Category Archives: Less than 30 minutes


Chubby Dipping! Is That Even a Thing?

OK, maybe that doesn’t conjure the greatest mental images, but I can’t help it.  As previously alluded to, I am not a slender man and I love dips of all sorts.  Onion dip, clam dip, spinach dip, bean dip, pumpkin dip, artichoke dip…you get the idea.

This is a dip switch and has nothing whatsoever to do with food.

Would you believe me if I told you that you could make three fabulous dips in just fifteen minutes?  (You should really, I wouldn’t lie to you.)  Last night I made a bunch of different dips for a function that my wonderful wife was having and I told her I would post the recipes.  So here are 3 of my tastiest quick prep dips that never fail.

 

Hummus

  • 1 can garbanzo beans, drained (aka chickpeas.  I ask you, which name is worse?)
  • 1 small clove garlic
  • 1/2 tablespoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon coriander
  • 1 tablespoon tahini (sesame paste, but you can leave it out if you want)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3-5 tablespoons water

I read this awesome trick to making the perfect textured hummus.  Warm up the garbanzo beans in the microwave for 30 seconds before you put them in the food processor.  It is seriously a night and day difference.  Add all of the rest of the ingredients except the water and turn on the machine and let it go to town.  After a minute or so it forms a sort of lumpy paste, add a couple of tablespoons of water while the machine is running.  When the water thins out the paste, watch the consistency and add water little by little until it gets to your liking.  Stop the machine and taste it.  Adjust salt as needed.  Serve with warm pita bread, pita chips, cut vegetables, or whatever else you like. 

Fruit Dip

  • 8 ounces softened cream cheese (ideally this would sit out for an hour or so, but I cheat all the time and just squish it in the package a bit to get it more pliable.)
  • 7 ounce jar of marshmallow cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

This one is seriously impossible to mess up.  Put all the ingredients into a large bowl or bowl of your stand mixer.  With a hand mixer (or whisk attachment) mix for 4-5 minutes until it is all fluffy and wonderful.  I think this one is really good with slightly acidic, firm fruit.  Pineapple, strawberries, tart apples, kiwis etc. 

Ranch Dip

  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup ranch
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

Put all of the above in a bowl and whisk until combined.  Taste it and adjust seasoning as desired.  It’s probably the most versatile of the three.  I’ve used it for chicken fingers, raw vegetables, potato chips, pretzels, you name it.

 

The other thing I like about all three of these dips is that you can go crazy with the variations.  Parmesan Ranch dip, kalamata olive hummus, citrus zest fruit dip, I could go on and on.  Let me know what works for you!

A Sauce for Every Occasion

 

I love barbeque sauce.  I’ve had the thin, tangy slightly sweet and smoky Memphis style sauce, the “yellow gold” style sauce from the Midlands of Carolina, the sweet, thick sauce they love in Kansas City and the vinegary spicy sauce in New Orleans.  I love them all.  I love them with chicken, with beef, pork, you name it.

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Here are a couple of go-to sauces that I use a bunch. 

Spicy and Tangy

  • 1 cup ketchup
  • 1/2 cup white vinegar
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 2 tablespoons cayenne pepper sauce
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon liquid smoke
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper

Whisk all of the ingredients in a medium sauce pan and bring to a simmer over medium low heat.  Turn the heat down a bit and let it simmer for no less than 30 minutes.  Adjust the salt/sugar to your taste.  Once the sauce cools, you can put this in a mason jar and it will keep in the refrigerator for a good long time.

Smoky and Sweet

  • 1 cup ketchup
  • 1/4 cup white vinegar
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon molasses
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 3/4 teaspoon liquid smoke
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

Same trick here as before.  Whisk everything together and simmer it in a medium sauce pan.  Simmer it for 30 minutes to 1 hour.  Adjust if you like, then let the sauce cool. 

Enjoy!

Summertime, and the Squash Parmesan is Eaaaaaasy

Any Gershwin fans in the audience? No? That’s probably for the best. My wife of the perfect pitch would certainly agree, but I just can help singing that song as I work with this FANTASTIC summer recipe. (One of her favorites, I might add.)

I know that it’s officially not quite summer. Here in middle Tennessee, though, it’s hot and muggy and the produce is great. Take a look at how beautifully this turned out:

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I know, I know, I’ve already disclaimed how bad a food photographer I am. It was TASTY though, I assure you.

Summer Squash Parmesan

1 cup flour

1 1/2 tsp kosher salt

½ tsp black pepper

2 large eggs

½ cup panko bread crumbs

½ cup parmesan cheese

2 medium yellow squash cut into ¼ inch thick slices

Combine flour, 1 tsp of the salt and the black pepper in a shallow dish. In a separate shallow dish, beat the eggs until combined. In yet a third shallow dish, combine bread crumbs, parmesan and remaining ½ tsp salt.

