Rack of Lamb

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Like many families around the world, when it comes to holidays, we all have our traditions. Growing up for me, it was going out for Easter lunch with my mom’s side of the family and later that night dinner with my dad’s side. As we grew older it started to change to eating dinner at home with mom and dad then desert at my aunt’s house. Things change as the kids get older, but being with family is and always has been at the core of my family holidays.

Being far away from my family, the holidays can sometimes be a little sad, so my husband and children pretty much let me cook what ever I want. I stick with my tradition of honey ham for Christmas and Easter and my roasted turkey for Thanksgiving. Nothing crazy simple and elegant.

Well this year I decided to rock the boat. Crazy! Rack of Lamb! Yup, that’s right! I tried cooking rack of lamb for Easter lunch with no back-up plan, so if it sucked ,we were eating peanut butter and jelly.  I spent a week looking up recipes and watching videos to see how the pros do it. And let me tell you, that made it even worse. No two recipes were the same. Even the temperature and amount of time kept changing. How was I going to make this and have it come out perfect? Answer: do what I always do, combine recipes and hope for the best.

My son, who is usually done eating after round one, ate three lamb chops before finishing his mashed potatoes. And my girls who would normally trim every ounce of fat off their meat, ate everything without hesitation. I would say it was a hit. The lamb turned out medium-rare and tender. It just melted in our mouths, and the fresh herbs made a world a difference. We may have found our new Easter tradition.

Rack of Lamb

Ingredients:

  • 2 racks of lamb (1 1/2 lbs each)
  • 2 Tbs fresh chopped thyme
  • 2 Tbs fresh chopped rosemary
  • 1 Tbs fresh chopped basil
  • 1 Tbs fresh chopped parsley
  • 1 cup unseasoned breadcrumbs, I used old french bread and pulsed it in a food processor
  • 1/2 cup brown mustard
  • 1/2 Tbs minced garlic
  • 2 Tbs olive oil
  • salt and pepper

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat oven 375˚F.
  2. In a large skillet heat oil over medium-high heat.
  3. In a medium bowl mix freshly chopped herbs and breadcrumbs. Set to the side.
  4. Season each rack of lamb with salt and pepper on both sides. Then place lamb in skillet and brown on all sides. Remove from heat and place on cookie sheet. Repeat for this step for second rack of lamb. Remember in the words of Gordon Ramsey, “No color, no flavor!” 
  5. In a small bowl combine garlic and brown mustard. Using a pastry brush, brush all over both racks of lamb.
  6. Once coated with the mustard sprinkle the breadcrumb-herb mixture over the entire rack of lamb. Repeat for second rack of lamb.
  7. Cover the ribs of the lamb with aluminum foil to help prevent burning.
  8. Make sure to place your oven rack so your lamb sits directly in the middle of the oven. Bake for 30 minutes, flipping half way through. This will get you a medium-rare lamb. You can adjust the time to get the doneness you want, just be careful not to over cook the lamb.
  9. Remove from oven and wrap with a loose foil tent. Let rest for 15 minutes. This will help get the juices back into the meat.
  10. To serve the lamb chops, cut in between the bones.

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This was the finished lamb before the kids started eating. Look at the gorgeous pink center.

Chicken Cacciatore – “Hunter Stew”

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Cacciatore means “hunter” in Italian. In cuisine, alla cacciatora refers to a meal prepared “hunter-style” with tomatoes, onions, herbs, and sometimes wine. Cacciatore is popularly made with braised chicken (pollo alla cacciatora) or rabbit (coniglio alla cacciatora). Basically the hunters would use what they could gather in the woods, and use gamey meats like rabbit, venison, etc. I will have mine without Thumper and Bambi please.

I am not really sure of how chicken was introduced, though one story is that if the hunter returned home empty handed his wife would go out back and kill a chicken and add it to the vegetable stew.

Another story is that the chicken got into the hunter’s vegetables like carrots, onion, and celery. And when the hunter caught the chicken, he became the dinner for the hunter and his family.

There are so many different variations of this dish based upon ingredients available in specific regions. For example, in southern Italy, cacciatore often includes red wine, while northern Italian chefs might use white wine. Some variations include bell peppers and mushrooms mixed in with the vegetables. I wish I had mushrooms on hand when I made this meal, the sauce would have gone great with the flavors of the mushrooms.

