“Cacio e Pepe” literally means “Cheese and Pepper”. That’s pretty much it. It only has FOUR ingredients! (plus the water and salt, of course). We’ve been talking about making this recipe for awhile now. It is apparently one of THE four classic pasta dishes from which all pasta dishes start. It is so simple yet so delicious, I don’t know why we waited so long! (Oh wait, I remember it is because we have to drive an HOUR away to find some Pecorino Romano….but OH MY! I’m in love with this cheese! Totally worth it!!). I’ve also just recently discovered Bucatini noodles (thick cut, spaghetti-type noodle but with a hole in the center to soak up any sauce even better!). This noodle has a really great bite and I’ve used it in a few other recipes recently, which I loved. This recipe usually calls for a thick-cut spaghetti but I still wanted to try it with the Bucatini, so I did! I have to say it was very scrumptious, although I’m afraid the sauce soaked up a little too well. So, if you’re a saucy kinda person, in which case just use a quality spaghetti noodle (I included alternative directions to create more sauce, should you prefer that way instead). Personally, I don’t mind the less-saucy finish, it’s all bout the flavor and bite of the noodle to me anyway. But DO be sure to buy the correct cheese and use freshly ground pepper. You’ll be so glad you did. I hope y’all enjoy it as much as we did! Bon Appétit!
1/2 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese, plus more for serving
2 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil, plus more for serving
(Salt for water and to taste at end)
Using a shallow pan (wide enough for noodles and deep enough to hold about 1 inch water), bring to a boil. Add 1-2 Tbsp of salt, so that it tastes like broth (don't over salt, you can add some at the end as needed). Add noodles to the boiling water, spreading them out the get them all in the water. Stir several times throughout cooking to prevent noodles from sticking to each other.
While the noodles cook, heat a small shallow pan over low heat and add pepper, toasting it for about 2 minutes to help release the oils, hence releasing more flavor. Grate the cheese and have ready to go.
When all the pasta water is just about evaporated (bottom of pan should still be coated with the starchy water) and noodles are al dente, remove from heat. Add the olive oil, toasted pepper and half of the cheese to the noodles. Using tongs or 2 large forks, toss vigorously to coat evenly. Add the rest of the cheese and continue to toss until all incorporated and cheese has melted into the noodles. Taste and add salt to taste, if needed.
Transfer to serving bowls and sprinkle with more cheese and finish with a little drizzle of the olive oil, then enjoy!
For a creamier sauce, cook the pasta is in a large pot of salty water (in this case, you will want to salt the water to taste like sea water). While noodles cook, toast the pepper and place it along with olive oil in a large bowl. When noodles are al dente, DO NOT DRAIN WATER (you will need it to add it to the pasta as desired). Instead, use tongs to transfer the noodles directly from the pot into the bowl with pepper and oil, then toss to coat the noodles. Add the cheese and toss vigorously until cheese melts into noodles. Add some of the pasta water, 1/4 cup at a time, to the noodles to create a more creamy sauce. Then serve with the finishing touches the same as above. Enjoy!
We were ready to do something different this weekend, something that we have yet to try. Of course, we also wanted to use the grill or smoker (do be outdoors and enjoy the last days of summer), so chicken quarters were an obvious choice for us! I love the flavors of the Caribbean, so we decided to bring the taste of Jamaica to our own backyard. I can still remember (and still crave!) those amazing flavors from a trip with my mother years ago. It was the first time I tried Jamaican Jerk Chicken, down at Montego Bay, during one of our stops on a cruise we took years ago along the Caribbean Coasts. This is the best recipe I have found that brings me back to those tropical memories! I’ve added a few of my own twists to it, but this is as close as I have ever been to it again! (Maybe one day soon Jeff and I will get to experience it first hand!) Until then…
The first step to any great tasting chicken is to BRINE THAT BIRD!! No matters the flavors you are going to add before grilling, baking, pan frying or deep frying, BRINING the chicken for 8-24hrs (ideal is 24 hrs) is the BEST way to keep that chicken moist and flavorful. I use pretty much the same brine (see recipe below), regardless of the flavors we are doing later. Be sure to take the chicken out of the brine, rinse, pat dry and let sit at room temperature for about an hour before cooking. Then go ahead with your seasoning, being sure to use your hands to really massage and rub the flavors in well, then grill it up!
