November 12, 2018

Moros y Cristianos (Cuban-style Rice and Beans)


1 white onion, diced
2 cubanelle peppers, diced
4-5 cloves garlic, minced
2 oz can tomato paste
2-15 oz cans black beans (do not drain!)
1 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon cumin
2 bay leaves
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
freshly ground black pepper
2 1/2 cups cooked white rice


In a large pot sauté onion, cubanelle peppers and garlic in oil until translucent. Add all of the remaining ingredients except the rice and simmer until warmed through, stirring occasionally. Stir in the cooked white rice until well coated. Simmer 5 additional minutes prior to serving.

My thoughts:
Every year we do a different themed Thanksgiving. One year it was Hawaiian, one year it was Polish, and even Maryland themed. This year we a Cuban theme so of course we had to make Moros y Cristianos (Cuban-style Rice and Beans)! We made the recipe a little easier by mixing the white rice cooked into the bean mixture vs cooking the rice in with the beans. I feel like it yields more consistent results and if you have a rice cooker, it is so much more hands-free and easy. Perfect for the holidays! It went wonderfully with our mojo-spiked turkey and picadillo stuffing.

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October 31, 2018

Ham & Peas Baked Polenta

1/2 small red onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 oz Frick's sliced Gourmet Ham, cut into bite-sized pieces
2/3 cup frozen peas
2 eggs
1 cup milk
1 cup coarse cornmeal*
1/3 cup grated Parmesan
2 cups very hot or boiling water, chicken or ham stock
freshly ground black pepper


Preheat the oven to 350. Lightly oil an 8x8 baking dish. Set aside.

In a medium skillet, saute the onion and garlic until the onion is soft and translucent. Stir in the ham, and cook 1-2 minutes or until heated through and lightly browned. Set aside.

In a large bowl, beat together the egg, milk,  until well combined. Whisk in the cornmeal and cheese. Fold in the ham mixture and peas. Pour into the prepared baking dish.

Whisk in the boiling/hot water/stock. Bake for 25 minutes, remove from the oven and whisk the mixture. Return to the oven and bake an additional 30-40 minutes or until the polenta is firm and golden brown and a knife inserted into the center of the dish comes out clean.

Allow to cool 5 minutes prior to serving.

*I used Bob's Red Mill polenta; I buy it in bulk on Amazon.
My thoughts:
I came across a reference to baked polenta recently and was intrigued. I don't find polenta difficult to make but I'm always a little scared of the molten bubbles it produces when I get distracted. I've had more than one run in with scalding polenta! So baking it seemed like an easy solution. Then I had the idea to make it into a more complete meal and came up with this.

Ham and peas are a classic combination and I think they go wonderfully with polenta (or grits but I'm going for a subtle Italian vibe so it's polenta); the creaminess of the polenta is really set off by the smoky ham and fresh pea flavor. Serve with some crusty bread or a light salad and you have a meal!

I served it for dinner but I bet it would make a good breakfast or brunch dish too! It reheats very nicely in the oven. Just take it out of the fridge for about an half hour to cut down on the reheating time and to avoid cracking the dish.

This recipe is an entry in the Frick's blogger contest. Check out their website, Facebook page and Instagram.

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October 26, 2018

Ham, Pesto and Italian Cheese Stuffed Bread


1 large loaf crusty Italian bread
6 slices Frick's Hickory Smoked Ham, cut each slice into 8 wedges
8 oz fresh mozzarella, grated
3-4 tablespoons fresh or bottled pesto
1 1/2 teaspoons grated Parmesan
olive oil


Preheat oven to 350. Cut the bread on the diagonal making 1/2 inch thick slices without slicing the bread all the way through. Repeat, going the opposite direction forming a cross hatch pattern.

Using a spreader or spoon, spread pesto between each cut. This scoop and spreader works perfectly for this!

Insert one wedge of ham in between each cut.

Add mozzarella between each cut. Drizzle with olive oil. Wrap tightly in foil. Place on a baking rack and bake 15 minutes. Remove from the oven, unwrap and sprinkle with Parmesan and return to the oven to brown, about five minutes. Allow to cool 5 minutes before plating and serving.

Note: Depending on the size of your loaf, you may end up with ham or mozzarella leftover.

My thoughts:
I love appetizers that look impressive and are fun to eat but are also easy to make, transport and serve. This stuffed bread hits all those points. I used smoky Frick's ham slices which worked perfectly, they are a good thickness so you can really get them in-between the cuts and have a lot of flavor. For ease's sake (and the fact that you use less than 1/4 cup), I used bottled pesto but feel free to use fresh if you'd like. Thanks to the mozzarella the mix holds together well when you tear off a chunk. It's important to use a good, crusty loaf of bread--I get mine at the local Italian market--so you can cut it 95% of the way through and still have it hold its shape. The results are worth it! Great Italian flavors and smokiness from the hickory smoked ham.

