Fettuccine with Butternut, Spinach, and Sausage

Butternut Squash…

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Quite a few months ago, I happened to be walking through the Italian section of some store…could have been Target, or my favorite grocery store, Wegmans… I just don’t remember… but a jar of Butternut squash sauce caught my eye. “Interesting”…I thought.  What would one put that on?  Spaghetti?  I know I’ve seen butternut squash ravioli…maybe that was the sauce that went with the ravioli. I admit, at first I just couldn’t wrap my brain around it. I wasn’t really sure how I felt about that particular combination.  I mean, I love them both… but separately.    The problem was that I was thinking of butternut squash in the usual way I prepare it, with maple syrup and brown sugar.  It just didn’t fit with pasta in my mind.  But then, I started thinking savory rather than sweet, along with the thought of fresh sage and spicy Italian sausage…I have to say… my interest piqued.

To be honest, I didn’t buy the jar of sauce that day, but I did tuck the sauce idea away in the recipe file in my mind…and…. I started playing with the recipe.  Something tells me that the jarred sauce that I saw was a healthy version… I have to say that this recipe is at the other end of the spectrum…

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It was about a month or so ago, and I think I was on my second go round with the sauce when my son Michael walked into the kitchen…

“What’s for supper?” …he asks.
“Pasta BNS”.. I answer.
“What’s that?” …he asks.
“Pasta with Butternut squash” ….I answer
“Oh, I thought you were attempting to speak French.  I’m not eating that. Do you have a frozen pizza in the freezer?”..

Honestly… I swear that kid was switched at birth.  With a foodie for a mother…I ask you…How can any child of mine be so fussy? I could go through the whole “There are starving children in Timbuktu…and blah blah blah…”  but it falls on deaf ears. Reality is, while I’m totally annoyed when he won’t try something new or different, I’m still going to feed him.  He’s my son… and I love the little jerk (said lovingly <3)…. I hope that someday he realizes what he’s been missing all along…  I didn’t have a pizza in the freezer, so the boy ate cereal that night.  Thank goodness for Apple Jacks.   I should own stock in that company.  (I should mention that “the boy” is 18 years old, and almost a foot taller than me…)..

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Getting back to the recipe…I really think the beauty of this, is that it is perfect for Fall, when fresh butternut squash is bountiful, and the flavors of sage and sausage blend with it so perfectly.   It’s also really easy…it doesn’t take a lot to throw the sauce together, and I’m also thinking that you could probably use frozen squash in a pinch.

After some discussion about this with my taste testers, I thought about roasting some chunks of butternut squash, and adding them to the dish to bring out more butternut flavor… but in the end, decided against it, although I think I would try it sometime.  I changed up the garlic, and rather than 3 cloves, minced, I’m going to say 4 cloves, roughly chopped.  I originally used one 6 oz bag of baby spinach, but upped it to 2 bags.

This recipe calls for Chef Paul Prudhomme’s Seafood Magic (Yes. Seafood. I love it!). If you can’t find that at your local grocery store, then any kind of blackened fish seasoning will do.  Please do yourself a favor, and use high quality pasta, you won’t be sorry.

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Fettuccine with Butternut, Spinach, and Sausage

Serves 4

Roast the Butternut:
2 butternut squash, cut in half, seeds removed
4 tbsp butter
Salt and Pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spray a baking sheet with vegetable spray.  Place the four halves of squash on the baking sheet, place one tablespoon of butter into each half. Generously salt and pepper the four halves. Cover with aluminum foil and bake for about one hour.  Remove foil and roast for about ½ hour.  Remove the squash from its shells, and place in a blender.

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The Sauce: 
1 pound bulk (or links, casing removed) hot Italian sausage
2 tbsp butter
1 large onion, minced
4 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
¼ – ½ tsp pepper flakes (your choice in heat)
3 fresh sage leaves, chopped
1 tbsp Chef Paul Prudhomme’s Seafood Magic (yes, for real)
1-2 cups heavy cream
1 cup grated Asiago cheese
2- 6oz bags baby spinach; stems removed
Salt and pepper

1 pound fettuccine
Shaved Asiago cheese for serving

In a large frying pan, brown the sausage; remove with slotted spoon to another dish, reserving grease in the pan. Add the butter and the onions to the pan.  Sauté the onions until they are transparent, add the garlic and crushed red pepper and sauté for a few minutes more. Add the sausage back to the pan.

To the squash in the blender, add heavy cream (1 cup if you like your sauce thick, 2 cups if you like your sauce thin. I usually add 2 cups, and then another cup of the pasta water (L’acqua di cottura…the cooking water) after I remove the fettuccine from the pot).  Add the seafood magic and Asiago cheese.  Blend until creamy. Pour over the sausage mixture in the frying pan.  Add the sage leaves, salt and pepper to taste, stir until well blended, and let simmer for about ½ hour.  Right before you’re ready to serve, add the spinach to the sauce, and fold in just until the spinach wilts. Remove from heat.

While the sauce is simmering, bring a large pot of salted water to a full boil, and add the fettuccine. Cook to al-dente according to the directions on the box. Remove the fettuccine from the boiling water with tongs, and place directly into the sauce, stirring until the pasta is completely coated. (Or for presentation, place the fettuccine in a large serving bowl, and ladle the sauce on top). It’s also at this point, if you want your sauce a touch thinner, you’d add the pasta water, I’d say 1/2 cup to 1 cup.

Serve in a large serving bowl with a sprinkling of freshly ground pepper, a chiffonade of fresh sage leaves and shaved Asiago on top.

