Bowl Meal

Bowls seem to be the trendy thing right now – your whole meal in one dish, think of the time savings – you should read my sarcasm in that statement. Silly me.

As I was doing my meal planning this weekend, I scrolled across a recipe in Epicurious, I saw the picture and I was hooked. Then I read the ingredients and the amount of work and I was sold.

It’s August in Michigan, everything is in season, but most importantly CORN. Michigan corn is the best, I might be biased. If you live in another part of the country, I will say buy local corn if you can, it is less starchy and far more delicious. I bought mine today at 5:45, we had dinner at 8:15 when my son finished mowing the lawn.

The ingredients for both the bowl and the sauce are simple:

I don’t normally use quick barley, but I had it, and I wanted to see if it was any good for my college kid. He wants to cook, but needs easy meals that you can cook in a closet sized kitchen. I used skirt steak, flank would also work…you can see my preference. I trimmed it thoroughly before grilling; I also let mine sit at room temperature for an hour, steaks simply grill better when they are at room temperature.

I modified the bowl recipe a bit (way too much oil and barley, needs more cheese); otherwise the recipes are good as is. They were a huge hit tonight for dinner.

Grain Bowls with Grilled Corn, Steak, and Avocado

Beef and Lamb, College Option, Entrées, Grilling, Tested and Approved!

Prep Time: 30 minutes Cook Time: 1 hour Servings: Yield 4 servings

INGREDIENTS

lb. skirt or flank steak

tsp. kosher salt, divided, plus more

1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper, plus more

4 ears of corn, shucked

1 cups cooked barley

4 oz. crumbled feta

4 scallions, thinly sliced

cup extra-virgin olive oil

2 Tbsp. fresh lime juice

1 avocado, peeled, thinly sliced

Creamy Jalapeño Sauce (for serving)

DIRECTIONS

Season steak with 1 tsp. salt and 1 tsp. pepper. Let sit at room temperature 30-60 minutes.

Prepare a grill for high heat or heat grill pan over high. Grill steak and corn, turning occasionally. Steak should be grilled until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center of steak registers 120-125°F for medium-rare (~3-4 minutes per side for skirt; 4-5 minutes per side for flank). Transfer to a cutting board and let rest at least 10 minutes or until cool. Meanwhile, grill corn until charred on all sides, about 10 minutes. Transfer to cutting board and let cool.

Slice corn off cobs into a large bowl. Add grains, feta, scallions, oil, lime juice, and 1/2 tsp. salt and stir to combine. Divide corn mixture among bowls.

Thinly slice steak against the grain. Top bowls with steak and avocado. Drizzle jalapeño sauce over; season with salt and pepper.

NOTES

Can be served warm or at room temperature.

Do Ahead: Steak and corn can be grilled 3 days ahead. Transfer to separate airtight containers and chill; allow to come to room temperature prior to serving.

If you don’t have access to fresh corn, frozen corn can be substituted, char it in a medium skillet over high heat in a neutral oil for 3-5 minutes until well charred.

Creamy Jalapeño Sauce

College Option, Sauces and Marinades, Tested and Approved!

Prep Time: 15 minutes Cook Time: 15 minutes Servings: About 1 1/4 cups

INGREDIENTS

5 jalapeños, stemmed, seeded, coarsely chopped

4 garlic cloves, peeled

5 tablespoons fresh lime juice

1 teaspoon kosher salt

½ cup neutral vegetable oil (such as grapeseed or canola)

¾ cup (packed) fresh cilantro leaves with tender stems

DIRECTIONS

Pulse jalapeños, garlic, lime juice, and salt in a blender or food processor until puréed. With motor running, slowly drizzle in oil until a thick sauce forms. Add cilantro and pulse a few times until chopped and incorporated. Taste and add more jalapeño, if necessary.

Do Ahead

Sauce can be made up to 3 days in advance and refrigerated.

NOTES

Sauce will be thin.

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Instant Pot

I got an Instant Pot for Christmas; to be honest I didn’t even know it was a thing much less a full movement in cooking. I had been talking about getting out the pressure cooker I store in the basement (I’m fairly certain it’s older than me) to figure out how it works so my husband suggested to my MIL that it would make a good gift.

The first week I just looked at it in the box, uncertain, it simply wasn’t a tool I knew how to incorporate in my cooking. I’m still not fully sure, but I’ve done a bit of reading, joined a couple of facebook groups, and eventually started trying.

