Simple meals are my favorite. They are easy to make, delicious to the palate and a wonderful break from the otherwise elaborate meals I cook on Saturdays. The best part about it? With a few simple ingredients the meal doesn’t hurt the budget. I also find I can make many of these types of dishes without much prep time either. And that’s a big bonus for those of us on a schedule.
One of the easiest things to make is a good ol’ fashion frittata. If this is your first foray into Italian cooking, don’t be afraid. A frittata is a fancy way of saying omelet. There is, however, a big difference with an omelet and a frittata, and that is in the final presentation.
The quickest way I make a frittata is this way: take a pan, add olive oil and one small garlic clove. While you’re waiting for the garlic to cook in the pan at medium heat, beat two eggs in a bowl adding finely chopped parsley and salt to taste. Once you see the garlic cooking, flip it a couple of times until it browns. Turn the heat down to simmer, remove the garlic then pour the egg in the center of the pan. What should happen is the egg will cook nice and even, but not stick to the pan. After you see the bottom turn a golden brown, flip the egg over to the other side. Leave it cooking until the other side is golden brown. Remove the frittata and serve with your choice of veggies. I love carrots with my eggs, so you’ll see that happening at Casa Flacco.
Also, you don’t necessarily need only to add parsley to the mix. You can add virtually anything you like. I’ll dice sweet red pepper and have that as part of the egg mix.
Remember how I said frittata is like an omelet? Guess what? Instead of flipping it a second time, you can add a good amount of mozzarella cheese on top, then flip one-half over the other, wait a minute or so and serve warm. You’ll find the omelet will have a nice flavor because of the garlic base you cooked it in and the cheese will have melted inside.
My favorite part about the whole adventure with this kind of omelet is cutting through it to make trailing strands of cheese with every bite. I don’t think I have this much fun with food than when I eat a cheese-filled omelet. There really isn’t anything like it.
Okay, your turn. What is quick to make, fun to eat and won’t cost you much but a few bucks?
For the life of me, I can’t seem to find a recipe that features sardines as its main ingredient. Oh, don’t get me wrong, I’ve tried. I’ve scoured the internet from Food Network to individual cooking sites in an effort to prove that sardines can be a main ingredient to a dish. Alas, I’ve come up empty. To me, the results make for good fodder for today’s Freedom Friday post.
One afternoon last fall, I was hungry. The family was away and I was looking to make something that would tie me over until dinner. I didn’t feel like a full lunch, but at the same time, my hunger was strong enough to warrant a hot meal. First thing I did was head to the pantry. I could have gone into the freezer and thawed one of those ready-made burritos, but like I said, I was looking for something light. Besides, a burrito does all sorts of funky things to my stomach that I didn’t want to experience.
Anyway, I came across a package of spaghetti and a jar of marinara sauce. I thought, “great, it would be the perfect meal.” A small bowl of pasta with some sauce would be enough to keep me active for a couple of hours. Then, with the package and jar in my hands, I eyed the shelves for some protein. I could have gone for the nuts, but I wasn’t in the mood to sit at the table and supplement my meal with another course. That was when I saw the can of sardines.
For those unfamiliar with the taste of sardines, let me tell you. The texture is mushy. The flavor is strong. They’re a great source of Omega-3’s, fatty acids and protein, but they do nothing to stem the flow of a good appetite. That’s my opinion.
I thought, “Hey, why not try it out.”
The pasta went into the water, the sauce went into the pan and the can opener hit the sardines next to the stove. Twenty minutes later, while mixing the sauce into the pasta, I added half a can of sardines.
My nose should have warned me. I didn’t take a hint very well. It was awful, just awful. I had all I could do from tossing my innards.
From that moment on, it’s been my quest to find the ultimate sardine recipe. And honestly, the only one that comes to mind, other than eating out of a can, is sardines on a bed of salad topped with a butter sauce. Unbelievably, that’s all I could find. There was no epiphany to stir my culinary creativity, no magic bullet to hit me with the idea of the century, and no wonderful mix of vegetables and starches to compliment the marine treat.
I just couldn’t find anything.
So now, I ask you all. Do you have a sardine recipe that will surprise and equally shock me into believing in miracles?
Everyone likes new recipes. I mean, I love new recipes and I don’t cook that often. I cook once a week, typically on a Saturday, and I change things up by trying new ingredients in my recipes. But with guacamole—why am I thinking Whac-A-Mole?—there are a few things I do to spin the recipe on its head.
Football season is here and it’s all about guacamole today. If you enjoy food, this Freedom Friday post is just for you.
