Cheesy Ranch Broccoli

OK, so mebbe this should be called “Cheezzzy” Ranch Broccoli, since I used my Cheezzz; but if you don’t feel like making your own, wonderfully melty cheese, go ahead and use Velveeta.

A big bag of frozen broccoli florets, thawed, makes this whole side come together with minimal fuss and next to no fuss – you just bake (or ‘wave) the broccoli, and then make the Cheesy Ranch sauce in the ‘wave, pour it over the broccoli and serve to pretty much universal acclaim.

INGREDIENTS
•1 bag frozen broccoli, thawed
•1/2 cup milk
•1 cup Velveeta, cubed
•1/4 cup ranch dressing (not the mix)
•1/2 tsp Seasoned Salt
•1/4 tsp black pepper
•1/4 tsp Aleppo pepper

Note: if you plan to ‘wave the broccoli, just tumble the frozen bag into a ‘wave safe casserole with a lid and cook, covered for five to six minutes, until cooked.

Set aside covered while you make the cheese sauce.

Make the cheese sauce by ‘waving the cheese cubes for 30 seconds, until the cheese is softened.

Whisk the milk, ranch dressing, Seasoned Salt and peppers into the cheese until smooth and pour over the thawed broccoli in a two quart baking dish.

Or, stir into the ‘waved broccoli and serve.

Stir until evenly mixed, then pop into a 350º oven and bake for 30 minutes.

If you want to bake your broccoli, thaw completely, then place in a two quart baking dish, season with salt and pepper, and bake at 350º.

That is it; all in the ‘wave or ‘wave and oven combo, this is a holidaze worthy side dish that you can enjoy any time.

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Say Cheezzz!

Check. It. Out!

This supremely well melting cheese looks a lot like that one in the bright yellow box at the market, but, with only four ingredients, and one of them is water!

You can also, should you like, customize it to suit your tastes. Feeling traditional, go with Cheddar. Wanna step out a bit Mexican-ish? Use Pepper Jack cheese, or add a drained can of diced green chilies, or even, as I did here, a bit of my fave hot sauce.

The only thing this loaf of cheezzz does not do as well as the one in the bright yellow box, is remain stable in the fridge for weeks or even months. This cheezzz will go moldy, so I just make in a small batch whenever I want real fake cheezzz.

INGREDIENTS
•8 oz grated Cheddar cheese
•1/2 cup almost boiling water
•3 tbsp nonfat dry milk
•1/2 tsp unflavored gelatin
•1/2 tsp Cajun Power Spicy Garlic Sauce – or your fave hot sauce, to taste

Line a small loaf pan with plastic wrap, leaving extra hanging over the sides.

Add the water, dry milk, and gelatin to a blender and pulse until blended.

Add the cheese and blend until  smooth.

Turn out into the plastic wrap lined pan, pull the plastic wrap up and over the cheezzz to cover, then stash in the fridge overnight to allow it to firm up.

As I noted above, this cheezz melts like a champ, so use it for queso, or burgers, or, as I plan to, to make this wicked tasty Cheezzzy Ranch Broccoli in the ‘wave.

Check out those details, tomorrow, and go ahead and start making cheezzz.

 

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Banzai Burgers

Yeh, it’s September but there is still time to grill some burgers. Heck, these are even pretty terrific pan-fried, so, let us get our collective teriyaki on and enjoy some burgers with cheese and grilled pineapple!

This is my home made hommage to Red Robin’s Banzai burger, which I first discovered while living in Northern California back in the 80’s, and it can be as simple, or as complicated, as you like. For this batch, I used jarred teriyaki sauce, but you can make your own, too…

I call it Terryaki, and it is pretty simple to toss together. Either way, this is a really nice burger combination.

INGREDIENTS
•4 burgers
•Teriyaki sauce
•Sliced pineapple, drained
•Tomato, sliced
•Mayonnaise
•Cheese
•Hamburger rolls

Note: I had some Halloumi in the fridge (it is available – seasonally – at Trader Joe’s) that was not getting eaten quickly enough, so chose to slice that up as well to grill along side the burgers. I would’ve happily gone with that on the burgers, but my husband is a bit of a purist, and wanted American cheese; so we had both.

