Sausage & Peppers

This is always a crowd pleaser because it can be served as a main dish during a party or it can be served as an appetizer.  It can be served on bread or just in a plate and some do it over pasta.   I have become a huge fan of turkey sausage, so feel free to use that instead…..AND if you like a little spice in your life you may opt for hot sausage as opposed to sweet.    So as you can see, it’s very versatile.  It easy to make for a large group too.  My Mom used to make it all the time when she had large amounts of people over.   This recipe is what I usually make for my family of 4 (with a bit leftover),  so if you are making it for more people make sure you make more.   In the summer I usually  throw them on the grill for the last 10-15 minutes just to give them that nice grill taste, but here in Jersey it’s way too cold to be grilling when it;s just as easy and delicious to keep them in the oven.

Sausage & Peppers

1 package of sweet Italian sausage

1 red bell pepper

1 green pepper

1 vidalia onion

Olive oil

Salt

Pepper

Rolls, baguettes or a French loaf of bread

Preheat oven to 375.

Lightly oil the bottom of a 8×8 Pyrex dish.

With a fork pierce a few holes in each sausage link and lay them in Pyrex.

Cook for approx. 30 minutes.  Half way through flip them over.

At 30 minutes remove from oven and slice the links open (butterfly them) and return to oven.  Cook for about 15-20 more minutes until no longer pink inside.

OR

Slice links and put them on a preheated medium heat grill and cook for about 15 minutes until no longer pink.

While  sausage is cooking…

Slice peppers and onion and stir fry on stove top in olive oil  ans salt and pepper (to taste) until cooked, but still slightly crispy.  I like mine on the harder side, but if you like yours softer you can cook them longer.

Once sausage and peppers and onions are fully cooked serve both on bread of your choice.  I like to eat mine with ketchup, but you can also use your favorite marinara sauce or eat it plain!

 ENJOY!

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~gianna~ 

Pepperoni Pizza Bread

This is not only a perfect game day food, but also a food that I grew up with!  My Mom used to make pizza breads often and she always changed them up, which is why I love this recipe.  There are so many fillings you can use and they are interchangeable….even the food itself is called different things.  I’ve seen it called Stromboli,  stuffed bread, and pizza bread…as I’m sure there are other terms for it!    Today I will be blogging about Pepperoni Pizza Bread (which reminds me I have heard it called Pepperoni Bread as well). I don’t really use a specific recipe for amounts, I just wing it on how much stuff I want to fill it with.  Sometimes I’m in a cheesy mood so I’ll put more cheese, sometimes if I’m making it for a larger group with men,  I’ll put more pepperoni.  Some people serve theirs with a side of marinara sauce for dipping, I do not.  But feel free to add some on the side if you’d like.  You can also use any kind of cheese….mozzarella and provolone are the 2 I’ve used with pepperoni.

PEPPERONI PIZZA BREAD

 1 pound of pizza dough — store bought or homemade (make sure it’s at room temp)

Pepperoni (sliced thin from the deli counter)

Shredded Mozzarella (you can use provolone too, I personally like mozzarella in this)

Olive Oil

1 Egg White

Preheat Oven to 375°.

Roll your dough out flat and longer than a round pizza on a WELL floured surface.  Length should fit in a baking sheet.

Grease the baking sheet with a thin coating of olive oil.

Layer pepperoni, leaving an inch or two the whole way around.

Add cheese to the middle of the layer of pepperoni.

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Gently pull up sides and meet at the middle.  Make sure you press down on the fold to nothing seeps out.

Gently pull up the ends and press down firmly so nothing seeps out.  

Lift the entire thing and place it in the center of the baking sheet (I do mine seem side up).  If you don’t think you can do this part (it takes some practice) you can place your dough on the baking sheet prior to layering the pepperoni and cheese and then fold it up.

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Using a pastry brush, brush the entire thing with egg white.  

 Cook for about 25 minutes at 375° or until the top gets golden brown.  

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Let it set and cool for a few minutes, then slice it gently.   AND ENJOY!   Serve plain or with a side of marinara sauce.  

