Monday, February 29, 2016

Smokehouse Spaghetti

I'll keep this entry short. You will make this dish. You will make this dish for one reason: bacon.

Smokehouse Spaghetti is one of my favorite dishes my mom made when I was growing up. I've tweaked Mom's version ever so slightly -- mainly leaving out the can of mushrooms with juice called for in her version. Mom also uses garlic salt if she doesn't have fresh garlic around, but I always have fresh garlic on hand. Now, this baked pasta is a favorite with my kids and hubby, too.

Penny and I recently made a double batch of Smokehouse Spaghetti. I asked Penny why she likes it and her response: "Because it's like spaghetti and lasagna together."

You will make this dish. I hope you will tell me about it, too.


Smokehouse Spaghetti
12 ounces spaghetti
1 pound lean ground beef
1/4 pound bacon, cut up
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
15 ounce can of tomato sauce
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1 cup shredded provolone, mozzarella or Italian blend cheese, divided
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese, divided
Grated Parmesan cheese for serving, if desired

Start water for pasta to boil. Add spaghetti when water is boiling and cook until done.

In your biggest skillet, fry beef, bacon, onion and garlic together, seasoning with pepper as desired. Drain.

Stir in tomato sauce, oregano and basil into the beef  and bacon. Add a little water -- just enough to basically clean out the inside of the can of tomato sauce. (If you are making my mom's version, here is where you would add the mushrooms and juice.) Simmer for 15 minutes.

Add spaghetti, which you have drained by now, to the meat and sauce mixture. Stir to incorporate fully.

Spray with Pam the bottom and sides of a 9X13 dish. Place half of spaghetti and meat sauce mixture into dish. Top with half of each kind of cheese. Repeat layer. Bake in 375-degree oven for 25 minutes.

Smokehouse spaghetti can be frozen, so I always make two at one time. Keep in mind that once thawed you will have to up the cooking time on the previously frozen smokehouse spaghetti,  because it is not going straight from stove to oven.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Roast Acorn Squash

I'm a big fan of acorn squash. Usually I just pop it in the microwave whole and mash it up with plenty of brown sugar and butter. But this year the acorn squash hasn't been as sweet and tasty as usual, so I've been avoiding it at the grocery store.

That is until I had Roast Acorn Squash at a friend's house. It was divine! Roasting it brought out the squash's natural sweetness. In the past I worried that leaving the skin on the squash might taste weird, but it was SO GOOD. Plus you don't have to peel it. You guys know I'm all about making my life easier in the kitchen.

Roast Acorn Squash is totally my new go-to veggie. Give it a try and let us know what you think!

Let's get cooking!

Roast Acorn Squash
Serves: 3

1 large acorn squash
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and paper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Slice squash in half and scoop out the seeds. Slice squash into 1" half moons and place in a single layer on a large rimmed baking sheet.

Sprinkle dark brown sugar, oil, salt, and pepper over squash and toss to coat. Bake in preheated oven for about 15 minutes. Take a peek at the bottom to see if the squash is caramelized and browned. (If it's not, pop it back in for 5 more minutes.) Once it's caramelized, flip the squash and cook for another 5-10 minutes, until squash is tender.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Leftover Chili Bake

Chili is often on the menu at my house. Whenever I whip up a batch, I usually make double so that I can pop some in the freezer for an easy meal later on.

But sometimes, even us chiliphiles get bored with a hearty bowl topped with cheese.

To spice things up a bit, I created a casserole that also let me use up the half-full bag of tortilla chips in the pantry.

This dinner got the thumbs up from my boys. All of whom (husband included) ate the leftovers, too.

What's nice about this dish is that you can customize it depending on the chili you use. Got leftover Pumpkin Black Bean Chili? Toss with chips and cheddar. Beef and Beer Chili? Mix in elbow macaroni instead of corn chips. After cooking for 30 minutes, spread a layer of sour cream, then cheddar cheese on top before the final bake. Turkey, Sweet Potato and Black Bean? Use crumbled corn bread instead of chips and top with Monterey jack and cheddar cheeses.

