Hi Gang! Just a Note!

Just poking my head in the door to say hello and that I’ll be back soon!

Just thought I’d pop on and say a quick hello! I am catering a Wedding this weekend, so I have been MIA here for a week. Not to worry! I will be back next week (or sooner) with all sorts of fun appetizers and some easy peasy recipes to use during the Holidays.

Today at church we’ll be serving up some meatball stroganoff over egg noodles with a side of glazed carrots. I’ll be posting this recipe in the days to come.

Meanwhile, I miss you all and thank you for the continued support!

I’d love it if you would subscribe to this blog if you haven’t already done so and pick your favorite recipe and share it. That would be GREAT!

Love to all!

Bobbe

Oh, Those Hot (Not Spicy) Italians! (Sliders, of course!)

Lately I have become crazy about any kind of sandwich. I don’t know if it’s a phase or what, but when I think of comfort food, my thoughts turn right to sliders and then my mouth starts to water!

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Last week when I pre-ordered the supplies for our Wednesday Night Fellowship Meal catering job, I made a mistake. (At least, this is what they tell me.) My original menu idea had been soups and sandwiches, but at the last minute I was inspired to make something else. I thought I’d cancelled my soup order, but when I got to the store, it was there. The store had ordered it in, so they informed me that I had to take it. Graciously, they agreed to store it for me until this week.

Long about 2:00 AM Wednesday morning, I started popping around Pinterest, looking for inspiration for my menu. My tomato basil soup is pretty yummy, so I already knew I’d be making this to go along with the home-style chicken noodle waiting for me at the store. I wanted to try some type of slider we’d not done before, so I settled on a version of an Italian slider I found on Pinterest.

The first step is to lay out all of your rolls in greased pans, taking the tops off. Then I made a softened butter mixture that included fresh basil and thyme (from my garden), granulated garlic, and dried Italian Seasoning.

Next is a layer of smoked ham. It’s important to fold the pieces so each sandwich has volume and texture to it. No one wants to bite into a flat meat sandwich. Yuck!

Next is a layer of pepperoni.

Then, a layer of your favorite Salami. This is Genoa.

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Then a layer of Roasted Red pepper. In the interest of time, I used a jarred variety. Were I making this at home, however, I’d have roasted my own peppers.

Then a layer of smokey provolone cheese. (We cut ours into squarish shapes- you don’t have to.)

The next time I make these, I will add one more layer which will be caramelized onions. I planned on doing it this time, but completely forgot about the onions I left in the car! Here, you simply replace the lids and then the fun part is drizzling a mixture of melted butter, Italian seasoning, garlic and Parmesan cheese over the top. Use a pastry brush to ensure every part of the sandwich is covered in butter.

Bake at 375 degrees for 20 minutes. I like to start them off covered for 15 minutes, then finish them uncovered for 5.

We paired these with a choice of tomato basil bisque or chicken noodle soup and a garden salad with sliced mushrooms and artichoke quarters. It was yummy and very very easy to do.

If you have a crowd to feed, sliders are the greatest option!


Ingredients
1-2 sticks of butter
2 Tbsp. freshly chopped basil (optional)
1 Tbsp. freshly chopped thyme (optional)
1-2 Tbsp. Dried Italian herbs (more if needed)
1-2 Tbsp. granulated garlic (more if needed)
1 package of sliced Hawaiian Type rolls. (I used a generic version.) 1 dozen.
1 package of Smoked Ham
1 package of large Pepperoni Slices
1 package of large Salami Slices
1 package of Smokey Provolone slices
1 jar of Roasted Red peppers (at home I would roast my own, but not for a huge crowd)

Directions
Preheat oven to 375.
Grease a baking pan and lay the bottoms of the rolls inside.
In a bowl combine one stick of softened butter with half the herbs of your choice.
Spread the butter mixture over the bottoms of the rolls.
Layer as follows:
1. Folded Ham Slices
2. Pepperoni
3. Salami
4. Roasted Red Peppers
5. Provolone Cheese
6. Put the tops back on.
Melt the remaining butter, add the herbs and then drizzle this over the tops of the buns being careful to coat each one.
Bake covered at 375 degrees for 15 minutes. Uncover and bake 5 minutes more or until the cheese is melted and the tops of the rolls are a little bit brown but NOT hard.

Cauliflower Fried Rice

When the whole “substitute everything with cauliflower” craze began, I sat there shaking my head, no, no, no. My thoughts? “Yeah RIGHT, this stuff will taste like mashed potatoes”; “Yeah RIGHT, this stuff will taste like rice”, etc. I have tried to like mashed cauliflower, but I don’t. Occasionally, I really like roasted cauliflower, but it’s not something I ever crave, and I mean, EVER. Cauliflower fried rice, however, always leaves me happily satisfied and it’s a dish I make regularly.

(Surprise, it actually does taste like rice!)

This recipe is one that easily lends itself to substitution. I usually just add in whatever vegetables I have on hand; or whatever I think looks pretty; or whatever I have a taste for. Get it? You can use WHATEVER you want. The only rule is that you use the cauliflower in place of rice!

So here I have scrambled four eggs to begin with:

Once they were finished, I removed them to a plate, added in a little more olive oil and then sautéed some chopped onions. (Why? Because I love them.)

Once the onions were translucent, I added in my riced cauliflower. (I always buy this raw, prepared in a bag, but you can use a food processor to get the same result.) I don’t know why I did not get a photo of just the cauliflower, but I didn’t. Just imagine onions and riced cauliflower in a pan.

When the cauliflower and onions are in, I added a few splashes of toasted sesame oil and some minced ginger. Stir, stir, stir and when you are tired of stirring, stir some more. The object is to get the cauliflower cooked through, but you also want to get a little bit of caramelization going. When the cauliflower has softened, knock yourself out adding in whatever vegetables you love. Here I added some frozen peas and carrots and some left over sautéed onions and peppers.

Once your veggies are all in and warmed through, salt and pepper again, add in some more sesame oil and soy sauce, and continue stirring.

Finally, fold back in those yummy scrambled eggs. See that word I used? Fold. That’s fancy. It means to be very gentle so as not to kill the pretty scrambled curds. Dump in the eggs, then using your spatula, scrap the bottom of the pan, folding the contents on top of the eggs until they are incorporated but still in tact.

See how you can still see the pretty eggs?

The entire reason I made this dish was because whenever I make Ahi Tuna, I think it needs to have an Asian flavor to it. I have no idea where this comes from, but oh well. So here you have the finished dish with the tuna (and too much hot sauce on top!) I garnished with fresh cilantro because this lives and thrives in our kitchen 100% of the year.


Ingredients:

1 bag riced cauliflower

4 eggs, scrambled

Half a bag of frozen peas and carrots

1 onion chopped

2 Tbsp butter

2 Tbsp olive oil

1/2 c. Soy sauce

1/4 cup toasted sesame oil

Salt & pepper to taste

1/8 c. Chopped fresh ginger

ANYTHING else you like. The only thing to remember is that if it’s raw, cook it before you add it in.

Directions:

Scramble eggs over medium high heat in 1 Tbsp Olive oil & 1 Tbsp butter. Remove to a separate dish.

Sauté onion to translucent in same pan. Add in 1 Tbsp Olive oil and 1 Tbsp butter, Salt and pepper.

Add in raw cauliflower, 1/2 the soy sauce, 1/2 the sesame oil, 1/2 the ginger. Stir continually to ensure everything is coated in the soy sauce and sesame oil. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Once the cauliflower is softened and browned a little bit, add in frozen peas and carrots, the rest of the ginger and whatever else you want to add. Salt and pepper. Stir and then add in the second part of the soy sauce and sesame oil.

