Short Rib Grilled Cheese

I’ve been meaning to post this for a while now, but haven’t been able to find the time to write it. Now this isn’t exactly the cheapest sandwich out there ( close to 30 bucks for all the ingredients!), but it’s darn worth it if you ask me! Plus, most of the work is done by the trusty ol’ slow cooker, so it’s an easy dinner.

This special sammich is tender, red wine brazed chuck short ribs shredded then topped with caramelized onions and cheddar cheese on your favorite baguette and pressed on a panini press (as I call my George Foreman grill).

*Please ignore the side dish! This was a failed attempt at oven fried green tomatoes! I will be posting a successful recipe for green tomatoes as soon as I get around to it!   IMG_2360

 

 

For the short ribs:

  • 2 Pounds Bone-In Chuck Short Ribs
  • 1 onion, roughly chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, roughly chopped
  • 2 carrots, roughly chopped
  • a few sprigs fresh thyme
  • 3 bay leaves
  • a couple cloves of garlic
  • 1 cup red wine
  • Enough beef stock to almost cover the short ribs and veggies in the crock pot, I’d buy the 32 oz size just to be safe!
  • 4 tbsp butter, divided

 

In a skillet, melt 2 tablespoons of butter over medium-high heat, and sear short ribs about 2 minutes on all sides, and remove from skillet. Add remaining butter to the skillet and add veggies, cook until slightly softened, scraping browned bits of meat from the skillet and add to the bottom of the slow cooker. Put short ribs on top of veggies, add seasonings, garlic, wine, and pour the stock over the short ribs until they’re almost covered. Cook in the slow cooker for at least eight hours.

Caramelized onions:

  • 2 large sweet onions, sliced
  • 1/2 a stick of butter
  • 1 tsp salt
  • a few splashes of balsamic vinegar

Melt the butter in a skillet. Add onions and salt and cook and stir for 30 minutes until onions are nice and caramelized. Add a few drops of balsamic to the onions and remove from heat.

 

To put it all together:

Remove short ribs from crockpot and discard bones (or save as a tasty treat for your pup!).  Shred short ribs and set aside.

Take a loaf of French bread or your favorite baguette and slice it in half. Smear the bread with some horseradish sauce or dijon mustard ( or your favorite sandwich spread ) top one side with the shredded beef, then caramelized onions, and sliced cheddar cheese.

Preheat a panini press or your George Foreman grill. Place a piece of foil on the bottom of the grill then put a piece over the sandwich. Press the sandwich and cook until cheese is melted and bread is nicely toasted.

Serve with chips or fries and an ice cold beer!

Stuffed Spaghetti Squash

I saw this on Diners, Drive-In’s, and Dives (and it sounds like a lot of other people did as well because the grocery store had a mad rush on spaghetti squash). It’s a great idea really and it’s so versatile you can add whatever you like and it’ll still be a tasty dish. It even has it’s own little serving bowl (well, mine wasn’t little!). In fact, one squash was enough for two dinners for Earl and I.

I wasn’t planning on posting this, but I had requests for the recipe and this is by far easier than making several paper copies! I couldn’t get a very good picture of it, so don’t hold that against me!

I used ground turkey in this but you could always sub ground beef or make this a vegetarian meal and add no meat!

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I took a spaghetti squash, cut it in half, scraped out the seeds, topped it with a little olive oil, salt, and pepper, and roasted it in a 375 degree oven for 1 hour.

While that was cooling, I cooked 1/2 chopped onion, 1 large chopped zucchini, 1 chopped carrot, and one chopped celery stalk in a couple of tablespoons olive oil until soft. Then crumbled and browned a 1/2 a pound of ground turkey and added about 8 oz of chopped, jarred roasted red peppers.