What's your favorite dish to make with leftover chili?

Mangia! Mangia!

Leftover Chili Bake

6 cups leftover chili
3 cups crushed corn tortilla chips, divided
2 cups shredded cheese, divided
Sour cream, guacamole and salsa for topping
Note: Adjust the amounts of each ingredient based on how much chili you have on hand, and to suit your own tastes.

Generously spray a 13 x 9 inch baking dish with cooking spray. Preheat over to 400 degrees.

In a large bowl, mix together chili, 2 cups corn chips and 1 cup cheese. Mixture should be moist, but not soupy. Add more chips if necessary.

Pour chili mixture into prepared baking dish and spread evenly.

Bake in preheated oven for about 30 minutes or until bubbly. Remove from oven and sprinkle 1/2 cup to 1 cup crushed corn chips and remaining cheddar cheese on top.

Return pan to oven and bake for another 15 minutes, or until cheese is melted, bubbly and starting to brown in some spots. Remove from oven and let cool for about 10 minutes before serving.

Cut into squares, top with guacamole, salsa and sour cream and dig in!

Monday, February 22, 2016

North Carolina Slow Cooker Pulled Pork

Sometimes I get stuck in a rut with my dinner cooking rotations. It goes like this: chicken, steak, chicken, pork chops, chicken, shrimp and scallops – repeat.

When this happens, my older son Max exclaims, "Why do we always have to eat meat?!?!"

The last time this occurred, I calmly asked what he would prefer instead of meat. Here's what he said: "Spaghetti, or grilled cheese or pulled pork!"

When I pointed out that pulled pork is meat, Max said, "Well, I mean good meat."

So I resolved to up my game and make the North Carolina Pulled Pork recipe from America's Test Kitchen Slow Cooker Revolution cookbook. Usually I make a simple recipe, like this one from Erin for Slow Cooker Pulled Pork. But ever since my sister married an eastern North Carolina native, we've received a proper education in barbecue. My brother-in-law is pretty good with a rub and a grill, and he and his parents have kindly introduced us to their long-time tradition of eating at the family-style Parker's Barbecue in Wilson.

I had the tangy flavor of Parker's pulled pork in mind. I had two nice pork butts just waiting to be turned into something. I had the time to let the meat sit for a day in the fridge to soak up the flavors of the rub. And I thought I had all the spices I needed. After a quick trip to the store for some liquid smoke, I was ready to make my rub and get things started. But I hit a snag.

Since I'm a work-from-home mom over the age of 40 with two over-scheduled boys, I can no longer remember most things unless I write them down. Let's just say I forgot to buy a few key ingredients (like smoked ham hocks, dark brown sugar and sweet paprika.) But one thing I do know is how to improvise. I used light brown sugar, a mixture of sweet and smoked paprika and several hunks of ham shank that I cut from the bone end of a leftover spiral sliced ham I was saving in the freezer to use for making soup.

The recipe I ended up with delivered pulled pork that I think came pretty darn close to the down-home Carolina specialty. Of course, my brother-in-law hasn't tried it — yet!

Mangia! Mangia!

North Carolina Slow Cooker Pulled Pork

2 (2 1/2 pound) boneless pork butt roasts, quartered (or use a 5 pound roast)
7 tablespoons light brown sugar
1/8 cup sweet paprika
1/8 cup smoked paprika
1 tablespoon ground cumin
2 tablespoons chili powder
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 tablespoon ground pepper
3 hunks ham shank or 3 smoked ham hocks,  rinsed
2 cups low sodium chicken broth
1 1/2 cups cider vinegar
1 1/4 cups ketchup
2 to 3 teaspoons liquid smoke

Trim fat from pork pieces. Use a fork to prick the pork all over. Set aside.

