Author Archives: sacco150

The Famous Mississippi Pot Roast…

So, for any of you on social media and/or various food blogs you’ve seen the hoopla around the “Mississippi Pot Roast”. I’m not a big pot roast person but I do love an easy crock pot meal during a busy week, so I thought I’d give this a go. I followed the recipe exactly (which I NEVER do). Since it’s only four ingredients I thought, what could go wrong? The four ingredients are: a chuck roast (mine was about 2 pounds), 5 pepperoncinis, 1 packet of dry ranch dressing, 1 packet of dry au jus gravy mix.

I chose to brown the chuck roast in a skillet for about 5 minutes per side to enhance the flavor (you can skip this step, but I think it’s worth doing). Then I placed chuck roast in my crock pot, topped with packet of dressing and packet of au jus and laid the 5 pepperoncinis on top of that. You add no liquid to the crock pot – I know this seems counterintuitive but trust me, the meat releases a lot of liquid as it cooks. Set for 8.5 hours on low and wait for the magic to happen.

I served zucchini soup as an appetizer. As sides I made roasted asparagus and cauliflower mashed. Message me if you want the cauliflower mashed recipe, it’s really good!

Pro-tip: This dish came out delicious, the meat – while it shrunk about 50% in size – was tender and flavorful. For my taste the dish was a little salty. Next time I would add only 1/2 of each dry packet and add a little fresh ground pepper. I think if you wanted to add some carrots and potatoes about half way through the cooking process this might absorb some of the salt.

Seaworthy…

There’s nothing like super fresh, simply prepared seafood. We’re lucky to be on the Gulf where seafood is both fresh and abundant. Tonight we started with some sautéed shrimp (just sauté in EVOO and/or a little butter with a bit of garlic and whatever spices you like, i.e. pepper, blackening seasoning, chili peppers).

Then, for the main course, I blackened some fresh cod and baked for 20 minutes at 350 degrees (I cooked the cod over some sliced Vidalia onion for flavor). It was perfectly cooked. Cod is mild with large flakes and needs to be seasoned. This is the same fish that I use for fish and chips. I bought a one pound piece of cod, which was enough for two people. I found no bones in the cod, which is usually the case.

My new penchant for blackening seasoning started with this Old Bay product. I love it and it’s not super salty.

I plated the cod over broccoli rabe with some of the onion from the baking dish. Of course serve with fresh lemon. Enjoy!

When the kids come home…

As I’ve mentioned, my daughter and her boyfriend recently got their own apartment about 20 minutes away from us, it’s a milestone for us all. They came for dinner last night. The day before, I asked the princess what she wanted me to cook. Her response was, “Can you send me a few options and I’ll pick one. Also mommy, I’d love brie and crackers as an appetizer…” So you see what I’ve created here. My fault, entirely.

We settled on polenta, broccoli rabe and sautéed shrimp. This is a super easy, dish that’s healthy, tasty and filling. I start by preparing the broccoli rabe, which if you read this blog regularly you’ll know the drill. Boil water with chicken bullion, add chopped broccoli rabe, cook for 6 minutes, strain, blanche and set aside. Then, sauté shrimp with chopped garlic, salt and pepper, and a little EVOO (I actually used sesame oil because I was out of EVOO. This added an aromatic flavor that really went well with the shrimp.) Then add the strained broccoli rabe to the shrimp. Add a little crushed red pepper and set pan aside.

Now to prepare polenta – I use chicken broth to make the polenta, this gives it a rich taste. Follow the instructions on the packaging. Basically – don’t stop stirring! I use a whisk. You’ll need to add more polenta very slowly to get the desired consistency. Some folks like polenta very thin and soupy, others like it thicker and more like a pasta – we’re in the middle. When it’s nearly done I add a tablespoon of butter and two tablespoons of mascarpone to thicken it up and flavor it. I also top with a few chopped scallions to add a crunch and a pop of color.

Pro-tip: When we were in Mexico last year we found this great seasoning that I like to add to seafood. It’s called Tajin – it’s actually a combination of dried chili peppers, dehydrated lime, and sea salt. I seasoned my shrimp in this before sautéing. I also think this would be great to use to rim a glass for a Bloody Mary. I may need to try that this weekend – I’ll let you know!

That’s it! This entire dish took about 20 minutes to prepare so it’s a good work week go-to recipe. Enjoy!

Sunday brunch…

My daughter recently moved out, into the big world! We had her and her boyfriend over for Sunday brunch today, it was fun to again cook for more than two people (I may have gone a little overboard). We started with mini-quiches followed by fresh banana bread, a Stromboli and a tossed salad.

I cook the mini-quiches in a cupcake tin. I put whatever fillers I’m using (these were filled with spinach, feta, olives and artichoke hearts) into a buttered cup then top off with scrambled raw egg. Bake for 20 minutes until egg is cooked through and serve immediately.

Pro-tip: Sauté freshly chopped spinach slightly before adding to tins. Also make sure all fillers are roughly chopped.

The banana bread – truth – from a box mix – and there’s not a crumb left so I guess it was good.

Stromboli is super fun to make. You can use any ingredients that you have on hand and you can make it either sweet or savory. The one I made today used only half a pizza dough (from our local pizzeria) and was topped with ham, mozzarella, artichoke hearts, spinach and cherry tomatoes. Bake for about 40 minutes, cut and serve!

Appetizers, Mezze, Antipasto, Tapas…

We’ve been into little dishes lately. Usually meatballs are reserved for Sunday sauce but this week we turned them into an appetizer. For this batch I used a mix of ground beef and ground pork (you could also use veal or ground chicken or turkey). I seasoned with salt, pepper, garlic powder, crushed red pepper and fresh minced mint. For the binder I used an egg and panko bread crumbs. (I would advise you to add some fresh grated parmesan cheese…which I can’t do because SOMEONE doesn’t eat cheese…)

I baked these babies in the over at 350 for about 30 minutes and served with a side of spicy mayo. They smelled great and the pop of mint was amazing.

