Blog

Lemon Dill Dip!

Hey everyone! It’s been a slow week here, thankfully. I have had lots of time this week to catch up on projects and just hang out with Tikki, which is always nice. 20170415_123157

It was bath week for Tikki, strangely enough he loves to take baths.  That’s him in the picture, patiently waiting on me to get his bathing supplies together. I’m so happy he enjoys bath time, it makes it less of a chore for me haha.

Anyway, let’s talk about this dip!  It is so simple and delicious, and it’s just one of the many ways to use cured lemons! Plus, you can throw this together in under 5 minutes. It’s great for a snack, party dip, or it makes a really great gift!

Ingredients: 

1/2 cup Greek yogurt

1/2 cup sour cream

3 slices of cured lemons, minced

1 Tablespoon fresh dill, roughly chopped

1/2 teaspoon black pepper, or to taste

Instructions: 

Get all of your ingredients together.

20170413_171426.jpg Next just add everything to a bowl and mix well.

20170413_171636.jpg

Now, after it’s thoroughly mixed, have a little taste.  See if it needs more pepper or maybe some salt, mine didn’t, yours probably won’t either due to the saltiness of the cured lemon.  After you’re done checking for seasoning, you’re done! Just cover and store in the refrigerator until you’re ready to use it!

20170413_172225

The fresh dill and cured lemon bring a bright freshness to this dip.  Add that in with the tang of the yogurt and sour cream and you have one helluva dip!

I hope you try this recipe out for yourself, if you do, let me know how it turns out! There is a recipe for the cured lemons on the blog as well, incase you need it.

I’m finally on Facebook, you can find the page by searching @isbutteracarbblog feel free to give the page a ‘like and share’! Thanks for stopping by! Ciao!

Cured Lemons!

What a beautiful Sunday it is here at, Is Butter A Carb HQ! I hope you all are having a wonderful Easter holiday, if you celebrate that kinda thing, if not, I hope you’re at least having a kick ass Sunday!

It’s been a busy and expensive week here, unfortunately.  Monday, I dropped my car off at the garage to have some work done. Friday, I picked it and a $2500+ bill up, talk about a devastating hit to the ol’ bank account!  The good news, however, is that the old girl is practically brand new and she’s running great! Let’s hope that continues haha.

Saturday was my friend Emily’s birthday (Happy Birthday Emz!), she had a small soirée at her house across town.  I whipped up a special cocktail for her and her guests, thankfully it was a hit!  Maybe I should do a few cocktail recipes here? What do you think? Let me know in the comments! Anyway, it was such a lovely evening, Emily was such a gracious hostess, as always, and just as gorgeous as ever! It was great to get to see some old friends I hadn’t seen in quite sometime and to meet some new friends as well. I can honestly say I know some of the most wonderful people in the world!

Anyway, enough about me and my week, let’s talk citrus!  Cured Lemons are one of my coveted “secret ingredients”, there are so many things you can do with these salty little slices of the Sun.  You can use them with roasted chicken or quail, mince them up to add to dips, dressings, or pastas! The best part, these little beauties are so simple to make!

Ingredients: 

3 Lemons

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup kosher salt

20170406_234455.jpg

Instructions: 

First, wash your lemons in hot water to get the waxy coating off the outside.  Next with a really sharp knife (do not use a serrated one) slice the lemons, we are going for slices that are around 1/8 inch thick. Then just remove the seeds from the slices.

20170406_235439
I missed a seed! Do you see it? It really isn’t a big deal if you miss a couple of seeds, so don’t get stressed about it.

Now for the hard part, the curing mixture!  Just mix your sugar and salt together well! I warned you that part was going to be difficult. Grab yourself a glass container (preferably with a lid) and sprinkle some of the curing mixture over the bottom of the dish.

20170406_235543.jpg

Next add a layer of your sliced lemons on top of the curing mixture.

20170407_000045

Keep repeating those layers until all your lemons are in there, then put the remaining curing mixture on top.  Now, what’s going to happen here? Not a lot. Just cover these little darlings up, with that lid I mentioned earlier, or you could just use some cling wrap.  Let these sit on your kitchen counter or table (not in direct sunlight) for 3 days.  Yup, you heard me, 3 days.  The mixture is going to start to draw out the liquid in the lemons.

20170410_150946.jpg
These are mine after about a day.

The curing mixture is going to really pull out the bitterness and enhance the lemony flavor. Once the sugar and salt have sorta dissolved or liquefied, the lemons should just be covered by the liquid.  If they aren’t, feel free to add a touch more salt and sugar.

