Cooking · Dining · Food

Guilty Pleasure: Vinnie’s Vittles

I have to admit, I miss Vinnie’s Vittles on YouTube. That is not to say the channel is not still there, along with all those great recipes. Sadly, due to a lot of things, mostly time related to the growth of Maymay Made It, Vinnie (Maymay’s trusty sidekick) decided to stop making videos for his channel.

Thankfully, we can all go back to earlier postings to see what delights he brought to the table. And there are lots of them!

Vinnie loves to cook and loves to find easy, flavorful recipes that don’t take a lot of time or ingredients but give great flavor.

Head over to YouTube and type ‘Vinnie’s Vittles’ in the search box to go to his channel. Browse the recipes and dive in. There are lots to enjoy!

Cooking · Food

Authenticity and the Rules in the Kitchen

When to use them, when to toss them

I recently came across a discussion about authenticity of a dish, or more precisely, the lack of authenticity of a dish that caught my attention. The person relating the incident was the cook, who was presenting her version of a dish her family had innumerable times as she was growing up. The commenter told her that the dish was not ‘authentic’ based on what was the ideal from the home country.

The response to the commenter made my day: “It is authentic to the way I grew up eating it and adjusted it for my preferences now.”.

This made me consider how many cooks seem to be stuck with the idea that a recipe – any recipe – is written in stone and can not be altered for any reason. They literally put themselves into straitjackets to avoid any kind of adjustment be it necessity or creatively.

If you have ever perused a recipe website or any number of cookbooks, you will note that there are hundreds of varieties of the very same dish, each with its’ own variations. This is due to the fact that it has evolved over the years based on any number of reasons.

To be fair, there are certain, shall we call them rules, that cooks need to be aware of, if only to avoid unnecessary problems, but by being aware of those ‘rules’, they have the leeway to springboard from them to create something different.

A recent Glen and Friends video is a perfect example of what I would call springboarding. Check it out:

I love both of these recipes! My version would replace the hot pepper with a bell pepper. I love the gnocchi recipe, too. It is something my father would think of as cornmeal mush (something he would avoid) but I find an interesting and much easier method to produce a flavorful base for the stew.

Food is fluid in so many ways. Recipes change based on location, availability, tastes. When you step out of the straitjacket and begin to experiment in the kitchen, the results can be amazing.

Cooking · Dining · Food · Recipe of the Month

Cold Weather Comfort Food: Pasta Bake

When the weather is cold and dreary one of the best ways to keep warm is a good pasta bake.

I’m thinking of one where you pull out what you need from the pantry and dive in. You can change up the types of cheese, seasonings, and even the bread crumbs.

Served with a green salad and some crusty garlic bread, this is a meal to indulge in. Enjoy!

Pasta Bake

Perfect for cold winter days.
Course Main Course
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Servings 8

Equipment

  • 13 x 9 baking dish
  • Large pot

Ingredients

  • 1 pound pasta
  • 28 ounce jar of Alfredo sauce
  • 28 ounce jar pasta sauce
  • 1 cup cottage cheese
  • 2 cups shredded cheese
  • 1/2 cup bread crumbs
  • garlic powder To taste
  • onion powder to taste

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray the baking dish with non-stick spray and set aside.
  • Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain.
  • Once the pasta pot is empty, combine everything except the bread crumbs. Pour into the baking dish and top with the bread crumbs.
  • Bake for 25 – 30 minutes, or until the top is golden brown and the cheese is melted
  • Let rest for 15 minutes.
Cooking · Food · Meal Building Blocks

My Magic Pantry

I had a bit of a surprise recently when I started to pull together my grocery list. I had more in my pantry than I thought and, as a result, my grocery list was considerably smaller (i.e. cheaper) than I had anticipated.

Yes, I refer to my pantry as ‘The Magic Pantry’ because of the magic that I can create from the contents. I keep a variety of pastas, proteins, and vegetables, in addition to rice on hand. As a result I’m not locked into a specified meal plan, I can pick and choose what appeals to me because I’ve stocked the things that I need to make the meals I enjoy.

It really is magic!

