Spicy Italian Beef

I’m a crockpot-aholic these days. The convenience cannot be beat and the recipes are always big enough for leftovers.  Our freezer is getting stocked, which I’m very happy about.  It’s nice having options (besides cereal or take out) when you don’t feel like cooking.

This is a non-crockpot recipe that I adapted, and it turned out really well. The beef absolutely falls apart, and has a nice spice. We served it over brown rice, but it would be delicious over pasta, or turned into a sandwich.  There is practically no prep work, either.  Just dump everything in the crockpot and go about your day.

Spicy Italian Beef

adapted from The Pioneer Woman

  • 2 ½ – 3 lb chuck roast
  • 2 cups beef stock
  • 1 15oz can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 16oz jar pepperoncini, with juice
  • 1 8oz jar hot cherry peppers, drained
  • 1 4 oz jar pimentos
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Handful chopped parley
  • Rice or potatoes or noodles for serving

In a crockpot, combine all the ingredients through pimientos.  Make sure the beef is almost entirely submerged.  You can add a little extra stock if necessary.  Set the crockpot for the amount of time that works for you.  I did 10 hours on low while at work.

When the beef is done cooking, shred in the crockpot using tongs; it should easily fall apart.  Taste for seasoning, add salt and pepper as needed.  Serve over rice, mashed potatoes or noodles.  Sprinkle with chopped parsley. 

*You could also use this to make Italian Beef sandwiches on hoagie rolls, as The Pioneer Woman suggested.  Serve the beef using a slotted spoon, to minimize bread sogginess, and top with mozzarella or provolone cheese.


Classic Hummus

There is a great restaurant in Northern Virginia called Rustico.  Known for an extensive beer collection and yummy pizzas, I go for the carrot hummus. It’s delicious and topped with an amazing feta/herb/ground lamb mixture.  I made a copy cat version of this dish (minus the lamb) for a dinner party appetizer, and it was a pretty respectable homage to the original. 

So, why is this post ittled “Classic Hummus” as opposed to “Totes Amazing Carrot Hummus?”  Because I am a bad blogger, that’s why, and didn’t take any (non instagram) pictures.  But in the process of making the carrot hummus, I purchased a giant container of tahini (it was the only size available), which lead me to make classic hummus last weekend. 

Classic, yes, but boring, no.  Homemade hummus has a great freshness that store bought doesn’t, and it’s quite inexpensive to make.  All the ingredients are things I usually have in my fridge and pantry, minus the tahini, and the food processor makes for quick work.  It is also nice to be able to control the amount of salt and oil in the hummus.  I encourage you to whip some up for your next gathering…you’ll be surprised how simple it is!

Classic Hummus

  • 1 15 oz. can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 2 TB tahini
  • 1 clove garlic
  • Juice of one lemon
  • ¼ cup olive oil, plus 1 TB spicy olive oil (optional)
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Fresh herbs (optional)

In a food processor, combine chickpeas, tahini, garlic, lemon juice and a dash of salt and pepper. With the processor running, slowly add the olive oil and hot oil (if using), blending until smooth.  You might add a little extra olive oil to reach your desired consistency.  Check for seasonings, add salt and pepper if needed.   To serve, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with fresh herbs, if desired.

Eggplant, Mozzarella and Saffron Rice Bake

Happy Fall!  What a great time of year.  The days are getting cooler and shorter, but not cold, and it’s still light when I leave work. This is DC’s weather sweet spot, the best time to live in this area. Thankfully tourist season is over, or they would probably never leave!

I am not sure why this dish jumped out at me from the latest Bon Appetit, but I am so glad it did.  It’s a warm, filling one pot meal, but the flavors are really exceptional. Slightly lansagna-esque, but with a twist.  This would be an excellent vegetarian main course, served with a simple side salad.  Even if you don’t like eggplant, I would recommend giving it a try! The directions are long, but it’s pretty easy to pull together.

Eggplant, Mozzarella and Saffron Rice Bake

from Bon Appetit

  • 2 tbsp plus 1 cup olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, minced
  • 1 cup arborio rice
  • Pinch of saffron
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 1 cup vegetable broth or water
  • Kosher salt
  • 3 large eggplants (about 3 pounds), cut crosswise into 1/8-inch rounds ( I used a mandolin and it was super easy!)
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 cups store-bought tomato sauce (such as marinara), divided
  • 1 pound fresh mozzarella, cut into 3/4-inch cubes (about 2 cups), divided
  • 1 cup coarsely grated Parmesan (4 ounces), divided
  • Chopped basil, for serving (optional)

Preheat oven to 425.

Using a mandolin, or a very sharp knife, slice eggplant into 1/8 in rounds.  This is slightly thinner than the original recipe. Divide eggplant between two baking sheets, overlapping slightly to fit. Drizzle 1 cup oil over; season with salt and pepper. Bake, turning eggplant and rotating sheets halfway through, until tender and golden brown, about 20 minutes.

While the eggplant roasts, heat 2 tbsp. oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion; cook, stirring often, until softened, about 8 minutes. Add rice; cook, stirring constantly, for 3 minutes. Stir in saffron, then wine. Cook until wine reduces slightly, about 1 minute. Add broth; season with salt. Cover and cook over medium heat until rice is very al dente and still crunchy, about 6 minutes; remove pan from heat.

Assemble the casserole in a 9×13 baking dish.  Here is the assembly order, from bottom to top:

  • 1 cup marinara
  • 1/3 of the mozzarella, 1/3 of the parmesan
  • ½ the eggplant rounds, overlapping so no sauce or cheese is visible
  • The entire rice mixture, spread evenly
  • 1/3 of the mozzarella, 1/3 of the parmesan
  • 1 cup marinara
  • ½ the eggplant rounds, overlapping so no sauce or cheese is visible
  • 1 cup marinara
  • The remaining 1/3 of the cheeses

Cover dish with foil and place on a baking sheet.  It might bubble over, so this will keep your oven clean!  Bake until sauce is bubbling and cheese is melted, about 15 minutes. Uncover dish and bake until golden on top, about 20 minutes longer. Let stand for at least 10 minutes to set before serving. Sprinkle with chopped basil and serve.

Super Simple Crockpot Pulled Pork

Don’t you hate it when you have four pounds of pork tenderloin in the fridge and you need to use it that day, but it’s raining and you don’t want to go to the grocery store?  Happens to all of us, right? Maybe it’s just me.

This is barely a recipe, more a method for making a very simple, slightly healthier version of pulled pork.  The crockpot does all the work, and using pork tenderloin keeps things much leaner than using a pork butt.  I know it’s not super authentic, but it was delicious and simple and I didn’t have to leave the house!

I served this as sandwiches with coleslaw, and also ate it plan…good both ways, and made for lots of leftovers.

Simple Crockpot Pulled Pork

  • 4 lbs pork tenderloin
  • 1 onion, roughly chopped
  • 1 28oz bottle bbq sauce (I used Sweet Baby Rays)
  • 1 12oz bottle beer (whatever beer you have in the house)
  • 1 tsp each of smoked paprika and garlic powder

Place the onion in the bottom of the crockpot.  Add tenderloins.  Cover with bbq sauce and add spices.  Pour the beer over the whole thing.  Cover, and set the crockpot for 6 hours.  When time is up, you should be able to shred the pork easily with a pair of tongs. 


Stuffed Buffalo Chicken

A few weeks ago, I was all set to make a quick, healthy dinner of Buffalo Chicken Salad.  But, while scanning skinnytaste.com at work, I discovered THIS and my plans were altered.  It uses all the same ingredients as the salad, with a few extra staples that I had in the fridge or pantry.  I made a couple modifications, removing bleu cheese and adding some extra hot sauce. It was delicious, cooked up quickly and was still a light and healthy meal. 

Stuffed Buffalo Chicken

Adapted from skinnytaste.com

  • 1/4 cup shredded 2% cheddar
  • 3 wedges Laughing Cow garlic and herb cheese 
  • 1/4 cup green onion, minced
  • 1/4 cup carrot, minced
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 package thin boneless chicken breasts cutlets
  • 1 cup corn flake crumbs
  • 1 tbsp light mayonnaise
  • 6 tbsp Franks hot sauce
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 tsp light butter
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • cooking spray

Preheat the oven to 400°F and lightly coat your baking dish with cooking spray.

Mix cheddar, laughing cow cheese, green onion, carrot, salt and pepper in a dish.

Lay out the chicken cutlets, placing even amount of mixture in the middle and spread in the center.

In one bowl make a breading station out of corn flake crumbs. In another bowl combine mayonnaise, 2 tablespoons of hot sauce, and lemon juice.  Roll chicken breasts in the mayonnaise mixture, then into the crumbs, and put on a lightly greased pan, seam side down.

Lightly spray top of chicken with cooking spray. Bake 30 minutes. While the chicken cooks, melt butter and mix with the remaining hot sauce and garlic powder. Drizzle buffalo sauce over finished chicken breast and serve.

Pepperoni Chicken with Zucchini “Noodles”

Have I talked about carbs?  I probably have.  What girl hasn’t had the internal carbs monologue…are these the “good” carbs or the “bad” carbs? What’s the difference between whole wheat and whole grain? What’s gluten and why is it terrible?  Does wine have carbs? Is butter a carb? 

