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Tuscan Beef Stew

December 15, 2013 1 comment
Tuscan Beef Stew

Tuscan Beef Stew

When I first started blogging I would write two, sometimes three entries a week.  If you follow, you know that its no where near that pace these days.  It’s got to the point where people ask why I don’t blog more often.  It’s a legit question and one I really don’t have an answer for.

So let me dive in to it a bit more and see what I can come up with.

1.  Its no longer my ‘flavor of the month’? My wife says that anytime I do something new, I obsess over it.  Sadly, she’s right (as most significant others are).  She can easily site numerous examples and I can’t disagree with any of them.

2. I haven’t been cooking anything good?  This isn’t entirely accurate. But for the most part I’m in a bit of a rut.  I’ve been cooking things I’m comfortable with instead of branching out.  Even though I’ve found a ton of recipes I want to try, I just haven’t made them as often as I would like.

3.  Work has been a bit demanding as of late?  Business has picked up lately that’s for sure and when I’m at work doing what it is I do there, one of the last things I want to do is write. I think I’d rather catch up on TV.

4.  My food photos look like garbage?  Garbage? I think they look like crap.  We eat with our eyes so the last thing a blog about food needs is unappealing photos of said food.

5.  There’s nothing to write about?  I can’t argue with this at all.  I mean, I just wrote a list detailing why I’m not writing.  If that doesn’t reek of uninteresting, I don’t know what does.

So there you go…..5 reasons why I’m not blogging nearly as much as you (mainly me) would like.

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This stew recipe is from the Cooking TV channel show Extra Virgin starring Ari Gold’s secretary (Entourage reference in case you’ve never seen the show) and her Italian (Tuscany region) husband.  If you’ve never watched, its on often so check it out while you’re making the stew….because while the recipe is simple and uses simple ingredients, you will have a couple hours to kill while its cooking.  The show has been my new favorite cooking show.

This flavorful stew is rich and hearty and has quickly become my new go-to stew recipe.  The slow braise makes the beef fork tender but the the veggies don’t turn to mush.  Make sure you serve it with a nice hunk of crusty bread so you can savor all of the juices.  Enjoy!

Ingredients:

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 red or yellow onion, rough chopped
  • 3 large peeled carrots cut in to 1/2 inch thick medallions
  • 3 stalks of celery, rough chopped
  • 2-3 lbs of stew meat – 1 inch cubes (to save money, buy a chuck roast and cut it yourself)
  • 2 1/2 cups dry red wine (such as Cabernet Sauvignon)
  • 1 28oz can of whole tomatoes
  • 4-6 sprigs of fresh thyme (wrapped in a bundle if possible)
  •  Salt and Pepper to taste
  1. Heat olive oil in a large saucepan or dutch oven over medium high heat.
  2. Add onion, carrot and celery.  Saute about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally until just browned.
  3. Add beef and cook until browned on all sides.
  4. Add wine and thyme. Stir to combine.
  5. Bring to a boil.
  6. Add tomatoes, salt and pepper.
  7. Lower heat to medium-low and cover.
  8. Cook for approximately 2 to hours or until beef is tender.
Big old Pot of Stew

Big old Pot of Stew

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Thanksgiving Leftovers Sandwich

December 1, 2013 1 comment
Thanksgiving Sandwich

Thanksgiving Sandwich

Thanksgiving Twenty-Thirteen has come and gone.  Unfortunately, the added pounds and leftovers did not go with the change of the calendar.  However, I’m here to help you with one of those problems. Sadly, you’ll have to deal with the pounds yourself.

Last year, I blogged about the Thanksgiving Burrito. That monster is a good way to rid yourself of those Thanksgiving goodies.

The Thanksgiving sandwich, for all intents and purposes, is the same as the burrito, only in sandwich form.  And for my money, its my personal favorite way to eat the Thanksgiving leftovers.

For one, fresh baked bread (homemade or from your local bakery) out weighs a tortilla any day of the week (unless of course you’re eating a mexican style burrito which would be extremely difficult to eat between two slices of bread.  Then again…..hmmmm….).

A burrito might be easier to eat, but I believe that a properly constructed sandwich allows all of the ingredients to meld together and I don’t think you can get the same thing when its rolled up.

And lastly, its grilled.  With butter!!!

Winner by majority decision, the sandwich. (although you can’t go wrong with either).

While I am providing a detailed recipe, please use it very loosely, but I do think the order you assemble it is important.

