That Baked Feta and Tomato Thing

For about a year or so, this “Uunifetapasta” dish has been all over the interwebs, and I just got around to trying it.

Attributed to Finnish food blogger Jenni Häyrinen, it is dead simple – a block (or more) of Feta cheese, some sliced grape tomatoes, olive oil, garlic, and herbs. It is also pretty darned tasty.

I used about 10 ounces of Feta and the same amount of halved tomatoes, but you do what you want.

INGREDIENTS
•10.5 oz Feta (a block, not crumbled)
•10 oz grape tomatoes, halved
•2 cloves garlic, minced
•1/2 tsp black pepper
•1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes*
•Chopped fresh basil
•Chopped fresh parsley

*Or more or less, according to your tastes.

Heat your oven to 400º and drizzle some olive oil in a large baking dish.

Add the tomatoes, garlic, and seasonings and toss to coat well.

Remove the Feta block(s) from the brine (discard the brine, unless you have some wicked cool other use for it), and arrange the Feta in the middle of the tomatoes. I rolled the Feta block around a bit in the oil and seasonings, then flipped the block(s) over and did the same, to get some seasoning on both sides of the Feta.

Bake for 15 minutes, then raise the oven temperature to 450º and continue to bake until the cheese and the tomatoes browned a bit. I gave mine 15 minutes, but might could’ve gone 20, so see what you think when you make yours.

We had ours over pasta with leftover barbecued pork chunks, but I am betting this would work over rice, or fish, or chicken, most anything you want a nice cheesy tomato sauce over.

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Doritos Taco Salad

Yesterday, I posted my Fave French Salad Dressing, which, while I have posted it before, I really needed to make a batch for this wicked tasty salad, or, as my friend, Barb, exclaimed when I set in on the table:

“It’s salad! With meat!”

Yes, Barb, yes it is. And wicked tasty, too!

This salad recipe is all over da google, but everyone chooses to make it a wee, tiny bit differently that everyone else.

INGREDIENTS
Salad:
•Romaine lettuce, chopped
•Red onion, sliced thin
•1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
•1 avocado, peeled and sliced
Peruvian Pearl Peppers – chopped red peppers or jalapeños work, too
•Shredded Monterey Jack cheese
•Taco seasoned meat, warm
•Doritos – I used Cool Ranch

Dressing:
My Fave French Dressing, or Catalina

Arrange the lettuce in the bottom of your salad bowl, then top with the red onion, black beans, avocado, and peppers.

Scatter the warmed taco meat and shredded cheese over the top, then top it all with the Doritos. Next time I will crush the Doritos, just a bit.

Serve with the dressing on the side, and yes, the French (or Catalina) is perfect with it.

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My Fave French Salad Dressing

I was planning on making a taco salad for a dinner with friends, and the recipe called for using Catalina French as the dressing.

Now, I love me some Catalina dressing, and quite often, I have a bottle in the fridge; but, this was a BIG DEAL DINNER – the first gathering of a group of dear friends in over a year, celebrating vaccinations and retirement and drinking wine and stuff – so I chose to make my old favorite replacement.

Tasty, and a lot less sugar, too, so, bonus!

INGREDIENTS
•1/4 cup ketchup
•2 tbsp sugar
•1/4 cup onion, chopped
•1/2 teaspoon paprika
•1/4 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
•1/4 tsp garlic powder
•1/4 tsp Seasoned Salt
•1/4 tsp black pepper
•1/4 tsp Aleppo pepper
•2 tbsp fig balsamic vinegar
•2 tbsp sherry vinegar
•1/2 cup canola oil

Note 1: I used a local (well, made in Poland, but imported by a Chicago group) spicy ketchup. Feel free to use your own fave.

Note 2: 1/4 cup of cider vinegar is more than fine if you don’t happen to have fig balsamic and sherry vinegars on hand.

Add the sugar, onion, paprika, garlic powder, Seasoned Salt, black and Aleppo peppers, and Worcestershire sauce to your blender jar, then add the vinegar(s) and ketchup and pulse to combine and finely chop the onion.

Note 3: adding the dry ingredients first, then covering with the onion, vinegar(s), and ketchup help to keep them in the dressing, and not blown up the side of the blender jar in processing. Not a huge deal, because you can always scrape the sides down and pulse another time or two anyway; but this works for me.

With the blender running, slowly add the canola oil through the opening in the lid until the dressing has emulsified into a creamy red-orange mixture.