Honestly, I can’t really answer your questions, except to say if wine has carbs, they are always good, and butter is most definitely a carb.  I am firmly in the “all things in moderation” camp of eating, but sometimes everyone needs a break from heavy, starchy meals.  These zucchini “noodles” are a great summertime pasta substitute, and are so very easy to make.  The secret is using a julienne peeler.  Mine is Swissmar, and I got it in a three pack from Williams Sonoma.  It makes the process simple…just grate a whole zucchini, skin and all, into a bowl and top it with your favorite pasta sauce! 

If you prefer to cook the zucchini, add the “noodles” to a hot saute pan with a bit of olive oil and cook for a few minutes, until slightly softened.  They are delicious both ways, and a really satisfying, yet light, substitute for pasta.  I topped mine with the always awesome Pepperoni Chicken, which is one of my husband’s favorite recipes. 

Pepperoni Chicken

adapted from Cooking Light

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil, divided
  • 2 cloves minced fresh garlic
  • ½  white onion, chopped
  • 2-3 oz pepperoni, coarsely chopped (I usually use turkey pepperoni)
  • ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • ¼  teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 ½  cups marinara sauce
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil , plus more for sprinkling
  • 1 1/2 pounds chicken cutlets (or you can cut regular chicken breasts in half)
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese

Preheat broiler to high.

Heat one teaspoon olive oil in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onion, garlic and pepperoni.  Cook 2-3 minutes until onion begins to soften, stirring frequently.  Add oregano and red pepper flake and stir to combine. Add marinara sauce and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer 5 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in basil.

Heat remaining olive oil a large ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat.  Sprinkle chicken with salt pepper, and add to skillet. Cook 5 minutes or until lightly browned, turning after 3 minutes. Spoon sauce over chicken; sprinkle evenly with cheese. Broil 2 minutes or until cheese melts.  Remove from oven, sprinkle with basil.  Serve immediately with pasta or zucchini noodles!

Glazed Chicken and Szechuan Noodle Salad

I am really bad at this blogging thing.  I get busy, it gets cold and dark, and the next thing you know, it’s been 7 months since the last time I blogged.  No excuses, just going to take another stab at it.  I hope at least a few people are still reading this…

My love of Cooking Light Magazine has been documented on this blog in the past, as many of my recipe adaptations start there.  While not always the most gourmet dishes in the world, Cooking Light is a great resource for quick dinners and lightened up versions of classics.  Most of the recipes are very simple, and leave a lot of room for interpretation…adding spice, herbs, and proteins to your taste.  (I am not being paid by Cooking Light.  Obviously.)

That said, I pretty much followed the recipe on this one.  As you can see from the pictures, we decided to chop up the grilled chicken at the end and tossed it in with the noodles.  The recipe calls for bottled Szechuan sauce, and I found something the in the Asian aisle of the grocery store called Spicy Szechuan Stir Fry sauce, so I used that.  It. Was. Spicy.  So, tread lightly with that one!  We added a side of simply roasted broccoli (head of broccoli cut into florets, drizzled with olive oil, sprinkled with salt and pepper, Roast at 400 degrees for about 10 minutes) for a complete meal.

Glazed Chicken and Szechuan Noodle Salad

Adapted from Cooking Light

  • 1 tablespoon grated peeled fresh ginger
  • 3 tablespoons hoisin sauce
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 4 teaspoons lower-sodium soy sauce, divided
  • 1 package boneless, skinless chicken breasts.  I used the thin sliced breasts, so the cooking time was reduced
  • 6 ounces uncooked udon noodles (thick, fresh Japanese wheat noodles) or whole-wheat linguine
  • 1/4 cup bottled Szechuan sauce
  • 1 tablespoon reduced-fat creamy peanut butter  
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lime juice  
  • 1 cup matchstick-cut carrots (I used bagged, shredded carrots)
  • 1/2 cup matchstick-cut green onions

Combine ginger, hoisin, olive oil and 2 teaspoons of soy sauce in a medium bowl; stir well. Add chicken; toss to coat.  You can allow to marinate for up to an hour, but it is not necessary. 

Heat the grill or grill pan to medium high. Place chicken on grill rack coated with cooking spray; grill until done. The thin cut breasts will cook in 3-4 minutes per side, larger pieces of chicken could take up to 15-18 minutes total.  I recommend a meat thermometer for this!  Remove from grill; cover.

Cook noodles according to package directions, omitting salt and fat. Drain and rinse with cold water; drain well. Combine Szechuan sauce, peanut butter, remaining soy sauce, and juice in a large bowl, stirring with a whisk. Add noodles, carrots, and green onions; toss and serve immediately with chicken on the side, or cut chicken up and stir into the noodles.