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Veal Milanese

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When it comes to food, “fried” is usually one of my no-no words. “Fried” accompanies “smothered”, “cheesy”, “frosted, and most other adjectives used by Paula Deen. But not unlike many other things, food is all about the presentation. For instance, we get to enjoy reduced fat smart food minus the guilt simply because of the name. I mean look at this:

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10 grams of fat in just an ounce! Sure, this is exponentially better than your average, butter substitute covered, extra large popcorn you get at your local cinema (which incidentally costs like $32 in NYC these days). Truth be told, it shouldn’t be guilt free.

But whatever happened to the saying ignorance is bliss? If I think I can go on a shopping spree at Bergdorf’s, who are you to stop me? So what if I have to live off of ramen noodles and food found on the “Not the best, but still good” shelf? At least I have the trendiest Kate Spade Umbrella and this awesome $200 bottle of nail polish (it was reduced from $300, what a steal!).

A few more examples of why ignorance is bliss:

You’re alarm goes off in the early morning. You realize it’s Sunday and you can turn it off, so you do. You fall happily back into sugar plum fairly land with a smile on your face. Suddenly you’re awoken by a call from your angry manager. It’s Monday, you should be at work. Now you’re in trouble and have to kiss up for the next few weeks to earn your keep…. But that extra 2 hours of sleep were wonderful while they lasted!

You have always loved to sing, and been damn good at it too, according to mama. Now it’s time to strut yourself by auditioning for American Idol (quality reality tv… said no one ever). You make it through the initial rounds and now are ready to meet the celebrities and be sent to Vegas. There must be some confusion because you don’t earn a golden ticket.. and Jennifer Lopez laughed so hard at your attempt, it brought tears to her eyes, and subsequently your own eyes. FAIL. You should have stayed ignorant.

You think world peace has been achieved.

You think beauty comes from within. (Kidding.. mostly)

You think everyone is really laughing with you, not at you.

See what I mean? Ignorance seems pretty bliss to me. If only everyone would just stop bursting your rose colored bubble.

And so, Veal Milanese. A fancy way to say fried Veal (shhh don’t tell). Though this recipe shouldn’t be guilt free, you’d never know it from the title. So when I decided to make it, I didn’t feel bad at all. Once I realized what I was doing, I decided that serving it with a fresh arugula salad would make up for the damage… although maybe that’s just me hopping back into my bubble. Just let me be.

And for all you Lent observers out there, don’t forget to not make this on a no-meat-Friday because as fabulous as ignorance can be, I can’t be held responsible for sending you to the dark depths of H-E-double-hockey-sticks simply because I posted a bangin’ veal recipe during lent.

Veal Milanese (adapted from the lovely Giada De Laurentiis)

2 large eggs
3/4 C. all-purpose flour
1 C. Italian bread crumbs
1 LB thinly sliced veal (scallopine)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 cups vegetable or other frying oil
lemon wedges for garnish

In a shallow dish, beat eggs and season with salt and pepper. Pour flour and breadcrumbs into two more separate dishes.

Season the veal with salt and pepper on both sides. Working with 1 piece of veal at a time, dip it first in the flour, shaking off excess, then into the beaten eggs, followed by the bread crumbs. Set aside on a large plate and continue with remaining veal slices.

In a large skillet, heat the oil on high. Place breaded veal in the hot oil in batches. Fry until golden brown on both sides, about 4 to 6 minutes total.

2

Hawaiian Short Ribs

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They say the only thing we have to fear, is fear itself, although I’m not so sure about that. I know there are a few other things that I’m fearful of. Spiders, bugs in general, creatures in the night. Things with teeth, things with nails, things that jump, or slither. Things that are strangely large, or strangely small. How about the fear of running out of clean socks (can I get an Amen?).  Another big one: Things that make loud noises! This brings me to something I used in my latest kitchen endeavor that makes a loud noise. Something that I was once afraid of, and that many people still are afraid of: The pressure cooker.

 

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This man-made volcano waiting to happen, is the stuff nightmares are made of. The noise and rocking motion suggests that at any given moment your “dinner” could erupt all over you and yours.

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I was lucky enough to have seen my mom use this disturbing piece of equipment from an early age. Why should you put yourself in harms way, you ask? Because the pressure cooker allows us to develop flavors, and makes juicy, tender meat and poultry in up to 70% less time than conventional cooking methods! And we all know I’m always into saving time, even if it means sacrificing a limb or two. Human beings have way too many appendages in my opinion anyway. I’ve been dying to get rid of a couple. Pressure cooker, here I come.