Arrange your burgers in a single layer in a container (for four, 4 ounce “Pub Burgers,” an eight inch square pan works a treat.

Add teriyaki sauce to cover, then cover the dish and stash in the fridge for a couple of hours or, always more better, overnight.

When ready to cook, remove the burgers from the marinade (discard the excess marinade) and grill or pan-fry as you will.

Add the drained pineapple slices to the grill and sear each side, then remove.

If you have some Halloumi on hand, go ahead and grill that, too, it is tasty.

Top your almost ready burgers with sliced American cheese, then close the grill or cover the pan so that the cheese melts.

To serve, spread the mayonnaise on both sides of lightly toasted hamburger rolls, then top with tomato slice, the burger, and grilled pineapple slice. I offer shredded lettuce on the side, or, if you need to go gluten-free, use large Iceberg lettuce leaves to wrap your burger – it is a really nice change of pace.

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Microwave (!) Coconut Risotto

“Wait! What?”

Microwave risotto?

Yeh, youbetcha! And it is every bit as tender and creamy and what-have-you as risotto you’ve stood over, dribbling in bits of liquid and stirring, stirring, stirring.

I have a recipe for oven baked risotto, too, which is also pretty darned nifty, but, why wouldn’t I take advantage of a method to make it in a bit under 30 minutes?

INGREDIENTS
•1 tbsp butter
•1/2 cup Arborio rice
•White parts of 4 scallions, chopped
•1/8 tsp Seasoned Salt
•1-1/2 cup water or veggie stock
•1 tbsp Sherry Peppers Sauce*
•3/4 cup coconut milk
•Chopped basil

*No Sherry Peppers Sauce? No Problem! Simply add a bit of decent sherry (none of that “cooking” stuff) and a dash or three of your fave hot sauce, to taste.

Put the butter, the rice, and the white and light green pieces of scallion in a ‘wave safe bowl with the Seasoned Salt and, well, ‘wave on high for three minutes.

Heat the water or veggie stock and Sherry Peppers Sauce until almost boiling, then stir into the rice and scallions in the bowl.

Cover the bowl, tightly and ‘wave on high for six minutes.

Note: yeah, I used a hand-made (but ‘wave-safe) pottery bowl for this, but! As it happens, the glass lid from a Corning round casserole fits like a glove, so rummage amongst your kitchen supplies and see if you don’t have something a bit cooler than basic French White for cooking with.

Stir in the coconut milk, cover, and cook for another 10 to 13 minutes, until the rice is tender and has absorbed most of the liquid in the bowl.

Note: I would strongly suggest that you do this part in two stages, like, five minutes, then pull out and stir, and then back in the ‘wave for another five minutes, pull out and stir, and then go for another three minutes if you need to. It will help prevent boiling over and a mess on the ‘wave platter. A rimmed plate might could be a wise choice too, for resting the bowl on in the ‘wave.

In any event, your coconut risotto is now tender and tasty and waiting for those chopped basil leaves before serving.

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Cod With Spicy Tomato Sauce

Yeppers! It’s baked fish with tomato sauce!

And, aside from the hour or so the fish spends in a milk bath, it all comes together in about 30 minutes, including the scratch made (and wicked tasty) sauce!

First thing first, though, about that milk bath…

See, whenever I cook a white fish, or scallops, too, I pour milk over them to cover and stash ’em in the fridge for an hour or so.

It really seems to bring out the sweetness in the fish; so, cod, swordfish, scallops, even catfish, it is all good.

So, milk bath taken care of, let us make some fish and tomato sauce!

