Ughhh, as I write this we are snowing, sleeting, and icing. It is mid-April…where is spring?!

My twin sister lives in Appleton, Wisconsin and she had 20+ inches of snow in the last week. To keep our sanity, Chuck and I have decided that we are going to ignore the landscape out there and prepare for spring nonetheless!

To put us in a spring-y mood, we decided to make garlicky dill pickles, BBQ sauce, and a twist on baked beans. Winter is over in our minds… so bring on spring and summer! Even Cappuccino tried to help!

 

These pickles are great on sandwiches or for snacking or frying. YUMMMM.

Chuck’s Dilly Garlic Pickles

Ingredients
1 whole cucumber
½ cup white vinegar
1 cup water
6 cloves of garlic
½ tbs. black peppercorns
4 tbs. dill
¼ cup salt
2 tsp. crushed red pepper

Directions

  1. Slice the cucumber. I used a mandolin and sliced them to about an ¼ of an inch.
  2. Slice the garlic thinly.
  3. Place the cucumbers and garlic together in a bowl with the salt. Cover with cling wrap and let sit for 4 hours. This will crisp up the cucumbers to make a snappy pickle.
  4. Rinse well and drain four or five times to completely remove the salt.
  5. In a small saucepan, combine the vinegar, water, and seasonings over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil.
  6. Fill a jar with the rinsed cucumber-garlic mix. Pour the boiling brine into the jar. Cool, then cap and place in the fridge. In one week, they will be perfect to eat!

 

This is my twist on our family’s baked bean recipe. My favorite addition is sautéed bratwurst, although I have used ground beef. Add a side of vinegary cole slaw to make a hearty meal!

Nancy’s Baked Beans

Ingredients
½ cup BBQ sauce
½ cup chili sauce
½ cup water
3 tbs. dry mustard
1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
3 tbs. apple cider vinegar
1 tsp. Liquid Smoke
2 tsp. garlic powder
¼ tsp. cayenne pepper
1 ¼ lb bratwurst, casings removed
2 onions, chopped
2 (28oz) cans baked beans
2 (15oz) cans pinto beans, drained
2 (15oz) cans cannellini beans, drained
¼ cup molasses
6 slices thick cut bacon, cut into 1in. pieces

Directions

  1. Heat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Whisk together the first nine ingredients in a small bowl.
  3. Sauté bratwurst in a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat, breaking up into small pieces, until fat begins to render, about 5 minutes. Stir in onions and cook until sausage and onions are browned.
  4. Transfer bratwurst mixture to the bowl with sauce. Stir in all beans and molasses. Transfer bean mixture to 13x9in baking pan and place on rimmed baking sheet. Arrange uncooked bacon pieces in a single layer over top of the beans.
  5. Bake until beans are bubbling and bacon is rendered, about 1.5 hours. Let cool for 15 minutes and serve. Serves about 15.

YUMMMMM!

 

My family has been making our own BBQ sauce for generations. It is really easy to make and much better than any bottled sauce I have found. I have made changes over the years and this is my latest version. Try it on all types of meat!

Nancy’s BBQ Sauce

Ingredients
4 slices bacon
½ cup onion, grated
Salt & pepper, to taste
1 cup apple cider vinegar
2 cups chicken broth
1 cup ketchup
1/3 cup chili sauce
2 tbs. hot sauce
½ to 1 tsp. of Liquid Smoke

Directions

  1. Sauté bacon in a medium pan until it begins to brown.
  2. Add onion, salt, and pepper.
  3. Stir in vinegar while scraping all the bits on the bottom of the pan to incorporate.
  4. Cook for about 5 minutes, whisking often.
  5. Add in the rest of the ingredients. Bring to a simmer and cook for about 15 more minutes.
  6. Remove the bacon and taste the sauce, adding more salt and pepper as necessary.

Need to feel like spring has sprung?! Test these out at home and let us know how they turn out!

Three Nor’easters in two weeks?! And a fourth being discussed?! Clearly, March does not mean spring in Maine! I can recall several snowstorms that came well into April in the past… I’m just hoping the snow will be over before then this year!

