Corny Cornbread

Corny Cornbread

Cornbread has occupied a regular spot on Southern dinner tables for centuries now. It’s normally an inexpensive bready staple that’s traditionally been bred to crackle and crumble its way into soupy sides like beans and potatoes. While there’s incredible satisfaction in using many iterations of cornbread to add flavor and texture to a plate, or to help clean the plate itself at the end of a meal, cornbread can be so much more.

I learned how to easily take cornbread to another level while visiting in the kitchen with an old friend, Martha Hall, during my days living in North Carolina’s colonial capital, New Bern. Martha made a more delicious cornbread that paired great with homemade chili beans. She called it “Corny Cornbread.”

While at first it sounds quite redundant, let’s think about the name. Most cornbread I’ve eaten includes the “corn” part more because of the cornmeal than actual kernels. Not so with Corny Cornbread. Kernels are baked right in, hence the “Corny part,” and the result is an extra burst of flavor and texture in each and every bite.

Perhaps even more importantly there’s one extra ingredient that gives this higher breed of bread an edge over its crumbly ancestors, and that’s sour cream. The dish could just as easily be called “Creamy Corny Cornbread,” because this method makes a cornbread so buttery and non-crumbly that you almost don’t recognize it as, well, cornbread. (In fact, cornbread purists will scoff at it entirely. And that’s fine. I like a creative kitchen where new concepts are embraced. You aren’t required to do the same.)

So, how is this Corny Cornbread assembled? Well, I’ll take liberties with Martha’s recipe by adding my own twist. I suggest you start with whatever cornbread recipe you prefer. You can mix from scratch with cornmeal, or you can do what we like in our house: Use a box of Jiffy. We love Jiffy’s sweetness and simplicity, so we start with the mix, needing only to add a third of a cup of milk and one egg. Then, you can add one cup of whole kernel corn (fresh is, of course, is the very best, and you can actually use cream corn if you really want to be bold, but you might need to alter the cooking time and methods due to the extra soupiness), and be sure to include a third of a cup of sour cream. Blend all of that together and pour into your cast iron skillet or baking dish and follow the time and temperature instructions of your recipe.

As usual, I suggest you take liberties with this #FoodieScore recipe, ensuring you create a plate to suit your tastes and make you happy. And as always, be sure to let us know what you think of your Corny Cornbread. Thank you, Martha Hall, for making cornbread cornier and better than ever. We believe these tricks can take cornbread quite literally from a side dish to the star of your meal.

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5 Easy Tips for Stellar Homemade Shrimp & Grits

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I discovered the glorious flavors of Shrimp & Grits as a teenage foodie who often visited Charleston, S.C. Many places in the city (and throughout the South) serve the dish, and several make it very well, but every version is different. Some restaurants serve the shrimp aboard cheese grits. Others top the bowl with a seafood gravy. Chefs even add bacon, sausage and other flavors to their renditions.

 

As I began cooking more as a bachelor in my 20s, I started experimenting with Shrimp & Grits in my own kitchen. It’s a dish that really lends itself well to creativity, which is a must when I’m cooking. As I’ve shared before on this blog, a hard-and-fast recipe is not my friend, and that’s why I’m not a baker by nature.

There are so many ways to do Shrimp & Grits well, so you really must figure out what you like best. Here are five quick tips to help you concoct your own Shrimp & Grits. You just might decide your way is your favorite.

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1 – Pick the right shrimp and the right grits for you.

Some folks will want to get fresh-from-the-sea shrimp, where available, and some kind of locally ground grits. Me? I actually prefer quick-cook grits (you can dress them up, big time) and frozen shrimp (for the flexibility of making them whenever you like). The way I see it from experience, you can poorly execute fancy and expensive ingredients, or you can hit a home run with simple ingredients.

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2 – Season the shrimp first.

You should cook your shrimp in a separate sauce pan from your grits and any other toppings (you’ll add the shrimp simply to the top of each bowl of grits before serving), and seasoning is a must. The most tongue-popping flavor in the whole dish should come from your seasoned shrimp. I like to use a half a lemon, a ½ teaspoon of paprika and a ¼ teaspoon of salt for each two servings. Add them to the pan and stir around your shrimp for while-cooking marination, over medium heat. As a rule of thumb for me, I like to prepare about 10 shrimp for each serving of Shrimp & Grits, cooking them just until they get light pink all over.