In a small bowl, combine 3 tablespoons sugar, both kinds of paprika, cumin, chili powder, salt and pepper. Rub spice mixture over pork, generously coating each piece. Wrap pork tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 8 to 24 hours.

Place ham shank or ham hocks in the bottom of a 6 quart or larger slow cooker. Unwrap pork and sit on top of ham. Pour broth over meat and cover. Cook on low for 10 hours.

Transfer pork and ham shank pieces to a large bowl. Remove any hard skin, bones and fatty pieces from shanks. Shred pork and ham into bite-sized pieces, then cover to keep warm.

Skim fat from liquid in slow cooker. Pour liquid through a strainer and into a saucepan. Simmer until thickened, about 30 minutes. Note: This is not a thick barbecue sauce like the kinds from store-bought bottles. It will remain somewhat thin.

Add vinegar, ketchup, liquid smoke and 4 tablespoons sugar to the saucepan. Whisk everything together. Add salt and pepper to taste. You may want to add more vinegar, ketchup and sugar, depending on how much liquid you have. I ended up with nearly 3 cups after the simmering process.

Simmer for another 5 to 10 minutes.

Toss shredded pork with 1 1/2 cups sauce. Add more sauce to your liking.

Serve on buns with pickles, simple cole slaw and additional sauce.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Enchilada Casserole

February has me in the doldrums. It is dark and rainy and all-around dreary. I'm sick of winter, but we still have a month to go before spring. This bleak weather has me craving comfort foods. And Enchilada Casserole fits the bill quite nicely.

A rich cornbread crust is topped with spicy ground beef and a blizzard of shredded cheese. It is simple and delicious, the perfect weeknight meal.

Let's get cooking!

P.S. I haven't tried it, but I bet you could substitute cooked, shredded chicken for the ground beef. It would be the perfect way to use up leftover roast chicken!

Enchilada Casserole
Adapted from Pinch of Yum and Skinny Mom
Serves: 6

1 egg
1/3 cup milk
1 (14 ounce) can cream style corn
1 package (8.5 ounce) cornbread mix (like Jiffy)
1 tablespoon oil
1 pound ground turkey or ground beef
4 teaspoons taco seasoning
1 (10 ounce) can red enchilada sauce, divided
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
Chopped cilantro, for garnish
Sour cream, for serving

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease a 8" x 8" baking dish and set aside. 

In a medium bowl, whisk together egg, milk, and corn. Stir in cornbread mix. Pour into prepared baking dish and bake for about 25 minutes, until cornbread is just set and golden brown. 

While the cornbread is baking, heat oil in a large skillet over medium high. Cook turkey, stirring occasionally, until it's cooked through, about 10 minutes. Stir in taco seasoning and salt to taste. Allow spices to toast for 1 minute. Stir in half of the enchilada sauce.

Once cornbread is baked, pierce it all over with a fork. Slowly pour the remaining half of the enchilada sauce over the baked cornbread. Top with cooked ground turkey. Sprinkle cheese over top. Bake for 10-15 minutes, until cheese is melted. Allow casserole to rest 5 minutes. Top with cilantro and serve with sour cream. 

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Baba Ghannouj

I'm a huge fan of eggplant (see my recipe for Grilled Eggplant Salad) and Baba Ghannouj (or Baba Ghanoush or Baba Ganoush) is such a versatile way to eat it!

This appetizer of eggplant, garlic and lemon juice is one of my favorite things to eat. It goes so well with vegetables and all kinds of bread and makes a great sandwich spread.

For the past few months, I've been trying to replicate the smoky, eggplant-forward taste of the Baba Ghannouj found at a favorite Cincinnati restaurant. Andy's Mediterranean Grille does it so well that my son Sam can't stop eating what he likes to call Baba Gagoose.

After trying recipes from many sources, I think the secret is in using just the right amount of tahini (a paste made from ground sesame seeds.) Too much and your eggplant tastes like hummus. But when you hit on the perfect number of spoonfuls, the resulting texture and slightly nutty flavor can't be beat.

