Monday, April 30, 2012

Pastina w/Peas and Ham

Hello earthlings!  I am so sorry it has been so long since I cooked you any food!  I hope you aren't starving!  Life has been very busy and though it doesn't seem to be letting up, I like it this way!  I will however, be posting a little more often after next week.  I realize some people only post once or twice a week but, that is hard for me, I like posting more often if possible. 

Pastina.....literally means "little pasta".  This can be made with ANY little pasta you want.  One of my friends uses star pasta, it was always "pastina" in her house growing up.  You can use anything as long as it is little.  I will be using orzo in this recipe.  I am going to go against everything I believe in and say you could probably substitute whole wheat pasta nicely in this recipe.  However, IF you tell anyone I said that, I will deny it.

Anyway, this dish can serve as a side or a light lunch or supper.  It is as flexible as my last yoga instructor and there is nothing you can't do with it!  My recipe is just how I make it, I am sure you might want it with carrots, or lima beans....oh no, please don't use lima beans.  Blech!  I would definitely keep the ham but you can use whatever ham you like.  I use deli shaved ham and then just chunk it up.  This recipe was given to me by an older Italian woman I worked with (Mrs Garbarino) and she told me in her family this is the first solid food all babies eat!  She never gave me a recipe just said, "the ingredients are in the name Chris".  I figured it out and when I used to watch my great niece Miya, it was her very favorite.  She was almost 2 and I let her help me make it.  She would stir and stir!  It just reaffirms my belief that if you let kids help you cook they are far more likely to eat it!!  Even little ones!  Sadly I don't see my little "Mio Miya" to often anymore so this one comes with a cup of happy memories and the happy thought of hearing "Cwissy" in the near future!

This dish is easy peasy, (I crack myself up) and I hope that you and your family enjoy it as much as Miya and I did together!

Here is what you need:

1 1/2 cup UNCOOKED orzo or little pasta
3/4 cup ham chopped fine or in strips.  I use deli ham.
1/3 cup peas  *cooked or frozen*
1 tbsp butter
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 cups chicken stock 
1 cup water

In a saucepan bring your stock and water to a boil.  I use bouillon cubes for this since they are cheap and the broth will be drained anyway.  For this reason I do not have salt in the ingredients.  Boil pasta according to package directions and drain.  Put back into your hot pot! 

Add in peas, ham, butter, and grate in your Parmesan.  Give it a good stir and serve warm!  See how easy!?!!?

Enjoy a great evening with your kids, your pets, whoever makes you happy!!

Your "can't get enough pasta" Chefwannabe

Friday, April 27, 2012

Roasted Chicken with Garlic Tomatoes

It is FRIDAY!  Finally, what a long week it has been.  The Simmermans seem to have been on the go for a month now, it is getting old, and I am so glad my husband took a 3 day weekend! Oh wait!! We have to have our car looked at on that day off.  Pfftt....

So it is no secret, I believe in all things in moderation.  Not only for food, but life too.  I admittedly don't always post the most health conscience recipes.  I am working harder on this, for you guys and for my family.  It is hard finding or writing healthy recipes for the veggie hater.  This one however, he loved.  I loved this one too.  So refreshing, light but filling, it just has such great flavor and it looks gorgeous on a plate!  I think you could easily serve this on a bed of whole wheat pasta, which you all know I can't stomach in any way shape or form.  However, I suggested it, doesn't that count for something?  A nice salad with this would be great as well.

I wrote this for 4 people, generously.  You will probably have an extra piece or 2 left.  Let me just note that the chicken breasts, I cut in half the thickness way.  You could butterfly them open for a larger piece or pound them out for a thinner piece which I wish I had done.  I just think the overall look and texture would be better.  You could butterfly it AND pound it thin.  Now THAT gives me chicken skin, it is so exciting. LOL  I also used red wine.  I always use a merlot.

That all being said, let's move on...........

Here is what you will need:
3 bonless skinless chicken breasts
2 tbsp Garlic and Herb Seasoning/Mystic Blue Spice Co (could be substituted w/garlic powder/Italian seasoning/pepper/parsely mix
10 basil leaves  (more or less if you like)-torn or cut into a chiffonade
2 pints cherry or grape tomatoes
3 shallots-sliced or chopped
2 lg cloves of garlic-minced
1/2 cup red wine (was out of white, but turned out perfectly)
1/2 cup chicken stock
1tbsp butter
olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat your oven to 300.  In a large skillet add in olive oil. While it heats up, cover chicken in garlic seasoning, salt and pepper and place into pan seasoned side down.  Let chicken cook 2 minutes on each side if you have pounded it thin, or 4 min on each side if not.  Cook all chicken and place into a baking dish, slip it in the oven to keep it warm and ensure it is cooked all the way through.

