Category Archives: Blog

Chipotle Rice Bowl — At Home

Nobody needs to tell me how delicious Chipotle is. You see a Chipotle and say to yourself, “Hmm… should I?” EVERY SINGLE TIME. Trust me, I know. I’m right there with you. Well… while you can  never completely mimic your favorite fast-food or restaurant favorite, every so often I have “Chipotle at home” night.

Again, back to what I’ve said in the past about food shopping… take mental inventory of your kitchen when planning a meal and you’ll find that a full dinner cost you less than $10 with leftovers because you used up STUFF in your cabinets and fridge you thought you had zero use for.

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For me, I had a ton of brown rice in my freezer I wanted to steam (yes, frozen bags of brown rice are the best! They cost $1.00 and take about 4 minutes to steam in the microwave), two green peppers that were about to die, and a tomato about to turn into a pile of goo. So what did I buy? I bought two avocados and a small tub of sour cream. It cost me about $5.50. I had cheese, onions, a bit of cilantro, and boneless chicken in the freezer.

First, I marinated the chicken for a couple of hours in a zip lock bag in the fridge:

Ingredients:

Marinated Chicken:
1 lb. Boneless Chicken diced
4 Garlic Cloves chopped
1 T Paprika
2 t Cumin
2 t Coriander
1 T Smoked Chipotle Powder
1 t Onion Salt
1/2 t Chili Powder
Salt and Pepper
1/4 C Olive Oil

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Next, I sautéed two onions and two green peppers in about 1 T of Grape Seed Oil (flavorless), and the chicken in a separate pan. (I didn’t need to add any oil to the chicken pan since it had been marinating in the Olive Oil). I then diced up my half-dead tomato and shredded the lettuce.

In a medium bowl, I made guacamole.

Guacamole:
2 Avocados squashed
2 T Fresh Cilantro chopped
1 Lime juiced
Salt

Note: I usually add chopped tomato and small dices of red onion to the guac, but since we are already using tomato and onions in other places, I omitted them both. 

Other ingredients:
1 Bag Brown Rice steamed
2 Medium Onions roughly chopped
2 Green Peppers roughly chopped
2 T Grape Seed Oil
1 Tomato diced
1/2 Head Iceberg Lettuce shredded
Cheddar or Jack Cheese shredded

unnamed-14Note: To make things look nice on the table, I put the shredded cheese, tomato, guacamole and chopped cilantro in little plastic bowls. (Obviously you don’t need to dirty more bowls.)

The hard part is done! Now it’s time to eat. I served the chicken, rice, and peppers and onions in separate bowls as well since some of the people I had over for dinner didn’t want peppers. Again, like Chipotle, everyone likes different things in their bowls, salads and burritos.

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I started with brown rice on the bottom followed by chicken and the pepper and onion mixture. I then added cheese so it melts on top of the hot ingredients. Then I went cold… Tomato and lettuce. I put dollops of guacamole and sour cream on each side of the bowl and finished the whole thing with fresh-squeezed lime and some extra cilantro.

DELICIOSO!!

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Screen Shot 2015-01-27 at 5.48.58 PMDare To Taste Cookbook is currently 30% OFF with FREE Shipping. Pick up your copy today! Click on the photo to the left.

Recipes include:
Sweet Potato Gnocchi
Clams Casino
Lemon Chicken
Stuffed Baby Eggplant
Tomato & Ginger Soup
And much more…

Please allow 3-5 days for shipping and handling. Thank you for your purchase! ~ Jen

Beef Stew — Mmm Mmm Good

I have no idea why I decided to make beef stew… but I did. Well, I kind of know why. I was walking through the supermarket and my new thing is talking to myself while I stare at food and say, “hmm… what can I make with that?” And sometimes, food comes packed in ways that makes you say, “Yes! This is what I wanted to eat.” Or in my case, “I wonder if I can make this?”

I saw the package of cubed beef that read, “Beef for Stew.” And BOOM… next thing I know I’m loading the cart with carrots and potatoes. Believe it or not, the rest of the ingredients I had at home. With that, here’s a tip: Before you go grocery shopping, make a mental note of your kitchen inventory. That way, while you’re roaming the isles, cooking ideas will pop into your head. For instance, I knew I had some boneless chicken and tortilla wraps on my freezer, so I when I saw the green and red peppers on sale, I immediately thought, “fajitas.” That’s on the menu for tomorrow!

Back to the beef stew. I read a few recipes and had the key ingredients in mind: Beef (obviously), carrots/celery/potatoes, fresh herbs and red wine. With that, I knew I could play around as long as I had those. I had no idea if this was going to come out… good or bad… but I have to say, it was perfect. I didn’t write anything down but I’m pretty sure these are the approximate measurements. You can’t screw it up… promise.

