Thursday, September 25, 2014

(Crock) Pot Roast

My Old School Italian Husband loves pot roast.  It's one of his favorite dishes.  You know, slow cooked roast beef with potatoes, onions, celery and carrots that's simmered all day on the stove.  It is delicious but kind of a pain in the neck.  I mean, who has time to babysit a roast?  You gotta keep checking the liquid level and adding more water blah blah blah.  Who needs it?

I get the same result just sticking everything in the crock pot!  It's super easy.  I just throw it together in the morning and forget about it.  Then, I have a yummy, comforting supper waiting for me that evening.  My husband gets his pot roast and I get to relax all day!  Win win!


2 - 3 lb. Chuck roast (great use for inexpensive cut of meat)
2 medium russet potatoes, cut into chunks
1 cup baby carrots
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 small onion, chopped
Salt and pepper
14 oz can diced tomatoes (no salt added)
1 packet brown gravy mix (McCormick)
1 tsp Italian seasoning

Place potatoes, carrots, celery and onions into crock pot.

Season with salt and pepper.  Place roast on top.  Season roast with salt and pepper.

In a large measuring cup, mix canned tomatoes (including juice), gravy mix and Italian seasoning.  Stir well.  (I zip it in the blender because my pickiest eater ever son hates tomatoes but likes tomato sauce.  Go figure.  But you can skip the blender if you like chunks of tomato).  Pour over the roast.

Cover crock pot and cook on low 6 - 8 hours.  The meat will shrink but it becomes tender and juicy and so delicious!  The tomatoes help to tenderize the meat and form a wonderful gravy.  The veggies soak up all the flavors, too.  Yum!

This recipe is a must try.  You'll love how easy it is and your family will love how yummy it is.  Like I said, win win!

Monday, September 22, 2014

Cutie Pies

Making a pie crust from scratch can be pretty intimidating.  I was lucky enough to learn when I was a freshman in high school.  My home ec class learned to make a pie crust, then we got to choose what kind of pie to make with it.  I chose to make this weird jello pie with strawberries, bananas and whipped cream.  (What was I thinking?  I couldn't tell ya).

Anyway, making a crust can be a little tricky. Getting the right amount of fat to flour.  Adding in just enough cold water but not too much.  Usually, it's just easier to buy one of those prepared refrigerated pie crusts in a box.  But, I recently came across a recipe that seemed so easy and almost foolproof.  I tried it and it came out great!  It's made with a combo of butter and cream cheese.  It's very forgiving.  You don't have to worry about it not coming together.  It really does work every time!  Plus, I almost always have butter and cream cheese in my fridge so when I get a hankering for pie I can just throw this together.  No trips to the grocery store.  Here's the recipe for the crust and how to make the cutie pies with it.


1 stick butter, softened
4 oz cream cheese, softened
1 cup all purpose flour

Mix butter and cream cheese together in a mixer (or a food processor) until smooth.

Add flour and mix just until incorporated.  Place the dough into a zip bag and chill for 30 minutes in the fridge.

Once chilled, roll it out on a a floured surface (put some flour on your rolling pin, too.  If you don't have one, use a smooth glass).

Roll it out to about 1/4 inch thick.  Using a biscuit cutter (or circle cookie cutter or even that glass), cut out circles.

Lay half of the circles onto a cookie sheet.  Spoon some pie filling (not too much or it will explode) onto the center of each.  I used canned cherry pie filling that I doctored up with a little pure vanilla extract.

Place the other half of the dough circles on top of each.  Seal the edges by pinching (or just use a fork to crimp the edges).  I have a Cut-n-Seal gadget from Pampered Chef.  It cuts the circle then seals it when you press down on the plunger.  I love kitchen gadgets.  It's a problem.  Trust me a fork works just as well.

Using a sharp knife, cut a slit or two in the top.  This will let the steam escape and keep the pie from exploding in the oven.

Next, brush a little egg wash on each.  Egg wash is just an egg and a little bit of water whisked together.  This helps the top brown and look shiny.

Sprinkle a little sugar on top of each.

Bake at 375 degrees for about 15 minutes or until golden brown.