I learned how to make guacamole from watching master chefs on Food Network Canada a number of years ago when all I watched was Food Network. The thing that attracts me to this Aztec cuisine dip is its versatility in its use.
For instance, I use it for a Saturday night dip with broccoli. If you don’t like broccoli, you can use almost any vegetable and it’ll still make the snack extra special to munch. Just don’t try dipping something crazy like kale with it. Although, I haven’t really tried it, in which case it may actually be somewhat good. Have you ever tried kale chips? Oh, you have to—it’s to die for! I digress.
Let’s get to the recipe, as I know you’re probably wondering what it is.
Ingredients (Serves 2):
7-8 cherry tomatoes
1 garlic clove
4 slices of onion
Cilantro (to taste)
Salt (to taste)
Jalapeño (to taste)
You can make this recipe two ways. The first way is to use a mixer and make it smooth. The second way is to use a fork, a deep bowl, and mix it by hand. If you go the mixer route, you can make the guacamole very smooth and creamy. It will go well as a dip. If you like chunky, I would suggest the second way—the one I prefer, as you’ll get a nice texture from the mix, but also a wonderful blend that you can taste the ingredients individually.
Prep work is easy. Cut the cherry tomatoes into halves in order to have them blend properly in the mix. Add them to your mixing bowl.
Scoop the meat of the avocado; they’ll break down easier in the mixer, and by hand mixing. Into the bowl it goes. (Note: Make sure the avocados are ripe, otherwise you’ll end up with double the mixing time.)
Squeeze the juice of half a lemon.
Chop a medium garlic clove in fine, small pieces. Very small is what you’re going for—the smaller the better. Did I say small?
This is where it gets tricky, as I don’t really measure from this point forward. I rather eye it. Depending on the strength of the onion, I go for four slices but if you don’t like so many onion slices, go for less. Two will work as well.
Cilantro is one of my all-time favorite herbs. It goes well with salads, dips and as garnish for fresh vegetable recipes. It is so good. Just grab a couple of sprigs, wash and pat dry, and chop finely to add in the bowl.
Salt is up to you. Go light at first, believe me, guacamole doesn’t need too much of a kick to taste great.
Lastly, add your jalapeño. Cut a couple of small chunks, again, chopping finely, and add to the bowl.
Once all the ingredients are in, mix to your choice consistency. As I’d mentioned, I like mine chunky, but you may prefer smooth. It’s totally up to you.
This recipe takes me about 10-15 minutes max to make. It’s easy, tasty and ready to serve. Try it with broccoli, as it makes for a lovely snack.
Most of all—have fun!
RANGER MARTIN AND THE ALIEN INVASION, on sale October 21.
Do you make your own guacamole? What do you do to make it special?
I’ve been looking forward all week to tell you about my curry chicken recipe. If you’re keeping track, this is my second curry chicken recipe I’m sharing with you for my Freedom Friday series. Born from the many Saturday afternoon meals I cook for the family, this dish will boost the spirit of any crowd looking for something fun to eat. So, sit back, put your feet up and allow the sweet smell of flavor to take over your imagination.
If you read my post Curry Chicken, then you will know I love cooking and eating. That shouldn’t surprise anyone. The big difference with this recipe has to do with the way I cook it. I wish I’d taken shots of the entire process, but I’m sure if I provide you detailed instructions, you’ll have no problem cooking it yourself. I’ll get back to the way I cook this a little later on. I don’t bake it like the first recipe, that’s for sure.
Let’s start with the ingredients:
You’ll notice one ingredient missing from the original recipe and two ingredients added. That’s right I pulled the ginger from the list because I already had two different heats competing for your palette, black pepper and cayenne. You’re also correct if you’ve guessed I added paprika and coconut milk. You’ll see what I’ll do with those later.
Now for the directions:
Buying the right chicken makes all the world of difference. If you can afford organic skinless thighs, then I’d suggest saving some cash in order to make it a special treat. If you can’t go organic, try Costco chicken. As I’ve mentioned in other posts, and not wanting to sound like an ad, but they give you a lot for your money and you’ll have leftovers to boot.
The prep is super easy. Cut the thighs into smaller pieces about two inches in length all around. You’ll notice once you begin cooking, the pieces will shrink to bite-size portions. Toss your chicken in a cooking pot, preferably one of those deep two-handle ones with the glass cover. If you don’t have one of those, any deep pot will do. Make sure it can hold the chicken and the coconut milk.
