Southwest Skillet Ragu

Hello friends! One of these days my goal is to get back to regular posting. I swear just when I think things will get back to normal, something else comes up that keeps me incredibly busy. This time it’s a move!! My boyfriend and I have lived in the same apartment for over 6 years now, and while we love a lot of things about it, when we got word of another place opening up, we jumped on the chance to take it. This time we will be renting the 2nd floor of a two-family house which has a lot more character than the generic apartment we live in now, and I think has a lot more potential for customization… also, I’ll be getting my own office/study/craftroom space which I am super excited about, and there’s space for a decent sized garden!!!! Anywho, our move out/move in date is January 1st, and that is rapidly approaching. With work keeping me busy much of the week, I’m using most of my spare time packing and getting ready for the move. It’s amazing how much we’ve accumulated in the 6+ years we’ve lived together.

With all the craziness around here, I’m searching for quick and easy meals that require few pans, and minimal cleanup. Okay, that’s what I’m always searching for, but even more so these days. This meal fits the bill perfectly. Two dishes, few ingredients, and all around comfort, this dish is a winner. Goulash is such a comforting food to me (it’s one of the first I started making on my own when Ron and I moved into our apartment), and this take on it with the southwest flavors of chili powder and cumin is really yummy. Definitely recommended.

Southwest Skillet Ragu

Southwest Skillet Ragu

Serves 4-6

Ingredients:

1 cup elbow macaroni

1-1.5 lbs ground beef or turkey

1 large onion, diced

1 red (orange, yellow or green) bell pepper, chopped

8-12 oz white button or baby bella mushrooms, quartered

2-3 cloves garlic, minced

1 Tbsp chili powder

1 tsp cumin

1 tsp smoked paprika

1/4 tsp cayenne pepper or red pepper flakes (optional)

1 28-oz can diced tomatoes, with juices

1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded, plus more for serving

Salt and pepper

Directions:

1. Place a pot of water to boil, salt the water, and cook pasta according to directions. Reserve a cup of the pasta cooking water when done. Drain pasta and set aside.

2. Meanwhile, place a large skillet or Dutch oven over medium-high heat, add 1 tsp of olive oil, and add the ground meat. Cook until browned and cooked through, about 8 minutes, remove the meat from the pan and set aside, and drain off most of the grease. Leave a small amount just to coat the bottom of the pan.

3. Add the onions, and 1/2 tsp of salt, and cook about 5-6 minutes until softened and beginning to brown. Add the mushrooms and cook 5-6 minutes until golden brown. Add peppers, and cook another 2-3 minutes. Add garlic, spices, and 1/2 tsp of salt and cook 30-60 seconds until fragrant.

4. Add the tomatoes and their juices and bring to a boil. Add back browned meat, and simmer for about 5 minutes more until the sauce has thickened.

5. Add the pasta and cheese, and stir until well combined. Season to taste with salt and pepper. If the sauce is too thick, add a bit of the pasta cooking water until the sauce is to your desired consistency. Serve, topping each serving with more cheese if desired.

Source: The Kitchn

 

 

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Crab Cakes

Hello everyone! Long time no see!!!! I’m so happy to be back, and I’m really hoping to be back on here regularly from now on. I have many excuses for my absense… sickness, bridal shower planning… but I really do miss this space here. I have been cooking of course- despite how busy I’ve been I would never be able to stay away from my kitchen (except during my horrible flu/cold that I had). I still haven’t finished sharing my vacation recipes. Shame on me!!! This was probably the best thing i cooked on vacation. Blue crabs are in abundance down in the Chincoteague area, and while we didn’t catch our own this year, we did buy a bunch of local crabs. The first night we just ate them as is- steamed, and then we made crab cakes and a crab frittata with the leftovers. I love that we had an abundance of crab… this is the only place I’ve ever been able to say that. At first I was going to just make veggie-filled crab cakes. My aunt Annmarie and I made the best crab and veggie cakes one year when we were vacationing on Cape Cod, and these were my attempt to make something similar. I REALLY need to get that recipe! My dad however, likes the simple crab-only crab cakes. So I decided to make both…. and then I threw some jalapenos and Old Bay into a few too. I have to say my favorite were the veggie-filled crab cakes with the inclusion of the jalapeno and Old Bay seasoning. So much flavor!!!!

