warmed through and cheese melted.

Serve warm

Endives with Goat Cheese and Walnuts

1/3 cup coarsely chopped walnuts

1 tbs honey

Combine on a baking sheet either coated with cooking spray or better yet a silipat mat. Bake at 350’ for 10 minutes, stirring after 5 minutes.

1 tbs honey

¼ cup balsamic vinegar

3 tbs orange juice

Combine all 3 in a small saucepan; bring mixture to a boil over high heat, and cook until reduced to 3 tbs; about 6-7 minutes.

16 endive leaves 9 about 2 heads

1/3 cup crumbled goat cheese

16 small orange sections

1 tbs minced fresh chives

¼ tsp cracked black pepper

Fill each endive leaf with 1 orange section. Top each section with 1 tsp cheese and 1 tsp walnuts; arrange on a plate. Drizzle the vinegar mixture evenly over the leaves, and sprinkle evenly with chives and pepper.

Mexican Pork Stew – easy and delicious

In cooking I truly believe that a recipe is just a place to start; use it more as a guideline than a rule. I have heard many people in my classes that only feel comfortable with following the recipe word for word. I do try to make a new recipe as written but more times than not I end up changing it, a little more of this, less of that, I’m not a mushroom fan so I have been known to grind them up, I probably shouldn’t have confessed that. Sometimes I change it for my families’ tastes; other times it is just a matter of finding what I can at my local grocery store. I would never, not try a recipe that sounded interesting to me just because I couldn’t find one particular ingredient, there are always exceptions to this rule but as far as flavorings go I feel you can use whatever floats your boat.

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Case in point a couple of years ago my sister-in-law was visiting for Christmas and while I was at work she put together her rendition of Mexican Pork Stew. She didn’t have her recipe on hand but had made it many times before so she headed out to our local grocery store.  It recall chuckling while she told me what was supposed to be in it versus what she found to substitute for the ingredients that she couldn’t find. Just recently she photocopied the page in her cookbook with the actual recipe.

Original version                               Adapted version

Canned tomatillos                               Salsa verde

Diced/seeded tomatoes                      Canned Diced tomatoes

Green hot chilies seeded                    Can diced green chilies

Since I had never had the “real” one and the one she made from my store was delicious I have made hers a few times and every time it gets eaten as a snack just heated up in a small bowl, made into a taco, and served over rice or noodle.

I hope you get a little adventurous and don’t shy away from a recipe just because there is something in it you are not a fan of, just substitute it for something you do like. Who knows you could come up with something even better than the original.

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Mexican Pork Stew – My version adapted from Debs’ which was adapted from San Francisco A la Carte cookbook

3 pound boneless pork cut into 2-inch cubes

2 tbs olive oil

1 large onion diced

3 cloves crushed garlic

1 14.5 ounce can diced tomatoes – I had some small tomatoes I needed to use so I seeded, chopped and added them

1 4.5 ounce can of green chilies

1 tsp dried oregano

1 tsp sugar

1 tsp cumin

Salt and Pepper to taste

2 chorizo sausages skinned, sliced browned

1 cup chicken broth

In a saute pan add the oil and brown the pork on all sides small batches at a time; careful not to over crowd, place your crock-pot near the stove and transfer the browned pork into the crock-pot. Brown the chorizo I placed all of these in the pan and watched to get some brown on them, add to the crock. If the pan is dry use a little more oil. Saute the onions for a couple of minutes; add the garlic and cook a little longer; careful not to brown the garlic. Add everything to the crock-pot; cover to about halfway up the pot with chicken stock. Cook on low all day or on high 4-5 hours.

Serve with a sprinkle of cheddar cheese and some sour cream.  Sliced avocado is also wonderful served on top. Great served over rice or pasta or served with mashed potatoes. Also great as a taco, be sure to use a slotted spoon to drain the liquid.  I also just love some in a small bowl with a sprinkle of shredded cheddar cheese and a dollop of sour cream.  endless possibilities.

Lobster Cake with Tomato Tartar Sauce (Blanchard’s on Anguilla)

I am not sure if you have ever tried this but sometimes when I am at a restaurant I ask the server what their favorite thing on the menu is, especially if I am torn at what I might want to order.  This last Friday night was our last night of vacation we were on the Caribbean island of Anguilla.

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While we waited for our table to be set I opened a cookbook that was sitting on the table; it opened to somewhere in the middle and I saw Vermont Cheddar Soup – I thought that was odd but looked good, maybe I might purchase a copy out of sheer interest.

