Are You Ready for Some Football (Food)?

Sorry, that was bad, but I couldn’t help it. We love this time of year – our favorite college teams play on Saturday, then all eyes turn to the NFL games to round out the weekend on Sunday. But what’s watching football without our favorite bites to enhance the day? Well, I don’t know and not sure I’d want to be watching that many games without some really great food! So I thought I’d kick off (ok, another bad pun) a post or two featuring our favorite football menus.

Call it charcuterie, call it small plates, in our house, this is perfect for a night kickoff because it’s flexible, adaptable, and gives everyone choices. And you don’t need to go wild preparing components – you can use what you have on hand. Yesterday, I grilled some smoked sausage (please don’t share it was turkey!), threw some frozen meatballs in the air fryer that had been tossed with BBQ sauce, and baked some prepared spanakopita triangles. Then of course, you need to have cheese! I like to include something with a bite (here an extra sharp Vermont cheddar), something milder (Swiss or Gouda always work), and something soft (this one was an Asiago spread we’d picked up on our adventures earlier in the day and was amazing!) Add your favorite crackers or baguette and enjoy!

But I will confess, I need something healthy on the side, so this cucumber, tomato salad fits the bill (and the small plates!)

Cut about a pound of cherry tomatoes in half (I love the brightness of having the different colors in the bowl) and toss with a pinch of salt, sugar and freshly ground pepper. Cut an English cucumber into thin slices and add to the bowl. Last step is to add half a red onion that’s been thinly sliced. Make the dressing in a mason jar by combining 1/2 cup Olive Oil, 1/2 cup red or white wine vinegar, 2 minced garlic cloves, freshly ground salt and pepper, 1 tsp sugar and 1 tsp dried oregano. Shake it all up to combine, then pour most of it on the veggies (I always save a bit in case I need it for serving). Mix in a little fresh parsley then let everything sit on the counter to marinade for a couple hours before serving.

Last but not least, we finished the weekend with sheet pan nachos. I always struggle with keeping these crispy, but a deep dive into Google today revealed the secret (strangely from the Cape Cod Times, not any cooking site). Preheat the oven to 375, spread the tortilla chips onto a baking sheet and cover the chips with about a cup and a half of cheese (I love a good Mexican blend). Bake for three minutes. Then they’re ready for topping. I always go with a meat (leftover chili, cooked chicken, ground beef or turkey cooked with taco seasoning), some salsa, and some diced jalapenos. Top with another half cup of so of cheese and return to the oven for 7 or 8 minutes till the cheese is melted. I top them with shredded lettuce, diced onion, and diced tomato (but choose your own adventure!). Serve with sour cream, guacamole, and/or pico de gallo.

That was a prefect menu to begin the first real weekend of football. What’s your go-to game day food? Whatever it is, I hope you enjoy it in the company of those you love and of course your favorite teams win!

Eat well my friends!

What’s Cooking This Week

Well honestly, not much has been happening in the kitchen between travel, a return to summer events, and graduation season. But one thing that’s been on the menu constantly are two Upstate New York favorites: salt potatoes and chicken spiedies. What are those you may ask? Well let me introduce you!

Salt potatoes are an iconic food in this area (which I didn’t realize till we had family & friends move out of the area – they always ask us to bring some along when we come to visit). They’re small, white potatoes that are boiled in their skins with a TON of salt. The rule of thumb is one cup of salt to 6 cups of water. That’s why packages of the nuggets of joy and pre-packaged salt are found in every grocery store this time of year. All that salt forms an amazing crust on the potatoes while they boil away. They’re served with melted butter (and no, you don’t need any salt on top of them!) They are the perfect side for anything: burgers, chicken, ribs… One caution if you’re going to try them: if they boil over, all that salt makes a complete mess of your stove, counter, and pot, so keep an eye on them.

Chicken spiedies seem to be one of those dishes that I only make in the summer, mainly because the grilling of the meat is key to success. Cubed chicken is marinaded in a mix of olive oil, lemon juice, vinegar, and so many amazing spices (oregano, garlic, parsley, basil, salt & pepper). The key to the best chicken spiedie is to let everything marinade over night (ok, sometimes I forget, but a nice 6 hours will work). Because of the acid in the marinade, it will begin softening and breaking down in the refrigerator. Grill on skewers or a grilling tray (so you don’t lose any of the delicious chicken). Serve on crusty rolls (I like toasting them for a bit) They’re perfect on their own, but I also can’t resist topping with grilled peppers and onions.

Time to get planning some meals and get back in the kitchen. What’s an iconic food from your area that you can’t live without?

