Sunday, July 17, 2011

day 23 = using up the fridge caprese salad and lasagna

we are trying to eat up what's in the fridge. when i made the meatballs on day 18, i forgot to put the mozzarella in the center of them. so, i needed to do something with them today to use them up. what's better than a lasagna?

i basically scrambled in the fridge and pulled out whatever i could find. here's what i put together...

caprese salad:
1 mozzarella ball
2 small tomatoes on the vine
olive oil
salt & pepper

slice the tomatoes and mozzarella into round slices. sprinkle tomatoes with salt and pat them dry with a paper towel. layer the tomatoes and mozzarella on a plate. drizzle with olive oil. sprinkle with salt.

1/2 pkg lasagna noodles

freezer "stoup" bag (today's was: canned tomatoes, chopped onions, chicken broth)
feta cheese
dried oregano
dried basil
red pepper flakes
salt & pepper

freezer "stoup" leftover (today's was: noodles, pasta sauce, chicken, pancetta, peppers)
feta cheese
1 mozzarella ball, sliced

put a pot of salted water to boil. add a little olive oil and boil lasagna noodles to al dente.

put a pot with the contents of your freezer stoup bag on the stove to boil. since there was more chicken broth than tomatoes, i added a little feta cheese to thicken the sauce. sprinkle with spices to get the correct italian sauce flavoring.

defrost any leftover stoup you may have in the freezer.

put a layer of sauce on the bottom of your lasagna pan. layer with 3 pasta noodles, sauce, leftover stoup (the solid parts), feta cheese, salt & pepper. repeat layering noodles and sauce / stoup until you are finish. place the mozzarella on the top and sprinkle with parsley.

tent the lasagna with foil and bake 45 mins in 375 degree oven. remove foil and bake another 5-10 mins uncovered. cool and serve!

**if you don't know what "stoup" is, check out day 6

initially i wasn't in the mood for lasagna as i was looking forward to eating hot wings.  in the end i tried the lasagna before making my wings and ended up going back for more lasagna.  it had a good amount of heat to it which, as you know, i enjoy.  i am already looking forward to eating more of it tomorrow.  now on to my ice cream for the national ice cream day!


day 22 = bourbon bbq chicken with sixteen spice rub

we're trying to use up everything in the house so the meals the next few days will be very interesting...

we were watching the food network and bobby flay's throwdown! came on again. we like the country captain chicken from the day 20 so i thought i'd try something else from his cookbook. we had chicken breasts in the freezer so i defrosted those and got started with the recipe. since i didn't have all the ingredients, here's what i did:

buttermilk marinade:
  • 1 quart (4 cups) buttermilk or 4 cups milk + 4 tbsp lemon juice**
  • a few drops tobasco sauce (in our case, a bunch)

sixteen-spice rub:
  • see the recipe included in day 2's bbq at home. don't let it scare you and it lasts forever. i am still using it up!

barbecue sauce:
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
  • a few dried chili's, chopped in 1/2 so you get the seeds
  • 1/2 cup bourbon, plus 2 tablespoons
  • 1 cup ketchup
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon smoked spanish paprika
  • 1 heaping tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 4 bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
**if you don't have buttermilk on-hand, put 4 tablespoons lemon juice in a bowl and add 4 cups milk overtop. let sit for 5 mins and you'll have your own buttermilk!

1) two hours to two days ahead:
marinate the chicken in the buttermilk and tabasco to tenderize the chicken.

2) make the rub:
whisk all the spice rub ingredients in a small bowl.

3) start the grill:
heat the grill to medium heat. best to cook the chicken "low and slow" to maintain the flavor.

4) make the bbq sauce:
heat oil over medium-high heat in saucepan. add garlic and cook for 1 minute. add the dried chili. stir in 1/2 cup of the bourbon and cook until reduced. add the ketchup and water, bring to a boil and simmer for 5 minutes. stir in the remaining ingredients and simmer until thickened, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes.

cool for about 5 minutes, then transfer the mixture to a food processor and puree until smooth. season with salt and pepper, to taste. pour into a bowl, add the remaining 2 tablespoons of bourbon and allow to cool at room temperature. the sauce will keep for 1 week in the refrigerator stored in a tightly sealed container.

5) finish the chicken:
brush the chicken with the 1/4 cup of oil and season on both sides with the spice rub. season with salt and pepper, to taste. grill the chicken slowly, with the lid closed, until golden brown on both sides and fat has rendered. begin brushing the chicken liberally with the bbq sauce during the last 10 minutes of grilling.

arrange on a serving platter and serve.

this is fantastic! i really liked the flavors and it was a great way to use up the spice rub, the chicken, and a bunch of old condiments. last time we made chicken i salted it before putting it in the refrigerator and it came out so juicy and tender. this time i marinated it in buttermilk (but only for 2 hours) and it also came out juicy. so i think either is a good option, but i prefer the salted method. regardless, this seasoning and sauce is really flavorful!

