Baked Sweet Potato Fries

Every once in a while I get a taste for fries.  Since I’m not big on frying and since I like sweet potatoes more than regular ones I like to make these from time to time.  They’re crunchy and oh so tasty and guilt free-no frying!! They couldn’t be simpler and you can make a trillion combos with them-different spices on them, different dipping sauces etc… I usually just make them with olive oil, kosher salt, white pepper and garlic powder. Simple and very yummy!

This time around, on a small plate, I put a small bit of each of the following to dip the fries in:  ranch dressing, mayonnaise, dijon mustard, tomato ketchup, banana ketchup (brought home from St. Lucia in April and delicious) and some garlic chili sauce.  I like dipping variety I guess.  Each were tasty but the dijon and banana ketchup are my faves.

fries

Baked Sweet Potato Fries

Ingredients:

  • 1 small sweet potato, peeled and cut into even 1/4 inch sticks
  • 1-1.5 tsp olive oil
  • sprinkle of kosher salt
  • sprinkle of white pepper
  • sprinkle of garlic powder

Instructions:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 425F.
  2. Place potato sticks in a bowl and toss with olive oil and salt.
  3. Lay the fries on a baking sheet so that they are not touching and sprinkle the pepper and garlic powder over them evenly and to taste.
  4. Bake for 15 minutes turn them over and bake for another 15.
  5. Remove from oven and sprinkle with additional salt if desired.
  6. Serve immediately.

Helpful notes:  the more uniformally you cut the sticks the more uniformally they will cook.  Sometimes the fries cook faster than the last time. Moisture level maybe? Who knows. In any case keep an eye on them for the last 15 minutes to make sure they don’t burn. Don’t line the baking sheet with anything.

Veggie & Feta Pasta Salad

I cannot believe Memorial Day Weekend has come and gone. It’s almost time for summer fruits and veggies again.

That being said this pasta salad is perfect for the warm weather.  There’s a ton of veggies, a bit of cheese and a great light vinaigrette. It can be made in advance and kept in the fridge too.  You can feel free to add other veggies too-maybe some red or yellow peppers, onions etc….

salad1

Veggie & Feta Pasta Salad

Salad Ingredients:

  • 1/2 lb gemelli pasta
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes
  • 1 cup chopped kalamata olives (pitted obviously)
  • 1 cucumber cut into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 1/4 cup feta cheese

Dressing Ingredients:

  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp Italian seasoning
  • 1 large clove of garlic, put through press or mashed to a paste
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp white pepper
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/3-1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

Instructions:

  1. Cook pasta in salted boiling water until al dente, drain and rinse with cold water.  Shake out as much of the water as possible.
  2. In a large mixing bowl combine all of the salad ingredients above and mix well to combine.
  3. In a small bowl whisk together all ingredients except the olive oil until evenly combined. Then, while whisking, add the olive oil and continue to whisk until emulsified.
  4. Pour dressing over salad, mix to evenly distribute the dressing, and serve or refrigerate until ready to serve.

Fritatta di Saldiccia e Cipolle (Sausage & Onion Fritatta)

I am a huge lover of public television-no commercials and the programming is so great.  I don’t know if it’s like this all over but I have a spin-off of one of my regular PBS channels called Create. It’s cooking, crafts, gardening and travel. It’s got great shows-Pepin, Child, America’s Test Kitchen and so on. If you ask me Food Network could learn a lot from them-such variety.

I’m getting off the point here. Nick Stellino is one of the chefs that has a show on the channel and he makes some yummy stuff. The fritatta below was inspired by him. Pretty easy and really tasty.  The onions cook for a while so they get nice and sweet.  This is delicious warm or great at room temperature the next day or reheated.

I served it with my delicious roasted broccoli.

frit

Fritatta di Saldiccia e Cipolle

Ingredients:

  • 6 tbsp olive oil
  • 4 onions, sliced
  • 1 scallion, sliced
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1&1/2 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp white pepper
  • 2 tsp garlic, chopped finely
  • 1 lb Italian Sausage (I used part sweet part hot) out of the casings
  • 2 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
  • 8 eggs
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated cheddar cheese

Instructions:

  1. Cook 3 tbsp oil in an oven-safe 12 inch non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. When it’s hot add the onions, red pepper flakes and thyme and stir well to combine. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook for 20 minutes, stirring every few minutes to avoid sticking.
  2. Pre-heat oven to 350F.
  3. While the onions are cooking brown the sausage. When it’s cooked put the sausage in a strainer to drain of excess fat.  Discard the fat and keep sausage on the side for use later.
  4. In a bowl beat the eggs with 1/2 tsp salt and set aside for use later.
  5. When the 20 minutes for the onions is up add 1/2 tsp of the salt, the pepper and 1 tsp of the garlic, reduce heat to low and cook for 20 more minutes stirring every few minutes again.   Then pour the mixture into a large bowl.  Wipe the pan clean.
  6. Add the cooked sausage and parsley to the onions and mix well. Then add the beaten egg mixture and the remaining garlic and mix well.
  7. In the pan wiped clean cook the 3 remaining tbsp of oil over medium-high heat. When it’s hot pour the contents of the bowl into the pan. Cook for 2 minutes then stir. Cook for another 5-7 minutes until just set then transfer to the oven and bake for 15 minutes then remove, sprinkle the cheese on the top, and return to the oven for another few minutes until cheese is melted and bubbly. Remove and allow to cool for a few minutes before cutting into wedges and serving.

Serves 4-6

I always worry about burning the hell out of my hand by grabbing the handle of the pan after it’s out of the oven and cooling so usually I keep the handle turned way in so that I can’t grab it. How I never thought to just put an oven mit over the handle before is beyond me.  Now I don’t have to worry (and yes those are margaritas on the oven mit :).

frit2

 

Yummy Granola

Have you bought granola recently? Holy cow it’s a fortune!! I’ve seen a few recipies here and there for it but I never tried to make it.  Recently I took the cookbook ‘Quinoa 365’ out of the library and spotted their ‘Ultimate Granola’. Well-it wasn’t MY ultimate granola as I can’t stand raisins and I’m not much of a pumpkin seed fan-so I made it my own.  It’s full of all kinds of good stuff-the flake coconut and the tart cranberries are so great together and I love the whole almonds and parts of walnuts.

Feel free to make the same kind of adjustments to YOUR ultimate granola.

gran2

Yummy Granola

Ingredients:

  • 2.5 cups rolled oats (not instant)
  • 1 cup whole almonds
  • 1 cup sunflower seeds
  • 1/3 cup sesame seeds
  • 1/3 cup uncooked quinoa
  • 1/2 cup flaked coconut (unsweetened and crushed into small bits)
  • 1/2 cup walnut pieces
  • 1 cup real maple syrup
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 3/4 cup cranberries

Instructions:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 225F.
  2. Combine all ingredients through and including walnuts in a large bowl and mix well.
  3. In a small bowl mix the syrup and vanilla and stir to combine.  Pour the syrup over the oat mixture and stir until evenly distributed.  Add the cinnamon and stir again until evenly mixed.
  4. Spread mixture evenly onto a rimmed baking sheet and bake for 1 hour in the preheated oven.
  5. Remove from the oven and allow to cool. Mix in the cranberries and extra coconut if desired. I did  🙂

Store in a sealed container for up to 4 weeks.

Makes 7 cups.

gran1

Buffalo Chicken-slow cooker

This past Saturday was a very windy chilly day. It was sunny but you could tell that it’s still winter for the most part and hasn’t started the turn to spring. Much to my dismay.

I love buffalo chicken. I found a recipe for it and threw the ingredients in to my slow cooker at noon and was eating a delicious buffalo chicken wrap by 7:30. There is almost no prep-unless you consider twisting the cap off of the buffalo sauce bottle. You can do a lot with the finished product too. I made wraps but you could also wrap it in lettuce to eat or eat it with tortilla chips for a snack, put it on a salad—the list goes on and on.

bufchi3

Buffalo Chicken-slow cooker

  Ingredients:

  • 3 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breast (not frozen. I used 3-1 lb breast pieces)
  • 12oz bottle of Buffalo Hot Sauce (I used Tobasco brand)
  • 1oz packet of  Hidden Valley Ranch Dressing Mix (the dry stuff)
  • 2 tbsp light butter

Instructions:

 

  1. Place the chicken in the slow cooker. Pour the sauce over it and then sprinkle the dry Ranch Mix over that.
  2. Cook on low for 6 hours.
  3. Remove meat and shred with 2 forks. 
  4. Add the butter to the sauce in the cooker and stir to combine.
  5. Return chicken to the cooker, stir to coat chicken in sauce, and cook for another 30 minutes.

