Italian Onion Soup

Categories: Soup
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Published on: October 21, 2011

Italian Onion Soup

Italian Onion Soup
Italian Onion Soup

Baked French onion soup. Who hasn’t been ordering that since they were a kid?
As far as I can recall, that was the first “adult” thing I ordered in a restaurant when I was a kid.
Seeing all that cheese baked over the top of the crock. Getting to that soggy crouton underneath. Mmmm. That was good eating.
All that cheese and bread made it worth having to eat all those onions. But as I grew up and the novelty wore off, I ordered it less and less.
I do still enjoy it, but I’ve gotten a few “bad bowls” of it over the years. So I tend to not order it when I am out. Plus…who can eat all that and then a meal. That is a mean.

Last year, I thought I’d give it a try myself, but instead of French Onion, I put more of an Italian spin on it and made my own “Italian Onion Soup”.
It doesn’t roll off the tongue like French Onion, but damn is it good. And simple to boot.

6 cups beef stock
1 large sweet onion (cut in 1/2 and then sliced)
1 large white onion (cut in 1/2 and then sliced)
2 cloves garlic (pressed)
1 tbs olive oil
1 tsp thyme
½ tsp oregano
Grated Fontinella (about 3 cups)
Grated Romano cheese (about ¼ cup)
Salt and pepper

Large Ciabatta bread crouton

TIP: I suggest you make the croutons in advance of making the soup.
Or you can do it while the soup is simmering. Either way, have them ready to go when you need them.
You can read how to make them here: Ciabatta Bread Crouton.

If you really have some time on your hands, you can make your own hearty beef stock. Which I did when I made this one. It adds more complexity to the flavor of the soup.
if you don’t have time, pre-made beef stock will do.

Heat oil in a large pot on medium.
When the oil is hot, add the onions and salt and pepper. Sauté until they begin to soften. About 10 minutes. (DO NOT BROWN!)
Add thyme, oregano and garlic. Continue to sauté for another 2 minutes stirring frequently, so the garlic cooks a bit but does not brown or burn.
Add your stock. Turn the heat to low  and let it simmer for an hour.

TIP: After about 15 minutes of simmering, taste the broth and adjust with salt and pepper.

Ladle into oven safe bowls (or crocks) and drop your Ciabatta bread crouton on top.
Cover with Fontinella cheese and top with a little grated Romano cheese.
Personally, I just like enough cheese to cover the bread. I don’t overload the top, so it’s dripping down the bowl. It’s just too much cheese.

Place bowls on a sheet pan and under a broiler for about 5 minutes, or until cheese is melted. (You can keep it under until cheese is brown if you like.)

Use pot holders to remove sheet pan. Top with a little more grated Romano cheese (And chopped chives if you like) and serve.

The Ciabatta bread has a great chewy crust to it, which stands up to the liquid in the soup. Because of this, you should serve this soup with a fork and knife as well as a spoon.

An alternative to the large crouton is to use a bunch of little ones. It’s easier to eat, but lacks the presentation value that impresses your guests.

Cheese Stuffed Bread

Cheese Stuffed Bread

Cheese Stuffed Bread
Cheese Stuffed Bread

This is a great appetizer that people seem to love and it looks pretty cool too.
What I like so much about this, is that it is completely versatile. You can add,  take out or adjust all the ingredients based on your tastes. There really is no right and wrong.  I like using some brightly colored ingredients so it looks pretty when you slice into it. The deep red from the sun-dried tomatoes, the black and purple from the olives and the green from the onion. They make a great contrast to the pure white cream cheese.

1 loaf of French baguette
12 oz. cream cheese
5 sun-dried tomatoes
8 black olives
6 Kalamata olives
1 clove of garlic
1 green onion
¼ cup fresh grated Romano cheese
2 slices of Genoa salami
salt and pepper

Let cream cheese soften to room temperature before you start.

While cheese is softening, take out a serrated knife and cut off the ends of the bread and then cut the bread into 3rds.  With the serrated knife, hollow out the entire center of the bread, leaving only the outer crust.
After this is done, place the 3 sections of hollowed bread into a Ziploc bag and set aside.

Hollowed French Baguette
Hollowed French Baguette

Put softened cream cheese into a mixing bowl.
Cut tomatoes into quarters. Dice the olives and slice the green onion.
Cut the salami into long strips and then make tiny little 1/8 inch squares.
Press garlic.
Add all ingredients along with a little pepper to bowl and gently fold them all together until well blended. Taste and add salt as well as make adjustments to any of the ingredients.