INGREDIENTS
Fish:
•Cod fillets
•Milk
•Seasoned Salt
•Black pepper
•Aleppo pepper
•Lemon juice
•2 tbsp butter, melted

Sauce:
•1 tbsp unsalted butter
1 clove garlic crushed
•1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
•5 tbsp parsley chopped
•1 tbsp Sherry Peppers Sauce*
•28 oz tomatoes, crushed
•1/2 tsp sugar
•1/2 tsp Seasoned Salt
•1/2 tsp black pepper
•1/2 tsp Aleppo pepper
•1 tsp dried oregano
•1 tbsp sherry vinegar

*No Sherry Peppers Sauce? No Problem! Simply add a bit of decent sherry (none of that “cooking” stuff) and a dash or three of your fave hot sauce, to taste.

Cover the cod with milk and stash in the fridge for an hour.

Heat your oven to 350º and pour the melted butter in a baking dish, tipping it to spread the butter evenly around.

Remove the cod from the milk (discard the milk), then sprinkle each piece with the salt, pepper, and lemon juice.

Pop into the oven and bake for 30 minutes, until the fish is cooked through and flakes easily with a fork.

While the fish is cooking, make the sauce by melting one tablespoon of butter in a medium pan over medium heat.

Once the butter has melted, add the garlic, parsley, and crushed red pepper flakes and cook, stirring often, for three minutes or so.

Add the tomatoes and remaining ingredients, except for the sherry vinegar.

Simmer for five minutes, then stir in the vinegar and keep the sauce warm until the fish is done.

Note: I used whole San Marzano tomatoes this time, and just gave the finished sauce a good whizzz with the immersion blender; worked a treat.

Once the fish is done, serve with the sauce; we had ours over pesto-stuffed tortellini and garlic toast.

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Smashed Potato Salad

A nice, simple, tasty potato salad, this recipe is an adaptation of Korean Potato Salad, with more the traditional chopped red onion added in place of cucumber; and, while it certainly looks like there might be mustard in the dressing, there isn’t; that is just tiny yellow potatoes and a couple of hard cooked egg yolks.

Of course, if you’d like to add mustard, feel free to, and also change out the other veggies for any you prefer – I know that the sliced olives can be a no go for some.

INGREDIENTS
Salad:
• 24 oz bag small yellow potatoes
•1/4 tsp salt
•2 eggs, hard boiled
•1/2 cup diced red onion
•1/2 cup diced celery
•2 tbsp sliced green olives
•2 tsp chopped parsley

Dressing:
•3/4 cup mayonnaise
•1/4 tsp pepper
•1/8 tsp Seasoned Salt
•2 tsp sugar

Cut the potatoes in half, then cover with water and set aside to rest for ten minutes.

Drain and rinse the potatoes, then add to a small pot with 1/4 teaspoon of salt and 1/2 cup of water.

Don’t fret, it’ll be fine.

Cover the pot and cook over medium high heat for 15 to 20 minutes, until the water has just cooked off.

Remove from the heat and let stand, covered, for five minutes more.

Add just the egg yolks (discard the whites or save for another use) and mash well.

Whisk the dressing ingredients together and stir into the mashed potato and egg mixture.

Stir in the veggies until nicely mixed through, then cover and chill well.

Note: for me, nothing chills a salad better than a glass dish, but, you do you.

Obviously, if you are feeling the need, some crumbled bacon could be a good thing here, as well as the aforementioned mustard.

It’s all good, and just the right size for a small gathering.

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Spicy Eggplant

This one may surprise you.

It certainly did one of our nephews who proclaimed “I never knew I liked eggplant!” while helping himself to seconds.

As a plus, this tasty little dish is just as nice as a vegetarian side or main course as it it here, with finely chopped leftover Korean-Style Beef Short Ribs added in at the end.

I usually serve it over yellow rice with chopped scallions and basil.

