Sally’s Grandma’s Fruit Cobbler

I baked something today, and if you’ve read some of my other posts you know I’m not big on baking…but if I know I’ve got a recipe that can’t fail, I will bake.  This fruit cobbler is one of those recipes.  I’ve been making this for years, the recipe also came out of The Woods…if you want some background on what “The Woods” is, you can read about it here.  The Svoboda’s lived a few houses down from us, Sally and my mom were good friends…and Mickey and I were good friends.  He was my only guy friend at the time so he must have been pretty cool.  Anyway, my mom got this recipe from Sally and Sally got it from her grandmother, Mae Ridnour.

Let me just say, if Pinterest had existed in the early 1900’s Mae would have been an internet sensation with this recipe alone.  It has all the makings of a star dish…it’s the most delicious cobbler I’ve ever had, it’s so simple to make, it’s low fat, and it has a twist that you will never see coming…see, now you’re hooked.

As always, this dish is easy peasy lemon squeezy.  I was even able to make the cobbler while a two year old was glued to my left leg screaming the whole time.  He was fine, that little angel baby just gets angry when he’s not the center of the universe 24 hours a day.

Ok, enough talking…here’s the recipe…

Fruit Mixture
3 cups fresh fruit (you can use peaches, blueberries, or apples depending on the season)
1/2 cup sugar

2 cups flour
1 cup sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup skim milk
2 tbsp. melted butter
2 cups water

Start by pre-heating your oven to 425° F and then begin boiling about 3 cups of water on the stove.

Now put your fruit in a large bowl…I used blueberries today.

Cover the fruit with 1/2 cup sugar, stir it together and set it aside…

Now combine all of the dry ingredients in a large bowl (flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, cinnamon).

Measure out 1 cup of skim milk in a liquid measuring cup…

Add the vanilla to the measuring cup…

I somehow managed to take this photo while pouring the vanilla in…I’m still not sure how it was possible…

Now, melt the butter in the microwave for about 30 seconds…

And pour that in the milk too (again, not sure how I got this photo)

Now pour the milk/vanilla/butter mixture into the dry ingredients and stir it all together…

I use a fork for this because I think it does a good job of mixing everything without over mixing but use whatever works for you…

Now pour the contents of the bowl into a buttered 9×13 baking dish and spread it out.  I use a rubber spatula so I get every last bit out of the bowl and because it works well for spreading everything out…it’s a real multitasker that spatula!

Now remember that sugary bowl of fruit…it’s time to pour that on top of the batter…

Now doesn’t that look like it’s ready to pop in the oven…well it’s not.  We have one more step to complete (this is the twist I was talking about).  

Just be warned, when I tell you what to do next you’re all going to think I’m playing some sort of sick baking joke on you…but I’m not.  You will just have to trust me and do what I say without hesitation, got it?!

Remember that water on the stove that should be boiling by now…you need to take it off the stove now and measure out two cups of it in a liquid measuring cup.

And then you have to pour it all over the cobbler…say whaaaaa???

Yes, you heard that right…here is a photo of it actually happening.

Ok, you can stop screaming now…everything is going to be fine I promise.  The only thing you need to do now is to get that water logged cobbler into the oven STAT!

Now it’s time to stop crying and go collect yourself…this thing needs to bake for 40 minutes and you should probably not be around it right now.

After 40 minutes, go get it out of the oven…you might think it’s not done but trust me it is.

Here is your cobbler…isn’t she so pretty!

Let her cool down for a little while and then have a piece!

This cobbler stands alone just fine but I love love love to eat it with a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top…I get the Edy’s Vanilla Slow Churn because it’s low fat but doesn’t contain any artificial ingredients, you obviously go ahead and use whatever you want…

Don’t ask me how in the heck Grandma Ridnour came up with this recipe but she was obviously a culinary genius.  I suggest the next time you make cobbler, you do it this way.


The Good Cooker

White Bean and Turkey Sausage Soup

It’s snowing…I can’t remember a time when it was not snowing. 

I actually got stuck in our driveway this morning when I was trying to leave.  I would not usually go out in this weather but this definitely qualified as essential travel…I had zumba class to get to.  I managed to get the car (which is actually a large SUV) un-stuck after pulling forward and back a few times…then I said a little prayer, gunned it, and I was on my way!
Now onto more important things…soup.  This soup meets all of my criteria…easy, fast, healthy, and delicious.  This is also a one pot wonder which I LOVE because it means less dishes to clean…booyah!

Here’s your ingredient list…

1 pound – turkey sausage (hot, sweet, or mild)
28 oz. – great northern beans (preferably Randall’s)
2 – 14 oz. cans italian style stewed tomatoes (or regular stewed if you can’t find italian)
1 – 32 oz. carton of chicken broth
1 – small onion
2 cups – carrots (chopped)
2 – small zucchinis (chopped)
1 – clove garlic (minced)
grated parmesan 
large bunch of baby spinach
1/8 tsp. ground nutmeg (optional)
salt and pepper to taste

You will need a large stock pot or dutch oven to make this.

Put the pot over medium/low heat on the stove and add a little olive oil.
Then add the turkey sausage.  Turkey sausage is so great to cook with because it’s full of great seasonings but not full of fat.  There are several brands out there, Honeysuckle is good but I was at WF so I just got it from the meat counter.

Add the turkey sausage in small pieces to the pot, you will just have to use your hands and push it out of the casing a little at a time….it should resemble something like this when you’re done..

Here are the fresh veggies we are going to use…

While the sausage is browning, chop up an onion and mince a clove of garlic and throw it all in with the meat…

Then add your chopped carrots and let everything cook for a little bit longer…

Then add your chopped zucchini and great northern beans...any brand of beans is fine but I am obsessed with Randall’s brand (they come in a glass jar).  I love Randall and I love his beans…yikes!