Ingredients:
2 lb. Chuck cubed
4 Potatoes russet, peeled, cut in chunks
4 Carrots sliced in chunks
4 Celery Stalks sliced in chunks
8 Garlic Cloves chopped
2 Large Onions roughly chopped
6 Sprigs of Fresh Thyme
2 t Fresh Rosemary chopped
1/4 C Fresh Parsley chopped
2 T Tomato Paste
2 T Vegetable Oil
2 T Olive Oil
2 C Red Wine (half bottle)
4 C Beef Stock
1/4 C Flour all purpose
2 Bay Leaves
Salt and Pepper

In a large pot, bring the Vegetable Oil to temperature… You can substitute Vegetable oil here but I cook everything in Olive Oil. Season the beef with salt and pepper… a lot of salt! Then coat the beef with flour. Drop the beef into the pot of hot oil and cook until the meat is seared on all sides and the bottom of the pan is covered in flavor bits. Yum! Note: It is very important to BROWN the meat! This is how you will get the most flavor out of your stew.

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Once the  meat is brown, remove from the pot and set aside. Add the  Olive Oil, garlic, carrot, celery and onion and cook the vegetables for about five minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Once the vegetables have sweated, put the meat back in the pot and stir.

Add the fresh herbs: Thyme, Rosemary, Parsley and Bay Leaves. Add the red wine and scrape the bottom of the pot to remove all the flavor bits. (incase you don’t know, this is called deglazing the pan… and probably one of the most important stages of this dish… that and browning the meat!)

Let the alcohol in the wine cook out for about 5 minutes on high heat. Add the tomato paste and stir. This is what your pot should look like… kind of a gooey mess of brown wine broth. Perfect! We built the flavor, now lets thin it out.

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Add the beef stock and an additional 4 cups of water. Stir. Close the lid and come back in two hours. Taste for seasoning (salt). Add more if it needs it… and it usually does. Here is when you want to add the potatoes. And here  is another side note.

When it comes to adding multiple vegetables to any dish… I think it’s important, even in a soup or stew, to make the vegetables different shapes. I cut the carrots and celery into typical chunky slices, but cut the potatoes into asymmetrical shapes. This way, the potatoes stand out and the vegetables don’t look the same while you’re eating. Remember… you eat with your eyes first!

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So go ahead and add the potatoes… and again, cover the stew and come back in another hour. After a total of about three hours, it’s done. It was probably done an hour ago but the longer it cooks, the better it’ll taste. It’ll also taste even better tomorrow, and the next day, and the next day. And it will tighten up a tad bit, so if you feel it’s a bit too thin right now, you can either add a little cornstarch (mix about a Tablespoon of cornstarch with a cup of the beef stew broth then add to the pot) or just ride it out. Here are two photos of the stew, one day apart. You’ll notice the difference.

Fresh Beef Stew after three hours of cooking.
Fresh Beef Stew after three hours of cooking.
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The same Beef Stew after one day of refrigeration.

 

That wasn’t that hard, was it? Enjoy!!



Screen Shot 2015-01-27 at 5.48.58 PMDare To Taste Cookbook is currently 30% OFF with FREE Shipping. Pick up your copy today! Click on the photo to the left.

Recipes include:
Sweet Potato Gnocchi
Clams Casino
Lemon Chicken
Stuffed Baby Eggplant
Tomato & Ginger Soup
And much more…

Please allow 3-5 days for shipping and handling. Thank you for your purchase! ~ Jen

Sunday Snack Time: Buffalo Chicken Wontons

It’s Sunday. You probably have to go to work tomorrow… and if you live in New England, you probably have to get into a cold car in the morning or even walk in the painful cold to your office.  So if you’re like me, on Sunday’s I like to eat a bunch of crap and lounge around and obsesses about how I hope tomorrow will never come. Sound familiar?

If so, I have the perfect snack for you to make at home that will fit right into your lazy day. They look intimidating, but they are super easy and very tasty! You’ll wish I posted this sooner… but I had to wait until “Bullied Into Cooking” was sold out. Technically, I have six left to sell, but I don’t think giving away a recipe or two will hurt.

Unfortunately, I don’t have any photos of the process… so you’ll have to use your imagination.

Ingredients:
1 1/2 lb. Boneless Chicken
2 T Olive Oil
8 oz. Cream Cheese
4 oz. Bleu Cheese
1/2 C Buffalo Sauce
1 Package Wonton Wrappers
Canola Oil for frying 
Blue Cheese Dressing Optional, for dipping
Salt and Pepper

Rinse the chicken under cold water to clean. Pat dry and season with salt and pepper. Dice the chicken into bite-size pieces. The size isn’t that important because you’ll be chopping it up into tiny pieces after it’s cooked (if you don’t have a  food processor.) Cook the chicken in the olive oil… or if you have a grill, grill it! Even better. Us city folk don’t have grills so it’s usually not an option. (Enter sad face here)

Once the chicken is fully cooked, remove it from the heat and set aside. Now I’ve told you 100x to invest in a small food processor, and if you’re reading this, hopefully you just said out loud, “I did.” If not, well once again, you just have to work a little bit harder than everyone else.

Place the chicken chunks in the food processor and PULSE until they reach a granola-type consistency. Think about what you want your wonton filling to feel and taste like! Ignore the exact recipe… cook for yourself! If you like the pieces of chicken bigger, make them bigger! If you like them smaller and the center of your wonton mushy, keep pulsing! Season the chicken again with salt and pepper.

If you do not have a food processor, have fun chopping that chicken by hand!

