#52NewEats :: Week 7 :: Pork Loin with Wine and Herb Gravy

Pork Loin with Wine and Herb Gravy

Ohhhh, this pork loin recipe!  Folks, I was quite pleased with this recipe.  I definitely recommend it!  I wouldn’t make this on a weeknight, but it’s a great recipe for Sunday dinner.  😊  The gravy is very flavorful, the pork turned out oh so tender, and served with my //balsamic potatoes//, it made for a nice, hearty meal!

You can find the original recipe //here//.  Her picture is much, much prettier than mine.  Which is fine.  I’m still waiting for longer daylight hours so I’m not eating my dinners at 2pm during the weekend.  Or maybe I could just bite the bullet and build myself a lightbox.  Ugh, who has the time.  I’m werkin’ on it, I swears!

So I am going to skip over all the lovey-dovey recipe admiration stuff – just make it.  And, go to her blog and check out her other recipes, because her photography is beautiful, her blog is beautiful, the fonts, the headings, just, ugh.  #bloggoals

Here are my thoughts!

🍴  I used about a 2.5lb pork loin roast for this recipe.  It was all I could find at Whole Foods that day.  It worked out very well, but it was done cooking in about an hour, a half hour quicker than the recipe suggests.  This could be due to several factors – one being, I think my gas burners run relatively hot, so I can never truly get down to a “low” simmer; and low-medium heat tends to be a rapid simmer.  So my loin was rapidly simmering away for about an hour – BUT – I kept a meat thermometer in it and removed it as soon as it came up to 150 degrees F, and it was PERFECT.

🍴  My gravy did not thicken up very quickly – also I was pretty impatient to eat, so I did end up using the 2tb cornstarch / 2tb water slurry to help it along.  This did make my gravy VERY thick though, enough so that I added a little cream back to it to think it out some.  But it gave the gravy a delicious, thick, creamy (my fav combo) consistency, though next time I may start with only 1tb cornstarch / 1tb water to thicken.

🍴  Lastly, my garlic cloves burned and I ended up having to remove them 😞 Like I said, could be because my burners run hot, or could be that maybe they’d be better off being added later on in the cooking process, rather than during searing.  It’s something I might handle a bit differently next time around.

Pork Loin with Wine and Herb Gravy
Serves 6

Ingredients
1/4 cup olive oil
5 cloves garlic, smashed, skins removed
2 tablespoons fresh rosemary leaves, roughly chopped
1/4 cup fresh sage leaves, roughly chopped
2 lb pork loin roast
1 1/4 cups dry white wine (plus a bit more to deglaze the pan if necessary)
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup chicken stock
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon water

Directions
1. Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Saute the garlic, rosemary, and sage, stirring, for about 1 minute. Add the pork loin tot eh pan, carefully placing it on top of the herbs. Saute the pork for about 5 minutes on each side, then remove it to a plate. Add wine to the pan and use a wooden spoon to scrape the bottom of the pan. Cook until the smell of the alcohol as disappeared, about 1-2 minutes.

2. Lower the heat under the pan to medium-low heat. Return the pork to the pan and season with salt and pepper. Insert a meat thermometer into the center of the pork loin. Partially cover with a lid and cook for about 1 hour to 1 1/2 hours, flipping the pork and scraping the bottom of the pan every 20 minutes. Keep an eye on it, making sure there continues to be some liquid in the pan. Add 1/4 cup of warm water if necessary.

3. When the pork is cooked through (150 degrees F on your meat thermometer), remove the pork to a plate to rest. Meanwhile, increase the heat under the liquid in the pan to medium. If your pan has little liquid left, deglaze with a splash of white wine. Stir well to loosen the browned bits on the bottom of the pan. Add the chicken stock and the cream. Whisk to combine well. Allow everything to warm through, then, mix cornstarch with water in a small bowl, stirring briskly to combine. Add to the gravy in the pan and voila, thickened gravy! Taste the gravy and add salt and pepper to taste if desired.

4. At this point I placed the pork back in the pan to warm it back through. I lowered the heat to medium-low, and just turned the pork in the pan a few more times. Then I removed it, sliced it, and covered it with the delicious gravy.

Balsamic Potatoes

Balsamic Potatoes

I’m sure this sounds kind of strange to you, right?  Balsamic potatoes?  But I assure you – they are so good.  I haven’t made these in years, and when I thought about them recently and how I should make them for the blog, my mouth immediately started watering.

But!  I warn, they are not healthy.  I mean there’s a whole stick of butter in them (if you so choose, and I do so choose).

I discovered this recipe many years ago while paging through some foodie magazine.  There were many things I changed about the recipe to fit my liking – I think enough that I can say I made this a little bit my own.