The Jamaican Rice and Beans (called “peas” in Jamaica) are a great side dish to add plenty of low-fat, high nutrition along with helping to balance out the heat from the spicy chicken. The fried plantains add a nice, sweet, crunchy yet custardy texture to the complete whole meal. Be sure to choose plantains that are almost all black and give a little to slight pressure. These are the ripest and less starchy, so they fry up well. They don’t need any other seasoning other than a pinch of salt when coming out of the fryer.
Small handful of fresh Italian (flat-leaf) parsley
2 lemons, sliced
For the Jerk Seasoning:
1 Tbsp garlic powder
3 tsp cayenne pepper
2 tsp onion powder
2 tsp dried thyme leaves
2 tsp dried parsley
2 tsp sugar
2 tsp salt
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp ground allspice
1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg (or 1/8 tsp freshly grated)
1/4 tsp cinnamon
For Jamaican Rice:
1 cup Jasmine rice
1 can (13.5 or 14 oz) coconut milk
1/2 cup water
1/2 sweet (Vidalia) onion, diced
1 Serrano pepper, halved, seeded and sliced
1/2 tsp ground allspice
1/2 tsp salt
Pinch of freshly ground black pepper
3 sprigs of fresh thyme
1 clove garlic, peeled and smashed
1 can (15 oz) dark kidney beans, drained and rinsed
2 Tbsp fresh Italian parsley, chopped
For the fried plantains:
3 very ripe plantains, peeled and cut on the diagonal
1 1/2-2 cups vegetable oil
Pinch of kosher salt
For the brine, combine all ingredients except salt and fresh herbs and bring to a boil over med-high heat. Add salt and stir until dissolved. Take off heat, add herbs and allow to cool completely. Add leg quarters to the brine, keep in fridge for at least 8 hrs and up to 24 hrs, for best results. About an hour before cook time, remove from brine, rinse, pat dry and allow to come up to room temp.
To make the rice: In a large pot add everything but the rice and beans, heat over medium heat to bring to a boil. Add the rice and stir, reduce heat to simmer then cover and cook for 20 minutes, until the rice is tender and liquid is absorbed. (I stir mine twice during that cooking time to ensure rice doesn’t stick to bottom of pan, and watch the liquid, may need to have a few tablespoons of warm water if getting too dry before rice is cooked through). When rice is finished, turn off the heat and add the beans. Stir and cover another 10 minutes to heat the beans through. Fluff with fork and sprinkle with chopped parsley before serving.
In the meantime, combine all the Jerk Seasoning into small bowl, stir well and set aside. Heat grill to medium-high heat. Add seasoning to all sides of the chicken then pat and massage into the chicken and let set for 10 minutes. Place chicken on hot grill, skin side down, until outside is carmelized and crust has formed, about 7 minutes. Turn chicken over, reduce to medium or move to indirect heat and cook another 15-20 minutes, until internal temperature reaches about 170 degrees (temp will rise about 10 more degrees while resting; 180 degrees is the target temp). Set chicken aside and cover with foil loosely, allowing to rest for 10 minutes.
For the plantains, add oil to shallow dish and heat on medium-high until oil is very hot (should see ripples, but can take a slice of plantain and hold end into oil, if oil is bubbly around it then it is ready, if not, allow to heat longer). Add plantain slices to hot oil in batches (be sure not to crowd the pan), turning every 5-7 minutes, until deep golden brown. Remove to cooling wrack (on top of baking sheet to catch the oil), adding pinch of salt while still hot. Allow to cool slightly before serving.
1 Jalapeño, seeded and diced (or keep the seeds if you like extra spicy!)
1/4 Cup Cilantro, roughly chopped
4-5 Dashes Mexican Hot Sauce (I use CHOLULA - can find at Walmart!)