Dredge one of the squash slices in the flour. Dunk in the egg, and then roll in the bread crumb mixture until coated. Repeat until they’re done.

Heat a small amount of olive oil in a heavy bottomed skillet over medium heat until oil is shimmering. Put 3 or 4 slices into the pan at a time and sauté them slowly until a gorgeous brown crust forms. Then flip and repeat. Wipe out the pan between batches and continue until they’re all cooked.

You could serve this in a lot of ways. Paired with pasta and a quick marinara (or cream sauce if you like), it’s a great meatless meal, but it would be a great appetizer or side dish even. There you go. Go crazy with it.

Lame Cop Out

This is like a lamer version of those sit com clip shows.  You know, the ones where they string together a bunch of old episodes so they don’t have to actually write/shoot a new episode.  This is lamer because I’m not even using my own clips. 

**(Obviously, Simpsons episodes would be exempt from my comments)

Anyway, good food is good food, no matter who’s recipe it is.  Everyone who’s read this blog (all three of you) knows that I like to take recipes and change them around and make them more agreeable to my family.  Sometimes, though I come across such good ones that I can’t bring myself to mess with them.

One of the MANY food blogs that I read is Prudence Pennywise.  Before anyone says anything, YES, I think she lives in Utah, and NO I didn’t know that when I started reading it.  She posts some very interesting recipes, though, one of which is the Summer Thyme Corn Chowder that is the subject of this post.  It was OUTSTANDING.  My wife hates almost all soup (I know, I love her anyway though), and she really liked it also.

Another food blogger that I like a lot is Smitten Kitchen.  Her recipes are great, she has an entertaining writing style and I am terminally jealous of her photography skills.  She posted a recipe for Cheese Straws back in June that was delicious and paired up very nicely with the soup. 

Check them out, try them and as always, let me know what you think!

An Apple, a Wonton, and some Vanilla Ice Cream Walk into a Bar…

A few weeks ago I made egg rolls and I ended up with a bunch of extra wonton wrappers.  I decided to cut them into strips and fry them plain just to see what would happen.  They turned out great.  After just a couple of minutes, they were golden brown and crispy.  We drizzled honey on some of them and my wife tossed some others in cinnamon and sugar and they were a hit with everyone. 

The cinnamon and sugar one was the one that got us thinking about pairing up with apples and ice cream.  Let me know what you think of this one!

Caramel Apple Sundae

For the apples:

  • 4 granny smith apples, peeled, cored and sliced (sweet apples don’t work as well for this)
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 cups apple juice
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon orange oil (or 1/2 teaspoon orange zest)
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 2 teaspoons cold water

Heat a heavy deep skillet or dutch oven over medium high heat.  Melt the butter, then add the apples and cook for a few minutes, stirring occasionally.  Then add the rest of the ingredients and stir until mixed well.  Reduce heat to medium low, cover and simmer for 10-15 minutes more, until the apples are fork tender.  Mix the cornstarch and water in a small bowl, then add to the apple mixture, stirring until it’s thick and smooth.

For the wontons, just take ordinary wonton wrappers and cut them into interesting shapes (go nuts) and fry them for 30 seconds or so on each side in hot oil.  Drain on paper towels.

For the caramel sauce:

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup cream (heated in the microwave)

This is really easy to do, but BE CAREFUL.  The sugar will get “boiling lava” hot, and can be very dangerous if you come into contact with it.  (That’s a quote from my wife.)  As a matter of fact, go read David Lebovitz’s How to Make the Perfect Caramel before you start.  Go on, no cheating.  We’ll be here when you get back.

Get your heaviest skillet or pan out and make sure that it is very clean.  Then put the sugar in an even layer over the bottom and set it over high heat.  Get a wooden spoon out and when about 25% of the sugar has melted, gently start mixing the solid sugar bits together.  When the caramel starts smoking (it will, don’t panic) you want to wait just a minute or so past that, then add the cream slowly while stirring constantly.  Be careful as you add it because it will bubble up (remember that it’s lava) and if it hardens up in places, just keep stirring.  Take it off the heat when it gets to a nice even consistency.  If it’s too thick you can add another 1/4 cup of cream.

To bring it all together, get a nice scoop of good vanilla ice cream, surround it with the apples, then drizzle the caramel sauce over a couple of the wontons and garnish with them.  Everyone will love it, trust me.

I Must Have Been Mexicano in a Former Life

Some of my favorite foods are from there.  One of the best friends I’ve ever had is of similar origin.  (Don’t ask him to speak Spanish though.)  I love traveling there, I love the history, I love the language, I love George Lopez’s stand-up (the stand-up mind you, not that crappy Nickelodeon stuff)…  I could go on.

