Penne Broccoli Alfredo

I have to tell you guys… I’m a late-blooming foodie.

It’s true.

I grew up a very picky eater.  We didn’t eat a lot of exotic or fancy food in our house.  Tacos was about as ethnic as it got.  Both my parents worked full time, and with five kids in the house, it was damn near impossible to find something we all would eat.  I’m pretty sure there was even a time that one of us (it might have been me) didn’t even like pizza.

Thankfully, things have changed.  But it was for this reason that I did not experience the deliciousness that is Alfredo sauce until I was in my 20s.

(It is also for this reason that I literally just recently – as in the past few months – started falling in love with bacon.  But that’s another story for another time.)

Aaron and I were living in West Philadelphia and getting ready to move west to Spokane, WA.  We wanted one last hurrah in New York City before we moved, so we booked a weekend in a hotel and got tickets to see Les Miserables on Broadway.  It was 2001.  I was 21.  My only experiences with New York City up to that point consisted of school field trips to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, and raves in the late 90s/early 00s.  This was probably the first grown-up thing Aaron and I had ever done in NYC together.

We shopped for nice clothing to wear to the theater.  I bought a pretty white button-down shirt and khaki skirt from Brooks Brothers (which at the time was like OMG IT’S SO EXPENSIVE HERE…. wait who am I kidding, it’s STILL expensive).  Aaron actually picked out my outfit.  He’s always been pretty good at picking out clothes for me.

Off we went to NYC.  We took the train and stayed at The Time Hotel.  In this room about the size of a shoebox.  But pretty good water pressure which is really all that mattered to me.

Les Miserables was amazing and beautiful.  I had known the soundtrack from growing up.  My mom had the CD and would listen to the songs often and my sister and I knew all the words and would sing along as if we were Broadway singers ourselves.  (We still do.)

All that crying and emotion made me hungry though, so after the show was over we went looking for a place to eat.  We ended up at a restaurant in some hotel – I want to say maybe the restaurant was called Russo’s? – and Aaron ordered some kind of pasta Alfredo primavera dish.  And since it was an Italian place I probably ordered chicken piccata because that’s the extent of food I liked at that time that was Italian.

His pasta dish out in this big bowl and looked so scrumptious with all the vegetables and creamy sauce covering everything.  I asked for a bite – which I never did back then – and in literally that instant, I became a Pasta Person.

The creamy sauce, the salty Parmesan cheese… I was hooked.  I couldn’t wait to eat it again somewhere closer to home.

Very very shortly after that, “home” was Spokane, WA.  Spokane is absolutely the most beautiful place I have ever lived.  Everything about Spokane put Philadelphia to shame – except the food scene.  In 2001, and maybe still today, I would guess that Spokane was the Chain Restaurant Capital of the World.  Mom and pop pizza shops?  None.  Delis with real cold cuts?  Couldn’t find one.  A real cheesesteak shop?  HA!  I can honestly say the chain Mexican food was awesome.  But the chain Italian food – well it was really only Olive Garden.

So the next place I was lucky enough to eat Alfredo sauce was at Olive Garden.

In retrospect, I suppose it could have been worse.  Olive Garden has pretty good Alfredo sauce.

And if you’ve been reading my blog, you know that the cooking bug bit me while I lived in Spokane, so naturally I searched the primitive internet of 2001 for Alfredo sauce recipes and tried recipe after recipe till I came across one that really tasted like what I had at Olive Garden.  I was not yet culinarily advanced enough to take some liberties and make it like Russo’s.  But even today, this recipe remains my favorite Alfredo recipe.

I add broccoli because it’s much easier to eat when you cover it with something creamy and fatty.  🙂

BTW, what did we do without Pinterest?  I wish I’d had Pinterest 14 years ago when I was learning how to cook!

Anyway.  Here’s what you should do.  Go take a nice brisk hour long walk and then come home and make this.  The walk will make you feel better about consuming so much richness and amazingness.  🙂

Penne Broccoli Alfred

Penne Broccoli Alfredo

Ingredients
3/4 pound penne pasta
1 pint heavy cream
1 stick butter
3-4 tablespoons cream cheese
3/4 cup Parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon garlic powder
2 heads broccoli, cut into florets
Salt & pepper

Directions
1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and add the penne. Two minutes before the pasta will be done to al dente, add the broccoli florets. Drain the pasta and the broccoli in a colander.

