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Monthly Archives: February 2015

Fresh Market + Geoffrey Zakarian = Awesome Spaghetti and Meatballs

I am always on the lookout for a good deal when it comes to grocery shopping. If I can get a bargain that we can get a few meals out of that is even better and I am willing to drive a little bit if I have to get there. That is why I buy a lot of my meat and produce from Adam’s Farms, which is a good 20 mile drive for me but well worth it. I had also forgotten that we have a Fresh Market that is about the same distance away from here and I always found good stuff when I would go there when visiting my family in North Carolina so I signed up to get their emails and see what kinds of deals they might have. It turns out on Thursdays they do a store special called the Little Big Deal where you get the ingredients for a dinner to feed a family of f our all for the cost of twenty dollars. The run the special every Thursday and this month’s special was a spaghetti and meatballs dinner, where they included a pound of whole wheat pasta, a pound of lean ground sirloin or ground turkey or a beef-free substitute, a jar of tomato sauce, a bag of salad and a family size fruit tub all for twenty dollars. It seemed like a good deal and I had been playing to make a new spaghetti and meatballs recipe I got from Geoffrey Zakarian so I thought I would adapt these ingredients from Fresh Market into the recipe and see what I came out with.

Geoffrey Zakarian’s Spaghetti and Meatballs

5 tablespoons panko breadcrumbs, finely processed

6 ounces heavy cream (as needed to soak the breadcrumbs)

1 tablespoon vegetable or canola oil

1/2 cup diced onions

1 clove garlic, chopped

1/2 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary

8 ounces ground pork

8 ounces sweet pork sausage, no casing

8 ounces ground veal

5 ounces Parmesan cheese, grated, plus more for garnish

1/4 cup finely minced fresh parsley, plus more for garnish

1 egg

Kosher salt

Basic Tomato Sauce recipe, to follow

1 pound spaghetti

Freshly cracked black pepper

For the Basic Tomato Sauce:

2 tablespoons olive oil

4 leaves fresh basil

1 clove garlic, chopped

Pinch red pepper flakes

One 32-ounce can San Marzano tomatoes, drained and processed in a food mill or food processor

Soak the breadcrumbs in the heavy cream in a medium bowl. Heat a large saute pan over medium heat and add the oil. Saute the onions and the garlic until the onions are translucent, about 3 to 4 minutes. Add the rosemary, remove the pan from the heat and then chill the mixture thoroughly in the refrigerator, about 30 minutes.

Combine the breadcrumb mixture, the onion mixture, pork, sausage, veal, Parmesan cheese, parsley and the egg in a large bowl. Using an electric mixer on low-speed, mix until all of the ingredients are well incorporated, about 1 to 2 minutes. Alternatively, mix all the ingredients by hand until everything is well incorporated, then add some salt for seasoning.

Heat a small saute pan to cook a sample of the mixture. Taste the mixture for seasoning and make any necessary adjustments. Form the meatballs into the desired size and shape and place them on a wire rack placed inside a rimmed baking sheet. Chill the meatballs for about 1 hour so they have a chance to set.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Bake the meatballs until they are browned, about 20 to 25 minutes. Bring the Basic Tomato Sauce to a simmer in a large pot or Dutch oven. Transfer the meatballs to the pot with the tomato sauce and allow the mixture to simmer until the meatballs are tender and cooked through, about 30 minutes.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Boil the spaghetti until al dente per the package instructions. transfer the cooked spaghetti to the sauce with the meatballs and toss. Add some black pepper, garnish with Parmesan cheese and parsley and serve.

To make the Basic Tomato Sauce, heat a saucepan over medium heat. Add the olive oil, basil, garlic and the red pepper flakes and cook until the garlic begins to soften, about 3 minutes. Add the tomatoes, bring the mixture to a simmer and cook for 1 minute. Use the sauce right away or chill the sauce until you are ready to use it.

