Saturday, January 24, 2015


Cream of wheat. Grits. Polenta. I love it all! Warm and creamy, the definition of comfort food!  So of course I would be all over a recipe that involves one of my favorites!

If you’ve never had polenta, it’s like cream of wheat but it’s made with cornmeal. Water, salt, cornmeal and a little bit of butter… easy peasy! Some people prefer a firm polenta “cake” which you’ll get by pouring the cooked polenta into a pan and letting it sit. I’ll eat it just about any way! When we go to Naples Ristorante e Pizzeria (my guys’ favorite pizzeria), I always order a side of creamy polenta (with a little marinara sauce).  They eat pizza and I eat polenta! Mmmm….. Enough about me, you’re here for the recipe!
It sounds fancier and like you spent all day slaving over the stove if you leave off the “crockpot” part... braised beef ragu with polenta.  It’s up to you.  I do have to give the crock its props though, because it smells delicious while the beef is slow-cooking to perfection and I barely work up a sweat in the prep.  That’s my kind of recipe, simple!

Have I mentioned how seriously yummy it was yet? Really! While I was eating it I kept thinking, “I actually made this”!  I was also thinking, “Take it easy, you don’t have to eat the whole pot”!  The Hubs and my son that didn’t leave me yet for higher learning ate heartily too.  “Mmmm, good,” and “Thanks Mom,” were the reviews given.  I served it with a salad and warm bread.  The ragu was even tastier the next day.  Ladies and gentlemen, this one is DEFINITELY a keeper!

Manga!  I'm off to find the next recipe….

Adapted from: Pinch of Yum
Serves: 10

For the Braised Beef Ragu
·         2 tablespoons olive oil
·         3 lbs. beef rump roast or round roast
·         half a yellow or white onion, minced
·         3 cloves garlic, minced
·         1 28-ounce can San Marzano whole tomatoes
·         ½ cup red wine
·         3 tablespoons tomato paste
·         1 teaspoon basil
·         1 teaspoon oregano
·         2 bay leaves
·         2 teaspoons salt
·         black pepper to taste

For the Polenta
·         6 cups water
·         1-2 teaspoons salt
·         1¾ cup finely ground yellow cornmeal
·         3 tablespoons butter
·         ¼ cup shaved parmesan cheese (optional)
1.    Heat olive oil in a large frying pan. Add the roast and fry on each side for about 5 minutes, turning until the whole exterior is golden brown. If you’re short on time you can skip this step, but searing the meat really keeps the yummy flavor in!

2.    Place all remaining ingredients with the beef in a crockpot or slow cooker.  Cover and cook on high for 4-5 hours or on low for 7-8 hours. You’ll know it’s ready when the beef falls apart easily when pulled at with two forks. I put the beef in a pyrex pan to shred it into pieces.  Then add it back to the crockpot and give it a good stir.  I pulled the bay leaves out at this point – nobody likes to chomp down on a bay leaf, well I don’t!

3.    For the polenta, bring salted water to a boil. Slowly add the cornmeal, whisking constantly to avoid lumps. The polenta will start to thicken quickly. Continue whisking or stirring for 2-3 minutes before removing from heat. Stir in the butter until melted. Stir in the parmesan now if you’re using it, but why wouldn’t you?  For solid and chewy polenta, pour into a rectangular dish, let cool for 15-20 minutes, and cut into pieces. For softer, creamy polenta (so good), serve immediately topped with a big ol’ scoop of beef ragu.  Sprinkle on some parmesan or chopped parsley if you want.

Recipe #3 of 52

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

#2 - Chocolate Chip Shortbread

I have my 3-month check up with my oncologist tomorrow (Doc Onc) and I almost always take him a treat.  I guess you could call it a bribe… a clean bill of health in exchange for some baked goods.  It’s worked so far!