These are cute (hence the name) little handheld pies.  Perfect for any filling.  Try pumpkin spiced with vanilla, cinnamon, ginger and cloves.  Apple cinnamon is always a favorite (just add some cinnamon to canned apple pie filling).  You could even use Nutella as a filling.  

This crust works for sweet or savory pies.  It would be great for a chicken pot pie, crawfish pie or even a quiche.  It's so easy you just have to give it a try!  Your friends and family will be so impressed when you tell them you made it from scratch.  If they only knew just how simple it was.  (I won't tell if you don't).

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Chicken in a Bundt Pan

Have you ever heard of beer can chicken?  It's when you balance a chicken on top of a can of beer (in other words, the can is up the cavity).  Sounds gross, I know.  But when you roast a chicken sitting up like that it gets crispy on all sides.  Really yummy!  Well, I always had a hard time getting the chicken to stay on the beer can.  It would wobble or fall over and be a big mess.  So, I decided to try something a little different.  I have a stoneware bundt pan (from Pampered Chef) and it makes the perfect vessel for roasting a chicken sitting up.  It keeps it nicely in place while in the oven.  Plus, it has room to add veggies!  Here's how you do it:


1 whole chicken (3-4 lbs)
Potatoes, carrots, celery
Canola oil
Italian seasoning
Salt and pepper

Place your oven rack in the lower part of your oven.  You need room for the chicken (remember it's sitting upright).  Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Cut up a few potatoes and a few carrots (or use baby carrots) into medium sized chunks.  Lay them in the Bundt pan.

Stuff a couple celery stalks (including the leaves) into the cavity of the chicken.  This flavors it from the inside out.

Next, use some paper towels to dry the chicken.  This will help it roast in the oven instead of steaming.  It also helps the seasoning stick.

In a small bowl, combine some canola oil, Italian seasoning, salt and pepper.  Whisk it together.

Brush this all over the chicken.

Sit the chicken on the tube of the bundt pan.

Tuck the wings up under themselves to keep them from burning.

Place the bundt pan onto a cookie sheet (makes it easier to handle) and place in the preheated oven.

Bake until internal temperature reaches 165 degrees.  (1 1/2 hours or so).

Let rest a few minutes before carving.

Roasting a chicken this way is great because it gets crispy on all sides.  Plus the juices drip down all over the veggies underneath.  So delicious!  Plus, it's easy!  Anyone can do it.  So, pull that bundt pan out of the cabinet and give it new life.

Friday, September 12, 2014

BBQ Cheeseburger Panini

This is an easy, cheap, but delicious sandwich.  My Old School Italian husband loved it!  I really like it because you can customize it to your taste.  You can add veggies or bacon or extra cheese (or all three).  But, it's pretty good plain, too.  You don't even need a fancy panini press!  Here's how ya do it:


1 loaf French bread (or poboy rolls, etc)
Softened butter
1 lb ground beef
Salt and pepper
1/2 onion, diced
1 TBS Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup BBQ sauce
American cheese (any melty cheese will work)

Brown ground beef with diced onion and Worcestershire sauce.  Salt and pepper to taste.  Drain excess fat.

Stir in BBQ sauce and heat through.

Cut French bread into sandwich sized pieces then slice in half lengthwise.  Spread softened butter on outside of each piece of bread.  Heat a griddle over medium-high heat.  If you don't have a griddle, use a cast iron skillet.

Place bread, butter side down, on the hot griddle.  Add cheese.  Spoon meat mixture on (as much or as little as you like).  Add more cheese, then place the top piece of bread on, butter side up.

Smash the sandwiches down with a spatulta.  Then, place a cookie sheet on top of them and place a heavy skillet on top of the cookie sheet.  This is a makeshift panini press!

Let them toast up for a few minutes then remove skillet and cookie sheet and flip them over.

They should be golden and toasty.  Place the cookie sheet and skillet back on for a few more minutes.  Then they are done!  Easy and so good!

