Monday, September 29, 2008

Bolognese...Who Knew?

For years I have heard of "Bolognese" sauce, but didn't actually know what it was. I have made "spaghetti" sauce since I was a teenager (before dirt). Back then in the typical WASP household that meant a meat flavored tomato based sauce...emphasis on tomato and usually very saucy. This weekend I decided to venture past my spaghetti boundaries and research bolognese and try it. It was worth seeking out the new.

Bolognese sauce, as the name would lead you to assume, is from Bologna, Italy. It consists of more meat than tomato, and, as a result, is very hardy. The sauce typically has several types of meat. It often has chicken or goose liver added, but I opted out of that one. I looked at several different recipes for the sauce, and then , as I often do, took what I liked from each and went to work. The result was pretty darn good, if I do say so myself. But then, it is pretty hard to go wrong with pasta, meat, and tomatoes.


1 medium onion chopped
3 large cloves garlic minced
3 oz. pancetta chopped
1/2 lb. ground beef
1 lb. sweet Italian sausage
1 stalk celery chopped
1 cup carrots grated
8 oz. mushrooms sliced (I used crimini but porcini would be good)
1 28 oz. can crushed tomato
1 6 oz. can tomato paste
1 8 oz. can tomato sauce
1/2 cup red wine
1/2 cup water with 1 TBS Kitchen Bouquet added (you could use beef broth but I felt this gave
it a richer back flavor)
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
1/2 cup chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
salt and pepper to taste
1 lb. pasta...traditionally this is served with a short pasta...I used the Dreamfields penne pasta,
but, hey, if you want to use spaghetti, go for it

You really need a good sized, 5 or 6, quart pot for this. In the pot put in the EVOO. Add the onions, garlic and pancetta. Saute until the pancetta is fairly crisp. Remove the mixture from the pot and set aside. You could do this in a separate skillet, but I just hate having more pans to clean. And you get the added benefit of a little flavor already in the pot. Now, brown the ground beef and sausage. Toss in the rest of the veggies along with the pancetta/onion mixture, mix well, and cook for 5 or 10 minutes to let the flavors blend. Next, add in the tomato products, the wine, and the water/Kitchen Bouquet mix. Stir until mixed well. Let this simmer for about an hour with the lid on. After an hour remove the lid and add the herbs, salt and pepper. Mix again, leave the lid off and simmer for about another hour.

When you feel you have this cooked to your liking (it should be very thick, not runny), cook the pasta al dente, drain, dump it on a big platter (well, you could use a bowl, but I really love the presentation on a platter), and cover with the sauce. For added color and a little extra boost in flavor, top with fresh grated parmesan cheese and a basil chiffonade. Oh, so pretty! Not to mention yummy. This will definitely fill tummies to capacity. Enjoy!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Spicy and Saucy Shrimp

I love shrimp...any size, shape, or form. One of my favorite memories is of going with my family to a family style restaurant when I was about 15 and living in South Carolina. This restaurant served its food in bowls and platters, and you helped yourself. The meal started with all you could eat shrimp cocktails, but these weren't the cocktails served in dainty little glasses with the shrimp perched precariously on the sides. Oh, no. There were small bowls of shrimp scattered about the table along with bowls of sauce, and you just helped yourself. And the servers obligingly kept the bowls filled. Well, I was in shrimp heaven! Then my dad, always the competitor, challenged me to a shrimp eating contest. And the game was on. I had permission to make a pig of myself, which I did. The problem was there was no way I would ever outeat my dad. Instead, I just made myself sick. But it was so worth it! And I still love shrimp. So I look for opportunities to cook shrimp.

The local Safeway had large shrimp (such an oxymoron) on sale a couple of weeks ago and I purchased a 2 lb. bag of the of the 21/25 shrimp per pound size. I had seen a recipe on A Year of Crockpotting for spicy shrimp. And she freely admitted that she took it from The Pioneer Woman's recipe. So, now, I am putting my own spin on it. This is really, really addicting! Who knows, I may serve this for the main entree for Christmas dinner.

The Ingredients

2 lbs. fresh or thawed rinsed shrimp unpeeled
1 stick butter
1/4 cup olive oil (I use extra virgin)
1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
2 TBS. Frank's Hot Sauce
1 tsp. Kosher salt
1 tsp. fresh ground pepper
juice from 3 lemons
1 TBS. Old Bay Seasoning

This is so easy it's almost shameful. I did this in my new Dutch oven and it took no time at all. Put the shrimp in a 5-6 qt. pot.
Slice the butter top and throw everything else in the pot. Give it a toss, put the lid on the pot, and turn the heat on medium. When it starts to gently boil, turn down the heat and check it often. When the shrimp is pink it's done. I think it took about 10 minutes.
Now what makes this especially yummy is this...and you must do this. You get a loaf of crusty bread and dip pieces of it into the sauce from the shrimp. OH MY GOSH! You will think you have died and gone to heaven. I served the shrimp with oven roasted broccoli, a semolina bread and the sauce in custard dishes for dipping. This was truly a delectable meal, definitely to be repeated. Enjoy.

