Sunday, October 28, 2012

Pumpkin-Spiced Braised Chicken

Before I begin, if you are in the path of the super storm headed to the northeast this weekend, please be safe!  I will be praying for all of you!

And I apologize for being a little lax on the posting.  I have been super busy and then I came down with a bit of the bug last week.   I will be stepping it up very soon.

BTW - today is my 12th wedding Anniversary!  Happy Anniversary, Dan.  I think I'll keep him.  ;.)

This recipe is super easy.   It's perfect for a weeknight meal.  I love this recipe because it doesn't use any salt!  The flavor comes all from the spices and the beer in which you braise the chicken.

You can make any variation of this if you cannot find this beer: 

An Oktoberfest beer would work nicely, too.


3 or 4 meaty chicken leg quarters, skin on
1 - 1 1/4 tbs. pumpkin pie spice
1 tbs. vegetable oil
pumpkin spiced beer (12 ounces)
1/2 cup slivered onion
1/2 tbs. ground sage
1 tbs. dried Marjoram


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Sprinkle chicken with pumpkin seasoning.

Heat oil in heavy braising pan or Dutch oven.  Add chicken, skin side down, and brown lightly.  '

Turn the chicken over.  Add the beer, the onion and the ground sage.  Bring to boil and reduce to simmer. 

Cover chicken with lid or tin foil.  Place in over and bake for about 45 minutes until the internal temperature of the chicken reaches 170 degrees F and the juices run clear.


I'll see you soon.

Monday, October 22, 2012

The Best Breaded Pork Chops

I've had a busy few weeks, so I apologize for being a little light on the posts.  And I also had a wonderful weekend celebrating with hubby and family, as I turned 50 yesterday!  I have to tell you, I don't feel a day over 49.  ;.)

I wasn't supposed to be home this evening, but my trip to the corporate office was canceled this morning.   I worked from home today.   I decided to use tonight to put up this post before I settle in with a little relaxation tea to watch our final presidential debate.

I don't belong to either political party.  I do vote, but I find the whole process to be rather ironic at times.  In honor of inflated Congressional spending and our out-of-control deficit, I decided to make pork chops tonight.  You have to be a political junkie like me to get that joke.

These chops are juicy, big and thick.  Perfect for dining in front of the television.

With no further adieu, here is tonight's recipe.  It serves 2.


2  bone-in  pork chops, about 1 inch thick
1 egg, beaten
1 tbs. Dijon mustard
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1 cup Panko bread crumbs
1/2 packet Garlic and Herb Italian dressing mix
1 or 2 pinches Extra Spicy Mrs. Dash salt-free seasoning (optional)
1/2 tsp. dried rosemary
1 tbs. grated Parmesan and Romano cheese
Cooking Spray


Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

Pat chops dry with a paper towel.

Beat egg and Dijon mustard together.

Mix the Panko with the Italian dressing mix, Mrs. Dash (if using), and the dried rosemary.

Dredge the pork chops in the flour, then the egg mixture, and the in the Panko.  Coat evenly.  Transfer to a baking dish sprayed with cooking spray.  Top with grated cheese.  Bake for 25 minutes until the cheese begins to brown and the chops are cooked through. 

I recommend at least 145 degrees internal temperature for those chops, plus five minutes carryover cooking time once removed from the oven. 

Suggestion:  Top with sautéed banana peppers; fresh sliced and bottled. 

Monday, October 15, 2012

Herb and Garlic Shrimp with Tomatoes over Smashed Cauliflower

Tonight's recipe is so easy to prepare, it does not need a lot of fanfare in the presentation.  Total comfort food goes healthy with this wonderfully flavorful dish.  This is a great weeknight meal as it only takes about 20 minutes to prep and prepare if using fresh shrimp.  If you need to defrost your shrimp, add another five minutes.*

Serves 4.


1 lb extra large shrimp, peeled and deveined
3 tbs. bottled Italian dressing, your favorite brand
1/4 tsp.. Cayenne Pepper, more to taste
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
2 cups whole cherry tomatoes, washed
1 large head cauliflower, cut into florets
Seasoned salt, to taste
1/4 cup fat free sour cream
Fresh tarragon (chopped and whole for garnish)


Add shrimp and Italian dressing to a large non-stick skillet.  Season with Cayenne pepper and thyme.  Add the cherry tomatoes.  Continue to cook for about five minutes until shrimp turn pink and the tomatoes begin to pop.

Meanwhile, add the cauliflower to a microwave safe bowl along with seasoned salt.  Cover with plastic wrap and cook on high for about six minutes.  Drain.  Stir in sour cream and mash. 

Serve the shrimp and tomatoes over the mashed cauliflower.