I began with Detroit Free Press’ Susan Selasky’s recommendation for Beef Barbacoa. I followed it exactly and was very pleased that it came out well.

I neglected to mark it as a tested recipe and thought that this would be a week to try it. It was so good, that today I came directly here to my blog to write it up and post it and found this half completed post.

If you are looking at your instant pot and debating what to do, this is the reason to use it. The meat used is a chuck roast, not an expensive meat, it takes a lot of work to get it tender. It is one of the meats that I like to use for crock pot recipes since they cook long enough to make it tender. The instant pot reaches this accomplishment with much less work and time and an equally amazing result.

Today I served it with a homemade salsa using tomatoes from my mini-garden, even my husband and eldest who are anti-fresh tomatoes enjoyed it thoroughly. Both recipes are originally from Epicurious.com, one of my favorite sources.

Grilled and Fresh Tomato Salsa

Appetizers, Sauces and Marinades, Tested and Approved!

Prep Time: 20 minutes Cook Time: 20 minutes Servings: About 3 cups Source: epicurious.com

INGREDIENTS

4 medium tomatoes (about 3 ounces), divided

Olive oil (for brushing)

1 large white onion, cut into 1/4″ rounds

1 jalapeño, seeded if desired, finely chopped

1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt

DIRECTIONS

Prepare a grill or grill pan for medium-high heat. Slice 2 tomatoes in half and brush each half with oil. Brush onion with oil. Transfer onions and tomatoes halves to hot grill and cook, turning occasionally, until slightly charred and softened, about 10 minutes. Let cool slightly.

Remove seeds from remaining 2 tomatoes and cut into 1/4″ cubes. Transfer to a medium bowl. Add jalapeño and salt and toss to combine. Finely chop cooled onions and tomatoes, then add to raw tomato mixture and toss to combine.

Do Ahead

Salsa can be made 1 day ahead. Transfer to an airtight container and chill.

Beef Barbacoa Tacos

Beef and Lamb, Entrées, Instant Pot, Mexican, Tested and Approved!

Prep Time: 10 minutes Cook Time: 1 hour Servings: Yield 6 servings Source: epicurious.com

INGREDIENTS

1/4 cup apple cider vinegar

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 chipotle chile in adobo, minced

2 teaspoons ground cumin

2 teaspoons dried oregano

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

2 1/2 pounds boneless beef chuck roast, trimmed of most fat and cut into large chunks

1/2 cup reduced-salt chicken broth or All-Purpose Chicken Stock

2 bay leaves

Small (6-inch) corn tortillas, for serving

Salsa or pico de gallo, for serving

Cotija cheese, for serving

DIRECTIONS

Whisk together the vinegar, lime juice, garlic, chipotle, cumin, oregano, salt, pepper, and cloves in a medium bowl. Set aside.

Press Sauté and use the Sauté or Adjust button to select the highest temperature. Place the vegetable oil in the inner pot. Wait until the display reads “Hot,” about 5 minutes, then add the beef. Cook with the lid off, turning the beef every 2 minutes, until the beef is browned on most sides, about 8 minutes.

Add the vinegar sauce and the chicken broth, and then the bay leaves. Stir to combine.

Close and lock the lid. Set the valve to Sealing. Press Cancel, then press Manual or Pressure Cook and use the Pressure or Pressure Level button to select High Pressure. Use the – or + button to set the time to 30 minutes.

When the cooking cycle ends, press Cancel. Allow the appliance to cool and release pressure naturally, about 20 minutes.

Remove the lid. Discard the bay leaves. Use tongs or a large spoon to remove the beef from the inner pot and place it on a cutting board. Shred the beef using two forks: Use one fork to pull off a chunk and then use two forks to shred that piece, holding down the meat with one fork and pulling at it with the other. Repeat with the remaining beef.

Serve the beef hot, piled into corn tortillas and topped with salsa and a sprinkling of Cotija cheese, if desired.

NOTES

Beef Barbacoa and its juices will keep, in an airtight container in the refrigerator, for up to 4 days. To reheat, preheat the oven to 350°F and place the beef in a shallow baking dish with enough of the juices to reach a depth of about 1/4 inch. Cover the baking dish tightly with aluminum foil and bake until hot, about 15 minutes.

