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My Recipes-of-the-Week are featured here on my Home page. You can find 2000 of my kitchen-tested recipes using the Recipes tab, watch over 125 Kitchen Encounters/WHVL-TV segments using the TV Videos tab, join the discussion about all of my creations using the Facebook tab, or Email your questions and comments directly to me--none go unanswered. "We are all in this food world together." ~Melanie

11/18/2020

~ My Shredded Hash-Brown Potato-Pancake Waffles ~

IMG_7304I accidentally put a bag of shredded hash brown potatoes in the refrigerator instead of the freezer yesterday.  What can I say, I was in a hurry.  Mistakes happen.  I am so glad I decided to open the bag before discarding the to-the-touch soggy mess this morning, because there was a nice surprise inside for me: glistening-white, ready-to-use, slightly-wet, shredded potatoes -- without all the time-consuming mess of doing it from scratch.  I may will never shred fresh potatoes again.

My breakfast menu changed immediately.  Joe's sunny side up eggs with two sausage patties, stayed the same, but, his toasted English muffin turned into a side of my hash-brown waffles (which I typically only serve for special occasion breakfasts), and, all I had to do was drain the potatoes on a paper-towel-lined plate, dice a cup of onions, and get out my waffle maker.

This semi-old dog just learned a new trick:

IMG_72531  30-ounce bag frozen, shredded hash-brown potatoes, thawed several hours on the countertop or overnight in the refrigerator (8 cups shredded potatoes), then, spread out and well-drained on a paper-towel lined baking sheet for about an hour 

1 1/2  cups small-diced onion

6  tablespoons pancake and waffle mix

2 1/2 teaspoons-1 tablespoon sea salt

1  tablespoon coarse-grind black pepper

3  large eggs, lightly beaten

no-stick cooking spray, for preparing waffle iron

IMG_7255 IMG_7255 IMG_7260 IMG_7260 IMG_7260 IMG_7260~Step 1.  Place the well-drained potatoes in a large bowl.  Add the diced onions.  Using a large rubber spatula, thoroughly toss the two together. In a small ramekin, stir together the pancake mix sea salt and coarse-grind black pepper.  Add the dry pancake mixture to the potato mixture, and, use the spatula to thoroughly toss again.  Using a fork, lightly beat the eggs, then add it to the bowl and use the spatula to throughly incorporate them too.  The mixture will be thick, and, will have reduced in size by about half.  Set aside.

IMG_7280 IMG_7280 IMG_7285 IMG_7285 IMG_7285~Step 2.  Lightly-spray the grill grids of a two-slice Belgian-style waffle iron, top and bottom, with no-stick cooking spray.  Close the lid and preheat the waffle iron -- my iron has variable thrermostatic heat control, so I preheat it to medium-high.  It takes my iron 8-10 minutes to preheat. Open the lid and place 1 cup of the potato-pancake mixture in the center of each of the two grill grids.  Close the lid briefly, to partially smash the potato mixture down, about 5 seconds.  Lift the lid, then use a fork to distribute the potato mixture into the open corners.

IMG_7292 IMG_7295 IMG_7295~Step 3.  Close the lid tightly, and continue to cook the waffles until a nice golden brown, about 6 minutes.  In my waffle iron, it's 6 minutes exactly, but, I can't guarantee that in yours, so adjust the time accordingly.  Lift the lid and allow waffles to sit, with the lid open, about 1 minute, to allow the steam to escape.  Using a thin spatula and/or a fork, gently lift and transfer the waffles from the iron to a wire rack.  Repeat this process (no need to respray the grill-grids with no stick spray) with the remaining 3 waffles. If you're a perfectionist, use a pair of kitchen shears to clip the craggy edges around each waffle.  

Don't have a Belgian-style waffle iron?  No time like the present to make a small investment in potato-pancake waffle perfection.

IMG_7304My Shredded Hash Brown Potato-Pancake Waffles:  Recipe yields 5 large Belgian-style waffles.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; large rubber spatula; fork; 1-cup measure; spoon; Belgian-style waffle iron; thin spatula; wire cooling rack; kitchen sherrs (optional)

6a0120a8551282970b01a73d692750970d-800wiCook's Note: Let me be honest, if you are the family cook, making real-deal waffles in the midst of getting everyone in your household out the door for school and/or work on time, to say the least, requires a degree in time-management.  Toasting some bread, scrambling or frying some eggs, and, even whisking up a few pancakes is child's play compared to making any type of waffles. For years, I saved waffle making for very special occasion breakfasts.  Try my recipe for ~ Teresa's Easy-to-Make Overnight Belgian Waffles ~.

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2020)

11/15/2020

~ Crock of Baked Applesauce, Walnut & Herbed Brie ~

IMG_7405Small but mighty, and, falling into the category of somewhere-in-between-a-dip-and-a-spread, this easy-to-make appetizer is appropriate to serve at, or make-and-take to, any holiday gathering -- it's sublime.  It's also a great recipe to keep in your back pocket in case you find yourself in need of a last-minute appetizer.  There's more.  If you're not a fan of cranberry sauce, it's great made with whole-berry cranberry sauce instead.  While it can be prepared in a small shallow bowl, it's particularly pretty baked and served in a small crock -- presentation is, after all, everything. There's even more.  It can be assembled, refrigerated overnight, and baked the next day.

Three ingredients + twenty minutes = one sublime appetizer.

IMG_73571  8-ounce wheel herbed-triple creme brie

1  cup chunky-style applesauce

1/2  cup coarse-chopped walnuts

IMG_7363 IMG_7363 IMG_7364 IMG_7368~Step 1.  Place 6 tablespoons applesauce in bottom of a 3-4 cup crock.  While the Brie is cold, slice it in half horizontally, to form two discs.  Place bottom disc in crock atop the sauce.

IMG_7371 IMG_7371 IMG_7371 IMG_7371 IMG_7371~Step 2. Spoon and spread 6 more tablespoons applesauce atop the disc of brie in the crock, then scatter 6 tablespoons walnuts evenly over all.  Place the second disc (the top of the Brie) on top.  Don't press down. Spoon 6 more tablespoons of applesauce on top, leaving a nice edge around the perimeter of the cheese, followed by a scattering of 1-2 tablespoons walnuts atop the sauce, again, leaving a nice edge around the perimeter of cheese.

IMG_7382Step 3.  Once assembled, Brie can be covered and refrigerated several hours to overnight.  In either case, when the Brie has been out of the refrigerator for a total of about 30 minutes, bake, uncovered on center rack of preheated 350° oven until cheese is softened, 8-10 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to rest 8-10 minutes prior to serving somewhat hot, warm or at room temperature with your favorite (Club or Ritz) crackers.

Going into the oven to bake for 8-10 minutes:

IMG_7393Coming out of the oven to cool for 8-10 minutes:

IMG_7396Crock of Baked Applesauce, Walnut & Herbed Brie:  Recipe yields 4-6 servings.

Special Equipment List:  3-4 cup-sized oven-safe crock; chef's knife; cutting board

6a0120a8551282970b026bdea6d319200cCook's Note: While these are perfect for any Turkey-Day feast, when made with applesauce instead of cranberry sauce, they're great any time of the year.  I've been know to serve them on occasion as a warm-up to one of my winner-winner roasted chicken Sunday dinners.  As for the recipe, there really isn't one -- I came home with it "in my head" after enjoying a few at a Christmas cookie-exchange brunch-party a few year ago.  Try my ~ Gobble Gobble -- Turkey-Day Cranberry & Brie Bites ~.

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2020)

11/13/2020

~ Crock of Baked Cranberry, Walnut and Herbed Brie ~

IMG_7250Small but mighty, and, falling into the category of somewhere-in-between-a-dip-and-a-spread, this easy-to-make appetizer is appropriate to serve at, or make-and-take to, any holiday gathering -- it's sublime.  It's also a great recipe to keep in your back pocket in case you find yourself in need of a last-minute appetizer.  There's more.  If you're not a fan of cranberry sauce, it's great made with chunky-style applesauce instead.  While it can be prepared in a small shallow bowl, it's particularly pretty baked and served in a small crock -- presentation is, after all, everything. There's even more.  It can be assembled, refrigerated overnight, and baked the next day.

Three ingredients + twenty minutes = One sublime appetizer:

IMG_71531  8-ounce wheel herbed-triple creme brie

1  cup whole berry cranberry sauce

1/2  cup coarse-chopped walnuts

IMG_7154 IMG_7154 IMG_7154 IMG_7166~Step 1.  Place 6 tablespoons cranberry sauce in bottom of a 3-4 cup crock.  While the Brie is cold, slice it in half horizontally, to form two discs.  Place bottom disc in crock atop the sauce.  

IMG_7168 IMG_7168 IMG_7168 IMG_7186 IMG_7186~Step 2. Spoon and spread 6 more tablespoons cranberry sauce atop the disc of brie in the crock, then scatter 6 tablespoons walnuts evenly over all.  Place the second disc (the top of the Brie) on top.  Don't press down. Spoon 6 more tablespoons of cranberry sauce on top, leaving a nice edge around the perimeter of the cheese, followed by a scattering of 1-2 tablespoons walnuts atop the sauce, again, leaving a nice edge around the perimeter of cheese.

IMG_7187 IMG_7215Step 3.  Once assembled, Brie can be covered and refrigerated several hours to overnight.  In either case, when the Brie has been out of the refrigerator for a total of about 30 minutes, bake, uncovered on center rack of preheated 350° oven until cheese is softened, 8-10 minutes.  Remove from oven and allow to rest 8-10 minutes prior to serving somewhat hot, warm or at room temperature with your favorite (Club or Ritz) crackers. 

Going into the oven to bake for 8-10 minutes:

IMG_7192Coming out of the oven to cool for 8-10 minutes:

IMG_7221Crock of Baked Cranberry, Walnut and Herbed Brie:  Recipe yields 4-6 servings.

Special Equipment List:  3-4 cup-sized oven-safe crock; chef's knife; cutting board

IMG_7117Cook's Note: While these are perfect for any Turkey-Day feast, they're great almost any time of the year.  I've been know to serve them on occasion as a warm-up to one of my winner-winner roasted chicken Sunday dinners.  As for the recipe, there really isn't one so-to-speak -- I came home with it "in my head" (as it was told to me) after enjoying a few at a mid-morning Christmas cookie-exchange brunch-party a few year ago.  Try my ~ Gobble Gobble -- Turkey-Day Cranberry & Brie Bites ~.

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2020)

11/10/2020

~Gobble Gobble -- Turkey-Day Cranberry & Brie Bites~

IMG_7128 2While these easy-to-make appetizers are perfect for any large-or-small fancy-or-relaxed Turkey-Day feast, they're great almost any time of the year.  I've been know to serve them on occasion as a warm-up to one of my winner-winner roasted chicken Sunday dinners.  As for the recipe, there really isn't one so-to-speak -- I came home with it "in my head" (as it was told to me) after enjoying a few at a mid-morning Christmas cookie-exchange brunch-party a few year ago.

Perfect for our just-the-two-of-us Turkey Day feast this year:

IMG_7117And, just four easy-to-gather-together ingredients too: 

IMG_70412  tablespoons all-purpose bench flour, for dusting pastry board

1  8-ounce canister Pillsbury crescent rolls

8  ounces triple-creme Brie

1  cup whole-berry cranberry sauce

24 tiny, fresh rosemary sprigs, for garnish

no-stick cooking spray, for preparing mini-muffin pans 

IMG_7048 IMG_7048 IMG_7048~ Step 1.  Spray the inside cups of a mini-muffin pan or two pans (enough for 24 appetizers) with no-stick cooking spray.  Ready a pastry board, a small rolling pin, spatula and tart tamper (if you have one).  Spread a bit (1 1/2-2 tablespoons) bench flour on a pastry board, just enough to give the board a thin dusting.

IMG_7054 IMG_7054 IMG_7054 IMG_7054 IMG_7054 IMG_7054~Step 2.  Open the canister of rolls.  Carefully roll dough out on the prepared board to form a rectangle.  Using your fingertips, pinch the seams together, then, using a light touch, use a mini-rolling pin to even out the surface.  Slice dough into 24 even-sized squares, about 1 1/2" x 1 1/2" each.  Gently lift each dough square up and tuck it into a muffin cup.  Using a small tart tamper, push the dough down to form a flat bottom.

IMG_7072 IMG_7072 IMG_7080 IMG_7080 IMG_7080~Step 3.  While the Brie is very cold, slice the brie, as evenly as you can, into 48 small 1/2"-sized cubes.  Place two cubes of cheese in each crescent-dough-lined muffin cup.  Top each appetizer with 1 generous teaspoon cranberry sauce, doing your best to make sure to get 1-2-3 whole berries incorporated into each cup.  Just do your best.  

IMG_7097 IMG_7097 IMG_7097 IMG_7097 IMG_7097 IMG_7107~Step 4.  Bake on center rack uf preheated 355° oven until crescent dough is light-golden and cheese is melted, about 12-14 minutes.  Remove from oven and place pans on a wire rack to cool 6-8 minutes.  With the aid of a sharp-tipped paring knife, gently lift each appetizer up and out of the muffing tin. Garnish each appetizer with a tiny sprig of fresh rosemary.  Serve warm or at room temperature (they hold up well for 4-6 hours).

Simple, straightforward, &, most importantly, super-special.

IMG_7133Absolutely easy, yet elegant & extraordinary too:

IMG_7142Gobble Gobble -- Turkey-Day Cranberry & Brie Bites:  Recipe yields 2 dozen appetizers/8 servings @ 3 per person/12 servings @ 2 per person.

Special Equipment List:  pastry board; mini-rolling pin; chef's knife; small spatula; 1-2 mini-muffing pans, enough for 24 appetizers; tart tamper; wire cooling rack; sharp-tipped paring knife

IMG_6937Cook's Note: Is there anyone who doesn't love to be invited to someone's home for breakfast or brunch? There's just something light-hearted, laid-back and downright bushy-tailed about sharing the first meal and few hours of the day in the company of family and friends.  The best way I can describe the experience is:  it's like waking up in the morning to find out it snowed and they cancelled school.  Everyone "gets into the spirit of it" -- and, it doesn't have to be fancy-schmancy either.  Try my ~ Fresh Strawberry, Brie & Biscuit Breakfast Crostini ~.

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2020)

11/08/2020

~ Fresh Strawberry, Brie & Biscuit Breakfast Crostini ~

IMG_6937Is there anyone who doesn't love to be invited to someone's home for breakfast or brunch? There's just something light-hearted, laid-back and downright bushy-tailed about sharing the first meal and few hours of the day in the company of family and friends.  The best way I can describe the experience is:  it's like waking up in the morning to find out it snowed and they cancelled school.  Everyone "gets into the spirit of it" -- and, it doesn't have to be fancy-schmancy either.

That said, if you've ever invited people to your home for breakfast or brunch, you know that when your guests walk through the front door, having some fruit juice and/or fruit-juice-based cocktails, along with a nosh or two, ready and waiting to greet them, is: hospitably essential -- something they can immediately sip on and nibble upon to break the fast.  My quick-to-make biscuit crostini, made with canisters of store-bought biscuits topped with triple-creme brie, fresh strawberries and a drizzle of fruity balsamic vinegar glaze are easy, elegant and appreciated by all concerned.

Absolutely easy, yet elegant & extraordinary too:

IMG_6904Simple, straightforward, &, most importantly, super-special.

IMG_68451  7 1/2-ounce canister regular-sized refrigerated buttermilk biscuits, 10 biscuits

8  ounces triple-creme Brie

10  perfectly-ripe and juicy, medium-sized strawberries

about 2 total tablespoons Blaze fruity strawberry- or fig-infused balsamic vinegar glaze

IMG_6867 IMG_6852 IMG_6849~ Step 1.  While the Brie is very cold, slice it into long 1/4"-thick strips, then, cut the strips into 20, 1 1/2" x 1 1/2" squares -- two squares per crostini.  Set aside.  Cut the tops off the strawberries and cut each berry into 5 even-sized slices.  Set aside.  Line a 12 1/2" x 8 3/4" baking pan with parchment paper.  Set aside.

IMG_6854 IMG_6854 IMG_6870 IMG_6870~Step 2.  Open the canister of biscuits and arrange them on the prepared pan.  Bake on center rack of preheated 375° oven, 9-10 minutes, until lightly browned.  Remove from oven and set aside to cool-slightly, 4-5 minutes.  Reduce oven temperature to 275°.  Using a serrated knife, slice/shave a scant portion of the top off each biscuit, leaving a substantial base for each crostini.

IMG_6874 IMG_6874 IMG_6874~ Step 3.  Top each biscuit with two pieces of cheese stacked atop each other. Return biscuits to center rack of 275º oven just long enough for the Brie to begin to melt, about 2 minutes (more or less).  Remove from oven.  While the cheese is still warm, soft and melty, arrange one sliced strawberry atop each crostini.

Arrange crostini on a serving board or platter:

IMG_6894Drizzle w/glaze & serve warm or at room temperature:

IMG_6898Piled-high w/hearty ooey-gooey fruity wonderfulness:

IMG_6926Fresh Strawberry, Brie & Biscuit Breakfast Crostini:  Recipe yields ten superb appetizers/4-6 servings @ 2-3 per person.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; 12 1/2" x 8 3/4" baking pan; parchment paper; serrated bread knife

6a0120a8551282970b017d412926ec970c-800wiCook's Note: The family cook realizes the time, energy and organization required to produce even a simple family meal.  On those special occasions or holidays, when the fare must be increased to include a dozen or more added guests, one can only wonder how a professional chef or a restaurant manages to produce quality meals many, and more than once a day. ~ Culinary Rule #1:  Mice-en-place --  Put Everything in its Place ~.

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2020)

11/06/2020

~Quicker than Typical Triple-Lemon Lemon Loaf Cake~

IMG_6836Ina Garten, host of The Food Network show Barefoot Contessa, has long been one of my favorite TV cooks and cookbook authors.  Her low-key, soft-spoken on-camera persona makes her easy to listen to.  In keeping with that, her published recipes are, in turn, well-written, easy-to-follow, and, approachable, meaning:  for the most part, there's no need to scurry to the store or conduct any on-line searches for hard-to-find ingredients.  Shortly after watching her make lemon loaf cakes on a picnic-themed episode, I decided to make her cakes, and, I served them for dessert at my own outdoor get-together -- as the base cake for our homegrown-strawberry shortcakes.

Ina's delightful cakes transitioned into my delightful cakes.

IMG_6805Ina's lemon cakes were delightful -- the perfect compliment to our just-picked strawberries.  Later that same Summer, Joe came home from running errands with a big box of beautiful California strawberries -- they were plump, juicy, full-of-flavor and perfectly ripe.  Had he called me from the store, I'd have told him to pick up eight lemons (that's how many lemons you need to make the cakes), but, twenty years ago, our cell phones had not been surgically attached to our bodies yet.

I decided to risk baking the cakes using a few lemony substitutions I had on hand:  Organic not-from-concentrate lemon juice (in place of fresh-squeezed juice), McCormick dehydrated lemon peel (in place of the fresh zest), and, for good measure, a teaspoon of organic lemon extract. Long story short:  My substitutions saved me a bunch of time (no juicing or zesting), and, my lemon cakes were delightful -- the perfect compliment to our store-bought strawberries.    

My quicker-than-using-fresh-lemons lemon cake:

IMG_6702For the wet ingredients:

8  ounces salted butter, at room temperature, very soft, + 1 additional tablespoon soft salted butter for greasing loaf pans

4  extra-large eggs, at room temperature

3  tablespoons dehydrated lemon peel

2 1/2  cups granulated sugar, divided (2 cups for the cake batter, 1/2 cup for the syrup)

3/4  cup high-quality not-from-concentrate, organic lemon juice, divided (1/4 cup for stirring into the buttermilk, 1/2 cup for preparing the syrup)

3/4  buttermilk, at room temperature

1  teaspoon pure lemon extract

2  teaspoons pure vanilla extract

For the dry ingredients:

3  cups unbleached, all-purpose flour, + 3-4 additional tablespoons for flouring loaf pans

3/4  teaspoon baking powder

3/4  teaspoon baking soda

1  teaspoon sea salt

IMG_6788For the drizzly lemon glaze:

1 1/2  cups Confectioners' sugar

1  teaspoon each: pure lemon and pure vanilla extract

2  tablespoons high-quality not-from-concentrate, lemon juice

IMG_6796~ Step 1. Stir all ingredients together in a 2-cup bowl, then transfer to a plastic condiment-type squeeze bottle.  Set aside.

IMG_6689 IMG_6689 IMG_6689~ Step 2.  Butter 2, 8 1/2" x 4 1/4" x 2 1/2" glass loaf pans.  Dust the inside of each loaf pan with flour and shake it clear of any excess.  Set aside.  Preheat oven to 325°.  Note:  If using metal loaf pans, preheat oven to 350°.  

IMG_6696 IMG_6696 IMG_6696 IMG_6696 IMG_6696~Step 3.  In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  Set aside.  Place 3/4 cup buttermilk in a 1-cup measuring container.  Stir 1/4 cup of the lemon juice, plus the lemon and vanilla extracts, into the buttermilk.  Set aside.  The remaining 1/2 cup lemon juice will be used to make a syrupy drizzle for the tops of finished cakes.  

IMG_6714 IMG_6714 IMG_6714 IMG_6714 IMG_6714 IMG_6714~Step 4.  Place the very soft butter, four eggs, lemon peel and 2-cups of the sugar in a large bowl.  On high-speed of hand-held electric mixer, cream the three together until light and fluffy, about 3 full minutes.  Lower mixer speed and gradually (in 2-3 increments) beat in the dry ingredients alternately with the 1-cup of buttermilk/lemon juice mixture, scraping down the sides of the bowl with a large rubber spatula the entire time.

IMG_6738 IMG_6738 IMG_6738 IMG_6738 IMG_6738~Step 5.  Divide the cake batter evenly between the two prepared loaf pans -- a kitchen scale is the best tool to make sure this division is precise.  Give each loaf pan a few vigorous back-and-forth shakes across the work surface (the countertop), to flatten-out the tops.  Bake both cakes on center rack of preheated 325º oven, 50-55 minutes, or until a cake tested inserted in several spots comes out clean.  Remove cakes from oven and place on a wire rack to cool, in the loaf pans, for 10-12 minutes.  Invert cakes from pans onto a wire rack that has been placed in a 12 1/2" x 8 3/4" baking pan that has been lined with parchment.  Cool the cakes, on the wire rack for 10-12 additional minutes, but, NOT to room temperature just yet.  Read on:

IMG_6747 IMG_6747 IMG_6747 IMG_6747~Step 6.  When the cakes go into oven to bake,  prepare the syrup.  In a 1-quart saucepan, stir together the remaining 1/2 cup sugar and 1/2 cup lemon juice.  Bring to a simmer over low heat, stirring constantly.  Simmer every-so-gently for about 1 minute, to dissolve the sugar.  Remove from heat and set aside to cool until the cakes emerge from the oven.  Once the cakes are out of the oven, if you have a squeeze-type condiment-container, transfer the still-warm syrup to it.

IMG_6775 IMG_6775 IMG_6775~ Step 7.  Using a toothpick, poke about 40, 1/2"-deep holes in the top surface of each still-warm cake.  Slowly, in four-five increments, waiting about five minutes in between every addition, drizzle the sill-warm sugary lemon-syrup evenly over the surface of both cakes, to allow time for the syrup to soak into the cake after each addition.  Allow cakes to cool completely, 1-2 hours.  Drizzle with glaze.

Completely cooled cakes placed on a rack on a pan...

IMG_6799... drizzled w/a very lemony glaze.  Pucker up:

IMG_6801Quicker than Typical Triple-Lemon Lemon Loaf Cake:  Recipe yields, 2, 8" x 4" x 3" loaf shaped cakes/8-10 slices each.

Special Equipment List: 8 1/2" x 4 1/4" x 2 1/2" loaf pans, preferably glass; 2, 1-cup measuring containers; hand-held electric mixer; large rubber spatula; kitchen scale; cake tester or a toothpick; 1-quart saucepan; wire cooling rack; 12 1/2" x 8 3/4" baking pan; parchment paper; condiment-type squeeze bottle; toothpick; 2-cup measuring container; spoon; plastic wrap; plastic squeeze bottle (optional); serrated bread knife  

6a0120a8551282970b019aff2020b1970cCook's Note: Nothing is quite as ethereal as a freshly-baked loaf of bread, quick bread or pound cake. The recipe says to bake it in a loaf pan and you don't have one.  You drive to the nearest cooking store to find out you must choose between several manufacturers and price ranges, different materials ranging from clear glass and ceramic to shiny, gray or black metal -- each kind in a variety of sizes too. Decisions like this cause people to lose sleep. Today, I'm going to attempt to take the angst out of purchasing a loaf pan for you. ~ The Low-Down on Loaf Pans: What Size and Kind? ~.

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2020)

11/03/2020

~A Big Batch of Bean Soup -- Eat Some Freeze Some~

IMG_8591In my kitchen, cold weather is soup and stew weather, and, once the frost is on the pumpkin I like to make my soups and stews in slow-simmered big batches.  After we've enjoyed one hearty warm-us-up meal, I freeze the rest in two-quart containers, so we can slurp soups and stews several more times until Spring comes.  Chicken vegetable soup, beef stew, and, ham and bean soup are my on my family's short-list of big-batch favorites. For the most part, when making soup or stew, "chicken is chicken" and "beef is beef", meaning:  they're almost self-explanatory. That said, when making a soup or stew that requires ham, I always choose to use the boney, more-flavorful smoked shanks or hocks over a meatier chunk or a few slices of smoked ham.

IMG_6608Time to define & discuss smoked ham shanks & ham hocks.

6a0120a8551282970b0263e973fbeb200bA bit about ham shanks and ham hocks:  Bony cuts of fatty meat taken from the legs and near the feet of the pig, with the shanks being the meatier of the two.

- Ham Shank

- Ham Hock

The shank refers to a fairly meaty part just below the pork shoulder (if it is the front of the hog) or the hip (if it's from the back of the hog).  The hock refers to a much bonier cut taken from just above the feet.  Both have a thick, tough skin (which is left on) and contain a lot of tendons, ligaments and fat.  They contain a lot of collagen too, which adds silkiness to whatever they are cooked in.  All of this means they require a long, slow, moist-heat method of cooking, like stewing or braising, to make them edible.  Unlike ham, neither contain enough meat to be the focal point of dinner. Instead, after cooking, the skin is discarded, the meat is removed from the bone, chopped or shredded, then added to dishes like hearty soups and thick stews.

To make a big batch of old-fashioned bean soup:

IMG_66156  quarts cold water

3  40-ounce cans great northern beans, undrained

3  15 1/2-ounce cans cannelloni beans, undrained

4  smoked ham shanks (about 1-1 1/4 pounds each)

6  cups peeled and diced carrots

5  cups diced celery 

5  cups diced onion 

8  cups peeled and diced gold potatoes

3  tablespoons dried parsley flakes

6  whole bay leaves

1  tablespoon garlic powder

5  tablespoons sea salt

1  tablespoon coarse-grind black pepper

IMG_6619 IMG_6619 IMG_6619 IMG_6619 IMG_6619 IMG_6619 IMG_6619 IMG_6619 IMG_6619~Step 1.  Place 6 quarts cold water in a very large, 20-24-quart, stockpot. Add the undrained beans and ham shanks.  Prep and add the carrots, celery, onions and potatoes to the pot as you work.  Add all of the seasonings:  parsley flakes, bay leaves, garlic powder, sea salt and pepper.  Bring to a boil over high heat. Adjust heat to a gentle, steady simmer, and continue to cook, uncovered, for 2-2 1/2 hours, stopping to give the soup a stir about every 15 minutes. Turn the heat off, cover the pot, and allow soup to steep for 2-2 1/2 hours.

