Saturday, March 24, 2012

Bananas Foster Waffles

When serving bananas foster waffles or another fancy dessert disguised as breakfast, the point is always to impress the living crud out of people. This is accomplished by 1.) making the dish in the first place, 2.) using the word "flambe" (I don't know how to make that little French symbol on the keyboard), and 3.) announcing the dish casually, as if you are serving up a plate of Eggos with microwaved bananas (don't worry, the moment everyone sees them it will be quite obvious that you're not).

Bananas Foster Waffles

1/3 cup butter
1/3 cup brown sugar
3 bananas, sliced2 tsp. heavy cream
1 tsp. cinnamon2 tbs. rum (spiced or flavored rum is fine if the flavor is a complementary one) 
1 cup vanilla ice cream (optional)
whipped cream for topping (optional)
4 prepared waffles

Melt butter in a medium skillet. Add brown sugar and stir to combine. Cook over medium heat until bubbly. Stir in heavy cream and cinnamon (mixture will look vaguely like caramel sauce). Pour rum over the top and use a long match or long fireplace lighter to ignite. Due to the small amount of rum the recipe calls for, the flame should die down after one minute or less. Cook and stir for one more minute. Remove from heat. Top waffles with bananas foster mixture and garnish with a small scoop of ice cream or whipped cream.

Bananas foster waffles - actually, bananas foster period - can be made quickly and easily, and it goes a long way in the impression category.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Homemade Beef Stew

Making beef stew from scratch is easier than it looks, and it tastes a heck of a lot better than anything that comes in a cup with a peel-off lid and/or anything that rhymes with Schminty Door. Here's a recipe for a homemade beef stew that has so many nutrients, you may actually think it's too healthy.

Homemade Vegetable Beef Stew

2 tbs. olive oil
1 tsp. salt /1 tsp. black pepper or seasoned salt to taste
1 lb. stew-cut beef
1/4 cup flour
1 small onion, chopped
1 cup beef stock or beef broth 
2 cups vegetable juice
2 tbs. Worcestershire sauce
2 potatoes, cut into wedges (no peeling necessary)
2 carrots, peeled and cut into rounds
1 cup fresh corn, removed from the cob - do not discard cob
1-2 cups vegetables of your choice (suggestions: frozen spinach thawed, cut zucchini/yellow squash, or trimmed and cut green beans)
1 cup frozen peas, thawed
1 8 oz. can stewed tomatoes or 1 large fresh tomato, chopped
1 bay leaf

Heat olive oil in a soup pot or stock pot over medium heat. Season beef with salt/pepper mixture or seasoned salt. Place beef in plastic freezer bag and add flour, shaking to coat thoroughly. Add flour-dredged beef to heated oil; cook and stir for 3 minutes or until browned. Add beef stock to deglaze, stir. Add vegetable juice and Worcestershire sauce.

Cover and bring to a boil. Cook and stir for 3 minutes to encourage thickening. Add onions, potatoes, carrots, corn, spinach/zucchini/green beans, peas and tomatoes. Return pot to a boil. Place corn cob directly in center of pot (this will act as a thickening agent and add flavor). Add bay leaf. Reduce heat and simmer with lid tilted for 2 hours or until potatoes and carrots are tender. Remove corn cob and bay leaf.

Then, enjoy the vitamin-packed goodness of your homemade vegetable beef stew.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Valentine's Suggestion #2: Pan Seared Rib Eyes

You could head to a local steakhouse, wait two hours for a table and pay $80 for a steak dinner on Valentine's Day just for the "experience" (and what an experience it is, when you both get home at midnight on a work day, tired, tipsy and broke) - or, you could enjoy one at home and impress your lov-ah all with an outstanding pan-seared rib eye. Serve with whatever steak house sides you like, and set the DVR for Teen Mom 2; I know it's the finale, but you can watch it tomorrow.

Valentine's Day Rib Eye Steaks

- 3 tablespoons butter
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- (2) 8 oz. rib eye steaks
- Montreal steak seasoning to coat (I know this is a blog about cooking from scratch, but let's face it, no one wants to combine all the peppercorns, kosher salt, coriander and garlic powder on their own)


Heat butter and olive oil in a skillet over medium high heat. Generously coat both sides of the steaks with the seasoning. Place one steak directly on top of the heated butter/oil in skillet. Cook in skillet for 3-5 minutes per side (3 for rare, 4 for medium rare and 5 for well done). If too rare, drizzle more oil in skillet and sear for another minute per side. Repeat process with second steak.

Let's face it, most men would prefer a steak to pasta or seafood on Valentine's Day. If yours does, impress the pants off him (yup, obviously that's literal!) with these Valentine's Day rib eye steaks.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Valentine's Suggestion #1: Chicken Parmesan

It's a thought, right? A single candle gracing your red and white checkered tablecloth, a bottle of red wine between you and something mood-enhancing cranking from the iPod - Sinatra, maybe? If a homemade Valentine's Day is in the cards this week, consider putting chicken parm on your short list.

I have to ask: When did we start calling it "chicken parm," anyway? I would blame Giada, but I'm not sure it was her. Was it Top Chef? Probably. It's always Top Chef.  

Chicken Parmesan 

4 boneless chicken breasts, pounded to 1/2 inch thickness
1 egg
1/2 cup milk
1 cup bread crumbs (Italian seasoned)
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup olive oil
2 cups mozzarella cheese
12 oz. tomato sauce
8 oz. tomato paste
2 tbs. Italian seasoning
1 tsp. seasoned salt

Whisk together the egg and milk. Combine the breadcrumbs and Parmesan cheese. Dip the chicken breasts in the milk and egg mixture, and then dredge in the bread crumb and Parmesan mixture. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Brown the chicken in the hot oil on both sides until golden, about 4 minutes on each side. Set chicken in a baking dish or casserole.

In a small mixing bowl, combine tomato sauce, tomato paste, Italian seasoning and seasoned salt. Top each chicken breast with 1/4 cup of sauce and sprinkle mozzarella cheese on top. Transfer to oven and bake at 350° for 30 minutes. Save remaining sauce to serve with the baked chicken dish and cooked spaghetti noodles.

Happy V-Day to all! Time permitting, I will manage to make more than one suggestion this week.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Pan Fried Pork Chops

Let’s face it: There’s no right or wrong way to make pork chops. The bottom line, really, is to make sure they’re cooked all the way through (because unlike beef steaks, pork chops aren’t best served while on the verge of being raw in the middle. Some of us learned this the hard way in our earlier days – or was that just me?). As many of us tend to do after undercooking meat, I went to the other extreme and had to learn yet another hard truth: that pork chops don't need to be the texture of car tires, either. It is okay for them to be a little - just a little - pink in the center. Pale, light, "Congratulations on your Baby Girl" balloon pink.

Back to that “right way” thing: Pork chops can be baked, fried, braised, pan seared or method is really superior over another; it’s just a matter of preference. This recipe is technically most similar to fried pork chops, although if you shake off the excess flour enough so that the chops are only coated with a thin, thin dusting, it’s not entirely unlike pan seared pork chops either. These pork chops, like all pork chops, are great served with a dollop of homemade applesauce on top, or with heaps of homemade gravy. I give you:

Pan Fried Pork Chops

1 lb. (about 4) boneless pork chops
1 cup flour
2 tsp. seasoned salt
Oil for frying
2 tbs. butter

Place flour on a pie pan or plate. Immerse pork chops in flour and dredge to coat them. Remove pork chops, shake off excess flour and sprinkle with seasoned salt on both sides. Set pork chops aside. 

Cover a skillet with a shallow layer of oil and add butter, melting over medium high heat. When the butter is melted, place pork chops in skillet. Cook at medium high heat for five minutes on each side. Remove chops from skillet and serve immediately; reserve pan drippings for gravy if desired. 

Pork Chop Gravy
Reserved pan drippings in skillet
3 tbs. flour
1 cup beef stock 
Salt and pepper to taste

While pan drippings are still hot, add flour and stir to make a roux. When mixture is combined, quickly pour in stock. Cook and stir over high heat until thickened and bubbly. Reduce heat to low and simmer for two minutes, stirring to continue thickening. Taste to determine if salt and/or pepper is needed. Serve hot over pork chops.    

Monday, November 28, 2011

How to Get Meat off the Bone

Life’s too short to waste good meat! If you have a leftover turkey or chicken carcass, a pork shoulder or a bone-in cut of beef, getting meat off the bone is easier than it looks. Here’s what to do:

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.
Place carcass in a roasting pan.
Cover bottom of the pan with water (1-2 cups).
Cover pan with lid or foil.
Roast the carcass for 1-2 hours or until tender.

Then, remove the pan and use a large fork/knife or tongs to easily shred the meat off the bone. Use the meat for soup, casseroles or other recipes. Getting meat off the bone is a great way to make bone-in poultry or red meat stretch beyond one meal.

Ideas for Turkey Leftovers: Beyond the Turkey Sandwich

Thanksgiving is over, and you need some turkey leftover ideas. We could all use a few good alternatives to turkey sandwiches, right? I’m not downplaying the tastiness of the trendy turkey and cranberry roll, but it’s time for something new. Rather than writing out measured recipes for turkey leftovers, I decided to just list a couple in paragraph format (after all, leftovers are informal). My two turkey leftover favorites are:

Turkey stock: Making turkey stock is virtually the same as making homemade chicken stock; just cover the broken turkey carcass with water, add vegetables/aromatics and boil/simmer. Shred the turkey off, then remove the carcass and the veggies. Allow to refrigerate overnight so the fat will be easy to skim off, or patiently skim the fat off while the stock is still hot. Use immediately or store in airtight container or freezer bag and use as needed. 

Turkey hash: If you’ve ever made homemade corned beef hash, you can easily make turkey hash too. Start by shredding the meat off the carcass (here’s the easiest way to get meat off the bone completely). Chop the heck out of the meat, or use your food processor to get a perfect hash meat consistency. Throw some chopped onions and potatoes in a heated skilled over 2 tbs. (more can be added if needed) melted butter. Cook until potatoes are soft and onions are near caramelized. Add the turkey meat, then a little Worschestire, salt and pepper. Spread in a single layer over skillet, brown for 3-4 minutes. Flip and brown the other side. Serve immediately (I eat mine with ketchup; take that, foodie snobs).

Turkey leftovers are an American tradition, but it’s time to give the sandwiches a rest. Try one of these ideas for turkey leftovers while your turkey is still fresh!