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3 – Use milk or cream in the grits.

But start with water. I’ve found that for each serving, I like to start with a ½ cup of grits and 2 cups of water, and cook on medium heat. The grits cook more quickly and without scalding in water. Then add the creamy ingredient later. I like about ¼ cup of cream or milk for each serving. You will really taste the difference when you add this step. So much more flavor than water alone. The other value in adding the milk or cream later is that as the grits cook and thicken, the creamy ingredient will help thin them back out a bit before serving. You don’t want to serve watery grits, but you also don’t want them to get sticky. The cream, especially, helps keep that from happening.

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4 – Whisk, don’t stir, your grits.

Like the milk or cream, using a whisk has a major impact on the texture and creamy nature of your bowl of grits. If you stir with a spoon, the mixing process just isn’t the same.

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5 – Add flavoring ingredient(s).

We like cooked beef sausage, chopped into smaller pieces and sautéed in a separate sauce pan, and then a topping of a little grated cheese. Bacon is also a great topping (because who doesn’t love bacon?). These types of ingredients add a little extra flavor without overpowering the shrimp, and they add a little something nice to the presentation as well.

Corn Casserole, a Thanksgiving family favorite


My grandpa Lee Quinn always made a corn casserole for our Thanksgiving feast, and it’s a dish we continue to make in our family. One of the joys of food is that it can symbolize memories, and corn casserole will always remind me of my grandpa.
The beautiful thing about corn casserole is that it jazzes up a side dish (plain whole kernel or cream corn) that otherwise lacks excitement. When a meal includes turkey, stuffing, macaroni and cheese, green bean casserole and a variety of pies, how can you get excited about little yellow kernels of corn?
When corn comes in a casserole, it feels more festive and, truth be told, all of that cheese, cream and butter just make it taste better.
Here’s the recipe for our corn casserole. Thanks, grandpa, and Happy Thanksgiving!

Ingredients

1 can cream corn

1 can whole kernel corn

2 eggs

1/2 cup cream

1/2 stick melted butter or margarine

1/2 cup cornmeal

1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Steps

Mix all of your ingredients and pour into a greased casserole dish.

Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until golden brown on top.

Crispy Down-Home Fried Chicken

When Matthew said he wanted to make fried chicken inspired by Winston-Salem restaurant Sweet Potatoes‘ original recipe, my head starting filling with my own visions of what fried chicken means for a southern kitchen. My mom never made fried chicken, at least not the kind that actually comes with a bone inside it. So my frame of reference for fried chicken was limited to fast-food experiences (Bojangles, KFC, Popeye’s) and what I read in books. Yes, books. In my imagination, fried chicken is the kind Minny Jackson teaches Celia Foote how to make in “The Help” – the kind soaked overnight in buttermilk, seasoned with simple ingredients, then fried in a huge vat full of Crisco, which, as Minny points out, is just as vital for a southern cook as our mayonnaise.

Sweet Potatoes’ recipe follows much the same pattern. We used chicken legs and soaked them for at least 6 hours in the buttermilk mixture. Then, we “dredged” the chicken in a flour mixture and popped it in the pan, which was full of hot oil. When our chicken was finally done frying (we used a meat thermometer to be sure), we sure did enjoy it with our homemade biscuits, seasoned green beans, and a sweet potato hash Matthew came up with on the spur of the moment. It was a feast worthy of any southern kitchen, and it certainly lived up to the best of my imagination.

Here’s the recipe we used, which we tweaked for our own tastes. Feel free to change as needed, add your own sides, and enjoy!

Ingredients:

1 1/2 lbs. chicken

Oil for frying

(Buttermilk mixture)

1/2 quart buttermilk

1 tbsp. salt

1/2 tsp. garlic salt

1/2 tsp. thyme

1/2 tbsp. pepper

 

(Flour mixture)

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 1/2 tbsp. cornstarch

Directions:

1. Combine buttermilk, salt, garlic, thyme and pepper. Add the chicken. Cover and refrigerate for at least 6 hours.

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2. Heat the oil (about 1 inch deep) on medium-high in a large cast-iron pan.