~gianna~

Crockpot Baby Back Ribs

I love using my crockpot, but sometimes it gets hard finding recipes I like in the crockpot.  Sometimes the recipes make the food too wet or too dry and sometimes it tastes “crockpotty” (the taste it gets from sitting in a crockpot all day — there is a certain taste, trust me).  

So I decided to give baby back ribs a try in the crockpot.   Last time I made ribs in the crockpot, they were very good…..but I used country ribs (bone in)….this time I decided to use baby back and cook them on low instead of high!  I also changed things around a bit.   I gave them a dry rub and waited to add the BBQ sauce (Sweet Baby Rays obviously!) until the end!  And HOLY COW….I hit a home run!  These were AMAZING!  Probably one of the best things I’ve made in my crockpot!


1 large rack of baby back ribs (I honestly don’t remember how much it weighed).

1 tsp. black pepper

1 tsp garlic salt

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1 tsp onion powder

1 tsp tyhme

1 TBSP brown sugar

Bottle of your favorite BBQ sauce (I use…..all together now……Sweet Baby Rays)

Cut your ribs into sections (4 ribs in each)….you should get 4 or 5 sections.  

Combine all your dry ingredients and give those ribs a good rub down…make sure to coat the entire thing. 

Generously spray your crockpot with cooking spray.

Stack your ribs sideways/vertically in the crockpot….bone side down.  Kind of lay them against each other.

Cover and cook on LOW for about 8 hours.

After the 8 hours is up, uncover and brush the ribs with BBQ sauce.  I pretty much smothered mine…but I like them saucey!  Cover and turn heat up to HIGH and cook for another 30 minutes!

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~gianna~

Homemade Pizza

Joe and I decided to start (or I should say re-start from my childhood) a family tradition!  Making pizza!     Every Friday, when I was growing up was pizza night!  We would sometimes order pizza if we were busy or if my brother’s or I had something going on…or my Mom would make her own!  I can still remember the smell that took over my house on those nights!  It may be the BEST smell in the world!     Sauce, bubbling on the stove, dough being rolled out, cheese being shredded….and then once it was in the oven……Mmmmmmmmmmm

Now that I have my own family and the girls are getting old enough to help out I am excited to start this tradition and have it continue as long as we can!  Friday nights we normally don’t have anything going on aside from swim.  So I usually pull the dough early in the afternoon so it’s room temperature when I’m ready to roll.  I also start the sauce early and let it simmer for a while.   This is when those familiar smells begin to take over my kitchen!   My girls love spreading the sauce and sprinkling (and eating) the cheese and then it starts “Mmmmm…..it smells so good!”  “How much longer?”   “Is it almost ready?”

Approx 20 minutes later…..DING!  It’s done!  Fresh, hot, homemade pizza for my family….and it makes me happy because it’s one meal I know everyone will eat!   Perfect for football Sunday,Super Bowl, or any time you want some pizza!

One important factor that really makes a huge difference in the taste of the pizza is the dough.  I’ve gotten different kinds…frozen, from the bakery, refrigerated….and once I found the perfect dough (local:  Stop N Shop in the bakery..it’s their own dough) I won’t use anything else.  It’s easy to roll and shape and the taste is like none other!  So make sure you try different brands to find a good fit!

Homemade Pizza

Olive Oil

Garlic (minced)

Basil

Sugar

Large can of crushed tomatoes

Pizza dough (2 pounds = enough 2 pizzas)

Parmesan cheese

32oz of mozzarella cheese (shredded) OR I get the chunks and shred it myself!

Bring pizza dough to room temperature.  While waiting…….

Heat 1TBSP of olive oil in a pan.  Add garlic and basil for about 1 minute.  Add can of crushed tomatoes.  You can add any kind of seasonings to it that you’d like…oregano, hot pepper seeds, etc.  (My girls don’t like “brown stuff” in their gravy so I don’t add anything extra!)  Bring to boil and then lower to simmer.  Simmer on low for approx 25-30mins.

Preheat oven to 375° degrees.   While waiting for your gravy….