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I’ve mentioned Rick Bayless before (he’s one of my culinary heroes) and how my most excellent wife and I used to watch his PBS series on Saturday mornings.  He’s the one that led me to start deconstructing all of those fantastic Mexican dishes that I love so much.  That was about ten years ago, and this was one of the first things I did on my own to fight the evil forces pre-packaged mixes, sauces, and chips that plague our modern diet. 

Anyway, I wouldn’t exactly call this authentic (Rick, forgive me for mentioning your name in the same post as this recipe), but it is tasty and quick and my kids even like it.

 

Ground Beef Tacos

  • 1 pound ground beef (I like 90/10 or Ground Sirloin for this)
  • 1 small onion finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic finely minced
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste (double concentrated if you can find it)
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 10-12 corn tortillas or taco shells from a box
  • lettuce, cheese, tomatoes, sour cream or whatever else you like on your tacos

In a heavy skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of oil until it shimmers.  Add onion and sauté until the onions start to soften, about 3 minutes.  Add ground beef and brown for 5 to 6 more minutes, then add garlic and cook for 1-2 minutes longer.  Drain excess fat from the skillet.

Return skillet to heat and add the water, tomato paste and spices.  Mix until combined, then heat over medium-low for another few minutes. 

If you’re using taco shells from a box (I’m not judging) then you can serve now,  If you’re making some from corn tortillas, just heat about 1” of oil in another skillet until it’s hot and fold the tortilla like a taco shell.  Using tongs to keep the shape, drop it into the oil and fry for 2 to 3 minutes and then remove and drain on paper towels.  Serve hot.

More Fruitiness…

I love the transition between the seasons.  Spring to Summer (along with Fall to Winter) are my favorites, because that’s when the menus really change.  All of a sudden you see ramps (which are a kind of wild leek) in the farmers market and everyone is cooking with berries and making lighter dishes.

For me, that idea of lighter goes all the way to the dessert course.  Ordinarily I am a huge fan of ultra rich desserts in which chocolate (the darker the better) plays at least an ensemble role.  Summer comes around, though and all of a sudden I’m thinking about fruit salsa and strawberry trifle and one of my all time favorites, fruit pizza!

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I came up with this in one of my horrible moments of realization that I committed to bring something in for an office party and totally forgot about it until 10pm the night before.  As you can imagine, it’s VERY simple and quick.  The results were unanimously approved though!

Fruit Pizza

  • 1 tube of sugar cookie dough
  • 8 ounces of softened cream cheese
  • 8 ounces of marshmallow cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla (ok, ok, go ahead and use the cheap stuff if you want…I give you permission)
  • 4 or 5 varieties of fresh fruit, cut into bite sized pieces (get the best quality and most ripe produce you can find)
  • 2-3 tablespoons sugar

Roll out the sugar cookie dough until it’s about 1/4 inch thick.  If needed, trim the dough down to fit in the bottom of  a greased 11”x13” pan.  Bake as (more or less) directed by the instructions on the package.  Start looking at it a couple minutes before it’s supposed to be done.  You don’t want to over bake this.  When the dough is a nice golden brown, remove to a wire rack and cool to room temperature.

Spread cut fruit out on a large cutting board or half sheet pan and sprinkle with sugar.  Let it set while the crust cools.  This will both draw out some of the moisture and add sweetness.

Mix cream cheese, marshmallow cream and vanilla until combined and smooth.  When crust is room temperature, spread the cream mixture evenly over the top.  Finally, arrange the cut fruit pieces artistically over the top of the cream.  Serve immediately or refrigerate.

We’re Havin’ Eye-talian Food

When I saw this menu on my last day at Tech Ed, my heart sank.

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My mind instantly filled with all of the possible atrocities that could be perpetrated against Italian cuisine in the setting of a massive buffet.  I tried my hardest to keep an open mind, but it’s not easy in the face of:

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Wow.  That looks….like….it sort of reminds me of….I can’t actually say what I think it looks like because my mom reads this.  The spaghetti and meatballs looked quite a bit better.

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People who know me know that I am extremely particular about lasagna, so I really won’t even go into how horrible it was.  The meatballs had a decent texture, but I swear it had cumin in it.  You know what cumin is right?  It’s the spice that makes me think of taco seasoning.  In the perverse parts of my brain, I think it smells a little like mild BO.  Unfortunately, that was the overtone that was most present in these meatballs.  The cannolis were limp and the tiramisu cake was soggy. 

You may think I’m just a negative person, but I’m really not.  I guess I will have to post some positive review type items here so you can see. It was that bad.

Just to prove that this whole pasta thing can be startlingly simple, here is a recipe that is lightning fast, easy and tasty.

