Monthly Archives: March 2014

Going Meatless – Sparrow Veggie Burger

Everyone once in a while I do try to make a meatless dish so we can stay away from red meat. We don’t eat a lot of it here, but every little bit helps some, right? It’s also no secret that I watch a lot of Food Network, especially when it isn’t baseball season, so a few weeks ago Michelle and I saw Diners. Drive-Ins and Dives and Guy Fieri  was a restaurant in Queens where they made this really great looking vegetable burger. Now most vegetable burgers I have had in the past have left a lot to be desired but this one looked like it had some great stuff in it so  I wanted to give it a try. It took me a while to track down a recipe online and even then it was not very specific so it took a little manipulation on my part to make this one work.

Sparrow Veggie Burger

2 shredded carrots

1 shredded zucchini

1 cup barley, cooked

Corn off the ear of 1 cob

1 cup green peas

1 large sweet potato, cooked

handful of scallions

Panko breadcrumbs

1 diced red pepper

5 large chopped mushrooms

1 cup cooked brown rice

Pita bread

Lettuce or bean sprouts


Sweet Cayenne Mustard Sauce:

1 cup plain nonfat yogurt or mayonnaise

3 tablespoons cayenne pepper

1/2 cup grain or Dijon mustard

3/4 cup agave or maple syrup

Mix the carrots, zucchini, cooked barley, corn, green peas, sweet potato, scallions, breadcrumbs, red pepper, mushrooms and the cooked brown rice together in a large bowl until blended. Allow the mixture to sit for 1 hour so the flavors can meld together.

While the vegetables sit, make the sweet cayenne mustard sauce. Mix the yogurt or mayonnaise, the cayenne pepper, mustard and the agave or maple syrup together in a medium bowl with a whisk until smooth and well blended. Set the sauce aside.

Pre-heat the oven to 325 degrees.For the veggie burgers, measure out six-ounce portions – about the size of the palm of your hand – and form patties for the burgers. Place the patties on a lightly oiled baking sheet. Cook the patties in the oven until they are cooked through, about 45 minutes. Remove the baking sheet from the oven. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat and add 1 tablespoon of vegetable and heat until the oil is shimmering. Add the patties to the skillet and cook until the burgers are browned and crunchy on the outside, about 4 minutes per side.

Drizzle the sweet cayenne pepper sauce inside a pita. Add the lettuce or bean sprouts to the pita, then add the veggie burger and the pickles and drizzle with more sauce if desired. Repeat with the remaining burgers.

Okay, here are a couple of things we noticed in this recipe. First, this recipe makes a lot more than the 6 portions the recipe purports to make. We had over twelve patties when all was said and done, so you can bake them and freeze them so you always have some ready to make when you feel like having one and just defrost it and bake it in the skillet. Second, these burgers do not hold together well because there is not much to bind them. We actually experimented with another batch and added 1 beaten egg to the mix and they held together much better than the first batch. From what I have been able to see about the Sparrow Diner, while they call it a burger, it is not really served as a burger that holds together, which is why they serve it in a pita, which is fine, but we wanted more of a burger texture so we added the egg and served it on a hamburger roll. Finally, for the sauce, I cut back on the cayenne pepper. Three tablespoons is a lot of cayenne pepper, so if you like it hot, go for it, but if you want something milder, cut back a bit and you will have a great sauce. Michelle and I both liked the results of the burger. It had great flavor with all of the vegetables and we enjoyed. In the interest of full disclosure, Sean hated it. He didn’t like the taste and said it didn’t hold together well, but I think for the majority of teenage boys who hear they are having burgers for dinner it was an understandable reaction. He did eat it, but he wasn’t happy with it, so next time around I guess it is just for me and Michelle.

That’s all I have for today. Check back next time for another recipe. I’ve been really busy lately so I haven’t been able to blog as much as I want, but I am going to try harder to keep up regularly since I still have lots to share. Until next time, enjoy the rest of your day and enjoy your meal!




Posted by on March 30, 2014 in Cooking, Dinner, Sandwiches, Sauce, Vegetables, Vegetarian


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Sam Sifton is Right – Make This Chicken and Shallots Dish!