Using a small amount of olive oil grease your cookie sheets.

Once dough gets to room temp, begin rolling and stretching on well floured counter top until it gets to the size of your cookie sheets and the thickness you like your pizza..  I normally do rectangle cookie sheets, and like my pizza on the thinner side..but not extra thin.    You can use a round pizza pan, you can make your pizza crust thicker..it’s really whatever you like!

Once it’s to the thickness and size you’d like, carefully lift dough and place it on your cookie sheets/pizza pans.

Pinch gently around the perimeter to form a slight crust.

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Using a cheese grater, shred your cheese (if you are going this route).

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Your gravy should be done, or almost done.   Once it’s finished, ladle it on top of your crust and spread it evenly on top.  Make sure you leave some room around the edge for your “handle”.  

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Next sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and then nice handfuls of mozzarella cheese!  Spreading them evenly and using as much as you’d like! 

 Cook pizza in hot oven for approx 20-25 minutes, but keep checking it and cook to however you like it (crispy, well done, doughy, etc).   Normally 20 minutes is good for us, but we have a brand new oven and it really cooks everything evenly.  I know my Mom’s oven doesn’t so she has to cook it for longer and she sometimes rotates them during cooking time!

When you remove it from the oven, let it sit and settle for approx. 5 minutes.

ENJOY!!!

pizza4

~gianna~

Cheddar Ale Soup in Soft Pretzel Bowls

So a few weeks ago I stumbled upon a recipe on the Williams-Sonoma website for Cheddar Ale soup…it sounded delicious but I didn’t have all the ingredients….so I filed it on my computer for another day.     I recently got a Mac and I’m still (3+ months later) trying to figure it out.  I went to find the recipe and couldn’t remember where I filed it…..so I did a quick google search for Cheddar Ale Soup and not only did I find the original recipe (from Williams-Sonoma), but I found someone that made THAT soup served in a………..wait for it……………..

A pretzel bowl!   

It has all the makings of the perfect game day food (or any day food, really)!    I could probably poll 100 men (and women too) and 90% would say at least 3 of these ingredients are on their “Top 10 Favorite Foods” list!   Cheese…….Check!  Bacon…..Check!  Beer……Check!  Pretzels……CHECK!!!   Pure Genius!  

 All day my house smelled amazing, from the pretzel dough rising on the counter, to the soup simmering on the stove, to the pretzel bowls baking in the oven…..it was heaven!  And the taste was even better!  It was delicious and the best part….I didn’t have bowls to wash after because we got to eat them!

 I’m not going to lie or even try to minimize this meal…..it takes awhile to make and it’s pretty tedious and there are lots of pans and bowls to wash (but no soup bowls!!!).  I was in the kitchen a lot this morning, more than I like to be.   When I wasn’t actually standing at the stove, I was checking on things, but if you have some time and want to make a yummy meal DO IT..I dare you!  You won’t be disappointed!  File this one away for when you are home on a snowy day or a weekend when you have extra time to spend cooking!   I actually did most of the prep and cooking of this meal in the morning and then finished it up around dinner time, because I had time while my kids were in school.  It actually worked out nicely!  You don’t have to do the pretzel bowls either…you can serve the soup in regular bowls….but I highly suggest the edible ones!  My kids loved them, and I can’t lie…..I did too! 

Pretzel Bowls

(Thank You Fake Ginger)

Makes 4 Bowls

5 1/2 cups bread flour

2 envelopes of quick-rising yeast

2 tsp salt

2 tsp sugar

4 cups + another tablespoon or 2 of hot water (very hot, but not boiled)

Cornmeal

8 cups of water

1/4 cup baking soda

2 Tbsp sugar

1 egg white (beaten to blend)

Coarse Salt (I didn’t have this, so I left it out…I also don’t like salt on my pretzels — I’m weird

Combine bread flour, yeast, salt, sugar and water in stand mixer (or large bowl) and mix until dough comes together in a ball.   Switch stand mixer to kneading attachment and knead for 5 minutes.  Or put dough on floured surface and knead for 5 minutes (or until elastic and smooth.  Grease medium bowl.  Add dough to bowl, turning to coat.  Cover with plastic wrap and a dishtowel. Let dough rise in a warm, draft-free area until doubled in volume (about 35 minutes).