Low carb and yummy…

Spaghetti squash is our new go to lately. It’s super versatile, easy to prepare and low carb/calorie. The hardest part of this squash is cutting it open!

To prepare this dish I halved a spaghetti squash and removed the seeds. I then seasoned with a little EVOO, salt, pepper, red pepper flakes (you can add whatever seasonings you’d like). Place cut side down in a baking pan and toss in pre-heated 350 degree oven for about an hour (depending on size). You can tell it’s done by poking a fork in the squash – if it goes in easily it’s done.

The fun part is the toppings – we’re trying to empty out our freezer so I’m using everything in there. I sautéed some sausage and shrimp (adding garlic, red pepper flakes, salt & pepper). I also had some left over escarole and frozen peas which I added.

To plate this dish I first scooped out the spaghetti squash, topped with escarole, then topped that with the shrimp & sausage, pea sauté. Of course a healthy sprinkling of parmesan makes everything better. It was super flavorful and filled us up!

Freshness overload

Last night’s dinner was a go-to for us. Chicken cutlet with bruschetta. My bruschetta changes depending on what looks fresh in the produce department. I was lucky enough to be in Astoria the other day and shopped at my favorite grocery store (shout out to Berry Fresh on Ditmars). So for this bruschetta I incorporated fresh cucumbers, dill, tomatoes, red onion, chopped Greek olives, a fabulous feta cheese and a good quality EVOO. I mix this all together with a little kosher salt & pepper and let it get cozy in the fridge for about an hour so that all the flavors come together. Take it out of the fridge about 20 minutes before serving.

You can use this bruschetta on top of any protein you like. Last night I fried up some chicken cutlets and plated it all on top of some of steamed broccoli rabe and a side of tzatziki.

Pro-tip: when you steam the broccoli rabe add a bullion cube to the boiling water, this takes the bitterness out of the broccoli rabe. Also, I drain the cooked broccoli rabe then quickly sauté it with a little garlic, salt, pepper and crushed red pepper flakes (just long enough to incorporate all the spices).

Comfort food…

Life is chaos right now so I needed comfort food dish that would not be stressful to make. Orecchiette, sausage, shrimp and broccoli rabe was just that dish last night.

Start by blanching coarsely chopped broccoli rabe (add a bullion cube to the boiling water to take the bitterness away). Then sauté de-cased sausage, shrimp, a little crushed red pepper and of course a little (or a lot) of crushed garlic. Once the sausage and shrimp are cooked through add the cooked (al dente!) orecchiette and mixed it all together. Add a few ladle fulls of the pasta water to create a bit of a broth.

Voila! Super flavorful, satisfying and easy to do. You can totally switch out the proteins here (think chicken, lobster, cod…)

Pro-tip: Add a touch of cream or mascarpone to thicken up the broth and deepen the flavor.

A BBQ Kind of Night…

I have been jonesing for a BBQ. I don’t ever BBQ for myself because I never seem to figure out temperatures, so I leave that to my hubby. I’ll throw anything on the grill and just know it will taste better. So for this BBQ, we started with some fresh clams with butter. Literally just soak the clams for 30 minutes before cooking to get them to release any sand and toss them on the BBQ until they open. A little melted butter for dunking just makes it even better. And of course we had to throw some shrimp on the barbie too…

After that yummy appetizer, we prepared some steaks (don’t forget to leave them out before cooking – never cook a steak straight from the fridge). Simply salt & pepper and ready to grill. I love a ribeye and hubby goes for a filet mignon so we need to adjust our cooking times. We also wrapped up some potatoes in aluminum foil – get these on the grill way before the steaks as they’ll need more time to cook.

As a side dish, I made an old school recipe that I haven’t made in million years – escarole with white beans. I actually had to call a friend to remind me how to make this. You really have to clean the escarole well as it tends to be sandy. After that, roughly chop and blanch for 7 minutes (I add a bullion cube to the boiling water, which takes some of the bitterness out of the escarole), strain the cooked escarole and immediately rinse with cold water to bring back that pretty green color. Sauté minced garlic in a little EVOO, add escarole, warm through, add a can of rinsed white beans, warm through, season with salt & pepper and serve. I could have this as a main dish, it was really flavorful and filling.

Bean, beans, good for the heart…

I have a funny memory of my Italian grandparents getting into an epic fight about burnt lentils. They were both great cooks so kitchen disasters were not common, maybe that’s why I have never cooked lentils before. It’s a cold miserable day here today, so I experimented with lentils, making a super flavorful, hearty soup. Here’s what I used:

Ingredients:

Trilogy (all diced: 1 onion, 2 stalks celery and 2 carrots)
1 clove of garlic diced
2 cups red lentils
8 cups of vegetable broth
4 cups of roughly chopped baby spinach
1 cup of coconut milk

Here’s how to make the magic happen.

In a large pot, saute the trilogy in a little EVOO. Season with salt & pepper. When barely soft (about 7 minutes) toss in rinsed lentils (just put them in a strainer and rinse under cold water). Add the vegetable broth and stir to incorporate. Under fairly high heat bring soup to a boil. Stir together and cover pot and reduce heat to low. Let this cook for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. After 30 minutes the lentils will be tender and the consistency will be on the thicker side. Remove from heat and add the spinach, stirring into the soup and cover for 5 minutes. Stir again to blend the now wilted spinach and add coconut milk. Warm up on low flame for another five minutes and voila!

I really liked this dish. It was a hearty lunch and something I’ve never made before. I think my grandparents would be proud LOL.