Then stirred in about 3/4 of a 24 oz jar of marinara sauce, a tablespoon of dried basil, and a tablespoon of dried oregano. Next, scraped the spaghetti squash with a fork into the veggie and meat mixture, and seasoned with salt and pepper. I let that cook until heated through, then spooned the mixture back into the 2 halves of the squash “bowls”. Top with remaining marinara, sliced fresh mozzarella, and a sprinkle of Italian seasoning.

Bake in a preheated oven at 375 degrees for 30 minutes covered with a piece of foil (not tightly wrapped, just resting on top), then bake for another 15 minutes with foil removed to brown up and melt the cheese.

Goes great with a glass of Pinot Noir , or two!

Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

“Cookies? Really? It’s the first of the year! No one wants to hear about cookies! They’re the Devil!”

Well, maybe other cookies, but these cookies are special! (Isn’t everything I make?)

For Christmas, I gave my hubby a “make-your-own-beer” kit. This was no liquid extract, this was using real grains that he boiled and strained to make his beer. Well the company I bought the kit from tells you how to dry out the spent grain and make a flour out of them and even has recipes on their website for using the spent grain flour.  If you have the opportunity, I highly recommend making the spent grain flour. It smells like Grape Nuts! Read more about Brooklyn Brew Shop here.

If you don’t have spent grain flour, ( and lets face it, not everybody has spent grain laying around), you could make these cookies with just whole wheat flour.

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My main inspiration for making these was finding a bag of organic rolled oats that had been hidden behind my flour/sugar jars and with it being just about full, I couldn’t bring myself to throw it out. I had already planned on making the peanut butter cookies from the website, so I figured “why not? I’ll just make oatmeal too since I’m already dirtying up mixing bowls and baking sheets!”

My first thought was oatmeal chocolate chip, but I’m trying to cut back on the sugar and since I was going to use agave instead of white sugar in the recipe, it didn’t make since to put chocolate in it!

Heat your oven to 350 degrees. In a mixing bowl, stir together 6 tablespoons of softened butter, 3/4 cup agave nectar, and 1 egg until well blended. Next stir in 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon baking soda, and 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon. Now stir in 3/4 cup of whole wheat flour a little at a time, then slowly add 3/4 cup of spent grain flour ( if not using spent grain flour, then add 1+ 1/2 cups whole wheat flour). Next stir in 1 cup toasted rolled oats and 2/3 cup raisins. Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls on to greased cookie sheets ( this filled one and a half of my cookie sheets ) and bake for 12 to 13 minutes. I would check the bottom of a cookie after about 9 minutes to make sure they don’t get too brown!

These are a tasty dessert, but are awesome at breakfast, too!

Cornmeal Crusted Trout With New Year’s Sides

Happy New Year!

The tradition for New Year’s Day says to “eat poor” for good luck throughout the year. Now, for different people and different parts of the country, that can be a lot of different things. Some people eat pork and sauerkraut (Gross! Sorry, but that’s just not my thing!)

Here in the South, your meal MUST include greens and black-eyed peas. Greens for wealth, and black-eyed peas for luck, I believe. Nothing seems more like a poor mans meal that Southern comfort food, and for me that includes some kind of cornmeal crusted fresh water fish. Catfish would be the standard “Southern” fish, but I think it tastes kinda like dirt (they are bottom feeders after all). My favorite for this is Rainbow Trout.

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Frying fish like this is so easy! I just take trout fillets (check for bones first!) Put them in a ziplock bag with a little flour and toss to coat. Dip the fillets, first in an egg wash, then in a mixture of half cornmeal, half flour. Fry the fillets in light olive oil over medium-high in a skillet until fillets are firm and set on a paper towel lined plate. Now that’s fish!

For the greens this year I used kohlrabi greens instead of collards (trying to use what you have is eating frugally so that counts for extra good luck I hope!) I loosely followed Paula Deen’s Collard recipe. I used a leftover ham bone I saved from our Christmas spiral ham (the leftover ham, I’m going to make deviled ham with later on today). I put that in a stock pot with 4 cups chicken stock and 7 cups water and boil for 1 hour. Then add a washed bunch of greens with salt, pepper, garlic powder, and Tabasco sauce to taste. Let that boil about 1 more hour. I’ve also used bacon in this recipe, by frying a few strips of diced bacon in the  stock pot before adding the water and stock and skipped the first boiling.