Simple Crab Cakes

Makes about 8-10 small crab cakes

Ingredients:

1 lb lump crab

1/2 cup cracker crumbs (I used Trader Joe’s Mulitgrain crackers- you could use those, ritz, or a similar type of crackers)

1 egg

2-4 Tbsp Mayonnaise

2 tsp Dijon mustard

1/2 Jalapeno pepper, seeds and ribs removed, finely diced (optional)

1 tsp Old Bay Seasoning (optional)

Salt and pepper

2 Tbsp canola oil, more if needed (or other higher heat oil)

Directions:

1. In a large bowl, whisk together the egg, mayonnaise(start with the smaller amount) and Dijon. Add the crab meat, cracker crumbs, jalapeno and Old Bay (if using) and season with salt and pepper, and gently mix together.

2. Carefully form your crab cakes. If they are having a hard time staying together you can add more mayo as needed. It helps if you wet your hands slightly. Place on a plate, and refrigerate for at least half an hour (this will help them firm up).

3. Place a large skillet over medium heat. Add a tablespoon of canola oil. When hot, add your crab cakes, making sure not to crowd the pan. You will have to fry them in 2 or 3 batches. Cook 4-5 minutes per side, until browned. Add additional oil to pan as needed between batches.

Source: Original recipe, but inspired by many recipes around the web

Vegetable Filled Crab Cakes

Makes about 10-12 small crab cakes

Ingredients:

1/4 red pepper, finely diced

1/4 green pepper, finely diced

1/4 summer squash, grated

1/4 red onion, finely diced)

1 Tbsp olive oil or butter

1 lb lump crab meat

1/2 cup cracker crumbs, crushed (I used Trader Joe’s Mulitgrain crackers- you could use those, ritz, or a similar type of crackers)

1 egg

2-4 Tbsp Mayonnaise

2 tsp Dijon mustard

1/2 Jalapeno pepper, seeds and ribs removed, finely diced (optional)

1 tsp Old Bay Seasoning (optional)

Salt and pepper

2 Tbsp canola oil, more if needed (or other higher heat oil)

Directions:

1. Place a medium skillet over medium heat. Add olive oil or butter. When hot, add the bell peppers, summer squash and red onion. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and saute until softened, about 5-10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Set aside to cool.

2. In a large bowl, whisk together the egg, mayonnaise(start with the smaller amount) and Dijon. Add the crab meat, cracker crumbs, jalapeno and Old Bay (if using), sauteed vegetables and season with salt and pepper, and gently mix together.

3. Carefully form your crab cakes. If they are having a hard time staying together you can add more mayo as needed. It helps if you wet your hands slightly. Place on a plate, and refrigerate for at least half an hour (this will help them firm up).

4. Place a large skillet over medium heat. Add a tablespoon of canola oil. When hot, add your crab cakes, making sure not to crowd the pan. You will have to fry them in 2 or 3 batches. Cook 4-5 minutes per side, until browned. Add additional oil to pan as needed between batches.

Source: Original recipe, but inspired by many recipes around the web, and my Aunt Annmarie’s Crab Cakes

Roast Chicken Diavolo

It’s pretty unbelievable to me, but I have less then 2 weeks until I go on vacation! It seems to me that the summer just started, and it’s already the end of July… incredible! Part of me says SLOW DOWN!!!!!  but of course I’m also looking forward to vacation. Just being able to relax for 2 weeks, away from work and all the daily stresses will be awesome. In these two weeks of crunch time one of my major goals is to use the food that I have in the pantry/fridge/freezer before I leave. Ron won’t be going with me, and since he doesn’t know how to cook (other than grilled cheese sandwiches, bacon, eggs, chicken, and microwavable meals), I really want to make him some meals for the 2 weeks I’m away. I did this last year too- made and froze a bunch of meals, and just wrote the instructions on the outside of the containers so that he would have some good home-cooked meals, and not eat fast food for 2 weeks straight. It really worked out so well, and made me feel a little better about leaving. Also, since he didn’t eat every meal, it was wonderful to come back from vacation and have a few pre-made meals I could pop in the oven, and not have to worry about going grocery shopping immediately!

This is the first meal in Operation Clean Out the Fridge. I bought a whole chicken about a month ago when there was a great sale going on at the supermarket and kind of forgot about it. When I was perusing my Everyday Food Special Summer Issue this roast chicken recipe caught my eye. I love roast chicken- it’s economical and can be used for multiple meals. I especially love using the flat-roasted (or spatch-cooked) method as it doesn’t take quite as long for the chicken to cook, and it cooks more evenly. The first time I butterflied a whole chicken I was really intimidated, but it’s super-easy!! Nothing to be scared of at all! This roast chicken was great! I loved the herby, lemony, slightly spicy flavor to it, and I was really excited to use herbs from my garden. Wonderful!