Don’t forget to savor the aroma. It seriously smells so good!

Who Doesn’t love a Kicked Up Grilled Cheese?

Hubs and I decided to make Halloween night a night of favorite comfort food indulgence. What’s better than a fancy grilled cheese, right!?

Hubs and I are usually very regimented when it comes to our meals. He is a body builder, and I am on a never-ending mission to lose weight. We don’t indulge in breads much, because I could eat an entire loaf in one sitting and most commercial breads have a lot of hidden sugar in them. (We try to limit our sugar intake as well.)

Halloween night we were both feeling like doing something fun, so after some discussion, we landed on the option of grilled cheese. When we both let out a simultaneous, “Yuuuummmmmmmm!”, I knew we’d reached our decision.

The next half hour consisted of salivating over the different ways we could amp up this dish. We decided on thinly sliced zucchini, thinly sliced tomato, Swiss and Cheddar cheeses, caramelized onions, freshly chopped basil, yellow mustard and of course some great bread: thick cut sour dough (my favorite).

I confess to being distracted by trick-or-treaters, (or at least the sounds of them), so I didn’t photograph every step. I have to say, with conviction, that everyone should already know how to make a basic grilled cheese! It’s absolutely not rocket science! I have faith you all do!

You should have all of your ingredients gathered together holding hands next to the pan, because once the bread goes down, you want to work quickly so you don’t burn it.

I started by buttering one side of each bread slice. (I always use REAL butter, anything else is unhealthy.) Then I heated a cast iron skillet to medium-high, melted some more butter and about a Tbsp of olive oil, and placed the first piece of bread butter-side down in the pan. These were big slices of bread, so I did one sandwich at a time. I let the bread sit in the pan for about a minute, turned the heat down a tad, then added my first layer of cheese (Swiss volunteered to be first.) Then I sprinkled on a little yellow mustard.

Then came the thinly sliced Roma tomatoes. (We used the mandolin set on super thin to do these these and the zucchini. If you don’t have a mandolin, slice the tomatoes as thinly as possible. You can use a vegetable peeler to pull off long strips of zucchini instead of medallions.) Just like we did with the tarts, we salted them and left them out on paper towels for half an hour to get the water out of them. Blot them dry before you use them.

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Like I said, I didn’t photograph all of my steps so just use your imagination or squint while you look at the next photos. AFTER the tomatoes, I sprinkled on some shredded sharp cheddar, then came the zucchini. I also failed to mention that I season at every turn. So here you can see some freshly cracked pepper. Don’t use salt on the vegetables because you don’t want any more liquid coming out making your sammie soggy. (Sammie soggy; Say that five times fast! -Sammie-soggy, Sammie-soggy, Sammie-soggy…)

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I totally failed at getting the photo of the BEST part and that is the sprinkling of caramelized onions. We keep those on hand most of the time, so I just pulled mine out of the fridge and used them cold. Then a sprinkling of freshly chopped basil, more Swiss and the top goes on.

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By now it’s time to flip because I’m certain the bottom is golden brown. (I forgot to say this earlier. I didn’t do it this time, but it would have been great to have sprinkled a little granulated garlic or garlic salt in that butter before it went in the pan.)

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Yup. Right on the money.

Cut that thing of beauty in half and pair it with your favorite soup! This is tomato-basil, but I confess that I bought it prepared at my local deli.  No recipe for this today, but I’ll post mine soon.


Do you really NEED a recipe for this?

Ingredients:

• 4 pieces thick cut sour dough bread
• Enough real softened butter to coat one side of each piece of bread (you do the math)
• 1 Tbsp real butter & 1 Tbsp olive oil (for melting in the skillet)
• 1 zucchini sliced as thinly as humanly possible.
• 3 Roma tomatoes sliced like the zucchini
• 4 Tbsp caramelized onions
• 8 pieces of pre-sliced Swiss Cheese
• ½-3/4 c. shredded sharp cheddar cheese
• 2 Tbsp prepared yellow mustard
• Salt & pepper to taste

Directions:

1. Slice your vegetables and lay them out on paper towels. Sprinkle with salt and let them rest for half an hour. Then blot them dry with more paper towels.