For the black-eyed peas, I used a recipe that was originally meant for white acre peas ( another common Southern pea related to the black-eyed pea, that I like better by-the-way). I used a pound of fresh black-eyed peas, and about 3/4 of a pound of diced smoked turkey sausage in 4 cups vegetable stock and 4 cups water and heat to boiling in a stock pot. In a small skillet, I cooked a small diced onion with some minced garlic in 1 1/2 tablespoons butter until soft, then added that, along with a fresh thyme sprig with a bay leaf or two, some dried parsley, and dried oregano to the peas and sausage and let that gently boil for about an hour.

What is crazy to me is that since I’ve started using these recipes for greens and black-eyed peas (or more often white acre peas), it doesn’t have to be New Years day for me to eat them anymore! I used to detest this stuff! But now, they’re common side dishes!

Now off to make deviled ham!

Gravy & Biscuits

Over the last year or two, I’ve really gotten into breakfast.

It’s not just cereal and milk, or eggs and bacon anymore. I can do without that. It’s boring and over done and I’d rather just skip it and get lunch. But hubby and I started eating breakfast out, and I’ve discovered a whole new world of tasty morning delights.

I think it really started with Crabcake Benedict at Metro Diner (yes, the same one in Jacksonville that appeared on Diners, Drive-in’s, and Dives).  After we saw it on the show, we had to try it. Since then, they’ve opened several diners around town, one being less than 5 miles from my house, so eating breakfast out became a weekly ritual. Now all breakfasts, at home or otherwise, must be as interesting and delicious, or it may as well be skipped for lunch!

My “Me-me” used to make the  best sausage gravy, with just a roll of Jimmy Dean, flour, and milk. It was the greatest! Staying overnight at Me-me’s always meant gravy & biscuits for breakfast, and even to this day, the smell of sausage gravy reminds me of my me-me. It took several failed attempts but I managed to get my sausage gravy close, but not quite like hers.

Basically, brown and crumble a 16oz. roll of sausage ( any flavor you like) in a skillet over medium heat, Do Not Drain! Grease is required for gravy! Add two to three tablespoons of flour and cook and stir one to two minutes. Slowly stir in WHOLE milk ( I use to try and make it with skim, FAIL!) a half cup at a time, allowing to thicken in between each addition of milk to make sure it doesn’t get too watery. When it’s as thick as you like, season with salt & pepper to taste and serve over hot biscuits ( I like the frozen Pillsbury biscuits).

And now, meet the newest evolution of gravy & biscuits!

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On our last trip to Asheville, we had breakfast not just once, but twice at Early Girl Eatery. Out of all the places we’ve traveled, this is by far the best breakfast place we’ve ever eaten at, period! Both times, I had their wonderful tomato gravy on my breakfasts. I knew I had to come home and try to re-create it!

I “Bing”-ed tomato gravy and realized it was a fairly common gravy, made by lots of people, lots of different ways. This is the way I make it: In a mixing bowl, combine a 15oz can of diced tomatoes and their juices, with 1 cup vegetable broth. In a medium sauce pan or skillet, melt two tablespoons of butter or olive oil. Add 2 tablespoons flour and cook and stir for one minute. Stir in tomato/broth and add a teaspoon of fresh thyme, and salt and pepper. Continue to cook and stir over medium heat until thickened.

What is so awesome about this gravy is it can be made to suit anyone’s taste! You can add 1/4 cup diced onions and peppers to the melted butter and cook till soft before adding the flour; or as shown above, 4 diced links of fully cooked chicken breakfast sausage, and sliced green onions. You could also make it Vegan friendly by using olive oil instead of butter. If you don’t like big chunks of tomato, you could change things up and use a 15oz can of crushed tomatoes for the diced.