I can’t take credit for this recipe. It is one of a few that were suggested in the pressure cooker manual. There was however, some damage control involved this time around. I should have followed the cardinal cooking rule: Never trust your sister Shannon, when it comes to ingredient amounts. My mistake did not come without was to instinctively divide that by three, equaling 1 teaspoon of salt. Of course, the entire TBSP of salt I added mixed in with some of the other dry ingredients, and soaked up some of the liquids, leaving me totally unsure of what to do next. I quickly scooped up a spoonful of whatever was on top and then decide if I added a sprinkle of every ingredient I had previously added, everything would come out alright. Lucky for me, I was right. I don’t actually suggest this way of doing things (so I will omit this part in the steps portion of the recipe) and I certainly don’t recommend breaking the aforementioned cardinal rule. As you can see above, I served these awesome short ribs with garlic mashed red potatoes and carrots.

Hawaiian Short Ribs

3 LBS Beef short ribs
2 Tbsp Oil
1 Whole Onion, thinly sliced
1 Tsp Ginger ground
2 Tsp Dry mustard
2 Tbsp Sugar
1 Tsp salt
1/4 Tsp Pepper
1 Clove chopped garlic
2 Tbsp Parsley (Chopped)
2 Tbsp Soy sauce
2 Tbsp White wine vinegar
1 1/4 Cup Water

  1. Heat cooker, add oil and sauté onion lightly. Remove
  2. Brown ribs on all sides
  3. Combine remaining ingredients and pour over ribs.
  4. Add onions. Close cover securely.
  5. Place pressure regulator on vent pipe and cook 25 minutes with pressure regulator rocking slowly (start timer once regulator starts make the scary noise).
  6. Remove pot from heat and allow pressure to drop of it’s own accord (you’ll know it’s safe to open when it stops with the scary noise!)

P.S. I should have known not to listen to Shannon when I realized, that this is her way of cooking…

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Yes, that’s a mini carrot in her hand which apparently doubles for a crayon.

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Stuffed Stuff: Peppers

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I’d like to take this time to evaluate and properly appreciate, things which are stuffed. Is there anything that doesn’t become better once stuffed? I think not. How about when they go from stuffed, to over-stuffed? Even better.  Apart from when we have eaten too much and are then, over-stuffed. That one’s not so good. Take your pillow for instance; you want it pretty darn stuffed. Wallet? The more stuffed (with the green paper) the better. I’d love my wardrobe over-stuffed with ensemble options! And my brain should be stuffed with (mostly) meaningful information.

When we discuss food, my argument only grows stronger. Quesadillas? Stuff em’. Oreos? Over-stuff those! Stuffed artichokes, the best (post idea anyone?). Stuffed Mushrooms, check! (http://saltpepperketchup.net/2013/12/30/dont-fear-fungi-stuffed-mushrooms/) Stuffed chicken breast, flounder, leg of lamb, clams, and the list goes on. What better way to celebrate all the wonderfulness that stuffed can be, than with Stuffed peppers? In my opinion, 99 out of 100 stuffed pepper recipes give you merely mediocre results and so of course, I hoped to find that one-hundredth recipe. I did some extensive research and ended up adapting a recipe I found on http://allrecipes.com/. If you are not aware of this website, I invite you to explore it. Time and time again this site has done right by me. The database is HUGE and you are sure to find many different options for whatever culinary endeavor you’re taking on. These peppers were easy and really came out great. I of course used ground turkey instead of beef, and brown rice instead of white (gotta watch that figure).
 Stuffed Peppers