Also, if you don’t like cranberry sauce, feel free to omit, but it really is, in my opinion, the essence of this sandwich.

Enjoy!

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 slices of freshly baked bread (homestyle or sour dough work well
  • 2 teaspoons cranberry sauce
  • 1/4 cup stuffing/dressing
  • 1/4 cup mashed potatoes
  • A few slices of turkey (thinner is better) (white or dark – your preference)
  • 2 teaspoons turkey gravy

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Heat a cast iron (or non-stick skillet) over medium-low heat
  2. Butter one side of each slice of bread
  3. Spread 1 teaspoon of cranberry sauce on each slice of bread (the non-buttered side)
  4. Add 2 slices of turkey and top with a teaspoon of gravy (on top of the cranberry sauced piece of bread)
  5. Next, layer the stuffing and potatoes (I spread it as best I can)
  6. Top with the remaining teaspoon of gravy
  7. Top with the remaining turkey
  8. Top with the 2nd piece of bread (which should be already spread with cranberry sauce)
  9. Heat in cast iron pan until all ingredients are warmed through and bread is grilled to your liking
This is another sandwich, but wanted to show the cast iron)

This is another sandwich, but wanted to show the cast iron pan

Chicken Noodle Soup

November 8, 2012 3 comments
Chicken Noodle Soup

Chicken Noodle Soup

I generally keep politics to myself but this year’s election was extremely tense that I thought I might bring it up just for a moment. Feel free to skip to the recipe if you wish to not read what I have to say.

Our country is divided.  At 50% to 48%, the results of the polls clearly show it. Social media, prevalent for the first time ever during a Presidential election, shows it too.  Things people said to one another were rude, embarrassing, and downright disrespectful.  These are my Facebook “friends.”  Wow!

To me, this is not OK.

In order for the United States to continue to be one of the greatest countries on Earth, it is important that people, starting with me and you, come together.  Our leaders must follow suit.

We can’t change the results of the election, but we can change how we treat one another. Don’t agree with me, but don’t disrespect me because I voted differently than you.  Continue to let yourself be heard, but do it in a way that doesn’t make you sound like an idiot.  Stand up for what you believe in, but don’t spit in the face of others to get your point across.  Treat others as you wish to be treated, its not hard.

In 4 years, this country will vote again, I hope for my sake, and the sake of my children, that they don’t have to witness what I’ve read during these past few days.

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Now that I have got that out of my system, let me talk about something I think most everyone can agree with and that is the comfort a nice warm bowl of chicken noodle soup provides.

It is one of the easiest soups to make and with a few shortcuts you’ll have it on the table in no time.  Enjoy!

***Note: To save time, I use a store bought rotisserie chicken.  I get 2 meals in one because I only need some of the chicken for the soup.  Also, I cook the noodles separate.  I feel that when the noodles are cooked with the soup, they tend to absorb too much of the liquid.***

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 cup celery, chopped
  • 1 cup carrots, sliced
  • 2 (32 oz cartons) low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 (14.5 oz can) vegetable stock
  • 2 cooked chicken breasts, skin removed, and shredded or chopped
  • 1 cooked chicken thigh or leg, skin removed, and shredded
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • 1 package of store bought noodles (I use Mrs. Millers Extra Wide Egg Noodles)
  1. In a large soup pot or dutch oven, melt butter over medium heat.
  2. Add onion, celery, carrots and cook, stirring occasionally, until slightly tender, about 10 minutes.
  3. Add basil, oregano, salt and pepper. Stir.
  4. Add chicken broth and vegetable broth, stir.
  5. Add chicken, stir.
  6. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer cover and cook for 30 minutes to 3 hours.
  7. About 20 minutes before ready to serve, fill a separate large pot with water, bring to boil and cook noodles according to package.  Drain and set aside.
  8. Add noodles to the bowl, ladle soup over noodles and enjoy!
Big Ole' pot of soup

Big Ole’ pot of soup

Thanksgiving Burrito

October 22, 2012 4 comments
Thanksgiving Burrito

Thanksgiving Burrito

Admittedly, I don’t like most chain restaurants. Most of the food is overpriced, and for lack of a better term, tastes like crap. The portions are measly and nothing is ever quite prepared the way food should be.  And since the goal is consistency — an Olive Garden in Pittsburgh should taste (and look) exactly like an Olive Garden in Minnesota — that means you’re probably getting canned or frozen meals heated by your “chef”.  Do I have facts to back this up, not really…but stop and think about it.  Yet, despite chain restaurant’s shortcomings, they remain successful.

I get why this is the case and by all means, who am I to tell you how to spend your hard earned dollars.  It’s just with so many local restaurants serving fresh, local food, I’d rather spend my money there.  To me, it just makes sense to help out the local guy.

Now, this doesn’t mean I won’t visit a chain from time to time — sometimes it’s just convenient. Other times I will go to a chain (or pseudo chain) because they serve a specialty item that, despite my displeasure of chains, can only be had by venturing to the restaurant that serves them.

Enter Mad Mex.  A decent tasting Tex-Mex restaurant, Mad Mex is a pseudo chain, with locations only in Pennsylvania and Ohio.  And every year I venture to tackle their seasonal burrito, The Gobblerito.  I’m not the only one as many of my other anti-chain friends also find their way to Mad Mex to get their hands (and ultimately mouths) on one.

Available annually for one month (Mid-October thru Mid-November) The Gobblerito is easy to explain – its Thanksgiving served in a burrito.  That’s it.  Simple, yet extremely tasty.

The craving was getting the best of me so it was time to give in and venture out.

Unless I could make my own.

Of course I can. But for fear of being sued, I will need a catchy name to protect my ass(ets)  I came up with “Thanksgiving Burrito.”

I’m so clever!

By the way, making the gut-busting burrito is so simple that I’m surprised I haven’t done it before.

Turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, corn, gravy — roll it up…heat it up…eat it up.  Done!

It came out almost (you’ll read why in a second) identical to the version we get at Mad Mex.  So much in fact, we’ll probably skip this years visit to Mad Mex.  That is unless one of us gets the craving for their Thai Curry Burrito.  Damn you Mad Mex!

By the way, this makes for an awesome alternative to use up your Thanksgiving leftovers.

Ingredients (everything is approximate to make 4 burritos)

  • 2 cooked chicken breasts, sliced diagonally and thin (I used breasts from a roast chicken I made earlier in the day for soup — ideally you would use turkey, but chicken worked perfectly and it allowed me to make 2 meals with one chicken)
  • 1 cup mashed potatoes (homemade if possible)
  • 1 cup of sweet kernel corn
  • 1 cups of cornbread stuffing (I used cornbread but use whatever you like)
  • 1 cup of chicken gravy (homemade if possible)
  • 4 burrito sized tortillas
  • Cranberry Sauce (optional)

1.  For each burrito, layer the ingredients in the center of 1 tortilla as follows:

1/4 cup of stuffing
1/2 of one chicken breast
Gravy
1/4 cup mashed potatoes
1/4 cup of corn

2.  Roll each tortilla to form a burrito and repeat.

3.  Wrap the burritos in foil and bake at 375 degrees for 30 minutes.

4.  Remove from foil, top with a few more spoonfuls of gravy (optional) and serve with fresh cranberry sauce (also optional).

5.  Finding yourself passed out in the recliner moments afterwards — not optional!

Carb Coma

Be prepared for a “Carb Coma”

Chili

October 17, 2012 2 comments
Chili

Chili

I feel like its been ages since I’ve blogged.  It certainly hasn’t been a lack of cooking as I’ve been whipping up all sorts of things over the past few weeks — guess life just gets in the way sometimes.

Regardless, I’m back today and ready to blog about my (award winning) chili.  Ok, so I never won an award, but my family and friends really like it — so good enough in my book.

Synonymous with football and cold weather, to me, chili is always pleasing and always delicious. I like that there are practically a zillion ways to enjoy it too.

Ground beef or cubes of beef.  Beans or no beans.  Spicy or not spicy.  Maybe over rice or a macaroni noodle or as is in a big bowl. Condiments or none.

Here is how I like it: Beef (chili grind — see tip below), with beans, medium spice, hold the rice, with a dollop of sour cream and a small sprinkle of cheddar cheese.

I can’t forget the cornbread (a must for me).

Cornbread

A great accompaniment to chili

No matter how you like it, nothing is as comforting as a good bowl of chili on a cold autumn day. Not only warm you up, but to fill you up too.  Nice thing is a little goes a long way and its healthy for you (for the most part).

Now I know you have your tried and true version so really, why try mine.  I get it and I’m not going to be offended.  But if you don’t have your own, give this a try — then bookmark it because you’ll want to keep this handy for the next few months.

Tip:  Ask your butcher if they will do a “chili grind” for your beef.  This is more course than ground beef and adds a nice texture.

Ingredients:

  • 2 lbs (chili grind) ground beef
  • 3 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 green bell pepper, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 tsp. chipotle pepper in adobo sauce (a little goes a long way in my opinion — also I don’t measure.  I just take one of the peppers out of the can, cut it open, remove the seeds and just dice a small piece)
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper (more or less depending on heat)
  • 1 small jalepeno, seeded and diced small
  • 3 tablespoons chili powder
  • 3 Cups water
  • 1 26 ounce  can tomato puree
  • 1 28 ounce can chopped tomatoes
  • 2 16 ounce cans kidney beans, drained
  • 1-2 teaspoons salt
  1. In a dutch oven (or other heavy bottom pot), brown the beef over high heat.  Drain off fat and set aside.
  2. In the same dutch oven, heat oil, over medium high heat, adding onions when hot. Sauté for 4-5 minutes, stirring often.
  3. Add green pepper, jalapeno, and garlic, continuing to cook 2-3 more minutes.
  4. Add black pepper, cumin, chipotle, crushed red pepper, and chili powder while continually stirring until spices begin to stick to bottom of dutch oven and begin to slightly brown (about 30-45 seconds).
  5. Quickly add 3 cups of water.
  6. Add tomato puree, chopped tomatoes and the juice they were packed in.
  7. Add kidney beans and salt.
  8. Add the beef and stir.
  9. When chili begins to boil, reduce heat to low and cover for a minimum of 3 hours to combine all of the flavors (stir every so often).
  10. I typically cook mine all day…about 6 hours.
  11. Ladle in to your favorite bowl, add your toppings (if that’s your thing) and enjoy!
Pot of Chili

I could eat all of this (not at once silly)

Beer Braised Pork Ribs

October 8, 2012 2 comments
Beer Braised Ribs

Beer Braised Pork Ribs

Before I get today’s story and recipe, I thought I’d share that today’s entry marks my 50th.

I assume somewhere in the blog-o-sphere, this is considered a major accomplishment.  But honestly, since I don’t own the blogging handbook, I really have no idea.  Regardless if 50 is considered an accomplishment, I’m going to give myself a pat on the back because I think it’s pretty special. Maybe I should have made a cake?

As I stated on the first day I got this up and running, I mainly do this for myself.  But I have to admit, it’s pretty cool when a total stranger, half-way around the world follows me regularly. Knowing this person took time to sign up to find out what I have to share is something I really didn’t expect.

So all you regulars, THANK YOU!  I hope you continue to enjoy what I have to say, and obviously, what I’m cooking.  Hopefully I’ve even inspired a few of you try something you really didn’t think you could do.

If this is your first time stopping by, thank you as well.  Maybe you’ll like what you see enough to want to come back.

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Today’s recipe is Beer Braised Pork Ribs.  In my best attempt to mimic Homer J. Simpson….”Mmmmmmmm Beeeeer.”

I recently attended one of Pittsburgh’s premier events, The Big Pour.  This event, now in its 6th year, is held annually to benefit Pittsburgh’s only (I believe) non-profit building material reuse retailer, Construction Junction.

Big Pour

Big Pour

The Big Pour allows anyone who is lucky enough to get a ticket (the event sells out in minutes) an opportunity to sample several types of beers from over 40 different craft breweries, as well as local food from area restaurants.  There really are no restrictions on how much you enjoy (that is until the keg runs dry).

The Big Pour is truly a beer lover/foodie paradise and my belly left happy.  More importantly, it left me with a nice feeling knowing that I’m helping out a good cause.

So what is Construction Junction?

Let’s say you’re remodeling your bathroom.  Instead of taking that old sink to the curb where it will eventually take up space in the landfill, drop it off at Construction Junction (or arrange for a pick-up).  As as long as it is still in working condition, they’ll take it off your hands.  Not only can you drop off, but you can browse and buy.  For example, if you’re looking for an old door (or anything really) to re-purpose, stop by CJ and they might have something you need.

So next time you have something to get rid of, think twice before letting the garbage men take it.

Ah…..feels good to give back.

Ok, enough of that….here’s the Beer Braised Ribs recipe which I found in the Food Network Magazine.  I don’t deviate from the ingredients all that much (just a slight tweak in the amounts).

This recipe is one of my all-time favorites. I enjoy the “gravy” it makes and a nice roll or hunk of bread comes in handy for sopping up the juice.  The recipe is perfect for those cold fall and winter nights. Enjoy!

Ingredients:

  • 5 or 6 bone-in country style pork ribs (think 1.5 ribs per person depending on the size)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons paprika
  • 2 large onions, rough cut in to chunks
  • Kosher Salt
  • Olive Oil
  • 1 12-ounce bottle of beer (Original recipe calls for amber ale, I used Sam Adams Pils — use anything, just nothing too hoppy)
  • 1 1/2 cups of low-sodium chicken broth
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 6 sprigs of fresh thyme (tie if you can to remove easier when time to discard)
  • 2/3 cup of apple cider vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
  2. Season both sides of ribs with salt and sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon paprika.
  3. Heat the olive oil in a large dutch oven over medium heat.
  4. Add the ribs in batches and cook until browned, about 5 minutes per side.  Remove and set aside.
  5. Add the onions and cook until browned, about 10 minutes.
  6. Once the onions have cooked, add the remaining 1 teaspoon paprika and season with salt.
  7. Add the beer and bring to a boil (be sure to save a sip for yourself).
  8. Cook until the beer is reduced by half. (make sure to scrap the bottom of the pot with a wooden spoon to loosen the bits).
  9. Add the chicken broth, bay leaves and thyme.
  10. When the liquid begins to simmer, return the ribs to the pot and transfer to the oven.
  11. Cook, uncovered, turning the ribs half way through, about 1 hour and 15 minutes (Cooking times are approximate based on size of the ribs.)
  12. Meanwhile, mix the vinegar and honey in a measuring cup.
  13. Remove the pot from the oven and place back on the stove and bring to a simmer over medium heat.
  14. Add the vinegar/honey mixture and bring to a boil, then return the pot to the oven.
  15. Continue to braise, uncovered, until the ribs are tender, approximately 20-30 more minutes.
  16. Return the pot to the stove and transfer the ribs to a plate (tent with foil to keep warm) and discard the bay leaves and thyme.
  17. Bring the sauce to a boil over medium heat and cook until thickened, 10 to 15 minutes.
  18. Return the ribs to the pot and heat through. Serve immediately.

 

Beer Braised Ribs and Sides

Thank me later!

Sausage Gravy and Biscuits

September 30, 2012 2 comments
Biscuits and Sausage Gravy

Biscuits and Sausage Gravy

Bacon is everywhere.  Bacon candy, bacon cupcakes, bacon beer…the list goes on.   But what about the other porky breakfast meat?  When does sausage start showing up with regularity on Pinterest?

I’m here to help out by blogging about my favorite way to prepare sausage.  Sausage gravy and biscuits.

I must state, if you’re looking for something low in calories, I suggest you stop reading now.  This ain’t it.  This my friends is full fat on fat, topped pretty much with more fat.

But where there is fat there is flavor.  These have lots of flavor.

Luckily these are filling so one portion should do it.

With just a few simple ingredients, it’s a cinch to put together also.

This presentation is nice when having friends over for breakfast/brunch, but feel free to crumble the cooked sausage and toss it right in with the gravy.  No rules here.

For best flavors, make the sausage mix the night before and cook the following morning. Enjoy!

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb ground pork
  • 1 teaspoon ground sage
  • 3/4 teaspoon garlic salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper (plus more for the gravy)
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 2 cups whole milk (you can use 2%, 1% or skim but why)
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • A few sprigs of fresh thyme (for garnish)
  1. In a large bowl, mix together the pork, sage, garlic salt, red pepper and black pepper.  Cover and refrigerate 4 hours (or overnight).
  2. Once chilled, form the mix in to patties and cook over medium heat until cooked through.
  3. Remove from pan (to plate lined with paper towels) and cover to keep warm.
  4. Lower the heat to medium-low.
  5. Using the pan that was used to cook the sausage, add the butter and melt.
  6. Add flour and mix (with a whisk) to begin making a roux, picking up all of the brown bits from the sausage.  Cook 2 minutes.
  7. While stirring, mix in the milk, salt, and a few turns of fresh cracked pepper.
  8. Stir until thick.
  9. Cut open a freshly made biscuit (I used this recipe), top each half with a sausage patty, spoon gravy over each half, top with thyme and serve.

 

Biscuits

Alton Brown’s Biscuits