Okay, I did make a couple of changes to fit some of the ingredients I had from the Fresh Market. First, for the meatballs I used a mix of meatloaf mix and he ground sirloin I had on hand instead of just pork and veal. For the tomato sauce, I did a mix of making the basic sauce and using the jar of sauce I had purchased, which was an organic tomato and basil sauce, so it all worked out very well. I have to say I was a little concerned about the meatballs because I didn’t think they would have much flavor and it looked like a lot of breadcrumbs in the mix that had set with the heavy cream, but I was pleasantly surprised. the meatballs turned out to be very tender and had great flavor to them. Michelle even commented that she thought they were the best meatballs she had ever had, so that was pretty high praise. We even had enough leftover so we will get another meal or some lunches out of it, so that twenty dollars is going to go pretty far. We served the meal with the salad that came with the deal (it was a Caesar salad and quite tasty) and I had made a baguette so it was a nice meal and the fruit was a great way to top it all off. Both the recipe and the deal from Fresh Market are definitely worth checking out.

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 February 27, 2015 in Beef, Cooking, Dinner, Pasta, Pork, Sauce

 

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Copy That! – Copycat Chili’s Boneless Buffalo Wings

I love Buffalo wings and get them often when we go out or make them myself around here when I get the craving for some but lately I have found that I have really liked the boneless Buffalo wings as well. They are nice pieces of white meat chicken with some great breading and that Buffalo wing sauce. It just seems like the perfect combination and I am more likely to have boneless white meat chicken around the house than I am to have chicken wings in the fridge or freezer, so it only made sense for me to try out a recipe and see how I would like it. I had just recently had some of Chili’s boneless Buffalo wings when we were there one night so that seemed like a good recipe to try to replicate as my first one out of the box. I easily found a copycat recipe at Todd Wilbur’s website Top Secret Recipes so I went about giving this one a try.

Copycat Chili’s Boneless Buffalo Wings

1 cup all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1/4 teaspoon paprika

1 egg

1 cup milk

3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

3-4 cups vegetable oil

1/4 cup hot sauce

1 tablespoon butter

Bleu cheese dressing, for dipping

Celery ribs, for dipping

Combine the all-purpose flour. salt, black pepper, cayenne pepper and paprika together in a medium bowl. In another medium bowl, whisk together the egg and the milk. Slice each chicken breast into 1/2-inch size chunks. Heat the vegetable oil in a deep fryer, Dutch oven or large cast-iron pan until the oil registers on a thermometer 375 degrees.

In batches, dip the chicken pieces into the egg mixture, allowing any excess to drip off, then dip the chicken into the flour mixture. Repeat the process of dipping the piece into the egg mixture and breading mixture to give the chicken piece a second coating. Continue this process until all of the chicken pieces have been coated well. When all the chicken pieces have been coated, arrange them on a plate and chill them in the refrigerator for 15 minutes.

When the chicken is done resting, drop each piece into the hot oil and fry the chicken for about 5 to 6 minutes or until each piece is browned. You may have to do this in batches so as not to crowd the pieces while they are cooking.

As the chicken fries, heat the hot sauce and the butter together in a small saucepan set over medium heat, stirring to combine the two well. When the chicken pieces are done frying, remove them to a plate lined with paper towels. Place the chicken pieces into a covered container such as a large jar with a lid or large plastic container with a lid (a large zipper-top storage bag will work for this as well). Pour the sauce over the chicken in the container, cover the container and then shake the container gently until each piece of chicken is coated with the sauce. Pour the chicken onto a platter and serve the chicken with the bleu cheese dressing and celery pieces on the side.

Granted it is a lot oil to use for frying but if you want to get that great crunchy coating it seems like your best option. I do have baked version that I plan to try to see if it comes out the same way, but I have to say the coating was pretty darn good on these and I really liked them. I left some without sauce because Sean and Michelle prefer them that way but I really enjoyed them and they make a great appetizer for any party or you could have them for a meal with some fries. it is definitely one I will try again.

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 February 26, 2015 in Appetizers, Cooking, Dinner, Poultry

 

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Manic Mealtime? Make Lime and Garlic Barbecue Chicken

As I noted yesterday, Mondays are a particularly hectic day around here because it is usually my busiest day of the week for work. Since I start working at 5:30 AM, sometimes Monday run until 5 PM, not leaving me much time to plan for dinner or anything else for that matter. That is why usually on Mondays I try to find a recipe I can put together rather easily and in under an hour, preferably even in under 30 or 40 minutes if possible. I am usually too tired by that point to go all out for a big meal so something simple often works well. This week I decided to take a turn out using some of the chicken thighs I had on and tried out this recipe I got from CafeDelites.com. The original recipe is for a lime and garlic barbecue chicken salad, but I decided to adopt it and make it my own and turn it into a chicken dish without the salad component.