To make the wrap in the photo above I smeared some Ranch dressing on the wrap then piled on some chicken and then some celery.  Then just wrap it up and eat.

bufchi1

Very slightly adapted from emilybites.com

Sunny Outside Cafe Salad (a/k/a Quinoa Mediterranean Salad)

On Thursday evening I stopped by my grocery store to pick up a few things that I need for the next week.   My Fairway has a great olive section with barrells full of different types-castelvetrano (I’ve visited there!!) , kalamata, pitted, unpitted etc.. but they also have sundried tomatoes, marinated artichokes and mushrooms. The list goes on and on. You get your own container and fill up on what you want.  Since they’re all the same price you can mix and match whatever you want in the same container.  I knew I was going to pick up some more quinoa and I felt like having a nice salad for dinner.  A mediterranean salad came to mind.  Sundried tomatoes, kalamata olives, feta and oh yes! I have about 2 cups of baby spinach in the fridge at home (I was supposed to use it earlier in the week but didn’t so I’ll be glad to use it up!!).

This turned out to be a delicious  briny, bright, super tasty concoction of many of my favorite flavors.  In my mind I was back sitting at this cafe in Siragusa, Sicily, where Husband and I visited in October 2010. Is this not the cutest place ever?

ry=400

I had a huge bowl of it for dinner and I had a large bit left over for lunch the next day.  I did not put the dressing on the left-overs but kept it in a small container until I was ready to eat.

I put some of my favorite ingredients in but if you don’t like kalamata take them out and put in black olives.  Play around with it! Perhaps different cheese (queso fresco would work) or adding artichokes or peppers. The amounts below are really just estimates. I didn’t measure as I was going.  I also made a basic viniagrette which worked really well with the other ingredients. Enjoy!!

salad

Quinoa Mediterranean Salad

Salad Ingredients

  • 1 cup dry quinoa, cooked as per package instructions, and cooled (yield about 2 cups). I like to use chicken stock instead of water.
  • 1/2-3/4 cup sundried tomatoes, chopped small
  • 1/3-1/2 cup pitted kalamata olives, chopped small
  • 4 cups baby spinach, stems removed, washed and chopped small
  • 1 peperoncini pepper, chopped small
  • 3ozs feta cheese, crumbled

Dressing Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp ground white pepper
  • 1/2-1 clove garlic, minced fine
  • 1 tsp italian seasoning (or combo of oregano, basil etc..)
  • 1 tsp honey (if needed)

**Note: If you’re omitting the cheese you don’t have to cool the quinoa in the ingredients list above. I cooled it because I didn’t want it to heat the feta. Feel free to eat it warm with everything else**

Instructions (really it can’t be any easier? I feel like I’m insulting you by even writing these):

  1. For the salad: add all ingredients in a large bowl and mix to combine.
  2. For the dressing: combine all ingredients in a small bowl, whisk well to combine. (I generally use a measuring cup and give it a few long whizzes with my immersion blender.) Taste. Add honey if needed. Whizz again.
  3. Pour dressing over the portion of the salad that you intend to eat right away.  Set the rest aside.

Celery Root and Mandarin Orange Salad

Recently I was looking through my Jan/Feb 2013 issue of Cooking Light Magazine and came across a salad named ‘Celery Root & Arugala Salad’ with the heading ‘Love This Ugly Root Vegetable’. How can you resist a title like that?! It’s almost a challenge!! So I took the challenge. I knew that my store had celery root (also named celeriac) as I had seen it the week before and, since I hadn’t ever eaten it, I was curious. I’m so glad that I tried it! It takes a bit like celery, but a bit of a lighter taste, and has the consistancy of jicama. It’s crunchy, it’s tasty, it’s inexpensive. It would be great on tacos or salads or burgers etc…

The salad turned out great. I changed the name because I felt the oranges played a far more important role than the arugala. It’s so easy to make-just a few minutes of prep, a few minutes resting the ingredients in the dressing and voila! delicious!! This salad also keeps extremely well. I had left overs the next evening and everything was still good and crunchy and delicious so it’s a great salad to make to bring to work the next day for lunch. Isn’t that just gorgeous?

salad

Celery Root and Mandarin Orange Salad

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice  
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cups matchstick-cut peeled celery root
  • 2 cups thinly diagonally sliced celery
  • 1/4 cup very thinly vertically sliced red onion
  • 3 cups satsuma or other mandarin orange sections cut into 3s (fresh not canned if possible)
  • 1 cup baby arugula 
  • 1/2 cup fresh parsley leaves

Instructions

  1. Combine extra-virgin olive oil, lemon juice, salt, and black pepper in a medium bowl, stirring well with a whisk. Add celery root, celery, and onion; toss to coat. Let celery root mixture stand 30 minutes. Add orange sections, arugula, and parsley; toss gently to combine.

