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Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Sunday Dinner Mishap

Sunday is one of the few days of the week we as a family can sit down and have dinner together. Most Sundays involve an Italian Dish. I begin my sauce early in the morning. My whole house smells like marinara sauce. I keep a loaf of Mancini's bread close by so everyone can have a taste of the sauce throughout the day. Most of my dishes are the traditional type. Spaghetti and meatballs, ravioli, chicken parmesan, and lasagna. Well, I decided to try something new. This was inspired by one of my favorite food network stars. I won't mention his name, because this recipe did not work. His Italian version added blanched cauliflower and spinach to the dish. OK, spinach sounded ok....cauliflower? But it looked so good. So, my sauce had turned out amazing. I blanched my cauliflower and browned it as directed my chef. I added the pasta, sauce, cauliflower, and spinach to the dish reluctantly, but still optimistic. I called for everyone to come to the table. As everyone arrived, my son Travis's first comment was "Oh no, not more green stuff"! Let me explain, he will practically jump over the counter to stop me from adding my garnishes of parsley, basil, or cilantro. Then my husband asked "What is in here?" - referring to the cauliflower. I told him what it was. My oldest son chimed, "Whatever happened to normal spaghetti?". Well, everyone ate their food, but not with the usual gusto as with "normal" spaghetti. I will say, this will be one dish not repeated at our dinner table.

One thing I would like to add. My husband asked "What are the health benefits of cauliflower? I will feel better eating it if I knew." WELL ~ Cauliflower Nutrition Highlights:

Cauliflower is a good source of Vitamin C and folate, a B-vitamins (B1, B2, B3, B6, B12) essential to healthy cell-development. Further, it is a good source of lutein, which may assist in eye-health. It also contains phytostols, a group of compounds recently determined to play a role in cancer-prevention. It contains 2.5 grams of fiber per 100 grams (roughly 1 cup).

Monday, March 29, 2010

Future Chefs of the Vallies Family

Oh, the amazing children of our family. All full of spirit, personality, and promise. The future of our family lies in their hands. As parents, we can guide them, set an example, and hope that they make great choices.
It is no surprise that many of these young minds love to cook. Will one of them be the next Julia Childs, Rachel Ray, Emeril Lagasse, or Wolfgang Puck? My son Ryan, and Chet and Mindy's daughters Emma and Marley (pictured) have very outgoing personalities. These three were born to entertain. They maybe one of the next great food network star!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Mindy's Slow Cooker Cheesy Veggie Rice

I am always trying to find ways to get my youngest to eat his veggies! I am not sure if anyone else has this problem, but this will solve it. What kid doesn't love cheese. And with the veggies mixed in, he/she will just have to go for it. This is filled with healthy veggies and is a sure crowd pleaser. And with the added bonus of utilizing your slow cooker, this is definitely a winner! Recipe and photo courtesy of my cousin Mindy. Thanks!


2 cups white rice
3 1/2 cups of water
26 oz (large can) cream of mushroom soup
1 cup milk
1/2 c sour cream
2 cups diced velveeta cheese
6 slices deli american cheese
2 cups broccoli/cauliflower chopped
1/2 cup shredded cheddar
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella

Mix well.

In crock pot combine all ingredients and cook 6-8 hours on low. Stirring once 1/2 way through.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Slow Cooker Spare Ribs


4 pounds of country-style spare ribs
2 Tbsp. of canola oil
2 onions sliced
2 Tbsp. of dried ancho chilies, chopped
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
1 can of crushed tomatoes
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup of orange juice
1/3 cup white wine
1/3 cup of brown sugar
1 tsp. of orange zest
2 Tbsp. of apple cider vinegar

If not already done, cut ribs into individual riblets. Heat oil on medium and brown ribs on both sides. Remove ribs and set aside. To the same pan, add onions, chilies, cinnamon, and gloves. Cook until soft, about 5 minutes.
In slow cooker add tomatoes, juice, wine, sugar, and orange peel. Mix well. Add ribs; stir to coat. Cover and cook on low for 5 hours. Remove ribs to a plate. Let sauce stand 5 minutes. Skim off excess fat and discard. Stir in vinegar. Serve sauce over ribs.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Nana and Pam's Salsa