Chicken Cacciatore – “Hunter Stew”

Ingredients:

  • 2-3 lbs chicken, I used boneless/skinless thighs and breasts
  • 2 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 medium red onion, thinly sliced root to tip
  • 3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup white or red wine, I used red wine.
  • 2 tomatoes, chopped
  • 1/2 ts salt & pepper
  • 1 ts dry basil (or 2 teaspoons fresh, chopped)
  • 1 ts dry parsley (or 2 teaspoons fresh, chopped)
  • 1 cup flour
  • 3-4 large carrots, chopped
  • 2 celery stocks, chopped
  • 1 Tbs Italian seasoning

Directions:

  1. In a large heavy pan heat 2 tablespoons of oil.
  2. In a large bowl mix together flour, salt, pepper, and Italian seasoning. Once everything is combined coat chicken pieces on both sides. Place chicken in the hot oil and cook 5-6 minutes on both sides. Once chicken is done remove from pan.
  3. In the same pan that the chicken was cooked it add the onions, carrots, celery, and garlic. Cook until the onions are tender. Add the parsley and stir to combine.
  4. Slowly add the chicken stock to pan. Using a spatula deglaze the pan. Bring to a slow boil.
  5. Add in the 1/2 cup wine. Bring back to a boil. Boil on medium-high for 5 minutes.
  6. Return the chicken to the pan and continue to cook until the chicken is completely cooke all the way, about 30-40 minutes.

We served ours over white rice. You can serve it over pasta, rice or potatoes. I hope that you enjoyed this little trip to Italy as much as we did. What country will our taste buds take us to next time?

Skirt Steak wrapped in Swiss Cheese and Spinach

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Besides chocolate my other addiction is Pinterest. If you ever look at my boards they are filled with crafts, food, clothes, gardening, and whatever else hits my fancy late at night. LOL

During one of my late night scrolling I saw this recipe with a flank steak and feta cheese. I hate feta cheese, to me it smells like stinky feet. I am not eating anything that smells like stinky feet. And flank steak can be expensive when trying to feed a family of five. So I changed something’s and I think it looks even better then the original. I swapped the flank steak for a cheaper cut, and then I swapped the feta cheese for swiss cheese.

The Swiss cheese has a mild, sweet and nut-like flavor that is not over powering and tastes great with the spinach and steak. Plus it melts so smoothly inside the roll.

Skirt Steak wrapped in Swiss Cheese and  Spinach

Ingredients:

  • 2 lb skirt steak, trimmed
  • 5 sliced of swiss cheese
  • 8oz of fresh spinach, wilted down
  • salt and pepper

Directions:

  1. Remove as much of the fat as you can from the meat. Be careful not to remove the meat. This takes some time but the end results is worth the extra time.
  2. Sprinkle salt and pepper on both sides of the steak.
  3. Layer the swiss cheese the entire length of the steak. Then layer the wilted spinach on top.
  4. Starting at the small end of the steak roll up the steak. Using tooth picks to keep the steak roll closed.
  5. Pre-heat oven to 375˚ F. Place in a baking dish. Wrap with foil and place in oven and cook 45 minutes or until the desired temperature as been reached.

Note: Adding a sprinkle of fresh parsley on top before you cook really helps give it that little extra something. But then again something this yummy really doesn’t need it.

I served mine with brussels sprouts and cheesy mashed potatoes. Even my picky eats had no complaints. Before I could take a picture of the inside to show the swirls of steak, spinach, and cheese it was gone! My husband even asked if we were eating it again tomorrow. I think this meal was a hit 🙂

Veggie Beef Soup

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There is this restaurant that we like going to from time to time that used to serve this veggie beef soup. It was so good! One bite, and I was hooked. The last time we went, I ordered my soup as normal only to be served simply veggie soup, so I asked what happened. I was informed that they never served veggie beef soup. I know that they did, I had it many times before. Instead of arguing with the manager I just said okay and moved on.

But this got me thinking about how hard would it be to make veggie beef soup. I started looking at recipe after recipe. No two were the same. The basics were about the same, veggies and beef but nothing else. So I combines several different recipes with the parts that I liked and threw everything into my slow cooker and walked away.

Now you may have notice that I love my slow cooker, I won’t deny it. But with this soup it makes even the toughest of beefs just melt in your mouth. You don’t even need to chew the meat… okay maybe a little so you don’t choke. 🙂

Veggie Beef Soup

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb beef tips
  • 2-3 large potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 4-5 large carrots, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 1/2 lb green beans, make sure to cut the tips off
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 5 Roma tomatoes, chopped
  • 1/2 cup Italian seasoning
  • 2-3 Knorr beef cube
  • 1 Tbs parsley, roughly chopped
  • 1 6oz can of tomato paste
  • 1 ts salt
  • 1 ts pepper

Directions:

Tip: Make sure to have big chunks of the veggies. Having small sizes can cause the carrots and potatoes turn into mush. And you don’t want to eat mush for soup.