If you’re not sure of what to look for at the store or what’s inside here you g.

root

Adapted from Cooking Light Jan/Feb 2013 Issue.

Hush Puppies with Maple Butter

Husband and I have been eating and drinking at Brother Jimmy’s BBQ for years and years. First there was 1 in Manhattan, then 2, then 3, then one at  Yankee Stadium (woot woot go Yankees!) and now there’s one in Puerto Rico (will visit that one in April) and on St. Maarten (will also visit that one in April). We spent countless hours at the bar watching football on chilly fall and winter afternoons, laughing with friends, enjoying each other’s company and Husband and I were introduced to each other at one by a very good friend. In other words-for nearly 13 years it’s held a special place in our hearts.  They serve southern BBQ food. They have skee-ball. They have some drinks served in goldfish bowls.  It’s a happy enough place that people bring their kids for lunch on the weekends and everyone enjoys themselves.

Imagine my surprise when I saw that they have a cookbook out!! I bought it for Husband for Christmas and made one of his favorites, Hush Puppies, for Super Bowl Sunday.  They’re so good. They’re easy to make!  They’re perfect for football or hockey or staying in and reading. And the butter-YUM!!  If you don’t know they’re about the size of golf balls-enough for a few bites.

hush

Hush Puppies

Ingredients

  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 2 cups buttermilk
  • 5 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 3/4 cup diced Spanish onion
  • 2 cups cornmeal
  • 2&3/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 3/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1&1/2 tsp granulated onion
  • about 5 cups canola oil for deep frying

Instructions

  1. Heat 6 inches of oil to 325F in a heavy-bottomed stock pot. While the oil is heating lightly heat the eggs in a large bowl. Whisk in the baking powder, add the buttermilk and mix well. Add the oil and onion.
  2. Im a separate bowl combine the cornmeal, flour, sugar, salt, cayenne and granulated onion. Add the dry ingredinets itno the bowl with the wet ingredients, mix to incorporate but don’t over-mix. Refrigerate until ready to use.
  3. Carefully drop round heaping tablespoons of the batter, one at time, into the hot oil being sure not to over-crowd them. Cook until golden brown, 3-5 minutes.
  4. Using a spider or metal slotted spoon remove them from th oil to a wire rack to cool.
  5. Serve warm with maple butter.

Note: this recipe makes about 24 hush puppies which is a lot as they’re heavy. I made the full amount of batter, cooked half and froze the other half for use later.

Maple Butter

Ingredients

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup

Instructions

  1. In a large bowl beat together the butter and maple syrup until incorporated. Set it aside at room temperature. 

Note : the maple butter needs to be at room temperature to serve. You can also feeze it too and it’s great on other things like pancakes, cornbread etc…

Sauerkraut Soup

This soup is really easy to make and very delicious!! I’d never had anything like it!!  Tart sauerkraut, yummy kielbasa, potatoes and onions-how can you go wrong?!  This is the time to go to your local Polish shop and get the best kielbasa you can. While you can use the regular supermarket ones using a great kielbasa really makes such a huge difference. Don’t forget they freeze well so you can buy a lot and keep them for later too.

Since we got a big snow storm on Friday night/Saturday I made this for lunch on Saturday and it was perfect. What a delicious meal on a snowy day.

1/13/14 Note: I made this soup this past Saturday morning.  The tomatoes at the store didn’t look very nice and I knew that I had a can of tomatoes in the cabinet at home.  The result is a variation that I think I like more than the original.  It makes more of a tomatoey broth.

