Honey Butter Creamed Cornbread

This is simply one of the greatest hacks – the easiest way to zhuzh up a class box of Jiffy corn muffin mix into something insanely special and delicious. And if you found this under the “Dessert” category just read until the end. You’ll get it.

SHOPPING LIST: 1 box jiffy mix, 1 can creamed corn, 1 egg, honey, butter, salt

The trick? I guess there are a few.

One, we want to employ the old, HEAT YOUR PAN before your add the batter trick so your cornbread is crunchy on all surfaces. So grease up your skillet or springform pan (I used the latter) and pop it in your pre-heated 400 degree oven while your prep your cornbread.

Two, instead of using the 1/3 cup of milk the recipe on the box of Jiffy calls for, replace that with an ENTIRE can of creamed corn. So your batter is essentiality 1 beaten egg, 1 can of creamed corn and the entire bag of jiffy mix. (IF YOU WANT YOUR CORNBREAD TO BE SPICY – sauté a finely chopped jalapeño in oil of your choice and add to the batter as well). Remove your smoking hot skillet from the oven, pour in your batter and bake for 25-30 MINUTES or until the center is firm. (The box says to bake for 15-20 minutes but you will need a little extra time because you basically tripled the liquids).

NOW is the best part. THE THIRD TRICK! After your cornbread has cooled, remove it from the baking dish. Melt 2 tB. of butter and mix with 2 tB. of honey. Use a fork to poke holes in the top of your cornbread. Drizzle the entire cornbread with your honey-butter mixture and finish with a sprinkle of salt. PLACE THE CORNBREAD BACK under the BROILER for 3 minutes so the honey butter gets a little crispy.

I lied. There is a fourth – and MAJOR – secret here. This one is a personal favorite. Last time I made cornbread I served it with St. Louis Ribs. Very traditional pairing. But you know what the BEST use of your cornbread is? ICE. CREAM. SUNDAE. Heat up a slice (or two) of your leftover cornbread. Top with a spoonful (or two) of vanilla ice cream. Finish with a drizzle of honey. THANK ME LATER 🙂

Stuffed Pepper Parm

I wrote all about the origin of the stuffed pepper in my Taco Turkey Stuffed Peppers post. I had never given the stuffed peppers the parmigiana treatment and it just felt. like. time. This is always a go-to recipe for me because A. it’s not particularly expensive B. it feeds a BUNCH of people and C. it is incredibly satisfying.

SHOPPING LIST: 6 cubanelle peppers, 1.5 lbs. spicy Italian sausage (chicken or pork), 14 oz. whipped cream cheese, 1 egg, tomato sauce, shredded mozzarella, chopped garlic, dried oregano, olive oil, garlic salt, pepper

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. The first step is trimming the stems off of your peppers, slicing them open (without going all the way through) just enough that you can get your fingers inside to clean out all the seeds. Once your peppers are cleaned, rub them with olive oil and season them thoroughly with garlic salt and pepper.

In a bowl, mix one egg. Add 1 tB. of chopped garlic. Add your spicy Italian sausage – if you purchased sausage IN the casing, make sure to squeeze the sausage OUT of the casing so you basically have ground, seasoned meat. 1.5 lbs. of sausage would be equivalent to about 8 links. I also want to note here that the use of sausage is key here because the addition of fat and seasoning to the ground meat is what naturally gives this dish a crazy amount of flavor with minimal effort. Finally, add the whipped cream cheese and use a wooden spoon to mix well. Stuff each pepper TO THE MAX with your filling. Place all of the stuffed peppers in your baking dish. Top with tomato sauce of your choice – in this particular instance I used a Far Diavolo – and then top with 1 cup of shredded mozzarella and a sprinkle of oregano.

Bake your peppers for 45-50 minutes or until the peppers are fork tender and the filling is solid and cooked through! I have to tell you guys, this dish is EXTREMELY satisfying – probably one of my favorites – and as you can see from the this version VS. the taco variation I first posted, you can really use your imagination with HOW creative you get with your filling. With summer upon us, I am thinking next maybe I’ll try to make “crab cake” stuffed peppers because I’m on a serious shellfish kick over here. Or maybe on second thought I’ll just make crab cakes.

Tortellini en Brodo

Remember that chicken carcass from the Whole Roast Chicken that you didn’t throw away because I told you it makes the BEST chicken soup?! Well, now is your chance! It’s not much different than the Turkey Soup for the Soul preparation but let’s go through it again.