IMG_6654 IMG_6654 IMG_6654 IMG_6654 IMG_6654 IMG_6654 IMG_6678 IMG_6678~Step 2.  Using a large slotted spoon, remove the shanks from the pot and place them in a 13" x 9" x 2" casserole.  Remove and discard the skin from the shanks, then, remove meat from the bone -- both are easy to do.  Using two forks, shred the meat into small pieces.  Return the meat to the stockpot.  Over medium heat, return the bean soup to a simmer and reheat.  Remove from heat and serve some immediately, and/or portion into freezer-safe food storage containers.

Simple, Straightforward & Scrumptious Bean Soup:

IMG_8596A Big Batch of Bean Soup -- Eat Some, Freeze Some:  Recipe yields 18 quarts.

Special Equipment List: cutting board; chef's knife; 20-24 quart stockpot, preferably stainless steel; 1-quart measuring container; long-handled slotted spatula; 13" x 9" x 2" casserole; two forks vegetable peeler; long-handled slotted spoon; soup ladle 

IMG_8585Cook's Note: My Big Batch Bean Soup recipe in a spin-off of American's most famous bean soup recipe.  Bean soup is on the menu in all of the Senate's restaurant dining rooms every day and has been for over a hundred years, possibly longer -- it's an official mandate.  To learn more about the history, read my post: ~ State of the Union: Famous US Senate Bean Soup ~.

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2020)

10/31/2020

~Stirring the Pot: Smoked Ham Shanks & Ham Hocks~

IMG_6608In my kitchen, cold weather is soup and stew weather, and, once the frost is on the pumpkin I like to make my soups and stews in slow-simmered big batches.  After we've enjoyed one hearty warm-us-up meal, I freeze the rest in two-quart containers, so we can slurp soups and stews several more times until Spring comes.  Chicken vegetable soup, beef stew, and, ham and bean soup are my on my family's short-list of favorites.  For the most part, when making soup or stew, "chicken is chicken" and "beef is beef", meaning:  they're almost self-explanatory.  That said, when making soups or stews that requires ham, I'll choose to use the boney, more-flavorful smoked shanks or hocks over a meatier chunk or a few slices of smoked ham every time.   

Time to define & discuss smoked ham shanks & ham hocks.

6a0120a8551282970b01a5117ecf09970cA bit about ham shanks and ham hocks:  Bony cuts of fatty meat taken from the legs and near the feet of the pig, with the shanks being the meatier of the two.

- Ham Shank

- Ham Hock

Smoked ham shanks & ham hocks can be used interchangeably.

6a0120a8551282970b01b7c873a443970bThe shank refers to a fairly meaty part just below the pork shoulder (if it is the front of the hog) or the hip (if it's from the back of the hog).  The hock refers to a much bonier cut taken from just above the feet.  Both have a thick, tough skin (which is left on) and contain a lot of tendons, ligaments and fat.  They contain a lot of collagen too, which adds silkiness to whatever they are cooked in.  All of this means they require a long, slow, moist-heat 6a0120a8551282970b01b8d1fd6cd2970cmethod of cooking, like stewing or braising, to make them edible.  They are primarily added to dishes to impart smoky flavor, not substance.

Unlike ham, neither contain enough meat to be the focal point of dinner. Instead, after cooking, the skin is discarded, the meat is removed from the bone and is added to hearty dishes like soups and stews containing beans or peas, greens, 6a0120a8551282970b01bb091713b3970dand/or potatoes or rice.  

Hocks and shanks sold in American markets are almost always cured and smoked in the same manner as ham, but, the degree to which they are smoked does vary.  I've never encountered any that have been over-smoked, but, if you do, soak them in cold water for an hour or two to leach out some of the overly-smokey intensity. They're both relatively cheap, but, I prefer the slightly more expensive, meatier ham shank to the bonier ham hock.  When I find them on sale, I always buy several because:  they freeze great.

While this post is about smoked ham shanks and hocks, if you do come across unsmoked ones, pick up a few of those too.  While smoked ham shanks and hocks are preferred when preparing soups and stews, unsmoked ham shanks and hocks are perfect for stovetop, or stovetop/oven braising.  Cook the unsmoked ones in the same manner you'd cook beef, lamb or veal shanks. Served atop a bed of creamy, roasted-garlic mashed potatoes alongside a scoop of buttery green beans, fork-tender unsmoked shanks or hocks make for a luscious Wintertime dinner.

IMG_6525"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2020)

10/28/2020

~ Defining the Differences between Soups and Stews ~

IMG_6458When I pull out my big, 20-24-quart stockpots, it's officially Fall.  Why?  When it's chilly outside, it's time to cook up a storm inside.  Why?  When one lives in the Northeast, it's a wise cook who has a freezer containing some thaw-heat-and-eat meals for those snowy days when a quick trip to the grocery store is not in the forecast.  Yes indeed, when the frost is on the pumpkin, I don't mind spending an afternoon at the stovetop preparing one of the two favorite things I cook in big batches (for "freezer meals"): a stockpot full of luscious, heartwarming, soup or stew.

What exactly is the difference between a soup or a stew?

Soup:  If you've simmered meat, poultry, seafood and/or vegetables in a pot of seasoned water-, wine-, juice- or milk- based liquid, you've made soup.  Soups can be thin, chunky, smooth, or, if you've thickened it in some manner after the fact (by adding potatoes, rice, beans, vegetables, or, used a mixture of cream or water mixed with cornstarch, flour or eggs), thick, meaning: having a stew-like consistency.  Soups in general (there are exceptions) tend to be refined and light tasting, using shreds of meat and/or small diced ingredients, or, pureed to a thin or thick, smooth consistency.  In many cases they can be prepared in less than 1-1 1/2 hours, and sometimes, as little as 15-30 minutes.  Soups can be served as an appetizer, side-dish, main course or dessert, but, are always, without exception, served in a bowl and eaten with a spoon.  

Stew:  If you've cooked/sautéed your meat, poultry, seafood and/or vegetables in a small amount of seasoned oil, butter or fat, then added just enough of flour and liquid or thickened liquid to it to bring it to an almost gravy-like consistency, you've made a stew.  Stews tend to be full of chunky ingredients and full of bold herb and/or spice flavors.  Stews are hearty and filling and are almost always served as the main course.  Stews, because they require a longer, slower cooking time than a soup, sometimes 3-4 hours or longer, often in a tightly-covered vessel, are great for tenderizing tough cuts of meat.  Stews, while usually served in a bowl, can be spooned over a starch (couscous, rice, potatoes, egg noodles, etc.) and turned into a knife and fork meal.

IMG_6525"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos Courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2020)

10/25/2020

~ Tips for Big Batch Eat-Some Freeze-Some Cooking ~

IMG_6458If you've ever envisioned yourself being a restaurant chef, be careful what you wish for:  the pots are big, the load is heavy.  There's more.  As a home cook, in terms of slicing, dicing, chopping and mincing, you won't have any line cooks to perform those menial tasks for you.  Don't get me wrong (I'm not trying to talk you out of this), big batch cooking isn't necessarily hard, but, more-often than not, it is time consuming -- in many instances, it's prudent to do the majority of the prep work on one day and the actual cooking the next, so, be sure to schedule enough time.  Past that, it's also necessary to invest in some big-batch restaurant-sized equipment.  When armed with the right recipe, the right mindset, and the right equipment, the big batch reward is great.  That said, preparing a big batch of almost anything is different from regular cooking.  Read on:  

Doubling or tripling solid or liquid ingredients measured in weight or volume is the easy part -- simply get out your calculator and "do the math".  Fats used to coat the bottom of a pot or pan will increase just enough to coat the bottom of a bigger pot or pan.  Wine or alcohol used to deglaze a pot or a pan, will increase slightly, by about one-quarter, meaning:  1 cup wine is now 1 1/4 cups wine.  All that said, more-often-than-not, when converting a regular recipe to a big batch, adjustments to the seasonings need to be made, meaning: unless you are following a recipe that is specifically written for a big batch (like my recipes are), start by adding slightly less than the math calculations suggest (example: if doubling a recipe, instead of jumping from the called for 1 teaspoon salt directly to 2 teaspoons salt, start by adding 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, and, if tripling a recipe, instead of jumping from the called for 1 teaspoon salt to 3 teaspoons salt, add 2 teaspoons -- it's a not-overly-seasoned, but, adequately-seasoned starting point).  After that, taste, as soon as you can and as often as you can along the way.  You can always add more spices, you can't remove them.  In terms of time and temperature when doubling or tripling a recipe, while the temperature will remain the same, the timing will not -- more food will take slightly longer to cook (up to one-third longer, meaning: expect 3-6 minutes to turn into 4-8 minutes, etc.).  Record ALL of your results and you'll never have to do it again.

To cut down on mishaps that can cause a voluminous, sometimes expensive, list of ingredients from going to waste, as mentioned above, it's super-important to invest in the proper large-capacity equipment.  Why?  A pot or pan that is even slightly too small will cause a boil over, a spoon or spatula without a long enough handle can cause a serious burn to the skin, and, while your trying to clean up the hot mess or dress the wound, the food can overcook, scorch or burn. In all seriousness, if you don't have access to the equipment, don't undertake the task.  

IMG_6525"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copywright 2020) 

10/23/2020

~A Big Batch of Beef Stew -- Eat Some, Freeze Some~

IMG_4541When I pull out my big, 20-24-quart stockpots, it's officially Fall.  Why?  When it's chilly outside, it's time to cook up a storm inside.  Why?  When one lives in the Northeast, it's a wise cook who has a freezer containing some thaw-heat-and-eat meals for those snowy days when a quick trip to the grocery store is not in the forecast.  Yes indeed, when the frost is on the pumpkin, I don't mind spending an afternoon at the stovetop preparing one of the three carnivorous things I cook in big batches (for "freezer meals"): red-meat-based red pasta sauce, chili con carne, and, beef stew.

To sorta quote Mark Bittman (author of How to Cook Everything) "the appliance that can best save money, reduce food waste, and, get home-cooked meals on the table faster, is the freezer". 

IMG_6458Let's begin by discussing the difference between soup & stew:

Soup:  If you've simmered meat, poultry, seafood and/or vegetables in a pot of seasoned water-, wine-, juice- or milk- based liquid, you've made soup.  Soups can be thin, chunky, smooth, or, if you've thickened it in some manner after the fact (by adding potatoes, rice, beans, vegetables, or, used a mixture of cream or water mixed with cornstarch, flour or eggs), thick, meaning: having a stew-like consistency.  Soups in general (there are exceptions) tend to be refined and light tasting, using shreds of meat and/or small diced ingredients, or, pureed to a thin or thick, smooth consistency.  In many cases they can be prepared in less than 1-1 1/2 hours, and sometimes, as little as 15-30 minutes.  Soups can be served as an appetizer, side-dish, main course or dessert, but, are always, without exception, served in a bowl and eaten with a spoon.  

Stew:  If you've cooked/sautéed your meat, poultry, seafood and/or vegetables in a small amount of seasoned oil, butter or fat, then added just enough of flour and liquid or thickened liquid to it to bring it to an almost gravy-like consistency, you've made a stew.  Stews tend to be full of chunky ingredients and full of bold herb and/or spice flavors.  Stews are hearty and filling and are almost always served as the main course.  Stews, because they require a longer, slower cooking time than a soup, sometimes 3-4 hours or longer, often in a tightly-covered vessel, are great for tenderizing tough cuts of meat.  Stews, while usually served in a bowl, can be spooned over a starch (couscous, rice, potatoes, egg noodles, etc.) and turned into a knife and fork meal.

IMG_6525What to consider before beginning to cook in big batches:

If you've ever envisioned yourself being a restaurant chef, be careful what you wish for:  the pots are big, the load is heavy.  There's more.  As a home cook, in terms of slicing, dicing, chopping and mincing, you won't have any line cooks to perform those menial tasks for you.  Don't get me wrong (I'm not trying to talk you out of this), big batch cooking isn't necessarily hard, but, more-often than not, it is time consuming -- in many instances, it's prudent to do the majority of the prep work on one day and the actual cooking the next, so, be sure to schedule enough time.  Past that, it's also necessary to invest in some big-batch restaurant-sized equipment.  When armed with the right recipe, the right mindset, and the right equipment, the big batch reward is great. That said, preparing a big batch of almost anything is different from regular cooking.  Read on:  

Doubling or tripling solid or liquid ingredients measured in weight or volume is the easy part -- simply get out your calculator and "do the math".  Fats used to coat the bottom of a pot or pan will increase just enough to coat the bottom of a bigger pot or pan.  Wine or alcohol used to deglaze a pot or a pan, will increase slightly, by about one-quarter, meaning:  1 cup wine is now 1 1/4 cups wine.  All that said, more-often-than-not, when converting a regular recipe to a big batch, adjustments to the seasonings need to be made, meaning: unless you are following a recipe that is specifically written for a big batch (like my recipes are), start by adding slightly less than the math calculations suggest (example: if doubling a recipe, instead of jumping from the called for 1 teaspoon salt directly to 2 teaspoons salt, start by adding 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, and, if tripling a recipe, instead of jumping from the called for 1 teaspoon salt to 3 teaspoons salt, add 2 teaspoons -- it's a not-overly-seasoned, but, adequately-seasoned starting point).  After that, taste, as soon as you can and as often as you can along the way.  You can always add more spices, you can't remove them.  In terms of time and temperature when doubling or tripling a recipe, while the temperature will remain the same, the timing will not -- more food will take slightly longer to cook (up to one-third longer, meaning: expect 3-6 minutes to

To cut down on mishaps that can cause a voluminous, sometimes expensive, list of ingredients from going to waste, as mentioned above, it's super-important to invest in the proper large-capacity equipment.  Why?  A pot or pan that is even slightly too small will cause a boil over, a spoon or spatula without a long enough handle can cause a serious burn to the skin, and, while your trying to clean up the hot mess or dress the wound, the food can overcook, scorch or burn. In all seriousness, if you don't have access to the equipment, don't undertake the task.

To make a big batch of my old-fashioned beef stew:

IMG_6462For prepping, dredging & lightly-browning the beef:

7 1/2-8  pounds 3/4"-1"-cubed beef chuck roast or chuck steak, from 1, 9-10 pound chuck roast or 3-4 large chuck steaks

1  tablespoon sea salt

1  tablespoon coarse-grind black pepper

1  cup Wondra quick-mixing flour for sauces and gravy

8  tablespoons salted butter

4  tablespoons vegetable oil

IMG_6492For preparing the stew base:

2-2 1/2  pounds 3/4"-1" chopped yellow or sweet onion

2-2 1/2 pounds 3/4"-1" chopped white button mushroom caps

1  cup port wine

5  quarts beef stock, homemade or unsalted store-bought stock

2  12-ounce cans tomato paste

6  packets Herb-Ox granulated beef bouillon

"the seasonings", aka, 1 tablespoon each:  garlic powder, dried parsley flakes, rosemary leaves and thyme leaves, sea salt and coarse-grind black pepper, and, 6 whole bay leaves

IMG_6540For the add-in vegetables:

3-3 1/2  pounds peeled and 3/4"-1" coined carrots

1 1/2-2  pounds 1/2" sliced celery 

2  10-ounce bags finely-shredded green cabbage

6  pounds peeled and 3/4"-1" cubed gold potatoes

1/2-3/4  cup minced fresh parsley, for garnishing soup

6a0120a8551282970b0240a487968f200c 6a0120a8551282970b0240a487968f200c 6a0120a8551282970b0240a487968f200c~Step 1.  Using a large chef's knife, cube the beef as directed, discarding any large fat pockets you will find along the way.  To dredge the beef, place the flour, salt and coarse-grind black pepper in a 2-gallon food storage bag.  Toss to incorporate the salt and pepper throughout the flour.  In three batches, add the beef cubes to the seasoned flour, tossing to coat the beef cubes on all sides after each addition.

IMG_6475 IMG_6475 IMG_6475 IMG_6475 IMG_6475~Step 2.  In a 20-24-quart stockpot, over low heat, melt the butter into the oil.  Increase heat to medium-high.  Add all the dredged beef cubes. Using a long-handled slotted spatula, to keep the meat moving around, sauté until ever-so-slightly-browned and swimming in a flavorful gravy, about 12-15 minutes.  Use the slotted spatula to transfer the beef to a 13" x 9" x 2" casserole, leaving most of the flavorful brown fond in the bottom of pot.  Set beef aside.

IMG_6487 IMG_6487 IMG_6487 IMG_6487~Step 3.  Add the chopped onions and chopped mushroom caps to the stockpot.   Give them a thorough stir and continue to sauté, over medium- medium-high until onion is soft and translucent but not browned or browning, and mushrooms have lost about three-quarters of their volume and exuded almost all of their earthy flavor into the mixture, 12-15 minutes -- oh yum.

IMG_6508 IMG_6508 IMG_6508 IMG_6515 IMG_6515 IMG_6515 IMG_6515 IMG_6535~Step 4.  Add the port wine.  Using the spatula, continue to sauté, stirring and scraping the bottom and sides of the pot with spatula until all of the luscious brown fond has released itself into the mixture, 1-2 minutes. Continue to simmer another 1-2 minutes, perhaps 3.  Don't rush it. Return the beef to the pot. Add and stir in the beef stock, tomato paste, granulated bouillon and seasonings. Reduce heat to a gentle, steady simmer, and continue to simmer, uncovered, 1 hour.

IMG_6543 IMG_6543 IMG_6543 IMG_6543 IMG_6543 IMG_6543 IMG_6543~Step 5.  Increase the heat to medium-high.  Add and stir in the coined carrots, sliced celery and shredded cabbage.  When the mixture returns to a simmer, reduce heat to a gentle steady simmer and continue to simmer, uncovered, 12-15 minutes.  Use this time to peel and chop the potatoes.  Add and stir in the potatoes.  Return to a gentle-steady simmer and continue to cook, uncovered, an additional for 45-60 minutes, until carrots, celery and potatoes are all perfectly-cooked through.  Remove from heat, cover pot and allow to steep for 1-2 hours prior to serving, or, portioning into freezer-and-microwave-safe food storage containers.  Refrigerate containers of soup prior to freezing.

A perfect stew in every way -- 18 quarts of future meal goodness: 

IMG_4560A Big Batch of Beef Stew -- Eat Some, Freeze Some:  Recipe yields 18 quarts.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; 2-gallon food storage bag; 20-24 quart stockpot, preferably stainless steel; long-handled slotted spatula; 13" x 9" x 2" casserole; 1-cup measuring container; vegetable peeler; long-handled slotted spoon; soup ladle 

6a0120a8551282970b0240a4b106d2200d-800wiCook's Note:  If you take the time to compare today's recipe for big batch beef stew with my regular recipe for ~ Old-Fashioned Beef Stew with Carrots & Potatoes ~, you will notice the adjustments I made to volumes, seasonings, and, cooking times.  Experts will tell you baking is a science and cooking is not.  While true for weeknight cooking -- not true for big batches.

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2020)

10/20/2020

~ RedHot Buffalo-Style Bread-Machine Pizza Dough ~

IMG_6581Seriously?  Yes, seriously.  Thanks to two great store-bought dry seasoning blends, Frank's RedHot Original Seasoning and Frank's RedHot Ranch Seasoning, you really can season your pizza dough in true Buffalo wing style, AND, trust me when I tell you, it makes one (actually two) awesome crusts for any Buffalo-style chicken pizza, or my recipe for Buffalo-Style chicken pizza.  Who wouldn't want to add authentic, full-throttle Buffalo-flavor to the pizza dough too!

IMG_63261 1/2  cups warm water

2  tablespoons olive oil

4 1/2  cups unbleached, all-purpose flour

2  teaspoons sea salt

2  teaspoons sugar

2  tablespoons Frank's RedHotRanch seasoning blend

2  tablespoons Franks's RedHot original seasoning blend

1  packet granulated dry yeast

IMG_6329 IMG_6329 IMG_6329 IMG_6329 IMG_6329~Step 1.  To make the Buffalo-seasoned bread-machine bread loaf, in the following order, in the pan of the breach machine, place the warm water and olive oil.  Add the flour, salt and sugar, followed by the RedHot Ranch seasoning and RedHot original seasoning.  Do not stir.  Using your index finger, make a small, semi-shallow indentation on top of the dry ingredients, but not so deep as to reach the liquid below.  Add the yeast to the indentation.

IMG_6341 IMG_6341 IMG_6341 IMG_6341~Step 2.  Insert the bread pan into the bread machine.  Plug the machine in, select the "pizza dough" cycle.  Push start.  Walk away.  Do not lift the lid to check in on the kneading, rising or baking process.  Don't do it.  Fifty-five minutes later, hen machine signals it's done, open the lid.  You will have 2 pounds, 4-ounces of ready-to-use Buffalo-seasoned pizza dough.

IMG_6593 IMG_6593~ Step 3. To form the pizza dough into pizza crusts, using a paper towel, oil 2, 12" round pizza pans or 2, 12" x 9" rectangular pans with about 2 tablespoons olive oil on each pan. Place one ball of dough (1 pound each) on each pan and allow to rest, about 10-15 minutes -- to give the gluten time to relax.  Thirty minutes is ok too. Pat and press dough evenly across bottoms and evenly up sides of pans. I do this in 3 parts taking 15-20 minutes, allowing dough to rest 5 minutes each time before patting and pressing.

Proceed w/any recipe for Buffalo-Style Chicken Pizza

IMG_5966RedHot Buffalo-Style Bread-Machine Pizza Dough:  Recipe yields 2 1/4 pounds pizza dough/enough for 2, 12" round pizzas/6-8 slices each pizza.

Special Equipment List: 2-cup measuring container; bread machine; 2, 12"-round pizza pans.

IMG_6454Cook's Note:  To take this bread-machine pizza dough recipe one step further, and bake it into a loaf, choose the "white bread" (instead of "pizza dough") and let the machine bake it.  It makes great RedHot-Ranch Croutons for my RedHot Buffalo Chicken Chef Salad.

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2020)

10/18/2020

~Buffalo-Chicken Chef w/RedHot-Ranch & Croutons~

IMG_6447I fell in love with the chef salad in September of 1974.  I had just moved to Happy Valley in August, and, my first friend, a gal I worked with, invited me to lunch, at the now defunct Autoport on South Atherton Street.  "Try their turkey chef salad", Sally said.  A short few minutes later, two big rimmed-bowls arrived, and, atop the requisite lettuce, they were full of goodies: strips of turkey breast and Swiss cheese, hard-cooked egg wedges, sliced tomatoes and cucumbers, and, diced onions.  There's more.  Every salad came with a warm, mini-loaf of house-baked bread and a crock of honey butter.  For decades, every time I invited a friend to lunch, I took him or her there.

Girly pub grub?  You bet.  Meet my Buffalo-chicken chef salad:

IMG_6454In my food world, if I could conjure up the ideal, somewhat-healthy, girly pub-grub menu item, it would be a chef's-type Buffalo-style-chicken salad.  It would be served to me while sitting in my favorite sportsbar, in front of a straight-out-of-the-tap frosty brew with a college football game on the flatscreen.  Nothing fancy, just a bowl full of crisp lettuce, diced carrots and sliced celery tossed with salty blue cheese crumbles and topped with strips of thin-sliced Boar's Head, Blazing Buffalo-style chicken, plus, crunchy, Buffalo-spiced croutons.  There's more.  When it comes to dressing my salad, it's got to be full of RedHot Buffalo wing-sauce flavor blended with the creamy-dreamy coolness that only Hidden Valley Ranch dressing can offer -- the best of both worlds.

If you're willing to go the extra mile to make the croutons:

6a0120a8551282970b026be41c06e9200dOne could call me obsessed for baking a loaf of bread for the sole purpose of making Buffalo-seasoned bread or Buffalo-seasoned croutons for a deli-sandwich or a chef's-type Buffalo-style chicken salad.  In my defense, when the bread machine does all the work for me, why wouldn't?  Trust me, "my cheese has not slid of my cracker".  There's just something so very special about appropriately-seasoned croutons scattered atop an ingredient-specific salad or soup that speaks volumes about the cook, and, Buffalo-style is a prime example.

... don't drop the ball when it comes to the dressing:

IMG_6405My RedHot-Ranch dressing, perfect for this ingredient-specific salad, takes less than five minutes mix together.  It's a simple concoction of 3/4 cup Hidden Valley ranch dressing, 1/4 cup Frank's RedHot wing sauce, 2 tablespoons honey, 1 teaspoon dehydrated minced garlic, and, 1 1/2 teaspoons dehydrated minced onion.  I like the ratio of 3/4 cup Hidden Valley ranch dressing to 1/4 cup Frank's RedHot wing sauce. That said, if you want the dressing spicier, feel free to adjust it to suit your palate.  Example: 1/2 cup dressing to 1/2 cup wing sauce.

It's time to make my Blazing-Buffalo chef-style salad!

IMG_6418For each main-dish Buffalo-chicken chef's-style salad:

3  cups torn iceberg lettuce leaves, tossed with (see next line item):

1/4  cup each:  thin-sliced carrots, thin-sliced celery, thin-sliced red onion

4  ounces thin-sliced Boar's Head blazing-Buffalo chicken breast

4  tablespoons Boar's Head blue cheese crumbles

a generous drizzle RedHot-Ranch dressing

a generous scattering Buffalo-Ranch-seasoned croutons

IMG_6423 IMG_6423 IMG_6423 IMG_6423 IMG_6423~Step 1.  To assemble each salad, toss together the lettuce, carrots, celery and onion and place in a large, shallow salad bowl.  Scatter the blue cheese crumbles atop the lettuce mix.  Arrange the Buffalo-chicken breast over the surface of the salad.  Drizzle generously with the RedHot-Ranch dressing, then garnish with a scattering of croutons.  Serve ASAP. 

Stick a fork in the girly chef salad that her guy loves her for:

IMG_6446Buffalo-Chicken Chef w/RedHot-Ranch & Croutons:  Recipe yields 1 cup dressing/6 cups croutons/4 main-dish salad servings.

Special Equipment List: 2-cup measuring container, bread machine, serrated bread knife, 12" nonstick skille and 2 large nonstick spoons (for making croutons); 1-cup measuring container and spoon (for making dressing); cutting board and chef's knife (for making salad) 

6a0120a8551282970b0263e96fd01a200bCook's Note: What started in 1964 as late-night pub grub at the Anchor Bar in Buffalo, NY, deep-fried chicken wings, is now found in many forms.  Truth told, there's not much that Buffalo-style chicken can't do, and applying Buffalo wing sauce to oven-roasted chicken leg-thigh quarters, or, stirring it into previously roasted or poached chicken is the perfect way to transition this iconic game day snack into all sorts of other appetizers, sandwiches, main or side-dish salads, or, main-dish meals.  Trust me, as a lady who loves her deep-fried wings, but, only in the privacy of her own home (where she's free to lick fingers, smack lips, pick teeth, and, drip sauce), my Buffalo-Style delicacies are every bit as enjoyable as wings. ~ How Many Ways Can One Say Buffalo Wing Style ~?

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2020)

10/15/2020

~Creamy RedHot-Ranch Buffalo-Style Salad Dressing~

IMG_6410In my food world, if I could conjure up the ideal, somewhat-healthy pub-grub menu item, it would be a chef's-type Buffalo-style-chicken salad.  It would be served to me while I was sitting in my favorite sportsbar, in front of a straight-out-of-the-tap frosty brew with a college football game on the flatscreen.  Nothing fancy, just a bowl full of crisp lettuce, diced carrots and sliced celery tossed with salty blue cheese crumbles and topped with strips of thin-sliced Boar's Head, Blazing Buffalo-style chicken, plus, crunchy,  Buffalo-spiced croutons.  There's more.  When it comes to dressing my salad, it's got to be full of RedHot Buffalo wing-sauce flavor blended with the creamy-dreamy coolness that only Hidden Valley Ranch dressing can offer -- the best of both worlds.

If you're willing to go the extra mile to make croutons...

