Monday, July 30, 2012

Pulled Pork

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One of my favorite kitchen gadgets is my dutch oven.  I love that you can cook on the stove top and then stick it right in the oven.

Here is a great recipe that combines the sweet and spicy:  pulled pork!


Pork Butt
Can Dr. Pepper
2 Adobo Peppers
1 bottle of Baby Ray's BBQ sauce

Heat the dutch oven on the stove top.  Sprinkle the pork butt with salt and pepper.  When the dutch oven gets hot, pour a little oil.  When that has heated up, put the pork butt in the pot.  Sear both sides of the roast.

While the meat is searing, take two peppers out of the can and chop them up.  These peppers are really spicy.  If you want your pulled pork to have more of a kick, add more peppers.  Stick the peppers that are left in the freezer.

When the pork is seared, add the peppers, Dr. Pepper, and bottle of BBQ sauce.  Stick the dutch oven in the oven and cook at 250 degrees for 6-8 hours.

When the pork is finished you can take two forks and shred the pork.  Serve the pork on buns and add some pickles.

This recipe is very easy and delicious!

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Rustic Peach Pie

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Peaches are in season and there is nothing better than peach pie.  In the past I have always bought pie crust from the grocery freezer.  As I expand my cooking skills, I wanted to learn how to make pie crust.  After pouring through old family cookbooks I found a few of my Grandfather's recipes.  He was a baker and made desserts all of the time.  One of the things I found was a very old piece of paper with 19 different pie recipes.  For my Grandfather, simple was better.  I hope this recipe makes him proud.

Pie Crust

2 cups flour
1 cups chilled butter, cut into squares
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup ice water

Put first 4 ingredients in food processor and pulse.  Add a little water at a time - continue pulsing.  Stop when the dough forms into a lump.  You should still see chunks of butter - that is good!  Take the dough and wrap it in plastic and place in refrigerator to rest.

Peaches - I don't like peach skin in my pie.  To rid the peaches of their skin, blanch them in boiling water for 2 minutes and put them in ice water.  The skin will fall right off.  Then you can slice the peaches away from the peach pit.

To make the peach filling I added 1 cup brown sugar, 1 tablespoon cinnamon, and a pinch of salt.  My grandfather's recipe incorporated white sugar and a little orange flavoring. 

Now, I love cream cheese in my desserts.  I wanted to incorporate some cheese in this pie.  To do this I mixed 1/2 block of cream cheese, 1/3 cup sugar, 1 teaspoon vanilla. 

Time to roll the dough!  Take the dough out of the refrigerator and put in on a floured surface.  Put some flour on your rolling pin and roll the dough out.  When it is 1/4 inch thick, roll it up and place it in a buttered pie pan.

Place the peaches and spoonfuls of cheese in the pie.  Fold the sides over.  This has a rustic look instead of a June Cleaver look.  If you know me at all, I in no way resemble June Cleaver!

Bake the pie at 350 degrees for 40 minutes or until the pie crust browns.

Can Corn

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OK, my obsession with canning's adventure was corn!  Canning corn is super easy and much cheaper than buying cans.  One of the best tools that I bought was a corn shucker.  It cost about $10 at Target.

All you have to do is shuck the corn and scrape this tool along the cob.  The kernels fall off very easily but it is a little messy.

Corn is a low acid food so it needs to be processed in a canner.  To do this add 3 quarts of boiling water to your canner.  Have a separate pot of boiling water going as well.  To sterilize my canning jars, I put them in the dishwasher.  This does two things: sterilizes them and heats them so that the hot water will not crack the jars.

When the jars are hot, add your corn, 1/4 teaspoon canning salt, and boiling water.  Leave 1 inch head space before putting on your lid.  Heat your rim and lids in the boiling water.  Wipe the jar lids off and place the lids on. 

Place the jars in the canner and secure the lid.  Processing time starts when the weight starts rocking back and forth.  I used 1/2 pint jars and processed them for 40 minutes.

I used the 1/2 pint jars because only 2-3 of us eat at a time.  Most people use pints or even quart jars.
I paid .33 cents per ear of corn and it made 10 jars.  This means that each jar cost me .39 cents per jar.  This is cheaper than the grocery store and just think how cheap it would be if you grew your own corn!

