Broiled Caprese

Who doesn’t like a Caprese salad? Sliced tomatoes layered with basil and Mozzarella, then drizzled with olive oil, salt, pepper, and mebbe a splash of good balsamic. Kinda like summer on a plate.

Yum.

Of course, where I live, it is not summer, and good, vine ripened tomatoes are hard to come by (and expensive!)

Enter the humble plum tomato…

Reasonably priced at most any time of the year, and not too, too bad tasting…

especially after they’ve been run through the broiler with a bit of basil and cheese and olive oil and…

well, we’ll get there.

INGREDIENTS
•1 plum tomato per person
•1/8 tsp Kosher salt per tomato half
•Black pepper
•Olive oil
•Chopped fresh basil
•Diced Fontina cheese*

*Yes, a true Caprese would be Mozzarella, but I had Fontina on hand. Deal with it.

Slice the tomatoes in half, then season the cut side of each half with the salt.

Flip the tomatoes over onto a paper towel lined tray and set ’em aside to drain for 30 minutes or so.

Flip the tomatoes over and blot dry.

Note: when I did this, the seeded core of some of the tomatoes came right out. so I chucked ’em. Next time, I will probably just seed all of the tomatoes.

Heat your broiler, then line a pan with foil.

Arrange the tomato halves in the pan, season with freshly cracked black pepper, then sprinkle with the basil.

Pop under the broiler and cook until heated through and you have some nicely browned edges – mebbe eight minutes.

Remove from the oven and add the cheese.

Pop back under the broiler for a minute or so, just until the cheese is melted.

Nicely done deal.

And, the Fontina was lovely, but…

Next time, along with getting rid of those seed cores, I think a ball of baby Mozzarella and a drizzle of sherry vinegar after broiling might could make a good dish a great one.

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Parfait! Barbecue Corned Beef

What’s not to love?

Corned beef (flat cut, please); cooked on a bed of chopped sweet onions in a slow cooker with assorted seasonings and beer…

then, slowly roasted over a bed of chopped potatoes with a very nice (if I do say so myself) cherry and peppers barbecue sauce.

Who needs cabbage?

Though, if you do, this is one fine cole slaw.

One word of warning…

this is not a fast recipe. You’re looking at hours in the slow cooker, then another couple of hours in the oven and resting before you get to actually slice and savor your corned beef. Still and all, there’s not a lot of actual work involved, more like wait until time has done its work. Mebbe split the two parts – the slow cooking and then the roasting – into two days?

Or, just get a nice, early start.

INGREDIENTS
Slow Cooker:
•1 flat cut corned beef
•2 sweet onions, coarsely chopped
•12 oz beer (not “lite”)
•Garlic steak seasoning
•Black pepper
•Dried parsley
•Dried chives
•Freeze dried shallots

Barbecue Sauce:
•12 oz Steak and Chop Sauce
•12 oz cherry cream soda (or Cherry Coke)
•1/2 pint jalapeño pepper jelly
•2 tbsp brown sugar
•1 tbsp Sherry Peppers Sauce
•1 tsp mustard powder
•2 tsp Cajun Power Spicy Garlic Pepper Sauce – or your preferred hot sauce, to taste

Oven:
•Small potatoes, chopped

No Sherry Peppers Sauce? No problem! Simply add one tablespoon of decent sherry and your fave hot sauce, to taste.

Arrange the chopped onion in the bottom of a slow cooker, then place the corned beef, fat side up, on top.

Add the seasonings, then pour the beer over the top.

Cover and cook on low for four to six hours.

Note: my main slow cooker, a 12 year old Cuisinart, tends to cook fast, even on low, so my corned beef was well and truly ready in four hours.

While the corned beef is cooking, make the barbecue sauce by stirring all of the sauce ingredients together in a pan (non stick works a treat, here), bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and cook, stirring often, until the sauce has thickened nicely, mebbe 40 minutes. Set aside until the corned beef is ready.

Note: don’t have, or don’t want to make, my Steak and Chop Sauce? No worries! Simply substitute your fave barbecue sauce.

Sauce made and corned beef cooked; heat your oven to 250º.

Arrange the chopped potatoes in the bottom of a 13×9 pan, and season with pepper and a bit of the garlic steak seasoning.

Strain some of the onions from the slow cooker and add to the potatoes.

Arrange the corned beef on top, then cover with the barbecue sauce.

Cover tightly with foil, then pop into the oven for 90 minutes.