If you don’t like zucchini you can always leave it out but I would not suggest leaving out those glorious carrots…they just belong in there, trust me.

Now it’s time to add two cans of stewed tomatoes and one carton of good chicken broth or stock…

Now it’s time to lower the heat to a simmer, put the lid on, and walk away for 15 minutes.  If you need something to do during this time I would suggest having a glass of wine but that’s just me.

Your soup is pretty much done after those 15 minutes of wine time but you can let it simmer as long as you want.  I would give it a taste to see if it needs any salt and pepper, I usually don’t add much, if any, because that glorious turkey sausage gets the job done for me with all it’s wonderful seasonings.  The one thing I have been adding to pretty much every soup I make lately is a little bit of nutmeg…nutmeg is the magical seasoning, it’s that thing that when put in dishes everyone keeps asking, what is that spice I’m tasting and why is it so crazy good?!

I always serve this soup with some good grated parmesan and baby spinach on the side. 

It might sound strange to add the spinach directly to your bowl but it really doesn’t need to be cooked in the pot, it will cook in about 5 seconds when you add it to your bowl of piping hot soup…and that way if people don’t care for spinach in their soup they can leave it out.

The other thing that I feel very strongly about serving with this soup is a really good crusty baguette with a side of extra virgin olive oil…heaven.

Now everyone can eat!  They are all standing in the kitchen drooling already…trust me.

This batch will feed about 6 people at least…last night it fed 3 grown men, 3 boys, and me…to say I’m outnumbered is a complete understatement.

I hope you guys try this soup out, I definitely think it will be a winner with your family and friends…

Cheers from the frozen tundra!

Linguine Pescatore aka Fisherman’s Linguine

Well I went roller skating on Monday night and I had a blast…a video has surfaced of me skating around the rink and completely ignoring my kids, it was great.  But then I woke up in the middle of night with the worst sciatica of my life…I highly doubt those two things are related though.

And thank heavens it did not snow 2 feet last night…we didn’t even get a flake.  Without going into too much detail, part of my job has to do with participating in several phone calls at all hours of the night when it snows too much…can you say, ANNOYING!  No, I don’t work at a 24 hour pizza delivery place in a college town…but I bet they have the same issues.

I’ve really had to start budgeting my time lately in order to keep up with blogging, working, parenting, exercising, and drinking wine as much as I would like.  My dad and I are also playing hot potato with his camera, I had that thing in my possession for 2 weeks and he didn’t even know it was missing and now all of the sudden he needs it practically every other day.  He must have picked up a photog gig on the side or something…at least tonight is my night, he said he would drop it off soon…shared custody is really hard.

I’m so freaking excited to share this recipe with you guys…it’s the bomb diggity.  My inspiration for this came from a dish I used to order at a tiny little Italian restaurant in my home town…the dish was called Linguine Pescatore.  Pescatore is Italian for fisherman which makes total sense because I love a fisherman and I love linguine.

This dish is sort of romantic, and people will definitely think you’re a fancy pants if you make it for them.  But of course like everything else I make, it’s a piece of cake to throw together.  You could probably make this dish AND bake a cake without breaking a sweat.

Here is what you need in the way of ingredients…

4 cups chopped roma tomatoes (about 10 tomatoes)
1 cup white wine (chardonnay or sauvignon blanc)
2 cloves chopped garlic
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1 pound shrimp (peeled and de-veined)
1/2 pound calamari
1/2 pound bay scallops
1 bunch flat leaf (Italian) parsley
salt and pepper to taste

Start by chopping up a boatload of roma tomatoes, at least 4 cups worth..and get a large pot of salted water going on the stove.

Then sauté some chopped garlic in olive oil over medium/low heat, like this…

After about a minute or so, add the 4 cups of chopped Roma tomatoes to the garlicky oil…

Then add 1 cup of good white white (chardonnay or sauvignon blanc works well)…yes, 1 whole cup of wine, see… 

Now add some salt & fresh ground black pepper, and then add some red pepper flakes for heat (anywhere from 1/8 to 1/4 tsp depending on your spice tolerance level) and then let that all cook over medium/low heat for a good while…

Next for the shrimp…it should be peeled and de-veined (you can leave tails on if you want).  You can obviously buy shrimp that has been peeled and de-veined for you but I got an awesome deal on some that weren’t yet ready for the party.  De-veining shrimp is about the easiest thing to do on the entire planet…you just take a small sharp knife down the back of the shrimp and remove the vein, like this…

I do it over the sink with the water running…put the shrimp under the running water to help remove the vein, the water does most of the work for you.

While the sauce is cooking away, use a separate pan to sauté the shrimp in some olive oil over medium/high heat, like this…

Most people overcook shrimp, it’s nobody’s fault it just happens.  Shrimp take abut two minutes to cook in a pan on the stove.  When you think it might be getting close to being done, guess what…it’s done.  Even if it’s not completely done, it will continue to cook after you get it out of the pan.

Set the shrimp aside in a bowl, like this…

If this photo doesn’t get your mouth watering, something is wrong with you…just look at it!
The sauce should be smelling pretty freaking good by now, you may want to taste it and add a little more salt if you feel the need but remember that the seafood has salt in it so please don’t go overboard.

Now it’s time to prepare the calamari…you can buy packaged calamari that has already been cut into rings, or you can cut it yourself.

This is what a calamari “tube” looks like…

I bought this at whole foods, I usually get mostly tubes and a few tiny octopus looking guys.  If you don’t care for the tentacles, just get the tubes…and if you don’t care for calamari then leave it out of the recipe all together.  Here’s another little known fact, calamari is cheap.  I got 1/2 pound (which is alot) for under 5 bucks…holler!

