Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Blue Cheese Stuffed Olives

I love blue cheese. Olives are okay. Not a huge fan of dirty martinis, but my wife enjoys one every now and then. She asked for blue cheese stuffed olives in her martini this weekend. She had them before at the Cheescake Factory in Charlotte, NC. I Found a recipe on a bartending forum. Simple and delicious. You could make a jar of these as an appetizer for a party or a side course to a meal. I think it tastes delicious.

To stuff 4 olives:
4 olives
2 tsp crumbled blue cheese
1 tsp cream cheese, softened
1/2 garlic clove, minced
Pinch of salt & pepper

Remove the pimentos from your olives. Reserve all the brine in the jar.

Mix the ingredients together. To get that blue cheese mixture into the olive I used a make-shift pastry bag. I just cut a corner of a ziploc bag and squeezed the mixture into the olives. Return the jar with olive brine to enhance the flavors. Enjoy!

For dirty martini, combine 1 shot vodka and 1 shot olive brine in shaker with ice. Shake well. Pour into glass. Garnish with two stuffed olives.

If making a whole jar of olives, I think 1 cup of each blue cheese and 1/2 cup of cream cheese should work. Adjust garlic, salt and pepper to your taste. I did try a few of the olives stuffed with just the blue cheese and minced garlic. That adds a nice variation to the mix.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Slow Cooker: Spicy Chicken. Very TASTY.

Dude, this is as easy AND tasty as it gets. Two ingredients - chicken and salsa - cooking for 8-10 hrs on low or 4-6 on high in the star chef of your kitchen - the slow cooker. When cooked, the chicken is so tender that you can just stir the aroma-rich mixture up and that pipin' poultry in there will just fall apart into nice shreds. The chicken and salsa form a great relationship here, but truthfully the salsa does all the work. Ideally, it would be great to make your own garden fresh salsa - but I didn't have a garden or time today, so I bought garden fresh salsas from my local Wal-mart.

I cooked 2 lbs. chicken tenders with a mixture of half the chipotle garlic salsa and half the hot garden salsa. I made tacos with double corn tortillas (warmed in a non-stick skillet), sliced roma tomatoes, chunked avocado, chopped cilantro and pepper jack cheese. I topped that off with some fresh squeezed lime juice. It looked so good and tasted so good that I didn't take any pictures of the final product. I already knew I wanted to make a blog post out of this, so the fact that I didn't take any pictures should tell you how tasty these tacos were. On a completely unrelated note, my daughter ate her first "solids" today - rice cereal. Here she is begging for one of our spicy chicken tacos today, since she eats "solids" now..

"I can haz spicee chikinz?"

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Slow Cooker Boston Butt

Slow Cooker Boston Butt
for Pulled Pork

This is one of those set-it and forget-it recipes that aims to please. This is a meal I look forward to on Sundays. I wake up early, prep and start the slow cooker (set it and forget it!) and go work out at the gym. When I get home, the aroma that fills my house makes me want to jump in for a swim in that slow cooker! This is even great for workdays - nothing like walking in and grabbing a plate of slow cooked pork that melts in your mouth, not in your hand. The best part is, it's very simple. 

While nothing can compare to a properly slow smoked boston butt, this recipe isn't a bad alternative.

1 small boston butt (the pinker the fresher!)
1 tsp sesame oil
6 cloves garlic
2 tbsp fresh, chopped cilantro
Salt and Pepper, to season
1 tbsp liquid smoke
1-1/2 cups water

1. Pour and mix the water, liquid smoke, salt, pepper and 1 tbsp of the cilantro in your slow cooker. Mix well. This is the wet bath that your butt will cook in. Go ahead and turn the slow cooker on to the low, or 200° to 250°, setting.

2. Now to season your butt. There should be one fleshy side and one side covered with a layer of fat. Put the beautiful chunk of meat on your cutting board fat side down. Pierce six small holes in top of the meat. Place your flesh garlic cloves in these holes. The garlic will slowly infuse with the meat while cooking. Next, cover and rub your butt with the sesame oil (that sounds funny!). Rub with salt and pepper to your liking then rub with the remaining tablespoon of cilantro. 

3.  Place your boston butt in your slow cooker with the fat side facing up. Now cover the slow cooker and let the magic happen. Depending on the size of your butt and the size of your slow cooker, this should take anywhere from 8-10 hours. If you get impatient, you can always turn the slow cooker to the high setting to speed up the process. The meat is fully cooked and safe to eat when it reaches 160°.  Enjoy!

Once the butt cools down, you can pull it apart by hand, mix with your favorite barbecue sauce, and return to the slow cooker on very low setting. When cooked correctly, the meat should not be stringy and should tear easily (similar to how a paper towel tears).  And there ain't nothin' wrong with packaged barbecue sauces!!!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Simple Sweet and Spicy Scallop Pasta

I love recipes with a simple ingredient list - and it doesn't get much simpler than this with only 8 ingredients! (peanut oil, scallops, garlic, jalepeno pepper, grape tomatoes, salt & pepper, butter and angel hair pasta). You can easily substitute shrimp or meat/poultry as the protein. Actually, I prefer to make this meal with shrimp but decided to take a gander at baby scallops tonight (and I'm very glad I did). For the record, I LOVE all combinations of sweet and spicy. I was on a spicy kick for a long time, but as I began noticing grocery stores and chain restaurants spiking the trend of "spicy foods" - I decided I would kick it up a notch to spicy sweet.  It's just an amazing complement for so many different meats and vegetables. I have been developing a honey-based sweet and spicy glaze for meats and vegetables and will be blogging about in the near future.

For this quick meal, we get the spicy element from a halved and sliced jalepeno pepper and the sweetness from halved grape or cherry tomatoes. I would like to give you a quick tip when picking out your jalepeno peppers from your local market. It will help you control the level of spiciness you'll get from your peppers. Sorry for the poor camera quality here, but I had to take this with my camera phone. Notice the difference between these two jalepenos:

OK, the one on the left has a more rounded tip. The one on the right is more pointy.
Rule of thumb: For less spicy, pick a more rounded tip. If you want to be Emeril and BAM!KICK IT UP A NOTCH! then pick a more pointed tip. Not sure if this is exact science but it's worked for me so far (at least for jalepenos). Alllriiighhhtttyyy then.. onto the recipe:

*Serves 2

2 tbsp olive or peanut oil
1 clove freshly minced garlic
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 jalepeno pepper
1/2 pint grape or cherry tomatoes
1 tbsp butter, optional

1. Rinse your scallops in cold water and pat dry. Set aside. We'll come back to these morsels of deliciouness.

2. In a skillet, preheat your oil over medium heat. I constantly switch back and forth between olive oil and peanut oil. Tonight I used peanut oil.

3. While the oil is heating, mince the garlic clove. Wash, halve and slice your jalepeno. Remove the stem and seeds for less heat. Go ahead and wash your tomatoes, halve and set aside - they will be added to the skillet last.

4. Combine the garlic and jalepeno in the skillet and begin to sautee. Once they are heated through, add the scallops. Continue to cook together, stirring constantly. Once the scallops begin to lose their transparency and firm up slightly, go ahead and add the tomatoes. Stir very well. Reduce heat and allow all the ingredients to simmer down until the scallops are throughly cooked and the tomatoes are heated through.

5. Toss and combine the cooked scallops and tomatoes with your pasta of choice (preferably angel hair). If desired, melt some butter in with the pasta. Season with salt and pepper to your liking. (Dude, I love Kosher salt or sea salt!)

So go ahead and give this recipe a try.. I promise you won't be disappointed!!

**Sorry for the low quality pics, I still don't have my camera with me

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Easy and Delicious Meatballs with Tomato Sauce

Twice a month I make spaghetti and meatballs - one of my favorite meals. It's very affordable if you're cooking on a tight budget. I am constantly working on trying to perfect my meatball recipe. I prefer ground round beef for meatballs, but have also used ground chuck and a ground round/ground pork mixture (1/2 lb + 1/2 lb). I have also used ground chicken - but that will be another post. Ground round is a lean cut but still very flavorful in my opinion. Unfortunately, I do not have any pictures from last night's meal because I didn't have my camera with me - but in the future I plan on posting some appetizing pictures, camera willing. I surely hope you enjoy the generic meatball picture though. I assume this a blog faux pas, but can you veterans find it in your heart to forgive me? For now, here is a very simple, but very delicious meatball recipe for you.

1 large can tomato sauce
1 cup chopped onion
1 lb. ground round beef
1 tbsp peanut oil
1/2 tsp sesame oil <--- this is the secret ingredient!
1 tbsp water
1 Egg, slightly beaten
1 tbsp freshly mashed garlic
1 tsp kosher salt
2 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp ground pepper
1/2 cup Italian bread crumbs
Optional - 1 tbsp old bay seasoning

1. First, begin to heat tomato sauce in a large pot over medium high heat. Liberally season sauce with salt and  pepper. Add chopped onion. Optionally, add a tbsp of old bay seasoning for some spicy southern jungle love. Stir together well and continue to heat.
2. Next, heat peanut oil in skillet over medium heat.
3. Meanwhile, combine beef, sesame oil, water, egg, garlic, salt, oregano, pepper and bread crumbs in a medium bowl and lightly mix. Be gentle with the beef, you don't want to over mix the ingredients together. As a rule of thumb, you want the mixture to be moist yet remain slightly sticky. Form the beef mixture into 8-10 meatballs, approximately 1-1/2 inch in diameter each. Brown the meatballs in the skillet until no longer pink. Drain skillet and transfer meatballs to tomato sauce, reduce heat. Allow to simmer. Meatballs will continue to cook thoroughly in the sauce.

I prefer to serve these meatballs sprinkled with Parmesan cheese over angel hair pasta. For the pasta, just follow the box instructions. My tip for perfect pasta for you is to make sure you do not rinse with water after reaching al dente. Simply drain the water and serve while hot. Sometimes I sprinkle with a little bit of olive oil to add moisture if they seem dry. Oh, and always salt your water while beginning to boil!

Enjoy the recipe (by the way, it's the first recipe I've ever written out - I usually keep them in my head), and let me know what you think! I promise you won't be disappointed - unless you hate meatballs!!! Dude, I love meatballs.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Today I gave birth to a blog.

Cheers!! to the first post on my first blog ever.

I was inspired to create this blog simply because I am very passionate about food and would like to share with the world my adventures in cooking and eating. I've been a line cook at a couple restaurants in my past; one was a greek bistro and the other a steakhouse. Suprisingly, I didn't gain much knowledge while cooking in either of these restaurants. Most of my learning has come from trial and error in my home kitchen/outdoor grill, reading cookbooks, watching Food Network and talking to experienced cooks such as my amazing mother and mother-in-law. I'd say grilling meats and vegetables is my forte and favorite method of cooking, but I also love to turn up the heat inside the kitchen. I'm always trying out new recipes - 51% of which I come up with all on my own. Cooking is a passion of mine and eating is my favorite thing to do beside cooking. I like balanced meals - with a moderate amount of protein and a healthy balance of carbs and fats. I truly believe fresh ingredients, a grill or oven and a vivid imagination are a direct pathway to true happiness. I hope to portray that concept through this blog. I'd like to share recipes, share knowledge and make any kind of posts connected to my love for food. For now, there is no specific topic or goal, just a common theme:



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