When done, remove the corned beef from the pan and set aside to rest, lightly covered in the foil, for ten minutes or so.

Stir the potatoes into any sauce and/or pan drippings in the baking dish, and pop under the broiler while the corned beef is resting.

Nice job, eh?

The corned beef is oh! so tasty and tender; the potatoes slightly crispity and coated with barbecue sauce.

Yeh, you may as well serve it with that coleslaw, it all kinda goes together.

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Hot Ham ‘n Cheeses Dip

See… I bought a ham for Christmas dinner and…

well…

we had a crap ton of very good pineapple basted honey ham leftover.

What to do?

Well, fortunately, there were still some holidaze events to attend to, so, why not try a nice, hot dip?

There are a couple of ways you could go with this. Hollow out a bread bowl, add the ham dip, then bake the whole thing for 40 minutes or so.

Or…

hot much better to just tumble all the ingredients into a slow cooker and just let it do its thing on low for a couple of hours until the cheeses are melted and everything is ooey gooey goodness.

Yeh.

That’s what I thought.

INGREDIENTS
•1 cup diced cooked ham
•8 oz cream cheese, at room temperature
•8 oz shredded Cheddar cheese
•1 cup diced sweet onion
•2 tbsp diced Cowboy Candy*
•1 tbsp Sherry Peppers Sauce
•1 tsp Cowboy Candy Juice*
•Freshly chopped parsley

No Sherry Peppers Sauce? No problem! Simply substitute one tablespoon of decent sherry and a bit of your favorite hot sauce, to taste.

*Cowboy Candy is sugar pickled jalapeño slices; but feel free to substitute regular pickled jalapeño, if you like.

Add all of the ingredients, except for the parsley, in a small slow cooker, cover, and cook on low for a couple of hours, stirring every now and then, until the cheeses are melted and the dip is warmed through.

Turn the slow cooker to “warm” and serve with crackers or bread. This party bread is always good.

You can also put some into a small bowl and place on a platter with other munchies, replenishing the bowl with hot dip as needed.

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Feta Pie

Whether for an appetizer course or lunch, this tasty little cheese pie will be a big hit with the folk you share it with.

The only thing I will change the next time I make it will be to make it in a tart pan, which will make serving a lot easier.

The original recipe, posted on the web 20 years ago, did not call for pepperoncini, but I always have a jar in the fridge, so I thought, “why not?” All in all, a good choice, and a really tasty pie/tart/what-have-you.

INGREDIENTS
Biscuit Mix:
•2 cups flour
•1 tbsp baking powder
•1/2 tsp salt

Pie:
•2 eggs
•2 cups biscuit mix
•1 cup buttermilk*
•1/4 cup melted butter
•8 oz Feta cheese
•Sliced pepperoncini

*No buttermilk? No problem! Simply pour one tablespoon of white vinegar or lemon juice into a measuring cup, add milk to measure one cup, and stir. In five minutes or so, you’ll have buttermilk.

Heat your oven to 350º and grease the bottom and sides of a tart pan. Trust me on this; I used a quiche pan and the baked pie was not easy to take out.

Whisk the flour together with baking powder and salt and set aside.

Whisk the eggs together with the buttermilk, then stir in the biscuit mix. You will end up with a thick, sticky dough.

Spread the dough over the bottom of your tart pan, then pour the melted butter over the top.

Sprinkle with crumbled Feta, then the sliced pepperoncini and bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until the pie is a deep golden brown.

Remove from the oven and let rest for ten minutes before slicing.

Yummers!

The next time I make this, I think I’ll use my rectangular tart pan – it’ll make slicing and serving a lot easier.

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Cauliflower Stir Fry

We had friends over for dinner at the weekend and, admittedly after a fair bit of wine had been consumed (excepting the designated driver, of course) the conversation drifted to…

cauliflower (!)

And the table seemed to pretty much unanimously hold in contempt any efforts to call cauliflower “rice” or cauliflower “pizza” – which I will admit to having made, and I didn’t think it too, too bad.

At the end (and after a soothing cup or three of espresso, it was agreed that the dishes themselves were not bad, the offense was in trying to claim an equivalency with actual rice. Or pizza. Or potatoes.

Poor cauliflower! Good for you, but not the same as all those lovely starches we’re trying to cut back on.

So…

All that considered…

This is a cauliflower stir fry.

Definitely not cauliflower fried rice.

Mighty tasty, though.