These are such a cool thing to have around the kitchen, plus they are gorgeous. After the three days is up, just put them in a mason jar (the liquid too) or something similar and store them in your refrigerator. You’re done! You should have some beautiful cured lemons!

20170410_190740

I really hope you enjoy these, they are just a fantastic ingredient to cook with.  The intensity of the lemon flavor is just magical! If you want to take some of the saltiness away, just rinse them off or even soak them in cold water for a bit, then dry them with a paper towel.

Thanks for visiting! I hope you enjoyed this post and feel free to share on all your social media accounts! Thanks again, see ya next time! Ciao!

Vinaigrette Roasted Asparagus

Hey friends, it’s been awhile! Sorry for not posting for a bit, it’s just been so crazy around here since returning from Europe. Tikki was sure happy to be back home, I don’t think I’ve ever seen him so excited haha.  To be honest I’m pretty glad to be home as well, traveling will wear you out! Speaking of Europe, it may be awhile before I post about the trip, because I want to work on some recipes that will really showcase the areas I visited.

So, to hold you over I thought I would do a quick post on a delicious side dish that would be a perfect accompaniment to any dinner!   Especially since Easter is right around the corner and I know you’re looking for something divine to cook for your friends and family!  The best part is, this asparagus is quick and easy, but to your guests you will seem like an Iron Chef!

Let’s get to it!

Ingredients: 

1 lb of asparagus, trimmed

1/2 cup chopped leek

4 tablespoons olive oil

4-5 slices of prosciutto, chopped

2 Tablespoons lemon juice

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

1/2 teaspoon of salt

1 teaspoon of pepper

Garnish:

2 hard boiled eggs, chopped

1-2 Tablespoons tarragon, minced

Instructions: 

First thing first,  preheat your oven to 400°f and gather up all of your ingredients!

20170403_223045

Clean your leeks really well (they are usually grown in sand), because we don’t want sandy gritty asparagus. Just kinda pull them apart a little and rinse with water. You can cut them up first and just soak them in a bowl of cold water and agitate them as well, it might even be easier.  Either way just clean the damn things.  After they are cleaned and chopped place them on a large baking sheet.

20170403_223340.jpg

Next let’s get the asparagus ready. You can just snap the woody end off where it wants to snap, because that’s usually where the fresh tender asparagus starts. If you want you can just cut the ends off and then peel the new ends of them with a veggie peeler to make sure they aren’t woody. Now that those are ready, add them to your baking sheet as well!

20170403_223416.jpg

Let’s get this vinaigrette ready! Add your olive oil, lemon juice, Dijon mustard, salt, and pepper to a little bowl and mix together until it is really well combined.

20170403_223233.jpg

Now pour the vinaigrette over the asparagus and leeks, toss to coat.

20170403_223714.jpg

Sprinkle your prosciutto over the top. It’s going to crisp up really well and add such an amazing texture.

20170403_224307.jpg

Place the baking sheet into your preheated oven for around 15-25 minutes.  Just keep an eye on it, because the time depends on the size of the asparagus and you don’t want to burn them. The best way I have found to check and see if it’s done is just taste one, plus you deserve a little snack after all this work! You can always use the tip of a knife to check the tenderness, but that’s not fun at all and there is no reward in doing it that way.

While the asparagus is roasting away, go ahead and get your garnishes together! When the asparagus is done plate it up and garnish with your egg and tarragon!  The egg and tarragon garnish add a touch of elegance, plus it adds such great flavor as well. That’s all there is to this amazing side dish, you’re done!

20170403_230805.jpg

I really do love this dish and it’s always a hit at our dinner parties! The prosciutto adds a nice crunch with tangy freshness of the vinaigrette to really bring the flavor of the asparagus to life!

Anyway, I really hope you give this one a try and be sure to let me know what you think in the comments!  If you’re feeling frisky give us a share on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, be sure to use #isbutteracarb! Thanks for stopping by, until next time. Ciao!

Quick & Easy Garlic Shrimp!

This week has been one of the busiest weeks of my life, at least as far as I can remember.  I’ve been trying to get my bills paid, get Tikki ready to be boarded, get all my medicines together, pack multiple bags and make sure everything is ready for my trip.  Oh yea, I think i forgot to tell you, but Is Butter A Carb is going to Europe, I’ll be in Paris, Amsterdam, and Prague! On the way home I’ll be stopping at JFK and will hopefully get to see my sista from another mista, Kaitlyn! She’s a flight attendant for Delta airlines and it’s always such a treat to get to see her beautiful smiling face and spend some quality time together.  I’m so honored to be able to call her my friend!