Linguine with Clam Sauce

It’s summer and the eldest will be headed back to college soon, with a new challenge: apartment living. Both of these are pushing me towards a simple food portfolio. For a recent Sunday dinner I elected to make an antipasto salad and linguine with clam sauce.

An antipasto salad is really simple and incredibly delicious, it can be served as a salad course or on its own. I found this recipe and modified it just a touch to make it perfect, the original recipe was a bit onion and pepper heavy, this allows you to taste all of the independent flavors. The “lettuce” of the salad is the basil, so the trick is to be gentle with the leaves when washing them so as not to bruise them.

Antipasto Salad

Italian, Salads, Tested and Approved!

Servings: 4 servings Source: bonappetit.com

INGREDIENTS

1 garlic clove, minced

cup extra-virgin olive oil

¼ cup red wine vinegar

½ tsp. crushed dried oregano

Pinch of crushed red pepper flakes

1-2 Cubanelle or Shepherd peppers, thinly sliced into rounds

½ small red onion, thinly sliced, rinsed

1 can (14 oz.) artichoke hearts, drained, patted dry, halved

8 oz. ball fresh mozzarella, torn into pieces

¼-⅓ salami, preferably fennel, thinly sliced

Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper

1 lemon

2 cups basil leaves

DIRECTIONS

Mix garlic, oil, vinegar, oregano, and red pepper flakes in a large bowl. Add sweet peppers, onion, artichokes, mozzarella, and salami and toss to coat; season with salt and black pepper. Let sit, tossing occasionally, at least 15 minutes.

Zest half of lemon over salad and add basil; toss to combine. Season with more salt and black pepper if needed.

Do Ahead: Salad (without lemon zest and basil) can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and chill.

Linguine with Clam Sauce is a little more complicated, but there are some tricks to make it simpler. The biggest time saver is frozen clam meat: no scrubbing and they are typically precooked. With the eldest’s fish allergy, I skip the anchovies, but enjoy them if you can. With any pasta dish, the most important ingredient is the pasta, select a good pasta, Italian if available, and for a simple sauce like a clam, a rustic (rough) pasta that the sauce will stick to is best.

Linguine and Clams

Entrées, Italian, Pastas, Shellfish, Tested and Approved!

Servings: 4 servings Source: bonappetit.com

INGREDIENTS

1 tablespoon kosher salt, plus more

10 cups water

12 garlic cloves, divided

4 ounces sourdough or country-style bread, crusts removed, cut into ½-inch pieces

2 tablespoons plus ¼ cup olive oil, plus more for serving

2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest

2 oil-packed anchovy fillets (optional)

½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, plus more for serving

cup dry white wine

2 pounds littleneck clams (about 24) or cockles (about 32), scrubbed*

12 ounces linguine or spaghetti

½ cup finely chopped parsley

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

DIRECTIONS

Bring salt and water to a boil in a large pot.

Meanwhile, pulse 3 garlic cloves in a food processor until chopped. Add bread and pulse several times until fine crumbs form.

Heat 2 Tbsp. oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high. Add breadcrumb mixture and cook, stirring often, until crumbs are golden and crisp, 5-7 minutes. Transfer to a medium bowl. Add lemon zest, season with salt, and toss to combine; set aside.

Wipe out Dutch oven. Using a mandoline if you have one (if not, use a really sharp knife), very thinly slice remaining 9 garlic cloves. Heat ¼ cup oil in Dutch oven over medium. Cook garlic, stirring often, until golden around the edges, about 3 minutes. Add anchovies, if using, and ½ tsp. red pepper flakes and cook, stirring, until garlic is golden all over and anchovies are dissolved. Quickly stir in wine and simmer until only a couple of tablespoons of liquid are left in pot.

Add clams and toss to combine. (If using clam meat, add and proceed to next step.) Cover and cook until clams are open, 5-7 minutes (about 4 minutes for cockles). Uncover pot and transfer clams to a medium bowl, leaving liquid in pot. If any clams are still closed, cover pot again and cook a few minutes longer, then transfer to bowl with others (discard any that have not opened at this point). Tent clams with foil.

Cook pasta in boiling water 5 minutes. Using a ladle or heatproof measuring cup, scoop out about 2 cups pasta cooking liquid. Using tongs, transfer pasta to pot with clam liquid. Add 1 cup pasta cooking liquid and bring to a boil. Cook, tossing constantly and adding more pasta cooking liquid a splash at a time if needed, until pasta is al dente and sauce is glossy and thick enough to cling to noodles, about 5 minutes.

