Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Roll 'em Up Cabbage Rolls

A Two for Tuesday Recipe 

This is one of my favorite recipes, using my own personal favorite, unsung, and under appreciated "hero" ... the cabbage.

I take you step by step on how to prepare the cabbage leaves, make the bundles and even what steps you can do ahead of time. My recipe incorporates some non-traditional methods, and spices, like using a cooked onion mixture, balsamic vinegar, and a dash of nutmeg.  The sauce is simply a marriage of tomatoes, good beef stock, red wine and a splash of balsamic vinegar. It's cooked down while you prepare the bundles and doing this imparts a real depth to the flavor to the sauce. Cheers to my hero ... the cabbage.

Serves 4

10 cabbage leaves, blanched.

Onion mixture:
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 onions, chopped
2 pinches of salt
1 teaspoon garlic, minced
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup beef stock

Meat mixture:
1 pound ground beef
1/2 pound ground pork
1/2 the cooked onion mixture
1 teaspoon sweet smoked paprika
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 tablespoon onion powder
3 - 5 gratings of nutmeg or 1/4 teaspoon of powdered nutmeg
1 egg
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup cooked white rice

Mix all the ingredients together in a large bowl. Except for the cooked onion mixture, this can be done one day ahead and all you need to do is add the cooked onion mixture on the day of cooking.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Quickie Cuban Arroz Imperial or Imperial Rice

Arroz Imperial, is basically a Cuban chicken and yellow rice lasagna. The layering starts with rice, then chicken, followed by a layer of mayonnaise, (mayonnaise? YES mayo) then cheese and repeat, just like you would do with a lasagna.

I know you are still stuck at the word "mayonnaise" and it probably seems rather odd but believe me, it's amazing what it does to this dish. As it cooks the mayo "melts" into the chicken and rice, creating a tangy, creamy texture. Top that with the cheese and now you've got the gooey yummy-ness of the cheese melting through each layer. I'm getting a craving for some just writing about it! Arroz Imperial is typically served at special occasions, like bridal or baby showers - even weddings, a family brunch or celebratory dinner. Me, I like to eat it whenever I get a hankering for it, and that is why I developed my own quickie version. You see, the full-blown version is rather time and labor intensive because it has a number of steps. It's definitely not something you can whip up any old weeknight but with my version that's not a problem.  I plan on making and posting the full-blown version eventually, but for now I think you'll enjoy my quickie Arroz Imperial.

1 ready made rotisserie chicken from your local market
1 - 2 packet yellow rice mix (enough to make 3 cups of cooked rice)
1 12 ounce bottle of beer
12 ounces of chicken stock
1 1/2 cups mayonnaise
12 slices Swiss (traditional) or Gruyere cheese
1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese

Prepare rice mix according to package instructions, substituting the water for the beer and chicken stock.
While rice cooks, remove skin from chicken and discard. Shred all the meat, white and dark.
Preheat oven at 350 degrees
Grease an 8x8 baking dish. Begin by evenly layering a 1/3 of the rice mix. Next layer, evenly spread 1/3 of the shredded chicken over the rice. Evenly spread a 1/2 cup of the mayonnaise over the
chicken, topped with 4 slices of cheese. Repeat the layering process two more times. Sprinkle the Parmesan cheese over the final cheese slices. Cover with foil and bake for 15 minutes. Remove foil and bake an additional 15 minutes, or until top is bubbly and light golden-brown.

Serve with "maduros" (sweet fried plantains), avocado slices drizzled with olive and vinegar. ENJOY!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Iberian-Inspired Chorizo, Cod and Chickpea Stew

A Two for Tuesday Recipe 

Afternoon was fast approaching and I still had not quite thought out dinner.  I was in the mood for something warm and spicy, not quite a soup, something more substantial. As I looked at my pantry for inspiration, I saw I had a beautiful package of Spanish chorizo waiting to be used and right next to it was a can of garbanzos. I took a quick look in the freezer and knew immediately what I wanted to make ... an Iberian-inspired stew.

I was going to base it on a stew I had when I was in Madrid at a Spanish-Portuguese restaurant. To this day, I have never forgotten the flavor of that rich, warm, spicy (not hot) stew. As unusual as the pairing of fish and chorizo may sound this is a classic in Portuguese and Spanish cooking. If you are not familiar with Spanish chorizo, it a cured sausage that is very common in Spain and is made with pork, garlic and paprika. In the U.S. it is becoming much more popular and available at most local supermarkets.

