Thursday, July 2, 2015

Potato, Apple and Bacon Waffles

A week ago or so I made up a batch of these lovlies for breakfast and have been craving them ever since. Sweet and savory Potato, Apple and Bacon Waffles are kind of a mashup of a hearty German potato pancake and a sweet apple pancake baked on a waffle iron for extra crispiness and crunch. A little bacon is thrown in for a salty, smoky contrast to the sweet apple and for balance.

Why I waited to make them again is a puzzle to me, because they're so easy to put together...especially if you use precooked real bacon bits. Making dinner (or breakfast if you're more of a traditionalist) is simpler still when you start with frozen shredded hashbrown potatoes and just a little Bisquick. Who doesn't like a quick and easy breakfast-for-dinner recipe in their arsenal?!

Ready to make an easy "brinner" for the fam? Gentlemen (and ladies), start your waffle irons!

Potato, Apple and Bacon Waffles

Makes 8 waffles

  • 4 C frozen shredded hashbrown potatoes, thawed
  • 8 slices bacon, cut into dice, fried crisp (or 1/2-2/3 C REAL bacon bits
  • 2 apples, peeled and cored, cut into 1/4" dice
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 6 T Bisquick (I use gluten-free Bisquick to make these GF)
  • 6 T milk
  • 1 t salt and extra for sprinkling on the finished waffles to really make the flavor pop!

Preheat your waffle iron while you toss the batter together.

In a large bowl, mix the potatoes and sprinkle with Bisquick. Add bacon, apples, egg, milk and salt. Mix all together well.

My waffle iron uses no oil; if yours needs to be oiled, prepare your iron as needed.

Use half the batter for the first batch of waffles, if your waffle iron makes 4 at a time like mine. I like to press down firmly on the waffle iron handle for 30 seconds or so to get good initial contact on both sides of the waffle - I think it produces a crisper waffle in the end.

Carefully remove the first batch of waffles and do the second. 

Serve with real maple syrup and a sprinkle of salt. Yes, I said salt. It makes a BIG difference!

NOTE: Leftover waffles? Put thinly sliced cheddar between two waffles and grill on both sides in a buttered skillet until the cheese is melted and the waffles crisp. Delish!

NOTE 2: Although I haven't tried it, I can't help but think these would make a kickass base for sausage gravy! Hmmmmmm......

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Spicy Smoked Corn Casserole

Oh, the excitement of a new smoker! Since our beloved stack type charcoal smoker bit the dust (ash?), I've had my eye on a Masterbuilt chest-type electric smoker. Amazon put the one I've lusted after on BIG sale (one day only) the Saturday before Father's Day...coincidence? I think not. 

Before I could give it a test run, Michigan beckoned. As I pulled out of the driveway, I glanced longingly behind at my yet-to-be-named smoky cutie and ahead at the prospect of time with those I love in Lansing. And hit the gas.

Not being the only family member with a yen for good BBQ, we all went to a favorite Q spot of Matt's called Meat Southern BBQ & Carnivore Cuisine. What a find! We started with Pickle Fries that are long shoestrings of dill pickles, breaded and fried and served with a side of homemade remoulade for dipping. Not content with just ONE appetizer from Meat's oh-so-tempting menu, we shared a basket of nachos mounded high with pulled pork, house-smoked bacon and chopped brisket, then topped with cheese, one of their own BBQ sauces, sour cream, onions, tomatoes, jalapenos and avocado. Transcendent. The nachos alone could have been a satisfying dinner and we only had a half order! 

Thank goodness we didn't stop with appetizers. The Meat platters came laden with perfectly moist, smoky brisket...sliced for me, chopped for Matt and Matthew's choice was the sweet n' smoky pulled pork. Mieke went with her favorite chopped brisket sandwich. Meat platters came with cornbread and 2 sides. And THAT is where I swooned. 

Nothing fancy at Meat Southern BBQ & Carnivore Cuisine...that's a GOOD thing!           BBQ beans on the left, succulent brisket and Spicy Cream Corn on the top. 

Now, it's been a while since I've recreated a dish I was particularly taken with, but the Spicy Cream Corn left me wanting MORE! Note that it's not called "creamed" corn. No, it bears no resemblance whatsoever to the loose, pale yellow, lumpy stuff from a can. This was CREAM corn. It had substance. It had heat. It. Was. Remarkable. So I came up with my very own version as soon as I got home.