To be clear, I’ve tried a variety of meal planning ideas and tools but I don’t care for limitations. As much as I enjoy leftovers, there are times when I really want chicken and rice. Or a nice pasta with a simple sauce. Having a well stocked pantry allows me to create a meal that appeals to me rather than something I have on the day’s menu.

How did I get here? I often add an extra something to my grocery shop. An extra jar of my favorite pasta sauce (Rao’s) along with an extra carton of pasta. I make sure to have a variety of cheeses in the fridge (you never know when you want macaroni and cheese). I have a particular fondness for canned green beans, so I make sure to pick up an extra can every once in a while.

I don’t do all of that at every shopping trip, though. That could potentially blow the budget. When I prepare my grocery list, I look for those things I use a lot: Butter. Milk. Cheese. Chicken. Pasta. Pork. I build menus around those items and if I don’t use them up, they go into the pantry for a later meal.

One thing I try to do is purchase some items during off times. For example canned pumpkin or cranberry sauce. The prices go up during the holidays, so I try to make sure I have what I need on hand well before the holiday shopping commences.

Lately I’ve found myself not being all that interested in salads but really looking forward to simple pasta dishes. I don’t eat bread a lot, so I don’t buy it often. If I get the urge, I have the things I need on hand to make bread.

When you consider building your Magic Pantry, I’d suggest sitting down and making a list of your favorite meals and then creating a list of ingredients you need to create them. Focus on that list and soon you will have what you need on hand for a last minute ‘what’s for dinner?’

It goes without saying (or at least it should) that you always look at sales to see what you might pick up while saving money. Pay close attention to unit cost – some of those ‘bargains’ aren’t. If you are a small household (one or two people) don’t ignore family packs. They are a great way to save money and stock up the freezer.

Don’t be afraid to try other brands. Many of the name brand foods are packaged at the same place as the off-brands. You could find a lower cost option that you like better. Now that’s a win/win!

I’m really enjoying my Schwan’s Home Delivery service! I get top quality products and comparable prices in quantities that go farther than what I might find at my local market. You can check them out by clicking HERE. I love their Italian Style Chicken Breasts and their Six Cheese Tortellini! And, oddly enough, their tater tots are better than the named brand I used to purchase.

These are all great meal builders.

As we head into Fall and Winter, not to mention Holiday Meal Season, creating a magic pantry will be very helpful and economical. When you start thinking about holiday gifting, and you should be doing that now, homemade gifts from the kitchen might be the most welcome.

Pardon the pun, but food for thought.

Happy planning and cooking!

Psst! If you like this post please let me know by clicking the Like button below. Also, please share with friends or family. Thank you!

Cooking · Food · Meal Building Blocks

Easy Pot Roast

I recently picked up a pork roast and eagerly added it to my menu. The tender juicy meat can be used for the center piece of a meal or added to casseroles or sandwiches.

I love the ease of a slow cooker method as more often than not I get a tender juicy result with little effort. I’ve even been known to put it together the night before and let the slow cooker work overnight. I admit I wake up HUNGRY but dinner is pretty much done by the time I get up in the morning. LOL!

Here’s my recipe:

Easy Slow Cooker Roast

The easiest way to slow cook a roast and get amazing results.
Course Main Course
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 8 hours

Equipment

  • Slow Cooker
  • Slow Cooker Liners

Ingredients

  • 3 – 4 pound pork or beef roast
  • salt to taste
  • pepper to taste

Instructions

  • Line the slow cooker with the liner.
  • Season the meat on all sides and then add to the slow cooker
  • Set to LOW for 6 to 8 hours

Additions (optional)

  • 1 – 2 Carrots, coarsely chopped
    2 – 4 Potatoes, coarsely chopped
    1 Onion, coarsely chopped
    1 stalk Celery, coarsely chopped
  • Add the vegetables into the slow cooker BEFORE you put in the meat. Add 1/4 cup of water.