In a medium bowl, combine the buffalo sauce, cream cheese and blue cheese (crumble). In another bowl, add the chicken from the food processor or your table top if you chopped it by hand. Slowly add the cream cheese/buffalo sauce mixture to the chicken. If you want a lot of sauce, add it all. If you prefer the sauce on the light side, add as little as you’d like. But remember, you can always add more… but you can’t take away.

Place your wonton on the counter and lightly cover the edges with water. Fill the wonton wrapper with about 1 tablespoon on filling, fold over the wonton and seal the watered edges tightly so it forms a triangle. Repeat until there are no more wonton wrappers or you run out of filling… or until you just don’t feel like doing it anymore.

Leave out as many wontons as you’d like to cook that day. You can go ahead and freeze the rest in freezer bags. Make sure you date the bag with a sharpie so you don’t end up cooking and eating these in five years. Trust me, they won’t taste very good.

Heat some canola oil in a medium skillet. Once the skillet is warm to the touch, drop in the wontons. Cook on each side, about 2 minutes, until the wrapper bubbles and turns golden brown.

Dip the wontons in either more buffalo sauce or blue cheese dressing! And… chow!


Screen Shot 2015-01-27 at 5.48.58 PMDare To Taste Cookbook is currently 30% OFF with FREE Shipping. Pick up your copy today! Click on the photo to the left.

Recipes include:
Sweet Potato Gnocchi
Clams Casino
Lemon Chicken
Stuffed Baby Eggplant
Tomato & Ginger Soup
And much more…

Please allow 3-5 days for shipping and handling. Thank you for your purchase! ~ Jen

There’s Only Two Weeks Left To Make Macaroni and Cheese

If you live in Boston, I’ll assume you are just as miserable as me due to the horrific weather that has taken over our lives. If you live in the city, like me, you can’t move your car or you’ll get in a fight over a parking spot when you return, you can’t walk your dog without his paws hurting or his legs getting covered/splashed in mud, you don’t want to exercise, you certainly don’t want to eat healthy… you get the point. Miserable.

Well, the good news is, spring is only 15 days away. Mark your calendars… March 20th is the day! And I have a rule when it comes to food and spring time: No more fatty cooking. What does that mean? It means if you want to be on board with this plan, you have less than two weeks to make macaroni and cheese.

So lets not waste anymore time.

Ingredients:
1 lb. Pasta elbow, spiral or anything with lines
4 C Milk
4 T Flour
4 T Butter
1 Onion small, diced
4 Garlic Cloves chopped
1/4 lb. American Cheese
1/4 lb. Cheddar Cheese
1/4 lb. Mozzarella Cheese
1/4 lb. Gruyer Cheese
1 t Nutmeg ground (fresh if possible)
1/4 C Parmesan
2 C Breadcrumbs
4 T Butter melted
1/4 C Parsley fresh, chopped
Salt and Pepper

First, lets talk macaroni. I HIGHLY suggest using any dry pasta that has lines in it: Ziti with lines, rigatoni with lines, spiral pasta with lines, etc. Why? Because the cheese sauce will stick to the inside of the lines and hold up much better than any pasta without lines. To take it one step further, I HIGHLY suggest spiral pasta. And yes, you can buy spiral pasta with lines… Double score! Also, there is NO need to use fresh pasta. Don’t spend the money, don’t waste the money, just don’t even go there. Period.

In a sauce pan, saute the onions and garlic in the 4T of butter until the onions are soft. Note: don’t omit the onions and garlic… they are the base of this sauce and they are giving you a base of flavor to build off. So… just do it. Once the onions are somewhat soft, add the flour. Stir. Cook the flour mixture by constantly stirring over medium heat for at least two minutes. Do not let the flour turn brown! Once it starts to change color, take the pot off the heat and add the milk.

So yes, add the milk. Over HIGH heat, bring this to a boil. You have just created one of the five mother sauces, béchamel.

Wiki:
Béchamel sauce
 also known as white sauce, is made from a roux (butter and flour) and milk. It is one of the mother sauces of French cuisine and Italian cuisine. It is used as the base for other sauces (such as Mornay sauce, which is Béchamel with cheese).

Add the nutmeg, salt and pepper… about a teaspoon of each. Taste! Yum, right? And to think we haven’t even added the cheese yet!

You MUST bring this to a boil so it can reach it’s full thick consistency. Once it covers a wooden spoon, add the cheese, minus the parmesan. Stir and cook over low heat until all the cheese has melted.

Bring your pasta to a boil (in well-salted oil) as well and cook until it is al dente. The pasta is gong to cook in the oven a second time, so make sure you do not overcook the pasta or it’ll be way to soft and gooey.

Melt the other 4T of butter. In a small bowl, mix the breadcrumbs with the parmesan cheese and chopped parsley. Drizzle in the butter and completely coat the breadcrumbs.

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Fill a 13″ casserole dish with the cooked pasta… and follow by pouring in the cheese sauce. Make sure all of the pasta is coated with the cheese sauce! Sprinkle the top of the macaroni with the buttered breadcrumbs.

Bake uncovered at 375 degrees for about 20-25 minutes until the cheese is bubbling and the breadcrumbs have turned a light brown.

