Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Rustico Pizza Sauce with Grape Tomatoes and Basil

There is nothing like necessity to make your creative juices flow....or maybe that's just me.  When my hubby wanted to make pizza the other night, he apparently thought we had some pizza sauce (or is usually the case in our house, some leftover marinara sauce or even jarred pasta sauce).  Unfortunately for him, that was not the case.

However, I did have a few ingredients on hand that I hoped could turn into something resembling a sauce.  Most of the pantry stuff we haven't been able to unpack because of some problems in the basement, so I looked into my fridge and found a few things I could, hopefully, turn into a sauce.

A cup of golden grape tomatoes, a small ancient bell pepper, some leftover white wine, some garlic herb butter, and a dash of flour and parmesan later - we had a rustico sauce.  This had a chunky texture but was still spreadable - for more of a saucy consistency, you would need to cook this longer than I did.  But I'ver never had a pizza with a sweeter, more flavorful sauce anywhere.

It's a different kind of pizza sauce, but it's a really good different.  It was so good, I took some more of the grape tomatoes and another small ancient pepper and made another batch.  Yes, I'm looking forward to another pizza tomorrow!

1 1/2 T. garlic butter ($.10)
1 C. grape or cherry tomatoes, roughly chopped ($.30)
1 small ancient bell pepper (or 1/4 red bell pepper), minced ($.05)
2/3 C. white wine ($.15)
1 tsp. basil ($.05)
salt and pepper to taste ($.05)
1/2 tsp. flour ($.05)
1 T. parmesan cheese ($.05)


Heat small nonstick skillet over medium high heat.  Add garlic butter.  Once melted, add the minced pepper and chopped tomatoes (seeds, juices, and all).  Saute for 3-5 minutes.  Add salt and pepper and stir well.  Stir in the flour completely, then add all remaining ingredients.  Cook 7-8 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Cool 5 minutes before spreading on unbaked pizza crust.  Top with your favorite toppings and cheeses, bake crust as directed.

Yields: 1 small batch rustic pizza sauce
Cost: $.80

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Sweet Maple and Cracked Pepper Pork Roast

It's nearly 90 degrees, the humidity is high, the pollen count is actively trying to kill me and what do I decide to do?  Turn on the oven and roast a large (though inexpensive) pork roast.  After the success of the different turkey breast flavors I've managed to create, I guess hubby thought it was time for me to practice my, albeit limited, culinary skills on an unsuspecting piece of pork.  (Well, that and I sent him freezer-diving for our next meal....so it is partially my fault).

Last time I got hold of a pork roast I went all Julia Child on its butt - pun intended - and created something French, decadent, and delicious.  With BBQ season upon us, I thought it was time to try to marry some of the traditional smoky flavors notorious for the grill onto a lovely pork roast.  I have been want to try another deli flavor that I've been missing from back home, though this was done on turkey breast - I figured it's worth a try on pork.  And cracked black pepper seems to be the next big thing as far as flavor profiles go, so here's my twist on the trending taste of the season.

This serves incredibly well.  Here are some ideas of how to serve this delicious pork roast:
  • Lightly shred and serve in a sub sandwich with coleslaw mix, BBQ sauce, on a hearty yeast roll
  • Use as a filling in a torta with a bolio, refried beans, cheddar cheese, and cilantro.  Guacamole is optional
  • Serve in a tortilla topped with cilantro and onions
  • Serve with a fruity BBQ sauce and pair with potato salad, corn on the cob, and cornbread
  • Serve with mashed potatoes and salad
  • Shred and serve as pulled pork in your favorite BBQ sauce
  • Serve in a hearty market style sandwich on whole wheat bread with mayo, lettuce, and tomato
  • Chop well and serve in a chili, Brunswick stew, or stir into baked beans
  • Add some zip to your nachos and add this pork in place of ground beef or chicken