Salt & Pepper to taste
For avocados, slice in half (run knife lengthwise along seed), slightly twist and pull apart halves. Remove the seed (can use tip of a spoon to gently run underneath it to lift it out, OR, if daring enough and want to look pro, you can use sharp knife to quickly whack it-not sure of the professional term there, then pull up and twist it out). Place avocado halves in large bowl.
Squeeze the lime juice over all the avocado, then using a masher or fork, mash to desired consistency.
Add the onions, cilantro, jalapeño and hot sauce, mix well to blend.
Add salt and pepper to taste (avocados need a lot of salt, but you cant remove once in, so add a few pinches at a time, taste and add more if needed)
Enjoy immediately or store for several hours in fridge to develop even more flavor (be sure to use plastic wrap directly on top of the guacamole when storing to prevent browning).
These Blueberry Pecan Pancakes are the BEST pancakes I have ever had. We first had these at a cooking class we attended while in Houston last year (called The Urban Chef). We had an awesome chef that day teaching us how to make these along with some other great brunch food. We had a blast and, of course, loved eating all the delicious food our class made. We’ve made these pancakes several times since then and I personally crave these pretty often. I even brought some to work one time for my fellow nurses and they loved them too (even the guy who doesn’t like pancakes loved them!!). Toasting the pecans before using them makes a huge difference in the overall taste, so it’s worth the extra step. We also try to make our own blueberry compote (syrup) when we can and ladle it over them (recipe below). You can just add more blueberries and pecans on top drizzled with whatever syrup you like (as pictured above). You will see that we like to add the blueberries and toasted pecans on top of the pancake when poured onto the griddle, but you can also mix it in the batter before cooking, if you prefer. You can use fresh, dried or frozen blueberries for this. Hope you enjoy!!
Blueberry Pecan Pancakes with Homemade Blueberry Compote
1/2 cup real maple syrup (can also use honey), and add more or less to your taste
1 tsp lemon zest
1 tsp lemon juice
Toast the pecans by heating in a shallow pan over med-low heat for 3-5 min until you can smell their nutty aroma. (Be careful not to burn them, shaking the pan often to keep them moving some). Set aside.
To make the blueberry compote: add the blueberries to small saucepan along with the maple syrup, lemon zest and juice. Bring to a boil then simmer on low for 8-10 minutes. Set aside and keep warm.
For the pancakes: Start with the dry mix by combining in a large bowl both flours, brown sugar, baking powder, cinnamon and salt. Whisk together.
For the wet, combine the eggs, egg whites, buttermilk and oil. Whisk until combine.
Dump the wet mixture into the dry mixture and mix with whisk just until combined (don’t over mix!)
Heat griddle to 325 degrees and add about 1 Tbsp of canola oil (it’s hot enough when a drop of water sizzles)
Use 1/4 cup measure to poor pancakes onto hot griddle. Place as many blueberries and pecans on top as desired.
When edges appear dry and are golden brown on the bottom, carefully flip each pancake. When the center of the pancake is soft and spongy to the touch, they’re ready! (Only turn them once! Over flipping them will make them tough).
If you prefer to add the blueberries and pecans into the batter, add them to the dry mix and stir to combine before adding the wet (this will keep the berries from sinking). Not everyone in this house likes the blueberries and/or nuts, so we add to them as we make them. (You can also add chocolate chips instead of berries! That would be delicious as well!)
