Homemade Bolognese Sauce Over Whole Wheat Ziti – Italian, Family Style

20 12 2011

There’s no other way to say it, so I’ll just throw it out there…

This dish is one of the most flavorful pasta sauces I have ever tasted… In my life… Even in restaurants.

Great part?  It’s fairly simple, and it’s one-pot supper.  It would be a little tough on a busy weeknight, but save an hour on a Saturday or Sunday, set a little time for  YOU in your kitchen, gettin’ your groove on…

Trust me, your family will LOVE you even more than they already do.

* 3 carrots, peeled and chopped coarse

* 1 onion, chopped coarse

* 5 slices peppered bacon, cut into 1-inch pieces (pancetta is more authentic and a great substitute for bacon; if using, you’ll need 4 oz pancetta)

* 3/4 oz dried porcini mushrooms

* 2 anchovy fillets, rinsed (yes, anchovies… Do not omit them – they add a rich depth to the sauce and there is no fishiness; I promise you)

* 4 (14.5 oz) cans diced tomatoes

* 4 Tbsp butter

* Salt and pepper

* 1 small can tomato paste (about 3 Tbsp)

* 1 Tbsp sugar

* 4 garlic cloves, minced

* 1 lb 85% lean ground beef

* 1/2 lb ground pork

* 2 cups whole milk

* 3/4 cup white wine

* 5 cups water

* 1  1/2 lbs whole wheat ziti (or your other fave pasta shape; the sauce coats and distributes well with the ziti)

* 1 cup freshly-grated Parmesan cheese

Combine the carrots and onion in a food processor.  Process until finely chopped; transfer to a prep bowl.  Process the bacon (or pancetta, if using), porcini mushrooms, and anchovies until finely chopped; transfer to a separate prep bowl.  Add the tomatoes to the food processor and pulse until most chunks are gone; transfer to a separate bowl.

Melt butter in a very large saucepan or Dutch oven over medium heat.  Add the processed bacon mixture and cook until browned, about 5 minutes.  Stir in processed carrot/onion mixture and 1  1/2 tsp salt.  Cook until softened and fragrant, about 8 minutes.  Stir in tomato paste and garlic, and cook for 2 minutes.  Add ground beef and ground pork, breaking up the meat into chunks; cook for 2 minutes.  Stir in the milk and simmer until nearly evaporated, about 25 minutes.

Stir in the red wine and simmer until thickened and nearly evaporated, about 20 minutes.  Stir in tomatoes; bring to another simmer.  Stir in water and ziti; bring to a rapid simmer.  Cover and continue to simmer, stirring frequently, until pasta is tender and sauce is thickened, about 20 minutes or so.  Remove from heat and season with salt and pepper (if necessary).  Top with freshly-grated Parmesan.

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Original recipe adapted from America’s Test Kitchen Menu Cookbook, pg 207.

Easy & Delicious Slow-Roasted Prime Rib with Creamy Mustard Sauce

1 12 2011

I don’t know why prime rib has always intimidated me…


I think because it’s such a “big deal” dish at restaurants (not to mention, expensive), I just figured it wasn’t something I’d want to do on my own.

Well, think again.  You’re gonna wanna try this recipe, and trust me, it’s amazing (and soooo easy)!  Enjoy!

* 1 (6 to 8 lb) standing rib roast (with 2 to 3 rib bones)

* 2 Tbsp veggie oil

* Coarse kosher salt and ground black pepper

* Instant-read digital meat thermometer

When shopping – look for a roast that has a fat cap about 1/2-inch thick (that’s the fat on top of the roast).

First, remove the bones from the roast.  Here’s how: using a sharp knife, run the blade along the length of each bone, following the contour of the bone as closely as possible until the meat is separate.  Take your time during this part.  Set the bones aside (you will need them later).

Cut crosshatch slits in the fat cap, spaced about 1 inch apart, being careful to cut down to the bottom of the fat, but not into the meat.  Rub 2 Tbsp salt all over the roast and into the slits.  Place the roast back on the bones (matching up where they were cut from), and refrigerate uncovered for at least 24 hours, up to 96 hours.

