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13 posts from September 2013


~Marcella Hazan (1924-2013): Paying Tribute to an Italian Culinary Legend, Famed Author & FB Friend ~

IMG_3269We foodies lost an important lady today.  Marcella Hazan, best known for her six cookbooks, which were translated from Italian to American by her husband of 57 years, Victor, died today. Those of us who were friends with her on FB received a simple message from her husband this morning.  I am glad to say I was one of them, and, she even commented on a few of my FB posts. Some of her comments to me were IMG_3273positive, others... not so much!

Julia Child (a lifelong friend of hers) once said, "she's forbidding because she is rough... that's her manner, but, she's got a good heart."  Truer words, as I came to find out, were never spoken.

Marcella, like, many Italian cooks, was very opinionated about her recipe being 'the one' correct version of the dish, and, was quite critical of the renditions of others. For instance, she was pleased with my Bolognese sauce post -- after all, it was based on her recipe!  But:

IMG_3277When I posted my recipe for my son's favorite ~ Jesse's E-Z Spatini Lasagna ~, a very Italian-American recipe, I got a tongue lashing from her which went something like, "I thought you could cook"!  It was indeed rough and insulting.  

I responded that I could indeed cook, and, told her that while I would never serve that lasagna to her personally, if it was my son's favorite, "that was that".  

She sent me a FB "heart"!!!

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2013)


~ The Art of Frying the Perfect Skinny Pork Chop ~

6a0120a8551282970b019aff9e6485970bIf two words never seemingly belonged together in a phrase, they would be 'skinny' and 'pork chop' -- unless of course you grew up eating perfectly-cooked, 1/2"-thick, bone-in, pan-fried pork loin chops.  I'm talking the 10-minutes-or-less to make pork chop.  Golden brown and slightly crispy on the outside, and, moist, juicy and tender on the inside.  Actually, I like mine a little pink in the center, which, makes mine the 8-minutes-or-less to make pork chop.  All you do is:

Fry 'em, pick 'em up by the bone and love each and every bite!

IMG_3062When I was growing up, my dad was the master pork chop fryer in our family.  They were always "skinny" and they were always bone-in, because as my dad says, "doesn't everyone know everything tastes better with the bone left in it or on it."  He made them at least twice a month and always served them with baked beans, creamed corn and/or home fried potatoes.  On pork chop nights, my brother and I were ready for dinner  a half an hour before it was on the table.

IMG_2910 IMG_2907I picked up a large package of 10, 1/2"-thick thin-cut, bone in pork chops today at the grocery store.  That might seem like a lot, but, unless you are single, it really is not.  It is safe to say that kids will eat at least two at one sitting -- adults, three.  So, you can plan on 10 feeding a family of four with no leftovers.

IMG_2925Inside the package there might be two types of chops.  This is not unusual, and, both cuts of chops will cook-up exactly the same.

Bone-In Rib Chops:

The rib chop is cut from the rib portion of the loin, which lies between the shoulder and the center of the loin.  This cut has more marbling than the a center loin chop (see below), which, like beef, makes it more flavorful.

IMG_2927Bone-In Center Loin Chops:

The center cut lies on the loin between the sirloin and the rib portion.  Center cut chops have a signature T-bone shape.  On one side of the bone is loin, and on the other side, tenderloin.  Of the two cuts, this one is my favorite, although others, like my husband like the rib chops better.

No matter which chop you like best, cut thin or thick, when it comes to pork chops, for maximum tenderness, do not cook past medium doneness.

IMG_2931I've got 6 rib chops and 4 center chops today.  I've arranged them on a large clean work surface. Truthfully, they are on a new, clean, tall-kitchen can (trash) bag, where I will season them (as follows), and let them rest for about 10-15 minutes. Why the bag?  Absolutely no mess to clean up.  Just roll up the bag and throw it away.

IMG_2934 IMG_2939 IMG_2941 IMG_2945



~Steps 1 thru 4 (pictured above).  Sprinkle the top of each chop with flour, not a full dredge, just a sprinkle.  I like Wondra flour.  Because it is granulated, it produces a crispiness that all-purpose flour will not.  Sprinkle the top of each chop with garlic powder, then a grinding of sea salt and peppercorn blend.  Allow chops to rest about 10-15 minutes.  This will allow the flour to absorb the moisture from the chops, which will help them to fry up with a crispy outside.

IMG_2957 IMG_2955~ Step 5. Get out the biggest skillet you've got.  I'm using a 14" chef's pan with straight, deep sides.  Add enough corn or peanut oil to the bottom to give it a thin, even coating.  I am using peanut oil.  Do not use olive oil, as its smoke point is wrong and the chops will burn. Heat oil over medium until little waves appear.  

IMG_2961Even armed with a 14" skillet, 10 chops will not fit into it at once.  No matter what size your skillet is, do not overcrowd the pan. These chops cook so quickly it is no big deal to cook them in 2-3 batches.  

Note:  Place chops in the pan, floured side down. You should immediately hear a sizzle.  When you put the first one in, if you get no sizzle, your oil is not hot enough. Increase the heat a bit.

IMG_2979Season the second sides with a sprinkling of flour, garlic powder, sea salt and peppercorn blend.

Adjust heat to saute and continue to cook until the pork chops are golden brown on the bottom, about 4-5 minutes.  You will know the pork chops are ready to flip over when they release themselves from the bottom of the pan.  So, if you find them sticking to the bottom of pan, do not try to force them to turn over. Always listen to the pork chops.

IMG_2975~ Step 6.  Flip chops over and saute on their second sides, until golden brown, 4-5 more minutes.  

Note:  In my pan, on my stovetop, my chops are perfectly cooked in 8 total minutes.  Every stovetop regulates heat differently and every pan distributes it differently.  This is not rocket science -- know and manage your own equipment!

IMG_3012 IMG_3001                                     I'm repeating the process with my last four chops. All I did was add and heat a little more oil in the skillet prior to adding them to the pan...

IMG_3004... seasoning the second sides and cooking as directed. 

IMG_2997The Art of Frying the Perfect Skinny Pork Chop:  Recipe yields instructions for pan frying thin-cut, bone-in pork chops.

Special Equipment List:  14" chef's pan w/straight, deep sides, preferably nonstick; fork and/or spatula

PICT1159Cook's Note: For another one of my favorite "skinny" pork chop meals for Fall, you can find my ~ Crispy Cinnamon-Cayenne Breaded Pork Chops w/Brown Butter 'n Sage Bow Ties & Applesauce ~ in Categories 3 or 19.

PICT1083If breaded pork chops are your favorite, my batter-dipped and deep-fried method is guaranteed to change your thinking on breading.

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2013)


~ Butternut Squash & Caramelized Apple Casserole~

IMG_3181Sunday was the first day of Fall.  Like clockwork, here in Central Pennsylvania, the temperatures have dropped to a chilly 40-50 degrees, and, even when the sun is shining bright, the breezes are brisk, and, Fall colors are starting to appear in our outdoor scenery.  It is:  sweater weather:  

IMG_2164All that is left from our vegetable gardens are butternut squash and pumpkins.  If I store them in a cool, dry place, both will keep nicely until Thanksgiving, so, unlike Summer vegetables, I don't have to scurry around looking for ways to process or preserve them.  I can enjoy them at my leisure, and, this week I've decided to show you two ways to enjoy my favorite Fall vegetable: butternut squash!