Place your butter in the same skillet, along with your shallots.  Cook for 1-2 minutes.

Add in tomatoes, wine and chicken stock.  Deglaze the pan, scrapping up the good flavor from the bottom of the pan.  Salt and pepper at this point.  Put a lid on the skillet and let cook on medium until tomatoes begin to burst, stirring occasionally, this may take 3-5 minutes.  When they have burst, add in garlic and mix around.

Slide chicken pieces into the sauce and let cook just for a minute.  Sprinkle your basil over the top and serve.

I hope you enjoy this recipe, it is just delicious!  Enjoy your weekend, and spend time with the people you love!!!

Your "I swear I didn't drink the whole bottle of wine"chefwannabe

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Baklava, my way!

Hello everyone!  I am so sorry I haven't posted a blog for a few days.  Sometimes life gets busy and really cuts into my blogging time.  I will work on that, I swear!  

I feel kind of strange.  I have no funny stories about this recipe. I mean, usually something hilarious happens or there is a good history.   I forgot how hard it was to work with phyllo dough and just cussed alot.  I know, imagine it.  Anyway, I wanted, as usual to change things up.  I have never made baklava, only eaten it, and eaten it, oh and eaten it.  So here is what I came up with and I think it was dang good.   So get your baklava making pants on, you know the ones with a stretchy waist so you have room to grow as you pick and eat and pick and eat. Yeah!  Those are the ones.  You comfy now?

I had some serious camera issues during this experiment.  This is why the top cover photo, isn't just a piece, it is missing the glaze and the pistachio's on top.  Don't ask, just accept it.  It was a miserable camera day!  

Here is what you will need:
1 box Phyllo dough
3/4 cup roasted almonds
3/4 cup macadamia nuts-roasted
1 cup butter-melted
2 tsps cinnamon
1/3 cup brown sugar (can use splenda brown sugar)
3/4 cup pistachio's crushed (use a rolling pin to get them crushed)

Simple Syrup Mixture:
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup honey
2 tsps vanilla extract
Combine all ingredients in small saucepan.  Heat until it comes to a boil, only swirling the pan, and not stirring.  When it comes to a boil, shut it off and set it aside to cool, add vanilla at this time and stir!

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Melt butter and using a pastry brush, brush the pan, bottom and sides LIBERALLY and set aside. In a food processor combine brown sugar, nuts, and cinnamon. Process until your mixture is in small bits, not completely mutilated, you still want SOME texture.


Use a damp CLEAN kitchen towel and roll out your phyllo dough on it.  Trim up the dough with a serrated knife if you need to, so it fits your pan.  Keep it covered it will dry out SO fast.  Using a pastry brush, brush butter on the top layer, cover the entire thing and then carefully place it in the baking dish.  

Do this with 10 sheets of dough.  Stacking them on top of each other.  Then sprinkle 1/3 of your nut mixture on top.  Layer 7 more sheets of dough in the same manner, brush with butter and place on top.  Then add another 1/3 of your nut mixture.  Layer 5 more sheets and then the rest of your nut mixture.  Add 3 sheets on top and you are done!

Make sure to cut your pieces before baking as it will be to brittle and crispy to cut nicely afterwards.  Bake for 25-35 minutes, when the top is nicely browned it is done.  Don't let it go to far, but make sure to let it get nice and brown, not just barely tan. 

You know what I mean?  I thought so.  
Now just as soon as you take it out, pour over the simple syrup mixture.  Cover the entire pan of baklava with it and here is the hard part.  Let it sit for at least 1 hour, 2 is better.  Let it cool COMPLETELY and the syrup to soak in well!  While the syrup is still sticky on top, sprinkle over crushed pistachio's.  *this particular photo, bombed, thus the top photo of the baked baklava with no syrup or pistachio's!  

I hope you enjoy it!!  We sure did!
Your "my husband loved it but called it MOCKlava" chefwannabe

Sunday, April 22, 2012

My mom's Macaroni Salad.....kinda

Ok, ok, so I have made fun of my mom and her cooking plenty of times.  She always made lots of good things.  Seriously she did.  Roast beef jerky every Sunday to the point I can't stomach it as an adult.  Who doesn't love that?  Sorry mom, just kidding.  Kinda.  She did make meatballs the size of your fist, that were awesome. She also made fried chicken that rivals the best ever made and this simple macaroni salad that I just love. 

