Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Fried Matzah

My husband spent many years working in restaurants, but he rarely cooks. When he does, he makes Fried Matzah.

This Thanksgiving weekend, as I'm prepping the turkey and sides, he'll whip up this tasty breakfast for our house full of guests.

It's a meal he learned from his father. Also called Matzah (or Matzo) Brei, this is a traditional Passover dish, but we eat it whenever the husband feels like making it.

When I shared the news of the husband's meal-making with my mom, she reminded me that my Uncle Rick used to make us Matzo Brei, too. It's a comforting, homey, simple meal that satisfies and fills you up. And it's easy to vary the recipe to suit your particular tastes, like adding fresh herbs or topping the finished fried matzah with shredded cheese or apple sauce.

So, as you prepare for your Turkey Day feast, invite someone else into the kitchen to do the breakfast honors so that you can enjoy a little down time.

Mangia! Mangia!

Fried Matzah
This recipe serves 4-5 people.

10 full matzo crackers (the husband prefers Manischewitz)
2 tablespoons vegetable or olive oil, divided
5 green onions or 1 red onion, finely diced
1 or 2 cloves of garlic, minced
8 eggs
1 tablespoon butter
Salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup chopped fresh herbs, optional

Break up the matzo into smaller pieces and put them into a strainer. Run the strainer and crackers under hot water, tossing the crackers a few times until they are dampened but not softened. Set aside.

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a small skillet. Add onions and garlic and cook until fragrant and onions starts to soften. Remove pan from heat and set aside.

Crack eggs into large bowl and whisk to combine. Place pieces of matzo into eggs, ensuring pieces do not stick together.

Let the matzo soak in the eggs for 5 to 10 minutes. Meanwhile, heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet. Add butter and let it melt. Then pour matzo and egg mixture into pan. Add salt and pepper.

Using a large spatula, flip pieces of the matzo so that it cooks evenly. After eggs begin to firm up, add the cooked onions and garlic and any herbs. Continue to turn sections of the matzo-egg mixture, breaking up large pieces.

Cook until the eggs are no longer runny and the matzo is lightly browned. Divide among 4 or 5 plates and serve. If you like, top with some shredded cheese, apple sauce or sour cream.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Spiced Cranberry Sauce

Growing up I always liked cranberry sauce at Thanksgiving, even though all my family ever did was open up a can of Ocean Spray. Imagine my surprise when many years later, I discovered the awesomeness of homemade cranberry sauce.

At Thanksgiving 2006, I found my forever cranberry sauce -- the kind I have been making every year since and will contine to make for ... well forever. That year, my editor Mike and his wife Alison invited us to celebrate the holiday at their house. I was three weeks away from having my first baby, so you can imagine how relieved I was not to be cooking. I had nothing else to do but stuff my face. What I remember the most: the cranberry sauce, spiced with cloves. I liked the cranberry sauce so much that Alison kindly shared the recipe, which she'd gotten from Mike's mom.

I've shared my forever cranberry sauce recipe with so many friends and  now with you, dear readers. Enjoy and have a very happy Thanksgiving!


PS: Check out Erin's Thanksgiving Round-Up, in which she offers up Citrus and Ginger Cranberry Sauce a la her mother-in-law.

Spiced Cranberry Sauce
1 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon cloves
1 pound fresh cranberries
1 cup pineapple juice

Combine all items in a sauce pan and bring to a boil. Adjust heat down to medium or medium high and cook for 10-15 minutes. Serve hot or cold. This cranberry sauce can be kept in the refrigerator for several weeks or frozen, too.

One final thing: I always double this recipe so that there's enough for Thanksgiving leftovers and even some for Christmas. It's easy to do since the recipe calls for a pound of cranberries but Ocean Spray packages berries in 12 ounce bags; just buy three bags of berries to double.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Thanksgiving Round-Up

The Thanksgiving countdown is on. Today I'm sharing my perfect Thanksgiving menu.

Let's get cooking!

Spiked Cider: Get the party started right with a holiday cocktail. Make a giant batch of Spiked Cider and keep it warm in your slow cooker so guests can help themselves.