  • 7 cups water/sauerkraut liquid instead of the 8 cups below
  • 15oz can crushed tomatoes and their liquid—omit both the plum tomatoes and tomato sauce below.

saursoup

Sauerkraut Soup

Ingredients

  • 1lb bag sauerkraut drained, liquid reserved
  • 8 cups water/sauerkraut liquid
  • 1lb kielbasa-the best quality you can find, cut into 1/4 inch rounds, then in quarters.
  • 1/4 tbsp caraway seeds
  • 1 tsp black peppercorns
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 plum tomatoes, seeds removed, chopped
  • 1 80z can tomato sauce
  • 1 small yellow onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 lb red potatoes, peeled, cut into bite-sized pieces

Instructions

  1. Add enough water to the reserved sauerkraut liquid to equal 8 cups.
  2. Place the sauerkraut, water, kielbasa, caraway seeds, black peppercorns, bay leaf, tomatoes and tomato sauce into a large stock pot over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer.
  3. In a small pan saute the onion and garlic until soft then add it to the soup pot.
  4. Place potato cubes in a pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil then, when just before cooked fully, drain and add to the soup pot.
  5. Return the soup to a boil then reduce to simmer for an hour.

kielbasa

Here’s the kielbasa I used-just over 1lb.  If you have a little more or little less it’s fine.

Note: This soup freezes well so feel free to make extra and put it away for a later lunch or dinner.

My friend Michelle gave me her recipe and I’ve adapted it to this-enjoy!!

Bacon Cashew Caramel Popcorn

On Saturday night I went to see some of my very favorite people in the world and the house that they bought recently.  In addition to bringing peperonata and crackers and fresh mozzarella I brought this popcorn with me as well to munch on after dinner. Wow was it great. I had never made caramel corn before so I was concerned about how it would come out but I worried needlessly-this was EXCELLENT and really easy to make.  Just enough salty and sweet and crunchy. It really could become addicting very quickly.

Before I started I googled the original recipe from Bon Appetit and there were so many complaints from people about how many pots and pans they used etc… I thought it was pretty funny considering if you read the recipe you’ll see that you need a few. I can’t say that there was all that many though. But not to worry-I made a few adjustments to the orignal recipe that save some pans and washing time.  Caramel is pretty sticky and it will be hot for a while.  Best to let it cool in the pan and then soak the pan in some hot water-it will wash right off (unless you burn it) or wait until it’s cool enough then eat it with a spoon right from the pan :).

Caramel corn

Bacon Cashew Caramel Popcorn

Ingredients

  • 4-4.5ozs organic, unsalted air-popped popcorn*
  • 6-12 ozs bacon, cooked and chopped into various sized pieces
  • 1/2 cup cashews, raw and unsalted, chopped into various sized pieces
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 cup butter
  • 2 cups packed brown sugar
  • 1 tsp table salt
  • 1/2 cup light corn syrup
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • non-stick cooking spray

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 200 degrees.
  2. Line 2 rimmed baking sheets with foil and spray with non-stick spray. Set aside.
  3. In a very large metal bowl (large enough to fit all of the popcorn and ingredients and be stirred) combine the popcorn, bacon, cashews and salt and stir until evenly distributed. Set aside. Spray 2 metal spatulas or spoons (or 1 of each) with non-stick spray. Set them aside.
  4. In a heavy-bottomed medium sized sauce pan over medium heat combine the butter, brown sugar, corn syrup and 1 tsp salt.  Using a candy thermometer bring to the soft ball stage (if you’re not using a candy thermometer bring to a boil and allow to simmer for 5 minutes). Remove from heat and stir in baking soda.  The caramel will get poufy. Stir it well to make sure that everything is evenly combined.  Pour it over the popcorn in the large bowl and using 2 spoons or spatulas, stir and fold everything together until evenly distributed (don’t forget the little bits at the bottom of the bowl).
  5. Spoon the popcorn onto the baking sheets making an even layer on each.
  6. Bake for about 45 minutes until caramel is shiny and coats the popcorn, giving the baking sheets a turn halfway through and stirring if needed.  If any large clumps appear break them up with a spatula.
  7. Remove from oven and place the baking sheets onto cooling racks until popcorn has cooled.

Note: For cooling the popcorn I removed the popcorn from the baking trays when it was cool enough to touch-about 15 minutes, and transferred it to a large colander and placed it outside in the 20degree shade to cool.  Since the baking sheets had non-stick spray residue on it I did not want that absorbed into the popcorn to make it mushy.

*You can also use 1/2 cup popcorn kernels and pop them as per the manufacturer instructions.  To save time and pans though I bought a bag from Fairway that was popped fresh and unsalted.  Saved me having to clean a pot and a lid and possibly burning it  (which I tend to do).  Besides-a 6oz bag was on sale for $1.99 that day-so I saved money too.

Makes enough to fill 1 gallon-sized Ziplock bag.

Adapted quite a bit from Bon Appetit.

Tim goes crazy for it too!! 2 of his favorites-bacon and caramel-in one place.

popcorn timmy

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