I’ve also made a Benedict (that I’ve included a photo of below), by sauteing some fresh spinach, shitake mushrooms, and diced chicken breakfast sausage in olive oil and garlic, spooning that over a toasted English muffin with an over medium egg, and topped it with the tomato gravy instead of traditional Hollandaise. The possibilities are endless with this stuff!

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I hope this has inspired happy breakfasts! Wish me luck for today as I attempt my first Chicken Pot Pie! :)

Tomato Soup

I know, I’m terrible with keeping up on the posting. I still cook, I’m just too lazy to write most recipes down while cooking, then trying to take a decent picture, then typing it out… well, you get it.

I’m just going to start posting about food in general. This sounds more like fun and less like work, which is what this “blog posting” was starting to feel like!

Lately I’ve been into soups. Of the homemade variety of course. I was starting to get tired of the bland canned soups, though convenient, they were getting boring.

I’m more of a “creamy soup” person. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind a nice chicken noodle soup or, one of my favorites, Italian Wedding Soup, but there’s something about a ” cream-of-something” soup that says comfort food.

About a month ago, I made my very first homemade tomato soup. It was delicious! Way better than canned stuff and lots cheaper than getting it from The Loop ( a little better tasting than The Loop, if I do say so myself). The only gripe I had about it was having to cook everything, then transfer it in batches to the food processor, then strain it back into the original pan I started with. Not only did it make a mess and dirty up more dishes than I thought necessary, it took waaaaaay too long. I work 8 hours a day in a refrigerated cutting room, the last thing my weary bones want to do is stand in the kitchen for an hour and a half making soup!

So I decided I needed an immersion/hand blender. Good thing hubby paid attention to my griping! I came home a few days ago to an early Christmas present! Not only did he get me my hand blender; he got me the “Mac-Daddy” hand blender that resembles something a mechanic would have in his garage for working on exotic cars.photo 4

  Let me tell you, this thing is awesome! Last night I decided to make tomato soup again, albeit a little on the chunky side since I really didn’t think straining it was necessary (what’s a chunk or two of tomato in tomato soup, I mean, really!?)  I also made some cod croquettes to go with it, but they ended up being cod/tuna croquettes since I didn’t buy enough cod to feed everybody (through no fault of my own). They still turned out good, I just wish there would have been more!

I did manage to take a picture of my dinner last night…photo 5

For the soup, I used a recipe from Food Network that I tweaked a bit: cooked onions, carrots, celery, and garlic in olive oil till soft, added 5 tablespoons flour, then a 28 oz can of diced tomatoes and their juices, a 32 oz carton plus one cup of chicken stock, parsley, thyme and 2 bay leaves and let it simmer half an hour. Then took out the bay leaves and blended up all the veggies in the pot with my new toy, then added a cup of cream. So much easier this time around! Now I have to figure out what other kinds of soup to make!

Well off to play with some cheesecakes! I bought these mini springform pans months ago and haven’t used them yet so I’m thinking it’s time to break them in!

Bacon Wrapped Mushroom Stuffed Pork Tenderloin

I’m trying to clean out my freezer and do a little experiment in the process. I have this habit of stocking up on food when things go on sale and putting it in the freezer. What makes it a bad habit is that I forget about thawing something out for dinner and wind up buying more items for dinner, even though I have it in the freezer already!

I came up with this after finding a pork tenderloin in the freezer. I had some fresh spinach and bacon in the fridge I needed to use up, and all I needed to buy extra was fresh mushrooms!

I didn’t really spend time measuring this recipe out like I usually do, so adjust where your taste buds see fit.