Roast Turkey Breast with Gravy: I like to brine the bird to ensure it's moist and delicious. Roasting just the breast is easier and faster than roasting the whole, plus it takes up less room in your fridge and oven.

Mashed Potatoes: Prepare these babies the day before Thanksgiving and then bake them just before dinner.

Stuffing with Sausage & Cranberries: Stuffing is totally my favorite part of Thanksgiving. Salty sausage, crunchy pecans, sweet cranberries...this recipe has it all.

Maple-Glazed Brussels Sprouts with Bacon: Maple syrup! Bacon!! I think that's all I need to say about this one.

Cranberry Sauce: I put this Cranberry Sauce on everything. And it's the perfect condiment for a leftover turkey sandwich the day after Thanksgiving.

Apple Pie: C'mon now. It's a classic.

Gooey Pumpkin Bars: Because one dessert is never enough on Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Apple, Lemon & Tomato Chicken

When I was growing up, my mom would leave notes on the kitchen table for my brother, sister and I to find when we got home from school. Usually there were instructions on what to start getting ready for dinner. The dish we made most often was baked chicken with paprika and garlic.

When I got my first job, I wanted to expand the chicken recipes I knew how to cook. I came across 365 Ways to Cook Chicken in a local bookstore and have been using it ever since. (I got my Mom a copy, too.)

This one-pot meal is full of fall flavors and is easy to make. Be sure to thinly slice the lemon so that the rind softens and you can eat it along with everything else in the dish. Now that I have kids, I serve this with egg noodles, but it tastes just delicious on its own, too.

Mangia! Mangia!

Apple, Lemon & Tomato Chicken
Adapted from the 365 Ways to Cook Chicken cookbook

1 can (15 ounces) diced tomatoes
1/4 teaspoon thyme
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon vegetable or olive oil
4 thin, skinless, boneless chicken breasts (you can pound out thicker breasts to make them thinner)
1 medium white or yellow onion, thinly sliced
1 large lemon, thinly sliced
2 apples, cored and sliced
1/2 teaspoon cornstarch, dissolved in 1 tablespoon water
8 ounces egg noodles cooked to package directions (optional)

In a bowl combine tomatoes, thyme, garlic, salt, pepper and Worcestershire sauce. Set aside.

Heat oil in a non-stick skillet over medium heat. Add chicken and cook for about 4 minutes on each side, until lightly browned. Toss onion slices over chicken. Pour tomato sauce on top. Lay lemon slices over everything.

Bring to a boil. Then cover pan with a lid and lower the heat. Simmer for 10 minutes, then add apple slices. Cover and cook for another 10 minutes, until chicken is tender.  Remove chicken and apples to a platter and keep warm.

Add dissolved corn starch to sauce in pan and turn heat up to high. Cook about 5 minutes, stirring until sauce thickens. Spoon sauce over chicken and apples.

Serve with egg noodles if you like.

You can find the 365 Ways to Cook Chicken cookbook on Amazon.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Prosciutto-Wrapped Asparagus Spears

You know what goes nicely with Andrea's Buttermilk Spoonbread? You know what would make a tasty appetizer?

Prosciutto-Wrapped Asparagus Spears.

Cooking really can be that simple, my friends.

I made this combo for dinner the other night and it reminded me of a grown-up version of breakfast for dinner. Truthfully, my husband hates breakfast for dinner (a.k.a. brinner), so this was a genius move on my part.


Prosciutto-Wrapped Asparagus Spears

Equal number of asparagus spears and prosciutto slices
Melted butter or olive oil, couple tablespoons

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Trim asparagus. My mom has a friend who taught her how to trim the right amount and I think of Mom's friend every time I make asparagus. So with your sharp knife start at the very bottom of the asparagus and tap your way toward the top until you feel a slight give. When you feel the give, that's where you cut.

Wrap one piece of prosciutto around each stalk.

Brush each stalk with melted butter or olive oil.