Easy! Now hurry up… you have 15 days to make this! The clock is ticking.



Screen Shot 2015-01-27 at 5.48.58 PMDare To Taste Cookbook is currently 30% OFF with FREE Shipping. Pick up your copy today! Click on the photo to the left.

Recipes include:
Sweet Potato Gnocchi
Clams Casino
Lemon Chicken
Stuffed Baby Eggplant
Tomato & Ginger Soup
And much more…

Please allow 3-5 days for shipping and handling. Thank you for your purchase! ~ Jen

The Secret Is Out: Marinara Sauce and Eggplant Parmesan

Eggplant parmesan is like pizza. Every restaurant makes it different, everyone at home has their own way of slicing, breading and frying (or non-frying) the eggplant.,AND… everyone has a different way of layering and serving, too. I, personally, love my way. In this recipe, I made my own marinara sauce but using your favorite jarred sauce is fine. I try to make as much as possible from scratch but that doesn’t mean you have to overachieve.

I’m here to show you the one and only way to make eggplant parmesan. Why is this the best way? Well… because I’ve cooked and eaten it every way under the sun and found this is BY FAR the most successful.

Here is the recipe with lots of notes and tips:

Eggplant Parmesan:
1 Large Eggplant sliced THIN
2 C Flour 
4-6 Eggs beaten
1 lb. Mozzarella Cheese deli/sliced
Marinara Sauce recipe below
Parmesan Cheese grated
Olive Oil for pan-frying
Fresh Basil chopped
Salt and Pepper
Garlic Powder optional

Marinara  sauce:
2 – 16 oz. cans crushed tomatoes
1 Large Onion chopped
8 Garlic Cloves chopped
1/3 C Olive Oil
1/2 C Fresh Parsley chopped
1/2 C Fresh Basil chopped
Salt and Pepper

First, the sauce. In a large pot, sauté the onion and garlic in the olive oil until soft… about 10 minutes. Remember, do not burn the garlic, or the onion for that matter. Season with salt and pepper. Once the onions are soft, add the tomatoes. As if you were rinsing the cans out, use water to get all of the tomato out of the cans while adding about half of one can of water to the sauce.

Let the sauce simmer for at least a half hour. Add the fresh parsley and basil and simmer for another 30 minutes, or longer, on low heat. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Note: If the sauce is a little to acidic (bitter) for your liking, at a pinch of sugar.  

Now, the eggplant. Slice one end of the eggplant off and place it cut-side down on the cutting board for stability. Cut the eggplant in half the short way. Then with a very sharp knife, (Because you  need to cut through the skin of the eggplant) slice the eggplant into thin planks.  Stack them and set them aside.

Once the eggplant is sliced, lay each piece down and season with salt, pepper and garlic powder (optional). It’s important to season the eggplant before frying… so don’t forget this stage!

Set up your dredging station. In two separate bowls (or as shown below, square or circular foil pans) add the flour and beaten eggs. In a large skillet, heat the olive oil to medium temperature. Drop each slice of eggplant first in the FLOUR, then in the EGG. Yes, you heard me correctly… flour the egg, not the other way around. TRUST ME. Fry until golden brown. Let rest on a wire rack to avoid any sogginess and season with salt.

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Cover the bottom of a square casserole dish with one ladle of the marinara sauce. Layer with the eggplant, completely covering the bottom of the dish. Follow with a layer of mozzarella cheese slices and grated parmesan. Repeat this process until you run out of eggplant… finishing with mozzarella cheese. Note: You should get about 4-5 layers out of this recipe.  

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Bake uncovered at 375 degrees for about 20 minutes until the cheese is completely melted and slightly browned.

As I always say, let cool and stuff your face!



Screen Shot 2015-01-27 at 5.48.58 PMDare To Taste Cookbook is currently 30% OFF with FREE Shipping. Pick up your copy today! Click on the photo to the left.

Recipes include:
Sweet Potato Gnocchi
Clams Casino
Lemon Chicken
Stuffed Baby Eggplant
Tomato & Ginger Soup
And much more…

Please allow 3-5 days for shipping and handling. Thank you for your purchase! ~ Jen

Better Than Ballpark Pretzels

Oh yeah! You thought the onion soup and the tater tots were good… wait until you make these fool-proof soft pretzels. Seriously, now I know why I gained 5 lbs. this winter (after losing 15 last summer!) — I cannot stop making these and eating these. I eat them for breakfast, for snacks and at night. I’m certainly paying for it now, that’s for sure.

With this recipe, I add both salt and sesame seeds, but you can use one or the other if you choose. I love sesame seeds so that’s just my own personal twist. I don’t see why you couldn’t use cinnamon and sugar, too, but I’m not a sweet lover. I’m all savory. But use your imagination. I’m sure you could bake them until they are almost done and then top with melted cheese… The possibilities are endless! And as you know, this is what I preach. I want everyone to cook to their own tastebuds, which is why I’m not a huge fan of measuring when it comes to savory. Of course in baking you have to be exact, but feel free to cook things the way YOU like them. You are the boss!