Notes

This basic recipe works for pork roast, beef roast, turkey breast, and chicken pieces.
Do not be tempted to add water if you are not including vegetables.  Do not put in too much water!  The meat has sufficient moisture that will become the sauce or gravy base.  If you are uncertain, check after an hour and adjust as you see fit.
Seasoning is flexible but keep in mind that a little goes a long way when you are slow cooking.
The long cooking time gives the meat time to not only reach a ‘done’ temperature, but also time to become tender and juicy.  If you stop at a shorter time you run the risk of a not so tender roast.
Cooking · Food

Leftover Heaven!

Cheesy Beef Enchilada Pie

I had odds and ends in the fridge. It didn’t hurt that I’d been looking for something a bit different.

Beef and Cheese Enchilada Pie

A quick and easy deconstructed enchilada recipe.
Course Main Course
Prep Time 25 minutes
Cook Time 35 minutes
Total Time 1 hour
Servings 6

Equipment

  • 8 x 8 Baking Dish

Ingredients

  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1/2 cup onion, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon oregano, dried
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, ground
  • 1/2 cup taco sauce
  • 2/3 cup finely crushed tortilla chips
  • 2 cups grated cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 cup biscuit mix
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 eggs, beaten

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Spray 8×8 dish with nonstick spray. Spread the crushed tortilla chips and 1/2 cup of the cheese on the bottom of the pan. Set aside.
  • Brown the beef and onions in a large skillet. Add the seasonings. Drain well.
  • Put the drained beef mixture on top of the tortilla cheese mixture in the baking dish. Top with 1/4 cup of taco sauce and more cheese.
  • Combine the baking mix, milk, and eggs and pour over the mixture in the baking dish.
  • Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Top with remaining taco sauce and cheese and return to the oven for 5 to 10 minutes or until the cheese is melted.
  • Set aside to cool for 10 minutes before serving.

Notes

I used leftover salsa in lieu of the taco sauce. 
Since I also didn’t have the full requirement of tortilla chips, I added crushed croutons.  Putting these on the bottom of the pan gave a crispy-ish crust.  Wonderful and tasty!
 
Cooking · Dining · Food

Rediscovering Oldies But Goodies

Or, maybe just discovering new ideas.

As someone who started to cook in a farmhouse kitchen and who loves good food, I love to learn about food. I remember when the Galloping Gourmet was on TV (waaaaaay back in the early 70s). Sadly, in my neck of the woods, PBS signals weren’t that strong so I didn’t have the luxury of watching Julia child then. Later on however…

Fast Forward a Few Years

I fondly recall watching the PBS weekend home shows that included Julia Child, Jacques Pepin, Graham Kerr (the Galloping Gourmet) among many others. I learned a lot.

When the Internet and streaming arrived, I discovered many other places to find good cooks who shared their best recipes, ideas, tips and tricks. Here are some of my recent discoveries. Check them out:

Graham Kerr’s Kitchen

As a result of wife Treena’s health issues, Graham Kerr started to learn new ways to create meals with healthier foods that were easily prepared, and quite tasty. What he discovered and created are some interesting ideas that can be easily customizable based on your own tastes.

If you are looking for healthy recipes with some creative ideas to create some amazing food check out the series.

You can find the series on YouTube, iFood.TV and Amazon Prime.

The very first episode of the series.
Glen and Friends Cooking

Glen and Friends is a Canadian based show produced for YouTube but found on iFood.tv (as LeGourmet). Glen and wife Julie focus on vintage recipes from cookbooks from his old cookbook collection bu there is a wide variety of foods covered. The recipes are interesting, the flavors different from what we think of as the average food profile of the day.

Glen has tackled a wide variety of things, including a series on discovering the recipe for KFC chicken.

A recent addition to the YouTube channel.
Wyse Guide

Wyse Guide was a surprise I found on YouTube. Definitely the youngest of this crowd, Kaleb brings a wide variety of material to his website and his YouTube channel.

Want to learn the basics of baking? How to preserve and can foods? Find easy and tasty weeknight meal recipes? Kaleb’s your person!

One of his recent YouTube videos.

Thanks to streaming, there has been quite a bit of cross-pollination of many, many shows. Several of Julia Child’s series can be found on PlutoTV on her very own channel. Ditto for America’s Test Kitchen. You can also find The Hairy Bikers on the BBC Food channel as well as over on Tubi and Crackle. Ciao Italia and P. Allen Smith are also found on iFood.tv. These are all free streaming channels.

