Happy Halloween – It’s Sloppy Jo time!

It just doesn’t seem right not posting a recipe for Sloppy Jo’s.   I thought Halloween was most fitting because every year when I was little this is what my Mom made for us before going out trick or treating!  It’s quick, it’s simple, it’s tradition!

  • 1 to 2 lbs ground beef
  • 1/2 cup chopped onions
  • 1 cup chopped celery
  • 1 can condensed tomato soup
  • 1/4 cup ketchup
  • 1 tablespoon white vinegar
  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • hamburger buns

Brown the ground beef.  Add the onions and celery.  Cover and let simmer until onions and celery are translucent, drain any grease.  Add remaining ingredients and simmer.  Serve on hamburger buns.  Enjoy!


Crispy Chicken Bites

I love making appetizers, and these crispy chicken bites are always a favorite at any party.  Cutting the chicken in small bite size pieces or in strips makes it an easy finger food.  I leave the chicken whole if making it as a main dish for dinner. The secret is which ever way you make them be sure and pound them thin.

I first pound boneless chicken breast (I’ve made this also using chicken thighs, turns out super moist)) in between two pieces of plastic wrap until very thin. This is where you decide if you want to cut them or leave them whole.

Next get your breading station ready in 3 separate dishes:

  • flour – seasoned with salt, pepper and garlic powder
  • eggs mixed with a little water (for an added kick add some hot sauce)
  • Panko bread crumbs (a kitchen staple in my pantry)

Dredge your chicken first in flour, then egg wash and then the Panko.  Fry in hot oil until brown. Season with salt.

Serve with ranch dressing or barbecue sauce. Enjoy!

The Best Fried Rice You’ll ever make!

My fried rice is so good as a side dish or main dish.  As a main dish I cut up cooked pork or chicken seasoned with teriyaki sauce and add to the rice.  As a side dish I make chicken, beef kabob, pork chops or Shrimp.  If you’re not an oriental food lover I swear you will still love this!  It’s also great leftover the next day!  As you may have noticed I love 1 pan cooking and this is just another one of my favorites.

First cook some rice.  Either white or brown. Set aside for later.  You can also use leftover rice from the night before or cook it way ahead.  I cook 1 cup of uncooked rice to 2 cups of water for this recipe.

Dice up the following and set aside.

  • 1 small onion
  • 2 carrots
  • 2 celery stalks

In a deep saute pan I first cut up about 6 slices of bacon and fry in sesame oil until almost done.  I then add the diced onion, carrot and celery.  Saute until onions, carrots and celery are well cooked.

In a small bowl scramble 2 eggs.  I push the cooked vegetables to one side of the pan and pour the eggs in and scramble.

Next add your cooked rice. Mix well.  Add the following spices:

  • 1 to 2 Tablespoons of sugar, depending on how sweet you like it
  • 1 Tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoons ginger powder
  • crushed red peppers
  • about 2 tablespoons of soy sauce.  Add a little more if rice seems too dry. Add diced meat or shrimp if making this as a main dish.

Mix everything well and then add about a cup of frozen peas.  2 cups of shredded cabbage and 2 green onions diced. Cover and steam on low until cabbage and peas are cooked, about 10 minutes.  You can keep this on low on your stove until ready to serve.

I cook this ahead of time and keep on low while I make everything else.  This works great if you’re barbecuing or having guests over.


Stuffed Green Peppers My Way!

So I use to spend the time coring out peppers mixing the meat and stuffing them into green peppers.  Yeah it looks great when served, but as I watched my husband cut them all up before even taking a bite, then looked at his dish and saw a big mass of meat, onions, tomatoes and green peppers, I thought why am I going through all this!  Why not cut my prep time in half and do it all for him all in one pan! The end result is the same and tastes just as good!

This is my version of a stuffed green pepper.  So easy and takes half the time!

In a pan saute 1 small diced onion in olive oil.  Add 1 pound of ground beef and brown.  Next add the following ingredients:

  • 1 cut up green pepper
  • 1 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes
  • 1 8 oz. can tomato sauce
  • 2 8 oz cans water
  • 3/4 cup uncooked white rice
  • allspice and garlic powder to taste
  • crushed red pepper flakes
  • salt and pepper

Bring to a boil and then simmer for about 40 minutes or until rice is cooked and peppers are tender.


Roasted Pumpkins Seeds

It’s Halloween, time to carve your pumpkins for all those Trick or Treaters and of course save your seeds for roasting! This was always my favorite part of carving pumpkins.  I looked forward to separating the seeds from all the goop to make those yummy crunchy salty delights!

Run your seeds under cold water several times, this helps getting all the stringy goopy stuff off of them.

Set your oven to 350 degrees.  Spread your seeds on a non stick cookie sheet and sprinkle salt all over them.  You can also experiment with all kinds of flavors.  Try different spices such as chili powder, garlic powder, onion powder, seasoned salt or cayenne pepper.  Roast until crunchy about 12 to 15 minutes.  Stir occasionally.

If your like your seeds extra salty, soak them over night in 2 cups of water and 1/4 cup of salt.  Dry and then roast.

In a hurry???  Use your microwave:

Place a couple of tablespoons oil in a microwave-safe baking dish. Heat in microwave on high for 30 seconds. Add pumpkin seeds and toss to coat. Spread seeds out evenly in the bottom of the dish.
Microwave on high about 7 to 8 minutes or until seeds are toasted a light golden color. Be sure to stir every 2 minutes as they are cooking.

Cool pumpkin seeds before eating or storing. Store in an airtight container at room temperature up to 3 months or refrigerate up to 1 year.

