Friday, September 19, 2014

Sweet Potato Hash enhanced with Bacon Fat, Baked Eggs and Cheese

I love having sweet potatoes in the house. They're such a healthy vegetable and so tasty. And they're not just for Thanksgiving. But sometimes I just don't know what to do with them besides simply baking, shredding for latkes or adding mimi marshmallows. Last night I put on my thinking cap, took a tip from Pat and Gina Neely from Food Network and made their Mother's Day Hash. I used their recipe almost to the letter except I added Sazon Azafron seasoning to the vegetable mix (flavor explosion!!) and sauteed everything in a small amount of bacon fat (why did they leave that out?) and canola oil. I omitted the smoked paprika and parsley which I did not have. Here's my version and lots of pics.

Sweet Potato Hash
Inspired by the Neely's
Serves 4

2 large sweet potatoes peeled and cubed about 1 inch
1T bacon fat
1T canola oil
1/2 large onion chopped 1/4 inch
1 red bell pepper chopped 1/4 inch
1/4 cup scallions chopped (white and green parts)
2 cloves garlic minced
1 package Goya Sazon Azafran
Additional 2T bacon fat and 1-2T canola oil for crisping the potatoes
Kosher salt and pepper

4 fresh large eggs
Additional salt and pepper for seasoning the eggs
4 T shaved parmesan cheese

Lets get cooking with some pictures. I'm loving re-living this meal. In medium sauce pan add cubed sweet potatoes, a generous amount of salt and cold water. Place on high heat until water boils. Lower heat to simmer and cook uncovered about 10 minutes until potatoes are mostly tender. (We'll be sauteeing them later).

Drain cooked potatoes and dry on a kitchen towel or paper towels. While potatoes are cooking, prep your veggies. Now grab a saute pan and add 1T of bacon fat and 1T canola oil. Heat to medium and add your pepper, onions, and scallions. Cook for a few minutes (4-5) to soften, and add the garlic and the Azafron. Cook a few minutes more to let the veggies absorb the seasoning. Remove mixture from saute pan and set aside.

Now it's time to put this hash together. In the same pan that you cooked the pepper mixture, add about 1-2T canola oil and 2 T bacon fat. What we're doing here is crisping up the cooked sweet potatoes. Place a layer of the cubed potatoes in sauce pan. Don't crowd them, You want them to get crispy, not steamed. And gently turn them so they are browned on all sides (or almost all sides). Sprinkle with a bit more salt and pepper.

We're almost there, so now add back the pepper/onion mixture and add a sprinkle of kosher salt and pepper.

Gently mix together and your hash is done and ready to serve. But if you want to take it to a different level, grab a large muffin tin, spritz 4 of the indented tins with cooking spray and divide your hash to fit each halfway up each large crevice. Pre heat oven to 425 degrees.

You see where I'm going with this. Crack an egg over each prepared muffin tin and liberally sprinkle with kosher salt and pepper.

Add some shaved parmesan cheese. And anything else your little heart desires. I could only think of cheesy, sweet potato hash and a semi runny egg.

Bake for 9 to 10 minutes. Let cool a bit before you serve. I dug right in and was happy I did. What a simple dinner. And a great little brunch entree for guests or family.

To me this is comfort food. I'll be re-heating the rest in the microwave for brunch tomorrow after my workout and I'm thinking (hoping) if I don't break the eggs they're going to be great.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Tortellini Lasagna, oh yum


Here's a little ditty I made while talking on the phone with Didi the other night. Yeah, it's that easy. And it's delish. Kinda like a quick lasagna. I warn you, there's lots of cheese involved (my weakness) but you can adjust it to your tastebuds. I made this with ground beef, but I think it would be just as good as a vegetarian dish with the mushrooms and spinach while omitting the beef. It would make a great appetizer either way or a main course with a salad and some crusty bread (my other weakness). Here's the recipe:

Cremini Mushrooms and Spinach Baked with Ground Beef and Tortellini
I'm not sure how many servings- 9 for an appetizer and maybe 6 for a main course

1 T olive oil
1/2 large onion diced
8 oz cremini mushrooms diced
1 lb ground beef
2.5 oz fresh baby spinach
1-2 tsp crushed red pepper
salt and black pepper
1 12 oz bag of frozen tri-colored tortellini
1 28 oz jar of marinara sauce
1-1/2 cups shredded Italian blend cheese

In large skillet on medium heat, add your olive oil. Now add your onions and mushrooms. Cook a few minutes and add the ground beef. Add salt and pepper and crushed red pepper flakes. Cook mixture until pink disappears from the meat. Drain any fat that accumulates.

Now add your spinach. It looks like a lot, but really, next time I'll add more because it sure wilts down to almost nothing. And I might chop it next time too.

Now add your marinara sauce and pre heat your oven to 350 degrees.

In small baking dish (I used an 8x8 inch Pyrex) add a layer of sauce to coat the bottom of the pan. Add half the bag of frozen tortellini.

Top with half the meat sauce, then add half the shredded cheese.

Repeat the tortellini/meat sauce/cheese layer. Cover with foil and bake 30 minutes. Remove the foil and bake another 15 minutes uncovered. Let cool about 15-20 minutes before serving. Ooey, gooey, cheesy deliciousness, that's what it is, yum.

Thursday, September 11, 2014


I've been having some issues with my computer lately and missing sharing some new recipes that I've been making. Computer issues lead to stress, and cooking for me is a stress reliever. And orzo seems to do the trick. Yeah, I've been on an orzo kick this year. Bear with me folks because I'll latch on to something else soon (maybe, maybe not so soon), but this is a flavorful side dish (now my favorite) that will go with anything you serve for lunch or dinner. If you're a mushroom fan and like the earthy flavor of creminis and spinach, this is a must make. And it's a quick fix.

Cremini Mushroom and Spinach Orzo
4 servings

1 cup uncooked orzo
1 T unsalted butter
1 T olive oil
Salt and pepper
1-3/4 cup water or chicken stock (both work great)
1 T additional olive oil to saute mushrooms and onions
8 oz cremini mushrooms
1/2 onion diced
1 cup (or more) fresh baby spinach chopped
1/4 cup shaved parmesan cheese (or as much as you like)

Melt butter and olive oil in medium size saucepan on low heat. Add orzo and toast on medium heat for about 2 minutes until some of the pasta has become toasted. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Now add your broth or water and bring to a low boil. Cover, reduce heat to low and cook for 12-13 minutes. While orzo is cooking, slice the mushrooms. Don't they look yummy already?

Dice your onion. In separate pan saute mushrooms and onions in olive oil. I use a medium low heat. Add a little salt and pepper and any other spices you might like. I think tarragon or garlic would be nice, but I've taken the simple route. Just S and P.

Now take the spinach and add it to the pan. Cook for a minute until it wilts.

The buttery, toasted orzo is just about ready. Take your veggie mixture and add it to the orzo, stir and serve hot. Oh, and right before you're ready to eat, add your shaved parm and give the dish another stir so it gets melty and a little gooey. You're gonna like this!

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!