These are a great side dish for anything – or you could probably even just eat them as they are.  I won’t judge.  😊

Balsamic Potatoes
Serves 4

Ingredients
1 1/2 lbs small red potatoes, washed and scrubbed
2/3 cup balsamic vinegar
3 tablespoons minced shallots
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
5-8 tablespoons of butter, cut into tablespoon-sized chunks
Salt and pepper to taste
1 1/2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley

Directions
1. Pour vinegar into a small saucepan and add shallots. Heat over medium-high heat until boiling, then reduce to a simmer. Simmer for 10 minutes, until the balsamic vinegar has reduced and thickened a little bit. Remove from heat. Whisk in the thyme, and some salt and pepper. Add the butter, 1 tablespoon at a time, whisking to combine. At 5 tablespoons, taste the sauce. If it’s too balsamic-y for you, add more butter until your desired tastes are reached. I typically use a whole stick. 🙊 When finished, set onto a back burner of the stove to keep somewhat warm, but don’t turn the heat on.

2. Boil the potatoes whole, about 20-25 minutes, until done. I usually test by piercing one with a fork or knife – if it slips off easily, they are done. Drain. After the potatoes have finished draining, use tongs to pick them out of the colander and cut them into wedges. (You don’t want to boil them as wedges because they will become too waterlogged for the balsamic sauce.) Put them back into the pot you drained them from.

3. Once all the potatoes are cut into wedges, pour the balsamic sauce over top. Stir together gently to coat the potatoes with the balsamic sauce. Sprinkle with parsley and stir again, and sprinkle with another little bit just before serving. Enjoy!!

#365Recipes :: Chicken and Waffles Benedict

Chicken and Waffles Benedict

I mentioned a couple weeks ago that I joined a Facebook group for food bloggers.  The owner of that group is running a project called #365Recipes, which is somewhat similar to my #52NewEats and #12NewTreats projects.  It’s just another way to spark my creativity and get me in the kitchen!!

The ingredient for today was ‘waffles’, so I thought it would be a good time to retry my Chicken and Waffles Benedict recipe.  I had tried this over a year ago, but wasn’t 100% sold because the waffle was too sweet.  I know that traditional chicken and waffles is served with maple syrup, but I’m not sold on that either…

So like, I’m a Recovering Picky Eater.  Growing up I was incredibly picky – there was even a point in my life where I didn’t like pizza.  (Whaaaaa?)  I mean, I also remember a time where I didn’t know how you turned a brick of cheese into shredded cheese.  (Can’t you only get shredded cheese in bags?)  I truly have my husband’s mother to thank for introducing me to new things when we started dating.  SO.  With that said – even though I have grown up and REALLY come a long, long way, there are some ‘ew’ reactions that still linger on…  I could never eat fruit on salad, I really don’t understand eating fruit with meat (applesauce and pork chops? BARF!), which all sort of comes down to me not understanding the mix between sweet and savory.  My tongue just says it’s a no go.

So yeah, the first time I made Chicken and Waffles Benedict, everything was okay but the waffle still tasted like a breakfast waffle to me.  I was getting hung up on that.  I couldn’t move forward from it.  So I set out to figure out how to make a savory waffle – which I immediately searched on Pinterest and found many ideas, but none that I thought would really jive with fried chicken and a poached egg and hollandaise sauce.

Cue the #365Recipes project many months later.  I’m at Whole Foods, doing my weekly shopping trip, hoping for some inspiration on how to make a waffle savory.  I knew I was making this recipe the very next day so the pressure was on.  As I made my way through the produce section I noticed a table with some ridiculous-smelling smoked English cheddar on display.  And, POOF!  That’s IT!  Smoked cheddar!  And what… what else?  Something green.  CHIVES!

And so my smoked cheddar and chives waffle was born!

I was so excited about it that when I got home I told Aaron about it right away.  And he promptly made a stinky face.  He’s a stinker.

But guess what.  Those waffles smelled so good when they were cooking.  And then when they were done I tried one and it tasted amazing.  And then we built the whole dish together and the whole thing – together – amazing.  I swear there’s something to this ‘smoke’ thing.  Last week I told you about how liquid smoke changed my life with sloppy joes and now this week it’s smoked cheddar.  Maybe we need a smoker?

I don’t think Aaron would mind…

Chicken and Waffles Benedict
Serves 4

Ingredients
Waffles:
Enough waffle mix to make 4 4×4-inch Belgian waffles (I use //this waffle maker//)
1/4 cup smoked cheddar cheese
1 tablespoon chopped chives

Fried Chicken:
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 egg, slightly beaten
1 cup flour
2 teaspoons garlic salt
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1/4 teaspoon poultry seasoning
4 chicken cutlets

4 poached eggs
Prepared hollandaise sauce (I like //this brand// or //this brand//)
Chopped chives for garnish, if desired
Smoked paprika for garnish, if desired

Directions
1. Make your waffles: Grate the smoked cheddar on a Microplane grater, or on the finest holes available on your box grater. Prepare waffle mix according to package directions, then stir in the smoked cheddar and chives. (Note: My waffle mix, for four waffles, uses 1 cup of mix plus wet ingredients. You may be able to figure out how to scale up or down from there, depending on your waffle mix.) When combined, pour into a preheated waffle maker. Close the lid and cook to desired doneness. Cook time will depend on your individual waffle maker. When waffles are finished, remove from the waffle maker, and keep warm, depending on your pace with the other ingredients.

