Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Asian Style Soda Can Roast Chicken--??

Asian Soda Can Chicken

     The title seems a bit confusing, right? What is this Asian Soda Can Chicken thing?  Well it was something I came up with in my mind.  I thought, "I've heard of beer can chicken, but why not soda can with some accompanying spices?" I took what I thought would be good flavors to add to chicken: orange zest, ginger, garlic, and soy.  Add in the flavor of a soda and I have to admit a good tasty chicken appeared. The prep for this meal was quick and easy.  The only thing that took the longest was the cooking time.  Once this was done and I had cut into it I was amazed out how juicy this chicken was.  It had the subtle flavors of the orange, ginger, and garlic.  Nothing was too overpowering.  Delicious! Asian Style Soda Chicken.

  • 5.5 lb chicken
  • 1/2 12oz can of soda
  • Zest of 1 mandarin
  • 2 cloves garlic crushed
  • 1 tbs minced ginger
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper
  • Black pepper
  • Soy sauce

     Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. First I take the chicken and separate the skin from the breast and thighs of the chicken.  In a small bowl I combine the mandarin zest, garlic, ginger, cayenne, and some black pepper.  Rub the ingredients all over underneath the skin.  I then take and pour out half of the can of soda.  Place the soda can down in the middle of a Dutch Oven. Carefully take the chicken and place it on top of the soda can.  At this point the chicken will appear to be sitting down in the pot.  Take some soy sauce and generously rub it all over the outside of the entire chicken.  Do as much as you can.  Cover the Dutch oven with a tented tin foil and place in the oven. Roast for 1 hour.  Remove and rub more soy sauce over the chicken.  Roast for another 1 hour until a meat thermometer inserted into the thigh reaches 180 F.  Let rest and serve up. This chicken was so moist and delicious.  The small hints of the mandarin, garlic, ginger, and spicy pepper really gave this chicken a wonderful flavor but not overpowering. The soy sauce allowed this chicken to brown perfectly. Serves about 4-5 people.


Thursday, December 26, 2013

Ingredients For A Christmas Tradition

     Growing up in a half Italian household created its own unique traditions.  Since my mother was Italian we always spent Christmas Eve at her mother's house, my grandmother.  She did the traditional Italian Christmas feast.  This included: shrimp, smelts, baccala, calamari, anchovies, crab, and of course a bunch of pasta. For most of us some of the seafood was not that appetizing.  There were times the calamari was swimming in marinara and the sight of the tentacles dangling out was frightening.  The fried smelts and anchovies created their own smell and unique feeling of having them on the table.  After she moved in with us when I was in school those Eve meals stopped but we tried to continue some of that tradition with a smaller meal.  To this day we try to do pasta and at least one seafood item.  This year we swapped the Eve meal for the one on Christmas Day.  We kept it simple with a homemade pasta, a single seafood dish, and a favorite casserole of everyone.

     Besides the tradition with a meal we also have other traditions that I am proud to say we continue. As a Catholic, Midnight Mass was something you always did.  Even as kids we attempted to stay up late not to spy on Santa but to go to mass with our family.  To this day I always make it a point to attend this sacred evening at church.  Following mass it was always something to go home sit and relax with a glass of eggnog until your eyes began to sag and it was definitely time to call it a night.
     When the morning arrives we always get up at a decent hour to begin our day of Christmas festivities. We start out by fixing breakfast and sitting around the kitchen table with our meal and coffees.  Upon finishing our wonderful breakfast we all head into the living room to open our gifts.  As any typical family we all sit around on the floor or furniture and open our gifts. As the exchanging of presents comes to an end we typically continue to all lie around, watch movies, or play board games until the big meal. 

     As mentioned we do the typical Italian feast of fresh pasta and a fish/seafood item.  This year we opted for fresh fettuccine and shrimp scampi.  I was tasked to do the pasta and my brother the shrimp, however due to a sudden cold I ended up doing both.  The meal was fantastic.  The fresh pasta and the marinara sauce were as expected to be.  The shrimp in it's buttery, garlicky sauce was delectable.  And don't forget the family favorite broccoli casserole with its cheesiness. 