2 T. cracked black pepper ($.15)
1 tsp. each white pepper, salt, garlic powder, and smoked sweet paprika ($.15)
1/2 tsp. each: cumin, onion powder, and ancho chile powder ($.10)
1 T. maple smokehouse seasoning blend ($.20)
1 large onion ($.10)
2 T. vegetable oil ($.10)
2-3 T. maple syrup ($.25)
8.2 lb. pork butt roast ($8.00)
1/2 C. water (free)

  • Heat oven to 375.
  • Combine all dry seasonings until well mixed.
  • Drizzle 1 T. in bottom of a 4.5 qt. cast iron or large baking dish.
  • Chop onion into thick slices and add to bottom of pan.
  • Rub meat with seasoning mixture on all sides and place (fatty side up) in the prepared baking dish/pan.
  • Drizzle with maple syrup and remaining oil.
  • Add water in the bottom of the pan (so the meat doesn't scorch to the pan).
  • Bake, uncovered, at 375 for 2 1/2 hours or until internal temperature of meat reaches 180F.
  • Baste every hour is desired or drizzle with more honey or maple syrup.

Yields: 20-24 servings
Cost: $9.05
Cost per serving: $.45

Monday, June 10, 2013

Bacon and Three Cheese Stuffed Mushrooms

It's no secret that appetizers and cocktails have made the foodie world go gaga over itself.  I will readilly admit, I've gotten sucked into the cortex of pairing wines and the occasional cocktail with small plates and appetizers.  I even have tried my hand at tapas - time consuming, but worth every moment, to be honest.

One of my tried and true favorites is stuffed mushrooms.  One of the easiest and most versatile appetizers I've made, stuffed mushrooms lends itself well to a great many flavors and I like that I can make loads of variations depending on what I have on hand at the time.  This time, I had the usual cream cheese and sour cream to make the base of the stuffing, but was out of breadcrumbs....and a little too lazy to make them myself.  Oh, and I happened to have some extra Italian sausage and a few strips of cooked bacon on hand.  That's when things started to get interesting.  And my interesting, I mean yummy.  Very yummy.

When making stuffed mushrooms, feel free to use whatever you happen to have on hand.  Below the recipe are some easy variations you can try.

16-18 white button mushrooms, stems removed ($1.00)
3 oz.cream cheese (free after coupons)
3 T. sour cream ($.10)
2 cloves garlic, minced ($.05)
1 tsp. basil ($.05)
1 T. fat-free Italian salad dressing (free after coupons)
1/2 tsp. each: pepper, salt, and oregano ($.05)
1/4 tsp. smoked paprika ($.05)
1/2 link hot Italian sausage, chopped fine ($.25)
2 slices of cooked bacon, chopped fine ($.25)
3 T. parmesan cheese ($.15)
1/8 C. shredded brick cheese ($.25)

Combine all ingredients except mushrooms and brick cheese in a bowl - mixing until well combined.
Fill mushroom caps with cheese mixture and top with shredded brick cheese.

Place filled mushrooms in a medium sized baking dish, lightly sprayed with cooking spray.
Bake at 425 for 20-25 minutes, until cheese is golden and mushrooms are tender.

Yields: 16-18 appetizers
Cost: $2.20
Cost per appetizer: $.14

Possible substitutions:
For the herbs:
Use Italian seasoning, house seasoning blend, BBQ seasoning, garlic and herb seasoning blends, or even some minced fresh rosemary and basil.

For the cheese:
I like a cheese that melts well, so provolone, mozzarella, munster, colby jack and even gouda are fun pairings.  You can use an Italian cheese blend, Mexican cheese blend, or a mild cheddar, for some bold variations.

For the sausage and bacon:
Poultry works amazingly well here.  Think roasted chicken, chicken sausage, roasted turkey, or leftover grilled chicken.  If you like pork, using some leftover ham gives tons of smoky, sweet flavor and pork sausage (of any variety) can really punch up the dish.  If you are a seafood lover, feel free to add in whatever strikes yout fancy, from shrimp and scallops to crab - it's all good here.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Havarti Topped Sliders

I have a fascination with finger foods, appetizers, hors d'oeuvers, tapas, whatever you want to call it - if it's small plates, bites, or a general sampling of delicious treats - I'm there. 