Meat Sauce

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This recipe is listed on Domestic Randomness

Being Italian, I was raised eating pasta.  I love all kinds of pasta:  spaghetti, ravioli, mostaccioli, fettuccine.  The key to good pasta is a great sauce.   All of my family members make their sauce differently, but they all have key ingredients.  My Nonna made the best sauce ever!

My Nonna and Nonnu with me

My Nonna and Nonnu were from Sicily.  I remember going to their house when I was little and she was always cooking.  Everytime we were there she made us eat.  "Mangia, mangia," she would always say.  They spoke very little English.  I loved listening to them, always arguing like Italians do - we are passionate people!  She died when I was little but I have some great memories.

This recipe is one that I have tweaked over the years.


1 pound ground round
1/2 pound ground salsicha (italian sausage)
4 cans tomato sauce
2 cans crushed tomatoes
1 onion, diced
8 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup Parmesan cheese
1 cup red wine
1/2 cup sugar

Brown the beef and sausage.  Add the onions and garlic.  Saute together for 5 minutes or so.  Add the two cans of crushed tomatoes, wine, cheese, basil, parsley, oregano, salt, pepper and sugar.

Let that simmer for 30 minutes or so.  Add the rest of the sauce and cook it all day.  The longer it cooks, the better it is.

My mother does not like to put sugar in her sauce.  Instead, she blends the crushed tomatoes with a carrot.  She feels like the carrot adds the right amount of sweetness.  I enjoy my sauce a little sweeter, so I add sugar.

My Nonna added several pieces of meat and bones in her sauce.  She added meatballs to her sauce and let them cook in the sauce. Adding the meat bones and meatballs does add flavor to the sauce, but it also adds greasiness.  She would skim the grease off the top of the sauce.  I would rather skip that step, so I brown my meat first and let it finish cooking in the sauce. 

As my Nonna would say, "Mangia!"

This recipe is featured on Foodie Friends Friday! and Buns In My OvenWeekend Potluck and Simple Living and Eating!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Zucchini Bread

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One of my favorite vegetables is zucchini.  I love summer when you can go to your local farmer's stand (or raid your neighbors garden) and get those huge zucchini.  The problem with those HUGE zucchini is that I'm the only one in my house that eats it!

To solve this problem, I decided to make zucchini bread!  Here is a list of ingredients:

3 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground clove
1/2 teaspoon allspice
3 eggs
2 cups sugar
2 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup applesauce
3 cups shredded zucchini
1 cup raisins

To make the bread combine the first 8 ingredients in a bowl.

In a separate bowl, mix together the eggs and sugar and vanilla.  Add oil, applesauce, zucchini and raisins.  Stir to combine ingredients.

Mix the wet ingredients with the dry ingredients.  Stir and place in bread pans that have been sprayed with PAM or buttered/flour.  This recipe makes one large loaf and one small loaf.

Bake at 325 degrees for 1 hour or until brown.  When you stick a toothpick in the loaf, it should come out clean or with a few crumbs.

This zucchini bread is so moist!  It is a fantastic recipe.  If you want to get creative, you can substitute crushed pineapple for the applesauce or dried cranberries for the raisins.  If you like nuts, go ahead and add some!


Monday, July 23, 2012


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One of my favorite things to eat with tacos is fresh salsa!  It is so easy to make. 

List of ingredients:

1 jalepeno
1/4 green pepper
1 small onion
1/2 bunch fresh cilantro
1 large can tomatoes
Juice of 1 lime
Dash of salt

Put it in your food processor and wha-la (is that a word?)! 

Now, if you know anything about me, you know that I have been a canning fool.  I had some leftover salsa that I didn't want to go bad so I simply heated it to boiling point and put in a hot canning jar.  Put the jar lid in hot water (near boiling).  Wipe off the jar rim and put the lid on.  Process the salsa in a hot water bath (boiling water) for 20 minutes.  Remove and let cool.

As the jar cools, the lid should seal.  This means that when you press on the center of the lid it will not "give."  If you are able to move the lid up and down the lid didn't seal.  At this point you can reprocess or refrigerate.


Sunday, July 22, 2012

Spicy Pickles!

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The best pickles I ever ate were homemade pickles.  My brother in law's dad makes them.  He inspired me to make these spicy pickles.

The first thing I did was assemble my pickling spices.  In a small bowl I added dill seed, mustard seed, crumbled bay leaf, peppercorns, mace, fennel seed,  pepper flakes, and celery seed.

While I was assembling the spices, I had the pickling cucumbers in an ice bath, in the refrigerator.  When ready, I took them out and sliced them with my Pampered Chef cutting tool - like a mandolin.