1 C. uncooked brown rice

1 onion, diced

1 Tbsp Olive Oil

2 C. tomato sauce

1 (10oz) can diced tomatoes

1 C. beef broth

1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar

1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes

1 LB ground turkey

1/4 LB hot Italian sausage, casings removed

1/4 C. chopped fresh parsley

3 garlic cloves, minced

1 tsp salt

1 tsp freshly ground pepper

4 Large green bell peppers (halved and seeds removed)

1 C. grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese plus more for topping

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C)
2. Prepare rice according to package directions. Set the cooked rice aside.
3. Cook onion and olive oil over medium heat until onion begins to soften, about 5 minutes. Transfer half of cooked onion to a large bowl and set aside.
4. Stir tomato sauce, beef broth, balsamic vinegar, and red pepper flakes into the skillet; cook and stir for 1 minute.
5. Pour tomato sauce mixture into a 9×13-inch baking dish and set aside.
6. Combine ground turkey, Italian sausage, diced tomatoes, Italian parsley, garlic, salt, black pepper, and cayenne pepper into bowl with reserved onions; mix well. Stir in cooked rice and Parmigiano Reggiano. Stuff green bell peppers with turkey and sausage mixture.
7. Place stuffed green bell pepper halves in the baking dish over tomato sauce; sprinkle with Parmigiano-Reggiano, cover baking dish with aluminum foil, and bake in the preheated oven for 45 minutes.
8. Remove aluminum foil and bake until the meat is no longer pink, the green peppers are tender and the cheese is browned on top, an additional 20 to 25 minutes.
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Chances are, you purchased more than 1/4 LB of sausage. I thought it might be helpful if I mentioned a few ideas on how to use the rest of your sausage since many of us 20-somethings can’t afford to let 3/4 of a pound (or more) of perfectly good meat, go to waste. When it comes to handling  your left over sausage, please do keep in mind the following Danish proverb:  “The dog’s kennel is no place to keep a sausage”. I have very little idea what this could mean. I doubt anyone is dumb enough to keep sausage, or ANY food (or thing) in a cage with a dog, unless the intent is for the dog to eat it. However, the high incidence rate of dog-eaten-homework still perplexes me. I was always able to keep my completed homework away from the dog’s jaws, though I know many who never quite mastered it. Anyway where was I…

The most logical answer for remaining sausage use would be, whatever this is called:

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If that doesn’t suit your needs, this is sure to please:

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If some how or other, neither of these will do, here is a more outlandish option which I can’t take credit for:

http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/giada-de-laurentiis/breakfast-popovers-with-italian-sausage-recipe.html
 

Plus, this recipe is kinda stuffed, and you know how I feel about stuffed stuff (too much?).

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Overzealous: Chicken Wings

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This past Superbowl Sunday, I came down with a severe case of overzealous. While you may be accustom to hearing this adjective, you may not be familiar with the noun. Allow me to elaborate. 

Overzealous: 
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Overzealous: Those individuals who purchase a lifetime supply of batteries, candles, bottled water, canned goods, thermal blankets, and update their will with every prediction of inclement weather. 
 
Overzealous: 
This past Sunday, I decided to cook WAY too much for myself, and my pint size sister. I made homemade hummus and pita chips, mini crab cakes with a sour cream dipping sauce, baked chicken wings, potato salad, and had even planned to make turkey sliders (which was quickly cut from the menu when I realized I was knee deep). What on earth what I thinking? OVERZEALOUS.
 
I had never made hummus before. While the pita chips were crunchy and salty and enjoyable, the hummus was a horse of a different color. I followed a certain Food Network star’s recipe (not to name any names- but she is often barefoot…well not actually…) and boy, was it something. Not only was I overzealous, but the amount of garlic in this recipe was even more overzealous! I will not be making this recipe again, but I am now determined to create wonderful hummus, and will certainly share when I do. 
 
Next up, crab cakes. I was looking for a recipe that was a bit healthier, and definitely not fried. The one I tried left quite a bit to be desired. The flavor was not bad at all, but once they were cooked, they became rather dry. Simply browning them in pam spray did not leave the outside as golden brown and delicious as frying in olive oil would have. The sauce did nothing to mitigate the issue. And so as you might guess, the search for healthy and delicious crab cakes in on.
 
I am happy to report the potato salad was wonderful.  Creamy and salty and a little sweet with the perfect amount of veggies for crunch…  I found the recipe here: http://allrecipes.com/recipe/restaurant-style-potato-salad/
 
Fortunately, just because one is suffering from overzealous, does not mean all is lost. Chicken wings! Maybe it’s hard to mess these up, but either way, I did NOT mess em’ up! My guest has never been the biggest fan of spicy wings so I set out to create a sweet, tangy bbq sauce. Hooray,I am not a total screw up! 
 
Sweet & Tangy Chicken Wings
3 pounds chicken wings, split and tips discarded
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 C. honey
1/2 C. soy sauce (reduced sodium if you must)
1/4 C. molasses
2 Tbsp chile sauce (can be found in the international isle, near Thai products)
1 tsp ground ginger
a few dashes of hot sauce if you please
1. In a large bowl, mix all ingredients well. Add chicken, Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour, turning occasionally.
2. Preheat oven to 375 degrees
3. In a large baking dish, arrange chicken in a single layer and pour marinade over. Bake in the preheated oven approximately 50 minutes, turning once, until meat is no longer pink.
In closing, one more example of overzealous:
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This is what happens when I try to open a can of peas.  Pea juice everywhere. On the counter, on the floor, on my t-shirt and even in my right eye. That’s not how you contract conjunctivitis is it? The last thing I need is overzealous and conjunctivitis at the same time.
Does anyone know where a girl can get a decent can opener? Please help me. This has got to stop!
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Mashed Cauliflower: Because it’s My Resolution Too

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Surprise, surprise: the most popular New Year resolution for 2014 was, drumroll please, to lose weight. I am among the masses which is not strange considering my female, 20-something, single status. Does it make me predictable if I start talking about choosing healthier options without sacrificing flavor (which is, by the way, 9 times out of 10, a load of horse manure)?