One of the most common ones I've had on my radar lately is the common slider.  While I can snap up a classic slider any time, my tastes generally run to the bold and flavorful, versus the standard and tried and true.  Having had some rather mixed feelings on sliders I've tried just about everywhere my hubby and I have gone (he's a burger aficionado), this was something I knew I could easily improve on from the sampling I've tried.  Well, except for the ones from the Wolfgang Puck Cafe in Downtown Disney.  Those were just awesomeness.  Truly, they were.

The great thing about appetizers in general and sliders in particular is how flexible they can be.  Here, we had a few thick slices of herbed Havarti cheese on hand from a great deal I happened onto and hubby was craving burgers.  It's like the stars were in alignment.  Or a lot of planes were flying overhead.  Who knows?  But these were some of the best sliders I've ever had.  Not counting the awesomeness from WPC.

2 slices Havarti cheese (free after coupons)
2 slices brick cheese ($.20)
1.25 lbs. ground chuck ($2.90)
1 T. worchestershire sauce ($.05)
2 cloves garlic, minced ($.05)
1 tsp. each: salt, garlic powder, and onion powder ($.10)
1/2 tsp. each black pepper and white pepper ($.05)
8 egg buns ($1.00 on a mark down rack)
2 T. garlic butter ($.25)

Cut each of the cheese slices into 4 equal parts and set aside.
Cut the egg buns in half and butter.  Cook on a griddle pan until toasted.  Set aside.

Combine ground beef (or chuck) with dry herbs, garlic, and worchestershire sauce until just blended.
Score mixture into 4 equal parts.  Divide each part in half.  Form each portion into a patty and slightly intent the center.  This helps keep the burger at an even thickness as they tend to plump slightly when cooked.

In a nonstick pan over medium high heat, add patties (3-4 at a time) and fry until the bottons start to brown, then flip each patty and top the fry pan with a lid and reduce heat to just medium.  Cook for 2-3 minutes, top with a sqaure of each of the cheeses and put lid back on the pan.  Let the residual heat melt the cheese.  Repeat with remaining patties.

Serve on buttered, grilled bun.
Yields = 8 sliders
Cost: $4.60
Cost per slider: $.58

Monday, June 3, 2013

Mesquite Turkey Tacos

Last week I posted a recipe for sweet mesquite turkey breast....well, it was such a hit, I decided to try a few different ways to serve it.  The first serving made amazing sandwiches - topped with Havarti cheese and slaw mix with plenty of mayo.  After the second round of sandwiches, I was looking for something with a little kick.

I decided to try a taco.  Tacos are as common as sandwiches in my house and this made the last of the leftover turkey disappear in a matter of minutes.  Another huge hit!  I love it when something is easy to make, affordable, and is full of flavor.  Though, it may be said that I am eager to try anything as a taco.  I don't think the universe can have too many tacos....do you?

1 1/2 C. Sweet Mesquite Turkey ($1.25)
8 corn tortillas ($.35)
1/3 C. shredded sharp cheddar cheese ($.30)
1/2 C. sour cream ($.30)
2 T. cilantro, chopped ($.10)
1 medium onion, sliced into thin sliced ($.10)
1 T. vegetable oil ($.05)
1 C. shredded lettuce ($.15)

Warm vegetable oil in a pan over medium heat.  When oil is hot, add onions and cook 5 minutes.  Add in lightly shredded turkey and warm for another 5-7 minutes or until turkey is heated through.

Serve in warm tortillas with cheddar cheese, cilantro, lettuce, and top with sour cream if desired.

Yields: 8 tacos
Cost: $2.60
Cost per taco: $.33