Roast Chicken Diavolo

Roast Chicken Diavolo

Serves 4

Ingredients:

1 Tbsp fresh rosemary leaves, finely chopped

1 Tbsp fresh oregano leaves, finely chopped

2 whole dried chiles de arbol, crumbled, or 3/4 tsp red pepper flakes

2 tsp finely grated lemon zest

1 Tbsp lemon juice

Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 Tbsp plus 1 tsp extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for baking dish

1 whole chicken (3.5-4 lbs), rinsed, patted dry, and butterflied (cut out backbone, turn chicken over and open, and press down firmly!)

2 red bell peppers, cut into 1/2-inch strips

1 large yellow onion, root end intact, cut lengthwise into 1/2-inch wedges

1/2 cup dry white wine, such as Pinot Grigio

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Place one rack in middle of oven, and the other in the upper third. Mix together the rosemary, oregano, chiles de arbol or red pepper flakes, lemon zest, lemon juice, and 1-2 tsp freshly ground black pepper (use more if you’re brave- the recipe actually called for 1 Tbsp).  Coat a 9×13 baking dish with olive oil, and place the chicken in the pan, skin side up. Spread the herb mixture under the skin of the chicken. Sprinkle chicken with salt, and drizzle with olive oil.

2. Place chicken in the oven, on the upper rack and roast for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, mix the bell peppers, onion, and 2 Tbsp of olive oil together on a rimmed baking sheet. Spread in a single layer, and season with salt and pepper. After the chicken has roasted for 10 minutes, add the wine to the baking pan with the chicken. Also, put the baking sheet with the peppers and onions in the oven on the center rack. Roast for 20 minutes.

3. Remove both of the pans from the oven, and using tongs, transfer the peppers and onions to the baking dish with the chicken, arranging them around the edges of the chicken. Place back in oven (on middle rack), and roast for 20 minutes more, or until chicken is done (the thickest part of the thigh should be 165 degrees). Let rest for 10 minutes, and then carve. You can serve this warm, or at room temperature.

Source: Everyday Food (Special Summer Issue, 2011)

Sauteed Cajun Shrimp

Happy happy Friday! I’m always excited for the weekend… I’m especially excited about not having to set my alarm at night, and being able to stay up late and read or watch “Are You Afraid of the Dark?” if I want to… two things that are on my agenda for the weekend. My best friend is also coming over tomorrow for another installation of our Horror D’ouevres, and I’m really excited for that too 🙂 Can you believe that this weekend also signals the end of June? I certainly can’t! This week also brings the 4th of July, and while I don’t have any plans to watch fireworks, I’m still looking forward to the holiday, and a day off of work. As a kid, we always used to go visit my family out in Missouri for a week in the summer, and we were always there for the 4th. The laws there are not as strict regarding fireworks there as there are in Connecticut, and so it was always our tradition to buy a bunch of fireworks, and take turns setting them off in my Grandparent’s backyard. It was so much fun to actually set off our own fireworks, rather than just watch them…. although a good fireworks show can be fun as well.

This recipe comes from one of my favorite series of cookbooks, the Everyday Food series. The magazine (which unfortunately is now defunct), was one of my favorite food magazines, and I am still mourning the loss of it. The recipes were simple, but excellent, and were perfect for quick and delicious weeknight meals, which are the type of meal I am most drawn to, as that is the type of meal I cook most frequently. This meal fits the bill perfectly. Just a few ingredients,  super quick and simple, but still so flavorful, and not boring at all. I used turkey kielbasa in this dish to make it healthier, but I think that andouille sausage (pork, turkey or chicken) would be even tastier, if you can find it.

Sauteed Cajun Shrimp

Sauteed Cajun Shrimp

Serves 4

Ingredients:

1 Tbsp olive oil, divided

1 small onion, finely chopped

1 can (14.5 oz) low-sodium chicken broth

1 cup long-grain white rice

Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 red bell peppers, ribs and seeds removed, sliced lengthwise into thin strips

8 oz precooked andouille or kielbasa sausage (I used turkey kielbasa), halved lengthwise, and thinly sliced crosswise

1 lb large shrimp, peeled and deveined

Directions:

1. Heat 1 1/2 tsp of oil in a medium saucepan, over medium heat. Add the onion, and cook about 3-5 minutes, until softened, stirring occasionally. Add the chicken broth, increase heat to high, and bring to a boil. Add the rice, season with salt and pepper. Reduce heat to low, cover, and cook for 20 minutes, until liquid is absorbed and rice is tender.

2. Meanwhile, place a large nonstick skillet over medium heat, and add remaining 1 1/2 tsp of oil. Add the bell peppers, and cook about 4-6 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the peppers are crisp-tender. Add the sausage and shrimp, and cook about 3-5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the shrimp is cooked through, and the sausage is heated. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

3. Serve shrimp and sausage mixture over the rice.

Source: Everyday Food: Light