A beautiful plate of sliced tomatoes, Buffalo mozzarella and fresh basil drizzled with a rich balsamic reduction was always a mainstay on our Italian table growing up. You have come to know and love it as Caprese or Insalata Caprese. (Have you ever noticed that this dish reflects the colors of the Italian flag?) Besides being a delicious and light salad or appetizer, Caprese is as versatile as a dish gets. So much so, that you’ll now find it in many variations and combinations with other foods. The Marinated Chicken Caprese is the perfect example and is sure to be a new favorite for you and your family! You can make the pesto and balsamic reduction from scratch or use store bought. The Chicken Caprese also answers that age-old pesky question; How can I come up with new ways to cook Chicken? Well, maybe I can help you at least for this week!
It’s a Latin American favorite that the western world has embraced as its own. Dulce de Leche, a thick and sugary caramel-like sauce made by slowly heating sweet milk, has found its way into just about every dessert and beverage we love. Here is a rich and delicious cupcake made with homemade Dulce de Leche that’s incorporated in the batter as well as the frosting. Enjoy!
This week the word is Brrrrr! That means it’s time to pull out your favorite chili recipe, grab a Dutch oven and get cookin! This yummy dish makes the cold weather almost welcome, and there isn’t a finer bowl of winter comfort food than homemade chili! This particular recipe has a fabulous twist—cinnamon sticks, which adds a subtle earthiness to the dish.(You’ll find many award-winning chili recipes have added cinnamon to the mix!) I’ve partnered with La Mesa RV to travel our great state, looking for fun adventures and cooking delicious dishes in all sorts of RV’s, and this week, it was time for a hot bowl of spicy beef and chiles! Grab a bowl full and devour!
Thank you Irving Naxon, for inventing the Crock Pot. Your cooking wonder found a place in our kitchens in 1940 when you won the patent for it, and we’ve never given it up. In fact, slow cooking is as popular as ever, especially when it produces such delicious meals like the Crockpot Glazed Pork Tenderloin with Apple Bacon Slaw. (Perfect for next day pork sandwiches!) Also, if you ever wanted to know a bit about the iconic Crock Pot, here’s an excerpt from a Huffington Post article:
“Naxon called his devise the Naxon Beanery. He said his mother, Tamara Nachumsohn, inspired him. She had told him stories about a bean-based stew she used to make in her village bakery at home in Lithuania. The stew, known as cholent, is a traditional Jewish dish that cooks all day. It’s rooted in the Jewish Sabbath, the day of rest in which observant Jews aren’t supposed to work. The stew goes on the heat before sundown Friday night, when the Sabbath begins, and cook all the way until the end of Saturday services the next day. As the ovens were turned off for the Sabbath, the pot of cholent would be put in the oven, and that slow residual heat over the course of the 24 hours would be enough to cook the cholent.”
Naxon sold his design to Rival Manufacturing the 70’s, which rebranded his Beanery as the Crock Pot. It was marketed toward working mothers with the slogan, “Cooks all day while the cook’s away,”
It’s the universal law of food. Everything always tastes better at someone else’s house. I don’t know why that is. It just is. So when we were visiting long-time family friends in
Nayarit, Mexico a few years ago, we spent the first part of the meal gobbling up a scrumptious Pan-Seared Pork Chop Casserole and the remainder of the time sitting at a tiny wooden table writing down every detail of every delicious morsel. The pork chop casserole has been a regular weeknight meal in the Montez Family for decades and makes for a deliciously flavorful fall dish. Unfortunately, it went the way of many recipes scribbled down in the “gotta-have-this-recipe-right-now” moment. It got forgotten about and lost in life’s shuffle. That is, until this weekend when un-cluttering and re-organizing the kitchen cabinets were on the agenda. Wahoo! Long lost and now loved again. You’ll be lickin’ your chops over this one!
Let’s see. My obsession with collecting heritage recipes and cookbooks began in earnest in 2000, when I opened my first restaurant and featured my own family’s dishes. Since that time, I have cooked from and collected hundreds of cookbooks, ranging from family heirloom recipe collections and church fundraising cookbooks to publications produced by food manufacturers hoping to give the home cook suggestions on how to use their products. Some cookbooks go into unbelievable detail about a family’s genealogy or a church or civic organization’s fundraising activities. Then, there are the books that say nothing on the cover and nothing on the inside pages. They are simply hand-written and bound recipes. It was one of these non-descript cookbooks in which found this scrumptious recipe for Brown Sugar Nut Bars. The cookbook simply said “VAVS Volunteer Cookbook.” (I’m assuming VAVS is the acronym for Veterans Administration Volunteer Services, or Veteran’s Affairs Voluntary Services.) In any case I have no one to thank for pages and pages of delightful recipes like this one. The Brown Sugar Nut Bars have a light and delicate shortbread base, and you can use any nut you like, although this recipe suggests slivered almonds. It’s a terrific treat to make ahead and freeze, and it can easily be transported to a party or pot luck without worrying about it falling apart. If you’ve got some leftover walnuts, pecans or almonds, just mix them together and blend them in the bath of butter, brown sugar and pure vanilla. The sweet and salty result is the perfect paring for the shortbread base below!