  1. Put everything into the slow cooker. Make sure to add the salt and pepper this will help bring the flavors together. Adjust the salt and pepper if needed.
  2. On low for 8-10 hours or high 6-8 hours. I prefer high temp, I think it gets the meat more tender then the low setting. But that is really up to you.

Tip: You can substitute the tomatoes, paste, and Italian seasoning for 1 16oz jar of pasta sauce. This will work but you won’t have that fresh from the garden taste.

See another easy meal to have ready for you when you walk through the door after a long day at work. You don’t need to spend hours in the kitchen to have a hot meal ready these days just need to learn to make what you have work for you not against.

Bruschetta

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This is probably the easiest thing I can make. Brings a little summer time inside during those cold winter months.

Don’t let the fancy name fool you. It doesn’t require a lot of prep time, simple to make and uses fresh herbs and vegetable. I am talking about bruschetta. Great on it’s own or as an appetizer to any meal. Make a little or a lot, this recipe could not be any simpler. You can serve it on top of crackers or my favorite way toasted baguettes with a little sprinkling of mozzarella cheese on top. So yummy.

Bruschetta

Ingredients:

  • 2 roma tomatoes, diced
  • 1/2 cup diced onion (yellow or red)
  • 2 Tbs basil, thinly chopped
  • 1 Tbs olive oil
  • 1 ts minced garlic
  • 1/4 ts salt
  • 1/4 ts pepper

Directions:

  1. Stir all ingredients in a medium size bowl until everything is well combined. Serve on with crackers or baguettes.

Tip: Sprinkle some grated cheese on top and make it even better. I use mozzarella or parmesan when I want to jazz it up!

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This is one easy dish to make that is sure to please. Make it for a group or keep it to yourself, cause honestly something this yummy, who is going to want to share? 🙂

Lemon-Herb Baked Chicken

Lemon-Herb Baked Chicken

 

 

I hope that everyone had a great start to the new year.

This Lemon-Herb Baked Chicken is my husband’s new favorite meal. Packed with flavor and easy to make and very little oil added. I think this whole meal cost me about $9 total. Yup, you heard me $9 meal to feed a family of 5. Now that includes the chicken, potatoes, carrots (not shown), lemon, and herbs. That is not bad a deal, you can’t even get a meal like that at a restaurant where I live for 1 under $10.

When shopping look for chicken that is antibiotic free and no water added. You may pay a little bit more but what you get for flavor is well worth the extra dollar and your chicken won’t shrink when cooking. Normally when the chicken shrinks it has had water added, so you are paying for water and not meat. And that is not helping you feed your family for a better price.

Lemon-Herb Baked Chicken

Ingredents:

  • 4-5 lbs whole chicken
  • 1 Tbs spoon olive oil
  • 2 Tbs parsley, finely mince
  • 1 lemon, zest and juice
  • 1 Tbs water
  • 1/2 ts salt
  • 1/2 ts pepper
  • 2 Tbs basil, finely minced

 

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat oven 375˚
  2. In a small bowl whisk together parsley, basil, water, oil, salt and pepper.
  3. Using a 9×13 pan place chicken in the center and arrange potatoes around chicken. Pour lemon juice over potatoes and chicken. Pour the herb mixture over chicken.
  4. Take the zest of the lemon and sprinkle over entire dish. take the rind of the lemon and stuff it inside the chicken to boost the lemon flavor.
  5. Cover with tin foil. Bake for 1 hour. Remove tin foil and continue baking for 1 hour or until the juices run clear in the thickest part of the chicken. You don’t want to eat raw chicken, gross!!

Great Tasting Bagels

Fresh from the oven

Fresh from the oven

I am a bagel addict. I love bagels! The perfect bagel is crunchy on the outside and yet chewy on the inside. You can top them with eggs and cheese, jam, jelly, cream cheese or even make sandwiches from them. The bagel is a universal food. 🙂 A blank canvas, if you will, that has endless possibilities.

I have two ways I love bagels. Toasted with butter and as a breakfast sandwich with eggs, ham and cheese.

If you think what is needed to make bagels, I bet you already have most of everything that you need. At most you will need yeast, so you can spend $0.99 for a pack of 3 or $3.49 for a jar that you can use over and over again. After all is said and done your homemade bagels come to $0.12 per bagel or you can spend $3.99 for a package of 8 and  have it come to $0.50 per bagel with all those extra additives. You can make 8 bagels for $0.99 or buy them for $3.99. Saving $3 per 8 bagels. And the cost will just go down if you buy the yeast in bulk.

