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Archive for the ‘Main Dish’ Category

Juicy steak on barbecue

I’m super-excited today to share some great summer cookout tips from Jack Vogt, Tony Roma’s Pitmaster just in time for the summer barbecue season!

How to prep for an Unforgettable Summer Cookout

 

Before you fire up the grill, you’ve got to get your backyard kitchen aka THE GRILL prepped and ready. Here’s a checklist to get you set for your first summer cookout:

 

  • Grill. If you already own a grill, drag it out of storage and give it a good scrub. Use a stiff wire brush to scrape off the grate and follow the directions in your grill’s instruction manual for cleaning the rest of the grill. If you’re new to the grilling game, check out this list of grills and smokers from AmazingRibs.com to help you find a grill that matches your needs and budget.

 

  • Fuel. If you’re working with a gas grill, you’ll need to fill your propane tank. While you’re there, grab a spare. You never want to get halfway through grilling the perfect prime rib and discover you’re out of gas. If you have a charcoal grill, pick up a bag of charcoal briquettes, a chimney starter and a few pieces of newspaper to get the fire started.

 

  • Grilling tools. Many stores sell BBQ or grill tool sets, but you can also buy each tool separately depending on what you already have at home. The most important tools to have handy are tongs, a spatula, a basting brush and a fork. You may also want to pick up a few metal skewers for kebabs (and everyone’s favorite dessert – s’mores!).

 

  • Instant Read Thermometer. Using a meat thermometer will ensure your meat is properly cooked – no one wants their guests to leave with a stomachache. A thermometer will also help you gauge when to pull the meat off to avoid an overcooked, dry dinner.

 

  • Flashlight or grill light. If you think your summer party will extend past daylight hours, you’ll need some direct lighting on the grill. You can buy a grill light that clips onto the side of the grill so you can work hands free. If you’re using a flashlight, enlist a friend to assist you.

 

Now that you’ve got the grill prepped, here are a few of my tested tips to make this summer’s cookouts the most successful (and delicious) yet!

 

  • Choose the best cut. The best cut (and type) of meat may depend on your budget and the number of people at your party, but these three are my favorites.

Baby back ribs are the most tender cut. While they are one of the pricier options, this cut is sure to please your guests. You can start cooking ribs before your guests arrive and finish them on the grill when you’re ready to eat.

 

Chicken breasts, legs and thighs are all great options if you’re feeding a group. Chicken is less expensive than ribs and it is easy to cook (read: hard to mess up!), so it’s a good choice if you’re a grilling novice.

 

Beef skirt steak may have a bad reputation as a tough cut of meat, but it can be real crowd pleaser when cooked on the grill. Plus, it can be cooked quickly (about four minutes on each side) so you won’t have to worry about keeping hungry guests waiting.

 

  • Marinate to perfection. Marinades are used to enhance the flavors of your chosen meat and your marinade options are almost limitless. Most marinades consist of a fat (like olive oil), an acid (like citrus or wine), and flavoring (herbs and spices), but as always, there are exceptions to this rule. Whether you are making your own marinade or using a prepared one, you’ll want to make sure you give the meat enough time to soak up all the flavor.

 

If you’re working with seafood, a short marinating time is best; an hour or two is plenty of time to infuse seafood with flavor. You can soak hard vegetables anywhere from 30 minutes to two hours and softer vegetables for about 30 minutes. You have more leeway when it comes to meat, which can be marinated anywhere from one hour to overnight (which may be the most convenient if you are planning a party for a lot of people).

 

Keep in mind that the thinner the food is cut, the less time it will need to marinate. Marinades that are high in acid also require less time as the acid breaks down tissue and can toughen the meat if left to soak for an extended period of time.

 

Safety tip: Don’t ever reuse a marinade as it can contain harmful bacteria.