Oh my, I almost forgot, Tikki turned 3 this week! We had a little party for him with doggy ice cream and treats. He even got his own little ‘Happy Birthday ‘ cookie and party hat! So, happy 3rd birthday Tikki! Gosh, I love him so freakin’ much!

20170222_212559.jpg
He looks so cute in his little hat and bandana!

Anyway, I can’t wait to tell you all about my trip(and the food of course) when I get back to the States. With it being such a hectic week I needed something fast and delicious to prepare for dinner, plus I’ve been on a diet (low carb low sugar) for a while now and I needed to take that into account.  I think Garlic Shrimp was the perfect diet dinner recipe I could have come up with! It’s just so fast and easy to make, it doesn’t hurt that it’s extremely delicious either! So, anyway, here’s my recipe for Garlic Shrimp!

Ingredients:

1 pound of shrimp

1 1/2 Tablespoons of olive oil

6 cloves of garlic, minced

2 Tablespoons of butter

3 Tablespoons of lemon juice

1/4 teaspoon of red pepper flakes

1/3 cup of Italian parsley, chopped

1 Tablespoon of caper brine

Salt to taste

Instructions: 

Ok, so first off, let’s get everything ready so we can cook with ease!  First, peel and devein your shrimp.

20170224_001311
I used, Litopenaeus setiferus or “white shrimp.” These little guys were caught off the coast of the Carolinas.

Next, let’s get our butter ready, you need 2 Tablespoons cut into 4 pieces.  Chop your parsley, squeeze out the lemon juice, measure out your caper brine, red pepper flakes and dice up the garlic.

20170224_020606.jpg
My caper brine is mixed with my lemon juice in this picture.

Ok, now let’s get out the best heavy bottom skillet you own (or have borrowed and yet to return, Tim) and put it on the highest heat setting you have.  We need to have this sucker super hot.  Next, add in your oil and it needs to get super hot as well.  You’re going to want to watch for that first little wisp of smoke to come off the oil.  Here we are with shrimp and tongs in hand! We are ready! As soon as you see the little wisp of smoke, add your shrimp in and even them out in the pan….then do nothing.

20170224_021147.jpg

Let those little buddies cook for about a minute without touching them.  Sprinkle with a little salt. After about a minute, go ahead and toss them around a bit, for about another minute.  Then we’re going to add in our garlic and red pepper flakes.

20170224_021348.jpg

Mix the garlic and pepper flakes around and keep it movin’! We want to cook our garlic a little and wake up those pepper flakes.  We don’t however want to burn the garlic, that’s really the only way to mess this dish up.  So, keep a tossin’ and a stirrin’!

20170224_021420.jpg

Now let’s add in the lemon juice, caper brine, and one of the chunks of butter.  Mix all that around and get it really well incorporated.  Once that butter is melted, reduce your heat to low and add in the rest of the butter and your parsley.

20170224_021523

 

We are in the home stretch now! Mix all that together and once that butter is melted and you’ve tasted for seasoning, you are ready to indulge in some mind-blowing garlic shrimp!

20170224_021609

When you plate it up take all the shrimp out add just a little water to the pan and mix it around and BOOM! You have a delicious sauce to pour over those delectable little shrimp!

20170224_021934.jpg

There you have it, Garlic Shrimp! Such an incredibly simple and delicious recipe.  The sweet shrimp, the herbaceous parsley, the acidity from the lemon, and that smack to the mouth from the garlic all just come together to form a classic symphony of flavors. No matter if you’re making this for a quick dinner or a formal party, this quick and simple dish is sure to please.

I hope you give this one a try. If you do, and you should, be sure to comment and let me know how it turned out!  I more than likely won’t be able to post again until after Europe (which will be mid March), however I will if I can.  I can’t wait to share stories and hopefully recipes with you from my travels.  In the meantime, enjoy these delicious(low carb) garlic shrimp and until next time, Ciao!

Pasta e fagioli!

Whew, Oregon, what can I say?  It was a blast!  First, I wanna say thanks to our gracious hosts, Brandy, Worm, Sophie, Shad, Jasmine, and Taylor.  They were so much fun and it was such a pleasure to see them again, cook for them, and spend some quality time together.  Friends and family really are what makes life worth living and I’m beyond blessed to have an abundance of both.

