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Category Archives: Dinner

Slow Cooker Red Beans & Rice

Can you tell that I’m a little obsessed with my slow cooker? This puppy gets some major use around our house. And you are going to love this recipe! It’s so simple that my 2-year old seriously did 90% of the work.  Next time you don’t think you have time to make dinner, take 5 minutes in the morning and pop this in (and 20 seconds to soak the beans the night before), and you will be rewarded with a delicious, comforting meal that’s practically ready to go when you walk in the door. What makes this recipe extra special is the added ham hocks, which you can shred and leave in or remove once they are done cooking. You could also do sausage if that’s more your speed, but I love the smokiness from the ham.

If you want to make this super easy, heat up some frozen pre-cooked rice. The rice in the bag that you microwave is an option too, but personally, it gives me the hebegebees. Best option – get yourself a small rice cooker. I love ours and it takes out all the guesswork. Rice, water, hit button, (wait 20 minutes), done. Enjoy!

Red Beans & Rice with Smoked Ham Hocks

Adapted from Fix-It and Forget-It

1 lb. package dried red beans
2 ham hocks
2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. pepper
4 cups water
6 oz. can tomato paste
8 oz. can tomato sauce
4 garlic cloves, minced
cooked rice

  • Soak beans in water overnight. Drain and discard water.
  • Place all ingredients (except rice) in slow cooker, cover and cook on low 10-12 hours, or until beans are soft.
  • Remove or shred ham hocks and stir back into beans.
  • Serve over rice.
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Rao’s Lasagna

Where did Fall go? I feel like it’s already Winter outside! After 7 years in NYC, I’m still a Floridian at heart, so I don’t exactly welcome the colder months with open arms. A warm, comforting meal like this lasagna makes it a bit better though. Lasagna is not a weeknight kind of meal. Although none of them are difficult in the least, there are numerous steps and it does takes a bit of time to get to the finished product. But it’s so worth it. And this recipe makes enough to feed an army, so you will certainly have leftovers to put in your freezer for a second meal (unless you are, in fact, feeding an army).

I have had great luck making many of Rao’s famous dishes at home, and this is another classic to add to the list. I love this recipe because it has a meaty, flavorful sauce that is in perfect balance with the salty bite of the Pecorino Romano. If you like, make extra sauce and freeze it to serve with pasta. It’s delicious.

Rao’s Lasagna

Adapted from Rao’s Cookbook
Makes 12 servings

1/2 cup olive oil
1 T minced garlic
2 lbs. lean ground beef
1 lb. Italian sausage meat (sweet or hot, casings removed)
1/2 cup red wine
3 T tomato paste
5 cups water
salt & pepper
2 lbs. ricotta cheese
2 egg yolks
1 pound lasagna noodles
2 cups mozzarella cheese, grated
1 cup Pecorino Romano cheese, grated
1 pound mozzarella cheese, sliced

  • In a large saucepan, heat oil over medium-high, add onion and garlic and saute for 3 minutes.
  • Stir in beef and cook until browned (about 5 minutes).
  • Remove beef mixture from pan, then add sausage and cook until browned.
  • Return beef mixture and wine into the pan with sausage and cook for 5 minutes (until wine has evaporated).
  • Stir in tomatoes, tomato paste, water, and salt and pepper.
  • Simmer for about 2 hours, stirring occasionally.
  • Add more water if necessary (1/4 cup at a time), and skim off excess fat with a spoon or by laying paper towels on top of sauce.
  • Meanwhile, place ricotta into a cheesecloth-lined colander and allow it to drain in the refrigerator for 2 hours.
  • Combine drained ricotta with egg yolks.
  • Cook noodles in a large pot of salted, boiling water according to package directions (you want them al dente). Drain and run under cold water to stop them from cooking further.
  • Place noodles in a single layer on a kitchen towel and cover with a damp towel.
  • Preheat oven to 350°F.
  • In a large pan (12 x 18 x 2, or multiple smaller pans, just make sure they are 2 in. deep), ladle a thin layer of sauce.
  • Cover sauce with noodles, laid lengthwise, then cover with sauce, a thin layer of ricotta, a sprinkle of grated mozzarella and Pecorino Romano.
  • Continue to layer in this order, but alternate direction of pasta (lengthwise then crosswise).
  • Finish with a layer of meat sauce covered with sliced mozzarella and Pecorino Romano.
  • Bake for 45 minutes or until cheese has melted and lasagna is bubbling.
  • Remove from oven and allow to cool for 15 minutes.

Tuscan Ribolita with Tomato Garlic Bread

Originally posted on Culinary Wannabe – this is one of my favorites!

