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Homemade Sloppy Joes

December 31, 2012


I was looking for some comfort food and something easy to make for dinner. Sloppy joes immediately came to mind. So my 3 1/2 year old son and I ran to the store in the morning to grab some ground beef and one of those instant sloppy joe mix packets. Unfortunately, the grocery store was out of the sloppy joe mix and I was feeling too lazy to go to another store. We got home and I forgot about not having the mix. When it came time to start making dinner my laziness outweighed my desire to make another run to the store and find a sloppy joe mix. Instead, I opted to whip it up from scratch! As a longtime consumer and fan of sloppy joes I felt that I knew what it should taste like. I started with the ground beef and added things until it tasted just right. Not only does it taste great but I know exactly what is in it!

1 lb ground beef
4 shallots minced
1 TBSP olive oil
1 6oz can tomato paste
2 cups water
2 large garlic cloves minced
1 1/2 TBSP brown sugar
2 TBSP Worcestire sauce
1 1/2 TBSP white vinegar
2 TBSP chile powder
2 tsp paprika
Salt and pepper to taste

In large skillet on medium high heat brown ground beef and drain fat. Add shallots and olive oil and cook until translucent. Add water, tomato paste, garlic, sugar and spices and stir until incorporated. Salt and pepper to taste. Simmer for 10 minutes or until water has reduced and mixture has thickened. Serve on hamburger buns with BBQ potato chips.


Whoopie Pies

November 11, 2012

Whoopie pies….what can I say about them. They are amazing. I happened upon this recipe from via many years ago and have made it for friends and family, for parties and for just myself. It has always delivered that wonderful comforting flavor that I remember as a child when my mom would bake cakes, cookies and cupcakes for us kids. I have not altered this recipe in any way and it consistently delivers a wonderful texture, small crumb and is firm enough to hold up to the filling, but still tender enough for a great initial bite. This is one of my favorites. I am so glad that has shared it with us all! Please enjoy! One thing to note is that the marshmallow butter cream filling recipe on has been transcribed incorrectly from the original recipe and has unfortunately disappointed a number of home cooks. The error is in the incorrect amount of 2 cups for marshmallow fluff indicated instead of the correct 1 cup. Otherwise add additional confectioners sugar if filling is too runny.

Whoopie Pies
Gourmet | January 2003

We prefer Droste brand Dutch-process cocoa for this recipe because it gives the cakes a richer chocolate flavor. Though whoopie pies can be served on the same day they’re made, we think the cakes are much better a day after baking.
Yield: Makes 8 individual desserts
Active Time: 30 min
Total Time: 1 hr


For cakes
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup Dutch-process cocoa powder
1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup well-shaken buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 large egg

For filling
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, softened
1 1/4 cups confectioners sugar
1 cup marshmallow cream such as Marshmallow Fluff
1 teaspoon vanilla


Make cakes:

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Whisk together flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt in a bowl until combined. Stir together buttermilk and vanilla in a small bowl.

Beat together butter and brown sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer at medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes in a standing mixer or 5 minutes with a handheld, then add egg, beating until combined well. Reduce speed to low and alternately mix in flour mixture and buttermilk in batches, beginning and ending with flour, scraping down side of bowl occasionally, and mixing until smooth.

Spoon 1/4-cup mounds of batter about 2 inches apart onto 2 buttered large baking sheets. Bake in upper and lower thirds of oven, switching position of sheets halfway through baking, until tops are puffed and cakes spring back when touched, 11 to 13 minutes. Transfer with a metal spatula to a rack to cool completely.

Make filling:

Beat together butter, confectioners sugar, marshmallow, and vanilla in a bowl with electric mixer at medium speed until smooth, about 3 minutes.


Spread a rounded tablespoon filling on flat sides of half of cakes and top with remaining cakes.

Nana’s Calabacitas

October 16, 2012


My Nana was an amazing cook. When company was coming over she would check what she had in the fridge and cupboard and whip together simple but amazing dishes. Calabacitas was one of her go to dishes along with pinto beans and fresh tortillas. She never relied on recipe books or cards but had the recipes all in her head. Nana’s mother passed on the recipes to her, and Nana to my mom. I remember my mom making this for us often and always loving it until one day I started watching her make it. This is probably the first time anyone in my family has written down the recipe.

Calabacitas is a New Mexican dish which literally means zucchini. But in New Mexico it means a dish made with zucchini, yellow squash, hatch chiles, onion, garlic and fresh corn. Every family made it differently, some with tomatoes, some add cilantro, cotija or cheso fresco. But Nana made it as you will read it here and that is how I still make it today. One thing I do differently then how my mom taught me is that I dice the zucchini and squash where she would slice them thin. Enjoy!