This time I decided to make shortbread – chocolate chip shortbread.  It’s probably not a great time of year to bring sweets to the office with people being on their New Year’s diets and all, but oh well! It’s not like I’m in there all the time with sweets (thank the Lord!!).

Anyway, after a quick search on Pinterest, I went with a recipe from Delishhh .  I pretty much stayed with the original recipe.  The only thing I did different is that I used 1 cup of mini chocolate chips instead of the 1 ½ cup semi sweet chocolate chips called for.  I wanted chocolate in every nibble of cookie. 

They turned out pretty tasty.  Not real sweet.  Crispy.  Chocolaty.  Hope Doc Onc likes ‘em!

Chocolate Chip Shortbread

Yield: 30-2" cookies
Prep Time: 1 hour 15 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
12 tbsp (1 & 1/2 sticks) butter, room temp
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1 ½ cup semi sweet chocolate chips
Make sure the butter is room temperature and then cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Mix in the vanilla.
In a separate bowl, whisk or sift together the flour and salt.
Add the flour and salt to the butter mixture. Mix on low speed until it comes together into a dough. Add the chocolate chips and mix in.
Roll the dough into a log about 2 inches in diameter (roll it wider or skinnier depending on how big you want your cookies). Roll the log in some wax paper.
Chill in the fridge for at least 1 hour.
Preheat the oven to 350F and line a sheet pan with parchment paper.
Slice the log into 1/4 inch slices. Place the slices on the sheet. They don't spread much, so they can be pretty close together.
Bake for 10-13 minutes, or until the edges are just starting to brown.
Remove from the pan and cool to room temp.

Recipe #2 of 52
 (keeping up so far!)

Monday, January 5, 2015

Egg Strata Cups

Happy New Year!!

This is usually the time that people resolve to start a diet, exercise, eat healthier, give up sweets… Sounds great! I plan on keeping up with my morning walks, drinking more water, and snaking less. That doesn’t mean that I’m giving up eating yummy things! Moderation (maybe I should have picked that for my “word” of 2015!).

Anyway, that being said, I’ve also decided that I would like to try at least one new recipe every week this year.  Not just sweets.  All kinds of recipes.  That’s 52 recipes in a year.  Can’t be that difficult, right?  We’ll see!

I came up with the first recipe while wanting to use up some of the stuff we had left over from New Year’s… a French baguette, fontina cheese, and Canadian bacon.  It’s one of those “put together the night before” recipes so you have to plan ahead a little, but I think I’m off to a strong start with this one!

I give you Recipe #1, EGG STRATA CUPS!!

Egg Strata Cups
(makes 6)

4 eggs
1/4 cup milk
1/2 tsp dry mustard
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
salt and pepper
2 1/2 cups cubed bread (my baguette was a few days old and it was perfect!)
1 small tomato, seeded and diced
1 cup Canadian bacon, diced
1/2 cup fontina cheese, diced (left over from our cheese plate, so I just cut the slices into smaller chunks)
2 T chives, chopped

In a bowl, whisk milk and dry mustard together until well blended. Add eggs, parmesan cheese and salt and pepper. In a separate bowl, combine bread, Canadian bacon, tomato, cheese and chives (I used my hands to mix it all up. Get in there and get messy!).  Spray a non-stick large muffin tin with cooking spray and load with the bread mixture. If you’re fancy-schmancy and have a pop-over pan, that would work too! Pour egg mixture over bread mixture until eggs are evenly distributed. Cover with plastic wrap and put in refrigerator overnight. In the morning, preheat oven to 350 degrees and bake for 20-30 minutes until eggs are set. Cool in pan for 5 minutes before serving.  They’re great at room temperature and they’ll keep in the fridge for up to 3 days, if you can keep from eating them all at once!  We couldn’t (so much for “moderation”)!

You could add just about anything to your stratas… bacon, sausage, veg, any kind of cheese.  They’re SUPER easy and SUPER yummy!!  This one’s a keeper!  Enjoy!