• Pasta Caprese (aka Best Pasta Sauce)

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    We love Italian, but unfortunately the kiddos don’t like ricotta cheese (gasp!).  I have finally found a lasagna like dish that everyone loves, and this has become our go to “lasagna”.  Every time I’ve made this the kiddos have asked for seconds.  That’s a score in my book!

    ******I also make just the sauce from this dish and use it in all my Italian cooking.  It is the BEST pasta sauce…can’t ever go back to the jar stuff…yes, it really is that good!  This is our go to red sauce for all dishes we make.******

    Adapted from Lidia’s Italian-American Kitchen by Lidia Matticchio Bastianich.

    Ingredients:

    • 3 TBSP olive oil
    • 4-6 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
    • 2 35-oz. cans Italian tomatoes (like San Marzano)
    • Crushed red pepper to taste
    • Salt to taste
    • Sugar to taste (I usually use about 2 TBSP, but it all depends on how sweet or sour your canned tomatoes are)
    • 2 c. freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese (I use a fine microplane grater–if you use a larger shred, your amounts will need to be adjusted downward since with the fine grater there is a lot of air taking up the 2 c. space)
    • 1 lb. Campanelle pasta or pasta of your choice
    • 1 lb. pearl mozzarella
    • 1 c. shredded fresh basil leaves

    Directions:

    1. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add the garlic and cook until golden brown, about 2 minutes.
    2. Meanwhile, put the tomatoes in a blender or food processor and blitz until you reach a desired texture (we prefer smooth with some chunkier pieces). Then add the tomatoes and crushed red pepper, if using, to the skillet.  Season with salt and bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, to reduce until you get your desired consistency.  We like a thicker sauce, so I simmered for about 30-45 minutes. Taste and add sugar and salt as needed.  Add the Pecorino Romano cheese and stir to combine.  If you use finely grated the cheese the cheese will “melt” into the sauce quite easily.  Taste again adjust seasoning as necessary.
    3. Bring a pot of water to a boil; add salt; and cook pasta according to the box.
    4. When pasta is al dente, add the pasta to the skillet with the sauce, and toss to combine.  Add the fresh mozzarella and chopped basil.

    Serve with garlic bread, salad, and fruit and enjoy!

    Pasta Caprese:

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  • Crockpot Applesauce

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    Homemade applesauce makes the house smell like fall, and it is so easy and so delicious! :)   The kiddos devoured their applesauce, and we’ll definitely make this up again.

    Ingredients:

    • 10 Braeburn apples, peeled, cored and sliced
    • 1/2 c. sugar + more as needed
    • 1/2 c. water
    • 1 tsp. cinnamon

    Directions:

    1. Place apple slices in food processor in batches and process until the apples are in small pieces (or use your peeler, corer, slicer handy appliance); then put apples in Crockpot.
    2. Add sugar, water and cinnamon.
    3. Cover and cook on HIGH for 4 hours or LOW for 8 hours.  Taste and add more sugar, if needed. (if you use your peeler, corer, slicer handy appliance, take a potato masher to mash the top layer of apples as the under the layers will have already broken apart).

    Crockpot Applesauce:

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  • Red Chile Sauce Chicken Enchiladas

    These enchiladas are so yummy and definitely restaurant quality.  Definitely craveable.  I like my enchiladas heavily sauced so the only change to the original recipe is to double the sauce.  Recipe adapted from Mel’s Kitchen Cafe.