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  • 2  1 lb pork tenderloins
  • 3.5 oz shitake mushrooms, finely chopped
  • 4 oz baby portabello mushrooms, finely chopped
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1 cup tightly packed fresh spinach, chopped
  • 2 tbsp minced garlic
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 3 tbsp heavy cream
  • 1 lb sliced bacon

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

In a medium sized skillet, melt butter over medium heat. Add onion and cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Stir in mushrooms and garlic and continue to cook 10 more minutes. Salt and pepper to taste.  Add spinach and cook until wilted. Add heavy cream one tablespoon at a time, you may need a little more or less depending on the moisture in your onions and mushrooms, and cook until mixture forms a paste like consistency. Remove mixture and set aside to cool.

Meanwhile, cut a pocket into both tenderloins making sure you don’t cut through the ends of the tenderloin, it helps to hold in the mixture. On a piece of parchment paper lay out bacon, overlapping each piece, with enough pieces to cover the length of the tenderloin. Stuff the pocket with half of the mushroom mixture and roll the tenderloin up with the bacon. Placed on a greased baking sheet. Repeat with remaining tenderloin.

Bake tenderloins for 30 to 45 minutes until cooked through. Allow to rest 10 minutes before slicing into medallions. Enjoy!

Austin Chicken

Took a month away from posting and during that time, went to Austin, Texas for the MotoGP at Circuit Of The Americas. Of course, it wouldn’t really be much of an adventure if we didn’t ride the ” Adventure” the whole way there and back!

We ate lots of good food while we were there and a few places in between, but this dish was inspired by one I had at the Iron Cactus in Austin. It’s a little time consuming in that it has many components, but each one is easy to make. Seasoned and grilled boneless, skinless chicken breasts, covered with peppers, onions, and a creamy, spicy cheese sauce, topped with fresh chorizo and guacamole.  We just ate it with chips and salsa, but Mexican rice and refried beans would go great with this dish!

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For the chicken breast marinade:

  • 3 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 2 tsp chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp cilantro
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp chili garlic hot sauce

Place chicken breasts in a zip top bag. Combine remaining ingredients in a small mixing bowl and pour over chicken breasts. Toss to coat and refrigerate for at least two hours.

For the guacamole:

  • 3 ripe Hass avocados
  • 1 clove minced garlic
  • 1 tbsp minced onions
  • 1 tsp cilantro
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • dash red pepper
  • juice of one lime
  • 1/4 tsp cumin (optional)

Remove skin and seeds from avocados. Place in a mixing bowl and mash with a fork until desired consistency is reached ( some like it chunkier than others!). Add remaining ingredients and mix well. Place guacamole in an airtight container. Press a piece of parchment or wax paper down on the top of the guacamole and seal tightly to keep it from turning to a brown yucky color. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Cream cheese sauce:

  • 4 oz. cream cheese
  • 1 seeded and chopped jalapeno, or 3 tbsp canned, diced jalapenos
  • 2 tbsp sour cream
  • 2 cloves minced garlic
  • 1/4 cup half and half

Combine all ingredients in a food processor and pulse until smooth. Refrigerate until ready to use.

To finish:

  • 1 green bell pepper, sliced
  • 1 medium onion, sliced
  • 1/2 pound fresh chorizo (not the dried, Spanish kind!)
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • Marinaded chicken breasts
  • Prepared guacamole
  • Prepared cream cheese sauce
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar or Mexican blend

Preheat a grill over medium heat and preheat your oven to 425 degrees.

Grill chicken breast for about 8 to 10 minutes per side, until slightly under done, about 150 to 155 degrees. Meanwhile, in a skillet over medium heat, brown and crumble chorizo. When cooked through, remove from heat. Wipe skillet and add olive oil. When hot, add peppers and onions to skillet and cook and stir until soft; season with salt and pepper.

Place chicken in a baking dish and top evenly with peppers and onions, cheese sauce, and shredded cheese. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until chicken is done and cheese has melted and slightly browned. Top with chorizo and guacamole to serve. Savor the flavor!

Chicken Sausage And Roasted Vegetable Pasta

“Pasta?” you say? “I thought you were gluten-free?” you say?

Well yes, I’m still gluten-free! Thankfully, several companies make gluten-free pasta so I don’t have to give up that which I so adore!