Preheat oven to 200 degrees.

Heat oil in a skillet over medium-high until just smoking.  Set aside bones.  Sear roast on the top (fat side) and sides until brown (do not brown on the side that the bones came from) – about 5 minutes or so, total.  Place rib roast back on bones, securing bones and roast with 2 pieces of kitchen twine.

Place the roast, fat side-up, on a wire rack set inside a rimmed baking sheet and season roast generously with pepper.  Place roast in oven and slow-cook until thickest part of meat registers 110 degrees F on an instant-read thermometer, about 3 to 4 hours.

Turn oven off.  Leave roast in the oven (being careful not to open the oven door too much) until the meat registers 125 degrees F (for rare), about 30 minutes.

Remove roast from oven, leaving it on the baking sheet, and tent loosely with foil.  Allow meat to rest for 30 minutes longer.

Using a broiler or the broiler function on your oven, adjust a rack about 8 inches from the top broiler element.  Preheat broiler.  Place roast under broil and cook until the fat becomes brown and crisp, about 4 to 8 minutes.  Transfer roast to a carving board.  Remove twine and rib bones; discard.  Slice lengthwise into 3/4-inch slices.  Serve with easy homemade creamy mustard sauce.

Now, that’s a dinner fit for royalty!!


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Authentic Greek Gyros with a Delicious Tzatziki Sauce

4 11 2011

I can remember sitting at a small, local Greek restaurant several years ago with my Mom.  We sat on the patio and laughed and talked and laughed some more.  (We do that a lot.)  :)  Their gyros were phenomenal, and their Greek salads were, quite literally, to-die-for…  Ever since, I’ve been on a quest to replicate that unique and savory taste of the gyros we had that day.  I think I may be close this time…  Enjoy.  :)


* 6 oz Feta cheese, crumbled

* 2 Tbsp olive oil

* 2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice (about 1 1/2 lemons)

* 1 large cucumber, peeled, halved lengthwise, seeded and cut into 1/2-inch dice

* 1 medium red onion, cut into 1/4-inch dice

* 1 Tbsp minced fresh mint, about 7 leaves

* 1 Tbsp minced fresh Italian flat leaf parsley

* 1 Tbsp chopped fresh dill

* 1 boneless leg of lamb (1 1/2 – 2 lbs)

* 6 pita breads, cut crosswise into halves

Tzatziki Sauce:

* 16 ounces plain yogurt

* 1 medium cucumber, peeled, seeded, and finely chopped

* 1 Tbsp kosher salt, plus 1 more Tbsp, to taste (I needed about 2 Tbsp to make it taste right, but start with 1 and make it the way you like it)

* 4 cloves garlic, finely minced

* 2 Tbsp olive oil, plus 1 more Tbsp if sauce is too thick (I wanted a more fluid sauce, but still with body… I used about 3 Tbsp olive oil, altogether)

* 2 tsp red wine vinegar

* 6 mint leaves, finely minced 

Place the yogurt in a double layer of cheese cloth (available at your grocer), gather up the edges, suspend over a bowl, and drain for 2 hours in the refrigerator.  Discard the liquid.  (Do not skip this step.)

Place the chopped cucumber in another piece of cheese cloth.  Squeeze gently to remove the liquid; discard liquid. In a medium mixing bowl, combine the drained yogurt, cucumber, salt, garlic, olive oil, vinegar, and mint.

(Tzatziki recipe amended from Alton Brown’s, FoodNetwork.com, link to original recipe here.)


Prep your grill for medium heat.

Add the Feta, 1 Tbsp oil and lemon juice to a bowl.  Season with salt and pepper.  Using a fork, mash together to mix thoroughly.  Stir in the cucumber, onion, mint, parsley, and dill. Set aside.

Butterfly the lamb:  flatten the lamb on a cutting board.  Using a knife, make a 1/2-inch-deep X (about 2 inches long) every 1 inch along one side of the lamb, until 1 side of the lamb is covered in X marks.  Be sure not to cut through the meat.  You’re evening the cooking surface of the lamb by doing this, and it will cook more evenly when placed on the grill.