SHOPPING LIST: (reserved chicken carcass), cheese tortellini, 1 onion, carrots, celery, olive oil, salt, pepper, garlic powder

Hopefully, you have onion, carrots and celery leftover from your roast chicken. Now that I know how amazing soup is from a cooked chicken – VS. the starting with a raw chicken like my grandmother taught me – I always double up on the veggies at the market so I have enough for both applications. In this instance you only have to slice your peeled onion in half. Slice up about 6-8 peeled carrots and celery. In your large sauce pot, add 1 tB. of olive oil and sauce your carrots and celery. Season them with salt and pepper to taste. When the veggies begin to get some color, add the entire chicken carcass and cook a few extra minutes. Throw both halves of the onion in your pot and then fill 3/4 of the way with warm water. Bring to a boil and simmer for 4-5 hours.

This stock, as seen above, will be MUCH richer in color and flavor than the aforementioned chicken stock you begin with raw chicken. As for the tortellini – HELLO SUPERMARKET. I used the 5-Cheese Tortellini from Giovanni Rana but any cheese ravioli will do (the first time I used classic Buitoni) – or go crazy and get meat ravioli – it’s your soup!!!!!! I finished it with a little black pepper because that’s how hubby likes it but a little sprinkle of grated parmesan would go a long way!

Grilled Caeser Salad

Hands down the SIMPLEST (um, THERE’S BASICALLY NO CUTTING) and most beautiful way to present a classic Caeser salad. The key here is of course, the homemade dressing, and giving those halved romaine hearts the perfect char.

SHOPPING LIST: romaine hearts (2-3), Caeser dressing, Parm Crisps, olive oil, salt, pepper

The first step is making your homemade Caesar dressing, which is linked HERE and in your shopping list. Obviously skip this step if you have a favorite store-bought Caeser dressing but I promise, it’s super easy to make and you can be creative with how you use your Caeser dressing outside of this simple salad (I used the remainder of this batch as the marinade for a whole roast chicken!!)

Next you want to trim your romaine hearts so they are reading for the grill. Trim the ends of the hearts as little as possible, just to remove the dirty edges but keeping the core in-tact. Then, slice the top inch or so off the leaves end of each heart for a uniform look (and because sometime the edges get wilted and we all know I like pretty food around here). Finally, slice your hearts in half and then drizzle each half with olive oil and season with salt and pepper – trying to get in-between the leaves!!!! I think people often skip this step when trying to do a grilled romaine and SEASONING your greens makes a HUGE difference.

Get your grill super hot and then you are going to grill your halved romaine hearts SLICED SIDE DOWN (that means the flat side goes first) – drizzling the olive oil on the hearts before grilling also keeps the lettuce from sticking to your grill! After 3-4 minutes, use a tong to GENTLY flip your hearts so you can grill the backside as well for another 3-4 minutes or until they are sufficiently charred and wilted. Remove the grilled hearts with tongs and place DIRECTLY onto your serving plate so you don’t have to worry about losing leaves in transit.

To finish, GENEROUSLY drizzle your grilled romaine hearts with your Caesar dressing (and I would also recommend serving extra dressing on the side since once you start slicing the romaine you’ll most likely want more). I like to top mine with broken bits of either Sesame or Jalapeño ParmCrisps. You could always use traditional croutons or even just shredded parmesan is a nice touch. Make sure when serving this dish that you give each dinner a STEAK knife, so that everyone can easily cut into and enjoy their hearts without trouble.

Caeser Dressing

Why do I love homemade salad dressings? Because you know EXACTLY what is in them. No preservatives. No bullshit. Just whip up you these easy ingredients in your handy dandy food processor and you’re good to go.

SHOPPING LIST: 2 eggs, dijon mustard, Worcestershire sauce, lemon juice, chopped garlic, olive ] oil, salt, pepper

The first thing you are going to add to your food processor is 2 egg yolks. Then add 1 heaping tB. of dijon mustard. Next add the juice of one lemon, 1 tB. of chopped garlic and a few dashes of Worcestershire sauce. You can totally use vinegar instead of lemon here for your acidic component but I prefer the freshness of lemon juice. Get your food processor going and then slowly add your olive oil (about 1/4- 1/3 cup) until your egg yolks emulsify and thicken into a creamy dressing. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

3-Way Tomato Salad

I get it. There is a LOT of cooking going on. So the best thing to do is find ways to elevate simple ingredients so you can easily create a dish that is equally exciting and approachable. This dish started with a couple boxes of these beautiful Heirloom baby tomatoes and I looked around my pantry to find a way to double, and then triple-down, on the tomato flavor. I have mentioned this Trentasette Red Pesto but a little bit of this magic ingredient goes a long way. The little bit of truffle doesn’t hurt either.