Anyway, let’s move on from the sappy mushy stuff. Brandy and Worm took us for a snow day, or three, to the beautiful and picturesque Mount Bachelor in the Deschutes National Forest.

20170220_182758

Mount Bachelor is one of the largest resorts in the Pacific Northwest, with a skiable area of 3,683 acres! It’s also a stratovolcano, which in my opinion is kinda cool.

20170220_182843

There was SO much snow!  The roads up to the mountain were completely white, at times it was snowing so much you could barely see.

20170220_182823

The tables (pictured above) get cleaned off every day.  So, that’s less than a days worth of snow.

20170220_182910

It was such a fun experience! I can’t wait to go back.  If you ever get the chance, take a trip to Bend, Oregon, you won’t regret it.  They have so many awesome places to eat, breweries with tours and tastings, an awesome distillery with a tasting room, and just so many outdoor activities!  The people there are so nice and welcoming.

Speaking of places to eat, my buddy Worm is the executive chef at this sweet little place in Bend. It’s called “Rockin’ Dave’s Bistro & Backstage Lounge” (661 NE Greenwood Ave, Bend, OR) check em’ out at http://www.rockindaves.com. Man, this place is really something special, such a fun and relaxed environment. They use high quality local ingredients as much as they can and it really shows in Chefs food.

20170208_170444

I got the pastrami sandwich with brussels and a house made pickle, it was unbelievably delicious! They make almost everything on the plate ‘in house’, from the pastrami to the pickles. If you notice the little ramekin with parsley hiding on the back of the plate, that’s a little chef joke between Worm and I, if there is one thing that is the bane of my existence in the food world it’s when there is random parsley scattered around the fucking plate!  It infuriates me haha and he knows it. Anyway, Rockin’ Dave was such a cool guy and was extremely hospitable. He treated us to appetizers and a few (many) drinks, admittedly I was a little drunk and my belly was full upon my departure that night.

We need to move on to the good stuff right?  I know you’re getting hungry by now.  So, one of the days we came off the mountain a huge snow storm was kicking our ass and I decided to cook dinner for everyone.  I thought what would be good on a cold snowy evening?  I decided on Pasta e fagioli! Pasta e fagioli, meaning “pasta and beans” is an Italian-American comfort food (to me at least), it’s like a warm hug from an Italian grandmother, without all the perfume.  It’s such a simple, quick, and delicious dinner….you just can’t go wrong! Let’s get the ball rolling!

Ingredients: 

1 Tablespoon of Olive oil

1 package of sweet Italian sausage (12-16 ounces)

1/2 a yellow onion, diced

1 large rib of celery, diced

3/4 cup of dry macaroni pasta

1/4 cup of tomato paste

4 cups chicken stock, or as needed

3 cups Swiss chard, chopped

1 can of cannellini beans (15 ounce)

1/4 teaspoon of dried oregano

1/4 teaspoon of red pepper flakes, or to taste

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, grated

Instructions: 

First let’s brown the sausage in the olive oil. You’re going to want to use medium high heat for this. While it’s browning use your wooden cooking wand to break it up, we don’t want to break it up a ton, so let’s leave it a little chunky.

20170205_202821

While that’s cookin’ away.  Get your onions and celery ready!

20170205_201839

So, once the sausage is browned and happy go ahead and reduce the heat to medium and throw in the celery and onions.  You’re gonna want to cook those onions for about 5 minutes or until the onions become translucent. It will really bring out the sweetness in the veggies.  Next, we’re going to add in our pasta. Put the pasta in dry, I know I know, you thinking ‘what in the hell is he telling me to do?’, but just stay with me here.  Put the dry uncooked pasta in the pan and cook with the sausage for about 2 minutes. By doing this it’s going to infuse the pasta with more flavor, at least in my mind it will and that’s going to be a challenge to disprove haha.

20170205_204218

After that has cooked for the previously stated 2 minutes, it’s time to add the tomato paste.  Stir that in and cook it for 2-3 minutes.  Next add 3 cups of chicken stock, reserve that other cup for the end to see if you need to adjust later. Anyway, add that to the pan, when you do be sure to scrape the bottom of the pan to get all those tasty brown bits that are stuck on the bottom.  Bring heat up to high and bring to a simmer.