This Pasta Carbonara is probably one of my FAVORITE comfort foods IN THE WORLD! It is so easy and quick to make, I cannot believe it took me so many years to discover it!! There are many varieties of this dish out there, but this one (to me) is the best. This is a great dinner to quickly whip up on any busy family weeknight, or a great romantic dinner you and your loved one can enjoy making and tasting together. Many of my friends think we keep a fancy and expensive pantry to keep up with some of these dishes we put out there. I do admit, we sometimes have to travel a little farther, or order online, to get some of the ingredients we need for our recipes. However, THIS recipe’s ingredients can be found just about anywhere, in any small town (like ours!). In fact, I made this last night even though we were short a few of our usual ingredients (here I used pics from last night’s results, along with another time when I did have all the ingredients). So last night we were able to substitute the Parmesan cheese with Cojita cheese (a crumbly, mexican version of parmesan that is just as salty and yummy!), then just left off the parsley (since we didn’t have any inside, or outside, the house right now). This dish usually calls for pancetta, but we cannot get that around here, or likely any smalltown, USA, lol. So, we just use good old fashion BACON. How can anyone not like BACON?!?! I mean, c’mon….it’s PASTA and BACON! Together! What more shall I say?? Other than it never disappoints the palate nor the tummy! Enjoy!
1 Lb. dried spaghetti (we use whole wheat pasta to make ourselves feel better about it, it's all about balance, right?)
2 Tbsp olive oil
4 Ounces bacon, sliced into strips or cubed
4 Garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
1 tsp red pepper flakes (or more if you like it spicy like us!)
2 Large eggs, whisked
1 Cup freshly grated Parmesan-Reggiano (or just Parmesan freshly grated, or pre-grated, if that's all you can find)
Freshly ground pepper
Handful of fresh flat-leaf (Italian) parsley, chopped
Timing is important with this dish, so cook the sauce while the pasta boils. The pasta must be hot so the raw eggs will cook when mixed in at the end.
Add the dry pasta to pot of boiling water that has been salted generously (I do 1-2 palm fulls of kosher salt) and cook according to package directions.
Heat large pan over medium heat, add olive oil and bacon. Cook until bacon is crispy and the fat is rendered.
Meanwhile, whisk the eggs and cheese together in a bowl; set aside for later.
When the bacon is done, add the garlic and red pepper flakes, then stir continuously 2-3 minutes (keep it moving so you don't burn the garlic!)
Using tongs, transfer the cooked pasta directly from the pot into the large pan and toss the pasta well with tongs to coat the strands with the bacon fat. (you can also drain the pasta, but be sure it stays hot and reserve 1-2 cups of the pasta water to use later)
Take the pan off the heat (so as not to make scrambled eggs!) then add the egg/cheese mixture, quickly tossing it all together until the sauce has coated the pasta.
Thin the sauce by adding pasta water, 1/4 cup at a time, until desired consistency (I usually end up adding 1 - 1 1/2 cups, but I like it creamy!)
Season with freshly ground pepper and salt to taste.
Sprinkle the top with parsley and more grated cheese, if desired.
These Boudain (that’s the Cajun version of boudin!) rolls are a HUGE hit at our house. These hearty rolls of scrumptiousness are very easy to make for breakfast, snack or whenever! They usually don’t last very long around here. The times I have made some for a work potluck, they are pretty much gone in 60 seconds. We prefer them spicy, but if you prefer it mild, just go with plain boudain. Here in the south, we call these Kolaches (although the correct name for this is Klobasnek – pastry with savory meat inside, we find it much easier to say ko-lach’-ees!) Plus, this was their name when we first discovered them around here in a local donut shop. Now we found a way to make them at home anytime we crave them. Hope you enjoy as much as we do!
This spicy chili is the PERFECT rainy day meal (it has been raining and cold for 2 days here so this hit the SPOT!), and is super easy to make. We like just about everything spicy, but this recipe is versatile and easily adjustable to whatever heat level you like. You can seed the jalapeno and serrano peppers (or omit them altogether), and opt for the regular diced tomatoes, kidney beans and chili powder. To plate, we placed our cornbread right in the middle of the bowl, then ladled the yumminess all over it. We then garnished it with sour cream, which helps cool down the heat as well, and the green onions give it a bite of freshness that makes it all come together. This recipe makes a big batch, so this meal is perfect for leftovers (and I feel it gets even better over night!) I used some of the leftovers to make a brunch the next morning, adding an egg and a squeeze of lime on top to freshen it up perfectly. Add a side of pan-fried potatoes and you have Brunch! Enjoy!