What if I decide from now on, every one of my posts will include kale? Okay, let’s say for the rest of our days, we eat all our meals in liquid form? Then we won’t even have to get dentures when we get old and lose all our teeth (BONUS). Oh, I know: We can have anything we want that doesn’t include gluten, dairy, sugar, alcohol, is preserved, is processed, or is delicious. Sound good?

Well, I decided to lay off this oh-so-typical subject for the first few weeks of January, but I’m hoping I’m allowed to speak of it now. And if I’m not, rules were made to be broken! Truth be told, I am always looking for lighter and healthier options. I like to think I can get most of the vitamins and nutrients I need through my diet without resorting to any of the above options, or taking 2 to 3 handfuls of pills everyday (my last post- http://saltpepperketchup.net/2014/01/23/tah-boo-lee/  proves my point). I am also often focused on how I can whittle my waist or get rid of my “lunch lady arms”, as a trainer I once had referred to them. I DO feel there is a place in this life we live, for indulgence (everything in moderation, blah blah blah).

Ehibit A: This wonderful Olive & feta salad I was served along side a wonder wine pairing at Aria Wine Bar in the West Village in Manhattan- http://nymag.com/listings/restaurant/aria-wine-bar/ . This was the beginning to a wonderfully decadent night which did not involve Kale.

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However, following such decadence, we moderate. And so, meet mashed cauliflower. It took me two times around to get it right.

DISCLAIMER: Do not be fooled. This is cauliflower and it tastes like cauliflower. I’m doing the best I can kids, but I’m not a magical worker. If you detest broccolis’ brother from another mother, this is not the route for you. In addition, I do not guarantee this will fool your 4 year old. They’re smarter than they look! Some would say the same for us blondes..

That being said, I really love cauliflower and so long as you don’t add a stick of butter and copious amounts of cream, this is a much healthier option. One of the best things about it is the versatility! Use this recipe as a base to whatever your cauliflower-pickin-heart desires. The Mashed Cauliflower is your oyster!

Garlic Mashed Cauliflower

  • 1 large cauliflower head
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1/3 C. reduced fat sour cream
  • 1/3 C. Skim milk
  • 2 TBSP. grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • sliced green onion as a garnish

1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Cut cauliflower into florets then add to boiling water along with whole peeled garlic cloves. Cook about 10 minutes or until a fork can easily pierce through the cauliflower.

2. Drain, then throw the florets back into the hot pot (off the heat) and cover with lid. Let stand 2 to 3 minutes.

3. Place cauliflower and garlic cloves into a food processor. Add the sour cream milk, salt, and pepper and blend on high until smooth. Serve with sliced green onion, and additional grated cheese if desired.