I am always looking to my family of great cooks for their recipes. This one was given to me by my Godmother Janet and my Cousin Pam. I provided the exact recipe given to me and a picture of them having a great time in the kitchen making it. Isn't it so true how so many memories can be made in the kitchen and around the dinner table. Ole'

Beef Stroganoff Casserole


1 pound of ground beef
8 ounce can of mushrooms
1 large onion, diced
3 gloves of garlic, minced
1/4 cup beef stock or dry white wine
1 small can of cream of mushroom
1/4 cup shredded Romano cheese
1/2 cup of sour cream
1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
4 cups cooks egg noodles
1 tbsp. Italian seasoning
1/4 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp pepper
1/4 cup bread crumbs

Place the beef in a large skillet and add salt, pepper, and Italian seasoning. Brown the beef. Drain and set aside. Heat oil in same skillet over medium high heat. Add onions, mushrooms, and garlic until tender. Add the beef stock and reduce heat. Simmer 3 minutes. Remove from the heat; stir in the soup,cheese, sour cream, and mustard. Add the beef. Mix well. Place noodles in a baking dish that is sprayed with non-stick spray. Pour the beef mixture over the noodles and mix well. Sprinkle top with bread crumbs. Bake 350 for 30 minutes.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Stuffed Banana Peppers

This recipe is inspired by my Dad. Let me tell you about his garden. My Dad grows a variety of vegetables in the summer. When you arrive at my parents' house, you can't miss his beautiful garden. It is filled with zucchini, a variety of peppers, tomatoes, etc. I love to harvest an abundance of banana peppers. This usually happen right before the pre-season for the Steelers! I prepare at least 12 dozen of stuffed peppers and I freeze them. Uncooked. This provides me a great supply to last me through the football season and well into winter. When I have guest over for the big game, I simply go to my freezer, pull out how many I need, place them in a pan with some sauce (marinara or my Dad's awesome hot pepper sauce), and bake. And presto, my guests think I have been slaving all day!

12 banana peppers
3 pounds of hot sausage
3 eggs
1 1/2 cups of romano cheese, shredded
1 cup of italian bread crumbs
2 cups of marinara sauce (For when you bake them)

Clean the peppers. You will want to wear gloves as the peppers will linger on your hands, even after you wash them. Cut the top off the peppers, cut the pepper lengthwise on one side with a paring knife leaving about 1/2" not cut at the bottom.
In a large bowl, mix the remaining ingredients, except the marinara sauce. Stuff the mixture into the peppers. At this point you can place them into freezer bags. To bake, place in a baking pan with the marinara sauce at 350 until sausage is cooked completely. (Approximately 45 minutes if thawed, 90 minutes if frozen). Garnish with shredded romano, fresh parsley, and a dollop of sour cream.

Kicked Up Tuna Melt

I have always loved a tuna melt. I have tried multiple times to perfect one, but usually the tuna salad I put on the melt was either too "wet" from adding too much mayo or tasteless. I have tried many versions, but the one that I like the best is buy Emeril Lagasse. This one is not mine, but it is amazing and there is no reason to alter this. If you like capers (which I LOVE) you will like this one!


4 (6-ounce) cans solid white tuna packed in water, drained
1/2 cup kalamata or other brine-cured black olives, pitted and minced
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon mayonnaise, plus more for spreading
1/4 cup finely chopped red onion
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon capers, drained
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 slices rustic white bread, or other dense white bread
2 medium tomatoes, sliced, or 8 tomato slices
4 ounces provolone cheese, thinly sliced
Preheat the broiler and position the oven rack about 6 inches from the broiler.

Combine the tuna, olives, mayonnaise, red onion, capers, black pepper, lemon juice, and salt in a medium bowl. Stir until well mixed.

Arrange the bread slices on a work surface. Lightly spread each slice of bread with additional mayonnaise and top with 2 tomato slices each. Divide the tuna salad evenly among the 4 bread slices over the tomatoes. Top the tuna salad with slices of provolone.

Place sandwiches on a sheet tray and place under broiler. Cook until cheese is golden and bubbly, about 5 minutes.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Vegetable Fried Rice

So, break out the wok! Yes, the piece of cookware that is so under appreciated! This recipe is simple and delicious. You can also make it more hearty by adding cooked shrimp, chicken, or pork!