 

  • Seasoning is everything! You may think that since you’ve already marinated your meat, you don’t have to worry about seasoning, but think again! Seasoning with salt and pepper will help bring out the flavors you have infused into the meat. Even if you decide to skip the marinade and go with a dry rub, you still want to make sure you include salt and pepper.
  • Pre-cook meat. Before your guests arrive, heat the meat most of the way so all you have to do is finish on the grill. You can also purchase pre-cooked ribs, pulled pork or chicken at your local supermarket. Easy to prepare and ready to serve in about 15 minutes, they’re the perfect option for entertaining, plus you’ll have more time to socialize and more room on the grill for other dishes.

 

  • Maintain the correct temperature. Cooking your meat to the proper temperature can mean the difference between a juicy steak and a dry one. Use your grill’s lid and vents to help you control the temperature.

 

The difference between using your grill’s lid and leaving it open is like the difference between oven and stovetop cooking. The lid is useful in trapping not only heat, but also smoke and flavor. If you don’t use the lid, you’re only cooking from underneath, which is preferable for thin foods, but not for foods that are more than ¾ inch thick.

 

Basic rule of thumb: If the food is thin or you need to watch its color, leave the lid off. If it’s over an inch thick, close the lid and use a high quality grill thermometer.

 

The key to successful grilling is to remain in control of the heat. It’s also important to remember that the charcoal or wood is not the only fuel- oxygen also plays a role. Grills have an intake vent and an exhaust vent, and by manipulating these vents you can control the temperature. The intake damper brings oxygen to the fire, and the exhaust damper helps the intake vent do this, while also allowing gases to escape.

 

Below are a few recipes to cook on the grill this summer!

Open-faced Pulled Pork Mac and Cheese Sandwich

Prep time: 10 minutes | Cook time: 40 minutes | Total time: 50 minutes

Yield: 8 servings

 Ingredients:

  • 8 slices Texas Toast
  • 4 cups prepared macaroni and cheese, warmed
  • 2large onions, thinly sliced
  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
  • 1 tsp. Kosher salt
  • 1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 8 slices Gouda cheese
  • 8 slices sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1 pkg. (2 cups) Tony Roma’s BBQ Pulled Pork
  • 1 cup barbecue sauce

 

Directions:

  1. Preheat grill to medium-high, about 400°-450°F, and lightly oil the grate.
  1. Place sliced onions into a 6-inch square piece of tin foil, drizzle with olive oil and salt and pepper, to taste. Close foil around onion slices.
  2. Set foil packets on lower rack of a gas grill or directly on top of hot coals on a charcoal grill. Cook for 30-35 minutes. While waiting for the onions to caramelize, heat Tony Roma’s Pulled Pork as per package instructions.
  3. Butter both sides of each slice of toast. Layer each with one slice of cheddar cheese, ¼ cup macaroni and cheese, ¼ cup pulled pork, ¼ cup caramelized onions, and one slice of Gouda cheese.
  4. Working in batches of four, cook the sandwiches until the cheese melts and the bread is golden, about 5 minutes.
  5. Drizzle with barbeque sauce and enjoy!

 

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Lamb Gyro platedConfession is good for the soul, right?
I must confess that I’m a huge fan of Lamb Gyros. I should further admit my love for these developed from a food booth at the rodeo. I’d never eaten one until a few years ago.
My life shall never, ever be the same.
There’s something about the tender meat, zingy Tzatziki sauce, fresh tomatoes, and tangy Feta cheese encased in soft Pita bread that makes my knees wobble while my mouth waters.
Devastated when the food vendor wasn’t at this year’s rodeo (yes, I only get these amazing treats once a year), I decided to make my own.
The hardest part was locating some lamb. Three grocery stores later, I happened upon a manager’s half-price special or I probably wouldn’t have purchased the meat because it ran a little (okay, astronomically) on the high side.
Regardless of how or where I purchased the lamb, the gyros turned out so, so good. I almost had to beat Captain Cavedweller off so I could have half of the leftovers.

Here’s how we made them:

Gyro ingredients

Gyro ingredients

Cucumber sauce - make and set aside in the fridge while they meat cooks. You can also make it the previous night. Just cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to use.