2. Bread and fry your chicken: Preheat the oil in your fryer to 375 (DISCLAIMER: This is the temperature we use. Different fryers may recommend different temperatures for frying chicken. Check your manual, or check online if necessary). Combine the buttermilk and egg in a medium bowl, and set aside. Combine the flour, garlic salt, smoked paprika, black pepper, cayenne, and poultry seasoning in a gallon size Ziploc bag. Seal the bag shut then squish the flour around to mix all the dry ingredients evenly. Working with one chicken cutlet at a time, add one cutlet to the flour mixture, seal the bag, and shake to coat. Remove the chicken cutlet, then dip in the buttermilk mixture. Return the chicken cutlet to the flour mixture, seal the bag, and shake to coat for a second time. Remove the chicken cutlet right to the fry basket. Keep the basket elevated while you do the next chicken cutlet. When ready, lower the fry basket into the preheated oil and deep fry until it reaches a deep golden brown. (Actual fry time will vary widely depending on many factors, including the temperature of your oil and the size of your fryer. Instead of giving you a time frame, I would encourage you to keep an eye on your chicken and look for that yummy golden brown color, and go by the manufacturer’s instructions.) Remove the chicken when done to a paper towel-lined plate to cool for a minute and dry. Keep warm.

3. Prepare hollandaise sauce according to package directions and keep warm.

4. Poach your eggs: Fill a 12-inch skillet with water and set over high heat. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium, or to a heat that leaves the water at barely a simmer. Sprinkle some salt into the water so the eggs don’t stick. When the water is at a steady barely-simmer, crack one egg into a small bowl, taking care not to break the yolks. Gently tip the bowl into the simmering water, allowing some of the water to seep into the bowl, and slip the egg out of the bowl and into the water. Repeat with another egg on the other side of the skillet. Simmer the eggs for 3-4 minutes, or until the egg whites are set. With a slotted spoon, scoop one egg at a time out of the water and pat dry with paper towels.

5. Assemble! Place each waffle on a plate. Top each waffle with a fried chicken cutlet. As you bring poached eggs out of the water and pat them dry, gently place on top of each fried chicken cutlet. Then generously douse with hollandaise sauce, and top with chopped chives and smoked paprika, if desired.

Secret Spinach Dip

Spinach Dip

Spinach Dip.

Really, SFB?

I know, I know.  Everyone knows how to make spinach dip, right?  In fact, it just may be that you know how to make it the way I make it here.  Maybe what I have here is not even new to you.  But it’s new to me, and I’m excited to share it!

Two jobs ago I worked with a girl who claimed to have the best spinach dip recipe ever.  I love spinach dip – have all my life – ever since I was a kid that hated vegetables and anything green – so I said girl, bring some in and I’ll tell you if it’s better than my mom’s.

So she brings it in, with a box of Triscuits.  I say, why the Triscuits?  She says, it’s the best way to eat it.  So I try it, and doggone it, she’s right.

I kept eating it, and trying to figure out what made it so different.  Upon close inspection, it appeared to contain all the same ingredients as my mom’s dip.  It mostly tasted the same.  There was a slight difference I couldn’t put my finger on.  But the main difference was the texture.  It was thicker.  More stiff.  So I started grilling her.

“What is it?  What makes it so thick?”

“I’m not telling you!”

“TELL ME.  I have to know.  What is it?!”

“NO, I’m not telling you!  It’s a secret family recipe.”

“Do you use more sour cream than mayo?”

“I’m not telling.”

“Do you use any mayo at all?”

“Not telling.”

“AH!  Do you use cream cheese?!”

:: looks away sheepishly and blushes :: “I’m not telling!!”

Bingo.  The girl put cream cheese in her dip.  Now to figure out the correct proportions!

It only took me two tries to get it right.  Sadly, I don’t talk to this girl anymore, we have grown apart and moved on with our lives, but if I did I’d let her know I cracked her secret spinach dip code, and thank her for introducing it to me in the first place.

Jorie, if you’re out there – thanks!! 💕

Secret Spinach Dip

Ingredients
1 8oz brick cream cheese, softened to room temperature
1 cup mayonnaise
1 cup sour cream
1 packet Knorr vegetable soup mix
1 10oz box of frozen cut spinach, thawed to room temperature, wrung dry in a kitchen towel
Several dashes (to taste) of hot sauce

Directions
1. In a medium bowl, combine the softened cream cheese, mayonnaise, and sour cream with a hand mixer. Beat for a couple of minutes until very well combined.

