I love popcorn. So much so, I actually have an electric stirring popcorn popper. It must be a family thing, because my brother, Paul, has all the ingredients to make movie popcorn – and he did serious research on how to get that flavor. I’m good with butter and salt, myself. But my true weakness is caramel corn, so one year when I was trying to think of something fun to give for those neighbor Christmas treat boxes, I decided to try my hand at caramel corn.
And to take it up a notch I decided to make Bacon Caramel Corn. The featured recipe tonight.
But let’s begin with some other salty-sweet ideas for the holiday gift box.
Tex-Mex Popcorn Mix, recipe here.
White Cheddar Popcorn and Chili-Cheese Popcorn, recipes here.
And if popcorn is not your thing, how about some Cajun Spiced Nuts or Indian Spiced Nuts, recipes here.
Finally, the dinner menu this week is all about improving Oven Fried Chicken and amazing Baked Garlic Potatoes, complete menu, recipes, shopping list are here.
What favorite recipes are in your gift box this year? If you give food gifts for the holidays, do you include copies of the recipes? I’m always torn. Either way, go ahead and share some of your favorite recipes in the comments. Next week we’ll tackle sweet treats for gift giving.
Tonight’s featured recipe actually came about because I read this comment at Balloon-Juice, I was intrigued enough to search out a recipe. If bacon isn’t your thing, just omit it from the recipe below to make regular caramel corn, or caramel corn with nuts.
Cashew Bacon Caramel Corn
- 8 oz maple smoked bacon, cut into eight pieces per strip
- 12 cups (3 quarts) of popped corn
- 10 tbsp butter
- 1-1/2 cups packed dark brown sugar
- 1/2 cup light corn syrup
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1-1/2 tsp vanilla
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 2 cups salted cashews (or peanuts, or peanut/cashew mix)
In skillet, cook bacon until mostly crisp, drain on paper towels and set aside to cool.
Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Reduce to 200 degrees after 15 minutes of baking.
Place popcorn onto a well-greased baking sheets.
In saucepan over medium-high heat, melt butter. Add brown sugar, corn syrup and salt. Bring to a low boil, stirring constantly. Reduce heat to med-low and simmer until thickened, 1 to 3 minutes. Remove from heat, add vanilla and baking soda (yes, it will foam up so be prepared). Gently stir nuts and bacon into sugar mixture and pour over popcorn, toss, coating popcorn evenly. Bake, stirring occasionally, until popcorn is a deep golden brown, about 1 to 1-1/2 hours – mine was done at the 1 hour mark. Cool and break apart.
*most recipes call for a roasting pan, I had better luck on my second batch using baking sheets – the popcorn cooked more evenly and was very crisp.
That’s if for this week. Bixby is 6 months old today which doesn’t seem possible and I may have an update on him later, depending on how work goes today – TaMara
Mmm… chorizo chili. This one also has ground beef, an onion, a can of tomato bits, and pinto beans. It’s a basic chili made with a sauce of dried chilis that had been simmered and soaked then pureed in a blender with a few cloves of garlic. Push the puree through a strainer with a spatula and discard the last little bit. Plenty of chili leftovers, but I have a plan…Mmm… chili dogs! I have these garnished with minced onions, green jalapenos, and red ripe Anaheim peppers – some of the last we will get from our container garden out on the front patio.Mmm… not quite Cincinnati chili. This has everything that the five way chili has but isn’t distributed the same way. The Cincinnati chili is seasoned differently, too. Theirs has cinnamon, allspice, chocolate and other stuff I won’t try to replicate.Mmm… chili cheese fries! This dish is finished with a couple dashes of hot sauce. Mrs J had tater tots instead of fries but she scarfed them down before I could get a picture. Here are a couple of puppies instead:
The Anaheim peppers are doing great out on the patio and I needed to do something with them. They seemed big enough for stuffing and a search for a recipe turned up this one. She used mozzarella but I thought Monterey jack would work. The six minute parboil worked fine. Grill chicken breasts and shred them for the stuffing mix, the cream cheese acts as a binder. I didn’t have any green onions, should have chopped some chives but didn’t.I wish I had shredded the chicken a little better but it worked out OK. I had enough to stuff six peppers. These went into a 375 oven and I looked at them after 15 minutes – there was just a hint of brown on an edge or two so I cranked the oven to 500 and kept a close watch, removing them after about 5 additional minutes.Her mole recipe would have been fine, I guess, but I know my ancho sauce recipe so I used it. Simmer some dried ancho or similar chilies in a cup or two of water or broth and let them steep, then puree them with the liquid in a blender when they are cool. I pushed mine through a sieve to remove any skin bits or seeds and poured it back into a saucepan. In a skillet sweat half an onion with garlic, oregano, ground cumin, black pepper and salt then add to the chilies along with a splash of fresh lime juice and a tablespoon of tomato paste and simmer until thick.I plated them atop a bed of Spanish rice along with refried beans, guacamole, and sour cream. These were very good!