I cut them into 1/2 to 1 inch rings, like this…

It’s now time to throw your pasta in the boiling water, I used about 2/3 of the package but you can use the whole package if you would like…cook it for about 8 minutes (or until al dente).

If you’re using fresh linguine that’s even better…and if that’s the case I’m going to stop cooking this right now and just head on over to your house for dinner.

Now just add the calamari (rings and tentacles) right into your simmering sauce on the stove…

Now add about 1/2 pound of bay scallops (these are the small ones, also not expensive)…  

The sauce is going to cook both the calamari and the scallops perfectly in about 8 minutes which is about the same time it takes to make the pasta…this is good news.

At about the 7 minute mark, add your shrimp back into the pan…

and stir it around in the sauce and then drain your pasta and throw that in too.  

Toss it all together and it’s ready!

The last thing I do is add some chopped flat leaf parsley, it gives it a nice freshness and it looks pretty.

I don’t know if I’ve ever had anything that tastes better than this dish…there’s just something about tomatoes cooked in white wine, it’s hard to put into words other than to say…it’s a party in your mouth.


The Good Cooker

Photo Credit: Ariel Slabach 

Healthy Flank Steak Tacos with Chimichurri…Ay Caramba!

Weekends go by so fast, one of these weekends I’m just going to sit and stare at a clock the whole time in the hopes that it lasts longer…I bet it won’t.

My oldest son, who is 6, had a roller skating birthday party to go to yesterday, Jason dropped him off and I picked him up.  When I arrived to get him at 2:30 PM I spotted him out on the rink, he was drenched in sweat and redder in the face than I have ever seen him.  He had literally been skating the whole 2 1/2 hours of the party, no stopping for cake or witnessing the opening of presents…no time to eat cake when you gotta skate I guess.  He’s only been skating one other time and he doesn’t quite get the whole gliding concept yet so there’s a lot of physical exertion happening when he skates.  

When he saw me he waved and continued to skate until the DJ kicked them all off.  He made his way off the rink and pretty much collapsed in the first chair he saw and started begging for water.  I got the skates off and his boots on and we started heading towards the door but he wasn’t walking very well, he kept saying he couldn’t feel his legs…which isn’t surprising considering his form out there and the fact that he had been skating that way for 2.5 hours.  We make it to the car and I literally have to lift him into my SUV because he can’t get in, I was cracking up and so was he…the whole thing was so ridiculous.  Don’t worry, he’s fine now…he’s sitting next to me looking at Houzz on the ipad and asking if I like every million dollar kitchen he comes across.  I told him that when he goes pro in roller skating he can buy me one of them, he agreed to…yes!

Ok, it’s time to talk about Healthy Flank Steak Tacos!  Flank steak is so great because it’s relatively inexpensive, VERY lean, and so easy to cook (as long as you know what you’re doing).  There are really only two ways to cook a flank steak, if you deviate from these two methods you will probably end up with a really tough piece of meat that won’t be fun to eat and will probably give you lockjaw (never good).

The first way to cook a flank steak is very quickly on a really hot grill, I recommend using a marinade first…get your grill piping hot and then throw it on and cook it for 5 minutes, flip it and cook for 5 more minutes and then for the love of God get that thing off the grill!  This will sear the outside but keep the inside nice and tender.

The second way, which is the method I utilized for these tacos, is to cook it very slowly in your crock pot.  

Here is what you will need for this recipe…

1-2 pounds flank steak, depending on your crowd (or chicken if you don’t eat steak, or even shrimp if you don’t want to use the slow cooker…I’ll explain the variations at the end of this post)

Dry Rub 
2 tbsp chili powder
1 tablespoon cumin
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper

Chimichurri Sauce 
2 cups packed flat leaf parsley
1/2 cup fresh oregano leaves
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
2 cloves garlic
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1/4 cup EVOO

1 – red bell pepper 
1 – onion
1 – avocado
reduced fat sour cream
tortillas (corn and/or flour)

Mix your dry rub together in a bowl…

and rub it all over the meat, like this…

Then put your flank steak in the crock pot.  I couldn’t find a 2 lb flank steak so I bought 2 – 1 pounders and they both fit nicely in the bottom of the crock pot.

Then cut up an onion and throw that on top of your flank steak, you don’t need to cut it into small pieces…

Now put the lid on, set your crock pot on low for 6-8 hours, and walk away. 

Now it’s time to make the Chimichurri…I’ve been in LOVE with chimichurri ever since I discovered it a few years ago.  It originated in Argentina and from what I’ve read on the internet they use it like ketchup down there so it must be pretty good, right?

Take the parsley, oregano, garlic, red wine vinegar, salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes and put it all in the food processor.  Process it for about 30 seconds and scrape down the sides with a spatula to get it all incorporated.  Now with the lid on but that little lid thingy off, stream in the olive oil while processing.  Then it’s done…now let it sit until the meat is done so all the yummy flavors can meld together.  It should look something like this…

 Now you can relax for a few hours…read a book, do some yoga, go roller skating…whatever feels good to you.

About 30 minutes before your meat is ready (6 hours is good but you can leave it in there for 8) you can prepare the rest of the toppings.

Slice your red pepper and saute it in a pan with some olive oil until it gets soft and maybe even a little charred in spots, like this…

These peppers get soooo sweet when you cook them like this and they are a perfect compliment to the tangy saltiness of the chimichurri sauce.  You can put the sliced pepper in the crock pot but I think they taste better and hold up well when you saute them separately…I’m not going to tell to you what to do because it’s your life and they’re your peppers, just remember that you will have to live with your decisions…so just saute the pepper.

Now it’s time to shred the meat….you don’t need to shred the crap out of it, just get it into manageable pieces.

Take the meat out of the crock pot but don’t pour out those precious juices!  