Lime and Garlic Barbecue Chicken

7-8 tablespoons of your favorite barbecue sauce

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 tablespoons soy sauce

2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

1 1/2 teaspoons minced garlic (or 2 garlic cloves, minced)

1/2 lime, juiced

1 cup fresh or canned diced pineapple

4 bone-in, skinless chicken thighs

In a large bowl whisk together the barbecue sauce, olive oil, soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, garlic and lime juice. Add the chicken thighs to the marinade and toss the chicken thighs to make sure they are coated well and evenly. Allow the chicken to marinade at room temperature for about 15 minutes.

Heat a large oven-safe skillet or cast-iron pan over medium heat. Add a drizzle of olive oil to the pan and heat until the oil is smoking. Add the marinated chicken thighs to the pan, along with any excess marinade, and cook the chicken until it is browned on each side, about 4 to 5 minutes per side. Add the pineapple to the pan, reduce the heat to low, and cover the pan, cooking the chicken  until it is cooked through, about 15 to 20 minutes, turning the chicken about halfway through the cooking process, and the pineapple is nicely caramelized. remove the chicken and pineapple from the pan to a large platter and serve.

You get all kinds of great flavor to the chicken from the marinade, including the nice combination of the lime juice with the soy sauce, but I really liked what the pineapple brings to the dish most of all. You get the great sweetness of the pineapple throughout he dish and it seems to go very well overall with the chicken. I served this very simply with some rice and some fresh green beans and it made a great meal. You could use any chicken pieces that you like with the marinade – drumsticks, wings, breasts or boneless breasts – and I think it would turn out just as well, you would just have to adjust your cooking times accordingly for the pieces that you were using.

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 February 24, 2015 in Cooking, Cooking Websites, Dinner, Fruit, Poultry, Sauce

 

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Make it Fast – Fake Frites for Any Meal

Monday is typically my busiest day of the work week as I get a lot of my projects for the week and have several that start and are due on each Monday so I don’t get a lot of time to blog on Mondays anymore. that being said, as I take a brief break from writing for work I get the chance to write for fun and thought I would share this really easy recipe I tried recently for some homemade oven fries. I have tried a few oven fries recipes in the past and have had mixed success with them, but so many of them seem to use a lot of oil in order to get the fries nice and crispy, something I have been trying to avoid doing when I can. I came across this recipe recently on Food52.com from Patricia Wells for a recipe she calls “fake frites.” The recipe seemed deceptively easy and simple to me so I was not quite sure if I was going to be happy with the results, but I was pleasantly surprised by what came out.

Fake Frites (Oven-Fried French Fries)

2 pounds baking potatoes, such as Idaho russets, peeled and cut into thick fries, about 3/4-inch by 3 inches

2 to 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Sea salt or Kosher salt, to taste

Preheat the oven to 500 degrees. Bring 1 quart of water to a simmer in the bottom of a steamer pot or in a Dutch oven or large saucepan with a steamer basket insert in it. Place the potatoes on the steaming rack or in the steamer basket and place the rack in the steamer. Cover the pot and steam the potatoes just until a knife tip inserted in a potato comes away clean, about 10 to 12 minutes. The potatoes should not be cooked all the way through or they will tend to fall apart.

Transfer the steamed potatoes to a bowl and drizzle them with the olive oil. Carefully toss the potatoes to make sure they are all coated with the oil. The potatoes can be prepared to this point several hours in advance of using them. Just them aside and let them sit at room temperature.

With a large slotted spoon, transfer the potatoes in a single layer to a nonstick baking sheet. Discard any excess oil or liquid that is in the bowl. Place the baking sheet in the oven and bake, turning the potatoes so they brown evenly, until the potatoes are crisp and deep golden brown, about 10 to 20 minutes. Remove the potatoes from the oven and season them generously with salt and serve immediately.