Now you see in my recipe that I used honey instead of sugar and changed out 1/2 cup of all purpose for wheat flour. I just liked the flavor it gave better. You can use sugar and 100% all purpose flour if you want. The bagels take about 2 hours to make from start to finish. But the good news is that most of that is waiting time. 🙂

New York Style Bagels

 

  • 2.25 teaspoons of active dry yeast (one pack of yeast)
  • 1 ½ tablespoons of honey or sugar
  • 1 ¼ cups of warm water, divided
  • 3 cups of all purpose flour or bread flour (will need extra for kneading)
  • 1 ½ teaspoons of salt
  • ½ cup wheat flour

 

Directions:

  1. In ½ cup of the warm water, pour in the sugar and yeast. Give a quick stir to mix everything. Let it sit for five minutes, until it all dissolves in the water. Should be very bubbly.
  2. In a large bowl mix the flour and salt. Make a well in the middle and pour in the yeast mixture.DSC_0081
  3. Pour 2/3 cups of warm water into the well. Mix and stir in the rest of the water as needed. Depending on where you live, you may need to add anywhere from a couple tablespoons to about ¼ cup of water. You want to result in a moist and firm dough after you have mixed it.
  4. On a floured countertop, knead the dough for about 10 minutes until it is smooth and elastic. Try working in as much flour as possible to form a firm and stiff dough. Hint: Spray the table top with water then cover with plastic wrap. This will help keep your surface clean and makes for easy clean up when you are done.
  5. Lightly brush a large bowl with oil. Turn the dough in bowl to coat. Cover the bowl with a damp dish towel. Let rise in a warm place for 1 hour, until the dough has doubled in size. Hint: I put the oven on let it warm up to 170˚ then I turn it off and place the dough to rise in the oven. Works great.DSC_0087
  6. Punch the dough down, and let it rest for another 10 minutes once dough is done rising. DSC_0092
  7. Carefully divide the dough into 8 equal pieces. To shape each piece into a ball, press it gently against the countertop moving your hand and the ball in a circular motion pulling the dough into itself while reducing the pressure on top of the dough slightly until a perfect dough ball forms. Repeat until you have 8 dough balls.DSC_0097
  8. Coat a finger in flour, and gently press your finger into the center of each dough ball to form a ring. Stretch the ring to about ⅓ the diameter of the bagel and place on a lightly oiled cookie sheet. Repeat the same step with the remaining dough.DSC_0101
  9. After shaping the dough into balls, place them on the cookie sheet, cover with a damp kitchen towel and allow to rest for 10 minutes. DSC_0104
  10. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Reduce the heat. Use a slotted spoon or skimmer to lower the bagels into the water. Boil as many as you are comfortable with boiling. Once the bagels are in, it shouldn’t take too long for them to float to the top (a couple seconds). Let them sit there for 30 seconds, and them flip them over to boil for 30 seconds. Be careful not to boil too long or they will turn to mush. Hint: Make sure that the water stays boiling when you put the bagels in!
  11. If you want to top your bagels with stuff, do so as you take them out of the water for better sticking.
  12. Once all the bagels have boiled, transfer them to a lightly oiled baking sheet that has been dusted it with cornmeal.
  13. Preheat your oven to 425ºF. Bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown. Make sure to flip them half way through, to keep that round bagel shape. Cool on a wire rack.

 

 

Optional Toppings:
Caraway seeds, coarse salt, minced fresh garlic, minced fresh onion, poppy seeds, or sesame seeds. *Make sure to do this as you are taking the bagels out of the boiling water.*

Just in case you don’t eat all the bagels in day one here are a few tips and tricks to help keep those bagels tasting great.

Do’s

  1. Do eat bagels fresh. 😀
  2. Do share bagels with family and friends. 🙂 Sharing is the nice thing to do!
  3. Do freeze bagels to preserve their freshness.
  4. Do take caution when slicing your bagels. (be safe and use an official bagel slicer, I have a slice scar on my thumb from when I was young, I didn’t remove it from the whole in the middle before the knife came down. BE CAREFUL!)
  5. Do enjoy them with butter and/or jam.
  6. Do make breakfast sandwiches with them. (egg, ham and cheese is the best) 😀

Don’ts

  1. Don’t mix smelly bagels with non-smelly varieties in the same bag. (gross) 
  2. Don’t store salt, onion, garlic or everything bagels in a plastic bag unless freezing them. (they go soggy, gross)
  3. Don’t store bagels in the fridge. (they get hard, hockey pucks anyone!)