We had all decided; our son came with us on vacation; that were not going to order any apps.  When one of our many servers came to the table, they were all very attentive; I asked him what was his favorite thing on the menu? He mentioned the Lobster Crab Cakes; we ordered them to share and that was when I decided I was going to buy their cookbook, they were excellent and I was SO happy to see the recipe listed for Lobster Cakes.

On the plane home I read the entire cookbook cover to cover and found several things I want to try my hand at making.  Here is the first recipe I wanted to share it with you.

Oh the deal with Vermont being part of their cook book is they are originally from Vermont and now split their time between Anguilla in the winters and Vermont in the summers. Sounds like a pretty awesome gig to me.

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Blanchard’s Lobster Cakes with Tomato Tartar Sauce – I made 22 cakes – freeze cooked leftovers – re-heat in the oven just till warm – about 15-20 minutes.

5 Tbs unsalted butter

¾ cup AP Flour

2 cups Milk

1 Pound cooked lobster meat, coarsely chopped and patted dry (you can substitute crab or shrimp or any combo)

1 cup red bell pepper, diced small and patted dry

¼ scallions (white and green), thinly sliced

½ tsp cayenne pepper

¾ tsp salt

½ Tbs freshly cracked black pepper

2+ cups fresh bread crumbs

Olive oil and butter for sauteing

1 ½ cup tomato tartar sauce – see below

In a large deep sided saucepan, heat the butter over low heat until it stops foaming. Add the flour gradually and cook for 2 minutes, it is very dry, whisking continually. Add the milk ½ cup at a time, whisking constantly to get rid of the lumps. Simmer for 5 minutes, continuing to whisk until thick and smooth. Remove from the heat and set aside.

In a large bowl, combine the lobster, peppers, scallions, cayenne, salt and pepper. Add 1 cup of bread crumbs, you will want this a little sticky, if too much, add a little more breadcrumb; add the milk mixture, and mix well. Cool to room temperature, shape into small 1 – 1 ½ inch balls and flatten slightly. The lobster cake should be about ½ inch thick. Coat the cakes with more breadcrumbs.

Heat butter and olive oil in a saute pan over medium high heat until hot but not smoking. Cook the cakes until golden brown on both sides. Drain on a paper towel and serve hot with Tomato Tartar Sauce.

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Tomato Tartar Sauce

1 cup Hellman’s mayonnaise

1 Tbs freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 tsp tomato paste – (I LOVE the tube tomato paste from Amore – it keeps for a VERY long time in the fridge once opened – Buy it you wont be disapointed)

2 Tbs minced onions

1 Tbs capers, rinsed, drained and chopped

¼ cup minced dill pickles, patted dry

Salt and freshly cracked black pepper

In a small bowl, whisk together the mayo, lemon juice and tomato paste. Add the onion, capers, pickles, and salt and pepper, and whisk until blended

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Great Tip

an easy way to get the sweet lobster meat out of the legs is to use a rolling pin – though as a child we used to just suck the meat out – that was my first taste/joy of eating lobster.

Thanksgiving Dinner – no power – Sausage Ciabatta Stuffing

Firstly I hope you all had a wonderful day with delicious food and great conversations with your family and friends

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Talk about having a pretty traditional Thanksgiving here in NH we got hit with a heavy snow storm on Wednesday; I think the final total was 15 +/- inches.  While that much snow is generally not a big deal for us, this one kind of kicked our butt.  We lost power for 10 hours on Wednesday; which is always my prep day. I peel and cut up all the veggies, set the table, get out all the serving dishes and prep the dressing aka stuffing.

A few years ago I opted for cooking 2 smaller sized turkeys together versus the 16+lb bird I used to get. I find that they have a better chance of being super moist which pretty much is the main cooking goal for any cook. This year in particular it was an amazing choice. My gas Viking stove top works but my gas oven does not. My girlfriend who lives up the road did offer me hers and I was going to use it; however I was concerned about not being on site while it cooks, I like to keep an eye on it and I couldn’t be 2 places at once.

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Not as pretty as when cooked in my oven; but they tasted wonderful!

Thursday we lost power again at 8:30 am; it came back right after we finished dessert around 4:30 pm.  While my guys were out plowing and shoveling; I cleared a path to the gas grill and cleaned it off at least a foot of fresh powder. I actually grabbed my roasting pan and put the birds; packaging an all into the pan to see if they would all fit on the grill. It was perfect. I make beer can chicken on the grill all the time; so I felt pretty confident it would work.  I filled the bottom of the pan with water; stuffed both with apples, onions, and garlic and seasoned them well; covered them with foil and hoped for the best. The grill was a solid 450′ and they took approximately 2 hours.