Put the meat on a board and start cutting it in large long slices (1-2 inches thick) going against the grain, like this…

If you’re not sure what “going against the grain” means, it just refers to cutting the meat perpendicular to how the lines on the top of the piece of the meat are running.  You do this so you can cut through the lines and end up with manageable pieces to eat.  If you cut along the grain, you would end up with very long thin pieces of meat that are hard to chew.  I hope I explained that ok…if not, then I’m sorry I made you read that.

Now you need to shred the pieces of meat you cut, like this…

Now throw it all back in the crock pot with those precious juices we talked about…it should resemble something like this when you’re done…

For the tortillas, I bought two kinds…flour and corn.  The corn tortillas are 100% corn so they’re great for someone who needs to stay away from flour.  If I want to heat many tortillas at once, I wrap them in foil and throw them in a 200° F oven for about 10 minutes or so.  You can also heat them one at a time over the flame on a gas stove, up to you.

Now you just need to slice up your avocado and get your sour cream out and you are ready to roll!

Here is a photo of the finished product, not the best pic but I just wanted to eat it so bad I didn’t care…

The flavor combo in these tacos is out of this world, I’m not even exaggerating.  If you’re not a steak eater, you can totally follow this exact recipe using chicken.  You can also make a shrimp version…for that you would just coat the shrimp with the dry rub and saute it in a pan with some olive oil for a few minutes.  I have made them every way I just mentioned and I couldn’t tell you which one is my favorite, they all turn out great.  The nice thing about the shrimp is that you can cook the steak or chicken in the crock pot and your shrimp on the stove so people can choose what they want (sort of like surf ‘n turf!).

So since I wasn’t patient enough to take a really good picture of the taco, I decided to take a really good picture of my cat…

Well, we have another roller skating party tomorrow at a different rink…we are really making the rounds on the roller skating circuit lately.  I’m taking a half day at work so I can take him to the party…and because I’m going roller skating too.


The Good Cooker

Veggie Taco Dip…and a lego warrior

I don’t know how much longer I can keep up with working full time and blogging full time, I only parent part time so that’s good…kidding!  Last night Jason didn’t get home until 7:00 PM because he was working or something stupid like that.  I told him that this was completely unacceptable and then he replied by asking me what sunglasses I thought he should purchase off some website, I countered by telling him I was going to make taco dip and then we both forgot everything that was said before “Taco Dip”.  I got to work on the dip while he played with the kids (and looked at sunglasses on his phone some more).

By now you’ve all realized that everything I make is pretty easy, taco dip is no exception. This is a vegetarian dish so all you veggies who were scared away by the meatballs can come out now! This also happens to be low fat but you would never know it (there’s a theme developing here), so there will definitely be an internal struggle going on when you’re eating it.

I use a shallow round dish to assemble this dope dip (yes, I said that)…you can use any shape or size vehicle but this is my go to guy and it works perfectly.  It’s 8.5 inches in diameter so of course the area = 3.14 *18.06 inch2  and the result is 56.7 inch2.  This means that you could use any square or rectangular dish where the width X length = about 56.7 inch2…or you can use anything else you want.

The base layer of this dip is a can of re-fried black beans.  I used to make it with regular re-fried beans but I now realize that I never really loved regular re-fried beans the way I love black re-fried beans, sometimes you have to fall in love with something new to realize you never loved what you thought you did before…I know you’re all nodding in agreement right now.

I love making re-fried beans (black or regular) from scratch using my crock pot but tonight a trusty can will do the job just fine.

Spread the can of beans in the bottom of the dish, like this…

If you don’t care for beans (Susie Daly) you can always start with something else, like ground turkey that’s been browned and seasoned with chili powder and cumin or even a seasoned cream cheese/sour cream mixture if you want to keep it vegetarian.

The next layer is the guacamole…the only place I’ve ever found good prepared guac was at Whole Foods because they make it in house.  The stuff that comes in a bag at the grocery store is, in my humble opinion, disgusting.  I started making my own guacamole many moons ago…I’ve been told it’s pretty damn good.  I’ve never divulged my guacamole secrets, until now…

Start with an avocado (duh)…cut it in half, remove the pit, and somehow get it all in a bowl.  I cut mine up while it’s still in the skin and then scoop it out with a spoon, like this…

Next I add Herdez Salsa…this salsa is authentic Mexican and it is gooooood…I use a fork to get it out because I want the chunky tomato parts but not so much of the liquid part, about 1/2 cup is good.

Before we can proceed I need to make sure everyone is in the judge free zone.  If you’re not already in the judge free zone, go there now because what I’m about to tell you might make you all think I’m a little nuts.

I have a secret ingredient for my salsa… and it’s called Mayonnaise.  Judge free zone! Don’t knock it till you try it!  So yes, I put about 2 tbsp of light mayo in my guacamole.  I have no idea how or why I started doing this but I did and I think it’s been a huge success, this is the mayo I use (please no eye rolls)…the only way the mayo would let me take its picture was if I promised that you guys wouldn’t be mean to it…

Now back to normal ingredients…the juice of half a lime and salt/ground pepper to taste.

Your guacamole is done…now spread it on top of the black refried beans, like this…

Next, top the guacamole with shredded lettuce, reduced fat cheese, sliced black olives, and diced tomatoes.  Your dip now looks like a piece of art and everyone at the super bowl party is going to be so impressed.  But we have a grand finale for this dip which will take it to a whole new level, picture this: people clapping while you’re taking a bow…this is where the dip gets its dopeness. 

Take some reduced fat sour cream and mix it with some franks hot sauce in a small bowl…

  Then put it in a small plastic baggie and cut the tiniest snip in the corner…

And then decorate your dip with it. This ingredient combo is SO good and now you can draw a football on your dip and everyone will think you’re super awesome.  I did a simple checker pattern tonight but sometimes I just do little dots, I’ve never actually drawn a football on mine but I think I will now for the superbowl.