The bread is buttery and crispy.  The cheese is melty and warm.  The meat is savory.  This is one delicious sandwich!  This is a picture of a plain version (my husband and pickiest eater ever son are plain kind of guys).  But, feel free to add whatever you like.  I put fresh sliced tomatoes on mine (YUMMMM!).  Next time I think I'll add basil and mozzarella for a Caprese twist.   Bacon and avocado would be pretty fantastic, too.  Ooh, caramelized onions and peppers!  Or mushrooms!  As you can see, the possibilities are endless.  Who says you need an expensive panini press?  Make these cheap and cheerful paninis for your family and watch them disappear.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Yet Another Coffee Cake

I love having a few dessert recipes up my sleeve that are quick, easy and use ingredients that I always have on hand.  This coffee cake fits the bill.  It's sweet and simple.  The perfect thing to whip up when unexpected guests arrive or you get a craving for something sweet but don't feel like making a trip to the bakery.  It's similar to my sour cream coffee cake, but uses yogurt instead (because I was out of sour cream).  The yogurt makes it sweeter.  You can use either one in this recipe.  Also, I used nuts in the cinnamon mixture, but it will work without them.  Remember, this is all about using what you have.  No trips to the grocery store!


1 stick butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1/2 cup plain, nonfat yogurt
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 TBS baking powder
1/8 tsp salt (a pinch)

Cinnamon Mixture:

2 TBS brown sugar
1/2 TBS cinnamon
2 TBS chopped nuts (pecans, walnuts, etc.)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Spray a 9 inch cake pan with cooking spray.  Cream the butter and sugar together with a mixer.  Add egg, yogurt and vanilla.  Mix well.  In a separate bowl, blend flour, baking powder and salt.  Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture and gently stir until combined.

Set aside.  In a small bowl, mix brown sugar, cinnamon and nuts.  Pour half of the batter into the prepared cake pan.  Sprinkle the cinnamon mixture on top, like this:

Add remaining batter on top of the cinnamon mixture.  Gently spread it out to completely cover.

Bake at 350 degrees for 30 - 35 minutes or until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

My parents were visiting and started eating it before I could snap a pic!  They said it smelled too good to wait. (A compliment I will gladly take)

This cake goes great with a cup of coffee (hence the name) or a cup of tea.  It doesn't even need icing!  Give this one a try the next time you need a quick, easy dessert.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Roasted Teriyaki Salmon

In the quest to get my family to eat healthier (and by that I mean my Old School Italian Husband and Pickiest-Eater-Ever Son) I've had to search my mind and the internet for recipes that won't scare them away from the table.  It's been an adventure to say the least.  Over the years I've seen my son literally gag on carrots and my husband nickname one of my casseroles,  a "Gross-a-role".  Yeah.  That happened.

Usually, I just try to slip in one super-healthy dish to the meal.  But tonight I went all out.  Salmon, broccoli and quinoa all at once! (Cue evil laugh)

I'm not gonna lie, my son freaked out a little.  But my Old School Italian Husband ate it...and liked it.  Score one for his arteries!

Here's the salmon recipe:


4 salmon portions (you can usually buy it already portioned)
1/3 cup soy sauce
1 TBS brown sugar
2 TBS canola oil (plus more for the pan)
1 tsp seasoned salt
1 tsp garlic powder
1 TBS freshly grated ginger root (or 1 tsp ground ginger)
Salt & pepper

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.  Brush a little oil on the foil so the fish won't stick.

Mix together the soy sauce, brown sugar, canola oil, seasoned salt, garlic powder and ginger.  Pour over the fish (in a zip bag or a container) and let sit 10 minutes.  You don't want to marinate it too long or the acid in the marinade will start to "cook" the fish.

Shake off the excess marinade (gently) and place the fish on the prepared baking sheet.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper (not too much salt, the marinade is salty).

Bake in a preheated oven (425 degrees) for about 6 minutes per 1/2 inch of thickness.  My pieces weren't very thick, but some are.  Mine took 10 minutes.  You can tell they are done by sticking a fork in and twisting gently.  If it flakes easily, it's done.  Don't over cook it!  Nothing worse than over done seafood.

I like to garnish it with a few green onions.  Roasted broccoli with tomatoes and quinoa seasoned with a little sesame oil and ginger (not pictured) round out this super healthy meal.

Even though my Pickiest-Eater-Ever Son didn't eat too much (every little bit helps) my Old School Italian Husband did.  I count that as a win.  By the way, I loved it.  In case you were wondering.