Pork Carnitas

Initially I was weirded out by the technique of cooking pork carnitas…so much so that I almost scratched the idea. But I didn’t have 8-12 hours to slow cook the pork all day so I was really forced into the decision. And I’m so glad. This pork was so delicious and so tender and unlike anything I have ever made. You can put it on a sandwich with sauce, over nachos covered in toppings and cheese or in a taco, which is what we did.

I couldn’t imagine how boiling the meat could ever get it to look like this…

Ingredients:

For the Carnitas-

  • 4lb boston pork butt
  • 1/2 white onion
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • Cold Water
  • Organic blueberry juice
  • Zest of one orange
  • Seasoned Rub mixture  (see below)

For the Tacos-

  • Corn taco shells
  • Coleslaw: Cabbage & dressing (I made my own using mayo, sour cream, apple cider vinegar, red wine vinegar, a little sugar, salt, lots of pepper, and celery salt).
  • Avocado cream sauce (put an avocado, sour cream, cilantro, a jalapeno and lime juice in a blender-if it’s too tart, add some agave nectar)

Instructions:

Cut the pork in to 1-2 inch cubes and smother in a rub of your choosing.

I used a rub given to me by my neighbor, whose brother owns a BBQ joint in New York. So I can’t exactly tell you what’s in it but I can guess/give you a suggestion.

A combination of salt, pepper, chili powder, coffee grinds, cumin, paprika, garlic powder, onion powder and maybe some brown sugar. This rub isn’t spicy but very flavorful. Pile it on and don’t be shy. Rub it in to the meat.

Get a heavy pot/pan and put your cut up and seasoned pork in it. Pour water until you reach more than half way up the pork. Then add blueberry juice–I think I used 1/4 cup or so. I also added a splash of orange juice and the zest of one orange.

Add the chopped onion, garlic and salt & pepper. Turn the heat on high and bring it to a boil. Once the liquid is boiling, reduce to a roaring simmer. (You can use a nice beer or another citrus/whatever you like. I saw the blueberry juice in the grocery store and thought it would pair nicely with the pork).

 


After 45 minutes…

Stir it occasionally so all the meat gets cooked under the broth. The goal is to get the liquid to reduce all the way down.

After about 2 hours, I took my pork out and turned the heat up a bit, stirring the sauce until it reduced down further.

Put the pork back in. I used two forks to shred the meat a part a bit so they all weren’t big chunks. This is an optional step. At this point you can turn the heat off if you aren’t ready to proceed. I had an errand to run so I left it off for 45 minutes.

Set your oven to 400 degrees about a half hour before you are ready to eat. Put your pork in the oven, uncovered. This will caramelize the meat and reduce down the rest of the liquid, if any. All the fat left in the pan will fry the meat on the high temperature. When it’s done to your liking, take it out and I removed some of the big fatty pieces. They taste good but I’m not a fan! I left mine in probably 40 minutes.

Here’s your meat! Ready to enjoy however you would like.

Can’t ever go wrong with tacos.

Here is my snap chat video from the day –

 

 

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Pasta e Fagioli

Soup season is well underway! It’s easy to make, it warms you up, it’s great for leftovers/lunch at work and can be a very healthy meal. Plus you can usually make a great soup with items left in your fridge and a can of beans or lentils.

Pasta e fagioli is one of my favorites, sprinkled with a little parmigiano cheese and you have yourself a comforting well-rounded meal! This soup is packed with veggies and proteins and vegetarians can make it without the sausage.

Ingredients:

  • 1 link, Hot Italian sausage (you can substitute sweet sausage, pancetta, prosciutto or skip the meat all together. But it definitely gives it a nice flavor)
  • Sprinkle of fennel seeds (optional- but I love the flavor it adds to the sausage)
  • 2 garlic cloves (optional)
  • 1/2 of an onion
  • 2 celery stalks
  • 2 carrot stalks
  • 2 small sweet red peppers- or one bell pepper
  • 1 zucchini
  • 1 can red kidney beans
  • 1 can white cannelloni beans
  • 1 can chopped tomatoes
  • 1 container chicken broth
  • Pasta of your choosing- about 1 cup (I recommend a tiny noodle)
  • Salt & Pepper
  • Fresh basil
  • Fresh parmigiano cheese

The nice thing about this soup is you don’t have to include all the veggies or beans I used. It’s all about what you have on hand!

Instructions:

Chop all your veggies and garlic.

Get your large soup pot on medium to high heat, add a little oil and add your sausage. Break it up into tiny pieces with a wooden spoon and brown it.Add in the fennel seeds now if you’re using them. 

Add onions and garlic and saute for 2 minutes. 

Then add the carrots, celery and peppers. Stir and let cook for another 2 minutes. 

Then add zucchini and your can of tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper. Stir all the ingredients together.

Add in the beans and turn the heat up on the pot. 

Add in any chicken broth or stock you have on hand. You can also use veggie instead. 

Bring it up to a boil. Then reduce. Let the soup cook with the lid cracked. You then have two options with the pasta.

Either 1)  bring your soup up to a low boil and add the pasta in 10 minutes before you’re ready to eat or 2) boil your pasta separately in hot water and add to each dish based on how much you want.

I tend to prefer option 2 only because the noodles will soak up a lot of your broth otherwise. But sometimes option 1 is just easier. Have extra chicken broth on hand in case your broth gets soaked up.

The soup is really ready at any time because all the ingredients are cooked through, but I like to let it simmer for at least a half hour to let all the flavors meld. Then eat with fresh basil and parmigiano cheese.

Enjoy!

Homemade Ravioli

I’ve wanted to try homemade ravioli ever since I figured out how to make homemade pasta. A Valentine’s Day with wind chills in the negative degrees provided a perfect opportunity to stay home and accomplish this somewhat scary goal– and the hubby even helped! The pasta part really is a two person job. It is also time consuming but SO worth it. The best part is you can use any filling your heart desires. I couldn’t decide what to do so I made 4: 1) mushroom, truffle & goat cheese, 2) spinach, arugula and basil, 3) broccoli rabe and 4) ricotta and basil. This recipe made us about 50 ravioli. Keep in mind they are great to freeze so if you’re putting in the work, you might as well make a lot!

Ingredients:
For the pasta:

  • 5 cups of flour
  • 8 eggs at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup water

For the fillings:

Make sure you buy high quality cheese–fresh ricotta if you can. This will make a big difference in the final product.  
Truffle Mushroom & Goat Cheese:

  • Sautee one package of mixed mushrooms in oil and truffle butter. Season with sea salt and cracked pepper. Put the mushrooms in a blender and pulse. Then put in a bowl and add about 3 oz of goat cheese and some fresh parmigiano cheese.      

Broccoli Rabe & Garlic

  • I bought fresh roasted broccoli rabe and garlic with red pepper flakes from A&S fine foods in Stamford. I can’t make a better broccoli rabe and it takes out a few steps. If you are going to do it yourself you should par boil the broccoli and then sautee. Then put it in a blender and pulse. I added ricotta and fresh parmigiano cheese.  img_4879

Spinach, Arugula & Basil

  • Sautee spinach and arugula in some olive oil. You have the option to add chopped garlic as well. Put in processor and pulse. Add ricotta and parmigiano.  img_4881

Directions:

Make a well with your flower in a bowl and add the eggs and water to the center. Scramble the eggs with a fork and slowly bring flour into the egg mixture. This process takes a while. Be patient- you will probably think you did something wrong because the flour isn’t combining right away. Just keep working it.


Once you have incorporated all the ingredients, sprinkle some extra flour on the counter and knead the dough with your hands. You will probably have to put some flour on your hands so it doesn’t stick. You should work the dough for quite a few minutes with your hands until it smoothed out.

 Then place it in a bowl, put a dash of  olive oil on it and rub it all over the dough. Then cover the bowl with a dish towel. Let it rest.

My great grandmother used to roll the dough with a large rolling pin when she made pasta every week. That, I can’t imagine! I use my grandmother’s pasta machine which is much easier. I feed the pasta through twice on 8, twice on 6, twice on 4 and once on 2.

Although now they do make machines to do it for you–whichever way you choose is fine. pasta maker
When you are ready, roll the dough into a log and cut evenly into pieces.

You may want to cut only one piece at first to make sure it’s the right width. Making ravioli isn’t a science but I can already tell that the more you make these, the easier it will become.

Spoon out your mixture on to the pasta sheets. We learned after a few times that pressing the filling down to flatten it out will make a better ravioli.
  

We started by making square ravioli which we were messier to eat but it’s really just a matter of preference.

I don’t have fancy ravioli tools so I grabbed a pizza cutter and a fork. It worked!

What worked even better was when we found a small glass jar to cut the round ones.

I placed them on parchment paper with cornmeal to prevent them from sticking.

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To cook: bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil. You don’t want a very high boil as it could damage all the work you just did! They cook in roughly 3 minutes.

For sauce: I found truffle butter and parmesan cheese on the mushroom ones were amazing! I also made a white wine and butter sauce with shallots and parsley that was delicious. And we had a few with tomato sauce. You can’t go wrong!


The cooked product! Yum!

And some with sauce…. Yum, yum, and yum!


  

 

One year later on Christmas day we made these again. It’s such a fun family activity–I highly recommend it! This time we made a pesto sauce and a red sauce. Mmmm mmm mmm!

 

 

Sausage & Pepper Grinders

Sausage and peppers is an Italian classic. It’s easy to make and can be a meal on it’s own or on fresh Italian bread for a delicious sandwich. The catch is that this meal is all about getting the right ingredients. Go to an Italian deli and get their store made sausage, mozzarella and fresh baked bread. The ingredients will make the difference in an average grinder and one that blows you away. This sandwich we made last Sunday night was incredible and the two of us ate two of these…


Ingredients:

  • 3 small hot Italian sausage links and 3 sweet links (or whatever combination you prefer) fresh made at a deli
  • 1 sweet onion
  • 1 red pepper
  • 1 green pepper
  • 1-2 sliced garlic cloves (this is optional)
  • Olive oil for sautéing
  • 2 fresh baked Italian grinders
  • Fresh basil
  • Fresh sliced mozzarella cheese
  • 1 can diced San Marzano tomatoes
  • Salt & pepper

Directions:

  • Turn your pan on med/high heat and brown your sausages, then remove from pan.
  •  Add olive oil and sliced onions & garlic to pan and sautee until start to brown. 

  • Add your peppers and let them cook down for several minutes. Then add your diced tomatoes, salt, pepper and basil. Bring them up to a simmer and add sausage.
  • Cover the pan with a cracked lid and let cook through and let the favors meld. Roughly 15-20 minutes. You really can’t over cook this dish.
  • Cut your sausages length wise in half so you can place them flat on the bread. Then add the toppings and fresh sliced cheese.     
  • Put in the oven on broil until the bread is toasted and the mozzarella is melted. Then enjoy a truly amazing sandwich. 

A note on leftovers… We had leftover peppers and onions in the sauce but no sausage. The next night I boiled some pasta, tossed it in the sauce, topped with some fresh parm and you have yourself another meal. You can also add some seared chicken or white beans for some protein 🙂  You can’t let that delicious sauce go to waste.

Tuscan Braised Beef Short Ribs

This meal is something you would order in a restaurant and it would come with a hefty price tag. If you make it at home, it’s much less expensive and surprisingly not difficult. The beef short ribs are an inexpensive cut of beef and all you need is time to make it happen! On a snowy Saturday this was a perfect dish to warm us up. Kyle gave this dish rave reviews and said it was in his top 5 meals that I have ever made. The nice thing about this recipe, is if you have leftovers (we did) you can make tacos, grilled cheese, pasta, etc. using the beef and sauce. It’s extremely versatile and downright delicious: the beef falls right off the bone. I served the short ribs over polenta, which I made with salt, fresh cracked pepper and lots of grated parmesan cheese. There’s nothing wrong with that.

Once you get the technique down, you can turn this into a Mexican dish (add chipotle peppers, cilantro, etc) or a sweet/heat Asian dish (fresh ginger, soy sauce, hoison sauce, sriracha, orange zest, scallions, etc.) by mixing up the ingredients.

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Ingredients:

  • 5 pounds bone-in short ribs
  • 1/2 large onion, diced
  • 1 leek, diced (optional, you can use a full onion instead)
  • 2 medium carrots, diced
  • 3 stalks celery, diced
  • 3 large cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1-2 pieces of fennel, diced
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2-3 tablespoons flour
  • 1/2 bottle red wine (I used San Giovese)
  • 1 can fire-roasted tomatoes and juice
  • 3-4 dashes Worcestershire sauce
  • Fresh oregano
  • Fresh parsley
  • 1 bay leaves
  • Beef stock
  • Kosher salt & fresh cracked black pepper

Directions:

Take your beef out of the fridge and let it come to room temperature. Pat them with paper towels until their dry and season with salt & pepper. Set your oven to 350 degrees.

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After all your vegetables are chopped, heat 1 tbsp of oil on high. Once your pan is hot, turn the heat down to medium high and add your meat. Be careful not to add to many ribs at a time as you don’t want to crowd the pan. I seared them in 2 batches. If you crowd the pan and the beef starts steaming you won’t get a nice brown crust. Using tongs, turn them on each side, roughly 3 minutes or so per side, or until they are nice and brown.

Since there is a lot of fat on these ribs, you will start to see lots of oil in the pan. I periodically used tongs and soaked up some of the grease with paper towels. Or you can wait until you are done searing and pour out some of the oil. Reserve about 1 tbsp to saute your veggies.

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When you are done searing all your meat put them to the side.

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Add your veggies into the pan and saute for a few minutes. Then create a little well in the middle. Stir the tomato paste with a whisk vigorously for 30 seconds, then add your flour. Mix all the veggies together. They should have a nice thick coating on them which will help thicken your sauce.

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Add your wine, worcestershire sauce, salt & pepper and bring to a boil. Then let the wine simmer and wait for it to reduce by almost half. The sauce will get nice and thick. Then add your can of tomatoes.

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I chose to use an immersion blender in just half of the pan so the sauce thickened a bit more and that way you don’t have a ton of vegetables on your plate. You can skip this step.

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Add in the beef broth until the ribs are almost covered. Add in whatever herbs you like – I chose 2 twigs of fresh oregano and 1 bay leaf. Bring to a boil, cover tight, and put in the oven.

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After about 3 hours, your pan will look like this! The meat was so tender, it fell completely off some of the bones before I even picked one up.

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Serve over your cheesy polenta or a pasta like paparadelle or egg  noodles. Sprinkle some fresh chopped parsley and dig in.

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Homemade Ricotta Gnocchi with Pesto

Homemade gnocchi has been on my food bucket list for some time now and the potato version remains on the list, but I can now cross off the ricotta thanks to my Mom’s birthday dinner wish! We didn’t follow the recipe exactly because well I hate directions, and who has hours to wait for their dough to rest??? I actually got out measuring cups for this one though and I guess it was worth it. Absolutely delicious!

I have quite a few different pesto recipes on my blog. For tonight’s dinner, Mom made a basil and parsley pesto which was delicious. Remember when making pesto, buying the best and freshest ingredients because they will yield the best results.

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Ingredients:

  • 1lb fresh ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 cup to 3/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 1/4 cup parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1 Tbsp butter, melted
  • 1 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated fresh

Directions:

Place ricotta in a strainer set over medium bowl. Chill in the fridge until the ricotta has texture of wet clay, about 1 hour.

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Mix ricotta, 1/2 cup of flour, egg & next 5 ingredients in medium bowl, adding more flour by tbsp until dough is slightly sticky.

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Cover and chill for 30 minutes.

Sprinkle rimmed baking sheet with flour.

Transfer the dough to lightly floured surface. Cut into 4 equal pieces.

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Using your hands, roll 1 piece on floured surface into 3/4 inch-wide log.

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Cut log crosswise into 1-inch pieces. Place gnocchi on prepared baking sheet, spacing apart. Repeat with remaining dough. Cover gnocchi with plastic wrap and chill at least 1 hour or up to one day. ( Ours chilled for maybe a half hour and we cut them afterwards)

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In a large skillet, melt the butter and keep warm.

Working in two batches, add gnocchi to large pot of boiling salted water, stirring to prevent sticking. Boil until gnocchi rise to surface of water, then continue boiling until cooked through, 1 1/2 to 2 mintues longer. Using slotted spoon, transfer gnocchi to skilled with melted butter. Toss with pesto and fresh grated cheese and serve! 20131118-105543.jpg

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The Real Deal Bolognese Sauce

A Father’s Day Inspiration…

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This isn’t your typical meat sauce. This isn’t your typical ground beef cooked in a bland tomato sauce. This is the real deal meat sauce; the cook all day Sunday sauce; the shredded, succulent, melt-in-your-mouth sauce that comes gently tossed in a fresh pasta like pappardelle.

The idea of making this sauce started because I knew my dad loves these kinds of sauces, the ones I often seen in authentic Italian restaurants–the ones that won’t let you put your fork down until the last bite is gone. So I started thinking… how could I make this at home for my dad on Father’s Day?

Simple: take the barbacoa recipe and insert Italian ingredients–like soffritto (combination of onions, carrots and celery). Also, add some other kinds of meats to inject a lot of flavor into the sauce. Mom and I set out to the grocery store in search of the perfect ingredients to make our version of this sauce. You can use any combination of meats and ingredients you would like and make this recipe your own! Here is (generally) how we made it. As usual, my measurements are rough. You can make this in a dutch oven like I do with the barbacoa, but since I didn’t have it with me at my parent’s house we made it on the stove without any problems!

Ingredients:

  • 6 chicken thighs
  • 3.5 lbs boneless chuck roast
  • 1 veal osso bucco
  • 3 carrot sticks
  • 3 celery sticks
  • 1-2 onions (we used a red and a yellow)
  • 8 or so cloves of garlic
  • 2 cups red wine (chianti suggested)
  • Salt & fresh cracked pepper
  • 2 large cans san marzano whole tomatoes
  • Olive oil for sauteing
  • Parmesan cheese (parmigiano reggiano is preferred)
  • 1.5 lb of your favorite pasta

We made this for 5 people and had tons of the leftovers…just the way we like it 🙂 It was amazing for lunch the next day.

Instructions:

Start by bringing all the meat to room temperature and seasoning them with salt and pepper. Then saute your meats on high heat to get a nice brown coloring on all sides. If your pan isn’t large enough, sear your meat in batches. They need space to cook.

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Next you will place the veggies in the pan. If you don’t have a pan large enough, temporarily take some of the meat out so your veggies have room to cook. Season the veggies with salt & pepper and let cook 2-3 minutes. Then add the garlic.  (We ended up sauteing the garlic in a separate small pan to really fry and brown them up nice) Let cook for another few minutes.

Put the heat on med-high and add the red wine; let the liquid reduce by half.

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Using your hands take the tomatoes out of the cans and squeeze them, gently breaking them apart before putting them in the pot. Add the sauce from the cans as well. Season with salt & pepper and add fresh chopped basil. (you can also add some red pepper flakes, which we did) Place the lid on very tight. If you think air can get out, put a sheet of tinfoil on top and then seal the edges of the lid with it.

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Let it cook on low heat (the sauce should bubble slightly) or in the oven at 250 for 4 hours or until the meat can easily pull apart with a fork. Remove the chicken skins and any excess fat you see.

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It’s easiest if you take the meat out of the pot and place on a separate dish. Shred the meat using forks or tongs. Take the chicken off the bones. Place the meat back in the pot and bring the sauce to a low boil for a few minutes while you are preparing the pasta.

Cook your pasta al dente and pour into the pot to really absorb the flavors of the sauce. Top with more fresh basil and fresh parmesano reggiano cheese. Mangia!

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Mom’s Perfectly Crispy Chicken Cutlets

Growing up chicken cutlets were a delicious treat for dinner in our house as mom didn’t fry many things. This year for her birthday, Mom had a craving so we made her perfect chicken cutlets and served them in the perfect chicken cutlet sandwich.

You can use this chicken to make chicken parmesan, you can throw it on a sandwich of your choosing, or you can have it on a plate with a side of your favorite veggies and pasta. It pairs quite nicely with pasta and broccoli. If you really wanted to splurge I recommend a heaping side of mac n cheese or fettuccine alfredo.

We always make plenty extra of this dish because however you eat it that night, you’ll want to try it a different way the next day.

Ingredients:

  • Chicken tenders cut into single pieces and pounded if needed
  • Flour
  • Eggs
  • Milk
  • Italian seasoned breadcrumbs (we add fresh chopped parsley and fresh grated parmesan cheese)
  • Salt & pepper
  • Red pepper flakes
  • Milk (low-fat or 1% is what we use)
  • Extra virgin olive oil/vegetable oil 

Directions:

  • Wash and prepare your chicken. Season with salt and pepper.
  • Set up paper bags with paper towels on them to help drain the grease from your chicken.
  • Add 2 eggs to a large bowl and about 1/2 cup of milk. Whisk together well to create an egg wash to dip your chicken in. Add salt and pepper. 

  • In another bowl pour your bread crumbs and add a little flour.
  • Turn your pan on medium high to get the oil ready.
  • Dip your chicken in the egg wash and then transfer to the bread crumbs. Don’t be afraid to really pack the bread crumbs on there pushing with your fingers or fork. Transfer to another plate to get ready for frying.


  • When the oil begins to roll place one piece of chicken in and make sure it makes a sizzling sound. Depending on how thick your chicken is you will cook it about 4 minutes per side. The bread crumbs should get a deep golden brown color. If you see a thick white foam come out of the side of your chicken it means its ready (if you see a runny white liquid that means your chicken is still raw).

  • When your chicken is cooked, place it on the paper towels to suck up some of the oil. Then put in a large baking dish to keep warm with the others.

  • We served the chicken with fresh Italian bread, chopped lettuce, and mayo mixed with hot cherry pepper spread. That’s all you need! **Here’s a tip. Get a head of iceberg lettuce, wash it, dry it and then chop it up fine. Place it in a bowl with a paper towel on top in the fridge. When you get it out later, it will be nice and crunchy for your sandwich! Deeelicious.


Chicken parm and spaghetti!

French Onion Soup with Truffle-Salted Croutons and Gruyere CheeseS

French onion soup is one of the only soups Kyle will enjoy so it’s a natural go to on a fall or winter day. There are many ways to make this soup and I tried to lighten it up by using half the amount of butter normally used. Substituting with a tablespoon of olive oil is a good way to cut down on some of the fat. It’s obviously not an overall light dish but this recipe won’t make you feel like you ate a pound of butter and cheese when you are done.

INGREDIENTS

  • 3 sweet onions and 2 yellow onions (or a mixture of your favorites), thinly sliced
  • 1/2 stick butter
  • 2 tbsp or so of olive oil
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, minced
  • Beef stock and chicken stock: 1.5-2 quarts in total (traditionally the soup is made with beef stock but I lighten it up by using half and half)
  • Red wine (roughly a cup or so)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Fresh chopped thyme
  • 3 tbsp flour
  • Kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper
  • Sliced and toasted French bread
  • Grated Gruyère cheese, enough to cover the top of your bowl
  • Few sprinkles truffle salt

INSTRUCTIONS

1 In a large saucepan, melt the butter and add olive oil on medium to high heat. Add the onions, salt, pepper, bay leaf and fresh thyme. Sauté the onions until they caramelize, about 30 minutes. Stir the onions occasionally.

2 Add 3/4 cup of red wine and bring to a boil. Then lower heat and let the wine reduce to at least half. You want most of the liquid to be gone. Discard the bay leaf.

3 Add the flour and cook on low heat for 5-10 minutes. Make sure not to burn the flour but you want to cook off the flavor.

4 Add the remaining wine, beef and chicken broth and bring to a boil. Reduce and let simmer. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

5 Set your oven to broil. Ladle the soup into bowls. Cover with the toast you previously sprinkled with truffle salt. Top with the cheese. Put under the broiler for 5 minutes or until the cheese bubbles and is slightly browned. For a fresh garnish add chopped chives or parsley. Serve immediately.

Cioppino

Cioppino is pretty much a fish stew. Contrary to popular belief, cioppino did not originate in Italy. It’s an Italian-American dish. It’s traditionally made from the catch of the day, so you should use fish you can get fresh and is hopefully local when possible. The seafood is combined with tomatoes in a wine sauce, and served with toasted bread. The various combinations of ingredients are up to you.

With seafood reminiscent of summer and hot flavorful broth that welcomes fall it is a perfect September meal. It is extremely flavorful, light, fresh and filling- you can’t beat that! Pair with a salad and a side of garlic bread and you have yourself a perfect meal.

Ingredients

Cioppino-
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 large shallots, chopped
  • 2-3 celery stalks, chopped
  • 5 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • Crushed red pepper flakes (to taste)
  • Tomato paste (1 tbsp plus)
  • Anchovy paste (1 squirt)
  • 1 large can diced tomatoes in juice
  • 1 1/2 cups white wine
  • 5 cups fish stock
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 pound clams, scrubbed
  • 1 pound mussels, scrubbed, debearded
  • 1 pound uncooked large shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1 pound scallops
  • 1 1/2 pounds assorted firm-fleshed fish fillets, we used cod, cut into 2-inch chunks
  • Salt & Pepper
  • Fresh chopped parsley

Garlic Bread-
  • Fresh Italian bread, cut in half
  • Butter
  • Olive Oil
  • 4-5 cloves chopped garlic
  • Fresh chopped parsley
  • Salt, pepper and red pepper flakes

Some ingredients I didn’t use that might be good additions: fennel (sautéed with the onions), capers, halibut (instead of cod though pricier), fresh tomatoes instead of canned, and some marscapone cheese in the sauce for a creamier flavor. Celery is optional.

Directions

Heat the oil in a very large pot over medium heat. Add the onion, shallots, and salt and saute until the onion is translucent, about 10 minutes.

Add the garlic and red pepper flakes, and saute 2 minutes. Stir in the tomato and anchovy paste.

Add tomatoes with their juices, wine, fish stock and bay leaf. Cover and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to medium-low. Cover and simmer until the flavors blend, about 30 minutes.

If your fish is thick like ours was, you should put it in first. Keep in mind none of the fish will take long to cook.

After 2 minutes or so, add the clams and mussels to the cooking liquid. Cover and cook until the clams and mussels begin to open, about 5 minutes.

Add the shrimp and scallops. Simmer gently until the fish and shrimp are just cooked through, and the clams are completely open, stirring gently, about 5 minutes longer (discard any clams and mussels that do not open).

Optional: Add a tbsp of butter for a nice finish.

Season the soup, to taste, with more salt and red pepper flakes. Sprinkle fresh parsley on top.

Ladle the soup into bowls and serve.

Garlic Bread:

Simply place the butter, garlic, oil and parsley in a small pot and heat on medium. Don’t bring to a boil or simmer. You just want the garlic flavor to flavor the butter and oil.

Spread on the garlic bread, add salt and pepper, and bake in a 350 degree oven for 10 minutes or until golden brown. An optional treat: add some fresh mozzarella!

Fettuccine con Pesto

In continuing my theme of using ingredients from the garden, my friend Alex and I recently made pesto sauce. It’s a great time of year to make pesto and it is extremely easy to make. You can switch up ingredients depending what you have on hand making it a very versatile recipe.

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My favorite kind of pesto is a mixture of basil and arugula. Sometimes I use parsley or spinach but since I have a huge fresh basil plant, I wanted that to be my primary ingredient today. I also happen to have a small bagful of arugula in my fridge which I added. Pesto is great on pasta and you can easily add it to proteins such as grilled shrimp or chicken. You can marinate them in pesto or brush it on after it comes off the grill.

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup pignoli (pine nuts) lightly toasted
  • 1-2 garlic cloves (remember the garlic is raw so the flavor will pack a punch and you don’t want to overpower the pesto)
  • 1-2 cups of fresh basil leaves
  • 1 cup arugula
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 cup good olive oil depending on how much pesto you are making. You want your mixture to be smooth.
  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan Reggiano cheese

Directions

Put a large pot of water on the stove, bring to a boil and salt well. Add your pasta. In the meantime, prepare your pesto.

Toast your pine nuts in a small pan until they start to produce an aroma and turn golden brown.

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Using a small food processor add the basil, arugula, pine nuts, red pepper flakes salt and pepper. Blend for roughly 15 seconds. I don’t have a machine that allows you to pour olive oil in while it is running. If you do, this is a great time to use it. If not, just simply add the olive oil and blend until smooth. Finally add the cheese and blend until smooth again.

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When your pasta is al dente strain it and set aside until your pesto is ready. Toss all together in a large bowl and serve with a sprinkle of parmesan cheese.

If you have leftover pesto, put it in a small glass jar in the fridge and use it as seasoning on future meals. For example, the next morning I had a nice piece of Italian toast and put 2 slices of tomatoes on top from the garden. I then added a smear of pesto to each tomato. I topped the sandwich with a fried egg over easy. When you cut into the egg it will warm the pesto and you have yourself a fresh and delicious breakfast.

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Carolina Style Pulled Pork in the Crock Pot

I am not from the south, I don’t have a smoker on the back deck of my 3rd story condo, and I can’t say I’ve ever bought a pork butt before.  So, I’m not going to try to pretend like this is the best pulled pork anyone from the south (or New England for that matter) will ever make or eat.  However, this city girl did get a crock pot for my birthday last week and I learned about this fantastic product called “Liquid Smoke”, and I will say the two together produced a respectable pulled pork sandwich that was tender and juicy.

Please note this recipe is for Carolina-style BBQ sauce, which is vinegar based.  So don’t get your hopes up for that dark red, thick, BBQ sauce because well, I’m not a fan.

Since I’ve never made pulled pork before I did some googling and I combined some of the ideas I got from reading many different recipes but my main inspiration came from here.  I will say for those of you who like spice and heat (like me) this had very little.  Next time I think I would add some hot sauce to the mixture for an extra zing.

Ingredients

  • 1 large sweet onion, quartered
  • 4 T brown sugar
  • 1/3 c red wine vinegar
  • 1 4lb pork butt
  • 1 T liquid smoke  
  • 1 cup cider vinegar
  • 1/3 cup Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 ½ t crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 T mustard (I used Trader Joes whole grain mustard because I didn’t have the powder)
  • Garlic powder for seasoning
  • Cayenne pepper
  • Paprika
  • Fresh cracked sea salt and black pepper

Instructions

  • I bought a pork butt from Whole Foods and was surprised at how inexpensive it is. After opening it up, I opted to trim a lot of the fat off simply because I don’t like fatty meat. Either way, be sure to pat it dry before adding the rub.
  • Blend brown sugar, paprika, garlic powder, salt and pepper and rub over the entire roast. Place in the fridge over night if possible.
  • Combine vinegar, worcestershire sauce, red pepper flakes, sugar, mustard, garlic and cayenne pepper and mix well. Place in a bowl and refrigerate over night or for at least a few hours so the flavors get a chance to marry.
  • When you are ready, put your crock pot on low heat and set for 9 hours. Put onions in bottom of crock pot.
  • Place roast in crock pot on top of the onions. Drizzle liquid smoke over roast.
  • Drizzle about 1/3 of liquid vinegar mixture over roast. Cover and refrigerate remaining mixture for later.
  • Cook roast on low for 8-10 hours. I cooked my 4 lb roast from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and put it on warm for about 30 minutes because I could see it was already falling apart.
  • When ready to eat, remove meat and onions from the pot and shred the meat in a bowl.  Reserve the onions separately for a topping on your sandwich. Though sweet, I thought they were soggy and unappealing but some of my guests quite enjoyed them.
  • Add juice from the fridge to the crock pot and put on high until the liquid becomes warm. Using a cheese cloth or a tight strainer, strain the juice so to remove the extra mustard seed and pork fat.  Add a few spoonfuls of liquid to the bowl of pulled pork and reserve the rest to place on the table.
  • Serve plain, over beans and rice  or like we did, on a fresh roll topped with delicious cole slaw, a side of black beans and chips with guacamole on the side.

Note: If you have a lot of leftover liquid like I did, you can pour the liquid in ice cube trays and add them in sauces or other meat dishes you make later on!

Pasta with Broccoli

Easy. Low cost. Delicious (IF you love broccoli).

Pasta with broccoli has a long history with our family. Growing up, my mom made it often as a side to a meat focused dinner. We typically use the farfalle or “bowtie” pasta as we called it as kids. This meal can be made so many different ways and with different accents. Below is my favorite version but you can also consider using lemon juice, lemon zest, white wine, and certainly butter if you aren’t trying to keep it too healthy. It’s an easy weeknight dinner when you don’t have a lot in your fridge, it’s a great side to a protein and it’s delicious leftover hot or cold. I usually make extra so I have leftovers for lunch the next day. The hard part is refraining from eating it all!

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For a healthier option steam your broccoli in water and chicken broth instead of using olive oil. It will still be tasty and u can drizzle a tiny bit of oil on top for finishing. You can also skip the blender to remove an extra step when you are pressed for time. I like it because it makes the sauce a little thicker. Think of it as a broccoli pesto.

INGREDIENTS:
-2 heads fresh broccoli
-2-3 cloves garlic
-2 shallots
-few tbsps Parmesan cheese
-olive oil
-red pepper flakes
-chicken broth as needed
-pasta (whole wheat penne used here but I encourage the bowties)
-salt & pepper
-fresh basil or parsley (optional)

DIRECTIONS:
Place a large pot of water on high heat. Bring to boil.

Sauté garlic, shallots, red pepper flakes in olive oil.

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Place half of your broccoli in blender And blend until the big chunks are gone.

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Add the mixture to your pan with the remaining broccoli that you chopped into bite sized pieces. Add salt and pepper.

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Add chicken broth as needed so you have enough liquid for your pasta. Let cook for a few minutes. I don’t like mushy broccoli so as soon as it gets soft I take off the heat. Mix in a large bowl with pasta. Add cheese, more fresh basil and serve.

Braised Chicken and Potatoes

Sometimes the best meals aren’t planned. On Sunday I usually plan our dinner ahead of time because it’s really the one day each week when I can make a meal that takes more than an hour to prep and cook. After a long rainy Sunday of being out and about we stopped at the grocery store and I blindly grabbed a few things which is very unlike me. I haphazardly put together a warm chicken stew-like dish that was sweet, savory and warming on this cool and damp spring night. It’s also easy to make and uses only one pot!

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INGREDIENTS:

  • 4 chicken thighs, washed and seasoned wish kosher salt and black pepper
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar (roughly, I didn’t measure)
  • 2 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 1 sweet onion, sliced thin
  • 1 can diced San Marzano tomatoes
  • Fresh chopped basil
  • Cheese, fresh grated (I used half Parmesan and half Gruyere)
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Sweet red peppers
  • Small potatoes, halved
  • Herbs de Provence, 1 pinch
  • Tomato paste
INSTRUCTIONS:
Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.
In large dutch oven, heat olive oil until its hot and starts to roll. Add the chicken to the pot, and flip after two minutes. Then add the onions, garlic, salt, pepper, a few fresh basil leaves and a sprinkle of Herbs de Provence.

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Let the onions cook for a few minutes. Then add the potatoes.

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Add the red wine vinegar, tomatoes and sweet red peppers. Season with salt and pepper again and stir together. If you like a kick of spice, add a few teaspoons of red pepper flakes. Bring to a low boil, stir the pot and then cover tightly and place in the oven.

Check on it once or twice and stir all the ingredients. I added a squirt of tomato paste to thicken the broth a touch.

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Bake this dish for about an hour or so, the chicken will be fork tender and fall apart in the sauce. Top with a sprinkle of fresh chopped basil and grated cheese. Enjoy!

Veal Milanese Topped with Tomato and Arugula Salad

I admit, this isn’t the healthiest dinner you could make but it could be worse.  Once in a while you need to splurge because it’s well, delicious.  My mom made this recipe for us growing up and I always loved it, so I thought I would make it this week.  We’ve been eating healthy every other night, so why the heck not?  The combination of the fried, juicy, tender veal with the fresh crispness of the tomatoes and arugula, it’s just perfect. image

INGREDIENTS:

  • Veal scallopini
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Fresh arugula
  • Fresh parsley
  • Salt & pepper
  • Garlic powder
  • Flour
  • Italian seasoned bread crumbs and panko bread crumbs (50/50)
  • Parmesan cheese (just a tablespoon or so)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 Lemon
  • Red wine vinegar & olive oil
  • Vegetable oil or light extra virgin olive oil for frying (optional: add slice of butter for richness – I do!)

INSTRUCTIONS:

If your veal is on the thicker side you may want to pound it with a meat tenderizer. It’s personal preference. Set up 3 shallow bowls:

  1. Flour, salt & pepper
  2. Eggs, salt & pepper
  3. Bread crumbs, parmesan cheese, parsley and dash cayenne pepper (optional)

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Dredge the veal in the flour and shake off excess and then dip in the egg on both sides. When you put it in the bread crumbs make sure you use your fingers to really press the mixture into the meat.

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Put a frying pan on medium to high heat.  When the oil starts to roll place your veal in the pan.  Let cook for 2-3 minutes until bread crumbs are brown. Flip and let cook another minute or two.

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Set up a brown paper bag with paper towels to soak up some of the grease.  When the veal is done place it on the paper towels until you are ready to serve and squeeze a bit of lemon juice on each piece.

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The salad:

  • Slice cherry tomatoes in half and add to bowl with arugula.
  • Season with sea salt and fresh cracked black pepper. Then add oil and vinegar.
  • Set the bowl aside for a few minutes to let the flavors meld.
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To plate, place your veal on your dish and add a healthy serving of arugula & tomatoes. Pair with wine delicious wine 😉

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Healthified Chicken Enchiladas

My father is on a new diet so last night’s dinner was all about taking a dish I love (see recipe here: chicken enchiladas verde) and making it calorie friendly.  My brother also happened to be home and he is on the opposite end of the diet spectrum. With this dinner we managed to make everyone happy. My father, who is on an 1800 calorie a day diet, consumed 424 calories and the rest of us consumed 614, the main difference being the cheese but he also only had one tortilla (with no cheese) and used lettuce for the rest whereas I had two tortillas. The lettuce wraps are a great way to enjoy a wrap with less calories and an added crunch. We did, however, find a whole wheat wrap with only 45 calories which is a great find! Overall this was a healthy meal with lots of fresh veggies that was delicious and offers you a lot of options when cooking for a diverse group of people.

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Above is a healthy option with the same tasty chicken used in the baked enchiladas below.

Keep in mind that cheese is about 100 calories per ounce, so you better make sure you want that cheese! It made me think twice about snacking on the delicious, sweet manchego cheese while cooking this meal.

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For the Salsa:

  • Can of whole peeled tomatoes, diced
  • Cucumbers, diced
  • 1/2 white onion, chopped
  • Orange bell pepper, chopped
  • One jalapeño, chopped
  • Fresh chopped cilantro
  • Juice and zest from one lime
  • Salt and fresh cracked pepper
Combine and let the flavors meld for 20-30 minutes

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For the Chicken:

  • 3 lbs boneless chicken breasts
  • 2 cans Trader Joes green chiles
  • 1 jar Trader Joe’s salsa verde
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 1/2 white onion
  • Fresh chopped cilantro
  • One jalapeño
  • 3 tbsp reduced fat sour cream

Place chicken breasts in a pot of water with salt, pepper, and other seasonings if you have them on hand. I threw in some salt and oregano.  Bring to a light boil and let cook.

Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees.

Saute the garlic,onion and jalapeno in one cap full of extra virgin olive oil until translucent. Add in 1 3/4 cans of green chiles, the jar of salsa verde, the lime and lime zest. Season with salt & pepper.  Add a dash of cumin.  You want this to cook down on medium to low heat until the onions are sweet and all the flavors meld together.

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Shred the chicken into small pieces with two forks or your fingers. Add the chicken and sour cream, salt & pepper to the pan.

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Roll each tortilla with 1/2 manchego and 1/2 asiago cheese and the chicken mixture.  Spray the bottom of your casserole dish with olive oil, place the enchiladas in the dish and then spray the tops of the tortillas with olive oil.  This is a much better alternative to frying the tortillas and they will still crisp up in the oven at 375 degrees for 15-20 minutes.

When they are almost done, add the remaining chiles and cheese to the top of the enchiladas. When the cheese bubbles, take them out.

For the side of black beans:

  • Fresh lime juice
  • Fresh chopped cilantro

Orecchiette with Broccoli Rabe and Sausage

A classic recipe and one of my absolute favorites. I order this at Strada 18 in Norwalk almost every time we go and I finish the entire ginormous bowl. It does cost $18 however so this Saturday night I thought we could save some money and still enjoy a delicious meal at home. I was right! (Post updated with new photos 3.23.17)

After a trip to Fresh Market in Westport, the broccoli rabe was $4, the orecchiette was $2 and the hot italian sausage was $4.50. So, two of us will enjoy this meal for only $11, or $5.50 per person AND we will get to have the delicious left overs tomorrow for lunch.

I like a little spice so I opted for a hot Italian sausage but you can certainly go sweet if that is your preference (or do 1 of each!). Those who are trying to stay on the healthier side can opt for a fennel chicken sausage which would be a great substitute. But for a Saturday night dinner, I’m going all out, no substitutions please!!

Kyle’s review of the night: “This is the best pasta dish you have ever made, ever. It has the perfect amount of heat, the flavor is incredible, the bread crumbs add such a nice crunch and this is superior to restaurant quality!”

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1/3 cup or so of extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 lb. orecchiette
  • 1/2 cup Italian bread crumbs and/or whole wheat panko bread crumbs
  • Kosher salt and pepper
  • 1 large bunch broccoli rabe
  • 2 links Italian hot sausage, 2 links chicken sausage removed from casings
  • 3 large garlic cloves, minced
  • Pinch of red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • Salt & Pepper

DIRECTIONS:

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add salt. Add the broccoli rabe and cook until the stems are tender, roughly 2 to 3 minutes. This takes some of the bitter bite out of the broccoli. Then put in a strainer and set aside.

In a pan over medium-low heat, warm 1 tbsp olive oil. Add the bread crumbs and stir to coat them with the oil. Season lightly with salt and cook, stirring often, until the crumbs are an even, deep golden brown, about 5 minutes. I added in some fresh chopped parsley I had on hand.20120310-221830.jpg

 

In your pan warm olive oil over medium heat. Add the sausage, garlic and red pepper flakes and break up the sausage meat with a wooden spoon, until the sausage is browned, about 7 minutes. Add the broccoli rabe and stir to combine with the sausage. Season with salt.

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Add the pasta to the boiling water until al dente. (The pasta will absorb the vitamins and minerals from the broccoli and take on some extra flavor which is nice!) After you put your pasta in, add your chopped broccoli to the pan.

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When the pasta is ready add to your saute pan (reserve some of the water in case you need to add it in). Add cheese and stir well over low heat to combine. Top with the bread crumbs, cheese and maybe a drizzle of more good quality olive oil and serve.

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Mangia! Buon Appetito!
Here’s our dog Kona taking a nap while we eat. So cute I had to share.

Tacos de Barbacoa

For some reason I have always been intimidated by large roasts and the braising process. I guess it’s fear of the unknown. But after making barbacoa I’m not sure why I was so scared; it was one of the easiest dinners I have made. And the flavor was extraordinary.

If you have been to Chipotle you are familiar with barbacoa. It’s tender, juicy and packs a spicy kick of flavor. After some googling I decided to use a recipe from a fellow blogger as I was too intimidated by the process to start from scratch as I normally do. If you know me, then you know I did vary the recipe a little. After tasting the final product, I can’t wait to try it again with my own twist.

P.S. This is a great recipe to make if you are having a large group of people over. You can start it in the morning, it won’t over cook, and when everyone arrives you just put out the toppings bar and heat up the tortillas! It’s easy, not a big mess, and not too expensive either!

See the original recipe here.

INGREDIENTS

  • 3-4 pounds boneless chuck roast, excess fat removed
  • 1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
  • The juice from one lime
  • 3-4 canned chipotle chiles with the adobo sauce
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • A few teaspoons ground cumin
  • A few teaspoons dried oregano (I couldn’t find Mexican oregano in the grocery store)
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 teaspoons Kosher salt
  • Few dashes of ancho chili powder
  • 2-3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup chicken broth, plus more as needed
  • 3 bay leaves
  • Corn tortillas
  • Diced white onion, chopped cilantro and lime wedges for garnish

INSTRUCTIONS

  • Optional: Buy the beef the night before and put a rub on it (salt, pepper, chili powder, garlic powder, maybe some brown sugar) and place in the fridge over night.

  • Preheat the oven to 275°.
  • Combine the cider vinegar, lime juice, chipotle chiles, garlic cloves, cumin, oregano, clove, chili powder, black pepper and salt in the bowl of a food processor or blender and puree until completely smooth — about a minute or so.
  • Dry the roast all over with paper towels, cut away any excess fat.
  • Heat oil in a very large pot that is oven safe (I recommend le crueset) set over high heat until it begins to simmer. Sear the beef on all sides until deeply browned, about 10 minutes.

  • Add the chile puree to the pot and stir until the beef is well-coated. Add the chicken stock and bay leaves and bring the liquid to a boil.

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  • Reduce the heat to a simmer, cover the lid with tin foil and add the lid to create a very tight seal. Place the pot in the oven.
  • You want the meat to braise for 5-6 hours, removing the lid during the last hour or so to allow the simmering liquid to reduce slightly.
  • Allow the beef to cool slightly, spoon off any easily removable fat from the braising liquid and then use two forks to pull/shred the beef into bite size pieces. (You may want to check a few hours in that there is still enough liquid in the pot, if not, add more chicken broth.)
  • We took ours out after 4.5 hours and I don’t know how it could have been any better. The meat just fell apart.
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  • Taste and adjust as necessary for seasonings–usually I add salt after I pull the meat apart.
  • Serve spooned onto warm corn tortillas topped with diced white onion, fresh cilantro and fresh lime juice. A cold beer doesn’t hurt either! 🙂

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What to do with leftovers? Instead of having tacos again I heated up a can of black beans with cilantro, white onion and fresh lime juice. I also made some brown rice and topped with the barbacoa. Simple and delicious. Top with some Mexican cheese and you won’t consider these “leftovers”, nope, it will be another fantastic meal.

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Homemade Spaghetti and Meatballs

I have always wanted to make homemade pasta. Having lived in Italy and knowing what fresh pasta tastes like, I know it’s worth whatever effort it takes to make it. Growing up I heard stories of how my great-grandmother, Filomena Bonini, made homemade pasta weekly, rolled it by hand with a long broom stick, and laid it to dry on a sheet on her bed. So, I thought it would be fun to carry on tradition and make homemade pasta with my mom, grandma, and sister even though we substituted the broom stick with a pasta machine.

If any of you know an Italian grandma, you know you won’t get exact measurements or instructions on anything. My family has tried to replicate Nanny’s meatballs time and time again, but they are never the same. Nevertheless, it was so fun for me to make them with her and then of course to eat them paired with our homemade pasta! So, don’t get too excited as the below instructions won’t help you replicate her meatballs exactly but with so many different theories on how to make the best meatballs, this will give you ours. We obviously feel this is the best way 🙂 Our recipe yielded 51 meatballs and enough pasta for 7 hungry people to devour!

For the pasta:

  • 5 cups of flour
  • 8 eggs
  • 1/4 cup water

Make a well with your flower in a bowl and add the eggs and water to the center. Scramble the eggs with a fork and slowly bring flour into the center mixing it well.

Once you have incorporated all the ingredients, sprinkle some extra flour on the counter and knead the dough. You will probably have to put some flour on your hands so it doesn’t stick. You should work the dough for quite a few minutes with your hands. Then place it in a bowl with a dash of olive oil and cover the bowl with a towel. Let it rest.

After the dough has rested, cut it in half and start with the first piece. I recommend rolling it into a log so when you cut it into slices they will all be the same size when you are feeding it through the pasta machine. We had many different sized sheets of pasta.

To prepare, lay a clean sheet on a big table and sprinkle some flour on it. Take out your handy pasta machine. Feed the first sheet through the machine twice on the 8 setting, then once on 6, once on 4 and once on 2. Repeat with every sheet of pasta. When your done, get the other half of your dough and do the same. We found this was a multi-person job and had a lot of fun while doing it. It can be done alone once you get the hang of it but it’s nice to have an extra pair of hands.

We found that if you let the pasta dry for a few minutes before putting it through the spaghetti setting you will have more luck with it coming out clean cut. Put through each long sheet of pasta on the spaghetti setting and then lay the pasta out to dry for a few hours.

Meatballs & Gravy

  • Stale bread- we used whole wheat Italian bread
  • Garlic (a lot- 5 or 6 cloves I think)
  • Fresh chopped parsley (probably about 1/2 cup)
  • Eggs
  • Salt & Pepper – the amount that fits in the cup of Nanny’s hand 🙂
  • Ground beef- Nanny only uses beef. We got pork and veal and she said she couldn’t taste the difference
  • Ground Pork/Veal
  • Parmesan Cheese
  • Water
  • Chicken thighs (2)
  • Hot Italian Sausage
  • Sweet Italian Sausage
  • Canned San Marzano whole tomatoes
  • Fresh basil

Pre-heat the oven to 350.

In a large bowl add the stale bread and cover in water. Let soak. Pull off the harder crusty pieces as you see them. Then put in a strainer and squeeze out water. Add the bread to a large metal bowl.

Add in chopped garlic and parsley. Nanny uses the “smell test” to know when the mixture is just right. Then add in the salt, pepper, cheese and mix well. Add in the eggs and combine using a wooden spoon. Make sure it smells right 😉

Add in your meat and incorporate with the spoon. Try not to over stir the meat.

Using the palm of your hand roll the meatballs in to even sized balls and place on a cookie sheet that you have already sprayed with pam. Place your sausage, chicken thighs, veal osso bucco, or whatever meat you have chosen to the sheet as well. Bake in the oven. Take them out when they develop a nice brown crust on the outside.

Sauce:

Take a few large cans of san marzano whole tomatoes and pour in your large pot on the stove. Add a few garlic cloves. Using a hand-held blender puree the tomatoes together. Then add a handful of kosher salt, a lot of fresh cracked pepper, and 3-4 fresh basil leaves. Bring to a boil and then reduce to simmer.

When the meat is done in the oven add to the sauce. Leave the meatballs out for now to cool. Or do what we did, and eat a meatball sandwich with lettuce and mayo for lunch! Bene!!

After about a half hour to an hour, you can add the meatballs and keep the heat on low. Eventually you can turn the pot off if you have a while until dinner.

When you are ready to eat, re-heat your sauce pot again, then bring a large pot of water to a boil and season well with salt. Add the pasta and watch it closely as it will only take a few minutes to reach al dente perfection.

Take a very large platter, add some sauce to the bottom and spoon the pasta in. Cover in more sauce and place some gravy bowls on the table for those who can’t get enough!

This was such a fun day to spend with family and with some hard work, a mess, and a lot of laughs, the result will be some delicious food. Buon Apetito!

Red Wine Beef Stew

With the snow comes my cravings for a soup or hearty stew. Growing up, my mom always made us a delicious beef stew with carrots, celery, onion and served it over egg noodles. It was always so warm and comforting. I can never make it as good as hers but here’s my version.

Ingredients

  • 1.5 lbs beef stew meat (I bought it already cut in cubes)
  • 1/3 bottle Italian red wine (I used a cab)
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper (lots of black pepper at the end!)
  • 3 carrots, peeled and cut into pieces
  • 3 stalks celery, chopped into pieces
  • 1/2 yellow onion
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
  • 1 large russet potato cut in cubes (or any kind you prefer)
  • String beans
  • Chicken broth

Directions

1. Place the beef cubes in a dish with smashed garlic gloves, salt & pepper. Pour the wine over the meat and marinate in the refrigerator for as long as you have time- an hour or as long as overnight is fine.

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2. Remove the meat from the wine and pat dry with paper towels. Reserve the wine.

3. In a large Dutch oven, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Season the meat on all sides with salt and pepper. Using tongs, place the meat in the pan and brown on all sides, about 2 minutes each side. You don’t want to overcrowd the pan so you should cook more than one batch separately. Otherwise the meat will steam instead of brown.

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4. If necessary, put more olive oil in the pan and add onions. Stir and add garlic. After about a minute add celery and carrots. Cook for a few minutes. Then add potatoes last.

Season with salt and pepper.

5. Pour the reserved wine in the pot scraping up the brown bits that cling to the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon. Bring the liquid to a low boil. Then add chicken broth so it just barely covers everything.img_0203-1 img_0204-1Cover the pan and simmer for several hours until the meat is very tender. You can’t over cook it if you’re going low and slow.

Add the string beans a half hour before you are ready to eat. You can add them sooner but I don’t like them mushy. You can also then take the lid off to reduce the liquid down a bit.

Spoon the stew into a bowl on top of your egg noodles and top with fresh grated cheese. This dinner will warm you right up.

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