That said, this is one of those dishes that I'm sure will vary with each person, so be sure to adjust the ingredients to suit your own tastes.

Mangia! Mangia!

Baba Ghannouj

1 large eggplant
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
Juice of 1 large lemon, between 1/4 cup and 1/2 cup
1 to 2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 to 2 tablespoons tahini
Salt and pepper to taste
Chopped fresh parsley, optional

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Wash eggplant. Pierce the eggplant all over with a fork. Slice in half lengthwise. Brush cut sides of eggplant with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Place eggplant on a baking sheet, cut sides down.

Cook eggplant until it is deflated and soft, between 30 and 45 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool. Remove eggplant pulp from the skin and place in food processor or blender. Add 1/4 cup lemon juice, 1 clove garlic and 1 tablespoon tahini. Process until smooth. Add salt and pepper, and blend or stir to combine.

Taste the Baba Ghannouj. Add more garlic, tahini, salt and pepper and parsley (if using) to suit your preferences.

Place spread in a bowl and drizzle with olive oil. Note: Some recipes call for adding the olive oil directly into the spread. Try it – you might like it that way!

Garnish with parsley or cilantro.

Serve with vegetables and breads or use on sandwiches (such as a combo of provolone cheese, cucumbers and peppers.)

Monday, February 15, 2016

Crockpot Queso

Until very recently, I'd never made my husband's beloved Ro-Tel cheese dip. But then our Carolina Panthers made it to the Super Bowl and, by the Sunday of the big game, resistance was futile. I bought a 16-ounce block of Velveeta cheese product and glanced at a few online recipes. There are literally (and I don't use that word lightly) a bazillion ways to make Ro-Tel cheese dip. Here is mine, which I call Crockpot Queso.


Crockpot Queso

1 pound lean ground beef
1 onion, diced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 tablespoon taco seasoning
16-ounce block of Velveeta, cubes
2 cans of Ro-Tel Tomatoes & Green Chilies, undrained (I recommend the No Salt Added variety as the Velveeta has plenty of sodium.)
1/2 to 1 tablespoon canned, diced jalapenos (I use 1/2 heaping tablepoon of the HOT variety)

Fry beef with onion, garlic and taco seasoning. Drain and place in crockpot.

Add all other ingredients to crockpot and cook on low for 2-3 hours or until cheese is melted. Serve with tortilla chips. Keep Crockpot Queso on low while serving.

Leftovers can be refrigerated and reheated.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Overnight Coffee Cake

Sunday is Valentine's Day. Have you ordered your roses? Reserved the corner table at a fancy restaurant? Put the champagne on ice? No? Okay, good. Me neither.

Overnight Coffee Cake is your perfect plan for a lovely Valentine's Day. Prep the batter the night before and pop it in the oven while you're bleary-eyed the next morning. By the time you've changed out of your jammies and brewed your tea, it's ready to devour, perfectly warm from the oven. Bonus points if you bring it to your honey while they're still snuggled in the covers. Double bonus points if the breakfast tray includes a mimosa. Just saying...

Let's get cooking!

Overnight Coffee Cake
From the Randall Church Cookbook (You know I love a good church cookbook recipe.)

Coffee Cake:
2 cups flour
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 cup buttermilk*
2/3 cup butter, melted
2 eggs

1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1 teaspoon cinnamon

Combine flour, granulated sugar, brown sugar, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon in a large mixing bowl. Add buttermilk, butter, and eggs. Beat at low speed until combined, then continue to beat at medium speed for 3 minutes. (If you don't feel like using your mixer, I had success beating the batter by hand with a whisk.) Pour batter into a greased 9" x 13" baking dish.

Combine topping ingredients in a small bowl. Sprinkle evenly over batter. Cover and refrigerate 8-12 hours.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Uncover coffee cake and bake for 35-40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Serve warm.