With all this snow, I am all about comfort food! When the snow is falling outside, there is nothing I love more than to make those warming soothing meals that I grew up with. Plus, after all that hard work shoveling, you need something hearty to fill you back up! Macaroni and Cheese, Tuna Casserole, American Chop Suey, Meatloaf, Chili, Chicken Stew, Fish Chowder… There are so many favorites that comfort me!

Chuck’s Meatloaf with my family’s recipe for Zimm’s Potatoes is always a go-to for me. What’s better than meat with a casserole of cheesy potato goodness?! Plus, the leftover meatloaf always makes for a great sandwich the next day.

In the mood for soup? Try my Fish Chowder recipe, perfect with either clams or haddock. Believe me, one cup of this and you will be comforted!

 

Chuck’s Meatloaf

3 pounds of ground beef
1 cup of brown sugar
1 onion
5 cloves of garlic
1 carrot
2 celery stalks
2 tsp beef stock base
1 egg
3 slices of uncooked bacon
4 slices of ham
½ cup heavy cream

Puree the last 9 ingredients in a food processor. Add this mixture with the brown sugar to the ground beef and mix with your hands until incorporated. Bake in a loaf pan for about 1 hour at 375 degrees.

 

Zimm’s Potatoes

2 lbs of hash browns
1 cup diced onions
1 16 oz sour cream carton
2 cans of cream of chicken soup
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
salt and pepper to taste
1½ cups of crushed corn flakes
½ cup melted butter

Mix first 5 ingredients together, season with salt and pepper, and place in a baking pan. Combine corn flakes with melted butter and top the potato mixture. Bake in a 375 degree oven until bubbly (about 45-60 minutes).

Nancy’s Fish Chowder Recipe

16 ounces fish (clams or haddock)
*If you are using clams, be sure to drain the clam, reserving the juice.
1 tbs of butter
1 medium onion, sliced
1 cup diced celery
7 slices of bacon, diced
7 potatoes, diced
2 cups chicken broth
1 1/2 cups of heavy cream
Clam base, to taste
Salt & pepper, to taste
Fresh thyme and parsley

  1. Cook bacon until crispy and set aside.
  2. Melt butter in large saucepan. Cook onion and celery until tender and onion is translucent.
  3. Add potatoes, chicken broth, reserved clam juices (if using clams), salt and pepper.
  4. Cover and simmer until vegetables are al dente.
  5. Add heavy cream and clam base, to taste. Simmer (be careful to NOT boil) for 15 minutes.
  6. Remove from heat and add uncooked fish. Let sit for 45 minutes covered or until fish is fully cooked.
  7. Season to taste with thyme and parsley. Top with crispy bacon to serve.

Valentine’s Day is tomorrow! What are your plans? Headed to your favorite restaurant? Staying in? Why not make an easy dinner at home for your valentine? While it may sound complicated (and expensive) to make a meal that’s fancier than usual, we promise it isn’t!

Our DIY Valentine’s Day meal is quick and easy. Just pick up a few premade items at your local grocery store and dress them up for a special night.

To make your at-home Valentine’s Day meal memorable, start by planning ahead. Put a small table for two in your living room for a change of pace. Place a new linen on the table and light two candles (we recommend red) to set the mood. Set the table with cloth napkins, your best silverware, and dust off that china hiding in your cabinet. Add a wine or champagne glass and your table is ready! Want to go the extra mile? Write your menu on a card and place it on the plates. How simple is that?!

 

Here is your menu and grocery list, along with estimated cost:

Menu

Baby Greens Salad with Pears and Gorgonzola
Nancy’s Chicken Cordon Bleu Strudel
Chocolate Pudding with Raspberries and Cream

 

Grocery List

Hannaford Express Pear Gorgonzola Salad Kit             $2.99
Puff Pastry Sheets                                                                  $4.69
Premade Mashed Potatoes                                                   $3.99
4 Slices Swiss Cheese                                                             $2.99
4 Slices of Deli Ham                                                              $3.69
1 Jar Alfredo Sauce                                                               $3.99
1 Rotisserie Chicken                                                              $4.99
Prepared Chocolate Pudding                                               $.89
Whipped Topping                                                                 $1.89
Fresh Raspberries                                                                $2.00

Total estimated cost for this romantic meal:     $32.11

 

Entrée Preparations:

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Remove 1 puff pastry sheet from the package and bring to room temperature.
  3. Mound mashed potatoes down the middle of the pastry sheet.
  4. Spoon some alfredo sauce over mashed potatoes.
  5. Layer with slice of chicken, piece of cheese, slice of ham.
  6. Fold over puff pastry sheet and seal down the middle and on the ends to avoid leaking.
  7. Place strudel seam side down on a parchment lined sheet pan and brush an egg wash over the top.
  8. Bake until brown on top, about 30 to 40 minutes.

 

While strudel is baking, prepare dessert:

  1. Place pudding in a decorative glass for dessert and place in fridge until ready to serve.
  2. When ready to serve, top with whipped topping and raspberries.

 

Finish entrée preparations:

  1. Heat the remainder of the alfredo sauce.
  2. Mix salad and toss with dressing.
  3. Plate your dish, garnishing your strudel with the warmed alfredo sauce.

 

Want some more ideas to make your night special? Here are some more romantic tips and recipes:

One item being raved about this past holiday season has made its way to my kitchen. I’m excited to tell you about the Instapot! What’s mainly advertised as a pressure cooker, is really a jack-of-all-trades.

What Can the Instapot Pot Do?

  • pressure cook
  • slow cook
  • cook rice/porridge
  • make yogurt
  • make cake
  • cook hard-boiled eggs
  • sauté/sear
  • steam (veggies and more)
  • warm meals
  • sterilize utensils

How Long Does the Instapot Take to Cook Meat?

The Instapot is a great tool for quick, after-work meals. Not only can you throw frozen meat into it, but the meat cooks tender, juicy, and quickly. Here are the average cook times for popular meat options.

  • Beef: 20 to 75 minutes.
  • Chicken: 8 to 25 minutes.
  • Pork: 20 to 60 minutes.
  • Turkey: 15 to 30 minutes.

Nancy’s First Instapot Recipes

Of all the features offered with the Instapot, my personal favorite is the pressure cooker. Meals that could take up to 12 hours, like chicken bone broth, will only take two with the Instapot. I’ve experimented with some new recipes and they came out terrific. Join me in trying these new Instapot recipes: Pork Chops with Port Wine Glazed Cherries & Risotto and Tender-Tasty Beef Brisket.

Pork Chops with Port Wine Glazed Cherries & Risotto

This is a simple yet flavorful and tender pork dish. The risotto was made with a cast iron pan, but it is feasible to cook in the Instapot. Estimate 25 minutes for cook time.

Ingredients:

  • 4 pork chops
  • 2 tbs. Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO)
  • 2 tsp. chopped shallots
  • 1 ½ cup pitted cherries
  • 2 ounces unsweetened cherry juice

 

Directions:

  1. Season the pork chops with salt and pepper.
  2. Sauté pork in the Instapot.
  3. Add 2 tablespoons of EVOO on both sides of the pork.
  4. Add in 2 teaspoons of chopped shallots and sauté with pork.
  5. Remove pork from Instapot and deglaze the pot with port wine and balsamic vinegar.
  6. Add 1 ½ cups of pitted cherries and cook until soft.
  7. Add 2 ounces of unsweetened cherry juice.
  8. Cook for 25 minutes and let the pressure release naturally.

Tender-Tasty Beef Brisket

First, cover the brisket in a seasoning blend (Chuck’s Pork and Beef Seasoning is a  recipe that I like to use). Once the brisket is covered in rub, you can leave it covered in the fridge overnight.

Chuck’s Pork and Beef Seasoning

¼ cup of each of the following:

  • black pepper
  • white Pepper
  • granulated garlic
  • granulated onion
  • smoked paprika
  • chili powder
  • ancho chili powder
  • salt
  • lastly, 1 tsp. of cayenne pepper

 

Brisket Sauce (make in bowl)

  • ½ cup of water
  • 4 tbs. tomato paste
  • 2 tbs. Worcestershire Sauce
  • 2 tbs. Liquid Smoke

Directions:

  1. Slice 2 cups of onions and add them to the Instapot.
  2. Place beef on top of onions, and pour the Brisket Sauce over the beef.
  3. Cook for 75 minutes, let the pressure release naturally.
  4. Once the beef is cooked, remove the beef and mix everything in the pot together—here’s your sauce.
  5. Add 1 tbs. of mustard and a cornstarch slurry to thicken the sauce.

If you’d like to try some other recipes of mine, check out our last blog article Spice Up Your Kitchen in 2018!–there are some great Mediterranean flavors to try!

 

 

 

 

About sixteen years ago, I did a Festival of Nations event and served meatballs from thirty different countries. Events like these remind me and others of the diversity of flavors available to us and the impact that a single ingredient can have on a dish. It’s one of the reasons I love what I do so much.

As we push toward the New Year, I thought it would be fun to give some thought to new flavors that have become quite popular. Globalization has made it possible for spices of the world to travel, and for us foodies to experience other countries right in our own backyards. I mean, less than a century ago, we couldn’t even purchase cashews, but now we can’t go into a grocery store without noticing them. Access to eclectic flavors is really a privilege. As we step into another year of diverse and delicious cuisine, I plan to share some recipes that I find that fit into this expansive theme.

Some flavors I’ve been particularly drawn to are those of the Middle East and Northern Africa, variations of Mediterranean, really. Two recipes I have become very familiar with are the vibrant Maghrebian Harissa and the herb-loving Za’atar. Please join my palate and me in trying these out-of-this-world condiments and spices.

Move over Sriracha! Harissa is here.

This is a vibrantly sweet, smoky, and spicy condiment that transforms into a hot, garlicky and complex chili paste. The basic recipe calls for hot peppers, garlic, salt, and lots of olive oil, but you can also add some coriander, caraway seeds, and maybe cumin and dried mint depending on your preference.

Homemade Harissa

Makes 1 cup

Ingredients

  • 5 medium dried red chili peppers, seeded and stems removed (I use a mix of dried guajillo or Fresno chilies, dried chipotle peppers, and dried chili de arbol. Sometimes I add 1 habanero pepper if I want to really spice it up!).
  • ¼ cup red wine vinegar
  • juice from 1 lemon
  • ½ teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • 6 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon of coriander seeds
  • 1 teaspoon of cumin seeds
  • salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 1 teaspoon of caraway seeds
  • ½ teaspoon of dried mint
  • 1/3 cup tomato paste

Directions:

  1. Soak the chili peppers in the vinegar for 30 to 45 minutes, until soft. Combine chilies, vinegar, lemon juice, lemon zest, garlic, and olive oil in a food processor and process until smooth.
  2. Lightly toast the coriander, caraway, and cumin seeds in a frying pan. Then grind them using a mortar and pestle. Add these ground spices to the food processor along with the pepper, mint, salt, and tomato paste. Process until smooth, drizzle in extra olive oil if the mixture seems too thick. Season to taste with additional kosher salt.
  3. This will keep up to three weeks in your refrigerator. It can be used on eggs, lamb, beef, fish, chicken, and turkey. You can also use it with grains, pasta, and potatoes.  Its origin is in North Africa and has been added to curries and stews.

Za’atar

Za’atar is a wonderful spice mixture that can improve any dish— it brings out flavors similar to salt. Like most regional seasoning mixtures, there are literally hundreds of versions, but this is mine. These flavors work really well in a number of dishes, but especially with grilled meats, fish, chicken, rice, potatoes, and all sorts of other vegetables. I also use za’atar as an oil-based dip for flatbread!

Simple Roasted Za’atar Chicken

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 4 chicken breasts with skin on, previously brined
  • 4 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 4 teaspoons of sumac
  • 4 teaspoons of za’atar seasoning* (see below)
  • 4 teaspoons of lemon zest
  • 2 teaspoons of sweet paprika
  • 2 teaspoons of cayenne pepper
  • 2 teaspoons of dried chili flakes

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F Place the chicken on a sheet pan.
  2. Mix all the other ingredients together and season to taste—add more salt or lemon as needed. Rub the mixture under the skin and all over the skin and place the squeezed lemon halves on the tray.
  3. Bake for 40-60 minutes at 165°F (or longer depending on the size of the chicken). Make sure to check periodically to ensure the chicken doesn’t overcook.

* Za’atar Seasoning

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons fresh thyme, minced
  • 2 tablespoonssesame seeds, toasted
  • 2 tablespoons marjoram
  • 2 tablespoons dried oregano
  • 2 teaspoons ground sumac
  • 1 teaspoon coarse salt