Friday, February 27, 2009

Simple But Satisfying

Friday night is usually 'close the kitchen' night at our house. But we are watching our pennies, like most people these days, so we decided to stay in. Besides, we're visiting Megan in Tampa on Sunday and hope to go out for some good Cuban food in Ybor City. Anyway, we decided on grilled cheeseburgers and corn on the cob. I prepped some toppings - bacon, lettuce, tomato and onion.

Grilled Burgers

1.5 pounds of ground beef (and not the lean stuff - we wanted a good flavor!)
4 TB - A1 Sauce
Salt and Pepper
2 TB Montreal Steak Seasoning
1 TB Garlic Powder
5 Slices of Sharp Cheddar Cheese
5 Buns, Toasted

Preheat the grill until it's screaming hot. Mix and form the beef into 5 patties. Place on the grill and cook until you see some liquid coming up on the top. Flip. Cook a couple more minutes and then place the cheese on top. I closed the grill cover to melt the cheese - about a minute or so depending on how thick the cheese is.

I topped mine with bacon, tomato, onion, ketchup and mustard.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Friday Night De-Lights

My Mom made these meatballs for dinner Friday night and we were lucky enough to be able to take a couple home for lunch on Saturday. They were almost better the next day. The gravy is fantastic! Don't you love it when someone else feeds ya??
Funny thing...this is a Rachael Ray recipe and while we were eating the episode in which she made it was on tv! Ha! Anyway she served them with garlic mashed potatoes with spinach.

Gorgonzola Filled Meatballs, Bay and Onion Creamy Tomato Gravy
(Rachael Ray)


1 1/2 pounds ground veal (Mom used pork)
1 pound ground beef
Salt and pepper
2 cloves garlic, grated or minced
1 large egg, plus 1 egg yolk
2 handfuls grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
2 handfuls plain bread crumbs
3 tablespoons sliced or finely chopped sage leaves
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
8 ounces Gorgonzola
1 tablespoon butter
2 fresh bay leaves
1 onion, finely chopped
1 cup chicken stock
1 (15-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
1/2 cup cream


Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Place meat in a mixing bowl and season with salt, pepper, add in garlic, eggs, cheese, bread crumbs and sage. Mix meat, roll into 8 large balls and arrange in a baking dish. Coat balls with 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil. Using the end of a wooden spoon, make an indentation half way into each ball and fill the cavity with some Gorgonzola. Bake until golden and cooked through, 15 to 20 minutes.

Heat 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil and butter in a sauce pot over medium heat, add bay and onions and season with salt and pepper. Add chicken stock and tomatoes and heat through, stir in cream, reduce heat to medium-low and simmer to thicken slightly 8 to 10 minutes.
Ladle sauce into shallow bowls and top with big stuffed meatballs and potatoes alongside, if desired.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Weekend Treat

Friday night Mark and I went to my Mom's for dinner. For 'cocktail hour' she served Spicy Black Bean Hummus. It was so good that the next day I made a batch for myself. I should have taken a picture of my Mom's because it was in a pretty dish but I'm afraid all you would have seen is Mark hunched over the bowl... he barely let me even get to it! So here is the picture from

Spicy Black Bean Hummus
(Cooking Light Magazine)

1 garlic clove, peeled
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon tahini (roasted sesame seed paste)
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 (15-ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 small jalapeño pepper, chopped (about 2 tablespoons)
Dash of crushed red pepper
2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
Dash of ground red pepper

1. Place garlic in a food processor; process until finely chopped. Add lemon juice, tahini, cumin, salt, black beans, jalapeño pepper, and crushed red pepper; process until smooth. Spoon bean mixture into a medium bowl, and drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil. Sprinkle with ground red pepper. We served with tortilla chips.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

An Irish Girl Cooks Italian

On Saturday morning Megan texted me asking for a good Baked Ziti recipe. She was having some friends over for dinner and they wanted pasta (and I'm sure lots of wine)! I heard through the grapevine (Mike, her twin, is our family Rona Barrett) that it was pretty darn good. Meg sent me a picture but it got deleted so I'm posting one from where the basic recipe came from with some adaptation from Megan.

Here's the recipe I gave her.

1 (16 ounce) package dry ziti pasta
1 pound mild Italian sausage
1 (15 ounce) container ricotta cheese
1 egg
1 large yellow onion, minced
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 1/2 (26 ounce) jars spaghetti sauce, divided
2 cups shredded Italian cheese blend

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9x13 inch baking dish. Cook the pasta about 8 minutes in boiling salted water until almost cooked through. Drain.

While pasta is cooking, heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add the sausage, and cook and stir until brown, about 10 minutes. Drain sausage and set aside. Stir together the ricotta, egg, onion, garlic, and oregano in a large bowl until well combined. Stir in the drained pasta, the drained sausage, salt, pepper, and 1/2 jar of the spaghetti sauce; mix well.

In the prepared baking dish, cover the bottom with 1/3 jar of spaghetti sauce. Layer 1/2 of the pasta mixture, 1/3 jar of spaghetti sauce, and 1/2 of the shredded cheese. Then layer the remaining 1/2 of the pasta, 1/3 of the sauce, and 1/2 of the cheese. Sprinkle with basil. Cover the dish tightly with aluminum foil.

Bake until heated through, about 20 minutes. Uncover; return to the oven and bake until cheese is melted, 5 to 10 more minutes.

Friday, February 13, 2009

The Squash Doesn't Fall Far From the Vine....

Mike calls me from the grocery store near his home in Orlando. He says, 'I have very little money....tell me what I can get for cheap that will last a couple of meals.' I suggest grabbing a can of green beans and a can of corn, some ground beef and maybe a hamburger helper type mix.

He calls me back a few minutes later and says, 'I just couldn't do it.' And then sends me a pic of his dinner. His choice for dinner was sauteed chicken breasts and fresh zucchini sauteed in olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Eat More Chikin'

As much as we like to support our local businesses, Mark and I LOVE Carrabbas. I mean LOVE IT. And we talk about it all the time. More than we talk about our kids.

We start out by ordering two dishes of spices and olive oil because Mark doesn't share this well and doesn't care if any one else gets any. A small order of mussels comes next along with a request for more bread. Because really -- what else would you do with all that sauce in the bowl of mussels if you didn't sop it up with bread.

Mark's entree is usually pasta with a spicy tomato sauce and I get the chicken marsala. Mark always time I'm getting that...but he never does!

So - here is my version of Chicken Marsala. I served it with steamed broccoli. There's probably an easier way to do this but this is how I manage it. And, surprisingly, it comes together very quickly.

Chicken Marsala

4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
1 large container of mushrooms, sliced
1 medium onion, sliced
4 slices of bacon, cut into 1 inch pieces
1 cup of chicken broth
1 cup of marsala wine
2 tablespoons of butter
Seasoned flour (I used Lowreys Season Salt and Pepper)

Saute the bacon in a large skillet until almost done. Add the mushrooms and onions. Season with salt and pepper. Cook until tender and bacon is done.

While that is sizzling away, pound out the chicken breast until they have an even thickness about 1/2 inch. Dredge in the seasoned flour.

Remove the bacon and vegetables from the pan. Drizzle in a bit of olive oil and place the chicken in the pan. I cook for about 5 minutes on each side. Take those out of the pan and put the mushroom mixture back in. I sprinkle a bit more flour and let that cook for about a minutes. Then add the chicken broth and wine. I let that cook for a few minutes, remove from the heat and whisk in the butter. Once you get that nice smooth sauce, I put the chicken BACK IN and let them heat back up a bit.

Now if we were skinny people I would serve this over spaghetti, but we're not (please refer to the first paragraph of this post and you'll understand WHY we're not).