What would go best with my version of Spicy Cream Corn? BBQ, of course. I loaded up the brand spanking new smoker with chicken...specifically 8 thighs, 3 breasts, 6 whole wings, 4 eggs (recommended by a BBQ'ing friend from Georgia - I'll be making deviled eggs with those!), and 5 ears of corn in the husk. Wouldn't smoked corn make the cream corn even better? It did!

Starting with smoky corn really made a difference in the finished dish. I decided to make the dish into a casserole (small individual cast iron skillets would make a wonderful presentation). For the heat (and creaminess) I used jalapeno cream cheese and a bit of chipotle powder; for color and flavor, sliced green onion and roasted red pepper; and for more smokiness, a "healthy" sprinkle of bacon crumbles across the surface. Nothing like reinforcing the smoke, right? 

Here you go...the recipe!

Spicy Smoked Corn Casserole

  • 4 ears smoked corn, approx 2 C of kernels (you don't have to use smoked can use fresh, frozen or canned corn if you wish!)
  • 4 oz. jalapeno cream cheese (1/2 of a tub) - if you want less heat, just use 2 oz. jalapeno and 2 oz. plain cream cheese. Don't want heat at all? Use all plain cream cheese.
  • 2 T milk
  • 1 green onion, sliced well into the green for color
  • 1/4 C roasted red pepper, diced
  • 1/2 t salt
  • a hefty grinding of black pepper
  • 1/4 t chipotle powder (this makes it smokier and hotter - use less if you don't like HEAT, more if you like the heat sweats)
  • 2-3 T crisp, crumbled bacon
  • softened butter - enough to grease the inside of your casserole dish
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Butter a 1 quart casserole dish (I used a cast iron oval casserole).

In a medium saucepan, add the cream cheese(s) and milk. Stir over low heat until smooth. Add the corn, green onions and red peppers, stir well. Add salt and pepper, chipotle powder and stir well again. Pour the mixture into the prepared casserole dish, top with bacon crumbles and bake for approximately 25 minutes or until bubbling. Serve with damned good BBQ!

NOTE: Next time I'm smoking some jalapenos to go into the mix!

One last thing....

Well, it wasn't actually "last." A Meat Bloody Mary WITH BBQ sauce is what I started with!

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Crowd Pleasing Caponata

It's Thursday. Appropriately, today's post and recipe is a throwback. It brings back memories of our years in Maryland and to time spent catering art show openings at a little art gallery in the Federal Hill area of Baltimore. In those days, my Caponata was a favorite of exhibiting artists and gallery gawkers alike. These days, it's still a favorite of friends and family.

This eggplant, onion, olive appetizer is rich and velvety with a little celery crunch to offset the smoothness and it packs a little pizzazz via a hint of red pepper flake heat...and then there's this zippy sweet/sour vibe going on, too. Caponata is a hearty dish that somehow satisfies vegetarians and meat eaters alike which means it's a great recipe to have in your arsenal.

A traditional Italian appetizer, Caponata is nicely versatile, too. I like to serve it on toasted baguette slices or in lettuce cups, but it also makes the transition to dinner as a lovely topping for plain grilled chicken or even on a New Orleans-style muffaletta. My guess is that it works on a muffaletta because my version is more olive-y than the traditional ones...almost a cross between a tapenade and caponata. I use a lot less olive oil than the usual, too. Not that less olive oil makes my Caponata a diet dish, but all those veggies are good for you!

Give this delightful little dish a spin the next time you entertain. You might just find Caponata becomes a crowd pleaser in your recipe repertoire...and eventually earns a spot on your very own throwback list of favorite recipes.   


  • 1/3 C olive oil
  • 2 large eggplants, caps and bottoms cut off, half of the peel cut off (half left on for the beautiful color) and cut into 1/4" dice
  • 1 large sweet onion, peeled and cut into small dice
  • 1/2 C petite diced canned tomatoes, drained
  • 1/2 C pimiento stuffed green olives, diced
  • 1/2 C pitted kalamata olives, diced
  • 1/4 C red wine vinegar
  • 2 T sugar
  • 1 t kosher salt
  • Lots of freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 t dried hot pepper flakes
  • (optional) a jar of marinated artichokes, drained and diced

I use a large electric skillet.