2. Add the vegetable soup mix and beat for another couple minutes.

3. Add in the wrung-dry spinach and hot sauce. (To wring dry: empty spinach into the center of a clean kitchen towel. Gather the towel up around the spinach and twist the towel together over a sink, and squeeze and wring until no more water comes out.) Beat for another minute or to to ensure it’s well combined.

4. Remove the beaters, and continue combining with a spatula if necessary, to break up larger chunks of spinach. Pour into a bowl and seal. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours, and up to 5 days. Serve with cut celery, carrots, pretzel chips, and – of course – Triscuits.  😊

#52NewEats :: Week 6 :: Taco Bell’s Cheesy Gordita Crunch

Cheesy Gordita Crunch

As much as I love fancy pants Mexican food, there will always be a place in my heart for good old Taco Bell.  There’s just something about that warm spicy saucy beef, fake cheese sauce, and salty taco sauces that will always bring me back.  I always always always get the same thing at Taco Bell when I go – a number 5 (Nachos Bell Grande + hard taco supreme) and a Cheesy Gordita Crunch.

The Cheesy Gordita Crunch is so, so, SO good.  My favorite part about it is the sauce – a creamy pepperjack sauce, according to the interwebz.  But that warm, soft, pillowy gordita wrapped around the crunchy taco shell and the melted cheese and the sauce…. oh yum.  I just might have to go to Taco Bell for lunch today!

I was scouring Pinterest one day and found copycat recipes for the pepperjack sauce and the Cheesy Gordita Crunch.  I promptly “pinned for later!” and now how-many-years-later-I’m-not-even-sure here I am, making it, finally!

All of the copycat recipes were by the same blogger – //Texas Cookin’ at Home//.  His blog hasn’t been active for a couple years now, but thankfully his recipes are still up!  I was pleasantly surprised by this copycat recipe because it was pretty dang close to the original!

Here are links to his original recipes:

//Cheesy Gordita Crunch//
//Creamy Pepperjack Sauce//
//Copycat Taco Bell Beef//

But lucky for you I will put everything right here so you won’t have to hop around to all the different pages.  😊  Without further ado, here are my thoughts on the recipes:

🍴For the Cheesy Gordita Crunch, my store did not have thick flour tortillas or gorditas, so I just bought taco-size flour tortillas.  They still ended up being pretty good.  Also, I think I needed to sprinkle more cheese onto the tortillas to make them stick to the taco shell.

🍴For the Creamy Pepperjack Sauce, this sauce did turn out a little more runny than I’d hoped.  I think I just need to add more mayonnaise at the end, or maybe even some sour cream.  The flavor on it’s own wasn’t what I thought it might be, BUT, combined with everything, it was pretty damn close!  Also, I noticed that the mayonnaise didn’t incorporate completely to make a uniform sauce.  Next time, I might leave the cheese sauce in the processor, and whiz the mayonnaise in when it’s cooled, to create a more uniform sauce.

🍴For the Copycat Taco Bell Beef, I have no bad things to say!  The flavor and texture of this was on point.  It didn’t taste exactly like Taco Bell – it tasted better!  Initially I had thought that the step about adding everything to a Ziploc bag and squishing it around would be unnecessary, but afterwards I was glad I did this step, so don’t skip it.  I may play with this a little bit in the future – maybe use arrowroot powder instead of flour, to limit the Bad White Stuff.  But, whatever, I’m wrapping the whole thing in a flour tortilla, so maybe it’s a moot point.

🍴Thoughts on the recipes as a whole:  Though I thoroughly enjoyed my dinner this night, and it was quite tasty, I will probably only make this again when I have the time, or when I have guests over.  This isn’t really something you could do on a weeknight unless you had everything prepped already.  The sauce alone has to chill for at least 4 hours before using.  Also, I had to buy several ingredients for this recipe, to only use a tiny bit of them.  You may not have to if you have these things in your house already.  But like, I had to buy a small jar of pimentos only to use 1 tablespoon of them.  What am I supposed to do with the rest of those pimentos?  I mean //pimento cheese// obv, duh, but still, you know what I mean?  I will probably make this again, but be forewarned, it IS a lot of ingredients, and it DID take some time.  I DO think it was worth it!