Flour baking sheet.   Knead on lightly floured surface.   Diving into 4 equal pieces. Form each piece into a ball and place on floured baking sheet.  Cover with towel and let sit for approx. 20 minutes until balls double in volume.  

Preheat oven to 375°.   Grease another baking sheet and sprinkle with cornmeal.  Bring 8 cups of water to boil in large sauce pan.   Add baking soda and sugar (it will foam — don’t panic).    Add one ball of dough to water with slotted spoon and let sit for 30 seconds.  Flip ball and let sit for another 30 seconds.   Transfer ball 9with slotted spoon) to prepared baking sheet.  Repeat with remaining bowls.

Brush rolls with egg white.  Sprinkle generously with salt (or omit like I did).  Bake rolls until brown about 25-30 minutes.   Transfer to wire racks and let cool.  

Using a sharp knife, work on a diagonal in a circle to remove a hole in the top.  Remove top and then hollow out the middles of the rolls to make a bowl.  Do this gently so you don’t puncture a hole in the sides or bottom.  

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Cheddar Ale Soup

(adapted from Williams-Sonoma)

 Serves 6-8 bowls of soup

 6 slices of bacon

1 Tbsp butter

1 Vidalia onion — diced

2 carrots — peeled and diced

2 celery stalks — diced

3 cloves of garlic — minced

2/3 cup all-purpose flour

1 1/2 cup pale ale (any flavor you like)

1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce

3 cups milk

3 cup chicken broth

1 pound of extra sharp cheddar cheese– shredded

 

In a frying pan, cook bacon until crisp.   

Remove bacon and drain on paper towel.

 

In a large stock pot add 2 pieces of the bacon and 2 Tbsp of the fat from the frying pan, cook on medium heat.  

Add and melt the butter.  

Add the onion, carrots and celery, cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are softened, about 20 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the flour and cook, stirring occasionally, for 3 to 4 minutes. 

Add the ale and cook, stirring constantly, for 2 to 3 minutes. 

Add the Worcestershire, milk and broth, increase the heat to medium-high and bring to a simmer. 

Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for 10 to 12 minutes. 

Remove the pot from the heat and puree the soup (in small batches) in a blender.  You can also you an immersion blender.


Set the pot over medium-low heat and add the cheese by the handful, stirring constantly; do not allow the soup to boil. 

Season with salt and pepper. Ladle the soup into warmed pretzel bowls. 

Garnish with leftover crumbled bacon.

 ENJOY!!!  I know you will!!!

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~gianna~

Coconut Chicken Strips

I accidentally bought chicken tenders instead of chicken breasts the other day and needed to make them tonight!  I found a recipe that was perfect for dinner, because I knew the girls and Joe would eat it, but also perfect for the “football food” theme.   It’s very simple, doesn’t take much time and will wow any crowd, young and old.   Pair these chicken strips with some yummy dipping sauce of your own or use mine, and it’s sure to be a touchdown!!!!   (Sorry — I had to).  This can also be made into a meal!   Follow the same directions using butterfly shrimp for a different taste!  YUM!

Coconut Chicken Strips

 1-2 pounds — chicken tenders (cleaned)

2 eggs

1/4 cup coconut milk

1/2 cup flour

1 1/2 cups panko breadcrumbs

1 1/2 cups shredded coconut

salt (to taste)

oil (for frying)

 Set out 3 bowls.  In first bowl combine and mix eggs and coconut milk.  In second bowl combine salt and flour and in third bowl combine planko breadcrumb and shredded coconut.

 While your oil is getting nice and hot, dip each chicken tender first in the flour mixture, then egg/coconut milk mixture, and then coat it in the planko and coconut mixture.   Once oil is hot, place chicken into pan and cook approx. 3 – 4 minutes on each side and until chicken is golden brown and crispy.  If they are thicker tenders you may need to cook a little longer.