JeffreyW makes an easy pasta salad. Just toss garden veggies and pasta with a little olive oi, vinegar and herbs. Dinner’s done.
In my email this morning there was a nice recipe for pasta salad and suddenly I had a craving for a veggie filled summer pasta salad. Pasta salads can be served cold, warm or hot, depending on what you’re looking for and what style of ingredients are added. The featured recipe tonight is a warm pasta salad using garden fresh vegetables and melted cheese.
This appealed to me because one of my clients has given me a big hunk of the most amazing cheese. I have no idea what it is, except it’s clearly a very sharp white cheddar in a black rind. It’s a creamy and salty, best I’ve ever had and goes great with apples and strawberries. It melts beautifully and crumbles like feta on salads. I’ll be sad when it’s gone. But…
I live within walking distance of a great cheese shop, it has an entire room that is basically a walk-in refrigerator. They even lend you jackets to wear while shopping. It’s fun to stop by there on a hot summer day and spend a half hour in the fridge and sample cheese from around the world and from local farms. I think I’ll see if they can help me identify or duplicate the cheese. Side note: I’ll miss everything that is within walking distance when I move. Right now I live near downtown and can walk to bank, post office and any number of great restaurants. But it’s the trade off for more space and a functional bike path.
On to the recipes.
First up, Chipotle Macaroni Salad (recipe here), which takes cold pasta salad up a notch and has become my go-to cookout salad.
One of the keys when making a good cold pasta salad is to cook the pasta al dente, drain, rinse with cold water to stop the cooking process and then drain again, but let the pasta stay wet. This allows the pasta to absorb whatever flavors are added, but not absorb all the moisture from the dressing. Don’t toss with dressing until just before serving. Taking these steps will keep the salad moist and flavorful, avoiding the mushy pasta, dry salad problem that makes many pasta salads unappetizing.
What’s on your menu for the first day of summer? Have any favorite salad recipes (pasta or otherwise)? I am crazy about salads, so would love to have a few new varitions to add to my recipe box.
Tonight’s featured recipe is adapted from an American Test Kitchen recipe. I’d link to the original, but it’s behind a firewall. Sorry for that.
Summer Vegetable Pasta
The beauty of this recipe is you can substitute whatever vegetables are fresh and available.
- 12 oz of favorite pasta (penne, large shells, rotelle, etc)
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1/2 small yellow onion, diced
- 1 to 3 tsp crushed garlic (depending on your preference)
- 2 small zucchini, halved lengthwise and sliced 1/4 inch thick
- 1 small summer squash, halved lengthwise and sliced 1/4 inch thick
- 5 ounce package Garlic & Herb Boursin cheese – or any creamy cheese, flavored or you can add your own fresh herbs to it instead – I actually used the cheddar mentioned above because it melts so well, and is really creamy, not like typical cheddar.
- 2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved (more as desired)
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Fresh basil, chopped
- Parmesan cheese as garnish
Dutch oven or large saucepan
Bring 4 quarts water to boil in Dutch oven. Add pasta to the boiling water and cook until al dente (this is a still chewy texture). Reserve 3/4 cup pasta cooking water and drain pasta (the easiest way to do this is to ladle pasta water into a measuring cup and then drain the remaining water).
Wipe out the pan, add oil and heat over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add onion and cook until softened, about 3 minutes. Add garlic and cook about 30 seconds. Add zucchini, summer squash, and ¼ cup reserved pasta water and cook, covered, until vegetables are tender, about 6 minutes. Stir in cooked pasta, and cheese, remaining 1/2 cup pasta water, tomatoes and basil until pasta is heated through.
Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve with grated Parmesan. Serves 4.
Have a great weekend – TaMara
I live within walking distance of one of the best family owned Mexican restaurants around, they have some of my favorite green chile sauce ever, so I rarely go to all the trouble of making a Mexican style meal.
But JeffreyW is always making some yummy south of the border treat. He was burning up the blog with some great recipes this week, so I’m going to highlight those tonight. Then the featured recipe is a simple and tasty wrap I often make for a casual meal when I have company.
First up, JeffreyW makes some excellent Chimichurri that I can’t wait to try.