I had seen this recipe both on Twitter and in the New York Times last week and it sounded too good to pass up. Sam Sifton, who writes food articles for the New York Times, had gotten the recipe from Andrew Zimmern, the well-known chef and host of Man vs. Food. Andrew Zimmern had gotten the recipe from his wife Rishia, who adapted the recipe from one from Martha Stewart. Needless to say the recipe has made its rounds and it is quite simple but makes a really delicious chicken dish with just a few ingredients that you may already have around the house. I love simple recipes like this one so I knew I was going to try it as soon as I saw it.

Rishia Zimmern’s Chicken and Shallots

8 bone-in, skin on chicken thighs

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon kosher salt

1 tablespoon ground black pepper

2 tablespoons butter

12 to 15 whole medium shallots, peeled

2 cups white wine

2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

2 sprigs tarragon

2 cups cherry tomatoes, cut in half

Rinse the chicken thighs in water and pat them very dry with paper towels. Sprinkle the chicken thighs with the flour, kosher salt and pepper.

Melt the butter in a large, heavy-bottomed pot or skillet set over medium-high heat. When the butter foams, cook the chicken thighs, in batches if necessary, until the chicken is well browned and crisp on all sides, about 3 to 4 minutes per side. Set the chicken aside.

Add the whole shallots to the pot and saute them in the butter and chicken fat until they begin to soften and caramelize, approximately 10 to 12 minutes. Add the wine to deglaze the pot, stir with a large spoon, then add the Dijon mustard and the sprigs of tarragon, then the chicken thighs. Cover the pot, turn the heat down to low, and simmer the chicken for 30 minutes.

Remove the lid and allow the sauce to reduce and thicken, about 15 to 20 minutes. Add the cherry tomatoes to the pot, stir lightly to combine and serve immediately.

It is a very simple recipe that turns out some great tasting chicken with a nice sauce that is flavored well by the wine, mustard, tarragon and the shallots. I ended up cutting the recipe in half because 4 chicken thighs are more than enough for the three of us for a typical meal, but if you are feeding a larger group you could go with the full recipe. I served the chicken with some white rice and roasted asparagus and I think it all went really nicely together.

That’s all I have for today. Check back next time for another recipe. Until then, enjoy the rest of your day and enjoy your meal!


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Posted by on March 26, 2014 in Cooking, Dinner, Poultry


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Two Great Flavors in One – Bananas Foster Coffee Parfaits

This is another part of the Fat Tuesday meal I made a few weeks ago as a special dessert. I love Bananas Foster. It is probably my favorite dessert option, or at least right up there with Black Forest cake. Instead of just making simple Bananas Foster though, we wanted to try something that would be a little bit different for us. I searched around and found a bunch of different recipes but this one, from Bon Appetit, struck me as the one that looked like it would be very different and have great flavor. It is for Bananas Foster coffee parfaits. It tastes great, but be warned, it is labor intensive so you have to be willing to work a bit for it.

Bananas Foster Coffee Parfaits

4 large egg yolks
1 1/2 cups chilled whipping cream
2/3 cup packed light brown sugar
2 tablespoons molasses
2 tablespoons dark rum
2 tablespoons coffee liqueur
2 tablespoons instant coffee crystals
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 large bananas, cut into 3/4-inch chunks
3/4 cup (about) crushed gingersnaps
6 whole gingersnaps 
6 bananas slices 
6 fresh mint sprigs, optional

Combine the egg yolks, 1/2 cup of the whipping cream, 1/3 cup of the light brown sugar, molasses, rum, coffee liqueur and instant coffee in a medium stainless steel bowl. Set the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water (do not let the bottom of the bowl touch the water.) Using a handheld electric mixer, beat the yolk mixture until it is thick and a thermometer registers 160°F, about 18 minutes. Remove the bowl from over the water; continue beating the mixture until it is cool, about 4 minutes.

Using the same beaters, beat 1 cup of the whipping cream and the vanilla in a medium bowl until medium-firm peaks form. Fold the cream into the cooled yolk mixture in 2 additions. Cover and chill the mixture until it is thickened, about 4 hours. This portions can be made 1 day ahead. Just keep it chilled until you are ready to continue.

Preheat the broiler. Place the banana chunks on a baking sheet. Push 1/3 cup of the brown sugar through a fine mesh sieve onto the bananas, coating them evenly. Place the bananas close to the heat; broil the bananas until the sugar melts and crisps on the bananas.