at first i was a little hesitant on the BBQ sauce as i was looking forward to the chicken with the spices on it.  the pieces of chicken we were cooking were enormous and i wasn't sure how long to cook them without over cooking or under cooking.  i typically put the grill on medium heat and cook on each side for 7 minutes a piece.  to add to the complication, sarah likes charred pieces on the skin so the heat needs to be just right.  i left them on the grill for 10 minutes each side and after i grilled both sides i was going to add the BBQ sauce on for the last turn.  when i went out for the BBQ sauce i noticed the chicken was very charred, which worried me that they may be over cooked.  i turned the heat to low and added the sauce for a final 5 minutes.  after bringing the chicken in i could see sarah was happy with the condition, but i was a little worried that they would be dry.  after she took her picture i grabbed a piece and cut in.... perfect piece of chicken and to my surprise the BBQ sauce was great.  good spice and just enough sweetness.  it was great!


Saturday, July 16, 2011

day 21 = is it steak or is it salad?

i haven't had the energy to melt the chocolate and finish up the boston creme pie cupcakes, so we've just been eating up what's in the fridge. i ran out of my favorite dressing, so i needed to come up with something to put on my salad. i tried this odd combination and surprisingly it tasted like eating a steak (well... not exactly, but close). i think this is a keeper recipe if you want to have a steak flavored salad. i'll see if charley will try this tonight so he can rate it, but i wouldn't hold your breath because it's not ranch!

in a small dish combine:
  • a french vinegarette dressing (bottled or your own)
  • a few drops A1 sauce
  • a few drops worcestershire sauce
  • a sprinkle of curry powder
  • a sprinkle of salt
  • a sprinkle of pepper
  • a sprinkle of oregano

Thursday, July 14, 2011

day 20 = country captain chicken

i tried to create a meal yesterday as a treat for charley, but made a few critical mistakes:

  1. we bought the cheapest chicken i could find and it was really tough. lately i've been buying kosher chicken and you really can taste a difference. for the extra $2 i would highly recommend the better tasting chicken for this dish.
  2. i really wanted to surprise him with boston creme pie cupcakes (his favorite dessert). i got all the way to the "cream" step and, as my arm was about to fall off from the whisking, a familiar smell came into my kitchen. it was that moment that i remembered i had made this recipe for him in the not so distant past and we did not like it. needless to say, i have no memory, and i gave up for the night. if i can get inspired, i'll finish them up this evening and post them for you to see... hopefully i just had a bad day the last time and it tastes better tonight!

for the chicken recipe, it is out of "bobby flay's throwdown!" cookbook.  this cookbook is fantastic because it gives you both bobby flay's recipe and the opponent recipe and let's you know who won the throwdown. in case you haven't checked it out for yourself, it is a great show on the food network.

i picked this recipe because it intrigued me. i've never heard of "country captain chicken" and it resembled chicken cacciatore with an indian flare so i was immediately intrigued. i used baby carrots which didn't seem to cook in the allotted time so i would recommend you let it simmer longer than the recipe states or cut your carrots in smaller pieces. check the recipe out here

i have found that i am a fan of anything prepared with curry and this dish was no exception.  i really enjoyed the meal except for the chicken.  the chicken we decided to go with just wasn't any good.  the carrots were a little tough, but in the end i still loved them.  this was a very flavorful dish and i would recommend it!


Sunday, July 10, 2011

day 19 = espresso caramel bars

last night i made pasta out of the "Giada at Home" cookbook and started her espresso caramel bars. i finished it up today because they take a while (not hands-on time, but allowing it to cool) to bring over to a friends house for dinner.

your can view the recipe at i just have a few recommendations:

 - i found the crust had way too much butter so i poured the excess out and blotted the crust with paper so it wasn't so saturated.

 - i used coffee instead of espresso, but it still had a great flavor.

 - the chocolate is really rich. i might cut it down or use milk chocolate (just my preference). everyone else really liked it this way!

charley now asked me to make this his "favorite" over the oreo bliss from day 4 so this must be really good! check it out...

another great dessert that i will need to request she takes to the office.  this one is probably not on the healthier side, but anything in moderation is never too bad.  the problem is that i have no will power when it comes to dessert and she will need to take them away from me so that i don't eat them all!!!!


day 18 = bucatini all'amatriciana with spicy smoked mozzarella meatballs

basically spaghetti and meatballs :)

this was excellent. i used Giada De Laurentiis's "Giada at Home" cookbook to make this recipe. but, a combination of being too cheap to buy some of the ingredients, too lazy to ask the store where they would be located, and forgetting to use some of them (typical me), led me to make the recipe below. must have been good because charley really liked it! it was also surprisingly easy.

if you want the real recipe, go to

here's what i did:

all'amatriciana sauce (i will double next time): 

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion, finely chopped
  • garlic cloves, minced
  • pinch crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 (14-ounce) can crushed tomatoes (i used over 1/2 a 28oz can)
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more for seasoning
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more for seasoning
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan 