And here it is…

And here is a lego warrior that my son built while I was writing this post, I think he may have stolen my thunder with this one…I’m cool with it.  Mr. lego warrior tried my dip and said it was the best taco dip he’s ever had.

The Good Cooker

Healthy Crockpot Meatball Sliders…OMG

I had HUGE plans to watch E’s live from the red carpet at the Golden Globes and then watch the entire show.  I was SO excited to see Tina and Amy do their thing.  They are both so awesome, my love for them is borderline creepy but I don’t have the time or resources to hide in their bushes and spy on them at home so they really have nothing to worry about.

I decided to make crockpot meatball sliders for two reasons…one, because I knew the only way I was going to be able to watch 6 hours of TV was if I used my crock pot to make dinner and two, because crockpot meatball sliders are DA BOMB…holler!  (I’m so sorry about that.)

Most people don’t reach for a meatball sandwich when they want something healthy for dinner, but if you make your own meatballs you can do just that…you can change a meatball’s destiny.  I have no idea how I came up with this recipe (or that meatball destiny thing)…it’s pretty traditional but I use lean meats and my brother says they taste just like my grandma’s, good enough for me!

Here are the ingredients you will need for the meatballs…

1 pound lean ground beef (sirloin or leaner)
1 pound ground turkey
1 large egg

1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese 1/2 cup ketchup
1/2 cup breadcrumbs
1/2 white onion – diced small
1 bunch parsley
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ground pepper
1/2 tsp garlic powder

You will also need…

1 large jar marinara sauce
super thin sliced provolone
REALLY good rolls 

Before you do anything, get the crockpot out and pour your favorite marinara sauce in it and set it on high to heat it up.  If you want to make your own sauce then you are a rockstar and I salute you, but I wanted to watch the Golden Globes remember?!

There are so many good jarred sauces out there nowadays…I like a brand called Mid’s, here it is.

I also like the following brands…

Francesco Rinaldi – I used to buy this religiously but it disappeared from my grocery store a few years ago…very sad

Whole Foods 365  – For a “store” brand, this is pretty freaking good

Kirkland’s (at Costco)…I haven’t had this but it gets great reviews

Giada DeLaurentiis for Target…that biotch makes a mean marinara

Use what you love…and then tell me about it!

Pre-heat your oven to 350°F and then put all of the above ingredients in a large bowl…like this.

I used to grate the onion…grating an onion isn’t as fun as it sounds.  It actually sucks big time…if you chop it up and then whack at it some more with a knife you will get pieces that are small enough.

Now this is where some of you might peace out on me, but you MUST do this in order to make the perfect meatball…you gotta get your hands in there and mix it all up.  You are permitted to wear plastic gloves for this operation if raw meat bothers you but don’t even try using a utensil, it ain’t gonna work.  You want to massage the meat (oh dear) for a good 5 minutes to get everything incorporated.

Next it’s time to make the balls.  For meatball sandwiches, you want decent sized balls (everyone stop giggling!)…about 2 inches around is good.  You can place the meatballs directly on a baking sheet but for some reason I like to put a cooling rack on the baking sheet and then place the meatballs on the rack.  I would say I do this to catch the fat that drips down off the meatballs but you will find with these that nothing drips off because they’re so lean.  I really do this because I’ve convinced myself they cook better that way (this is probably not true so don’t listen to me).

By some miracle, I always manage to get 20 perfect meatballs out of this recipe…here’s the proof.


Now throw them (not literally) in the oven and let them bake for 20-25 minutes.  The goal here is not to cook them all the way through, we’re just trying to brown the outside.

Here is what they look like right out of the oven…OMG

Now plop (yes plop) them into the sauce that’s been heated in your crockpot.  Turn the heat to low and make sure all the meatballs are covered with some sauce, you will have to stir them around a little.  Let them swim in there for about 2 hours and they’re done.

Let’s talk about rolls…I am fortunate enough to live near a grocery store that rents space to a local bakery called “Bit of Swiss”…their bread and rolls are fresh baked everyday and don’t contain any junk, if you’re buying bread products whose ingredient list takes you more than 5 seconds to read then you’re buying crappy bread.

I do like to buy a few different types of rolls and then put them in a big bowl so people can grab what they like…

Regardless of what type of roll you use, you’re going to want to make a little nest for your precious meatballs to hang out in…this prevents the meatball from shooting out the end of your sandwich when you take a bite.  You can discard the extra bread, or you can dip it in the sauce and eat it…I would love to say I do the former but I have no willpower. 

For the cheese, I usually buy super thin sliced provolone because it melts so nicely as soon as you put your sandwich together.  Here is the final product…

I like these “slider” rolls because it means I can eat two meatball sandwiches and not feel bad about it…

So, I ended up watching about 20 minutes of E’s red carpet coverage and about 6 minutes of the Golden Globes…not because I was making meatballs, those took barely any time at all to put together.  Actually, it turns out that I have three children so I don’t get to watch TV…I totally forgot.

I hope you give these meatball sandwiches a try…and if you get to watch TV while eating these meatball sandwiches then I’ll be really happy for you, I won’t be jealous at all…I swear.

The Good Cooker

Really Freaking Good Hummus…

If I had to guess, I bet the person who invented hummus is really pissed off.  If you go to the store today, you can choose from a variety of prepared hummuses and they are all totally gross.  And instead of fixing their hummus recipes, these hummus companies just take their crappy hummus and add different stuff to it…so not only do we have gross regular hummus, we also get to enjoy gross roasted red pepper hummus!