Place in oven until asparagus is roasted and prosciutto is crispy, about five minutes.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Crispy Parmesan Zucchini Spears

The ladies of Hot Dinner Happy Home clearly have zucchini on the brain. Last week, Andrea posted these tasty Zucchini Pancakes, and today I'm sharing a recipe for Crispy Parmesan Zucchini Spears.

With a cheesy, crisp crust, these veggie spears will trick you (and your unsuspecting family) into thinking you're eating a decadent side dish. But feel free to have an extra brownie for dessert, because these Zucchini Spears are as healthy as they are delicious. Zucchini cancels out brownie, right? That's what I keep telling myself.

Let's get cooking!

Crispy Parmesan Zucchini Spears
Adapted from these Asparagus Fries

3 small zucchini, cut into spears 1/2" wide by 2" long
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons shredded Parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon bread crumbs

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Toss zucchini with oil, salt, pepper, Parmesan cheese, and bread crumbs. You may need to press the mixture onto the zucchini to make sure it sticks. Place zucchini in a single layer on a large, rimmed baking dish. Bake for 12-15 minutes, flipping carefully halfway through baking, until zucchini is dark golden brown.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Cincinnati Chili

Every time we visit Cincinnati, we make at least one visit to the iconic chili parlor in our old neighborhood. Chili is this Ohio city's signature dish and I've been trying to recreate the exact taste for years.

My husband grew up eating this soup-like meat sauce served over spaghetti and topped with a gigantic mound of finely shredded cheddar cheese. This is the 3-way. Add onions on top for a 4-way; add beans to make it a 5-way. You must sprinkle on some oyster crackers (or 'Cincinnati crackers' as my son Sam calls them) before you eat this meal. The crackers soak up the sauce that the spaghetti doesn't catch.

You can also ladle this chili onto a hot dog in a bun and load it with cheese for a coney.

Cincinnati-style chili originated with immigrants from Macedonia and Greece who created the dish to appeal to more customers.

My boys have been eating this chili since they could hold a spoon. My first exposure came when I was in college, and the taste has grown on me ever since.

What sets Cincinnati chili apart is the tenderness of the ground beef (achieved by cooking the meat in water) and the blend of spices, which I'm still trying to perfect.

This recipe is the closest I've come to mimicking the flavor of my family's favorite brand of Cincinnati chili. (If you want to try the real deal, look for cans or frozen packages of Skyline Chili or Gold Star Chili in your grocery store.) What's served in Cincinnati's chili parlors does not have onion or beans cooked with the meat, but we like it that way. If you want to be more traditional, save the onions and beans for topping.

Lots of online resources debate whether the original recipe used bay leaves or cumin. We'll probably never know the secret blend. If you have ideas or tips on how to tweak the spices, tell us!

Mangia! Mangia!

Cincinnati Chili

2 cups of water
20 ounces ground beef (cut the fat and use 1 pound 90% lean ground sirloin and 4 ounces 80% lean ground chuck)
1 large or jumbo sweet onion, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 15 ounce can plus 3/4 cup tomato sauce, unsalted
3 teaspoons tablespoon cider vinegar, divided
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 1/2 tablespoons smoked paprika
1/2 tablespoon ground cumin
1/2 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1/2 tablespoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 to 1/4 cup bittersweet chocolate chips
1 bay leaf
1 15 ounce can of unsalted dark red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1/2 pound to 3/4 pound spaghetti, cooked to package directions

Shredded cheddar cheese
Chopped onion
Warm kidney beans
Oyster crackers

Using a Dutch oven or other sturdy large pot, bring 2 cups of water to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer and add ground beef, breaking up and stirring to crumble the meat into very small pieces.

Stir in all other ingredients (using 2 teaspoons of the cider vinegar) up to and including the bay leaf. Return contents to a low simmer and then partially cover. Cook between 1.5 and 2 hours, stirring occasionally, until sauce just starts to thicken. You want to maintain a nearly soup-like consistency.

Add in kidney beans and cook for another 5 minutes or until heated through. Stir in the remaining 1 teaspoon of cider vinegar and remove from heat.

Fill bowls with about 1/2 cup of spaghetti. Add about 1 cup of chili. Top with shredded cheese, onions, kidney beans and oyster crackers to taste.