We have had a busy week packing up the fam to head down to GA for my little brother’s wedding, so I thought I would share one of my all time favorite Fall go-to’s that I’m sure you will love. This soup is loaded with veggies and beans, possibly making it the healthiest thing I’ve posted to this blog thus far. But that’s not the reason I love it – I love it because it tastes amazing!! It’s a slow cooker recipe, so the prep is a cinch. Go ahead and whip up a bowl of this delicious and soul satisfying soup this weekend. And even though there already are some scrumptious little bread pieces in there, I just can’t have a bowl of soup without some crusty bread to dip into it. So here’s my recipe for tomato bread – so yummy and the perfect compliment to this soup.

Hope everyone is off to a great Fall!

Tuscan Ribolita

Adapted from Slow Cooker – Willams-Sonoma

1/4 cup olive oil, plus some for drizzling
2 yellow onions, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup tomato paste
8 cups chicken or vegetable broth
6 cups canned cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1 bunch kale or savoy cabbage, coarsely chopped
4 carrots, coarsely chopped
2 stalks celery, coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon fresh thyme, minced
Salt and pepper
3 cups day-old crusty bread
Parmesan cheese shavings (optional)

  • Warm olive oil over medium heat in a frying pan.
  • Add onions and garlic and cook for 5 minutes, or until softened.
  • Stir in tomato paste and cook for an additional 2 minutes.
  • Add broth to the pan and bring to a boil.
  • Remove from heat once the liquid begins to boil.
  • Place beans, kale, carrots, celery, and thyme in slow cooker.
  • Add 2 teaspoons of salt and 1 teaspoon of pepper.
  • Add in the broth.
  • Cook in slow cooker for 4 hours on high or 8 hours on low.
  • Stir bread into soup about 10 minutes before serving.
  • Season to taste with additional salt and pepper.
  • Optionally, each serving can be drizzled with olive oil and parmesan shavings.

Tomato Garlic Bread

Slices of crusty bread (I use ciabatta)
Garlic cloves, peeled
Tomatoes, halved
EVOO
Coarse Salt
  • Lay the slices of bread over a hot grill pan for a few minutes on each side until they are toasted and have nice markings.
  • Rub each piece of toast with a garlic clove then the cut side of the tomato half.
  • Drizzle with a little bit of olive oil and follow with a sprinkle of salt.

Cooking the Blogs

I’ve been cooking up a storm lately, and a lot of my new recipes are courtesy of amazing food blogs. Please go and check out these sites to get the recipes for the below dishes. They are all winners and have been big hits with my family & friends.

Oreo Stuffed Chocolate Chip Cookies
Picky Palate —> Very dangerous for anyone with a sweet tooth!

I mean, it just doesn’t get more ridiculous than these. They are over-the-top in every way! I made a batch for Brandon’s teachers on the first day of school, and they were a huge hit!

Southwestern Pasta Salad with Creamy Avocado Dressing
Two Peas & Their Pod —> go visit Maria, Josh and Caleb (they are the cutest little family!)

Still hanging on to the last days of summer? Well this is the perfect side dish to any kind of grilled meat. I actually ate a huge bowl of this all by myself for dinner. It’s totally addicting!

Blackberry Cobbler
The Pioneer Woman —> Like you don’t know who she is!

You just can’t go wrong here. This is a surefire classic, and so easy to make you will find you don’t even need a recipe the second (or third, or fourth) time around.

What are some of you favorite food blogs? Cooking up anything amazing lately?

Rosemary-Crusted Standing Rib Roast with Red Wine Gravy

So I’m about to hit you with the most amazing Sunday dinner roast ever. Yes, it is pricey, but it is so worth it. This is my husband’s favorite meal, and pretty much the only thing that he requests on a regular basis. He claims it actually makes him emotional, it’s that good. As long as you buy a good cut of meat, your work is pretty much done. You just cover it in a little rub, let it roast away, then whip up a quick gravy using the drippings. We are talking out-of-this-world flavor. Although working with a cut of meat that is on the pricey end can be intimidating (you don’t want to mess it up!), I’ve made this at least 5 times, and it’s always come out perfectly, except for the one time that I tried to use a less expensive cut. Still good, but not as amazing as usual. Trust me – splurge a little for a special dinner!

Our 4th wedding anniversary is this week, and I couldn’t think of a more perfect meal. Too bad I will actually be off having a crazy reunion with some of my sorority sisters in New Orleans, but that’s another story. 🙂

Rosemary-Crusted Standing Rib Roast with Red Wine Gravy (serves 4 with leftovers)

Adapted from The Winemaker Cooks —-> One of my favorite cookbooks! Stay tuned for another great recipe from here this week.

1 standing beef rib roast, 4-5 lbs.
3 T finely chopped fresh rosemary
1 T freshly cracked pepper
1 1/2 T kosher salt
2 T extra-virgin olive oil

Red Wine Gravy:
reserved roasting pan fat & drippings
1 cup red wine (Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, or a Bordeaux blend)
2 cups beef stock
4 T unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups chopped onions
1/4 cup flour
salt & pepper

  • Remove roast from fridge at least 1 hour before cooking, to allow it to come to room temp.
  • Preheat oven to 450°F.
  • In a small bowl, combine rosemary, pepper, salt, and oil to make a paste, then rub all over roast, including rib side.
  • Place roast, bone side down, on a rack in a roasting pan.
  • Roast for 45 minutes, then turn temp down to 375°F and cook until meat reaches an internal temperature of 125°F (thermometer inserted into center of meat), which will take another 30-45 minutes. I like to use this thermometer. Meat will be medium rare, but will continue to cook while it rests – don’t overcook!
  • Place roast on a carving board and tent with foil for 20 minutes before slicing.

Gravy:

  • Pour drippings from the roasting pan through a fine mesh strainer into a glass bowl, them skim off fat and keep to the side.
  • Place roasting pan over 2 burners set on medium heat, then add wine and stocking, scrapping up all the brown bits at the bottom.
  • Pour this wine/stock mixture through the same strainer into the glass bowl with the drippings (minus the fat).
  • Place pan back on 2 burners over medium-low heat, add butter, 1/4 cup of the reserved fat, and onions and cook until onions are lightly brown, about 15 minutes.
  • Sprinkle flour into pan and cook, whisking constantly, for 3 minutes.
  • Add the drippings/wine mixture and cook, whisking constantly, for 5 more minutes or until thickened.
  • Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  • Serve alongside or atop slices of roast (my husband actually freezes any extra gravy, and will have a whole meal of just gravy and rice).

Mexican Lasagna

I have totally been having one of those days. And at the end of a day like today, grilled chicken and steamed veggies just ain’t gonna cut it. But I also don’t want to spend hours in the kitchen cooking up a feast worthy of a major guilt trip afterwards. I just want something yummy (i.e., not healthy) that will be ready in the time it takes Special Agent OSO to do his 3 special steps. So Mexican Lasagna is what’s on the menu tonight in our house. There might also be a michelada or two (or 3).

Mexican Lasagna

Adapted from Eva’s Kitchen

cooking spray
1 lb ground beef
salt & pepper
1/2 cup low sodium chicken broth
5 flour tortillas
8 oz. salsa (not chunky)
1/2 can black beans, rinsed
8 oz. shredded Mexican cheese
4 oz. sour cream
1 4.5 oz. can green chilies (optional)

  • Preheat oven to 375°F, and coat a 8-inch cake pan with cooking spray.
  • Season beef with salt and pepper and brown over medium heat.
  • Pour broth into a sided container and dip each tortilla in, making it moist but not soggy.
  • Place tortilla at the bottom of the pan, then top with 2 T sour cream, 1/4 cup meat, a scattering of black beans, 2 T salsa, 1/3 cup shredded cheese, and 2 T chilies, if using.
  • Top with another tortilla and repeat with 3 more layers of filling, finish with a final tortilla on top.
  • Spread remaining salsa and cheese on top, covering the final tortilla.
  • Spray one side of aluminum foil with cooking spray, and place that side down on top of pan.
  • Bake for 30 minutes, serve hot with additional salsa and sour cream if desired.

African Drumsticks

There’s something about marinating meat that gets me excited. It’s such an easy way to impart a lot of flavor, and usually you can do the majority of the work in advance. It’s so nice to know that all I have left to do for dinner is to pop it in the oven. Like most New Yorkers, we are sorely lacking a grill (yet another thing that tops my “dreams of suburbia” list), so this is a great replacement recipe for when you would normally do bbq chicken. The flavor penetrates all the way through the meat, but isn’t overpowering, making this recipe pretty fool-proof for most palates (including children). The meat is also super tender, practically falling off the bone. You could easily set the chicken under the broiler for the last few minutes to give the skin a few charred bits if that’s more your speed as well. I served it with some fresh heirloom tomatoes and corn. A simple and fresh tasting summer dinner. Hope you enjoy!