3. Combine flour and cornstarch in a bowl. (The original recipe called for adding a tablespoon of chicken or seafood seasoning to the flour mixture. We didn’t, so it’s optional.)

4. Dredge the chicken in the flour+cornstarch mixture and coat it thoroughly.

5. Add the chicken to the pan and brown on one side for 10 minutes.

6. Turn the chicken over and keep frying until it is done, turning when necessary. Chicken is done when a thermometer (in the thickest part) reads 165 degrees.

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7. Remove from the pan and place the chicken on a plate covered with paper towels or another material for removing some of the grease. Serve and enjoy!

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Matthew’s take: Just watch chef Stephanie Tyson fry chicken and talk about her method. I believe your mouth will be watering afterward, just like mine was (unless you don’t like chicken altogether). This fried chicken was crispy on the outside and juicy on the inside when we enjoyed it fresh from the pan. When I took a couple of pieces to work for lunch a couple of days later, I was amazed that it was even more flavorful and even better. The buttermilk soak makes all the difference in the flavor. The time you fry and the rotation of the chicken as it cooks inside and fries outside is the key to getting a combination of a nice, golden brown colorful appearance and the delicious taste of meaty chicken on the inside. I would recommend this recipe against any fried chicken prescription out there. Knowing the story of the chef who passed down the recipe certainly makes a difference as well. (And so does the memory of eating in her delightfully Southern, North Carolina restaurant.)

Molly’s take: This chicken, as I said, lived up to my expectations. Soaking it in the buttermilk really makes the meat tender and flavorful. It is perfect when prepared and cooked this way. The frying took longer than I imagined, but I didn’t have enough oil in the pan and my burner was on too low. So that’s why I suggest turning it up to medium-high heat and frying in at least an inch of oil. Once it was done, it was delicious! Crispy outer covering with a tender, juicy inside. We can’t wait to try it again!

 

Protein-Packed Smashed Avocado

Let’s just get right down to the point on what this dish is and what it isn’t. Smashed Avocado is an incredibly flavorful, unique and flexible option for a fresh and light breakfast, brunch or small meal option. It’s not something everyone will enjoy because of the ingredients or methods of cooking. But I will warn you that you’re missing out if you don’t at least consider it by reading through this post.

We recently experienced Smashed Avocado for the first time at The Collins Quarter, an Australia-influenced restaurant in downtown Savannah, Ga. Molly’s already an avocado fan, and Collins bills “smashed” as its signature dish. While their version was no doubt fancier and created with more culinary expertise, the plate we created at home was just as good in many ways.

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One of the best things about this dish is that you can mix and match so many of the ingredients. Collins served its Smashed Avocado on toast; we decided to use English muffins. The restaurant served its dish with a side of fancy greens and veggies; we used a simple mix of tomatoes and green peppers and added a little bit of bacon for flavor and crunch. You can switch up many of the parts as long as you have the basic elements of bread, avocado and egg.

That egg is traditionally poached for this dish, and I considered going another route since I had never previously poached an egg. I decided to expand my horizons and learn a new skill, and poaching an egg was much easier than I expected. Basically, I cracked the egg into a small glass dish less than the size of a coffee mug and then slid that egg straight into a pot of simmering (bubbly, but never boiling) water. The egg white eventually begins to cook around a yolk that stays somewhat soft. I used a sturdy metal slotted spoon to remove the egg to check its doneness and once the outside felt firm, I took it out of the water.

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On one half of each of the two toasted, open-faced English muffins, I spread the insides of a well-ripened avocado that I had only lightly salted (some recipes suggest you also add lemon juice in the smashing mix), and then I topped it with one poached egg. That was topped with a little crispy bacon, then a small sprinkle of shredded cheese, and finally diced tomatoes and green peppers.

That’s all there is to it for a dish that seems fancy but really doesn’t even require a formal list of ingredients or cooking steps to complete. Regardless, I will list the ingredients to offer a clearer picture. Remember: You can change many of these to meet your tastes.