20170205_210941

While that’s happening let’s add some seasoning. Add a little salt, but be careful the amount you need depends on the amount that is in the stock you used. So, just do it to taste. Taste EVERYTHING! Add the freshly ground black pepper, red pepper flakes, and dried oregano. When it comes to a simmer back the heat down to medium (I used medium but it will be up to you and your stove on what level of heat constitutes a good simmer) and cook stirring occasionally for about 5 minutes. While that’s simmering away let’s get started on these greens!

20170205_195835

They are super easy to prep.  You just rip the green leafy parts off the ribs running down the center.  Then just sorta wad the leaves up, cut across, then chop away until you’re happy with the size.  Place your newly chopped leaves (you did a great job by the way) in a bowl full of cold water.

20170205_200859

You have to wash these thoroughly before you use it to get rid of all the dirt and sand.  So just swish and swirl them around in the water and that’s going to allow all the dirty sandy mess to fall down into the bottom of the bowl. Now back to the stove. You’re going to want to check your liquid level in the sausage and pasta mixture, I added a little bit more to mine (you’re probably going to want to do the same). Then fish out your greens from the bowl and shake off the excess water, add them to your pot and stir them in.

20170205_210941

It’s going to look like you have put way to much in, but trust me they wilt fast. Now it’s time to add our drained and rinsed cannellini beans. I usually always rinse that weird bean juice off my beans.

20170205_210947

Stir those in and check your liquid levels one more time. Just let everything cook and meld together until your pasta is done.  For this dish you aren’t going to want al dente pasta, so keep that in mind. We’re almost done….we’re just two steps away!  We need to taste for seasoning and mine usually always needs a pinch more salt and maybe some pepper.  We also need to turn off the heat and add in some freshly grated Parmesan cheese.  Please, always use freshly grated Parmesan cheese, I better not catch you using that fake shit in a can!  It just won’t work! Use the real Parmigiano-Reggiano. Time to serve it up in a hot bowl with a nice crusty piece of bread and little more grated Parmesan cheese on top!

20170205_212458

Well, there you have it, Pasta e fagioli! This is such a wonderful dish to enjoy on a cold snowy winter evening with friends.  It’s such a stick to your ribs dish that is going to leave you satisfied and warm inside.  I encourage you to give it a try, if you do let me know how it turned out in the comments!  Thanks and until next time, Ciao!

Shepherd’s Pie

Things have been busy around here lately.  Planning trips, taking Tikki to get his yearly checkup and shots(usually consists of 3 visits), trying to figure out this new camera, dinner parties, and just daily life can really wear ya out!

Tikki is always such a trooper when it comes to going to the vet. He is always so happy to see people, somebody, literally anybody! Just the idea of going somewhere excites him to no end.  He is reminiscent of a crackhead that just got their fix.  That is until we return home, then he is done.  He wears himself completely out in the hour or two that we’re gone.

20170117_204230
This is Tikki the moment we get home from the vet and sit down. Out like a light.

However, he’s up to date on his shots and is as healthy as six pound horse!

We have been in desperate need of a vacation, so we have planned a trip to Oregon in early February. Hopefully, we will be able to do some snowboarding on Mt. Bachelor and spend some quality time with family.  I feel like both of those are totally going to happen. Fingers crossed I come home with at least one awesome story and some killer recipes….should I say killer recipes?  Hell, you get what I mean.

Anyway, the weather has been insane lately.  It’s raining, it’s 70 degrees, it’s snowing (a lot), it’s 65 degrees the next day, snowing, 28 degrees, sunny. The weather is like Sybil! (I’m almost certain most of you won’t get the reference, however for the ones that do, I applaud you!) It snowed fairly heavily here and I was trying to think of something that would be warm and comforting for dinner.  Then it hit me! Shepherd’s pie would be magnificent on such a cold gloomy day.  The deep rich flavors of the lamb that are brought to the forefront with the addition of the red wine, the smell of the rosemary and thyme filling the house, and the decadence the mashed potatoes bring is just….well….it makes me want to die and fuck off to heaven!

So, it seems as if we need to get this show on the road. By the way, if you want to use ground beef in yours, go for it!  It’s then called a ‘Cottage Pie’.  If you add breadcrumbs to the top it’s called a ‘Cumberland Pie’. No matter what you choose, it’s going to turn out great!