SHOPPING LIST: grape tomatoes (Heirloom, if available), sun-dried tomatoes in oil, kalamata olives, gorgonzola cheese, balsamic vinegar, Trentasette Red Pesto, salt, pepper

All you need is a cutting board. First, slice your grape tomatoes in half. You want about 2 cups of grape tomatoes. Next, remove your sun-dried tomatoes from the oil, slice about 15 of them in half and add them to your grape tomatoes. Then, pour about 2 tB. worth of the marinating oil into a separate bowl to reserve for your tomato dressing! Then you’re going to slice 1/2 cup of your kalamata olives in half. Add 1/2 cup of crumbled gorgonzola cheese and then let’s finish that dressing we talked about.

You have 2 tB. of the reserved sun-dried tomato olive oil. Add 1 tB. of balsamic vinegar and then 2 tB. of the aforementioned red pesto (p.s. the “RED” comes from sun-dried tomatoes so there is your THIRD tomato element). Mix well and season with salt and pepper to taste. Toss the tomatoes, olives and gorgonzola in your tomato vinaigrette. I like to pop this BACK in the fridge for a few minutes before serving so it’s nice and chilled. If you’re an onion fan, some sliced red onion would go a LONG way in this salad (but for the sake of making my husband happy, as usual, I left them out).

I also want to add that for a LONG time I thought I didn’t like sun-dried tomatoes – I thought their flavor lingered and was over-powering. Then my girlfriend introduced me to the tomatoes in oil on the Olive Bar at Whole Foods and I became addicted. In quarantine, I realized that sun-dried tomatoes IN OIL are much much different than the the dry version you get in a plastic container. They might not be as garlicky as the Whole Foods version but they are certainly delicious and as you can see from the recipe above, even the oil they are preserved in has awesome applications in it’s own right!

Creamy Bacon Walnut Pasta

One of my favorite things to do is re-purpose things in new and creative ways. Last week I made the traditional Georgian Salad – which is covered with an herb-less walnut pesto-like dressing. I had a bunch of the walnut dressing leftover and wanted to think outside of the box. It was a dreary day and pasta was calling my name, as was the 1/2 package of bacon waiting for a purpose as well.

SHOPPING LIST: 1 box pasta, 1/2 package bacon, fresh thyme, walnuts, chopped garlic, lemon, olive oil, butter, milk, salt, pepper, garlic salt

For the walnut dressing: In your food processor, add 1/2 cup of walnuts and 1 heaping tB. of chopped garlic. Add the zest and juice of one lemon. Add 1 tsp. of salt and 1/2 tsp. of pepper and 1/4 cup of olive oil. Pulse until the mixture comes together like a thick pesto. You WANT there to be bits of walnut – DO NOT EMULSIFY THIS INTO MUSH. Add 1-2 extra tB. of olive oil if your walnut dressing needs more liquid to properly pulse. 

Par-cook your pasta. I used rotini because it’s a thicker, creamier dressing so I wanted a noodle that had lots of grooves for the sauce to get stuck into. Strain your pasta and toss with a little bit of olive oil so it doesn’t stick together! Chop up your fresh thyme so you have about 1 tB. of fresh chopped thyme to add to the pasta when it’s finished.

Chop your bacon (about 6 strips), and start it in a COLD saucepan. Put the pan over medium-high heat and continue cooking your bacon until it’s thoroughly crisp and all of the bacon fat has rendered out. Add 1 tB. of butter, 1/4 cup of milk, the juice of one lemon and 3 heaping tBs. of your walnut dressing. (The lemon is important here to BRIGHTEN the heavier flavors). Mix well with a wooden spoon. Once your sauce comes to a simmer, re-add your pasta and allow the pasta to finish cooking in the sauce. Season with a bit of garlic salt and add your fresh chopped thyme right before serving. Here’s a close-up so you can really see how satisfying this creamy pasta is 🙂

In retrospect, I am realizing a handful of freshly toasted and lightly salted WHOLE walnuts would have been a nice garniture for this dish. The addition of whole walnuts would also add an extra level of crunch to the crispy bacon and smaller walnut bits. SO, reserve some walnuts for the very end if you have some extra. Otherwise, this paired perfectly with a chilled glass of red wine and made a rainy day a little less dreary.

Green Bean Sausage Almondine

I’m really into this dish. I know it reads like a side dish – like your traditional Green Bean Almondine – but the addition of sausage really steals the show here and makes each bite hearty and well-rounded, almost like an entire dinner in one bowl! As usual, the concept was inspired but by these spicy Italian chicken sausage patties I found at my local organic market. I guess someone people might throw them on the grill like a cheeseburger, but my husband doesn’t love string beans so I thought throwing in some spicy sausage might turn him on – and mission accomplished!

