Sunday, March 29, 2009

I Guess I Have Pasta Issues

As much as I love pasta, I really only love it in certain ways. As most of you know, I will order Spaghetti and Meatballs anywhere it's on the menu. And then I'll ask if I can substitute angel hair! If there is only meatballs and sauce over ziti or bowties or something like that, I'll pass. I like fettuccine - but don't normally care for alfredo sauce (unless it's just a small portion as a side dish). I like elbow macaroni only in mac and cheese and in goulash.

Is this weird? When I started typing it didn't seem weird but now the word 'therapy' is popping in my head.

Ok. So here's the point. I'm going out on a limb today and making the Penne Ala Betsy. Key word here being PENNE. I hope it's as amazing as all the reviews say it is. It's another Pioneer Woman ( recipe.

Side Note: My basil plant died. Did you know that fresh basil in the produce section costs 3.89!! Are you kidding me?? I could have bought two new plants for that!! Which I will - take that Publix!

Penne Ala Betsy (PW's sister)

Olive oil
1 lb of shrimp, peeled and deveined
3/4 lb penne or other short pasta
1 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup of dry white wine
1 8 oz can tomato sauce
1 cup heavy cream
Salt and pepper

1. Put water on to boil for the pasta.
2. Heat a large frying pan and melt 2 tbsp butter and 2 tbsp olive oil in pan. Sautee shrimp until opaque and then remove to a plate to cool.
3. Melt another 2 tbsp butter and olive oil in the same pan and cook garlic until slightly browning. Add onion and cook until translucent.
4. Add pasta to boiling water and cook per package directions.
5. Add 1/2 cup of wine and allow to cook down for approximately a minute. Then add tomato sauce, stirring to combine, and cream.
6. Chop parsley and basil and add to sauce to taste. Add salt and pepper to taste.
7. Remove shrimp tails and chop shrimp into tiny, bite-size pieces. Return to sauce and stir to combine.
8. When pasta is cooked, drain, and then add to sauce, tossing to cover.
Day after thoughts: This was delicious. Even with the penne! I don't think Mark was prepared to like it because I think he smelled the wine that went in the sauce - but then I cooked most of that out. The only thing is neither of us thought the shrimp added anything to the dish. And we LOVE shrimp. Probably would leave it out next time and make it a meatless meal.

Friday, March 27, 2009

All In The Family

My brother is a brilliant cook.

I'm a good cook which means I can read, I know what a teaspoon of salt looks like without using a teaspoon, and I can improvise a bit when I need to. My brother can re-create meals he's had in restaurants and can whip up a creation on the spur of a moment. We're going camping with him and his family next week so I'm excited to see what he whips up for us.

When we were kids, my mom would let us pick out a recipe that we wanted to cook (once a week) and she would buy the ingredients. My first pick was veal parmesan -- she told me that veal was too expensive and that she would get round steak instead -- haha. Anyway, one of my brother's creations during those dinners was his 'sizzle burger.' He would get the skillet screamin' hot with butter, put the hamburger patties in the pan and then doused them with worchestire sauce. What a mess it would make - splattered grease, butter and worchestire sauce all over the stove and cabinets....but oh my gosh, they were good.

Here's his Slab-O-Grouper and Green Beans that he had for dinner a few days ago. Wow...I just noticed his old-school platter. He must have stolen that from Mom's kitchen back in the 70's. Now I know what to get him for Christmas!

Friday, March 20, 2009

Wingin' It On A Friday Night

I read on another food blog about a commentor who accused the author of stealing recipes. She, as I would have been, was outraged. I like having this sharing community of recipes and ideas and thank everyone for making my meal planning very easy. So....with that in mind I *really* thank Elizabeth at for this wonderful wing recipe. I changed it up a bit but I'll post the originally recipe with my changes in red.

Maple Hot Wings
Serves 4 Wing Lovers

6-7 whole chicken wings, divided (I used an entire bag of the quick frozen wings from SAMS)
1/3 cup teriyaki sauce
1/3 cup lite soy sauce
1/4 cup barbeque sauce
1 TBSP minced garlic
2 tsp onion powder
1 tsp black pepper
1 1/3 cup maple syrup
2 serrano peppers, sliced (I used a healthy pinch of crushed red pepper)
Oil, for frying (I didn't need oil, see below)

Heat oil to 375 degrees. (I threw the wings on the grill and cooked them for about 45 minutes - they were frozen when I put them on there). Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine teriyaki sauce, soy sauce, garlic, onion powder, pepper, maple syrup, barbeque sauce, and serrano peppers (or crushed red pepper). Bring to a low boil and simmer to allow it to thicken. Fry the wings until cooked through (should be about 10 minutes). Remove serrano peppers. Pour sauce over wings and shake to coat.

These were sweet and spicy and sticky and delicious! Serve with Bleu Cheese dressing (1/2 cup mayo, 1/2 cup sour cream, 4 ounces of bleu cheese, salt, pepper, couple of shakes of garlic powder, 1 tsp of sugar and a dash of red wine vinegar).

Oh...I also recommend having some wet-wipes around for cleanup!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

There Is So Much Tahini!

I bought the $7.00 container of tahini when I wanted to make the Black Bean Hummus my mom made one night. Since the purchase, I've made two more batches of that recipe. Today I ventured out a bit and made a Roasted Red Pepper Hummus.

Spicy Red Pepper Hummus

2(15 ounce) can garbanzo beans, drained
12 ounce jar roasted red peppers
6 tablespoons lemon juice
3 tablespoons tahini
2 cloves of garlic
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
Olive Oil

In the food processor, puree the chickpeas, red peppers, lemon juice, tahini, garlic, cumin, cayenne, and salt. Process, using long pulses, until the mixture is fairly smooth, and slightly fluffy. Drizzle a bit of olive oil in and stir. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
Update: I'm not feeling all that bad about the 7.00 can of tahini now. Oh my...this is GOOD!

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Eating in Ireland

I've been lucky to be able to visit Ireland twice (so far). The first time I went with my Mom and we took an organized motorcoach tour that turned out to be wonderful. We didn't really know what to expect but it was very cool - there was only a couple of times we wanted to stay someplace longer than the tour allowed, or stop at a place we drove by. But we stayed in wonderful B & B's and had traditional breakfasts that were incredible, visited pubs and local restaurants.

A few years later we returned with Megan and felt brave enough to handle the island on our own. We flew into Shannon, rented a car and made our way around the south of Ireland, ending in Dublin. We had a blast -- it was adventurous and so unlike us to travel without set plans or an itinerary (I make an itinerary when we take day trips to Orlando!). We ate in small waterfront restaurants, famous tourist spots, and got snacks at local bakeries and grocery stores. We walked the cities we visited looking for traditional Irish music at night. We played with a schnauzer in an abandoned church yard and we veered off the motorway at the last minute to find a monument of some sort.

I know this is a food blog and not a travel blog so let me get to the point -- THEY DO NOT SERVE CORNED BEEF IN IRELAND!! I never saw it on a menu! It never touched my lips. Here's what they do have that we will never forget and never be able to re-create or find at home:
  • Butter
  • Beef Stew at Greta's
  • Roasted Potatoes to put in the Beef Stew
  • Breakfast Sausage
  • Butter
  • Cheese
  • Brown Bread for Breakfast
  • Shepherds Pie
  • Butter
  • Toasted Special's!!
  • Club Orange
  • Bulmers Irish Cider, and finally,
  • Butter

I did see Bacon and Cabbage on a few menus, but bacon in Ireland is not like our bacon. It's more like our country ham.

Regardless, I love Corned Beef. I buy them primarily around St. Patricks Day because they're on sale. is my second use of the slow cooker this week.

Corned Beef

1 Corn Beef (I use the flat cut)

1 Bottle of Guinness

1/4 cup of Spicy Brown Mustard


Mix the beer and mustard and that funky flavor packet that comes with the meat. Pour over the meat in the slow cooker. Add enough water to cover the meat. I cook on low ALL DAY LONG until the beef is cooked through and passes the slice/crumble test. I kind of want it to fall apart like pulled pork. That's just me though.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Crock Pot Chicken

I always *want* to use my crock pot more. I just don't know what to do with it. Crock pot meals are always so 'DONE.' And maybe a little mushy. That probably doesn't make sense but I think the food breaks down too much in the slow cooker. My work days are longer than the 6 to 8 hours cooking time that's normal for slow cooking. I know I could get a timer but it's never been really worth all of that. In spite of all this, I used my slow cooker twice this week! And it worked out well.

The first is a BBQ Chicken. Remember the chicken I thawed for the sweet and sour dish?? It was a huge package of bone in chicken breasts (for the sweet and sour chicken, I deboned them) and I had three left. I think I feel better about the slow cooker now. :)

Pulled Chicken

3 Large Chicken Breast
1 Bottle of Sweet Baby Rays Chipolte BBQ Sauce
1 Large Onion, Sliced
Salt, Pepper, Garlic Powder
1/2 Bottle of Beer

Place the chicken in the slow cooker and place the sliced onions on top. Mix the BBQ sauce with the beer and the spices. Pour over the chicken; cover the pot and cook on low for 8 hours. Remove the chicken breasts and shred using the two-fork method. Return to the pot to coat with the sauce. Serve on fresh bakery rolls (or the cheap rolls in the bread doesn't really matter).

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Sweet and Sour Chicken

I'm not one to be left out so I needed to get on this sweet and sour chicken bandwagon. Credit goes to Melissa at for the inspiration. She credits a few other bloggers for the recipe as well.

I don't cook anything Asian and have it turn out tasting Asian. And when I read things that say 'better than take-out,' I'm thinking yeah, right.... I was going to first make this for my mom on her birthday and then I chickened out; then it was on our weekly menu for two weeks after that but I somehow managed to avoid it.

But then I THAWED THE CHICKEN. And that means commitment in our house! So here ya go. I followed the recipe exactly but next time I would add some red pepper flakes to the sauce. Also I chunked the chicken into about 1 inch cubes but some of the pieces were thinner and smaller due to the dynamics of the chicken breast of course... anyway, Mark commented that he liked the smaller pieces better so I will cut them smaller next time. more thing -- I had to read and re-read the cornstarch and egg bit because it seemed backwards to me. But it works -- dredge in cornstarch and then roll them around in the egg. Gives it a great crunch and color.

Sweet and Sour Chicken

3-4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
Salt and pepper
1 cup cornstarch
2 eggs, beaten
1/4 cup canola oil

Cut boneless chicken breasts into chunks. Season with salt and pepper. Dip chicken in cornstarch and then in egg. Fry in a little oil until brown but not cooked through. Place in a single layer in a baking dish. Mix sauce ingredients (below) together and pour over chicken.

¾ cup sugar
4 tablespoons ketchup
½ cup vinegar ( I used rice wine vinegar)
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon garlic salt

Bake for one hour at 325 degrees. Turn chicken every 15 minutes. If you like extra sauce, make another batch of sauce and bring it to a boil on the stove top. Stir constantly and let cook over medium heat until thickened and reduced - about 6-8 minutes.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Florida in February

What do you cook when you live in Florida in February and it's a beautiful 78 degrees?? Something on the grill of course. Along with some tangy and slightly sweet coleslaw and baked beans.

I had a slab of regular pork ribs that needed to have the membrane taken off the back. It's kind of a pain but you won't be able to enjoy your ribs if you don't remove this. Here is a video on how to do this.

Cooking ribs at our house is usually an all day process. There's baking going on; then we move to the smoker and maybe to the grill for finishing off. On this night however, it was the very basics --

1 Slab of St. Louis Style Ribs (or what we call 'regular' ribs)

Pork Rub --
1/4 cup Brown Sugar
1/4 cup Paprika
1/4 cup Pepper
1/4 cup Kosher Salt
2 TB Cayenne
2 TB Garlic Powder
2 TB Onion Powder
2 TB Chili Powder

Liberally rub the ribs with the spice mixture. I let it sit there undisturbed while the grill heated up. I let it heat to 500 degrees and then turned down to medium with ended up being around 300 degrees. I put the ribs on and lowered the lid and let them cook slow for about an hour and a half. I moved them and flipped them quite a bit making sure they were cooked evenly. When they were done (I always check to see if the meat has pulled away from the bone) I slathered them with some Sweet Baby Rays Chipolte BBQ Sauce.