*Don't have buttermilk? Don't let that stop you! You can easily make a buttermilk substitute. Mix 1 cup milk and 1 tablespoon lemon juice or white vinegar. Let it sit on the counter for about 5 minutes until it thickens and starts to curdle, then proceed with the recipe.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Pressure Cooker Pot Roast

I was pleasantly surprised this Christmas to see that my husband paid attention to our kitchen equipment gift guide – especially when I found a pressure cooker under the tree.

It took me a while to finally give the cooker a try.  Sam (my youngest) and my DH started to wonder if I was afraid to use it . (I was! I've never seen anyone use a pressure cooker except on TV and I kept envisioning a kitchen explosion if I put the lid on wrong.) Amy kept assuring me it was foolproof – and she was right (see her recipes for Midwestern Vegetable-Beef SoupShrimp Curry and Potato Soup.) I am now a convert!

I took the plunge with a pot roast. Every time I cook one in my slow cooker it comes out a little dry. Not so with the pressure cooker. This roast was moist and packed with flavor. The boys loved it and there were hardly any leftovers.

The cooking process was pretty fast and easy –  once I got the hang of turning on the pressure cooker. It shut off on me twice after just a few minutes. I eventually realized that I didn't let the cooker cool off long enough after browning the meat and sautéing the onions.

After solving this problem, it was smooth sailing. I did text Amy at the end of the cooking process to figure out if I really needed to follow the manufacturer's recommendation for using the Natural Pressure Release when cooking roasts. This is when you let the pressure reduce on its own (as opposed to releasing it all at once) while the cooker is on the "keep warm" setting. This method also extends the cooking time.

I ended up doing a quick release after letting the pressure cooker sit for about 20 minutes and I'm glad I did. The roast might have become dry if it continued to cook much longer.

So, dear readers, do you use a pressure cooker? What's your favorite recipe for this kitchen appliance?

Mangia! Mangia!

Pressure Cooker Pot Roast

1 3-pound pot roast (bottom round)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 pound onions, cut in half and thinly sliced
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 teaspoon thyme
1 teaspoon basil
1 teaspoon oregano
1 15 ounce can diced tomatoes, drained
1/2 cup beef broth, low sodium preferred

Use a sharp knife to score (or cut an X into) any large portions of fat on the beef. Season beef on all sides with salt and pepper.
My Cuisinart Electric Pressure Cooker. 

**Note: If your pressure cooker does not have the brown and sauté functions, simply use a large non-stick skillet to brown the meat and sauté the onions, and then place them into the pressure cooker.

Select browning function on the pressure cooker. Add olive oil to cooking pot. When hot, add meat and brown on all sides, about 5 minutes per side. Remove meat and put it on a plate.

Change setting to sauté, and add onions and garlic. Cook for about 3 minutes. Add thyme, basil and oregano and cook for another 5 minutes. Add drained tomatoes and beef broth an cook for another 5 minutes.

Return the meat to the pot and cover with some of the onions and tomatoes. Let cool for 5 or 10 minutes.

Cover with lid and lock into place. Select High Pressure and set timer for 99 minutes. When beep sounds, do a quick pressure release. Be sure to tip lid away from you when you open it, to let the steam escape.

Place the pot roast and most of the tomatoes and onions on a serving platter and keep warm. Skim fat from sauce in pot. Select simmer function and cook for 5 to 10 minutes to thicken.

Slice pot roast and serve with sauce.

Monday, February 8, 2016

French Chocolate Cake

Recall from last week's post Penny's birthday dinner -- Parmesan and Yogurt Crusted Chicken, Carolina Collard Greens, scalloped potatoes and this nearly flourless French Chocolate Cake.

I made this cake exactly per the recipe in pastry chef David Lebovitz's memoir, The Sweet Life in Paris. I selected it because it offers something for everyone in the George family -- high quality dark chocolate for maman and a cake that doesn't require icing, which les enfants don't like anyhow. Plus, it is so rich that a teeny piece is perfect -- and perfect for papa who doesn't have a huge sweet tooth.