     After everything is said and done the day comes to an end, everyone is exhausted, full, and content with all the festivities that occurred.  Traditions linger on within the family.  Without them it just doesn't feel like that same old holiday you once had growing up.  Some new traditions have come about but adding them to the old feels like adding a new blanket of warmth.  Traditions are made to allow you to hold onto memories.  Special memories that can only mean one thing; family.  My traditions hold a special place in my heart and I hope yours do too.  Merry Christmas everyone!
nothing beats a glass of eggnog on Christmas Eve
A traditional Italian Christmas treat!

Pasta and Seven Fishes, (minus six)


I am worn out and exhausted.

Monday, December 23, 2013

A Diner Classic: Open Faced Roast Beef Sandwich

Open Faced Roast Beef

     So I was watching Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives the other night and got a craving for some old fashioned diner food. Nothing says comfort food like good old fashioned diner food.  When I think of this typical cuisine, I think of burgers, fried chicken, sandwiches, breakfasts as big as your head, and of course open faced sandwiches.  That ooey, gooey gravy drizzled all over your sandwich and choice of meat.  Those white plates, plastic booths, swivel stools, silver metal napkin holders, all bring a certain type of memory into mind. 

     Imagine walking through the front door of your local department store.  You are 8 and going to this store on is such as treat. The glass door is too heavy for you to pull open so your family member, let's say aunt, pulls it open for you.  You walk under her arm and quickly into the store.  This certain department store just so happens to have a little diner within it.  Right off to the right of the main entrance sits the diner against the right wall behind its own little wall divider.  Along the left side of this wall sits a long counter where you can hike on up onto a classic swivel stool.  The smell of fried food, fresh coffee, and the clinging of glasses fill the air as the door behind you dings with the bell hung above.  You are not ready to go up the escalator to the toy department just yet.  Your aunt brings you here almost every Friday for lunch and to buy a toy.  You are excited to crawl into one of the booth tables or hop up onto your own bar stool.  Your aunt walks you along to where you are going to sit.  The waitress in a little apron and hat comes to your service.  You order a soda and one of the best diner items on the menu.  Today it is an Open Faced Roast Beef meal.  You know the ones.  The dark roast beef laying gently on a nice slice of white bread coated in dark gravy just dripping over the edge.  A side of mashed potatoes or even the famous crinkly fries with a little ketchup.  You are so excited, the warm smell, the white plate, the silverware wrapped nicely in a little napkin.  The waitress refills your soda and asks how everything is.   You and your aunt smile at each other and that is all the waitress needs to know that you are satisfied.  Please enjoy my twist on an Open Faced Roast Beef Sandwich.

Pot Roast recipe: http://www.recipesiliveby.blogspot.com/2013/05/Pot-Roast.html
Buns of your choice
2 tbs butter
2 tbs flour
1 tbs BBQ sauce of choice
1 tsp Kitchen Boguet browning seasoning

     I followed my own recipe from my Pot Roast post for making the beef.  Once finished I removed the roast and broke it up into pieces and chunks.  In a medium skillet over medium high heat I melted the 2 tbs butter, whisked in the 2 tbs of flour to make a rue.  I then took most of the liquid from the roast.  Leaving just a little bit in the bottom and poured it slowly into the skillet whisking it into a nice thick gravy.  Finally I whisked in a tbs of BBQ sauce and a tsp of the browning seasoning to give it just the right amount of kick and taste.  Salt and pepper as needed.  Then take the chopped up beef and toss it into the left over liquid in the Dutch oven.  Take your favorite piece of bread or roll pour a little of the gravy on top of it, then some of the beef, and then some more of the gravy.  Now for the best part; sit back, take a big bite, and reminisce of sitting in your favorite childhood diner enjoying an old fashioned Open Faced Roast Beef.  Serves 4.


Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Chocolate Chip Orange Cantuccini/Biscotti


     Now most of you will know these as simply, biscotti, however the traditional name of this type of cookie is Cantuccini.  Biscotti translate into twice baked cookie.  So in theory any cookie you bake twice is a biscotti.  I took a simple recipe and added chocolate chips, orange zest, and made a simple orange zest icing to drizzle over.  The ingredients you could add are endless.  Try whatever you like. Nuts, berries, etc. anything could be delicious in these simple cookies.  I like mine a bit soft and chewy in the center with a crispy outer crust.  Please enjoy these, Chocolate Chip Orange Biscotti.

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 stick butter softened
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup chocolate chips
  • Zest from 1 tangerine/mandarin

  • Powder sugar
  • Milk
  • Zest from 1 tangerine
  • Orange food coloring

     Preheat oven 350 degrees.  In one bowl mix flour, baking powder, and salt.  In another bowl blend the butter and sugar until creamy.  Beat in eggs one at a time then blend in the orange zest.  Next blend in the flour mixture in batches until well incorporated.  Finally add in the chocolate chips.  Take the cookie mixture and place on a foil lined pan and shape into a rectangular log about a 1/2 inch thick.

     Bake in the oven for 30 minutes until brown around the edges.  Let cool for about another 30 minutes and then slice at an angle into 1/2 inch thick slices.  Lay back on baking sheet and bake for another 10 minutes. 

     To make the icing mix enough powdered sugar and milk together in a bowl to make a nice icing.  Add in the orange zest and some orange food coloring.  Once cookies are cool enough drizzle some of the icing over and cool.  These are perfectly crisp on the outside and a bit chewy on the inside.  Makes about 1  1/2 dozen. Enjoy!

Monday, December 16, 2013

Italian Cookies- Great For Weddings And Christmas

     If you have ever been to an Italian wedding or have had Italian friends and been to their house during the holidays, I am sure you have had these cookies.  They're simple, sweet, and easy to make.  They are light, airy, and just have the right amount of sweetness that don't make you feel like you are over doing it.  My grandmother used to make these.  Now this is not her recipe as according to my mother we have no idea where it went.  When I made these she said they tasted just like hers so these are dedicated to her.  I used flavoring of almond and of course anise but you could try others. Italian Christmas Cookies.

  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 tbs baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 stick softened butter
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 tsp almond extract
  • Powder sugar
  • Milk
  • 1 tsp anise extract
  • Food coloring

     Preheat oven to 350. In a large bowl mix flour, baking powder, and salt together.  In another bowl blend the sugar and butter together until creamy.  Slowly blend in the eggs one at a time until combined.  Next blend in the vanilla and almond flavorings.  Finally blend in the flour mixture in batches slowly.  The mixer will get tough at this time to blend.  Remove the cookie mixture from the bowl and wrap up in some plastic wrap.  Place in freezer for about an hour or fridge for a couple hours.  Meanwhile mix enough powdered sugar, milk, and the anise extract to make a nice icing.  Add whatever food coloring you desire.  When ready to bake take a little bit of dough about the size of a small ping pong ball and roll up. Place on greased baking sheet and bake for 12-15 minutes. Once cooled dip each cookie into the icing and place on rack to cool.  These cookies are light, have a hint of the almond and anise, and are addicting.  Makes about 3 dozen.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Balsamic Glazed Chicken

      I came up with this recipe by just searching the web for ideas on how to spruce up my chicken.  I decided to use boneless skinless thighs for this one thinking it would be a bit juicer and be able to handle the flavors that I decided to incorporate for this glaze.  I had seen a couple different ways of making a balsamic glaze but wanted to put my own spin on it.  I combined the strong flavors of the balsamic vinegar with some brown sugar, honey, fresh garlic, and even some thyme.  I accompanied these with an unusual potato concoction that I invented in my mind.  I took some small yellow skin potatoes, sliced them like little coins, quickly sautéed them in butter and oil, added just enough cream to barely cover them, some seasoning salt and fresh rosemary, covered and simmered until the liquid had absorbed and the potatoes were tender.  This chicken is not only tender and juicy but the flavors really go well together.  Almost like a good BBQ but with a tangy twist.  Balsamic Glazed Chicken.