INGREDIENTS
•14 oz bag cauliflower rice*
•1 tbsp olive oil
•2 eggs
•1/8 tsp Seasoned Salt
•1 tbsp sesame oil

•3/4 cup diced sweet onion
•1/2 cup diced carrots
•2 tbsp diced Peppadew peppers
•2 cloves garlic, minced
•3 tbsp sliced scallion (white parts only)
•3 tbsp scallion (dark green bits)
•3 tbsp lower sodium tamari
•1 tbsp sweet chili sauce (plus more, for serving at the table)

*Or, core one head of cauliflower and pop in the food processor fitted with the metal blade. Pulse until your cauliflower is rice like.

Whisk the seasoned salt into the eggs until they are smooth.

Warm the olive oil in a skillet over medium heat, then add the eggs and cook until set.

Remove the eggs and set aside.

Add the sesame oil to the pan, then add the onion, carrots, garlic, peppers, and the white parts of the scallions and cook for five minutes.

Raise the heat to medium high, then add the cauliflower, tamari, and chili sauce.

Mix together, cover, and cook (stirring when you think to) for another five minutes, until the cauliflower is a touch crispity, but tender inside.

Remove from the heat, then stir in the cooked egg and dark green bits of scallion.

Serve with a bit more sweet chili sauce on the side – we had ours with some grilled swordfish steaks and thought it a quite decent dinner.

So long as I did not refer to the veggie stir fry as “rice.”

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My New Favorite Cole Slaw!

First. Is it coleslaw? Or, is it cole slaw?

I’ve seen it published both ways, and I normally go with the two word option, so I guess we’ll go with that.

Either way, this recipe, which is not really too, too different from most every other coleslaw/cole slaw, but does have a couple of new, to me, touches; and, , is now, hands down, my favorite recipe for cole slaw/ coleslaw – mebbe even better than what Rich’s mom gets for me when we’re home.

INGREDIENTS
Salad:
•10 oz bag coleslaw mix
•1 cup diced red onion
•1/2 cup sliced Kalamata olives
•1/2 cup sliced green onion

Dressing:
•1/2 cup mayonnaise
•2 tbsp sugar
•2 tsp cider vinegar
•1 tsp poppy seeds
•1/8 tsp dry mustard
•1/8 tsp paprika
•1/8 tsp Seasoned Salt
•1/8 tsp celery salt

Whisk the dressing ingredients together in a bowl and set aside.

In a large bowl, toss the dressing together with the veggies until coated.

Note: it’ll look like you don’t really have enough dressing at first, but once you’ve transferred the coleslaw to a covered bowl ad stashed it in the fridge for a couple of hours, the dressing will soften up the cabbage a bit and will actually make the salad release some liquid.

Toss again and serve.

MMMMMM.

Coleslaw/cole slaw.

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Parfait! Orange Cream Cake

So, yeh, it’s the new year.

That doesn’t mean we can’t still have cake, though; and this cake (or the many other versions like it) is so darned simple to toss together that it has become my go-to cake of choice for just about any occasion.

Why?

You take one cake mix, add one, 12 ounce bottle or can of soda (and nothing else), bake according to instructions and…

Voilà! You have cake!

For this version, I used a butter yellow cake mix and a bottle of all-sugar (no corn sweeteners) orange soda. If you can’t find the Mexican sodas at your market, the regular versions will work fine, just do not try to do this with diet soda.

INGREDIENTS
Cake:
•1 butter yellow cake mix
•12 oz orange soda (not diet)

Buttercream Frosting:*
•1 cup butter, softened
•3 cups confectioners’ sugar
•1 tsp Cointreau or vanilla
•3 or 4 tbsp whipping cream
•1/8 tsp salt
•1/8 tsp black pepper

*I made this cake and served it to our book club for a holiday gathering. One member took a bite and exclaimed how hers never tastes as good as mine. I asked her about the frosting she used and her response?

“Canned.”

Take that as a lesson, and use some of the time you save by not having to add eggs and measure oil and all the rest to make the cake and make a real buttercream frosting.

Heat your oven to 350º – or whatever temperature is called for on the back o’ the cake mix box.

Add the soda to the cake mix in the bowl of a mixer and follow the instructions on the back o’ the box for how long to mix.

Transfer the batter to a prepared pan (I used a 13×9 glass pan for this one, but this method works great as a layer cake, too. I have not tried it with a bundt pan; mebbe the next time) and bake, again according to the instructions on the back o’ the box.

Remove from the oven and cool.