IMG_6394One could call me obsessed for baking a loaf of bread for the sole purpose of making Buffalo-seasoned bread or Buffalo-seasoned croutons for a deli-sandwich or a chef's-type Buffalo-style chicken salad.  In my defense, when the bread machine does all the work for me, why wouldn't?  Trust me, "my cheese has not slid of my cracker".  There's just something so very special about appropriately-seasoned croutons scattered atop an ingredient-specific salad or soup that speaks volumes about the cook, and, Buffalo-style is a prime example.

... don't drop the ball when it comes to the dressing!

IMG_5692For my RedHot Ranch salad dressing (yield: 1 generous cup):

*3/4  cup Hidden Valley ranch dressing

*1/4  cup Frank's RedHot wing sauce

2  tablespoons honey

1  teaspoon dehydrated minced garlic

1 1/2  teaspoons dehydrated minced onion

* Note:  When preparing the 1 cup of dressing, I like the ratio of 3/4 cup Hidden Valley ranch dressing to 1/4 cup Frank's RedHot wing sauce.  That said, if you want your dressing hotter (as in spicier), feel free to adjust it to suit your palate.  Example: 1/2 cup dressing to 1/2 cup wing sauce.

IMG_5693 IMG_5693 IMG_5693~ Step 1. To prepare the dressing, in a 1-cup measuring container, thoroughly stir all ingredients together.  Set aside, at room temperature, while prepping all ingredients for the croutons and the salad.

RedHot-Ranch Salad Dressing -- The best of both worlds: 

IMG_6417Creamy RedHot-Ranch Bufalo-Style Salad Dressing:  Recipe yields 1 generous cup dressing.

Special Equipment List: 1-cup measuring container; spoon

6a0120a8551282970b026bde967366200cCook's Note: What started in 1964 as late-night pub grub at the Anchor Bar in Buffalo, NY, deep-fried chicken wings, is now found in many forms.  Truth told, there's not much that Buffalo-style chicken can't do, and applying Buffalo wing sauce to oven-roasted chicken leg-thigh quarters, or, stirring it into previously roasted or poached chicken is the perfect way to transition this iconic game day snack into all sorts of other appetizers, sandwiches, main or side-dish salads, or, main-dish meals.  Trust me, as a lady who loves her deep-fried wings, but, only in the privacy of her own home (where she's free to lick fingers, smack lips, pick teeth, and, drip sauce), my Buffalo-Style delicacies are every bit as enjoyable as wings. ~ How Many Ways Can One Say Buffalo Wing Style ~?

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2020)

10/13/2020

~ RedHot-Ranch Croutons for Buffalo Chicken Salad ~

IMG_6403One could call me obsessed, or perhaps off-my-rocker, for baking a loaf of bread for the sole purpose of making Buffalo-seasoned bread or Buffalo-seasoned croutons for a deli-sandwich or a chef's-type Buffalo-style chicken salad.  That said, in my own defense, when the bread machine does all the work for me, why wouldn't I go the extra mile to make a great sandwich or salad even greater.  Trust me, "my cheese has not slid of my cracker".  There's just something so very special about appropriately-seasoned homemade bread or croutons used in an ingredient-specific sandwich or on an ingredient-specific salad that speaks volumes about the cook.

IMG_6390A bit about croutons in general: "Crouton" is our English word for any small piece of plain or seasoned, sliced or cubed, toasted or fried bread used to accompany or garnish soups, salads and other dishes.  It is derived from the French word "crouton" (kroo-tawn) which the French define as a small piece of bread or snack bread that is usually served with drinks.  "Croute" (kroot) is the French word for crust and "en croute" refers to food wrapped in or topped with a pastry crust then baked. Croutons are super-easy to make, plus they are the perfect use for almost any leftover bread (the exception being soft, cottony, white, sandwich-type bread).  My quick skillet method for preparing them produces a crispy, butter-flavored crouton on the outside with a slightly softer "chewy/al dente" center.  This differs from the lengthier oven method for preparing croutons (a low temperature for a longer period of time), which produces a crispy crouton throughout. 

6a0120a8551282970b0240a4e0e80e200dA bit about bread-machine bread in general.  Bread baked in a bread machine is rectangular in shape.  No matter what size loaf you elect to bake (most machines give you 3 options: 1-pound loaf; 1 1/2-pound loaf; 2- pound loaf), they will all get baked in the shape of the standard-size pan that comes with that machine.  What is wrong with that?  Nothing.  Even though bread machine bread rises nicely and browns beautifully (all thanks to the many options the bread machine makes available to you), it "plainly" is not going to win any "bread beauty contests".  This is a give-and-take you will realize is well worth the sacrifice the moment you slice and taste the bread.  This is the rectangular-shaped bread pan that came with my machine.  The paddle (which will do the machine-kneading) has been inserted into it. When making bread in a bread machine, the protocol for adding ingredients to the bread pan is: wet ingredients first, dry ingredients second (on top of wet ingredients), granulated yeast last.

IMG_63261 1/2  cups warm water

2  tablespoons olive oil

4 1/2  cups unbleached, all-purpose flour

2  teaspoons sea salt

2  teaspoons sugar

2  tablespoons Frank's RedHot Ranch seasoning blend

2  tablespoons Franks's RedHot original seasoning blend

1  packet granulated dry yeast

IMG_6329 IMG_6329 IMG_6329 IMG_6329 IMG_6329~Step 1.  To make the Buffalo-seasoned bread-machine bread loaf, in the following order, in the pan of the breach machine, place the warm water and olive oil.  Add the flour, salt and sugar, followed by the RedHot Ranch seasoning and RedHot original seasoning.  Do not stir.  Using your index finger, make a small, semi-shallow indentation on top of the dry ingredients, but not so deep as to reach the liquid below.  Add the yeast to the indentation.

IMG_6341 IMG_6341 IMG_6351 IMG_6351~Step 2.  Insert the bread pan into the bread machine.  Plug the machine in, select the "white bread" cycle, followed by se the "light crust" option.  Push start.  Walk away.  Do not lift the lid to check in on the kneading, rising or baking process.  Don't do it.  When  machine signals bread is done, carefully open the lid.  Using a pot holder, remove the bread pan from machine by using the handle to lift it up and out.  Turn bread pan at a 30-45º angle and gently shake/slide the loaf out onto its side.  Turn loaf upright and place on a wire rack to cool completely.  In approximately three hours, you will have a two-pound loaf of somewhat spicy Buffalo-seasoned bread.

IMG_6359 IMG_6359 IMG_6359 IMG_6370 IMG_6370~Step 3.  To prepare the croutons, using a serrated bread knife, cut 1-pound of the bread (half of the bread loaf) into 3/4"-1" cubes. In a 12" skillet (preferably nonstick), melt 2 sticks salted butter over low heat. Stir 2 teaspoons each of Frank's RedHot Ranch seasoning blend and Franks's RedHot original seasoning blend into the melted butter.

IMG_6376 IMG_6376 IMG_6376 IMG_6376 IMG_6376~Step 4.  Add all of the bread cubes to the pan.  Increase heat to medium.  Using two large nonstick spoons, gently stir and toss the bread cubes constantly, until golden brown, about 10 minutes.  No melted butter will remain in the bottom of the pan, just a golden brown residue. Remove from heat and allow croutons to cool slightly in the pan, 10-15 minutes, to allow carryover heat to continue to crisp them.  Line a baking pan with 3-4 layers of paper towels, transfer croutons to pan and spread them in a single layer.  Set aside to cool completely. 

Store, uncovered, 1-2 days, while using in salads or soups:  

IMG_6394RedHot-Ranch Croutons for Buffalo Chicken Salad: Recipe yields 6 cups of cubed croutons.

Special Equipment List:  2-cup measuring container; bread machine; serrated bread knife; 12" nonstick skillet; 2 large nonstick spoons

6a0120a8551282970b026bde967366200cCook's Note: What started in 1964 as late-night pub grub at the Anchor Bar in Buffalo, NY, deep-fried chicken wings, is now found in many forms.  Truth told, there's not much that Buffalo-style chicken can't do, and applying Buffalo wing sauce to oven-roasted chicken leg-thigh quarters, or, stirring it into previously roasted or poached chicken is the perfect way to transition this iconic game day snack into all sorts of other appetizers, sandwiches, main or side-dish salads, or, main-dish meals.  Trust me, as a lady who loves her deep-fried wings, but, only in the privacy of her own home (where she's free to lick fingers, smack lips, pick teeth, and, drip sauce), my Buffalo-Style delicacies are every bit as enjoyable as wings. ~ How Many Ways Can One Say Buffalo Wing Style ~?

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2020)

10/10/2020

~Nestlē Toll House Sea Salt, Caramel, Pecan Cookies~

IMG_6304When it comes to Toll House cookies, aka, chocolate chip cookies in general, there are two kinds of people:  those who add nuts (usually pecans or walnuts), and, those who do not.  I'm a nutty kinda gal.  My husband is not a nutty kinda guy.  There's more.  Our grandson is allergic to nuts, so, nuts of any kind are not in the cards when I'm baking cookies for him.  So, while today's cookies are chocked full of lightly-toasted crunchy pecans, it is not unusual to find my cookie jars (four, small apothecary-type jars at our coffee bar) full of nut-free Toll House cookies either.

What the heck is a baking truffle?  Had I been asked this question a few short weeks ago, I'd have been at a loss for an answer.  That said, it's one of the best new-to-me inventions in quite some time. I don't refer to myself as a consummate baker, but, I do keep my cookie jars (four, small apothecary-type jars at our coffee bar) full of homemade cookies at all times.  For the most part, it does take Joe and I a bit of time, a two-to-three weeks, to eat them all, but, when the jars are empty, I bake cookies again, and, I'm always in search of a new recipe or twist on an old one.

IMG_6184 2Hello Nestlē sea salt and caramel baking truffles.  Just reading the label made my mouth start to water. I've always loved milk-chocolate-covered soft-caramels, and, when sprinkled with a touch of sea salt, all the better.  Nestlē's baking truffles, which resemble tiny candies rather than teardrop-shaped chocolate chips, are:  soft caramels enrobed in Nestlē's signature semi-sweet chocolate.  I bought eighteen nine-ounce bags.  I've got plans for these, starting with cookies.

Nestlē Toll House Cookies made w/Nestlē sea salt caramel baking truffles + pecans.  Need I say any more than that?

2 1/4  cups + 2 tablespoons unbleached, all-purpose flour

1  teaspoon each:  baking powder, baking soda and salt

1  cup salted butter, at room temperature, very soft (2 sticks)

3/4  cup granulated sugar

3/4  cup firmly-packed dark brown sugar

2  large eggs, at room temperature

2  teaspoons each: pure chocolate extract and pure vanilla extract

2  large eggs, preferably at room temperature

18  ounces Nestlē sea salt & caramel baking truffles (2, 9-ounce bags)

6  ounces rough-chopped and very light-toasted pecans

IMG_6265 IMG_6265 IMG_6265~ Step 1.  Using a chef's knife, rough chop the pecans and place them on a small (toaster-oven-sized) baking pan.  Roasted on center rack of 325º oven until fragrant and barely browned and very lightly toasted, about 10 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside to cool completely, about 10-15 minutes.

IMG_6234 IMG_6234 IMG_6234 IMG_6234 IMG_6234 IMG_6234 IMG_6234~Step 2.  In a small bowl, stir together the dry ingredients:  the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and, salt.  In a large bowl place the butter, both sugars, and both extracts.  On high-speed of hand-held electric mixer, beat until creamy, about 3 minutes.  Beat in the two eggs, about 1 minute.  Lower mixer speed, add the flour and gradually incorporate it into the mixture, until a smooth, sticky dough forms.

IMG_6275 IMG_6277 IMG_6283~Step 3.  Using a large rubber spatula, fold in the baking truffles and pecans. Using a 1 1/2" ice-cream scoop as a measure, drop cookies, well-apart, onto each of 4, parchment-lined, 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" baking pans (15 per pan).

IMG_6287 IMG_6287~ Step 4.  Bake, one-pan-at-a-time on center rack of 325° oven, 13-14 minutes, until light-golden. Remove from oven and use a small spatula to transfer to a wire cooling rack, to cool completely, prior to storing in an air-tight container.

Patience people.  Cool cookies.  Then, ready your glass of milk:

IMG_6315Crispy, chewy, thin, delicate, &, full of oozy-gooey semi-sweet chocolate & caramel flavor + crunchy pecans too:

IMG_6298Nestlē Toll House Sea Salt, Caramel, Pecan Cookies:  Recipe yields 5 dozen 2 1/2"-round cookies.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; small baking pan; hand-held electric mixer; large rubber spatula; 4, 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" baking pans; parchment paper; 1 1/2" ice-cream scoop; wire cooling rack; small spatula

6a0120a8551282970b026be4192589200dCook's Note: The Nestlē Crunch Bar -- creamy milk chocolate chocked full of crunchy-crisped rice.  It, along with the Reese's peanut butter cup (milk chocolate and peanut butter) is at the top of my "favorite candy bars list".  As with several other favorites, for an adult activity, I prefer to chop up said candy bars and bake cookies with their bits and pieces -- I prefer a cookie to a candy bar and I adore a candy bar in a cookie. Try my ~ Milk-Chocolate-Lovers Nestlē-Crunch-Bar Cookies ~.

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2020)

10/07/2020

~ My Nestlē Toll House Sea Salt & Caramel Cookies ~

IMG_6257What the heck is a baking truffle?  Had I been asked this question a few short weeks ago, I'd have been at a loss for an answer.  That said, it's one of the best new-to-me inventions in quite some time. I don't refer to myself as a consummate baker, but, I do keep my cookie jars (four, small apothecary-type jars at our coffee bar) full of homemade cookies at all times.  For the most part, it does take Joe and I a bit of time, a two-to-three weeks, to eat them all, but, when the jars are empty, I bake cookies again, and, I'm always in search of a new recipe or twist on an old one.

IMG_6184 2Hello Nestlē sea salt and caramel baking truffles.  Just reading the label made my mouth start to water. I've always loved milk-chocolate-covered soft-caramels, and, when sprinkled with a touch of sea salt, all the better.  Nestlē's baking truffles, which resemble tiny candies rather than teardrop-shaped chocolate chips, are:  soft caramels enrobed in Nestlē's signature semi-sweet chocolate.  I bought eighteen nine-ounce bags.  I've got plans for these, starting with cookies.

When it comes to Toll House cookies, aka, chocolate chip cookies in general, there are two kinds of people:  those who add nuts (usually pecans or walnuts), and, those who do not.  I'm a nutty kinda gal.  My husband is not a nutty kinda guy.  There's more.  Our grandson is allergic to nuts, so, nuts of any kind are not in the cards when I'm baking cookies for him.  So, while today's cookies are nut-free, it is not unusual to find my cookie jars full of nutty chocolate chip cookies, chocked full of coarse-chopped, lightly-toasted crunchy pecans or walnuts.

Nestlē Toll House cookies made w/Nestlē sea salt caramel baking truffles.  Need I say any more than that?

IMG_61812 1/4  cups + 2 tablespoons unbleached, all-purpose flour

1  teaspoon each:  baking powder, baking soda and salt

1  cup salted butter, at room temperature, very soft (2 sticks)

3/4  cup granulated sugar

3/4  cup firmly-packed dark brown sugar

2  large eggs, at room temperature

2  teaspoons each: pure chocolate extract and pure vanilla extract

2  large eggs, preferably at room temperature

18  ounces Nestlē sea salt & caramel baking truffles

IMG_6234 IMG_6234 IMG_6234 IMG_6234 IMG_6234 IMG_6209 IMG_6209~Step 1.  In a small bowl, stir together the dry ingredients:  the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and, salt.  In a large bowl place the butter, both sugars, and both extracts.  On high-speed of hand-held electric mixer, beat until creamy, about 3 minutes.  Beat in the two eggs, about 1 minute.  Lower mixer speed, add the flour and gradually incorporate it into the mixture, until a smooth, sticky dough forms.

IMG_6219 IMG_6219 IMG_6219~ Step 2.  Using a large rubber spatula, add and fold in the baking truffles. Using a 1 1/2" ice-cream scoop as a measure, drop cookies, well-apart, onto each of 4, parchment-lined, 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" baking pans (15 per pan).

IMG_6229 IMG_6229~ Step 3.  Bake, one-pan-at-a-time on center rack of 325° oven, 13-14 minutes, until light-golden. Remove from oven and use a small spatula to transfer to a wire cooling rack, to cool completely, prior to storing in an air-tight container.

Patience people.  Cool cookies.  Then, ready your glass of milk:

IMG_6251Crispy, chewy, thin, delicate, &, full of chocolate-caramel flavor:

IMG_6236My Nestlē Toll House Sea Salt & Caramel Cookies:  Recipe yields 5 dozen 2 1/2"-round cookies.

Special Equipment List: hand-held electric mixer; large rubber spatula; 4, 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" baking pans; parchment paper; 1 1/2" ice-cream scoop; wire cooling rack; small spatula

6a0120a8551282970b022ad3e36e00200bCook's Note: The Nestlē Crunch Bar -- creamy milk chocolate chocked full of crunchy-crisped rice.  It, along with the Reese's peanut butter cup (milk chocolate and peanut butter) is at the top of my "favorite candy bars list".  As with several other favorites, for an adult activity, I prefer to chop up said candy bars and bake cookies with their bits and pieces -- I prefer a cookie to a candy bar and I adore a candy bar in a cookie. Try my ~ Milk-Chocolate-Lovers Nestlē-Crunch-Bar Cookies ~.

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2020)

10/05/2020

~Grand's Pie-Filled Cinnamon- or Pumpkin-Roll Cups~

IMG_6163When it comes to breakfast or bunch, I am always looking for the easiest way to serve good food. Mornings in the average family tend to have lots happening at once.  I love my family and I enjoy my guests, but, back in the days when I was trying to get three kids off to meet the school bus and my husband out the door to the office, or, fast forward to when I happen to be organizing breakfast for a few overnight guests, no one appreciates having a few time-saving recipes that taste as good as they look as much as I do, and these recipes, thanks to Pillsbury Grands Cinnamon Rolls and Pumpkin-Spice Rolls, are worth their weight in easy-to-make gold.

Apples, peaches, pumpkin pie, who's afraid to holler I?

440px-Pillsbury_logo.svgPillsbury and their adorable dough boy have been a part of my life over fifty years (and they've been around a lot longer than that).  Breakfast, lunch or dinner, when mom made their crescent rolls, we paced around in front of the oven until they came out.  During the years when they televised the Pillsbury Bake-Off, I always watched, and, learned something creative. When Pillsbury came out with cinnamon rolls, my kids knew I would be an easy sell on this product, and, truth told, they earned a place in my refrigerator. Then, when they came along with Grand's cinnamon rolls, complete with cream cheese icing, I didn't hesitate to pick up a few canisters.

There came a time when I did what I often do with a product I like. I went to their website (Quick & Easy Recipes by Pillsbury) and searched by ingredient (cinnamon rolls). Amongst several creative ways to to use them, I came across Two-Ingredient Peach Pie Cups, which used smaller-sized canisters of cinnamon rolls + peach pie filling, baked in standard-sized muffin tins. For my own "bigger- has-got-to-be-better" take, I used Grand's cinnamon rolls + a can of cherry, peach or apple pie filling, and, baked them in jumbo-sized muffin tins.  They're like a giant, fruit-pie-filled cinnamon-doughnuts or cinnamon-Danish stuffed with your favorite fruit pie filling.  Then, when Grands introduced pumpkin-spice rolls, I started filling them with Libby's pumpkin pie mix, which are perfect for the Fall.  My family simply adores them all and yours will too.

IMG_4126
IMG_4126 IMG_4126 IMG_4126 IMG_4126 IMG_4126Forming the muffin cups is the same for all recipes. Simply spray the inside cups of two jumbo-sized muffin tins (12 total cups) with no-stick cooking spray. Remove 2, 17.5-ounce canisters of Grands cinnamon rolls or pumpkin-spice rolls from the refrigerator.  Peel back the wrapping and give them a whack on the side of the countertop to open the package.  Remove and set aside the icing.  One-at-a-time, remove the cinnamon or pumpkin-spice rolls, placing them in each of ten muffin cups.  Using a tart tamper placed in the center of each roll, press down on the center to fit each cinnamon roll flatly into the bottom of its cup.  Using your fingertips, press the sides of each roll into the sides of each cup, to form a cup about 3/4 up the sides of each cup.  Proceed with recipes as directed below:

Peachy-Keen Pie-Filling-Filled Cinnamon-Roll Cups:

IMG_6020Oh My Cherry-Pie-Filling Filled Cinnamon-Roll Cups:

6a0120a8551282970b0263e96b70eb200bGrands Apple-Pie-Filling Filled Cinnamon-Roll Cups:

6a0120a8551282970b0264e2eb19f4200dGrand's Pumpkin-Pie-Filled Pumpkin-Spice Roll Cups:

IMG_6127

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2020)

10/03/2020

~ Pumpkin-Pie Pumpkin-Spiced Cinnamon-Roll Cups ~

IMG_6127Pumpkin spice.  Some like it, some do not, but, kinda like the elf-on-the-shelf, at this time of year, it can be found, in various forms, almost everywhere.  Truth told, I do like a few forkable pumpkin-spiced things -- cake, cheesecake, cookies, quick-bread, pancakes, an occasional muffin, and, these super-easy-to-make pumpkin-pie filling filled cinnamon-roll cups.  As for pumpkin-spiced beverages (lattes, milkshakes, cocktails, etc.), no thank-you, I'll pass, they're not my cup of tea.

When it comes to breakfast or bunch, I am always looking for the easiest way to serve good food. Mornings in the average family tend to have lots happening at once.  I love my family and I enjoy my guests, but, back in the days when I was trying to get three kids off to meet the school bus and my husband out the door to the office, or, fast forward to when I happen to be organizing breakfast for a few overnight guests, no one appreciates having a few time-saving recipes that taste as good as they look as much as I do, and this Fall recipe is worth its weight in gold.

440px-Pillsbury_logo.svgPillsbury and their adorable dough boy have been a part of my life over fifty years (and they've been around a lot longer than that).  Breakfast, lunch or dinner, when mom made their crescent rolls, we paced around in front of the oven until they came out.  During the years when they televised the Pillsbury Bake-Off, I always watched, and, learned something creative. When Pillsbury came out with cinnamon rolls, my kids knew I would be an easy sell on this product, and, truth told, they earned a place in my refrigerator. Then, when they came along with Grand's cinnamon rolls, complete with cream cheese icing, I didn't hesitate to pick up a few canisters.

There came a time when I did what I often do with a product I like. I went to their website (Quick & Easy Recipes by Pillsbury) and searched by ingredient (cinnamon rolls). Amongst several creative ways to to use them, I came across Two-Ingredient Peach Pie Cups, which used smaller-sized canisters of cinnamon rolls + peach pie filling, baked in standard-sized muffin tins.  For my own "bigger has got to be better", seasonal, perfect-for-the-Fall take, I used Grand's pumpkin-spice rolls + Libby's pumpkin pie mix, and, baked them in jumbo-sized muffin tins.  They're like pumpkin pie filled doughnuts.  My family simply adores them and yours will too.

Grands pumpkin-spice rolls & pumpkin pie filling is grand.

IMG_6139Topped w/pumpkin-spice icing too?  You betcha.

IMG_60962  17.5-ounce canisters Pillsbury Grands pumpkin-spice rolls w/pumpkin-pie-spice icing

1  15-ounce can pumpkin pie mix, your favorite brand, prepared as directed on can

no-stick cooking spray

~ Step 1.  Spray the inside cups of two jumbo-sized muffin tins (12 cups) with no-stick cooking spray.

IMG_6094 IMG_6094 IMG_6094 IMG_6094 IMG_6094 IMG_6094 IMG_6094~Step 2.  Remove both canisters of Grands pumpkin-spice rolls from the refrigerator.  Peel back the wrapping and give them a whack on the side of the countertop to open the package.  Remove and set aside the pumpkin-spice icing.  One-at-a-time, remove the pumpkin-spice rolls, placing them in each of ten of the muffin cups.  Using a tart tamper placed in the center of each cinnamon roll, press down on the center to fit each cinnamon roll flatly into the bottom of its cup.  Using your fingertips, press the sides of each roll into the sides of each cup, to form a cup about 3/4 up the sides of each cup.

IMG_6100 IMG_6100 IMG_6100 IMG_6100 IMG_6100 IMG_6100 IMG_6100~Step 3.  Open the can of pie mix.  As per the directions on the can, in a small bowl, whisk the pie mix together with 1 lightly-beaten egg and 4 tablespoons milk.   Using an ordinary tablespoon, distribute pie filling to the top of each cinnamon-roll cup (there's enough filling to fill each one to the top), doing your best not to drip any filling on the edges of the pumpkin-spice roll cups or sides of pan.  Bake both pans, at once, on center rack of preheated 325° oven for 21-24 minutes, or until pumpkin-spice rolls are golden around sides and filling is puffed through to center.  Remove from oven and cool in pan 1-2 minutes.  Using a paring and your fingertips, gently lift each pumpkin-pie-filling filled pumpkin-spice roll cup onto a wire rack to cool to room temperature, 30-45 minutes.

IMG_4163 IMG_4163 IMG_4163~ Step 4.  While the pumpkin-spice roll cups are baking, stir about 1/2 teaspoon of water into both containers of the reserved pumpkin-spice icing, to thin it down to a drizzly, rather than a spreadable consistency.  For a prettier presentation, transfer the icing to a small squirt-type condiment container.  When pumpkin-spice cups are cooled, slowly drizzle icing over top of each one.  Plate and serve.

Store-bought seriously "CAN" be simply delicious!

IMG_6137Two canisters pumpkin-spice rolls + one can pumpkin pie mix?

IMG_6153One taste & you'll be completely convinced.

IMG_6154Pumpkin-Pie Pumpkin-Spiced Cinnamon-Roll Cups: Recipe yields Recipe yields 10 individual (jumbo-sized muffin-sized) pumpkin-pie-filling filled pumpkin-spice-roll cups.

Special Equipment List: 1, 12-cup jumbo-size muffing tin; tart tamper; spoon; paring knife; wire cooling rack; small squirt-type condiment bottle (optional)

6a0120a8551282970b019b01684075970dCook's Note:  When it comes to our Annual Thanksgiving feast, it is always a very traditional one.  I like to tell the story about my serving cranberry-lacquered cornish game hens -- once.  It was back in the early '90's and I found the recipe featured on the cover of Bon Appetit magazine.  I made 24 of them, one for each person.  They looked as magnificent as the magazine cover and they tasted as good as they looked, but, I wasn't feeling anything but polite indignation in my turkey-day dining room that evening.  My efforts were less appreciated the next day because there were no leftovers for sandwiches.  It was then I decreed Thanksgiving to be a stick-with-tradition meal.  This pie, my pie, is made from homegrown, roasted pumpkin puree.  This year, be sure to try my ~ Traditional Thanksgiving Preschutti Pumpkin Pie ~.  

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2020)

09/30/2020

~Oh My Cherry-Pie-Filling Filled Cinnamon-Roll Cups~

IMG_6081When it comes to breakfast or bunch, I am always looking for the easiest way to serve good food. Mornings in the average family tend to have a lot of things happening at once.  I love my family and I enjoy my guests, but, back in the days when I was trying to get three kids off to meet the school bus and my husband out the door to the office, or, fast forward to when I happen to be organizing breakfast for a few overnight guests, no one appreciates having a few time-saving recipes that taste as good as they look as much as I do.  This recipe is worth its weight in gold.

440px-Pillsbury_logo.svgPillsbury and their adorable dough boy have been a part of my life over fifty years (and they've been around a lot longer than that).  Breakfast, lunch or dinner, when mom made their crescent rolls, we paced around in front of the oven until they came out.  During the years when they televised the Pillsbury Bake-Off, I always watched, and, learned something creative. When Pillsbury came out with cinnamon rolls, my kids knew I would be an easy sell on this product, and, truth told, they earned a place in my refrigerator. Then, when they came along with Grand's cinnamon rolls, complete with cream cheese icing, I didn't hesitate to pick up a few canisters.

