Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Baked Pasta Casserole

A hearty pasta casserole that is made with three different types of cheese.  Ricotta cheese is made from the whey that is left over from making other types of cheeses. Ricotta is similar to cottage cheese but is drier,  finer in texture and has a slightly sweet taste.

  • 8 ounces ziti, penne, or macaroni
  • 1 cup low fat Ricotta cheese
  • 1 large egg slightly beaten
  • 3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 cup shredded Mozzarella cheese
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon celery salt
  • 1 tablespoon parsley flakes
  • 1/2 jar spaghetti or tomato sauce (13 ounces)
  • salt and pepper
Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
Bring a pot of water to the boil and cook pasta as directed on the package. Drain and set aside.
Place Ricotta, 1/4 cup Parmesan, 1/2 cup Mozzarella, egg, garlic powder, parsley flakes, celery salt and salt and pepper in a bowl and mix well.
Spread half of the tomato sauce in the bottom of a 2-quart oven proof casserole. Add cooked pasta, cover with the Ricotta mixture, then the rest of the tomato sauce. Add remaining Parmesan and Mozzarella cheese on the top. Put casserole on a rimmed baking sheet and bake until browned and bubbling, 20 to 25 minutes. 

Cooked hamburger or sausage could be added to this recipe to make a main course dish.  

Friday, September 6, 2013

Pulled Pork Pizza

As a rule I don't care for pizza that is too far from the traditional Italian style, but this pulled pork pizza is an exception.

Barbecued Pork
3 lbs. pork roast
2 cans of beer
barbecue sauce of choice

I usually use a pork loin roast, but any kind of pork roast will work. I've also used boneless country style pork ribs. The roast can be larger than 3 pounds, use what's on sale or available. Put the roast in a crock pot and put enough beer into it to cover. Cook on low for 7-8 hours or high for 4-5 hours. When done, remove roast and allow to rest until cool enough to handle. Using two forks, shred the pork. Put pulled pork in a large bowl and add your favorite barbecue sauce and mix well.  Reserve some of the barbecue sauce for later.

Pizza Crust
Use a prepared crust, a crust mix or use this recipe for home made pizza dough. Put dough in round pizza pan. If using raw dough, pre-bake for 10 minutes at 425.

Take remaining barbecue sauce and with a basting brush paint a thin layer of sauce on the dough. Sprinkle sauce layer with a little garlic powder and pepper. Add pulled pork in an even, thin layer. Sprinkle top with chopped red onion and drizzle a little barbecue sauce on top. Add a mixture of cheddar and monterey jack cheese evenly over all. Bake in a 425 degree oven for 10-15 minutes, or until cheese is melted and bubbly.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Peanut Butter Cake

Peanuts are thought to have originated in South America, known as early as 950 B.C.E. The Inca Indians of South America made a paste out of peanuts, thus the origins of peanut butter go back a long time. 

The following recipe is a cake made from peanut butter and other ingredients, and is topped with a peanut butter and honey frosting.  Reference to the recipe was given to me on the internet. I have no idea who devised the recipe, but it sure is a keeper! 

Peanut Butter Cake
  • 2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 cups light brown sugar, packed
  • 1 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup room-temperature butter
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 1/4 cups milk
  • 2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 eggs
Peanut Butter - Honey Frosting
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter
  • 2 Tablespoons honey
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 5 Tablespoons milk
  • 1 cup mini-chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 10 x 15 cake pan. In a large bowl, slowly mix first four
ingredients with electric mixer until crumbly. Add the rest of the ingredients, blend at slow speed until mixed well, then beat at medium speed for three minutes. 

Pour into pan and bake for 35-40 minutes or until toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Let cake cool in the pan for ten minutes and make frosting.

Warm peanut butter and honey in the microwave for 20-30 seconds to make it easy to stir, add the rest of the frosting ingredients with electric mixer until smooth. 

After cake has sat for ten minutes, spread the frosting on the warm cake and sprinkle with the mini-chocolate chips.  

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Hot Sauce - Store Bought And Home Made

I would much rather use the commercial hot sauces that I like instead of making my own.  Not that making basic hot sauce is difficult, but there is a certain amount of experimentation needed to make a sauce with just the right blend of heat and flavor. A basic hot sauce can be made with just three ingredients:

2 cups plain white distilled vinegar
1 1/2 lbs seeded jalapeno chilis 
2 teaspoons salt 

Simmer all ingredients for at least 5 minutes, then puree mixture in a blender. Put mixture in a glass jar with a tight fitting lid and put in a dark place to age for at least three months. Check on the jar once a week to make sure too much pressure isn't building in it. The sauce is actually fermenting to a certain extent, so removing the lid to let the fermentation gases out might be a good idea. Be careful though. The gases will contain capsaicin,  the substance that give hot peppers their heat. Getting a whiff of the fumes could be quite uncomfortable.

There are scads of other recipes out there that add tomatoes, spices, and god-knows-what to the basic recipe for the more adventurous. One of the problems with making hot sauce that is consistent in heat and flavor is that in any given season the heat of the peppers can vary significantly. Very hot, dry weather can make peppers hotter than seasons that are cooler. The variety of peppers used also can make a big difference. Cooking that many hot peppers and vinegar in the house can also really stink up the place and release capsaicin in the air, so it's best to do it outside. Cutting up and seeding hot peppers, even the milder varieties, can make your hands feel like their on fire, so I'd wear rubber gloves. 