This is the fun part, besides eating of course. Place the pot with the chicken on the stove and begin cooking it at a medium heat. No oils, butters or anything like that. Add half a can of coconut milk and stir with a wooden spoon. Plastic spoons do not do justice to this dish. Next, add the rest of your ingredients. Now, I have to say this, I’ve never measured how much of one thing versus another I should add. I always say “to taste” but you see the problem there, right? You don’t want to taste raw chicken as you cook it since doing so would make you violently ill or even worse, kill you. Don’t do it.
Then how do I measure the ingredients to add? Well, imagine all the chicken laying on the counter in a straight line. How would you go about sprinkling the ingredients on them? That’s how I imagine it. I add a lot of curry powder enough to cover each piece. As for the rest, add a few shakes of each ingredient except cayenne pepper. You don’t want to make it too hot. If you have fresh ground pepper, go with that. Nothing quite beats the flavor of fresh. Regarding the salt, up to you how much you want to add. If you add a little, it’ll taste bland. Imagine the chicken spanning the counter again. You’ll get the hang of how much to add.
Keep stirring the chicken in the milk every few minutes or so on medium heat. Leave it uncovered because what you’re trying to do is to allow the milk to reduce to a creamy gravy, which will contain all the flavors you’ve added. Cook for about forty-five minutes but it may be less depending on the stove. I tend to cook it until I see a thick gravy forming and that’s when I reduce the heat to simmer and cover.
On this particular Saturday, I made shoestring fries in the oven to compliment the dish. Rather than slapping the fries on a tray and shoving them in the oven like the instructions say, I add a couple of ingredients to the mix. I sprinkle onion powder and salt on the fries, then toss them in the oven. Believe me, if you have kids, they’ll love the restaurant quality fries you’ll serve them and may even brag about it to their friends.
As for the veggies, up to you what you want to serve with the dish. I had peas on hand and made those by steaming and adding some butter to them. They actually tasted great with the dish.
Before serving the chicken, grab a fork and knife and cut through a piece of chicken to make sure it’s cooked. If it’s white inside and the knife cuts the meat evenly without it feeling rubbery, then you know you’ve got yourself a winner. Try it before plating. If it’s missing flavor, more than likely you didn’t put enough garlic or onion powder. Add the missing ingredient to the pot and stir until dissolved.
When you’re serving the dish, make sure to add in the gravy, it makes for an awesome dip for the fries. Other than that, that’s all there is to it. I hope you enjoy this dish as much as I had writing about it!
Cucumbers are one of my favorite vegetables. I add them to salads. I have them plain. I even toss them into a bowl, dipping them into olive oil as a snack. Cucumbers are great. That’s why for this Freedom Friday post I’m going to share with you one of my absolute favorite cucumber salad recipes ever. If you’re looking for something to eat on a Sunday afternoon, this is the recipe for you.
Although tailored for summer fun, this recipe came from my ongoing experimentation with different food combinations. If anything, this dish has more of a Greek/Mediterranean flavor combination suitable for an evening get-together with friends and family alike. But it doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy it any other time.
Let’s get to it.
Here are the ingredients you’ll need:
Half an English cucumber
Half a lemon
Half a garlic clove
Fresh ground pepper
Cut an English cucumber in half, peel it and slice it into small pieces, and add it to a deep bowl. Some folks like keeping the skin on the cucumber, which is great because the skin has lot of vitamins. In this case, however, I peel it to give the dish a particular flavor I’ve grown to like. Nonetheless, you can keep the peel if you want.
Chop half a garlic clove and add it to the bowl. Trust me, adding half a garlic is being stingy. I’m Italian, garlic runs in our veins. Too much garlic is never enough.
Now, add oregano, fresh ground pepper, salt, Greek olives, a generous dousing of olive oil and a splash of lemon juice. Regarding the amounts to add, I can answer that simply by saying “to taste”. I love oregano, so I add quite a bit of it. The same goes for the fresh ground pepper, nothing quite like the flavor to surprise someone trying it for the first time.
Toss the ingredients with salad spoons or ordinary spoons for that matter.
The last step is to scoop the meat from an avocado into the bowl. Add a good amount of feta cheese on top and you’re good to go. The reason we don’t toss the final ingredients in the salad is to avoid them from getting soggy. No one wants a mushy salad.
I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as I do. If you ever do try it out, make it part of a BBQ on a hot summer evening and let me know what you think.