Remove from heat. Add parsley and butter and toss until butter is melted. Sprinkle about one-third of breadcrumbs over pasta and toss to combine (you can add more or less depending on how much liquid is in bottom of pot-you want them to absorb some of the sauce but not make it dry). Give pasta a taste; you probably won’t need additional salt, but you can add some if you’d like. Divide pasta among shallow bowls and top with reserved clams, more breadcrumbs, red pepper flakes, and a drizzle of oil.

NOTES

*Fresh clams can be replaced with frozen meat: ¼ lb. frozen meat/ 1 lb. fresh clams

Chorizo and Shrimp Burgers

I started my planning for this meal yesterday while making my grocery list, I didn’t have a recipe for is simply the concept above listed as the title. Because my youngest says that everything is better with bacon, and that I have to have extra beyond what the recipe calls for just for him, I am starting with 12 slices of thick-cut hickory-smoked bacon.

And, typical for me, I am baked them at 400°F. I don’t preheat the oven, I simply put the tray in the cold oven and turn it on.
While they were cooking, I cleaned the shrimp.

      

I placed these in a bowl where I chopped them with my Pampered Chef Mix ‘n Chop.

  

Then I added in the chorizo and some basil from my garden which I chopped; I also set aside some basil to use as lettuce.

 

I mixed these together with a bit of salt and pepper.

 

After that, I took the bacon out of the oven.

I decided to make very thin burgers, with the intent of double stacking them. I placed each on a sheet of foil brushed with olive oil.

I also added some parsley to my basil “lettuce” and thinly sliced a red onion as condiments to go with my guacamole.

Then I shucked my fresh Michigan corn and waited for everyone to be hungry.

  

With the weather not cooperating, I elected to grill inside.

Knowing that the chorizo has a tendency to stick, I left the burgers on the foil to cook.

      

The burgers took ~2 minutes per side and the corn was done in 5.

 

Yum!!!!!

Dining at Disney – The California Grill

My up front disclaimer: this is my favorite restaurant on property. In my opinion worth every single penny.

As usual we started with drinks, a very dry, slightly dirty vodka martini for me and a vodka gimlet for my husband while the boys dug into the lavender focchia bread with butter and Hawaiian sea salt.

  
  

And then we ordered the wine, which was just waiting to be paired with food.


As I sit here and look out at Cinderella’s castle I am content reflecting on our dinners. My husband and eldest had the win with the filet on black truffle risotto and a side of French green beans. The steaks were a perfect medium rare and the truffle risotto was simply divine.


My youngest selected the sushi for his meal; thankfully this way I could steal a taste in trade for bites of my own dinner. He had the lobster and spicy Kazan rolls (these are a great appetizer, as are the beet salad and flatbreads). The menu changes regularly but there are certain consistencies that I have recognized over the past 21 years. 


I had the cioppino, also amazing but messy since everything is in its shell. 


Please enjoy, it’s amazing. Also, note that you need to dress for the occasion; this is not a casual restaurant.

Disney Dining – Homecomin’

Day two we elected to try one of the many new restaurants in Disney Springs, Homecomin’. The house specialties are moonshine and fried chicken. 

We decided to start with drinks and fried green tomatoes. The drinks arrived quickly, I had a Muleshine in respect of the specialty and my husband opted for the Basil Smash. Both were good drinks, but slightly sweet.

  
The fried green tomatoes were simply awesome with a salad of spinach, watercress, and arugula.

My husband and I split the hangar steak cooked medium rare with a side of Southern coke slaw. The steak was cooked perfectly and they split the plate for us (just nice). Good call by the chef, the menu said asparagus and there was none on the plate; it’s out of season and would not have been as good as the tender zucchini. The slaw was crisp and fresh, but with it being Southern slaw, I was expecting a hint if jalapeño; definitely good, but no heat at all.

  

My boys had two different fried chicken meals, the famous fried chicken and fried chicken with doughnuts. The seasoning was good, the skin was amazing, but the chicken itself was a touch on the dry side. The mashed potatoes were creamy and buttery. My son said that the doughnuts tasted as if they were fresh from the apple orchard. (If you are not from Michigan, that is high praise.)

  
So, in summary, it was a good option for our late lunch/early dinner, the ingredients were clearly fresh and high quality. It won’t make my list of favorites, but it’s certainly an alternative for classic Southern food at Disney.

Dining at Disney – Flying Fish

There are many opinions about the food at Disney. It is always difficult to determine the quality of the review in absence of knowing the style of the reviewer. Since you have all (hopefully) enjoyed my recipes, I hope that you have a distinct understanding of my tastes.

When we go out to eat, I prefer it to be either outside of my realm of expertise or take an investment of time not always available to me as a working mom.

We tried Flying Fish years ago before the recent renovation. The renovation was completely worth it. The overwhelming smell of fish is gone, the ceiling is higher making the whole restaurant peaceful (quiet), and the bar is beautiful.

  
We started with a cucumber martini with harshly muddled cucumber and Hendricks gin. Definitely good if you are a fan of either cucumber or gin. I will be abusing my cucumber more when I make my Hendricks and tonic at home.

The semolina bread with nori (seaweed) baked in served with a house made créme fraiche butter sprinkled with sea salt was earthy and really good .

  

We ordered the wine before the lobster bisque arrived. A Pinot noir was recommended to go with both our octopus/sea bass/shrimp and salmon.

  

The lobster bisque must have taken hours to make, the color could only come from using the lobster shells to make the stock. It was perfect and I now have a request from my husband to perfect lobster bisque.

My husband and eldest selected the same meal with one key variation. My eldest is allergic to fish and they replaced the sea bass with 2 jumbo prawn. The octopus was the star; it was cooked perfectly with the prawn as a close second. My husband claims it was the risotto. I'm going to disagree, I tasted the grilled tentacle and it was perfection; another skill I have yet to master. (This has been on my list for awhile to master.)

   
My youngest and I each selected the salmon. (If you must choose, select the octopus; although our waiter Chris says the lobster pasta is the best item on the menu.) The salmon, cooked medium as recommended by the chef, was cooked perfectly. It was completed by the grits, that simply added a creaminess to the dish. The carmelized onions and grilled avocado were a treat with the salmon.


If you haven't tried it or if it has been awhile, please check out the Flying Fish if it is in your budget, it was appropriately priced for a top tier Disney restaurant. It clearly ranks with California Grill and Citricos.

Corn Carbonara

Corn isn’t yet in season here in Michigan, but we are beginning to get in good corn from Florida. If you can get good corn this is an awesome spin on a traditional Italian dish that highlights the sweetness of fresh corn. 

Before I start on my activities, I wanted to share a few tips for ensuring that the corn you eat is the best possible. First and foremost, never peek or shuck the corn at your store or market, the minute you peel back the corn husk you will show your naïveté. It will start to get starchy and dry immediately, it is perfectly protected in it’s husk until just before you are ready to cook it. At farmer’s markets they watch for people who do this, and have to throw away those ruined ears. Instead, here are some tips to pick the best corn, without looking. And if you’re still worried, buy an extra ear, they aren’t that expensive. 

  1.  Look for tiny holes in the husk, especially brown and towards the top. Those are wormholes, and, naturally, worms are best avoided.
  2. Feel the kernels through the husk; they should be plump and plentiful. If you can feel gaps in the rows where kernels should be, then choose another.
  3. Look at the silk on the top of the ear, if it’s dry or black, then it’s an old ear of corn.
  4. Check out the color of the husk. If it’s a bright green and tightly wrapped against the cob, then the corn is fresh. (In some cases, it will even feel slightly damp. 

Also, after you shuck it, if you do find a small soft spot, you can remove it with a sharp knife, you do not have to throw the whole ear away, as you can see with one of the ears I used.
     

It was rather warm when I made this, but not quite enough for the air conditioning to be on, so I decided to do all my prep first and then cook everything outside on the grill so as not to make the kitchen unbearable. 

The first task (after shucking the corn) was to cut it off the cobs and divide it into two equal portions, the half in the blender container will be used for the sauce. 

  

The next task is to use the back of your knife (carefully) to extract the corn milk for the sauce. After you cut the corn, there is still a part of each kernel stuck in the cob, that along with any liquid from those kernels is what you are scraping out. I took a picture of before and after side by side so that you can see the objective. This gets added to the kernels in the blender.

      

Then I chopped my bacon. I always am a bit heavy handed with the bacon, since my youngest assures me that everything is better with bacon. 

  

I also minced my garlic and finished adding the ingredients for the sauce and blended it up. N

    

While I took care of this, I had started my water inside (the side burner is strong enough to maintain, but not to bring the water to a boil) and preheated the grill with the cast iron pan. So, as soon as I was done with the prep I started the bacon and the pasta.