There came a time when I did what I often do with a product I like. I went to their website (Quick & Easy Recipes by Pillsbury) and searched by ingredient (cinnamon rolls). Amongst several creative ways to to use them, I came across Two-Ingredient Peach Pie Cups, which used smaller-sized canisters of cinnamon rolls + peach pie filling, baked in standard-sized muffin tins.  For my own "bigger has got to be better" take, I used Grand's cinnamon rolls + cherry pie filling, and, baked them in jumbo-sized muffin tins.  They're like a giant, cherry-pie-filled cinnamon-doughnuts or cinnamon-Danish stuffed with cherries.  My family simply adores them and yours will too.

The combo of cinnamon rolls & peach pie filling is grand.

IMG_6073Topped w/cream cheese icing too?  You betcha.

IMG_60512  17.5-ounce canisters PillsburyGrands cinnamon rolls w/cream cheese icing (for a total of 10 cinnamon rolls)

1  21-ounce can cherry pie filling, your favorite brand

no-stick cooking spray

~ Step 1.  Spray the inside cups of two jumbo-sized muffin tins (12 cups) with no-stick cooking spray.

IMG_6048 IMG_6048 IMG_6048 IMG_6048 IMG_6048 IMG_6048 IMG_6048~Step 2.  Remove both canisters of Grands cinnamon rolls from the refrigerator.  Peel back the wrapping and give them a whack on the side of the countertop to open the package.  Remove and set aside the cream cheese icing.  One-at-a-time, remove the cinnamon rolls, placing them in each of ten of the muffin cups.  Using a tart tamper placed in the center of each cinnamon roll, press down on the center to fit each cinnamon roll flatly into the bottom of its cup.  Using your fingertips, press the sides of each roll into the sides of each cup, to form a cup about 3/4 up the sides of each cup.

IMG_6054 IMG_6054 IMG_6057 IMG_6057 IMG_6057 IMG_6057 ~Step 3.  Open the can of pie filling.  Using an ordinary tablespoon, distribute pie filling to the top of each cinnamon-roll cup (there's enough filling to fill each one to the top), doing your best not to drip any filling on the edges of the cinnamon-roll cups or sides of pan.  Bake both pans, at once, on center rack of preheated 325° oven for 18-20 minutes, or until cinnamon rolls are golden around sides.  Remove from oven and cool in pan 1-2 minutes. Use a sharp paring and your fingertips to gently lift each cherry-pie-filling filled cinnamon-roll cup onto a wire rack to cool to slightly-warm or room temperature, 30-45 minutes.

IMG_4163 IMG_6066 IMG_6066~ Step 4.  While the cinnamon roll cups are baking, stir about 1/2 teaspoon of water into both containers of the reserved cream cheese icing, to thin it down to a drizzly, rather than a spreadable consistency.  For a prettier presentation, transfer the icing to a small squirt-type condiment container.  When cinnamon roll cups are cooled, slowly drizzle icing over top of each one.  Plate and serve.

Store-bought seriously "CAN" be simply delicious!

IMG_6079Two canisters cinnamon rolls + one can of cherry pie filling?

IMG_6088One taste & you'll be completely convinced.

IMG_6089Oh My Cherry-Pie-Filling Filled Cinnamon-Roll Cups: Recipe yields Recipe yields 10 individual (jumbo-sized muffin-sized) cherry-pie-filling filled cinnamon-roll cups.

Special Equipment List: 1, 12-cup jumbo-size muffing tin; tart tamper; spoon; paring knife; wire cooling rack; small squirt-type condiment bottle (optional)

6a0120a8551282970b01b8d13a1576970cCook's Note: Andrew was the Production Manager for WHVL-TV here in State College, PA.  He's was also the host of their For the Record show, and, the man behind the cameras for my Kitchen Encounters cooking segments on our Sunday morning Centre of it All show too. On one of my segments, I made cheese-filled blintzes with sour cherry topping.  While chatting about cherries during a break, Andrew mentioned his favorite cherry dessert, and, he texted mom.  She responded immediately with her recipe:  ~ Andrew's Favorite:  His Mom's Cherry Pie Cookie Bars ~.

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

(Recipes, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2020)

09/28/2020

~ Peachy-Keen Pie-Filling-Filled Cinnamon-Roll Cups ~

IMG_6020When it comes to breakfast or bunch, I am always looking for the easiest way to serve good food. Mornings in the average family tend to have a lot of things happening at once.  I love my family and I enjoy my guests, but, back in the days when I was trying to get three kids off to meet the school bus and my husband out the door to the office, or, fast forward to when I happen to be organizing breakfast for a few overnight guests, no one appreciates having a few time-saving recipes that taste as good as they look as much as I do.  This recipe is worth its weight in gold.

440px-Pillsbury_logo.svgPillsbury and their adorable dough boy have been a part of my life over fifty years (and they've been around a lot longer than that).  Breakfast, lunch or dinner, when mom made their crescent rolls, we paced around in front of the oven until they came out.  During the years when they televised the Pillsbury Bake-Off, I always watched, and, learned something creative. When Pillsbury came out with cinnamon rolls, my kids knew I would be an easy sell on this product, and, truth told, they earned a place in my refrigerator. Then, when they came along with Grand's cinnamon rolls, complete with cream cheese icing, I didn't hesitate to pick up a few canisters.

There came a time when I did what I often do with a product I like. I went to their website (Quick & Easy Recipes by Pillsbury) and searched by ingredient (cinnamon rolls). Amongst several creative ways to to use them, I came across Two-Ingredient Peach Pie Cups, which used smaller-sized canisters of cinnamon rolls + peach pie filling, baked in standard-sized muffin tins.  For my own "bigger has got to be better" take, I used Grand's cinnamon rolls + the requisite peach pie filling, and, baked them in jumbo-sized muffin tins.  They're like a giant, peachy-keen cinnamon-doughnut or cinnamon-Danish stuffed with peaches.  My family simply  adores them.

The combo of cinnamon rolls & peach pie filling is grand.

IMG_6029Topped w/cream cheese icing too?  You betcha.

IMG_59832  17.5-ounce canisters PillsburyGrands cinnamon rolls w/cream cheese icing (for a total of 10 cinnamon rolls)

1  21-ounce can peach pie filling, your favorite brand

no-stick cooking spray

~ Step 1.  Spray the inside cups of two jumbo-sized muffin tins (12 cups) with no-stick cooking spray.

IMG_5985 IMG_5985 IMG_5985 IMG_5985 IMG_5985 IMG_5985 IMG_5985~Step 2.  Remove both canisters of Grands cinnamon rolls from the refrigerator.  Peel back the wrapping and give them a whack on the side of the countertop to open the package.  Remove and set aside the cream cheese icing.  One-at-a-time, remove the cinnamon rolls, placing them in each of ten of the muffin cups.  Using a tart tamper placed in the center of each cinnamon roll, press down on the center to fit each cinnamon roll flatly into the bottom of its cup.  Using your fingertips, press the sides of each roll into the sides of each cup, to form a cup about 3/4 up the sides of each cup.

IMG_5986 IMG_5986 IMG_5998 IMG_5998 IMG_5998 IMG_5998~Step 3.  Open the can of pie filling.  Using an ordinary tablespoon, distribute pie filling to the top of each cinnamon-roll cup (there's enough filling to fill each one to the top), doing your best not to drip any filling on the edges of the cinnamon-roll cups or sides of pan.  Bake both pans, at once, on center rack of preheated 325° oven for 18-20 minutes, or until cinnamon rolls are golden around sides.  Remove from oven and cool in pan 1-2 minutes. Use a sharp paring and your fingertips to gently lift each peach-pie-filling filled cinnamon-roll cup onto a wire rack to cool to slightly-warm or room temperature, 30-45 minutes.

IMG_4163 IMG_6014 IMG_6014~ Step 4.  While the cinnamon roll cups are baking, stir about 1/2 teaspoon of water into both containers of the reserved cream cheese icing, to thin it down to a drizzly, rather than a spreadable consistency.  For a prettier presentation, transfer the icing to a small squirt-type condiment container.  When cinnamon roll cups are cooled, slowly drizzle icing over top of each one.  Plate and serve.

Store-bought seriously "CAN" be simply delicious!

IMG_6021Two canisters cinnamon rolls + one can of peach pie filling?

IMG_6035One taste & you'll be completely convinced.    

IMG_6042Peachy-Keen Pie-Filling-Filled Cinnamon-Roll Cups:  Recipe yields Recipe yields 10 individual (jumbo-sized muffin-sized) peach-pie-filling filled cinnamon-roll cups.

Special Equipment List: 1, 12-cup jumbo-size muffing tin; tart tamper; spoon; paring knife; wire cooling rack; small squirt-type condiment bottle (optional)

IMG_5857Cook's Note: This decades old, now-retro, family-favorite recipe is made from just a few on-hand ingredients -- 3/4"-1"-thick bone-in pork chops, peach-pie filling, stuffing mix, chicken broth, celery and onion. Mom usually made this after the Thanksgiving holiday, as a tasty way to get one-more family-friendly meal out of one of the leftovers (aka the stuffing).  It couldn't be easier, and, it's the best, easy-pork-chop recipe there is.  There's more.  If you're in search of a foolproof recipe that guarantees juicy, fork-tender chops, this is it.  Be sure to try my ~ My Peachy-Keen Pork Chops & Stuffing Casserole ~ .

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos Courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2020)

09/26/2020

~ How Many Ways Can One Say Buffalo-Wing-Style ~

6a0120a8551282970b0240a49ba23f200dWhat started in 1964 as late-night pub grub at the Anchor Bar in Buffalo, NY, deep-fried chicken wings, is now found in many forms.  Truth told, there's not much that Buffalo-style chicken can't do, and applying Buffalo wing sauce as a glaze to oven-roasted chicken leg-thigh quarters, or, stirring it into some previously roasted or poached chicken is the perfect way to transition this iconic game day snack into all sorts of other appetizers, sandwiches, main or side-dish salads, or, main-dish meals.  Trust me, as a lady who loves her deep-fried wings, but, only in the privacy of her own home (where she's free to lick fingers, smack lips, pick teeth, and, drip sauce), while different, the following Buffalo-Style delicacies are every bit as enjoyable as chicken wings.

Frank's-Style Buffalo-Style Chicken Wing Sauce:

6a0120a8551282970b01bb09482ff0970d-800wiSpicy Blue-Cheesy Buffalo-Style Chicken Dip:

6a0120a8551282970b01b8d22e5f8e970cSweet-&-Savory-Glazed Buffalo-Chicken Meatballs

6a0120a8551282970b0240a4f5b598200bNacho Mama's Buffalo Chicken Sheet-Pan Nachos:

6a0120a8551282970b0240a47f922d200cSpicy Blue-Cheese & Buffalo-Chicken Quesadillas:

6a0120a8551282970b01bb0945149d970dLight & Easy Buffalo-Style Skinny Chicken Tacos:

6a0120a8551282970b0263ec29a45b200c

Buffalo-Chicken Chef Salad w/RedHot-Ranch & Croutons:

IMG_6447RedHot Buffalo-Chicken Rooster-Crest-Pasta Salad:

6a0120a8551282970b0263e96872ff200bBuffalo-Style Shredded Chicken 'n Slaw Sliders:

6a0120a8551282970b01b7c8a677ba970bBlazing Buffalo Chicken, Blue Cheese & Slaw Wraps:

6a0120a8551282970b0263e965444f200bBatter-Dipped Buffalo Chicken & Blue Cheese Subs:

6a0120a8551282970b0240a4c77455200b

RedHot-Ranch & Tangy-Blue Buffalo-Chicken Pizza:

IMG_5967Almost Effortless Chunky Buffalo-Style Chicken Chili:

6a0120a8551282970b026bde9674a8200cFrank's RedHot Buffalo-Style Chicken-Chili Burritos:

6a0120a8551282970b0240a4bb2aae200cRoasted Buffalo-Style Chicken Leg-Thigh Quarters:

6a0120a8551282970b0263ec2be1a1200cBuffalo-Style Blue-Cheese, Carrot & Celery Side-Dish Slaw:

6a0120a8551282970b01bb0949448c970d"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2020)

09/23/2020

~ RedHot-Ranch & Tangy-Blue Buffalo-Chicken Pizza ~

IMG_5964Right around this time of year, early Fall, college football season becomes a big deal in many households all across America -- many folks, men and women alike, are obsessed by it. Experience has taught that game-day and great-pub-grub go hand-in-hand, and, one is as important as the other.  If you've ever been to an at-the-stadium or sit-in-front of the TV tailgate party where the fare doesn't rise to the occasion, the occasion is lack luster.  Game days are fun and exciting days, they're days to throw cares and diets to the wind, and, win-or-lose, indulge.

6a0120a8551282970b026bde967366200cFootball fans of all ages, particularly the menfolk and teenagers, will eat "alla Buffalo chicken" (in the style of Buffalo chicken) in any form it gets served to them -- they gravitate to it. Lucky for these lovers of all things chicken-wings, what started in 1964 as late-night pub grub at the Anchor Bar in Buffalo, NY, deep-fried chicken wingsBuffalo-chicken-style comes in many forms (appetizers, snacks, salads, sandwiches, main dishes) -- and pizza is just one of many.  That said:

A great pizza needs a crust -- Buffalo chicken pizza is no exception.  Try my A-1 All-Purpose Bread Machine Pizza Dough.

6a0120a8551282970b01bb088cbd77970dA great pizza starts with a great crust, but, finding a pizza dough recipe to suit your requirements is not as easy as the ingredients list indicates:  flour, water, salt, yeast, and sometimes sugar and/or olive oil.  Cooks who take pizza making seriously have more than one pizza dough recipe in their repertoire because certain pizzas require a certain type of crust -- there's no getting around it.  Beyond that, within each type, everyone who takes pizza making seriously, professionally or at home, makes their dough a bit differently.  Pizza dough and pizza is personal -- there's no getting around that either.  That said, if you are new to pizza dough, sans a lot of the chemistry and science behind pizza dough, this recipe is for you.

IMG_5966This Buffalo-chicken pizza recipe is a game day winner:    

IMG_5900For 2, 12"-round Buffalo chicken pizzas (in order of assembly):

2-2 1/4  pounds pizza dough, my recipe, your recipe, or, high-quality store-bought, divided in half

1 1/4  cups my recipe for RedHot-Ranch pizza sauce, recipe below

3-4  cups shredded mozzarella cheese

2-3  cups pulled and/or shredded roasted chicken, preferably taken from 3-4 dark-meat oven-roasted chicken leg-thigh quarters

3/4-1  cup rough-chopped matchstick carrots

3/4-1  cup very-thin-sliced celery small-diced celery

3/4-1 cup very-thin-sliced red onion, slices cut into quarters

3/4-1 cup blue cheese crumbles   

6a0120a8551282970b026bde94f3b6200cFor my RedHot-Ranch pizza sauce (yield: 1 1/4 generous cups):

3/4  cup Hidden Valley ranch dressing

1/2  cup Frank's RedHot wing sauce

2  tablespoons honey

1  teaspoon dehydrated minced garlic

1 1/2  teaspoons dehydrated minced onion

IMG_5693 IMG_5693 IMG_5693~ Step 1. To prepare the pizza sauce, in a 2-cup measuring container, thoroughly stir all ingredients together.  Set aside, at room temperature, while prepping all ingredients, as directed, for the pizza.

IMG_5904 IMG_5905~ Step 2. To form the pizza dough into pizza crusts, using a paper towel, oil 2, 12" round pizza pans or 2, 12" x 9" rectangular pans with about 2 tablespoons olive oil on each pan. Place one ball of dough (1 pound each) on each pan and allow to rest, about 10-15 minutes -- -- to give the gluten time to relax.  Thirty minutes is ok too. Pat and press dough evenly across bottoms and evenly up sides of pans. I do this in 3 parts taking 15-20 minutes, allowing dough to rest 5 minutes each time before patting and pressing.

IMG_5909 IMG_5909 IMG_5909 IMG_5909 IMG_5909 IMG_5909~Step 3.  To top the crusts, spread a generous 1/2 cup of sauce over the surface of each.  In the following order, scatter the mozzarella, shredded chicken, carrots, celery, onion, and blue cheese crumbles evenly over both crusts.

Note:  At this point pizzas can be baked, one-at-a-time on center rack of a 375° oven that has been heated with a pizza stone in it, or, you can let them rise in the pans for 1 to 2 hours prior to baking, which, if you have the time, is worth the wait, as it renders the crust light and airy.

IMG_5949 IMG_5949~Step 4.  Working one-at-a-time place each pan of pizza, on pizza stone, that has be placed on the center rack of a preheated 375° oven, 6-8 minutes. Using a spatula, lift a corner of the pizza up and using your other hand (via a pot holder), tilt pan and slide pie off pan onto stone. Continue to bake for 6-7 more minutes, for a total of 12-15 minutes baking time.  Crust will be lightly-brown and cheese will be molten. Using a pizza peel, transfer pizza to a rack to cool for 3-5 minutes, to allow the cheese to set up a bit, prior to slicing.

Allow to cool about 3 minutes prior to slicing & serving:

IMG_5967RedHot-Ranch & Tangy-Blue Buffalo-Chicken Pizza:  Recipe yields dough for 2, 12"-round pizzas/2, 12"-round Buffalo-style pizzas/6-8 servings each/12-16 slices pizza.

Special Equipment List: 2-cup measuring container; spoon; cutting board; chef's knife; 2, 12"-round pizza pans; paper towel; pizza stone; large metal spatula; pizza peel; large cooling rack

6a0120a8551282970b01b7c8e8a64b970bCook's Note: Pizza.  It's one of my favorite foodie subjects.  Next to a cheese shop, a pizza shop is one of my favorite places to hang out.  Give me a slice and some suds and my day is made.  I like thick pizza, thin pizza, round pizza and square pizza. I like pizza with just sauce and cheese, or, piled high with a melange of toppings.  I like white pizza and stuffed pizza too.  "No matter how you slice it, I've never met a pizza I didn't like", is one of my favorite sayings.  There's more.  I get downright giddy when I come across a new-to-me pizza -- one I've never heard of, and, while visiting a city I'd never been to before.  Different city, different pizza.  Try my ~ Detroit-Style Brick Cheese & Pepperoni Pizza Pan Pizza ~.

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2020) 

09/20/2020

~ My Peachy-Keen Pork Chops & Stuffing Casserole ~

IMG_5857This decades old, now-retro, family-favorite recipe is made from just a few on-hand ingredients -- 3/4"-1"-thick bone-in pork chops, peach-pie filling, stuffing mix, chicken broth, celery and onion.  It is my mom's spin-off of her Tootsie's recipe (my mother's pet name for her sister Marie).  Tootsie made it with canned apple-pie filling.  My mom started making it with home-canned peach-pie filling, made from peaches picked from my grandmother's backyard peach trees.  Both mom and Tootsie, usually made this after the Thanksgiving holiday, as a tasty way to get one-more family-friendly meal out of one of the leftovers (aka the stuffing).  It couldn't be easier, and, it's the best, easy-pork-chop recipe there is -- kids and adults both love it.  There's more.  If you are one of the many cooks in search of a foolproof recipe that guarantees juicy, fork-tender chops, this is it.

Imagine a juicy, fork-tender, 3/4"-1"-thick pork chop w/peach-pie filling underneath & stuffing heaped on top -- it's peachy-keen.

IMG_5874This easy recipe guarantees flavorful, juicy, fork-tender, chops:

IMG_57756  3/4"-1" thick, bone-in pork loin chops

4  tablespoons corn or peanut oil, for sautéing chops

freshly-ground sea salt and peppercorn blend, for seasoning chops

1  22-ounce can peach pie filling

2  6-ounce boxes Stove-Top Chicken Stuffing Mix

1  generous cup diced celery

1  generous cup diced onion

2  cup chicken broth

IMG_5777 IMG_5777 IMG_5777 IMG_5777 IMG_5777 IMG_5777 IMG_5777~Step 1. In a 16" electric skillet, heat the corn or peanut oil over low heat. Increase heat to 225º (medium-high), add the chops, then, season their tops with freshly-ground sea salt and peppercorn blend.  Continue to sauté the chops until they're browning nicely on the bottom, about 8 minutes.  Using a spatula, flip the chops over and season the second side with freshly ground sea salt and peppercorn blend.  Sauté the chops until golden on the bottom, about 8 more minutes.  Turn the heat off.

IMG_5799 IMG_5799~ Step 2.  Open the can of peach pie filling and use a spoon to scoop it into the bottom of a 13" x 9" x 2" casserole.  Use a spoon to spread it evenly in the bottom.  Arrange the pork chops atop the pie filling, overlapping them slightly.  Set aside.

IMG_5805 IMG_5805 IMG_5805 IMG_5805 IMG_5805 IMG_5805 IMG_5805 IMG_5805~Step 3.  Return heat to 225º and wait 30-60 seconds, just long enough to reheat the pork drippings,  Add the celery and onion.  Sauté the vegetables, stirring constantly with a large spoon, until crunch tender, 2-3 minutes.  Add the chicken broth and the stuffing mix.  Stir until the stuffing is thick and has absorbed the broth.  Turn the heat off, cover the skillet, and let sit for 5-6 minutes.

IMG_5830 IMG_5830 IMG_5830 IMG_5837 IMG_5839 IMG_5839 IMG_5839~Step 4.  Uncover the skillet.  Using a 2 1/2" ice-cream scoop, place 6 well-packed, heaping and generous scoops of stuffing, one scoop on each chop.  Using a spoon or a fork, scatter remainder of stuffing around the sides and in between the larger scoops.  Cover casserole with aluminum foil and bake on center rack of 325° oven 1 hour. Uncover and continue to bake another 15 minutes, or until stuffing is turning golden on top. Remove from oven, allow casserole to rest 10-15 minutes.

Delighfully Sweet & Savory Southern-Comfort-Style Food:

IMG_5855Guaranteed to conjure a smile w/every peachy-keen bite:

IMG_5887My Peachy-Keen Pork Chops & Stuffing Casserole:  Recipe yields 6 hearty servings.

Special Equipment List: cutting board; chef's knife; 16" electric skillet w/lid; spatula; large spoon; 13" x 9" x 2" casserole; 2 1/2" ice-cream scoop; aluminum foil

6a0120a8551282970b0263ec2929ef200cCook's Note: The sweet and savory act of combining porcine and apples is classic.  Every whole roasted pig that I've ever seen had an apple in its mouth.  I honestly can't remember where I read it or heard this, but, my recollection is: this centuries old custom had to do with pigs being fattened by feeding them apples, so, this was considered a show of respect for the animal, representing it eating apples in life and into eternity (hogs were typically slaughtered in the Fall and apples were in season).  All I know for certain is pork and apples sure do go hand-in-hand and it's one of my favorite combinations.  For a real Fall treat, be sure to ~ My Aunt's Apple-Pie Pork-Chop & Stuffing Casserole ~.

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2020)

09/18/2020

~ RedHot Buffalo-Chicken Rooster-Crest-Pasta Salad ~

IMG_5757If you are a fan of Buffalo-chicken-style anything, this is a pasta salad you'll crow about.  I admit, the thought of making Buffalo-chicken pasta salad didn't occur to me until I found myself binge-snacking on a few slices of Sunday's leftover roast chicken dipped into a ramekin containing a bit of Friday night's leftover wing-night wing sauce -- that was yesterday.  A few short minutes later, the vision of a Buffalo-style pasta salad popped into my head -- and IT is happening today.

Lucky lovers of all things Buffalo wings:  it comes in many forms.

6a0120a8551282970b026bde921b79200cIn my family alone, Nacho Mama's Buffalo Chicken Sheet-Pan Nanchos, Buffalo-Style Shredded Chicken 'n Slaw Sliders, Spicy Blue-Cheesy Buffalo-Style Chicken Dip, Spicy Blue-Cheesy Buffalo-Chicken Quesadillas, Batter-Dipped Buffalo Chicken & Blue Cheese Subs, Sweet-and-Savory-Glazed Buffalo-Chicken Meatballs, Buffalo-Style Skinny Chicken  Tacos, Almost Effortless Chunky Buffalo-Style Chicken Chili, and, Buffalo-chicken Tortilla Wraps, are ALL crowd-pleasing wing-night or game-day options.  

This afternoon, Buffalo-Chicken pasta salad is on the menu:  

IMG_5705For the pasta and salad:

12  ounces uncooked crest-of-the-rooster pasta (large elbow macaroni or penne may be substituted)

1  tablespoon sea salt, for adding to pasta water

3  cups roasted and hand-pulled meat, preferably dark-meat from 3 roasted chicken leg-thigh quarters

3/4  cup small-diced celery

3/4  cup rough-chopped matchstick carrots

3/4  cup small-diced yellow or sweet onion

1  total cup blue cheese crumbles, 3/4 cup for the salad and 1/4 cup for garnish

IMG_5692For my Buffalo-style ranch dressing (yield: 1 generous cup):

*3/4  cup Hidden Valley ranch dressing

*1/4  cup Frank's RedHot wing sauce

2  tablespoons honey

1  teaspoon dehydrated minced garlic

1 1/2  teaspoons dehydrated minced onion

* Note:  When preparing the 1 cup of dressing, I like the ratio of 3/4 cup Hidden Valley ranch dressing to 1/4 cup Frank's RedHot wing sauce.  That said, if you want your dressing hotter (as in spicier), feel free to adjust it to suit your palate.  Example: 1/2 cup dressing to 1/2 cup wing sauce.

IMG_5693 IMG_5693 IMG_5693~ Step 1.  To prepare the dressing, in a 1-cup measuring container, thoroughly stir all ingredients together.  Set aside, at room temperature, while prepping all ingredients for the pasta and salad.

IMG_5707 IMG_5707 IMG_5707 IMG_5707 IMG_5707 IMG_5707~Step 2.  To cook the pasta, in a wide-bottomed 3 1/2-4-quart stockpot or chef's pan, bring 3 quarts of water to a boil.  Add the 1 tablespoons of sea salt to the water.  Add the pasta and cook, according to package directions, until al dente, 9-11 minutes.  Do not over cook the pasta.  Drain pasta into a colander, rinse it thoroughly under cold running tap water (to remove the excess starch and halt the cooking process), then, spread it out onto a baking pan that has been lined with parchment paper.  Set aside for 10-15 minutes, to dry and cool, meaning:  dry free of excess moisture (not dry out), and, cool to room temp.  

IMG_5688 IMG_5688 IMG_5688 IMG_5688 IMG_5688 IMG_5688 IMG_5688 IMG_5688~Step 3.  After removing the skin, using your fingers, pull the chicken from the leg-thigh quarter bones, into bite-sized pieces.  Transfer the drained and now cooled pasta to a large bowl.  Add the pulled chicken, followed by the celery, carrots and onions.  Using a large rubber spatula, gently fold all ingredients together.  Do not add the blue cheese crumbles at this time.  Add all of the dressing, and, fold again, until all the ingredients are enrobed in this yummy-spicy-creamy concoction.  Cover and refrigerate for at least one hour, to give the flavors time to marry.

IMG_5742 IMG_5742 IMG_5742~ Step 4.  At serving time, remove from refrigerator and use the spatula to fold the mixture again, then, lastly, fold in 3/4 cup of the blue cheese crumbles.  Portion and garnish each with a sprinkling of blue cheese crumbles.

Serve each portion garnished w/blue cheese crumbles:

IMG_5764This salad is at its best served the same day it's prepared.

IMG_5770RedHot Buffalo-Chicken Rooster-Crest-Pasta Salad:  Recipe yields 10 cups/6 main-course salad servings.

Special Equipment List:  1-cup measuring container; spoon; wide-bottomed 3 1/2-4-quart stockpot or chef's pan w/straight, deep sides; colander; 12 1/2" x 8 3/4" baking pan; parchment paper; cutting board; chef's knife; large rubber spatula

6a0120a8551282970b0263ec2be1a1200cCook's Note:  This main-dish pasta salad can easily be turned into a side-dish too. Simply prepare it, as directed, omitting the pulled chicken. As a side-dish, it's perfectly-marvelous served with hot-out-of-the-oven: ~ Roasted Buffalo-Style Chicken Leg-Thigh Quarters ~.

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2020)

09/15/2020

~What's the Buzz -- Thick & Hearty Bronze-Cut Pasta~

IMG_5660Dried pasta, I'm guessing, is in 99.9 percent of all pantries.  Even if I didn't adore pasta as much as I do, not to mention have around 100 favorite ways to prepare around 100 of my favorite pasta shapes, several boxes of pasta would still be required to be in my pantry at all times.  Why? Because the majority of everyone I know loves pasta, and as the family cook, it's my responsibility to please as many people at one time as possible -- and pasta, as a side-dish or a main-course, is a simple, straightforward, sure-simmered way to do exactly that.  Pasta is feel-good eating.

The difference between run-of-the-mill & bronze-cut pasta...

IMG_5666... has little-to-nothing to do with the brand name.  Read on:

IMG_5640Let's start with me telling you this: there really is a difference -- it's not just a marketing ploy, and, it has little-to-nothing to do with the brand name on the box or the bag.  In a nutshell, all manufactured pasta starts by mixing flour and water into a doughy mass which gets extruded (pushed) though a machine via a die (a mold that may or may not be made of bronze) that shapes it into strands or fork-friendly pieces of various thicknesses, shapes and sizes prior to drying.  

IMG_5650Run-of-the-mill pasta dies, made of bronze or otherwise, are coated with Teflon for the obvious reason: it is cheaper because the machinery is easier to maintain.  In the case of run-of-the-mill pasta, it emerges from the machine slick, with a smooth surface and shiny look to it -- it has a polished finish, and it's pretty to look at, but, sauces tend to slide off it.  

IMG_5653Bronze-cut pasta dies, which are indeed bronze and not Teflon coated, renders the pasta rougher, more porous and less dense -- it's got a matt finish and feels rustic to the touch.  Bronze-cut pasta does cost the manufacturer (and the consumer) a bit more, but in the case of this pasta, all sauces love it, and happily stick to it, without any culinary coaxing.

Bronze-cut pasta -- the pasta all sauces loves to stick to:  

IMG_4813"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2020)

09/13/2020

~ That's a Wrap -- A Week's Worth -- 5 Tortilla Wraps ~

IMG_5361Whether it's for for a back-to-school lunchbox, a back-to-work brown-bag it, or, an at-the-stadium tailgate, tortilla wraps are, in my opinion, the perfect make-it-and-take on-the-run meal.  In almost all cases, wrap sandwiches can be assembled and refrigerated the night before, which is a real time-savor on a harried weekday morning.  That said, the reverse is true too.  Whether it's for a home-schooled or work-from-home lunch break, or, for a sports-or-movie-watching event in front of the TV, tortilla wraps are, a quick and satisfying solution to some much needed chaos control.

Spicy Southwestern Salsalito Turkey & Jalapeño Jack Wrap:

IMG_5284Rare Roast Beef, Crispy Bacon & Horseradish-Cheese Wrap:

IMG_5439Pepper Ham, Jarlsberg Swiss & Whole-Grain Mustard Wrap:

IMG_5525There's Something about a Salami & Provolone Cheese Wrap:

IMG_5368Blazing RedHot Buffalo Chicken, Blue Cheese & Slaw Wrap:

IMG_5619That's a Wrap -- A Week's Worth -- 5 Tortilla Wraps:  Recipe yields instructions and guidelines for assembling and wrapping tortilla wrap sandwiches, plus 5 delicious tortilla wrap sandwich recipes.

Special Equipment List: cutting board; chef's knife; plastic wrap; butter knife; serrated bread knife

IMG_5368Cook's Note: The exact origin of the tortilla wrap is not known, but several sandwich shops in various regions of California claim to have created the first one.  None of their stories can be verified, but, one thing that is, for the most part, agreed on:  the tortilla wrap was inspired by the burrito.  When making a tortilla wrap, the general rule of thumb is: any salad or sandwich ingredient combo that can be slapped between two slices of bread or shoved into a pocket bread, can be wrapped in a flour tortilla.  Be sure to get my tips on ~ The Best Way to Assemble and Wrap a Tortilla Wrap ~.

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2020

09/10/2020

~Blazing Buffalo Chicken, Blue Cheese & Slaw Wrap~

IMG_5619I'll admit, I don't buy deli-style chicken breast very often -- I'm more of a deli-turkey-breast sandwich kinda gal.  That said, when I do, nine-out-of-ten-times it is Boar's Head Blazing-Buffalo-style chicken.  Why?  Because my family loves my Buffalo-style chicken wrap sandwiches and every slice of Boars Head Buffalo-style chicken is full of classic RedHot Buffalo-chicken flavor -- it's downright addicting.  Inspired by hot and spicy Buffalo chicken wings, Boars Head Blazing Buffalo Chicken Breast is coated with cayenne red pepper, vinegar and spices for a distinctly piquant taste that delivers the kick of America's popular tailgate treat without the mess.

Lucky lovers of all things Buffalo wings:  it comes in many forms.

6a0120a8551282970b0264e2e99602200dIn my family alone, Nacho Mama's Buffalo Chicken Sheet-Pan Nanchos, Buffalo-Style Shredded Chicken 'n Slaw Sliders, Spicy Blue-Cheesy Buffalo-Style Chicken Dip, Spicy Blue-Cheesy Buffalo-Chicken Quesadillas, Batter-Dipped Buffalo Chicken & Blue Cheese Subs, Sweet-and-Savory-Glazed Buffalo-Chicken Meatballs, Buffalo-Style Skinny Chicken  Tacos, and, Almost Effortless Chunky Buffalo-Style Chicken Chili are ALL wing-night or game-day options.  Tonight Buffalo chicken wraps are on the menu.  

Boar's Head Blazing Buffalo Chicken Breast is irresistible.

IMG_5570For each wrap sandwich, in order of assembly:

1  Mission brand burrito-size super-soft flour tortilla

2-3  tablespoons Frank's RedHot wing sauce

1  thin, flat layer Nature's Promise Spring mix

6  tablespoons Boar's Head blue cheese crumbles

12  whole, thin-sliced slices Boar's Head Buffalo-chicken

6  tablespoons creamy cole slaw

4  tablespoons rough-chopped matchstick carrots

IMG_5578 IMG_5578 IMG_5578 IMG_5578 IMG_5578 IMG_5578~Step 1. To assemble each wrap sandwich, over a large cutting board, drape a large piece of plastic wrap.  Place one flour tortilla in the center. Using a butter knife, slather a thin layer of RedHot wing sauce evenly over the entire surface of the burrito. Arrange a single, flat layer of the Spring mix atop the spicy sauce, followed by a scattering of blue cheese crumbles, followed by two, single, flat layers Buffalo chicken (12 slices).

IMG_5573 IMG_5573 IMG_5573~Step 2.  Fine dice and mix the carrots into the coleslaw.  Towards the upper-end of the lower-third of the tortilla (meaning, not directly across the center), arrange a strip of 10 tablespoons coleslaw across the surface of the sandwich.  Tip from Mel:  Because creamy coleslaw is technically a wet ingredient, I place it on a paper-towel-lined plate for a few moments, to remove the excess moisture.

IMG_5597 IMG_5597 IMG_5597 IMG_5597 IMG_5597 IMG_5361~Step 3. Starting at the side closest to you, lift the tortilla up and tightly over the top of the diced fillings.  Continue to tightly roll the tortilla until it is sitting, seam-side-down, near the top of the plastic wrap.  Lift the plastic wrap up and tightly over the rolled tortilla, and continue to roll, until the tortilla is sitting, seam-side-down, near the bottom of the plastic wrap. Seal the left and right ends of the plastic wrap, folding the ends of the tortilla, on both sides underneath the tortilla, to tightly encase and seal the wrap sandwich at both ends.  Set aside for 5-10 minutes, or up to 2 hours in the refrigerator, prior to slicing into desired-sized pieces and serving.  Slice the sandwich in half at a 30° angle while holding the knife at a 30° angle.

Tightly wrapping the tortilla in plastic, &, giving it a short rest, will make the sandwich very easy to slice & serve.

IMG_5631RedHot Buffalo Chicken, Blue Cheese & Slaw Wrap:  Recipe yields  instructions to make as many Italian-style salami and cheese wraps as you want to/1 main-dish serving serving each wrap sandwich/6 appetizer-sized servings each wrap sandwich.

Special Equipment List: cutting board; chef's knife; plastic wrap; butter knife; serrated bread knife

IMG_5368Cook's Note: The exact origin of the tortilla wrap is not known, but several sandwich shops in various regions of California claim to have created the first one.  None of their stories can be verified, but, one thing that is, for the most part, agreed on:  the tortilla wrap was inspired by the burrito.  When making a tortilla wrap, the general rule of thumb is: any salad or sandwich ingredient combo that can be slapped between two slices of bread or shoved into a pocket bread, can be wrapped in a flour tortilla.  Be sure to get my tips on ~ The Best Way to Assemble and Wrap a Tortilla Wrap ~.

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2020)

09/07/2020

~ There's Something about a Salami & Cheese Wrap ~

IMG_5368 2I love the combination of salami and cheese -- more specifically Boar's Head's hard salami and picante provolone cheese.  Let's talk salami for a moment.  Lots of folks prefer genoa salami, but, I am not one of them, and, the answer might lie in my Eastern European ancestry.  Genoa salami is an Italian salami which originated in Genoa, where porcine is more prevalent than cattle.  On the other hand, hard salami originated in Central Europe, where cattle are more prevalent.  It's the more-pork-to-less-beef ratio in cured-but-not-smoked Genoa salami that renders it a bit too soft and, for lack of a better work, "greasy" for my taste. Hard salami, which is smoked, is coarser, dryer, and, for me, has a more palatable "to the tooth" chew to it.  All that said, feel free to substitute genoa salami for hard salami in any sandwich if that is what you like better.

Genoa-Salami-vs-Hard-Salami

Genoa Salami Hard Salami
- Originated in the hilly interior of Genoa, Italia - Originated in Central Europe
- Primarily uses pork, may contain some beef as well - Uses more beef than pork
- Seasoned with peppercorns and wine - Doesn’t use peppercorns
- Not smoked - Smoked
- Has a softer texture - Usually coarser and drier

Hard salami & picante provolone are staples in my refrigerator:

IMG_5567For each wrap sandwich, in order of assembly:

1  Mission brand burrito-size super-soft flour tortilla

3-4  tablespoons Wish-Bone light Italian dressing

1  thin, flat layer Nature's Promise Spring mix

6  whole, thin-sliced slices Boar's Head picante provolone cheese

12 whole, thin-sliced slices Boar's Head hard salami

3  tablespoon small diced red onion 

3  tablespoons seeded and small-diced Campari tomatoes

1-2  tablespoons Cento hot hoagie spread

IMG_5312 IMG_5312 IMG_5312 IMG_5312 IMG_5312~Step 1. To assemble each wrap sandwich, over a large cutting board, drape a large piece of plastic wrap.  Place one flour tortilla in the center. Using a butter knife, slather a thin layer of the Italian dressing evenly over the entire surface of the burrito.  Arrange a single, flat layer of the Spring mix atop the dressing, followed by a single, flat layer of provolone cheese (6 whole slices), followed by a second single, flat layer of hard salami (10-12 slices).

IMG_5333~ Step 2.  Towards the upper-end of the lower-third of the tortilla (meaning, not directly across the center, or, slightly lower than the center), arrange a strip of 3 tablespoons diced red onion, followed by a layer of 3 tablespoons diced tomato, followed by a layer of 1-2 tablespoons of the hot hoagie spread (all stacked atop each other to form one strip of flavorful small-diced-filling for the center of wrap sandwich).

IMG_5338 IMG_5338 IMG_5338 IMG_5354 IMG_5354 IMG_5354~Step 3. Starting at the side closest to you, lift the tortilla up and tightly over the top of the diced fillings.  Continue to tightly roll the tortilla until it is sitting, seam-side-down, near the top of the plastic wrap.  Lift the plastic wrap up and tightly over the rolled tortilla, and continue to roll, until the tortilla is sitting, seam-side-down, near the bottom of the plastic wrap. Seal the left and right ends of the plastic wrap, folding the ends of the tortilla, on both sides underneath the tortilla, to tightly encase and seal the wrap sandwich at both ends.  Set aside for 5-10 minutes, or up to 2 hours in the refrigerator, prior to slicing into desired-sized pieces and serving.  Slice the sandwich in half at a 30° angle while holding the knife at a 30° angle.

Tightly wrapping the tortilla in plastic, &, giving it a short rest, will make the sandwich very easy to slice & serve.

IMG_5383There's Something about a Salami & Cheese Wrap: Recipe yields instructions to make as many Italian-style salami and cheese wraps as you want to/1 main-dish serving serving each wrap sandwich/6 appetizer-sized servings each wrap sandwich.

Special Equipment List: cutting board; chef's knife; plastic wrap; butter knife; serrated bread knife

IMG_5368 2Cook's Note: The exact origin of the tortilla wrap is not known, but several sandwich shops in various regions of California claim to have created the first one.  None of their stories can be verified, but, one thing that is, for the most part, agreed on:  the tortilla wrap was inspired by the burrito.  When making a tortilla wrap, the general rule of thumb is: any salad or sandwich ingredient combo that can be slapped between two slices of bread or shoved into a pocket bread, can be wrapped in a flour tortilla.  Be sure to get my tips on ~ The Best Way to Assemble and Wrap a Tortilla Wrap ~.

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2020)

09/04/2020

~Make-My-Day Peppered-Ham, Swiss & Slaw Wraps~

IMG_5525Interestingly, or not so interestingly, when it comes to a ham sandwich, I like various types of super-thin-sliced deli-ham better than baked ham of the type leftover from a holiday meal (which I prefer to make use of in a few breakfast and dinner casseroles).  I've never met a deli-ham that I seriously didn't like (unless it isn't sliced thin enough), and, my three favorites are (in this order): Boar's Head pepper ham, deluxe ham, and, sweet deli ham.  There's more.  For me, ham goes hand-in-hand with mustard, and, my three favorites are (in this order) Bookbinder's whole-grain, Guldon's spicy brown, and, Grey Poupon dijon. I'm a little less picky when it comes to the mandatory Swiss cheese on a deli-ham sandwich, but, hand's-down, buttery and mild Jarlsberg, thin-sliced fresh off the wheel or a wedge, which I always have in my refrigerator, is my favorite.

As for slaw in the center of a wrap sandwich?  You betcha!

IMG_5485For each wrap sandwich, in order of assembly:

1  Mission brand burrito-size super-soft flour tortilla

3-4  tablespoons Bookbinder's whole-grain mustard

1  thin, flat layer Nature's Promise Spring mix

6  whole, thin-sliced slices Jarlesberg Swiss cheese

6  whole, thin-sliced slices Boar's Head peppered ham

8  tablespoons creamy cole slaw (1/2 cup)

IMG_5486 IMG_5491 IMG_5491 IMG_5491 IMG_5491~Step 1. To assemble each wrap sandwich, over a large cutting board, drape a large piece of plastic wrap.  Place one flour tortilla in the center. Using a butter knife, slather a thin layer of whole-grain mustard evenly over the entire surface of the burrito.  Arrange a single, flat layer of the Spring mix atop the mustard, followed by a single, flat layer of Swiss cheese (6 whole slices), followed by a single, flat layer of peppered ham (6 slices).

IMG_5505~Step 2.  Towards the upper-end of the lower-third of the tortilla (meaning, not directly across the center, or, slightly lower than the center), arrange a strip of 8 tablespoons (about 1/2 cup) cole slaw across the surface of the sandwich.  Tip from Mel:  Because creamy coleslaw is technically a wet ingredient, I place it on a paper-towel-lined plate for a few moments, to remove the excess moisture.

IMG_5510 IMG_5510 IMG_5510 IMG_5510 IMG_5510 IMG_5510~Step 3. Starting at the side closest to you, lift the tortilla up and tightly over the top of the diced fillings.  Continue to tightly roll the tortilla until it is sitting, seam-side-down, near the top of the plastic wrap.  Lift the plastic wrap up and tightly over the rolled tortilla, and continue to roll, until the tortilla is sitting, seam-side-down, near the bottom of the plastic wrap. Seal the left and right ends of the plastic wrap, folding the ends of the tortilla, on both sides underneath the tortilla, to tightly encase and seal the wrap sandwich at both ends.  Set aside for 5-10 minutes, or up to 2 hours in the refrigerator, prior to slicing into desired-sized pieces and serving.  Slice the sandwich in half at a 30° angle while holding the knife at a 30° angle.

Tightly wrapping the tortilla in plastic, &, giving it a short rest, will make the sandwich very easy to slice & serve.

IMG_5550Make-My-Day Peppered-Ham, Swiss & Slaw Wraps:  Recipe yields Recipe yields instructions to make as many peppered ham, Swiss & slaw wraps as you want to/1 main-dish serving serving each wrap sandwich/6 appetizer-sized servings each wrap sandwich.

Special Equipment List: cutting board; chef's knife; plastic wrap; butter knife; paper towels (optional); serrated bread knife

IMG_5368Cook's Note: The exact origin of the tortilla wrap is not known, but several sandwich shops in various regions of California claim to have created the first one.  None of their stories can be verified, but, one thing that is, for the most part, agreed on:  the tortilla wrap was inspired by the burrito.  When making a tortilla wrap, the general rule of thumb is: any salad or sandwich ingredient combo that can be slapped between two slices of bread or shoved into a pocket bread, can be wrapped in a flour tortilla.  Be sure to get my tips on ~ The Best Way to Assemble and Wrap a Tortilla Wrap ~.

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2020)

09/02/2020

~ Roast Beef, Bacon and Horseradish-Cheese Wraps ~

IMG_5442Fly me to the moon.  As a card-carrying carnivore, a thin-sliced deli roast beef sandwich is one of my favorite things.  Slather the bread with some horseradish cheese spread or horseradish mayonnaise (or both) and I'll follow you anywhere.  Once upon a time, I made a tray of exactly 60 of these wrap sandwiches (there were 120 halves on the platter). I served them to our PSU tailgate group.  They were intended to be a snack, with bloody's Mary's, for an early morning tailgate-at-the-stadium, for a Noon kickoff. Fourteen men plus roughly fourteen women polished off the entire tray, in, oh I'm guessing, 15-20 minutes -- that's an average of four halves each. Over the years, I've found that slicing these sandwiches into 6 pieces each makes for a very popular appetizer at cocktail parties too -- roast beef, bacon and horseradish is simply a win-win. 

Those tailgaters would have eaten more had there been more.

IMG_5399For each wrap sandwich, in order of assembly:

1  Mission brand burrito-size super-soft flour tortilla

4-6  tablespoons horseradish cheese spread, your favorite brand

1  thin, flat layer Nature's Promise Spring mix

12  thin slices Boar's Head rare roast beef

3  tablespoon small diced red onion 

3  tablespoons seeded and small-diced Campari tomatoes

3  tablespoons crisp-fried thick-sliced small-diced bacon, your favorite brand

IMG_5403 IMG_5403 IMG_5403 IMG_5403 IMG_5403~Step 1.  To assemble each wrap sandwich, over a large cutting board, drape a large piece of plastic wrap.  Place one flour tortilla in the center. Using a butter knife, slather a thin layer of horseradish cheese spread evenly over the entire surface of the burrito.  Arrange a single, flat layer of the Spring mix atop the cheese spread, followed by a single, flat layer of roast beef (6 whole slices), followed by a second single, flat layer of roast beef (6 more slices).

IMG_5421~Step 2.  Towards the upper-end of the lower-third of the tortilla (meaning, not directly across the center, or, slightly lower than the center), arrange a strip of 3 tablespoons diced red onion, followed by a layer of 3 tablespoons diced tomato, followed by 3 tablespoons diced bacon (all stacked atop each other to form one strip of flavorful small-diced-filling for the center of wrap sandwich).

IMG_5424 IMG_5424 IMG_5424 IMG_5424 IMG_5424 IMG_5361~Step 3.  Starting at the side closest to you, lift the tortilla up and tightly over the top of the diced fillings.  Continue to tightly roll the tortilla until it is sitting, seam-side-down, near the top of the plastic wrap.  Lift the plastic wrap up and tightly over the rolled tortilla, and continue to roll, until the tortilla is sitting, seam-side-down, near the bottom of the plastic wrap. Seal the left and right ends of the plastic wrap, folding the ends of the tortilla, on both sides underneath the tortilla, to tightly encase and seal the wrap sandwich at both ends.  Set aside for 5-10 minutes, or up to 2 hours in the refrigerator, prior to slicing into desired-sized pieces and serving.  Slice the sandwich in half at a 30° angle while holding the knife at a 30° angle.

Tightly wrapping the tortilla in plastic, &, giving it a short rest, will make the sandwich very easy to slice & serve.

IMG_5461Deli-Roast Beef, Bacon and Horseradish-Cheese Wraps: Recipe yields instructions to make as many roast beef, bacon and horseradish-cheese wraps as you want to/1 main-dish serving serving each wrap sandwich/6 appetizer-sized servings each wrap sandwich.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; plastic wrap; butter knife; serrated bread knife

IMG_5368Cook's Note: The exact origin of the tortilla wrap is not known, but several sandwich shops in various regions of California claim to have created the first one.  None of their stories can be verified, but, one thing that is, for the most part, agreed on:  the tortilla wrap was inspired by the burrito.  When making a tortilla wrap, the general rule of thumb is: any salad or sandwich ingredient combo that can be slapped between two slices of bread or shoved into a pocket bread, can be wrapped in a flour tortilla.  Be sure to get my tips on ~ The Best Way to Assemble and Wrap a Tortilla Wrap ~.

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2020)

08/31/2020

~ The Best Way to Assemble & Wrap a Tortilla Wrap ~

IMG_5368The exact origin of the tortilla wrap is not known, but several sandwich shops in various regions of California claim to have created the first one.  None of their stories can be verified, but, one thing that is, for the most part, agreed on:  the tortilla wrap was inspired by the burrito.  When making a tortilla wrap, the general rule of thumb is: any salad or sandwich ingredient combo that can be slapped between two slices of bread or shoved into a pocket bread, can be wrapped in a flour tortilla.  That said, generally speaking, when ordering a tortilla wrap, most folks expect to receive a cold sandwich -- this makes sense, since hot ingredients are mostly associated with burritos. Here in my Happy Valley kitchen, we've been eating wrap sandwiches for a couple of decades, and, burrito-sized flour tortillas are alway on-hand in my kitchen for that specific purpose.

General Rule:  Any sandwich or salad can be made into a wrap.

Be Happy:  Layer everything on a big burrito-size flour tortilla.

The Big Fat No-No:  Overstuffing any wrap.  Just don't do it.

I first encountered wraps back in the latter 80's, in a downtown State College joint named "That's a Wrap" -- a clever name.  It was located across an alley, right at the exit from the parking garage where you walked out of the garage to start your trek into the shopping district. They passed your wrap and beverage (fabulous, fresh-squeezed boardwalk-style lemonade) out the window while you slid your cash in through the window.  One could eat on chairs right there on the sidewalk, or, eat on your way towards your destination.  It didn't matter where one decided to eat it, it was well-constructed and stayed in place from first to last bite.  It wasn't fancy, it was just good.

Place burrito-size flour tortilla atop a piece of plastic wrap:

IMG_5312Slather burrito w/dressing, mayo, sauce or sandwich spread:

IMG_5317Add a flat, thin layer of soft mixed or baby greens:

IMG_5321Add a layer, about 6 slices, thin-sliced cheese:

IMG_5326Add a thin layer, about 6-12 slices, thin-sliced deli meat:

IMG_5329Add a strip of diced tomato, onion, &/or relish-type filling:

IMG_5333Lift & tightly roll end closest to you up & over strip of fillings:

IMG_5338Continue to tightly roll until tortilla sits seam-side-down:

IMG_5342Lift & tightly pull plastic wrap up & over tortilla:

IMG_5346Continue rolling until wrapped tortilla sits seam-side-down:

IMG_5354Crimp & tuck ends under to encase tortilla: 

IMG_5349Slice sandwich at a 30º angle holding knife at a 30º angle:

IMG_5361That's a wrap -- The best way I know to wrap a wrap:

IMG_5383The Best Way to Assemble & Wrap a Tortilla Wrap:  Recipe yields instructions to assemble and wrap deli-style wrap sandwiches.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; plastic wrap; butter knife; serrated bread knife

IMG_5284Cook's Note: This is not your average deli-style turkey- or turkey-club- wrap sandwich -- bacon need not apply. Inspired by the food culture of the American Southwest, Boars Head Salsalito Turkey Breast is a bold, flavored-packed taste of Southwestern flavors.  Boar's Head Ovengold Turkey Breast had been my go-to staple in the deli-drawer of my refrigerator for years -- a slice here, two slices there, I snacked on some every day.  This new-to-me "flavor" of deli-turkey was suggested ("this one's VERY popular"), when my grocer ran out of Ovengold.  Try my ~ Spicy Southwestern Salsalito Turkey Breast Wrap ~.

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2020)

08/29/2020

~ Spicy Southwestern Salsalito Turkey Breast Wraps ~

IMG_5284This is not your average deli-style turkey- or turkey-club- wrap sandwich -- bacon need not apply. Inspired by the food culture of the American Southwest, every slice of Boars Head Salsalito Turkey Breast is a bold, flavored-packed taste of Southwestern flavors.  Boar's Head Ovengold Turkey Breast had been my go-to staple in the deli-drawer of my refrigerator for years -- a slice here, two slices there, I snacked on some every day.  This new-to-me "flavor" of deli-turkey was suggested as a substitute ("this one's VERY popular"), when my grocer ran out of Ovengold.

093806-600x600-A-1As it was explained, the entire Boar's Head breast gets coated with a mixture of spicy salsa, jalapeño peppers, onions, sundried tomatoes and cilantro -- all flavors I like.  Well, I'm here to report, it's downright addicting, and, after deciding to try a half-pound of it, to nibble on two weeks ago, I brought home a full-pound this week, and, I couldn't wait to come up with the perfect way, a wrap sandwich, to showcase it.  For me, returning to plain 'ole deli-style turkey anytime soon will be next to impossible -- I don't even want to think about it.  On a side note, be sure to ask your deli-person to slice this product as thin as possible.

Boar's Head Salsalito turkey -- It's simply irresistible.

IMG_5234For each wrap sandwich, in order of assembly:

1  Mission brand burrito-size super-soft flour tortilla

2  tablespoons Brianna's cilantro-lime dressing

1  thin, flat layer Nature's Promise Spring mix

6  thin slices Boar's Head jalapeño Jack cheese

6  thin slices Boar's Head very-thin-sliced Salsalito turkey breast, no substitutions

3  tablespoon small diced red onion 

3  tablespoons seeded and small-diced Campari tomatoes

3  tablespoons small-diced Hass avocado

IMG_5239 IMG_5239 IMG_5239 IMG_5239 IMG_5239 IMG_5239~Step 1.  To assemble each wrap sandwich, over a large cutting board, drape a large piece of plastic wrap.  Place one flour tortilla in the center.  Place 2 tablespoons of cilantro-lime dressing in the center, and use a butter knife to evenly distribute it over the surface of the tortilla.  Arrange a single, flat layer of the Spring mix atop the dressing, followed by a single, flat layer of jalapeño Jack cheese (5 whole slices and 1 slice broken into quarters, for a total of 6 slices), followed by a single, flat layer of Salsalito turkey breast (6 slices).