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Ingredients

(yields serving for two)

2 English muffins, split into two halves

2 eggs (poached)

1 ripe avocado (skin should be dark and relatively soft)

Any additional toppings and seasonings you desire

 

Molly’s Take: This dish wowed my tastebuds at the Collins Quarter, so when Matthew suggested we try our own version at home, I was totally up for it. Poaching the egg was far easier than we thought, and the smashed avocado spread on an English muffin, even better in my opinion than on toast. I loved the addition of bacon, as it gave the dish a saltier taste and a great meat option. Smashed Avocado is easy and light, yet filling and packed with great ingredients that taste amazing, fit together well, and energize you for the day ahead. Want my advice? Go for it! 

Matthew’s Take: My affinity for this dish surprised me from all angles. I enjoy avocado and guacamole in several iterations, but I didn’t think Smashed Avocado on bread with a poached egg would be so good. A lightly salted avocado, smashed on bread and topped with the egg and veggies was such a flavor experience. It was so good that I wanted another one when I finished mine. If you’ve never poached a simple egg, you’ve got to try it. Not only was the combination of these ingredients full of flavor, altogether the dish was light and didn’t give me the heavy feeling that a traditional Southern breakfast of eggs, bacon/sausage/livermush and toast can cause if you eat a large portion. This one gets a perfect A+ score for flavor, a B for presentation (it is smashed avocado, after all) and an A- for cost, as the ingredients aren’t difficult to locate or particularly expensive, but outside of eggs the items aren’t necessarily staples in every kitchen.

Pasta Mama: Creative, Flavorful, Simple

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If I tell you I’m going to make you pasta and scrambled eggs for dinner, what’s your reaction? Does it sound more appetizing if I tell you I’m going to mix the eggs into the pasta? Maybe it further helps if I tell you several Asian pasta dishes include eggs that are scrambled in somehow?

Yeah, I didn’t think so. When I first heard about Pasta Mama seven or eight years ago on one of my favorite Food Network Shows “Best Thing I Ever Ate,” I turned up my nose, too. It didn’t exactly sound like a delicious meal. But I’ve always enjoyed trying new things that involve ingredients I enjoy, so I gave it a whirl, as Kevin McAllister said of a frozen macaroni and cheese dinner while grocery shopping in the 1990 movie Home Alone. And the Pasta Mama blew me away with its simplicity and flavor.

Some people aren’t big fans of marinara sauce, so they prefer an alfredo or other topping for their pasta. This offers another cheap, flavorful option with the eggs and spices, and if you already have spices and dry pasta in your kitchen or pantry, it won’t cost you much at all to make (also considering eggs are pretty cheap). And if you cook the eggs and pasta just right, it’s not too dry or too wet.

Pasta Mama at its best is a very simple and light dish, so don’t plan on feeling extremely full afterward. In fact, it’s a dish you might have as a small meal as part of a plan to eat more than three meals a day, or you might even try it for a simple and quick breakfast. You can use that leftover cooked, plain pasta to get a head start, but even if you have to cook your pasta first, this dish won’t take you more than a half hour to prepare.

The following recipe is a modified take on a suggestion from Food.com.

Ingredients

10 ounces dry pasta

3 eggs, beaten

2 minced garlic cloves

2 tablespoons chopped parsley

1 tablespoon butter or olive oil

1 tablespoon water

1 tablespoon fresh grated parmesan cheese

1/4 teaspoon oregano

1/4 teaspoon seasoning salt

1/4 teaspoon onion powder

 

Directions

1. Cook your pasta in a pot until it has the softness/firmness you prefer. (If you already have leftover cooked pasta, just heat it enough to knock the chill off before you take the next step in the recipe.)

2. In a skillet on medium heat, saute all of your spices with the butter or oil.

3. After your spices have sauteed, add the pasta and water and stir together.

4. Pour in your already-beaten eggs and combine until the eggs fully cook and mix with the pasta.

5. While your dish is still in the skillet, sprinkle the parmesan cheese on top. You can, of course, add as much cheese as you want.

6. Plate and serve. As with anything, your yield depends on how much pasta you actually use, how much each diner eats and the age of your diners. If you feed this to kids, it will probably go farther with each individual eater.