Spoon 1/4 cup of the coffee custard into each of six 1 1/4- to 1 1/2-cup goblets.

Spoon the bananas over the custard, dividing them equally. Sprinkle each parfait with 1 rounded tablespoon of the crushed gingersnaps. Top each parfait with another 1/4 cup of the custard. Garnish each with a gingersnap, banana slice and mint, if desired.

I have to say that these were a lot of work getting the mixture just right, so I can understand while people might not want to make them, standing over a double boiler with your electric mixer, mixing for 18 minutes, but the end result is worth it. These parfaits had great flavor from the bananas, the rum, the coffee liqueur and the coffee. Throw in the ginger snaps for some extra crunch and to me it was great. It might not be something I make very often, but as a once a year treat I think it is a pretty good thing.

That’s all I have for today. Check back next time for another recipe. As always, there’s lots of good stuff to share. Until then, enjoy the rest of your day and enjoy your meal!



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Posted by on March 25, 2014 in Cooking, Dessert, Fruit


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Going Ga-Ga Over Gumbo

I had meant to post this recipe a couple of weeks ago but I seemed to have caught up in other things lately and just completely forgot about it until I was making shrimp for dinner tonight and remembered I had a recipe for the shrimp, chicken and andouille gumbo I had made back on Fat Tuesday. Sean had requested some gumbo for that night so I had picked my way through a few different recipes until I came across this one from Bon Appetit. One thing to not about this particular recipe is that it makes a lot of gumbo. The servings for the original recipe are for 16 people. I cut the recipe in half when I made it and it still made a lot with many leftovers, so unless you are planning to feed a lot of people with this one, you might want to try to adjust it to fit your particular meal needs. Either way, it’s a great recipe to use.

Shrimp, Chicken and Andouille Gumbo

1 cup vegetable oil
1 cup all-purpose flour
6 large onions, chopped (about 12 cups)
6 red bell peppers, seeded, chopped (about 7 cups)
8 celery stalks, chopped (about 3 cups)
16 garlic cloves, chopped
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup chopped fresh thyme
6 bay leaves
2 28-ounce cans diced tomatoes with juice
4 8-ounce bottles clam juice
4 cups low-salt chicken broth
4 pounds andouille sausage, cut crosswise into 1/2-inch-thick slices
3 pounds skinless boneless chicken thighs, cut into 1-inch cubes
2 16-ounce packages sliced frozen okra
4 pounds peeled deveined medium shrimp
Minced fresh Italian parsley
Steamed rice

Heat oil in a heavy 13-quart pot over medium-high heat until it is very hot and almost smoking. Add the flour and stir constantly until the mixture is a dark reddish-brown, about 5 minutes. Add the chopped onions, chopped bell peppers, and chopped celery and cook until the onions are soft and brown, stirring frequently, about 20 minutes. Add the garlic and cayenne and stir for 2 minutes. Add the wine, thyme, and bay leaves; bring the mixture to a boil, stirring occasionally. Add the tomatoes with juice, clam juice, chicken broth, andouille sausage, and the chicken thighs; simmer until the chicken is cooked through, about 15 minutes. Add the okra and simmer until it is tender, about 10 minutes.
Add the shrimp to the pot and cook the shrimp until it is just opaque in the center, stirring often, about 5 minutes. Season the gumbo to taste with the salt and pepper. Garnish the gumbo with minced parsley and serve with steamed rice alongside.

As you can see this recipe is not hard to make, but it does require an awful lot of prep work to make this easy on yourself. Do all of your chopping and dicing ahead of time and lay everything out for yourself to make it a lot easier and it will all  come together quite easily. The flavors are great and I love the spiciness of the andouille with the shrimp and chicken and all of the great vegetables. Making the roux takes some time and attention but it is definitely worth it. There are lots of gumbo recipes out there that you can try; some omit the shrimp, some include other seafood. it’s really up to you as far as what you like best but you will get a great result and this recipe is perfect to make for a party or a buffet for a lot of people.

That’s all I have for today. Check back tomorrow for another recipe to try. Until then, enjoy the rest of your day and enjoy your meal!