IMG_5256 IMG_5256 IMG_5256 IMG_5256~Step 2.  Towards the upper-end of the lower-third of the tortilla (meaning, not directly across the center, or, slightly lower than the center), arrange a strip of 3 tablespoons diced red onion, followed by a layer of 3 tablespoons diced tomato, followed by 3 tablespoons diced avocado (all stacked atop each other to form one strip of flavorful diced-filling for the wrap sandwich).

IMG_5264 IMG_5264 IMG_5264 IMG_5264 IMG_5264 IMG_5361~Step 3.  Starting at the side closest to you, lift the tortilla up and tightly over the top of the diced fillings.  Continue to tightly roll the tortilla until it is sitting, seam-side-down, near the top of the plastic wrap.  Lift the plastic wrap up and tightly over the rolled tortilla, and continue to roll, until the tortilla is sitting, seam-side-down, near the bottom of the plastic wrap. Seal the left and right ends of the plastic wrap, folding the ends of the tortilla, on both sides underneath the tortilla, to tightly encase and seal the wrap sandwich at both ends.  Set aside for 5-10 minutes, or up to 2 hours in the refrigerator, prior to slicing into desired-sized pieces and serving. Slice the sandwich in half at a 30° angle while holding the knife at a 30° angle.  

Tightly wrapping the tortilla in plastic, &, giving it a short rest, will make the sandwich very easy to slice & serve.

IMG_5308That's a wrap -- A spicy Southwestern Salsalito turkey wrap, served w/crispy red hot blue tortilla chips! 

IMG_5300

Spicy Southwestern Salsalito Turkey Breast Sliders:  Recipe yields instructions to make as many Salsalito turkey wraps as you want to/1 main-dish serving serving each wrap sandwich/6 appetizer-sized servings each wrap sandwich.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; plastic wrap; butter knife; serrated bread knife

IMG_5368Cook's Note: The exact origin of the tortilla wrap is not known, but several sandwich shops in various regions of California claim to have created the first one.  None of their stories can be verified, but, one thing that is, for the most part, agreed on:  the tortilla wrap was inspired by the burrito.  When making a tortilla wrap, the general rule of thumb is: any salad or sandwich ingredient combo that can be slapped between two slices of bread or shoved into a pocket bread, can be wrapped in a flour tortilla.  Be sure to get my tips on ~ The Best Way to Assemble and Wrap a Tortilla Wrap ~.

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2020)

08/26/2020

~ Street-Food-Style Barbecued Pork Chop Sandwich ~

IMG_5218In the event you're not familiar with this particular Chicago-style pork sandwich, it's known as The Maxwell Street Pork Chop Sandwich (Maxwell Street being a all-day Sunday outdoor market). Not to be confused with any type of pulled-pork sandwich, this sandwich, strange to most folks outside the city limits, places an entire bone-in pork chop on a nice soft roll, along with a heaping-helping of sautéed onions.  The pork chops are cooked on a flat-top griddle right next to a never-ending pile of thick-sliced onions.  Embellishments are an optional slather of mustard and/or a few pickled sport peppers.  Sold by the street venders, these are bona fide eat-on-the-street food.

Chicago's Maxwell Street Market -- a Sunday-only tradition.

Worldfamous-0x0For 100 years, Maxwell Street has been Chicago’s most renowned but unconventional business and residential district.  About a mile long, and sitting in the shadow of city skyscrapers, it's still a Sunday-only affair and place for new businesses to sell their wares, and, with a bit of luck, grow and thrive -- Maxwell Street Market was the precursor to open-air flea markets.  Fledgling entrepreneurs in need of cash came to Maxwell Street to try to earn a livelihood.  From clothes, to produce, to cars, appliances, tools, and virtually anything anyone could want, Maxwell Street offered discount items to consumers -- it was an economic hub for poorer people looking to get ahead.  The Maxwell Street Market, located at 800 S. Desplaines Street and open from 7:00AM to 3:00PM every Sunday, is a Chicago tradition with an eclectic mix of handmade crafts, resale housewares and clothing, live music, family fun and some of the best street food in Chicago.

All I did was replace the mustard w/some barbecue sauce.

IMG_5194My recipe started out as a straight-forward copycat of The Maxwell Street Pork Chop Sandwich. It evolved into Mel's Maxwell-Street-Style Barbecued Pork Chop Sandwich because, after making them a second time for our Penn State tailgate group (which genuinely loved them), a couple of the guys mentioned they'd like to try them with a slather of barbecue sauce (instead of mustard). Nothing ventured, nothing gained, and, truth told, once coated in barbecue sauce, everyone unanimously agreed they preferred them that way.  That's my story and I'm sticking with it! 

IMG_50476  3/4"-1" thick, bone-in pork loin chops (Note:  You can substitute boneless pork loin chops, but, if you're doing it because you think it will make eating this unique sandwich more manageable, it will not.  The etiquette is to get a grip on the sandwich by picking it up at the bone-end, then eat your way inward, toward the bone.  Haha -- Holding that bone-in end actually helps to hold the whole thing together and makes the sandwich really easy to eat.)

4  tablespoons corn or peanut oil, for sautéing chops

freshly-ground sea salt and peppercorn blend, for seasoning chops

1  cup K.C. Masterpiece original barbecue sauce, plus, the rest of the 18-ounce bottle for dipping or drizzling at tableside

1  pound, 1/2"-thick-sliced yellow or sweet onion, sliced into half-moon shapes

no-stick cooking spray, for preparing casserole

6  soft brioche hamburger-type rolls

IMG_5062 IMG_5062~ Step 1.  Spray a 13" x 9" x 2" casserole with no-stick spray.  Slice onion into 1/2"-thick rounds, then slice rounds in half to form half-moons. Separate the onion pieces, arranging them in bottom of prepared casserole.  Set aside.

IMG_5051 IMG_5051 IMG_5051 IMG_5051 IMG_5051 IMG_5051 IMG_5051 IMG_5051 IMG_5051~Step 2. In a 16" electric skillet, heat the corn or peanut oil over low heat. Increase heat to 225º (medium-high), add the chops, then, season their tops with freshly-ground sea salt and peppercorn blend.  Continue to sauté the chops until they're browning nicely on the bottom, about 6-7 minutes.  Using a spatula, flip the chops over and season the second side with freshly ground sea salt and peppercorn blend.  Sauté the chops until golden on the bottom, about 6-7 more minutes.  Turn the heat off.  Transfer chops to a plate and set aside.

IMG_5088 IMG_5088 IMG_5088 IMG_5088 IMG_5088~Step 3.  Add the barbecue sauce to the skillet.  Return heat to 225°. Quickly heat the barbecue sauce to bubbling, stirring constantly to incorporate the sauce into the flavorful pan drippings.  This will take less than 1 minute.  Turn the heat off.  Return the chops to the skillet and coat them generously, on both sides, in the barbecue sauce.

IMG_5106 IMG_5106 IMG_5106 IMG_5106~Step 4.  One-at-a-time, transfer pork chops to  casserole, arranging them on top of the onions as you work.  Using an ordinary tablespoon, place about 2 tablespoons of the remaining barbecue sauce on top of each chop (and continue  on with any remaining sauce if there is any left in the skillet).  Note:  At this point, the casserole may be covered with plastic wrap and refrigerated several hours or overnight.  Remove from refrigerator 1-2 hours prior to proceeding with recipe.

IMG_5119 IMG_5119 IMG_5119~Step 5.  Tightly cover the casserole dish with aluminum foil.  Bake on center rack of preheated 325º oven, 40 minutes. Remove casserole from oven and reset oven to broil.  Uncover casserole and place 6" under preheated broiler until bubbling and showing signs of charring, about 2-3 minutes, watching carefully during the broiling process because the sugar in the barbecue sauce can and will go from brown to burned very quickly.  Remove from oven.  To assemble and serve the sandwiches:

IMG_5185 IMG_5185 IMG_5185~ Step 6.  Place one steaming hot, juicy, tender pork chop on each roll and top with a generous heap of flavorful onions.  I like to serve these sandwiches with my creamy-crunchy cole slaw and dill pickle spears.  That said, they pair well with potato chips, French fries or my stovetop macaroni and cheese too.

Put a lid on it & enjoy this truly unique sandwich encounter:

IMG_5224Street-Food-Style Barbecued Pork Chop Sandwich:  Recipe yields 6 hearty sandwiches.

Special Equipment List: cutting board; chef's knife; 13" x 9" x 2" casserole; 16" electric skillet w/lid; fork; spatula; tablespoon; aluminum foil

6a0120a8551282970b0240a47dc58e200cCook's Note:  While I rarely spend any time in the drive-thru lane of fast-food chains, on those rare occasions when McDonald's returns the McRib to its menu for a limited time, I'm not ashamed, well maybe a little ashamed, to admit to making the pilgrimage to the golden arches. For the ten or twelve minutes it takes to sit in the parking lot and eat it with a large side of fries and a diet Coke, I lock my nutritional conscience in the glove compartment and indulge in what I believe to be their greatest achievement.  Perhaps the "blush would come off the rose" if it were available whenever I wanted one, and, "if wishing made it so", I'd be willing to find out.  Live dangerously folks, try ~ Mel's Bone-Suckin' Copycat-McRib & Onion Sub Sandwich ~.

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2020)

08/23/2020

~Easy K.C-Style Oven-Baked Barbecued Pork Chops~

IMG_5169Unless I'm staring-down a 1 1/2"-2" double-cut pork chop, complete with a pocket full of stuffing inside, that has been painstakingly stovetop- or oven-braised, I pretty much believe pork chops all taste better slathered with some sort of barbecue sauce.  So, for the purpose of this post, my reference to barbecued pork chops refers to pork chops slathered in barbecue sauce, not pork chops prepared in traditional barbecue-style (low and slow over smoldering coals or embers for a long period of time).  As long as the end justifies the means, I'm super-easy to get along with.

Literally fork tender & everything one could ask for:

IMG_5173Sixty short minutes to dinner:  12-14 minutes to brown the chops, 1 minute to "doctor-up" the store-bought sauce, 40 minutes in the oven to bake, plus, 2-3 minutes under the broiler.

IMG_50476  3/4"-1" thick, bone-in pork loin chops

4  tablespoons corn or peanut oil, for sautéing chops

freshly-ground sea salt and peppercorn blend, for seasoning chops

1  cup K.C. Masterpiece original barbecue sauce, plus, the rest of the 18-ounce bottle for dipping or drizzling at tableside

1  pound, 1/2"-thick-sliced yellow or sweet onion, sliced into half-moon shapes

no-stick cooking spray, for preparing casserole

IMG_5062 IMG_5062~ Step 1.  Spray a 13" x 9" x 2" casserole with no-stick spray.  Slice onion into 1/2"-thick rounds, then slice rounds in half to form half-moons. Separate the onion pieces, arranging them in bottom of prepared casserole.  Set aside.

6a0120a8551282970b0264e2e9c611200d 6a0120a8551282970b0264e2e9c611200d IMG_5056 IMG_5056 IMG_5056 IMG_5056 IMG_5056 IMG_5056 IMG_5056~Step 2. In a 16" electric skillet, heat the corn or peanut oil over low heat. Increase heat to 225º (medium-high), add the chops, then, season their tops with freshly-ground sea salt and peppercorn blend.  Continue to sauté the chops until they're browning nicely on the bottom, about 6-7 minutes.  Using a spatula, flip the chops over and season the second side with freshly ground sea salt and peppercorn blend.  Sauté the chops until golden on the bottom, about 6-7 more minutes.  Turn the heat off.  Transfer chops to a plate and set aside.

IMG_5088 IMG_5088 IMG_5088 IMG_5088 IMG_5088~Step 3.  Add the barbecue sauce to the skillet.  Return heat to 225°. Quickly heat the barbecue sauce to bubbling, stirring constantly to incorporate the sauce into the flavorful pan drippings.  This will take less than 1 minute.  Turn the heat off.  Return the chops to the skillet and coat them generously, on both sides, in the barbecue sauce.

IMG_5106 IMG_5106 IMG_5106 IMG_5106~Step 4.  One-at-a-time, transfer pork chops to  casserole, arranging them on top of the onions as you work.  Using an ordinary tablespoon, place about 2 tablespoons of the remaining barbecue sauce on top of each chop (and continue  on with any remaining sauce if there is any left in the skillet).  Note:  At this point, the casserole may be covered with plastic wrap and refrigerated several hours or overnight.  Remove from refrigerator 1-2 hours prior to proceeding with recipe.

IMG_5119 IMG_5119 IMG_5119~Step 5.  Tightly cover the casserole dish with aluminum foil.  Bake on center rack of preheated 325º oven, 40 minutes. Remove casserole from oven and reset oven to broil.  Uncover casserole and place 6" under preheated broiler until bubbling and showing signs of charring, about 2-3 minutes, watching carefully during the broiling process because the sugar in the barbecue sauce can and will go from brown to burned very quickly.  Remove from oven and serve immediately.

These chops are great served over green beans along w/my Crispy-Topped Baked Sweet Potato Casserole:      

IMG_5131Easy K.C.-Style Oven-Baked Barbecued Pork Chops:  Recipe yields 6 servings.

Special Equipment List: cutting board; chef's knife; 13" x 9" x 2" casserole; 16" electric skillet w/lid; fork; spatula; tablespoon; aluminum foil

IMG_4669Cook's Note: A nice big piece of perfectly-cooked fall-off-the-bone-tender barbecued chicken, hot of the grill grids and dripping with a fresh slather of tangy barbecue sauce, is one of my favorite meals.  That said, timing is everything, and the slightest time delay, as little as three short minutes, can cause the chicken to go from juicy and succulent to dry and tough -- this is further complicated if a combination of various-sized chicken parts (breasts, legs and thighs) are cooking at the same time.  Sure, it's easily controlled, by babysitting each piece during the last five minutes of the cooking process, but, it's never correctable once the damage is done.  Trust me, oven-roasting removes all room for error, and, chicken leg-thigh quarters are my favorite pick for a quick weekday meal.  Try my ~ Easy Oven-Roasted Barbecued Chicken Quarters ~.

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2020)

08/20/2020

~Mel's Savory Crispy-Topped Sweet Potato Casserole~

IMG_5021I keep sweet potatoes on-hand all year.  I could, and occasionally do, make a meal just for me out of a pillowy-soft steaming-hot baked sweet potato (dripping with a few pats of melting butter and seasoned with a generous grinding of sea salt and a flavorful peppercorn blend).  It's simple, straightforward, scrumptious, and, oh-so-satisfying.  Even if it weren't super-nutritious, I'd simply slide the humble sweet potato off my "favorite foods list" and onto to my "guilty-pleasures-food-list", and go right on eating them anyway.  I love baked sweet potatoes.  That said:

While beauty is in the eye of the beholder, the gnarly sweet potato isn't the prettiest of foods. Better stated, it's not something I typically serve to guests, unless everyone's eating grill-to-fix-your-own-plate in the great outdoors (where presentation is not my responsibility).  That's why I came up with this particular sweet potato casserole recipe.  It brings all the flavors of baked sweet potatoes to the table, dressed up in a pretty casserole -- simple, straightforward and scrumptious.

Flavorful, baked sweet potatoes, served-up casserole-style: 

IMG_4984When it comes to sweet potato casseroles in general, I wish folks would try to think "savory side-dish" not "sweet dessert" and season them accordingly.  Sweet potato casseroles do not need sugar, brown sugar or honey added to them, and, just-say-no to marshmallows -- sweet potatoes are full of flavor, texture and they're naturally sweet.  When served as a savory side-dish to a meal, it's my opinion, they shouldn't contain commonly used pie spices -- no cinnamon or nutmeg please.  Dehydrated garlic and onion, herbes de Provence, salt, and black pepper do it for me.

An inconvenient truth:  A sweet potato is not a yam.

6a0120a8551282970b022ad37affb9200cA bit about sweet potatoes:  Sweet potatoes were first introduced to North America when Columbus brought them over from the island of St. Thomas, where this large edible root (which belongs to the morning-glory family) is native to the tropical regions of the Americas.  There are many varieties of sweet potato, but the two most widely grown commercially are a pale sweet potato and a dark-skinned variety Americans erroneously call "yam" (the true yam is not even related to the sweet potato).  The pale potato has a thin, light yellow skin and pale yellow flesh. Its flavor is not sweet, and, after being cooked, the pale sweet potato is dry and crumbly, similar to that of a Russet potato. The darker variety (pictured above) has a thicker, dark-orange skin and vivid-orange, sweet flesh.  When cooked it has a very sweet flavor and a creamy texture. The dark-skinned, orange-colored variety is the only kind I use in my recipes.

6a0120a8551282970b022ad3a12658200dWhen buying sweet potatoes, choose plump, firm even-sized ones with no cracks. Like regular potatoes they should never be stored in the refrigerator, but do need to be stored in a cool, dark, well-ventilated place. If the temperature is above 60 degrees, they'll begin to sprout, get woody and/or shriveled.  Cooked sweet potatoes, if stored in the refrigerator, last about a week.  Like regular potatoes, sweet potates are always eaten cooked, never raw.

For my savory crispy-topped sweet potato casserole:

IMG_4930For the sweet potato casserole:

6  cups smashed sweet potatoes, removed from 6 pounds sweet potatoes after baking or microwave-baking the potatoes

6  tablespoons salted butter (3/4 stick)

1  generous teaspoon dehydrated minced garlic

1  generous teaspoon dehydrated minced onion

2  teaspoons herbes de Provence (a blend of dried rosemary, marjoram, thyme and savory) 

2  teaspoons sea salt

2  teaspoons coarse-grind black pepper

4  large eggs

1 cup heavy or whipping cream

For the topping:

4  dozen Ritz crackers, no substitutions

8  tablespoons salted butter (1 stick)

IMG_4925Step 1.  Using the tip of a sharp paring knife, pierce tops of sweet potatoes in 4-5 spots.  Microwave-bake them until soft -- in my microwave this takes about 18 minutes.  Set aside until cool enough to comfortably handle with your hands, 15-20 minutes.  Using the paring knife and an ordinary tablespoon slice the potatoes in half, scoop out the soft centers, transfer them to a medium bowl and smash them with a fork.  Set aside.  

Note:  This task can be done several hours or a day or two in advance.

IMG_4932 IMG_4932 IMG_4932~Step 2.  In a 1-cup measuring container, melt the butter.  Remove from microwave and stir in the dehydrated garlic and onion, herbes de Provence, sea salt and coarse-grind pepper.  Set aside about 5-6 minutes.

IMG_4938 IMG_4938 IMG_4938 IMG_4938 IMG_4938 IMG_4938~Step 3.  In a large bowl, starting on low speed of hand-held electric mixer and working up to medium, beat eggs and cream, until smooth and uniform in color, about 45 seconds.  Add and beat in the seasoned butter mixture, about 45 seconds. Add the sweet potatoes.  Increase mixer speed to medium-high and beat until soft and smooth, about 2 minutes, scraping down sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula throughout the process. Transfer mixture to a 2-quart casserole that's been sprayed with no-stick cooking spray.

IMG_4954 IMG_4954 IMG_4954 IMG_4954 IMG_4954 IMG_4954 IMG_4954~Step 4. To prepare the topping, place the crackers in a 1-gallon food storage bag.  Using a small rolling pin, crush them to the size of coarse breadcrumbs.  In a 2-cup measuring container, melt the butter in the microwave.  Add the cracker crumbs to the melted butter.  Stir with a fork, until crumbs are all coated in the butter.  

IMG_4969 IMG_4973~Step 5.  Using the fork, evenly distribute topping atop sweet potato mixture.  Bake, uncovered, on center rack of preheated 325° oven until golden on top, bubbling slightly around the edges and puffed up through to center, 40-45 minutes, being sure to place a sheet of foil loosely over top of the casserole after 30 minutes of the baking process.

A crowd-pleasing year-round side-dish for poultry or pork:  

IMG_5045Mel's Savory Crispy-Topped Sweet Potato Casserole:  Recipe yields 12-16 servings.

Special Equipment List:  microwave oven; cutting board; paring knife; tablespoon; 1-cup measuring container; hand-held electric mixer; large rubber spatula; 2-quart casserole; 1-gallon food storage bag; small rolling pin; 2-cup measuring container; fork; aluminum foil

6a0120a8551282970b022ad3c11477200bCook's Note: As a gal who eats sweet potatoes all year long, I pay particular homage to them at Thanksgiving. Sometimes I present them as a cup of sweet potato soup as the starter to the meal, sometimes they arrive in the form of a side-dish sweet potato and caramelized apple casserole, other times they're the sweet potato, apple and sausage stuffing/dressing side-kick to my turkey, and, always but always, my traditional Turkey Day feast includes a sweet potato pie.

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2020)

08/17/2020

~ Alfredo alla Primavera Parmesan-Chicken Quarters ~

IMG_4911In Italian, fettuccine means "little ribbons", which is why stranded pasta is always used in its preparation.  In Italian, primavera implies "Spring", and culinarily, primavera simply means that fresh vegetables (raw or blanched) have been added to the dish during, or at the end, of its preparation.  Long story short, fettuccini Alfredo that has vegetables added to it is simply referred to as Alfredo alla primavera.  Alfredo and Alfredo primavera can be served as either a pasta course during a meal, a side-dish with a meal, or, (in a larger portion) as a main-course, and, in Italian-American restaurants, because we Americans like protein with our pasta, it's common to find a lightly-pounded, breadcrumb-and-Parmesan-coated, quickly-sautéed Parmesan-chicken breast (not to be confused with chicken Parmesan) as an add-on to this rich, creamy pasta dish.

IMG_4568Oven-roasted chicken leg-thigh quarters are on my weeknight meal rotation two or three times a month.  They're tender and juicy, and, sigh-oh-my, that gorgeous, golden, crispy skin.  Each one is a one-piece drumstick and thigh, which means each piece is the perfect one portion, so, no guesswork involved, you never have any leftovers (unless you want leftovers, then you roast six-eight).  No matter what you're seasoning or saucing these with (the possibilities are almost endless), the upfront prep-work is minimal.  Into the oven they go for 1 hour, 15-20 minutes, and, your hands are, for the most part, free to make an easy side-dish or two and set the table.

Creamy, rich pasta w/tender vegetables served w/tender, juicy chicken encased in a crunchy breadcrumb & cheese coating:

IMG_4924Six on-hand ingredients + 1 hour, 15 minutes = dinner:

IMG_48444  chicken leg-thigh quarters, about 4-4 1/2 pounds

4  tablespoons salted butter

freshly-ground sea salt and peppercorn blend

1  large egg

3/4  cup panko breadcrumbs

1/2  cup finely-grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

IMG_4850 IMG_4850 IMG_4850 IMG_4850 IMG_4850 IMG_4850 IMG_4850 IMG_4866~Step 1.  Melt the butter in the microwave.  Set aside to cool slightly, 5-6 minutes.  In a small bowl or ramekin, whisk the egg with a fork.  In a medium bowl, stir together the breadcrumbs and cheese, then, if you have a pizzeria-style cheese-shaker-type container, transfer the mixture to the shaker.  When the butter has cooled, whisk the egg into the melted butter and set aside.

6a0120a8551282970b0263e95a63a9200b 6a0120a8551282970b0263e95a63a9200b 6a0120a8551282970b0263e95a63a9200b IMG_4871 IMG_4871 IMG_4871 IMG_4871 IMG_4871~Step 2. Arrange chicken quarters in a large disposable roasting pan into which a wire rack has been inserted and a sheet of parchment has been placed atop rack.  Using a pastry brush, paint the entire surface of all four quarters with all of the butter/egg mixture.  Generously season tops of chicken with freshly-ground sea salt and peppercorn blend.  Shake the breadcrumb/cheese mixture onto the chicken, and, using a spoon on your fingertips to pat and press it onto the entire surface of each one.  Roast on center rack of 350° oven, 1 hour, 15 minutes.  During the last 30 minutes of the roasting process, prepare my nice and easy spaghetti Alfredo all primavera.

Portion Alfredo primavera into 4, large, shallow serving bowls:

IMG_4889Top each portion w/an entire chicken quarter & serve ASAP:

IMG_4896Alfredo alla Primavera Parmesan-Chicken Quarters:  Recipe yields 4 servings.

Special Equipment List: 1-cup measuring container; fork; small bowl or ramekin; pizzaria-style cheese-shaker-type container (optional); spoon; 20" x 12" x 4" disposable aluminum roasting pan or 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" baking pan; wire cooling rack; parchment paper; pastry brush

6a0120a8551282970b022ad3e1d465200bCook's Note:  Would you like garlic bread with that?  Of course you would.  Damn the torpedoes and full speed ahead.  A double-whammy of calories and carbohydrates every now and then never hurt anyone, and, eating this winner-winner Parmesan-chicken dinner wouldn't be complete without a big basket of garlic bread to go with it.  We'll have a salad too, because it too goes great with this meal. Try my recipe for ~ A Great Garlic Bread Spread for Great Garlic Bread ~.

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2020)

08/15/2020

~ Nice & Easy Spaghetti Alfredo alla Primavera-Style ~

IMG_4813It was November, 1981 or 1982 -- one or two days before Thanksgiving.  It would turn out to be one of the worst-ever total snowfall years in the history of State College, and this storm snuck up on everyone.  The snow piled high that afternoon, leaving over two feet on the ground. Trees came down and power lines snapped.  Lights went out all over town.  Our house at the time had a soapstone wood-burning stove in our family room.  I hated that stove and the mess involved with it, but, it did help with the heating bill, so, Joe kept it going.  Sans electricity, I put a pot of water on the stove to boil and wrapped a loaf of frozen garlic bread in foil, and, grabbed a bag of frozen peas and carrots out of the freezer (nowadays I use a bag of broccoli, carrots and cauliflower). Using what I had on hand, we five enjoyed this makeshift version of Alfredo, by candlelight, in a warm house, for dinner -- afterwards, my boys started asking me to make "spaghetti Alfredo".

In Italian, fettuccine means "little ribbons", which is why stranded pasta is always used.  In Italian, primavera means "Spring" and culinarily, primavera just means that fresh vegetables (raw or blanched) are added to the dish during or at the end of its preparation.  Long story short, fettuccini Alfredo that has vegetables added to it is simply referred to as Alfredo alla primavera.

A bit of history about the iconic fettuccine Alfredo:  

6a0120a8551282970b0263e959a590200bAlfredo is an Italian pasta dish in which any type of stranded pasta, most famously "fettuccine" (which means "little ribbons" in Italian), is enrobed in a rich sauce usually made from butter, cream, Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and black pepper.  A Roman restauranteur, Alfredo di Lelio first created this dish for his pregnant wife in 1914.  As the story goes, she had lost her appetite or was having trouble keeping food down, either while she was pregnant or after the birth of their son.  Alfredo, set out to create a dish that would not only appeal to his wife, but would be nutritious (calorie and carbohydrate packed) as well.  He developed his dish based on the traditional pasta al burro, which was simply paper-thin ribbons of hand-made pasta with butter.  Alfredo made egg fettuccine, tripled the amount of butter and laced it with copious amounts of Parmigianno-Reggiano cheese.  His wife loved it, so, he added it to his restaurant menu.

As the story goes, as fate would have it, in 1927, the American silent film stars Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks, while honeymooning in Italy, stopped into di Lelio's Alfredo alla Scrofa restaurant, ate the dish and the two lovebirds adored it.  They loved it so much, before they departed, they presented him with a golden fork and spoon along with a picture of them eating in his restaurant.  When the famous newlyweds returned to Hollywood, they began serving fettuccine Alfredo at their dinner parties.  It didn't take long for the news to spread throughout Hollywood, making di Lelio's restaurant and his pasta dish world famous.