Since I now have to read ingredient labels to make sure I’m not unintentionally “glutened”, I’ve noticed more and more all of the un-natural additives that goes into food to preserve it. Italian sausage is no different! So I went from the pork variety to the all-natural chicken and its just as yummy if not more so!

I have to apologize for the photo! I seemed to have misplaced the battery for my good camera and have been using the good old iPhone to take pictures for the blog. Though I really don’t think this dish would photograph well either way!

Just trust me, it’s delicious!

Oh, and I should mention that I used a quality jarred sauce for this, but if you have the time and energy, using homemade would not be frowned upon!

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  • 1  lb bulk Italian chicken sausage
  • 12 oz gluten-free tri-colored vegetable pasta
  • 24 oz tomato basil sauce
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 large or two small zucchini, chopped
  • 8 oz mushrooms, quartered
  • 2 cups fresh spinach
  • 3 tbsp minced garlic
  • 2 beef steak tomatoes, sliced
  • 1/2 cup parmesan cheese
  • 2 cups shredded mozzarella
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • dash crushed red pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

On a baking sheet lined with foil, add onions, peppers, zucchini, and mushrooms with a few drizzles of olive oil and salt & pepper. Toss to coat. Roast veggies  for about 20 minutes, stirring halfway through cooking time.

Cook sausage in a large skillet over medium heat, breaking it up with a spatula. While sausage browns, cook pasta to package directions. When sausage is cooked through, stir in tomato sauce. Let heat through, for about 10 minutes. Stir in garlic, spinach, and red pepper flakes. Cook until spinach is slightly wilted, then stir in roasted vegetables, and parmesan cheese. Allow to cook 5 more minutes. Add pasta and stir until well incorporated.

Pour pasta mixture into a greased 13 x 9 baking dish. Top with sliced beef steak tomatoes and mozzarella cheese. Bake, uncovered, at 350, for 25 to 30 minutes. Would be great served with a Caesar salad!

**This holds up well in the fridge. For the three of us, I was able to get two dinners out of one pan.

Thai Spiced Tofu Lettuce Cups

While wandering in Whole Foods one day, I came across this marinated, ready-to-cook tofu that looked delicious and I really wanted to try it in pad thai, but when I got home, I put it in the fridge, and it became lost in the cheese drawer and almost forgotten until just before it expired!

Wanting to make a quick, light meal, I decided to chop it up, cook it with some mushrooms and put it in some leftover lettuce I needed to use up. I also had some carrots and zucchini floating around in the fridge, as well as a half bottle peanut sauce, and a handful of dry roasted peanuts, and it turned out to be an instant dinner hit!

I would really try to seek out the marinated tofu for this, but if it isn’t available, drain a package of firm tofu, and marinade it for a few hours in peanut sauce.

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  • 1  8oz. package Thai-spiced tofu, chopped
  • 3.5 oz. oyster mushrooms, sliced
  • 3.5 oz. shitake mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 medium carrot, finely diced
  • 1 medium zucchini, finely diced
  • 3 green onions, 1/4 inch sliced
  • 2 cloves minced garlic
  • 3 tbsp sesame oil
  • 3 tbsp peanut sauce, plus extra for serving ( I use San-J Gluten Free)
  • 1/4 cup dry roasted peanuts, chopped
  • 1 head Bibb or butter lettuce

In a large skillet or wok, heat 2 tbsp sesame oil over medium-high heat. Add tofu and cook and stir until slightly browned on all sides. Remove tofu from skillet and set aside.

Add 1 tbsp sesame oil to skillet and stir in zucchini and carrots. Cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and mushrooms. Continue to cook and stir for 5 minutes more.

Return tofu back to skillet and stir in green onions. Add peanut sauce and stir to coat. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly. Sprinkle with chopped peanuts.

To serve, place a few heaping tablespoons into a leaf of lettuce and drizzle with extra peanut sauce, if desired.