3

Tah-boo-lee

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Not unlike Reverend Martin Luther King Junior this past Monday, I had a dream. His was for equality among all people. Mine was not nearly as important, but I REALLY REALLY wanted to make it happen. I dreamed of a fresh and delicious home-cooked Mediterranean meal. Some might say MLK’s dream has come true, others might say it’s at least on it’s way. My dream didn’t turn out exactly how I’d imagined it, but with a little patience, it was pretty darn good anyway. I realize that the comparison between myself and MLK is absolutely preposterous, but you can’t blame a girl for tryin’!
Tabbouleh can be spelled: Tabouli, Taboule, Taboli, Tabouleh. I honestly have no reason at all for choosing Tabbouleh as my spelling (or the titled Tah-boo-lee), so just go with it. I’ve recently been craving tabbouleh. It was introduced to me by my father growing up, though it was never homemade. In between the copious amounts of breads, cheeses, red meats, and (like so many other fun-loving people) spirits, he might subscribe to the newest diet fad. On one such occasion he HAD to have the all-the-rage industrial size juicer, which was used all of 3 times. But, he’s always been good about having things around the house that were healthy. Wholesome cereals with Oats and grains, Nuts and nut spreads with no additives, egg whites, fresh dark green veggies, and of course LOTS and LOTS of red wine- if doctor Oz says it’s healthy, it HAS to be true (http://www.doctoroz.com/videos/cheers-red-wine).
When I started my Mediterranean meal brainstorming Sesh, Tabbouleh was the foundation. I decided to accompany this with Lemon chicken, stuffed grape leaves, and a greek salad. I felt the meal might have been missing something given the two-salad combo, but couldn’t figure anything out to fill the void. That was the start of my frustration. Once I arrived at the ever disappointing Stop&Shop (local joe-shmoe “super” food store), my frustration grew as I discovered they were experiencing a fresh mint famine (This had me very curious about the mysterious uses of mint- we’ll save that for another day/post). However, have no fear! They had plenty of Chervil to go around (what the heck is that?…another post perhaps). The situation only worsened when there were no jarred grape leaves, or any type at all except the already stuffed kind, which clearly were NOT an option (cutting off my toe to spite my foot? Maybe). Never mind the fact that there was no Bulgur.
I now had nothing that I needed for my wonderful fairytale meal and I decided to throw my arms in the air and stomp my feet loudly and tell my mom she was mean. Sometimes when dreams don’t come true, you turn into a 3 year old. Then you realize that people are staring/judging and wondering about your emotional issues, so you apologize and tell your mom you’ll buy her a skinny vanilla latte from Starbucks to make it up to her.
SO, please accept this IOU on the grape leaves, and please understand that my tabbouleh will be mint-less and made of Quinoa. Let’s just pretend there won’t be mint because I don’t like it (which is not true) and that I’m using Quinoa because I love it (which is actually quite true). The chicken recipe I found here: http://www.inspiredtaste.net/18649/easy-lemon-chicken-recipe/
And it was OH SO D E L I C I O U S.
I did soak my chicken in salt water for about an hour before I started step one, to keep it moist- highly recommended. If you’re not familiar with this tactic, which is a new idea for me as well: http://whatscookingamerica.net/Poultry/BriningPoultry.htm
We served this with greek salad and parmesan potatoes.
Not quite the meal I’d imaged, but a meal to repeat for sure.
Unfortunately, I didn’t take many pictures of the Tabbouleh or it’s plate companions, but here are some pictures of snowy NY this week…I think my next post should be soup.
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Tabbouleh
1½ C. Quinoa, cooked to package directions
1 bunch fresh parsley, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
3 scallions chopped, including greens
Juice of 2 lemons (sans seeds if you can help it)
1 small cucumber, chopped
2 C. cherry tomatoes, halved
2 TBSP white balsamic vinegar
½ C. fresh mint, chopped (hopefully your supermarket carries it!)
½ C Olive oil (preferably extra virgin)
Salt & freshly ground pepper to taste
1. Cook Quinoa according to package directions, and allow to cool.
2. In a medium mixing bowl, combine the Quinoa, tomatoes, cucumbers, scallions, garlic, parsley, mint, salt, pepper, lemon juice, olive oil, and vinegar. Toss and refrigerate for at least a half hour. Toss again before serving.
2

Catch a Chicken Cacciatore (3x fast)

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Cacciatore means hunter in Italian. In Cuisine, alla Cacciatora refers to a meal prepared “hunter-style” with tomatoes, onions, herbs, bell peppers, and often wine. Cacciatore is popularly made with braised chicken or rabbit. Today, I doubt many people are actually hunting the chicken used for their Cacciatore. This makes me wonder, could it ever actually be as good as way back when? Perhaps the reason Italians of Old loved it so much was because the meal before them was such a labor of love.

Can you imagine if heading to your local grocer meant chasing around a bunch of squawking chickens with a sling shot (or hopefully rifle)? Upon slaying your chicken, you’d have to wander around the forest picking mushrooms, hoping that your well trained eye doesn’t mistakenly harvest a fungi that kills a member of the family or two. Homicide might put a slight damper on the magical meal you’ve slayed, and then slaved over the stove to prepare. Once you’ve arrived home with your clucker and your non-poisonous mushrooms, you can hand it over to the woman of the house to do all the real work.

*Now in this imaginary scene, we’re making the assumption of traditional male/female roles. I do recognize that in many households the woman does the slaying, and the man does the slaving (much like my family growing up). In others, the woman does the slaying, and the other woman does the slaving. No matter how you slice it, the important thing is that chores are shared.*

This is where our job begins in modern times, since my grocery store will do the shopping for me and even deliver it, so long as I’m paying. (No, no, I am never THAT lazy, well, hardly ever)

A second option to consider- perhaps they enjoyed it so much back then because at one time in Italy, Chicken and the “sport” of hunting were only available to the wealthier families. If chicken were the equivalent of today’s caviar, foie gras, or a center cut filet mignon, would we enjoy it more? If hunting chicken was as much fun as chartering a private yacht around the Virgin Islands, who wouldn’t want to do it? Maybe if chicken wasn’t a dime a dozen, it would seem more delicious.