Brush the lamb with the remaining oil.  Place on the grill rack and grill, turning once or twice, until golden brown on both sides.  An instant read thermometer should read between 130 – 135 degrees F in the thickest part of the meat.  The meat will still be slightly pink in the center.  Remove lamb from grill and tent with foil.  Allow to rest for about 10 minutes.

Slice the lamb across the grain on the diagonal, cutting it into 1-inchX1/2-inch chunks.  Season with salt and pepper (if necessary).  Evenly distribute the lamb and feta-cucumber salad among the pita halves.  Top generously with Tzatziki sauce and serve immediately.

A great salad pairing?  Check out my authentic Greek salad recipe.

Recipe adapted from Williams Sonoma Cooking at Home, pg 185.

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Love of Leftovers – Loaded BBQ Beef Brisket Soft Corn Tacos

1 11 2011

Jake’s birthday was a few days ago, and his sister, Roxanne, sent him an incredible, down-home, Texas-style dinner.  It was a Goode Company (http://store.goodecompany.com/) marinated beef brisket, cheesy jalapeno bread and 3 bottles of BBQ sauce.

My mouth was, quite literally, watering as we ripped open the box that arrived on our door step.

The brisket was GIANT.

[I may have licked the packaging, I was so excited… Don’t judge me…]


Well, so far, we’ve gotten 3 FULL meals out of it (with friends joining us for dinner 2 of those nights), and we still have more.  Talk about a delicious HUNK of meat!!

These tacos are some of the very best tacos I’ve ever had…  Seriously.  My mouth is watering just thinking about them!!!

Enjoy, Friends!

Serves a TON.

* Goode Company beef brisket, prepared according to package directions, carved, and turned into leftovers (this recipe assumes it’s been in the fridge overnight)

* 1 bottle Goode Company BBQ sauce

* 1 cup water

* Fresh pico de gallo (recipe follows)

* 1 package small corn soft tortillas

* Oil, for frying

* 1 can vegetarian refried beans

* 1/2 cup Pepper Jack cheese, shredded

* Cotija cheese, crumbled (hard Mexican cheese)

* Mexican cheese blend, shredded

* Sour cream

* 1/4 cup cilantro, chopped

In a slow cooker, add leftover brisket, BBQ sauce and water.  Cover and cook on low for 3 hours.  Using 2 forks, shred the meat into bite-sized chunks (or smaller).  Serve hot.

Pico de Gallo:

* 5 Roma tomatoes, chopped (you can used a 15 oz can diced tomatoes in a pinch, but fresh is always best)

* 1 small onion, finely chopped

* 1 small bunch cilantro, finely chopped

* Juice from 1/2 lime

* Salt, pepper and garlic powder

In a small bowl, combine the tomatoes, onion, cilantro and lime juice.  Sprinkle with 1/2 tsp pepper, 1 1/2 tsp garlic powder and 1 tsp coarse salt.  Taste and adjust salt and garlic powder to your liking (I like mine with just a bit more salt and garlic powder).  You can also add 1/4-1/2 tsp red pepper flakes for a “kick.”

Refried Beans:

Combine the beans and Pepper Jack cheese in a food processor.  Pulse until well-combined.  Scoop into an oven-safe dish and bake for 10-12 minutes at 350 degrees F.


In a medium skillet, add oil until it’s about 1 inch up the sides of the skillet.  Heat oil to 325 degrees F.  Fry tortillas, 2 at a time, until soft and pliable, about 20 seconds per side.  Using tongs, transfer tortillas to a paper towel-lined plate.  Dab off excess oil with a separate paper towel.  Do not skip this step – corn tortillas will fall apart when you move to your assembly.


Use your imagination!  Here’s how we did it:

Spread a spoonful of refried beans in the middle of the tortilla.  Layer with hot BBQ brisket.  Top with Mexican cheese, pico de gallo and a few sprigs of cilantro.  Sprinkle with Cotija cheese and a dollop of sour cream (if desired).

Eat as many as humanly possible.


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The Easiest (and Tastiest) Slow Cooker Beef Stew

16 10 2011

Slow cookers and Fall go together like peas and carrots!