I’ve found cookbooks over on Amazon, too.

If you are learning to cook or are looking to expand your repertoire, these are great options.

Have fun!

Cooking · Food

Baked Sandwiches

A great alternative to cold sandwiches that you can make your own!

I recently pulled a pack of pulled pork from my freezer and decided to use it in a slightly different way. A few years back I found a great recipe for a baked sandwich that was easy to make, tasty, and very flexible.

Roast Beef and Swiss Sandwich Bake is excellent on its own, but you can switch out the meats and the cheese(s) to use what you have.

I used the pulled pork, used Dijon mustard and a mix of cheddar and Monterey Jack cheeses. Delicious!

What About?

Here are some ideas you might consider:

Sliced chicken or turkey with provolone? Taco meat? Pulled meats?

The sandwich reheats well but you can eat at room temperature, too. I’m thinking packed lunches, picnics, backyard meals, the options are broad. Serve with a side salad or some fresh vegetables, maybe some soup.

Let your imagination go!

Happy eating!

Around the House · Cooking · Dining · Food

A Bread Board That Works!

If you are like me, you love homemade or artisan types of bread. If you are also like me, cutting these loaves can be a trial.

In my case, I have a wonderful, sharp knife, but the effort to slice the loaf without crushing it, or getting a slice that is a bit, um, mis-shaped, is a trial.

For several years I looked to find a solution to this problem, thinking that I might purchase an electric knife to solve the issue. I admit, I did not know about the bread slicing guide until I happened to trip over a reference in one of my searches.

I needed something that would make the slicing easier, provide a variety of slice sizes, and would be easy to store away. What I found astonished me.

Behold, the Natural Bamboo Foldable Bread Slicer! Click on the link for more information.

Pay attention to the information guide and note that while this is an easy to use product, there can be a bit of a learning curve. Like many first time users, I set mine up backwards – with the platform that the bread sits on lower than the knife guide. When I turned it over (right side up), it worked great!

It is easy to use, easy to clean, and easy to store. At first I was concerned that the bamboo would be damaged by cutting, but that hasn’t happened yet. I do have issues using the knife, but I expect that to work itself out over time.

Oh, and I have not purchased an electric knife. 🙂

I purchased mine through Amazon, but as you can see on the link above, you can purchase directly from the manufacturer – and check out all the other products they have available!

Cooking · Food

Too Hot To Cook!

In my neck of the woods, it has been in the high 90s for quite a few weeks. Way too hot to heat up the kitchen!

Recently several folks posted the query: “It is too darn hot to cook – What do I fix for dinner?”

While take-out might sound great, it does take quite a chunk out of the budget. And I know that heating up the kitchen just doesn’t appeal when it also heats up the house. No need to strain the a/c, right? But what to do?

Here are some suggestions:

Why not grill chicken, including extra chicken that you can eat cold? Or, if you are inclined, fry enough chicken for several meals. Cold chicken is a staple in many picnic baskets, why not keep that thought in mind for a picnic in the backyard or at the kitchen table?

You could make tuna or chicken salads or add tuna or chicken to pasta salads. Or, you could make sandwiches using tuna or chicken. If you precook a batch of chicken, you could have enough for sandwiches and salads.

Speaking of salads, pasta salads are an easy fix and you can make enough for a couple of meals. Same for potato salad and coleslaw.

Have some cheese and crackers on hand. Don’t forget the pickles, not to mention raw vegetables, like carrots, cauliflower, broccoli, radishes, and jicama.

Think fresh fruits for dessert. With the bounties available at farmer’s markets, you could indulge in some wonderful flavors at reasonable prices.

You can make your own sorbets using the fruits, too. Or, if your fruit is getting a bit close to its’ ‘use by’ date, make a crisp or buckle. You could make it early in the day before the heat is bad, so it doesn’t overheat the kitchen.

If you have suggestions on other options, I’d love to hear from you! In the meantime, don’t forget to make a batch of iced tea (sweet or unsweet), and tuck it in the fridge for a great way to cool off on a hot Summer day!