Ingredients:

For the filling:

2 Tablespoons of Olive Oil

1.5 lbs ground lamb

1 large carrot, grated

1 large onion, grated

4 cloves of garlic, grated

1 bag of frozen peas (about 1.5 cups-ish)

1 Teaspoon fresh rosemary, chopped

1 Teaspoon fresh thyme

3 Tablespoons of Worcestershire sauce

3 Tablespoons tomato paste

1 cup of red wine, something you’d drink

1/4 cup of chicken stock

A pinch of Cayenne pepper

Salt & Pepper to taste

For the Mashed potatoes:

1.5 lbs of Yukon Gold Potatoes, chopped into equal pieces

1/4 cup of heavy cream

4 Tablespoons of butter

2 Egg yolks

1/2 cup of Parmesan cheese, freshly grated

Salt, to taste

Instructions: 

Preheat your oven to 400°f. Get a pot of water boiling on the stove top, throw in some salt, your potatoes, and let them go for about 15 minutes.  Poke them with a knife to check for doneness, it should go in and come out easily. Drain the water off of those suckers and mash away. I use a potato ricer to do mine with, but if you just have a old-school potato masher that will work great as well. For real though, you need to look into getting a ricer. Mix your mash with the 1/4 cup of heavy cream, 4 Tbsp butter, 2 egg yolks, half of your Parmesan cheese and salt (to taste). Your mash is done, now just keep it warm and let’s start on the filling!

Start by grating your carrot, onion, and garlic or use a food processor.

20170107_235205

Next, add olive oil to a large hot pan or Dutch oven and add your meat.  Now, you are going to have to stir this meat like your life is depending on it! It needs to be broken down into tiny little pieces. Cook the meat until it’s browned.

20170108_000715

Drain the fat off of the meat and return it back to the cooking vessel. Add in your thyme, rosemary, garlic, and Cayenne. Stir that into the meat and let it cook for a minute or two.  Add in your onion and carrot and stir some more!

20170108_001153

What we are trying to do here is get everything broken down into a fine or mince consistency.  Add the Worcestershire sauce and tomato paste into the meat and mix well. Next, throw in the red wine (use any red wine except for cooking wine). Let that cook down for about 2 minutes then add in your chicken stock and frozen peas, cook that down for 3 – 4 more minutes. Salt and pepper to taste.

20170108_002618

Place the meat mixture into a deep oven safe dish and spread the mashed potatoes over the top with a spoon or offset spatula. Take a fork and rough up the top a little to create some peaks and crevasses (trust me you want to do this for epic little brown crusty bits of potato). Sprinkle the remaining Parmesan cheese over the top, feel free to add more, I always do. 20170108_003213

Pop that beautiful thing in a preheated 400°f oven for 20 minutes or until the top is golden brown and delicious!

20170108_011125

There’s nothing left to do except let this flavor bomb cool for about 5 minutes to let the filling set, serve it up, and listen to the ‘oohs and ahhs’…prepare yourself, they will be deafening.

I really hope you give this recipe a try, if you do leave a comment and let me know how it goes.  Thanks for stopping by!  Until next time, Ciao!

Beef & Cheese Manicotti

Happy New Year from all of us here at Is Butter A Carb headquarters! I hope your holidays were just as fabulous as ours have been.  It’s always so nice to visit with family, especially those you haven’t seen in a very long time. The holidays around here are always packed with lots of travel and unexpected visitors and honestly, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Ok, enough with all the holiday mumbo jumbo. I’m hopeful that you read my last post and made my tomato sauce. I’m going to wager that you did and it turned out lovely!  Now, you’re wondering “what can I use this delicious sauce for?”, well I’ll tell ya!  Tonight we are using it for Beef & Cheese Manicotti! It’s such an easy dish and the results are out of this world!  Whether you want an easy weeknight dinner or you need to feed a crowd this is the recipe for you.  The richness of the cheese with the acidity of the tomato sauce…I’m pretty sure you’re about to fall in love! So, let’s get to it!

Ingredients:

4 Teaspoons olive oil

1 Medium onion, coarsely chopped

1 Pound ground beef

1 Package of Manicotti (8-ounce package)

1 Container ricotta (15-ounce)

3 Cups shredded mozzarella

1 Cup grated Parmesan

2 Tablespoons fresh Italian parsley leaves, chopped

2 Garlic cloves, minced

3 Cups tomato sauce

2 Tablespoons butter, cut into small pieces

Salt & freshly ground black pepper

Instructions:

Get out a heavy skillet or dutch oven (I always use a dutch oven) and put it on medium heat.  Add a teaspoon of olive oil and let it heat up a bit.  Once you think the oil is heated add your beef and onions. Go ahead and season with salt and pepper to taste.

received_10154481634928052

You’re going to saute this until the meat is browned and the onions become translucent.  It should take about 6 or 7 minutes. Then just remove it from the heat, set aside, and let it cool.

received_10154481634903052.jpeg

Next use a teaspoon of oil and brush it over a large baking sheet. Bring a large pot of salted water to boil and cook the Manicotti just until it softens slightly, it should take 5 or 6 minutes.  You want it to remain fairly firm to the bite, if you don’t it’s going to be a bitch to try to stuff. Drain and transfer the Manicotti to the oiled baking sheet to cool. Go ahead and preheat your oven to 350°F.