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Molly’s Take: I wasn’t terribly afraid of the egg and pasta combo here, since I love Asian rice and noodles and those often include eggs of some kind. I also am a person who really can’t stand marinara sauce in most settings, so I was excited about the prospect of an alfredo alternative. The Pasta Mama delivered. Its simple flavor, perfectly seasoned with herbs and spices, was light and tasty. As Matthew said, it isn’t incredibly filling or heavy, but I could easily see adding some type of fish like salmon or shrimp to the dish. However, the Pasta Mama stands alone in its simplicity and flavorful taste. Definitely give it a try.

Matthew’s Take: Of course, I really love this dish, or I wouldn’t be sharing it with you. My favorite way to eat pasta has always been with some kind of tomato-based sauce and beef meatballs or a cheese-based sauce with chicken. This is a completely different dish and one I’ve never had in a restaurant. I’ve never seen it on a menu in a restaurant, despite seeing it recommended on a food show by a professional chef who ate it at a restaurant. Maybe it has a low profile because it would take most people by surprise. I know it did me. Other than not being heavy enough to fill me for a long period of time, Pasta Mama is surprisingly satisfying. The garlic butter and cheese help provide their own deal of flavor, but it’s the eggs that offer the most boost to the texture and taste. You may be skeptical, but I encourage you to give it a try. Creative cooking can be exciting because it can break our normal routine in the kitchen and at the table. And this is a way to be creative and make an economical meal in a half hour or less. I give it an A for taste and an A+ for both cost and ease.

Cheese-Stuffed Juicy Lucy Cheeseburgers

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Basic cheeseburgers can be one of the easiest dinners you make for yourself or your family. The Juicy Lucy cheeseburger, however, is one of the more complicated burgers to pull off.

The Juicy Lucy, a cheese-stuffed burger, is known to have originated in Minnesota. Two restaurants, Matt’s Bar and the 5-8 Club, take ultimate credit for the specific take on the American classic.

I’ve cooked Juicy Lucy burgers on the stovetop before, but until last week I had never tried them on the grill. I worried a bit about all the cheese melting out while cooking on a grill top over an open flame. Some of the cheese did melt out, but not nearly as much as I expected.

There are a few keys to cooking a Juicy Lucy, particularly on a grill. We’ll share the whole cooking process below, but here are a few important tips that stand out.

  1. Be sure you tightly seal your two patties together around your cheese to help keep the cheese in the middle as it melts.
  2. Be sure to chill your Juicy Lucy-prepped patties in the fridge for a while prior to putting them on the grill. That further keeps your cheese tightly sealed.
  3. Don’t plan to turn your burgers more than a time or two while they’re on the grill. The more you turn them, the more likely you’ll start to tear up your meat and leak your cheese from the center.
  4. You’ll want to make your patties as thin as possible so they cook quickly and get done before your cheese melts enough that it wants to leak into the grill.
  5. If your cheese does begin to leak, you will likely experience flame-ups if you’re using a charcoal grill. Be prepared to put out those fires.

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Here’s what you’ll need to make your Juicy Lucy Cheeseburgers. These amounts will be enough to make four quarter-pound burgers.

1 pound of fresh ground beef of your choice

1 block of Cheddar (or your favorite) cheese to slice fresh

Marinade of your choice (we used a half cup of Worcestershire sauce and pinches of salt and pepper on each patty)

4 buns

Condiments and toppings of your choice

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Directions

  1. Make eight equal patties from your ground beef and coat as you wish with your marinade.
  2. Slice your cheese thin and form it into stacks of two or three pieces each.
  3. Stack slices of cheese (not too thick) in the middle top of one of the patties.
  4. Cover that patty with another patty.
  5. Crimp the edges of the two patties together to seal them together and envelope the cheese.
  6. Repeat the process with the other patties to prepare four total Juicy Lucy cheeseburgers.
  7. Put your burgers on a plate and cover with tin foil. Place them in the fridge while you prepare your grill. Allow the burgers to chill for at least 20 minutes to help further seal the burgers and the cheese inside.
  8. Have your grill hot before you put the burgers on the grill top. Allow your burger to cook well on one side before you flip it to allow the seal to strengthen between the patties. You’ll be able to slightly pull up the side facing down with a spatula to check on the doneness of one side before you flip the burger.IMG_4515    
  9. Once you flip the burger and have your patty done on both sides, be sure, as you would with any cheeseburger cooking, to be sure your juices are running clear.
  10. By this time, you will also likely have cheese running out of the burger. As long as you don’t have too much cheese leaking out to lose much, you’ll be in good shape.
  11. Put your burgers on your buns and serve with the toppings you choose.