Yeh. Not as vibrantly red as actual Catalina from the nice folk at Kraft, but very, very tasty, and, have I mentioned how much less sugar mine has compared to most other salad dressing recipes?

You will get about 12 ounces of quite nice dressing that will not separate.

Next… Taco Salad!

 

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Grilled Fireball Pineapple

So, YEH, this happened.

And it was delicious!

I served it as a side for dinner with friends: Lemonade Chicken, taco salad, and stuff; but the pineapple, soaked in cinnamon whisky for an hour or so, then sprinkled with cinnamon sugar and grilled, would also work a treat as dessert, with vanilla ice cream and mebbe a splash of caramel?

Thanks to the folk at Delish for the recipe.

INGREDIENTS
•1 pineapple
•Fireball whisky
•Cinnamon sugar
•Cayenne pepper (optional)

Note: the folk at Delish specified one pineapple and 1-1/2 cup of whisky, but I used a bit less than one whole pineapple and a bit more than 1-1/2 cup of whisky, so I’m gonna say to go with your feelings here.

Peel the pineapple, cut into wedges and remove the core.

Arrange in a large, flat bottomed dish or casserole and pour Fireball (or other cinnamon whisky) over to cover.

Stash in the fridge for an hour or so, stirring the pineapple after 30 minutes.

When ready to grill, remove the pineapple from the whisky (save the whisky, it is still fine for drinking!) and sprinkle well with the cinnamon sugar and, if you are using it, the Cayenne pepper.

Grill on medium high for four minutes, then turn over and grill for another four minutes or so, until you have nicely charred and slightly caramelized pineapple slices.

Serve as you will.

Oh, and that leftover Fireball?

Mix half and half with cherry juice, pour over ice, and float a bit of seltzer.

 

 

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Hot Dog Relish

I came across one of those ‘one pan’ recipes that looked tasty, and it called for ‘hot dog relish as a kindofa secret ingredient.

“No prob” I thought to myself, “I’ll be at the market in the morning, and pick up a jar.”

After not one, but two markets failed to carry the yellow mustard and pickle relish I was in need of, I decided to go to da google and make my own, and better!

And… it is!

INGREDIENTS
•1/4 cup chopped pickles*
•2 tbsp chopped pimiento, drained
•2 tbsp chopped onion
•1 clove garlic, minced
•1 tbsp yellow mustard
•1 tbsp Dijon mustard
•1/4 tsp black pepper
•1/8 tsp Seasoned Salt

*I used a mix of zesty dill and spicy sweet.

Stir all of the ingredients together, transfer to a small, lidded jar, and stash in the fridge until needed.

This relish will be good for about one week, so, unless you have a crowd coming over, this should be plenty.

If you do have a crowd coming over, for hot dogs, or brats, or whatever, go ahead and double or triple the recipe; folk are gonna like it and ask for more.

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Pressure Cooker Potato Salad

A friend posted about using her Instant Pot to make potato and egg salad – and you cooked both the potatoes and the eggs at the same time!

Well, I am here to tell you, it worked, and not only that, it worked a treat!

The potatoes were perfect, and the eggs nicely hard cooked with no discoloring around the yolks. As a side note, eggs cooked in a pressure cooker are easier to peel, so, bonus!

INGREDIENTS
Salad:
•3 lb potatoes, peeled and cubed*
•1-1/2 cup water
•2 to 4 large eggs
•1/2 cup diced onion
•1/2 cup diced celery
•1/2 cup diced red pepper

Dressing:
•1-1/4 cup mayonnaise
•2 tbsp finely chopped fresh parsley
•2 tbsp dill pickle juice
•1/4 cup Dijon mustard
•1 tsp Seasoned Salt
•1/4 tsp black pepper
•1/4 tsp Aleppo pepper

*Russet, Yukon Gold, and red potatoes all work well. Mebbe don’t peel the red potatoes.

Add the water and a steamer basket to your multi pot/instant pot/whatever.

Close and lock the lid, then set for four minutes at high pressure.

Note: if your pot is like mine, it is gonna take a heckuva lot longer to come up to pressure than it is to actually cook, so work that into your time planning.

Once your cycle has completed, quick release the lid and immediately transfer the eggs to a bowl of ice water to cool – the potatoes can just be left to cool on their own.

Note the eggs – perfectly cooked, and the yolk a lovely, bright yellow.

Eggs cooled, peeled, and chopped, and potatoes cooled, let’s make the potato salad!