TIP: DO NOT add a lot of salt. There is a lot of saltiness in the Olives and the Romano cheese. So taste it before you add any salt.

After all the ingredients are blended and adjusted, get the bread back out.
Using a spoon and long butter knife, start stuffing the cheese into one of the open ends of the bread. I usually spoon it in and use the knife to move it further into the center. Once it is about half way stuffed, turn it around and start from the other end. When it is full,  roll it tightly in plastic wrap and place in the fridge.
Do the same to the other 2 sections of bread.

Let them chill for about an hour. Then when you are ready to serve, take them out and use that serrated knife to slice then in about ¼ inch slices.

TIP: Don’t leave them in the fridge for more than a few hours and don’t cut them until you are ready to serve them.

Slow Cooker Pulled Beer Pork

Categories: Pork
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Published on: October 16, 2011

Slow Cooker Pulled Beer Pork

Slow Cooker Pulled Beer Pork
Slow Cooker Pulled Beer Pork

1 (4-6 pound) bone-in pork shoulder
4 cloves of garlic
1 large onion
1 bottle of  beer (I used an ale.)

Spice Rub:
1 tbs ground black pepper
2 tsp cayenne pepper
2 tbs chili powder
1 tbs ground cumin
2 tbs dark brown sugar
1 tbs dried oregano
4 tbs paprika
2 tbs salt
1 tbs white sugar

This is a great dish to serve at parties as little sandwiches. Although it can be messy, so I wouldn’t serve it at a black tie affair. I would stick to the casual paries or when watching football with the guys. The kids love it too!

This is a SLOW COOKER recipe, so give yourself about 8 hours of cook time.

Tip: While this is cooking, DO NOT open the lid. This releases the heat and adds to the cook time. Just leave the top on till it’s done. You don’t need to stir it.

Mix all spices together in a bowl.
Rub the spices into meat and wrap tightly in double layer of plastic wrap.
Then refrigerate for at least 3 hours. I did this about 12 hours before I cooked it.

When you’re ready to start cooking, slice up the onion and make a “bed” of onions on the bottom of the slow cooker.
Then slice the garlic and place that throughout the onions and then pour the beer in.
Unwrap roast and place it in on the bed of onions, garlic and beer.

Turn slow cooker to low and cook for 8 hours.

Take pork out and “pull” on cutting board, using 2 forks to sperate meat. Drain most of the beer out of the cooker. Leave the onions and garlic and a little liquid. I used a slotted spoon and just tipped it into the sink.

Place shredded meat back in slow cooker and mix with the onion, garlic and beer.

Serve on buns or WITH BBQ sauce on the side.

On step 8, you could add a cup or so of BBQ sauce, and heat on low for 30-60 minutes if you wanted BBQ pork. That’s good too.

The beer and spices give this meat a great flavor.



Categories: Pizza
Comments: No Comments
Published on: October 7, 2011


Christmas Calzone
Christmas Calzone

This has been a staple at my family Christmas gatherings, since long before I was born.
When my dad made it, he would make one huge Calzone….1/2 sweet and 1/2 hot. You could tell which side was which before you even cut into it, because he would poke little holes in the shape of an “H” and a “S” into the top of the dough before baking it.

Keep in mind that this will make a massive calzone that will feed a lot of people.
We usually serve it as one of the dishes on Christmas Eve.
You can cut the recipe in 1/2 to make it smaller.

Also pictured below that beautiful calzone is my great grandmother’s dough rolling stick.

3 lbs Rhode’s frozen pizza dough (3 loaves in package).
Use 1 ½ loaves for top crust and 1 ½ loaves for bottom crust.

2 pounds Italian sausage removed from casing
1 – 3 tbs Hot red pepper flakes (to taste optional)
1 tbs Fennel seeds
4 pounds whole milk Ricotta cheese
4 – 5 Eggs
A handful of Italian flat leaf parsley
2 cups grated Romano cheese
Salt & Pepper

Mix meat, fennel seeds, (hot pepper), salt & pepper and fry until pink color is gone from meat.
Let that cool.
In a large bowl, mix Ricotta, eggs, parsley, Romano cheese, salt & pepper.
When meat has cooled, combine meat mixture with cheese mixture.
Roll out bottom crust to fit large sheet pan (sprinkle bottom of pan with corn meal to prevent dough from sticking).
Brush inside of bottom crust with egg whites before filling to prevent pizza from being soggy. (Save egg yolks!)
Fill bottom crust with cheese/meat mixture. Cover with top crust and close edges.
Prick entire top of pizza with fork to let steam out when cooking or it will explode in your oven.
Brush top and sides with egg yolks.
Bake at 375 degrees until done – Approx. 45 min. to 1 hour (depending on oven)
Remove from pan immediately and cool on rack.

TIP: DO NOT COOL IN THE FRIDGE. The calzone will become soggy.

This can be served warm or cold.

When my sister Judi was making it last Christmas eve, she called and asked for the recipe that I had. I sent it to her and I must admit that her Calzone turned out to be the best I’ve ever tasted. You can check it out here: Calzone

Crab and White Bean Bisque

Categories: Crab, Soup
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Published on: October 6, 2011

Crab and White Bean Bisque

Crab and White Bean Bisque
Crab and White Bean Bisque

I love Cannellini beans. For the past few years I have been
experimenting with a ton of different dishes using them. Aside from being very nutritious,
they have such a great taste. If only I could get my kids to eat them.

I had seen a kind of white bean soup somewhere but did not have a recipe for
it, so I decided to wing it and see what happens. What happened was one of my
favorite soups was born, that’s what. When I made it a second time I added crab meat to it and POOF…..magic was made! I can seriously eat a whole pot of this stuff by myself.

If you like crab, then you have to try this soup. If you don’t, you can leave it out
and it’s still fantastic. But you’ll be missing out on the magic. Seriously, don’t miss out onthe magic.

3 cans cannellini beans
6 cloves of garlic (pressed or minced)
10 baby carrots – diced
1 stalk of celery – sliced
1 medium white onion – diced
5 cups chicken stock
2 sprigs of thyme
½ tbs oregano
1 tsp cayenne
Salt and Pepper
3/4 cup fresh grated Romano cheese
1 ½ pounds king crab meat
1 tbs Olive Oil
A table spoon of butter
Crusty bread

Put the oil and butter in a pot. Heat on medium low till butter melts.
Sautee the carrots, celery and onion on medium-low heat till all are soft. Do not brown any of them! About 12 – 15 minutes.
Add in the garlic, cayenne, oregano, thyme, salt and pepper.
Cook for another 3 or 4 minutes. You want the garlic to cook a little, but not brown. (Brown garlic is bitter)
Add the beans and the chicken stock.
Simmer for about 20-30 minutes and then  add a handful of Romano cheese.
Simmer another 20 – 30 minutes stirring occasionally.
Use an immersion blender and blend till smooth. (Or pour into a regular blender and blend. Then return to pot.)
The consistency becomes smooth and creamy. No need for cream! But you could add a little to lighten it up a bit if you like. Personally I don’t think it needs it.

About 3 – 5 minutes before you are ready to serve, add the crab into the soup.  You just want the crab to get worm.
Ladle into bowls.
Top with salt, pepper and a little more grated cheese.

Serve with the bread or croutons.

Shrimp Tacos or Quesadillas

Categories: Shrimp
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Published on: October 5, 2011

Shrimp Tacos or Queselladillas

(No picture sorry, I’ll get one next time I make them)

20 – 25 raw medium shrimp (de-veined and
peeled) cut into 3rds.
1 small lime (juiced)
2 green onions
1 1bs sweet onion chopped fine
A small handful of cilantro –  chopped
1 clove of garlic – pressed
1 tsp of cumin
1 tsp of chili powder
1 tsp of cayenne
A squirt of Sriracha (This is optional. It’s hot though -(
Salt and pepper
Flour tortillas (smaller for Tacos and larger for quesadillas)

First off let me say that Mexican food for me ranks right up
there with Italian food. I could eat it every day. Over the years I’ve tried
many different dishes.

One thing that I never really liked was mixing seafood with Mexican food. I
pretty much always stuck to steak, pork, ground beef or chicken.

About 9 years ago I was flying to Canada for a business trip with my
father-in-law (RIP buddy) and on the way to the airport we stopped for lunch at
a Mexican restaurant.

It was during lent, so I was at a bit of a loss when trying to find something
to order.  The special of the day was shrimp quesadillas. So I thought what the heck, I’ll give it a try.
Boy was I glad I did. Had I known they were so good, I would have been eating
them for years.
So after years of making steak, pork, chicken, and beef Quesadillas
I decided to give my own shrimp Tacos/Quesadillas a try. I must say, they were as
good as I remember from the restaurant. I’ve made them for friends and family a
few times and I always get people saying “Shrimp? Tacos?”

But after they taste it, they come around too….

Let me know what you think.

Optional Toppings:
Chihuahua cheese
Cheddar cheese
Shredded lettuce
Sliced avocado
Sliced olives
Sour cream
Diced tomatoes

Put a pot of water on the stove on high.
After it comes to a boil, drop shrimp in for 1 minute.

Drain and drop shrimp into a bowl of cold water for a few minutes to stop them from over cooking.
Drain well and place in glass mixing bowl or Ziploc bag.

Mix in:
the lime juice, the green and sweet onions, cilantro, garlic, salt,
pepper, cumin, chili powder, cayenne and Sriracha.

Combine all ingredients well and place in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
Mixing or stirring every 8 minutes or so.

Taste it and make any seasoning adjustments that are needed.

Then either:

Put them in a flour shell with the toppings of your choice.
I usually go for Chihuahua cheese, sour cream and shredded lettuce, myself.

OR (For Quesadillas)

Heat a large, flat pan on medium heat. Drop in a little butter and spread it around.

Add the flour tortilla and top the whole thing with some Chihuahua cheese.
Then top just one half with the shrimp mixture.

Fold over and cook until one side it slightly browned and crisp. Then flip it over and cook till the other side is slightly brown and crispy and plate.

Serve with chips, Mexican rice and/or refried black beans.


Beer Chili

Categories: Beef, Chili
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Published on: October 5, 2011

Homemade Beer Chili

Beer Chili with Cornbread
Beer Chili with Cornbread

Who doesn’t love a hot and hearty bowl of chili on a cold
day?  Hell, I eat this in the middle of summer too, who am I kidding?

If you are a chili lover, you need to try this recipe. You can adjust the
seasoning blend to your own taste. In this recipe I used some sundried hot
chili powder, that my neighbor bought from the Spice House. It adds a mellow smoky
flavor, but not too much. Good stuff.

1 lb of *lean ground beef
1 stalk celery
1 small sweet onion
2 cloves garlic
1 tbs vegetable oil
1 4oz can green chilies (sweet or hot which ever you like)
1 15 oz can of black beans
1 28 oz can of whole tomatoes (With the tomatoes pulled apart into smaller pieces)
2 Ears of sweet corn (With the corn cut off the cob or ½ – ¾  cup frozen or canned corn)
1 bottle of dark beer or ale

Seasoning blend:
2 tbs chili powder
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp sundried hot chili powder (optional)
1 tsp cayenne
2 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1 tbs sweet paprika
1 tsp oregano

Pour oil into a pot and heat to medium.
Add onions and celery and sauté for about 5 or 6 minutes.
Add the can of green chilies and the pressed garlic and continue to saute for another 3 minutes.
Put that mixture in a bowl to the side and add  ground beef to the pot.
Brown the meat and drain the grease.

Add the veggie mixture back into the pot, along with the tomatoes, beans, beer and spice mix.
Stir till blended and simmer for about 1 – 2 hours.
About 20 minutes before serving, add the corn into the pot.
Taste and adjust seasonings.

The longer it simmers, the more liquid will cook out and the richer and thicker it will be.

Ladle into a bowl and top with:
Sour cream (optional)
Chopped Green Onions (optional)
Shredded cheddar cheese (optional)

Serve with cornbread or garlic bread.

* You can also try this with 1lb of lean ground turkey or pork!

Stuffed Zucchini

Categories: Turkey
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Published on: October 3, 2011

Stuffed Zucchini

Stuffed Zucchini
Stuffed Zucchini

When I was growing up my parents always had at least 1, if
not 2, gardens going in the back yard. Throughout the summer we feasted on tomatoes,
cucumbers, peppers, zucchini and various other fresh veggies.

Every once in a while we would get a monster sized zucchini and
my mom would end up stuffing it with a meat and rice mixture. Sometimes it would
have a tomato sauce on top and other times it would not. I don’t think she had
a recipe for it, although I never thought to ask.

This year we ended up with an arm-sized zucchini in our garden, so I thought I
would try my hand at stuffing it myself. It came out pretty good.

The kids only ate the meat out of the middle, but I ate it for lunch for the
next 3 days.

1 large zucchini
1 medium white onion – diced
1 red pepper – diced 
4 cloves of garlic – minced
2 sprigs of Thyme – chopped fine
About a teaspoon of oregano – chopped fine
Provolone cheese (about 5 slices cut into small squares)
About 1/4 cup grated pecorino Romano
3/4 lb ground turkey
2 Cups cooked long grain/wild rice ( Any rice will probably do. I just happened to have that on hand)
About 2 cups of chicken stock
Salt and pepper
Olive Oil

Boil the whole zucchini in a large pot of water until Fork tender.
Remove from water and let cool.

For the stuffing:
In a large pot sauté the red pepper in some olive oil for a few minutes, then added the onion and sweat that down until soft over a medium heat.

Add the garlic, thyme and oregano. Continue to sauté that for about 3 or 4 minutes so the garlic starts to cook.

Add  the cooked rice and a splash of the chicken stock, salt and pepper.
Cook it for another minute and taste. Adjust seasoning if needed.

Put that mixture is bowl on the side.

Add a little more olive oil to the pan and toss in the turkey.
Brown turkey and then add the rice/veggie mix and incorporate all.

Put that mix back in the bowl to cool a bit. After it cools add both cheeses and mix well.

Cut the zucchini lengthwise and scooped out the seeds. Leaving about ½ inch of flesh in the side.

After the filling cools, stuff it into the zucchini and put it into baking dish or roasting pan with the remainder of chicken stock in the bottom.

Cook at 350 for about 40 minutes or so. Just till it starts to brown on the top.

Let stand for about 5 minutes.

Slice and eat.

Easy Turkey Stock

Categories: Stock, Turkey
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Comments: No Comments
Published on: October 3, 2011

Easy Turkey Stock

Turkey Stock
Turkey Stock

I can’t stress enough to take time to make your own stock! It tastes better and saves you money.
One of my favorites is Turkey stock. Sometimes I’ll buy a full bird and make various recipes from the meat and then use the carcass to make stock for the rest of the year. (We’ll probably not that long. But the stock will last a few months.)
If you don’t want to buy a full bird, you can make it from just the drum sticks and you can get them pretty cheap at the butcher. (I paid about $3 for these beauties.)

1 package of Turkey drumsticks
Olive oil
Salt and Pepper

Preheat Oven to 350.
Drizzle olive oil over drumstick and rub to coat.
Add salt and pepper.

Put drumsticks in a Le Creuset pot, roasting pan or shallow Pyrex and roast until golden brown.
About 45 minutes or so.

Take out of oven and add hot water to cover drumsticks. (If they were in a roasting pan or Pyrex, transfer them into a pot.)

Add a bit more salt and pepper.

Place on stove and turn heat to med/low and let it simmer for about an hour.

Strain in a fine strainer.  (Take all the meat off the bone and make something with it. Soup, Turkey Chili, etc.)

Place stock in various sized freezer containers and lable.
Let cool in the fridge, then palce in freezer.


Creamy Artichoke Soup

Categories: Soup
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Published on: October 3, 2011

Creamy Artichoke Soup

Creamy Artichoke Soup
Creamy Artichoke Soup

Another delicious little gem that I grew up with were stuffed artichokes! About once every other month or so, my mom would make theme.
Hot, steamy and stuffed with breadcrumbs.

You can find our family recipe at : Stuffed Artichokes

I was over at my neighbor Dan’s house a few weeks back and we were talking
about food,  (Dan likes to cook as well.) and artichokes came up. I commented that I have only had them stuffed, but I love them and wanted to try something new with them. I had been making soup earlier that week, so I was brainstorming that I should give an artichoke soup a try. And an idea was born.

The next week, I saw that some nice sized artichokes were on sale at the market
(About $0.69 a lb.) so I bought 6 of them and gave it a try.

It’s a bit of work and kind of time consuming, because you have to steam the
artichokes first to get the leaves and choke off. But in the end, I really don’t
mind spending the time, if the end result is good. This came out pretty good. I’ll
probably experiment with it and tweak it out more the next few times I make it.

6 Artichoke hearts (Steamed until tender with leaves and choke removed)
1 stalk celery
10 baby carrots (chopped)
1 medium sweet onion (diced)
2 sprigs of Thyme
4 cloves garlic (minced)
Handful of fresh grated Romano cheese (About 1/2 cup)
1 tablespoon butter
5 cups chicken stock (I used Turkey stock that I made myself from roasted Turkey Legs)

Sauté the onions, carrots and celery about 5 minutes.
Add a few grinds of salt and a few of pepper.
Add artichoke hearts, (quartered) garlic and thyme.
Keep sautéing for another 2 minutes.
Add stock and bring heat up to medium.
Add cheese and stir.
When soup starts to boil, reduce to low and simmer for at least an hour.
Taste broth and season with salt and pepper.

When ready to serve use emersion blender to blend everything smooth. (No need for cream!)
Ladle into bowls and top with fresh ground pepper and chopped chives.

I also had some homemade croutons I made out of French baguette. (Cut into cubes, tossed with olive oil, sea salt and pepper and into a 350 degree oven till brown)


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