I really enjoyed this! I am not always someone who makes an appetizer but this one was so easy and so flavorful, I can see making this again and again.

This recipe is an entry in the Frick's blogger contest. Check out their website, Facebook page and Instagram.
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October 10, 2018

Parmesan Pork Chop Sheet Pan Supper with Delicata Squash and Mushrooms


4 thick cut boneless pork chops
1/2 cup breadcrumbs
1/4 cup grated Parmesan
1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
1 teaspoon lemon pepper seasoning
1 delicata squash, sliced into rings, seeds removed
8 oz crimini mushrooms
1 small red onion, cut into wedges
freshly ground black pepper


Preheat oven to 375. Lightly grease a rimmed baking sheet.

Place the breadcrumbs, 1/2 of the Italian seasoning, lemon pepper, and the bread crumbs in a shallow bowl. Dredge the pork chops in the mixture. Place on the baking sheet. (I placed them on a single silicone baking rack similar to this one to help promote even cooking but they can be placed directly on the baking sheet)

Arrange the squash and onions in a single layer. Top with mushrooms. Drizzle the vegetables lightly with oil, sprinkle with remaining Italian seasoning,  salt, and pepper.

Bake for 30-40 minutes or until the pork chops are fully cooked. Served immediately.

My thoughts:

This was another surprise hit! I really didn't feel like dinner so something like this seemed like the way to go; everything cooks at once and minimal fuss. I didn't even bother dredging the pork chops in egg first. Who knew it would turn out so well?

The hardest part was seeding the squash but once I cut it into rings, I used a biscuit cutter to cut out the centers so that went pretty quickly. I love delicata squash, it is super tender and you can eat the skin. I hate peeling bumpy squash! Technically it is a summer squash but since it is in season in the fall, it often characterized as a winter squash.

The whole dish just really pulled together and was as flavorful as it was easy. All of the ingredients cook for the same amount of time so you can really just prep, stick it in the oven and walk away unlike a lot of sheet pan meals that require ingredients that have to be tended to or added at different intervals. The pork was particularly juicy and flavorful. Even the leftovers were great. Perfect weeknight dinner.

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October 01, 2018

Pineapple-Coconut Kiss Macaroons


7-oz unsweetened grated coconut
12 oz sweetened condensed milk
1/4 cup chopped candied pineapple*
24 (unwrapped) Hershey's Kisses Pineapple Coconut Flavors Of Hawaii Edition


Preheat oven to 350. In a large bowl, combine all ingredients EXCEPT the Kisses thoroughly. Form into small balls (or use a medium-sized cookie scoop) and place 1/2 inch apart on parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake 10-12 minutes or until the edges are lightly browned. Slide the macaroons out ON the parchment paper onto the wire racks. Press a Kiss in the middle of each macaroon. Cool completely.

NOTE: the candies will become very, very soft once they are placed on the macaroon. If you want them to keep their "Kiss" shape, do not touch or move them until they are completely cool and set, about 1 1/2-2 hrs. Alternately, you could press down on the top of each Kiss to flatten into more of a "filled" effect.

Yield: about 2 dozen

*I used about 1/3 cup of this candied pineapple to yield 1/4 cup chopped.

My thoughts:
Saturday we spent the afternoon at Hersheypark. I went there a bunch as a child but it's been years! It was lovely weather--one of the nice few days we've since spring but so very, very crowded. Luckily we are not ride people so we mostly walked around, ate lunch and I was able to cross off playing skeeball from my summer goals list.

We also stopped off in Chocolate World, where you can get a virtual tour of a chocolate factory, prepared food and tons of everything Hershey makes. Chocolate World was also a zoo but were able to pick up some fun candy (including Hershey-ettes for my dad who is probably the only person who prefers them to M & Ms) and baking bits. My husband picked up these Pineapple Coconut Kisses impulsively at the check out line (left unattended, ha!) without realizing that they weren't milk or dark chocolate. We thought they were tasty but not something we'd want to eat by the handful.

I immediately thought of making Kiss cookies like I have in the past but then I thought, why not macaroons? So easy to make yet so tasty and very appropriate flavor-wise. I had some candied pineapple on hand so I chopped that up and in it went! Instead of using the typical sweetened flaked coconut, I used unsweetened because I worried that between the sweet pineapple-coconut candy, the candied pineapple, and the sweetened condensed milk, it would be too sweet. I think I made the correct choice but feel free to sub in sweetened flaked coconut if you'd like.