They came out excellent and outside smelled awesome!!!

There were only 2 things that I couldn’t make as I wanted.  I could not make the dinner rolls this year; which was fine and the dressing I made couldn’t be baked to get all the crust that everyone loves. But I was able to brown them with a little crust on the stove top.  If you are in search of a great tasting dressing/stuffing I wholly suggest this one!  Flavor galore and everyone loves it.  My son had 4 helpings yup I said 4.

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Fennel

Fennel

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It is based off of a Mario Batali sausage stuffing

Sausage Ciabatta Dressing

Your favorite Olive Oil for the pan

1 lb of your favorite Italian sausage – casing removed crumbled and browned

1 medium onion – diced

1 bulb fennel also called anise – sliced thin, fronds reserved

1 cup of chestnuts – I found them already cooked and peeled – brilliant

2 apples – I used granny smiths – peeled and diced

5 cups ciabatta bread cubed and toasted – I toasted them in a pan on the stove top

¼ cup fresh parsley – chopped

2 ½ cups chicken stock

½ melted butter

Add oil to the pan, crumble the sausage and cook till the sausage starts to brown, add the onion, fennel, chestnuts, apples and cook. Stirring occasionally, until the sausage is cooked through

In a large bowl, place the cubed bread and pour the cooked sausage mixture over the top. Sprinkle with parsley, and pour the stock and melted butter; toss to combine.

In a 9×13 baking dish place all ingredients in and cover with foil. Bake for 30 minutes, uncover and bake until the top is golden browned and crisp. Serve garnished with some of the fennel fronds.

Gingerbread Men Army

Friday a girlfriend and I spent 6+ hours making cookies. Chewy Chocolate Peanut Butter Chip, Sugar, Snickerdoodles, Chocolate Chip and Gingerbread Men 10 dough’s in total. We baked several dozen but find it is so much easier to freeze the dough’s in tube form and take them out as needed. Not all cookies can be frozen so we do tend to pick the ones we can. It helps to get them all done before the holidays; time is super tight this time of year. We do still need to get together so we can roll and cut out the sugar cookies; the discs are still sitting in my fridge.

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We did the same thing last year and the gingerbread men were by far everyone’s favorite. So this year we thought we would make 2 double batches; thankfully we were only able to make 3 batches because I didn’t have enough molasses; by the time we were done cutting and baking them; we had over 80 of them.  By the time the last batch was rolled out and cut, we were extremely tired and a quite silly. Someone, and she will remain nameless, came up with a great idea. “We should have had some fund with some of these” yup we made a few anatomically kind of correct but not really gingerbread men/women. It was all in good fun and we laughed so hard it was difficult to not burn ourselves putting them in the oven.

My guys came home from work and we showed them our army of gingerbread. No lie they had a discussion about how we didn’t have enough for an army it was more like a platoon.  REALLY – it sure felt like an army to us.

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Gingerbread Cookies

3 cups AP flour

¾ Cup packed brown sugar

¾ tsp baking soda

1 TBS ground cinnamon

1 TBS ground ginger

½ tsp ground cloves

½ tsp salt

12 TBS unsalted butter – softened but still cool, cut into 12 pieces

¾ Cup molasses

2 TBS milk

In an electric mixer; using the paddle, stir together the flour, sugar, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and salt at low speed until combined.  Stop the mixer add the butter pieces; mix at medium-low speed until the mixture resembles fine meal; a couple of minutes. Reduce speed to low and gradually add the molasses and milk. Mix until the dough us evenly moistened. Increase speed to medium and mix until thoroughly combined, about 10 seconds.

Scrape the dough onto a work surface; divide it in half. Working with one portion at a time, roll to ¼ inch thick between 2 large sheets if parchment paper. Leaving the dough sandwiched between the parchment, stack on a baking sheet and freeze until firm. Roughly 15-20 minutes.

Adjust oven racks to upper and lower middle positions, preheat 350’ line baking sheet s with either parchment or silipat mats.  Work with 1 dough at a time; peel away the parchment and set it aside, you can reuse it to roll out the scraps.  Cut and place on the sheet about ¾” apart. Bake cookies until the center of the cookies when touched barely retains an imprint. 8-11 minutes. Do not over bake.  Cool on the sheet for a couple of minutes then transfer to a wire rack. They freeze well and taste wonderful with ice cream.