IMG_2901A bit about butternut squash: Sometimes referred to as "butternut pumpkin", when cooked, its deep-orange pulp has a creamy texture and a sweet nutty taste, which intensifies with proper storage.  This rock-hard, bowling-pin-shaped, vine-fruit is delicious roasted, steamed or sauteed, baked into casseroles, mashed like potatoes, pureed for soups, etc.

IMG_2904Butternut squash are available all year long, but at their peak from early Fall through Winter.  Choose those that feel heavy for their size. Those with the fattest necks and the smallest bulbs have the smallest seed cavities and the most pulp. They should have hard skin (no soft spots or mold) and no bruises, but a dark spot indicating where it rested while ripening is fine.

IMG_2746If you are new to preparing butternut squash, you will be astonished as to how solid they are. If you'd like an alternative to cutting off the pole ends with a large chef's knive, peeling away the tough flesh, muscleing your way to the center and scooping out the seeds prior to cooking it, read my post ~ How to Steam a Butternut Squash in the Crockpot~, by clicking on the Related Article link below!

IMG_2850It is the perfect method for cooking butternut squash to be used in soups, breads, muffins or my ~ Color Me Fall: An Autumn Butternut Squash Puree ~, which I served with roasted chicken on Sunday.  (It too can be found clicking on the Related Article link below.) Tonight, however, I'm hungry for pork chops, and I''m making one of my favorite butternut squash casseroles to go with them, so, sharpen up your chef's knife:

It's time to trim, peel, slice and soak the butternut squash:  

IMG_3083 IMG_3080~ Step 1. Using your favorite chef's knife, or a combination of a chef's knife and a paring knife, trim off the pole ends and stand the squash upright.  Slicing downward, IMG_3090peel away the flesh in thin layers, repeating if necessary in order to remove the green veins that run down the length of the squash.  

~ Step 2.  Slice the squash in half lengthwise.  Using an ordinary tablespoon thoroughly clean out the seed cavity.

~ Step 3.  Cut the squash into thin, 1/8"-1/4" slices.

IMG_3093~ Step 4.  In a large bowl place:

2  pounds sliced butternut squash

~ Step 5.  In a 1-cup measuring container whisk together:

1  cup whipping cream

1/4  teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4  teaspoon ground ginger

1/8  teaspoon ground nutmeg

IMG_31041/2  teaspoon sea salt

1/2  teaspoon white pepper

IMG_3099Add the cream mixture to the squash. Using two forks or two spoons, toss, like you would a salad, until the squash is evenly coated.  Cover and set aside while prepping the apples as follows:

It's time to peel, slice and caramelize some apples and raisins:

IMG_3106For the apples and raisins:

2  pounds peeled, cored and thinly sliced (1/8"-1/4") Granny Smith apples

8  ounces golden raisins

8 ounces salted butter (2 sticks)

2  tablespoons sugar

For topping casserole:

1/2  cup plain dry breadcrumbs

IMG_3118~ Step 1.  Prep the apples as directed.  Do not try to do this in advance and be inclined to toss them with lemon juice to prevent discoloring.  If some of the apples start to turn brown while you are working, worry not.  They are going to brown in the pan in a few minutes!

In a 12" skillet melt butter over low heat and stir in the the sugar.  Fold in the apples and raisins...

IMG_3142~ Step 2.  Increase heat to saute, stirring frequently, until the apples are turning golden brown and the raisins are plump, about 25-30 minutes.  Watch carefully during the last few minutes, as they can and will quickly go from browned to burned.

The mixture will look a little bit like hash browns.  Remove from heat and set aside about 10 minutes.  Go ahead, taste.  These are awesome!

It's time to assemble and bake this yummy casserole:

IMG_3146~ Step 1.  Spray a 2-quart casserole dish with no-stick spray.  Arrange half of the squash slices in the bottom of the dish.

Note:  This is optional, and, just me being perfection oriented (again), but, I like to pick out the irregularly-shaped pieces and put them on the bottom layer.

IMG_3161 IMG_3155~ Step 2. Distribute all of the caramelized apples and raisins over the squash.

~ Step 3.  Decoratively arrange the remaining half of the squash (the half-moon shaped ones) in concentric circles over the top.  

IMG_3167~ Step 4.  Drizzle all of the remaining cream mixture (from the bowl of squash) over the top and sprinkle with an even coating of the breadcrumbs.

~ Step 5.  Bake on center rack of preheated 325 degree oven, 1-1 1/2 hours, or until squash is cooked through and breadcrumbs are nicely browned and crunchy.

IMG_3172Note:  Watch the progress carefully after 60 minutes.  Loosely cover with aluminum foil, if necessary, to prevent breadcrumbs from burning.

Remove from oven and rest 15-30 minutes prior to serving, to allow juices to stop bubbling and set up. This casserole is fantastic gently reheated in the microwave the next day as well, so, don't be afraid to prepare it a day ahead of time!

IMG_3210Butternut Squash & Caramelized Apple Casserole:  Recipe yields 8-12 side-servings. 

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; paring knife; kitchen scale; plastic wrap; 12" skillet, preferably nonstick; large slotted spoon or spatula; 2-quart casserole dish, preferably see-through glass

IMG_3024Cook's Note:  While this casserole is perfect served with roasted poultry, it is an equally good accompaniment to pork roast or pork chops.  To learn ~ The Art of Frying the Perfect "Skinny" Pork Chop ~, just click into Categories 3, 12, 19 or 20!

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2013) 


~ Color Me Fall: An Autumn Butternut Squash Puree~

IMG_2859Fall begins precisely at 4:44 PM this afternoon and I've got to say, "I love the Fall."  I'm one of those lucky people that lives in the Northeastern USA where we get to participate in four distinct seasons, with each one requiring a "sort of" different lifestyle.  Fall:  I love the clean, crisp "sweater weather", and, watching the leaves change in color from bright green to yellow-y golds and oranges.  I especially love the transition from all of the fresh vegetables and grilled foods of Summer to the deep, nutty flavor of roasted vegetables and slow-cooked comfort foods!

IMG_2164The only vegetables we have left from our Summer garden are butternut squash and pumpkins.  If stored in a cool, dry place, these will keep for about 6 months, so, I don't have to be in a hurry to scurry around and find a way to use or preserve them.  In fact, I prefer to keep them "hanging around", so I can make some of my favorite casseroles and desserts for the Thanksgiving holiday!

IMG_2746That being said, I adore butternut squash as a side-dish, and, I just couldn't resist steaming the biggest one I had on Friday so I could make my butternut squash puree tonight -- to celebrate our first Sunday dinner of Fall tonight.  My detailed instructions for ~ How to:  Steam a Butternut Squash in the Crockpot ~ can be found in Categories 4, 15 and 20, or by clicking on the Related Article link below!

IMG_2802In a nutshell:  This saves you the agony of peeling and chopping a rock-hard butternut squash, and, by not doing that, none of the vitamins or minerals get leached out of it while cooking.  Depending upon the size of your crockpot and the squash, 3-4 hours later the squash will cut like butter and will produce 3-5 cups of glorious smashed squash for making the puree.  I got 5 cups of this yummy stuff on Friday!

Color me Fall:  Velvety Smooth, Silky, Butternut Squash Puree!

IMG_28054-5  cups steamed and smashed butternut squash, very warm but not steaming hot

1  stick salted butter, at room temperature, very soft

3/4  cup heavy or whipping cream

1/4  cup pure maple syrup

1/2  teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2  teaspoon ground ginger

1/4  teaspoon ground nutmeg

1  teaspoon sea salt

1/2  teaspoon white pepper

freshly ground sea salt and peppercorn blend, for topping

IMG_2819 IMG_2810~ Step 1.  In a small saucepan, place the cream, maple syrup, ground cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, sea salt and white pepper.  Over medium heat, stirring constantly, heat until steaming.  Do not simmer or boil. Remove from heat and transfer to a 1-cup measuring container.

IMG_2822~ Step 2.  Place the warm squash in the workbowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade.  Add the butter. Using a series of 25-30 on-off pulses, process until the butter is thoroughly incorporated.

IMG_2830~ Step 3. With the motor running, through the feed tube, IMG_2841add the warm cream mixture and process an additional 25-30 seconds.  Voila!

Serve one of two ways: 

#1. Transfer to a serving dish. Cover and gently reheat in the microwave for a few moments, until steaming, and serve as a side-dish to poultry, or:  #2. Transfer to a serving dish and serve at room temperature as a dip for veggies. 

#1.  Serve steaming hot as a decadent side-dish to poultry:

IMG_2881#2.  Serve at room temperature as a yummy dip for veggies: 

IMG_2876Color Me Fall:  An Autumn Butternut Squash Puree:  Recipe yields 5-6 cups.

Special Equipment List:  1-quart saucepan; large spoon; 1-cup measuring container; food processor

6a0120a8551282970b01543238608d970c-800wiCook's Note: For another one of my favorite "color me fall" recipes, you can find ~ Smashed Maple Sweet Potatoes ~ in Categories 4, 18 or 20!

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2013) 


~ How to: Steam a Butternut Squash in the Crockpot~

IMG_2746I love butternut squash and every Fall my husband Joe's garden gifts us with a few beauties. Some are big and some are small -- I love them all.  I love butternut squash sliced raw and baked into casseroles, roasted and mashed or smashed like potatoes or sweet potatoes, or, steamed for puree.  What can I say, I'd love this vegetable even if it wasn't really healthy and good for me, which it is.  Is there anything I don't like about it?  Well, yes there is!  Read on: 

IMG_2706I hate peeling butternut squash!

Admit it -- you do too!

It is a task I usually leave to my husband.  First you have to trim off the pole ends, then peel the skin (technically called the "flesh") from this rock-solid, irregularly-shaped veggie-varmint. Next, you have to continue peeling, to remove the long, green, fibrous veins that run the length of it.  Last, you have to slice it in half lenghwise and scoop out the seeds.  This is a process that, if I were running a prison, I would delegate to the inmates.  It has got to be the biggest reason why people avoid butternut squash!

In some culinary applications, there is no getting around this work, you have to grin and bear it, but, if it's puree you are needing, which I do today, you'll be happy to know there is a better way:

Put the biggest butternut squash you got in the crockpot!!!

IMG_2708I did a double take the first time I heard this astonishing news too:

It was back in the late 1980's-early '90's.  I was the captain of one of The Penn State Tennis Center's six club-level tennis teams.  On the nights the leagues played, everyone on the two teams playing that evening alternated bringing a snack or a beverage to share.  One Fall night, my close friend Becky Yeagley, who was on my team, brought a wonderful butternut squash dip -- a recipe I asked for!

IMG_2731Becky and her husband Hank were both in their 70's at the time and she explained that neither of them wanted to risk their life wrestling with peeling butternut squash anymore. What she told me humorously went kind of like this:  

"One day I got so damned mad I threw the entire thing in the crockpot and cooked the hell out of it for a few hours!"

I for one am grateful she did because over the years I have used her method more times than I can count.  I think you will too!

IMG_2715~ Step 1.  Choose the biggest butternut squash that will fit in your crockpot.

~ Step 2.  Place about 1/2" of water in the bottom of the crockpot.

~ Step 3.  If you have a small rack, place it in the bottom of the pot, otherwise, skip this step.  Note: Becky did not use a rack, placing a "steamer rack" in the bottom just makes me feel better!

IMG_2724~ Step 4.  Line the crockpot with a length of cheesecloth.  Because the squash is going to be very soft after it is steamed, this will serve as the mechanism for easily lifting it from the crockpot.

Note:  Becky used two forks, which works, but, the hot squash tends to want to slip off them.  I invented the cheesecloth method.  It makes it easy, and more importantly, safe!

IMG_2727~ Step 5.  Place the butternut squash in the crockpot.  Place the overlapping ends of the cheesecloth on top of it.  Place the lid on the crockpot.  

~ Step 6.  Cook on high for 3-4 hours, depending upon the size of the squash, until fork tender, checking every 15 minutes after the 3 hour mark.  I already know this squash in my pot takes 3 1/2 hours!

IMG_2737~ Step 7.  Using the cheesecloth as a pair of  handles, carefully lift the squash out of the crockpot, transfer it to a large cutting board and remove the cheesecloth.

Note:  Thank-you husband Joe for doing the lifting so I could take this photo in order demonstrate what I'm talking about.  Cheesecloth is the trick to making this so dang easy!

IMG_2750~ Step 8.  Using a chef's knife, trim off the pole ends and begin slicing thin strips of the butter-soft flesh from the meat.

IMG_2760In about 1 minute, I peeled this entire squash without saying one foul word!

IMG_2769~ Step 9.  Discard the flesh and slice the squash in half lengthwise. Using a tablespoon, scrape out the seeds and stringy fibers.

IMG_2778My perfectly steamed squash is done in a way that doesn't leach out either it's vitamins or minerals.  By adjusting the timing, it can be steamed to any degree of doneness too!

I'm making my Butternut Squash Puree next, so stay tuned! 

IMG_2779How to:  Steam Butternut Squash in the Crockpot:  Recipe yields about 5 cups of steamed and fork-smashed butternut squash.

Special Equipment List:  crockpot; small cooling rack (optional); cheesecloth; large cutting board; paring knife; tablespoon

PICT2619Cook's Note:  I am not "a crockpot kind of girl".  But, when I do use my crockpot it is for the right reasons and recipes.  To try one of my all-time favorite Fall crockpot recipes ~ Winner Winner Crockpot Dinner": Scrumptious, Slow-Cooked Sweet Potato & Ground Beef Chili ~ can be found in Categories 2, 3, 13, 19 or 20. Guess what?  You can substitute butternut squash for the sweet potatoes!

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2013) 


~ Tex-Mex Soul-Consoling Food: Chile con Queso ~

IMG_2662Ever have a week you wish you could forget?  Whether you're just over-the-top busy at work and dog tired, the guy in the grocery store packed your meat on top of your bread, or, your favorite football team lost last Saturday's home game because they couldn't play defense and missed a field goal, solace can always be found by dipping some freshly-fried, crispy tortilla chips in a vat of molten, velvety smooth chile con queso -- after two bites you'll feel like throwing a party.

IMG_2516Chile con queso (pronounced keh-so, not, kay-so) and often referred to simply as queso is found on the menus of Tex-Mex restaurants all across the United States.  It is said to have originated in the northern Mexican state of Chihuahua and variations of the dish quickly spread throughout Texas.  The words chile con queso are Spanish for "chile with cheese", meaning chile peppers, not chili con carne.  It is a smooth, creamy, cheesey, orange-colored fondue-type food (used for dipping) made from a blend of IMG_2590melted processed cheese (most commonly Velveeta or Cheez-Whiz), milk or cream, chile peppers, garlic, onion and seasonings. Canned tomatoes and canned green chiles (most commonly Ro-Tel) and sometimes seasoned and sauteed ground beef or pork are added to the mixture:

In our house, it's affectionately referred to as "Cheese Feed"!

IMG_2537Three days ago I posted ~ My Basic Cheddar Cheese Sauce for Vegetables ~.  You can find the recipe in Categories 4, 14, 17, or by clicking on the Related Article link below.  It takes less than 10 minutes to make and is so much better than those loaves of yellow processed cheese or jars of glop.  My recipe yields 3 cups of creamy, cheddary cheesy goodness, and, if I do say so myself, it is the difference between ordinary chile con queso and extraordinary chile con queso. Once you have that prepared:

Turning the Cheddar Cheese Sauce into Chile con Queso:

IMG_25973  tablespoons corn oil

1/2  pound of the leanest ground beef you can find

1/2  pound sweet sausage

1  cup thinly-sliced green onion, white and light green part only

1  teaspoon ground cumin

1/2  teaspoon garlic powder

1/2  teaspoon sea salt

1/2  teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper

1  10-ounce can Ro-Tel diced tomatoes and green chiles, well-drained

1  4 1/2-ounce can chopped green chiles, well-drained

1-2  chipotle chile peppers packed in adobo sauce, finely-diced, to taste (removed from a 7-ounce can of chipotle chile peppers packed in adobo sauce)

1-2  tablespoons adobo sauce, from above can, to taste

3  cups warm cheddar cheese sauce, prepared as directed above

IMG_2605 IMG_2601~ Step 1.  In a chef's pan, place the oil, ground beef, sausage, green onion, cumin, garlic powder, salt and pepper. Saute, over medium heat, until meats are cooked through and no liquid remains in pan, about 10 minutes.  During this time, using a metal spatula, stir and break meat into small bits and pieces.

IMG_2611~ Step 2.  In a small colander drain the Ro-Tel diced tomatoes and green chiles along with the chopped green chiles.  Add to the meat mixture.

IMG_2622~ Step 3. Finely dice 1-2 chipotle chile peppers packed in adobo sauce and add them along with 1-2 tablespoons of adobo sauce.

IMG_2632 IMG_2642~ Step 4. Adjust the heat to low. Add the warm cheese sauce, stir to thoroughly combine and heat until steaming, stirring constantly.  Do not allow mixture to simmer or boil.  Serve warm with tortilla chips for dipping.

Note:  Store leftovers in the refrigarator.  Gently reheat in the microwave, stirring occasionally.

Texans say you can buy happiness:  it's called chile con queso!

IMG_2678Tex-Mex Soul-Consoling Food:  Chile con Queso:  Recipe yields 6 cups.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife;  3 1/2-quart chef's pan w/straight,deep sides; metal spatula; small colander

Tortilla Chips #5 (Finished)Cook's Note:  You've just made the most amazing chile con queso you've ever tasted.  Surely you're not planning on purchasing a bag of tortilla chips.  You can find my recipe for ~ Deep-Fried Crunchy Corn Tortilla Chips (Totopos) ~ in Categories 2, 13 or 17!

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 3013) 


~ My Basic Cheddar Cheese Sauce for Vegetables ~

IMG_2537Cheddar cheese sauce is really easy to make, and, only takes about five minutes, so please refrain from purchasing the store-bought glop.  Even though I don't think perfectly-cooked vegetables need any livening up, my mother-in-law obviously does because she told me so yesterday.  Ann said, "Did you ever have broccoli or cauliflower with cheese sauce on top?  It is really good."  That, my friends, is my mother-in-law's way of telling me she is hungry for something.  Last Sunday she asked me if I ever baked a coconut cake -- enough said.  So, today, on this week's day of rest, I'm making cheese sauce.  I haven't made this in years, but, while here at the stovetop, I might as well take a few photographs and write a blog post about it.  

IMG_3032I don't have a clue where the recipe originated but I do know my version is a really good one because it got our three boys to eat their vegetables.  They loved it on baked potatoes and French fries too.  I also make a variation of this sauce (using Monterey Jack w/japapeno cheese in place of the yellow cheddar) to make ~ My Stovetop Green Chile Chicken Mac & Cheese ~.  You can find that recipe in Categories 3, 13, 19 or 20.  Or: 

Just stir 1 pound of cooked elbow macaroni into this cheese sauce to make your own better-than-store-bought Kraft mac & cheese, or, drizzle it over tortilla chips for game-day nachos.  

IMG_2557Do I add any secret ingredents to my sauce?  Well, perhaps:

IMG_5037If you consider cheddar cheese powder a secret ingredient, then, yes I do.  I discovered it while meandering around a street fair and stopped at a booth selling popcorn. An employee happened to be stirring a powdery orange substance into some melted butter. The container read:  dried yellow cheddar cheese powder!  Minus the spices, it is the main ingredient in the foil envelope contained in boxed macaroni and cheese mixes. I immediately ordered some via a catalog source, and nowadays I just purchase it on

Without cheese powder, the cheese sauce will still be awesome.  With it, it will be amazing.

IMG_24964  tablespoons salted butter

4  tablespoons flour

1  tablespoon cheddar cheese powder (optional)

1 1/2  teaspoons dry English mustard

1/2  teaspoon sea salt

1/2  teaspoon white pepper

2  cups milk (plus an additional 1/4-1/2 cup, only if necesary)

8  ounces grated sharp yellow cheddar cheese (about 2 cups), not Velveeta

IMG_2930 IMG_2934 IMG_2938 IMG_2943




~ Steps 1 through 4:  In a 3 1/2-quart chef's pan, melt the butter over low heat.  Add the flour. Whisk constantly until the flour has been incorporated into the butter and a thick, pasty mixture has formed.  Slowly add the milk, in increments, about 1/2 cup at a time, whisking vigorously after each addition to work out almost all of the lumps.

IMG_2507 IMG_2508~ Step 5. Add the cheddar cheese powder, dry mustard, salt and pepper.  Over medium-low heat, bring the mixture to a gentle simmer, whisking constantly, and continue to simmer for 1 1/2-2 1/2 minutes, or until nicely thickened and completely smooth.

IMG_2511Note:  If at any time the mixture seems thicker than you like, just whisk in some additional milk until desired consistency is reached.

~ Step 6.  Turn the heat off.  Add the grated cheddar.  Using a large spoon, stir until the cheese has melted and a glorious cheese sauce has formed, about 1 minute.

Note:  Cover and store leftovers in the the refrigerator.  Reheat gently in the microwave, stopping to stir on occasion -- just like Cheez-Whiz!

My recipe is kid tested AND mother-in-law approved!

IMG_2516My Basic Cheddar Cheese Sauce for Vegetables:  Recipe yields 3 cups cheddar cheese sauce.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; cheese grater; 3 1/2-quart chef's pan w/straight, deep sides (a deep, wide-bottomed skillet); whisk; large spoon

IMG_8718Cook's Note:  I'm not going to be spending any more time preparing the broccoli or cauliflower than I am making today's cheese sauce either.  You can read my easy method for ~ Cooking Broccoli or Cauliflower in a Rice Steamer ~ in Categories 4, 14, 15, or 20.

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2013)


~ My E-Z Big Fat Greek Lemon-Pepper Garlic Bread~

IMG_2459When most people think about crispy, chewy and cheesy garlic bread, they think about eating Italian food:  lasagna, spaghetti, meatballs and/or anything with marinara sauce.  Just writing that sentence makes me want to put a pot of Noni's Sunday gravy on the stove to simmer. Recipes and methods for making Italian-style garlic bread vary from household to household, but it's the similarities that are of note.  The butter mixture always contains garlic and herbs/spices common to Italian fare:  basil, oregano, parsley, pepper and parmesan cheese!

IMG_2383Two days ago I posted ~ My Big Fat Greek Lemony-Garlic Salad Dressing + (Jeanne's Inauguration Day "Layered" Greek Salad) ~. You can find it in Categories 2 & 8, or, by clicking on the Related Article link below.  The salad dressing is made with lemon-infused olive oil, garlic and feta cheese, all classic Greek flavors. This salad is loaded with steamed shrimp too, so I serve it as a main-course, and, I either top it with homemade garlic-croutons, or, serve it with my Greek-Style garlic bread!  Read on:

A Greek salad deserves Greek-style garlic bread!

IMG_2482It just makes sense and the idea occurred to me quite by accident.  I was, of course, making the above named salad for dinner when Joe asked me to serve it with garlic bread, instead of croutons.  That sounded really good to me... until I picked up the spice jar of Italian seasoning blend.  Without hesitation I knew the flavor profile was all wrong.  Greek salad deserved Greek-style garlic bread full of classic Greek flavor.  A couple of substitutions later, I had a bread that went so well with this salad I've never felt the need to adjust the recipe even just a little bit!

6a0120a8551282970b017c3857ab10970b-320wiI use firm-textured bread to make any type of garlic bread and my favorite is the French batard, which is a shorter, plumper, slightly softer baguette.  For my Greek garlic bread, I changed my baking method too.  I simply slather the slices with the butter mixture and toast them in my toaster oven (which is not how I do it when I make traditional Italian garlic bread). This is quick, easy and a great accompaniment to any Greek salad, soup or meal!

IMG_2403For each 12-ounce batard:

4  ounces salted butter, at room temperature, very soft (1 stick)

3/4  teaspoon garlic powder

3/4  teaspoon Greek seasoning 

3/4  teaspoon lemon & pepper seasoning blend

2  tablespoons finely- and freshly-grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese*

*Note: Parmiginano-Reggiano is Italian cheese (I know that), but, Greek Feta is, simply put, not a good melting cheese.  The Parm-Regg blends into the Greek Seasonings beautifully.  Trust me!

IMG_2409~ Step 1.  Trim the ends from the batard.  Using a serrated bread knife, cut the remainder of the loaf into 16-18, 3/4"-thick slices.  I ended up with 17 today.  Wrap the loaf in plastic wrap and set aside, while the butter comes to room temperature.

IMG_2414 IMG_2411~ Step 2.  In a small bowl, using a rubber spatula or an ordinary spoon, combine the butter, garlic powder, Greek seasoning blend and lemon-pepper seasoning.  Fold in the grated cheese.

Set aside for about 5 minutes, to allow the flavors to marry.  Taste and adjust seasoning, if necessary.

IMG_2424~ Step 3.  Arrange the bread slices in disposable aluminum broiler pans, the kind with the corrugated bottoms, (any size or number of them appropriately sized to fit in your toaster oven).

~ Step 4.  Using an ordinary butter knife, slather the top of each slice of bread, including the two end pieces, with the butter mixture.

IMG_2430~ Step 5.  One pan at a time, place in the toaster oven.  I do not broil or bake this garlic bread.  I select "toast", and allow the bread to toast until the bread is golden brown on the edges and the top is bubbling and golden brown.  In my toaster oven, this takes about 5 1/2-6 minutes.  Watch carefully during the last 1 minute of toasting.  

Remove from oven and allow to rest 5 minutes prior to serving warm:

IMG_2442My E-Z Big Fat Greek Lemon-Pepper Garlic Bread:  Recipe yields 16-18 slices of garlic bread.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; serrated bread knife; plastic wrap;  large rubber spatula or an ordinary tablespoon; disposable aluminum broiling pans w/corrugated bottoms, appropriately sized to fit in your toaster oven; toaster oven

PICT2692Cook's Note:  So, we've got Greek Salad and Greek garlic bread. Would you like to complete this Greek meal with a bowl of classic Greek soup?  You can find my recipe for ~ Greek Lemon, Egg & Orzo Soup (Avgolemono) ~ in Category 2!

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2013) 


~ My Big Fat Greek Lemony-Garlic Salad Dressing + (Jeanne's Inauguration Day "Layered" Greek Salad) ~

6a0120a8551282970b019aff58cbc0970dThis is one of my favorite Fall-Winter salad dressings.  A few days ago I visited my parents in Eastern, PA and served a version of it to them and their guests with dinner.  Every time I make it, it gets gobbled up, and, someone asks for the recipe, so, here it is.  It's light, refreshing and full of bright, bold lemon flavor, which I enjoy during frosty days of Fall and dreary days of Winter.  It's particularly good on salads that contain seafood (crab, lobster, shrimp or scallops) or poultry (chicken, pheasant or turkey).  And, the first time I tasted it was a most memorable Winter day:

IMG_0230At Noon on January 20th, 2009, our nation celebrated a most historic event:  the inauguration of President Barack Obama.  Change is slow, but change had finally come and in a few short hours the first African American man and his family would be living in the White House.  Even though I was a Hillary girl (still am) until the last vote was cast, I recognized the importance of this inauguration and was excited to watch every moment of it.  

IMG_0229My best friend Jeanne and I decided to take the day off to watch the ceremonies live as they unfolded on my kitchen TV.  We carefully made our plans:  She and I were getting together at 10:30 AM, a bottle of champagne would be uncorked after the oath of office, a couple of other girlfriends would be joining us as the day went on, and our menfolk would pickup takeout Greek pizzas. Jeanne offered to bring her signature Greek Salad.

IMG_2339Everyone wanted to know what Jeanne's recipe was for the dressing.  After some coercing, she admitted she'd simply added 4 tablespoons of red wine vinegar, 4 tablespoons sugar, 4 crushed garlic cloves and 1 tablespoon of Dijon to a bottle of Gazebo Room Greek Salad Dressing.  None of us would ever have guessed it wasn't scratch made, and, her secret would remain safe with us... temporarily. The moment you put 3-4 cooks together in one kitchen the conversation turns to food and this one turned to salad dressing.  By the end of the day, my assignment was to come up with a scratch made version of Gazebo Room Greek dressing.

PICT2715My Big Fat Greek Lemony-Garlic Salad Dressing:

1  cup red wine vinegar

1/4  cup lemon-infused extra-virgin olive oil

1/2  cup sugar

1  tablespoon Dijon mustard

3-4  large garlic cloves, run through a garlic press

1/4  cup finely-crumbled feta cheese

1  tablespoon Greek seasoning blend

1/4  teaspoon sea salt

1/4-1/2  teaspoon coarsely-ground black pepper

~ Step 1.  In a 2-cup measuring container with a tight-fitting lid (pictured in the above photo), measure, prep and place all ingredients.  Shake vigorously.  You will have 1 1/2 cups of tangy dressing.  Set aside for 2-8 hours, at room temperature, to allow the flavors to marry.

Note:  If you want to make the dressing father in advance, store it in the refrigerator and return it to room temperature prior to serving.  Because this dressing contains fresh garlic, use it within 3 days, as after that, the garlic can begin to grow bacteria that can make make you ill.

Jeanne's Inauguration Day "Layered" Greek Salad:

IMG_23653-4  whole heads romaine "hearts" (about 12-16 ounces total weight), leaves torn into small, bite-sized pieces or cut chiffonade style (1/2" strips or ribbons), washed, dried (preferably through a salad spinner) and chilled until very crisp

1  cup very thinly sliced (shaved) yellow or sweet onion

1-1 1/2 cups  peeled and chunked Kirby cucumber (1 cucumber)

2  pounds extra-large shrimp (26-30 count), peeled and deveined, tails taken off, cooked or steamed

1/2-3/4  cup large pimento stuffed green olives, well-drained and cut in half

1-1 1/2  cups large black olives, well-drained and cut in half

1 1/2-2  cups grape tomatoes, cut in half

1/2-3/4  cups sliced banana pepper rings, mild or hot, well-drained

1 1/2-2  cups crumbled feta cheese, 6-8 ounces of cheese

freshly ground peppercorn blend

IMG_5428~ Step 1.  Cook or steam the shrimp in your favorite way.  You can find my method for perfectly cooked, sweet, succulent shrimp every time by reading ~ Once upon a time... A Tale about Shrimp Cocktail ~ in Categories 1, 11, 14 or 16.

Note:  To save time, in a pinch you can purchase peeled and steamed shrimp at your grocery store's seafood counter too.  It costs a bit more, but it still tastes great.

IMG_2372~ Step 2:  Place the lettuce in a large food storage bag.  Shake the dressing and add 1/2 cup to the lettuce.  Close bag and toss, to coat.

~ Step 3.  On a large platter/plate (not a bowl, this is a layered salad), make a bed of lettuce and layer all of the ingredients, in the order listed on top of the lettuce.  Serve immediately with the remaining salad dressing, at tableside. 

IMG_2380My Big Fat Greek Lemony-Garlic Sald Dressing + (Jeanne's Inauguration Day "Layered" Greek Salad):  Recipe yields 1 1/2 cups dressing and 6-8 servings of salad.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; salad spinner; garlic press; 2-cup measuring container w/tight-fitting lid & pourer top; 2-gallon food storage bag; large platter or plate

Croutons & Toasts #9 (Finished Croutons)Cook's Note:  I usually serve this salad as a main-course with a loaf of crusty garlic bread and a bottle of white wine, but, in the event you'd like to top it with croutons instead, you can find my recipe for ~ How to: Make Croutons (& Toasts) ~ in Categories 2, 5, 9, or 15!

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2013)


~ Road Trip: Mel Takes 2 Days Off to Visit w/Tommy~

PhotoIn three years of blogging, I've never "dropped everything" and decided to take a couple days off.  I diligently post 3-4 times a week. What that means is, if I know I am traveling, I work really hard, in advance, to make sure I have a blog post pre-written and scheduled to post for you folks while I'm gone!

This week was an exception.  My mom called to say her family from California was coming into town for a visit.  This has happened before, but the difference in this trip, was: My favorite cousin Tommy and his wife Linda were coming too!

The last time I saw Tommy and Linda was Christmas Eve, 1974, at my Aunt's house in Trenton, NJ. That's almost 39 years ago!

Tommy spent Summers at our grandmother's house in Coaldale, PA, and, I spent a lot of time with "Coaldale Baba" during the Summer too because my parents both worked.  Baba was my maternal grandmother and Tom's paternal grandmother.  Tom was, no lie, my big brother.  He was my favorite cousin because... well: no other cousins were born yet.  He always looked out for me and my best interests, and, my memories are legendary.  Here is my favorite story:

Two kids, a walk to the grocery store and a wake:

ScanI was about 3, Tom about 7.  Baba sent us to The Diamond Market to pick up  2-3 items for dinner.  Back in "those days", in small towns in the coal regions, you could count on four things on almost every block:  a church, a funeral parlor, a bar and a grocery store.  On the walk down High Street, I noticed a line of people and asked Tommy what they were doing.  He asked, "have you ever seen a dead body?" I shook my head to the negative. He asked, "would you like to see a dead body?" I shook my head to the positive.  We stood in the line.  We walked into the funeral home and down the center isle.  I'm sure everyone there wondered who we were and where we came from. When we reached the dead person, Tom told me to kneel down and bless myself.  'We' recited The Lord's Prayer.  We walked out.  We proceeded to the grocery store. That's that -- no trauma, no drama!!!

IMG_2329Without question I wanted to make a special dinner for Tommy, Linda and my Uncle Al and Aunt Claire. You can find my recipe for, ~ Melanie's Bolognese Sauce & Bolognese Lasagna ~ in Categories 3, 11, 12, 14 or 21. Here it is cooking in my mom's oven!