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Changing Up a Classic (Just a Bit) – Stovetop Mac and Cheese

There is no other way for me to say it – I don’t like macaroni and cheese. I don’t eat pasta or cheese, so for me, this meal is almost the worst combination you can come up with (it’s right up there with lasagna and baked ziti for me). I know this may sound like blasphemy, but it is just the way it is for me and my family accepts it. That doesn’t change the fact that Michelle and Sean both love macaroni and cheese and would eat it just about every day if they could. That being said, usually when it comes to making macaroni and cheese in this house, I step away from the kitchen and let Michelle take over. She knows how it should be and should taste so I just let her do it. When she and Sean saw this recipe this morning from Amy Thielen on Food Network, they immediately decided they wanted to try it for lunch today.

Stovetop Mac and Cheese

4 ounces (about 3 to 4 slices) bacon, cut into small dice
Salt, for pasta water
1/2 pound pasta, such as elbows
2 tablespoons butter
2 ounces American cheese, shredded (about 3/4 cup)
2 ounces aged cheddar, shredded (about 3/4 cup)
2 to 3 tablespoons milk
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 to 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley, optional

Heat a small skillet over medium heat; add the bacon and cook, stirring, until the bacon is lightly crisp, about 7 to 8 minutes. Drain and set aside; reserve the bacon fat for another use.

Bring a 2-quart pot of water to a boil. Salt the water generously. Add the pasta and cook, stirring occasionally, until it is just tender to the bite, or al dente. Before draining the pasta, use a heavy liquid measuring cup to pull out 3/4 cup of the pasta water; set the water aside. Drain the pasta and return the pot to the heat.

Heat the butter in the pasta pot, then add the cooked pasta. Stir in 1/2 cup of the reserved pasta water. Add the shredded American cheese and stir until the mixture is smooth. Add the shredded cheddar cheese, milk, pepper and the cooked bacon and mix well. Dribble in the extra pasta water as needed to make a soft, creamy sauce. Garnish with parsley if using. Serve immediately.

It seems to me that this is just as easy as it would be to open one of those boxes of macaroni and cheese that have the cheese “dust” in it and I have to admit this smelled a lot better than the usual mac and  cheese to me because of the use of the bacon. Sean absolutely loved it with the bacon in it, since bacon pretty much makes everything better anyway. Michelle really enjoyed it as well, though she thought it could use some more cheese in it and vowed to add more the next time around. Overall it seemed to be a pretty good hit with both of them and showed plans on bringing some to school on Monday for lunch.

That’s all I have for today. Check back next time for another recipe. As always, there is still plenty to share as we are always trying something new around here. If you ever have any recipes you would like to share or something you would like to see on the blog, feel free to leave a comment, or catch up with me on Facebook or Twitter or send me an email at Until next time, enjoy the rest of your day and enjoy your meal!


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Posted by on March 22, 2014 in Dinner, Lunch, One Pot Meals, Pasta, Side Dishes


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A Sweet Side Dish – Twice Baked Sweet Potatoes

The sweet potato, in my opinion, is a side dish that often gets overlooked. At least I know in my house we forget about them a lot and we really shouldn’t see it is considered a super food. To me it’s a great side and has a lot more flavor than your typical Russet potato or Yukon gold potato and I would rather have a sweet potato than either of those. Anyway, I had come across this recipe from Guy Fieri on the Food Network when I was looking for something different to do with a sweet potato for dinner and I saw this simple recipe for twice-baked sweet potatoes. I actually changed it a little bit by microwaving the potatoes for 12 minutes first instead of baking them in the oven for an hour to soften them up so they could be done faster, but you can use either method and still get quality results.

Twice-Baked Sweet Potatoes

4 medium-sized sweet potatoes

5 tablespoons light brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Pinch cayenne pepper

1/2 stick butter

Vegetable oil, for greasing the roasting tray

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1/2 cup chopped pecans (optional)

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Lightly scrub the sweet potatoes under cold running water. Place the potatoes on a roasting tray and bake the potatoes until they are tender, about 1 hour to 1 hour and 15 minutes. Remove the sweet potatoes from the oven and allow the potatoes to cool slightly before cutting of the top third of the potato lengthwise. Scoop out the flesh using a large spoon and be sure to leave enough on the base so the skin will be able to hold its shape and reserve the bases.