2 yellow squash diced
2 zucchini diced
1 yellow onion diced
3 cloves garlic minced
I jalapeño seeded and minced (if not using Hatch green chiles)
2 large Hatch or Anaheim green chiles roasted, skinned and diced, or a 4 oz can Ortega diced green chiles
1 ear corn off the cob
3 TBSP Olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Pour 3 Tbsp olive oil in hot skillet and sauté onions, garlic and jalapeño  until caramelized and slightly browned. Add zucchini and squash to pan and cook until moisture has been reduced and caramelized. Add corn and green chiles and cook for a few more minutes. Add generous amount of pepper. Add salt to taste.

Serve with warm flour tortillas and some crumbled cotija cheese. A gluten free idea would be to serve them on a tostada with pureed black bean, chopped cilantro, a squeeze of fresh lime juice and some cotija and crema on top.

Quick, Easy and Delicious Pancakes

September 30, 2012

I woke up this morning not really knowing what we should have for breakfast. I was thinking every-man-for-himself day today, but my wife had a great idea. Pancakes! I didn’t have any pancake mix or Bisquick in the pantry so I went to the trusty internet to find a good recipe. I have a few recipes in my recipe binder that I have made before, but haven’t been totally satisfied with the results. Also, buttermilk pancakes always seem to be richer and fluffier that plain old milk based pancakes. But who has buttermilk just waiting in their fridge for that one moment you need it? Not me! So back to my search. I zeroed in on a basic pancakes recipe from Martha Stewart’s website, but as is my custom, I always want to tweak something to eek out more flavor, texture or specialness if I can. For some cake or cookie recipes I have made buttermilk (or clabbered milk) by combining milk and lemon juice before. So I did that for this recipe and the pancakes turned out light fluffy and very moist.



1 cup all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup milk, clabbered milk or buttermilk

2 tablespoons butter, melted

1 large egg



Preheat oven to 200 degrees F; have a baking sheet or heatproof platter ready to keep cooked pancakes warm in the oven. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt; set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together milk, butter, and egg. Add wet ingredients to flour mixture; whisk until just moistened (do not overmix; a few small lumps are fine).

Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat.

For each pancake, poor about a serving spoonful of batter onto the  skillet, using the back of the spoon to spread batter into a 4″ round (you should be able to fit 3 in a large skillet).

Cook until surface of pancakes have some bubbles and a few have burst, 1 to 2 minutes. Flip carefully with a thin spatula, and cook until browned on the underside, 1 to 2 minutes more. Transfer to a baking sheet or platter; cover loosely with aluminum foil, and keep warm in oven. Continue with remaining batter. (You should have 20 or so 4″ pancakes.) Serve warm, with butter and real maple syrup.

Easy and Delicious Roasted Chicken with Vegetables

September 29, 2012

Rossted Chicken with Vegetables

I was really craving a roasted chicken and didn’t want to go out and buy another one that was already roasted. I wanted that homey wonderful aroma of herbs, onions and butter to fill up our home. You just don’t get that with the pre-roasted kind! So as usual, I hit up the internet search to see just how to roast a chicken the right way. I didn’t want it to be time consuming or complex, but I wanted to get all that great flavor and that tender and juicy meat. It turns out that most online recipes have the same idea; stuff the insides with something that will aromatically steam the chicken from the inside while crisping up the outside skin at the same time. I’ve done beer can chicken quite a few times before so I grasp the concept of steaming the bird on the inside. I’ve also roasted some chickens before and definitely have roasted turkeys at Thanksgiving. I knew that this would turn out great. I also wanted to have some awesome roasted vegetables with it too. So, I added some to the bottom to soak up all the juices as the chicken cooked. This recipe is based on Ina Garten’s recipe found here. But, I modified a few things like omitting the fennel and adding the potatoes and celery. I also used rosemary on the vegetables.  The skin turns out very crispy and all the meat was tender and juicy. After it was done I decided to make a quick pan gravy from all the juice and herbs from the bottom of the roasting pan.



4.5-6 lb whole chicken

1 bunch thyme and 1 sprig rosemary

1 lemon, quartered

1 head of garlic halved crosswise

1/2 a stick of butter, melted

1 large yellow onion roughly chopped

6 cloves garlic peeled and crushed slightly

2 celery stalks chopped

4 red potatoes, quartered

4 Tbsp olive oil

salt and pepper



Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

Remove all the giblets from inside the chicken. Rinse the chicken inside and out. Pat the outside dry. Liberally salt and pepper the inside of the chicken. Stuff the cavity with thyme, lemon, the head of garlic, pepper and a generous amount of salt. Tie the legs together and tuck the wings in and under. Place the onions, carrots, celery, potatoes and garlic cloves in a roasting pan. Toss with salt, pepper, 1 sprig of rosemary, and olive oil. Spread around the bottom of the roasting pan and place the chicken on top. Brush the outside of the chicken with the butter and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Roast the chicken for 1 1/2 hours, or until the juices run clear when you cut between the leg and thigh. Remove the chicken and vegetables to a platter, cover with aluminum foil and let rest for at least 10 minutes.