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2013) 


~ Culinary Q&A & Kitchen Therapy Too (9/06/13) ~

Culinary Q & A #2The Labor Day holiday is over and another busy Summer is in the past. If you live in a part of the United States that celebrates four seasons, near the end of August or the beginning of September, a day comes when you walk outside and say, "Fall is in the air"!  That happened this week here in Happy Valley, Central PA.  Tomorrow, Penn State plays its first home game in Beaver Stadium, and, there are mumblings/grumblings about 'frost on the pumpkins' tonight!

IMG_2124 IMG_2313It's time to get out the sweaters and fall back to comfort food recipes for chilly weather.  For our first tailgate meal, I'm going to serve some perfectly-cooked roast beef sandwiches and steaming hot potato soup.  By clicking on the Related Article links below, you can get the recipes I posted over the past few days:

~ Eye-of-Round Roast = Back-to-School Sandwiches ~ 


 ~ Fall's Coming:  Potato Chowder w/Caraway Cheese ~

I love this time of year as much as I love receiving and answering questions from readers, and, bright and early this morning I received a really good one about purchasing knives:

IMG_1646Q.  Bethanie says and asks: Melanie, I came upon your blog because I am in the market to invest in some knives.  I enjoyed what you had to say about the Kyocera ceramic knives, and, I will probably buy one or two.  I also want to purchase some good metal knives.  Can you elaborate a bit about the difference between carbon and stainless steel knives? PS:  I love your blog, and, do you do your own photography too?

PICT2277A.  Kitchen Encounters:  What a great question (and compliment) Bethanie -- "yes, I do my own photography and I have come to learn what an important component it is to a well-written blog".  I feel strongly about step-by-step photos instead of just "one picture and a list of ingredients" type of blogs!

Carbon Steel vs. Stainless Steel

While both knives have steel blades, the biggest difference is carbon steel knives have a larger carbon content while stainless steel contains more chromium and often nickel.  A knife made with carbon steel is unequaled in its ability to take on an extremely sharp edge.  Professional chefs almost always prefer carbon over stainless.  With a little bit of practice, restoring a razor sharp edge to carbon steel is quite simple, and, busy cooks are constantly sharpening their knives.  Restoring even a sharp edge to a dull stainless steel edge is almost impossible, and don't be swayed by manufacturer's who promise a lifetime edge.  What they should tell you is: their product really cannot be resharpened to its original edge.  The only drawback to carbon steel (and I do not consider it a drawback, I consider it a matter of maintenence) is that carbon steel is vulnerable to acids in food. If the knife is not wiped dry after each use, it can and will rust!


Enjoy your weekend everyone, and once again:  To leave a comment or ask a question, simply click on the blue title of any post, scroll to the end of it and type away... or e-mail me directly!

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2013)  


~Fall's Coming: Potato Chowder w/Caraway Cheese~

IMG_2317While Mother Nature is a force that can't be reckoned with, like any woman, she is quite predictable.  If you live in a part of the United States that celebrates four distinct seasons, you know there comes a day at the end of August or the beginning of September when you walk outside and say "Fall is in the air".  Today is that day here in Happy Valley, Pennsylvania.  The air is crisp, cool and clean, and, people are murmuring about a possible frost this weekend.

IMG_2164Joe spent the Labor Day weekend picking pumpkins and butternut squash (destined to become blog posts) and 'Winterizing' his gardens. A tree full of apples will end our home grown produce.  I've spent the past few days cleaning indoors, as well as organizing pantry and freezers.  I won't lie, I love this time of year and all of the comfort food that comes with sweater weather and mild but chilly breezes.

IMG_2124When the temperatures begin to drop, the school buses start running.  Two days ago I posted my recipe for ~ Eye-of-Round Roast = Back-to-School Sandwiches ~. You can find it in Categories 2, 10, 17 & 20, or, by clicking on the Related Article link below, and:

I love a healthy-dose of real-deal Russian horseradish mayonnaise on mine, and, I love this sandwich served with a special 'soup' that my Russian grandmother made.

Baba called it a soup, I call it a chowder, you'll call it yummy.

Witchs-cauldron-black-pvc-25432I call it a chowder because it is made in classic chowder-style.  Chowder is a thick, rich, soup brimming with CHUNKY food.  It's often associated with seafood because it gets its name from the French word "chaudiere", which refers to the cauldron fishermen made their fresh stews in over open fires (with clam chowder being the most popular and most famous). Here in America, chowders are made two ways, New England-style, made with cream and/or milk, and, Manhattan-style, made with a tomato-based broth.  In the case of New England-style chowders, the broth is rich and silky, NOT, overly thickened with tasteless flour.

IMG_2313I'm not making this 'soup' in a cauldron, and, neither did my grandmother, but she did make it rich and silky, using a combination of milk, a little bit of flour, and, in the style of what Russian peasants had on hand:  cured bacon, potatoes, carrots, onions, plus the added flavor of caraway seeds (which Russia is the world's largest producer of) via caraway cheese.

IMG_21726  slices bacon, cut into 1/4" pieces

1  cup medium-diced (1/2") yellow or sweet onion

1 cup medium-diced (1/2"), or "coined" if the carrots are thin, peeled carrot

1  cup medium-diced (1/2") celery

2  tablespoons unbleached, all-purpose flour

1  teaspoon garlic powder

1 1/2  teaspoons sea salt

1  teaspoon white pepper

2  cups chicken stock

2  cups cream

2 1/2-3  pounds red-skinned potatoes, scrubbed and unpeeled, cut into 3/4"-1" chunks

6-8  ounces Havarti w/caraway seed cheese, grated (or plain Havarti if you don't like the taste of caraway)

6 strips crisply-fried bacon bits, reserved from above, for garnish

finely-diced fresh chives, for garnish

freshly ground sea salt and peppercorn blend, for seasoning at tableside

IMG_2184 IMG_2176~ Step 1. Prep the onion, carrot and celery as directed and set aside.  Prep the bacon as directed, placing it in the bottom of a 6-quart stockpot as you work.  Note:  All of these tasks can be done a day in advance of cooking the chowder.

IMG_2187~ Step 2.  Over-medium high heat, fry the bacon, stirring frequently, until it is crisp, about 8-10 minutes. Turn the heat off.  Using a large slotted spoon, remove bacon from the drippings and place on a paper-towel lined plate to drain.

~ Step 3.  Add the onions, carrots and celery to the bacon drippings. Adjust heat to medium-high and continue to cook, until onion is soft, but not browned, stirring occasionally, about 8-10 minutes.

IMG_2203 IMG_2200~ Step 4. Stir in the flour, garlic powder, sea salt and white pepper.  Continue to cook until the mixture is thick and steaming, about 1 minute.

~ Step 5.  Add the chicken stock and cream.  Adjust heat to medium-low and bring the mixture to a very gentle simmer.

IMG_2221~ Step 6.  While the "broth" is coming to a simmer, which will take about 8-10 minutes, cube the potatoes and set aside.

IMG_2236If you have extra time, grate the cheese too. If you don't have extra time, you can do this while the potatoes are simmering in the broth.

IMG_2226~ Step 7.  When the broth comes to a gentle simmer, add the potatoes.  

IMG_2252When the mixture returns to a gentle simmer, which will take about 5 minutes, continue to simmer until potatoes are fork tender, about 12 - 15 minutes.  Turn the heat off.

IMG_2259~ Step 8.  By hand, sprinkle in the grated cheese (do not dump it in all at once) and stir until the chowder is smooth, about 1 -2 minutes.

Note:  At this point the soup is technically ready to serve, but I like to put the lid on the pot and let it steep about 15 minutes prior to serving.

Portion into warm serving bowls and garnish each with the reserved bacon bits, chives, freshly ground sea salt and peppercorn blend:

IMG_2290Fall's Coming:  Potato Chowder w/Caraway Cheese:  Recipe yields 3 quarts (6, 2-cup servings or 12, 1-cup servings).

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; vegetable peeler; 6-quart stockpot; large slotted spoon; paper towels; hand-held cheese grater

IMG_3427Cook's Note: For a classic chowder, you can find my recipe for ~ Creamy New England-Style Clam&Corn Chowder~ in Categories 2, 14, 17, 18 or 19. Either one of these chowder recipes is great for Fall picnics and tailgates too.

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2013)


~Eye-of-Round Roast = Back-to-School Sandwiches~

6a0120a8551282970b01b7c7ca358f970bAlert -- There is a show-off in the lunch room!

MMUqTrhJ3-P5UJ9tc8Nm21AWhen I was a kid, everyone went back to school the day after Labor Day.  We all carried a 'signature' metal lunch box with a matching Thermos inside of it -- mine was a Barbie lunch box.  My brother's was a G.I. Joe lunchbox. These lunch boxes took a lickin' and kept on tickin', and ones choice of a lunch box could 'make or break' that entire year of school.  Barbie was always a good choice -- who didn't love Barbie?  She was a perfect.  Great memories from a kinder, gentler time. Cafeterias in schools hadn't been invented yet.  Sigh. 

Even though my children are all adults and on their own now, when Labor Day rolls around I find myself returning to some of the back-to-school routines of their youth -- getting up at 6:00 AM to make breakfast is not one of them.  However, on Sunday afternoons, one of my habits was, and still is, to roast an eye-of-beef, and/or a turkey breast for the upcoming week's lunchbox sandwiches.  It wasn't until these three kids became teenagers and college students (with more refined palates) that any appreciation was shown for this motherly 'labor of love'. 

LunchablesDuring the elementary school years I was just a 'mean mom' who refused to buy those horrible Oscar Mayer 'Lunchables'.  C'mon, all you have to do is look at them to KNOW you can do better than this for your children!  Sorry Oscar Mayer, even though I'd love a ride in the Weinermobile, I wouldn't love an Oscar Mayer weiner. For my $$$'s, Charlie, the Starkist tuna, and Peter Pan, the peanut butter fairy, wins out over your bologna any day.

IMG_1961So, when I found myself roasting an 'eye-of-round' this afternoon for deli-style sandwiches this week, I decided to blog about it.  Why?  On this very day, there's got to be a lot of parents experiencing the same back-to-school machinations and frenzy that I recall (but do not miss). Allow me to recommend these nifty bento-style lunchboxes made by

IMG_1969I own 24 of them.  I use them to deliver meals to Joe's mom and occasionally my parents.  They are BPA-free, stack efficiently in the refrigerator, and, because they are color-coded, I leave an index card on their countertops saying what is inside each color's top.  They make thermal carriers for the bento boxes too.  They come in eight colors and each carrier holds up to three lunchboxes, so they are perfect for picnics and tailgates too.

It's time to talk about beef eye-of-round roast:  

IMG_2027Usually under-appreciated and often misunderstood, it's a great value & perfect for deli-style lunchbox sandwiches.

IMG_1981A bit about eye of round:  The eye of round is a circular, log-shaped piece of meat cut from the beef primal of a beef hind quarter.  A "round" itself is made up of three different "cuts", all of which you can buy at the grocery store:  bottom round, top round and eye of round.  Of the three cuts, the eye of round is the most tender, but even at that, it is very lean, and, if overcooked, extremely tough.  When it is cut into steaks, they are called "round steaks" or "eye round steaks". They are dry, tough, chewy and not pleasant when grilled, broiled or pan-fried.

IMG_1973Too many people waste too much time trying to coax this lean, tough, economically-priced-for-good-reason cut of beef into doing something that it is not "cut out" to do:  be fall-apart, "pot roast kind of tender" and full of flavor.  I am here to tell you, marinating it will not tenderize it, braising or slow cooking it to "pot roast kind of tender" will not only NOT improve its flavor, it will render it flavorless, and, roasting it past rare or medium-rare will produce a product suitable for boot-making.   People who claim to making a great pot roast out of this cut of beef have never tasted it side by side a pot roast made with a fat-marbled rump or chuck roast.

So what am I doing with an eye-of-round roast?  As little as possible!

IMG_1985Start with:

1  7 1/2-8 pound beef-eye-of round roast

freshly ground sea salt and pepper corn blend

Note:  I always purchase the entire roast.  Halves or thirds are available, but, the smaller size reduces the amount of rare- medium-rare deli-meat you will get.

IMG_1989~ Step 1.  Remove the roast from its packaging, rinse it under cold water and pat it dry in some paper towels.

~ Step 2.  Place the roast on a rack in a large roasting pan, and season the top liberally with freshly ground sea salt and peppercorn blend.

Note:  I use and reuse a 20" x 12" x 4" disposable roasting pan.

IMG_2000~ Step 3.  Roast on center rack of preheated 350 degree oven for exactly 1 1/2 hours.  No more or no less.  Remove from oven.

~ Step 4.  Allow to cool, in pan, 1-4 hours, prior to slicing as thinly as possible and serving warm or at room temperature, or, refrigerating overnight, slicing, and serving  cold. There is no comparison between homemade deli and store-bought...

... & we're not quite done yet!  Two tips from Mel:

IMG_2014~ Tip #1.  The drippings in the bottom of the pan make a great au jus if serving the sandwiches warm. If not, keep/store them in the refrigerator or freezer and use the next time you're making beef gravy.

IMG_2372~ Tip #2.  I bought Joe a meat slicer as a gift. He & this Chef's Choice VariTilt (Model 632) will slice an entire roast in less than 10 minutes.

IMG_2062Don't forget a dollop of the best horseradish-mayo $$$ can buy:

IMG_2124Eye-of-Round Roast = Back-to-School Sandwiches:  Recipe yields enough sliced meat to prepare 12-16 deli-style sandwiches.

Special Equipment List:  paper towels; 20" x 12" x 4" disposable aluminum roasting pan; 17 12" x 12 1/2" cooling rack; cutting board; chef's knife; electric meat slicer (optional)

IMG_2416Cook's Note:  Want to learn how to make a classic food-vendor, street-food sandwich at home?  My recipe for ~ Sweet Home Chicago:  Italian Beef Sandwiches ~ can be found in Categories 2, 10 17 or 19!  To make these tender, mouth-watering, highly-seasoned sandwiches, I use an 8 pound top sirloin roast.

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2013)