2. Spread softened butter onto one side of each piece of bread.

3. Assemble all ingredients prior to putting the first slice in the pan.

4. Heat a cast iron skillet to medium high and melt 1-2 Tbsp butter & 1 Tbsp olive oil in the pan.

5. Put the first slice in, butter-side down, let it sit about 30 seconds.

6. Layer your ingredients: Swiss cheese, mustard, tomatoes, cheddar cheese, zucchini, caramelized onions, more Swiss cheese, then the other piece of bread.

7. Flip and press down. Sandwich is done when the cheese is melted and the outsides are golden brown. Salt and pepper the outside while still hot.

 

Chicken & Toasted Orzo with Spinach, Tomatoes & Goat Cheese!

For times that I feel uninspired I turn to my cookbooks to get the creative juices flowing. I adore the “America’s Test Kitchen” cookbooks. This recipe is adapted from one of theirs. Delish!

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I am a huge fan of America’s Test Kitchen Cookbooks! They are beautifully illustrated and I love that each recipe starts with a forward that says, “Why This Recipe Works”. Lately I have been cooking so much that often, when it comes time to decide what’s for dinner, I am drawing blanks. Thankfully, these cookbooks live in my kitchen, so it’s easy to pop one open and find some inspiration. This recipe is adapted from their recipe entitled: “Chicken and Orzo with Spinach and Feta“. It’s from their cookbook: America’s Test Kitchen Cooking For Two.

After I refreshed my memory of the recipe, I decided to get completely organized before starting to cook. It’s much easier when the ingredients are all prepped and ready to go. I began by running out to my herb garden to get some fresh oregano. While I was there I noticed my sage plant is growing like crazy, so I picked a bit of that and I also snagged some baby kale. I wish I could take credit for growing those beautiful little tomatoes, but they came from Sam’s Club as did the baby spinach/kale mixture.

I removed the stems from the spinach (I hate stems), chopped my garlic and herbs, then measured out the red pepper flakes, the amount of orzo and the amount of chicken stock I would need.

The first step is to put the raw orzo into a skillet and toast it until it’s a little brown. Don’t skip this step because it really imparts a great flavor and a little bit better texture.

Then in the same skillet, I sauteed my chicken tenders in a bit of olive oil, salt and pepper and some granulated garlic. Not very interesting. It’s just chicken! LOL.

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Once the chicken has browned on both sides and is barely cooked through, you remove it to another pan and then add in your stock and orzo. I put the stock in first to deglaze the pan. The recipe doesn’t actually call for tomatoes, but we like them so I added some in to let them cook with the orzo. Once you get it to a boil, you add the chicken back in, nestling it in the orzo until it’s cooked through. Since I used chicken tenders, it only took a few minutes. If you use breasts, it would be longer.

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Once the chicken is cooked through, remove it again, to a plate tented with foil. Continue to cook the orzo until al dente, then start adding the spinach in small batches, stirring pretty continuously. I kept extra stock handy in case I needed it and I did need to add about a half cup before the orzo came together the way I wanted. The recipe calls for the juice of a lemon. I added the zest of a lemon and the juice and the taste was bumped up considerably!

Lastly, I removed it all, placed it in my serving dish, added the chicken and topped it with crumbled goat cheese and fresh oregano leaves…and of course, my beautiful tomatoes!

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Winner winner, chicken dinner!