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Matthew’s Take: I’ve made Juicy Lucy Cheeseburgers on the stove, but the taste of these grilled burgers by far tops anything I’ve ever attempted. The difficulty level also tops anything I’ve ever attempted with a burger, not because the steps are difficult, but because it requires some planning and precision to ensure your burgers are ready to stand firm against the grill without leaking out all the cheese. You will likely have cheese leakage because I did, too. But there was still a nice layer of cheese in the middle of the burgers. It was a smart move to patty the meat thin because it helped the meat cook better in the center with the cheese in the middle, too. I’ve been told at restaurants that serve the Juicy Lucy to expect a pink center because the burger is so thick it doesn’t cook to the center. At home you can control that factor. I give this Juicy Lucy Cheeseburger an A+ for taste and an A for cost. But I give it a C for ease because it does take some patience and practice.

Molly’s Take: These cheeseburgers were truly Juicy and delicious. It was so awesome to find a cheesy surprise in the middle of my burger. The cheddar was a great choice, too. I do think they’re harder to make than some, but not impossible. And Matthew did a great job, especially on the grill. I was also glad he made sure they weren’t pink on the inside, as I’m not a fan of pink/under-cooked burgers or meat. I give this burger, and Matthew, an A+. Give them a try if you’re adventurous! And especially if you love cheeseburgers, like we do.

“Eggs in a Nest” – a Simple, Creative Breakfast

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We see eggs cooked in an indeterminate number of ways. There’s scrambled. And there’s sunny side up. There’s poached, and there are omelettes. You can jazz them up Benedict style, cook them into a quiche or simply boil them.

But there’s always a new way to cook almost any type of food. When we visited the 1900 Inn on Montford Avenue in Asheville, N.C., for our honeymoon in January, we discovered “Eggs in a Nest.” Our innkeepers at the 1900 (which includes suites named for major literary figures, ours for F. Scott Fitzgerald) were great conversationalists who shared quite a bit about their backgrounds while we ate our three-course breakfasts. They shared their life’s travels from Minnesota (fitting since the Coen Brothers’ Fargo is one of my favorite movies) to a host of other major cities and then to North Carolina’s mountains and the bed-and-breakfast hospitality experience. They also shared about the interesting dishes they serve up at the inn.

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The “Eggs in a Nest” dish was one of our favorite main courses of our stay. And luckily for us, it’s a breakfast we can make at home and continue to enjoy.

Just as it sounds, you place an egg (whichever style you choose really, we prefer sunny side up) in a nest of potato sticks. That alone accomplishes the title of the dish. The rest is really up to you, your tastes and your desire for presentation.

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Here’s what you’ll need to enjoy your own “Eggs in a Nest.” And I might add that this is a great dish, because of its fun presentation and optional simplicity, for kids who are finicky about what they eat.

Ingredients (for 1 person’s serving)

1 egg, cooked in the style you desire

1/2 cup of potato sticks (any brand works)

Shredded cheese

Dash of salt and pepper, if desired

Other toppings as desired (we like diced tomato and a little bacon or sausage)

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Instructions

  1. Cook your egg. You can scramble it. You can make it small-omelette style. You can make it sunny side up. You can even boil it and chop or dice it however you like.IMG_4353
  2. We suggest using a shallow bowl with nicely tapered sides. A bowl with steep sides will make it hard to form your “nest” of potato sticks.
  3. Place your potato sticks around the outside of your bowl, leaving a spot in the middle for your eggs.
  4. When your egg is done, place it in the middle of your nest of potato sticks.
  5. Complete by sprinkling shredded cheese on top and adding any other desired toppings.IMG_4356

Matthew’s Take: I love dishes that are both creative and involve incredibly simple and inexpensive ingredients. This recipe is right on that target. When you make the eggs sunny side up, the yolk mixes with your potato sticks to create a delicious flavor. Kudos to the 1900 Inn for sharing this with Molly and me. We have already passed it along, and we hope to continue to share it. I give “Eggs in a Nest” an A+ for taste, an A+ for cost-effectiveness and an A+ for ease. If you like the ingredients, you’ve got to try this.