2 cans (10 oz ea.) Hot Diced tomatoes with habaneros, undrained
1 can (28 oz) Crushed red tomatoes
2 cans (16 oz ea.) Kidney Chili Beans in Hot Chili sauce, undrained
1 can (15 oz) Tomato sauce
1 Yellow bell pepper, seeded and diced
1 Green bell pepper, seeded and diced
1 Large white onion, diced
3 Jalapenos, sliced (seed or not to seed is up to you)
3 Serrano peppers, sliced
5 Garlic cloves, diced
1 tsp Smoked paprika
1 tsp Cumin powder
1 tsp Kosher salt
Salt & Pepper to taste
Garnish: Sour cream, sliced Green onions
Canola Oil (enough to coat bottom and sides of 10 in. cast iron skillet)
2 c. All purpose flour
2 c. Yellow corn meal
1 1/2 c. Granulated sugar
1 tsp Kosher salt
1 tsp Baking Powder
2 c. Milk (2% or whole)
1/2 c. Jarred sliced jalapenos, chopped
For the Chili:
1. Heat 1 Tbsp. of oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add all the meat together along with 1 tsp of the Hot Mexican Chili powder, cooking until meat is browned and no longer pink.
2. While the meat is cooking, in a large stockpot combine all the canned ingredients and heat over medium heat.
3. Add the cooked meat to the stockpot.
4. In the same skillet, add the other tablespoon of oil and heat over medium heat. Add onions, all the peppers, and the remaining spices and salt to the skillet. Cook and stir frequently for about 5-7 min, or until mixture is softened and onions are translucent.
5. Add garlic to the vegetable mixture, stirring constantly for 2-3 minutes, being careful not to burn the garlic.
6. Add vegetable mixture to the stockpot and stir. Reduce heat to simmer, cover and cook for about another 30 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste.
While chili is simmering, prepare cornbread.
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees, placing cast iron skillet with oil in oven while it heats up
2. Combine all the dry ingredients in large mixing bowl.
3. Add eggs and milk to dry mix, whisk just until combined.
4. Add jalapenos and stir to mix.
5. Immediately pour mixture into hot skillet and bake for 25-30 minutes or until done in the center.
We added a picture of what we did with some of the leftovers...heated up the chili with cornbread and added a fried egg on top (because everything is better with an egg!). Also added rustic fried potatoes on the side and garnished it all with sour cream, chopped green onions and a squeeze of lime.
2/3 cup dry Marsala wine (get the good stuff! The REAL stuff! Not just the cooking wine!)
2/3 cup heavy cream
2 tsp chopped fresh thyme
2 tbsp roughly chopped fresh Italian parsley (flat leaf) (optional, it's for serving presentation!)
Cut chicken breasts lengthwise, (knife parallel with the cutting board), in half (2 breasts make 4 breasts)
Place each breast in plastic bag (or cover with plastic wrap) and pound with flat side of meat mallet until thin.
Heat oil over medium heat until smoky.
Combine the flour, salt and pepper for dredging
Dredge both sides of chicken in seasoned flour and place into hot oil, frying each side about 5 minutes, or until golden brown. Set aside.
Lower heat, add the sliced prosciutto, saute for 1-2 minutes until starting to crisp. (may need to add more EVOO if too dry at this point)
Next, add sliced mushrooms, stirring and cooking 4-5 minutes, until caramelized and golden brown, and their moisture has evaporated.
Add chili peppers, minced shallots and garlic to the mushrooms, cooking and stirring another 2-3 minutes, careful not to burn the garlic.
Add salt and pepper to taste.
Add the chicken stock, Marsala, heavy cream and thyme, scraping bits from bottom of pan.
Gently boil, uncovered, until reduced by half (10-15 minutes).
Add chicken back to the pan (along with the savory juices from their pan). Reduce heat to low and simmer until the chicken has warmed through and sauce thickens a little bit more (2-3 minutes). Transfer to serving platter alone, or over whole wheat spaghetti. Sprinkle with roughly chopped parsley.