Add the sweet potato flesh, 2 tablespoons of the brown sugar, the ground cinnamon, ground nutmeg, cayenne pepper and the butter to a food processor. Process the mixture until the ingredients are completely combined and the puree is smooth. Season the potato mixture with salt and pepper to taste. Drizzle a roasting tray with a little bit of the vegetable oil. Set the potato skin bases upright on the tray and fill the bases with the sweet potato mixture.

Combine the remaining 3 tablespoons of brown sugar and the pecans, if using, in a small bowl. Sprinkle the top of each stuffed sweet potato with the sugar-pecan topping. Bake the potatoes for 10 minutes. Finish the potatoes under the broiler for the top to brown, about 1 minute, if desired.

As I had said, I scrubbed the potatoes and poked them with a fork and cooked them in the microwave for 12 minutes until they were tender so I could significantly cut back on the cooking time and I think they came out just fine. The flavors of the potato with the sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg were great and although I omitted the pecans, I did drizzle a little bit of pure maple syrup on each one for some extra flavor. To me, it’s a great way to make an easy side dish to go with just about beef, pork or poultry dish that you want.

That’s all I have for today. Check back tomorrow for another recipe. Until then, enjoy the rest of your day and enjoy your meal!


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Posted by on March 20, 2014 in Cooking, Potatoes, Side Dishes, Vegetables


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Who Doesn’t Love Chicken Fingers?

Chicken fingers don’t have to be just the classic kid’s meal. I know plenty of adults who enjoy them as well, but most adults are a little more discriminating about the quality that they like to have. Personally, I like chicken fingers that have good crunch and flavor to them but are not covered with a ton of breading or coating and taste greasy from the deep-frying. It’s a tricky balance, but it can be done if you put your mind to it. I came across this recipe in Saveur magazine for some chicken fingers that looked great, seemed simple to make and even had a nice dipping sauce on the side to make.

Homemade Chicken Fingers

For the Chicken Fingers:

2 pounds, boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cunt into 3-inch long by 1-inch wide strips

1 tablespoon sugar

1 tablespoon kosher salt

1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper

1 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder

1 teaspoon paprika

1 teaspoon dry mustard powder

1 cup all-purpose flour

4 eggs, lightly beaten

3 cups panko breadcrumbs or finely ground fresh breadcrumbs

Vegetable or canola oil, for frying

For the Dipping Sauce:

1 1/2 cups mayonnaise

1/4 cup honey

2 tablespoons roughly chopped fresh dill

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1 tablespoon dry mustard powder

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

For the dipping sauce, in a medium bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise with the honey, dill, mustard powder and lemon juice. Season the sauce with salt and pepper to taste and stir together until the sauce is smooth. Set the sauce aside.

For the chicken fingers, in a medium bowl, toss together the chicken strips, sugar, salt, pepper, garlic powder, paprika and mustard powder. Set the chicken aside. Place the all purpose flour, eggs and breadcrumbs in 3 separate shallow dishes; set the dishes aside. Pour the oil into a large Dutch oven until it reaches a depth of about 2 inches. Heat the oil over medium-high heat until a deep-fry thermometer inserted into the oil registers 325 degrees. Working in batches, coat the chicken in the flour, shake off any excess, and then dip the chicken in the eggs; shake off any excess and the roll the chicken in the breadcrumbs. Set the chicken aside and repeat with all of the chicken pieces until they are all coated. Working in batches, fry the chicken pieces until they are golden brown and crisp all over, about 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a paper towel-lined plate to drain. Repeat the process with the remaining chicken until all of the chicken is fried. Serve the chicken with the dipping sauce.

These were very easy to make and came out perfect. They were nice and crisp on the outside and were cooked ideally on the inside. The sauce had some great flavor with the honey and the dill and I also made the avocado ranch dipping sauce I have made in the past as well to give us a choice of sauces. Everyone loved them and these are great for a meal, a party or as an appetizer. I even used the leftovers as chicken for a buffalo chicken pizza I made the next day.

That’s all I have for today. Check back next time for another recipe. I have some great side dishes I have tried recently along with a few other dishes that have been great for sharing. Until then, enjoy the rest of your day and enjoy your meal!



Posted by on March 19, 2014 in Appetizers, Cooking, Dinner, Poultry, Sauce


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Jennifer Probst

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