Heat the oil in the skillet and cook eggplant until soft, but not browned. Remove the eggplant and set aside.

Add onions and celery and cook until the onions are soft, but the celery still has crunch.

Add tomatoes, olives and the eggplant; combine well. Add vinegar, sugar, salt, pepper and red pepper flakes. If you're using marinated artichokes, add them in here.

Simmer for 15 minutes or so until nicely melded. Let the mixture come to room temperature before serving.

Serve in a bowl and let your guests top toasted baguette slices or Romaine lettuce leaves. It's really good just as a salad or even as a topping for grilled chicken or on a (not so) traditional New Orleans-style Muffaletta. 

Caponata diced sort of uniformly and simmering in the skillet.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Brunch-Time Bacon Lettuce Tomato Potato..The BBLTP

Here's a super simple take on a lunch classic transformed into a brunch treat....a BBLTP....brunch-time bacon lettuce tomato potato. So simple, it's almost a Quickie. Truthfully, if you have a baked potato on hand, it IS a quickie because it's a simple dish that's quick and easy to make.

Besides mimicking the flavors of my favorite in-season-tomato summertime treat, this hearty breakfast is a real stick-to-your-ribs meal. 

Take a baked Russet potato, scoop out enough flesh to hold one or two eggs (depending on the size of the potato and the size of your appetite), break an egg (or two) into the hole and bake until set. Sprinkle with pre-cooked crumbled bacon (store bought to keep with the easy theme here), a little chopped tomato, shredded lettuce and (not shown in the pic) a side of a little mayo blended with a smidge of lemon juice. What's a BLT or BBLTP without mayo?!

The perfect accompaniment? Well, a Bloody Mary, of course. Isn't that the answer to any brunch question?

(Brunch-Time Bacon Lettuce Tomato Potato)

  • 1 baked potato, cooled - take a thin slice off the top and discard (or butter and eat...bonus for the cook!), scoop out enough flesh to hold 1 or 2 eggs - Make these the night before to this step and brunch will come together in no time
  • 1 or 2 eggs per potato, depending on the size of the potato AND your appetite
  • a handful of pre-cooked and crumbled bacon, warmed in the microwave - I get mine at Costco
  • shredded Romaine lettuce
  • finely diced fresh tomato
  • freshly ground black pepper 
  • kosher salt
  • butter
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. 

First season the inside of the potato well with fresh ground black pepper, a little kosher salt, a pat of butter and a sprinkle of crumbled bacon. 

Break the egg(s) into the hollow of the potato and bake until the eggs are set. I like mine runny - makes a nice extra bit of sauce - but, if you like yours hard, go ahead, it's YOUR breakfast! Usually takes my oven about 30 minutes, yours may take more or less time. Remember, it's how YOU like it.

Remove from the oven, plate and garnish with bacon, tomato and lettuce.

And don't forget the mayo!

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Artichoke, Mushroom, Chicken, Red Pepper & Feta Pasta Bake

Idea #372 under "400 Uses For A Rotisserie Chicken." Okay, I made that up. I haven't begun to get that far in my list of things to do with a rotisserie chicken...although, if my memory were sharp enough, it might be darn close!

This one is actually a Quickie, because the definition of a rotisserie chicken is practically instant dinner...the first night when you bring it home for a quick dinner and the multiple iterations of the leftovers, too.

Fortunately, I happened to have a few roasted red peppers from the weekend's grilled veggies and some extra baby portobellos, too. If you don't have grilled or roasted red peppers on hand or fresh mushrooms, canned and jarred is just fine. In fact, it would be even speedier. 

Once all the veggies were cooked and everything was warmed through, I simply mixed the veggies with cooked pasta, crumbled some feta in too, seasoned everything well and poured it all in the casserole dish. Into the oven for a spin and BOOM! Dinner. 

This one is easy and ready to delight the family in the blink of an eye. Okay, I made that part up, too. Not quite a blink of an eye, but pretty darned fast!

Artichoke, Mushroom, Chicken, Roasted Red Pepper & Feta Pasta Bake

  • 1/2 pound penne pasta, cooked & drained (use gluten-free pasta to make this GF)
  • 2 C rotisserie chicken breast, torn into large pieces
  • 1 T butter
  • 1T olive oil
  • 12 medium-large baby portobello mushrooms, stems removed & discarded, caps sliced 1/2" thick
  • 1 C roasted red peppers, jarred is fine - cut into 1" squares
  • 1 large clove garlic, minced
  • 12 oz jar marinated artichokes, drained (I REALLY like the tang of the artichokes with the creaminess of the cheese!)
  • 1 T butter
  • 1 t dried oregano
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 6 oz feta, broken into large crumbles
  • Pecorino Romano cheese, just a little freshly shredded to finish the dish

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray a shallow casserole dish with cooking spray.

In a skillet, melt butter and olive oil. Add sliced mushrooms and garlic; cook until mushrooms begin to wilt down. Add the red peppers and drained artichokes to the skillet and mix well. Let everything warm before adding the chicken to the skillet, too. 

In a large bowl, mix cooked pasta and the contents of the skillet. Add the additional tablespoon of butter, the oregano, salt & pepper and feta. Mix gently and thoroughly. Pour into prepared casserole dish.

Bake for 30 minutes, grate a little pecorino romano over the top and bake another 15 minutes until the grated cheese is melted. Serve with a green salad.

NOTE: One half of the full chicken breast made 2 C...those Costco rotisserie chickens are HUGE! We'd already enjoyed the thighs and wings the first night, just used half of the breast meat for this know what that means, don't you? Chicken salad for lunch tomorrow! Mmmmm.

Also, I kept the veggie and chicken pieces large because penne is a larger pasta. If you choose to use a smaller pasta, feel free to cut the chicken and veggies smaller. Proportion!

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Eggplant Parm Grilled Cheese Supreme

Sometimes there's nothing quite like a sandwich for dinner. Now I'm not talking about a PB&J on squishy Wonder Bread or even baloney and a square slice of American "cheese" straight from the cellophane (not to diss the cheese...unless, of course, we're talking Velveeta) with a smear of Miracle Whip. Nope, I'm talking about a favorite Italian entree turned into a glorious grilled cheese sandwich. The Eggplant Parm Grilled Cheese Supreme.

What makes this grilled cheese supreme? Besides warm slices of crispy eggplant, slivers of roasted red peppers, bits of fresh basil, and slices of smoky provolone? Why, both outsides are finished with shredded mozzarella and double grilled to create a crispy, crunchy fried cheese surface. A frico exterior, if you will.

Costco has those beautiful little eggplants in the fresh produce section again, so naturally I bought a bag...then promptly forgot about making them - nothing new there (oops). Once remembered, I set out late in the evening to make a nice big dish of eggplant parm. I started out strong, but once the purple edged veggie slices were oven fried, I simply ran out of time and energy. Instead of cooking into the wee hours, I put them in the fridge for the night after enjoying a couple for "quality control" purposes. The next day, I had "fried" eggplant slices to play with!  

First, I built the sandwiches (and delivered an extra to my sister, Jeanie, for dinner last night). I still have slices to make into individual ramekins of eggplant parm and just to eat as a side dish with grilled chicken or a good medium rare steak. You know, I might just make eggplant slices ahead from now on...I bet it would even freeze to use whenever I wish. Ooooo...and often!

Eggplant Parm Grilled Cheese Supreme

  • 2 C fresh or packaged fine breadcrumbs - I used 3 slices of gluten-free bread to make mine GF
  • 1 1/2 t granulated garlic
  • 1/2 t Kosher salt
  • 1 t dried oregano
  • 6 small or 3 medium eggplants, tops and bottoms cut off, sliced lengthwise into 1/2" slabs
  • canola oil
  • Pam or other cooking spray
  • jarred roasted red peppers, cut into strips
  • smoked provolone slices
  • shredded mozzarella
  • fresh basil
  • Italian bread, cut diagonally into hefty 1" slices
  • a good jarred marinara

First combine breadcrumbs, granulated garlic, salt and oregano in a plastic bag and shake until well mixed. Set aside. 

