Sunday, February 28, 2010

Crock Pot Ribs Revisited

See my previous blog post for the rib & rub recipes...I whipped up some Aldi Rice-a-Roni with a cup of frozen mixed veggies for the side dish.

Here is the link to the previous blog/recipe:

These were the $1.29/lb spare ribs. OMG. Sooooooo tender & delicious.  Make sure you clean any excess fat off and remove the membrane from the back side of the ribs.
Rub with some spices, stick in the crock pot and pour in a beer.

Take out & slather with sauce. Bake covered in the oven for an hour at 400 degrees.  You know they are done in the crock when the meat is tender & it's shrunken back on the bones.

Dinner is served, honey!

The Daddy Mac Stack (Pancakes & Maple Sausage)

Sunday  = big breakfast & early dinner.  I like 2 meal days. :)

Today the boys voted for pancakes & sausage. I used one of the thirds from the big roll of sausage that I used for the biscuits & gravy.

I like to press the sausage into thin patties and put a dab of maple syrup on each side & spread it evenly. Then cook 'em up. The syrup gets carmelized and the sweet/salty flavor is perfect with the pancakes.

Once the sausage is started, time to make the pancakes!

Ingredients for Pancakes
1 1/2 cups of flour - I always use 1 cup of all purpose flour and 1/2 cup of whole wheat flour for added nutrition

3 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 tablespoon white sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 egg
3 tbsp melted butter/margarine

In a large bowl, sift the dry ingredients together. Sifting is important. It makes them fluffier.  Make a well in the center and pour in the milk, egg and melted butter. Mix until smooth, but don't overmix.

(Notice all the writing & notes on the recipe I started with. It has been tweeked A LOT. I also had notes on there for Jim on Mother's Day so he could have specific instructions on how to make breakfast. hahaha)

Heat a lightly buttered/oiled/sprayed skillet or griddle over medium high heat. Scoop the batter onto the pan, using about 1/4 cup for each pancake. If the batter is a little thick, spread it around a bit. Brown on both sides.

I call this the Daddy Mac Stack because our last name is "McGurn" and Jim is the daddy...and he likes it stacked. I personally like mine like a little sandwich.

These are fantastic pancakes. So fluffy and tender. I can't even eat box pancakes anymore. They are sooo rubbery and flavorless. You can add berries or more cinnamon. Bananas and pecans are fantastic in them too.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Nacho Night!

I was looking through the freezer this morning seeing what I had that would be easy to make for dinner. I found my leftover beer taco meat in there. 5 minutes in the microwave & that's done. I have a bag of baked Tostitos (big bag from Sam's Club costs about $3), 2 avocados ($.59 each at Aldi), onions, fat free refried beans, tomatoes, light sour cream & cheese on hand. It's a sign...we are meant to have nachos tonight.

Use the guac recipe from my earlier post. I happen to have the chips shaped like little cups, so I make little individual nachos filled with beans and/or meat, salsa & cheese and stick them under the broiler for a few minutes. Then just top them with whatever "cold" toppings you like.

Here is a link to the guac & taco meat recipes:

I had to make sure the avocados weren't poison.
Jake had a run in with Karma tonight. I told him to stop running in the kitchen twice. He then slipped and fell and busted his lip. Lesson learned and mommy wasn't the bad guy.

Broiler is on...time to fill the cups!...and have a brewski. Beans & leftover taco meat & cheese.

Time for a cold sample...juuuuussst to make sure that guac wasn't poisoned.

2 minutes later...NACHO TIME!

Top with yummy toppings & time to eat.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Biscuits 'n' Gravy

One side of my family is Italian...the other side is from the South.  Grammy taught me how to cook meatballs.  My mamaw taught me to make biscuits and gravy. I've tweeked it over the years and decided that this is it. The best spicy sausage gravy around.   The whole meal costs about $2-$3!

3 cups of 2% milk (a lower fat content milk isn't recommended, the gravy needs the fat to be creamy)

1 roll of breakfast sausage (plain or spicy)...maple? no. I buy Jimmy Dean in the large 2 lb roll at Sam's Club for about $5 and cut it into 3 sections & freeze it.  Use about 2/3 lb of sausage for this (you can use an entire 1 lb. roll, but you'll have some leftover on the side.)

2 tbsp butter

3 tbsp flour

1 1/2 tsp kosher salt - if you use unsalted butter, you may need to add a bit more salt. I used salted butter.
1/2 black pepper

1-2 packages of biscuits (I buy the little ones at Aldi for $.38 a roll and they are fantastic & low fat too!)

Get a medium saucepan hot & start your sausage up! You really want to break it up and brown it well. I like to add a little crushed red pepper flake to the sausage at this point.  You want the sausage to release it's fat so we can use it to make the gravy. Cook it down until the color is deep.

Scoop the sausage out of the pan and drain it on paper towels. Leave as much of the fat in the pot as possible along with some yummy brown bits.

Add 2 tbsp butter (I'm figuring you'll have about 1 tbsp of fat in the pan) and get it melting. Add the chopped onion & cook until soft.