IMG_4828Alfredo alla Premavera -- A perfect one-pot side- or main-dish:

IMG_431612  ounces thick spaghetti

1  tablespoon sea salt, for seasoning water for pasta

8  tablespoons salted butter, cut into bite-sized pieces, at room temperature, the softer the better

1 1/2  teaspoons garlic powder

1  teaspoon Italian seasoning blend

1/4  teaspoon ground nutmeg

3/4  teaspoon coarse-grind black pepper

1/2  teaspoon red pepper flakes, more or less, to taste (optional)

3/4  teaspoon sea salt

3/4  cup finely-grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

1-1 1/4-1 1/2 cups heavy or whipping cream, at room temperature

2  16-ounce bags frozen vegetables, your favorite combo, freshly-prepared (simmered, steamed or microwaved), well-drained, and, ideally, still slightly warm

IMG_4318 IMG_4318 IMG_4318 IMG_4318 IMG_4318~Step 1.  In a wide-bottomed 4-quart stockpot bring 3 quarts of water to a rolling boil.  Add the 1 tablespoon sea salt.  Add the spaghetti and cook until al dente, about 10-11 minutes.  Turn heat off.  Thoroughly, drain the pasta into a colandar, then immediately return the hot pasta to the still hot stockpot and place the stockpot back on the still hot stovetop.

IMG_4328 IMG_4328 IMG_4328~Step 2.  Add the butter pieces, along with the spices:  garlic powder, Italian seasoning, nutmeg, black pepper, red pepper flakes and sea salt.  Using two forks or two spoons, toss like you would a salad, until butter is completely melted and pasta is evenly coated in a flavorful butter and spice mixture.

IMG_4336 IMG_4336 IMG_4336 IMG_4804 IMG_4810~Step 3.  Toss in the cheese followed by the cream.  Again, using two forks or two spoons, toss like you would a salad, until the mixture is thoroughly combined.  Gently toss the cooked and drained vegetables into the mixture.  Cover and let rest, 5-6 minutes, tossing occasionally, to allow pasta and veggies time to absorb all of the cream mixture.  

Portion into desired-sized serving bowls & serve immediately.  

IMG_4826Nice & Easy Spaghetti Alfredo all Primavera-Style: Recipe yields 2-4 larger main-dish servings and 4-6 smaller side servings.

Special Equipment List:  Special Equipment List: cutting board; chef's knife; microplane grater; wide-bottomed 4-quart stockpot w/lid; colander; two forks or two spoons

6a0120a8551282970b0263ec2b6e28200cCook's Note: The Italians came up with the cure for the late-night snack-attack centuries ago: Pasta al burro con formaggino (pasta with butter and cheese).  It's a no-nonsense, feed-me-now-snack, a quick-to-make side dish, and, it's a delicious foil for flavorful pasta sauces too.  Choose any shape of pasta (short, fork-friendly shapes work best), and, if you have a link or a patty of breakfast sausage on-hand, not only do the flavors melt into the mixture like they were born to be there, without almost any extra effort, it transforms the dish into a hearty meal for one or two.  Try my ~ Pasta with Butter & Cheese and Sweet Sausage ~.

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2020)

08/12/2020

~ Japanese-Teriyaki-Style Roasted Chicken Quarters ~

IMG_4742Americans adore teriyaki-style almost anything.  This is not an assumption on my part.  Beef or chicken teriyaki appear as a skewered appetizer option on menus in almost all Japanese-American and Chinese-American restaurants.  Make no mistake, teriyaki is a 100% Japanese-invented method of cooking (read paragraph three), and, once Americans here in the states got a taste for its soy- and ginger-based flavors (thanks to our soldiers returning to the homeland after WWII), Chinese-American restaurants adopted it, to please the palates of their customers.

Incredibly easy to prepare, perfectly portioned, &, 100% guaranteed better than take-out, eat-out or delivery:

IMG_4767Teriyaki is true East-meets-West cuisine that started in Hawaii:

IMG_4568Chicken leg-thigh quarters are on my weeknight meal rotation two or three times a month.  They're tender and juicy, and, sigh-oh-my, that gorgeous, golden, crispy skin.  Each one is a one-piece drumstick and thigh, which means each piece is the perfect one portion, so, no guesswork involved, you never have any leftovers (unless you want leftovers, then you roast six-eight). No matter what you're seasoning or saucing these with (the possibilities are almost endless), the upfront prep-work is minimal (5 minutes).  Into the oven they go for 1 hour, 15-20 minutes, and, your hands are, for the most part, free to make an easy side-dish or two and set the table.  In the case of tonights dinner, once I get the chicken in the oven, my electric rice cooker with get turned on to steam some white rice and a medley of frozen broccoli, carrots, snow peas and water chestnuts.

6a0120a8551282970b01b7c94a9feb970bTeriyaki (tehr-uh-yah-kee):  Teriyaki is a Japanese term referring to a method of cooking beef, chicken or seafood that has been marinated (in a mixture of soy sauce, mirin, sugar, garlic and/or ginger) prior to being grilled, broiled or stir-fried. "Teri" is the Japanese word for "luster", and it is the sugar in the marinade that gives the food its "teri" or shiny glaze.  It's interesting to note that in Japan, there is no official teriyaki sauce.  Teriyaki sauce was invented by the early Japanese settlers to the islands of Hawaii.  They created:

A slightly-sweet nicely-thickened marinade/basting sauce using local, readily-available, easy-to-acquire Hawaiian products.  For example: pineapple juice (in place of the mirin or sake of their homeland) and wild garlic (in conjuction with ginger they brought with them), mixed with soy sauce and thickened with cornstarch.  The subject at hand (beef, chicken, fish or seafood) is marinated for a minimum of 30 minutes, longer for a more pronounced flavor, then cooled.

6a0120a8551282970b0263e8615d7d200dHomemade teriyaki sauce is thick and drizzly.  At its thinnest, it is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, and, at the discretion of the cook, in many cases thicker than that.  That said, many store-brought brands are watery (similar in consistency to soy sauce), and, they will not work in this recipe.  Ideally, the teriyaki sauce should be similar in consistency to a hearty barbecue sauce.  What I keep on-hand and recommend is: Panda Express Mandarin brand teriyaki sauce.

There's no shame in owning a bottle of this teriyaki sauce.

IMG_4703For the teriyaki-style chicken leg-thigh quarters:

4  chicken leg-thigh quarters, about 4-4 1/2 pounds

freshly-ground sea salt and peppercorn blend

1 1/2-2  cups Panda Express Mandarin brand teriyaki sauce or homemade teriyaki sauce, about 1/2 cup for basting chicken quarters 3-4 times while it's in the oven, plus  enough to be served for dipping or drizzling at the table

IMG_4715 IMG_47153-4 cups uncooked jasmine or basmati rice, steamed in a rice steamer (optional)

2  steam-in-bags Asian vegetables (broccoli, carrots, snow peas and water chestnuts), microwaved per directions (optional)

6a0120a8551282970b0263e95a63a9200b 6a0120a8551282970b0263e95a63a9200b 6a0120a8551282970b0263e95a63a9200b 6a0120a8551282970b026bde87f32e200c 6a0120a8551282970b026bde87f32e200c IMG_4704 IMG_4704 IMG_4720 2 IMG_4720 2 IMG_4720 2 IMG_4720 2 IMG_4720 2~Step 1. Arrange chicken quarters in a large disposable roasting pan into which a wire rack has been inserted and a sheet of parchment has been placed atop rack.  Generously season tops of chicken with freshly-ground sea salt and peppercorn blend.  Roast on center rack of 350° oven, 1 hour, 15 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven, use a pastry brush to baste each chicken quarter with teriyaki sauce, and return pan to oven to roast for 5 more minutes.  Repeat this basting process 2-3 more times, for a total roasting time of 1 hour, 15-20 minutes.  Prepare the optional rice and vegetables during the last 20-30 minutes of the chicken roasting process.

Three on-hand ingredients + 1 hour, 15 minutes = dinner:

IMG_4763Two side dishes, in 20 minutes while chicken roasts:

IMG_4781Japanese-Teriyaki-Style Roasted Chicken Quarters:  Recipe yields 4 servings.

Special Equipment List: 20" x 12" x 4" disposable aluminum roasting pan, or, 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" baking pan; wire cooling rack; parchment paper; pastry brush; electric rice steamer (optional)

6a0120a8551282970b01bb09f5d2e8970dCook's Note: Chicken wings are modern-day all-American pub grub and teriyaki is a long-established all-Japanese method of cooking beef, chicken, fish or seafood.  Lucky for us Americans, Japanese teriyaki sure does turn out a really good version of American chicken wings, but, unlike our traditionally-prepared wings, which are typically plunged into the hot oil of a deep fryer, teriyaki wings, in order to render their signature fall-off-the-bone tender interior with a slightly-crispy, sticky exterior, they require a kinder, gentler "oven treatment".  Try my  ~ Japanese Teriyaki Meets American Chicken Wings ~.

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2020)

08/09/2020

~How to Season & Roast Chicken Leg-Thigh Quarters~

IMG_4595Oven-roasted chicken leg-thigh quarters are on my weeknight meal rotation two or three times a month.  They're tender and juicy, and, sigh-oh-my, that gorgeous, golden, crispy skin.  Each one is a one-piece drumstick and thigh, which means each piece is the perfect one portion, so, no guesswork involved, you never have any leftovers (unless you want leftovers, then you roast six-eight).  No matter what you're seasoning or saucing these with (the possibilities are almost endless), the upfront prep-work is minimal.  Into the oven they go for 1 hour, 15-20 minutes, and, your hands are, for the most part, free to make an easy side-dish or two and set the table.

Chicken quarters:  Meaty, easy to prepare, &, inexpensive.

IMG_4568Chicken leg-thigh quarters are, seriously folks, really inexpensive -- quite a bit less than separated leg and/or thigh portions. In fact, it's almost double the meat and it's not reflected in the price. Why?  it's because it's one less step at the butchering/processing end.  It's the same reason why you can buy an entire chicken for almost the same price as a couple of chicken breasts.     

Four pieces, four portions & four-ish pounds for about $4.00:

IMG_44714  chicken leg-thigh quarters, about 4-4 1/2 pounds

freshly-ground sea salt and peppercorn blend

honey, for dipping or drizzling at table side (optional)

6a0120a8551282970b0264e2ec6c52200d 6a0120a8551282970b0264e2ec6c52200d IMG_4574 IMG_4574 IMG_4581~Step 1. Arrange chicken quarters in a large disposable roasting pan into which a wire rack has been inserted and a sheet of parchment has been placed atop rack.  Generously season tops of chicken with freshly-ground sea salt and peppercorn blend.  Roast on center rack of 350° oven, 1 hour, 15 minutes.  Remove the pan from the oven, plate and serve.

Remove from pan, plate, & serve the family ASAP:

IMG_4605Try 'em w/honey & Spiced Couscous w/Golden Raisins:

IMG_9164Buffalo-Style w/Jalapeño Jack Mashed Potatoes:

IMG_4546

Barbecue-Style w/Mel's Stovetop Macaroni & Cheese:

IMG_4662Japanese Teriyaki-Style w/Steamed Rice & Veggies:

IMG_4763Crispy Outside, Tender Inside, Oven-Fried Chicken Quarters:

IMG_9395Alfredo alla Primavera-style Parmesan-Chicken Quarters:

IMG_4911How to Season & Roast Chicken Leg-Thigh Quarters:  Recipe yields instructions to season and roast 4 chicken leg-thigh quarters/4 servings.

Special Equipment List:  20" x 12" x 4" disposable aluminum roasting pan, or, 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" baking pan; wire cooling rack; parchment paper

6a0120a8551282970b0223c849deb2200cCook's Note: Mexican rice became a staple on our family's table back in the 1980's.  Whenever we ate in a Mexican restaurant, our three kids would eat all the side-dishes:  the multi-colored veggie-bejeweled rice, the murky-earthy slightly-soupy refried beans, and, the bright-green garlic-laced guacamole.  Without prodding, they'd slather and scoop 'em onto tacos, fajitas, carnitas (whatever they were eating), along with red or green salsa and the bottled hot-sauce du jour.  Go figure, and, "shut my mouth wide open." Super-easy to prepare,  ~ Mexican-Style Adobo Rice (Meatless Spanish Rice) ~ (as pictured in the top photo of this post), is another one of my favorite side-dishes to serve with oven-roasted chicken leg-thigh quarters.

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2020)

08/06/2020

~ Easy Oven-Roasted Barbecued Chicken Quarters ~

IMG_4662A nice big piece of perfectly-cooked fall-off-the-bone-tender barbecued chicken, hot of the grill grids and dripping with a fresh slather of tangy barbecue sauce, is one of my favorite meals.  That said, timing is everything, and the slightest time delay, as little as three short minutes, can cause the chicken to go from juicy and succulent to dry and tough -- this is further complicated if a combination of various-sized chicken parts (breasts, legs and thighs) are cooking at the same time.  Sure, it's easily controlled, by babysitting each piece during the last five minutes of the cooking process, but, it's never correctable once the damage is done.  Trust me, oven-roasting removes all room for error, and, chicken leg-thigh quarters are my favorite pick for a quick meal.

IMG_4669Oven-roasted chicken leg-thigh quarters are on my weeknight meal rotation two or three times a month.  They're tender and juicy, and, sigh-oh-my, that gorgeous, golden, crispy skin.  Each one is a one-piece drumstick and thigh, which means each piece is the perfect one portion, so, no guesswork involved, you never have any leftovers (unless you want leftovers, then you roast six-eight).  No matter what you're seasoning or saucing them with (the possibilities are almost endless), the upfront prep-work is minimal.  Into the oven they go for 1 hour, 15-20 minutes, and, your hands are, for the most part, free to make an easy side-dish or two and set the table.

Three on-hand ingredients + 1 hour, 15 minutes = dinner:

IMG_4622For the Barbecued-style chicken leg-thigh quarters:

4  chicken leg-thigh quarters, about 4-4 1/2 pounds

freshly-ground sea salt and peppercorn blend, or, your favorite barbecue seasoning blend

2  cups K.C.-style barbecue sauce, your favorite brand or favorite homemade K.C.-style recipe, about 1/2 cup for basting chicken quarters 3-4 times while it's in the oven, plus  enough to be served for dipping or drizzling at the table

6a0120a8551282970b0264e2ec6c52200d 6a0120a8551282970b0264e2ec6c52200d IMG_4624 IMG_4624 IMG_4624 IMG_4636 IMG_4636 IMG_4636 IMG_4636 IMG_4636 IMG_4636 IMG_4636~Step 1. Arrange chicken quarters in a large disposable roasting pan into which a wire rack has been inserted and a sheet of parchment has been placed atop rack.  Season tops of chicken freshly-ground sea salt and peppercorn blend, or with your favorite barbecue seasoning.  Roast on center rack of 350° oven, 1 hour.  Remove the pan from the oven, use a pastry brush to baste each chicken quarter with wing sauce, and return pan to oven to roast for 5 more minutes. Repeat this basting process 2-3 more times, for a total roasting time of 1 hour, 15-20 minutes.

Plate 'em up along w/side-servings, then, call all to the table:

IMG_4666I serve 'em w/my better than store-bought mac & cheese:

IMG_4699Easy Oven-Roasted Barbecued Chicken Quarters:  Recipe yields 4 servings.

Special Equipment List: 2-cup measuring container; 20" x 12" x 4" disposable aluminum roasting pan, or, 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" baking pan; wire cooling rack; parchment paper; pastry brush 

6a0120a8551282970b01b8d131f9da970cCook's Note: I love my oven-roasted barbecued chicken served with my hot-off-the-stovetop macaroni and cheese.  I also love my oven-roasted barbecued chicken served with cold, crunchy and creamy macaroni salad.  How do I decide which to serve?  A flip of the coin. 

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2020)

08/04/2020

~ Roasted Buffalo-Style Chicken Leg-Thigh Quarters ~

IMG_4546Oven-roasted chicken leg-thigh quarters are on my weeknight meal rotation two or three times a month.  They're tender and juicy, and, sigh-oh-my, that gorgeous, golden, crispy skin.  Each one is a one-piece drumstick and thigh, which means each piece is the perfect one portion, so, no guesswork involved, you never have any leftovers (unless you want leftovers, then you roast six-eight).  No matter what you're seasoning or saucing them with (the possibilities are almost endless), the upfront prep-work is minimal.  Into the oven they go for 1 hour, 15-20 minutes, and, your hands are, for the most part, free to make an easy side-dish or two and set the table.

IMG_4537Lucky lovers of all-things wings:  They come in many forms.

What started in 1964 as late-night pub grub at the Anchor Bar in Buffalo, NY, deep-fried chicken wings, is now found in many forms.  Truth told, there's not much that Buffalo-style chicken can't do, and applying Buffalo wing sauce to oven-roasted chicken leg-thigh quarters is the perfect way to transition a game day snack into a main-dish meal.  But, are they as good as, or as enjoyable as, eating chicken wings?  As a lady who loves her deep-fried wings, but, only in the privacy of my own home (where I'm free to lick fingers, smack lips, pick teeth, and, drip sauce), yes, while different, this knife-and-fork main-dish is every bit as enjoyable as chicken wings.

6a0120a8551282970b0264e2e99602200dIn my family alone, Nacho Mama's Buffalo Chicken Sheet-Pan Nanchos, Buffalo-Style Shredded Chicken 'n Slaw Sliders, Spicy Blue-Cheesy Buffalo-Style Chicken Dip, Spicy Blue-Cheesy Buffalo-Chicken Quesadillas, Batter-Dipped Buffalo Chicken & Blue Cheese Subs, Sweet-and-Savory-Glazed Buffalo-Chicken Meatballs, Buffalo-Style Skinny Chicken Tacos, and, Almost Effortless Chunky Buffalo-Style Chicken Chili are favorite wing-night or game-day options.  Tonight, it's a main-dish option I'm serving.  

Buffalo-Style Chicken Quarters w/Jalapeño Jack Mashed Potatoes:

IMG_4459For the wing sauce (Note:  This makes 2 cups, which is enough for basting the chicken 3-4 times while it's in the oven, plus  enough to be served for dipping or drizzling at the table.  Store any leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator.):

1  12-ounce bottle Frank's RedHot Buffalo Wing Sauce, or your favorite brand of wing sauce

6-8  tablespoons honey

4  tablespoons salted butter

6a0120a8551282970b0263e946afae200b 6a0120a8551282970b0263e946afae200b 6a0120a8551282970b0263e946afae200b~ Step 1.  In a 1 1/2-quart saucepan place wing sauce, honey and butter over medium heat. Whisking constantly, cook until the butter has melted into the wing sauce and the mixture is uniform in color, about 2 minutes.  Remove from heat and transfer to a 2-cup measuring container.  Yield:  2 cups sauce.

IMG_4465For the Buffalo-style chicken leg-thigh quarters:

4  chicken leg-thigh quarters, about 4-4 1/2 pounds

a generous sprinkling Frank's RedHot Original Seasoning Blend, for seasoning chicken quarters

a portion of the wing sauce (from above recipe), for basting chicken quarters 2-4 times while roasting

6a0120a8551282970b025d9b35f09f200c IMG_4466 IMG_4466 IMG_4479 IMG_4481 IMG_4483 IMG_4483 IMG_4483 IMG_4483 IMG_4483~Step 1.  Arrange chicken quarters in a large disposable roasting pan into which a wire rack has been inserted and a sheet of apartment has been placed atop rack.  Generously season tops of chicken with Frank's seasoning.  Roast on center rack of 350° oven, 1 hour.  Remove the pan from the oven, use a pastry brush to baste each chicken quarter with wing sauce, and return pan to oven to roast for 5 more minutes.  Repeat this basting process 2-3 more times, for a total roasting time of 1 hour, 15-20 minutes.

Plate 'em up, atop your side-servings, then, call all to the table:

IMG_4535I serve 'em w/jalapeño mashed potatoes & steamed carrots:

IMG_4557Roasted Buffalo-Style Chicken Leg-Thigh Quarters:  Recipe yields 4 servings.

Special Equipment List:  1 1/2-quart saucepan; whisk; 2-cup measuring container; 20" x 12" x 4" disposable aluminum roasting pan, or, 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" baking pan; wire cooling rack; parchment paper; pastry brush

IMG_4431 2Cook's Note: Steaming hot mashed potatoes.  I love them, you love them -- doesn't everyone?  In my food world, about the only thing that can be better than a forkful of pure, unadulterated creamy-rich, mashed potatoes is:  a forkful of creamy-rich mashed potatoes with a flavorful cheese added -- American, cheddar and gruyère are my favorites.  Jalapeño Jack cheese is one such cheese too, and trust me, if you and yours enjoy a little spicy heat, you will not have to call anyone to the table twice if they know you're serving these.  ~ Yukon Gold Rush Jalapeño Jack Mashed Potatoes ~ are the perfect side-dish foil for my Buffalo-style chicken leg-thigh quarters.

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2020)

08/02/2020

~ Yukon Gold Rush Jalapeño-Jack Mashed Potatoes ~

IMG_4431Steaming hot mashed potatoes -- I love them, you love them, I know you do, doesn't everyone? In my food world, about the only thing that can be better than a forkful of pure, unadulterated creamy-rich, mashed potatoes is:  a forkful of creamy-rich mashed potatoes with a flavorful cheese added -- American, cheddar and gruyère are favorites in my house.  Jalapeño Jack cheese is one such cheese too, and, oh-my-sigh, trust me, if you and yours enjoy a little spicy heat, you will not have to call anyone to the table twice if they know you're serving these.

Trust me, if you enjoy cheese & spicy heat: try these!

IMG_43782-2 1/2  pounds peeled and 3/4-1" cubed Yukon gold potatoes (2-2 1/2 pounds after peeling)

1  tablespoon sea salt, for seasoning the water

6  ounces shredded jalapeño Jack cheese (about 3 cups)

1  cup cream, preferably at room temperature, plus up to 1/4 cup additional cream to reach desired consistency

6  tablespoons salted butter, preferably at room temperature

1  teaspoon dehydrated, minced garlic

2  teaspoons dehydrated, minced onion

1  teaspoon sea salt

IMG_4380 IMG_4380 IMG_4380 IMG_4380 IMG_4398 IMG_4398 IMG_4398 IMG_4398 IMG_4398 IMG_4398~Step 1. Peel and cube the potatoes as directed, placing them in a wide-bottomed 4-quart stockpot as you work.  Add enough cold water to cover. Add the 1 tablespoon salt.  Bring to a simmer over high heat.  Continue to simmer, uncovered, until potatoes are fork-tender, but not mushy and overcooked, about 8-9 minutes.  Drain potatoes into a colander.  Return the steaming-hot potatoes to the still hot stockpot and place pot back on the still warm stovetop.  Add the cheese, thoroughly stir, then cover the pot for 1-2 minutes.

IMG_4390 IMG_4390Step 2.  While the potatoes are simmering, place cream, butter, minced garlic, minced onion and salt in a 2-cup measuring container.  Place in microwave to warm up gently, until butter has melted.  Remove from microwave and set aside.

IMG_4411 IMG_4411 IMG_4411 IMG_4411 IMG_4411 IMG_4411~Step 3.  Add the warm cream mixture to potatoes and cheese in stockpot.  Using a hand-held vegetable masher, mash the potatoes, while scraping down the sides of the pot with a rubber spatula until smooth and creamy, about 3-4 full minutes, adding a bit of additional cream, only if necessary, to reach desired consistency.

5-6 cheesy & spicy servings of mashed potato happiness:

IMG_4456Yukon Gold Rush Jalapeño-Jack Mashed Potatoes:  Recipe yields Recipe yields a generous 5-6 cups/5-6 servings.

Special Equipment List: kitchen scale; cutting board; chef's knife; vegetable peeler; wide-bottomed 4-quart stockpot w/lid; 2-cup measuring container; colander; hand-held vegetable masher; large rubber spatula

6a0120a8551282970b022ad3bf2c9f200dCook's Note: It's right up there with pizza, cheeseburgers and hot dogs.  ~ The Machinations of Mashed Potatoes ~ is one of my favorite topics to discuss.  One can never have too many recipes for any of them.  It's hard to imagine my food world without mashed potatoes. They are an institution -- a way of life. They're the quintessential side-dish served year-round at elegant celebrations, casual get-togethers and weekday meals.  They're revered by young and old alike -- they make everyone happy.  

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2020)

07/31/2020

~ All-in-the-Pantry One-Pot Creamy Spaghetti Alfredo ~

IMG_4357Any time of year, at the end of a bad day or a great day, served as a side-dish or a main-course, a creamy-dreamy bowl of luxurious Alfredo-sauced pasta can be just what the doctor ordered.  A few pantry ingredients, cheese and cream, plus, one-pot on the stovetop.  Fifteen minutes later, you stick a fork in it and all is right with the world.  There is no trick to Alfredo.  About the only thing one can do wrong is to purchase a jar of bottled glop, which, never mind, let's not go there.

A bit of history about the iconic fettuccine Alfredo: 

6a0120a8551282970b014e8bb97814970dAlfredo is an Italian pasta dish in which any type of stranded pasta, most famously "fettuccine" (which means "little ribbons" in Italian), is enrobed in a rich sauce usually made from butter, cream, Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and black pepper.  A Roman restauranteur, Alfredo di Lelio first created this dish for his pregnant wife in 1914.  As the story goes, she had lost her appetite or was having trouble keeping food down, either while she was pregnant or after the birth of their son.  Alfredo, set out to create a dish that would not only appeal to his wife, but would be nutritious (calorie and carbohydrate packed) as well.  He developed his dish based on the traditional pasta al burro, which was simply paper-thin ribbons of hand-made pasta with butter.  Alfredo made egg fettuccine, tripled the amount of butter and laced it with copious amounts of Parmigianno-Reggiano cheese.  His wife loved it, so, he added it to his restaurant menu.

As the story goes, as fate would have it, in 1927, the American silent film stars Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks, while honeymooning in Italy, stopped into di Lelio's Alfredo alla Scrofa restaurant, ate the dish and the two lovebirds adored it.  They loved it so much, before they departed, they presented him with a golden fork and spoon along with a picture of them eating in his restaurant.  When the famous newlyweds returned to Hollywood, they began serving fettuccine Alfredo at their dinner parties.  It didn't take long for the news to spread throughout Hollywood, making di Lelio's restaurant and his pasta dish world famous.

A bit of history about my famous spaghetti Alfredo:

IMG_4371It was November, 1981 or 1982 -- one or two days before Thanksgiving.  It would turn out to be one of the worst-ever total snowfall years in the history of State College, and this storm snuck up on everyone.  The snow piled high that afternoon, leaving over two feet on the ground. Trees came down and power lines snapped.  Lights went out all over town.  Our house at the time had a soapstone wood-burning stove in our family room.  I hated that stove and the mess involved with it, but, it did help with the heating bill, so, Joe kept it going.  Sans electricity, I put a pot of water on the stove to boil and wrapped a loaf of frozen garlic bread in foil.  Using what I had on hand, we five had this pantry version of  "spaghetti Alfredo", by candlelight, in a warm house, for dinner.  

IMG_431612  ounces thick spaghetti

1  tablespoon sea salt, for seasoning water for pasta

8  tablespoons salted butter, cut into bite-sized pieces, at room temperature, the softer the better

1 1/2  teaspoons garlic powder

1  teaspoon Italian seasoning blend

1/4  teaspoon ground nutmeg

3/4  teaspoon coarse-grind black pepper

1/2  teaspoon red pepper flakes, more or less, to taste (optional)

3/4  teaspoon sea salt

3/4  cup finely-grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

1-1 1/4-1 1/2 cups heavy or whipping cream, at room temperature

IMG_4318 IMG_4318 IMG_4318 IMG_4324 IMG_4324~Step 1.  In a wide-bottomed 4-quart stockpot bring 3 quarts of water to a rolling boil.  Add the 1 tablespoon sea salt.  Add the spaghetti and cook until al dente, about 10-11 minutes.  Turn heat off.  Thoroughly, drain the pasta into a colandar, then immediately return the hot pasta to the still hot stockpot and place the stockpot back on the still hot stovetop.  