I highly recommend the cake and the book, which explained a lot about Parisians that I already knew but plenty that I didn't. Sweet Life is also full of recipes that appear easy to do -- and eat. In fact, the chocolate cake was my second dish from the book. When I made the Chicken Tagine with Apricots and Almonds, I swear my house smelled just like Chez Omar, the popular Moroccan restaurant in Paris' Le Marais neighborhood.


French Chocolate Cake
From The Sweet Life in Paris by David Lebovitz

9 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, roughly chopped
8 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/3 cup sugar
4 large eggs, at room temperature, separated
2 tablespoons all purpose flour
Pinch of salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9-inch loaf pan and line the bottom with a strip of parchment paper.

In a large bowl set over a pan of simmering water or likewise in a double boiler, heat the chocolate and butter together until just melted and smooth. A note about the chocolate, for this and for homemade brownies I use Scharffen Berger Baking Bar - 70% Bittersweet Chocolate. Worth the 10 bucks.

Remove chocolate and butter from the heat and stir in half the sugar, then the egg yolks, and flour. (I love this part from the book: "You don't need to measure the half-quantity of sugar exactly. Just pretend you're a French woman cooking in her home kitchen and don't worry about it.)

Whip egg whites with the salt, using an electric hand mixer or whisk. Keep whipping until the whites form soft peaks. Gradually whip in the remaining sugar until the whites are smooth and hold their shape when the whisk or beaters are lifted.

Use a rubber spatula to fold one-third of the egg whites into the chocolate mixture to lighten it. Next fold in the remaining egg whites just until the mixture is smooth and no visible white streaks remain.

Pour batter into pan, scraping sides of the bowl so you bake up all that goodness. Smooth the top of the batter with rubber spatula. Bake for 30-35 minutes. Do not overbake.

Let cake cook in pan before cutting and serving.

The cake can be stored for up to three days. Some French women believe it is better after it sits for a day or two. The cake can also be wrapped in plastic and frozen for up to one month.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Cheesy Grits Casserole with Sausage

A few weeks back, the Seattle Seahawks played the Carolina Panthers in a playoff game. Since I'm a Seattle resident and Amy hails from the land of the Panthers, we had a friendly little wager that we posted to the HDHH Facebook page. If the Hawks won the game, Amy would need to prep a meal featuring salmon. If the Panthers won, I owed her grits.

Since the Panthers are playing in the Super Bowl on Sunday, I think you all know who's been in the kitchen this week.

When the husband and I were living in Charlotte, we enjoyed many tasty meals. Southerners can cook, y'all. And they bring out their A-game for a church potluck. One woman from my ladies' Bible study brought to one such gathering a cheesy grits casserole studded with sausage, and it totally blew my mind. Losing the bet to Amy seemed like the perfect opportunity to re-create this delicious dish.

If you're looking for the perfect brunch dish or pre-Super Bowl breakfast, Cheesy Grits Casserole with Sausage is just the ticket. Savory, rich and creamy, it's full of southern flavors. Plus it's hearty enough to stick to your ribs and keep you full for the big game.

Hope you enjoy this tribute to the south, the Carolina Panthers, and my time in the beautiful city of Charlotte. Keep pounding!

Let's get cooking!

P.S. Have you liked us on Facebook yet? If not, please do!

Cheesy Grits Casserole with Sausage
Adapted from
Serves: 6

1 teaspoon olive oil
1/2 pound ground sausage
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
3 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 cup grits
Salt and pepper
4 eggs
1/4 cup milk
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 3/4 cups shredded cheddar cheese, divided

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease an 8" square baking dish and set aside.

Heat oil in a skillet over medium-high. Add sausage and cook, breaking it up with a spoon, until sausage is cooked through and some pieces are nice and crisp, about 8 minutes. Add 1/2 teaspoon onion powder and stir until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Drain sausage and set aside.