Note: if you have a fave potato salad dressing recipe, go ahead and use that; this is nice, but nothing really special. I am, however, kinda loving this seasoned black pepper from Penzey’s.

Whisk the dressing ingredients together in a large bowl, then add your cooled potatoes, peeled and chopped egg, onion, celery, and red pepper and toss to mix well.

Cover tightly and stash in the fridge for a few hours to allow the flavors the meld, then enjoy – mebbe with some additional paprika on top.

Sliced green olives, for those who like them, are a good thing in this as well.

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Tamale Casserole

The nice folk at Cooking Light published the original of this recipe as “Chicken Tamale Casserole,” but, after making it, and talking with my quarantine food group, I see no real reason why you couldn’t make this with shrimp, or pork, or black beans, whatever you enjoy in your fave tamale.

Without the fuss and the corn husks, tho.

Also without the ‘fat-free’ stuff, because I don’t really care for everything that goes into making things ‘fat free.’

But…

you do what you want.

INGREDIENTS
Tamale Base:
•1/4 cup shredded Mexican blend cheese
•1/3 cup milk
•1 egg, lightly beaten
•1 tsp Cajun Power Spicy Garlic Pepper Sauce – or your fave hot sauce, to taste
•1/2 tsp ground cumin
•1/2 tsp black pepper
•1 can cream-style corn
•1 (8.5 oz) box corn muffin mix
•1 can chopped green chiles, drained

Topping:
•10 oz can enchilada sauce
•2 cups diced cooked chicken
•3/4 cup shredded Mexican blend cheese

Serve With:
•Sour cream
•Taco sauce
•Shredded lettuce
•Chopped tomatoes
•Cilantro or parsley

Heat your oven to 400º and apply cooking spray to a 13×9 inch baking pan.

Stir the Tamale Base ingredients together until just moist, then pour into your prepared baking dish.

Bake for 15 minutes, or until set.

Note: I was making this for company, and so used a “cooler looking” baking dish that was not quite 13×9, so my tamale layer was a bit thicker, and took about 20 minutes before it was nicely set.

Remove from the oven and pierce all over with a fork.

Note: a large meat fork works a treat.

Pour the enchilada sauce evenly over the tamale base, and mebbe give it five or ten minutes to well and truly soak in.

Scatter your chicken – or shrimp or black beans or pork over the top, then top with the shredded cheese.

Bake, uncovered, for 15 minutes more, then remove from the oven and let rest for five minutes before serving.

Divide as you see fit – the original recipe said to cut into eight pieces – and serve as you will with sour cream and whatever else you like on top or on the side.

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NOLA-Style Shrimp in the Air Fryer

OK, so, in reality, this recipe by Al Roker from Parade Magazine calls for the shrimp to be grilled, but, we were not grilling that afternoon and, truly, these cook in the air fryer so nicely, and with so little fuss – you don’t even need to turn the suckers over! – that I choose to believe that the call for grilling was simply an oversight on some editor’s part somewhere.

I didn’t even change the recipe much, just cut the amounts back to serve the folk I had in the house the shrimp I had on hand.

Easy-peasey!

INGREDIENTS
Sauce/Marinade:
•4 tbsp butter
•1/4 cup diced onion
•2 cloves garlic
•1/4 cup ketchup
•1/4 cup olive oil
•1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
•1 tbsp brown sugar
•2 tsp lemon juice
•1/2 tsp chili powder
•1 tsp Seasoned Salt
•1/4 tsp dried oregano
•1/4 tsp dried thyme
•1 bay leaf

Rub and Shrimp:
•2 tsp chili powder
•2 tsp salt
•1/2 lb shrimp, peeled and deveined

First, make the sauce; by tossing all of the ingredients together in a medium pot over medium heat.

Cook, stirring, until the butter and brown sugar has melted and the sauce is nicely combined, then bring to a boil and simmer, stirring often, for 20 minutes, until it has reduced and thickened. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool completely.

Toss the shrimp with the salt and the chili powder until coated, then pour the cooled sauce over, cover, and stash in the fridge for one or two hours.

Note 1: do not try to marinate the shrimp for hours and hours or overnight, the acid in the sauce will start to “cook” the shrimp and you will end up with a rubbery munchie.

Note 2: if you are doubling, tripling, whatever this recipe, you can transfer some of the sauce to a small jar and stashing in the fridge to use as a dipper.