Molly’s Take: This is honestly one of my favorite breakfast meals. It’s cheap and easy, hearty and filling. I love the taste of the eggs mixed with the slightly salty potato sticks. It really is a meal you can make as simple or as fancy as you like – and it’s great for picky eaters, because it’s so adaptable. Definitely give it a try if you want a nice, hearty breakfast sometime!

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Easy Slow Cooker Philly Cheesesteak Sandwiches

Philly Cheesesteak

How often do we find ourselves ordering a meal at a restaurant, but we don’t know how it’s made?
For Matthew, that doesn’t happen often, because he loves experimenting in the kitchen, learning how to make favorite dishes and exploring unconventional combinations.
Since we got married in January, we’ve tried a variety of new homemade foods in the kitchen.
Mozzarella cheese sticks was the first venture, and it flopped the first time because the recipe we followed left out a step. We learned just how important an egg mixture can be for holding together a recipe.
More recently, we attempted our first Slow Cooker Philly Cheesesteak Sandwiches. Molly’s dad enjoys Philly Cheesesteak (and anything with meat, cheese and bread), and Molly experienced the glorious concoction of an authentic cheesesteak during a visit to Philadelphia several years ago.
Our first conundrum with the cheesesteak: what kind of steak?
Obviously not New York Strip.
Not T-bone either.
Apparently, there are several different options, including ribeye.
But how expensive do you want your sandwich to be? Especially when you’re planning to make dinner for five people?
And how do you slice a steak thin enough to get that authentic Philly style?
Must you visit an old-time meat market for such an ingredient?
With more questions than answers, we visited a place that appears to have all the answers: Walmart.
Matthew’s dad doesn’t like to set foot in the place, but we don’t mind it as a one-stop-shop for most everything you need.
We first needed to decide if we could find the meat needed for the cheesesteak, and we did. From several options, we chose a thin top sirloin. Despite Matthew’s concern of not having enough steak, two pounds made a full seven sandwiches.
With the big-ticket item (in price as well at $13, so don’t expect to make a cheap true Philly cheesesteak) out of the way, we easily progressed through the rest of our shopping list. Check out the ingredients list below for more.
You’ll also find out how we cooked our steak with ease, and we’ll offer a tip for what you might do to make a better Philly than we did.

Ingredients
1 package of meat (for us, 2 pounds of top sirloin yielded seven sandwiches)
Salt, pepper and seasoning to taste
1 package of cheese, our choice was provolone
1 green pepper
1/2 sweet onion
1 package of sandwich buns of your choice, with preference of sub style

Peppers and onions
Steps
1. Slice your steak, peppers and onions into thin strips. You’ll need a fairly sharp knife for the meat.
2. Season the steak with salt and pepper as desired. We included a few bouillon cubes and 2 cups of water in our slow cooker for an extra boost.
3. Our family was coming over for dinner on Friday night, just minutes after we planned to get home from a full day of work. So we wanted to make Philly cheesesteaks without having to do a lot of cooking in a short period of time. Enter the slow cooker. We cooked our meat the night before and all day that Friday in a low heat in the slow cooker. The meat was incredibly tender by the next evening, but it had also fallen apart a bit more than Matthew desired. You might slice your ingredients the night before and put them into storage containers in the fridge, then put them in the slow cooker before you head out to work for the day. You might get a tender-cooked meat without the pieces being so small. The recipe we found on Pinterest suggested cooking your meat six to seven hours.
4. Once your steak has cooked, divide it up evenly (or unevenly depending on appetites and diner preferences) onto your sandwich buns.
5. Cover your steak with the desired amount of cheese.
6. Stick your cheesesteaks on a pan and heat the buns and melt the cheese in the oven. We didn’t use the oven because we’re partial to our toaster oven. If you have a toaster oven, you might want to try the same method.
7. Serve up your cheesesteaks with any side you choose. We went with French fries.