Now, how easy is that?


*To thaw frozen shrimp quickly, place in a bowl of cold water for about five minutes. 

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Deep Dish Mushroom and Cheese Lasagna with Arugula Ricotta

Who doesn't love lasagna? 

Who doesn't love a lasagna that is lower in carbs and calories? 

This dish uses low carb lasagna noodles, part skim cheese, and it's loaded with good, wholesome veggies.  Nice trick to get those who don't like vegetables to eat more -- hide them in a lasagna!

You can use  your own store-bought favorite sauce, but I recommend you try my Savory Lasagna Sauce.  Although it looks a bit complicated, it's easy to prepare.  By making your own sauce, you control what goes in there.


2 tbs. light olive oil
5 oz. fresh arugula, washed and spun dry
1/4 tsp. freshly ground nutmeg
3 tbs. Parmesan/Romano Cheese, grated, plus more for topping lasagna
1/4 cup 2% milk
2 tbs. butter
3 cups white sliced mushrooms
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
5 oz. container Part Skim Ricotta
1 egg 
8 fresh torn basil leaves
2 1/2 cups Savory Lasagna Sauce (recipe below)
1 package (13.5 ounce) Low Carb lasagna noodles (I used Dreamfields), cooked per package directions and drained
12 oz. Six Cheese Italian Blend shredded cheese; low fat
Fresh dried oregano (optional)


Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Add half of the oil to one skillet and half to another.  In the first skillet, add the arugula.  Dust with ground nutmeg and saute' until wilted.  Add the cheese, the milk and one tablespoon of the butter to the pan. 

Toss and remove from heat.  The milk will naturally begin to thicken as the butter melts. 

In the second pan, add the mushrooms, the thyme and the remaining pat of butter.  Saute' for about five minutes until mushrooms are golden.  Remove from heat.

Add ricotta and the egg to a mixing bowl, along with the arugula mixture.  Tear the basil leaves and incorporate into the ricotta, mixing well.  The ricotta will be a little runny, but it should hold together.

Add one ladle of sauce to the bottom of a 9 x 9 lasagna pan.  Add four cooked noodles on top of the sauce.  The sides of the noodles should rest on the side of the lasagna pan.  This will create the "deep dish."  

Spoon half of the ricotta mixture on top of the noodles and spread evenly.  Sprinkle with 1/3 of the shredded cheese.

Add another layer of noodles on top of the ricotta.  Make sure that the mixture covers the noodles so that they do not dry out while baking.

I like to layer each consecutive layer in the opposite direction, as I find the lasagna stays together better when you serve it, but this is entirely optional

Add the cooked mushrooms and top the second layer. 

Ladle sauce over the mushrooms to cover the pasta.

Add another layer of noodles.  Spread the remaining ricotta with arugula and basil over the top.  Add 1/3 of the shredded cheese.

Top with a final layer of noodles.  Top with sauce,  the remaining shredded cheese, and a sprinkling of grated Parmesan and Romano blend.  Top with crushed dried fresh oregano.

Cover with tin foil and bake for 45 minutes.  Uncover and continue to bake for another 15 minutes.

Let lasagna rest for about 10 minutes before serving. 

Tip:  I like to store fresh oregano in the freezer so that I can crumble it over dishes as needed.  It's a great way to store all of that oregano at the end of summer.

Savory Lasagna Sauce:
1 tbs. light olive oil or olive oil and canola oil blend
2 tbs. bottled minced garlic
1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper, more to taste
1 can (28 oz.) tomato puree
2 tbs. tomato paste
1 tbs. coarse sea salt
Fresh cracked black pepper, about 10 turns of the pepper grinder
1/4 cup dry red wine or low sodium vegetable broth*
1/2 tbs. dried marjoram
1/2 tbs. dried oregano
1 packet Splenda®
1 tbs. Parmesan/Romano grated cheese

Add olive oil to a heavy sauce pan along with the bottled minced garlic and the crushed red pepper.  Saute' for about three minutes until the aromas release.

Add the tomato puree, the tomato paste, salt, black pepper, red wine, marjoram, oregano, Splenda® and the grated cheese.   Stir until all ingredients are combined.

Bring to boil and reduce to simmer.  Cover and continue to cook for about 1/2 hour. 

Note:  Makes about 3 1/2 cups. 

Also great on pizza!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Beef Short Rib and Cabbage Fettuccine

Before I get started tonight, I am truly humbled and appreciative that Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey sent me a nice letter and had his team enclose his favorite New Jersey Blueberry French Strata Recipe to boot!  ;.)   If you recall back in the summer, I did a special series of recipes where I featured the 13 colonies.  I had written to the Governor's office to share the link which I wrote about the state and he actually wrote me back!  He thanked me for sharing the information on this blog.  How cool is that?
I don't know if the gov actually makes the recipe for his friends and family, but my cooking hubby, who recently won the Gnarly Head Rib contest, would like to challenge the gov to a New Jersey French Strata "Throw down" some day. 
BTW -  Just for Cooking is also followed by our own Florida Governor Rick Scott's team via Twitter
I love the fall.  October is my absolute favorite month of the year, and not just because it’s my birthday AND anniversary month.  The air seems to change.  I don’t care if it’s 50 degrees where you are now or 88 like it’s been down here in Florida; it’s comfort food time!

Comfort food doesn’t have to be unhealthy.  Take this dish:  It’s fettuccine pasta topped with pulled short ribs braised in a simmer sauce, along with sautéed green cabbage.  Yum!  It tastes as good as it looks.  Any time you can add fiber to a pasta dish, it helps to off set the fat your might get from the meat.   You won't have to go crazy on the treadmill after you eat this.

So, here we go -

Serves 4.


1 1/2 lb. short ribs (about 4 meaty ribs)
1/2 cup all purpose flour
2 tbs. olive oil and canola oil blend, or light olive oil, divided
Salt, to taste
Freshly ground pepper, to taste
1 jar of your favorite light pasta sauce (I used Gia Russa Red Wine Simmer Sauce)
1/4 lb. fettuccine pasta, cooked per package directions
1/2 head cabbage, sliced thin
1 tbs. butter
1 tsp. garlic salt
1 tsp. paprika
Grated Romano Cheese, to taste


Dredge ribs in flour.  Heat one tablespoon of the oil in a heavy skillet.  Brown ribs on all sides.  Season liberally with salt and pepper and add to warm slow cooker.  Add 3/4 of the jar of pasta sauce.  Cook on high for two hours.  Reduce heat to low.  Continue to cook for two more hours.

Cook pasta per package directions.  While pasta is cooking, pull the beef from the rib bones and transfer to a sauce pan.  Add remaining sauce and warm through.

In a large skillet, add the remaining tablespoon of oil.  Add the cabbage and cook for about five minutes.  Add a little cold water (optional) to the pan to keep the cabbage from burning.  Add the butter, the garlic salt and paprika.

Once the cabbage is cooked, combine the beef with the cabbage and pasta.  Toss well
and add the cheese. 

Serve immediately.

Enjoy and see you soon.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Authentic Polish Bigos (Hunter's Stew)


Okay, so my friend from Poland, Gosia, wins this round! Not that this was a competition, but consider this a "Bigos Throw down." Bobby Flay would be proud of us. ;.)

I told you when I posted my Bigos recipe last week that I would post hers as soon as she sent me the photos.

In case you missed it:

With permission, here is Gosia's authentic Bigos. All I can say is... "wow!" I know you will enjoy her recipe. 

I think her pictures are great, too.  I hope Gosia will contribute more guest posts.

Gosia's Tip: "The secret of Bigos is that it gets better as it's reheated. The more it is heated the better it gets. Serve with good bread."

1 lb. smoked pork
1 lb. spareribs
1 lb. pork loin or pork ribs
2 cups water, divided
2 bay leaves
Two or three whole Allspice
Pepper, to taste
4 lbs. sauerkraut
1 cup Polish red wine
4 lbs. cabbage, finely chopped
Salt, to taste,
1/4 lb. bacon
1/2 cup onions, chopped
16 ounces fresh chopped wild mushrooms
1 ounce dried mushrooms, rehydrate overnight in red wine or water
1 lb. smoked kielbasa
2 cups dried plums
Two tablespoons tomato paste


Brown pork and spareribs in a large heavy pot. 

Add smoked pork with one (1) cup of water, the bay leaves, allspice and pepper.

Simmer for one hour.

Add sauerkraut and one cup of wine.  Chop the cabbage finely and add to sauerkraut.

Add lots of salt and pepper, cover and simmer for one hour.  Remove lid and keep the pot on a very low simmer.

In a side pan, fry bacon until crisp.  Crumble into the pot with the sour kraut and cabbage.

Cut kielbasa into slices.  Add to the pot along with the dried plums.  Stir in tomato paste.

Bring to boil and reduce to simmer about 30 minutes.  Serve hot.

Gosia's family dog, Drago, loves this recipe, too!

Thank you, my friend, for sharing your recipe with me and my readers.  I wish I could be with you tonight in your lovely home, sharing a dish of this and a glass of Polish beer or sweet wine.

Note:  As stated, all photos and the recipe were used with permission.