Thursday, October 30, 2008

Crockpot Chicken and Veggies

The credit for this recipe comes from a Pittsburgh Nestie - Cheri. Acutally, she's more of a Fayette County Nestie! :)
I made this last night - working 2 jobs makes crockpot meals a necessity! It was very good and I ate 2 platefulls!
4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts (fresh or frozen)
2 family sized cans of cream of chicken soup (I substituted with 1 can of cream of mushroom soup)
1 can of chicken gravy
3 white potatoes, cut into chunks
3 carrots, cut into pieces
1 small onion, diced
a handfull of fresh green beans
a handfull of fresh asparagus
1/2 cup water
Just toss it all into a crockpot and cook on medium heat for 6 hours. Serve over warm biscuits.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Philly Cheesesteaks

One of the biggest things we miss about Philadelphia is the cheesesteak. You can't get one anywhere in Pittsburgh that tastes anything like 'em. Plus - Pittsburgh has no idea how to make a real Philly cheesesteak - they do not come with lettuce, tomatoes, and mushrooms!

Sure, you could go to Pat's or Geno's and get your "whiz wit", but the best cheesesteaks come from a little place hidden away in a small shopping plaza (Pennsport Mall) in south Philly - Gooey Louie's. Louie's isn't fancy - not by a long shot. It's mainly a small convenience store with a grill in the back, but it's Philly's best kept secret. Louie's doesn't do "whiz", but that's ok. They top theirs with white American cheese and they somehow manage to get it, well, gooey! The sandwiches are also piled high with about a pound of meat and fried onions.

Let's get started. What I've assembled here is what I think will make the most authentic Philly cheesesteak. I have:

2 large vidalia onions
White American cheese
chipsteak (thin slices of beef)
Italian bread (2 foot long loaves)

The chipsteak comes from a local beef farm. Their cows are free-range and organic. Not that it will make a better cheesesteak, but it's good quality beef.

In a cast iron skillet*, sautee the diced onions with about 2 tablespoons of butter. Season with salt and pepper.

*It doesn't have to be cast iron, per se, it's just my new favorite skillet.

You want the onions nice and caramelized so they are sweet and tender. Then place them in a bowl and set aside.

To get that gooey texture to the cheese, I cut up my cheese into pieces and put it in a double boiler covered with plastic wrap. Let this sit over simmering water and the cheese will melt nicely.

In the same skillet that you fried the onions, brown the chipsteak. I chopped the steak up into smaller pieces before cooking.

Take your Italian rolls and split them down the middle. With a spatula, spread the melted American cheese on the roll. Then add the browned steak and top with fried onions. (I also put ketchup on mine.)

To get the full experience, I wrap them in foil and let them sit a few minutes so all of the flavors can meld, the cheese oozes down into the meat and the bread softens a bit.
Yes - I can see you drooling now! Josh said we should open a restaurant since these were so spot-on. I'm gonna charge $10 for a foot long cheesesteak. Who wants to place an order?

Monday, October 27, 2008

La Lechera

I found this strange cereal in Ollies Bargain Outlet...not in my regular Giant Eagle. I don't think this cereal was ever released in the US, which is evident by the Spanish writing all over the box. You Dulce de Leche fans should recognize this as another type of 'milk' cereal. You're right! In fact, it's corn flakes with sweetened condensed milk. Not frosted with sugar. I had to try it...even if it did come from a bargain outlet..and even if I had no idea where it's been before ending up in Cumberland, Maryland.

These babies are covered in the sweetened condensed milk 'frosting'. So much so that the flakes are a bit on the hard side and need a couple of minutes in cold milk to get to the texture that I like. Man, are they sweet - almost too sweet. I have to wait until the milk washes off some of the frosting to really enjoy this. I want to add strawberries to it..or blueberries. Something that's a little tart to counteract the sweetness.

Still, experimental cereal is a good thing. Wonder why we don't have this in the States.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Pumpkin Pie - The Real Deal

Pumpkin pie isn't much of a mystery. All you need is a can of Libby's Canned Pumpkin and the recipe is right there. Believe it or not, it makes a pretty darn tasty pumpkin pie. So what are we doing here? My CSA gave us some 'baking pumpkins' so we don't want the cute little guy to go to waste!

Wash the exterior of the pumpkin in warm water, no soap. Cut the pumpkin in half. Scoop out the seeds and remove all of the stringy flesh. Remove the stem.
Place the pumpkin in a microwaveable bowl with an inch or 2 of water. Microwave on high for about 15 minutes.

The pumpkin should slide right off of the skin.

Puree the pumpkin in a food processor. You'll have about 6 cups and you'll only need 3 cups for the pie. Freeze the remaining pumpkin for another time!

Preheat the oven to 425 F. Place all of the ingredients below into the food processor and mix until well blended:
1 cup sugar
1½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground cloves
½ teaspoon nutmeg
½ teaspoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon salt
4 large eggs
3 cups pureed pumpkin
1½ cans (12 oz) of evaporated milk

Pour the mixture into 2 pie crusts. Ok. I cheated and used the pre-made ones.
Bake at 425 degrees F for the first 15 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 250 degrees F and bake another 45 to 60 minutes or until a clean knife inserted into the center comes out clean.

I've never been a fan of pumpkin pie - but I really like it made this way. The filling isn't nearly as pasty and thick as when you use a canned pumpkin recipe. The filling is more flavorful and almost mousse-like. Yum!

Penne with Clams & Mussels

You don't need to go to a restaurant for a fancy seafood pasta! This is so quick and easy to make. You can even substitute the clams/mussels for shrimp or other seafood.
Penne With Clams & Mussles Recipe
2 Large cans of diced tomatoes
2 cloves garlic, diced
½ pound of littleneck clams, rinsed
½ pound of mussels, rinsed
1 pound of penne rigate, cooked al dente
½ cup of white wine, of choice
3-4 fresh basil leaves, chopped
2 teaspoons of red pepper flakes
olive oil
In a large skillet, sautee the garlic in olive oil. Add the red pepper flakes and let warm for about 30 seconds.
Add the 2 cans of diced tomatoes and bring to a simmer. Add in the white wine and simmer 10 minutes. At this point, I'll take a potato masher and mash up some of the tomatoes in the skillet to thicken the sauce.
Add the basil, clams, and mussels. Simmer for 10 minutes or until clams/mussles have opened. Discard any that do not open.

Add salt and pepper to taste.
Serve over the cooked penne.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Cabbage Noodles (Halushki)

This is one of my most favorite comfort foods. It's basic - cabbage and noodles - but it takes me back to my childhood when my mum-mum and pap-pap would make this all the time and I'd eat 2 or 3 bowls! Okay - I admit it's presentation is lackluster. Heck, it may even be down right unappetizing to anyone with no experience with Hungarian and Polish foods. Like I said - this is a comfort food and yes, it's an ethnic food as well. Deal with it.

Cabbage Noodles
1 head of cabbage - chopped (core removed)
1 bag of egg noodles
1/2 stick of butter (the real thing!)
1/4 cup of Crisco (vegetable shortening) - it's comfort food, remember!
Salt and Pepper to taste

In a large skillet, melt the vegetable shortening and add the chopped cabbage. Sautee on medium heat. Stirring occassionally to keep the cabbage moving and so it doesn't burn on the bottom.

You want the cabbage browned (see below). To be technical, you need to caramelize the cabbage to bring out the sweetness. It will probably take about 35-40 minutes of sauteeing and stirring to get it to this point. Do NOT cover with a lid at any time! You want the water to cook out and caramelize the sugars.

Now you want to boil the noodles. Once they're tender, drain and mix with the cabbage. I like to let it sit on very low heat so that the noodles have time to absorb some of the butter/shortening and the cabbage flavor. Salt and pepper to taste.

Acorn Squash-Butternut Squash Soup

Let me preface this by saying - that is not my ugly bowl. I brought this soup to work and this is one of our office dishes.

As you may already know, I belong to a CSA Farm. It's squash season and they've hooked me up with some acorn squash and some butternut squash. Heck, I don't know what to do with husband won't eat it in any way, shape, or form. So, I figure I'd whip up a soup and take it to work to share with my 5 co-workers. Luckily, it was a hit!

Acorn Squash-Butternut Squash Soup

1 butternut squash - peeled and cut into chunks
1 acorn squash - peeled and cut into chunks
3 granny smith apples, peeled and diced
1 onion - diced
1 clove of garlic - diced
3 14-oz cans of chicken broth
1 Tablespoon Butter
1/4 teaspoon Chinese 5 Spice
1/4 teaspoon Nutmeg
1 Tablespoon of sage, chopped
salt and pepper to taste

Toss the squash chunks in a little bit of olive oil (to coat) and place on a baking sheet. Bake for 45 minutes at 400 degrees.

While the squash is roasting, melt the butter in a dutch oven or stock pot and sautee the apple and onion for about 10 minutes or until soft. Add the garlic, sage, and the spices (Chinese 5 Spice/Nutmeg).

Add the chicken broth and the squash and simmer for 30 minutes. Place the soup into a food processor and puree until slightly chunky/slightly smooth. You will need to do this in batches. If you have a hand-blender, this would work perfectly.

Season with salt/pepper and serve.