    Ingredients:

    • 2 medium onion, chopped fine
    • 2 jalapeno, seeded and chopped fine (optional-I didn’t use)
    • 2 tsp. canola oil
    • 6 medium cloves garlic, minced
    • 4 TBSP. chili powder
    • 4 tsp. ground cumin
    • 6 tsp. sugar
    • 4 (8-oz) cans tomato sauce
    • 2 c. water
    • 1 1/2 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 3 large chicken breasts)
    • 1 c. shredded sharp cheddar cheese
    • 1 c. shredded Monterey jack cheese
    • 1/2 c. minced fresh cilantro
    • 12 (6-inch) soft corn or flour tortillas (fajita-size for flour tortillas)
    • cooking spray
    • salt and ground black pepper

    Directions:

    1. In a large saucepan, combine the onion, jalapeno, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and oil. Cover and cook over medium-low heat, stirring often, until the onions and peppers have softened, 8-10 minutes. Stir in the garlic, chili powder, cumin, and sugar, and cook until fragrant, less than 30 seconds. Stir in the tomato sauce and water. Bring to a simmer.
    2. Nestle the chicken into the sauce. Reduce heat to low, cover, and cook until chicken is cooked through, about 12-20 minutes, depending on the size and thickness of the chicken breasts you are using. Transfer the chicken to a plate, and set aside to cool. Continue to simmer the sauce over medium heat until slightly thickened, about 5 minutes.
    3. Strain the sauce through a strainer into a medium bowl, pressing the onion mixture to extract as much liquid as possible. Season sauce with additional salt and pepper to taste. Transfer the leftover onion mixture from the strainer to a large bowl and set aside.
    4. Shred the chicken into bite-sized pieces. Add to the onion mixture in the large bowl. Also stir in 1/4 cup of the enchilada sauce, 1/2 cup cheddar cheese, 1/2 cup Monterey Jack cheese and the cilantro. Toss to combine.
    5. Stack the tortillas on a plate and cover with plastic wrap; Microwave on high until warm and pliable, 40-60 seconds. Spread the tortillas on a clean work surface, and spoon 1/3 cup of the chicken mixture evenly down the center of each. Tightly roll each tortilla and lay seam-side down in a greased 9×13 inch baking dish.
    6. Heat oven to 400 F. Pour 1/2 of the enchilada sauce evenly over the top of the enchiladas. Top with the remaining cheese. Cover dish with foil and bake 20 minutes, or until heated through.
    7. Remove foil and bake another 5 minutes, until cheese browns. Remove from oven and let stand 10 minutes before serving.
    8. Serve with remaining enchilada sauce, sour cream, guacamole, salsa, additional cilantro, if desired.

    Rec Chile Sauce Chicken Enchiladas:

     

     

  • Baked Sweet and Sour Chicken

    Baked sweet and sour chicken is so delicious.  It’s definitely restaurant quality, company quality deliciousness.  Everyone loved this dinner, and we’ll definitely make this again.  This recipe comes from Life as a Lofthouse.

    Ingredients:

    The chicken coating:

    •  3-4 boneless chicken breasts
    • salt + pepper
    • 1 c. cornstarch
    • 2 eggs, beaten
    • 1/4 c. canola oil

    The sweet and sour sauce:

    • 3/4 c. sugar or Splenda
    • 1/4 c. ketchup
    • 1/2 c. apple cider vinegar
    • 1 TBSP soy sauce
    • 1 tsp. garlic salt
    • 14 oz. pineapple chunks

    Directions:

    1. Start by preheating your oven to 325 degrees.
    2. Rinse your chicken breasts in water and then cut into cubes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
    3. Dip chicken into the cornstarch to coat then dip into the eggs.
    4. Heat your 1/4 cup oil in a large skillet and cook your chicken until browned but not cooked through.
    5. Place the chicken in a 9×13 greased baking dish.
    6. Mix all of your sweet and sour sauce ingredients in a bowl with a whisk and then pour evenly over the chicken.
    7. Bake for one hour and during the baking process you will need to turn the chicken every 15 minutes.
    8. Serves 4

    Baked Sweet and Sour Chicken:

     

     

  • “Best” Ever Spaghetti Sauce

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    It seems we’ve been kind of in a funk lately.  Not much new cooking going on, but that all changed tonight!  -s got an awesome new cookbook for Christmas called The Kansas City Barbeque Society Cookbook, and when I browsed through the book a number of recipes popped out at me.  So tonight -s made the Best Spaghetti Sauce Ever recipe (p. 97), and it didn’t fall short of its name.

    It was fabulous.  -s made a few changes, which are noted in the recipe.  We’ve never made a sauce with 2 whole cans of tomato paste, but the tomato paste plus the simmering for hours had delicious results!

    Recipe adapted from the Best Spaghetti Sauce Ever Recipe.

    Ingredients:

    • 2 lbs. Italian sausage, bulk or links, casing removed (-s didn’t remove the casing)
    • 1 small yellow onion
    • 3 TBSP pressed garlic
    • 1 28 oz. can diced tomatoes, with juice
    • 2 6 oz. cans tomato paste
    • 2 15 oz. cans tomato sauce
    • 2 c. water
    • 1 TBSP minced fresh basil
    • 2 tsp. dried parsley
    • 1 TBSP packed brown sugar
    • 1 tsp. salt
    • 1/2 tsp. hot red pepper flakes (omitted)
    • 1/4 tsp. black pepper

    Directions:

    1. In a large pot over medium high heat, brown the sausage with the onion and garlic.
    2. Add the tomatoes with their juices, tomato paste, tomato sauce, and water.  Mix well.  Add the basil, parsley, brown sugar, salt, red pepper (omitted), and black pepper.  Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for at least 1 hour.  We simmered for 3 hours.
    3. Serve over spaghetti.

    Best Spaghetti Sauce Ever:

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  • Quick Reuben Sandwiches

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    Here’s another really tasty recipe for quick Reuben sandwiches.  To me what makes this sandwich is the homemade thousand islandish dressing.  It’s easy, so don’t skip that step.

    Thousand Island Dressing Ingredients:

    • 1 c. mayo
    • 1 c. ketchup
    • 1/2 c. sweet pickle relish (I only had hot dog relish which is a mix of mustard and relish)
    • 1 TBSP sugar

    Sandwiches:

    • Rye bread
    • Butter
    • Leftover corned beef, sliced and heated
    • sour kraut
    • Swiss cheese
    • Thousand island dressing

    Directions:

    1. Thousand Island Dressing: mix all ingredients together in a bowl.
    2. Sandwiches: take a slice of rye bread, add corned beef, sour kraut, swiss cheese, and some dressing.  Top with rye bread.  Butter the top of the bread and put the sandwich butter side down in a hot skillet.  Cook until bread is browned.  Add some butter to the now top of the sandwich and flip it over and cook until browned.

    Quick Reuben Sandwiches:

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  • Chili Gravy

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    This chili gravy is delicious and works well as a sauce for tamales or enchiladas.  The secret to this gravy is making your own chili powder.
    The recipe comes for Rob Walsh’s Tex-Mex Cookbook.

    Homemade Chili Powder
    Ingredients:

    • 5 whole ancho chile pods, stemmed and seeded
    • 1 tsp. dried Mexican oregano
    • 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
    • 1/2 tsp. ground cumin

    Directions:

    1. Spread the chile pods out flat.  Toast the chiles in a skillet over medium high heat until they become aromatic, then remove and cool.
    2. Cut the chiles into small strips with scissors.  In a spice or coffee grinder, grind the strips in several batches until powdered.  Combine the powdered chile, oregano, garlic powder, and cumin in a bowl.  Grind the coarse powder in batches for an additional 2 minutes or until finely ground.
    3. Store in an airtight container until ready to use.

    Chili Gravy

    • 1/4 c. vegetable oil
    • 1/4 c. flour
    • 1/2 tsp. pepper
    • 1 tsp. salt
    • 1 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
    • 2 tsp. ground cumin
    • 1/2 tsp. Mexican oregano
    • 2 TBSP chili powder
    • 2 c. chicken broth or water

    Directions:

    1. Heat the oil in a skillet over medium high heat.  Stir in the flour and continue stirring for 3 to 4 minutes, utnil it makes a light brown roux.  Add all the dry ingredients and continue to cook for 1 minute, constantly stirring and blending the ingredients.  Add the chicken broth, mixing and stirring until the sauce thickens.
    2. Turn the heat to low and let the sauce simmer for 15 minutes.  Add water to adjust the thickness.

    Chili Gravy:

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  • Garlic Curry Aioli

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    I found a bag of frozen sweet potato fries at the grocery store.  They looked interesting, so I thought I’d give them a try, and see if they’d pass the test.

    I gave -s the job of finding a dip or something for the fries, because ketchup seemed well, wrong.

    He found this dip at Kirsten’s Home Cooking: Garlic Curry Aioli.  It is to die for!!!  If you love the curry dip at Melting Pot as I do, you will LOVE this dip!!!

    Ingredients:

    • 1/4 cup light mayo
    • 2 small (or 1 large) garlic clove, mashed to a paste with salt
    • Juice from 1/2 lemon
    • Dash of black pepper
    • 1 tsp. curry power, or more to taste
    • 1 dash cayenne pepper
    • Salt to taste

    Directions:

    1. Mash garlic into a fine paste with the side of a knife on a cutting board, using salt as an abrasive.
    2. Mix all ingredients together, serve with fries.

    Garlic Curry Aioli:

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  • Creamy Jalapeno and Cinlantro Dressing/Sauce

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    This dressing is so good.  It’s good on salads and fish tacos.  We loved this dressing on fish tacos so much that we had fish tacos 2 times in one week.

    Ingredients:

    • 1 c. mayo
    • 1/3 milk
    • 2 tsp. chopped cilantro
    • 1-2 jalapenos, minced
    • 1 tsp. garlic, minced
    • 1 tsp. onion, minced
    • juice of 1 lime
    • 1 tsp. white vinegar
    • 1 tsp. granulated sugar
    • 1/2 tsp. salt
    • 1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
    • 1/8 tsp. black pepper
    • 1/8 tsp. ground cumin

    Directions:

    1. Whisk all ingredients together.
    2. Cover and chill until ready to serve.
    3. Top your favorite salad or taco and enjoy!

    Creamy Jalapeno and Cilantro Dressing/Sauce:

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  • Tomatillo-Serrano Salsa

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    Tila’s in Houston has the most delicious tomatillo sauce.  Luckily we found a recipe that tastes pretty much identical to Tila’s, and we’ve been making this sauce ever since we lived in Houston…almost 9 years ago!

    This recipe is from Rick Bayless’s Mexican Kitchen (the photo on my cookbook is different, but I assume it’s all the same recipes).

    This sacue is excellent for just about anything: with chips, enchillada sauce, tamale sauce etc.

    Ingredients:

    • 1 lb. tomatillos, husked and rinsed
    • 1 to 3 serranos
    • 1 1/2 TBSP olive oil
    • 1 medium white onion, roughly chopped
    • 2 large garlic cloves, peeled and roughly chopped
    • 2 c. chicken stock
    • 1/3 c. roughly chopped cilantro
    • salt, 1/2 to 3/4 tsp., depending on the saltiness of the broth

    Directions:

    1. The tomatillos and chiles: lay the tomatillos and chiles on a baking sheet and place about 4 inches below a very hot broiler.  when tomatillos and chiles blister, blacken and soften on one side, about 5 minutes, turn them over and roast the other side.  When all sides are roasted, transfer tomatillos, chiles and any accumulated juices to a food processor or blender.
    2. The puree: heat 1 TBSP oil in a deep skillet.  Add the onion and cook, stirring often until deep and golden, about 8 minutes.  Stir in garlic and cook a minute longer; then scrape the browned mixture into the processor or blender.  Pulse to a rough looking puree–smooth enough to hold together but rough enough to keep it from being too smooth.
    3. Finishing the sauce: Heat the remaining oil over medium high heat.  Add the Puree and stir constantly for 4 or 5 minutes.  The sauce base sears and sizzles into a darker and thicker mass.  Stir in the broth, return to a boil, reduce heat to medium and simmer briskly until thick enough to coat a spoon, about 10 minutes.  Stir in cilantro, then taste and season with salt.

    Tomatillo-Serrano Salsa:

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