Enjoy!

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Stufato di Manzo Pomodoro e Uovo Fritto Sopra Rigatoni..(Rough Translation: Fried Egg and Stew Over Rigatoni)

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I have a passion.  Ok, I’m a foodie, so I have a lot of passions, but this one tends to be at the top of my passion list…

Pasta.

Pasta and I have been in a love affair for about 50 years now.  I’m not saying that I’ve remained faithful, there was a time or two when spaghetti squash caught my eye, and I’m not going to lie…we experimented…but it always came up short, rather unsatisfying for me….And I always came back to my one true love, the one that never, ever disappoints.

So, it’s not surprising that when I’m walking through a store, no matter how rushed I am, a display of pasta, or the Italian section of the store will always pull me in…as it did this past Monday when I was shopping at this little Italian store, that I’m thrilled is about 10 minutes from my house.  Honestly, I was finished shopping and was on my way to the cashier, when I spied a display of pasta out of the corner of my eye. I stopped dead in my tracks, and slowly backed up….

And there he was…. Grano Armando Pacchero… sitting there on that display, demanding that I put him in my cart and take him home with me…”Why do you hesitate?” he asks… “You know you want me..”  And how could I not… it was pasta after all….and one that I had never seen before….unbelievable, yet true….

Grano Armando Pacchero came home with me that day, and sat on my kitchen counter all week while I tried to decide exactly what to do with him.

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Pacchero is much bigger than rigatoni, but much smaller than manicotti, so I knew that it could handle a heavy sauce.  Something like Bolognese, maybe?  Possibly…  but I didn’t really want a ground meat type of sauce.  I wanted something bigger.  And then it hit me.  Stew…a saucy beef stew. At that moment, I truly believed that it was to be the perfect pairing.

I set the stew in motion… sautéing mushrooms, onions, garlic… searing the stew beef… adding tomato sauce, along with carrots, zucchini ribbons, potatoes, peas, and celery.  I let it cook for a few hours, so that the beef would break down, the whole time thinking I would shave some parmiggiano on top before serving.

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I tasted it a few times while it was cooking, and felt that it needed something. My palate wanted a creamy texture, but I didn’t want to add heavy cream…so the plan was to let my taste testers sample it for their opinions.  As I was dishing up their servings to take with me, layering the pasta on the bottom, and the stew on top, I had a last minute thought.  Egg yolk.  So I quick boiled some eggs, removed the hardened egg yolks, crumbled them, and then sprinkled them on top of the stew. Then I sprinkled the shaved parm on top of that.

My Taste Testers Review:

I know I’ve mentioned it before, but I love my taste testers..They’re so supportive, the greatest cheerleaders a new blogger could possibly have… What I’ve learned from them, is that everyone has a different palate, and its interesting to hear the different opinions. It makes me wonder exactly how we all have different taste buds.  What makes a person like salt over sugar? What makes a person love peas, but another hate them?  It’s all very interesting to me…

They were all were pleased for the most part.  All of them loved the flavor of the stew.  “It was like Sunday dinner…” said Erica. But both she and Steve felt it needed more salt.  Everyone loved the egg on top.  Jim and Steve don’t care for peas to begin with, so of course they said to take the peas out, but everyone else loved the peas.  Allison and Jim  said that the pacchero was just way too big to enjoy with the sauce, that maybe the stew should have been stuffed into each one, rather than on top. Cheryl loved how the beef was so tender, and the caramely flavor that it gave to the stew. Val thought that there was so much going on in the stew, she felt a little overwhelmed. Rob gobbled it down, making “Mmmm” noises the whole time!

Chris mentioned some crushed red pepper to give it a little zip, and maybe to cook it down with some beef stock so that it would have more of a beef base, rather than a tomato base.  Dredge the beef in flour, which would help to thicken the beef stock.  He also mentioned that he loved the egg yolk, but thought that for presentation purposes, it would be pretty to put a fried egg right on top.  LOVE that idea.  At that point, I envisioned a softer yolk, running into the sauce.   (Chris really is a chef, so imagine how nervous I am to have him taste my food..  it’s like I walk into his cubicle, genuflect, hand him the taste sample in a ritual type way, and then back out of his cube so as to not turn my back on him…  haha, not really… but it is a little disconcerting to have a true chef taste your amateurish food!!)

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In the end, I decided to put the pacchero in the back of my head for another recipe, and went with the smaller rigatoni.  Rigatoni is a strong macaroni, and can stand up to a heavy stew such as this.  I added a pinch of crushed red pepper to give it a little zip, but not too much. I added more salt.  I did add beef stock (Yes, Mr Alongi, homemade beef stock…) and let it cook for a little longer so that the tomato flavor would calm down.  And the fried egg…there couldn’t be a more perfect match to give it that creaminess that I longed for. Thank you, Mr. Alongi.

Am I disappointed that it didn’t really work out with the pacchero?  Not at all… It just means that I get to try this all over again in the near future, and that makes me very, very happy….

Buon divertimento! Vi auguro una bella giornata … Enjoy! I wish you a beautiful day…

(Ok, yeah…I did that with Bing Translator, because except for a few words here and there… I don’t speak an ounce of Italian.   It’s a dream of mine to someday take classes…but for now, I rely on Bing..)