I’ve looked at so many packaged hummus containers studying the ingredients to try and find out what in the heck is making this store bought hummus taste so darn awful (can you tell this annoys me?) and all I can think of is that some of them add preservatives (like citric acid) to extend shelf life but I’ve even found recipes with no preservatives that still tasted like dirt…I’ve come to terms with the fact that I may never know the answer to why store bought hummus is so shitty but at least I have a solution…I make it myself, and guess what?  That’s right…it’s SO easy.

Here’s a family photo of what you’ll need…

And here’s the list…
1 – 30 oz. can garbanzo beans (or 2 – 15 oz. cans) with 1 cup liquid reserved
3 tbsp. – tahini (aka ground sesame seeds)
juice of 1 lemon
1 clove garlic, chopped
Drizzle of EVOO
salt and ground pepper to taste
1/2 tsp. cumin (optional)

You’re also going to need a food processor (I mean, you technically could use a giant mortar and pestle but then the recipe goes from really easy to pretty labor intensive.) 

I was really nervous today because I had to take my own photos, but I think they turned out okay (it’s called using automatic focus and a really good camera), my dad is probably wondering where his camera went (my mom let me borrow it) and obviously he does not read my blog or he would have asked for it back by now…there’s definitely a heart to heart talk in our future.

So first you need to drain the beans, but reserve some liquid!  After you open the can, just push the lid back and let some of the liquid drain into a measuring cup.  I know you guys don’t need me to explain how to reserve bean liquid but I can’t help myself.

Here’s the liquid, mmmmm…bean liquid (said in Homer Simpson voice)

Set the liquid aside and pour the beans into the food processor.  I use “no salt added” beans for this because I can add as much or as little salt as I want at the end but you can definitely use the other kind (with salt) and then add less salt at the end (more information that 99% of you already know).

Next I chop a clove of garlic and add that in.  I think one clove for this recipe is plenty but you are the boss of your hummus and you can add more if you want.  I LOVE garlic but raw garlic sometimes doesn’t love me back…and that really hurts (we’ve all been there).

Here’s what’s in your food processor so far…

Now I pulse it for a while…anywhere from 10-20 pulses is good (I forgot to count).  Now it looks sort of like this…

Next you’re going to want to add some liquid to soften things up.  In goes the juice of one lemon and 3 tablespoons of tahini.  If you’ve never had tahini, you might open up the container and be all like, what the heck is going on in here?  The oil typically separates from the ground seeds (like natural peanut butter does) so just stir it really good and proceed.

Next, start adding some of the bean liquid back into the bean mixture.  Begin with 1/4 cup and then let that process for a little while, if it still looks pretty chunky (which mine did) add 1/4 cup more.  I stopped at 1/2 cup because I like my hummus on the thicker side (ain’t nothin’ wrong with that ladies!).  You can definitely add more if you like a smoother hummus.
Now add salt and ground pepper to taste.  The amount of salt people prefer varies so it’s difficult to say what the correct amount is.  You’re just going to have to add a little, taste, add a little more…and so on.  (I’m sorry, I know you guys are smart).

Last, I add a little drizzle of EVOO…you don’t even have to add olive oil if you don’t want, but I think it adds to the flavor and gives it the best texture.

This is what my hummus looked like when it was all said and done…

This recipe will make a nice party size portion, whatever that means.  I asked my husband how much he thought it was and that’s what he said and I totally agreed (never happens) so that’s what we’re going with…party size portion.

Here is the hummus sitting in a pretty bowl…

If you like a little more smokiness in your hummus, you can always add 1/2 tsp. of cumin.  I usually do but for some reason I chose not to today (because I forgot).

I can think of a million ways to eat hummus…it’s great as a healthy dip for vegetables, you can spread it on warm pita bread (to die for), you can eat it with a spoon…but I’m going to show you my all time favorite way to eat it.

This is hummus…CP style.  CP is my sister and she has been eating hummus like this since she could walk (small exaggeration but you get the idea).

Take a good piece of multi-grain bread or a bagel and toast it to your liking.  Next, spread a good amount of hummus on the bread and then top with thin slices of vine ripened tomatoes.  Lastly, sprinkle the whole thing with a little salt, fresh ground pepper, and dried basil.

Here is the masterpiece…

I don’t know what it is about this combination but it is crazy freaking good.  You can obviously do whatever you want to with your hummus but if you’re looking for a healthy breakfast, or lunch, or snack, or you just want some darn hummus…this is definitely worth trying.

Ok, now you have to make a promise…please, please, please promise me that you will never buy packaged hummus ever again (I’m being dramatic).  I’m not trying to put the hummus companies out of business and I’m sure there are some really nice people that work at these hummus companies but enough is enough…we don’t like eating bad hummus and we’re not gonna take it anymore!  I’m probably going to get sued for this but oh well, it was totally worth it.

The Good Cooker

Bean Salad Got a Makeover…

Do you enjoy eating delicious and healthy stuff?  Do you like when things are fast and easy? Do you own a bowl?  Then this bean salad is for you!

Bean salad usually gets a bad rap, and for good reason.  I’ve never had bean salad from a salad bar that didn’t suck real bad.  Who wants to eat what is essentially sugary green beans? YUCK, not me.

Well this is different, I swear…there aren’t even any green beans up in this salad!  Still skeptical?  Well you’re just going to have to take a leap of bean salad faith and keep reading.