For the frosting, in a mixing bowl and with the mixer (ideally) fitted with a whisk, combine the confectioners’ sugar, butter, salt, and black pepper on low speed until well blended and a bit fluffy.

Add the Cointreau, increase speed to medium and beat for another three minutes.

With the mixer running, add the heavy cream, by tablespoonfuls, until the frosting is the consistency you like.

Frost the cake, cover (our cat has been on a diet for the past two years and will get into just about any foodstuffs left out and unprotected), then serve.

As a rule, I don’t store my cakes in the fridge, and it hasn’t created any problems with the buttercream going off, but if you’d prefer, by all means stash the covered cake in the fridge. Just bring it out about an hour or so before serving so the frosting can soften a bit.

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Gluten Free Party Meatballs and Two Sauces (!)

As it happens, you don’t need panko or even plain bread crumbs to make very, very good meatballs.

Ground oatmeal works a treat!

“But where” you ask “am I to find ground oatmeal?”

Y’know that big round box of oatmeal  you probably have in the pantry?

Yeh. There.

Pop some in the bowl of your food processor fitted with the metal blade and there you go; ground oatmeal.

I made these meatballs small (about one inch) to use for parties during the holidays, and this recipe gave me about 70 meatballs, which I cooled and stashed in quart sized freezer bags of about 20 meatballs each.

For one gathering, I made a pineapple and chipotle sauce that was really very nice, and went with the chipotle in the meatballs.

For another gathering, however, I went simple and, I think, the resulting sauce was much better; a combination of my Steak and Chop Sauce and my Pepper Jelly.

Heaven in a slow cooker.

As always, if you don’t have my sauces or jellies, go ahead and play with stuff from the market; you’ve still got some pretty awesome (and gluten free!) meatballs to play around with.

INGREDIENTS
Meatballs:
•1 lb ground beef
•1 lb ground pork
•1 cup ground oats
•1/2 cup milk
•1/2 cup diced onion
•2 eggs
•1 chipotle in adobo, chopped
•1 tbsp adobo sauce
•2 tbsp Sherry Peppers Sauce
•1 tsp salt

Pineapple Adobo Sauce:
•1 cup ketchup
•1 cup Barbecue Sauce or Steak and Chop Sauce
•8 oz crushed pineapple in juice
•3 or 4 tbsp smoked brown sugar
•2 tbsp red wine vinegar
•1 tbsp adobo sauce (from the chipotles)
•1 tbsp Sherry Peppers Sauce
•1 tbsp Dijon mustard
•1 tbsp white sugar

Pepper Jelly Sauce:
•1 cup Steak and Chop or Barbecue Sauce
•1 cup Pepper Jelly

First, the meatballs.

Heat your oven to 350º and line a couple of rimmed baking sheets with foil.

Stir the milk into the ground oats in a large mixing bowl, then set aside to rest for five or ten minutes.

Add the eggs, onion, chipotle, adobo sauce, Sherry Peppers Sauce, and salt and mix.

Note: no Sherry Peppers Sauce? No problem! Try adding a bit of decent sherry and some of your favorite hot sauce, to taste.

Add the ground beef and ground pork and mix until nicely blended.

Shape the meat mixture into balls (a small cookie scoop works a treat here) and arrange on the baking sheets.

Place the meatballs on two racks in the oven, bake for 15 minutes, then flip the trays on the racks and bake for another 15 minutes, until the meatballs are cooked through.

Remove from the oven, set aside to cool, then transfer the meatballs into freezer bags and stash in the freezer until needed. I used three quart sized bags and divided them more or less evenly (23 +/- per bag).

Well… sorta. I had to taste a couple to make sure they were fit to be served to friends.

Yeh. They’ll do.

OK! So, the sauces!

Both were very good – though I think I liked the Pepper Jelly one a bit better – partially because it was so simple to make; simply dump the jar of jelly and the jar of Steak and Chop Sauce in the slow cooker, stir, then add the (thawed is better) meatballs and cook for a couple of hours until heated through and your guests arrive.

Note: the Pepper Jelly Sauce was enough for one bag (about 20) of meatballs. If you’re planning for a larger gathering, simply double the amount of jelly and Steak and Chop or Barbecue sauce.

The Pineapple Adobo sauce takes a touch more effort, simply because it needs to be cooked and reduced before you can use it.

The good thing is that you can do this a day or two ahead of time, and stash the cooled, thickened sauce in a container in the fridge until needed; then it’s back to stirring everything together in a slow cooker and heating through.