 

(Adapted from an original recipe from America’s Test Kitchen)

Ingredients:

3/4 c. orzo
2 T olive oil
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
salt and pepper
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp fresh minced oregano
1 tsp fresh minced sage
1 tsp red pepper flakes
2 1/2 c chicken broth (more if needed)
12-15 cherry tomatoes
4 cups baby spinach
4 oz goat cheese, crumbled
Zest of 1 lemon
Juice from one lemon
Fresh oregano leaves for garnish (You could use basil or flat leafed parsley if you don’t have fresh oregano)

Directions:

  1. Toast the orzo in a cast iron skillet over medium high heat (just until brown, stirring often.) Remove from skillet.
  2. Using the same skillet, saute chicken in olive oil until brown and just barely cooked through. Remove to a plate.
  3. Toss herbs and garlic into the same skillet, let it bloom 30-40 seconds
  4. Add in chicken broth. tomatoes and orzo, season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil. Reduce to simmer, add back the chicken and cover until chicken is cooked through. (10-15 minutes if using tenders, 15-19 minutes if breasts) Remove chicken to a plate and tent with foil.
  5. Continue simmering the orzo, stirring and adding more stock.
  6. Add in the lemon juice and zest. Season with more pepper and a little salt.
  7. Add in the spinach, one handful at a time, continuously stirring.
  8. Once your spinach has wilted and the orzo is cooked through, transfer it to a serving platter. Nestle the chicken into the orzo, garnish with crumbled goat cheese, fresh cherry tomatoes, fresh herbs.

 

 

 

Vegetable Couscous Stuffed Acorn Squash! Pretty Food!

Once upon a time around Thanksgiving time, we catered a huge interfaith meal. Because there were many different religious dietary restrictions, it was important that we offered a vegetarian option. As per usual, I wanted the food to be beautiful and colorful, so we came up with this recipe for stuffed acorn squash! I was beyond thrilled with the result!

Last year around this time we were contracted to contribute a vegetarian dish for an Interfaith meal hosted by the church where I am employed. We knew we wanted to make something eye-catching utilitizing a Fall vegetable. Say hello to my friend, Mr. Acorn Squash.

I literally went to the store and searched for something colorful to stuff it with and I found this tri-colored pearl couscous. (Thank you, Lucky’s Market!)

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Next, I knew I needed more than just couscous to make it an actual vegetarian dish. Well, to be honest, the squash and the couscous would have been fine, but it wasn’t enough for me. I decided to sauté some yummy vegetables to add into the squash, so I stocked up on onions, carrots, a few butternut squash, dried cranberries, slivered almonds, etc. I literally just thought about things that I love and went from there.

Next, I needed my big, strong hubba hubba hubby, Charlie, to open each squash and scoop out the innards! Don’t worry, I will reduce this recipe so you aren’t feeding 150 people with it! <<grin>> He also sliced off a bit of the bottom so they would sit on a plate without wobbling.

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After the squash have been halved and scooped out, they go in a pan with a little water, (cut side down) to bake until almost soft. (To make these for the family, you can absolutely do this step in the microwave to save time.)

Then it’s a matter of sautéing the vegetables, (I used squash, onion, carrots, cranberries, toasted almonds) preparing the couscous according to package directions and combining all…then stuffing the squash. Here is my bowl combining my sautéed ingredients with my toasted almonds.

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Here is the couscous combined with the sautéed vegetables and toasted almonds stuffed inside the acorn squash.

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Here, I have spooned in the stuffing.

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And finally, it goes back into the oven, sprinkled with fresh seasonings and then it comes out looking like a work of art! (So colorful!) If you are looking for something new to take to your Thanksgiving pot luck dinner, try this. It looks like you’ve spent hours, yet it’s super easy. You could even prepare all of this a day or two in advance, then bake just before you leave for your event OR before you have your event. These will do well stored warm in a baking dish covered with foil.

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Pretty, aren’t they?


Ingredients:

4 acorn squash, washed, cut in half, seeds scooped out.

1 Package tri-colored pearl couscous (or whatever your favorite happens to be) prepared according to pkg directions.

2 Tbsp Olive oil

2 Tbsp butter

2-3 fresh sage leaves chopped

2 carrots peeled & sliced.

1 large onion diced

1/2 butternut squash, peeled, and cubed (save time and buy this already diced from the market)

1/2 c Toasted almonds

1/2 c Dried cranberries (chopped dried apricots would be great in there too or even yellow raisins)

Salt & pepper

1/2 freshly chopped Italian parsley

1/2 c freshly grated cheese of your choice. (I used Asiago/Regiano)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400

  1. Prepare tri-colored couscous according to package directions, set aside.
  2. Dice all of the vegetables (except the butternut squash) and sauté (until tender) in half the olive oil and half the butter. Season with salt and pepper and the sage. Just prior to finishing, toss in the cranberries to soften them.
  3. When the vegetables are tender, remove to a bowl, clean out your skillet and dry roast the almonds over medium high heat for about 2 minutes until fragrant. Add to the vegetables.
  4. Put the butternut squash in a bowl, drizzle with olive oil and salt and pepper, pour out onto sheet tray, bake 20-25 minutes.

Prepare the squash:

  1. Wash the acorn squash, cut in half, scoop out the seeds.
  2. Brush the cut sides and the cavity with olive oil. Sprinkle them with salt & pepper& garlic
  3. Place cut side down in a large roasting pan
  4. Roast in the oven for one hour until tender and still holding their shape.

Prepare the stuffing:

  1. In a bowl, combine the couscous with the roasted butternut squash and the sautéed vegetables and cranberries.
  2. Stir in the parsley
  3. Spoon into the cooked acorn squashes.
  4. Sprinkle the tops with freshly grated cheese of your choice. I like Asiago, but you can use what you like.
  5. Place back in oven uncovered for about 5-8 minutes until just heated through.
  6. Garnish with more parsley.

Enjoy!

Fall into Pork Chops & Apples!

Every now and then my husband pops off to the market alone.  He often loves to find and bring home bone-in pork chops that are thick-cut and gigantic! The last time he came home with them, I was remembering the episode of “The Brady Bunch”, where Peter and the whole gang kept repeating the phrase, “Pork chopppppssssss and applesauuuuuuce! That’s right, pork choppppssssss and applesauuuuuuuce!” I had never actually tried to make pork chops with any type of apple; so here you have what happened next!

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Every now and then my husband pops off to the market alone.  He often loves to find and bring home bone-in pork chops that are thick-cut and gigantic! The last time he came home with them, I was remembering the episode of “The Brady Bunch”, where Peter and the whole gang kept repeating the phrase, “Pork chopppppssssss and applesauuuuuuce! That’s right, pork choppppssssss and applesauuuuuuuce!” I had never actually tried to make pork chops with any type of apple; so here you have what happened next!

I have often heard that Granny Smith apples are the best for cooking, so I popped out to the market and picked up a few, then I cored them, sliced them and held them in a water bath (to prevent browning).

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Salt and pepper both sides of the chops.

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Sear in butter and olive oil until golden brown.

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See? This is starting to look yummy!

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Pay no attention to that last photo with the apples on top. The apples go on the BOTTOM of the pan. I just forgot to save the correct photo! LOL!


Ingredients:

  • 4 bone-in pork chops
  • 3 Granny Smith Apples
  • 6 tablespoons REAL butter (Down with substitutes!)
  • 1/2 c. brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350
  2. Peel, core & slice the apples. Place in a bowl and cover with water until ready to use.
  3. Salt & pepper the chops, then sear them in 2 Tbsp butter using a medium high cast iron skillet.
  4. Grease a 9 X 12 baking dish.
  5. Line the bottom with the apple slices.
  6. Mix brown sugar and cinnamon, sprinkle over the apples. Break up the 2 Tbsp. butter into pea sized little bits and sprinkle them over the apples and sugar mixture.
  7. Place the chops on top of the apples and sprinkle the remaining butter (broken into bits) over the chops.
  8. Cover with foil and bake for 1 1/2 hours.