2. While waiting for the water to boil, pour heavy cream into a large skillet over medium heat. Add the butter and cream cheese and allow to melt. Whisk to combine. Add salt and pepper to taste. Add the Parmesan cheese and garlic powder and whisk to combine. Turn heat to medium low and simmer for 10-15 minutes, until sauce has thickened. (If sauce is too thin, add a little bit more Parmesan cheese.)

3. Add the pasta and broccoli to the simmering sauce. Stir to combine and cook together for a few minutes. Serve immediately.

Pulled Pork Nachos

Hey guys.

Like HAAAAAAAY GUUUUUYS!!!!

I don’t even think I can tell y’all just how good things have been in the past week.  I have a new boss at work.  And the meetings and discussions I’ve had since he’s stepped into place have been so productive and motivational and for the first time in a real long time, I have hope for a good and positive future there.  I am so excited to go to work now.  And I come home happy and relieved.  The pall has been lifted.  The cancer is gone.  Things are finally looking up.

So now that my mind isn’t in such a rut, I hope to be a bit more active here.

Blogging is hard work you know.

But eating isn’t.  🙂

By now you all know that nachos are pretty much my favorite food ever.  And I’ve sort of embarked on a quest to recreate my favorite nachos from my favorite restaurants.  I’ll be working on this throughout the rest of the year probably.  I already nailed down one and will post it soon.  But I have two others on deck I’m getting ready to tackle.

You really don’t have to twist my arm to make nachos.

Or eat them.

So today I’m sharing with you something I threw together a couple of years ago that turned out really good.  We had a bunch of leftover BBQ pulled pork and I thought WHY NOT MAKE NACHOS WITH IT?!

And then I thought, I should make some nice fresh pico to balance out the heaviness of the pork AND ADD SOME DICED AVOCADO TO THE PICO BECAUSE EVERYTHING IS BETTER WITH AVOCADO.  (And bacon.)

I was so pleased with how these turned out, and when I made them again recently, they are addictive and I could not stop eating them.  I would say that it’s worth it to make a whole dang butt of pulled pork just so you have leftovers to make these nachos.

Or maybe you make a whole dang butt of pulled pork to make nachos and have leftovers for sandwiches.

Either way.  Go forth and nomz!

Pulled Pork Nachos

Ingredients
1 cup leftover pulled pork (see note 1)
1 recipe cheese sauce (see note 2)
1 recipe pico de gallo
1/2 avocado, diced
Tortilla chips

Toppings:
Pickled jalapenos
Fresh minced cilantro
Sour cream
Sliced scallions

Directions
1. Preheat oven to 250 degrees F. Warm the leftover pulled pork in a saucepan over low heat, until warm throughout.

2. Add the diced avocado to the pico de gallo and stir to combine.

3. On an oven-safe platter, spread the tortilla chips in an even layer. Warm the platter of chips in the oven for about 5 minutes. Remove from oven.

4. Build the nachos: Ladle cheese sauce over the chips. Then add the warm pulled pork. Add some more cheese sauce if desired (and you should desire). Then layer on all the toppings – the avocado pico, pickled jalapenos, cilantro, sour cream, and scallions. Serve warm and devour!

** NOTES **
1. For a quick recipe for pulled pork: Season a pork shoulder or pork butt liberally with salt and pepper on all sides. Place into a slow cooker and add enough water or chicken stock to almost cover. Cook on low for 8 hours. When finished, remove from the slow cooker and shred. Add the shredded pork to a saucepan and pour in some of your favorite barbecue sauce. Stir to combine over medium-low heat. Add as much barbecue sauce as you want and serve on hamburger rolls. And use the leftovers for nachos, duh.

2. For this recipe I used pepper jack cheese in place of cheddar or plain jack; I liked the added heat to balance out the sweet of the pork. For additional heat, add Tabasco or Chipotle Tabasco (which is the greatest thing since sliced bread).

MEMORIAL DAY !! Cheeseburgers

HEY!  HI GUYS!  How are you?!

It’s Friday and I just got the most amazing news and it’s a three-day weekend and I’m about to go party after work to celebrate the aforementioned amazing news and really THE ONLY thing that could make me happier is having one of these babies staring back at me.  👆👆👆

But I just ate one last night.  I know, you’re jealous.

I know you want to know what my amazing news is and I would be ecstatic to tell you but it’s probably not right that I do.  So let’s just suffice it to say that – you know how I’ve been complaining about work a lot lately?  I think that will be going away in the future.  I think the future looks pretty bright for me and my coworkers at work and all of us are ecstatic with this news and have been waiting for something like this for a long time.

Now that that’s out of the way, let’s talk cheeseburgers.

I know what you’re thinking.  “Cristin, a cheeseburger is a cheeseburger.  Why do you need a blog entry about it?”

Because, my friends.  You have to know that the girl who owns a blog called Slutty Food Blog doesn’t make just any kind of cheeseburgers.  You have to know we make slutty cheeseburgers in our house.

The path to Sluttastic Cheeseburger Heaven is composed of three essentials.  The Three Essentials of Sluttastic Cheeseburger Heaven are:

1.  Good beef.

Good beef

(That you grind yourself, if possible.  Or, ask your butcher to grind a chuck roast for you.  Whole Foods will do this happily for you.)

Good beef in a bowl

2.  A cast iron skillet.

Cast iron skillet

(Trust me.  Juicy burgers come out of this thing.  If you don’t already have a cast iron skillet, it is absolutely worth investing in one.  LOOK AT THAT JUICE.  Fat = juice.  Juicy burgers do not come from 90/10 ground beef unless you put a pat of butter inside the patty before grilling it.  Anyway this is way better.)

Juicy burgers

3.  Good buns.

Good buns

(You know you don’t want none unless you got buns hun.  I get these at Whole Foods, and once in a while they are out of them, so when I see them, I usually grab 2-3 packages and freeze extras for later use.  These are the best burger buns I have found to date.)

So now you have the three essentials, and all you need is the recipe, found below.  But let me just say.  Even once you pile on all the delicious toppings, you will still take a bite into that burger and note how juicy it is, how salty and succulent, how tender and delicious it is.  Once in a while I get a hankering for a grilled burger, but I mostly prefer burgers in the skillet.  They are so much more juicy and flavorful.

But – let’s say you don’t have a cast iron skillet.  Or let’s say the weather is beautiful and you just want to cook some burgers on the grill out back on the deck and hang out with your friends.  Go for it dude.  Ain’t no shame in yo game.  I respect the grill.  If you’ve got ground chuck and these French brioche buns, you are 2/3 of the way to Sluttastic Cheeseburger Heaven.

Happy Memorial Day everyone!!  Have a safe weekend with your family and friends – and food!!

Cheeseburgers
Serves: 4

Ingredients
1 1/2 pounds ground chuck – either a chuck roast you’ve ground yourself, or that you’ve asked the butcher to grind fresh for you
1 beefsteak tomato, sliced into thick slices
4 leaves green leaf lettuce, curly lettuce pieces only (spine of the leaf removed)
1/2 red onion, sliced thin
4 French brioche hamburger buns
Your favorite sliced pickles
Your favorite condiments – ketchup, mustard, mayonnaise, BBQ sauce
Your favorite sliced cheese
Salt and pepper

Directions
1. Put your ground beef in a bowl and season liberally with salt and pepper. Using your hands, combine the meat and mix well to distribute the salt and pepper. Form into four equal patties.

2. Heat cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Add burgers gently, one at a time, and let cook for 3-4 minutes. Flip over and cook for another 3-4 minutes, or until done to your liking. When the burgers are done, turn the heat off and remove the skillet from the heat. Put a slice of cheese on each burger, and cover with a lid to let the cheese melt.

3. While the cheese is melting, prepare each burger bun as desired. Spread with desired condiments and top with desired toppings. When the cheese has melted, add the burger to the sandwich and chow down!

MEMORIAL DAY !! Macaroni Pepperoni Salad

Hey guys!

Long time no talk.  I know.  I’m sorry.  My bad.  My job is extremely demanding and it’s been completely wiping me out lately.  Like, going-to-bed-at-8pm wiped out.  It’s a busy life.  I wish that all I had to do in life was cook and eat and blog about it.  And be a mom.  And a wife.  And stuff.

Seriously though, you guys, steer clear of IT unless you have a plan to retire at 40.

Anyway.  Because of the exhaustive nature of my job, I especially cherish three day weekends.  Memorial Day is probably my favorite.  The weather is always perfect in Philly in May – just warm enough to be pleasant or maybe even a little hot, but still nice enough in the evenings to sit outside as the sun goes down and enjoy the breeze with a drink in your hand.  We usually set up our 6 foot blow-up pool and make some party food and hang out and have people over and grill some burgers and dogs.  It’s like the essential way to start summer around here.

Macaroni Pepperoni Salad is something I make damn near every time I have a cookout at my house.  It’s probably the best side dish ever.  It’s tangy and full of veggies.  And since it’s not mayo-based, you can eat it cold or at room-temperature, and not have to worry about it spoiling.

Try it at your bbq this weekend!!

Macaroni Pepperoni Salad

Macaroni Pepperoni Salad

Ingredients
2 cups elbow macaroni, cooked according to package directions and drained
4 stalks celery, sliced or diced
2 small tomatoes on the vine, seeded and diced
2 spoonfuls dill relish
1/2 red onion, diced
Sliced pepperoni, cut into half-moons – as much as you want
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 small bottle Wish Bone Robusto Italian dressing, or your favorite Italian dressing

Directions
1. Rinse cooked macaroni under cold water and let drain thoroughly.

2. In a big bowl, combine the drained macaroni, celery, tomato, relish, and red onion and stir together to combine. Season with salt and pepper. Pour in half of the bottle of Italian dressing and stir again to combine. Add sliced pepperoni and stir again, taking care to keep the pepperoni slices from clumping together.

3. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours. Before serving, add shredded cheddar cheese and more Italian dressing if needed. Stir to combine and enjoy!

MEMORIAL DAY !! Cilantro Potatoes

With Cinco de Mayo behind us, summer is fast on its way.  And after this winter in Philly, I can-not-wait-for-warmer-weather !

This winter really hung on for dear life.  It did NOT want to move on.  Today it’s 85 and sunny and I am heading down to Atlantic City with my sister for the night.  THIS is the weather I live for.  🙂

This recipe for cilantro potatoes is one of my summer staples.  It goes with everything – steaks, grilled chicken, pork chops.  They are buttery, garlicky, and so fresh-tasting.

The best thing about this recipe is that it’s highly versatile.  If you don’t like cilantro – use minced parsley instead.  Or fresh dill.  Any soft fresh herb would be perfect with the garlic and the butter.  Or hey, if green isn’t your thing, garlic and butter is plenty delicious too.

Cilantro Potatoes

Ingredients
2 lbs baby red potatoes, scrubbed and halved or quartered
A handful of minced cilantro, or other fresh herb
6 tablespoons butter
3 cloves minced garlic
Salt and pepper to taste

Directions
1. Put quartered potatoes into a large saucepan and cover with cold water. Bring the potatoes to a boil over high heat. Boil for 12-15 minutes, or until tender when pierced with a fork. (I always stab a large potato with a fork and if it slides off the fork without much hesitation, they are done.) Drain the potatoes in a colander.

2. Return the saucepan to the stove over low heat and add the butter. When the butter is melted, add the garlic, salt, and pepper, and saute until the garlic softens, about 1-2 minutes.

3. Add the potatoes back to the saucepan and toss with the garlic butter mixture. Add more butter if needed. Add the fresh herbs and toss to combine. Serve warm.

CINCO DE MAYO !! Taco Dip

If you were looking for a highly-addictive, semi-healthy, fresh-tasting dip to put on the table for Cinco de Mayo, you need look no further.

This recipe has been in my family for as long as I can remember.  My mom used to make it all the time.  She probably got the recipe off some product label but seriously who cares?  It’s so good.  And it’s loaded with vegetables so you can totally feel good about eating it.  (wink wink, nudge nudge)

I will say two things about this recipe:  1) you must you must you must use Ortega taco sauce.  I have tried this with other taco sauces and it just doesn’t turn out right.  It’s too thin and runny.  2) you may use ‘light’ cream cheese, but fat-free cream cheese does not really work here either.

But like I said, you don’t need to make it much healthier.  It’s loaded with veggies.

Taco Dip

Ingredients
8oz cream cheese, softened to room temperature
8oz medium-heat Ortega taco sauce
Shredded iceberg lettuce (* see note *)
1 green bell pepper, diced
2 tomatoes-on-the-vine, seeded and diced
2 cups finely shredded cheddar cheese or Mexican cheese blend

Directions
With electric beaters, mix cream cheese and taco sauce until well blended. Spread in an even layer in the bottom of a rectangular casserole dish. Top with shredded lettuce, diced green bell pepper, diced tomatoes, and shredded cheese. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours. Serve with tortilla chips.

* NOTE * If you buy a head of iceberg lettuce and wash and chop it yourself, make sure your lettuce is very dry before adding it to the dip. Otherwise, all the water will seep off of the lettuce leaves and water down the dip.

CINCO DE MAYO !! Sangria & Margaritas

I know what you’re thinkin’.

You’re thinkin’ HEY CRISTIN.  WTF AM I SUPPOSED TO WASH DOWN ALL THIS DELICIOUS MEXICAN FOOD WITH.

Amirite?

You have to have sangria and margaritas mis amigos.  No Cinco de Mayo fiesta is complete without a proper drink!

(I would also argue that no warm summer evening spent outdoors is complete without a tangy margarita.)

Sangria is what I turn to when I want to get a slow buzz on.  This sangria is loaded with liquor and you barely know it, so sip it carefully.  Our margaritas are the result of years of perfecting – which tequila works best with which sour mix and which mix-ins?  Don’t worry, the answers are below.

Margarita

Sangria

Ingredients
1 bottle Merlot
1 cup sugar
1 cup Cointreau or Grand Marnier
3/4 cup brandy
3 cups 7-UP
1 cup sliced fresh strawberries
1 medium lemon, sliced
1 medium orange, sliced

Directions
In a large pitcher, stir the wine, sugar, Cointreau/Grand Marnier, and brandy until the sugar has dissolved. Refrigerate 8-12 hours or overnight. Before serving, remove some of the fruit, and pour in the 7-UP. Stir to combine, and serve over ice.

 

Margaritas

Ingredients
3 parts margarita mix (I like Master of Mixes)
3/4 part reposado tequila
1/4 part Cointreau or Grand Marnier
Fresh squeezed lime or orange juice

Directions
Fill a glass with ice and pour all ingredients except fresh juice over the ice. Stir with a straw to combine well. Top with fresh squeezed lime or orange juice to taste. (Go with orange juice for a sweeter margarita!)

CINCO DE MAYO !! Old School Tacos

You guys.

My job is burning me OUT.

Like I didn’t even have time to BLOG last week.  I was so busy and when I wasn’t busy I was completely drained.

And now it’s 2 days before Cinco de Mayo – my most favorite food holiday of the year – and I have FOUR recipes to share with you before it arrives.  Looks like I’m doubling up!

Old School Tacos – why are they old school?  Well, when I was a kid, I had this genius idea to slut up my tacos by adding slices of Velveeta to them.  I cook up the beef and then add some to the taco shells, then lay on some slices of Velveeta and bake in the oven for a few minutes till the cheese melts.  It is pure heaven.

And then I grew up and Pinterest was invented and I realized that my genius idea wasn’t so unique.  I guess a lot of people have been melting cheese on their tacos for quite some time.

But anyway, if you’re having tacos at your Cinco de Mayo party, this is one surefire way to slut them up.  Or, just jazz up regular old taco night at home!

Old School Tacos

Old School Tacos
Serves 4-6 people

Ingredients
A jar of your favorite salsa
Your favorite Mexican spices like chili powder, chipotle chili powder, ancho chili powder, and/or cumin
1 lb ground beef
Crunchy taco shells
1 small brick of Velveeta cheese
Chopped tomatoes, chopped lettuce, diced red onion, shredded cheese, sour cream, and taco sauce for topping

Directions
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees, OR to the temperature listed on the back of your box of taco shells. Brown ground beef in a large skillet over medium heat, breaking into chunks until there is no longer any pink. Drain, and rinse the excess fat out of the skillet. Return the beef to the skillet.

2. Add salsa, 1/2 cup at a time, and stir to combine. You only want to add enough salsa to moisten the meat and make it saucy. A full pound of ground beef will take a little over a cup of salsa, depending on your preference. Sprinkle spices on top to your taste and preference. Stir to combine well. Keep heat on medium low and simmer excess moisture out of the mixture.

3. Using a serrated knife, slice 1/4-inch thick slices of Velveeta off the brick, then cut in half lengthwise. Cut as many slices as needed for as many tacos as you’ll be eating. Each taco will take two half-slices.

4. Spoon ground beef mixture into each taco shell. Lay two of the half-slices on top of the ground beef. Prop the taco shells up in a baking dish, or against each other on a baking sheet; or lay flat (the cheese will just melt onto the shell instead of onto the beef). Bake for 3-5 minutes at 350, OR bake at the temperature recommended and as long as recommended on the back of the taco shell box.

5. Remove from the oven, and remove to a platter if desired. Top with your favorite taco toppings and enjoy!!