  • 1 small onion, grated
  • 3/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/3 cup Italian-style bread crumbs
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 tablespoons ketchup
  • garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more for seasoning
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more for seasoning
  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 2 ounces smoked mozzarella cheese, cut into 16 (1/2-inch) cubes (i forgot to add this)
  • 1/2 pkg spaghetti 


for the sauce:
 - in a large heavy skillet, heat the oil over medium heat.
 - add onion and cook for 5 minutes.
 - stir in garlic and red pepper flakes until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
 - add the tomatoes, salt and pepper.
 - simmer, uncovered, over med-low heat until sauce thickens, 15 minutes.
 - stir in the cheese and season with salt and pepper, to taste.
 - i let simmer for 1 1/2 hrs, but not necessary. 

for the meatballs:
 - line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
 - in a large bowl, combine the onion through beef ingredients.
 - using your hands, combine all ingredients gently but thoroughly.
 - shape the meat mixture into 16 (1 1/2-in) meatballs and place on baking sheet.
 - make a hole in center of each meatball and place a cube of mozzarella (optional).
 - reform meatball so the mozzarella is completely covered with the meat mixture.
 - put in the refrigerator for 15 mins.
 - preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
 - bake the meatballs for 15 minutes until cooked through.

to finish:
 - bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat.
 - add the pasta and cook until tender, about 8 to 10 minutes.
 - drain and place in a large serving bowl.
 - add the meatballs and sauce.
 - toss gently and season with salt and pepper, to taste.
 - sprinkle with parsley and parmesan.

i've made quite a few meatballs in my life and they never came out well. these were excellent! i'm sure it's better with pancetta, romano cheese, and mozzarella in the meatballs, so if you try it with any of those let me know how it goes!

i am sure some of you are wondering if i will ever find a dish i do not like and trust me it may happen some day, but this dish is not one of those.  i don't know what she did or how hard these were to make, but the meatballs were the best i have ever had.  if i wasn't worried about packing on weight i would sit down and eat them all in one sitting.  they were amazing, moist and full of flavor.  excellent meal!


day 17 = using up the freezer chicken wings

i am a little behind on this week.  we've had a lot to do so we did not get a chance to make our usual costco trip. knowing i had no energy to go to the store, we opened the freezer and had a few packages of chicken wings remaining from our last costco run. i highly recommend picking them up because they are pre-packaged for you into 5 wings per package which is just perfect for one person. then we sprinkle each with a bunch of seasonings (mainly from our trips to penzys).

charley did these wings. he used the leftover 16 spice rub from bobby flay's recipe i made on day 2. it was good, but usually we make 2-4 differently spiced wings and this time there was only one type so it got a little boring by the end. i highly recommend you make this rub through for regular bbq chicken. that was excellent.

it has now been a few days since we had the chicken wings so i am going solely off memory.  since i can still recall them that has to be a good sign and yes they were very good.  we do chicken wings often, but we change the way there seasoned each time.  as for this batch, the seasoning was very tasty.  it was the right amount of spice, sweet and smokey flavors and it was hard not to eat sarah's wings also.  i would recommend this rub for anyone.


Saturday, July 2, 2011

day 16 = cheeseburgers it is!

thank you to everyone who voted on what i was going to make for the 4th of july picnic. in the end, these were just too cute to pass up! they are supposed to have a sesame seed bun, but i agree that sesame seeds on a dessert seem a little odd. if you want a true cheeseburger bun though, put a little egg wash on top and add a sprinkle of sesame seeds. these were really simple and fun to make.

here's how you do it:

step 1: gather the ingredients
  • 1 box vanilla wafers (need at least 80)
  • 1 pkg grasshopper cookies (need 40)
  • 1/2 cup vanilla frosting
  • 1/2 cup coconut flakes
  • red, yellow, and green food coloring

step 2: prep the ingredients

  • mix vanilla frosting with food coloring in a bowl. use 2 drops of red and 8 drops of yellow (1 to 4 ratio). tweak if needed to get the perfect "cheese"
  • in a ziploc bag, mix coconut and 1 drop green food coloring. shake well and tweak if needed to get the perfect "lettuce"

step 3: assemble
  • put a drop of frosting on the flat side of a vanilla wafer
  • place a grasshopper cookie over top
  • add a glob of frosting
  • sprinkle with coconut
  • add a drop of frosting to another flat side of wafer
  • smoosh it all together and the cheese will "ooze" like a fine cheeseburger!

step 4: let's eat!

i would admit when she first presented options for what she should cook for the 4th of July i picked the strawberries due to the colors and i love strawberries in sugar.  after seeing her make these, how real they look and how good they taste i am glad she went with these.  for those who do not like coconut, i tend to agree, but the brand she used didn't overwhelm the burger.  in fact the grasshopper had the most taste to it and i love mint and chocolate.  this is one of those dishes that adds all the things i like and makes something i can say i loved.  in fact typing about it is making me want another, too bad they need to be saved for the 4th of july picnic :(

**if you want to see the list of options that did not make the chopping block, take a look at the 'day 14' blog. maybe another time...