4 eggs, whisked
3 scallions, chopped
4 carrots, diced
4 stalks of celery, diced
1 Tbsp. fresh ginger, minced
1 Tbsp. garlic, minced
4 cups of cooked rice
6 Tbsp. soy sauce
1 1/2 Tbsp. rice wine vinegar
3 Tbsp. canola oil

Heat your wok with 2 Tbsp. canola oil. Add your whisked eggs and cook,set aside when done. Add 1 Tbsp. of oil to wok. Add the scallions, garlic, carrots, celery and ginger. Place lid on the wok and allow to saute until the vegetables are tender. Add the cooked rice, egg, soy sauce, and rice wine vinegar. Mix ingredients together with a wooden spoon. Cover and allow to cook for an additional 3-5 minutes. Serve with scallions and additional soy sauce.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Cinnamon Crumb Apple Pie

There are so many versions of apple pie out there. I would have to say I like almost all of them. Here is one that is always a hit. I have to admit, I use store bought pie crust. I have made my own, but find it easier and less messy to buy store bought!

Ingredients for filling:

ready made pie crust (2)
5 granny smith apples, peeled and diced
3/4 cup of sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
8 ounce chunky applesauce
1 tbsp. lemon juice
2 tbsp. of butter

Crumb Topping

3 Tbsp. flour
1 Tbsp of sugar
1 tsp. of cinnamon
1 Tbsp room temp butter

Preheat over to 425. Please 1 pie crust into a pie plate. Bake for 8 minutes. This will keep your bottom from being soft. (you may need to poke whole in the crust after 4 minutes) Remove from oven. Reduce heat to 350. In a large bowl mix together your dry ingredients for filling. Next mix in the applesauce & apples. Pour in to pie pan. Drizzle with lemon juice and dot the top with butter. Place second pie crust over top of filling. Crimp together with a fork. Also poke several holes on top crust with fork to release steam during baking. Mix the crumb topping together and sprinkle over crust. Bake an additional 45 minutes.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Spaghetti Carbonara

I love pasta! I also know that swim suit season will be here soon!!!!! So I came up with a healthy version of spaghetti carbonara.


1 box of whole wheat spaghetti
5 slices of turkey bacon, chopped
3 garlic cloves minced
1/2 cup of dry white wine (or 1/2 cup of chicken stock)
1 cup of peas, thawed
3/4 cup of egg beaters
1/2 cup of grated parmesan cheese
1/4 cup fresh parsley chopped
1 Tbsp. of dried basil (or 3 Tbsp chopped fresh)
1/4 cup of sun dried tomatoes, chopped
2 Tbsp. of olive oil
salt and pepper

Cook the pasta in salty water according to the directions on the box. (Remember, the only chance you get to season the pasta itself is during the cooking time). While pasta is cooking, add oil to a skillet. Cook the turkey bacon until slightly crisp. Add the wine and peas and simmer for 2 minutes. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg beaters. Stir in the parmesan cheese. Drain the hot pasta and return to pot. Add the bacon egg mixture and stir until hot spaghetti slightly cooks the egg mixture. Toss in parsley, basil, and sun dried tomatoes.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Slow Cooker Pork Chops and Cheesy Bacon Potatoes

Pork Chops


6 boneless pork chops
1 cup italian bread crumbs
2 eggs
1 can cream of mushroom
1/4 cup of milk
1/4 cup of sour cream
2 Tbsp. of oil
salt and pepper to taste

In a bowl or plate place your breadcrumbs. In a separate bowl place your two eggs and whisk. Place pork chop in egg mixture than the breadcrumb mixture. Complete this for all the chops. Allow these to rest for 5 minutes. This will help the breading to set so it does not fall off when you are browning them. In a pan, heat oil over medium. Brown the pork chops on both sides and place in slow cooker. In a bowl, stir together the rest of the ingredients and pour over the chops. Cook for 4 hours on high.

Cheesy Bacon Potatoes


1 pound of frozen shredded hash browns
1 can cream of mushroom
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 cup of sour cream
12 slices of bacon, fried until crispy
1 small onion diced
1/4 cup of butter

In a pan melt the butter on medium. Add the onions and brown them. In a large bowl, mix together the cream of mushroom, sour cream, cheddar cheese, and onions with butter. Mix well. Crumble the bacon and stir in. Add the frozen hash browns and mix well. Pour mixture into slow cooker. Cook on high for 4 hours. Stir once half way through.