INGREDIENTS
•1 eggplant, sliced
•Salt
•Vegetable oil
•2 cups diced onion
•2 cups coleslaw mix
•8 oz sliced ‘shrooms
•1 tbsp minced garlic
•2 tbsp lower sodium Tamari
•2 tbsp water
•1 tbsp Sherry Peppers Sauce*
•1 tbsp sweet chili sauce
•1-1/2 tbsp oyster sauce
•1-1/2 tsp Sambal Oelek
•1 tsp white sugar
•1/2 tsp black pepper
•1/2 tsp Aleppo pepper
•1/2 tsp Asian (toasted) sesame oil
•1 tsp basil

Optional:
•Ground pork

*No Sherry Peppers Sauce? No Problem! Simply add a bit of decent sherry (none of that “cooking” stuff) and a dash or three of your fave hot sauce, to taste.

Slice the eggplant, arrange in a single layer on a tray, and salt both sides.

Set aside to rest for 60 to 90 minutes. You note the water beading to the surface of the slices? That is gonna mean you get less soggy, less bitter cooked eggplant. Good deal, right?

After the eggplant has rested, rinse each slice well under cool water to remove excess salt, then pat dry with a clean kitchen towel and cut into quarter inch cubes.

Note: this salt and rest and rinse method works a treat for classic eggplant dishes like eggplant Parmesan.

Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a large skillet or wok over medium-high heat until almost smoking. Cook and stir the eggplant cubes until they begin to brown, 3 to 5 minutes. Remove the eggplant with a slotted spoon, and set aside.

Heat 2 more tablespoons of oil in the skillet over medium-high heat, and cook and stir the onions, coleslaw mix, and ‘shrooms for ten minutes or so, until the onion and cabbage is tender and the ‘shrooms browned a bit on the edges. Stir in the garlic, and cook and stir an additional 30 seconds.

Note: if you are adding ground pork, go ahead and cook it with the onion, cabbage, and ‘shrooms, cooking, and breaking up the pork into small pieces, until the pork is cooked through.

Add the remaining ingredients, except for the sesame oil and basil and stir to combine.

Return the eggplant, lower the heat, and allow the vegetables and sauce to simmer until almost all the liquid has been absorbed, about 5 minutes.

Drizzle the sesame oil and basil over the dish, and give one final brief stir to combine before serving.

 

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Big Burger Taco Panzanella Salad

Yeppers, this is, basically ALL OF THE SALADS, and sesame seed buns, too!

I came across a recipe online for a big burger taco salad and, after thinking about it (for mebbe one second), knew that I had to skip to tortilla chips in favor of lightly fried and salted hamburger buns. Perfect choice, because, you wanna know why salads in restaurants are somehow tastier than what you make at home?

Salt.

And sprinkling browned buns of sesame with a bit of Kosher salt adds just the hit of zing to make this a salad superstar.

You think I am kidding? My 80+ year old mom-in-law practically licked her salad bowl clean, exclaiming all the time how very good it was.

So, first things first, make your Big Burger Sauce and stash it in the fridge to allow the flavors to blend. Next, on to the salad.

INGREDIENTS
Bread:
•4 sesame seed burger rolls
•4 tbsp olive oil (plus more, if needed)
•Sea salt

Meat:
•1 tbsp olive oil
•1-1/2 lb ground beef/pork mixture
•2 cups shredded cabbage (coleslaw mix)
•1 pkg taco seasoning
•3/4 cup water
•1 tbsp Sherry Peppers Sauce*

Salad:
•Chopped Romaine lettuce
•Toasted, cubed sesame seed burger rolls
•Sweet onion, thinly sliced
•Peruvian Pearl peppers (optional)
•Shredded Cheddar cheese
•Sliced pickles
Big Burger Sauce

*No Sherry Peppers Sauce? No Problem! Simply add a bit of decent sherry (none of that “cooking” stuff) and a dash or three of your fave hot sauce, to taste

Note: I like to slip in veggies wherever I can, and nobody notices that shredded cabbage cooked in with the taco meat.

Warm the olive oil in a large pan over medium high heat, then had the ground beef and pork mixture (ground chicken or turkey work a treat, too) and the coleslaw mix.

Cook, stirring often, until the meat is cooked through and nicely broken up into small bits. Drain well.

Return to the pan with the taco seasoning, Sherry Peppers Sauce, and water and cook, stirring, until most of the pan liquids have cooked off.