IMG_4328 IMG_4328 IMG_4328~Step 2.  Add the butter pieces, along with the spices:  garlic powder, Italian seasoning, nutmeg, black pepper, red pepper flakes and sea salt.  Using two forks or two spoons, toss like you would a salad, until butter is completely melted and pasta is evenly coated in a flavorful butter and spice mixture.

IMG_4336 IMG_4336 IMG_4336~Step 3.  Toss in the finely-grated cheese followed by the cream.  Again, using two forks or two spoons, toss as you would a salad, until the mixture is thoroughly combined.  Cover and let rest, 5-6 minutes, tossing occasionally, to allow pasta to absorb all of the cream mixture.  Portion into desired-sized serving bowls.

Top w/a light sprinkling of red pepper flakes & serve:

IMG_4354All-in-the-Pantry One-Pot Creamy Spaghetti Alfredo:  Recipe yields 2-4 larger main-dish servings and 4-6 smaller side servings.

Special Equipment List: cutting board; chef's knife; microplane grater; wide-bottomed 4-quart stockpot w/lid; colander; two forks or two spoons

6a0120a8551282970b01b8d2e8758b970cCook's Note: The Italians came up with the cure for the late-night snack-attack centuries ago: Pasta al burro con formaggino (pasta with butter and cheese).  It's a no-nonsense, feed-me-now-snack, a quick-to-make side dish, and, it's a delicious foil for flavorful pasta sauces too.  Choose any shape of pasta (short, fork-friendly shapes work best), and, if you have a link or a patty of breakfast sausage on-hand, not only do the flavors melt into the mixture like they were born to be there, without almost any extra effort, it transforms the dish into a hearty meal for one or two.  Try my ~ Pasta with Butter & Cheese and Sweet Sausage ~.

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2020)

07/29/2020

~ When You Say PA Dutch, Why We Say PA Deutsch ~

IMG_5895Let me make it clear that Pennsylvania Dutch cookery does not belong solely to PA and it is not Dutch either.  The term "Dutch" was the early English settlers slang for the German word "Deutsch".  So:  When most people incorrectly say "Pennsylvania Dutch", they should be saying "Pennsylvania Deutsch", crediting the Germanic or German-speaking immigrants from Germany and Switzerland for this cuisine.  The majority of these people were either Amish, Mennonite or Brethren, all of which were considered "Anabaptist".  They were fleeing the mountains of Switzerland and southern Germany to avoid religious persecution and established several communites in the Lehigh Valley. Pennsylvania in general was a haven for them  Why?  Thank William Penn for his free-thinking, open-door, equal-opportunity-for-all of any religion or race politics.  Pennsylvania set an example for the other colonies, who all had established an official "State" religion. Pennsylvania was the first to welcome people of all beliefs and walks of life.

Pennsylvania - America's first "melting pot":

6a0120a8551282970b019afff1e930970cWilliam Penn (the man our state is named after), a Quaker, believed that everyone had the right to seek God in his or her own way, calling it "liberty of conscience".  He and other free thinkers of the time felt it would create a stronger government and a wealthier society.  Imagine that.  While all of the other colonies had established an official church, Mr. Penn decided not to do this with his. Instead, he extended an open invitation to any and all religious groups suffering oppression in Europe.  When they arrived, he gave everyone land, and, while only Christians could hold political office, any person (from any ethnic, racial or economic background) could take part in all the social activites and economic benifits PA offered. Pennsylvania became known for being America's diverse colony.

Folk-art-valentine-s-day-heart-love-wedding-birthday-greetings-card-vector-black-flowers-birds-isolated-white-72340859The first groups to arrive in Pennsylvania were German Quakers and Mennonites. They arrived in 1693 and named their settlement Germantown. Lutherans, Schwenkfelders, Dutch Reformed, Moravians and Swiss Amish soon followed.  By 1730, a large populous had established communities in Lancaster County. All these peoples fall into the category of PA Dutch because they were Deutsch (German) speaking. They arrived with food staples of their heritage that were brought because they would survive unspoiled over the long voyage:  pickled and fermented eggs and vegetables, various dried meats, grains and cured sausages, milled flour, brown sugar, molasses, lard, salt and various spices.  Upon their arrival in their new home, especially if it occurred in the Fall or Winter, they came prepared to make due with what they had in the larder until the next growing season.

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2020)

07/26/2020

~ My Beat-the-Heat Sweet-Heat Deli-Ham Sandwich ~

IMG_4274Sometimes the simplest things are the best, and, many times, they conjure up great memories. When I was growing up in Eastern, PA, in our family, if any one of us was coming or going for any reason, we could always count on a supply of sliced ham, hard salami, Swiss and American cheese, in mom's pastel-yellow refrigerator.  Sliced as thin as she could get the deli-guy to slice them, all four of us liked all four, and, on white-or-rye or not, we were free to get as creative with the condiments as we wanted.  When it came to ham, dad insisted on Guldon's brown mustard, mom was a Miracle Whip kinda gal, I liked Tallarico's hot red-pepper spread, and, my brother, well, he just enjoyed plain 'ole unadulterated ham and cheese rollups sans bread.    

Retrooriginalfridge-buttercupyellow-mainInterestingly (or not so interestingly) when it comes to a ham sandwich, I like various types of super-thin-sliced deli-ham better than baked ham of the type leftover from a holiday meal (which I prefer to make use of in a few breakfast and dinner casseroles).  I've never met a deli-ham that I seriously didn't like (unless it isn't sliced thin enough), and, depending on what store I'm in, my top three favorites (Boar's Head or Deitz or Watson) are:  sweet deli ham, deluxe ham, and, peppered ham.  There's more.  While I make great grilled ham and cheese sandwiches, I prefer to put my feet up and snack on this no-fuss, relish-it-cold sammie with a few chips and a frosty Amstel Light to wash it down -- with fond memories of mom's pastel-yellow refrigerator.

1 baguette + 4 ingredients = a sweet-heat sandwich combo:

IMG_4229For 4 larger sandwiches or 8 smaller sandwiches:

1  12-ounce, 18"-ish, French baguette

1-1 1/2-2  5-ounce containers Alouette creme de Brie spread w/garlic and herbs

8  tablespoons sweet 'n spicy Amish-style red pepper jam

1/2  (approximately) a 5-ounce box organic Spring mix

12  ounces super-thin-sliced Boar's Head sweet deli ham

IMG_4237 IMG_4237 IMG_4237 IMG_4237 IMG_4250 IMG_4250 IMG_4250 IMG_4250 IMG_4250~Step 1.  Slice the bread section in half horizontally, to form two flat halves.  Spread the Brie atop both halves.  Place a small handful of Spring mix atop the Brie on the bottom half of the sandwich, then pile it high with the super-thin-sliced ham.  Spoon and gently spread the pepper jelly atop the Brie on the top half of the bread.  Put the top on the sandwich.  

IMG_4267 IMG_4269 IMG_4269~Step 2.  Wrap the entire length of the baguette sandwich in plastic wrap. At this point, the sandwich may be refrigerated for a few hours (1-2) prior to slicing and serving -- which makes this a perfect sandwich to make and take to a Summer get-together or Fall tailgate, but, it is best serve at room temperature, so, no complaints please, play by those rules.  At serving time, slice the sandwich into quarters (for larger sandwiches), or eighths (for smaller sandwiches), plate, and serve ASAP.

Slice, serve & savor each meaty sweet-heat bite

IMG_4290My Beat-the-Heat Sweet-Heat Deli-Ham Sandwich:  Recipe yields instructions to make 4 larger sandwiches or 8 smaller sandwiches.

Special Equipment List:  serrated bread knife; butter knife; teaspoon; plastic wrap sandwich picks

6a0120a8551282970b0240a48f402b200cCook's Note: Can one ever have too many grilled cheese-type sandwich recipes?  The answer is an unequivocal no.  High-quality, super-thin-sliced deli-ham on caraway-seeded rye is one of my favorite sandwiches.  Crispy, thin-sliced apples with a chunk of white or yellow cheddar cheese is one of my favorite snacks.  As a fan of sweet and savory combinations, when I combine the two with a slather of apple butter and some delicate, slightly-peppery greens in between, magic happens.  Try my recipe for ~ Grilled Ham-on-Rye w/Cheddar Apple and Arugula ~.

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2020

07/23/2020

~Grands Apple-Pie-Filling Filled Cinnamon-Roll Cups~

IMG_4191When it comes to breakfast or bunch, I am always looking for the easiest way to serve good food. Mornings in the average family tend to have a lot of things happening at once.  I love my family and I enjoy my guests, but, back in the days when I was trying to get three kids off to meet the school bus and my husband out the door to the office, or, fast forward to when I happen to be organizing breakfast for a few overnight guests, no one appreciates having a few time-saving recipes that taste as good as they look as much as I do.  This recipe is worth its weight in gold.

440px-Pillsbury_logo.svgPillsbury and their adorable dough boy have been a part of my life over fifty years (and they've been around a lot longer than that).  Breakfast, lunch or dinner, when mom made their crescent rolls, we paced around in front of the oven until they came out.  During the years when they televised the Pillsbury Bake-Off, I always watched, and, learned something creative. When Pillsbury came out with cinnamon rolls, my kids knew I would be an easy sell on this product, and, truth told, they earned a place in my refrigerator. Then, when they came along with Grand's cinnamon rolls, complete with cream cheese icing, I didn't hesitate to pick up a few canisters.

There came a time when I did what I often do with a product I like (a lot). I went to their website (Quick & Easy Recipes by Pillsbury) and searched by ingredient (cinnamon rolls). Amongst several creative ways to to use them, I came across Two-Ingredient Peach Pie Cups, which used smaller-sized canisters of cinnamon rolls + peach pie filling, baked in standard-sized muffin tins. For my own "bigger has got to be better" take, I used Grand's cinnamon rolls + apple pie filling, baked them in jumbo-sized muffin tins.  They're like a cinnamon doughnut stuffed with apples.   

The combo of cinnamon rolls & apple pie filling is grand.

IMG_4209Topped w/cream cheese icing too?  You betcha.

IMG_41232  17.5-ounce canisters Pillsbury Grands cinnamon rolls w/cream cheese icing (for a total of 10 cinnamon rolls)

1  21-ounce can apple pie filling, your favorite brand

no-stick cooking spray

~ Step 1.  Spray the inside cups of two jumbo-sized muffin tins (12 cups) with no-stick cooking spray.

IMG_4124 IMG_4124 IMG_4124 IMG_4124 IMG_4124 IMG_4124 IMG_4124~Step 2.  Remove both canisters of Grands cinnamon rolls from the refrigerator.  Peel back the wrapping and give them a whack on the side of the countertop to open the package.  Remove and set aside the cream cheese icing.  One-at-a-time, remove the cinnamon rolls, placing them in each of ten of the muffin cups.  Using a tart tamper placed in the center of each cinnamon roll, press down on the center to fit each cinnamon roll flatly into the bottom of its cup.  Using your fingertips, press the sides of each roll into the sides of each cup, to form a cup about 3/4 up the sides of each cup.

IMG_4151 IMG_4151 IMG_4169 IMG_4169 IMG_4169 IMG_4181~Step 3.  Open the can of pie filling.  Using an ordinary tablespoon, distribute pie filling to the top of each cinnamon-roll cup (there's enough filling to fill each one to the top), doing your best not to drip any filling on the edges of the cinnamon-roll cups or sides of pan.  Bake both pans, at once, on center rack of preheated 325° oven for 18-20 minutes, or until cinnamon rolls are golden around sides.  Remove from oven and cool in pan 1-2 minutes. Use a sharp paring and your fingertips to gently lift each apple-pie-filling filled cinnamon-roll cup onto a wire rack to cool to slightly-warm or room temperature, 30-45 minutes.   

IMG_4163 IMG_4185 IMG_4185~ Step 4.  While the cinnamon roll cups are baking, stir about 1/2 teaspoon of water into both containers of the reserved cream cheese icing, to thin it down to a drizzly, rather than a spreadable consistency.  For a prettier presentation, transfer the icing to a small squirt-type condiment container.  When cinnamon roll cups are cooled, slowly drizzle icing over top of each one.  Plate and serve.

Store-bought seriously "CAN" be simply delicious!

IMG_4197Two canisters cinnamon rolls + one can of apple pie filling?

IMG_4219One taste & you'll be completely convinced.  

IMG_4221Grands Apple-Pie-Filling Filled Cinnamon-Roll Cups:  Recipe yields 10 individual (jumbo-sized muffin-sized) apple-pie-filling filled cinnamon-roll cups.

Special Equipment List:  1, 12-cup jumbo-size muffing tin; tart tamper; spoon; paring knife; wire cooling rack; small squirt-type condiment bottle (optional)

6a0120a8551282970b0240a4dd44f5200d-800wiCook's Note:  Back in the 1960"s, my brother and I loved when my mom made her "little hot dogs wrapped in pastry dough".  She'd let me help to roll them up, and, she'd make lots of them too, usually around 100, because she knew they would be the first thing devoured at one of her cocktail parties. People would grab them so fast you'd think she had money rolled up in them. To this day I love these fun to make ~ Cocktail Pigs in a Blanket: Pillsbury Crescent Dogs ~.

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2020

07/20/2020

~My Aunt's Apple-Pie Pork-Chop & Stuffing Casserole~

IMG_3954The sweet and savory act of combining porcine and apples is classic.  Every whole roasted pig that I've ever seen had an apple in its mouth.  I honestly can't remember where I read it or heard this, but, my recollection is: this centuries old custom had to do with pigs being fattened by feeding them apples, so, this was considered a show of respect for the animal, representing it eating apples in life and into eternity (hogs were typically slaughtered in the Fall and apples were in season).  All I know for certain is pork and apples go hand-in-hand, it's one of my favorite combinations, and, this easy, family-friendly casserole is a recipe everyone should try.  Why?

The only thing better than applesauce w/a pork chop, is apple pie filling under a  pork chop w/stuffing heaped on top of it!

IMG_3947This decades old, now-retro, family-favorite recipe is made from few ingredients (3/4"-1"-thick bone-in pork chops, apple-pie filling, stuffing mix, chicken broth, celery and onion).  It came from my favorite Aunt, "Tootsie", (my mother's sister and our family's pet name for Marie).  It couldn't be easier, and, I wouldn't consider changing it for love nor money.  It's the best, easy-pork-chop recipe there is, and, everyone, kids and adults, love it.  There's more.  If you are one of the many home cooks in search of a foolproof recipe that guarantees juicy, fork-tender chops, this is it.

This easy recipe guarantees flavorful, fork-tender, chops:

IMG_40036  3/4"-1" thick, bone-in pork loin chops

4  tablespoons corn or peanut oil, for sautéing chops

freshly-ground sea salt and peppercorn blend, for seasoning chops

1  22-ounce can apple pie filling

2  6-ounce boxes Stove-Top Chicken Stuffing Mix

1  generous cup diced celery

1  generous cup diced onion

2  cups chicken broth

IMG_3863 IMG_3863 IMG_3863 IMG_3863 IMG_3863 IMG_3863 IMG_3863~Step 1.  In a 16" electric skillet, heat the corn or peanut oil over low heat. Increase heat to 225º (medium-high), add the chops, then, season their tops with freshly-ground sea salt and peppercorn blend.  Continue to sauté the chops until they're browning nicely on the bottom, about 8 minutes.  Using a spatula, flip the chops over and season the second side with freshly ground sea salt and peppercorn blend.  Sauté the chops until golden on the bottom, about 8 more minutes.  Turn the heat off.

IMG_3885 IMG_3885~ Step 2.  Open the can of apple pie filling and use a spoon to scoop it into the bottom of a 13" x 9" x 2" casserole.  Use a spoon to spread it evenly in the bottom.  Arrange the pork chops atop the pie filling, overlapping them slightly.  Set aside.

IMG_3890 IMG_3890 IMG_3890 IMG_3890 IMG_3890 IMG_3890 IMG_3890~Step 3.  Return heat in skillet to 225º and wait 30-60 seconds, just long enough to reheat the perfectly-seasoned pork drippings,  Add the celery and onion.  Sauté the vegetables, stirring constantly with a large spoon, until crunch tender, 2-3 minutes.  Add the chicken broth and the stuffing mix.  Stir until the stuffing is thick and has absorbed the broth.  Turn the heat off, cover the skillet, and let sit for 5-6 minutes.

IMG_3910 IMG_3910 IMG_3910 IMG_3910 IMG_3910 IMG_3910~Step 4.  Uncover the skillet.  Using a 2 1/2" ice-cream scoop, place 6 well-packed, heaping and generous scoops of stuffing, one scoop on each chop.  Using a spoon or a fork, scatter remainder of stuffing around the sides and in between the larger scoops.  Cover casserole with aluminum foil and bake on center rack of 325° oven 1 hour. Uncover and continue to bake another 15 minutes, or until stuffing is turning golden on top. Remove from oven, allow casserole to rest 10-15 minutes, to allow juices to settle, then serve.

This childhood favorite & adulthood indulgence:

IMG_3949Is the apple pie of my stuffing-topped pork-chop eye:

IMG_3999My Aunt's Apple-Pie Pork-Chop & Stuffing Casserole:  Recipe yields 6 hearty servings.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; 16" electric skillet w/lid; spatula; large spoon; 13" x 9" x 2" casserole; 2 1/2" ice-cream scoop; aluminum foil

IMG_9993Cook's Note: When my mom announced she was making pork and beans for dinner, she didn't mean she was literally opening a can of pork and beans -- in a way, kinda sorta she was, but, there was a bit more to it. It meant she had asked Vince, the butcher at The Valley Meat Market, to slice 8, 1/2"-3/4"-thick bone-in pork loin chops, plus a pound of bacon, so she could make her recipe for ~ Pork Chop & Baked Bean Casserole -- Pork & Beans ~.

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2020)

07/17/2020

~ Light & Easy Buffalo-Style Skinny Chicken Tacos ~

IMG_4095What started in 1964 as late-night pub grub at the Anchor Bar in Buffalo, NY, deep-fried chicken wings, is now found in many forms.  Truth told, there's not much that Buffalo-style chicken can't do, and tacos are the perfect marriage of two of our favorite foods.  But, are these tacos as good as, or as enjoyable as, eating chicken wings?  As a lady who loves wings, but, only in the privacy of my own home (where I'm free to lick my fingers, smack my lips, get goo stuck in my teeth, and, drip sauce on my blouse), yes, while different, these are as enjoyable as chicken wings.

Lucky lovers of all-things Buffalo-wings: it comes in many forms.

6a0120a8551282970b0240a4b6e83e200cIn my family alone, Nacho Mama's Buffalo Chicken Sheet-Pan Nanchos, Buffalo-Style Shredded Chicken 'n Slaw Sliders, Spicy Blue-Cheesy Buffalo-Style Chicken Dip, Spicy Blue-Cheesy Buffalo-Chicken Quesadillas, Batter-Dipped Buffalo Chicken & Blue Cheese Subs, Sweet-and-Savory-Glazed Buffalo-Chicken Meatballs, and, Almost Effortless Chunky Buffalo-Style Chicken Chili are favorite wing-night or game-day options.  Tonight: It's Buffalo-Style Skinny Chicken Tacos that are on my dinner menu.

Diced chicken doused in Buffalo sauce w/celery & carrots:

IMG_4052For the sauce, chicken & veg sauté, tacos shells, &, garnishes:

6a0120a8551282970b01b8d22f43d0970cFor the Buffalo-style sauce:

In a 2-cup measuring container, in the microwave, melt:

2  ounces salted butter (1/2 stick)

whisk in (honey 1st, RedHot 2nd):

6  tablespoons honey

1  cup Frank's RedHot

Set aside and prepare the chicken sauté as directed below.

IMG_4005For the chicken & vegetable sauté:

2  pounds small-diced, boneless, skinless chicken chicken thighs* 

2  tablespoons vegetable oil

1  tablespoon each:  Frank's Original Redhot Seasoning and Frank's RedHot Buffalo-Ranch Seasoning

2  teaspoons sea salt

1 1/2  cups each:  peeled and 1/4'-sliced carrots, 1/4"-sliced celery, and, 1/4"-sliced green onions, white and light green parts only

all sauce, from above recipe

*Note: The easiest way to get a nice dice out of bonelesss thighs is to lay them flat on a parchment-lined pan and freeze them for about 30 minutes, just long enough to firm them up a bit.

IMG_4056For the taco shells & garnishes:

16  fresh corn tortillas, deep-fried in corn oil to a crunchy-but-still-pliable state, 45 seconds each

2  cups shredded iceberg lettuce

all the sautéed chicken and vegetable mixture

1  cup blue cheese crumbles

Hidden Valley Ranch dressing

Ready, set, go.  It's time to make some Buffalo chicken tacos:

IMG_4007 IMG_4007 IMG_4007 IMG_4007 IMG_4007 IMG_4007 IMG_4007 IMG_4007 IMG_4023 IMG_4023 IMG_4023 IMG_4023 IMG_4023~Step 1.  Heat the oil in a 3 1/2-quart enameled cast-iron skillet over low heat.  Add the diced chicken to the skillet and season it with the RedHot and Buffalo-ranch seasonings and salt.  Increase heat to medium-high and sauté, stirring constantly with a large spoon, until chicken is firming up, 3-4 minutes.  Add the sliced carrots, celery and green onions. Continue to sauté, stirring constantly until vegetables are softening but still crunch tender, 3-4 minutes.  Using the spoon remove (and discard) all but a thin layer of juices from bottom of pan.  

IMG_4035 IMG_4035 IMG_4035 IMG_4035~Step 2.  Add and stir in 1 cup of the sauce (there will be 1/2 cup remaining, which I serve at table side for those who want to live dangerously).  Turn heat off, cover skillet and set aside for 45-60 minutes, to allow chicken and vegetables to soak up the sauce and flavors of the sauce.

IMG_3711 IMG_3711 IMG_3711~ Step 3.  While chicken is steeping, now is the time to deep-fry the corn tortillas. In a deep-fryer containing corn or peanut oil and preheated to 360° according to manufacturer's specifications (or, in a sauce pan fitted with a candy thermometer on  stovetop), deep-fry each tortilla to a crunchy-but-still-pliable state, 45 seconds. Remove tortilla from oil, place it on a paper-towel-lined plate to drain and season with a fresh grinding of sea salt.  Arrange finished tortillas in a wooden taco rack or on a  serving platter.

IMG_4059 IMG_4059 IMG_4059 IMG_4059 IMG_4059 IMG_4078 IMG_4078 IMG_4078~Step 4. To assemble the tacos, evenly distribute the shredded lettuce into bottom of the prepared taco shells. Evenly distribute  chicken and veggie mixture atop lettuce in each shell. Scatter cheese crumbles over the chicken mixture, followed by a drizzle of dressing.  Serve slightly warm or at room temperature -- like you would eat a refreshing Summertime sandwich.

Light & easy?  I can't eat just three. So much for my diet. 

IMG_4096Light & Easy Buffalo-Style Skinny Chicken Tacos:  Recipe yields 1 1/2 cups sauce and 5 generous cups filling, enough generously fill 16 tacos.

Special Equipment List: 2-cup measuring container; whisk; cutting board; chef's knife; deep-fryer or 4-quart saucepan; paper towels; wooden taco rack or serving platter; 3 1/2-quart enameled cast-iron skillet or 12" cast-iron skillet; large spoon or spatula

IMG_3792Cook's Note: Mexican food is a favorite of mine, but I often wish it wasn't.  Don't misunderstand me -- I can and will gobble up all its flavor-packed goodness with the best of 'em.  It's next to impossible for anyone me to resist the melty or crumbly cheeses along with the creamy-rich refried beans, guacamole and crema.  That said, more often than not, when dinner is done, I find myself wishing I'd exercised (pun intended) even a modicum of restraint.  Hence my recipe for  ~ Light & Easy Tex-Mex-Style Skinny Chicken Tacos ~.

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2020)

07/15/2020

~ Store-Bought Corn Tortillas & the Perfect Taco Shell ~

IMG_3734An over-fried corn tortilla can be like eating broken glass.  That super-crispy-crunchy state is best left for frying tortilla wedges or wisps to serve as tortilla chips with dips, or wisps to garnish various Mexican-style soups or main-dishes.  No one wants to pick up a taco only to take a bite and have the taco shell shatter all over the plate.  This is not a blog post I ever intended to write, but, based on the number of times I get asked how I fry my taco shells, in order to achieve the perfect crisp-yet-pliable texture, I guess I should.  While it will be short and sweet, here goes.

IMG_3833When it comes to corn tortillas, nothing is as good as made-from-scratch tortillas, hand-mixed (using a mixture of masa harina and water) and hand-pressed.  That said, store-bought fresh corn tortillas are, in fact, a high-quality convenience product.  On the other hand, nothing is quite as bad as a taco shell that comes out of a box -- just don't do it. While making tortillas from scratch is not hard (not to mention fun), it is messy and time consuming, and, for as many tacos as my family eat, that is simply not a task I am willing to undertake on a weekly or bi-weekly basis, so, we are focusing on deep-frying taco shells using store-bought, fresh corn tortillas. 

IMG_4265 2The best taco shells are deep-fried. Period.  End of discussion.  Yes, they can be baked in the oven, I know, I've done it, but, BIG but, they're not as good, so, there's no time like the present to get over your fear of frying.  My grandmother and mother used to deep-fry foods in a 4-quart stockpot filled half-way with corn oil and a candy thermometer clipped to the side to control the temperature.  It's an option that works but it's smelly and messy.  

IMG_3839To avoid that, a small investment (about $60.00) will buy a deep-fryer that controls the heat perfectly, and, has a filter to catch all spatter and control any smell.  There's more. Presentation is everything, so, for evenly shaped tacos, I recommend spending a bit more (about $10.00) on a taco former, which shapes the soft tortilla until it crisps up, and, one or two taco holders (about $20 ) which hold the taco shells in place for super-easy assembly and a pretty as a picture presentation.

To deep-fry the perfect crisp-yet-pliable corn tortilla:

IMG_3711 IMG_3846 IMG_3846 IMG_3846 IMG_3846 IMG_3846~Step 1.  Remove the fryer-basket from the deep-fryer -- it's just in the way when frying taco shells. Preheat a deep-fryer that has been filled (according to manufacturer's specifications) with corn or peanut oil, to 375º.  Place a wire rack atop a few layers of paper towels and ready a grinder of sea salt.  Place one fresh corn tortilla in the taco former and lower it into the hot oil.  Without losing your grip on the taco former, close the fryer lid and continue to fry the tortilla for exactly 45 seconds.  Lift the fryer lid, remove the taco former, and release the taco shell onto  the wire rack.  Sprinkle the inside of the taco shell with a fresh grinding of sea salt.  Wait 5-6 seconds, no longer, and fit the taco shell into the taco rack. Repeat this process until desired number of taco shells have been fried and cooled.  

Taco shells made from fresh corn tortillas are a perfect vessel for many cultures, or any cuisine, to rest its food.

IMG_3720Store-Bought Corn Tortillas & the Perfect Taco Shell:  Recipe yields instructions to form and deep-fry the perfect crisp-yet-pliable taco shells.

Special Equipment List:  electric deep-fryer or a 4-quart saucepan and a candy thermometer; taco former; taco rack; wire cooling rack; paper towels

IMG_3792 2Cook's Note: Mexican food is a favorite of mine, but I often wish it wasn't.  Don't misunderstand me -- I can and will gobble up all its flavor-packed goodness with the best of 'em.  It's next to impossible for anyone me to resist the melty or crumbly cheeses along with the creamy-rich refried beans, guacamole and crema.  That said, more often than not, when dinner is done, I find myself wishing I'd exercised (pun intended) even a modicum of restraint.  Hence, my recipe for ~ Light & Easy Tex-Mex-Style Skinny Chicken Tacos ~.

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2020)