African Drumsticks

Adapted from Nigella Kitchen

1/3 cup Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup ketchup
2 tsp. English mustard
1 tsp ground ginger
1 T apricot jam
1 onion, peeled and finely chopped
8-10 chicken drumsticks
1 T garlic flavored oil

  • Mix together Worcestershire sauce, ketchup, mustard, ground ginger, apricot jam, and chopped onion.
  • Add chicken and marinade overnight in the refrigerator.
  • Put oil in a rimmed baking sheet, and tilt so that the oil covers the pan.
  • Arrange chicken snugly in pan then top with any remaining marinade.
  • Cook for 45 minutes – 1 hour, turning at least once.

Chicken Cordon Bleu Pasta

Craving something cheesy, salty and carb-coma inducing? Well, look no further! This dish is like restaurant style mac and cheese taken to the extreme. It has pretty much anything you could ask for at the end of a long day – bacon, cheese, pasta, ham and even a little chicken for good measure. You will eat it, your kids will eat it, then you’ll all eat it again for lunch the next day because it’s just darn addicting (isn’t all mac & cheese?).

Chicken Cordon Bleu Pasta
Adapted from Chef in Training —-> head on over and check her out!

12 oz penne pasta, cooked
2 cups heavy cream
8 oz cream cheese
1/2 tsp onion salt
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 1/2 cup shredded swiss cheese (separated)
3 chicken cutlets, cooked & cubed
4 strips bacon, cooked & crumbled
1/2 cup ham, diced
bread crumbs

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  • Over medium low, heat cream cheese until melted, then stir in heavy cream, onion salt and garlic powder. Adjust seasoning to taste.
  • Stir in 1 cup cheese until melted and smooth.
  • In a 9×13 in. baking dish, combine pasta, cheese sauce, chicken, bacon and ham. Top with remaining cheese and breadcrumbs.
  • Bake for 15 minutes, until hot and cheese has melted.

Shrimp and Grits

Originally posted on Culinary Wannabe – this is one of my favorites!

People either love or hate grits, which is primarily based on which side of the Mason-Dixon line they call home. In the south, grits are an absolute staple and present at nearly every breakfast table. In the north, they are thought to be as bland as cardboard and are nearly impossible to find (yes, you will get weird looks from the grocery clerk if you ask for them). Personally, I love ’em. But I do recognize that they are really a vehicle for all kinds of yumminess (cream, cheese, butter, salt), and that the grits alone are a little less than fabulous. And don’t even get me started on those instant types. Yuk! The first time I decided to make grits up here in NYC, the only kind I could find was a box of instant that looked like they had been there since the beginning of time; totally covered in dust and totally icky.

Now when grits are treated with respect and gussied up a little, they can be one of the most fantastic things you will ever put in your mouth (don’t believe me? Take a little trip down to the Fish House in Pensacola, FL for the grits a ya ya, and then lets talk). For our rehearsal dinner, we decided to do a southern theme, since we were in the middle of GA and more than half the guest were yankees or Canadians (i.e. super yankees), and the shrimp and grits absolutely stole the show. People couldn’t believe how good they were!

This recipe is just like that. It’s delicious, hearty, and a true tribute to Mr. Florence’s southern roots. Serve it up with a big glass of sweet tea and a side of cornbread and you will be totally set. Just don’t blame me when you start throwin’ around a few ya’lls.

Ultimate Shrimp and Grits
Adapted from Tyler Florence

For Grits:
3 cups milk
3 cups heavy cream
1 cup stone-ground white cornmeal (or grits, just not the instant kind)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
salt and pepper

  • Place a large pot over medium-high heat, and add milk and cream.
  • Slowly whisk in cornmeal.
  • When grits start to bubble, turn heat to medium low and let cook for 10-15 minutes, stirring frequently.
  • Remove from heat and stir in butter and extra cream to thin out a bit.
  • Season with salt and pepper.

For Shrimp:
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 onion, minced
1 garlic clove, minced
1 pound andouille sausage, cut into chunks
1/4 cup ap flour
2 cups chicken stock
3 bay leaves
2 pounds large shrimp, peeled and deveined, tails on
1/2 lemon, juiced
salt and pepper
2 tablespoons flat leaf parsley, chopped
4 green onions, sliced

  • Place a deep skillet of medium heat and add olive oil.
  • Saute onion and garlic for a few minutes to soften.
  • Add sausage and cook until browned.
  • Stir in flour.
  • Slowly pour in chicken stock and stir to avoid lumps.
  • Add bay leaves.
  • When stock begins to simmer, add shrimp and cook for 2-3 minutes until firm and pink.
  • Add lemon juice, parsley, green onion and season with salt and pepper.
  • To serve, spoon grits onto plate and top with shrimp mixture.
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