Once ready to cook, heat your air fryer to 400º and brush a little olive oil on the rack.

Remove the shrimp from the sauce (discard the sauce) and arrange in a single layer on the rack.

Air fry for eight minutes – there is no need to turn the shrimp over – then transfer to a platter and serve. I chose to use ranch dressing as a dipper; I thought it was perfect with the zippy shrimp, and some Persian cucumber spears on the side added another level of cooling crunch.

Really tasty, really easy munchie!

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Cherry Margaritas

Most everyone has had some assorted version or other of margaritas; frozen, champagne, etc., but, as I am wicked fond of most anything cherry, this recipe from some nice folk at “liquid town?” really piqued my interest, and so, on a Sunday with a few friends over for dinner, I made it.

Cheers!

Totally traditional margarita taste profile, but with a nice kick of cherry from the liqueur and the juice.

I am gonna have another!

But…

This time, I used tart cherry concentrate, that I mixed one part to seven parts water.

Next time, I am gonna try mixing one part cherry to seven parts apple juice – just to pump up the sweet a wee, tiny bit.

Still and all, well worth it.

INGREDIENTS
Sweet and Sour Mix:
•1 cup water
•1 cup sugar
•150 ml lemon juice
•150 ml lime juice

Cocktail Pitcher:
•1 cup tequila
•1 cup cherry liqueur
•1 cup lime juice
•1/2 cup cherry juice
•1/2 cup Sweet & Sour Mix

First things first, make a simple syrup for your sweet and sour mix by stirring the water into the sugar in a medium pan.

Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring often, until the sugar has dissolved into the water and you have a clear syrup.

Remove from the heat and allow to cool completely.

Once cooled, combine the syrup together with the lemon and lime juice in a container and stash in the fridge in a lidded jar.

This sweet and sour mix will last for one week in the fridge, so schedule your ‘ritas accordingly.

The liquid town folk made their margaritas individually, but I like to have a pitcher on hand when folk are over, I stirred all of the ingredients together in a large one, and poured the ‘ritas over ice.

You could pour the whole shebang over ice in the blender and make a nice frozen ‘rita.

If you really plan ahead, you could take extra cherry juice and turn it into ice cubes for the frozen ‘ritas.

Or, make the cherry juice ice cubes, but freeze a pitted cherry in each cube for a bonus hit of Prunus goodness.

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Traveling Pasta Salad

So. Yeh.

It’s a holidaze weekend.

A kickoff to summer.

Usually, folk are traveling somewhere to meet other folk and grill, eat, drink, chat, runaround like crazy people, all that stuff.

We won’t be, but if you are, and if, say, you’ve been asked to bring the salad, well, have I got a tip for you!

Heck, even if you aren’t traveling, this makes for a pretty impressive salad, and, 97% of it is done a day or two before you plan on serving it, so, bonus!

INGREDIENTS
Base:
•Pasta (your choice, but I like ditalini)
•Red onion, sliced thin
•Red pepper, sliced thin*
•English cucumber, quartered and sliced
Blanched Asparagus
•Kalamata olives, halved
•Peperoncini, drained and sliced
•Feta cheese

Dressing:
•Your choice

Salad:
•Greens of your choice, washed, dried, and stashed in a gallon-sized zipper bag(s)

*I used Peruvian Pearl peppers.

Boil the pasta in salted water according to instructions on the box, then drain and rinse (pasta for salads should always be rinsed).

Transfer the pasta to a bowl, pour your dressing of choice over, then stir to combine.

Note: I used a vinaigrette here, but if you have a creamy pasta salad dressing recipe you especially like, go ahead and use that – but! – double the amount of dressing called for in the recipe, and stir half of it into the cooked, rinsed, and drained pasta.

Cover ands stash in the fridge for at least a few hours, but overnight would be better.

Why?

Because the pasta is gonna soak up most of that dressing – and flavor! – even before you add your veggies.

Once the pasta has soaked up the dressing, go ahead and add the rest of your veggies and cheese, then give it all a good toss.

Cover the bowl and return to the fridge until it is time to serve – or to hit the road.

Once you arrive at your destination – or it is time for dinner – pull your bowl of pasta goodness out of the fridge or ice chest along with your bag(s) of salad greens.

Add them all to a large bowl, then toss to combine well. Tasty pasta and veggies and nicely crispity greens. Serve with whatever dressing(s) you like on the side.

Lemonade Chicken works a treat as a side.

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