Taco Bell’s Cheesy Gordita Crunch

Ingredients
For the Creamy Pepperjack Sauce:
1/3 cup pepperjack cheese, freshly grated, finely on a Microplane grater
2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese, freshly grated, finely on a Microplane grater
1/2 teaspoon cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons corn syrup
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 medium to large jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced
1 tablespoon dry buttermilk
1/2 cup evaporated milk
5 tablespoons vinegar (divided use)
1 tablespoon pimentos, drained
Pinch of cayenne
1/4 – 1/2 cup mayonnaise (possibly more, depending on your desired consistency)

For the Copycat Taco Bell Beef:
1 lb ground beef
2 tablespoons flour
2 teaspoons chili powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon paprika
1 1/2 teaspoons dried onions
1/4 teaspoon cumin
1 tablespoon beef bouillon powder
1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
Pinch of cayenne
About a 1/2 cup of water (possibly more)

For the Cheesy Gordita Crunch:
Hard taco shells
Gordita tortillas (or taco-size flour tortillas)
Finely shredded Mexican cheese blend
Shredded iceberg lettuce
Copycat Taco Bell Beef
Creamy Pepperjack Sauce

Directions
For the Creamy Pepperjack Sauce:
1. Combine the grated cheeses and the cornstarch in a small bowl. Toss together with a fork until combined and set aside.

2. In a small saucepan, whisk together the onion powder, garlic powder, salt, cornstarch, mustard, jalapeno, dry buttermilk, evaporated milk, and 4 tablespoons vinegar. Whisk until the buttermilk has dissolved. Turn on the heat to medium and whisk often while the mixture is heating. Bring the mixture to a good simmer, then turn off the heat and remove from the heat completely.

3. Whisk in the cheeses about 1 tablespoon at a time, whisking constantly for about a minute after each addition, to ensure that the cheese fully melts before adding more.

4. When all cheese has been incorporated, pour into a blender (I used my small mini-food processor). Add in the pimentos. Pulse and blend until the peppers are finely chopped and the mixture is smooth. Pour out into a small, seal-able bowl and allow to cool to room temperature.

5. When the cheese mixture has cooled completely, add the last tablespoon of vinegar and begin adding mayonnaise. Whisk together to combine well.  Add as much mayonnaise as you’d like to make it a good consistency – you want to be able to spoon it onto your tacos, so not too runny, but not too thick either.  Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours to allow the flavors to combine and the sauce to firm up a bit.

For the Copycat Taco Bell Beef:
1. Add all ingredients from flour through cayenne to a small bowl, and whisk together to combine.

2. Put the raw ground beef into a large Ziploc bag, and pour the spice mixture over top. Seal the Ziploc bag, pushing out any air. Squish everything around until the spice mixture is worked into the beef.

3. When combined, pour the beef into a skillet and head over medium heat. Add about 1/4 cup of water. Stir frequently to break up the beef, but also to keep it from sticking. As the water cooks off, add the rest of the water, to keep the beef simmering. Don’t drain the beef; just keep simmering until the water cooks off and until the meat is cooked through. Keep warm until ready to assemble into tacos or Cheesy Gordita Crunches!

For the Cheesy Gordita Crunch:
1. Warm hard taco shells in oven according to package directions.

2. Lay tortillas on a cookie sheet and top each with some of the shredded cheese. I used about 1/4 cup as directed, but you may want to use more. Warm in the oven until the cheese melts. (Alternatively, you can do about 2 at a time in the microwave for 30-45 seconds.)

3. When the cheese has melted onto the tortillas, grab a taco shell and place in the center. Gently wrap the tortilla up around the taco shell, and lay it on its side. Continue until finished. To try and keep the tortilla adhered to the shell, you can nest the shells inside each other as you work.

4. Now, to assemble! Add taco beef to each shell. Top with creamy pepperjack sauce. Top with shredded lettuce and shredded cheese. Then, eat!

Sloppy Joe Sliders

Sloppy Joe Sliders

Some time ago I was Paleo, or predominantly Paleo, for the better part of about a year.  My husband really took to it – he likes meat and vegetables and has no problem turning away from potatoes and pasta.  Me, not so much.  I couldn’t last on Paleo like he could.  So he continued on with it, and I was on Pinterest one day looking for recipes to make for him for lunch, and stumbled upon Paleo Sloppy Joes by Cook Like a Cavewoman.  (Her blog is no longer in service, wah!  But I managed to find the recipe somewhere else, and have included it here.)

So anyway I thought well these look good, and I make them, and my house smelled AH MAZE INGGGG.  You know what it was?  Liquid smoke.  It was the first time I’d ever used liquid smoke and I wanted to drink the stuff.  It takes this simple ground beef dish to a whole ‘nother level folks.

I ate a small bowl of it as-is and my mind began racing with all the things I could make with this delicious Sloppy Joe recipe.  Sloppy Joe Cheese Fries?  //Check.//  Sloppy Joe Grilled Cheese?  Someday.  Sloppy Joe Sliders?  Here ya go.

I made these for Super Bowl Sunday a couple weeks ago and they were a hit.  They are, quite literally, sloppy.  And SO delicious.  I really love this method of ‘baked sliders’ and have a few more ideas up my sleeve.  Which means I need to have a couple more parties to feed all the people all the foods.  I hope you make these and I hope you love them!

Sloppy Joe Sliders

Ingredients
15oz tomato sauce
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon coconut sugar
1 tablespoon coconut aminos
1 teaspoon ground mustard powder
1 teaspoon liquid smoke
Salt and pepper to taste
1 lb ground beef
Cooking spray
1 small yellow onion, diced fine
1 small red bell pepper, diced fine
4 garlic cloves, grated
1 jalapeno chili, seeded and minced
6 slices yellow American cheese
12 slider buns

Directions
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Split apart slider buns and lay bottoms into a 13×9 baking dish. Set aside.

2. Brown ground beef in a skillet over medium high heat and drain. Spray the skillet with cooking spray and add the peppers. Saute for about 2-3 minutes, until almost tender. Add diced onion and saute until onion is translucent, about 4-5 minutes. Add grated garlic and saute for about 1 minute. Add the drained ground beef back to the skillet and lower the heat to medium. Stir to combine.

3. Add all ingredients to the ground beef mixture, from the tomato sauce through (and including) the ground black pepper. Stir to combine, and simmer for about 10-12 minutes, until thickened.

4. When the sloppy joes are thickened to your liking, pour them on top of the slider bottoms in the baking dish. Top with the slices of American cheese, and then with the slider bun tops. Cover with foil and bake for 20 minutes.

5. After 20 minutes, check to see if the cheese is melted. If so, these babies are ready to devour!

#52NewEats :: Week 5 :: Cacio e Pepe

Cacio e Pepe

Over the summer, I took a girls overnight trip to NYC with my mom, sister, and daughter.  We had dinner at this amazing restaurant called //Cacio e Pepe//, and the whole reason we went was so we could eat… cacio e pepe.  I had seen some //videos on Instagram// of them mixing up the pasta in a giant wheel of Parmesan cheese and knew I had to have a dish.  The best part – my daughter got her own plate and she actually liked it!

So when I found this recipe by //smitten kitchen//, I knew I had to try it.

As much as I love everything smitten kitchen, I wasn’t sure I would be 100% sold on this recipe.  Would it even measure up to the cacio e pepe I had in NYC?  And also the last 4 recipes I’ve made were good but there was always something I wanted to change or tweak with them.  Well this recipe??  I wouldn’t change a single thing!

DON’T.  CHANGE.  A.  SINGLE.  THING.

This recipe is absolutely perfection the way it is.  Like Deb says in her post, I was not even sure how pasta water, olive oil, and cheese would all come together and make a delicious, creamy, cheesy sauce, but with some kind of kitchen science wizardry, it does.  I was never a fan of adding pasta water to sauces, as I prefer thick, creamy sauces – but I am now a believer in that starchy cooking water.

My husband is not a pasta eater, and even HE said “Wow, this is good.”

My daughter IS a pasta eater, but she said “Meh, it’s too peppery.”  She’s silly.  The one she ate in NYC had giant cracked peppercorns in it.  Maybe she flicked them all off though.  It is NOT too peppery.  It was just right.

This recipe is officially on the rotation in my house.  It was so easy to make, and it tasted so much like the one I had in NYC; it transported me right back there.  Please go check out smitten kitchen’s blog, she is a true inspiration to me.  And you definitely need to make this pasta!

Cacio e Pepe
Serves 4-6

Ingredients
1/4 cup olive oil
1 pound dried spaghetti
2 tablespoons butter
4 ounces Pecorino Romano cheese, finely grated
1 1/2 teaspoon finely ground black pepper
Salt (optional)
1 1/2 cups reserved pasta cooking water

Directions
1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add a small handful of salt. Cook the spaghetti according to package directions. When the spaghetti is finished cooking, BEFORE DRAINING, measure out 1 1/2 cups of the pasta cooking water and set aside. Drain the pasta and return the pot to the stove.

2. In the same pot, heat the olive oil over medium high heat. Add pasta back to the pot, and add about 1 cup of the pasta cooking water. Deb warns in her recipe it may splatter mightily, but I did not heat my oil that hot, so I did not experience this. But be warned, it could happen. Add the butter, 3 ounces of the cheese, and the ground pepper, and toss with tongs to combine. Be patient, it will come together. Keep tossing until it turns cheesy and delicious. Add more cheese if you’d like, or you can top each portion with some of the cheese just before serving.

Cheesesteak Hoagie Nachos

cheesesteak hoagie nachos

So, you guys!  I’m pretty excited.  Def about these cheesesteak hoagie nachos, but first:

Several posts back I mentioned how I wanted to get back into this blog thing after being away for so long because my life took over my life.  Well today I discovered that Facebook is *actually* good for something (I know, I can hardly believe it myself) – somehow I found a food bloggers group, and then I found a food photographers/videographers/bloggers group, and then I found a girl boss bloggers group…. So I joined all these groups and guess what?  One of them (//Food Blogging, Photography, and Videography//) has been promoting a project called #365Recipes.  The group admin created this awesome little book with a calendar of the entire year of 2017, and every day has a different ingredient on it.  It’s supposed to inspire you to create a recipe based on the ingredient on that day.  Sound familiar?  Kind of like my #52NewEats and #12NewTreats projects!  So I eagerly printed out the book and read through it and tonight I will be highlighting all the recipes I want to do!  #goals  This will all FOR SURE help me breathe new life into this blog.  Also, the community, from what I’ve seen so far, seems pretty awesome and supportive and helpful.  So, sorry German Shepherd Dedicated Owners FB group, you might have to take a backseat for a little bit.  😉  (But not for long bc puppy pictures and head tilts.)

Also, guess what today’s #365Recipes challenge was?  NACHOS.

Guess who just made a fantastic new nachos recipe on Superbowl Sunday?  THIS GIRL.

Was it fate?  I THINK SO.

So let’s talk about cheesesteak hoagie nachos.

You may remember my //cheesesteak nachos//, which were also pretty damn good, but these are different.  If you’re not from Philly, I shall explain.

A cheesesteak hoagie typically has shredded iceberg lettuce, tomato slices, onion, and mayo.  I love a good cheesesteak hoagie.  But, I can really only get them if I’m eating at the restaurant that’s making it.  A cheesesteak hoagie isn’t too yummy when it’s takeout – the lettuce gets all hot and wilty (ick), so do the tomatoes (ick).  The thing I love about a cheesesteak hoagie is the contrast between the hot, cheesy beef, and the cool, crisp veggies.  So at some point some time ago this idea for cheesesteak hoagie nachos started tumbling around in my head, and I decided to make them for Superbowl Sunday, when my whole family would be around to try them and critique.

The response was pretty positive!  They turned out really damn good!

My favorite part?  As I was assembling them, the smells that drifted up into my face were exactly that of a cheesesteak hoagie.  So I knew I had hit it right on the mark.

I hope you try this recipe!  You are going to love it!

Cheesesteak Hoagie Nachos
Serves 4-6

Ingredients
3/4 – 1 lb skirt steak
Cooking spray
Salt and pepper
3-4 slices Cooper Sharp or other deli-style white American cheese* (see Note 1)
3/4 lb deli-style white American cheese, cut into chunks* (see Note 2)
6 tablespoons milk
1/3 cup water
Tortilla chips
Shredded iceberg lettuce (about 1/4 of a head)
2 Roma tomatoes, diced
3/4 cup sour cream
2-4 tablespoons Chipotle Tabasco sauce, or your favorite hot sauce (to taste)

Directions
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

2. Prep the steak. Trim skirt steak of excess fat. Slice against the grain, very thin. When you have finished slicing against the grain, run your knife down into the steak with the grain, about 1-2 inches apart, to make somewhat bite-sized chunks of beef. Spread into a single layer on the cutting board and season with salt and pepper (generously, but don’t go crazy).

3. Begin making your American cheese sauce. (While waiting for this to cook, you can work on the steak in the skillet as well.) Add the American cheese chunks to a microwave-safe bowl and add milk and water. Microwave on high for 30-60 seconds at a time, until all the cheese chunks have almost melted. Be careful not to burn the sauce; be sure to stir frequently in between heat cycles. When the chunks are about 80-90% melted, remove the bowl from the microwave and continue to stir until all cheese has melted.

4. Make the cheesesteak. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat and spray with cooking spray. When the skillet is hot, add the sliced steak. You want to sear the meat but don’t burn it, so if it starts smoking too much, turn the heat down. Move the steak around the skillet with a spatula, making sure it is cooked on all sides. When all sides are nicely browned, turn the heat down to low. Spread into a single layer, and lay the slices of American cheese on top. Cover and allow to melt.

5. Line a large baking sheet with foil, and spread tortilla chips in a single layer. Warm in the oven for about 5 minutes. Remove from oven.

6. Make chipotle crema. In a small bowl, stir together sour cream and Chipotle Tabasco sauce. Add as much hot sauce as you’d like. I believe I used about 3 tablespoons in mine but I wasn’t measuring precisely. This is a to-your-taste thing. You don’t have to put hot sauce in the sour cream at all! When combined, pour into a Ziploc bag and snip off a bottom corner, so you can drizzle onto the nachos.

6. Assemble the nachos! Once the cheese has melted on the skirt steak, stir it around so that the cheese is spread all throughout the chunks of steak. Drizzle some of the cheese sauce onto the tortilla chips. Top with cheesy beef. Drizzle on some more cheese sauce. Add shredded lettuce and diced tomatoes. Drizzle on the chipotle crema. Finally – obviously – devour!!