Ingredients:
1 1/2 C Water warm
1 T Yeast Active Dry
4 1/2 C Flour All Purpose
3 t Salt kosher
2 T Sugar
5 T Butter melted
1 C Baking Soda
2 Eggs
beaten
Sea or Kosher Salt for topping
Sesame Seeds for topping – optional

In a large bowl, or mixing bowl of a Kitchen Aid with the paddle attachment (HIGHLY RECOMMEND) add the warm water. My rule of them with the temperature of the water for yeast breads is this: Is it too hot that you wouldn’t take a bath in it? Then don’t kill the yeast with scorching hot water. The water should be warm enough to activate it, but not kill it. Think bath water, not jacuzzi!. Sprinkle the yeast on top of the water and let it rest for about 10 minutes. It should turn a bit foamy. Once it’s rested, add the salt, sugar and butter. Mix. Again, I HIGHLY recommend using a mixer. It truly makes this and any bread recipe for that matter much easier.

Add the flour little by little. I like to add one cup at a time, ending with the last half cup. After all of the flour is incorporated, you need to kneed this dough like a maniac on a non-floured surface. Yes, it’s tedious and your arms are going to kill you, but it has to be done. You need this dough to be soft and stretchy to obtain that famous pretzel texture. If you’re using a mixer, which I hope you are, switch to the dough hook at this stage.

Kneed the dough for at least 10 minutes. You can use the same bowl you mixed the ingredients in for the next step… which is greasing a bowl with vegetable, canola or olive oil, and resting the dough for at least an over. Cover the dough with saran wrap and a towel to keep it warm.

After one hour, or longer, remove the dough from the bowl and place on a non-floured surface. Now the fun begins!

First, how awesome is this dough? Yes, I’m a food dork. But do you notice how stretchy and shiny it is? These are the kind of things that excite me in life… I love this dough!

Cut a good chuck off the loaf and roll it into a snake-like size. From this point on, you can be creative and form your pretzels into any shape you want. I’m not a fan of the original shape so I twist mine like this: Fold the snake in half and twist it like a Twizzler, that’s the best way to describe it. Then take the bottom part of the twisted dough and feed it through the hook/circle at the other end.

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IMG_8012Yes, boiling. Boil a large pot of water with the baking soda. Using a spider or a large slotted spoon, drop each twisted pretzel into the water for about 30 seconds, then place the pretzel on a baking sheet that’s been lightly greased with baking spray. Sprinkle each pretzel with your desired topping – salt, sesame seeds, or both. It’s OK if you spill all over the baking sheet… as you can tell, I did. It really doesn’t matter. Plus it’s no secret I’m a mess in the kitchen.
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IMG_8031Bake at 375 degrees for about 15 minutes. You can tell when they are done because they’ll turn the prefect shade of brown. And again, if you want them lighter and softer, cook them less. Obviously just make sure you’re not eating raw dough. Also, one more note, try to make the pretzels as close to the same size as possible so they cook evenly.

Now stuff your face!



Screen Shot 2015-01-27 at 5.48.58 PMDare To Taste Cookbook is currently 30% OFF with FREE Shipping. Pick up your copy today! Click on the photo to the left.

Recipes include:
Sweet Potato Gnocchi
Clams Casino
Lemon Chicken
Stuffed Baby Eggplant
Tomato & Ginger Soup
And much more…

Please allow 3-5 days for shipping and handling. Thank you for your purchase! ~ Jen

The BOMB French Onion Soup: What Everyone Orders But Never Makes

The Onion Soup Dilemma is real. Why is everyone so afraid to make onion soup at home, yet they order it every single time it’s on the menu? I never hear anyone say, “I’m going home to make some onion soup.” Let’s try to change that, shall we.

I have to admit it did take me a few times to master this recipe, but that’s been pretty much the standard procedure with all of my recipes. I buy a bunch of ingredients, cook all day, screw it up, throw everything down the garbage disposal, go back to the store, spend more money, and try it again and again and again until I get it right.

Most soups are one-pot deals. This one, however, I found comes out better when it’s made in two pots… well, one pan and one pot. You really need a large-surfaced bottom to caramelize the abundance of onions you’re going to use, and I’ve found that a pot just can’t give you that bottom space. You’ll see.

Now that I know how to make it… I find myself cooking onion soup at least twice a month. Each time, however, I add more onions. It just never seems to be enough and I am continuously shocked at how much they cook down to almost nothing. Again, you’ll see.

Here is the recipe with notes:

Ingredients:
8 Large Onions sliced
6 Cloves Garlic chopped
4 T Butter
1 T Olive Oil
1 T Fresh Thyme
2 Bay Leaves
1 t salt and pepper each
4 C Beef Broth
1 C Vermouth dry
2 t Beef Bouillon for extra flavor
French/Italian Bread sliced & toasted
Swiss Cheese sliced

1. In a large skillet, sauté the garlic and onions in the butter and olive oil FOR ABOUT AN HOUR… stirring every 15 minutes or so. Add the thyme and bay leaves and season with salt and pepper.

Your onions will go from white to brown in about an hour. The key is to sauté them low and slow. In case you think you have too many onions, you don’t. Trust me. After about 45 minutes, you’ll literally look at the pan and say, “where the hell did all my onions go?”