 Remove from oil and place on paper towels to drain excess oil and let sit for a few minutes.

 Serve with your favorite dipping sauce.   ENJOY!!!

 

Here is what I whipped up for my dipping sauce and it was delicious:

Dipping Sauce for Coconut Chicken or Shrimp

No recipe — so add ingredients to taste

 Apricot Preserves  (I used about 10oz) — you can use Orange or Peach too!

Soy Sauce (about 1 tbsp)

Spicy Brown Mustard (about 1 tsp.)

Juice of half a lemon

Ground ginger (about 1tsp.)

Sesame oil (about 1/2 tsp)

 

Mix together and serve!

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~gianna~

Beer & Chili Meatballs

These little balls of deliciousness have been an old standby of mine whenever I’m asked to “bring a hearty appy!” because you can make them in bulk and they are so yummy!  I also always add them to my own menus..when I’m hosting a party!  I usually cook them on the stove, and then transfer them to my crockpot and keep it on warm, just to keep them hot!  (They aren’t as good served room temperature..or cold!)   And even though they do have beer in them……kids go coo-coo for them!  The alcohol burns off…so don’t worry (I never do) ;oP  And they are made with ground turkey, so they are a tad more healthy!  BONUS!!!  They are also great for any time of year…I’ve done them for New Years Eve….a Summer Luau or any day in between.  I was recently told by friends that they started making these for parties and they call them “Gianna’s Meatballs”.  I’d be happy to have my name attached to this recipe!  


You must make these for the next “bring a hearty (or any) appy!” party!  And you won’t be disappointed…NO ONE will!

Beer & Chili Meatballs

Preheat oven to 350°

You will need for meatballs…

1 lb ground turkey

1 cup Italian Breadcrumbs

2 eggs (beaten)

3/4 cup milk

Mix all in a bowl (I use my KA Stand Mixer)

Form small meatballs (like bite-sized or a little bigger)

Put on a baking sheet that has been lightly oiled

Bake for 30 minutes


You will also need

1/2 cup beer (any kind)

1/2 cup brown sugar

A bottle of chili sauce

(people often ask where to find this in the store.  It’s usually near the cocktail sauce and ketchup)


In a large pot on the stove mix in all ingredients and drop in meatballs. Stir occasionally, let simmer for 15-20 minutes!

 

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~gianna~

Buffalo Chicken Dip

Here is an oldie, but goodie!  I used to make it all the time for parties….it was one of my go-to dips.  But then other dips/appys took it’s place and I kinda stopped bringing it.  The nice thing about this recipe is that someone, somewhere ends up bringing it to a party or get together we are at…and it resurfaces itself.  Which is exactly what happened again. A friend of mine brought it to our New Year’s Eve party this year….and now it’s baaaaaack!   If you like buffalo-style chicken wings, you will love this dip!  It’s creamy, with a little crunch and a whole lot of spice and it’s really easy!  It’s a perfect dip for anytime..but especially football season!   It’s also one of my husband’s favorites!

 I tweaked my original recipe (which I got from one of my best friends, Alyssa) to make it a somewhat lighter version.   The only difference is to swap out regular cream cheese for the 1/3 less fat (or fat free) and serve it with crackers and tortilla chips instead of celery and carrots!    You decide which is the right fit for you!  🙂

Buffalo Chicken Dip (the healthier version)

 

2 pkg. 1/3 Less Fat Cream Cheese

2 small or 1 large can of chicken (I use all white meat Swanson)

1 packet of Hidden Valley Ranch (dry mix)

1/2 cup Frank’s Red Hot Sauce (more or less to your liking)

1/2 cup diced celery

Celery, Carrots, Crackers or Tortilla Chips for dipping

 

Preheat oven to 375°.

Combine cream cheese, hot sauce and ranch packet in a bowl and mix well with a mixer (hand or stand) until smooth.

Add chicken and celery and mix until it’s incorporated.  

Pour mixture into an 8×8 baking dish.  

Cook for about 20 minutes or until it starts to bubble…stirring every so often.