I have admittedly changed a couple of small things.  My husband is making me confess one of the changes that never happened.  I cooked 3 extremely crispy pieces of bacon, to, ya know...crumble on top.  But  *insert almost incoherent mumbling*..I accidentally ate them.  WHAT????  It WAS an accident.  He said they accidentally must have fallen in my mouth and then had some other completely inappropriate analogy for these kinds of "accidents".   It is like 2 hours later and he keeps randomly saying, "Only one thing could have made that better.....BACON".  I was in the shower and he knocked on the bathroom door to tell me.  Whatev....that is my intelligent answer.

I believe my mom uses the ranch dressing packets, however I used my own dry mix, that I have a recipe for and concocted my own.  You will need 1 1/4 cups in total.  Here is what I did if you are using your own ranch dressing mix:

2 tbsp Ranch Dressing Mix
3/4 cup sour cream
1/2 cup mayo
1/2 cup milk 
Combine and set aside. 

You could use ranch dressing right out of the bottle, 1 1/2 cups or until it is "enough" for you.  

Here is what else you will need:
3 cups UNcooked pasta (shells)
1 cucumber, peeled and diced
6 ounces cheddar cheese, cubed (I used mild)
1 large tomato diced (or more)

Cook your pasta according to package directions.  Drain. While draining go against every single pasta rule you have ever learned.  RINSE it with cold water!  Just so you don't put hot pasta into your nice cold mix.  Drain well.  

Add veggies and cheese to your bowl.  

Mix in dressing and pasta.  Mix well and chill for at least 1 hour.  Overnight is best.  

If you like you can top with crumbled bacon.  Unless yours accidentally falls into your mouth too.  You can also top with green onion, parsley or nothing at all!  Paired with my moms amazing fried chicken you have a 4th of July meal at the Smiths!!

Enjoy my friends!!

Your "bacon is good"chefwannabe

PS was no accident.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Mexican Rice

(this is all the Spanish I know basically)

Really, I crack myself up.  
So, I had a conversation under one of my son's dinner photos about Mexican or Spanish Rice with a reader.  I always say I am a big Mexican food fan, but the reality is, I don't like onions much, and I loathe beans if you remember.  I don't like shredded meat in Mexican food, has to be ground beef or chicken.  Ultimately, I think I am a complete "poser".  Is that word outdated now?   Anyway, a reader said her rice always turns out sticky.  I wanted to make her a new version but the truth is, I like my Mexican Rice a little sticky guys!  You could easily make this rice fluffier by reducing the amount of liquid by about 1/3 cup, letting it cook and then fluffing it up.  I just like a little stickage and stuff.  I like all other rice fluffy and wonderful but Mexican rice...

So I will share my recipe, you can love it or lump it.  I use a prepackaged rice for this.  So go with it, or don't and just use my method.  Yes, I realize it is sodium laden.  You can use salsa that is mild, or hot, it is completely up to your taste.  I ADORE this rice.  It is so good just alone, but when I decided to try and use it for Mexican Rice I was pleasantly surprised at how much excellent flavor it added.  I do use some fresh onions and peppers as well as the salsa.  I think you need some freshness in with store bought items to give them some life again.  We are eating this rice tomorrow with my Enchilada Casserole and I can't wait!

Mexican Rice
1 tbsp butter
1/2 cup diced bell peppers (any color)
1/3 cup minced onion
1/3 cup salsa
1 1/3 cups water
1 pkg of Yellow Rice (saffron rice)
Melt butter in a medium saucepan.  Add in onions and peppers and saute for 2-3 minutes until softened.

Add in salsa and water. 

From here on out, follow the directions on the back of your package.  Mine called for 1 2/3 cup water, I reduced it to
1 1/3 cups to compensate for the addition of salsa and its liquid .  Does that even make sense?  I hope so!  
You can garnish this with green onion, cilantro, whatever you choose.  Don't even comment on how salt laden the package of rice is.  I realize that, but it is one packaged item I cannot live without.  If you want to omit the package of rice, follow all of the steps and add in 1 3/4 cups of chicken stock and 1 1/2 cups of rice.  Use instant or regular.  This has great flavor and isn't to spicy.  You know how to kick it up if you want it spicier though!!

Serve this next to enchilada's!  Yum!!

Your "where IS my sombrero"chefwannabe

Monday, April 16, 2012

Sopapilla Cheesecake

....and what a beautiful marriage it is!  I am going to try and keep myself calm, but I am a hot mess after tasting this dessert.  I was overly excited from the beginning, I don't think there are meds for it, so forget even suggesting it.  Now let me get started with where I found this dessert my HIGHLY adorable husband has deemed, "the best dessert you have ever made and I have said that about alot of them but I MEAN it this time".  Thanks Geo.  Your a dream.....

I am completely addicted to YouTube.  It seems as though I was a bit of a YouTube late bloomer.  I just didn't get what everyone found so addicting about it until a year or so ago.  Maybe not even that long.  One of the first cooking channels I found was Bettys Kitchen and let me tell you, *as if we have met before, which we haven't* she is the sweetest, kindest woman ever.  Her recipes are great, she explains in great detail what she is doing and why, which is excellent for beginner cooks.  I am a visual learner, don't give me a book, just show me.  If you are the same with cooking, she is your answer!  I was watching last week and this new video was posted.  I watched it and I couldn't NOT make it.  You all know that I usually only post original recipes, however, this seemed so worthy of sharing I had to email and ask her if I could do so.  This recipe was shared with her from a viewer who wanted to be called only, "Monica in Arkansas".  I am so glad she shared with with Miss Betty and I get to share it with you all.  Now about that YouTube addiction....I have spent plenty of  almost all-nighters there.  Did I really just admit that?  Oh well, chefwannabe fact #531, I sometimes don't know when to NOT share my shame.  

I did make ONE change.  Remember how I didn't know I was out of sugar?  Well, I had enough for the filling but not the top so I substituted brown sugar on top and holy brown sugar batman, I am never going to put white sugar on top!

Here is what you will need to pick up at the store, easy and cheap, just like..oh nvm.

2 8oz blocks of cream cheese
1 cup white sugar
1 tsp Vanilla Extract (homemade or store bought)
2 cans of crescent rolls
1 cup butter, softened
1 tsp cinnamon
3/4 cup sugar  (brown or white, I used brown)
1/4 cup honey

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  In a 9x13 baking dish, spray with nonstick cooking spray and roll your crescent rolls out to make a bottom crust.  Spread out the dough and pinch seams together.  
bottom crust

Set aside and make filling.   In a bowl combine cream cheese, white sugar and vanilla.  Use a hand mixer to obtain the creamiest texture possible.  Spread this out unto your bottom crescent roll crust. 
Filling spread on!

Take your second can of crescent rolls and roll out over the top, doing the same with pinching seems together and stretching it to fit.  I kind of did it on the counter and then picked it up and put it on.  Do the best you can, it won't be the end of the world if a seam shows, you can see a few on mine! Next, in a small bowl combine butter, brown (or white) sugar, and cinnamon.  Mix thoroughly and dot the top of the dessert with teaspoons full.  

They will all melt together so no worries, you will have plenty.  Here is the hard part.  You MUST let it cool COMPLETELY before slicing.  I know it will be hard, maybe you can vacuum under your bed or clean a closet.  You know.  The one that you need to wear a helmet to open the door?  By the time you are done, I swear it will be ready to dive into!!

Bake for 30 minutes.  Keep an eye on it.  It will seem a little jiggly when you take it out.  It is the butter, don't worry.  

drizzle honey!!
Take it out and immediately drizzle the top with your honey.  I might have added a little extra, totally unaware I was doing you believe me?  Well it all worked out quite well!

I hope you take time to try this.  It is so easy and requires things you probably already have around the house.  

Do not delay, try this today!

Your "waiting for Geo to go to sleep so I can go sneak another piece"chefwannabe

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Banana Crumble Muffins

How many times have you thrown out bananas that were black or getting black and overripe?  Don't do it anymore!!  Throw them in a Ziploc and toss them in the freezer!  Use them later for banana breads, muffins, cakes, anything!  Anything you have to throw away becomes expensive!!  I refuse to throw things away!  Ok well if they are hairy and crawling toward the trash themselves, I will help them along!

These muffins are delicious.  They are not your light airy muffin.  They are dense, almost like bread.   Some of the ingredients might surprise you.  Might make you go "Hmm...".  They all work brilliantly.  These are muffins you KNOW you are eating, and with a cup of coffee or tea, or juice, what a great breakfast or anytime-snack!

Here is what you will need: (24 muffins)
4 cups flour
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup caramel sauce
1/2 cup brown sugar
4 eggs (beaten)
4 tbs melted butter
3-4 ripe bananas (can soften in microwave if not soft enough)
1 tsp banana flavoring (optional, can use vanilla)
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
3 tsp baking powder
Preheat oven to 400 degrees,

Combine all ingredients except flour in a stand mixer or by hand.  

When completely combined, add the flour in 2 or 3 additions, mix only until all flour is incorporated then stop!!

Using paper liners, fill muffin tins.  You should get 24 muffins.  Now set aside and mix up your crumble!  You can spray your pan or butter it liberally if you don't want to use liners!