Or something like that…

I love my slow cooker!

It. Makes. My. Life. So. Much. Easier.

[And it makes my house smell deeeee-lightful!]

* 2 medium onions, minced (or 2 cups frozen chopped onions)

* 3 Tbsp tomato paste (about 1 small can)

* 2 Tbsp veggie oil

* 7 garlic cloves, minced (or 1  1/2 tsp garlic powder)

* 1 Tbsp minced fresh thyme (or 3/4 tsp dried)

* 1 cup low-sodium chicken broth

* 1 cup low-sodium beef broth

* 1 lb baby carrots

* 1/4 cup soy sauce

* 2 Tbsp Minute tapioca

* 2 bay leaves

* 3 lbs beef steak tips

* Salt and pepper

* 1 lb frozen roasted potatoes or steak fries

* 1  1/2 cups frozen peas

* Grated medium cheddar cheese, for topping

Microwave onions, tomato paste, 1 Tbsp oil, garlic, and thyme in a bowl until onions are softened, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes.  Transfer to slow cooker.

Stir chicken broth, beef broth, carrots, soy sauce, tapioca and bay leaves into slow cooker.  Season beef with a bit of salt and pepper.  Nestle beef into slow cooker.  Cover and cook until beef is tender 9 to 11 hours on low, or 5 to 7 hours on high.

Using 2 forks, shred beef into bite sized pieces.  Let stew settle for 5 minutes, then skim fat off the top of the stew.  Discard bay leaves.

Microwave potatoes with remaining Tbsp oil in a bowl, stirring occasionally, until warm, 5 to 7 minutes.  Stir potatoes and peas into the slow cooker.  Heat until warmed through, about 15 to 20 minutes.  Serve with grated cheddar cheese for topping.

Original recipe slightly amended/adapted from Slow Cooker Revolution by America’s Test Kitchen, pg 56.

Did this recipe make you Smile?  I would be honored if you’d become a Facebook fan of mine!  Click here (or copy and paste this link into your browser:https://www.facebook.com/pages/Smiles-in-the-Kitchen/143789102327574).

My Favorite Sloppy Joes, Slow Cooker Style

12 10 2011

Seriously.  Who doesn’t like sloppy joes???

[Okay, duh… Not exactly a vegetarian’s delight, but…]

Ever since I was little, I’ve adored sloppy joes.  And you know I gotta have mine with cheese!  Cheddar cheese, to be exact.

This meal was our first camping night dinner… Cooked all day in the CrockPot, easy to transport and still warm by the time we set up our camp site (in the dark).  It’s a great go-to dinner, and is easily doubled to feed an army.  As is, it serves about 8 people.

Recipe ever-so-slightly adapted from the always-amazing America’s Test Kitchen’s Slow Cooker Revolution, pg 198.

* 2 slices high-quality white sandwich bread, torn into quarters

* 1/4 cup whole milk

* 2 lbs 80-85% lean ground beef

* Salt and pepper

* 2 Tbsp veggie oil

* 2 onions, minced

* 6 garlic cloves, minced

* 1 tsp chili powder

* 1 (15 oz) can tomato sauce

* 1 cup ketchup

* 2 tsp brown sugar

* 1/2 tsp hot sauce

* 8 high quality hamburger buns

* 8 slices medium cheddar

In a large bowl, mash bread and milk into a paste using a potato masher (or fork).  Mix in ground beef, 1/2 tsp salt, and 1/2 tsp pepper, using your hands.

Heat oil in a large skillet until shimmering over medium-high heat.  Add onions, garlic, and chili powder.  Cook until onions are softened, fragrant and lightly-browned, about 8 to 10 minutes.

Stir in beef mixture, 1 lb at a time, and cook, breaking up any large pieces, until no longer pink, about 5 minutes per pound.  Stir in 1 cup tomato sauce.  Transfer to slow cooker.

Stir remaining tomato sauce, ketchup, sugar, and hot sauce into the slow cooker.  Cover and cook until beef is tender, 7 to 8 hours on low, or 3 to 5 hours on high.  I strongly recommend using the low setting, as this recipe can scorch if cooked too high.