When I decided to make Chicken Cacciatore, I hoped to make something that was truly delicious even if I didn’t deal with loud mouth chickens, or risk the lives of my loved ones.

There are about as many variations of this dish as there are stars in the sky. As many as there are brown eyed girls. As many as there are reality tv shows. In fact, there are seemingly as many versions of cacciatore, as there are family dynamics. To pick any one variation is no easy task. How did I do it? A little game I like to call eeny-meeny-miney-mo. Well not really, but it was kind of a guessing game. I did a good amount of research and put together aspects of different recipes and the finish product is sure to please. Ask my dinner guest (what up cousin Shawn?!).. he only ate three chicken thighs and ½ pound of pasta. I rest my case.

Chicken Cacciatore

 8 chicken thighs
2 tsp salt
1 tsp ground black pepper
1/2 cup all purpose flour, for dredging
3 Tbsp olive oil
1 large bell pepper, chopped (any color)
1 onion, chopped
6 garlic cloves, finely chopped
3/4 cup dry white wine
1 ( 28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
3/4 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth
3 Tbsp drained capers
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp dried oregano
2 tsp dried basil
red pepper flakes to taste

Sprinkle the chicken pieces with 1 teaspoon of each salt and pepper. Dredge the chicken pieces in the flour, coating well.

In a large sauce pan, heat the oil over a medium-high heat. Add chicken to the pan and saute just until brown, about 5 minutes per side (You may need to do so in batches. Transfer the chicken to a plate and set aside. Add the bell pepper, onion and garlic to the same pan and saute over medium heat until the onion is tender, about 5 minutes. Season with additional salt and pepper, and red pepper flakes to taste. Add the wine and simmer about 3 minutes, until reduced a bit. Add the tomatoes, chicken broth, capers, sugar, oregano, and basil. Return the chicken pieces to the pan, making sure to coat in the sauce. Bring sauce to a simmer. Continue simmering over medium-low heat for about 45 minutes. It may be necessary to thicken with flour. If so, add a tablespoon of flour to a bit of cold water separately. Then add to the sauce, stirring until combined.

Serve with al dente pasta or rice of your choice (cooked to package directions), and sprinkle with parmesan cheese.

That’s All Folks:

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8

Don’t Fear Fungi: Stuffed Mushrooms

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I wasn’t always such a fan of mushrooms.
 First off, they grow in the ground, right there in the dirt (though someone very wise once said, “God made dirt, and dirt don’t hurt”). Now, being that potatoes grow in a similar fashion, this is forgivable since potatoes turn into some of the most delicious things in the world. ie. Chips, fries, mashed goodness.. need I say more?
 Second, mushrooms are FUNGUS. Think of what else fungus can mean. Usually when you see fungus or mold on your food, you immediately dispose of it, because it’s disgusting. If you ever were to see fungus on your feet, you might consider taking legal action on your local Mani/pedi salon. Seeing something similar in your bathroom would lead you to douse everything in Clorox bleach. After knowing all that, we’re supposed to eat these little weirdos willingly?
 One more thing to note (perhaps not the wisest thing to mention right before I recommend a mushroom recipe): most mushrooms you’ll find in the grocery store were grown in compost that is manure based – YUM! Motto of that story: wipe those puppies off thoroughly prior to digestion.. unless you’re into that type of thing.
 Now that I’ve really got your tummy rumbling- these days, me and mushrooms are bff. They offer tons of health benefits (or so I read somewhere). They’re a great substitute for meat if you are cooking for vegetarians, and you can do so many things with them.  I wouldn’t recommend them as a topping for your ice cream sundae, but short of that- you can’t go wrong.  I’ve even recently heard that if you rub your pressure points with mushrooms instead of cologne or perfume, others will naturally gravitate towards you and all your hopes and dreams are guaranteed to come true… let me know if you end up trying that one out.
 I thought I’d share this recipe during the holidays. I’ve made over a hundred of these stuffed mushrooms this season alone. For every batch I make, I am sure to get a few recipe requests and I’m sure you’ll find the same results, unless you royally screw them up which is almost impossible. Disclaimer: I said almost.
As you’ll see, there are quite a few short cuts involved in this recipe.  You’re probably saying ..Stovetop stuffing, hello, is this chick serious? I am very serious. I’m all for shortcuts when they bring you to the best possible end point, only quicker. If you can take the Long Island Expressway with bumper to bumper traffic, or take back roads and arrive to the same point 20 minutes earlier, why not take back roads? Now sometimes I might not be so eager to get to my end point. Let’s say if that end point is the dentist. I am kicking and screaming all the way to the dentist, so a little 20 minute delay is welcomed. Lucky for us, these stuffed mushrooms are nothing like the dentist so don’t be shy. Take the shortcut!
STUFFED MUSHROOMS
24 large fresh mushrooms, stems removed
1 (6 ounce) package chicken flavored dry stuffing mix
1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
1/2 pound  real or imitation lump crabmeat, flaked
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper
1/2 C. Butter
salt and pepper to taste
1.  Arrange mushroom caps on a medium baking sheet, bottoms up. Chop and reserve        mushroom stems.
2.  Prepare chicken flavored dry stuffing mix according to package directions.
3.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
4.  In a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt butter. Mix in garlic and cook until tender, about 5 minutes.
5.  In a medium bowl, mix together reserved mushroom stems, prepared dry stuffing mix, cream cheese, crabmeat and crushed red pepper. Liberally stuff mushrooms with the mixture. Drizzle with the butter and garlic. Season with salt, pepper.
6.  Bake uncovered in the preheated oven 10 to 12 minutes, or until stuffing is lightly browned.
1