I sliced them long so that they cover the whole sandwich and not just a little portion!

In a sauce pan, bring 3 quarts water, 1 quart vinegar and 3/4 cup pickling salt to a boil.  While you are waiting for that to boil, start assembling your other ingredients:  garlic, fresh dill, peppers, and your pickling spices.

In a large pot, boil some water.  This will be what you put the pickles in to seal the jars.  Also, put your canning jars in the dishwasher to sterilize them and get them hot.

When you are ready, start assembling your jars.  Put one garlic head, 2-3 pieces of fresh dill, pepper, and 1/2 teaspoon pickling spice in the jar.  Place the sliced cucumbers in the jar.

Add the brine to the jars, leaving a 1/4 inch head space.  Make sure to dry off the tops of the jars so that when you put the lids on, they are able to seal.

Put the jars in the hot water bath, making sure that the jars are completely submerged.  Boil the jars for 20 minutes and then remove to cool.

When you can the jars should seal as they cool.  To make sure they seal, press on the lid.  If it "gives," the jar didn't seal.  That jar should go into the refrigerator to use first!  These pickles will be ready to eat in about 2 weeks.

Canning anything is super easy!  If I can learn it, you can to!

French Bread

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There is nothing like fresh, homemade bread.  Coming back from Hawaii I was reminded about my Grand Pee Paw and Nana.  They used to live there and I was fortunate enough to visit them when I was a child.

One of the things that I remember about my Grandfather is that he was always cooking.  He had these HUGE mixers, 3 or 4 of them and they were always busy.  He always made fresh bread, and rolls. 

When I got my first Kitchen Aid mixer, making bread was one of the first things I did!  This is a great recipe and so easy!

The ingredients are:  2 1/4 cups water, 3 Tablespoons sugar, 1 Tablespoon yeast, 1 Tablespoon salt, 2 Tablespoons oil, 6 cups flour.

The first thing you do is combine the water, sugar and yeast in a bowl and let it proof.  This means that you are activating the yeast.  When it is ready it will make little bubbles or this:

As you can see from the picture, I just put the ingredients straight into my mixing bowl.  Don't forget to have your dough hook handy!  If you don't have a mixer with a dough hook, that's OK.  Just plan on getting your hands dirty!

When you see the foam/bubbles, then you add the salt, oil and flour.  Start the mixer and add the flour one cup at a time.

When you have added 5 cups of flour, you should start to see the dough forming on the hook.  Continue adding flour, a little at a time, until the dough has separated from the sides of the bowl and is on the dough hook.

At this point you can remove the dough and put it in a bowl.  I spray the bowl with PAM and flour it a little so the dough doesn't stick.  Cover the bowl and put it on top of the oven, with the oven on 200 degrees or so.  This is a great way to have the dough rest and rise.

Let the dough rise 30 minutes or so and then go and punch it down.

Cover it back up and let it rise again.  When the dough comes to the top of the bowl, remove the dough from the bowl and place it on a floured surface.

You can either make  2 large loaves of bread, or break it into smaller pieces and make sandwich rolls.  I choose to make 5 smaller loaves............

Roll the dough out into an oval shape, about 1/4 inch thick.  Then take the dough and roll it up, making a loaf.  Put it on a baking sheet lined with corn meal.

When you have rolled all of your dough, take a knife and make a few slits on top of each loaf.  Cover and let rise again.

After 20 minutes or so, crack one egg into a small bowl and add 1 tablespoon of water.  Whisk that together and brush on the top of each loaf.

Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes or so, or until golden brown.

Look at how they turn out!

Baking bread is very easy!  If you've never tried it, do it!  You won't be disappointed!

This recipe is featured on Totally Tasty Tuesdays!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Grand Pee Paw's Oatmeal Cookies

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Yes, for those of you that know me, go ahead and start making fun.  I called my Grandpa Grand Pee Paw.  He was fun and died when I was way too young.

My Grand Pee Paw helping me hold the new terror of the family:  TONETTE!

Last week my husband and I were fortunate to travel to Hawaii.  Being in the islands reminded me of my Grand Pee Paw because he and my Nana used to live there.  I was fortunate enough to visit them twice when I was a child.  When you are young you don't appreciate your parents or your grandparents.  Looking back now, there are many things I remember and I wish I had appreciated them more while I was visting.