It sounds too easy to be true but this might be the best oven fries I have tried yet. The trick for me seemed to be in preparing them ahead of time and letting them sit at room temperature for an hour or two. The potatoes dried out a bit  even with the oil on them and this really helped to make sure they got nice and brown and crisp in the oven. you do need to make sure you flip them halfway through baking, and I flipped mine at the 10 minute mark and by about 15 or 16 minutes total cooking time they were done perfectly. Of course fries go well with just about any meal – hamburgers, hot dogs, steak, fish, meat loaf, ribs, chicken, you name it – and this one is easy enough to make any time. 2 pounds of russet potatoes might only be 3 potatoes (depending on how big they are) and you get plenty of fries out of the recipe. I’ll be making them again (perhaps even tonight) and they are a great go to when you don’t want to oil fry potatoes or don’t want bagged fries or have them around.

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 February 23, 2015 in Cooking, Dinner, Lunch, Potatoes, Side Dishes

 

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Vegetarian Comfort Food – NYT Cooking

Vegetarian Comfort Food – NYT Cooking.

have you decided to give up meat for Lent or for part of Lent? Maybe you just want to try to eat healthier on your own or are looking to add a meatless meal day to your meal plans for healthier eating for you and your family. Whatever the reasons may be, NYT Cooking has put together some great vegetarian and vegan recipe options for everything from main dishes and desserts to side options so you can try out what interests you the most. Check it out!

 

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Smash it Up – Copycat Classic Smashed Cheeseburger and Secret Sauce

I freely admit that I love a good burger but I personally have never been to a Smashburger in my life. I have heard of them before but the nearest one to me here where I live in New York is almost twenty miles away so unless I happen to be driving by one and saw it I don’t think I would go out of my way just to find the burger. Though to hear people talk about how great the burgers can be there, maybe it would be worth the trip. With all of hubbub surrounding the burgers they have to offer I wondered if there was a copycat recipe floating around on the Internet where I could just try to make one of my own just like they do there. I was not very surprised when I found one pretty quickly through Epicurious. Upon taking a look at the recipe it seems as though they use ground brisket as part of their recipe, something I am not likely to find here unless I asked a butcher to do it for me specifically. I opted to use ground chuck instead and the rest of the meat involves ground sirloin, which I don’t typically buy because it does tend to cost more but for this occasion of testing a recipe I figured it was worth a shot. So then I set about trying to make the Smashburger.

Copycat Classic Smashburger and Secret Sauce

For the Burgers:

3/4 pound freshly ground sirloin

1/4 pound ground chuck

2 tablespoons butter, plus more if needed

4 potato rolls

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

Kosher salt, to taste

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

4 slices American cheese

Four 1/4-inch-thick tomato slices

4 burger-sized pieces green-leaf lettuce

Secret Sauce, recipe to follow

For the Secret Sauce

1/4 cup mayonnaise

1 1/2 teaspoons pickle juice

1 1/2 teaspoons ketchup

1 teaspoon yellow mustard

1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1/4 teaspoon onion powder

To make the secret sauce, stir the mayonnaise, pickle juice, ketchup, mustard, paprika, garlic powder and onion powder together in a medium bowl. Taste and adjust the seasoning as necessary and then set the sauce aside.

For the burgers, in a large bowl, use your hands to gently combine the ground sirloin and ground chuck (or ground brisket if you can find it or make it yourself). Divide the mixture into four equal-sized, loosely meat pucks about 2 1/2 inches thick. Place the patties on a plate lined with plastic wrap or parchment paper. Transfer the plate to the freezer and freeze the patties for 15 minutes. Do not exceed the freezing time.

Meanwhile, heat a griddle, large cast-iron skillet or large stainless-steel skillet over medium-high heat. Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in the skillet and place the potato rolls, cut side down, in the pan. Cook the rolls until the cut sides are golden brown, about 2 minutes. You may need to do this in batches depending on how big of a cooking space you have and use additional butter if needed. Place the toasted buns on four plates and reserve the griddle or skillet.

Remove the patties from the freezer. Increase the heat under the skillet to high and add 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil to the skillet. Heat until the oil begins to smoke. Working one at a time, add a patty to the skillet and immediately press a large spatula flat on top of the patty. Use the handle of another large spatula to hammer the first spatula down, smashing the patty until is about 1/2-inch thick. you will have to hammer longer and harder than you might originally think to do this right. Press down and slide the spatula to remove it without tearing the patty. Generously season the patty with salt and pepper. Repeat the smashing process with the remaining hamburger patties.