 Serve warm with celery sticks, carrot sticks, crackers or tortilla chips. 

 ENJOY!

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~gianna~

Super Bowl Time!!!

There has been a lot of talk around here about the Super Bowl….NOT because either of our local teams are in it…sadly, they are not, but because New Jersey is hosting it this year.  Neither the JETS (my team) nor the Giants will be playing, but we will still be watching.  We are a football liking family.  My husband is a football lover, but he has 2 daughters and a wife….therefore we like, we don’t love unless the JETS are playing.

Over the next few weeks I will be posting lots of recipes that would be perfect for any Super Bowl party or football Sunday!  My family and I love appetizers, dips and other fun finger foods….messy ones especially!  The messier, the better in my opinion.  You will find lots of great recipes over the next few weeks…all of which are tried and true.   Dips to hearty appetizers….lightened up recipes and sweets too!

Let’s start the party off right with this little number!  Someone made these for  my New Year’s Eve party this year and it was definitely the big winner that night!   People were raving about these hot dogs.  I even overheard a father pushing them on his 8 year old daughter…”You gotta try this….it’s the best thing you will ever eat!  It’s a HOT DOG..WRAPPED IN BACON!!!!!  (very enthusiastic!)   You really just have to try it, you won’t be disappointed!”  She took one bite and was hooked!  I heard another father say to his 13 year old, “It’s a hot dog wrapped in bacon…if you try it and don’t like…I will give you $5!”   Another one hooked!  Both True Stories.

It was the only food (and we had a lot of delicious food that night) that was completely GONE by the end of the night!   I have no idea where they got the recipe, but I’m so glad these landed in my kitchen!   They are FAR from healthy…in fact they might just be one of the most unhealthy things ever…..but who cares??   If you are still sticking to your “New Year’s Diet”….then just bookmark this page for a month from now…when you won’t give a damn and you’re looking for a great Super Bowl recipe to please everyone (even the ones still dieting)!

I’ve gone ahead and named this recipe “Jimmy’s Smokies” because  he and his wife recently told me they have named meatballs I make (recipe coming soon), “Gianna’s Meatballs.”  It felt like the right thing to do!  🙂  So without further ado….

Jimmy’s Smokies

1 package of hot dogs

1 package of bacon

Brown Sugar

Toothpicks

Preheat Oven to 350°

Cut hot dogs into quarters.

Wrap each piece of hot dog in 1/3 of a strip of bacon and secure with toothpick all the way thru (so you can easily pick it up and eat it later).

Place all wrapped hot dogs on baking sheet.

Sprinkle brown sugar all over hot dogs.

Cook for 25-30 minutes.

***Keep and eye on them from 20 minutes on….just to make sure they aren’t burning.  Oven times may vary***  

HEAVEN!!!!  

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~gianna~

Honey Pork Chops

Simplest.  Recipe.  Ever.

I don’t make pork chops that often (as you’ll come to find out), but I’m always looking for new things to make and new ideas.  I’m not a red meat eater…..I know..shocker!   I’ll cook it, I’ll eat it once in awhile, but I just don’t love the taste.   It’s also not something I’d ever pick off a menu.   So it’s pretty much chicken, turkey (ground), seafood and pork all the time.   Don’t worry….I have a few meat recipes in my vault, they just won’t come as often as the rest!

OK…so pork chops (no applesauce)….I got some boneless ones while food shopping and decided to try them out.  I asked my cousin if she had any recipes and she gave me a very simple recipe.  She had it pinned on pintrest, but I don’t know where she got it from.    You just add the ingredients together, marinate the pork chops and cook!  DONE!

Easy Peasy!

I didn’t have any measurements…..i just winged it to taste!

Honey Pork Chops

Honey

Soy Sauce

Garlic – minced

4 boneless pork chops

Whisk together honey, soy sauce and garlic.  

Pour over pork chops and let marinate for 2 hours — all day.  

Flip half way thru.

Preheat oven to 350° and cook pork chops for 30 minutes.

***I flipped them after 20 minute of cookings, but I don’t think you have to***

ENJOY!!

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~gianna~

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