Bring broth to a boil in a large saucepan. Stir in grits. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for about 5 minutes, until broth is absorbed. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Meanwhile, whisk together eggs, milk, Worcestershire sauce, and salt and pepper to taste. Stir into grits and cook over low heat for a couple minutes. Stir in 1 cup cheese and cooked sausage. Pour into prepared baking dish and top with remaining 3/4 cup cheese. Bake in preheated oven for 30 minutes, until set in the middle.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Fried Apples

My oldest son Max loves fried apples, and when he asks for them it's usually because he sees a package in the refrigerated section of the grocery store.

When he requested them for dinner recently, I decided to make them on my own. Super simple and so tasty as a side dish, fried apples also make a great dessert. Max even took leftovers in his school lunch.

Many recipes for cooked apples call for lots of white sugar, but you don't need that much. Use a smaller amount of brown sugar and let the sweetness of the apples stand on their own.

I love to pair cooked apples with pork, which is what we did when I made these. They're also excellent with vanilla ice cream.

Mangia! Mangia!

Fried Apples

4 large apples, cored and sliced (I used 2 Fuji and 2 Granny Smith)
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons brown sugar

Warm a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat. Add butter and let it melt. Add apples, cinnamon and brown sugar. Cook, stirring often, until apples are softened and sauce is bubbly.

Once apples are tender, heat a little longer until sauce thickens. You can up the temp a bit to make this happen.

Serve warm with pork chops or over ice cream.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Carolina Collard Greens

My younger daughter -- and the more adventuresome eater of my two girls -- turns 7 tomorrow. We celebrated on Saturday with a home cooked early birthday dinner. Penny's taste buds were set on having collard greens.

Yes, my child is weird. A child of the South and a weird collard craving, blue cheese nibbling, quinoa salad lunching kid. But finally someone else in my house other than me appreciates collards, so I happily fixed a big mess of greens.

Here are some Southern inspired dishes that would go well with collards: Family Cornbread, Slow Cooker Pulled PorkTangy Slow Cooker Pork with Onion Jam, Slow Cooker Chicken & Biscuits, Pecan-Crusted Chicken Breasts and a Deviled Egg Sampler.

However, our birthday dinner was a little more eclectic. We had Parmesan and Yogurt Crusted Chicken, scalloped potatoes and a nearly flourless French chocolate cake.

Penny, by the way, had two helpings of collards.


PS: I call these Carolina Collard Greens in honor of Cam Newton, QB1 for the Super Bowl 50-bound Carolina Panthers. In an interview following the Panthers' NFC Championship win, Cam compared "instant grits" to "slow cooked collard greens" when asked to talk about what's happened to him since being drafted. Go, Panthers! Keep pounding!

PPS: You might recall that Erin is bringing you grits following the Seattle Seahawks' playoff loss to the Panthers. Grits are coming later this week.

Carolina Collard Greens

2 pounds of collard greens, each leaf cut in half to completely remove center stem/vein and torn into 2-inch pieces
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 pieces bacon
2 onions, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
Pinch or two of crushed red pepper
4 cups chicken broth
1 tablespoon red or white wine vinegar

Rinse prepared collard pieces under cold water and  set aside.

In your largest pot -- like a pasta or lobster pot -- heat olive oil over medium heat. (Trust me, the collards cook way down.)

Add bacon and cook for a minute. Add onions and cook until softened, about four minutes. Add garlic and red pepper and cook until fragrant, about one minute.

Remove bacon and cut into pieces and return to pot. (Or you can do what I do, which is use kitchen scissors to cut bacon while it is still in the pot.) Add collards and stir to incorporate with other ingredients the best you can. Add broth and vinegar.

Bring pot to a boil and then cover and reduce to a simmer for at least 45 minutes.

Use slotted spoon to serve.