Here is what you need for your crumble:
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 cup instant oats
6 tbsp melted butter
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon (optional)

Combine completely and then using a spoon sprinkle over all of the muffins.  Try and press it down so it stays mostly in the middle!!

Bake for 12-15 minutes.  Let cool in pans and remove!  

Your "this is the only way I will touch a banana with a 10ft pole" chefwannabe

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Guest Blog: Thinking Outside the Megamart

Denise is Korean. She always jokes that she was "adopted by two fantastic white people who sent her to school to become a Spanish teacher". She has also taught an Italian class. She is borderline obsessive about American craft beer, cooking, sports, and has a bit of NY-NJ Metro Area Superiority Syndrome. She likes her cats better than most people because they don't say stupid things or wear pink hats to Yankees games. 

Taking the Monotony out of Food Shopping 

It is so easy to hit up the nearby Megamart for groceries.  The shelves are always well-organized, the waxy fruit shines under the fluorescent lights, and if you have a Shoppers’ Card, you can definitely save some money on those boxes of pasta and pre-bagged lettuce mixes. But there is more to life than those commercialized shiny aisles and freezer cases. 

I live in Jersey City, which is just a stone’s throw from (what I believe is) the Greatest City in the World: New York. As a result, I am surrounded by family-run ethnic markets, artisanal butchers, CSAs, and even street vendors who hawk produce instead of hot dogs. It is a fantastic thing that I try not to take for granted. But of all these, I admit, I love the farmers’ market the most. 

Many of you who live in smaller towns and suburbs probably do not have access to as much as I do. But that certainly doesn’t mean you’re restricted to wilting pre-packaged herbs and beef that may or may not be tainted with the ubiquitous “pink slime.”

The farmers’ markets may not always be heavily advertised, but chances are, they are there. Even in the most seemingly middle-of-nowhere towns here in Jersey have them. And don’t forget one important tip: just because it’s called a “farmers’ market” doesn’t mean it’s going to be all produce. Our vendors sell handmade cheeses, fresh meat (slime-free!), eggs, fresh pastas, and more. One vendor at my favorite market, the Union Square Greenmarket, drives from Sussex County to sell ostrich meat and eggs. Another sells not just lamb meat, but also yarn. 

Perhaps one of the greatest parts about the market is its ever-changing seasonal offerings. At the Megamart, you pretty much know what you’re going to get, and where you can find it. At the market, though, the selection will differ according to season. Right now in New York, it’s all about ramps, nettles, and asparagus; within weeks, the ramps will be gone, but we’ll be able to get all the fiddlehead ferns we want.  If you’re OCD and overly organized like me, it will throw off your usual grocery list-writing ways. But it will also challenge your creativity in the kitchen, which is always fun and never a bad thing.

The two gripes people usually have about the farmers’ market is that they may not find everything they need, and that what they do find can be much more costly than the same product at the Megamart. I’d be lying to you if I said I only bought from the markets; I like my Whole Foods granola and Canada Dry seltzer just as much the next person. And my salary doesn’t always let me buy the $25/lb sirloin. But know that when you do pay the extra bucks for these things, your money is going to the farmer, the butcher, the fishmonger, and the cheesemaker. It isn’t supporting any huge commercial chain. It is going to the guy who makes sure your product is at its freshest, its finest, and hasn’t been sitting on a shelf loaded with preservatives for the last two weeks. Many vendors, at least the ones in my area, also take EBT and food stamps, which makes great-quality food accessible to everyone. 

So take the monotony out of your grocery shopping. If you are passionate about good food and its source, do your research and find your nearest market.  You will be glad you did. 

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Spaghetti Frittata

WOW!  What a whirlwind weekend.  Shopping until I literally dropped, cooking until I dropped again and then it is over!  I enjoyed time with my family and will do it all YEAR.   I think everyone was fed well, and I think the reinvention of my Key Lime Mousse Cheesecake was a hit.  I substituted all lime juice and zest in the recipe with orange.  Oh man, it was like a dream!   I turned a couple of brussel sprout haters into lovers with my recipe and with all that, I will declare the holiday a success!  I thought I would spend Monday just vegging but turns out that didn't happen so I thought today I would do that.  So far so good.  

I wanted to use up some leftovers and thought it was a good time to get this blog put up.   I know many of you are dealing with leftovers!  How many ways can you serve up leftover ham??  Bacon from the brussel sprouts, cheese from the mac and cheese and spaghetti from the night before Easter?  I have your answer right here.  Make a spaghetti pie aka spaghetti frittata!!  