Matthew’s Take: These sandwiches were much better than I expected, and they were honestly much easier than I expected. You won’t get out light on the cost, and you’ll notice that if you’re a cheapo like me. But you won’t have to do much cooking by using the slow-cooker method. After the meat and vegetables are sliced, you’re home free as long as you have the time to cook the meat. My sandwich was as good as any steak sandwich I’ve had at a restaurant. I usually find steak sandwiches to be tough and this was anything but tough, probably because the meat cooked for about nine hours. I give this recipe an A+ for taste, an A+ for ease of preparation and a B for cost. If you’re making it for a group of more than five, you’ll have to pay quite a bit to get enough true steak for a Philly.

Molly’s Take: I really liked these Philly Cheesesteak sandwiches. I think it would be interesting to try another type of steak to see how different it would be. I can say that no Philly Cheesesteak has compared to the one I actually got in Philly. But this one was pretty darn good and super easy. Putting it all in the crockpot and letting it cook and stay warm meant we didn’t have to worry about dinner that night. And my whole family loved them. All in all, it was a great choice. If you try them, let us know what you do differently! And how you like them! We hope you enjoy.

Family-Favorite Roasted Potatoes

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Potatoes are full of possibilities. You can bake them or cut them and make fries, wedges or homemade chips. You can shred them and make hash browns or mash them and make homemade mashed potatoes.

Matthew’s favorite way to prepare potatoes is to roast them in a stovetop pan.

It’s also a favorite of Molly’s mom, who requests the potatoes at nearly every family gathering.

The great thing about this recipe is that you can follow all of the steps until you put the potatoes in the pan and then mash the potatoes, add milk or cream and butter and have delicious homemade mashed potatoes.

This recipe can incorporate your favorite potato, Idaho, red or otherwise, and you can also bake the potatoes in the oven, instead of cooking them in a pan.

Ingredients

3 cups of peeled potatoes

a dash of salt, pepper and/or garlic salt, depending on your taste

a dash of olive oil

Step one:

Cut your potatoes. The smaller the potatoes, the faster they will cook in all stages of this recipe.

Step two:image

Boil your potatoes in a pot on the stove until the potatoes are fork-tender. You can boil the potatoes in a microwave, but it will take much longer.

Step three:

Drain your potatoes in a colander or around your pot lid over a sink, being careful to keep your potatoes in the pot.

Step four:

Turn your burner to medium-high heat and put your potatoes in the pan on the stovetop. Cover your potatoes with a light coating of olive oil (or vegetable oil if that’s all you have). Top with a sprinkling of salt and pepper to your desired taste. Let your potatoes roast until you start to see sides browning, then take a spatula to mix the potatoes and move them to position them for browning on other sides.

imageStep five:

Reduce your heat to low and cover your pan with a lid to allow your potatoes to steam and thoroughly cook. You will get a slight browning on the potatoes while they are covered, too, but this part of the process is mostly to soften and moisten the potatoes after you’ve just browned them in the pan. The browning process can remove much of the moisture in the potatoes, and the roasting process with the lid on helps replace that moisture.

Step six:

Remove your potatoes from the pan. It’s not likely you’ll have much grease after roasting the potatoes. Enjoy!

Molly’s Take: We love this simple method of making roasted potatoes. They always come out hearty and flavorful and so versatile. One of my favorite things to do is have the potatoes for dinner with salmon or burgers or the like, then the next morning have them wrapped in a tortilla with cheese, your favorite breakfast meat, and maybe even a few onions. they’re delicious, inexpensive and a great addition to any meal. If you ever need a side dish that is filling, not bad for you, and tasty, these potatoes are your MVP. (Most Valuable Potatoes)

Matthew’s Take: Not only is this my favorite method of preparing potatoes, it’s my favorite way to eat potatoes. These go great with burgers, with salmon, with grilled chicken, with fried chicken tenders, with almost anything. If you cut the potatoes into small pieces, they’re a great breakfast potato, and they can even be used as leftovers in breakfast tacos or burritos. They pair great in a tortilla with eggs, bacon or sausage and cheese. These potatoes get an A+ for taste, an A+ for ease, an A for cost as a plain ole bag of potatoes isn’t usually expensive, and they get a B for presentation. You can jazz up the presentation by topping with a little light cheese or carefully ensuring you have the perfect browning on all sides. (You can do that by browning in the pan more than roasting with the lid on, but you may lose some of the moisture.) I hope you enjoy these potatoes as much as we do.