Here are the beans I used…

and here is the rundown (recipe)…

1 can – black beans (drained and rinse)
1 can – chick peas aka garbanzo beans aka the beans you make hummus with (drained and rinsed)
1 can – kidney beans (drained and rinsed)
6 oz. – frozen peas (about half a bag)
6 oz. – frozen corn (see above)
2 – green onions (chopped)
2/3 cup – balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp – sugar
drizzle – extra virgin olive oil 
salt and ground pepper to taste

I know what you’re all thinking…why doesn’t she call this 3 bean salad?  I mean there are 3 kinds of beans sitting there, it would only make sense.  I pondered this for a while but in the end I just couldn’t limit you guys to three kinds of beans…maybe you want to add some pinto beans, or navy beans, or some other really cool bean that I’ve never even heard of before.  Maybe you even want to add, dare I say it…green beans.  No judging here!

Some of you might also be wondering why all the brand confusion…I post as many brands as I can hoping that maybe, just maybe, that guy and his dog Duke will let me star in one of their baked beans commercials…I will never give out the family secret Mr. Bush!  Actually, I just happened to have these cans in my pantry.

I’m getting way off topic here, let’s get back to the salad.

So start by draining the beans in a strainer and rinsing them with water, I suggest rinsing one can at a time.

Have a big bowl handy to dump the beans in after they’ve been rinsed.  Then add some frozen corn and frozen peas, I used about half of each of these bags.  Everything else you add in this recipe is room temperature so these will thaw very fast just from mixing everything together.  If you feel the need to let these two sit out on the counter and thaw for a while that’s fine but you really don’t need to (I promise).  Definitely DO NOT follow the directions on the bag…please I beg you.

So just to document how fast you can throw this together, I paid attention to the clock.  I started making the bean salad at approximately 4:02 PM…at approximately 4:03 PM my toddler woke up from his nap and really wanted me to hold him, I would have said no thank you but I’ve tried that before (it doesn’t work).  So after he got his oxygen mask (pacifier) and finally succumbed to the magic hypnotic powers of Sesame Street, it was time to get back to the salad.   

Here is what your bowl should resemble now…

So far, this has taken me about 2 minutes (plus 20 minutes of toddler time).  It’s now approximately 4:44 PM and I am ready to finish this so I can eat it.  But then my 6 year old throws a basketball into the window (on accident) and shatters it…my nanny/photographer can corroborate this story.  So that was another time out (for me and my darling son).  I shut the door to the room with the shards of broken glass on the floor and kept truckin’.  I would have cleaned it up but my husband was going to be home any minute and I had no clue where he put that darn shop vac!

Now it’s time to add the stuff of legends…extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

Look at that cute couple!  Now, there’s a few things to get figured out before we move forward.  First, not all balsamics are created equal.  The one I used today was pretty good but not very sweet.  I put the balsamic in the measuring cup and mixed in a tbsp of sugar before I dumped it on the beans, that little bit of sweetness makes a HUGE difference.  Now if I was using the balsamic I had found at the farmers market last year that had been aged for about 300 years I probably would not have added the sugar (it was heaven all on it’s own).  So just taste test what you have and be your own judge, you can do it!  With the olive oil, just make sure it’s extra virgin…or don’t.

Add the balsamic and EVOO (you can thank Rachel Ray for the acronym) and stir it all together.  Now add the chopped green onion and stir a little more.  At this point you should probably taste it…and then add salt and fresh ground black pepper to your liking.  Here it is in the big bowl…

And here it is in a small bowl…

I don’t know how to express to you all how much I love this bean salad.  I will make this and then keep it in the fridge all week…unlike humans, the longer this sits the better it gets.  If you’re hungry but want something good for you, this is a great snack that’s very satisfying.  I pair it with low fat cottage cheese but you can do whatever you want…maybe I need to rename my blog “The Do Whatever The Heck You Want Cooker”.

So there it is…bean salad, all made over.  She looks amazing, don’t you think?  She helps me look pretty good too because instead of eating potato chips when I’m hungry, I eat this…sometimes.

The Good Cooker

Photo Credit (and nanny credit): Ariel Slabach


KJ’s Chicken Enchiladas

Well, it was another “work from home” day for me, the temp this morning was -13° F with the windchill at about -40.  Right now it’s a balmy 1° so I’ve got my bikini on and we’re making chicken enchiladas!  Jason keeps talking about going to get some coronas, he’s so crazy.  

This recipe for enchiladas goes wayyyy back, all the way to “The Woods of the Winding Creek.”  No, that’s not a soap opera (although it could have been), it’s actually where I grew up.  “The Woods” as we called it was pretty cool back then and obviously still is because it has its own facebook page, I’m not making this up.

Anyway, I can’t take full credit for this AMAZING enchilada recipe, it came from the recipe box of the one and only Mrs. Karen Johnson.  The Johnson’s lived down the hill from us in “The Woods”.  Karen’s daughter Mary and I were good friends, we were around the same age and I could walk to her house from my house…these are pretty much the only two prerequisites for forming a friendship when you’re 7.  My mom was really good friends with Karen too because every time I or one of my siblings did something totally weird or stupid, Karen was there to reassure my mom that we probably weren’t going to end up in prison someday…and she also saved my life one time so my mom liked that about her too.

I’ve tweeked the recipe over the years (I can’t help myself) but the truth is, there would be no enchiladas in my recipe box if it weren’t for KJ.  Let’s go over the ingredients shall we…

3 – poached chicken breasts
4 cups – chicken broth to poach the chicken in
8 oz. – shredded cheese
4 oz. – cream cheese or neufchatel (softened)
1 15 oz. can – enchilada sauce
1 – diced red pepper
2 – diced green onions (about a 1/2 cup)
1 tsp – cumin 
8 – Tortillas 

Start heating the chicken broth in a pot, while this is happening, dice up the red pepper and green onions.

Ok, I know what you’re all thinking…why is that green onion so big?!  But a few of you may also be wondering how I suddenly became so good at taking photos with my iphone.  Actually I remembered that even though I don’t have a good camera, my father does and even though I completely SUCK at taking photos, my nanny Ariel doesn’t suck at it in the slightest.  So while I was “working” and Ariel was dutifully watching my kids, we somehow also managed to do this (yes, we are wizards).