Saturday, February 7, 2009

The Star of the Show

Roasted Vegetables. Wonderful. A few years ago, my mom suggested cooking my veggies this way and I (most) always listen to my mom! Good thing too, because, these are so good. I've roasted everything.....cauliflower, butternut squash, cherry tomatoes, zucchini!

Tonight I had zucchini, a sweet florida onion and a tomato. I tossed them with olive oil, salt and pepper. They roasted on a cookie sheet in a 400 degree oven for about 30 minutes. Should have cranked the oven to 450, but.....there is some spillage on my 'easy clean' oven mat that I need to clean unless I want the smoke alarm to go off. Sorry, Mom...I'll do it this weekend, I swear!

To go with the veg, I lightly breaded some thin pork chops and fried them in a bit of oil. They were ok. Just ok. I was counting on the vegetables to be the big taste at this meal and it was.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Chinese Craving Taken Care of? Check!

Friday night, Mark, Mom and I went to the Panda Garden in Bradenton. It's located on 14th Street just south of the Ford dealership.

I hadn't been to Panda Garden in years but I've been wanting Chinese food in a real restaurant. I have good memories of getting those massive quantity entrees that everyone at the table feeds from. Hoping that it was still good, we gave it a go. What a good decision.

First of all - I didn't see anything on the menu (I'm talking dinner) that was over 7.50. The prices are unbelievably low, the family who apparently owns and works at the restaurant are tireless, attentive and somewhat intimidating. Mrs. Owner made us laugh with how fast she talked and how strong her accent was -- throwing Mark into a tail spin when she asked what kind of soup he wanted......wontonoreggdropsoup?....huh? WONTONOREGGDROPSOUP? Oh, right....Won Ton please!

Portions were huge. Mom ordered the dumpling appetizer. She got (and shared) 6 very large fried dumplings. Then she ordered the MooShu Pork that was enough to feed three people. I mean, three HUNGRY people. Mark got a combo platter with Shrimp and Lobster Sauce, Soup and an Eggroll. I had Mongolian Beef with an Eggroll. Again, enough to feed three people. When Mrs. Owner brought our food out, she was so cute (and scary) and wouldn't let us lift the covers off our dishes! Next time we'll be splitting a meal.

Our bill for all that food was 30.00. Ok...honestly....Mark and I can spend 20.00 at McDonalds (Not really. Ok. Yeah, sometimes). We'll go back and maybe next time I'll have the nerve to snap a picture. Of Mrs. Owner, of course AND the food.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Super Eats

Superbowl Sunday. Here's the scene.

My cocktail.

Super Dog.

The Food.
During Pre-Game -- we had ham salad 'tea' sandwiches and a veggie tray. Followed by a salami and cheese.

Second Quarter. Crabbie Melts
1/4 cup butter
1 (5 ounce) container sharp processed cheese spread
1 can of cooked crabmeat
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon dried parsley
6 English muffins, split

Preheat oven on broiler setting. In a medium bowl, mix together margarine and cheese spread. Stir in crabmeat, mayonnaise, garlic powder, and parsley. Spread the mixture on the split English muffins. Cut into quarters. At this point I put them on a cookie sheet to flash freeze (about an hour) and then I put them in a freezer bag. When ready to eat, stick under the broiler until hot and bubbly. No need to defrost.

Halftime. Stuffed Mushrooms.

1/2 Pkg of Bulk Sausage (I used hot)
1/4 Onion, finely chopped
12 (about) Large Mushrooms
1 Garlic Clove, minced
Season Salt
8 oz. Cream Cheese
1/4 of Parmesan Cheese
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Cook sausage, onion, garlic and the mushroom stems (that you chop very fine) until done. Add seasonings. Set aside to cool. Mix in the cream cheese and parmesan cheese. Place on a baking sheet and cook for about 20 minutes or until hot and bubbly.

Enough Said :)