Add a little salt & pepper to season the onion. The gravy will need a bit of salt because we don't want it to just taste like milk. We want flava!

Sprinkle in the flour, incorporate it with a whisk and cook for a minute.

Now SLOWLY pour in the milk while whisking out the lumps, until all the milk is in.  Add a teaspoon of salt & 1/2 tsp of black pepper. TASTE IT. Is it too salty? Add a little more milk. Is it too bland? Add more salt!

Get the biscuits in the oven. (these are the $.38 biscuits from Aldi)

Bring the gravy up to a slow boil while stirring it often. It will thicken. 

Now add 1 cup of the cooked sausage back into the gravy.

If the gravy is on the thin side, you can mix 1 tsp of cornstarch with a tbsp of cold milk and add it into the gravy and bring back to a boil. If it's too thick, you can add a little more milk to thin it. We all have different preferences...make this your own!

Split your biscuits in half. Pour on some gravy. Top with a little extra crispy sausage & CHOW DOWN!

*We always have leftover gravy. It freezes well! Annnd, it's great on a breakfast skillet or to dip toast in the next morning.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Best. Italian Meatballs. Ever.

My grandmother was a great lady and she truly made the BEST meatballs. She passed the recipe down to my mom. I have such fond memories of making these meatballs as a kid with my own mother & grandmother. Now Jake, my son, gets to do the same thing with me!

I've added a couple small additions to the original recipe just because that's how I roll. :)

Ingredients for Meatballs (1 lb of meat will yield about 25 medium meatballs)
1-1.5 lbs of lean ground beef (I don't suggest using a different type of meat - I'm kind of a "meatball nazi" - they MUST be beef for traditional Italian meatballs)
1/2 onion, minced
3 cloves garlic, minced
about 1/4 - 1/2 cup of Italian seasoned breadcrumbs - I never measure for these. I go by consistency and smell and the "look" of them.
1 egg
a small handful of grated parmesan cheese or other hard Italian cheese (I'm using Grana Padano) - this is essential. Don't omit it. It makes the delicious brown crust on the meatballs & adds a great nutty flavor.
1 tbsp oregano
1 tbsp basil
a hearty pinch of kosher salt
a few shakes of red pepper flakes

Put the meat in a large bowl. In the food processor, mince the onion & garlic very finely (not to a soup) or if you feel like chopping, chop away!  I like to chop the old fashioned way. Especially when I'm doing a
traditional family recipe like this one.  Grammy didn't measure....neither do I.

 Add the onions & garlic to the meat first, then cheese and spices. Then the egg.

Take off your watch & rings first...then get your washed hands in there & mix it up! This transfers "the love" into the meatballs. Grammy did it. I swear by it.
Now do the breadcrumbs. You will see what I mean about the consistency. Start with a 1/4 cup and if it's too "wet" just shake in a bit more breadcrumbs until the mixture is firmer, but not more than 1/2 cup of crumbs.

 Cook a tester meatball. I often need to add more salt. It's better to undersalt & add more than it is to add too much in the beginning and be up doodoo creek without a paddle. Make sure it gets that nice, rich, brown color on all sides. That's the flava!

Time to test. They are faaaantastic!

Time to fry 'em up! Get a large shallow skillet on medium-medium/high heat. Once it's hot, drizzle with a bit of olive oil and start to roll your meatballs. I use a medium sized scooper so they are all consistent and cook at the same rate. I don't recommend making ginormous meatballs this way. They need to cook too long and will burn on the outside and stay raw in the middle.

Get your pan full of balls.   :)  Once you get it full, the first ones you added will probably need to be flipped. Keep doing this process until all sides are a deep brown color. That color means FLAVOR! Shake the pan around and let them roll about making sure that all sides are browned and cooked evenly.

Lay them on a few paper towels to drain any excess oil. Finito!

You can do whatever you like with these, but tonight we are having meatball sammies!

 I like to whip up a quick 5 minute marinara with a clove of garlic, some onion, red pepper flakes, basil, oregano, a teeny squirt of honey, salt/pepper and a can of tomato sauce in a little saucepan. Slather a little garlic oil on some fresh bread & pop it in the toaster oven for a few minutes with some mozzarella with meatballs and marinara. Oh man. It's guuuuuud. Also fantastic with a slather of pesto on the bread or some cooked sweet peppers.

So, I'm figuring that I paid $2.19 for the pound of 90% lean ground beef (reduced for quick sale at Sam's Club), 10 cents for the onion, 10 cents for the garlic, 20 cents for the breadcrumbs, 8 cents for the egg, maybe 75 cents for the cheese & we'll just say 25 cents for the spices.  That comes to $3.67 for the meatballs. Add a couple bucks for a loaf of bread & cheese....and chaaaching! A really authentic & delicious meal that will feed an entire brood for around $7? Not too shabby.

I got 2 thumbs up from both of the boys. Jim even had TWO sandwiches. Jake was begging for more meatballs after I let him try the test meatball. They are THAT good. No other meatball will compare. I have a hard time eating anyone elses meatballs. Really.
Not many leftovers. I'm guessing those will disappear before we go to bed.