Banana Nut Fig Muffins

When my bananas get too ripe I put them in the freezer until I’m ready to bake with them.  I also have a huge fig tree in my backyard that is loaded right now.  I decided to combine the two and make the most amazing banana fig nut muffins!!!

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.  Grease a muffin pan or use paper cups.

blend in a bowl:

  • 3 very ripe bananas
  • a large handful of figs (cut the stems off)
  • 3/4 sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/3 cup melted butter.

Using a wooden spoon add:  (do not use an electric mixer, you want to mix the dry ingredients with the least amount of stirring, this will make your muffins moister)

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts.

Fill your muffin pan.

In a small bowl combine:

  •  1/3 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 Tablespoon butter

Mix well until mixture resembles cornmeal.  Sprinkle on muffins.

Bake for about 20 minutes.

Black Bean and Ham Soup

Who doesn’t love the smell of soup cooking on a fall day.  Throw everything in one pot and simmer for 4 hours, it doesn’t get much easier.

I first soak a 1 pound bag of black beans in water over night. (TIP: Add a few tablespoons of baking soda to cut the gas out of the beans)

In a big pot:

  • 4 cups of water
  • 2 cups of chicken broth
  • Beans (rinse in a colander after soaking all night)
  • 3 ham hocks or a leftover ham bone
  • 1 diced onion
  • 2 diced carrots
  • 2 diced celery
  • 4 slices of cut up bacon
  • 1 minced jalapeno pepper
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 Tbls. cumin
  • 1 Tbls. chili powder

Simmer on low for at least 4 hours, stirring occasionally.  Remove all the bones (the meat should have fallen off)

I then use an immersion blender to break up some of the beans. Do not over blend!

To thicken it slightly, add a slurry of cornstarch and water and simmer for a few minutes.

Serve with chopped green onions, chopped hard boil egg and sour cream.

Gravy Tips and Fixes

This is dedicated to my BFF who has given up on making gravy and will only buy store-bought. I have put together a few tips and fixes that hopefully will convince you and her that you can make your own perfect gravy!

  1. A quick fix for lumpy gravy – put in a blender for about 30 seconds (do not over blend) and put back in the pan to keep warm.  So why is your gravy lumpy?  Evidently you didn’t read my sauces 101 blog.  Lumpy gravy is usually because you added your flour directly into your hot drippings, or there is too much fat or grease in your drippings.  I pour my drippings into a large measuring cup and add ice cubes to it.  The fat will cling to the ice cubes.  Another solution that takes a little longer is to put the drippings in the refrigerator for a few hours, the fat will separate to the top and harden. If all else fails and you’re in a hurry, remake your roux and add chicken or beef broth from a can.  Your gravy won’t be from your drippings but you can still say you made it. (This has happened to me before!)
  2. Instant mashed potato flakes also will work as a thickener for gravy and produces no lumps.
  3. Also straining your gravy thru a fine-mesh sieve will take out any lumps.
  4. If your gravy turns out too salty, try adding a pinch of brown sugar to it or a 1/4 teaspoon of vinegar.
  5. If your gravy is too thick –  whisk in a splash of water, broth or my favorite…brandy!
  6. If your gravy is too thin – mix equal parts of flour and butter and whisk into boiling gravy.
  7. Whisk in a tablespoon of butter right before serving, this will give your gravy a satiny look.

Salt is key for a yummy tasting gravy.

Surprise Inside Meatloaf

I decided to kick my meatloaf up a notch by adding Pepper Jack Cheese in the middle.  This guarantees an extra boost in every bite!

Start out by dicing 1 medium onion and 2 garlic cloves.  Saute in a pan with a little olive oil.  Add a whole bay leaf while cooking, the flavor will infuse in your onions.  Cook until onions are translucent. Set aside to cool.

Take 4 pieces of white bread, cut off the crust and cut in large chunks.  Soak in milk until ready to use.

In a large mixing bowl combine:

  • 2 1/2 lbs. of ground beef
  • 1 egg
  • Salt, pepper
  • about 2 tbls. of  worcestershire sauce
  • couple dashes of cayenne pepper
  • a very small dash of sage
  • 1/2 cup ketchup
  • Add bread after squeezing out the milk.
  • add onion mixture (don’t forget to discard your bay leaf)

Time to dig in and mix until well incorporated!

Divide in half and form a loaf in a casserole dish. (no need to grease your dish, there’s enough fat in your meat so it won’t stick)

Lay slices of pepper jack cheese in the middle and top with the other half of meat mixture.  Form into a long loaf shape covering all the cheese.

Spread your favorite barbecue sauce on the top.

Bake in a 350 deg. oven for 1 1/2 hrs.  Let cool slightly before slicing.  Enjoy!

The Best Chili you’ll ever make!

It’s football season!  Time to get your big pot out and make a yummy pot of Chili to watch your favorite team!  This is an easy chili recipe that you probably have everything you need in your pantry.  All you need is one pot and 4 hours.

  1. 1 lb. of ground beef
  2. 1 medium onion
  3. 2 celery stalks
  4. 1 green pepper
  5. 1 28 0z canned whole tomatoes
  6. 1 28 oz canned crushed tomatoes
  7. 1 28 oz canned tomato sauce
  8. 1 15 oz pinto beans
  9. 1 15 oz kidney beans
  10. 1 15 oz black beans (I use jalapeno black beans)
  11. chili powder
  12. cumin
  13. chili seasoning package

Brown your ground beef.  Add diced onion, diced celery and diced green pepper. Simmer until slightly tender. Next add all your tomatoes. Season with cumin and chili powder to taste.

Drain the 3 cans of beans and add them and 1 chili seasoning package.

Cover and simmer for 4 hours.  (stirring occasionally)

Top with cheese and diced onions.

Goes great with corn bread!!!