Stir all of the sauce ingredients together a large pan and cook over medium heat, stirring often, until the sauce has reduced and thickened enough that dragging the spoon through the sauce will leave a bit of a channel (see the image at the right) – mebbe 45 minutes or so.

As noted above, allow the sauce to cool, transfer to a container, and stash in the fridge until needed – I ended up with a bit more than two cups of sauce, perfect for a bag or two of meatballs!

When ready to serve, stir the (thawed is best) meatballs into the sauce in a slow cooker, then cover and cook until heated through and bubbly. Mebbe two hours or so.

Note: starting with frozen meatballs? Add ’em to your sauce of choice in a slow cooker and plan on cooking on HIGH for four hours.

Still not too, too much fuss and muss on the day of a party; and, if you happen to have multiple slow cookers, you could even set up a meatball tasting throwdown!

It really is all good.

And gluten free!

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Cubano Sammich

Technically, a Cuban Sammich is boiled ham, pork, Swiss cheese, mustard, and pickle slices on Cuban bread.

Which is a problem, you see, because I require mayonnaise of some sort on most of my sammiches.

Which is now a problem solved, since I have discovered Medianoche Mayonnaise, a nicely spiced Cuban sammich spread that will very nicely serve to make a Cubano sammich My Cubano Sammich.

INGREDIENTS
Medianoche Mayonnaise:
•1 cup mayonnaise
•1/4 cup Italian dressing
•1 tbsp Cajun Power Spicy Garlic Pepper Sauce (or your fave hot sauce, to taste)

Sammich:
•Sliced ham (try this Pineapple and Honey Glazed Ham)
•Swiss cheese, sliced
•Medinoche Mayonnaise
•Yellow Mustard
•Sliced pickles
•Bread*
•Butter

*Traditionally, Cuban bread, but I also like the sourdough I used here.

Arrange the bread slices on a board and spread the Medianoche Mayonnaise on both pieces.

Arrange the sliced ham on one piece, then top that with the pickle slices, then the yellow mustard.

Place a slice of Swiss cheese on top, then place the top slice of bread over the filling.

Warm a large, flat pan over medium heat, and spread butter over the top slice of bread to coat it.

Place the sammich, butter side down in the pan. Spread butter on the top of the sammich and cook for three or four minutes, until the bottom is golden brown.

Flip the sammich and cook for another three or four minutes, until both sides are nicely browned and the cheese is melted.

Transfer to a board to rest for a couple of minutes before slicing – this’ll allow the melted cheese to firm up just a bit.

Mmmm. Ham and cheese and pickles and mustard and mayonnaise.

Now that’s a Cubano!

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Pineapple & Honey Glazed Ham

Happy New Year!

We’re kicking off 2017 with a fine way to wrangle a spiral sliced ham; thanks to Snoop Dogg on Martha and Snoop Dogg’s Potluck Dinner Party on VH1.

After watching Snoop Dogg do this pineapple and honey glaze, I thought it’d be just the thing for our Christmas dinner and, since I had a coupon, I thought we might as well go all out and get the Honey Baked ham Snoop specified.

Nice ham!

Pricy (even with my coupon) but nice. Still, I am wondering if next time, I should just go ahead and use a spiral ham from the market. This glaze is just that good.

The only thing I couldn’t do is use Mr. Dogg’s specified Reo Seasoning; so I opted to use seasoned salt.

Worked a treat.

INGREDIENTS
•1 spiral sliced ham (mine was 16 lb)
•3 cups pineapple juice
•2 cups honey
•1/2 cup brown sugar
•2 tbsp Seasoned Salt*
•1/4 cup milk

*Did you know you can make your own seasoned salt, and customize it to your tastes and preferences? Here’s my recipe.

Heat oven to 300º and line a baking pan with foil and parchment paper.

Whisk the pineapple juice together with the honey, brown sugar, seasoned salt, and milk until nicely blended.

Pour one cup of the marinade over the ham and pop into the oven.

Bake for two hours, basting with more of the marinade every 30 minutes.

Transfer to a platter and allow to rest for 20 minutes before serving.

While my ham was resting, I ladled some of the pan juices into a small pot, brought it to a boil over high heat, and cooked until I had a pretty tasty reduced sauce for the ham and mashed potatoes.

This is officially my new favorite way to make ham. Give it a try, and I think it’ll be yours, too.

Thanks, Snoop!

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