Baked Ziti

Baked Ziti

Baked Ziti

This is a dish I make a lot because like almost everything I post here it’s easy, cheap, fast and makes the house smell unbelievable. You’ll think you’re in Italy. And my 4 year old loves it, which is important. You can add sausage which has been rendered, shredded chicken, meatballs, or whatever meat you like, too. But I like the vegetarian version and sometimes add a few handfuls of steamed, seasoned broccoli florets before baking.

Ingredients

  • Olive oil
  • 3+ cloves of garlic
  • 28oz can crushed tomatoes
  • 3 cups mozzarella cheese
  • 1 box ziti pasta
  • 4-5 fresh basil leaves
  • 1 tsp dried Oregano
  • Kosher S & P to taste

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees
  • Start water for pasta to boil.
  • Pour about 2 TB of olive oil in large saute pan and add garlic and saute until soft, about 1 minute
  • Add crushed tomatoes, salt & pepper and oregano and basil, chiffonaded, simmer for 10+ minutes
  • Cook pasta until al dente. Drain.
  • Add Tomatoes to pasta.
  • Oil 3 qt baking dish. Add tomato sauce/pasta just to cover the bottom of the pan. Add a healthy layer of cheese. Repeat until the last layer is cheese. You can also top with parmesan.
  • Spray foil with cooking spray and cover. Cook for 20 minutes. Uncover and cook for 10 minutes until the top is browned and bubbly.
  • Let cool for 5 minutes.

baked ziti

 

 

 

Chicken Bog

Chicken Bog

It may seem strange that I post so many recipes on this website, but as someone who cooks a lot, it makes it easy to find recipes that I cook often but may forget the exact measurements or times or ingredients. So it’s a quick reference, plus these recipes are really good, so I thought it’d be nice to share.

I have a giant 6 Quart KitchenAid crockpot that I use all the time. A few times a week. I have the “Easy Serve Lid” but if I bought one again, which I would, I’d just get the regular lid, for $24 less. I rarely use it. Somebody might, if they use it to serve from, but it’s not helpful to me. This is the best slow cooker I’ve ever used, for a variety of reasons. If you’re ever in the market, I suggest giving the one I linked to up there a close look.

Chicken Bog

Chicken Bog is a South Carolina dish, called Chicken Purleau in Sumter. But it’s known as Chicken Bog everywhere else. It’s an inexpensive, hearty dish that goes a long way. It’s really tasty and uses rice, which is a southern staple. It’s usually found at barbeque joints in SC and family dinner tables when there’s a crowd to feed.

I’ve made it many times and have learned a few things. It’s easy to make, but it’s also easy to make where it’s disappointing, which may lead people to not make it again, which would be a shame. That’s because it needs lots of seasoning. The rice and chicken don’t provide a lot of flavor on their own. A common way to cook it is to boil the chicken and use the stock to cook the rice in. That boils a lot of flavor out of the chicken. And sometimes I use chicken breasts, which really need to be heavily seasoned. But it’s a very lower-fat option. Cooking a whole chicken renders a lot of fat which needs to be skimmed. But the trade-off is more flavor, of course.

A store-bought rotisserie chicken could be used as a time-saver. But there are a lot of additives you may not want to eat in those, plus the convenience erases some of the value cooking your own provides. Cooking a whole chicken couldn’t be easier, and there are multiple ways to do it. Bake it, boil it, slow-cook it, grill it, and so on.

The sausage you use is your own choice. I’ve had every type imaginable in it and it’s all good. Cooking it in a pan beforehand renders a lot of flavors, especially if you scrape and use the fond from it. Andouille is great but higher-fat. Kielbasa is also a favorite but not the lowest fat. Smoked turkey sausage is the lowest fat but not the most satisfying.

If you boil or slow-cook the chicken, you’ll end up with a good base for chicken stock. I put in chopped onion, a few celery stalks and carrots chopped, and maybe a green pepper chopped up along with salt and pepper and some garlic while it cooks. I skim the fat and add 33% less sodium chicken broth to make about 5 cups to cook the bog in.

A tip: when you’re cooking the bog in a pot, versus a crockpot, you have to be careful not to overcook it and burn the rice. If you do, it’s ruined.