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large Spanish onion, chopped
2 pinches salt
1/2 yellow bell pepper, chopped
1/2 red bell pepper, chopped
1 tablespoon garlic, minced
2 medium carrots, finely diced
4 cured Spanish chorizos, sliced on the bias, 1/4 inch thick
1 teaspoon sweet smoked paprika
2 pinches of saffron
1/8 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup of dry sherry
14.5 ounce can of fire roasted diced tomatoes
1/4 head of cabbage, sliced into strips
2 small red potatoes, peeled and diced
2 cups of chicken stock
1/2 cup white wine
1/2 cup water
1 bay leaf
2 handfuls of kale (optional)
4 - 5 ounces cod fillets

Easy, No-Fuss, Slow Cooked Braised Beef Short Ribs

A Two for Tuesday Recipe 

Last week I opened my mini deep freeze to pick out what to cook up for dinner. It is usually a game of "eeny-meeny-miny-moe" and the winner was beef short ribs.

I took out two pounds of  beef short ribs to defrost. I must warn you that beef short ribs render down significantly. If you usually take out one pound of meat, with beef short ribs, you'll need two pounds. I seasoned my short ribs very simply ... salt, pepper and Homemade Complete Seasoning *. Most recipes require you to brown the meat, cook it in a dutch oven and finish it off in the oven for two hours! Now I don't know about you, but with the price of electricity, who can really afford to braise for two hours at 220 volts?! My recipe lets you skip the browning, an overheated house (it's hot enough in Florida as it is), that electric bill and save some time too. As I have mentioned before, the slow cooker is your best friend, and that is exactly what I use for this recipe. Who really wants to get up extra early to brown meat before work? Ah, no way! I created this recipe for those who what a no-fuss, braised beef short rib. And at the end of the day, when you open your front door, the delectable scent of the braised beef short ribs is there to greet you. You'll be sitting down to mouth-watering, tender, juicy, falling off the bone, short ribs in no time. I hope you enjoy this no-fuss, comforting, rendition of braised beef short ribs.

Seasoning for Short Ribs:
Salt and pepper (to coat)
Homemade Complete Seasoning * (to coat)

2 lbs beef short ribs (or more)
1 medium onion, chopped
8 oz baby carrots
3 cloves of garlic, chopped
2 whole shallots, chopped
2 cups red wine
2 cups beef stock
1 tablespoon Worcestershire
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried rosemary

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Make Your Own Cuban Sazon Completa / Adobo Seasoning

One of the staples of the Cuban kitchen is a spice mix called "sazon completa" or as labeled in English on the product itself "complete seasoning". It is a shortcut to measuring out each individual spice, and is used in many Cuban dishes.

Sounds great right? It is, and until recently, I used it too, that is until I read the label. Right there in very tiny type, I actually had to take a picture of it and blow it up on screen to read it, were the words monosodium glutamate, also known as MSG. Now, I am not a quest to abolish the stuff, as I have a tendency to say "to each his own". If you don't mind the MSG, then by all means use it.  I just want people who are sensitive to MSG, like me, to be aware that it is in there. My real quest was to come up with my own sazon completa mix, sans the MSG. Through the usual trial and error, I finally came up with the right mix of spices. To make up for the absence of MSG, I found that using dried lime zest, not only elevated the overall flavor, but really brought it home ... it was just like sazon completa, only way better. Additionally, you are paying less per ounce then buying the bottled version, you can adapt it to your palette and you know what's going into it. In my book, that's a home run!

Makes 1 1/4 cup of mix

4 tablespoons of kosher salt
6 tablespoons of granulated garlic
2 tablespoons oregano
4 tablespoons onion powder
2 tablespoons cumin
2 tablespoons black pepper
3 tablespoons dried lime zest
2 tablespoons dried parsley

Throw all the ingredients into a spice grinder (a.k.a. Coffee grinder), give it a few whirls to blend thoroughly. Store in a lidded container for up to six month.