Chimichurri is a green sauce used for grilled meat, originally from Argentina. It is based on finely-chopped parsley, minced garlic, olive oil, oregano, and white or red wine vinegar.
Pictured above are JeffreyW’s Chicken Enchiladas, recipe and more photos here.
For a quick kid-friendly dinner, I make a fun and popular with the kids Burrito Pie, recipe here.
What’s cookin’ this weekend? Anything fresh from the garden making it to your table yet? Hit the comments and don’t forget to share some of your favorite recipes, you guys have been great at giving me new recipes to try.
The featured recipe tonight is one of my quick and easy meals that works great when I have a house full and I want a casual build-your-own main course.
Santa Fe Wraps
(There is a full dinner menu at this link).
- 1 cup uncooked rice
- 14 oz can black beans
- 14 oz can red beans
- 14 oz can diced tomatoes
- 1 lb sirloin, London broil, or flank steak thinly sliced
- 2 tbsp oil
- 1 red pepper*
- ½ yellow onion
- 1 pkg. taco seasoning
- 12 oz shredded Jack Cheese
- 4-8 burrito size flour tortillas (maybe try a flavored style)
2 saucepans, skillet and 4 serving bowls
In saucepan, add rice, 2 cups water and bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes until all the water is absorbed. In other saucepan, add beans & heat on med-low until heated through. In 300° oven, place tortilla shells between two pieces of foil and warm. In skillet, heat oil, sauté onion & pepper add steak, cook 5 minutes, reduce heat & add tomatoes, taco seasoning and simmer an additional 5 minutes on medium. Put rice, beans, cheese and meat mixture in separate serving bowls, let everyone assemble their own wrap at the table.
*Go wild, use a couple of different colors for added flavor and a pretty presentation.
Also, please note my friend who lived in Santa Fe says it needs chopped green chiles to be authentic. So add as desired.
That’s it for this week….happy Friday the 13th. – TaMara
I sliced a roast pork shoulder the other day with my new machine and it had me hankering for a Cubano sandwich. Spread yellow mustard on both halves of a suitable roll, add a layer of pork, another of ham, cheese is next, then sliced pickles. Use a panini press or something similar to finish it off. I used Swiss cheese on this one, provolone will work, too.
Nothing beats pasta for a quick dinner. Friend of blog, LFern, often does pasta and olive oil, tossed with fresh vegetables when she needs a quick meal. I always keep a pint of frozen Garden Fresh Pasta Sauce for quick dinners. And if you need gluten-free, there many choices now in gluten-free pastas. I usually go for a nice brown rice pasta or whole wheat pasta, for added flavor to any pasta dish.
I thought for tonight’s recipe exchange it would nice to explore a diversity of flavors in quick pasta meals, moving away from the more traditional tomato or cheese sauces.
Pictured above, JeffreyW does a quick and simple pasta, sauce and cheese. I have my version of that, Hot & Sweet Penne here, which spices things up a bit.
Butternut Squash Pasta (recipe here) is one of my favorite hearty dinners that blends the sweetness of butternut squash with spicy Italian sausage.
Slow-cooker Beef and Pasta Soup, (recipe here) is a nice soup to come home to on a rainy spring evening.
Family favorite, Portuguese Beef and Pasta, recipe here, so simple, with just a few ingredients, but tastes amazing.
For a real taste treat, try this week’s complete dinner menu (and shopping list) Pasta Jambalaya recipe here.
What’s on your menu this weekend? Do you have a favorite, quick and easy pasta recipe? Anyone make their own fresh pasta? Hit the comments and share.
For tonight’s featured recipe, I went with a flavorful vegetarian pasta dish. The recipe calls for green and red peppers, but you can use any variation. When they’re on sale, I usually buy one of each color for a really pretty dish.
Linguine w/Garlic & Peppers
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 2 tsp crushed garlic
- ¼ to ½ tsp red pepper flakes
- 1 green pepper, seeded and thinly sliced
- 1 red pepper, seeded and thinly sliced
- 2 oz fresh basil leaves
- 14 oz can diced tomatoes*
- salt & pepper to taste
- 4 oz fresh Parmesan cheese, grated
- 9 oz pkg. fresh linguine (there are some really good gluten-free pastas out there if needed)
saucepan and skillet
In skillet heat oil, add garlic, red pepper flakes, green & red peppers and sauté for 5 minutes on medium heat. Add fresh basil, tomatoes, salt & pepper let simmer while pasta cooks. Cook pasta according to package directions and drain well. Toss with pepper mixture & cheese.
* you can use fresh tomatoes, about 2 large, but I couldn’t find any decent ones this time of year.