Karrie and Tonette, Grand Pee Paw and me on one of our visits to Hawaii

One of the things I remember about Grand Pee Paw was that he was always in the kitchen.  I remember that he had these HUGE kitchen mixers and he was always making bread.  When I started cooking my mom said I cooked just like him because I didn't clean up after myself as I cooked!

Unfortunately, my Grand Pee Paw was a cook with all of his recipes in his head.  The family has very few recipes of his.  One of the recipes we do have is his recipe for oatmeal cookies. 

My niece, Maria Tortilla, was here visiting and we decided to make his cookies.  Here are the ingredients (I'll post them at the end).

The first thing we did was put 1 cup of shortening in the mixer.  To this we added 1 cup of white sugar and 1 cup of brown sugar.  Beat this together and add 2 eggs, 1 teaspoon vanilla and 2 teaspoons molasses.   Mix for 1 minute and add 1 tablespoon cinnamon, 1 teaspoon nutmeg, and 1/2 teaspoon ginger.

In another bowl assemble 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons flour, 1 teaspoon salt, 3 cups oatmeal, 1 cup raisin bran flakes, 1 teaspoon baking soda, 1/2 cup raisins, and 1 1/2 cup nuts.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry.

Spoon the mixture onto a baking pan and bake for 13-14 minutes at 350 degrees.  When you take them out of the oven they will not look set.  Don't panic!  As the cookies cool, they will set. 

I remember the first time I made these cookies.  I took them out of the oven, called my mother and told her that there was no way this recipe was right.  She told me to simmer down, as she does in her Bertha way and told me that they would be fine.  She was right (as usual).  Give it a try!

Ingredients:  1 cup shortening
                     1 cup sugar
                     1 cup brown sugar
                     2 eggs
                     1 teaspoon vanilla
                     2 teaspoons molasses
                     1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons flour
                     1 teaspoon salt
                     3 cups oatmeal
                     1 cup raisin bran flakes
                     1 teaspoon baking soda
                     1/2 cup raisins
                     1 1/2 cup nuts
                     1 tablespoon cinnamon
                     1 teaspoon nutmeg
                     1/2 teaspoon ginger

Thursday, July 5, 2012

I'm In a Pickle

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My husband and I leave for Hawaii tomorrow morning.  Have I packed anything yet?  NO!  Instead of packing, I decided to make some pickles!

Last month I went to my niece's First Communion and I tried some homemade pickles.  Maria's grandfather made some spicy dills and they were FANTASTIC!  I decided right then and there that I was going to make some of those.

First thing I did was go to the nearest produce stand.  I purchased 15 pickling cucumbers.  When I got home I washed them and put them on ice, in the refrigerator.

While that was chilling, I started a large pot of boiling water.  In another sauce pan, I started my brine:  4 cups water, 4 cups vinegar, 3/4 cups pickling salt, and 3 Tablespoons of sugar.  I brought that up to a boil.

While this was going on (yes, you need about 8 hands) I placed the jars in the dishwasher to get them sterilized.  The lids and jars will go into another small saucepan so that they get hot right before the jars need to be sealed.

My next step was to prepare a pickling spice.  Yes, you can buy it already made at the store but I love experimenting.

My pickling spice included:  crushed cinnamon stick, mustard seed, celery seed, dill seed, peppercorns, mace, crushed bay leaves, and red pepper.

I then peeled 6 cloves of garlic for each jar and washed several stems of fresh dill.

At this point it is time to cut the cucumbers.  I took each end of the cucumber off and quartered them.

By the time all of this is done, the jars are ready for stuffing.  In each jar I put a little of the pickling spice, several stems of fresh dill and one garlic clove.  Then I put the cucumber pieces in the jars, tight enough so that when the brine is poured in the pieces don't float.  If that happens, they won't pickle and could spoil.

Ladle the brine into the jars, wipe the rims and seal them with the lids.  Make sure you put the lids and rims in the hot water.

Pickles need to be processed in a hot water bath for 10 minutes.  After 10 minutes you can take the jars out of the boiling water and let them cool.  As the jar cools, the lid will vacuum seal.  To make sure of this, press on the center of the lid.  If it gives, the jar did not seal.  Simply put that jar in the refrigerator and use first.

As with any canning project, store the jars in a cool, dry place, away from sunlight.  If, after you open any jar, there is mold or some other funky substance, do not eat!

Hope you enjoy!  I have to go pack now!