So with that prologue out of the way, here’s the recipe:

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 14 ounces smoked sausage, halved and sliced 1/2-inch thick
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 5 cups chicken broth, divided
  • 2 cups uncooked medium grain rice
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 chicken (about 3 pounds), meat removed and shredded
  • 3 stalks celery
  • 3 carrots
  • green pepper

 

Instructions for slow-cooker

  • In a large skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add onion and sausage; cook until sausage is lightly browned. Add garlic and cook 1 minute longer; transfer to slow cooker.
  • Stir in 4 cups broth, rice, salt and pepper. Cook, covered, on low until rice is tender, 4-5 hours. Stir in chicken and remaining broth. Cook, covered, on low until chicken is heated through, about 30 minutes

Instructions for chicken-in-the-pot

  • In a large pot, add celery, carrot, onion, pepper, seasoning, and chicken. Cover with water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 1 hour.
  • Remove chicken and reserve liquid. Shred chicken and discard skin and bones. Set aside.
  • Skim fat from liquid in the pot. Strain vegetables. (Quick tip: put in fridge or freezer to let the fat solidify faster, and use a fat-strainer)
  • Add broth to stock to make 5 cups. Add rice, sausage, and chicken.
  • Bring to boil, reduce heat to simmer, cover and cook until rice is done, about 20 minutes. Make sure it doesn’t burn. Don’t lift the lid off the pot any more than necessary.
  • Fluff with fork and stir. Season as desired, if necessary.
chicken bog

Chicken Bog – YUM!

The Chicken Bog in this photo is too soupy. This is before the rice has been cooked, obviously, and this looks like long-grain rice and chopped chicken instead of shredded, which is fine but not authentic. It should be fluffy rice and chicken and sausage when done.

 

Apples

Apples

As we head into fall, there will be no lack of pumpkin-spiced everything and fall harvest motif junk at every turn. But apples become a big thing and are a big thing year-round. They’re cheap and plentiful and can be used, like pears, as a base for a lot of juices and recipes. And when you walk into a grocery store or market, you’ll see a dozen different varieties offered. And I’ll bet most of the time, if not always, most people just walk over to one section and ignore the rest: Red delicious. That may be untrue in parts of the country where apples are grown a lot, but in the South where I grew up, Red Delicious was the standard and staple in every lunchbox and used for everything, no matter what. The rest were exotic.

Which would make a good behavioral study, as to why we go decades, if not our whole lives entrenched in such a decision when there’s absolutely no reason. We’re creatures of habit, but this would seem extreme. Nonetheless, hopefully, this post will change that.

Different apples are good for different purposes, from baking with to eating as a snack. And adventuring out of the Red Delicious routine is something that should be done immediately. It’s probably the lamest of the apples, once you start trying other varieties and seeing what you like better. There are sweeter ones, and ones whose cell composition are better-suited for cooking with. And the prices don’t veer that much, meaning you aren’t going to have to pay a fortune for a Gala, which is what I prefer for eating.

Here is a graphic which outlines the different types from most sour to sweetest. But again, their crunchiness and composition are slightly different as well, which should be considered when baking or cooking with them.

apple types

Something I plan on making with my daughter this fall are baked apple doughnuts, which I’m sure involve brown sugar, which she’ll like. She’s part hummingbird, I’m convinced.

Potatoes are another pantry staple that I think people don’t venture out of their ruts with. Most everyone grab a Russet potato, and that’s that. But the differences between the many potato types make all the difference in the end. Some are more starchy and some are better for mashed and for stews and so on. It’s worth taking the little amount of time to learn the differences for what will change your cooking for the better forever, I think.

 

 

Deep Dish Chocolate Pie

Deep Dish Chocolate Pie

Mmmm….chocolate….

omg - chocolate pie

Southern Living posted a recipe for an “Ultimate Chocolate Pie” that looks pretty good: https://www.southernliving.com/syndication/ultimate-chocolate-pie

 

Not bad. But it made me think of a chocolate pie my mother used to make that I think may be even better, and easier. There’s nothing wrong with making your own chocolate mousse of course and creme fraiche is easy enough to make, but a lot of southerners opt to use Cool Whip and chocolate pudding when possible. Don’t get me wrong. I think creme fraiche is better. But it doesn’t keep nearly as well as Cool Whip does. It tends to break. SL’s recipe would be preferable if you’re serving guests and it’s going to be eaten immediately. But that’s not how things are eaten at my house. If you are going to impress guests, I’d use creme fraiche instead of Cool Whip in the recipe.

DEEP DISH CHOCOLATE PIE

  • Melt 1 stick butter
  • 1 cup AP flour
  • 1 cup chopped pecans(toast them if you want, or use pistachios)
  • Mix all together and form a crust with this mixture. Bake 20 minutes at 350 degrees, allow to cool completely.
  • Mix 8oz cream cheese, one cup confectioner’s sugar one cup Cool Whip. Blend thoroughly and spread over crust.
  • Mix 2 small packages of instant chocolate pudding with 3 cups cold milk. Pour over cream cheese mixture.
  • Add 1 cup Cool Whip to make finish layer. Garnish with chocolate chips, shavings or powder.

 

This is a pie I grew up on and it’s super-rich, so no need for big helpings. And that’s coming from somebody who can put away the rich stuff. My grandfather had a pecan grove in Georgia, so we always had tons of pecans on hand. But you can use whatever nuts you want, or even a graham cracker or Oreo crust. Nothing’s written in stone when cooking or baking. Well, some things are, but a lot isn’t.