Pan Gravy Ingredients

Juices from the roasting pan with fat skimmed off the top

2 Tbsp butter

1/4 cup white wine

1-2 Tbsp lemon juice

1 cup chicken broth

2 Tbsp flour mixed with 4 Tbsp chicken broth

salt and pepper to taste



Pour pan juices and butter into hot skillet. Add white wine and lemon juice. While whisking add the flour/broth mixture. The whisking prevents the glour mixture from clumping and making your gravy lumpy. After sauce begins to thicken, while still whisking, slowly add chicken broth. If it is still too thick you can add more broth. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve on top of chicken and vegetables, or just drink it on its own. I’m kidding about drinking it, but it really does taste that good!

Meat Sauce

September 10, 2012

This is one of the first things I cooked when I moved out on my own. I made it for my family along with homemade raviolis. Well, the raviolis were not the best but the sauce was a hit. Fast-forward over 20 years and quite a bit of experimenting and tweaking and you have the recipe listed here. I can’t stress enough how important it is to start with the best and freshest ingredients possible for best results. I have tried so many different brands of Italian San Marzano canned tomatoes and have found that the Escalon 6-in-1 all purpose ground tomatoes produce the best results, period. They have a bright, full flavor and a natural sweetness that is lacking in other brands. They are packed without any additives or preservatives in Escalon, California so right now they are mostly available only in Northern California. Having fresh herbs and slow cooking the sauce for a few hours really melds the flavors too.

If you are still reading this, you can purchase Escalon crushed tomatoes here.

They are pricier than most crushed tomatoes but try them at least once and let me know how you like them.

I am in no way affiliated or sponsored by Escalon, but have been using their product for many years and really appreciate the freshness, consistency and quality of it.

Meat Sauce

2 28 oz Escalon 6-in-1 all purpose ground tomatoes (these are the best)
1/4 cup basil leaves minced
1/4 cup fresh oregano minced
2 lbs ground beef (80/20)
1 medium yellow onion chopped
4 cloves garlic minced
extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup or mor of your favorite red wine (drink the rest)

1 6 oz can tomato paste

salt and pepper to taste

In a large pot on medium heat, pour crushed tomatoes, minced herbs and wine. In a large non-stick pan on medium high heat, sauté onions and garlic until onions are translucent and slightly browned. Add to sauce. In the same large non-stick pan on medium high heat, add ground beef and season generously with salt and pepper. Cook until browned, drain off excess fat and add to pot. Cook until beef has started to break down, approximately 1 1/2-2 hours on medium to medium-low. Add tomato paste and cook cook for an additional 15 minutes. Serve with some great bread and some al dente spaghetti and finely grate some nice Parmigiano Reggiano on top. Try mixing a little sauce in with the spaghetti after it’s cooked to keep it from sticking together and to help the sauce stick to it better when serving. Enjoy!

Spaghetti with Meatballs

September 10, 2012

Spaghetti with Meatballs
This recipe makes about 20-24 1-1/2″ meatballs.

1/2 lb extra lean ground beef
1/2 lb ground pork
1/2 lb ground veal
1 egg beaten
2 Tbsp milk
1/4 – 1/2 cup bread crumbs (I eyeballed it)
1/2 cup grated fresh parmigiano reggiano
2 Tbsp minced fresh Rosemary
3 Tbsp chopped fresh oregano
3 cloves garlic minced
2 shallots minced
1 Tbsp crushed red pepper
2 tsp salt (maybe more)
2 tsp black pepper

combine all ingredients and form into 1-1/2″ meatballs. Sear all sides in some olive oil in a non-stick pan and set aside. Save drippings in pan for onions and garlic of sauce.

2 28 oz Escalon 6-in-1 all purpose ground tomatoes (these are the best)
1 small can tomato paste
1/4 cup basil leaves chopped
1/4 cup fresh oregano chopped
1 medium yellow onion chopped
4 cloves garlic minced
extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup of your favorite cabernet (drink the rest)
2 cups water
salt and pepper to taste

In a large pot on medium heat pour crushed tomatoes, herbs and tomato paste. In a large non-stick pan on medium high heat, saute onions and garlic in meatball pan drippings. cook onions and garlic until onions are translucent and slightly browned. Add to sauce. Add a swirl of olive oil, wine and water to pot. Stir. Now add meatballs with drippings and make sure they are coated by the sauce. Simmer for about an hour, more if you want the meatballs even more tender and the sauce just gets tastier. Serve with some great bread and some al dente spaghetti. Try mixing a little sauce in with the spaghetti after it’s cooked to keep it from sticking together and to help the sauce stick to it better when serving. Enjoy!

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