  • 1-2 boneless skinless chicken thighs
  • 1/3-cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tbs brown sugar
  • 2 tbs honey
  • 1 large diced clove garlic
  • 1 tsp fresh thyme

      Coat chicken with salt and pepper and start grilling it over medium heat on the grill.  Meanwhile in a small sauce pan pour in the balsamic vinegar, brown sugar, honey, garlic, and fresh thyme.  Simmer until the mixture reduces and thickens.  Start coating the chicken and flipping it until the chicken is cooked and the glaze has become thick on the meat.  Serve with the above potatoes and your favorite green vegetable.  Serves 2.  A quick and delicious chicken that anyone in the house can enjoy.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Grandpa Sainato's Italian Stuffing

Grandpa Sainato's Italian Stuffing

     So sadly I do not remember my grandpa Sainato.  The man with whom I share my birth sake, the man with whom cherished my mother, and as soon as he found out I was born on his birthday ran out and bought a Winnie the Pooh stuffed animal to bring directly to my side.  My grandpa, according to my mother, was a gentle man.  He loved to cook, make wine, drink, smoke, you name it he did it.  I've been told he was more of the cook in the house than my grandmother.  Either way, I feel I have some great genes running threw my blood.  I don't remember this man as he passed away sadly right after my first birthday.  The good thing is that since we shared birthdays, he was able to spend the day at least once with his last grandson. 

     My mother tells the story of how grandpa used to make this stuffing mixture every holiday.  He was a butcher so he had easy access to some good cuts of meat in his younger years.  My uncle has continued to make this stuffing sometimes but I barely, if not at all, remember this delicious combination.  Last Thanksgiving I attempted to make this exact recipe based on what everyone told me was in it.  I even have a coworker with whom her family is also Italian and they made a similar dish as well.  I screwed up with the recipe by accidentally using savory versus sage, using too much bread, too much sausage, etc.  My mother was sure to tell me off the bat, "This just isn't like dad's".

     Fast forward to Thanksgiving 2013 and I was given "permission" to attempt this dish one last time. (I speak with a bit of humor in my voice).  I have that quintessential mother.  You know the one,  "stay out of my kitchen!"  She proclaims proudly.  She has made her turkey, stuffing, green beans, appetizers, sides, etc. etc. etc. the same every year.  "I have my own ways of doing this holiday and I like it that way!"  She states again.  I will give her this much, she allows me to test the waters at times.  One year I attempted to make a batch of pumpkin risotto, enough to feed about 10 people.  The bowl was huge on the end of the table.  Only a few were brave enough to attempt it, but we did at the same time.  Needless to say that bowl of risotto went straight to the trash.  My ego was crushed. 

     Anyways, I digress, as I was saying, my mother does give me chances, but only a couple.  If the dish is not good by the second time then it's no more.  This year I was allowed to attempt Grandpa's stuffing one more time as well as some rolls I found online.  So here goes, Good ole Grandpa Sainato's Italian Stuffing.

  • 1lb ground beef
  • 1/4lb ground Italian sausage
  • 3 slices homemade bread
  • 1/2 white onion
  • 2 stalks celery
  • Few leaves of fresh sage
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1/2-cup chicken stock
  • 2 tbs butter
  • 1-2 eggs
  • Salt/pepper

     The night before you make this dice up your slices of bread into little squares and sit out on a baking pan over night to dry out.  The day of in a large sauté pan melt butter.  Dice up your onion and celery and toss into pan and sauté until translucent and tender.  Remove from pan and sit aside.  In same pan brown your beef and sausage until cooked through.  Drain off some of the fat.  Mix in your garlic, a small bunch of fresh-diced sage, the chicken stock and salt and pepper to taste.  Finally mix in your dried bread until incorporated.  Take your egg, (or two, something to play around with), and mix in with your hands in order to bind all the ingredients.  That's it.  Now all you have to do is stuff into your turkey and cook.  This stuffing is surprisingly very flavorful and loved by everyone.  Hope your watching Grandpa Sainato! Enjoy!

Grandpa and Grandma Sainato and mom