You want some of the onions to caramelize darker than the others on the bottom on the pan… because when you add the alcohol, it’ll scrape up all those flavorful bits and send your soup to a whole new level.

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Once the onions are brown, add the vermouth. Scrape the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon to get all those yummy bits we talked about earlier into the mixture. Let this simmer for about 15 minutes until the alcohol is completely burned off.

Transfer the onion mixture into a pot. Remove the bay leaves.

I hate this step. I am a firm believer in one-pot soups. I hate having two pans to clean or two pans to crowd my dishwasher… but it is what it is. 

How we doing? Good.

Add the beef bouillon and stir into the onion mixture. Now everything should be super brown! Add the broth/stock and let simmer for another 10 minutes.

TASTE IT. What does it need? More salt? Add it. Is it too rich? Add some water. Are you wondering where all the onions went? I told you. Add more next time.

The last step is to toast slices of French or Italian bread for the top of the soup. Some people use croutons but… To me, that’s lame. You can put the bread in the toaster if it fits, but I like to cut a thick piece off a loaf, brush with olive oil and toast in the oven. It’s another step, but sometimes the little things are what make your final product delicious. I’m also extremely spoiled in the North End of Boston where I can buy a loaf of fresh bread on every corner.

Ladle the soup into an oven-safe bowl. Place the toast on top of the soup, submerging only the bottom portion of the bread. Cover the bread with two (or more) slices of Swiss cheese. Place the entire bowl under the broiler and melt the cheese. (You can also use parmesan or Gruyere cheese.)

That’s it. Now eat it.

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Screen Shot 2015-01-27 at 5.48.58 PMDare To Taste Cookbook is currently 30% OFF with FREE Shipping. Pick up your copy today! Click on the photo to the left.

Recipes include:
Sweet Potato Gnocchi
Clams Casino
Lemon Chicken
Stuffed Baby Eggplant
Tomato & Ginger Soup
And much more…

Please allow 3-5 days for shipping and handling. Thank you for your purchase! ~ Jen

Sweet Virginia! A Much Needed Road Trip… And Dinner Party!

If you follow me on Twitter, you’ll know I lost my patience with the weather in Boston and finally reached my breaking point. I woke up last Friday morning, packed a bag for myself and Truman (the bulldog), grabbed a metal shovel from the neighbor, and carved my Mini Cooper out of a massive ice/snow bank. I didn’t really care where I was going, but I decided to visit a good friend in Alexandria Virginia, who just happens to be the owner of Truman’s best friend, a silver lab named Winston.

With a quick stop for snacks at Walmart, where Truman choked on a Slim Jim (yes, I had to sick my fist down his throat), the ride couldn’t have been sweeter. I legit felt like I had just escaped from prison. So here we are, in Virginia, staying with my buddy who is the biggest “dude” on earth. In other words, cooking is impossible because he has no tools!

My friend asked if I was interested in cooking for him and a few of his friends… and I happily agreed. It’s difficult to cook a full meal when you have zero ingredients in the house, so shopping was a bit difficult because we had to buy stuff like… salt and flour.

Regardless, after six hours of cooking, (yes, six!!) everyone seemed to walk away happy… and full. Here’s what I made and here is one of the recipes I know you can all handle –>

Baked-stuffed shrimp with a seafood sauce, something I had never made before… the sauce that is. VERY EASY! In fact, I’m happy to say I learned how to make it in Culinary School, or the base of it I should say. Baked-stuffed shrimp is easy if you  have the patience and the ability to make a bomb seafood stuffing, which is actually very easy. Basically, you start with chopped onions and garlic that are cooked in olive oil until soft. And of course, salt and pepper at this beginning stage. Then you add any kind of seafood you think you’d want in a stuffing. Remember, you don’t have to follow a recipe if you want to become a creative cook. I mean, I wouldn’t add 8 cups of salmon to a stuffing, but I think you know scallops, lobster, crabmeat, even clams, are the logical kinds of seafood you want to add.

After adding the seafood, you be the judge of how much you want, I like to add a little white wine, about a half cup, for extra flavor. I also add a bit of fresh thyme (about a tablespoon) and a TON of fresh parsley (like a half a cup). I cook that for about 15 minutes and add more salt and pepper.

Finally… add A STICK OF BUTTER… and let it melt! It sounds like a lot but if you’re making say 30 shrimp, you are eating 1/30th of the stick. That’s nothing. Why so much butter? Well… the last ingredient is your stuffing component, which is ritz (I use whole wheat) cracker crumbs and Panko breadcrumbs. How much? Add the crumbs until it’s reached a consistency that sticks together. So… press a little stuffing in your hand and press. Did it stay together in a ball? Yes? That’s enough. Did you add too much breadcrumbs? Just add some olive oil and soften it up. Everything is fixable!

unnamedButterflying the shrimp: On the non-vein side, which you have removed, slice the shrimp down the middle but not all the way through. Place a tad bit of stuffing in the crack to give the heaping spoonful of stuffing you’re about to add something to stick to. Now go ahead, add that heaping spoon of stuffing. Now curve the tail of the shrimp and stick it in the stuffing. (see photo)

Line the shrimp up in rows so they are resting side by side. This way, they won’t tip over and spill. Drizzle with olive oil and bake at 350 degrees for about 20-25 minutes.