Use on meat, chicken, pork, seafoods, vegetables, soups and more. ENJOY!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Sweet 'n Savory Slow-Cooked BBQ Chicken

The slow cooker is a home cooks best friend. It does all the work for you, creates delicious dishes, makes it appear that you've been cooking for hours, saves electricity and the possibilities are endless! I truly believe there is no con to a slow cooker except that it teases your taste buds all day, tempting your salivary glands and making your stomach grumble with hunger... but that's ok! However, don't peek as much as it is tempting to do so because it interrupts the cooking process. I experiment with slow cooker recipes and I came up with this one. It is VERY simple almost too simple, it leaves you wondering if it will be tasty. Oh it is! The chicken at the end of this slow cooking session is falling off the bone with sweet flavor. The sauce can be eaten alone, in my opinion. I could eat it drenched in rice and call it a day. Customize the recipe as much as you want from what chicken pieces you'd like to add to the amount/variety of vegetables. Serve with white rice, mashed potatoes, roasted vegetables, corn or bread. I hope you enjoy this easy 4 step recipe for your slow cooker and experiment on your own!

6-8 pieces chicken (whichever parts you like)
1 1/2 tablespoons garlic powder
2 teaspoons onion powder
1 teaspoon paprika
1 bottle of Sweet Baby Ray's BBQ Sauce or your favorite brand
1 teaspoon Worcestershire Sauce
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1/4 cup red wine
baby carrots

Onion & Pepper Steak

 A Two for Tuesday Recipe 

Let me start by saying this is not a new take or spin on the classic Chinese dish, Pepper Steak. However, it does incorporate a few Asian ingredients and techniques. I developed this recipe out of my love for sauteed peppers and onions, I also happen to love steak, so why not put them together? Over the last 20 years this recipe has been tweaked a few times, it's one that the family loves, especially ... The Hub. I use the little known Asian secret of tenderizing the meat with baking soda, lots of onions and peppers, rich and yummy homemade beef stock, a splash of teriyake, and tomatoes to bring this recipe together. I hope you enjoy it as much as my family does.

Serves 4

1 1/2 pounds of top sirloin, eye round or top round steak cut into thin 2" strips.
Salt & pepper to taste
2 teaspoons garlic powder
2 tablespoons canola or peanut oil
2 large sweet or vidalia onions, cut in thick slices
3 large green bell pepper, cut in thick slices
1/2 cup beef stock - homemade if possible or a good quality box stock
3 tablespoons teriyake sauce
14 oz can of diced tomatoes
1 teaspoon fish sauce
2 teaspoon brown sugar
2 tablespoons ketchup
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
1 of cornstarch, mixed with 1/4 cup beef stock, blend well.
1 tablespoon butter

Monday, July 15, 2013

Getting Rid of the Funky Stuff on the Bottom of Your Pans

Time: Left on for 5 minutes, wiped right off
Did you know that funky, gunky stuff accumulating on the bottom of your pan is easy to clean up? Yes it is! And there is virtually NO scrubbing involved either. I hate scrubbing stuff, it's one of my pet peeves and anything that can get me out of the dish and pan cleaning chore, gets a thumbs up from me. Like everyone, I have tried all the Pinterest cleaning methods and have yet to find one that doesn't require a days worth of "scrub, rinse, repeat" over and over or that actually delivers no-scrub results or for that matter works.  My secret weapon, you ask? A little old school product called oven cleaner. Yes, you read that right.  Oven cleaner will make your pans shine like new, get rid of the nasty stains that build up on the bottom of pans (the side that touches the burner) and if you happen to scorch an entire dinner to the bottom of your favorite stainless steel pan ... oven cleaner to the rescue! Now I want to make it clear that I've only used this on stainless steel pans and glass/cermaic bakeware and not on aluminum or copper pans. So please be mindful of this detail, and do a spot test if you are going to try it on aluminum or copper.
The "how to" is easy,  just spray it on and leave it on for 10 - 30 minutes, then done a pair of gloves, wipe off with a paper towel or damp sponge and clean as usual. Now, the time varies because it all depends on how much funky gunk is on there.  You may even have to repeat, on foods that  are scorched to the bottom of the pan, you know ... like last night's dinners. I've also used oven cleaner on my smooth glass top cook top, and on glass bake ware and boy does it power through stuck on, burnt on foods and again, virtually no scrubbing.  Yes, you will have to use a cleaner afterwards to gloss or clean it up, but I don't mind an extra step, if it's going to save me time in the long run. Next time you are contemplating scrubbing the funky gunk on your pans ... Stop! Just use the oven cleaner and with the time you saved, go get yourself a nice manicure or massage!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Smokey n' Sweet Steak & Everything Else Rub