When the bacon was close to crispy, I also started some chicken apple sausages.

When I set aside the bacon, I added my garlic to the pan, soon followed by the kernels of corn and cayenne pepper.

    

At this point it all comes together rather quickly, drain the pasta and put it into a large bowl with ½ of your cooked kernels, ½ of the bacon, ½ of the basil, the Parmesan, and all of the sauce.

    

Once you thoroughly toss this together, the rest of the toppings go on the top and you serve with additional Parmesan. 

Simply awesome. Served with a simple Greek salad and fresh bread. 

  

Fresh Corn Carbonara

Makes 4 Servings ∙ Source Bon Appétit | August 2015
INGREDIENTS

  • 12 ounces spaghetti or linguine
  • Kosher salt
  • 6 slices thick-cut bacon (about 6 ounces), cut into 1/4″ strips
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 4 ears of corn, kernels cut off (about 3 cups), cobs reserved
  • ¼ tsp. cayenne pepper
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • ½ cup grated Parmesan (about 2 ounces), plus more to serve
  • ½ cup fresh basil leaves, coarsely chopped, divided

DIRECTIONS

Fry bacon in a large skillet over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until crisp. Using a slotted spoon, transfer bacon to paper towels to drain. Remove excess grease from skillet; keep 2-3 Tbsp. Add garlic to the skillet sauté briefly then add corn kernels and stir in cayenne, cook until some are blackened and all warmed through, ~5 minutes.

Cook spaghetti in a large pot of boiling salted water, stirring occasionally, until al dente; drain.

While pasta is cooking, scrape excess corn milk from cobs into a blender or food processor by firmly running the back of a chef’s knife down the sides. Add cream, half of the corn kernels, ¼ tsp. salt, and ¼ tsp. pepper. Purée until a smooth sauce forms.

Toss hot pasta with corn sauce, ½ cup Parmesan, and half each of the remaining corn kernels, bacon, and basil in a large bowl.

Divide pasta among bowls and top with remaining corn kernels, bacon, and basil. Season with pepper and top with Parmesan

Chili-Lime Clams

Following the grad party, we capped off the craziness with one additional big event, my younger son earned his black belt. These two boys simply make me proud. 

I can no longer count how many grad parties I have attended this year, but we are now in the second week of what I will call “normal” for this summer and I am loving it. The pace is relaxed and I am enjoying being outside and cooking outside. 

Last Sunday was a typical Sunday dinner for us with my boys and in-laws. I had been eying up a new Bon Appétit recipe and was excited to try it. I made a couple of modifications and scaled it up for my usual group, but for the most part made it as it was described. I accompanied the meal with a spinach Greek salad, grilled corn on the cob, and spaghetti aglio et olio (garlic and oil). 

There wasn’t a lot to do in advance, so I started with the prep inside, chopping the shallots and garlic, scrubbing the clams, and rinsing the tomatoes and beans. If you haven’t cooked with clams before, “scrubbing” them is exactly what it sounds like, under very cold water, scrub the shells with a brush to remove all of grit so that it doesn’t end up in your meal.

              
Outside, I began to heat my grill and inside I boiled water and set up my skillet for the final pasta. I have a huge cast iron skillet that I put on the grill along with the corn. Once the pan was hot, I put the butter then shallots and garlic, quickly followed by the tomato paste. Grilling corn requires no advance work, the only trick is a couple of towels (that you don’t mind getting dirty) at the end to shuck them. They will be very hot, but the shucks and silk come off very easily. 

          
I added the tomatoes and chickpeas together to make sure that the beans were tender and that the tomatoes had enough time to fall apart (in the future I would cut the tomatoes in half to speed up the process. After they cooked for a bit, I stirred in the sambal oelek, and let it boil a bit longer. 

  

After adding the clams, I used foil to cover the skillet and drizzled the bread with oil.

    

I used most of the clam cooking time to shuck the corn and with a few minutes left added the bread to the grill. 

  

After they were done, I did a quick chop on some fresh basil and tossed the pasta with sautéed garlic, salt, pepper, Parmesan, and the basil while my husband tossed the salad. 

  

Dinner is served.


Chile-Lime Clams with Tomatoes and Grilled Bread

Entrées, Grilling, Shellfish, Summer, Tested and Approved!
Makes 4 servings ∙ Source Bonappetit.com

INGREDIENTS

  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces, divided
  • 2 large shallots, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 cup beer
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 15.5-ounce can chickpeas, rinsed
  • 2 tablespoons (or more) sambal oelek
  • 24 littleneck clams, scrubbed
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
  • 4 thick slices country-style bread
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Kosher salt
  • ½ cup cilantro leaves with tender stems
  • Lime wedges (for serving)

DIRECTIONS

Prepare a grill for medium heat, placing a large cast-iron skillet on the grill to heat with it.

Once hot, melt 4 Tbsp. butter in skillet. Add shallots and garlic and cook, stirring often, until soft, about 4 minutes. Add tomato paste and cook, stirring often, until paste darkens to a rich brick-red color, about 1 minute. Add beer, tomatoes, and chickpeas. Bring to a boil and cook until beer is reduced nearly by half and no longer smells boozy, about 4 minutes. Stir in sambal oelek, cook for an additional 4-5 minutes then add clams. Cover (if you don’t have a lid that fits, use a sheet of foil) and cook, stirring occasionally, until clams have fully opened; this could take from 5–15 minutes depending on size of clams and the heat level.

While the clams are cooking on the grill, drizzle bread with oil and season lightly with salt. Grill until golden brown and crisp, about 2 minutes per side.

Remove from heat; discard any clams that don’t open. Stir in lime juice and remaining 2 Tbsp. butter.

Transfer toast to plates and spoon clam mixture over; top with cilantro. Serve with lime wedges for squeezing over.

Grad Party – Success

It took a lot of work and our parents were amazing, it was a lot of fun and a great success. Our graduate is incredibly appreciative of both the party and the generosity of our guests. 

The cooking went as expected without a hitch and I had plenty of food. I would probably make a recommendation for those considering ribs for a large party to think about the type of ribs they have when calculating how many to make. All of my reading lead me to account for 3 ribs per person when serving other proteins. A typical baby back rib weighs 1½-2½ lbs., the ones I had were 3½-4½ lbs, I would have come closer to what I needed if I had done my calculation with the thought of 2½ ribs per person. 

On the day of the party, I started by getting the ribs and mac and cheese out so that they could come to room temperature for more even cooking. Everyone in the house chipped in; this included both boys, my mom, and my in-laws. Once everything was set, excluding the food, I sent my team on missions, boys to get the fried chicken, moms to get the cake, and men to get the beer. 

    
I set about to cooking and put the mac and cheese in the oven and started on the ribs. 

  

I took each pan of ribs out to my grill, and brushed one side with my glaze, and once they were on the grill I glazed the other side. 

  
I moved them through from one side of the grill to the other and ultimately transferred them to a cutting rack for my dad to cut them into single and double ribs and put them in the trays covered with foil to stay warm. 


Just before the party we set everything out and started the slide show. 


The recipes are as follows and can obviously be scaled as needed. I hope that you enjoy! Please ask questions if you have any regarding the recipes.

Thank you to everyone who helped!

Cole Slaw

Salads, Summer, Tested and Approved!

Makes Serves 10-12 ∙ Difficulty Easy

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 head cabbage
  • 2 Tbsp sugar
  • 4 Tbsp white wine vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 4 Tbsp canola oil
  • salt and pepper

DIRECTIONS
Shred cabbage. Mix remaining ingredients and pour over cabbage. Salt and pepper.

NOTES
Add red cabbage and carrots, or use other vinegars for altering flavors and adding color.
Sticky Balsamic Ribs

Entrées, Grilling, Pork

Makes Makes 8 Servings ∙ Difficulty Medium ∙ Source Gourmet | July 2009

INGREDIENTS
For ribs:

  • 8 cloves garlic
  • 2 Tbsp rosemary, finely chopped
  • 2 Tbsp dark brown sugar, packed
  • 2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tsp cayenne
  • 8-12 pounds baby back pork ribs, (8 racks; see cooks’ note below)
  • 1 cup water

For glaze:

  • 2 cups hot water
  • 1 cup balsamic vinegar
  • ½ cup dark brown sugar, packed

DIRECTIONS
Marinate and roast ribs:

Mince and mash garlic to a paste with 1 teaspoon salt. Stir together with rosemary, brown sugar, vinegar, cayenne, 1 tablespoon salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper. Rub evenly all over ribs and transfer to roasting pans. Marinate, chilled, 8 to 24 hours.

Preheat oven to 425°F with racks in upper and lower thirds.

Pour 1/2 cup water into each roasting pan and tightly cover pans with foil. Roast ribs, switching position of pans halfway through, until meat is very tender, about 1 3/4 hours. Remove pans from oven and transfer ribs to a platter.

Make glaze and grill ribs:

Add 1 cup hot water to each roasting pan and scrape up brown bits. Skim off and discard fat, then transfer liquid to a 10-inch skillet. Add vinegar and brown sugar and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Boil until reduced to about 1 cup, about 15 minutes.

Prepare grill for direct-heat cooking over medium-hot charcoal (medium heat for gas).

Brush some of glaze onto both sides of racks of ribs. Grill, turning occasionally, until ribs are hot and grill marks appear, about 6 minutes.

NOTES
If you can only get larger ribs (4 racks), you will need more glaze; use 12 large garlic cloves, 3 tablespoons finely chopped rosemary, 3 tablespoons packed dark brown sugar, 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar, 1 1/2 teaspoons cayenne, 1 1/2 tablespoons salt, and 1 1/2 teaspoons pepper.

Ribs can be roasted and glaze can be made ahead and chilled separately (covered once cool). Bring to room temperature, about 30 minutes, before glazing and grilling. 
Sally’s Mac & Cheese

Entrées, Pastas, Tested and Approved!

Cook 30-40 minutes ∙ Makes 8-10 servings ∙ Difficulty Easy ∙ Source Aunt Sally

INGREDIENTS

  • 2-3 eggs beaten, large
  • 24 ounces cottage cheese
  • 16 ounces sour cream
  • 4 cups cheddar, shredded
  • 4 cups macaroni, cook as directed in salted water
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

DIRECTIONS

Mix the ingredients in order and salt and pepper to taste. Optionally, top with panko or crushed saltines.

Bake at 350 for 30-40 minutes.

NOTES

Can be mixed in an oven proof bowl and baked directly or for more crispness on the top, bake in a 9 x 13 pan. Also scales well for large groups.

I have played with this recipe successfully including substituting Picolini for the elbows, dropping the cottage cheese down to 16 oz. and replacing with feta, and replacing half the cheddar with other cheeses such as smoked Gouda.

To make this as Bacon Mac & Cheese, use 3 eggs, and reduce cheddar to ~1 cup, and add 1 block of shredded sharp white cheddar, 1 block of shredded Boar’s Head 3-pepper co-jack, and ~1 pound chopped cooked bacon.
Sweet Rolls

Breads, Tested and Approved!

Difficulty Hard ∙ Source Grandma

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 cups milk, lukewarm (less amount of water used to dissolve yeast)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 2 envelopes yeast
  • 2 eggs, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup butter, soft
  • 7 – 7 1/2 cups flour

Icing

  • butter, soft
  • powdered sugar
  • vanilla
  • cream or half and half

DIRECTIONS

Dissolve yeast in a small amount of warm water. Mix milk, sugar, and salt in a small saucepan and heat to ~105℉. When the milk is warm pour into a large bowl and mix in the yeast. Stir in the eggs and butter. 

Start mixing in the flour, stirring until thick and then kneading until soft and elastic. 

Allow to rise for 2 hours (until doubled) then punch down. Butter pans (allowing dough to rest) then make the rolls. Allow to rise until light. 

Bake at 400℉ for 15 minutes.

NOTES

Use light colored metal pans to bake the rolls, dark and glass pans can tend to over bake the bottom.

Honey Whole Wheat Bread

Breads, Tested and Approved!

Prep 2-2½ hours ∙ Cook 30 minutes ∙ Makes 3 loaves ∙ Difficulty Medium ∙ Source Mom

INGREDIENTS

  • 3 cups whole wheat flour
  • 2 envelopes yeast
  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 2 Tbsp oil
  • 1 Tbsp salt
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 5 – 5 1/2 cups flour

DIRECTIONS

In a large bowl, combine the whole wheat flour, salt, and yeast. 

In a pan, heat water, milk, honey, and oil until warm. Pour liquid over flour mixture and mix for two minutes with a mixer. 

Add white flour until smooth and elastic; knead for 5 minutes. Raise for 60-90 minutes (until doubled). Punch down and shape into loaves. 

Let raise for 45-60 minutes. Bake 30 minutes at 400℉.