This recipe will serve 4 and can be reheated or eaten cold.  I often make a frittata  of some sort on nights when I make a pot of soup.  Something you should keep in mind is that you can use whatever you want for this!  I used up some bacon, ham, spaghetti and cheese for this one.  You could use veggies of all kinds, spinach, arugula, you name it!  So this recipe is just a base, for anything you might want to create in your kitchen with your own leftovers!!

Here is what you will need:
4 eggs
3/4 cup milk
2 tbsp butter
1/2 cup grated cheese (I used cheddar)
3 strips of cut up uncooked bacon
1/2 cup ham  (chopped, diced, pulled apart, whatever!)
2 cups of cooked spaghetti or other pasta
1 green onion chopped
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400.  In a bowl whisk together eggs, milk and salt and pepper to taste.  Melt butter in the bottom of a medium skillet.

Add in bacon and ham.  Saute for about 3 minutes.  

Carefully put your pasta in and spread out evenly over the bacon and ham.  

Sprinkle cheese over pasta and let cook for 2 minutes on med-lo.  Make sure not to really stir, just gently move around so spaghetti stays evenly distributed.  

Pour over egg mixture, let gently cook for 5 minutes.  Using a spatula you can pull the egg away from the side to let more uncooked egg get into the bottom.  Sprinkle some green onion on top just before putting in the oven!  After 5 minutes put into preheated oven for 5-10 minutes.  You will need to keep an eye on it and when it appears the eggs are cooked, remove.  Loosen with a spatula, it should be pretty loose already.  After it can move freely when the pan is tilted, let sit for 10 minutes.

Scoot out on to a serving plate and enjoy!  Remember it can be served warm or cold!  

Try this for breakfast, brunch, lunch OR dinner!  With a big pot of soup or with a salad!  The meat on the bottom gets crisp and acts almost like a crust, it is delicious!  I can't wait to see what YOU come up with to add to your frittata!

Your "even eggs are better with spaghetti"chefwannabe

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Kraut Burger

I know you are already sitting there with your head cocked to the side, thanking..."What the heck is THAT"?

Here is the definition per Wikipedia:
runza (also called a bierockfleischkuche or Kraut Pirok) is a yeast dough bread pocket with a filling consisting of beefporkcabbage orsauerkrautonions, and seasonings. They are baked in various shapes such as a half-moon, rectangle, round (bun), square, or triangle. In Nebraska, the runza is usually baked in a rectangular shape. The bierocks of Kansas, on the other hand, are generally baked in the shape of a bun.
I have heard of them called "Kraut Burgers" recently. The sandwich originated in Russia during the 1800s and spread to Germany before appearing in the United States. The term bierock comes from the Russian word pirogi or pirozhki and is the term for any food consisting of a savory filling stuffed dough. The recipe was spread throughout the United States by the Volga Germans and can be found in North and South Dakota, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Illinois, Kansas and Nebraska. The term "runza" is registered as a trademark in the United States by Nebraska-based Runza Restaurants

In Nebraska "Runza" is a trademarked fast food chain.  They are delicious.  Well my husband hates them but tonight he loved mine.  He informed me they almost tasted like a White Castle Burger. What?  Anyway, my opinion is, homemade bread makes all the difference.  This is a recipe I got from my mom, I am sure there 10,000 just like it, so if it is someone else's originally I bow down and give you the honor.  K?  I didn't photograph the dough ingredients but let's get moving on getting 'er done.

Bread Dough for Kraut Burgers
5-6 cups of flour
2 pkg's dry yeast
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups hot water
1/2 cup butter softened
2 eggs

Combine 2 cups flour, yeast and sugar.  Put into stand mixer fitted with a dough hook  and combine completely.  Add butter and hot water, mix 2 minutes and add eggs and 1 more cup of flour.  Let mix for 2 minutes and add remaining 2 cups of flour, 1 at a time.  I had to end up using an extra 1/2 cup.  Let knead for 3 minutes or until your dough is a nice soft dough, not sticky.  Turn out into a bowl sprayed with nonstick spray or vegetable oil and let rise 45 minutes.  While it is raising, let's get to work on the filling!

2 lbs ground beef
4 cups shredded cabbage
1 cup onion, minced FINE  
2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 cup beef stock
2 tbsp butter
American Cheese (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degree's.  Melt butter in a large pot, add onions and cook for 3-4 minutes until translucent. Add in ground beef and cook until browned and broken up well.  Add Worcestershire sauce and mix thoroughly.  Dump in cabbage (it will wilt alot) and then mix again. 

Pour in stock and put the lid on and cook for 20 minutes on low stirring occasionally. 