Cucumber sauce – make and set aside in the fridge while they meat cooks. You can also make it the previous night. Just cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to use.

There are any number of traditional methods for cooking the meat. I stir-fried mine in a wok.

There are any number of traditional methods for cooking the meat. I stir-fried mine in a wok.

It didn't take long for the meat to brown or the delicious scent to cause us to anxiously begin assembling the gyros.

It didn’t take long for the meat to brown or the delicious scent to cause us to anxiously begin assembling the gyros.

Toast your Pita bread - just until it's warm.

Toast your Pita bread – just until it’s warm.

Then layer on all the delicious toppings and be thrilled you know how to make this at home instead of waiting to find the next vendor booth at a public event.

Then layer on all the delicious toppings and be thrilled you know how to make this at home instead of waiting to find the next vendor booth at a public event.

Lamb Gyro with Tzatziki Sauce

1 lb. of lamb, cooked and sliced into small pieces

1 tomato, sliced  into bite-sized chunks

1/2 cup Feta cheese

1/4 cup Kalamata olives, sliced

Pita Bread

Tzatziki Sauce:

1 cucumber, peeled and coarsely shredded

1/2 tsp. salt

3/4 cup plain yogurt

2 tbsp. white vinegar

1/2 tsp. dill weed

In a medium bowl, sprinkle salt over cucumber and mix well. Let stand five minutes. Drain. Stir in remaining dressing ingredients. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

(Please ignore the fact I show sour cream in the ingredient photo because I forgot to get plain yogurt and had to make a little substitution. Ditto on the balsamic vinegar instead of white vinegar. Follow the recipe and you’ll be fine!)

You can use whatever type of lamb you like (or can find). I ended up with a package of lamb chops and cut all the meat off the bones into thin slices. I then put the lamb in a resealable bag with about 2 tbsp. olive oil, 1 tsp. salt, and 1 tsp. seasoning. I let the meat marinate overnight. I dumped the contents of the bag into a heated wok and stirred the meat around on medium-heat until it was nicely browned (and filled the house with a mouth-watering aroma).

While the meat cooks, chop your tomatoes and slice the olives then set aside.

Warm the pita bread in the oven for just a minute or two until it’s warm and soft and wonderful.

Layer on the meat, followed by the sauce, tomatoes, olives and cheese.

She Who Could Eat This Once a Week

Makes five Gyros.

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Chicken Tortelinni  plated

Knowing CC would be home and ready to eat soon, I started scrounging through the fridge last night and came up with some ingredients to throw together.  This fast, easy, yummy dinner comes together in about thirty minutes (if you hustle, which I did because a hungry man kept looming around the kitchen, wanting fed!).

At first, CC turned up his nose at it, but after one bite, he quickly ate what was on his plate and went back for seconds. I think that meant he liked it.

Ingredients

Ingredients

 

Cook tortellini according to package directions. While it's cooking, cut the chicken into bite sized pieces.

Cook tortellini according to package directions. While it’s cooking, cut the chicken into bite sized pieces.

Melt butter and then stir in Panko crumbs. You can also add seasoning if you like and a sprinkle of salt.

Melt butter and then stir in Panko crumbs. You can also add seasoning if you like and a sprinkle of salt. Set aside.

 

When tortellini is cooked, drain. Since I'm lazy, I mixed everything in the saucepan so I had one less bowl to wash.

When tortellini is cooked, drain. Since I’m lazy, I mixed everything in the saucepan so I had one less bowl to wash. Add your chicken and give it a good stir.

Then add the rest of the ingredients.

Then add the rest of the ingredients.

 

Blend thoroughly.

Stir thoroughly.

 

Spoon into a greased casserole dish, then top with  sprinkling of cheese.

Spoon into a greased casserole dish, then top with sprinkling of cheese.

 

Top with Panko crumbs.

Top with Panko crumbs.

Bake for about twenty minutes, until sauce is bubbly and cheese is melted.