Keep warm while you toast the bread.

Heat the olive oil in a large pan over medium heat, then add the sesame seed bun halves and cook for four minutes, until nicely browned. You may need to do this in stages, and replenish the olive oil.

Note: I cut the thicker top part of my buns in half so that there was an approximation of the classic big burger three bun slices thing, but either way will work.

Once the bread is nicely browned, remove from the pan and sprinkle the browned side with Kosher salt.

Repeat with any remaining sesame seed buns, then cut the browned and salted pieces into half-inch chunks.

Allright-y then!

Now, we can make the salad!

A note on the Peruvian Pearl Peppers: these are not at all hot, but add a nice crunch and a hint of “zip” to salads. My main market carries them in their olive bar (yay!), but you can also order them in a can from Amazon. I rinse and drain mine before using them.

To serve, add the chopped Romaine to a large salad bowl or plate (I used my new fave pasta bowls) and add the cubed sesame seed buns.

Top with the sliced onion, Peruvian Pearl Peppers, and shredded cheese.

Top with the taco meat and the Big Burger Sauce, then serve with pickle slices (I used Famous Dave’s) on the side.

Terrific salad! With meat.

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Big Burger Sauce

Yeh, you know the one…

“Two all beef patties, special sauce…”

That big burger sauce.

Or, at least a version of it – I have a fair number of options on this here blog!

Still and all, even if you aren’t planning on having a “big” burger, this sauce is handy to have on hand, and you may very well find yourself surprised at its uses.

INGREDIENTS
•1/2 cup mayonnaise
•1/4 cup diced spicy sweet pickles
•1/4 cup creamy French dressing
•1 tsp sugar
•1/8 tsp black pepper
•1 tsp dried onion flakes

A note on the pickles: I mostly used finely chopped Famous Dave’s spicy sweet pickle chips, and topped off the 1/4 cup with some dill relish.

Whisk all of the ingredients together until well blended; or, more better, use your immersion blender to get a smooth, easy to use in a squeeze bottle, sauce.

Because of the dried onion, it is better to make this sauce at least a few hours before you plan on using it, to allow the onion to soak up excess liquid and for the flavors to blend well.

That’s it.

That, is your Big Burger Sauce.

But…

Wait… “That did not look like a burger in the first picture.”

You are correct, it was not. Instead, this batch o’ Big Burger Sauce is destined for this: Big Burger Taco Panzanella Salad; which I will share with you on Monday.

It is worth the wait.

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Asparagus With Garlic Sauce

When I make my Korean-Style Barbecued Short Ribs, I usually serve yellow rice with blanched asparagus added; but this time, I decided to zip up the asparagus with a tasty, and simple, garlic sauce.

Thanks again to the food kits we have been ordering for the past year or so, I have learned, among other neat things, the simple joy of pan frying asparagus. I branched out a bit with Shrimp Scampi, and this time, it is all the garlic, and none of the shrimp, though with all those ribs, we didn’t miss it.

INGREDIENTS
•1 bunch asparagus
•2 tsp olive oil
•1/2 cup vegetable stock
•2 tbsp lower sodium Tamari
•3 cloves garlic, minced
•1 tbsp cornstarch

Wash the asparagus, cut off the woody ends, then slice into one inch pieces.

Whisk the veggie stock, Tamari, and garlic together in a small bowl and set aside.

Heat the olive oil in a pot over medium heat, then add the asparagus and cook, stirring often, for five minutes.

Stir two tablespoons of the garlic sauce into the cornstarch in a small bowl until smooth, then add the remaining garlic sauce to the asparagus in the pan.

Conitinue to cook, stirring often, another four or five minutes, until the asparagus is bright green and tender.

Add the garlic sauce and cornstarch slurry and stir until the sauce is heated through and nicely thickened.

Serve as you will.

Note: this was quite nice as it is, but, if you like, you could add a tablespoon of maple syrup to the garlic sauce for sweetness, and add 1/2 teaspoon or so of red pepper flakes at the end for some zip.

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