Divide dough into 2 parts.  Roll each section out and cut into 6 pieces.  Put a piece of cheese in the middle (optional) and add as much filling as you can fit on! Bring all the corners to the middle and seal by pinching.

Flip over and put onto a parchment lined cookie sheet.   You should get 12 out of this batch of dough and filling.   When you are finished with all of them let them rise for 30-45 minutes.  Brush them with an egg wash or spray with nonstick cooking spray for a nice color.  Bake for 20-25 minutes

We made some round, made some long, just like the real Runza restaurant. That of course was my husbands idea because ya know, husbands get what they want right?  Ok mine does (lovey gushy eyes)  

I hope you enjoy these, I always have to have mine with ketchup!

Your "praying I didn't infringe on any copyright crap" chefwannabe


Sunday, April 1, 2012

Chris's Meatballs w/Gravy

On top of spagheeeettttiiii.....all covered with cheese.  I lost my poor meeeaaaatttballll when somebody sneezed"

Yes, I know the rest of the words/verses but I will spare you.  The song has been in my head all day.

I have a long, loving history with meatballs.  My dad is half Italian.  My grandmother, who was 100%  Italian, was not a good cook.  Somehow it seems scientifically impossible for an Italian to NOT be a good cook, but I am told she broke the mold folks.

And the question remains.  What do YOU call it?  Gravy?  Red sauce?  Marinara?  Spaghetti Sauce?  Whatever you call it in your neck of the woods or in your house, it is DELICIOUS!

As a kid we always looked forward to spaghetti and meatball nights.  It would take my mom hours to prepare.  I have learned it didn't really take that long but it just took HER that long.  She likely weighed every meatball to make sure it was the same.  Get where I am going?  She made her meatballs the size of a baseball, they were huge.  We always got to have whatever we wanted for dinner for our birthdays and the request was usually always the same, spaghetti and meatballs.

Well when I moved to Jersey and got in closer contact with my Italian heritage, and have an Italian mother in law and aunts,  I have tweaked and twisted my own recipe to what my family deems perfect.  We like a softer consistency to our meatballs, and now I can't find ground veal so I use beef and pork.  Your meatloaf mix can have any combination of meat you like.  Traditional meatloaf or meatball mix is 1 lb each of ground beef, ground pork and ground veal.  I use 2 lbs of ground beef and 1 lb ground pork.  You choose what you want,  just try to use at least 2 different kinds and include pork in that mix.  You need the fat from the pork for a juicy, tender meatball.  My measurements might make you wonder if it can work, but I assure you it does and they are fantastic!!  So let's get started with the meatballs and then move on to the gravy!

Here is what you will need for your meatballs:
2lbs ground beef
1 lb ground pork
2-3 cups breadcrumbs, I use fresh and I use 3 cups
3 eggs
2 cloves of garlic grated
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 tbsp milk
1/4 cup water
1 tbsp dried basil
1 tbsp dried parsley
2 tbsp Italian seasoning
Drizzle of olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Mix all ingredients.  Some people say mix the meat in last, I don't find it makes a bit of difference.  Get your hands in here, and make it work!!

Form meatballs.  I make mine about golf ball size and I got about 56 out of this batch!

Now is where the decisions come in.  Bake or fry?  I normally bake, but I promised my husband I would brown them tonight in a skillet.  If you bake, I do it on 400 degree's for 10-15 minutes.  Remember you aren't wanting them to cook all the way through, just brown on the outsides!  They will cook the rest of the way in the sauce.  If you fry do in batches, using olive oil in your skillet.  Brown them and then turn over and brown the top.  No need to flip them in 10 directions for 10 minutes.  Top and bottom is all you need browned! When you are done submerge them in the pot of gravy and simmer on low for 2-3 hours. Stirring occasionally.

I think I did this backwards.  I should have given you the gravy recipe first!  Here is what you will need for that!

2 boxes of Pomi Tomatoes (use any large cans of tomato puree or crushed tomatoes
1 can tomato soup  *this is my secret, no hate*
4 shallots (use onions if you prefer)
2 cloves of garlic grated
3 tbsp sugar (cuts the acid, and against every REAL Italian recipe ever made)
salt and pepper to taste
fresh basil

Mince your onions and garlic.  I grate my garlic actually.  In a large pot add 2 tbsp of olive oil and add in your onions.  Sweat them out for 2-3 minutes and then add the garlic.  IMPORTANT, if you burn your garlic you will need to start your dish over completely.  Burned garlic is bitter and terrible and will ruin your entire dish!!  Stir for a minute so garlic doesn't burn and then add tomatoes, and tomato soup.  Rinse your tomato cans with a little bit of water and add that in as well.  Season as you go, with each addition of ingredients salt and pepper, when you are done your gravy will be well seasoned and almost perfectly salt and peppered.   Just before serving tear in your basil and stir.  If you cook basil to long, it will turn black on you.  Yuck!