Bake for about twenty minutes, until sauce is bubbly and cheese is melted, then serve immediately. (Hungry men don’t like to wait while you do silly things like take photos!)

 

Cheesy Chicken Tortellini

1 package of cheese-filled tortellini

2 cups cooked chicken

1 1/4 cup mozzarella cheese (divided)

1/2 cup Parmesan cheese

1 1/2 cups Alfredo sauce

1 1/2 cups Panko crumbs

2 tbsp. butter

Seasoning

Salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9 x 13 casserole dish with non-stick cooking spray and set aside.

Cook tortellini according to package directions. While it’s cooking, cut chicken into bite-sized pieces. Melt butter and stir in Panko crumbs. You can also add some seasoning to the crumbs, if you wish.

Drain tortellini. Add chicken to the saucepan and stir then add 1 cup of mozzarella cheese, the Parmesan cheese, Alfredo Sauce and any seasonings along with a sprinkle of salt. Stir well then spoon into casserole pan. Top with remaining mozzarella cheese then Panko crumbs. Bake uncovered for about 20 minutes, until sauce is bubbly and cheese is melted.

If you want to get fancy, you can add a sprinkle of fresh or fried parsley on top.

She Who Will Be Making This Again

 

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Today is National Pizza Party Day!

Since I know you don’t want to miss out on the fun, here are some links to great pizza recipes!

pesto pizza

Easy Pesto Pizza from Budget Savvy Diva

pizza chicken garlic

Roasted Garlic Chicken & White Sauce Pizza from The Best Blog Recipes

pizza greek

Greek Pizza from Two Peas and Their Pod (I will be making this one for sure)

pizza pull apartEasy Pull Apart Pizza Bread from Sweet and Simple Living

pizza brownieAnd we can’t forget dessert! Here’s a Brownie Berry Pizza from Recipe 4 Living

She Who Will Be Making Pizza Soon

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Meatloaf plated

Captain Cavedweller isn’t a meatloaf fan and I’m allergic to processed tomatoes, so we’ve avoided meatloaf at our house.

The other day I got inspired to see if I could either find or create a recipe that didn’t use ketchup or any kind of canned tomatoes. Boy, did that turn out to be a tasty decision. Finding a few recipes online, I combined elements of what I liked and came up with a meatloaf recipe that is nothing like the one Granny used to make, but delicious all the same!

Ingredients

Ingredients

Start by slicing and dicing your celery into small, thin pieces.

Start by slicing and dicing your celery into small, thin pieces.

Heat olive oil in a skillet on medium heat and add celery and onion flakes. If you want to use fresh onion and add garlic, you can certainly do that, too. Cook until celery is soft then let cool.

Heat olive oil in a skillet on medium heat and add celery and onion flakes. If you want to use fresh onion and add garlic, you can certainly do that, too. Cook until celery is soft then let cool.

Add celery mixture to remaining ingredients and mix thoroughly.

Add celery mixture to remaining ingredients and mix thoroughly.

 

Form mixture into a loaf on a rimmed baking sheet. I lined mine with foil because I'm lazy and don't like scraping goo off the pan. The loaf should be about twelve inches long, four to five inches wide and at least an inch and a half to two inches deep.

Form mixture into a loaf on a rimmed baking sheet. I lined mine with foil because I’m lazy and don’t like scraping goo off the pan. The loaf should be about twelve inches long, four to five inches wide and at least an inch and a half to two inches deep.

 

While the meatloaf is baking, pour two cups of chicken broth into a pan with butter. You can add a spoon of crushed garlic if you want, which we didn't. This is going to cook for about twenty minutes, until it starts to thicken (although it will still be thin, not like gravy).

While the meatloaf is baking, pour two cups of chicken broth into a pan with butter. You can add a spoon of crushed garlic if you want, which we didn’t. This is going to cook for about twenty minutes, until it starts to thicken (although it will still be thin, not like gravy).

 

Bake the meatloaf until nice and brown - about an hour.

Bake the meatloaf until nice and brown – about an hour.