A helpful hint when using your slow cooker:

The vacuum seal created by the tight-fitting lid of a slow-cooker plays a big part in the way the appliance works its magic. Once the meal starts heating up, hot steam is generated, which helps cook the food. Just like the oven door, the lid is best left on throughout the entire cooking time required for the dish unless, of course, you suspect it is going to be overcooked, there is a problem or you need to add additional ingredients. Lifting the lid can result in as much as a 15-degree loss in heat, not to mention loss of the accumulated steam, which can take up to 20 minutes to replace. Ultimately, the overall time needed for your dish to completely cook could be altered, so keep your curiosity in check and don’t lift that lid!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Oyster Mushroom Chips

Do you like salt? Do you like bacon? OK, odd question considering the title of the recipe. Well, this recipe I can not take credit for. This is a recipe from Anne Burrell from the food network. These mushrooms bake so crispy, that they taste like salty, spicy pieces of bacon! Really. I love to it them plain, but I especially love them on a salad! Give it a try!


1 1/2 pounds oyster mushrooms
Extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt
Crushed red pepper flakes

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Remove the oyster mushrooms from the stem and pull them into bite-size pieces (the smaller ones can be left whole). Add them to a bowl along with some olive oil. Season with salt and crushed red pepper, to taste, and toss to coat. Spread the seasoned mushrooms out on 2 baking sheets in a single layer. Roast the mushrooms in the preheated oven until the mushrooms are sort of "cooked on" to the bottom of the baking sheet, about 10 to 12 minutes. Remove the baking sheet from the oven and let it cool for 3 to 5 minutes. Scrape the mushroom chips off the bottom of the baking sheet with a bench scraper and reserve in a small bowl.

MMMMM...mushroom chips!

Hungarian Goulash

While it is not customary to add tomatoes to goulash, and I substitute elbow macaroni for potatoes.....I think you will still enjoy this dish!


1 box of elbow macaroni
3 pounds of ground beef, brown and drained
1 28 ounce can of crushed tomatoes
1 28 ounce can diced tomatoes
2 cups of beef broth
3 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
1 medium onion diced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
3 Tbsp. paprika
1 tsp. crushed red pepper seeds
1 tsp. marjoram
2 tsp. caraway seeds
3 Tbsp. sour cream
2 tbsp. olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
garish, shredded mozzarella and chopped parsley (optional)


In a skillet, heat oil on medium. Add onions and garlic and saute until translucent. In a large pot, add the canned tomatoes, beef, broth, vinegar, paprika, red pepper seeds, and marjoram. (Salt and pepper to taste) Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer for one hour.
In a separate pot, cook the elbow macaroni in heavily salted water to al dente. Drain and return to pot. Add caraway seeds to pasta and toss. Add sauce (reserving 2 cups) and the sour cream. Mix well. Serve with some of the reserved sauce on top. Garnish with mozzarella and fresh parsley.

√ČLVEZ (Enjoy)

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Buddha's Hand ~ One of Nature's Hidden Treasures

As always, I am at the wonderful Market District. Let me tell you, this is the store of all stores. If you love to cook, it is a chef's heaven! As you stroll through the aisles, I challenge you to NOT be able to find what you are looking for. I also love discovering new items in produce. I came across an odd looking item. It was called Buddha's Hand. I was quite fascinated by it but had no clue as to what it was. It was in the fruit section, OK so I am guessing a fruit. Hmm...I picked it on and smelled it. A lovely aroma of lemon and oranges. Well, it was 6.99 per pound, so I passed. Later that evening, like some weird fate of destiny, I discovered it's use. While watching the Food Network, there it was. What I found out is it is used just like lemon zest. And I use plenty of lemon zest. Now, different from a lemon, there is no juicy fruit in the middle. The entire fruit is used as a zest. Also, the inner white pith is not bitter as is usually the case with citrus, so the fingers may be cut off and then sliced, peel pith and all, and used in salads or scattered over cooked foods such as fish.
Another "fun fact" is it used predominantly by the Chinese and Japanese for perfuming rooms and personal items, such as clothing. A natural air freshener!
So next time you are grocery shopping, pick up one of these lovely treasure. They average about 1/2 pound each and have alot of wonderful uses.