Refrigerator Pickles

I’ve never gotten into canning and preserving and honestly, I’m in awe seeing pictures from friends making jams, canning the abundance of vegetables from their gardens… This is about as close as I get because we do love pickles (plus it is the season when I end up with a ton of cucumbers)

1 pound of cucumbers, sliced 1/2 inch thick (I did strips this time to mix things up)
1 large Vidalia onion, thinly sliced
1/4 cup sea salt
1/2 to 3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup distilled white vinegar
1 tbsp mustard seed
1 tbsp coriander seed
1/4 tsp celery seed
1/2 tbsp pickling spices
Fresh dill (or dried dill)

In a medium bowl, combine cucumbers and onion. Toss with salt, combining really well. Top with ice and let everything stand for two hours on the counter.

In a pot, bring the sugar, vinegar and spices to a boil. Drain the cucumbers and onion. Add the vegetables to the vinegar mixture and bring almost back to a boil. Remove from heat and cool. Spoon the cucumbers and onion into a one quart jar (depending on how you sliced the cucumbers, you might need a couple). Add the pickling liquid, top with some dill, to the jar and seal tightly.

You can store these in the fridge for about 4 weeks (but I’ll confess we’ve never had them last that long). They’ll begin having that classic pickle flavor in about a couple hours in the fridge.

What’s Cooking This Week

Spring might finally be starting to arrive here (well other than the snow that’s in the forecast for tomorrow), but it has me thinking about getting back to spending some time getting organized for the week: prepping some things to make for easier dinners and making sure the extra veggies we don’t use during the week don’t go to waste. So as today’s plans got rescheduled, I decided to have some fun in the kitchen. Honestly, I blame the productivity app on my phone that asked if I wanted to get more organized at dinner. Sometimes it’s like the thing watches what happens in our house.

Here’s what we ended up with. Not bad for a day’s work! I started with cooking some broccoli and sausage for a pasta dinner this week. I used two of my favorite kitchen gadgets: my air fryer to cook the broccoli in some olive oil, garlic, red pepper flakes and oregano and my grill pan to put a nice grill on the hot sausage links. It will come together as I heat them in some sauce while cooking some pasta.

Then I cleaned off the grill pan to move on to chicken to make tacos this week (since I’ve got all the veggies coming from my weekly Misfits delivery to seal the deal). One of my pandemic finds was this amazing guide on making your own spice blends so I love this mix for any kind of tacos. I’ve learned to keep the chicken from drying out, once I get the grill marks on the chicken, I just add some water to the pan to keep it juicy while it’s finishing up.

Last up, looking at the weather for tomorrow and knowing we could spend a chunk of the afternoon outside, I wanted to have something warming and ready to go when we got home so I made a batch of white chicken chili. I love the flavors in this: roasted red and poblano peppers, cannelloni beans, cooked chicken and some cayenne pepper, cumin and chili powder for heat.

Of course, I was under the watchful eye of my dutiful kitchen assistant at all times (who may have been rewarded with a taste of the cooked chicken before it got into the spicy mix!) What are your favorite prep time shortcuts?

Eat well friends!

What’s Cooking This Week

It was a bit of a crazy week here. With Lent starting, the kitchen theme became Fat Tuesday and Ash Wednesday (I wish I could claim that I planned it that way, but alas it was pretty coincidental, yet delicious)

Our Tuesday meal was sheet pan porkchops, potatoes and green beans. You guessed it: the potatoes and green beans came from our weekly Misfits box. And I love sheet pan meals, especially when things are chaotic – you want a hearty meal everyone will enjoy, but you just don’t want to fuss around with a bunch of different dishes. This one is epically easy with a great ranch flavor. I use the Pioneer Woman’s recipe as a starting point. But a couple things I’ve learned while making this recipe: heat the oven to 425 degrees instead of the higher temp, depending on the cut of your potatoes (I love using fingerlings when I have them), give them a 10 minute start before adding the pork chops, and I find that the ranch dressing means you don’t have to add any extra salt. When I made it this week, we wanted a little more crunch on the potatoes but were afraid of drying out the pork chops, so I just tossed them in the air fryer for about 5 minutes while I was plating everything else!