Yes, I made a huge mess, but from what everyone told me, it was worth the cleanup.

BONUS: I also made a cauliflower casserole with gruyere cheese and buttered Panko breadcrumbs, pan-seared salmon with lemon and sea salt, and asparagus with fried eggs and parmesan cheese. I still get nervous cooking for people, especially strangers, but this was a total success.

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Blanched asparagus with fried over-easy eggs, lemon and fresh shaved parmesan. (Try this instead of hollandaise sauce)
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Pan-seared medium/rare salmon basted in butter with fresh lemon and dill.


My Tater Tot Addiction is REAL

February 15, 2015
1:43 p.m.

The Tater Tot struggle is real, folks. I can’t stop. I’m blaming it on the snow and my cabin fever… which is also real, as all New Englanders are well aware of. Brutal, huh? I just walked 50 feet to Ma Royle’s house to get eggs and cheddar cheese and was nearly blown away by the wind. That’s probably the worst part… the fact that I can’t see five feet in front of me due to the wind blowing all the snow off the cars on Salem Street in the North End.

In any event, as most of you know already, I spend the majority of my time testing recipes and wasting food, which in turn means I’m wasting money as well. But in the end, it’s worth it, especially when it comes to TATER TOTS. Ok, if you don’t love tater tots, something is wrong with you. Fact.

So I’ve been playing around with this recipe for weeks. To precook or not precook the potatoes? To add Cheddar or Parmesan cheese? To use Panko or regular breadcrumbs? To use seasoned or unseasoned breadcrumbs? To pan fry or deep fry? I mean… who would have thought the tater tot process could be so complicated???

Well, I finally mastered it. And since I don’t plan on writing another cookbook anytime soon, I figured I would share this recipe with you all. And as you know, sharing recipes is not one of my favorite things. Yes, I’m very selfish.

Ingredients:
4 Russet Potatoes peeled and shredded
1/2 C Flour
1 C Cheddar Cheese shredded
4 eggs beaten
4 C Panko Breadcrumbs seasoned or unseasoned
1 T Salt
1 t Pepper
Canola Oil for frying

1. Peel the potatoes, soaking the peeled potatoes in cold water to avoid discoloration (also known as oxidation.)

2. Once the potatoes are peeled, shred/grate the potatoes on the large setting or side of the grater. Again, soak the finished shredded potatoes in cold water. This not only avoids oxidation but it removes some of the excess starch you don’t need.

3. Boil the potatoes in salted water BRIEFLY… about 5 minutes. Let cool.

4. In a large bowl, GENTLY mix the shredded potatoes with the flour, cheese, salt and pepper. Allow to chill for at least 20 minutes.

5. Roll about 1 tablespoon of the potato mixture in your hands… dip into the egg followed by the panko breadcrumbs. At this stage, you can shape the potato ball any way you’d like… classic tater tot or keep in round.

6. Rest the tater tots on a baking sheet with parchment paper and let chill in the freezer for at least 20 minutes.

7. Heat the oil to 375 degrees. Drop 4 potato balls into the oil at a time. If you fry too many at a time, you will lower the temperature of the oil and end up with greasy, oily, and soft (not crispy) tots.

8. Fry each batch until golden brown… about 3-4 minutes.

9. Salt immediately after frying. Serve with ketchup!



Screen Shot 2015-01-27 at 5.48.58 PMDare To Taste Cookbook is currently 30% OFF with FREE Shipping. Pick up your copy today! Click on the photo to the left.

Recipes include:
Sweet Potato Gnocchi
Clams Casino
Lemon Chicken
Stuffed Baby Eggplant
Tomato & Ginger Soup
And much more…

Please allow 3-5 days for shipping and handling. Thank you for your purchase! ~ Jen

Two Yummy Super Bowl Recipes!

What are you cooking Super Bowl Sunday? That is the question!

There are so many options when it comes to Super Bowl food. For me, I prefer to make things that people can eat without putting their drink down. I call these, “one-handed bites.” This way, nobody loses their drink, forgets where they placed it, or takes a sip of the wrong cup. Makes total sense, right? Exactly.

I also like to avoid using and buying PLATES. I think plates are useless. To me, plates are just an unnecessary stop between the food platter and your mouth. Why does food need to make an extra stop on a plate when it can go directly into your mouth? I’ll never understand…

When you’re throwing a Super Bowl party, or any party for that matter, you want your guests to walk away saying ONE thing: “The food was amazing.” Why? Well for one, their team may lose. So you may as well give them something to be happy about if that’s the case. Personally, being a lover of everything food, I think the food should be the star of every gathering. Have you ever heard anyone walk away from a party and say the soda was flat or the vodka wasn’t your favorite brand? No. Everyone talks about the food… EVERY TIME. Bank on it.

One more reason why I like to avoid plates… make the cleanup as easy as humanly possibly. Your goal is to not want to fall over and die of exhaustion at the end of the night. You want to enjoy yourself as if you were the guest and not the host. There is nothing worse than walking around your own party stressing about the trash and the amount of dishes you have to do or recycling you have to gather. Buy a lot of heavy napkins… they are a great replacement for plates. Just sayin.