Grab a big mixing bowl and combined 1 1/2 cups of mozzarella cheese, the ricotta cheese, 1/2 cup of Parmesan, garlic,  Italian parsley and salt & pepper to taste. Then mix your little heart out until it’s well combined.

received_10154481634828052.jpeg

Once that is thoroughly mixed, add in your cooled beef and onions and mix all of that up until it’s well combined. Lots of stirring going on here.

received_10154481634898052

Grab yourself a 13x9x2 inch glass baking dish and take 2 teaspoons of olive oil and oil it up real good, imagine the dish as a “professional wrastler” if that helps.  Spread 1 1/2 cups of the tomato sauce I taught you about in the last post over the bottom of the prepared (well oiled) baking dish.  Fill your Manicotti with the beef and cheese mixture.  I personally find that the easiest way to do this is with my hands, some people use a pastry bag. However, for me that’s just extra shit I have to clean up and I don’t need that kind of negativity in my life.  So just use your hands.

Now, arrange the stuffed Manicotti in a single layer in the baking dish and pour the remaining tomato sauce over. Feel free to add more sauce if you like, because you are indeed the John Gotti of your Manicotti!

received_10154481634848052

Sprinkle the rest of the mozzarella cheese (1 1/2 cups) and the remaining Parmesan cheese (1/2 cup) over the pasta.  Again, if you want more cheese…GO FOR IT! Dot the entire dish with the pieces of butter.

received_10154481634838052

Bake the dish uncovered for about 30 to 35 minutes.  You want it to be heated through and for the sauce to bubble on the sides of the dish. After you take it out let it cool for about 5 minutes or so.

received_10154481634988052.jpeg

Now you’re ready to serve it up!

received_10154481634923052

There you have it, Beef & Cheese Manicotti! I just know you’re going love this recipe and it’s sure to be a crowd pleaser. If you do make this dish (and i really hope you do) let me know how it turns out in the comments below!  If you have any questions feel free to comment or contact me on the contact page.  I hope you enjoy this easy Italian dish and until next time, Ciao!

Sugo di Pomodoro (Tomato Sauce)

I thought I would class things up a bit with my first recipe, hence the title.  I know what you’re thinking right now, you just said to yourself, “why use some crazy foreign word, when you could just say tomato sauce?”  Well, it’s very simple actually, it sounds more enticing than if it was carrying an English identification.

Sugo di Pomodoro, those soft and soothing syllables conjure up the image of you, sitting on a sun-bathed terrace, overlooking the picturesque canals of Venice, about to enjoy the very first forkfull of pasta that’s been cooked to perfection.

Tomato sauce on the other hand, brings back memories of something that was sloppily thrown over mushy noodles with the odd after taste only a high school cafeteria can provide.

Tomato sauces are a very personal thing. You may think my perfect all-purpose sauce is the best you’ve ever had, then again you may think it’s the worst one in the world and that’s completely fine (it’s your prerogative to be wrong).

Anyway, let’s get stared on my basic, all-purpose tomato sauce and please be relatively gentle when you compare it to your Italian grandmothers clearly superior version.

Ingredients:

2 (28-oz) cans of San Marzano tomatoes (whole and peeled)

1/4 cup of olive oil

1 onion, diced

1 rib of celery, finely diced

4 cloves of garlic, finely minced

1 teaspoon of salt

2 teaspoons of sugar

1/2 teaspoon of dried Italian herbs

1/4 teaspoon of red pepper flakes

1 teaspoon Anchovy paste

1 teaspoon white wine vinegar

1 tablespoon tomato paste

2 tablespoons fresh Italian parsley, chopped

Water as needed

20161211_211710

Only use wooden utensils with this, no metal! It’s the obligatory wooden utensil or nothing!

 

First finely dice the onion and celery and get it ready to go in the cooking vessel.