SHOPPING LIST: 2 lbs. green beans, 1 lb. spicy Italian chicken sausage, 3/4 cups slivered almonds, grapeseed oil, butter, salt, pepper, onion powder

For the record, traditional Green Bean Almondine is also more like a poached green bean with the buttered nuts, whereas these green beans are sufficiently charred and cooked through. Either way, we start with the aforementioned buttered nuts. In a saucepan, heat 2 tB. of butter over medium heat, you want your butter to melt and slowly start to brown. Then add your slivered almonds and continue to cook the almonds until they are WELL toasted and golden – making sure to season your nuts with salt along the way. Remove the nuts from the pan and set aside.

Next, you are going to brown your sausage. Your pan will still be very buttery from your nuts so just add 1 lb. of spicy Italian sausage meat (if you can only find links that’s totally fine, you can uncase the meat yourself) and increase to medium-high heat. Use a flat-edged wooden spoon to REALLY BREAK UP your sausage into fine bits as they begin to cook. It will take about 5-7 minutes to sufficiently cook the sausage, making sure that you get nice crusty edges on your sausage bits. Use a slotted spoon to remove the sausage from the pan and you can reserve them in the same bowl as the browned almonds.

Using the slotted spoon is key so that the natural greases from the sausage remain in the pan so you can sauté your green beans in the sausage fat. Make sure all of the ends of your green beans are trimmed. Add 1 tB. of grapeseed oil to your sausage grease, and sauté your green beans over high heat for about 10-12 minutes until they are blistered and SOFT. This is always one of my husband’s complaints with green beans when they are still too crunchy – so maybe this is a preferential thing. Season you green beans with salt, pepper and onion powder. When your green beans are finished to your liking, re-add the sausage and almonds to the pan and give them a quick toss so all the ingredients and flavors really meld together!!!

You could totally serve this with a simple rice or orzo, some type of smaller format starch that will soak up all the juices, but I served mine with my favorite Strawberry Salad:

Ginger-Scallion Flounder

Let’s re-visit the Ginger Scallion Sauce – because I’ve been enjoying it on the regular these days and this particular dish was SO easy to create a large format dinner for a bunch of people quickly and easily.

So follow the recipe for the ginger scallion sauce (linked above) and add the juice of 1 lime. I got an entire filet of flounder from the seafood market – so about 2 lbs. of fish – and then I seasoned both sides with salt, pepper and ginger powder. I chose to do this INDOORS because flounder is such a thin fish I didn’t want to worry about it falling apart on the grill so broiling it would quickly cook it top to bottom and make for a beautiful and easy presentation!

THINLY slice one whole sweet onion and one lemon. It’s very important to thinly slice your onions here because they are only getting 12 minutes of cook time so if they are too thick they won’t cook thoroughly in that time!!! Put the lemon and onion on the bottom of your baking dish, toss with a little olive oil, salt and pepper and then lay the freshly seasoned fish on top. Smother the flounder with your ginger scallion marinade and then BROIL for 12 minutes.

Buffalo Cauliflower

You get the drill by now. We’re going to start similar to the Cauliflower Piccatta or the Cauliflower Carbonara – by traditionally roasting our cauliflower florets – then taking it the extra flavor mile with the addition of buffalo of sauce and blue cheese so here we go!

SHOPPING LIST: 3 heads of cauliflower, crumbled blue cheese, buffalo sauce, butter, scallions, salt, pepper, garlic powder

Preheat your oven to 375. Again, I happen to ALWAYS use the convection function on my oven when roasting vegetables, so if you have that, it helps your cauliflower brown quicker. Remove the florets from your cauliflower and lay on a sheet pan. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt, pepper, garlic powder, and toss well so all of the florets are equally coated in oil and seasoning. You are only going to roast your cauliflower for 30 minutes because you want them to retain their texture more so than in other applications.

Using your favorite buffalo sauce (Noble Made is great and Jake’s Grillin is my FAV!), combine 1/2 cup your preferred buffalo sauce. Melt 2 tB. of butter and combine your buffalo sauce and your butter and mix well. Toss the cauliflower in your buffalo sauce mixture and BROIL for 5-10 minutes until your florets are blistered (this is why you don’t want to over-cook your cauliflower before-hand because it’s getting BLASTED at the end). After plating your cauliflower, top with crumbled blue cheese and sliced scallions. The scallions not only add a pop of color but the acidic crunch of these mild green onions helps break up the innate richness of the buttery buffalo sauce.