P.S. You might want to put a bowl out for the discarded peels of the shrimp. And we basically ate the entire meal with our fingers. How good is that?!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Fall Comfort Food Chicken and Noodles

With yesterday being the first day of fall I really needed something warm and soothing. Can food be soothing? And I wanted to show off my new Dutch oven. Isn't it pretty? I love red. My mom had a Dutch oven when I was growing up, and I remember some pretty tasty pot roasts coming out of that sucker. I have always wanted one, just hadn't ever gotten around to getting one. And I did it on the cheap, getting it at Walmart. I am in love.

Anyway, one of my favorite fall and winter dishes is "Chicken and Noodles." There is nothing that says "love" and "home" better. This is my mom's recipe that I have tweaked a bit.


1 4-5 lb. chicken
1 medium onion cut in eighths
2 or 3 stalks celery with leaves cut in thirds
2 or 3 springs of fresh thyme

4 cloves mashed garlic

Later you will need
2 TBS. olive oil
1/2 onion chopped
2 stalks celery chopped
3 cloves garlic minced, grated or pressed
1 cup sliced baby carrots you can add more if you like
1/2 cup white wine
2 cans cream of something soup...mushroom, chicken, celery whatever you have will work

1 tsp. dried thyme
1 lb. egg noodles...I found a brand at Walmart called Country Pasta that is outstanding for this recipe
2 cups cream
salt and pepper to taste

Wash chicken, remove innards, and place chicken, not innards, in pot. You can do whatever you deem necessary to the innards. Me, well, I throw them away. Add onions, celery, garlic and water to almost cover the chicke
n. My Dutch oven is 6 qts., and the water was about an inch from the rim. Cover, bring to a boil, reduced to simmer and let her cook. I can't really give you a time on this. I think mine cooked about 4 1/2 to 5 hours. I just let it go while I was doing other stuff. When the meat starts falling off the bones, you know she's done.

Remove the chicken to a bowl and let cool for awhile. Yo
u are going to remove the meat from the bones, and you don't want to acquire 2nd degree burns doing it. Strain the broth into another bowl and also let cool. Throw away the veggies. After everything has cooled enough to handle, remove meat from the bones and skim grease from the broth.

In the bottom of the pot heat the oil and saute the new veggies until all but the carrots are tender. Use the wine (broth will also work) t
o deglaze the pot. Add the broth, chicken, and cans of soup. Heat to a gentle rolling boil. Add noodles and cook until al dente. Add thyme, cream, and salt and pepper. Stir until everything is well mixed and heated through. Voila, a great one dish dinner for the weekend that just warms the belly through and through. You can definitely leave out the cream. I added that to boost the fat and calories for my son. It is just as good without. Warm crusty bread and you are good to go. Enjoy!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Life and Magic Soup Mac and Cheese Soup

OK, I know that I haven't posted for a bit, but I have reasons. And I think they are pretty good ones. But I'll let you judge for yourselves.

Reason #1....Our oldest grown son has been living with us this summer as he fights oral cancer. He's done with treatments and now the healing begins. It's gonna take awhile, but he's got the stuff to kick this. On a side note...if you didn't watch the "Stand Up 2 Cancer" telethon, you missed something very special. Go there and donate. Anyway, cooking soups for him a
nd doc appointments, etc. have kept me somewhat busy with him.

Reason #2....I try to keep my adorable grandson one day a week to help out his parents.

Reason #3....It seems my husband was feeling neglected and developed a tumor that is hindering his breathing, so now we have all the doc st
uff to do with that coming up.

Reason #4....I work for myself as a private in-home tutor, and after taking most of the summer off for family issues I am trying to get build my clientele back to what it was.

As they say, "Man makes plans and God laughs." He must be really killing himself about now.

But amidst the chaos arose what my son calls "the magic soup." See, he had radiation on his neck and mouth and can only handle extremely pureed foods. Yummmm! He still has his taste buds, so I have diligently worked at trying to develop tasty yet smoooooth soups. As I was pondering what to make for him next my little brain had a thought. Mac and cheese are like the ultimate comfort soup, so why not a mac and cheese soup? And I did, and it was yummy, and it goes down my son's gullet with great ease. Thus, the nomer "magic soup."

Now, a few words of warning....this soup is EXTREMELY loaded with fat. That is by design. My son needs as many calories as he can get down. And so far, we have done well in that department. So, with that said, here's the how to of the soup.


1/2 lb. bacon

1/2 large onion sliced in strings
1 TBS. bacon fat (reserved from frying the bacon)
1 TBS. butter
2 1/2 qts. chicken broth or vegetable broth (boullion cubes work well for this)
1 box Dreamfields rotini (or any other small pasta...about 1 lb.)
3/4 cup butter
3/4 cup flour

1 qt. half and half or any type of milk you want (I am trying to calorie load)
1/2 cup mild cheddar cheese grated

1/2 cup sharp cheddar cheese grated
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese grated
1/2 cup Guyere cheese grated
1/2 pound Velveeta cubed

1 TBS. fresh savory minced
fresh grated nutmeg

fresh ground pepper

For efficiency, have all the cheese grated and herbs mince
d before you start.

Fry the bacon. When the bacon is done remove it to paper towels to cool while finishing the soup. Drain most of the bacon fat leaving about 1 TBS. Add 1 TBS. butter to skillet and the thinly sliced strings of onion. Caramelize the onion. While the onion is caramelizing, cook the pasta in chicken broth according to package directions. When the pasta is done D
O NOT drain. Just leave the pasta in the broth. You will wanted to cook the pasta al dente so it doesn't turn to mush.

Now some juggling comes into play. Before the pasta is fi
nished, make a roux of the butter and flour, then add the onions. Add the half and half slowly, stirring constantly. Cook and stir over medium heat until thickened. When thickened add to the broth and pasta. After these are mixed well, add the cheeses fairly slowly, stirring until melted. If it seems a bit thick you can add more liquid. Water seems to work just fine. At the end add the savory, chopped fried bacon, some grated nutmeg (don't get carried away with this...a little goes along way), and fresh pepper. Between the chicken broth and the cheese you most likely won't need to add salt.

This is one of those recipes you can really adjust to fit
your tastes. You can use any melty type of cheese, but be sure to include the Velveeta. That gives it the really smooth texture. I used the savory because it is growing in my little window herb garden, and it just smelled like it should go into the soup. The nutmeg really adds a nice touch. And be warned, this makes a huge batch of soup. Be prepared to give some away, although my son wouldn't let me. In fact, come Friday I have to make another batch. Enjoy!

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Kris's Hot Damn No Ham Chili Chili

For about 10 years my second son was a vegetarian. During that period we both had to get a bit creative with cooking. I have to say that usually he was better than I was, although I didn't do badly. This was a chili recipe he came up with one day. I would like to say that he spent years developing it, but I think it actually occurred over the period of, say, one day. But it is the only one that I ever use. And it is awesome! I know I sound 14, but it is the only word I can think of to describe it. I have done some tweaking, but I will tell you what I did different after I give you his version.

The Ingredients

3 TBS. olive oil
1 large red onion chopped
2-4 jalapenos chopped, seeded for milder heat
8 tomatoes chopped
4 mushrooms chopped
8-10 cloves garlic minced
2 green bell peppers chopped
2 red bell peppers chopped
2 16 oz. cans black beans
2 16 oz. cans kidney beans
1 15 oz. can tomato sauce
2 6 oz. cans tomato paste
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup brown sugar
4 TBS. chili powder
2 TBS. cumin
1TBS. cinnamon
1/2 bar of a Hershey's bar
Any other spices like oregano, basil, red pepper flakes...anything you prefer

Heat oil in the bottom of a large pot. Saute all the veggies until tender. Add some salt to get the flavor going. Add in the beans with juice, the tomato sauce, the tomato paste and simmer for 15 or 20 minutes. Add the rest of the ingredients and simmer at least 3 hours. Good chili has to age! (Just like the rest of us.) Check often for heat. You can always add more peppers and chili powder if you like to 4 alarm. You can add water if it gets to thick.

OK, here's what I did that was just a bit different. I added a pound of ground beef and half of the red and green peppers. And I had leftover roasted jalapeno and poblano peppers from the salsa verde from an earlier post, so I used those. I only used 3 tablespoons of chili powder...1 was chipotle chili powder and the other 2 were regular. And I only had 4 tomatoes so I also added a 15 oz. can of diced tomatoes. Other than those changes I did everything else the same.
The chocolate and the cinnamon are key. Don't even think about leaving them out. As my son me on this one.

This really is a great versatile chili recipe. It really isn't important what type of beans you use. And you can control the heat to whatever your taste buds can handle. Add a batch of homemade cornbread and you really can't go wrong. We also like to add sour cream, grated cheese, and tortilla chips our individual servings. With fall approaching we will be definitely chowing down on this often. Enjoy!

Friday, September 5, 2008

Warning...Not Figure Friendly Funeral Potatoes

I was going to post this yesterday, but I got a little sidetracked. There was a bit of a distraction at my house yesterday...a good one, but nevertheless, a distraction.

By the time he left I was exhausted and decided I would wait until today to post. But it was so worth the exhaustion! Anyway, on to the dish.

My mother-in-law, bless her heart, was not an imaginative cook. But she did have a few dishes that were wonderful and just plain comforting. Following is one of them. I remember having this dish at her home early in my marriage and immediately demanded the recipe and have been making it ever since. Since then I have run across recipes that are somewhat more convenient, but they just don't taste the same. I'll elaborate as I go.

My MIL called this recipe simply "Sour Cream Potatoes", but we renamed it "Funeral Potatoes" simply because it's the type of dish you find at a funeral. See...comforting.

The Ingredients
5 or 6 baked russet potatoes
2 cans cream of chicken soup
1/2 cup butter
1 pint sour cream

1 1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese (more if you like it extra cheesy)
1/2 lb. bacon (this is my own addition...ham is also good)

1/2 cup sliced green onions (I'm not big on onion so I usually leave it out)

I have seen this recipe done with frozen hashbrowns and it just isn't the same. It doesn't have the same creamy texture and is rather crunchy. This is more labor intensive but so worth it.

After the potatoes are baked and cooled, peel them and then grate them with a box grater into a 9x13 dish or a 3 quart casserole dish. I try to plan ahead (yeah, right) and bake them the day before. That way I can just start making it right away.

Now the rest is easy. MIL had to cook for farm workers and a passel of kids, so she didn't have time to mess around with complicated...except for making bread pre-bread maker days. I never could make bread. OK on to the easy part.

Just mix the rest of the ingredients in a sauce pan and cook until melted. Oh, yeah, cook the bacon first and cut into pieces...almost forgot.

Fold the sauce into the potatoes. MIL's recipe says to smash down w
ith a fork, but I just use a big spatula to get it thoroughly mixed.

One other addition my MIL made that I don't is topping it with crushed cornflakes before you bake. Do people still buy cornflakes? I have added homemade croutons, but, frankly, I like it plain.

Now bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes. And them...MMMMMmmmmmm.

I like to add the meat to it so that I can use it as a main dish. Last night we had it with just a simple mixed greens salad. I think it would also be outstanding with Pioneer Woman's green beans. This is a great dish for a cool autumn night. Enjoy!

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Salsa Verde

The other day as I was perusing my favorite foodie blogs, I came across a recipe for chicken enchiladas with salsa verde. Now, I've made my own version of chicken enchiladas since before there was dirt. But I had never actually tried my hand at making the green version of salsa. So, I said to myself, "Why not?" After spending several days looking at a myriad of recipes, I came up with my own version. And it wasn't half bad. My hubby found it a bit on the hot side, but then his palate is kind of wussy. Sorry, hon, but you know it's true. The nice thing about this recipe is that you can control the heat. And I will guide you through that. Actually, there's nothing to that. But I wanted to sound like the expert that I'm not. Here we go.

The Ingredients

about 2 lbs. tomatillos
4 poblano peppers
4 jalapeno peppers (you aren't necessarily going to use all these peppers but you can save what you don't use for something else)
about 1/4 bunch of cilantro
1/3 cup chopped onion
2 large cloves garlic

1 tsp. ground cumin
1 TBS. lime juice

I know, I know, I didn't put the onion or garlic in the photo. Oh, well.

Here's what I did to my salsa to make it a little different
from most of the other recipes. I am sure others have done this, but I didn't see it. I roasted all the peppers. Pre-heat the oven to 450 degrees. Line a cookie sheet with foil and brush it with olive oil. Also brush the peppers with the oil. Place the cookie sheet in the center of the oven. Cook until fairly blackened, turning often.

While the peppers are roasting, husk and rinse the tomatillos. Place them in a pot just covered with water and cook until they change color to a dull green. I think those little tomatillos are so cute. I had never worked with them before and found them pretty darn interesting. I digress. Anyway, here's what they look like from start to finish.

About the time you start cooking the tomatillos, the peppers will probably be done. Remove them from the oven and the cookie sheet and place in a paper bag to cool for about 15 minutes.

When the tomatillos are done cooking remove them from the water with a slotted spoon and place them in a food processor or blender. Add the garlic, onion, cilantro, cumin and lime juice. When the peppers have cooled peel and remove the seeds and veins. Start by adding 1 of each pepper. Believe me, you will definitely want to start on the cautious side when adding the peppers. Pulse the blender until the mixture is smooth. Then check for heat and salt. You can keep adding the peppers until your mouth can't take anymore heat. And, voila, salsa verde!

This made around 5 cups. It is a versatile salsa that you can use with chips, fish, beef, or, as I did tonight, to make chicken enchiladas. And, boy, did I have one happy hubby!