So for anyone that wants to make their own, I say go for it. For me, I've found two commercial hot sauces that I use on a regular basis. The first one is a versatile sauce that was the original hot sauce used for Buffalo Hot Wings; Franks Original Red Hot sauce. This sauce has been around since 1896. It uses cayenne peppers and is just right for my palate. The original Buffalo Hot Wings are very easy to make:

Chicken wings
1 tablespoon vinegar
pinch of garlic salt
pinch of celery seed
Franks Original Red Hot Sauce

Deep fry wings until done and crispy. Drain wings. In a cast iron skillet, melt a stick of butter and add vinegar, celery seed and garlic salt. Put wings in butter and coat them with the butter, let cook for a few minutes. Remove wings from the skillet and put them in a large bowl. Add hot sauce, toss wings until evenly coated. Swerve with blue cheese dressing with carrot and celery sticks.  

When I want more heat, or I'm going to cook with hot sauce, I use Sriracha sauce, an oriental sauce. If you want more heat to your Buffalo Wings, this is a good sauce to substitute with. I like to use this sauce for stir fries.  The longer this sauce is heated, the more heat it will lose, so I add it towards the end of the cooking process. It gives a great flavor to stir fried chicken or shrimp.

There are more hot sauces out there than you can shake a stick at. Some are basic, some are complex. Some are too damned hot for my taste.  If you like hot and spicy, explore Chinese, Mexican, Indian and many other ethnic foods and you'll find hot dishes.

Home Made Macaroni And Cheese

There's nothing any more satisfying than a home made macaroni and cheese casserole. It's not a difficult dish to make at all, and it can be made ahead of time and put into the oven about 30 minutes before mealtime. This recipe has a little cream along with the milk to add some richness. It definitely is not a low calorie - low fat food,  but it's great for a once in a while splurge.

Macaroni and Cheese

  • 3 cups cooked shell macaroni
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup cream
  • 3 cups sharp cheddar cheese
  • salt to taste

Set oven to 350 degrees and preheat. Cook the shell macaroni, drain and set aside. Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat, add flour and whisk together. Let cook for a minute or two until mixture begins to bubble slightly. Do not cook over high heat as this will burn the butter and darken the sauce. Add the milk and cream, whisk until the mixture becomes thick. Do not boil. When mixture is thick, add 2 1/2 cups of the cheddar cheese and stir until cheese melts.  Add macaroni shells and gently stir until shells are covered well with the cheese.  Grease a casserole with butter or oil and put shell/cheese mixture into it.  Dot the top with butter and add the remainder of the cheese. Put into oven and bake for 25-30 minutes.  Remove from oven when cheese is just starting to brown and is bubbly. sprinkle with parsley flakes and serve.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Baby Artichoke And Chicken Stir Fry

Unlike regular size artichokes,  baby artichokes can be eaten whole with a little prep work. Their flavor is mild, and they make a perfect compliment to chicken in a stir fry.

  • 12-16 baby artichokes, cleaned and cut into quarters
  • 1 chicken breast, cut into small cubes
  • 2 carrots thinly sliced
  • 3 green onions chopped
  • 1/2 lb. fresh mushrooms sliced
  • 1 can baby corn
  • 1 tablespoon sherry
  • 1 tablespoon corn starch
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1/2 cup water
  • oil for frying (peanut or olive)
Preparation of ingredients -  Place artichokes in a colander and rinse thoroughly under cold water. Remove the dark green outer leaves of the artichoke until the leaves become pale green . Cut off the stem and the top of the artichoke. Cut the artichoke into quarters and put in a bowl with acidulated water to prevent them turning brown. Acidulated water is water that lemon juice or vinegar has been added to. Below is a picture comparing a whole baby artichoke with a correctly prepped one. 

Slice up the carrots, green onions, and mushrooms and set aside. Mix the corn starch and soy sauce with the water and set aside. Cut up chicken breast into small cubes.

Cooking directions -  Add 2 tablespoons of oil to a hot wok. Wait until oil is hot, put in chicken and stir-fry for a minute. Add sherry and continue stir frying until chicken is almost cooked through and begins to brown. Remove chicken, add a little more oil and reheat the wok. Thoroughly rinse and drain the artichokes, pat dry and add to hot wok. Stir fry for two minutes, add the rest of the vegetables and cook for 2-3 minutes. Add the cooked chicken, and add the corn starch mixture. As soon as the wok returns to temperature the corn starch will thicken. If sauce is too thick, add water a teaspoonful at a time until desired consistency is reached.  Serve over rice or noodles, add a few chunks of fresh honeydew and cantaloupe for a complete meal.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Pork and Jalapeno Frittata

A frittata is an open faced omelet with other ingredients added to it. The recipe for my Pork and Jalapeno frittata can be used as an example, as most anything can be used in a frittata. It's an excellent way to use up leftovers.

  • 6 oz. raw pork, cut into cubes
  • 1 small onion, chopped fine
  • 1/2 ripe red pepper, cut into thin strips
  • 1 small jalapeno pepper cut into rings
  • 1 small clove garlic, minced
  • salt and pepper 
  • 3 eggs

I used raw pork in this frittata, so I used a little bit different method to cook it.

Put a few tablespoons of olive oil in a medium sized skillet (10-11 inches in diameter). Let oil heat thoroughly. Add pork, onions, red peppers, garlic and jalapeno, salt and pepper and fry until pork is done. Beat up the eggs in a bowl, slowly pour them over the mixture. Shake the pan to make sure the eggs spread evenly. Reduce the heat to medium and put on a lid to help the center of the frittata set, or you can put the pan in the oven (350 degrees) for a few minutes.  When the center is set and the frittata is golden brown on the bottom, turn it out onto a plate and enjoy!

A frittata can be made out of most anything you've got left over too. If the meat you're using is already cooked, you can add everything to the eggs before putting into the skillet, or add the eggs separately. Experiment with different ingredients and cooking methods. There's really no right or wrong way to do it, as long as the eggs get cooked and it tastes good!

My Zimbio