20161211_213113.jpg
Diced celery and onions. 

Next we want to add our oil, celery, onion and just a pinch of salt to the pot (on medium low heat ).

20161211_213538

You’re going to sweat the veggies on medium low heat for a long time, like 15 minutes.  We want them to get really soft and have a nice golden color.  In the meantime, let’s get our tomatoes ready!

20161211_212133
You have to use your hands for this.  Mainly because it feels awesome and I want you to feel what I feel! 

 

 

We are using San Marzano tomatoes imported from Italy.  They are the true diva in this sauce.  They are very unique tomatoes, very meaty, long, small amount of seeds. They are just a marvelous product.  You must use these…. no substitutions!  It will be worth it, I swear.

Just put them in a bowl and crush them up with your hands.  Sure, there are better ways to do this, however there is no other way you should do this.  Just crush them up into puree type constancy.  By now your onions and celery should be sweet, golden, and beautiful!

20161211_215230
This is what they should look like, give or take. 

You don’t want them to brown necessarily. We just want them to get nice and sweet. It’s time to add in the garlic and cook it for about 1 minute. Next add the salt, sugar, red pepper flakes, dried Italian herbs, and the anchovy paste.  That’s right, I said anchovy paste! Relax, you won’t be able to taste it. Don’t even let people know you put it in there.  Just call it a “secret ingredient” and move on.  Also, add the white vinegar.

20161211_215458
See that sneaky “secret ingredient”… you’re going to love it.

Turn the heat up to medium and cook for a couple minutes.  You want to evaporate the majority of the liquid. You want it to look fairly dry.  Add your tomato paste and cook for about two minutes.

20161211_220001
Look at my obligatory wooden sauce tool.

Add your San Marzano tomatoes and the fresh Italian parsley.

20161211_220404

Add just a little bit of water to the sauce. You’re going to add some occasionally as the sauce cooks.  Bring the sauce up to a simmer, then reduce the heat to low and simmer for an hour and a half.  Every now and then give it a little stir, maybe add just a touch more water if it needs it. That’s it!

After an hour and a half of simmering you’re going to have a gorgeously delicious all-purpose tomato sauce!  It’s the perfect base for meat sauces and is just an basic overall workhorse of a sauce!

20161211_234730.jpg
Finished product. I took the picture before I stirred it, but you get the picture here geez. 

I hope you’ll give this recipe a try for yourself and don’t worry it’s going to turn out perfectly(I believe in you)!  Feel free to adjust the seasonings and spices to your tastes, after all you’re the Rick Ross of this sauce! Thanks for the visit and until next time, Ciao!

 

Here we go…

Food, it’s an inescapable component of life.  Is it just nourishment or is it something more?

To me food offers quite a bit more than just being an essential requirement in life.  It’s why I’m here, it’s why you’re here. Food is a stimulus for foodies and bloggers. It has an entire channel dedicated to it on your television. Food is family and friends. Just the smell of food being prepared can send a flood of memories rushing back. Food is everything, our entire life is just one big meal with little breaks in between for work, sex (hopefully), t.v., and travel.  Food is and always will be, for me, one of the greatest adventures in the world. So, here we are and damn am I glad you’re here for the ride!

I got the idea to start this blog from a few friends and their nagging encouragement.  I have always loved (and I mean loved) food and been fascinated by it, so it seemed only fitting that I write about it.  Plus, to be honest cooking helps with my depression and being able to share my stories, recipes, and adventures with you, helps a lot as well.

Hopefully on this journey we are about to embark on, you will learn some stuff (hell I hope I learn some stuff).  However, I make zero promises to use correct punctuation or to be grammatically correct, but I will do my best to at least try to make sense….most of the time.

Anyway, I’m going to be writing about recipes, techniques, tricks, tips, my travels, and adventures.  I’m going to try to post at least twice a month, if not more.  We are going to be cooking everything from gourmet meals to the simplest things imaginable.  I want this to be a blog for everyone and I hope that it inspires some of you to get back in the kitchen and have a little fun. We aren’t going to worry about mistakes, we’re going to take risks, and most importantly we’re going to have fun, because that’s what food (and life) should be about!

You can find out more about me in the ‘about‘ section of the blog. If you have any questions, comments, or ideas, please feel free to connect with me or leave a comment (there are sections for both of those as well).  Don’t forget to follow me, so you can stay up-to-date on what’s going on around here and new recipes.  Thanks again for being part of this exciting endeavor.  Until next time my friends.  Ciao!