Having watched the Food Network for a full year made me appreciate the culinary delights of cooking with a few simple ingredients. No, this is not a zombie post. Nor is it a piece dedicated to strong chicks that kick butt. But this Freedom Friday entry is about a quick and easy recipe you can try at home with minimal to no chef experience. Yeah, that describes me, all right.
Real Jamaican curry chicken is hard to make. I know because some of my best friends are Jamaican and theirs is beyond description. Does the term “mouthwatering, savory dish” mean anything to you? It will be once you taste the real thing. Mine is a cheap imitation knock-off. But, as my kids have indicated several times, “Is this ever good.” It’s an ever-good, cheap imitation knock-off.
Okay, enough with the chitchat, let’s get to my recipe, as I know you’re dying to get started on it!
You will need chicken. I always get my chicken from Costco since they package their meats in affordable units. For instance, in my neighborhood, 24 skinless chicken thighs is about $24. I’m paying a buck a thigh. I think that’s a good deal. If you don’t have a Costco, you can try the regular supermarket, although I’m sure you’ll pay much more for the same package.
Once I get my chicken, I tend to soak 12 pieces in brine overnight. Not to make it complicated or anything, my brine is salt water. You can use a pot, which works well. Load the pot with the chicken thighs, add water, and add lots of salt. I can’t say how much salt. I go with what I’m used to—about ten dashes. How’s that for a scientific measuring system? Make sure the fridge is cold enough so as the chicken doesn’t spoil. I can’t stress enough how important it is to ensure food meets health and safety specifications.
Before going on, the reason for soaking the chicken in brine is to plump up the pieces. Ever wonder how restaurants get their chicken to look so huge? They soak them in brine to get the meat to swell at massive proportions. Nice trick, eh?
Next, set the chicken in a skillet/baking pan—your choice. We use a glass skillet in our house and it works fine for our family. If you have something else, that’s fine too. It’s nothing to get hung up about.
Add your ingredients:
And when I mean add your ingredients, I mean sprinkle to taste. You may only want to give a couple of dashes of cayenne, but pour on the curry. After all, it is curry chicken. Have a gander at the photo to get an idea of what it looks like before baking.
What you’ll want to do is set your oven to 375°F and cover the dish with aluminum foil. This will trap all the flavors inside the skillet to make the meat nice and tender when serving. Leave it in there for an hour and prepare the side dishes. I typically make peas or have some fries on the side. On this particular Saturday, my wife jumped in with some corn on the cob. It was goo-ood!
Once done, take the chicken from oven, let stand for about five minutes in order to allow it to absorb the juices from the skillet, then serve with side dishes.
In the photo at the beginning of the post you see the curry chicken served with corn on the cob, marinated egg plant, and green beans. What a wonderful, delectable dish!
RANGER MARTIN AND THE ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE, on sale October 22.
Have you ever cooked Jamaican-style curry chicken? If so, how do you do it? Do you have any chicken recipes that have become a staple with your family?
Did you know avocados are a fruit? I didn’t know that for a long time. Much like tomatoes, they have a seed inside. According to science, that’s what makes it a fruit. In cooking, however, it’s a different matter. Served in delicious savory meals, chefs define it more as a vegetable. Avocados also provide an enjoyable snack for the health conscious.
For my Freedom Friday series, I would like to show you how easy it is to make avocados a part of a nutritious, balanced diet.
When my wife first introduced avocados in our diet a few years ago, I wasn’t sure what to make of it. I trusted her sense of flavor, but as in all things borne from the unknown, I still had my reservations. She got the idea from watching someone. And one day she brought a bag full of the Persea americana from the grocery store. From there, as my sense of curiosity got the best of me, she went on to show me how to eat it.
This is the easiest avocado recipe in the world. Anyone can make it. With a handful of ingredients, guaranteed you’ll like it too!
1 lemon (you really don’t need a whole lemon, or half a lemon for that matter)
Cut the avocado lengthwise exposing the seed as an oval. I usually use a steak knife, but you can use any ol’ knife. Just make sure it’s sharp and can penetrate the avocado’s hard skin. To remove the seed, I always stab it in the center with the knife, jostle it a bit, and it should pop right out of there.
Once you’ve removed the seed, with the same knife gently poke holes into the avocado’s meat. They don’t have to go all the way to the bottom. And you don’t have to poke a million holes. Just enough for the next step.
Squeeze some lemon on the meat. All that lemon juice will then seep into the holes from the previous step. This way a balanced coat of flavor covers the meat.
Sprinkle salt to taste
To eat it, all you need is a spoon. Believe me when I say it’s a refreshingly delicious snack!
For those wondering the health benefits of avocados: