Sunday, August 31, 2014

Baked Beans with a Little Extra Heat

Jenny's Baked Beans have been a favorite of mine for the last few years. Today I did a quick re-mix and subbed Sriracha for Franks Hot Sauce and used Dijon mustard instead of the yellow. It's hot, but not too hot, so don't let the sriracha scare you. To me, it was just perfect, and the recipe is super simple!

Monday, August 18, 2014

Franks, Beans and Bacon Casserole

This was kind of a fridge cleanout, so please adjust amounts of anything you have in your pantry and fridge. I promise, whatever the ratio, this will come out tasting great.

Franks, Beans and Bacon Casserole
Made in an 8" x 8" casserole dish
Can feed one hungry person or six normal appetites

5 beef frankfurters sliced 1/2 inch
1 T canola oil
1 onion diced 1/4 inch
1 green pepper chopped 1/4 inch
1-1/2 tsp chili powder
1 tsp coriander
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 can 28 oz Bush's Original Baked Beans
1/4 cup ketchup
1 T Dijon mustard (I normally use yellow mustard but didn't have any- still pretty good with the Dijon)
1 T Splenda Brown Sugar Blend or 2 T regular brown sugar
1 T hot sauce (I used Franks)
4-5 slices hardwood smoked bacon

Pre heat oven to 375 degrees and prepare baking dish with cooking spray. In medium size saucepan on stovetop over medium low heat, add canola oil and onions and green pepper. Soften veggies and add chili powder, coriander, salt and pepper. I usually add a bit of cumin but couldn't find mine. Add some if you can find yours and cook about 5-7 minutes.

Remove from saucepan and add to mixing bowl. Add sliced franks, ketchup, mustard, brown sugar, and hot sauce.

Combine mixture and pour into baking dish. Top with bacon.

Cover with aluminum foil and fold one corner of foil back to vent. Bake one hour, remove foil and bake uncovered for another half hour. Serve with Texas toast (sorry no picture), but all you need to do to make the toast is... while the casserole is cooling, combine a few tablespoons of butter with garlic powder and fresh chopped parsley. Slather the butter mixture on one side of thickly sliced (one inch) Italian bread. Bake in oven for 7-9 minutes. Yummy meal and it reheats in the oven or microwave like a dream.


Saturday, August 16, 2014

Pork Sirloin with a Thai flair

I became a fan of Thai food in the 80's. A restaurant called The Star of Siam opened across the street from my office building and I went there for lunch or ordered in almost every day. Guess what- lunch at the time was $4.95, how could I go wrong? I just loved the flavors they offered. And I never got tired of their menu. Now this was before I got into cooking, so you can imagine that when I started experimenting in the kitchen I had to learn a few Thai dishes. Here's one I came up with tonight that I can't say is by any means authentic, but the Thai flavors are there: Red curry, peanuts, chilis and lots of veggies. I braised this dish on the stovetop, and I'm pretty sure Thai cooking does not involve braising. But it is so delish I have to share. Any ingredients that you are not familiar with are most likely available in the International aisle of your local grocery store.

Braised Pork Sirloin with Coconut Milk and Thai Spices
This recipe was inspired by Kathy Griffin, a favorite internet cooking buddy who made me remember how yummy cooking pork with coconut milk is

2 pounds pork sirloin
salt and pepper for seasoning pork
2 T canola oil
1 onion diced
1 T red curry paste (I used Thai Kitchen)
2 cloves garlic chopped
1 can unsweetened coconut milk
1 cup fat free low sodium chicken broth (I had this left over in my fridge- I think you can sub 1 cup of water instead of opening a new can or box of broth)
1 T fish sauce
2 T brown sugar
1/4 cup peanut butter
1/4 cup Thai Kitchen Peanut Satay Sauce
1 T chili garlic sauce
Juice of 1 lime
3 T chopped dry roasted peanuts for garnish
2 T cilantro leaves for garnish

Jasmine rice
4 oz mushrooms
6 oz string beans
1 red pepper sliced

Ready to cook? Let's make the cooking sauce/liquid first. I used my blender. Put your red curry paste, garlic, coconut milk, chicken broth, fish sauce, brown sugar, Thai Kitchen Peanut Satay Sauce, peanut butter and chili garlic sauce in a blender. This is an easy blend and you'll be done in less than a minute. Look at that beautiful color.

Set the sauce aside and let's tend to the pork. Liberally salt and pepper both sides of the sirloin.

Heat canola oil in a skillet and brown pork on all sides. As tedious as this sounds, this is an important step because you want to seal all the juices inside the pork. So sear the top, bottom, sides and ends.

Remove pork from skillet and place in large soup pot. Add the chopped onions. Why would you add onions to a Thai dish? Truth be told, my mom added onions to all braised dishes. And it didn't hurt this dish one bit and added some lovely flavor. After the long cooking time they almost evaporated.

Now, get that delicious braising liquid out of the blender and add it to your soup pot.

Bring liquid to a boil, lower temp to simmer and braise (covered) on stove top for 2-1/4 hours. If you have the time, turn the roast every half hour or so. I usually babysit my braised roasts, but I don't think it's necessary.

While roast is cooking make your rice and prep you veggies.

 After 2-1/4 hours of cooking your roast add the vegetables. Cook for an additional 15 minutes and add the fresh squeezed lime juice. Your dinner is ready. When plating, add some chopped peanuts and cilantro for a garnish and enjoy! It's a feast you will make again and again. I have quite a bit of sauce/gravy left over and I'm thinking I'm either going to spoon feed it or intravenously inject it to myself, or make a soup. I think the soup idea is the best option.

Dig in, this a dish you will enjoy!

Thursday, August 14, 2014


As you must know by now, by Thursday I'm pantry cooking unless I've really planned ahead. Well I didn't plan ahead this week, so how does one make a last-minute pantry meal memorable? With Lidia Bastianich's garlic toast! Super easy and so delish.

I made a potato chowdah tonight that needed a bit of a boost and I had half an Italian bread waiting for me in the freezer. So after defrosting, I sliced it into six 3/4 inch servings and toasted them in a 400 degree oven for 15 minutes. I turned them over and the bottom sides were toasted to perfection. I took 2 cloves of fresh garlic and rubbed the aromatic herb all over the toasted side of each of the bread slices. Sometimes Lidia stops at just the garlic rub, but I also discovered I had some shredded parmesan cheese in the fridge. I topped the garlic bread slices with a teaspoon or two of parm and put them back in the oven for about 2 more minutes. What follows is a toasty, melty, aromatic and cheesy addition to a pantry meal. Give this simple recipe a try. You'll probably like it better than your actual dinner. I know I did. Thanks Lidia for your help in the kitchen!

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Citrus Orzo Salad Re-Mixed

I love the last orzo salad recipe I posted. It was tasty. And sweet. And salty. And right up my alley. But there are a lot of folks out there that are not wild about capers, olives and raisins. So I did some experimenting this weekend and came up with a more conventional version. Well, I shouldn't put it that way, because there is nothing conventional about candied walnuts in an orzo salad. Plus I amped up the amount of sweet navel oranges, added more crunch with the addition of celery, and swapped out the creamy goat cheese for some extra tangy Gorgonzola. Serve this on a big platter or make up individual Bibb lettuce cups. It is a crowd pleaser!

Citrus Orzo Salad with Candied Walnuts

1 T unsalted butter
1 T olive oil
1 large onion diced
Kosher salt
1 cup uncooked orzo
Additional salt and pepper
1-3/4 cups water

4 scallions chopped
4 navel oranges supremed
2 stalks celery chopped
4 oz crumbled Gorgonzola cheese
1/4 cup cilantro chopped
1 cup walnuts
3 T sugar
1 T unsalted butter

Salad Dressing:
1 clove garlic finely chopped
Juice of 2 lemons
1 T rice vinegar
Liquid from supremed oranges
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 tsp Dijon mustard

To make the orzo: (This is my mom's method, and it is no fail). In medium size saucepan on medium low heat, melt your butter and olive oil. Add the chopped onions and some salt and pepper. Cook uncovered on stovetop to soften the onions, not brown them. After about 5 minutes they will be translucent and ready to accept the orzo. Add the cup of orzo and coat with the buttery onions. Add a bit more salt and pepper (the orzo has absolutely no flavor if you do not season it). Stir to combine onions and orzo and let the orzo toast a bit (2-3 minutes). Add water and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to the lowest simmer and cook 12-13 minutes. The orzo will still be a bit watery, but keep covered off the heat and all the liquid will evaporate.

While orzo is cooling, let's candy the walnuts. In large saucepan on medium heat add the sugar and butter. Mix to combine. Now add the nuts and coat them with the sugary liquid. Toast the mixture for about 3 minutes (that's all the time it takes). Just make sure to keep an eye on the walnuts so they don't burn.

As soon as the nuts are sweet and toasty, transfer them to a piece of parchment paper and separate them the best you can. You do not want clumps of nuts on top of your salad. Set them aside to cool.

To make the dressing: Combine all ingredients in a medium size jar and shake. Or just whisk everything together until it emulsifies.

Assembly: In large bowl combine scallions, orange supremes, celery, and cilantro.

Now add your Gorgonzola and cooled orzo.

If I'm making this dish ahead, I dress the salad with only half the dressing, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate. Then I  dress it again right before serving time. By the way, I like this salad served at room temp, but it is still delish served cold. And don't forget, liberally sprinkle those sweet, toasty walnuts on top of your salad right before serving.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014


If you like the sultry, exotic spices of North Africa and the Middle East, you'll like this chicken meatball sandwich. No, you'll love this chicken meatball sandwich. It's got flavor boosters in every component, and your kitchen will emit all the aromas of a Moroccan spice tent. 

And please don't let the large ingredient list inhibit you, because you know if I made it- it's not hard, but it sure is delish! And there's not an ingredient in this recipe that you can't easily pick up in your local supermarket. When I'm pressed for time, I make the meatballs on day one, then put the barley salad together the day I'm ready to serve these little darlings.

Saucy Chicken Meatball Pita Sammies with Pearl Barley Salad
Serves 5

5 pita rounds 6" diameter
1 small bag of baby spinach

1 large egg slightly beaten
2 T tomato paste (I use the paste in a tube)
3 T chopped cilantro
1 T fresh ginger
1 tsp ground cumin
Pinch of cinnamon
1-1/2 slices Italian bread ground in spice mill
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1 pound ground chicken

1 T olive oil
1/2 cup diced onion
1 T garlic minced
1 lemon zested
1/2 cup kalamata olives chopped
1/2 cup dry white wine (I use Chardonnay)
1/4 cup water
1 15 oz can tomato sauce
1 tsp brown sugar
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
pinch of cinnamon
salt and pepper to taste

Barley Salad
2 cups cooked pearl barley
1/2 cup chopped canned artichoke hearts
1/2 cup diced feta cheese
1/3 cup raisins plumped in boiling water
1/3 cup Kalamata olives
1/3 cup sliced scallions 1/4"
2 T cilantro chopped

2 lemons juiced
2 tsp honey
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1/2 cup olive oil

Okay, lets do this with a few pictures.
To make the meatballs:
Pre heat oven to 350 degrees and prepare a baking pan with cooking spray and set aside. Combine all meatball ingredients except the chicken.

Now add the chicken and combine without working the mixture too much.

Form 15 to 16 1-1/2"meatballs and place on prepared baking pan and cook 30 minutes.

To make the sauce:
While meatballs are cooking, make the sauce. In large saucepan heat oil on low. Saute onion for 5 minutes to soften. Add garlic and cook another 2 minutes more. Now add the lemon zest and olives. Cook a few minutes more. Increase heat a bit and add white wine. Cook until wine is almost evaporated and veggies/aromatics do not burn. Stir in water, tomato sauce, sugar, red pepper flakes, cinnamon, salt and pepper. Return to low simmer, cover and wait for meatballs to be ready to take a bath in the sauce. After their 30 minutes in the oven, add the meatballs to the aromatic tomato broth. Lower heat, cover and simmer another 10 minutes. Now doesn't that look yummy?

To make the salad:
Cook barley according to package directions and cool. Add the rest of the salad ingredients and toss.

To make the dressing:
Combine all ingredients in a small jar, shake to combine and pour about half the mixture on the barley salad (save the rest to drizzle on sandwiches).

I like to grill my pita rounds on both sides so they are soft, warm and toasty. Lay a handful of baby spinach leaves on the bottom of each pita round.

To each pita round, top with 3 meatballs and an extra helping of the exotic tomato sauce. Add the barley salad, a little more lemon dressing and sprinkle with cilantro sprigs. Roll up and enjoy your meal in the casbah.

I have also enjoyed this sandwich with a Roasted Garlic, Greek Yogurt and Cucumber Tzatziki Sauce. Here's a quick recipe for that:

2 cups Greek yogurt (I never have to drain this if it's Greek yogurt, but if you use regular, drain to let the liquid escape)
1 English cucumber peeled, seeded and chopped or grated
1 T red wine vinegar
1/2 lemon squeezed
1 T olive oil
1 clove roasted garlic
pinch of black pepper

Mix all ingredients together, chill, then top your meatball pitas with it. Very yummy.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

My Magic Pan

Is there anybody besides me old enough to remember the restaurant "The Magic Pan"? It was my go-to place for lunch in the 80's. You could get crepes for lunch, dinner or dessert and salads that were fresh and innovative at the time. I got hooked on their wilted spinch and bacon salad and was so in the mood for that today. But I made it into a sandwich. I'm a hungry girl these days and I'm happy to say, "It worked!!" Here's the recipe:

Wilted Spinach and Bacon Salad Sammies
Serves 6

6 Hoagie rolls or small French bauguettes
6 eggs hard boiled and sliced
6 slices bacon (I used thick cut) cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1/2 onion diced
1 clove garlic chopped
1/2 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp black pepper
Pinch of salt
3 T cider vinegar
Mayo (optional)

Boil eggs, cool in ice bath and set aside. In large skillet over medium heat, fry bacon until cooked (about 10 minutes). Drain on paper towel lined plate.

Pour bacon fat into a separate bowl and measure out 5 tablespoons of bacon fat back into your skillet. Add onion and cook over medium heat until softened (about 3 minutes). Now add your sugar and garlic and cook another 1/2 minute. Now add the vinegar, stir into bacon fat/onion mixture and remove from heat. Loosen brown bits with spoon and pour dressing over spinach, add bacon and toss until spinach is slightly wilted.

Time to make the sandwiches. To pan that bacon was sauteed in, grill the inside of your rolls, one or two at a time.

Slather a little mayo on top and bottom halves of bread and generously place spinach/bacon mixture on the bottom of the bun. Top with sliced egg, and a little salt and pepper.

Yum. I can't think of a better way to start the work week than packing one of these tasty sammies for tomorrow's lunch. And that's exactly what I'm going to do!