Flip each patty when the first side is deeply browned and crisp with craggly edges, about 2 minutes long for medium doneness. Season the cooked side generously with salt and pepper, then add a slice of American cheese and continue to cook the patty until the cheese has melted, about 2 minutes longer. Transfer the cooked patties to the bottom of the burger rolls. Top each burger with the tomato slices and the lettuce. Spread the tops of the buns with the Secret Sauce and place the top bun on the burger and serve.

Cast iron will serve you really well here if you have it as you can get that great sear and crust on the burgers when you smash them. I did find you had to press down and hammer pretty strongly to get the desired effect, but if you like your burgers crispy in that way this is a good way to try them. They do come out nicely and I did like the sauce you add to them rolls as it does lend some great flavor. According to the website, potato rolls are also a must here and they do seem to add something to the dish. I put some bacon on Sean’s because that is the way he likes them and I served these with some very easy homemade oven fries, which I will be sharing the recipe for tomorrow. It’s a pretty good burger and if you are hung up on the Smashburger flavor it’s worth a try to make one yourself.

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 February 20, 2015 in Beef, Cooking, Dinner, Lunch, Sandwiches, Sauce

 

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Fast, Easy and Delicious – Pork Tenderloin with Date and Cilantro Relish

Quick weeknight meals have been becoming more and more important around here lately. With Michelle away on business or working late, Sean’s schoolwork and involvement in the school play and my work it has been a crunch to try to get a meal on the table some nights. That means I have been turning more and more to quick and easy ideas for dinner that I can put together in under 40 minutes so we can eat at a reasonable time and not have to turn to fast food or convenience food too often. I do try to mix things up so we’re not eating the same things all of the time (Sean does tend to complain if we are eating too much chicken). I had picked up a pork tenderloin at the store on sale a few days ago and then I saw this recipe on Epicurious for pork tenderloin with date and cilantro relish that sounded tasty and different. it only has a few ingredients to it and can come together in under 45 minutes, so I thought I would give it a try.

Pork Tenderloin with Date and Cilantro Relish

3 tablespoons olive oil, divided

1 pork tenderloin (about 1 1/2 pounds)

Kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

2/3 cup dates (about 4 ounces), cut into small pieces

2 tablespoons orange juice

3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro plus leaves for serving

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a large ovenproof skillet or cast iron pan over medium-high heat. Season the pork tenderloin with salt and pepper and place it in the skillet and cook, turning the tenderloin occasionally until it is browned on all sides, about 6 to 8 minutes. Transfer the skillet to the oven tenderloin until the temperature of the pork registers 140 degrees on an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest portion of the tenderloin, about 12 to 15 minutes. Transfer the pork to a cutting board and allow the tenderloin to rest for at least 5 minutes before slicing it. Set aside the pan drippings from the skillet.

Toss the dates, orange juice, reserved pan drippings, 3 tablespoons of the chopped cilantro and the remaining 2 tablespoons of the olive oil together in a small bowl. Season the mixture with salt and pepper to taste. Spoon the relish over the pork slices and top with the cilantro leaves.

I did make a small change to the recipe as I went along. It seemed to me that the dish needed a little extra crunch so I added a sliced carrot to the skillet along with some pearl onions with the pork and cooked them in the oven as well. Both vegetables picked up some of the juices from the pork and seem to add a nice touch to the relish as well in terms of color and flavor. I have to admit I do not have a lot of experience using dates or cooking with them, and Sean seemed to shy away from them in the dish, but I really enjoyed the flavor they added overall to the relish and it went really nicely with the pork. I did notice in reviews of the recipe that some people added things like cranberries or walnuts to the relish as well to give it some extra flavor and take some of the sweetness of the dates. I think if you didn’t want to use dates you could easily use prunes or even grapes as a replacement and it would work just as well. I served this with some broccoli and white rice and it was a nice meal that was done quickly with easy clean up.

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 February 19, 2015 in Cooking, Dinner, Pork, Produce, Sauce, Vegetables

 

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