Recently I've gotten into rubs and wanted to come up with my own personal rub mix. After a few hits and misses I finally got the right combination of each spice to get the smokey, sweet and a little heat balance I wanted in my rub. The chili powder and paprika give it a deep smokey flavor, the brown sugar adds just the right degree of sweetness, the cinnamon adds warmth and cocoa powder, provides a richer color when it hits the grill, broiler or pan. If you like heat (which is optional) in your rub I've got you covered there too!

Enough rub to generously cover two beef loin, NY strip steaks, 1" thick and about 3/4 pounds each.

1 teaspoons onion powder
1 teaspoons garlic powder
1 teaspoons sweet, smoked paprika
1 teaspoons chili powder
2 teaspoons brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon cocoa powder (unsweetened)
1-2 dried chilies*, such as ancho, poblano, chipotle, guajillos, chopped. (optional)
3/4 teaspoon salt and black pepper

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Eryka's Classic Meat Loaf

A Two for Tuesday Recipe:

As I mentioned before, I absolutely love comfort food. I enjoy trying new recipes on a weekly basis but have found that I tend to go back to the same few recipes. Why? They are delicious, simple, everyone enjoys it and let's face it, it's comfort food. Bad day at work? A warm, juicy meat loaf can take care of that! And this is the recipe I am sharing with you today. I have stumbled upon many meat loaf recipes, not to mention have tried many different meat loafs, however this recipe is my absolute favorite. The meat does not dry out and with only a few ingredients it packs a lot of flavor. Two tricks to this meat loaf that I find produce more flavor and mositness; when you combine all the ingredients let it sit together for a while in the fridge and use a mini food processor to chop up your onions and green bell pepper. Doing this assures that there are no large chunks in the meat loaf, as well as, the extra juice the vegetable provides to the meat, in other words ... it adds moisture. I hope you enjoy this delicious meat loaf, I sure do. And in case you are wondering there are no left overs of this dish in my home!

1 1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 chopped onion
1/2 chopped green bell pepper
1 egg beaten
8 ounces diced tomatoes
1/2 quick-cooking oats
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 lb ground beef

Hot Bacon Mustard Potato Salad

A Two for Tuesday Recipe:

Many years ago the Hub, use to order a salad, at one of our favorite restaurants, that featured a bacon-mustard type dressing. He would even go so far as to request extra dressing on the side to pour over his french fries. The Hub is a huge fan of any kind or type of potato salad, I knew that if I could replicate and translate this into a potato salad, I'd have a home run! Well, at least a home run with the Hub and it was and still is just that. My recipe serves up a warm potato salad that put the flavors of bacon and mustard front and center.  It's so easy to put together, that you can make it anytime and serve it as a side with just about anything, from a hearty steak to a grilled salmon.

Serves 2 - 4

5 - 6  peeled and diced waxy potatoes: fingerling, new potato or yukon gold are good choices.
8 slices center cut or turkey bacon* finely chopped.
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 shallots, finely minced
2 tablespoons dijon mustard
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 tablespoon of dark brown sugar
Water, 2 - 4 ounces
2 pinches salt
Pepper to taste
2 - 3 Italian parsley, chopped

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Last Minute July 4th Recipes for Your BBQ Celebration!

Here are a few links to some of my readers favorite recipes from The Fork Ran Away with the Spoon.  If you haven't yet decided what's on the menu, perhaps some of these will inspire you!

Have a safe and happy 4th of July celebration!

Sweet and Savory Roasted and Grilled Corn on the Cob

One of the sweetest bounties offered during the summer months is corn, specifically, corn on the cob.  It is sweet, yet savory, crisp and certainly an all around favorite - it's hard to go wrong with corn.

Cabbage is one of those vegetables that I think gets overlooked a lot.  It's pretty darn versatile and lends itself to so many different uses.  Here's a vinegary cabbage slaw that is a Central American staple at meal time.  Each country has its own take on it. This recipe, given to me by my father-in-law, is the Nicaraguan version I am most familiar and totally infatuated with.

Beef & Pork Marinade Version 1 & 1.1

 I use this marinade for beef or pork.  It's a bit robust, really compliments and stands up to these heavier cuts. You may have noticed that the title to this post shows version 1 and 1.1 for the marinade and that's because when I grill pork, I add one extra ingredient ... achiote paste! I love how it enhances the flavor of the pork and it gives it a nice reddish tone which looks awesome once it is grilled!

Delectable Achiote Pork Loin Chops

Pork chops are always tricky on the grill ... they can dry out and just turn into a taste less mess.  However, with a little prep, you can count on these center cut pork loin chops always being tender, juicy and absolutely scrumptious! These  chops are first brined and then marinaded in achiote paste before they hit a sizzling hot grill.

Happy July 4th!

I hope everyone enjoys a deliciously wonderful July 4th celebration!
Remember to check that you have enough charcoal or gas to get those burgers, chicken, steaks and ribs sizzling.

Be safe with those fireworks. And remember  to call a cab if you indulged in too many tasty libations.


Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Zesty Mojo & Sour Orange Chicken

A Two for Tuesday Recipe:

I thoroughly enjoy cooking, but there are days where I take out chicken breasts and have no idea what to make. Chicken breast or chicken in general are like jeans... there are endless possibilities to "style" jeans, the same with chicken. You can dress it up or down, make it fancy or casual, simple or intricate, the list goes on. So, one afternoon as I stared at the chicken breast, I made up my own recipe, to "style" the chicken as I wished. I personally butterfly my chicken breast to get more out of them and my new thing is to use a meat mallet to make them flatter, thus quicker cooking time. My recipe is inspired by Hispanic flavors that were in my pantry and

I hope you enjoy ... because at least in my house there were no left overs!

Serves 2-4

1 lb Chicken Breast, butterflied
1/4 cup Naranja Agria (Sour Orange)* or you can make your own. Click here for the recipe.
3/4 cup Mojo* Sauce or you can make your own. Click here for the recipe.
3 teaspooons Adobo Seasoning or make your own with my post Make Your own Cuban Sazon Completa / Adobo Seasoning 
2 teaspoons garlic powder
salt and pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion, sliced in half rings
2 garlic cloves, minced 
White wine to deglaze
1 tablespoon butter

Roasted Corn and Squash Soup


A Two for Tuesday Recipe:

I've gotten into having soup with dinner at least once or twice a week, especially on the nights that I am opting out of what I call a "hard carb". To me, "hard carbs" are rice, grains, pasta, bread ... I think you get the idea! Roasting the vegetables adds depth to the overall flavor of the soup and blending it through a sieve, gives it that smooth, creamy, and decadent texture. You can make it a day or two ahead of time or even freeze it and when it is time to serve just follow the very last step.
Serves 2-4
1/2 a Cuban pumpkin squash*, (also known as calabaza) seeded, peeled and dicedCorn kernels from one large ear of corn
Olive oil
Half a vidalia onion, finely chopped
1 hot red banana pepper minced
4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1/2 teaspoon salt
Pepper to taste
1/4 cup milk, cream or half & half
2 tablespoons Greek yogurt

Monday, July 1, 2013

REPOST of Beef & Pork Marinade Version 1 & 1.1


REPOST of Beef & Pork Marinade Version 1 & 1.1: Just in time for July 4th - the perfect marinade for beef or pork. Find out why this is the second most viewed recipe on my site.  Remember to brine your pork before you marinate it, you'll be glad you did. You'll never serve another dried out piece of pork again at your BBQ.
Want more information on how to brine, including a brine chart, click here.

July 4th is Almost Here, Time to Get Your Brine On!


Since July 4th is just a few days away and so many folks in the U.S.A. will be grilling, I thought I'd re-post my Brine Chart along with the link to the original post.
If you are thinking of barbecuing chicken or pork (including pork ribs), this July 4th, I URGE you to brine. If you brine you will never serve another dried out piece of chicken or pork again. Yes, you need to plan ahead a little so that you have the time to get a really good brine going.  All it takes is a few minutes to think ahead, plan, and prep ... but what you get back in return is the most flavorful & moist piece of chicken or pork! Try it, I am pretty sure you'll get hooked on brining!