Onto the food. As most of you know from my Twitter, I don’t give recipes away. I write my own recipes and sometimes they take five tries — and by tries I mean multiple trips to the grocery store, loading and unloading the dishwasher, spending enormous amounts of money on food that’s likely headed into the garbage disposal, and then of course my time… which honestly, I have plenty of, so don’t let me fool you into thinking I’m THAT busy. But I have a couple of recipes I can give up that will be sure to be hits at your Super Bowl party tomorrow. Before I post those… Here are some of tips that should help you when planning your menu:

Wooden skewers are your friend. You can buy a bag of 100 skewers for literally $1.99 at your local grocery story or even The Christmas Tree Shop (for New England residents). Skewers are the best way to serve food because there is no plate involved and it is a one-handed bite, which is what we are always going for.

Caprese Salad Skewers

You can put grilled chicken, sausages and pepper chunks (in my first cookbook), fruit, Caprese salad (mozzarella balls and cherry tomatoes — also in my first cookbook), and so much more. Buy the skewers and be creative. Mini meatballs sandwiched between two cubes of French bread… Holy crap, you have a meatball sandwich on a wooden skewer! Yes, I just came up with that. It’s that easy.

Avoid soups. Nobody will eat it… because people are drinking! Nobody wants soup and beer in their belly. Period.

Do not make a crudité a.k.a. a veggie platter with dip. That is so 1980. If you absolutely have to make one… be creative and make individual ones. Buy some plastic shot glasses and fill the bottom with about 2 Tablespoons of veggie dip, then fill the glasses with various vegetables. This is the best way to avoid those disgusting double-dippers, too. Let everyone eat their own saliva, not everyone else’s.

Fried foods always win. This is the one day, besides Thanksgiving of course, you can stuff your face as if it’s your last day on Death Row. Enjoy it. Fry! When frying, however, I have learned that the “let rest on paper towels after frying” is the wrong way to go. I found that it only makes your food soggy. Place your friend food on a metal rack (the ones you rest your baked cookies on) to keep the food crispy.

You only need ONE dessert. Don’t go nuts with seven different cookies and nine types of cupcakes. Chill on the desserts. But have fun with it. Maybe make caramel apples. You’re welcome!

Here are two recipes that are SURE to be a hit at any party, especially one celebrating a sports event… total DUDE FOOD!

FRIED CHICKEN BITES

Ingredients:
4 Chicken Breasts with skin
4 Chicken Thighs with skin
2 C Flour
1 Onion quartered
6 Garlic Cloves
1 T Paprika
1 T Mustard Powder
1 T Cayenne Pepper optional
2 T Honey
1 Half Gallon Buttermilk
1 Bunch Parsley roughly chopped
Canola Oil for frying
Salt & Pepper

1. Remove the chicken meat from the bones and cut into 2-inch chunks. Make sure you keep the skin on! Season each piece with salt and pepper.
2. In a large bowl or large zip-lock bag, combine the onion, garlic (press/smash it first), paprika, mustard powder, honey and parsley with the buttermilk.
3. Add the chicken to the seasoned buttermilk and soak for at least a couple of hours in the fridge. If you have time, overnight.
4. Heat your oil to 375 degrees.
5. Season the flour with salt and pepper. (You can add more paprika, cayenne and mustard powder for extra flavor.)
6. Coat the buttermilk chicken with the seasoned flour and drop in the hot oil. Note: Do not fry too many pieces at once or it’ll bring the temperature of the oil down significantly, leaving you with oily, greasy chicken.
7. Fry the chicken pieces for about 5-6 minutes until golden brown.
8. Let the chicken rest on a metal rack (put a paper towel on the counter UNDERNEATH the rack to pick up the excess oil) and season immediately with salt.

CLAMS CASINO

Ingredients:
24 Little Neck Clams
8 Slices Bacon or Pancetta diced
1/4 C Parsley chopped
1/2 C Breadcrumbs Italian
4 T Parmesan Cheese
2 Shallots chopped
8 Garlic Cloves chopped
4 T Olive Oil
4 T Butter
2 Lemons wedged

Clams Casino

 

1. Shuck those clams! Using a thick towel to hold the clam, with a clam or small butter knife, find the soft spot of the clam and wedge it open. Note: You can steam the clams until the open SLIGHTLY if you are not comfortable with this process.
2. Discard the top shell. Loosen the clam from the bottom shell . Place the 24 shells with the clam on a baking sheet.
3. In a pan, saute the bacon or pancetta until rendered… about 5 minutes. Note: You want the fat to melt down and the meaty part of the bacon/pancetta to slightly crisp.
4. Add the Olive Oil.
5. Add the shallot and garlic. DO NOT BURN.
6. Add the breadcrumbs, cheese and parsley and just warm through.
7. Spoon the mixture over each clam.
8. Melt the butter and drizzle over each stuffed clam shell.
9. In a preheated oven (375 degrees), bake the clams for about 10 minutes. Note: You do not want to overcook the clam… and the breadcrumb mixture is already cooked.
10. Finish with lemon drizzled from the lemon wedges.

Go Patriots!!!