Notes
1. So I realized after the fact you don’t really need 2 kinds of American cheese to make this recipe. I just happened to have Cooper Sharp slices (my favorite) AND I had picked up a couple tubs of American cheese “ends” from the deli, which were just chunks of American cheese. I’ve never made the cheese sauce with Cooper Sharp – I’m not sure how it would turn out, but if you try it, let me know! I always use regular Land o’ Lakes American to make this cheese sauce.

2. I also realized after the fact that instead of using cheese slices for the cheesesteak meat, you probably could have just doused it in some of the cheese sauce. Doy. You will have plenty of cheese sauce to do just that if you’d like. The cheese sauce also doubles as a great queso – add some diced pickled jalapenos and some of the pickled jalapeno juice, yum! It’s also great to use as a dip for French fries or tortilla chips – so since you will have some extra lying around, might as well nomz it up! The leftovers keep pretty well in a sealed container in the fridge. When you reheat it, just add a little bit of milk and stir it frequently during reheating.

Fixer-Upper Friday :: Great Room Before and After

For this week’s edition of Fixer-Upper Friday I’m going to share with you the transformation of our Great Room!

Our Great Room is in the back of the house, in the addition.  It features exposed beam ceilings like the Family Room does.  It’s a long rectangular room with a gigantic bay window on one end, and the kitchen on the other end.  The Great Room includes a sitting area, our dining room, and a huge fireplace not quite in the middle of the room.

If I have one complaint about this house, it’s that the architect who designed the addition was not the most forward-thinking.  The amount and placement of windows, baseboard heaters, and outlets in this house have proved problematic for arranging furniture.  We struggled with this a little in the Family Room but the struggles with this room are a little more prevalent.  While in the Family Room we had an issue with it being almost too big – having to bring our furniture in from the walls a little and figuring out what to do with the space between – in this room, our struggle is that it’s too narrow.  You’ll see what I mean when I get to the After pictures.  🙂  But still, it’s a good size room, and it has lots of potential, and I’ve already got some renovation ideas about how we can manage these issues.

First, the horrid Before pictures:

This is the view from the doorway leading into the Family Room. More sad, brown, ugly carpeting. More dark wood trim that kills the light as soon as it comes in the window. And to the right here you can see the fireplace and the weird linoleum fake brick thing they put in front of it. It extended the feel of the fireplace almost halfway into the room and really crowded it, especially since the fireplace sits on the narrow length of the room.
Here’s a view from the other end of the room, from the corner near the bay window. The sellers left us that hutch as part of the sale of the house, and I LOVE IT. It’s an old Ethan Allen hutch, and I’ve already filled it with bloggy dishes and stuff. I’ve never had a hutch before!
Here’s another view from the bay window side of the room. You can see right into the kitchen (and you’re getting a sneak peek of the kitchen remodel here). You can see how far out that linoleum brick thing in front of the fireplace comes out. Also it’s just hideous. It had to go!

Now, a few pictures from During the process:

Bye bye gross old carpet! We originally thought we’d leave the carpet in this room, for two reasons: a) it was in better shape than the carpet in the rest of the house, and b) we are planning on remodeling this entire back part of the house at some point and will probably put down wood flooring. But at the last minute we decided to carpet it now and it would give the house a more ‘finished’ look. I’m SO glad we made that decision.
This room actually felt bigger without that old ugly carpeting!
Ahhh new carpet! Doesn’t this picture just feel so fresh and clean?!
So much nicer!!!

And now, for the Afters!!:

Look at my lazy dog! I just love him. But yes, look at this room too! It looks so much better!
Much better light fixture, don’t you think?
New dining room furniture is on the ‘someday’ list…

You see what I mean about furniture placement?  You are pretty limited with creativity and what you can do with this room, because it’s so narrow, and because of the window placement.  It would be awesome if the fireplace was in the center of the room, but it’s off to the right a little.  It would actually be nicer if the fireplace sat at the end of the room where the bay window is, with maybe windows on each side.  And It would be awesome if the windows next to the dining room table sat directly across the fireplace, just for my own sense of balance in the room, but they are also offset.

I can never have a dining room table bigger than the one I’ve got.  Otherwise I’d be cutting into the sitting area of this room.  I can also never have bigger sitting area furniture than what I’ve got, because it would be cutting into the dining area.  I love the gigantic bay window, I really do.  But it would be nice if I had some wall space there.  There’s also this window next to the fireplace that is nice for opening and letting in a cross-breeze, but sort of a pain because I NEED WALL SPACE!  So, we just need to be creative with this room, and I already have some ideas and plans about relocating the dining area, to give us some more room for the sitting area.  And maybe even build us a closet (we have NO closets on this floor) and a proper entryway.  🙂

And actually now that I’m thinking about it, maybe I relocate the sitting area, and this giant room becomes a gigantic eating/gathering area… see?  Lots of potential!!

So HEY if you have any interior design or decorating ideas for us for this room (*ahem ahem* *wink wink* my dear sister-in-law!), I’m stoked to hear them!  Please share!