The resulting macaroon has a great tropical coconut-pineapple flavor that is welcome any time of the year! The candy adds a nice note of creaminess and of course, coconut-pineapple to the mix. Just a really fun, easy dessert that any coconut fan would like.

One note: if you can't find these Kisses (although I have seen them at various chain stores and online) try it with white, milk or dark chocolate Kiss or even leave them off altogether, the macaroon is delicious on its own merits.

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September 20, 2018

Reuben-Inspired Twice Baked Potatoes


4 large Russet potatoes (about 3 lbs)
2 1/2 tablespoons minced dill pickles OR dill relish
1/2 tablespoons tomato paste
1/4 cup sour cream
1 1/3 cup chopped corned beef*
3/4 cup sauerkraut
2/3 cup shredded Swiss or Gruyère
freshly ground black pepper


Preheat oven to 375. Bake potatoes one hour or until fully cooked. Half each potato and scoop out the insides into a bowl. Place the empty skins openside up on a foil-lined baking sheet.

Add the pickles, tomato paste, pepper and sour cream to the bowl with the potatoes. Using a potato masher, mash until well combined. Add the corned beef and stir well mixed.

Scoop the mixture into the skins. Divide the sauerkraut among each potato half, top with cheese.

Bake 10-15 minutes or until the cheese is browned and the potatoes are hot. Serve immediately.

*I cooked mine for 8-10 hrs on low in the slow cooker, covered in water.

My thoughts:

I had this idea a few months ago but it was just too hot to bake potatoes. We finally had a few cool days so I used that an as an excuse to make this riff on the popular, totally no Kosher deli sandwich, the Reuben. Ruebens normally have corned beef, Russian dressing, sauerkraut, and rye bread. I ditched the rye bread (I did toy with having rye bread crumbs but decided against it) but kept pretty much everything else. Instead of the Russian dressing I've made when I've made the sandwich, I tossed in the two ingredients that influence the flavor the most, pickled and tomato, and mixed it with the potatoes and sour cream. Adding the corned beef was easy. I debated about mixing the sauerkraut in but I left it on top and I think it was the best choice. It really did end up tasting more like a Reuben that way; in the sandwich, there are very distinct layers and you taste each one individually so it makes sense!

The end result was a triumph, it really did taste like a Rueben, the potato was perfectly flavored and creamy and the toppings nicely browned and slightly crunchy. I made the corned beef  "fresh" but it would also be a great way to use up leftovers.

Note: corned beef can be tricky to find but Aldi seems to carry it most of the year and most supermarkets will order it for you if they don't have it in stock. I personally buy a bunch when it is super cheap near St Patrick's Day and freeze it. It freezes and defrosts wonderfully.

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September 17, 2018

Cheesy Zucchini Pimento Casserole


1 1/3 lb (about 3 medium) zucchini, cut into 1/2 inch thick half moons
3 eggs
1/4 cup milk
1/2 red onion, chopped
4 oz jar diced pimentos, drained
5 oz shredded gruyere, divided use
3 tablespoons breadcrumbs
freshly ground black pepper


Preheat the oven to 350. Grease an 8x8 inch baking dish.

Place the zucchini in the prepared pan. Steam the zucchini until just tender. I used a steamer pot like this one and steamed it for roughly 4 minutes. Drain (if needed) and allow to cool.

In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, pimentos, milk, and spices Stir in the onions and 3/4 of the cheese. Pour over the zucchini.

Sprinkle the top with the remaining cheese then bread crumbs. Bake 35 minutes, until bubbly and browned.

My thoughts:
Zucchini season is still in full swing! Honestly, the zucchini we've had this year has been the best out of all of the local produce. The peaches, nectarines, tomatoes, and corn that I wait for all year have been either just fine or downright inedible. My old pal, zucchini, however, had been quite tasty.

One thing I like to do is make a slightly labor intensive dish like then when I am making a super easy main (ahem, hot dogs) so I'm not torn in so many directions for a weeknight dinner. I made this dish up on the fly like I have so many dishes lately. I had stocked up on pimentos to make pimento cheese (jarred chopped pimentos can be oddly difficult to find locally) and accidentally knocked a jar to the floor breaking the seal. Rather than making pimento cheese, I took it as a sign to try something different with it. Pimentos have a great mix of heat and sweetness and were perfectly paired with similarly lightly sweet zucchini. The whole dish was homey and satisfying, with just the right amount of cheese and eggs for it all to hold together. It's definitely making its way into regular rotation. The leftovers held up well reheated in the oven.

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