Pasta with Parmiggiano and Cayenne

  • 4 ounces thin spaghetti or linguine (use any kind of pasta really, fresh is outstanding in this because the flavors are so simple)
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil (you can leave this out, but it adds nice notes to the dish)
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • generous amount of parmiggiano reggiano cheese (the cheap stuff actually works just fine for this also, but the good stuff kicks it up a bit)

Prepare the pasta according to the directions on the box.  Make sure not to overcook it though, maybe like a minute under what the directions say.  Drain the pasta into a colander.

In the now empty pan, add the butter and put it over medium heat.  Keep the butter on the heat until about a minute after the foaming stops.  Add the olive oil if you’re using it, then the pepper and salt.  Add the pasta back into the butter mixture and then toss to coat.  Divide the pasta into 2 large dishes and grate a generous amount of cheese over the top. 

That’s it.  On the table in less than 15 minutes.

Wow. All I Can Say is Wow.

So I missed breakfast this morning, and given what I experienced at lunch, I did myself a favor.  The menu looked like:

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Sounds ok right?  By the way, anyone who has never been to an event where 5 or 6 thousand people try to eat all at the same time, it looks like this:

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In light of that, I am totally willing to make some allowances.  It’s a huge task.  But come on.  These potatoes were hard and were completely unseasoned and the vegetables were cooked into oblivion.  They never had a chance.

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How can you mess up tomato cucumber salad?  By adding more red onion than tomatoes or cucumbers, of course!  Salmon on a buffet?  Don’t get me started.  If you’re going to do ravioli, I’m all for it.  That actually makes sense in a mass quantity situation. BUT, you really HAVE to do something to the sauce other than just dumping tomato paste on it.  Basil, garlic, salt, pepper, oregano; I would’ve taken any one of them.

The one thing that wasn’t a total failure was the beef.  The “alfredo” part was unspeakable, but the beef was tender and it actually had some flavor, thanks to the gorgonzola.  Tomorrow will be a better day.  Say it with me:  Tomorrow will be another day.  It would have to be.

My contribution to make your tomorrow a little better is this:

Fettuccine with Foolproof Alfredo Sauce

  • 8 ounces Fettuccine Noodles (Fresh ones are GREAT in this)
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 teaspoon garlic, minced
  • 3 cups heavy cream
  • Salt and Pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg (I’ll let you off the hook if you only have pre-ground)

Boil 6-8 quarts of water for noodles. Drop the noodles in as soon as the water boils and cook according to directions.

In a heavy skillet, melt butter over medium heat until it stops foaming. Add garlic and sauté until fragrant. Add cream and bring to a low boil, while stirring constantly. Cook the sauce until it reduces by about half and thickens a good bit. When it gets to a consistency that makes you happy, remove from heat and season with salt and pepper-make sure you taste it! Lastly, add the nutmeg and serve with the noodles. Be prepared to accept effusive praise from all who partake!

Not Your Typical Cinco de Mayo Dish

I LOVE authentic Mexican food.  “Street Style” Enchiladas Rojas, fresh guacamole, spicy citrusy ceviche, bring them all and we’ll party.  Knowing this, you’d think I would’ve made something special last night.  Alas.  My kids would have none of that.  So what did I make?  Pasta.  Don’t get me wrong, pasta is fantastic.  It just would’ve been nice to do something a little more timely.

At any rate, I think this dish turned out very well.  You be the judge.

Chicken in Cream Sauce with Mushrooms and Red Peppers (these names get worse and worse)

  • 1 pound boneless skinless chicken breast cut into 1/2 cubes
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 small white onion diced
  • 1/2 pint of mushrooms (I like baby portobellos – aka creminis)
  • 3 cups heavy cream
  • 2 cloves minced garlic
  • 1/2 red bell pepper diced
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1 teaspoon basil
  • Salt and pepper
  • 8 ounces linguine or fettucine noodles

In a large sauce pan, heat 6-8 cups of water for the noodles.  As soon as you have a good boil going, cook the noodles according to the directions.  It should take just about as long as the rest of the dish.

In a heavy skillet, heat 1 tablespoon butter and olive oil over medium high heat.  Add onions and mushrooms.  After about 5 minutes, add chicken and about 1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt and cook 4-5 minutes, until the pink is gone.  Remove onions, mushrooms and chicken to medium bowl and set aside. 

Add remaining tablespooon of butter to skillet, and heat until the foaming stops.  Add garlic, and stir for about a minute.  Then add cream, crushed red pepper and basil.  Bring to a slow boil, stirring frequently and reduce the cream by half, which takes a good 7 or 8 minutes.  It will thicken considerably over this time.  Add the chicken mixture back along with the red bell pepper and allow to cook for 4 or 5 more minutes to finish cooking the chicken.  If the sauce thickens too much, you can thin it will a little chicken stock.  Serve with noodles and freshly grated romano or parmesan cheese.  Viva el cinco de mayo!

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