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Using 2 baking sheets, pour enough oil on each sheet to just skim the surface. Spray both sides of the eggplant slices with cooking spray, then put a few slices at a time into the breadcrumb mixture. Shake and coat the slices well, place on the baking sheets and repeat until all the eggplant is coated and on the baking sheets. Spray the top sides with cooking spray to help them brown.

Bake for 25-30 minutes or until all the eggplant is crisp on the outside and tender on the inside. Let cool. At this point, either use the eggplant right away for the sandwiches or store covered in the fridge until ready to make the sandwiches or whatever else you may be making.

Sandwich Assembly:
Butter the outsides of the bread slices. In a skillet or griddle, put the buttered side of one slice of bread down, add a slice of provolone (and whatever more you need to cover the bread), then  a layer of eggplant (be sure to warm the eggplant quickly in the oven), strips of roasted pepper, torn pieces of fresh basil, another slice of provolone (and whatever more you need to cover the contents of the sandwich), top with the other slice of bread (buttered side up) and grill until the bottom of the sandwich is beautifully brown. 

The proper amount of shredded mozzarella to finish the sandwich.

Carefully turn the sandwich over, carefully put a thin layer of shredded mozzarella on the already grilled side. When the other side is beautifully browned, carefully turn the mozzarella-ed side down and repeat the shredded mozzarella on the upside of the sandwich. Carefully turn again and brown the second mozzarella-ed side. Be careful not to burn the mozzarella...just brown it until crisp. Remove to a plate and serve with warm marinara to dip.

After the final grilling with the mozzarella browned, crisped, and ready to cut and serve.

DO try this. It. Is. Fabulous! 

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Smoky & Spicy Pecan Bacon Pimiento Cheese

Busy, busy, busy! Life changes again. This time it's moving and moving on. 

Kimber had moved home quite a while ago when help was needed with Mark, taking shifts at the hospital, getting him to and from doctors appointments once he got home and with this big ol' house (and snow shoveling, mowing, and just the day-to-day stuff). After being back here and working in the 'Burgh, she's decided Pittsburgh is a pretty special place (although she still misses Cleveland) and is making Pittsburgh her home for good. Yay!

Family and neighbors are pitching in together over the next couple of days to move her to her own apartment. Although she's been an awesome roommate, it's time for her to do her own thing again. Thanks, Kimber, for all the help and support over the last year and a half. I couldn't have begun to do this without you...both the tough times and the fun times, too.

Our neighbors across the street - the ones whose three boys Kimber babysat when they were little - are loading up their two pickup trucks, my sister's pickup truck and my SUV and we're tackling this mother as a team! Oh, and those boys Kimber babysat those many years ago? They're big strapping young men who are helping, too. 

Naturally, I'm feeding the crew. It's the least I can do! Pulled pork, coleslaw, potato salad, baked beans and pimiento cheese are on the menu. Good hearty food that boys love and that will replenish our reserves to finish the job in one fell swoop. Why pimiento cheese? Joy is from Georgia and just happens to love my version of the southern classic. So this is for Joy and the boys...and Kimber, too. With love and thanks. 

Smoky & Spicy Pecan Bacon Pimiento Cheese

  • 1 1/2 C mayo - Hellman's, of course
  • 1/3 C drained, diced jarred peppadew peppers - or pimientos if you can't find peppadews
  • 1 t worcestershire sauce
  • 1 1/2 t finely grated onion
  • 1 t chipotle powder
  • 1/2 t ancho chile powder
  • 1 t hot paprika

Mix all the above and set aside.

  • 1 1/4 C chopped, toasted pecans
  • 3 slices bacon, cooked crisp and crumbled
  • 8 oz extra sharp cheddar cheese, finely shredded - shred this yourself, it makes a world of difference in texture!
  • 8 oz sharp cheddar cheese, coarsely shredded - shredded on the largest holes of your box grater

Toss the cheeses, pecans and bacon in a large mixing bowl. Pour the mayo mixture over top and mix thoroughly with a heavy duty wooden or metal spoon until completely incorporated.

Spoon into a serving bowl and serve immediately or cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until about 2 hours before serving time. Letting it come to room temp helps it spread more easily on crackers and makes it easier to dip into with veggies.