My husband used to get us a coffee cup of coffee ice cream and a gingerbread cookie – Delish!!!

Crab Rangoon

A few weeks ago I took a cooking class at a local kitchen store. I was intrigued for a few reasons; one was what they were offering Won-ton Soup, Crab Rangoon and Pot stickers; I have made Rangoon’s many times and they are really yummy and very easy, another is my guys love won-ton soup so that would be a win win; lastly I have tried and failed to make pot stickers in the past and I really wanted to know how to make them correctly. There was also a bonus; the class was being taught by Helen Chen. Her mother was the famous chef, restaurant owner and cookbook author Joyce Chen; Joyce was also one of the 5 famous chefs that the US Post office just released a stamp of.

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Crab Rangoon

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The class was pretty interesting on a few fronts.  It was less hands on than my classes that I teach in my home and we didn’t get to eat what we prepared.  Helen made up all the dumplings that we were served.  She made all the filings and we watched her make all the Rangoon’s. We did make a few won-tons and a few pot stickers so we knew how to make them which is what I wanted so I was very happy I attended.  It was also very enlightening to me that at the end of class Helen asked all of us what we would like for future classes; they had to cancel the noodle class that was supposed to be the night before as only one person signed up.

Potstickers

Potstickers

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Won-ton Soup My son brought us the chopsticks from Japan

Won-ton Soup
My son brought us the chopsticks back from Japan

I too struggle with finding things people would like to come to a class for. What I love to cook and would like to share with people may not be something anyone else is interested in making/eating. I am going to shoot for having at least one class a month and just put out there things I am excited about and hope they will come.

She did share with us that Crab Rangoon is not authentically Chinese; she said it originated from Trader Vic’s Restaurant in San Francisco – I had no idea!

I am sharing with you my recipe for the crab Rangoon, my family didn’t love the one I received from Helen and mine has less ingredients.

Crab Rangoon – fried won-ton

Package of won-ton wrappers

8 ounce brick of cream cheese

8 ounce crab meat, remove any cartilage (6 ounce cans can be used as well, drain)

2 scallions green and white chopped finely

2 tsp soy sauce

Small cup or saucer of water

1-2 inches of vegetable oil for frying

Mix last 4 ingredients well, take a nice size teaspoon of cream cheese mixture and place in the center of one won-ton at a time, using your finger dunk in the water and go around the won-ton, fold making a triangle making sure each edge is sealed and as much as the air you can remove. Fry till browned on both sides flipping once in 350’oil – be careful if they split open, it will snap crackle and pop and you will end up getting burned, not that that has ever happened to me…

My far more tech savvy daughter will be home for Christmas, if we can make it work, I will post a video on how to make the pot stickers because that was super cool – just look at the picture. I still have some in the freezer and will be making them sometime this week!!!

Homemade Macaroni and Cheese comfort food simple and delicious

As you are reading this my husband and I are in Key West FL for good friends of ours wedding.  My son is home taking care of the house, dog and my husband’s construction business. While I know he will never go hungry I still wanted to make sure he didn’t survive on takeout pizza.  He must have been thinking the same thing as he asked me if I would teach him how to make a few dishes.  The funny part of this is we both were thinking the same dishes. So Sunday morning we made chili, shepherd’s pie, lasagna and macaroni and cheese. All can be frozen and keep really well – we packaged them up into small meals for him.

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When making this many different dishes you really want to make the most of prep and cooking so you don’t spend the rest of the day doing dishes.

We used one pot to cook the meat one meal at a time and set aside. We browned the burger for the pie, sausage for the lasagna and the burger, sausage and ground turkey for the chili. We cooked the pasta as directed on the box for the mac and cheese then use the same pot for the potatoes, rinsed and wiped it out so we could use it for the sauce for the lasagna. We diced and sliced the onions and garlic for all the dishes and then the veggies and set aside. I bet we had all dishes made and assembled in about 2.5 hours and all but 1 pot fit in the dishwasher. It was a very successful morning.

While I do use the internet and magazines to find recipes to try I know they are just a starting point, there are so many ways you can take a recipe to make it to you and your families tastes.  Everybody’s shepherd’s pies is a little different; I use creamed and niblet corn to add moisture. I know of a family the use pre-bought gravy to add moisture to theirs. There is nothing like good homemade comfort food.