 

Slice and serve with the "gravy" drizzled over the top.

Slice and serve with the “gravy” drizzled over the top.

 

Not Your Granny’s Meatloaf

2 pounds of ground beef

3 eggs

2/3 cup milk

1 tbsp. parsley

1 1/2 cups Panko crumbs

1 tsp. seasoning

dash of salt

1 tbsp. olive oil

1/3 cup of thinly sliced and diced celery

1 tsp. onion flakes (or you can add fresh onion)

2 cups chicken broth

3 tbsp. butter

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Thinly slice and dice celery. Heat olive oil in a small skillet on medium heat and add celery and onion (you can also add a little garlic if you want). Cook until celery is softened. Remove from heat and let cool.

Mix celery with remaining ingredients until thoroughly blended.

Line a rimmed baking pan with foil (if you’re lazy like me) and give it a shot of non-stick spray. Form a loaf in the pan that is about 12 inches long by 4-5 inches wide by 1 1/2-2 inches deep.

Bake for an hour, until outside is a nice, deep brown.

About twenty-five minutes before the meatloaf is finished baking, pour 2 cups of chicken broth into a heavy skillet with the butter. You can add a spoon of crushed garlic if you want or a spoon of seasoning.

Bring to a boil then simmer for about twenty minutes, until it starts to thicken. It will not get thick like gravy, but will be thicker than broth.

When the meatloaf is finished, slice and drizzle with the gravy and enjoy the delicious, yummy treat!

She Who Will Be Making This Again

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chicken one dish plated

If you ever have those days when you just want to throw everything in one pan and end up with a delicious, filling meal, this is a good recipe to go to!

Ingredients

Ingredients

 

If you don't have left-over rice (and white or brown would work fine) go ahead and get your wild rice cooking, following the package directions. Mine said to cook for 45 minutes.

If you don’t have left-over rice (and white or brown would work fine) go ahead and get your wild rice cooking, following the package directions. Mine said to cook for 45 minutes.

While the rice is doing its thing, cut the chicken into bite-sized pieces, trimming off any fat.

While the rice is doing its thing, cut the chicken into bite-sized pieces, trimming off any fat.

 

Add a little oil to the bottom of a large skillet and let it heat, then add chicken.

Add a little oil to the bottom of a large skillet and let it heat, then add chicken.

 

Cook chicken until the outside is no longer pink. Add in chicken broth and let simmer on medium heat  for about twelve minutes.

Cook chicken until the outside is no longer pink. Add in chicken broth. Cover and let simmer on medium heat for about twelve minutes.

 

Once rice is cooked, drain then add to chicken.

Once rice is cooked, drain then add to chicken.

 

Add broccoli and let it simmer until your preferred doneness (about five minutes is how we like it).

Add broccoli and let it simmer until your preferred doneness (about five minutes is how we like it).

 

Stir in the can of cream of mushroom soup. Turn off heat, cover and let soup blend in for just a minute or two.

Stir in the can of cream of mushroom soup. Turn off heat, cover and let soup blend in for just a minute or two.

Serve - and you can top it with a little shredded cheese, if you like

Serve – and you can top it with a little shredded cheese, if you like.

 

Chicken – Wild Rice – Broccoli One-Dish Meal

1 1/2 pounds chicken pieces (boneless and skinless)

2 cups cooked rice

2 cups broccoli

1 can chicken broth

1 can cream of mushroom soup

1/2 cup shredded cheese (optional)

If you don’t have leftover rice, cook it according to package directions. While it is cooking, cut chicken into bite-sized pieces, trimming off any fat.

Heat about a tablespoon of oil in a large heavy skillet over medium heat. Add chicken and cook until it is no longer pink. Pour in 1 cup of chicken broth, cover and let simmer for about 12 minutes.

By now, your rice should be done. Drain and add to the chicken, along with the broccoli. Mix with the chicken, cover and let simmer about five minutes.