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Stufato di Manzo Pomodoro e Uovo Fritto Sopra Rigatoni..(Rough Translation: Fried Egg and Stew Over Rigatoni)

(Serves 4)

The Stew:

1 1/2 pounds stew beef
1 cup flour, mixed with 1 tsp salt and 1 tsp pepper
1/2 pound applewood smoked bacon, cut into smaller pieces
2 medium onions, diced
8 oz baby bella mushrooms, sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 carrot, peeled and sliced
1 small zucchini, cut into ribbons
3 small potatoes, diced
2 stalks celery, sliced
1 29 oz can tomato sauce
2 cups beef stock
1 cup frozen peas
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper, (or more to suit your desired heat)

In a large frying pan, cook the bacon until it is crispy, remove from oil to a dish, and set aside.  Dredge the stew beef in the flour, salt and pepper, and in the bacon grease,  over low heat, cook the beef until browned. Remove from the grease, and set aside on a plate. In the same grease, sauté the onions, garlic and mushrooms. Remove from the pan with a slotted spoon to the bacon dish, and set aside.   Add the carrots, zucchini, potatoes, and celery, and cook them until they are browned. Leave in the pan. Add the beef, bacon, onion and mushroom mixture back to the frying pan along with the tomato sauce, beef stock, sugar, salt, black pepper, and crushed red pepper.  Cover, and simmer for about 4 hours, until beef is tender.  This could go into a dutch oven, and bake for 4 hours at 350 degrees.  After 4 hours, add the peas, and cook or bake for another hour.

The Rigatoni:

1 pound rigatoni
1/3 cup butter
1/2 cup Romano cheese
Fresh ground pepper

After the stew is fully cooked, cook the rigatoni per the instructions on the box.  Make sure that you add a generous amount of salt into the water as it’s coming to a boil.  It truly does make a difference in the taste of your pasta.  Drain the pasta, place in a large bowl, and mix with the butter and Romano cheese. Grind some fresh black pepper over the top and give it one last stir.

The Eggs:

4 extra large eggs
2 tbsp butter

In a separate frying pan, melt the 2 tbsp butter over medium heat. Crack the four eggs into the butter, and fry them sunny side up.

Put it All Together:

You can do this a couple of different ways… you can use a large serving platter, arrange the rigatoni on the bottom, the stew on top of that, and place the eggs on top, sprinkle with shaved parmiggiano, and place on the middle of the table.   Or you can serve it on four individual plates by dividing the rigatoni onto each plate, layer with the stew, one egg on the top center of each, and sprinkle with shaved parmiggiano.  Either way, it’s a very pretty presentation, and just as delicious.

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Chicken and Greens Pasta Salad

I know that we’re into the cooler weather now, and casseroles, soups and stews are going to be the norm for the next few months, but I just can’t help but crave a good salad, even during the Fall and Winter seasons.
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One day last week; I went out for lunch, and I ordered a small salad.  It had just lettuce, tomatoes, and mozzarella slices that were cut real tiny, and rolled up into little curls…  Now, one would think that if I ordered a salad that simple, then I should have been looking for a dressing that would be on the lighter side. Well, one would be wrong…. because I ate it with ranch dressing! Not too much, but just enough to lightly coat the lettuce. I really love a good ranch dressing that has that true buttermilk tang, you know?  With only those three ingredients (four if you count the dressing), it was so delicious. I couldn’t get enough of those mozzarella curls. Not only were they pretty, but just plain fun to eat…  I wondered then why I don’t eat salad every day.

Even though I went light on that one (well, excluding the dressing…), I usually like to load my salads with different ingredients.  I love the complexity of the different flavors that just burst in my mouth with every bite.  ~ And~  Because I like so many different things in my salad at once, each bite is different every single time.  Love that!

Even though I said that I like salads to be all complex and blah blah blah… This time around, I stuck to more of a simple salad for this recipe.  It has a few ingredients, but not too many.  Not only is it a quick and easy prep, but it is completely satisfying.  Perfect for a quick meal after work when you’re just plain tired. It’s easy to pack up in a jar for lunch the next day too… just put the dressing into a separate jar so that it doesn’t make the salad soggy.

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Chicken and Greens Pasta Salad
(Serves 4)

Just a quick note…. Can I call the dressing Caesar? I’m not sure. I guess it’s my own version…but what I am sure of, is that I love the background flavor of lemon, and the hint of the nutty anchovies.  Honestly?  I’m not an anchovy fan at all, so I would understand if you want to omit them.  I can’t explain why I like them in this dressing….  Maybe it’s because it’s such a small amount, it doesn’t overpower the dressing. The mayonnaise makes it a tad creamy, but no too invasive.

For the salad:
12 cups mesclun greens
2 small heirloom tomatoes, cut into small pieces
1 English cucumber, peeled and chopped
2 cups fresh or frozen (but thawed) peas
½ small red onion, sliced thin
1 – 6 oz can black olives, sliced thin
1 – 5.75 oz jar of green olives, slices thin
½ pound cooked angel hair pasta
Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, shredded

Rinse and pat dry the mesclun greens.  Place 3 cups on each of four plates. Chop the tomatoes and cucumber.  Slice the black olives, green olives, and red onion.  Divide the tomatoes, cucumbers, black olives, green olives, and onions into four servings, and arrange on top of the mesclun greens.  Divide the cooked pasta into four servings and layer on top of the salad mixture. Layer the peas on top of the pasta.

For the Chicken:
2 boneless chicken breasts, each split in half to make 4 pieces
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
¼ tsp cayenne pepper

Olive oil

In a small bowl, make the spice mixture by combining the paprika, salt, black pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, and cayenne pepper.

Pound the chicken until it’s about ½ inch thin, and rub with the spice mixture.

Cover bottom of griddle with olive oil, and heat over medium flame/heat.  Add the chicken and cook on one side for 8 to 10 minutes until golden. Flip the chicken over to cook the other side for another 8 to 10 minutes, or until fully cooked (no more pink in the middle!).  Chicken is fully cooked when it has an internal temperature of 165°.

Slice each chicken on the diagonal, and place on top of the peas.  Top with the shredded Parmigiano Reggiano.
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For the Dressing:IMG_5773
1 pasteurized egg yolk, uncooked
3 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp white wine vinegar
2 tsp Worchestershire sauce
2 cloves garlic, minced
½ tsp fresh ground pepper
½ tsp salt
1/2 tsp anchovy paste
1 tsp capers
1 tsp Dijon mustard
2 tbsp mayonnaise
¼ cup Romano cheese
1 cup extra virgin olive oil

Combine the egg yolk, lemon juice, vinegar, worchestershire sauce, garlic, pepper, salt, anchovy paste, capers, mustard, mayonnaise, and Romano cheese into a food processor, and pulse on low until well blended.  Turn the processor on high, and slowly drizzle the olive oil into the egg yolk mixture.

Drizzle the dressing over the salad.

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Enjoy!

Cranberry, Clementine Cupcakes with Cranberry Frosting

Cupcakes.

I love them. And a cupcake with sprinkles?  Pure bliss….  I loved cupcakes before they became the big trend.  And I still love them even though they’re kind of “old news”.  I’m not sure I’ll ever think of them as old news, and I think that I have a lot of people who might agree with me.

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Yes, I’m one of those people who, with my beautiful and devoted best friend Cindy, (I love you, man…) stood in a line that wrapped around the building outside of Magnolia Bakery in New York City, in December only to buy two cupcakes each…one for each of us, and one for each of our husbands.  We went back on day two of our trip, to stand in that long line again, but that time to buy a dozen each!  We laugh about that all the time… and were just chatting on the phone about this, and she said that she would do it again in a heartbeat.  Me too. If we ever make it to New York City again, Magnolia is definitely top on our list of things to do.

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I feel the need to tell you that the love of my life is a yellow cupcake with chocolate frosting.  ~And~  I will probably feel the need to tell you that often.  They are, and always will be my first choice in cupcake.  I crave them ALL the time.  I try to not make them too often, because I know that there won’t be any controlling me, especially if I have a gallon of milk in the fridge.

I am weak.
I am cupcake weak.
I’m good for nothing after a productive day of devouring them.
Totally worth it.

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Now I know that this is my only my sixth post on my very new blog, and here I am writing about cupcakes again… Let me explain:

I was so exhausted last night.  I was just about finished cleaning the kitchen, and planned to sit and watch TV for the evening, when I get a text from my daughter Jessica. It’s a picture of a recipe for cranberry cupcakes that she found in her latest Seventeen magazine.  The recipe called for fresh cranberries, and Greek yogurt. Without a second thought, and a burst of energy, I text back “LOVE. Making them tonight”.   She texts back “Do you have all the ingredients?”  I answer her with “I have dried cranberries, some clementines, and a can of jellied cranberry sauce. I’ll improvise.”

And now, here I am for the second time in just a few days talking about cupcakes!

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Cranberry, Clementine Cupcakes with Cranberry Frosting

(Makes 1 dozen cupcakes)

A quick note…  While I used clementines, I think that oranges would be just as delicious.  Keep the butter cold, and mix it in at the very end, letting it melt into the cupcakes as they bake.  I knew that cold chunky cold butter in biscuits is delightful, but I wasn’t sure if it would work in cupcakes.  I have to say that it truly does.

I think with that these cupcakes are perfect for the upcoming holidays!  This very moist cupcake is filled with cranberries, with a lovely hint of clementine, but not overly sweet.  The frosting is on the sweeter side, and completely complements the cupcake. I think the next time I make these cupcakes, I’ll be adding walnuts to the batter…

The Cupcakes:

3 egg whites
¾ cup granulated sugar
½ cup milk
2 tbsp vegetable oil
The juice of 2 clementines
1 tsp vanilla paste
1 ½ cups cake flour
2 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
6 tbsp cold butter, shredded with a grater
½ cup dried cranberries, chopped

The Frosting:

½ cup butter
½ cup jellied cranberry sauce, or cranberry jam
¼ tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla
3 to 3 1/2 cups confectioners sugar

For the cupcakes:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.   Line cupcake tin with paper cupcake liners.
In a separate bowl, sift together the cake flour, baking powder, and salt.  Set aside.

In mixing bowl, combine the egg whites, sugar, milk, vegetable oil, Clementine juice, and vanilla.  Mix on medium speed until  foamy.  Add the flour mixture and mix until well blended, about 2 minutes.   Add the cold grated butter and cranberries, and mix for about a minute more.  The batter will look lumpy, but that’s ok, the butter will bake into the cupcakes.

Pour 1/3 cup batter into each cupcake liner. Bake for 17 minutes, or until toothpick inserted into the middle of the cupcake comes out clean.  Remove from oven, and cool on baking rack.

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For the Frosting:

Cream the butter, cranberry sauce or jam, salt and vanilla until fluffy.  Add 3 cups of the confectioners sugar, one cup at a time, until spreadable consistency.  Add the remaining 1/2 cup if you think it might need to be a little stiffer for piping onto the cupcake.

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Put the frosting in a decorator’s bag that is already loaded with a plain round extra-large tip (I use Wilton 1A), and beginning on the edge of the cupcake, pipe onto the cupcake in a spiral direction around the cupcake until it ends in the middle.  Pull the tip up so that the frosting makes a little swoop at the top.

I used white glitter sugar to decorate the cupcakes.

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Enjoy!

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Deep Fry Day

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I’m not sure about the rest of you, but once in a while I need to have a deep fry day.  That is a day that I set aside in which I give myself the “OK” to not only cook, but eat something that is deep fried.  For me, it goes a little deeper than not being a healthy food choice….because we all know that greasy “smell and feel” that permeates the house when we deep fry foods. It takes a day or two for it to subside…and during those days you just hope against hope that you don’t get any unexpected visitors!

Deep frying outside is the best, and periodically I’ll set myself up in the garage if it’s raining.  Yesterday, I was prepping to make chicken pot pies for today, so I couldn’t be outside or in the garage.  It’s ok, this one was totally worth the stink!

My husband and kids love pulled pork. They also love pizza logs. So the other night when I was throwing some pizza logs together for Michael, I started thinking that it would be cool to try making pulled pork deep fried in an egg roll. I thought that they would love this…and was really excited to give it a try, so why not have a deep fry day?

Seriously though…have you ever come up with this great idea (or so you think) for a recipe, and the whole time you’re creating it, you’re thinking of everyone you’re making it for, and then start day dreaming about the whole scene playing out when they taste it for the first time?   Well, that was me yesterday.  While I was rolling the pork into the egg rolls, I envisioned myself on stage in my kitchen, holding a bouquet of roses that Michael had just given me, after one of my daughters placed the crown a little crookedly on my head…maybe with a smudge of flour on my face…because I knew that this was going to be the best idea that I ever had….

Now, before you start thinking… “oh this girl is really full of herself”….Let’s get real…I’m talking about my family here…. So let me tell you how most of those day dreams end up, in reality, they are more like Carrie at her prom. What I think is going to be this most awesome dish, and the family is going to be looking at me with awe and undying love…usually turns out to be a pure horror type of recipe!

But yesterday… this one was a win. And I’m excited to share it with you today…

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Deep Fried Pulled Pork 

(Makes 12 Egg Rolls)

Just a quick note….If you have a smoker, feel free to smoke the pork roast using your own recipe. We have one, but we keep it at our cabin. I’ll be sharing some recipes soon!

This recipe started out with pulled pork in the egg roll. Then I thought that caramelized onions would be kind of good with it. And how about  crispy hash browns to top it off, with some sort of creamy barbecue sauce to dip it in?  Yeah, that’s exactly what I did.

Now, the mistake that I made was that I made all 12 of the egg rolls  with the pork, onions, and hash browns, and then fried them all up.  What I should have done, was make just one, and then take a bite of it to see if there was anything that was missing. While I really liked the egg roll as it was, I had an afterthought about 15 minutes of taking pictures afterward….

Pepper jack cheese.

Wow, wouldn’t that just round them off perfectly?    So I cubed some pepper jack cheese, threw the cubes on a plate and melted them in the microwave.  Then I took a small knife, and put a blob of cheese inside each egg roll!  It was perfect…

Add some homemade french fries to the mix, and life is good.  Life is stinky for a day or two after this…but it’s truly good.

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The Pulled Pork

2 pound pork loin roast

1 cup water

1 tsp oregano

1 tsp thyme

1 tsp black pepper

1 tsp ground celery seed

1/4 tsp cayenne pepper ( or more, depending on your desired heat)

1 tsp paprika

1 tsp salt

1 tsp onion powder

1 tsp garlic powder

Mix the oregano, thyme, black pepper, ground celery seed, cayenne pepper, paprika, salt, onion powder, and garlic powder in a small bowl. Rub all over the pork roast. Place the roast in a small roasting pan along with a cup of water. Cover and bake at 350 degrees for about 3 to 4 hours, or until the pork is tender enough to pull apart.

Pull the pork apart, and keep it in it’s own juices so that it stays moist.

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The Barbecue Sauce / Dipping Sauce 

1 cup ketchup

1/2 cup molasses

2 tbsp butter

1/4 cup cider vinegar

2 tbsp prepared mustard

1 tbsp worchestershire sauce

1 tsp garlic powder

1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (or more, depending on your desired heat)

1 tsp hot pepper sauce

1/2 cup mayonnaise

In a saucepan, combine the ketchup, molasses, butter, cider vinegar, prepared mustard, worchestershire sauce, garlic powder, cayenne pepper, and hot pepper sauce.  Stir until blended.  Cook on low heat for about 15 minutes, and let cool completely.

Place about 1/2 cup of the barbecue sauce in a separate bowl and set aside. This will be used inside the egg rolls. Mix the remainder with mayonnaise, and refrigerate. This is the dipping sauce.

The Rest of the Ingredients 

Package of 24 egg roll wrappers, thawed (you can usually find them either in produce, or in the frozen section of the grocery store)

2 onions, sliced

2 tbsp butter

4 medium potatoes, peeled and grated

8 oz cube pepper jack cheese, shredded

Vegetable oil

Salt and pepper to taste

Melt tbsp butter in a frying pan, and saute onions slowly until they’re golden brown. Remove from pan with slotted spoon and set aside.

Peel the potatoes, and shred with a grater or processor. Rinse the starch off, and blot dry with a paper towel.  Pour enough vegetable oil into a heavy pan so that there is about an inch and a half to two inches.  Heat the oil on medium heat to 350 degrees.  Fry the potatoes until they are golden brown and crispy. Drain on a paper towel lined plate, and season with salt and pepper.  Set aside.  Shut the stove off, and save the vegetable oil, you can use that to fry the egg rolls.

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Assemble:

Because the pork and onion are on the wet side, and the hash browns are on the sharp side, I doubled up on the egg roll wrappers when putting them together.

Lay the wrappers (2 deep) on your work area, and place some pepper jack cheese down the middle diagonally.  Add some pork on top of the cheese.  Be generous, there is plenty of pork to go around, and it’s the star of the show… Add some caramelized onions on top of the pork.  Drizzle with the barbecue sauce that you set aside for this. Top it off with a few crispy hash browns.

Beginning with the two diagonal corners, begin folding the egg roll (as pictured). Fold the bottom flap up, and then roll the egg roll until it’s closed up like a burrito.  Don’t worry the juices from the pork leak out of the roll, it will be fine.  If some of the hash browns happen to poke through the wrapper, that’s fine too. It doesn’t hurt a thing. Continue until you have 12 rolls put together.

Heat the reserved oil that you used for the hash browns until it reaches 350 degrees.  Place three to four egg rolls into the oil…don’t overcrowd.  You can fry them in about three or four batches. Drain on a paper towel lined cookie sheet.

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The French Fries:

6 large potatoes, cut into french fry slices

Thoroughly wash and dry the potatoes.  I leave the skin on, but you can peel them if you prefer.

Using the egg roll oil, and keeping it at 350 degrees, fry the french fries in batches until golden and crispy.  Drain on a paper towel lined plate, and season with salt and pepper.

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And Finally….

As I was typing this up, my daughter Katie said that it would be really nice to include my coleslaw recipe with this.  She also said that it would be kind of cool to use a purple cabbage… the purple color and the orange carrots would be really pretty with the egg roll and fries, and the creamy barbecue sauce. She is absolutely right.  There are no pictures, because this is yet again, an afterthought.  Thanks Kate!

So here is my recipe… using a purple cabbage:

1 medium head of cabbage, shredded finely in a food processor

2 carrots, shredded finely in a food processor

1 medium onion, minced

1 cup mayonnaise

4 tbsp milk

2 tbsp vinegar (white or cider, I use cider more often than white)

1 tsp sugar

salt and pepper to taste

In a large bowl, mix cabbage, carrots and onion.  Set aside.

Blend together the mayonnaise, milk, vinegar, and sugar.  Pour over the cabbage mixture, and mix well.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Enjoy!!

Again, please bear with me while I learn the technical side of this.  I just cannot figure out how to get rid of all those huge spaces in between ingredients!  I will figure this out..I promise.

Caponata

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I just love my friends.

The other day when I walked into my cubicle at work, I found two bags lying next to my desk.  Inside the one bag were some lovely fresh cherry tomatoes, the biggest I’ve ever seen…  and in the other contained a purple eggplant and a white eggplant, along with some green and red peppers.  Thank you Karen! I work with Karen’s husband and my very good friend Rob. I didn’t even have to think about what to do with all of those vegetables, because Caponata was the first thing that popped into my head.

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I love caponata, and as soon as I typed this, I knew that it was truly an understatement. I ADORE it.  I don’t make it very often, nor do I buy the jarred version very often, because it’s one of those things that is such a special treat when I finally do get around to it, and I want to keep it that way. Yes, I admit to eating the jarred version periodically…but that’s only because I have such a strong craving for it, and no time to make it, and usually it’s for a smoked ham and a thick slice of sharp provolone sandwich on a crusty roll that is just calling out for it’s beloved affinity of agrodolce (sweet and tangy).  Usually I’ll serve it at a party with toasted baguette that have been drizzled in olive oil, and rubbed with roasted garlic.

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I brought a jar of it for Rob and Karen to try, because Rob told me that he had never heard of it after I mentioned to him what I was making with the vegetables that Karen sent in for me. He spooned a nice large dollop onto a baguette slice, and took his first bite.  I had the pleasure of watching his eyes roll into the back of his head, and I knew that I knocked that recipe right out of the water!!

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The only suggestion that I would have for you for this recipe, is to cook it down as long as you can.  I usually let mine cook down on low flame for at least 3 hours.  While it’s delicious that same day, the longer it sits, the more the flavors fall in love and marry. Trust me, it’s worth the wait.  It is most delicious when it is served cold. It keeps for about a week in the refrigerator, but you can also freeze it. This recipe will make enough for a jar to keep in your fridge, and a jar to keep in the freezer!

This time I roasted all of the vegetables before I threw them in the pan to cook down.  I think that the next time I might try charring a few of the vegetables just to see what type of flavor that brings to the dish. I love charred vegetables.   You’ll also notice that I put artichokes in mine.  That’s not a typical ingredient, but I love them, and they love the caponata…. Lastly, this recipe calls for one white eggplant, but I only used it because that’s what Rob and Karen gave to me.  It is totally ok to use two purple eggplants. Honestly.

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The Ingredients:

1 medium purple eggplant, chopped

1 medium white eggplant, chopped

3 ribs of celery, chopped

2 large onions, chopped

4 cloves roasted garlic

25 large cherry tomatoes, cut in quarters

1 green pepper, chopped

1 red pepper, chopped

1 14oz can of artichoke hearts, drained and cut in half

1/2 cup pine nuts

1/2 cup capers, drained

1 5.75 oz jar sliced green olives with pimentos, drained

1 6 oz can large black olives, drained and sliced

2 cups tomato sauce

1/2 cup red wine vinegar

1/2 cup cider vinegar ( “Really?” you ask… “Yes, really” I reply…)

4 tbsp brown sugar

1 tsp salt

1 tsp pepper

1/2 cup olive oil for drizzling

1/2 cup balsamic vinegar for drizzling

Toasted baguette slices, drizzled in olive oil and rubbed with cloves of roasted garlic

After chopping the eggplant, celery, onions, tomatoes, red and green peppers, and artichokes, place them all on a large cookie sheet, and drizzle them with  the olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Cover with aluminum foil, and roast in the oven at 400 degrees for about an hour until they are lightly roasted, but still have a lot of juice.

Pour the roasted vegetables and their juice into a large pot, along with the garlic, black and green olives, pine nuts, capers, tomato sauce, red wine vinegar, cider vinegar, brown sugar, salt, and pepper. Cook uncovered on the lowest heat setting or lowest flame for about two and a half to three hours, stirring often.  You will know when it’s done, because it will have thickened up quite a bit, as the juices will have cooked out.  Taste it, and if you think it needs more salt or pepper, then by all means, add more to suit your taste.

Cool completely. Serve on toasted baguette slices. Or enjoy it like I do on a smoked ham sandwich with a sharp provolone and crusty bread. You will love it, I promise!

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Enjoy!

Please bear with me while I learn the technical side of this, like the font, the spacing, the photos…etc… I’m in the early stages of learning!

National Chocolate Cupcake Day and Happy Birthday Erica!

I spent a few hours last night cutting eggplant and vegetables for caponata, and then cooking them and taking photos… and then I made some chocolate cupcakes for my friend Erica’s birthday. The caponata was going to be my post today, and then I was thinking that I would post the cupcakes tomorrow.  Last minute switcheroo…

My friend Jamison texted me around 6:30am this morning to inform me that today is National Chocolate Cupcake Day.   I texted back: “Get out, really?”  “Yep”, he replied, and then sent me the link to prove it. So I sent him a pic of a chocolate cupcake that I just happened to make last night to celebrate my friend Erica’s birthday which is tomorrow. I mean, how crazy is that?!!  I told him that this would be perfect for the blog, in which he replied “Blog away..”  I love having foodie friends.  I might have totally missed this, so thank you Jamison..

Ericas cupcake

When I was planning on the baking cupcakes for Erica, my thoughts were yellow.  Yellow, because I call her my sunshine.  Erica is not only my friend, but she is my co-worker as well. When the day gets stressful as it often does, I stop down for what I call a little sunshine. It’s like you walk into her cubicle and there is sunshine just radiating.  She will sit there and listen to my petty grievances and rants, and then she just comes up with the craziest remark, and totally makes me laugh, washing away any stress that I might have thought I had five minutes before.  I just love that girl….

So, to signify sunshine, I thought I’d make chocolate cupcakes with yellow rose frosting cupcakes.

Corny?  Most likely.

Fitting? Most definitely!!

Ok, so why photos of chocolate frosted cupcakes, and not yellow frosting? While I still like that idea of yellow.. that changed quickly when I realized at 10pm that I didn’t have yellow food coloring!  I could have made a different color, but then I caught sight of marshmallows on the top shelf of my cupboard…I knew right away that I was going to make a marshmallow crème filled chocolate cupcake with chocolate frosting. I mean, what else could really make a sunshiny statement more than chocolate?  Right? Yeah, I thought so too…I’m so glad that I didn’t have that yellow food coloring….

Chocolate. The new sunshine.

Happy Birthday Erica, I’m lucky to have you as my friend, and life is truly good.

A bite of marshmallow

 Marshmallow  Crème Filled Chocolate Cupcakes with Chocolate Frosting

(Makes 24 cupcakes)

 The cupcake:

2 cups cake flour

1 ½ tsp baking powder

¾ tsp baking soda

½ tsp salt

1 cup unsweetened cocoa

1 ¾ cups sugar

½ cup (1 stick) cold butter, shredded with a cheese grater

½ cup vegetable oil

1 ½ tsp vanilla

1 cup half and half

½ cup strong coffee

4 eggs

Preheat your oven to 350°.  Line your cupcake tin with cupcake liners.

In a mixing bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cocoa powder and sugar.  On low speed, add the butter and vegetable oil until well blended.  Don’t worry, at this point it’s going to look more like cookie dough than cake batter.

Add the half and half, coffee, and vanilla and beat on medium speed until smooth. Add the eggs, one at a time, making sure they are well blended after each egg.  Increase the mixer’s speed to high and beat for about three minutes.

Fill the lined cupcake tins about 2/3 full.  Bake for 16 minutes, or when a toothpick comes out clean.  Let the cupcakes cool completely.

baking the cupcakes

The filling:

1 cup mini marshmallows

2 tbsp butter

1 cup confectionary sugar

1 tbsp heavy cream

A pinch of salt

In a small saucepan, melt the butter over low heat.  Stir the mini marshmallows to the melted butter, and continue to melt them over low heat.  You don’t really need to stir them constantly, just watch them because it all melts rather fast.  Let the marshmallow crème cool completely.

Add the marshmallow crème to your mixing bowl, and to that add the confectionary sugar, heavy cream, and salt.  Mix on medium speed until well blended.

Spoon the marshmallow crème into a 14” decorating bag that is loaded with a plain round extra- large tip (I use Wilton 1A), and insert the tip into the top of the cupcake and give a gentle squeeze until you see the cupcake bulge just a little, about 2 seconds! If you squeeze too hard, you’ll end up with a cracked cupcake and crème gushing out of the top!

Repeat with the rest of the cupcakes.

filling the cupcake

filled cupcakes

The frosting:

For the frosting, I left the remaining marshmallow crème in the mixing bowl.  Whatever you have left in the bowl is fine.  After you fill the cupcakes, there will probably be about ½ cup crème remaining.

To the remaining marshmallow crème, add:

3 cups confectionary sugar

1/2 cup butter, softened

½ cup heaping with unsweetened cocoa powder

1 tsp vanilla

2 tbsp heavy cream, possibly 3 tbsp*

Beat the marshmallow crème, confectionary sugar, butter, cocoa powder, vanilla and heavy cream until fluffy.

*Add more heavy cream if you feel it needs more to be a spreadable consistency.  Not too soft so that when you pipe it on the cupcake it flops, but not too hard so that it is impossible to squeeze out of the decorating bag!

Spoon the frosting into a 14” decorating bag that is loaded with an extra- large star tip (I use Wilton 1M).  Beginning in the middle of the cupcake, pipe about 1 inch up, and begin to swirl around the cupcake until you reach the edges, about two times around the cupcake.

plate of cupcakes

Add whatever decorations that tickle  your fancy….

balls

 

Enjoy!

We will talk caponata tomorrow….

Harvest Pumpkin Donut Pudding

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Well…I think we can officially say it’s Fall.  Yeah, I know it was official on September 22, but it felt like Summer really didn’t end on that day. So now as I’m sitting here typing this, I’m freezing!!  Ok, I exaggerate.  I’m chilly.  It’s going on 7pm, and it’s starting to get dark outside already.  It makes me feel like I need to change into some pajama pants and a sweatshirt.  Why is it, that after we spend three months in the upper 80 degree temperatures, 60 degrees feels like it’s below zero degrees out?  And why is it, when we’ve been through the winter, with below zero degree wind chills, that when it hits 30 degrees on the outside thermometer, we feel like it’s a heat wave, and we are out frolicking in shorts?!!  And why is it, that a month ago when it was 7pm I was still outside doing yard work because it was still light out, but now at 7pm, I’m exhausted and ready for bed because it’s dark out?

The trees here in Western New York are starting to show quite the change in color, and my flowers are beginning to fade away. (Oh, let’s face it.  They started fading about a month ago.  I’ve been a horrible person, and have totally neglected them).  Stores have Halloween decorations and candy out on display.  Everywhere I go, I see ads for pumpkin donuts…. Pumpkin coffee…. Pumpkin cookies….pumpkin pies… pumpkin ice cream…. Pumpkin shakes…. The list goes on and on!

I was at Home Depot today, and I’m not kidding, they had Christmas decorations up already….  We won’t go there just yet. I’m not ready for that.  Don’t get me wrong, I love it…I’m just not ready..

So here we are, the temperatures have been in the 60’s during the day, and down into the 40’s at night, and I’m totally ok with that. I really don’t do well in the heat, and prefer the temperatures to be in the 60’s. I am, and always will be, a jeans and sweatshirt kind of girl.  So yeah, I’ll embrace this feeling of chilly-ness!

It’s fitting then, that while walking through my beloved Wegman’s (my most favorite grocery store); that I would think about making a bread pudding type dish with their Pumpkin Spice Donuts that they now have in the Patisserie.  And it’s fitting that I should be making it now, while the temperatures are down and I’m chilly, and the scent of them baking in the oven is filling the house with that wonderful Fall-like cinnamon smell.  It makes me happy! Life is good.

Harvest Pumpkin Donut Pudding 

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Just a quick note…My first try at the recipe only called for half of the pecan crumble.  It was the general consensus among my taste testers that the crumble should be throughout the donuts to get that extra crunch in the pudding. They loved the crumble on top, so decided that it should not only go throughout, but keep it as a crumbly top too.  It was also my TT’s who told me to add salt and nutmeg.  I heartily agreed with them.  I love my taste testers, and someday soon will introduce you.

I also had my taste testers try it both cold, and warm.  While they loved it cold, they all agreed that the flavors came out stronger when it was warm.  If you are serving this warm, it would be delicious with some vanilla bean ice cream.  And while you’re at it, throw a dollop of fresh whipped cream on top too..because that’s what I would totally do.     

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The Pudding

One dozen pumpkin/cinnamon sugar cake donuts from your favorite bakery

2 tbsp butter, melted

8 extra-large eggs, beaten

3 cups heavy cream

1 tsp vanilla

1 tsp cinnamon

¼ tsp nutmeg

½ tsp salt

The Pecan Crumble:

1 cup pecans

1 cup flour

1 cup brown sugar

1 stick butter, melted

The Topping:

Pure Maple Syrup

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

To make the pecan crumble: Combine the pecans, flour, brown sugar and stick of melted butter until crumbly.  Divide in half.

Lightly spray or butter a 9 x 13 cake pan. Break the donuts into bite size pieces and place in the bottom of the pan.  Drizzle the 2 tbsp of butter over the broken donuts.  Stir one half of the pecan crumble throughout the donut pieces.

Whisk the eggs, heavy cream, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt together until well combined.  Pour over donut pieces in the cake pan.

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Sprinkle the remaining pecan crumble over the top of the donut and egg mixture in the pan.  Bake for about 45 minutes to one hour until a knife inserted in the middle of the pudding comes out clean. I actually let the pudding bake for 45 minutes at 350 degrees, but then turned it down to 300 degrees and let it bake for 15 minutes longer.  I did this only because my oven is temperamental, and I was afraid it would burn.  It turned out perfectly.

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Drizzle with pure maple syrup before serving.  Enjoy!

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