The Fried Egg Dilemma

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Which came first, the chicken or the egg? We’ve all heard this age old question that has no possible answer. I think it’s one of the seven wonders of the world. That list also includes, why is the sky blue, and why does anyone care if the chicken or the egg came first? If we were to figure out which came first, would the “winner” receive a prize? And in that case, what kind of prize do you give a chicken/egg? I say we all stop losing sleep over this debate and call it a tie.

Now that we have that out of the way, we can focus on the task of frying an egg. An egg was probably the first thing you learned to cook as a child. Furthermore, it’s nearly impossible to take any longer than 3 minutes to fry an egg completely through. This is assuming you were hoping to create an egg with the consistency of… an egg. I guess other options could include an egg with the consistency of a rubber glove, or the consistency of charcoal. If either of these sound more in line with your egg desires, you are free to stop reading now. In fact, you should probably take this opportunity to direct away from this page and never come back, ever. Only kidding, I need readers (even ones with terrible taste!).

Despite how easy the egg frying task should be, I have seen quite a few individuals struggle with the task. I have seen a whole carton of eggs smash onto the kitchen floor into a million bits and pieces. Lucky for us, there was a selfless dog nearby willing to quickly help mitigate the situation with his tongue. I considered this a true act of bravery with the epidemic that is salmonella on the rise.

Even worse than some of the tragedy’s I’ve seen, is that fact that some people actually believe they don’t like eggs, simply because they’ve never had them properly cooked. I personally have converted two individuals from egg dislikers, to egg likers or even.. dare I say egg lovers?

There is really one secret. It may seem wrong, and you may question my morale as a human being after I share this with you however, I dare you to take my advice and not agree. You don’t need to read The Book of Egg Do’s And Dont’s. You don’t have to read Eggs for Dummy’s. You don’t even have to read my recipe below (only kidding, you do have to read that. because I said so). No friends, the easiest way for you to learn how to fry an egg is from simply watching a “this is your brain on drugs” commercial:

You see that egg? It’s perfect! I’m not sure what the point of these commercials was supposed to be. I’m quite certain the aim of the game was NOT egg frying perfection, but they nailed it! Wait-a-go Partnership for a Drug Free America, or whatever your association is called.

The Perfect Fried Egg

For fried eggs, it’s best to use non-stick or well-seasoned cast-iron so the eggs don’t stick. If you’re using a stainless steel skillet, just be sure to use enough oil.
1. Set your pan over high heat and let it warm up. Add 1-2 teaspoons of oil or butter and swirl to coat the pan. Many times I use Pam olive oil spray as a healthier alternative.
2. You may crack eggs directly into the pan, or crack into a bowl and transfer to the pan to ensure the yolk remains intact. Drop the egg into the pan slowly so the whites pour out first. If the pan is hot enough, the whites will begin to set and keep the yolk centered (well in my picture it wasn’t exactly centered, but that’s SO not the point). Season with salt and pepper.
3. Then, let them sit. They are done when the whites are set and the outer edges are just starting to curl up and brown. If the edges start to curl before the whites in the center are fully cooked, cover the pan with a lid for just a minute.
4. If you prefer sunny side up, remove from the pan. If over-easy or medium, flip and let cook for another 20 seconds to a minute before gently sliding onto a plate.