Turn off heat then spoon in cream of mushroom soup, blending well. Cover and let sit just a minute to make sure soup is heated throughout then serve. We like to sprinkle a little cheese (cheddar or colby-jack) on top of ours.

The best part about this is that clean-up is a snap.

Serves 6-8 (depending how starving they are!)

She Who Needs to Make this Again

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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bread dough hamber patty with heart cutter

If your true love is a carnivore like mine, then today’s recipe will be a big hit! Make your meat-eater happy with these fun Heart Shaped Hamburgers. (Sorry for the photo of raw meat right up front…)

On a side note – if you don’t want to make burgers, you could also cut the meat into heart shapes for use with pasta (think meatballs, except in the shape of hearts).

We’ll start with the dough for the buns then move on to the burgers.

bread dough ingredientsIngredients for the buns.

Start by scalding milk with oil and sugar.

Once the milk mixture has cooled to lukewarm, you can add in a package of yeast.

Sprinkle yeast over the milk and let rest for a minute.

Stir in yeast and four cups of flour.

Place the pan in a warm area, cover with a tea towel and let the yeast do its thing for about an hour. I like to put my pan in front of the fire. It is warm and makes the dough smell heavenly.

When they’ve puffed up a bit, bake them in a 350 degree oven until the tops are golden brown.

bread dough bun sliced openSlice open and build that perfect burger. (And you might not even need to slice, since the two hearts are easily separated.)

bread dough meatFor the burgers, add whatever spices you like to the meat, then flatten it out to  whatever thickness you like. I think ours were about 1/2 inch thick.

bread dough cut out burger pattyUsing the same cookie cutter (so the meat and buns are somewhat uniform), but out heart shapes in the ground beef.

bread dough heart burgers ready to bbq

How fun is that? Grill them or fry them or cook them however you like.

(I may have begged until CC cooked our outside on the BBQ. Good thing the snow is gone and the temps warmed up yesterday!).

bread dough burger on bun

Once the meat is cooked, place it on your bun, add your favorite toppings and enjoy!

Hamburger Hearts

Dough

2 cups milk

1/2 cup vegetable oil

1/4 cup sugar

1 package active dry yeast

4 1/2 cups flour

1/2 tsp. baking powder

1/3 tsp. baking soda

1/2 tbsp. salt

Hamburgers

1-2 pounds of ground beef

spices

your choice of condiments

Scald the milk, oil and sugar in a medium saucepan over medium heat (bring heat to nearly a boil, but don’t let it boil!). Set aside and cool to lukewarm (think temperature of a baby’s bottle). Sprinkle yeast on top of milk and let rest for one minute.

Add four cups of the flour and stir until just combined. It is going to be sticky. Cover with a tea towel and set in a warm place for an hour.

Remove the towel and add baking powder, baking soda, salt and final 1/2 cup of flour. Stir to combine.

Roll out and cut into heart-shapes with a cookie cutter. I used one that was about four-inches wide. Place a single layer of hearts on a baking sheet, then place a second layer on top of the first (like you’re making a heart sandwich, except without the filling).

Cover with a tea towel and return to a warm area to rise for another 20-30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

When dough is ready, bake for about 10- 15 minutes, until the tops are a lovely golden brown.

You should be able to easily separate the tops and bottoms of your heart-sharped buns, but if not, just got them in half.

While the buns are baking, mix your ground beef with whatever spices you like. Pat it out to whatever thickness you like your burgers then use the  same cookie cutter you cut out the buns with to cut out your burgers.

Cook (grill, fry, toss on the barbecue – whatever you like), then slide onto the bun. The bread will be just slightly bigger because it expands and the meat tends to shrink a little.

Top with your favorite condiments and listen to your meat-eater praise your efforts.

With the cookie-cutter I used, I had 24 hearts or 12 buns. The number you get will depend on the size of your cookie cutter. I used a 1 1/2 pound package of ground beef and got six burgers. You can cut the bread recipe in half if you want to make a smaller batch.

She Who May Have Enjoyed These, Too

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