Let the meat mixture settle for 5 minutes or so.  Remove any fat from the top surface with a spoon.  Season with salt and pepper to taste, if necessary.  Spoon mixture onto buns and top with a slice of cheddar cheese.  Serve hot and with a fork!

I love Sweet Southern Cole Slaw with this recipe – serve it as a side.

Smile, Friends, those are some tasty sloppy joes – right out of your slow cooker!

Did this recipe make you Smile?  I would be honored if you’d become a Facebook fan of mine!  Click here (or copy and paste this link into your browser:https://www.facebook.com/pages/Smiles-in-the-Kitchen/143789102327574).

Herb-Crusted Beef Tenderloin Medallions in a Red Wine Reduction

25 09 2011

I adore sales…

Mark down the pricetag, and I [POOF!] have a sudden, intense need for it.

Can’t live without [whatever it is]…

Well, you guessed it.  I found food on sale.

A whole beef tenderloin, to be exact.

It was exactly half price!

[There I go… Saving money again!]

[Ha, ha!  I know my Dad is laughing right now…  He’s thinking, “Yeah, right.“]

Hi, Dad!  Still saving you money!!!  :D

In all seriousness, though, I can’t seem to justify buying tenderloin at regular price…

But, you put it on sale – 50% off, no less – and you’d better watch out!  I’ll tackle anyone between me and the meat counter!!

[Not even kidding.]

And, when I began to lick the pages of my Williams Sonoma Cooking at Home cookbook (pg 267), I knew this was the right recipe for that perfect cut of meat…  (psssst! And it’s an easy recipe!)

* 2 large shallots, chopped

* 1 cup Zinfandel wine (cheapy wine is just fine)

* 2 cups beef broth

* 2 Tbsp, plus 1/2 cup, panko bread crumbs, divided

* 1 tsp unsalted butter

* 3 Tbsp chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

* 1 Tbsp chopped fresh thyme leaves

* 1 Tbsp chopped fresh sage leaves

* 1 egg white

* 1 egg, beaten (optional/if needed)

* Canola oil (for frying)

* 4 filet mignons, trimmed – each about 5 oz each and 1  1/4-inches thick

* Salt and black pepper

In a large saucepan over medium heat, combine the shallots and wine.  Bring to a boil and boil until the liquid has almost evaporated, about 20 minutes.  Add the broth and boil until reduced to about 3/4 cup, about 20 minutes more.  Remove from heat and pour into a blender.  Add the 2 Tbsp bread crumbs and the butter.  Puree to form a smooth sauce.

About 10 minutes before the sauce is ready, stir together in a small bowl: 1/2 cup bread crumbs, parsley, thyme, sage and egg white.

Coat a large frying pan with a thin layer of oil.  Heat over medium-high heat until shimmering.  Season the filets with salt and pepper, and add them to the pan.  Sear the meat, turning once, about 2 minutes on each side.  Remove from the pan and turn off the heat. Press the herb mixture onto one side of each medallion.  Quickly transfer each filet back to the skillet, crumb-side down.  Heat the pan over medium-high heat again.

**If you have trouble getting the mixture to “stick” to the filets (like I did), dip one side of each filet in the beaten egg, then press the crumb mixture firmly onto the filet.  Quickly transfer each filet back to the skillet, crumb-side down.**

Cook until the crumbs are golden and the meat registers 120 degrees F on a thermometer (stick into the thickest part of the meat), about 2 minutes.

Remove from heat.  Ladle the pureed sauce onto warmed individual plates, dividing it evenly.  Place the beef medallions, crumb sides-up, on the sauce.  Serve right away.

I plated these delicious steaks with homemade scalloped potatoes and greens tossed in vinaigrette with herbed baked goat cheese rounds.

Smile, Friends, that’s some ON SALE, restaurant-style beef tenderloin medallions in a red wine reduction!

Did this recipe make you Smile?  I would be honored if you’d become a Facebook fan of mine!  Click here (or copy and paste this link into your browser: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Smiles-in-the-Kitchen/143789102327574).


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