**After publishing this post, it was brought to my attention that I did not quite convey an important detail in step 1. This is probably the most important step in achieving the perfect fried egg. You must allow enough time for your pan to heat up before adding the egg. A trick I use: throw a drop of water into the pan- Water should sizzle and quickly evaporate.**

2

If at first you don’t succeed, focus on something else: Ribs

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Have you ever attempted to do one thing, and by the time you’re done, the outcome resembles nothing of the sort? I have. Last night I went into the kitchen for a light, healthy snack and came back with the whole pint of Ben & Jerry’s, some double stuffed oreos and a tall glass of whole, creamy, “does a body good” which I might add, probably does not actually do a body as good as 1%, or even 2%.

I went to college to achieve academic excellence, and broaden my horizons. What I earned was the mouth of a sailor, a strangely high tolerance for Malibu rum, and a sorority nickname that no one can quite explain (best 4…OKAY 5 years of my life).

Last Saturday morning I set out to get up early, work out, finish all my errands and be showered and ready to enjoy the day all before lunch. You can imagine my confusion when my clock tried to to tell me it was 1:12 PM when I opened my eyes. I quickly showed that clock who’s boss by unplugging it- nobody puts one over on me.

This past Sunday, I decided to make ribs. I happen to have made them a few thousand times (ok, more like 10 times) and have always been successful with this recipe. If you’ve paid any attention in the last 3 minutes, you’ll know what I’m about to say. Sadly, these ribs did not come out as fabulous as usual. Don’t let my beautiful photography skills (and modesty) trick you. There could be many reasons for this, but I say that 1 wrong out of thousands of rights doesn’t make you a bad rib. SO don’t count us out yet.

Being the Positive Peggy that I am, I’m choosing to focus on what beautiful concoctions accompanied the ribs. First, despite the unfortunate toughness of the ribs, you can (and should) literally drink the barbecue sauce. Second, this coleslaw can go up to bat against any traditional, mayonnaise based coleslaw I’ve had. Third, these sweet potato fries actually came out pretty darn crispy. That is a feat. Who cares about ribs- I said CRISPY sweet potato fries. I’m really hoping the use of all caps is helping to put emphasis on the word CRISPY.  The reason here could only be one of two things: 1) As suggested, I soaked them in water prior to baking them- although seemingly pointless, soaking them removes some of the natural starch which is what keeps moisture from escaping from potatoes. But, the more likely option 2) I have just discovered my magic sweet potato abilities. You’ve heard of a snake charmer? Yup, Potato charmer. I’ll let you decide which to believe.

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You’ll find all three recipes follow. Wow… three for the price of one! You’re welcome.

BBQ Spare Ribs

1 C Ketchup

1/2 C Dark corn syrup

1/2 C Cider vinegar

1/4 C Worcestershire sauce

1/4 C Dijon Mustard

2 Tbsp Chili Powder

2 tsp Salt

1 tsp Hot sauce

4 lb Spareribs, cut in 1 or 2 rib pieces, membrane removed

1)Blend ketchup, corn syrup, vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, mustard, chili powder, salt, and hot sauce; set aside.

2)Tear off four sheets of heavy duty aluminum foil. Place two sheets together to make two large sheets. Divide spareribs in half and arrange so they are no more than two layers deep. Lift up edges of foil slightly and pour half the sauce over each set of ribs. Close each package by folding down center and at ends.

3) Place on grill over very low heat or place in oven at 350 degrees for 1 hour. Cut packages open with a knife or scissors.

Sweet Potatoe Fries with Dipping Sauce

1) Peel and cut sweet potatoes into strips no thicker than 1/2″.  Soak in water for one hour or more. Drain and rinse fries, then pat dry.

2) Put cornstarch, salt and pepper in a plastic bag with fries and shake vigorously until well coated. Then place the fries in a large bowl with olive oil and toss.

3) Place on baking pan making sure not to crowd them, as this will keep them from becoming crispy.

4) Bake at 425 degrees for approximately 12 minutes, flip and cook for another 5-10 or until desired color.

Dipping Sauce

1/2 cup mayonaise

1 garlic clove, minced

Juice of 1/2 a lemon

1 tsp brown sugar

1 tsp chili powder

1 tsp hot sauce

Combine all ingredients in a small bowl, stirring well.

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Coleslaw

1 bag coleslaw mix (cabbage, carrots)

1 apple, chopped

Dressing:

1 C mayonnaise

1/2 tsp garlic powder

1/2 tsp onion powder

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp pepper

1/2 ground mustard

2 Tbsp cider vinegar

2 Tbsp sugar

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl, mix well. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before serving.