Now combine the diced pepper and green onion with 4 oz. of the shredded cheese and all of the cream cheese.  For the shredded cheese I use a reduced fat mexican blend or colby jack but you can use whatever you want and as much or as little as you want, cheese is a very personal decision and I respect that.  For the cream cheese I use neufchatel because it’s basically just reduced fat cream cheese.  This lower fat version of cream cheese originated in the city of Neufchatel, France…hence the name.  I know this fact because I’m a genius, and because I know how to use google.  Here is a close up of your ingredients in the bowl…

Add the cumin and stir everything together.  You should have put your chicken breasts in the boiling chicken broth by now, and it takes about 10-15 minutes to cook the chicken through.  Once it’s cooked, take the chicken out and start shreddin’ baby!  Shredding chicken is not my favorite thing to do but if you have good technique then it gets done a lot faster.  I use two forks, steadying the chicken breast with one fork and then using the other to scrape the meat away, like this…

Look at that action shot!  Kudos to Ariel on this one…
Now it’s time to add the shredded chicken to the bowl of ingredients, so go ahead and do that.  Next comes the enchilada sauce, I use this brand that I found at Whole Foods…

I may or may not have eaten this right out of the can on previous occasions.  You can use any brand you like obviously.  Pour half the can over the mixture and stir the bowl some more.

Now it’s time to roll em’ up, this part is so fun.  You need a 9X13 dish, put a small amount of the enchilada sauce in the bottom of the dish…

Place a decent amount of the mixture down on the tortilla near one end…

Now roll up the tortilla and place it seam side down in the dish, eight enchiladas should fit quite nicely…

Now top the enchiladas with the remaining sauce and cheese and throw it in the oven at 350°F for about 30 minutes.
I don’t cover them when they bake because I like the top to get a little crispy, but it’s totally up to you…that’s called free will.  The finished product should look something like this…

I always eat my enchiladas with a side of shredded lettuce topped with sour cream because that’s just how I roll…yikes!

My days in “The Woods” are long gone but I will never forget Mrs. Johnson because I have this recipe…and because she saved my life that one time.

Oh, you want to hear it?  Okay fine, I will tell you really quick…I was riding my bike to Mary’s one day and like I said earlier, she lived at the bottom of the hill.  It was a beautiful summer day so naturally I was carrying an open umbrella while riding.  For some insane reason the umbrella turned inside out when I was en route so of course I was looking back at it in amazement wondering how on earth this could have happened.  Well, next thing I knew I was on the hood of a parked car and I wasn’t feeling so hot.  I pretty much made direct contact with the windshield, I tried to scream but turns out that’s REALLY hard to do when you’ve gotten the wind knocked out of you.  Well good ole’ KJ saw the whole thing and she came running to save me.  Now looking back, I still don’t understand why someone would park their car on the side of the street when there was a perfectly good driveway that they could have parked in and that I clearly remember was not occupied by any cars…some people just don’t pay attention and do stupid things, what can you do…

Okay, so maybe she didn’t literally save my life, but in that moment when I was hurt and scared and thought I was dying,  she came runnin’ and I will never forget the relief I felt when I saw her…so thanks Mrs. Johnson.
And you will all be thanking Mrs. Johnson if you make these enchiladas, they are freaking amazing.

The Good Cooker

Photo Credit: Ariel Slabach

I Poach Eggs in My Sleep…

Last night I had a dream that I made a perfectly poached egg even though I have never poached an egg in my entire life.  So this morning I for real poached an egg following the same steps from my dream and it worked!  Just kidding, I stole the technique from this lady’s website here.  She has a cookbook and on the cover was a poached egg so I figured she was a safe bet.  I followed her instructions and I made the magical egg.  Don’t believe me?  I knew this would happen, so I took photos with my iphone like I usually do.  Here is the egg in the pot after a few minutes…

There are no photos prior to this because I was hiding in the closet being a nervous wreck! 

Just to clarify, I didn’t get up this morning with an insatiable urge to poach an egg.  We had that amazing salmon the other night, recipe here, and I had a good size piece left over that kept staring at me every time I opened the fridge.  My husband and I love to order salmon eggs benedict when we go out for breakfast, if it’s on the menu one of us is getting it (not both of us because that would be crazy, if you have no reason to eat half of your spouse’s breakfast then why are you going out to eat?)

Anyway, I decided to try and recreate our favorite restaurant breakfast order minus the hollandaise sauce.  Two reasons I didn’t make the sauce, #1 – I was too lazy and #2 – I will have to show my face and probably other parts of my body on a beach in Cancun at the end of February for my sister’s wedding so hollandaise is not my BFF right now.

Ok, back to the magical egg.  Here it is sleeping on the paper towel…shhhh, don’t piss it off! (I actually said that to my husband.)

By some miracle I managed to make another one so Jason and I didn’t have to fight over this beauty. While I did that, he completed some very complicated tasks like toasting a few pieces of bread and microwaving the salmon.  You could also warm the salmon in the oven but I find that covering it with a moist paper towel on a plate or heating it in a container with a lid loosely attached works great and keeps the salmon from drying out…nuke it for 30 seconds and check it, then go another 20 seconds or something like that (if you don’t already know this timing technique then you should probably go back to microwaving school).

So here was my finished product…

It was sooooo good, and who needs hollandaise when you’ve got that beautiful yolk to work with?!  (Just go ahead and agree with me here.)  As you can see, no recipe again…just more of a “what to do with leftover salmon” idea and a “how to poach an egg” pep talk…I think that might just be better than a recipe.  Now go poach an egg and tell me all about it!

The Good Cooker