Easy Mac and Cheese that has great flavor and comes together quickly

1 small onion diced very small

4 tbs. Butter

4 tbs. Flour

2 cups milk

1 box elbow macaroni or other small pasta

4-6 cups shredded cheese – cheddar, mozzarella, Provolone your favorite combination works here

3-4 slices American cheese

Salt and pepper to taste

In salted water cook the pasta according to the direction on the box; drain and set aside. In a sauté pan melt the butter over medium heat, add the onions and cook to translucent about 3 minutes. Add flour stirring to mix.  Let cook about 2 minutes, it helps remove the flour taste. Using a whisk add the milk all at once. Whisk thoroughly till all incorporated.  Let this thicken on low heat, do not boil just simmer and stir frequently.  Remove from the heat and add all the cheese.  Lightly stir to incorporate.  Add the cooked pasta and salt and pepper to taste.  If you chop the onions small enough the kids won’t even know they are there.

Eat as is or bake for 15 minutes in a 350’ oven.  Add a crumb top or not – whatever is your preference

Eggplant Parmesan – that will convert you

All through high school I worked at a local Pizza place, there were a few items that I swore that I would never try; they looked and smelled WAY too funky for me.  Here is yet another example of never say never.  Feta cheese came in a metal vat filled with what I believe was oil or a vinegar maybe.  We had to take a chunk out at a time and crumble it; the smell was horrid. Another was breaded eggplant, it just looked and felt wrong on all levels and then there was the dreaded anchovy the smell and look was just plain rancid; we used to flip to see who had to make the anchovy pizza when someone ordered it.

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Now as an adult I love feta cheese, it adds so much tart briny flavor to anything you put it on.  I love adding it to pasta salad it makes it pop. I still would not order an anchovy pizza but I do appreciate a true Caesar salad made with them and I understand why and when they are needed; I even have a can of them in my pantry as I write this.  The recipe I am going to share now for Eggplant Parmesan has completely changed my mind about the veggie and I am now open to and have used eggplant so much so, that I am thinking of planting it in next year’s garden. With age comes wisdom – or as I explain it; you have to try new food as you get older your taste buds change.

I have also used the sauce for a quick pasta sauce during the week; it has a great taste and a little kick. My mother and a friend were here visiting the last few weeks and I made this; they both loved it and wanted the recipe. My mom even said and I quote “I thought mine was really good but this one I want the recipe” I hope she is reading this and smiling…

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Sauce

2 tbs. good olive oil

2 medium onions, finely chopped

4 cloves garlic minced

1 tsp. red pepper flakes

1 ½ tsp sugar

2 28-ounce cans whole San Marzano plum tomatoes

Kosher salt

Eggplant

2 medium eggplants sliced ½ inch thick rounds

½ cup flour

Kosher salt

Fresh cracked black pepper

3 large eggs

1½ tbs milk

2 cups Italian style breadcrumbs

1½ tsp dried oregano

1½ tsp thyme

Vegetable oil for frying – about 1 inch in the pan you are using

12-16 ounces fresh mozzarella thinly sliced

¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese

2 cups sliced provolone

Slice the eggplant and sprinkle both sides with kosher salt and let sit while you make the sauce.  Place on paper towels on a sheet pan.

In a large skillet add the olive oil heat over medium. Add the onions saute for 1-2 minutes; add the garlic and season with salt and pepper and the red pepper flakes.  Saute till the onion are translucent about 6-7 minutes.  Add the sugar and tomatoes, while you are pouring them out of the can squeeze to break them up a bit. Reduce heat to medium low and cook stirring occasionally about 15-20 minutes.

Rinse the eggplant under water and dry off thoroughly with some paper towels. The reason we do this step draws out some of the liquid and removes some of the bitterness.

Get out 3 pie plates or whatever you use when you batter and fry.  Flour goes in one, eggs and milk in another and the third combine the breadcrumbs, oregano and thyme.  Make sure to salt and pepper each pie plate. Dredge each eggplant round in the flour, shake off excess. Dip in the egg mixture and then the breadcrumbs, coating both sides. Lay each round on a baking sheet in a single layer.

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until it begins to smoke lightly (between 380’ and 400’) Use tongs to add and flip the eggplant, making sure to each piece is golden brown, I like them a little extra crispy so they are not mushy.  Transfer to a sheet pan covered with paper towels.  Repeat until all pieces are fried.

Preheat oven to 350’ using an 11 x 13 baking dish

Spoon some sauce in the bottom of the baking dish. Layer eggplant over sauce slightly overlapping, top with some mozzarella and the some provolone; repeat with remaining sauce, eggplant and cheeses.  Press the layers firmly into the dish. Bake until the cheese is melted and the sauce is bubbly. About 35-40 minutes.