Wednesday, I brought the world’s easiest tomato soup back into the rotation. (I don’t know why I only make it during Lent, but that seems to be how things go!) Start with half a cup of diced onion and carrots. Sautee them in a little olive oil till soft. Add one 28oz can of crushed tomatoes, two 5 ounce cans of tomato juice and heat to simmer. If you like your soup smooth, use an immersion blender to get things all nicely blended. Add your favorite spices – my go to’s are garlic powder, oregano, red pepper flakes and a pinch of salt and pepper. Add 1 – 2 cups of vegetable or chicken stock until the soup is the consistency you like (one cup will be on the thicker side, so I lean toward two). Simmer for about 15 minutes to let all the flavors combine and enjoy! If you’re feeling fancy, garnish with a little shredded parmesan and fresh basil.

As I’m thinking about planning this week’s menu, what was your kitchen success of the week?

Eat well!

What’s Cooking This Week

This week, we’re testing out some of the fun things that came in my last delivery from Misfits Markets. I have to say, we’ve been really happy so far with what we’ve received. And of course I’m still playing with the air fryer on a regular basis (spoiler)!

First up is the easiest pasta dish I make. I tried cooking the broccoli in the air fryer, cooking it for about 7 minutes (I tossed it with red pepper flakes, oregano and garlic powder). I was pretty happy with the texture and the flavor. We tend to disagree in our house about “how done” broccoli should be. I like it a little more firm, so this seemed to be a nice compromise with the smoky flavor. Cook 2 cups of rigatoni in boiling, salted water. While the pasta is cooking, I used a grill pan to grill up some organic chicken sausages that were in my last Misfits’ order. I love using chicken sausage to lighten things up without losing that sausage flavor in pasta. Once the sausage is cooked, slice it into 1 inch pieces, return to the pan with the broccoli and add the pasta. No sauce you say? Using some of the pasta water to deglaze the pan and adding a bit more as everything comes together works beautifully. Hit it with some oregano, more red pepper flakes and a bit of parmesan. Transfer to a serving platter, and add a little more grated parmesan on top. Perfect.

So next I wanted to try something different with eggplant, so I diced it, tossed it with some rosemary-infused olive oil, garlic power and Italian seasoning and put it in the air fryer for 10 minutes (shaking it halfway through cooking). I tossed it in a greased casserole dish, topped it with some fresh mozzarella (which I ordered accidently) and Panko and let it go in the oven while my chicken cutlets were baking (such a simple breading mix of breadcrumbs and parmesan – the real key is using some melted butter mixed with Worcestershire sauce and spicy mustard to dip the chicken in before breading). But while all that was in the oven, it occurred to me I forgot a potato. So I decided to see how frozen, shredded hash browns would play in the air fryer. And let me say they sure do without the mess of cooking them on the stove or the hassle (and poor health) of frying them in a ton of oil.

A winning week with our Misfits ingredients! As I head to prep some food for the week, what was your kitchen fave?

Eat well!

What’s Cooking This Week

I’ll confess, we broke down and bought an air fryer after the holidays and I’m completely hooked! So this week in the kitchen I’ve been trying to perfect healthier versions of some of our favorite fried foods to make them more accessible. This week’s triumph was crispy onion rings and fried ravioli. (No, I didn’t serve them together). The ravioli made an appearance on a game day charcuterie board (along with some amazing jalapeno poppers & meatballs) and the onion rings were the perfect side for grilled steaks.

Note to self: share post on our new love of charcuterie & small plates!

One thing that’s been getting on our nerves is the weekly trip to the grocery store. We’ve been pretty regular customers of one of the big chains popular in the northeast and mid-Atlantic region and my husband was beginning to doubt my reports that I didn’t come home with half the items on my list because the shelves were bare. Plus what items I did secure put our grocery bill at a higher level than when we were trying to fill our strapping son’s appetite. So he decided to join me last week and saw I wasn’t censoring his food choices!

So we decided to try out Misfits Market because I’ve heard good things from friends, love the convenience of having groceries delivered to my door, and the prices were much less on staples than I was paying. Our first box was filled with pantry staples (the organic flatbreads made the perfect pizza crust) and fruits & veggies (now we’ll have fresh guacamole for the Superbowl, plus tons of carrots & celery to munch on with our wings. That will be made in the air fryer – obviously!) This week’s box will be one of their cold boxes, filled with cheeses and organic meats. I’m excited.

We also tried our another local grocery store. Of course, my resident skeptic had to accompany me and we were both happy to see fully-stocked shelves! It was significantly cheaper than what I’d been paying, even adding in the cost of the Misfits box. That’s my long way of saying that we’ll continue this experiment for another few weeks.

So, as I head to the kitchen to prep some of the abundance of extra produce I received, I’m wondering your favorite tips for fighting rising grocery costs. Bonus points for sharing your favorite things to make in the air fryer.

Eat well!