I hope that you give this recipe a shot.  Make sure to salt your food enough but not over salt. Use plenty of fresh basil and GOOD parm!

Your "meeeaattballlssss" chefwannabe

APRIL FOOL'S PROPOSAL....My proposal story.

Hello Chefwannabe fans and friends!

Around Valentine's Day I had been asked for this post and I never got to it but, since today is the 10th anniversary of our proposal I thought I would finally share.

2-4 weeks before proposal day.
My father in law was ill in the hospital in Philly.  My husband and I were there for the day and decided while his doctors came in to visit we would go to the famous jewelers row and peruse some diamond rings.  George knew what I wanted, it wasn't as if we had never discussed it.  I wanted a ring just like my moms (old fashioned kind of style), or a past, present, future diamond ring.  My dear father-in-law, has never been anything but good to me but at first I wasn't sure he liked me so much.  As we told him where we were going, he got this look on his face, as if he meant business and wasn't joking and told my husband and I, "Don't you damn kids go buying any rings or doing anything STUPID, I want to have a talk with you Hoss".  Hoss has been my husbands nickname since the day he was born practically.   I kept myself composed until later, we hadn't spoken of it at all.  I lost it on the way home, I said, "If your dad doesn't LIKE me, I want to know what I did to make him feel that way.  *insert hysterical girlfriend sobbing*  I KNOW he is going to try and talk you out of marrying me and I don't know why he doesn't like me".  My husband grumbles around about how he DOES like me and it doesn't matter even if he doesn't he is going to marry me, etc.

Fast forward to April 1st.  I had gotten home from a crazy kids day at school and decided after dinner I was taking a wine and Enya soak in the bath.  Just before I got in the phone rings.  "Hello?.  Chris is Hoss around?  Sure, let me get him.."  I tell George,"It is your dad and he sounds  MAD".  I can overhear things like "yes dad, I know dad, ok, I will be over in a few minutes, yes, I will be alone".  *Insert psycho crying again*, "OMG, this is the talk he is going to have with you George, please find out WHAT I have done to make him have ill feelings about me".  I get into soak and George and Cody leave.   I have no idea how much time passed.  My father in law had been cleaning his house out, getting ready to sell so he was forever sending things of my husbands late mother over and other boxes of Georges belongings as he would come across them.  I hear a knock on the bathroom door.  This quiet voice says, "Chris, can you come out here?"  "Dad sent stuff over and I want you to see it".  This is embarrassing... sorry Dad Geo.  "NO, I don't give a crap what he sent over, find a place to put it, and let me finish my bath, I don't care what he sent"  "Chris, please come out here".  So I get out, bang some stuff around like a good girlfriend in a bad mood does.  I put on a pair of ripped off, to shorts flannel pajama bottoms and a tank top, hair in a towel  and head down the hallway.  When I hit the living room I see George, and Cody both on one knee.  George his holding a ring, and Cody has some roses.  I could tell George was trying to find the right words but he didn't have to...Cody jumped right in, with his little squeaky 11 year old voice and says, "Dad and I were wondering if you would marry us, well I mean you only have to marry him but would you be my mom too"?  I was bawling and George was laughing by this time, he said, "Yea...what he said".  Then he said.  "When my dad called, it was so I could come pick up my moms wedding ring.  She wanted me to have it and he wanted me to have it to give to you.  She was the woman I adored, loved and respected most on this earth.  She was beautiful and loving.  There is only one other woman I know to measure up to that, and it is you.  I would be honored if you would by my wife, and wear my mothers rings".  I didn't even say Yes.  I said,  YOUR DAD DOESN'T HATE ME????  Then I said yes.  What proceeded was a whole lot of, OMG, OMG, OMG and Cody getting on the phone with um....people he probably shouldn't have, to tell them the news.

So that is it.  Somewhere in the world there is a disposable camera of photos from that night.  Cody had talked his dad into buying him one so he could take pictures.

These 2 men have brought me such joy, such happiness, ups, and plenty of downs lots of a drama and more fun and love than I knew ever existed in one family.

I would say OMG OMG OMG a million times over again.

Here is the best WASN'T an April Fool's Joke, he really meant it!!

AND, the ring looks JUST like my moms!!

Hoping you are all having a wonderful weekend!