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13 posts from February 2014

02/28/2014

~ Broiled & Baked: K.C. BBQ'D Country-Style Ribs (Pantry Cooking: Kid friendly and mother approved!) ~

IMG_5391Just because it is the end of February does not mean Spring is right around the corner. Especially this year.  Unlike Winters of the recent past, this one's agenda has been brutal, with 8"-16" of snow in our current forecast for this Sunday (March 2nd).  I can live with old man Winter.  It's easy to do from the inside looking out, but, sometimes I yearn for the taste of a grilled rib or a piece of chicken dripping with red, ketchup-y sweet and spicy barbecue sauce. Note: Joe is no slouch.  He never puts our grill away for the Winter, and, has always managed to delcare a couple of sunny 35-38 degree days "grillin' day's".  Not this year.  Not once.  Period.

Having lived in Pennsylvania my entire life, like a lot of creative cooks, I've got ways to circumvent the weather.  While nothing would bring splendor to the table right now like hot-off-the grill chicken, steak or ribs, that's just not possible and whining about it won't make it so.  Over the years, I've developed a few recipes to "tide us over"... until kinder, gentler weather arrives...  

IMG_5615... but, this recipe has nothing to do with inclement weather!  

IMG_4945 IMG_4953These are bone-in country-style ribs.  They are taken from the rib end of the pork loin, and, like babyback ribs they are fatty and flavorful.  Unlike babyback ribs, they are very meaty. While both babybacks and country-style ribs are suited perfectly for the dry, high heat of the grill, country-style ribs take to the oven like ducks to water.  I love them, but, more importantly, so does my family.

It came about by accident -- a very Happy Valley accident!  

IMG_5446It was back in the mid 1980's.  I arrived home to discover a package of country-style ribs, instead of my pork chops, in one of my grocery bags -- I had never cooked them before and there was no time to return them.  I had three elementary school-aged boys coming through the door at 3:30PM, and, two of them had to be fed and back out the door to "activities" by 5:30PM.  

C0fc10e9d129b3a484a327838a775a04How did this happen?  O.W. Houts & Sons, founded in 1920, was a family-owned gourmet grocery store and butcher shop + a furniture/harware store, lumber yard and garden center.  All of State College got teary-eyed the day they closed their doors.  For us locals, it was the day the music died!

O.W. Houts & Sons rocked!

They had a large, square (four-sided) checkout counter with one cash register.  As customers shopped, they built a "pile of their stuff" anywhere on the counter -- right next to someone elses "pile of stuff".  Everyone had a pile with no fence around it or divider between it.   No one stood in line.  As people finished shopping they got checked out in that order, so, piles of stuff were always being pushed and shuffled.  I got ribs, someone else got pork chops -- no big deal!

IMG_5221I did what good mom's do best.  I improvised.  I arranged:

3 1/2-4  pounds country-style ribs

in two 13" x 9" x 2" baking dishes that I'd sprayed with:

no-stick cooking spray.

Then, I topped the ribs with:

freshly ground sea salt and peppercorn blend.

IMG_5250 IMG_5260 IMG_5267 IMG_5274

 

 

 

IMG_5283As pictured above, I preheated my broiler with the oven rack positioned 6" underneath the heat and broiled them for 15 minutes.  I removed them from the oven, flipped them over onto their second sides, gave them another grinding of salt and pepper and placed them back under the broiler for another 15 minutes.  Lastly, I drizzled 

2, 12 1/2-ounce bottles of BBQ sauce, one bottle over each dish.

Nowadays I make my own sauce. Just click on the Related Article link below to get my recipe for ~ Kansas City BBQ Sauce:  Sweet, Spicy & Smoky ~.

IMG_5355 IMG_5338Lastly, I covered the dishes with aluminum foil,  reset my oven to 350 degrees and baked them for 30 minutes.  After that,  I uncovered them, reset to back to broil again and gave them one last 5 minutes under the broiler, until they just started to brown on the surface.

 While the ribs were baking, I used the time to cook a 1 pound bag of "spicy rice".

IMG_5290

My kids grew up loving a Spanish rice mix made by Vigo.  Whenever I served it, they didn't need to be called twice to the table.  I always added some red pepper flakes to it and they affectionately named it "spicy rice".  This rice mix is not only authentic and delicious, it is the ultimate time saver!

PICT2688Place 1-quart of water in a 4-quart stockpot and cook:

1  pound Vigo yellow rice

with:

4  tablespoons salted butter

and

1/2  teaspoon red pepper flakes

added to the water,

according to the directions...

IMG_5300 IMG_5297... simmering steadily, with the lid on the pot, for 18-20 minutes.  

When the rice has absorbed almost all of the water, remove from heat and allow to rest for about 5 minutes.  Before serving, rake through it (I'm using a pasta fork) to separate and fluff the kernels.

Remove ribs from oven and test for doneness:

IMG_5624Portion and serve the ribs on top of the rice with steamed broccoli or peas to the side:

IMG_5461Broiled & Baked:  K.C. BBQ'D Country-Style Ribs (Pantry Cooking:  Kid Friendly and Mother Approved!):  Recipe yields 4-6 servings.

Special Equipment List:  2, 13" x 9" x 2" baking dishes; long-handled fork; aluminum foil; 4-quart stockpot

IMG_3267Cook's Note:  Pantry cooking doesn't have to be out of desperation, sometimes it can be intentional because the food is that good. For another one of my recipes that I didn't have to call my children to the table twice for (and I still make to this day): ~ Pantry Cooking:  Chicken & Rice (Arroz con Pollo) ~ can be found in Categories 3, 13, 19 & 20!

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2014)  

02/25/2014

~ Mel's Got Spaghetti "a la Carbonara" on Her Mind (A Simple Recipe w/Fond Memories & Rich History) ~

IMG_5124Carbonara.  A word every foodie is familiar with.  Not familiar with it?  Not a foodie.  Don't like the word foodie?  Go write your own material.  Carbonara is Italian, and, if you have ever eaten it in its city of origin, Rome, or had it prepared for you by someone from Rome, you have little patience with American bastardizations.  Carbonara is the definition of "simply extraordinary"!

IMG_5152Carbonara =  Pasta, Pork, Eggs, Cheese & Pepper

IMG_5160A bit about carbonara (kar-boh-NAH-rah): (The following is a run-on sentence.)  Carbonara is a dish of al dente pasta (usually bucatini or thick spaghetti) tossed into a skillet containing chards of fried "crispy yet chewy" lardo (pig fatback), guanciale (pig jowl), or, pancetta (pork belly), then, tossed to coat with a mixture of whisked raw eggs and finely-grated Parmigiano-Reggianno cheese.  When blended into the hot pasta, the eggs cook to a creamy state (not scrambled), the cheese melts, and, reserved pasta water, NO CREAM or any creamy product, is used to control the consistency.  The dish is garnished with a copious amount of freshly-ground black pepper.

IMG_5025A bit about allowable optional additions:  In Italy, onion and/or garlic is sometimes added, but in a unique way.  The half-cooked pork is moved to one half of the skillet to finish cooking, and the onions and/or garlic are added and sauted on the other half.  It's also acceptable to whisk a bit of minced parsley into the egg mixture or sprinkle some on the finished dish. Bucatini is traditional, but flat strands or short non-tubular pasta are allowed too.  Raw egg on top?

You can skip the farm fresh egg yolk on top, but, my love of it precludes me from doing that!

IMG_5184^ This is a Carbonara Recipe.  Pure and simple perfection!

v This is a Wedding Cake.  Pure and not-so-simple perfection!

ScanA bit about my carbonara recipe:  It was 1998.  Our middle son (my stepson) got engaged to a gal from Rome.  The wedding, a catered affair, was held here in my Happy Valley home.  Four days prior to the ceremony the grandmother, mother and an aunt of the bride arrived. They spoke even less English than the bride, but, thanks to my husband's limited grasp of Italian, we communicated pretty well.  I have no idea how they did it, but they got through JFK with a small suitcase of olive oil, cheeses and cured meats (as gifts for me), and a couple of bottles of wine (for Joe) -- all the things no two self-respecting Italian cooks could leave home in Rome without -- they came to cook.

Two recipes got taught to me during those four days: Bolognese sauce and carbonara sauce. Over a few glasses of wine, we learned that the bride's mother was a retired actress who had a small part in the movie Ben Hur too.  It was a happy time and a beautiful wedding.  As for the rest of the story, don't ask (not everyone lives happily ever after).  I've got two extraordinary recipes, and, for that I am grateful!  (To learn more about the wedding cake, read my Cook's Note below.)

My Favorite History of "Bucatini alla Carbonara", as per

Sophia Loren's Recipes & Memories (page 66, copyright 1998).

A6overdaughterinchurch"The film Two Women was shot in a mountainous region two to three hours from Rome.  Not so far, but like another universe from the lowlands.  Unlike city dwellers, especially Romans, mountain people are used to long silences, and, are simple and direct in manner. Their cuisine is similar -- hearty, substantial, and nourishing.

Not far from our location was a small all-male community of charcoal workers.  This trade must be almost extinct, because no one needs coal any more, and even country stoves now use natural gas or electricity.  There is, however, still some demand for charcoal or wood for some types of traditional cooking in fireplaces and for grilling, roasting, and rotisserie-style cooking.

But to return to my mountain people, they offered the cast and crew this pasta dish "Maccheroni alla Carbonara.  The maccheroni -- the pasta -- were homemade, long, rather thick strands, with no hole through the center, irreverently called "strozzapreti" ("priest stranglers").  Our incomparable director, Vittorio De Sica, and I asked for seconds, and I made sure I was invited the next day to stand beside the men at the fire and take notes on the recipe.

IMG_4965By now I've prepared and eaten Bucatini alla Carbonara many times in my life.  This recipe is faithful to the way the men prepared it, but it will never have the same flavor as it did then.  Whenever I have La Carbonara, I become nostalgic for those people and places.

Carbonara is served with a healthy sprinkling of freshly ground black pepper over it, which some food scholars maintain represents a dusting of carbon powder.  There also are those who say the dish was invented because the essential ingredients, bacon and eggs, were supplied by American GIs to cooks using charcoal burners in Rome itself, but my experience would disprove this.  Probably the GIs were simply the source of ingredients for a dish that already existed.  In any case, Bucatini alla Carbonara remains a Roman specialty that a number of restaurants proudly prepare."

*************

IMG_5216Everyone makes carbonara a little differently -- but please don't use cream.  

The only thing carbonara aficionados care about is:  the end justifies the means.  

These are my proportions and my method (as per a trio of opinionated Roman women):

IMG_4986

1/2  pound thick-sliced pancetta (unless you can find lardo or guanciale), have the person at the deli-counter thick slice it for you 

1/2-3/4  cup finely-diced white or yellow onion (optional) (I use 1/2 cup.)

1  tablespoon minced, fresh garlic (optional) (I use none.)

1  pound bucatini or thick spaghetti

1  tablespoon sea salt, for seasoning pasta water

1  cup of hot pasta water, reserved after pasta is cooked

3/4  cup finely-grated Parmigiano-Reggianno or Locatelli cheese

4  very-fresh or farm-fresh large eggs, at room temperature 

4  additional very-fresh or farm-fresh eggs yolks, at room temperature (optional)

freshly and coarsely-ground sea salt and black pepper or peppercorn blend, to taste

finely-minced parsley, for garnish (optional) (I use none.)

IMG_5002 IMG_5007~ Step 1. Slice or dice the pancetta. I cut mine into 1/4" chards because that is what I was taught.   When sliced like this, the pancetta will be crispy on the outside with a slightly-chewy center. If you want your pancetta crisp, dice it.  Finely-dice the optional onion and/or garlic at this time too.

IMG_5034~ Step 2.  Place pancetta in a 5 1/2-quart chef's pan.  Over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, saute until the pancetta is golden on the outside and to-the-tooth on the inside, about 8 minutes.  If adding the optional onion and/or garlic, after about 5 minutes of cooking pancetta, move it to one side of the pan and add the onion/garlic to the other.  Continue to saute, until the onion is softened and the panchetta is cooked as directed above...

IMG_5061... remove pan from heat, partially cover and set aside.

~ Step 3.  In an 8-quart stockpot, bring 5 quarts of water to a boil and add the salt.  Add the pasta and continue to cook until the pasta is slightly less than al dente about 9-11 minutes (9-10 minutes for thick spaghetti, 10-11 minutes for bucatini).  Test often during the last 2 minutes of cooking.  

While the water is coming to a boil and the pasta is simmering:

IMG_5051 IMG_5045~ Step 4. Grate the cheese.  In a small bowl, whisk four eggs.  Whisk in the 3/4 cup of cheese.  Place a large colander in the sink and place a 1-cup measuring cup in the colander. This will remind you to reserve the pasta water before you dump it all down the drain!  You can thank me later.

IMG_5070~ Step 5.  When the pasta is almost done, return the pan of pancetta to the stovetop over very low heat.

IMG_5074When the pasta is cooked, reserve 1 cup of water from the pot (you won't need that much but it is better to be safe than sorry).  Drain pasta into colander...

... IMG_5086Add 1/4 cup of pasta water to the pan of pancetta and add the steaming hot, drained pasta to pan. Using a pair of tongs, or two forks and two spoons, toss like a salad until the pasta is coated.  

IMG_5082Whisk 1/4 cup of pasta water into the eggs, to temper.  Add to the pasta.

IMG_5106 IMG_5098Step 6. Toss again, until the pasta is thoroughly combined, then, give the mixture a generous grinding of black pepper or peppercorn blend (I like the blend).

Immediately portion into 4 warmed serving bowls.  Top each with an optional egg yolk and indulge!

Serve with additional grated cheese, freshly ground sea salt and pepper at tableside:

IMG_5173Mel's Got Spaghetti "a la Carbonara" on Her Mind:  Recipe yields 4 servings.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; 5 1/2-quart chef's pan w/straight, deep sides & lid; large spatula; microplane grater; fork; 8-quart stockpot; 1-cup measuring container; colander; tongs

ScanCook's Note ("the cake"): Kim Morrison Kim's Website is a personal friend of mine who has been making cakes for my celebrations for years.  In 2003 and 2004 she captured the Grand Prize at the National Wedding Cake Competition in Oklahoma city. Upon winning two consecutive years in a row, they "retired" her to judging the competition. She has also been featured on several Food Network shows.  PS:  Those flowers are all hand-made works of 'sugar art'!

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2014) 

02/23/2014

~ Cooking Boneless Pork Backribs (Pork on a Fork) ~

IMG_4873Some people go to church on Sundays.  Joe goes to Sam's Club.  Men like Sam's Club.  Even the name implies the place is for men.  Sam's sell things in bulk and men like that.  This works out great for me:  1)  Once a week Joe picks up everything I use in big amounts (aluminim foil sheets, pans, paper towels, cleaning supplies, etc.), which makes mid-week shopping more like running quick, errands.  2)  Sam's Club has a great meat department, which I have come to rely on for several items.  Bonelesss pork backribs, however, took me some time to warm up to!

IMG_4861This is NOT a rib, a country-style rib, a riblet, or, a McRib!

IMG_4642A bit about boneless pork backribs or boneless babyback ribs:  This cut of pork, which is not new, started being marketed with these two misleading names after mom and pop butcher shops started closing their doors and mega-markets started opening theirs.  This cut is nothing more than pork loin meat taken from "near the ribs".  As we all know, pork ribs, which are attached to the loin IMG_4649muscle, are fatty and flavorful. This partially-cut, flat piece of loin (which suspiciously looks like what a rack of ribs might look like if one could remove the bones) is akin, in texture (dry) and flavor (bland), to a boneless pork chop.  

America has become a country of grillers -- almost everyone owns some sort of barbecue grill.  In the old days, loin meat sold for much more than ribs, which were stripped of as much meat as possible.  Thanks to the grilling trend, the demand for meatier babybacks grew, and, butchers were forced to start leaving considerably more meat on them.  Now, they have taken this one step further and have generated a product taken "from around the ribs", which is selling well and making money.

IMG_4945Boneless pork backribs are not country-style spareribs!!!  

It astonishes me at the number of misinformed people who refer to these two as if they're the same product and write recipes insinuating they can be used interchangeably.  They cannot.

Country-style ribs, taken from the rib end of the pork loin, like babyback ribs, are fatty and flavorful.  The truth be told, I like country-style ribs even more than I like babybacks.

IMG_4953Babyback ribs and country-style ribs are perfect for the the dry, high heat of the grill because their fat renders them tender and succulent. This is not the case for pork loin chops or boneless pork backribs at all.  Their lack of fat renders them dry, tasteless and lack-luster.

IMG_4865Let's get down to the business of cooking boneless backribs.

If it has the word "rib" in its name and looks sort of like a rack of ribs, people expect ribs.  Stick with that -- it will alleviate a lot of merciless mumbling and grumbling.  

When cooking this cut of meat the object is it to keep it from drying out while adding as much flavor to it as you can (it is leaner than you think and has little flavor of its own).  Baking it, tightly-covered in foil, on a flat pan in the oven, with a short stint under the broiler at the end, works well.  This method locks in what little moisture it has and gives "the ribs" a slight crisp on the outside.  Season with a spice or a spice blend and choose a sauce or glaze (that complements the spices) with a lot of bold flavor.  Have lots of extra sauce on hand for dipping and drizzling!

For a 4 1/2-5 pound package of boneless pork backribs:

IMG_4649 IMG_4645~ Step 1. Line a large baking pan with foil and a piece of parchment. Choose a spice or spice blend.  I'm using Chinese five-spice powder today.  Sprinkle parchment with the spice/spice blend and a grinding of sea salt and peppercorn blend. Place the backribs on the pan.

IMG_4658~ Step 2.  Season the top of the meat with the spice or spice blend followed by grinding of sea salt and peppercorn blend.  Allow to rest, to allow the spices to work their magic, for about 45-60 minutes.

IMG_4668Cover tightly w/foil & bake on center rack of preheated 350 degree oven for 1 hour, to steam and infuse the meat with the flavorful spices.

IMG_4693~ Step 3.  Remove from oven and uncover.  Pour 1/2 cup of sauce evenly over the top of each piece of meat and use a pastry brush to evenly distribute it into all of the slits.  Re-cover with foil and bake for 30 more minutes.

In case you haven't already guessed, I am making Asian-syle "ribs" today.  You can find my recipe for ~ Asian Honey-Sesame Garlic-Ginger Dipping Sauce ~ in Categories 8 & 13!

IMG_4770 IMG_4719~ Step 4. Remove from oven, uncover, and, using a fork, lift and flip the meat over.  

IMG_4748Add and brush another 1/4 cup of sauce over each, then, sprinkle with sesame seeds.

~ Step 5.  Re-cover pan with foil and return to oven to for another 30 minutes, for a total of 2 hours in the oven.  Remove from oven and test  with a fork.  If you want them done more, return them to the oven for another 30 minutes.  Otherwise, preheat the broiler (with oven rack repositioned about 6" underneath the heat) and proceed with recipe as follows:

IMG_4775~ Step 5.  Flip them back over onto their first sides (slit slide up).  

IMG_4809Add and brush 1/4-1/2 cup of sauce over the top of each one, using enough to fill in the slits.  

Sprinkle tops with sesame seeds, place under broiler for 5-6 minutes, or until top of "ribs" are browning nicely.  Remove pan from oven. Transfer "ribs" to a cutting board, slice and serve immediately (with whatever side-dishes complement your spices and sauce)...

IMG_4860... and lots of extra sauce for dipping and drizzling:

IMG_4934Cooking Boneless Pork Backribs (Pork on a Fork):  Recipe yields 6 servings.

Special Equipment List:  17 1/2 x 12 1/2" baking pan; heavy-duty aluminum foil; parchment paper; 1-cup measuring container; pastry brush, long-handled fork; cutting board; chef's knife

IMG_7643Cook's Note:  When I'm in the mood for BBQ'd boneless pork backribs, I use a chili spice blend and make my recipe for ~ Kansas City BBQ Sauce:  Sweet, Spicy & Smoky ~. You can find the recipe in Categories 8, 10, 17 or 20!

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2014) 

02/21/2014

~ Rainy Days & Lazy Fridays: My Winter Minestrone w/Anelletti Pasta & Garnished w/Parm & Pancetta ~

IMG_4576After almost two months of weather-related captivity, I am declaring a ban on weather forecasts. They stop now.  I will no longer listen to them or watch them.  It's high time I stood up to these masters of disasters.  I've wasted precious time allowing them to affect me.  I am a domestic goddess -- this title comes with priviledges.  I do not have to go outside.  From this day forward:  

"What happens outside, stays outside.  All that really matters each day is what's cookin' on the inside!" ~ Melanie

Today is a soup day.  I decided to make minestrone because I am hungry for it.  It has nothing to do with the whipping wind, gray skies and semi-frozen downpour.  Today is a soup day.  That is all I am focusing on.  That is all you need to do.  Soup days are happy, slurpy, feel good days!  

A bit about minestra (mih-NAYS-truh):  In Italian, "minestra" is the word for "soup", more specifically, a vegetable soup that contains some sort of greens and frequently beans. "Minestrina" ("little soup"), means the soup is thin and brothy.  "Minestrone" ("big soup"), means the soup is thick with chunky ingredients.  All are frugal, seasonal and relatively quick-to-make. They start with on-hand, pre-prepared stock (beef, chicken, seafood or vegetable) to which fresh vegetables, greens, herbs, tomatoes, cooked beans and/or pasta get added.  Bits of cooked proteins (beef, chicken or seafood) are often "thrown in" too.  I say "thrown in", because these soups are known as a culinary hodgepodge of ingredients.  Some folks include the week's leftover vegetables and meat -- this is indeed frugal, but I prefer to start with fresh ingredients.

IMG_4619Minestrone:  A seasonal soup with many faces!  

A bit about minestrone (mih-neh-STROH-neh):  When I and most Americans think of minestrone, we envision a rich, well-seasoned, colorful vegetable soup with beans and pasta added to it.  It is traditionally served as a hearty main course, topped with shavings of parmesan cheese and rustic bread for sopping up every drop of broth.  If you were lucky enough to learn to make it from an Italian, you know that amost anything can go into it.  If you've never made this soup before, you need to know there are no authentic or etched-in-stone recipes (so don't panic when every recipe you read is different).  Minestrone recipes are creative and personal.  

The thing to remember is:  it is seasonal and should be prepared using in-season vegetables. While this means that every time you or I prepare this soup the recipe is likely to change a bit, some of us have our favorite Fall, Winter, Spring and Summer combinations. This recipe is my Winter minestrone and I use homemade beef stock to prepare it.  My other versions include chicken-based for Spring, seafood-based for Summer, and, vegetable-based for Fall!

IMG_43252  tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil 

IMG_43141/2  pound pancetta, finely diced (a cured but not smoked, spiced "Italian bacon")

2  cups diced yellow onion

4 large, minced garlic cloves, more or less (I use 4.)

1/4-1/2  teaspoon red pepper flakes (I use 1/2.)

IMG_43552 1/2  quarts beef stock, preferably homemade (Note:  You can find my recipe for ~ Mel interrupts Christmas to bring you: Beef Stock ~ by clicking on the related article link below.)

1  28-ounce can whole, imported Italian tomatoes, the best available, undrained and hand-crushed into bits and pieces

1  14 1/2-ounce can Italian-style diced tomatoes w/basil, garlic & oregano

2  4 1/2-ounce jars sliced mushrooms, undrained (Note:  I love earthy mushrooms, but, I do not love the taste, texture or color of fresh mushrooms when added to this soup.  These work nicely.)

3  cups peeled and sliced into 1/4"-thick "coined" carrots ("discs") 

2  cups 1/4"-thick sliced celery

2-3  15-ounce cans cannellini beans (white kidney beans), rinsed and drained (I use 3.)

4  whole bay leaves

1  medium-sized Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese rind (optional)

IMG_44521  1-pound bunch Swiss chard, preferably rainbow chard, woody stems and ribs discarded (or saved for something else) and 3/4" "chiffonade" of the leafy greens ("ribbons"), for adding to soup during the last few minutes of cooking, about 8-10 cups

1 pound anelletti, cooked al dente according to package directions, for adding to individual portions

crispy panchetta bits, from above, for garnishing each portion of soup

shavings of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, for garnishing each portion of soup

freshly ground sea salt and peppercorn blend*, for seasoning soup at table

* Note:  My homemade beef stock is nicely seasoned with salt and pepper (and bay leaves). The panchetta and Parmigiano-Reggiano, as you know, are naturally salty ingredients.  Because of this, besides adding the red pepper flakes for some additional heat, I do not add any additional salt or black pepper during the cooking process.  Advice:  Season judiciously! 

IMG_4341 IMG_4345~ Step 1.  In an 8-quart stockpot place the EVOO. Add the pancetta. Over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, saute until  pancetta forms small crispy bits, about 6-8 minutes.  Turn heat off.  Using a large slotted spoon transfer the crispy bits from the drippings in the pot to a paper-towel lined plate.

IMG_4386 IMG_4363~ Step 2. Add the onions, garlic and red pepper flakes to the stockpot. Over medium-heat, stirring frequently, saute until the onion is soft and translucent, but not browned, about 4-5 minutes.  Add the beef stock, tomatoes and diced tomatoes.  Bring to a steady simmer, stirring occasionally.

IMG_4422 IMG_4394Step 3. Add the mushrooms, carrots, celery, beans and bay leaves*.  Adjust heat to a gentle simmer and cook until carrots are tender, 12-15 minutes...  

... In the event you hoard Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese rinds in the freezer (like IMG_4430Italians do), now is the time to take one and throw it in to simmer with the hodgepodge! 

* Note:  My homemade beef stock is nicely seasoned with bay leaves, so, I add these four leaves in the last stages to boost that same flavor (rather than overpower it).

What you're about to read next is a bit different than how many recipes finish their minestrone, but, as I said:  minestrone is personal!

IMG_4490~ Step 4.  Remove stockpot from heat, cover and set it aside "to steep", for 1 hour.  Meanwhile:  

Prep the Swiss chard leaves as directed and cook the anelletti as the package directs. Rinse and drain the pasta.  Note:  I do not cook my pasta in the soup.  Why?  I like my leftovers tasting as good as the first day.  Pasta cooked in the soup today will be mushy tomorrow!

IMG_4493~ Step 5.  Return stockpot to the stovetop and return to a simmer over medium heat.  Add the chard and simmer until tender and cooked through, about 12-15 minutes.

To serve, place a  1/2 cup scoop of pasta in each serving bowl and ladle 2 cups of minestrone over the top.  Garnish each bowl with a few shavings of Parm-Regg and a sprinkling of crispy pancetta bits:

IMG_4577

 

Rainy Days & Lazy Fridays:  My Winter Minestrone w/Anelletti Pasta & Garnished w/Parm & Pancetta:  Recipe yields 6 quarts of soup and 8 cups of cooked aneletti (for a total of 8 quarts if you add the two together), or, 12, hearty, 2 1/2 cup servings. 

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; vegetable peeler; 8-quart stockpot w/lid; large slotted spoon; paper towels; colander; soup ladle

IMG_4631Cook's Note:  Here is another reason why I cook my anelletti separately and not  in the simmering minestrone.  The leftover soup, can be portioned into 2-quart containers and frozen for Joe and I to enjoy on other rainy days!

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2014)

02/19/2014

~Open-Sesame Asian Wings w/Garlic-Ginger Sauce~

IMG_4281I'm cravin' Asian today, and, what I've got in the meat drawer of my refrigerator is four Delmonico steaks and a six-pound package of chicken wings (both of which Joe "picked up" in preparation for the snowstorm-du-jour two days ago).  Today, freezing rain is keeping us two lovebirds safe in our nest, and, as long as we don't lose power due to the ice, I'm making Asian chicken wings for dinner tonight.  I'll make Joe the steaks with his favorite blue-cheese salad tomorrow!

Blogging is reality -- I always make the best of what I've got!

IMG_6194In the vegetable drawer of my refrigerator and pantry I've got everything I need to make one of my favorite Asian condiments (which doubles as wing sauce whenever I make these).  You can find my recipe for ~ Asian Honey-Sesame Garlic-Ginger Dipping Sauce ~ in Categories 8 & 13, or by Clicking on the Related Article link below.  I cook Asian food often, so I am rarely caught without ginger and scallions.  Garlic -- does anyone ever not have garlic on hand?  In the pantry:  honey, soy sauce, brown sugar and sesame seeds are all present and IMG_6407accounted for! 

Another easy, weeknight recipe I use this sweet, savory and bold condiment for is ~ Open-Sesame Flank Steak w/Garlic-Ginger Sauce ~.  You can find it in Categories 3 & 13, or, by clicking on the Related Article link below too.

With the aid of a food processor, from start to finish, this sauce will be prepped in less than 5 minutes, and, after 20 minutes of simmering, ready to toss with your wings!

IMG_3833Chicken wings for dinner?  Ok, they're not on anybody's diet, but, here in my Happy Valley household, we only indulge in them 4-5 times a year.  If you think about it, it's really not much different than the percentage of the populace that decides to eat "breakfast for dinner" during a snow or ice storm:  they get out the pancake and waffle mix, maple syrup and bacon or sausage links.  It's family-friendly fun!

Part One:  Prepping the Chicken Wings

6a0120a8551282970b013486a5739d970c-320wiUsing a pair of poultry shears, cut:

6  pounds chicken wings

at their two joints, into 3 sections:  the drumette, the flat wing, and the "skinny" wing tip.  Using paper towels, pat the pieces dry.  Some folks like to fry and eat the wings tips too, I do not.  Without the wing tips, this recipe will yield about 40 appetizers.

Note:  The flavorful wing tips can must be frozen and used to make chicken stock at a later date!

IMG_4128In a small bowl, whisk together:

5  ounces tempura batter mix (1/2 of a 10-ounce box)

2  tablespoons Chinese five-spice powder

Preheat to 360 degrees:

corn or peanut oil

in a deep-fryer according to manufacturer's specifications.  Line a disposible pan or 13" x 9" x 2" baking dish with several layers of paper towels.  Have a grinder of sea salt on hand for salting wings as they come out of fryer.

Part Two:  Deep-Frying the Chicken Wings

IMG_4151 IMG_4143Once the deep-fryer is preheated, one at time, lightly dredge each wing in the tempura mixture and drop it into the fryer basket. Working as quickly as possible, dredge and drop 5 more into the basket.  Close the lid on the fryer and cook for 13 minutes.

IMG_4155Repeat the process of deep-frying 6-8 chicken wings at a time for 13 minutes per batch until they are all fried.  Don't overcrowd fryer-basket.

IMG_4175As each batch comes out of the fryer, dump them into the paper-towel lined baking pan and IMMEDIATELY give them a light coating of freshly ground sea salt.

IMG_4264Transfer the wings to a large bowl and toss them with a light coating of warm sauce, about 1 1/2-2 cups, of the garlic-ginger sauce.  Sprinkle with a few sesame seeds and toss again.  Garnish with very thinly sliced green scallion tops.  Serve immediately with additional garlic-ginger sauce, for dipping or drizzling, to the side.

IMG_4275Note:  When it's just Joe and I, I toss the wings a dozen at a time.  The wings we don't eat, if left uncovered, stay quite crispy and can be reheated in the oven and tossed with reheated sauce the next day!

IMG_4284Chicken wing etiquette!  

Wings are user-friendly, requiring no knives or forks.  All you need are your fingertips and a large stack of napkins to delight in this very casual dining experience.  Pick them up with your fingers and proceed to nibble, gnaw and chew until all of the meat and sauce have been savored.  It's also acceptable to ignore the napkins completely and lick your lips and fingertips. This is one time the terms "lip-smackin' " and "finger-lickin' " apply in every sense! 

IMG_4301Open-Sesame Asian Wings w/Garlic-Ginger Sauce:  Recipe yields about 4 dozen chicken wings or 4 dozen appetizers/snacks, and, 3 1/2 cups garlic-ginger sauce (Note:  Sauce can be stored in the refrigerator indefinitely and I almost always have some on hand for an Asian cravin'.).

Special Equipment List:  poultry shears; paper towels; deep-fryer (or 6-8-quart stockpot); 13" x 9" x 2" disposable pan or baking dish; large spoon

IMG_7871Cook's Note:  Deep-frying not your "cup of tea"?  Try my ~ Seriously E-Z & Crispy Oven-Fried Chicken Wings ~.  Purists say there is no substitution for deep-fried wings, and, I used to think that too, until I came up with these.  The recipe is in Categories 1, 2, 17 & 20!

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2014) 

02/17/2014

~ Golden & Cheesy, Potato & Bread-Stuffing Cups ~

IMG_4028When company is coming and mashed potatoes are a must, this recipe is one of my favorite side-dishes.  It combines two somewhat ordinary family-style side-dishes (mashed potatoes and bread stuffing) into one, by layering and portioning them into desired-sized ramekins.  Once baked, these pretty-to-look-at accompaniments can grace even the swankiest of tables.  They taste great with almost any roasted poultry, pork, and, prime rib too.  There's more, they can be assembled a day or two before baking and serving.  What's not to love about:

Perfectly portioned, not too little, not to much -- just enough!

IMG_4070Golden, cheesy potatoes on top of a bread 'stuffing' base?

Baked in individual servings?

Can be assembled two days in advance?  You betcha!

Richard-dreyfussRemember Steven Speilberg's 1977 movie Close Encounters of the Third Kind?  Not since Richard Dreyfuss (who played the character "Roy"), started compulsively building mashed potato sculptures resembling Wyoming's Devil's Tower National Monument has playing with one's mashed potatoes been so appropriate.  Each and every time I make these fun side-dishes, I digress and giggle about that hilarious scene. 

IMG_3889A bit about the stuffing mixture:  I keep this basic and simple:  fresh bread cubes drizzled with a mixture of lightly-seasoned, sauteed onions and celery.  It delivers the texture of stuffing, but, this generic mix insures that when served, it complements whatever the main course is and whatever it is seasoned with.  It also insures that the 'stuffing' cooks in the same amount of time it takes the potatoes to heat through and top brown.

IMG_3954A bit about the potato mixture:  I do not refer to these as "mashed potatoes" because they are not. They rely upon eggs and butter for their light texture.  No cream, milk or stock is used in their preparation. The cheese, plus just the right amount of white pepper, gives this side-dish its bold flavor.  Cheddar is my favorite, but any similar-textured cheese with good melting qualities, as long as it has a bold flavor, may be substituted.

IMG_3846For the bread 'stuffing' mixture:

8  ounces 1/2"-3/4" cubed potato bread

8  ounces diced yellow or sweet onion

4  ounces diced celery

8  tablespoons butter (1 stick)

1/2  teaspoon poultry seasoning

1/2  teaspoon sea salt

1/2  teaspoon white pepper

no-stick cooking spray, for preparing ramekins

IMG_3891For the potato mixture:

3  pounds peeled, rinsed, then cut into 1" chunks, gold potatoes

2  teaspoons sea salt, for seasoning water

4  tablespoons butter, at room temperature (1/2 stick)

2  jumbo eggs, at room temperature, lightly beaten

1/2  teaspoon sea salt

1/2  teaspoon white pepper

8  ounces sharp, white cheddar cheese, grated

IMG_3861~ Step 1.  Spray 6, 2-cup ramekins with no-stick spray.  I like to use clear glass because it allows me to keep an  eye on the browning process as they bake.  Cube the bread and distribute it among the dishes.  Each ramekin will be about three-quarters full.  Set aside.

IMG_3859~ Step 2.  Prep the onion and celery as directed.  Set aside.  

IMG_3855In a 10" skillet melt the butter over low heat and stir in the poultry seasoning, salt and white pepper.  Add the vegetables and adjust heat to saute, until the onion softens, about 6 minutes. Remove from heat.

IMG_3870 IMG_3866~ Step 3. Using a large slotted spoon, remove and evenly distribute the onion/celery mixture over the bread in the ramekins.

Do your best to evenly portion and drizzle the remaining butter evenly over the top of each portion.

IMG_3876Step 4.  Using the back of the spoon, press the mixture in each ramekin down into the dish, until each dish is just a bit more than half full.  Set aside  

IMG_3889Prep the potatoes, grate the cheese and prepare the potato mixture according to the following directions:

IMG_3918~ Step 5.  In a 4-quart stockpot, bring potatoes (covered in cold water) to a boil over high heat.  Add the 2 teaspoons of salt.  Adjust heat to a steady simmer and continue to cook, until potatoes are al dente, meaning:  cooked through but with a bit of texture left in their centers, about 8-10 minutes.

Note:  This timing is going to vary depending upon the size you have chunked your potatoes.

IMG_3928~ Step 6.  Drain potatoes into a colander.  Immediately return the hot potatoes to the still hot stockpot and return pot to the still warm stovetop.  Add the butter and grated cheddar cheese.  

IMG_3935Give the mixture a brief stir and cover the pot, until the butter has melted, about 5 minutes.

IMG_3939~ Step 7.  Remove pot from heat and set aside to cool about 5-10 minutes.  

IMG_3903In a 1-cup measuring container, using a fork, whisk together the eggs, salt and white pepper. Uncover the pot and stir in the eggs.

IMG_3945~ Step 8.  Using a hand-held vegetable masher, smash and mash the potatoes until desired consistency is reached.  In my house, we like them left a bit chunky.  That choice is yours.

Note:  These aren't your typical mashed potatoes.  In fact, they are going to seem thick and heavy, but, when they bake, the eggs are going to make them cook up light and airy!

IMG_3963~ Step 9.  Line a 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" baking pan with parchment paper and arrange the ramekins, well-apart, on top of the parchment. 

IMG_3978~ Step 10. Using a large spoon (I use an ordinary tablespoon), begin scooping and dolloping the potato mixture on top of the bread 'stuffing' mixture in each ramekin.  Do your best to portion mixture evenly while lightly mounding it 'creatively' towards the center of each one. Do not press down on the potatoes!

IMG_3995Using the side of the spoon, form decorative peaks across the surface of the potatoes.

Note:  At this point, the baking pan of ramekins can be covered with plastic wrap and refrigerated up to two days prior to baking   Remove from refrigerator and return to room temperature, about 1-2 hours, prior to baking as follows:

Bake, uncovered, on center rack of preheated 325 degree oven, 40-45 minutes, or, until bread stuffing and the top of the potatoes are lightly-browned and celery-onion mixture is bubbling.  Watch the progress carefully after 30 minutes, as the bread stuffing can go from browned to burned quickly!

IMG_3999Golden & Cheesy, Potato & Bread-Stuffing Cups:  Recipe yields 6, 1 1/2-cup servings.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; 10" skillet, preferably nonstick; large slotted spoon; 6, 2-cup ramekins, preferably clear glass; vegetable peeler; 4-quart stockpot w/lid; colander; 1-cup measuring container; fork; hand-held vegetable masher; 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" baking pan; parchment paper

IMG_4075Cook's Note:  One of my favorite entrees to serve this potato side-dish with is ~ Braised Pork Tenderloins w/Apple and Onion Puree ~.  This sweet and savory lip-smacking puree just might make you forget the word gravy.  Just click on the Related Article link below to get my recipe!

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2014) 

02/15/2014

~ Kitchen Encounters/WHVL-TV Video Segment #53: Impossible Coconut Pie and Magic Cookie Squares ~

IMG_2725Over the course of the past week I have posted a few of my favorie retro recipes from my past:

IMG_3058~ Snowstorm Fun:  'Impossible' Coconut Custard Pie ~

~ Pucker Up for: Triple-Lemon Bars/Squares ~

~ Chocolate, Vanilla and Butterscotch 'Icebox' Cake ~

~ Hello Dolly! The 5-6-7- Layer 'Magic' Cookie Bar! ~

You can find the detailed recipes along with all of my step-by-step directions in Categories 6, 7, or 26.  

"Retro Dessert Week" was so much fun and so well received by all of IMG_3751you, on Thursday I chose two of them for my weekly Kitchen Encounters/WHVL-TV segment.  To watch it, just click on the following link:

Impossible Pie and Magic Cookies

To watch all of my other Kitchen Encounters/WHVL-TV cooking segments, go to the listing found on the left side of the home page of this blog, and, click on the blut title of any one, or:

Tune in to WHVL-TV's Centre of It All Show, which airs every Sunday morning at 11:30AM on local Comcast chennel 14!

************

IMG_3468"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipes, Commentary, Photos & Video courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2014)

02/13/2014

~ Chocolate, Vanilla and Butterscotch 'Icebox' Cake~

IMG_3751My three favorite flavors of pudding are chocolate, vanilla and butterscotch.  Banana pudding comes in a close fourth.  About the only thing I like better than any one of them is all of them layered on top of each other with graham crackers separating each flavor.  This dessert was one of my mother's specialties and was my favorite.  Whenever she would make it, after I got done "counting, cracking and crushing" the graham crackers for her, I would sit motionless on the counterstool, eyes transfixed on the glorious process, patiently waiting for my lick of the spoon as each pudding got cooked.  Once assembled, she'd put the 'icebox' cake in the refrigerator for what seemed like an eternity, but, it had to chill to set up properly, so, it was well worth the wait!

No matter how you slice it, this pudding dessert is irresistible!

IMG_3772A bit about icebox cakes:  Back in the day, a refrigerator was called an icebox (because it was basically a block of ice placed in an insulated box to keep food cold).  Back in the day, making pudding from scratch and "putting it in the icebox" was a way to extend the shelf life of nutritious milk and eggs.  While the idea for icebox cakes probably came from classic, time-consuming, layered desserts like charlotte and trifle, commercial shortcuts and premade ingredients (like condensed and evaporated milk, wafer cookies and boxed pudding mixes) enabled many creative housewives to put easy-to-make variations of these on the weekday tables of post World War II America.  Recipes for icebox cakes, which required no baking, just refrigeration, could be found on the back of graham cracker and wafer cookie boxes as well as gelatin and pudding mixes.  

It was the era of "back-of-the-box" cooking!

Valentines day hearts picture (1)For those of you who haven't been following along, in honor of Valentine's Day, I've been posting retro desserts from my youth this past week.  I saved my mom's icebox pudding cake for last because it is my favorite.  To get my recipes for ~ Snowstorm Fun:  'Impossible' Coconut Custard Pie ~, ~ Pucker Up for:  Triple-Lemon Lemon Bars/Squares ~, and, ~ Hello Dolly!  The 5-6-7- Layer 'Magic' Cookie Bar ~ just click into Category 26 !

IMG_2742 IMG_3185 IMG_3575

These recipes are more than easy and delicious.  They're a fun way to spend time with your kids while introducing them to simple baking skills!

Part One:  Counting, Cracking & Crushing the Graham Crackers

IMG_3592It's so easy this 5-year old could do it.  I knew that every box of graham crackers contained 3 packets of crackers, and each packet contained 9 whole crackers. I knew that each cracker had perforations that allowed it to be cracked into 2 halves or 4 quarters. 

In order to assemble her cake properly, besides 3 kinds of pudding, mom needed 3 layers of graham crackers.  On each of three plates (one for each layer), it was IMG_3601my job to crack and stack 15 halves and 8 quarters.  On a fourth plate, I was instructed to put the mis-shapen, broken crackers.  

IMG_3595PS:  I knew my alphabet and could write my name too, but that is another story and another recipe!

IMG_3599 IMG_2785Mom used a square-sided 13" x 9" x 2" cake pan, not a round-sided 3-quart casserole. The assembly process started with a layer of graham crackers that were arranged exactly like this.  After one layer of pudding was poured on, another layer of graham crackers was added and arranged again -- exactly like this.

IMG_3706The irregular and broken pieces got placed in a food storage bag, and, with the aid of a small rolling pin, I got to crush them to crumbs.

IMG_3736They were placed in a shaker type container (one with large holes). These would be the topping for the cake!

Note:  This all amounted to about 1, 14-ounce box of graham crackers + 1 additional packet.

IMG_3788Part Two:  Cooking the Three Puddings

IMG_3612Back in 1939, Jell-O introduced a "cook and serve" chocolate pudding mix that got stirred with milk, simmered and served warm or cold. Shortly afterward, other flavors were developed: vanilla, tapioca, coconut, pistachio, butterscotch, lemon, banana, etc.  Thanks to this time-saving convenience, almost none of us make pudding from scratch for a retro recipe like this.

3  3-ounce  boxes chocolate cook & serve pudding & pie filling, not instant pudding

3  3-ounce  boxes vanilla cook & serve pudding & pie filling, not instant pudding

3  3-ounce boxes butterscotch cook & serve pudding & pie filling, IMG_3619not instant pudding

4  1/2 cups of whole milk for every 3 boxes of pudding cooked (13 1/2 cups total throughout recipe)

Note:  My proportions differ from the back of the box, which calls for 2 cups of milk per box, which would total 6 cups per every 3 boxes.  

My mom reduced the amount of milk to insure the pudding would be thicker and stiffer after it chilled.

IMG_3649 IMG_3620~ Step 1. Place the first 4 1/2 cups of milk in a 4-quart saucepan and sprinkle in the contents from 3 boxes of chocolate pudding.  Bring to a full boil, over medium heat, whisking almost constantly to prevent any scorching.  On my gas stove this takes about 7-9 minutes.

IMG_3664 IMG_3653                                       ~ Step 2. Remove from heat and pour the hot pudding directly over the layer of graham crackers in the pan.  If necessary, use a rubber spatula to evenly distribute the pudding.  Arrange a layer of graham crackers, in the same configuration as the first layer, over the hot chocolate pudding.

IMG_3691 IMG_3686~ Step 3. Wash the saucepan and the whisk.  Cook the vanilla pudding exactly as you did the chocolate pudding, pour it over the graham cracker layer, and, place a layer of graham crackers over the vanilla pudding too.

IMG_3738 IMG_3711~ Step 4. Cook the butterscotch pudding and pour it over last layer of graham crackers.  The pan will be full to the very top. Lastly, sprinkle the top of the cake with an even coating of the graham cracker crumbs.  Allow it to cool down quite  a bit, on the the countertop, about 2 hours:

IMG_3748Step 6.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.  Remove from refrigerator, slice (or scoop) and serve each portion topped with a few banana slices, a dollop of whipped cream and a light sprinkle of remaining graham cracker crumbs.  I won't lie, getting the first piece out is a bit tricky (I always make it a small slice), but after that, every portion is pretty as a picture...

IMG_3790... and every bite is a yummy as this one:

IMG_3813Chocolate, Vanilla and Butterscotch 'Icebox' Cake:  Recipe yields 15, 2" square servings and 8, smaller 1" x 2" bar-shaped half-size servings.

Special Equipment List:  food storage bag; small rolling pin; cheese-type shaker container w/large top holes; 13" x 9" x 2" square-sided aluminum cake pan; 1-quart measuring container; 4-quart saucepan; whisk; rubber spatula; plastic wrap

6a0120a8551282970b016763a3ffe9970b-320wiCook's Note:  ~ My Creamy, Orange-Kissed Arborio Rice Pudding ~ is another one of my favorite ways to indulge in the pudding world.  This one is the real-deal, made from scratch from beginning to end and well worth every second it takes!

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2014) 

02/11/2014

~ Hello Dolly! The 5-6-7- Layer 'Magic' Cookie Bar! ~

IMG_3468With Valentine's Day right around the corner, I've decided to share a few retro sweet treat recipes of my youth this week.  If you are in your 50's or 60's, you know the ones:  those quick and easy to make "back-of--the-box" recipes our moms made for us.  It's always fun to take a trip back to kinder, gentler times and you can find my recipes for ~ 'Impossible' Coconut Custard Pie ~ and ~ Pucker Up for:  Triple-Lemon Lemon Squares ~ by clicking on the Related Article links below.   I was about 9, circa 1964, when my mom started making these Magic Cookie Bars, a recipe still found on the label of Eagle Brand condensed milk today.  By the time I was 10 or 11, mom had put me in complete charge of the making of these yummy cookies!

IMG_3352A bit about "bar cookies" and magic cookie bars:  These all-American ooey, gooey, chocolate and coconut laced cookies are classified as a "bar cookie".  Bar cookies are made by pouring, pressing and/or layering ingredients into a single baking pan.  In the case of this cookie, the original recipe is made by layering condensed milk, chopped nuts, semi-sweet chocolate chips and sweetened coconut on top of a tender, buttery, graham cracker crust (5 layers).  I refer to this recipe as "5-6-7- layer" because I don't want to stifle your creativity.  I've seen recipes that mix in toffee bits and/or other flavors of 'chocolate' chips (butterscotch, cinnamon, and/or white chips)!

IMG_3472Once baked and cooled, they are cut into bar shapes or squares.  Bar cookies are richer and moister than cookies, even moist cookies, so, if you think you can turn any cookie recipe into a bar cookie by simply baking it in one pan, unless a recipe says you can, that is indeed a risky experiment.  Speaking of the baking pan:  always use the same size pan as specified in the recipe. A smaller pan will result in the mixture being thicker and require a longer baking time, and vice versa for a larger pan.

ImagesThese 'magic' cookies have a 'rich' history too.  While they are credited to Eagle Brand milk, they were the brain-child of Gail Borden.  Sweetened condensed milk was invented in France by Nicolas Appert in 1820.  In 1853, Gail Borden, Jr. was the first to market condensed milk in the USA as a baby formula, because it needed no refrigeraton and traveled well.  In 1856, Gail begain selling a cookie creation of his, from his streetcart, in NYC for extra money.  Shortly thereafter, during the American Civil War (1861-1865), the government began ordering huge quantities of Borden's condensed milk.  Each 14-ounce can packed 1,300 calories and they were handed out as field rations to the soldiers.  The soldiers spread the word about how tasty it was and condensed milk became a major product in the American marketplace, and a home kitchen pantry staple.  After World War I, refrigeration became commonplace in America and condensed milk needed to be rebranded in order to keep it selling.  Borden started offering money for recipes using his sweet concoction in desserts.  It worked.  Condensed milk remained a pantry staple into, during, and after the WWII era, and into present day.  It's believed a recipe called "Hello Dolly's", combined with Gail's original recipe, became and was marketed as the "Magic Cookie Bar", which was put on the label by Eagle Brand in the 1960's!

IMG_2790 IMG_2785A note about the baking pan:  You'll need a 13" x 9" x 2" baking pan or dish, and, any kind will work just fine, except:  if you want all of your cookie bars or squares to be legitimately square, choose an aluminum one with square corners. This is a Wilton professional cake pan.

Note:  If using a glass baking dish, preheat  oven to 325 degrees.  If using an aluminum baking pan, preheat it to 350 degrees.

Recipe for success: Follow the guidelines & ignore brand names!

IMG_3576This is not a rocket science recipe.  You need graham cracker crumbs -- period.  No one cares if you smash graham crackers or purchase a box of crumbs for convenience.  No one will call the food police if you don't purchase Eagle Brand condensed milk or expensive chocolate chips. You buy your nuts in bulk and you found coconut on sale this week?  Great!  Here's my version:

IMG_32062  cups graham cracker crumbs

12  tablespoons salted butter, melted (1 1/2 sticks)

21  ounces sweetened condensed milk (1 1/2 cans, each can is 14 ounces)

2 1/2  cups semi-sweet chocolate chips, your favorite brand (16 ounces), or:  1 1/4  cups  semi-sweet chocolate chips + 1 1/4  cups of butterscotch or peanut butter chips

1  1/2  cups sweetened, flaked coconut

1  1/2  cups chopped pecans or walnuts (Note:  Mom used walnuts -- I use walnuts!)

no-stick cooking spray, for preparing baking pan

IMG_3221 IMG_3213~ Step 1. Spray a 13" x 9" x 2" baking pan with no-stick cooking spray.  

In a medium bowl, melt butter in the microwave.  Add the graham cracker crumbs to the melted butter, and, using a large spoon toss until the crumbs are coated in butter and a mealy mixture has formed.  Do not overmix this mixture -- keep it loose!

IMG_3229 IMG_3227~ Step 2. Dump, yes dump, the graham cracker mixture into prepared baking pan. Give the  pan a few back and forth shakes across the counterop to distribute the crumb mixture.  Using the back of the spoon, pat and press the mixture evenly across the bottom of the pan.  Using your fingertips, pat and press the edges and corners down.

IMG_3240 IMG_3241 IMG_3253~ Steps 3, 4, 5 & 6.  Pour the condensed milk over the crust layer.  Lift and tilt the pan to evenly coat the IMG_3270crust in the milk.  Sprinkle 2 1/2 cups of chocolate chips or a 2 1/2-cup combination of chips over the milk.  Sprinkle the coconut evenly over all, followed by the chopped nuts.

~ Step 7.  Using the heal of your hand and your fingertips, gently but firmly press the entire mixture down into the milk and the crust.

~ Step 8.  Bake on center rack of preheated oven 20-25 minutes, or, until nuts and coconut are lightly IMG_3292browned and mixture is bubbly around the edges.

Remove from oven and place on cooling rack to cool completely, about 2-3 hours before slicing and serving at room temperature.

Note:  Yes, you can risk it and cut these while they are slightly warm, but, you'll probably need a fork to eat them.  No harm, no foul!

IMG_3317 IMG_3342I cut mine at room temperature (there is no need to refrigerate these bar cookies to get clean cuts or after storing them in an airtight container). 

IMG_3357I also like to cut mine into 30 squares.  

That's how mom did it!

IMG_3516Hello Dolly!  The 5-6-7- Layer 'Magic' Cookie Bar:  Recipe yields 30 square cookies.

Special Equipment List:  13" x 9" x 2" baking pan;  large spoon; cooling rack; knife

Evaporated Milk & Condensed Milk #1Cook's Note:  To learn more about condensed milk and how it differs from evaporated milk (another WWII era pantry staple), read my post ~ Baking Basic:  Evaporated Milk & Condensed Milk ~.  You can find it in Categories 6, 7 or 15!

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2014)

02/08/2014

~ Pucker Up for: Triple-Lemon Lemon Bars/Squares ~

IMG_3061Call me an eternal sourpuss.  Lemonade, lemon sorbet, lemon meringue pie, lemon tart, lemon cheesecake, lemon pound cake, lemon shortbread, etc.  Spring, Summer, Fall or Winter, these are a few of my favorite things.  I am a lover of all things tart and citrusy, and, I consider the lemon the diva of all citrus.  I am never without lemons in my refrigerator and pure lemon oil in my pantry, because, like salt, their zest, juice and textureless, bold-flavored oil just makes everything taste better.  I'm not a lemon snob either.  I prefer the ordinary, tart, supermarket lemon to the "sweet" Meyer lemon (Gourmets call them "sweet".  In reality, they are less acidic.).

"Sourpusses make better lemon squares!" ~ Melanie 

IMG_3180All lemon snobbery aside, I am a snob about lemon squares.  In my foodie world, they are a quick and easy way for me to get a "lemon meringue pie high" (I am a snob about lemon-meringue pie too).  Do I make the best lemon squares and lemon-meringue pie? Well, of course I think I do, because I make them exactly the way I like them, but, when made by any good baker, there is no hesitation in hand-to-mouth action from me.  It's all about respecting someone elses favorite, well-made version, and, respectfully declining any and all store-bought versions!

IMG_3197A bit about "bar cookies" and lemon squares:  The all-American, luscious, tender, melt-in-your mouth, classic lemon square is classified as a "bar cookie".  Bar cookies are made by pouring, pressing and/or layering ingredients into a single baking pan.  Once baked and cooled, they are cut into elongated bar shapes or squares.  Bar cookies are richer and moister than cookies, even moist cookies, so, if you think you can turn any cookie recipe into a bar cookie by simply baking it in one pan, unless a recipe says you can, that is indeed a risky experiment.  Speaking of the baking pan:  always use the same size as specifed in the recipe.  A smaller pan will result in the mixture being thicker and require a longer baking time, and vice versa for a larger pan.

IMG_3202The history of this recipe is elusive. I was age 5 in 1960 and during the '60's my mom was making Eagle Brand condensed milk's recipe for Magic Cookie Bars, but, no lemon bars.  If lemon bars existed, I'm pretty sure she would have made them because my dad and I adored lemon anything (even Tastycake's lemon-filled snack pie).  I can report this:  in my 1967 copy of The Joy of Cooking, there is no reference to lemon bars, but, on page 703 of my 1977 copy there is a recipe for Lemon Curd Squares (which are indeed lemon bars).  Interestingly, in my 1972 copy of Betty Crocker's Cookbook, a recipe for Lemon Squares appears on page 140, amongst a nice selection of other bar cookies!

ImagesLemon squares are not hard to make, and, with Valentine's Day right around the corner, I've decided to share my version with you.  If you are looking for a light, citrusy-flavored, easy-to-make, pretty-to-look-at dessert, to serve your beloved for breakfast, lunch or dinner, these cutie pies are the perfect ending to any meal.

What I like about my recipe:  The tender, flaky crust (which gets mixed together in the food processor in less tha a minute) has all the salty, buttery flavor I love in a shortbread cookie.  The slightly-sweet and citrusy lemon filling is simply pucker-up lovable.  It is so irresistable, my beloved claims it to be an aphrodisiac. After that tribute, what are you waiting for!

IMG_2790 IMG_2785A note about the baking pan:  You will need a 13" x 9" x 2" baking pan or dish, and, any kind will work just fine, except:  if you want all of your lemon squares to be legitimately square, choose an aluminum one with square corners.  This is a Wilton professional cake pan.  

Once you choose your pan, line it with parchment paper and "grease" the top of the parchment with about 1 teaspoon salted butter.

Part One:  Preparing the Cookie Crust 

IMG_2796For the cookie crust:

1  3/4  cups all purpose flour

6  tablespoons confectioners' sugar

1/4  cup  cornstarch

3/4  teaspoon fine sea salt, or 1/2 teaspoon table salt

12  tablespoons salted butter (1 1/2 sticks), sliced into 1/2" pieces and slightly softened, about 15 minutes on the countertop (Note: err on the side of too cold.)

IMG_2805 IMG_2803                                      ~ Step 1. Place all ingredients, except for the butter, in workbowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Process/blend about 5 seconds.

~ Step 2.  Add the butter pieces. Using a series of 25-30 rapid on-off-pulses, process to form a mixture of mealy-looking crumbs.

Note:  Do not overprocess.  Err on the side of coarser crumbs.

IMG_2822 IMG_2815~ Step 3. Dump the mixture into the prepared baking pan.  

Give the pan a few back and forth shakes on the countertop to distribute it across the bottom, and, push it around with your fingertips a little bit, to fill in any low spots.

IMG_2833 IMG_2827~ Step 4. Using the top of a mini-rolling pin as a tamper, tamp mixture down across the top. 

IMG_2832Using your fingertips pat and press the sides and corners.

IMG_2841 IMG_2845~ Step 5. Refrigerate crust for 30-60 minutes. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Bake on center rack of oven, about 18-20 minutes, or until crust is very lightly browned and pulling away from sides of pan. Remove from oven and place on a rack to cool. Reduce the oven temperature to 325 degrees!  Don't forget!

Personal notes about my cookie crust:  I like my lemon squares with a slightly-thicker, cookie-like crust.  I achieve this by letting my cookie crust cool to room temperature before I prepare and pour the filling on top of it.  If you like yours with a thinner crust, prepare the filling while the crust is baking, cool the crust about 10 minutes and pour the filling on while the crust is still warm. 

Part Two:  Preparing the Triple-Lemon Filling

IMG_2864For the triple-lemon filling:

6  large eggs, at room temperature

1 1/2 cups granulated sugar

1/4  cup all-purpose flour

3/4  teaspoon sea salt

zest from 1 lemon

1 1/4-1 1/2  cups fresh lemon juice, from IMG_28586 lemons (Note:  Stop at 1 1/2 cups of fresh lemon juice, if you end up with less, don't worry, I've got you covered.)

3/4  teaspoon pure lemon oil

orange juice, your favorite brand, enough to total 1 1/2 cups of liquid in the event you have less than 1 1/2 cups of lemon juice (Note: I love it when I have to add 4, 6 or 8 tablespoons of orange juice!

Personal notes about my lemon filling:  My recipe contains just enough sugar to make them pleasantly-sweet, and, just enough flour to bind them together.  Some recipes call for as much as 3 cups of sugar and 1 cup of flour.  That is just overwhelming on both counts. Other recipes for lemon squares contain milk in their ingredients list. To me, that would be like adding milk to my lemonade.  I just couldn't and wouldn't do that, hence the compatible, citrusy orange juice!

IMG_2877~ Step 1.  In a large bowl  beat together the eggs, sugar, flour and salt, until smooth.

~ Step 2.  Zest one lemon then juice all six as directed.  Add the lemon oil.  Add enough of orange juice, if needed, to total 1 1/2 cups of liquid.

IMG_2885~ Step 3. Pour mixture over the slightly-warm or room IMG_2897temperature cookie crust.

~ Step 4.  Bake on center rack of preheated 325 degree oven, until filling is just set in the center, about 18-22 minutes.  Do not over-bake. Filling will be dry looking on the top but should not be browned anywhere except slightly around the edges.  Remove from oven and place on a cooling rack to cool completely, 2-3 hours.

IMG_2906~ Step 5.  Once cooled to room temperature, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 6-8 hours or overnight (overnight is best). Decide on what size and shape you want to make:  bars or squares.  I'm making bar shapes today.  

Using a sharp paring knife, lightly score the top to mark where you plan to cut.

IMG_2986~ Step 6.  Slicing the cookies is really easy (or a lot easier than you might think).  Fill a tall glass with water.  With every cut you make, dip the knife in the water and wipe it clean in a paper towel.  

Using a thin metal spatula, remove each 'square' from the pan as you cut it and place on a rack that has been placed over a  layer of paper towels.  Once you get the first one out, the rest are a breeze!

Note:  I've cut these into 24 bars.  To make 48 squares, it is much easier if you cut each bar in half after removing it from the pan

IMG_2963~ Step 7.  Place:

2 tablespoons confectioners' sugar

in a fine mesh, tea-type strainer. Use a teaspoon to rake through the sugar and dust the tops of cookies.

Note:   Don't go overboard with the sugar.  Why?  As the cookies sit, they will absorb the sugar, meaning:  tomorrow morning, you'll need to add a fresh dusting! Always serve at room temperature:

IMG_3036Pucker Up for:  Triple-Lemon Lemon Bar/Squares:  Recipe yields 2 dozen (24), 4-6-bite bars, or, 4-dozen (48), 2-4-bite squares.

Special Equipment List: 13" x 9" x 2" baking pan or dish; parchment paper; paring knife; food processor; mini-rolling pin; cooling rack; old-fashioned, hand-crank egg beater or hand-held electric mixer; microplane grater; citrus juicer; 1-cup measuring container; plastic wrap;  paper towels; fine mesh, tea-type strainer; teaspoon

PICT0013 PICT0022Cook's Note: Looking for a pie that will hold its own against all others? From the first slice to the last bite, mine is bursting with lemon flavor and piled high with airy meringue.   You can find the recipe for ~ My Love Affair w/Lemon & Lemon Meringue Pie ~ in Category 6!

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2014)

02/06/2014

~ Snowstorm Fun: 'Impossible' Coconut Custard Pie~

IMG_2725A photo of "impossible pie" appeared on my Facebook newsfeed last night.  If you are on Facebook, you know the type of post I'm talking about:  Quick and easy recipes using just a few ingredients and often a boxed mix of some sort.  Obviously not my style, but, in reality, lots of people "eat this stuff up".  "Oh no", was my reaction to this one -- to the photo, not the recipe. The photo was nasty looking.  Not at all like I remembered this 1970's "blast from the past" pie.  Of course, I was hardly in a position to criticize it too much since I have NEVER, EVER made or tasted one (that I can remember).  But, I do know more about these pies than you might think:

IMG_2732A bit about impossible pies:  Back in the 1970's Bisquick printed a recipe for "Impossible Coconut Pie" on the back of their box.  It was called "impossible" because the ingredients get quickly mixed together in one bowl and poured into a pie dish.  As the mixture bakes, the ingredients go their separate ways.  In the case of this pie, the flour sinks to the bottom to make its own bottom crust (not a dry crust, but a crust nonetheless), the beaten eggs and milk form a creamy, custardlike center, and, a layer of golden coconut forms on the top.  "That's impossible!"

IMG_2778During the 1980's I had many encounters with impossible pies. Our boys were all in elementary school and I did more than my share of classroom volunteering, attending organizational potlucks, and, baking for fundraising bake sales. Impossible pies showed up everywhere, and Betty Crocker did her part by publishing cookbooks dedicated solely to the art of:  "back-of-the-box cooking"!

IMG_2775For example:  On page 427 of Betty Crocker's Ultimate Bisquick Cookbook,  there are at least 40 recipes for sweet and savory "impossibly easy pies" made with Bisquick.  Yes, Betty changed the name, but, when you think about it for a moment, it makes more sense.

At the risk of being called a food snob, I simply had no interest in this style of cooking, and, it didn't matter to me that some of it tasted really good (and it did).  I know, because my kids ate at their friends homes all the time.  They loved it and they told me they loved it.  However, when my family ate "kid-friendly fare" like cheesesteaks, pizza, spaghetti, tacos, etc., I made them from scratch -- along with cakes and real-deal "possible pies"!

Me, Mildred Pierce and my very 1st impossible pie!

ImagesLast night, HBO was rerunning their five-part mini-series:  Mildred Pierce.  I love their version of the original movie.  Mildred, a poor divorcee during the depression, gets a job as a waitress and bakes enough pies and cakes to earn enough extra money to open up her own chicken and waffle restaurant -- my kinda gal! I was sitting at my kitchen counter, watching the show on my kitchen TV when the impossible pie photo showed up on my iPad.  I decided to have a bit of fun.  Chalk it up to cabin fever!

IMG_2630~ Step 1.  In a large bowl, beat:

4  large eggs, at room temp

2  cups whole milk

1 cup sugar

2  teaspoons vanilla extract

1/4  teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/2  cup all-purpose flour

1/2  cup butter, melted (1 stick)

1  cup shredded IMG_2635coconut

no-stick cooking spray, for preparing 10" pie dish

~ Step 2.  Pour into prepared pie dish.  Note:  This "skinny" pie is going to puff up a lot when it bakes. If you mistakenly think you can bake this in a 9" pie dish, be prepared:  it will spill over the sides into your oven.  I poured it into a 9" dish, and, am thankful I made the on-the-spot decision to transfer it to a 10" dish.

~ Step 3.  Bake on center rack of preheated 350 degree oven, until puffed up and a knife inserted into the center comes out clean, about 40-45 minutes.  This pie baked for 40 minutes:

IMG_2641~ Step 4.  Place on a rack to cool completely prior to slicing and serving at room temperature:

IMG_2742Go ahead take a bite:  It's really very, very good!!!

IMG_2751Snowstorm Fun:  'Impossible' Coconut Custard Pie:  Recipe yields 1, 10" pie, or 8-10 servings.

Special Equipment List:  1-cup measuring container; old-fashioned, hand-crank egg beater or whisk; 10" pie dish; cooling rack

IMG_3853Cook's Note:  For a "real-deal" custard pie, try ~ My Southern Favorite:  Jeanne White's Chess Pie ~.  I enjoyed this pie many times back in the '70's at the dinner table of Mrs. White, my close highschool friend Sue's mother.  

You can find the recipe in Categories 6, 18, 19 & 20!

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2014)  

02/04/2014

~ Kitchen Encounters/WHVL-TV Video Segment #52: Teresa's Easy-to-Make Overnight Belgian Waffles ~

IMG_1774We have enjoyed a very "sweet" Waffle Week here on Kitchen Encounters.  It started with my posting a recipe for ~ Teresa's Easy-to-Make Overnight Belgian Waffles ~, then continued on with posts for:  ~ Pennsylvania-Dutch-Country Chicken & Waffles ~, ~ Yankee-Style Southern-Fried Chicken & Waffles ~, and, ~ Superbowl Sunday:  Chicken & Waffle Sliders ~. You can find the recipes, along with my step-by-step directions and photos in Categories 2 & 9, or, by clicking on the Related Article links provided below.  Waffles never tasted so good!

Waffle Week ended with me making Belgian waffles on my weekly, Sunday morning, Kitchen Encounters TV segment.  To watch me make them, get all of my tips first-hand, and, learn everything you need to know about Belgian waffles, just click on the following link:

Teresa's Easy-to-Make Overnight Belgian Waffles

To watch all of my other Kitchen Encounters/WHVL-TV cooking segments, go to the listing found on the left side of the home page of this blog, and click on the blue title of any one, or:

Tune into WHVL-TV's Centre of It All Show, which airs every Sunday morning at 11:30AM on local Comcast channel 14!

************

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary, Photo & Video courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2014) 

02/02/2014

~ Superbowl Sunday: Chicken and Waffle Sliders, or Roasted Chicken & Waffle BLT's w/Honey-Mustard ~

IMG_2530Joe and I have never thrown a Superbowl party and we don't accept invitations to Superbowl parties either.  Monday morning comes early, so, us two party poopers, home alone, sitting around in our PJ's enjoying the game (with some cocktails and a special snack or two) is party enough for us.  Last year the weather was so mild here in Happy Valley, I made a small pot of chili and Joe grilled two racks of babyback spareribs.  This year's weather?  No way!

IMG_2618These mini sandwiches are a party in your mouth!

IMG_1676About a week ago, my Facebook friend, Teresa Gottier, was kind enough to give me her recipe for yeast-risen waffles.  They get mixed together in less than five minutes, rise in the refrigerator overnight, and all you have to do the next day is plug in your waffle iron.  They are amazing.  Her kind gesture (and great recipe) was the inspiration for Chicken and Waffle Week here on Kitchen Encounters, and what a week it has been.  Just click on the Related Article links at the end of this blog post to get my recipes for:

~ Teresa's Easy-to-Make Overnight Belgian Waffles ~ (yeast-risen waffles)

~ Pennsylvania-Dutch-Country Chicken & Waffles ~ (topped w/roasted chicken & gravy)

~ Yankee-Style Southern-Fried Chicken & Waffles ~ (topped w/fried chicken & maple syrup)

IMG_2371It didn't take much imagination for me to want to incorporate my Waffle Week theme, and last Waffle Week blog post, into my Superbowl Sunday menu.  Sliders immediately popped into my head, but, the trick would be making slider-sized waffles.  About 5 minutes later, I had overnight-ordered this somewhat bizzarre looking mini-waffle-slider IMG_2376gadget from Amazon.  It only cost $30, so I wasn't exactly spending the family fortune if it didn't work.

Kenner_Easy_Bake_Oven_1960s_0a0789a0b9a265103bce_11And, when I removed it from the box, I had my doubts. Frankly, it is plastic-y and flimsy.  If I could equate it to one childhood remembrance, the Kenner, Easy Bake Oven, circa 1960, is it!

It is important to note that I chose this particular machine because it was designed to make Belgian waffles.  This means:  the grids are deep and bold, resulting in thicker waffles.  

Part One:  Making the Slider-Sized Waffles

IMG_2413Last night, I experimented using Aunt Jemima's pancake & waffle mix.  To my glee, this machine performed really well.  If you want to use a boxed mix, you'll need:

2  cups dry pancake and waffle mix

1  cup whole milk

2  large eggs, at room temperature

4  tablespoons vegetable oil

IMG_16091  teaspoon sea salt

Note:  These proportions will make a slightly-thicker waffle batter than you are used to, and, very similar to yeast-risen waffles.  It will yield 28 mini-sized waffles, or enough for 14 slider-sized sandwiches.

Today, I am using ~ Teresa's Easy-to-Make Overnight Waffles ~.  I mixed the batter early this morning and it has risen in my refrigerator for 8 hours.  It too is going to yield 28, mini-sized waffles, or, 14, slider-sized sandwiches.

IMG_2397~ Step 1.  Preheat the waffle iron according to manufacturer's specifications (this takes less than 5 minutes).  Using a 2 tablespoon scoop or measure, place a level 2 tablespoons of batter into each grid.

Note:  Work as quickly as you can. These mini-waffles are going to start to cook immediately and fast. Try your best to get each batch on all at once so they cook uniformly.

IMG_2395~ Step 2.  Close the lid on the waffle iron.  Cook waffles for 45-60 seconds per side, or, for a total of 1 1/2-2 minutes.

Note:  This particular machine has a handle that rotates and flips the waffle iron upside down, allowing the waffles to cook evenly on the second side.  It works, but, with the both the thicker, boxed waffle batter, and, the yeast batter, it was not necessary to use that option.

IMG_2407~ Step 3 (Optional).  In a perfect waffle world, all waffles would come out perfectly shaped.  That is a fairy tale.  More often than not, some waffle batter oozes out of the grids, onto the flat plate, or even out of the side of the waffle iron.  Here is the solution for picture perfect waffles:

Remove waffles as you normally would (I use a fork) and allow them to cool for 1-2 minutes.  Use a pair of kitchen shears to trim any ragged edges from around the sides!

Part Two:  Building the Waffle-Slider Sandwiches

IMG_2600Deciding what to put on my waffle sliders was based solely upon our eating habits over the past week:

Lots of Chicken and Waffles! 

To recap:  #1. The best waffles on the planet topped with butter and maple syrup for breakfast; #2.  Said waffles topped with roasted chicken and gravy for dinner, and; #3. Waffles with fried-chicken and more maple syrup for a second dinner, then; #4.  Waffles topped with ice cream, strawberries and whipped cream for dessert.  

While all of these could easily be adapted to make great waffle sliders, repeating these heavy renditions was not what I wanted. In fact, my writing this happy little post today is more about purchasing and using the waffle-slider machine than a slider recipe per se!  That being said:

IMG_1852I had a leftover roasted chicken in my refrigerator, so, I decided to make good use of it. (For those of you who haven't been following along, on Tuesday I roasted two chickens, which left me with one entire chicken to use in salads or sandwiches.)  I'm using it to make a lighter, healthier waffle slider!

Waffle slider BLT's sounded great to both Joe and I.  The only thing we couldn't agree on was what what type of mayonnaise-concoction or creamy salad dressing to top them with.  We were torn between:  blue-cheese, ranch, or honey-mustard.  We taste tested all three, and, whole-heartedly agreed that the honey-mustard dressing was the perfect sweet-and-savory compliment to both the chicken and the the waffles.  Here's everything you'll need:

24  slider-sized waffles (mine are slightly-less than 2" round)

8  tablespoons honey-mustard salad dressing (2 teaspoons per sandwich) 

6  slices thick-sliced bacon, crisply fried, each slice cut into 4 bite-sized pieces

12  tablespoons very-thin chiffonade of romaine lettuce

12  1/4"-thick slices Campari tomatoes

24, small, 1/4"-thick slices roasted chicken

additional honey-mustard dressing, for drizzling on sandwiches

Monterey Jack Cheedar w/hot pepper cheese cubes for accompaniment/snacks

IMG_2437 IMG_2429~ Step 1. Arrange 1/2 of the waffles on a serving plate and slather the tops with 1 teaspoon of honey-mustard.  Top each with 2 bite-sized pieces of bacon and 1 tablespoon of the romaine chiffonade (a fancy French term that means "little ribbons").

IMG_2454 IMG_2418                                      ~ Step 2. Place a tomato slice on top of each, followed by two thin slices of chicken.  Last, slather remaining waffles with another teaspoon of honey-mustard dressing, put the tops on the sandwiches, and, secure each with a sandwich pick.

Consume (eat) via one of two gender-friendly methods:  

#1.  For the gentlemen:  Serve on plates.  Remove the sandwich pick while simultaneously pressing down on the sandwich until it is mouth-friendly.  This works quite well for them!

#2.  For the ladies:  Serve on plates with a knife and fork.  Follow the same rules as the men, then, cut your slider into four ladylike pieces.  Each bite is like eating a mini-chef salad!

IMG_2587Superbowl Sunday:  Chicken and Waffle Sliders:  Recipe yields 24 mini-waffles and 12 slider sandwiches.

Special Equipment List:  mini-waffle-slider waffle iron; 2  tablespoon measuring scoop; fork;  cutting board; chef's knife; 12, 3 1/2" long sandwich picks

PICT1419Cook's Note: For another one of our favorite, hearty, knife-and-fork slider sandwich recipes, ~ Bring on the Reuben Sliders... and some beer too! ~ can be found in Categories 1, 2, 11 & 17.  Keep this one in mind for your St. Patrick's day party in March (it's almost time to start stocking up on corned beef)!

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen, Copyright 2014)