Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Roasted Cauliflower with Tomatoes, Garlic and Herbs

Every time I make roasted cauliflower my husband always comments how plain our plates look. It's true - for some reason I end up making cauliflower when everything else on the plate is somewhat lacking in color, like chicken in a creamy sauce or a side like risotto or rice. It's funny because I'm always concerned about color on a plate and making it appealing to the eye, but for some reason I haven't held to this when I'm making cauliflower.

Until now. I bought a head of cauliflower and was determined to make a pretty plate with it.

I tossed the cauliflower with multicolored tomatoes, garlic cloves, oil, and some dried herbs and then poured them onto a cookie sheet to roast.

After 20 minutes the cauliflower was perfectly roasted, the garlic was soft and sweet, and the tomatoes had melted, their juices mixing with the oil to help coat everything. We loved this as a side to our grilled chicken, and then the next day as a side to grilled burgers.

Roasted Cauliflower with Tomatoes, Garlic and Herbs
An original recipe by Mary Ellen of Mary Ellen's Cooking Creations

  • 1/2 head of cauliflower chopped into florets
  • A cup of multicolored tomatoes, halved
  • 6 cloves of garlic, halved
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper
  • 2 tsp dried herbs - I used equal amounts of oregano and an Italian blend of dried herbs
  • Preheat your oven to 400 degrees and line a cookie sheet with tin foil
  • Place the cauliflower, tomatoes and garlic in a large bowl. Drizzle in the oil, salt, pepper, and herbs. Toss everything with a wooden spoon to coat.
  • Pour the veggies onto the cookie sheet and roast for 20 minutes
  • Serve immediately

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Classic Pulled Pork with Rated X Sauce

A few weeks ago I went to a cooking demonstration that showcased products made by a local company, Offbeat Gourmet. Offbeat creates premium condiments using locally sourced and mostly organic ingredients. 
At the demonstration we were able to try everything that they cooked as well as sample a bunch of Offbeat's other products. I ended up sampling and buying several products, including a sauce they call Rated X. 
This sauce tricks you in the best of ways - the first flavor you get is sweet and tangy from the oranges, but then that heat kicks in and man is that some heat!!! It's not a spicy burn your tongue kind of heat, but more like a slowly developing heat that hits you at the back of our mouth. It's a sauce that is complex and adds to the dish with its heat instead of just being spicy for the sake of being spicy. SO, so good. And just look at that thick consistency - 
I knew I'd have to use Rated X the next time I made pulled pork. And with the heat coming from applewood smoked ghost peppers, I knew Jon would love it. 
I made a rub for the pork using smoky, sweet and slightly spicy flavors to complement the sauce. For liquid I chose an IPA beer, a touch of cider vinegar and just a tiny bit of the sauce since we'd be using more on our sandwiches. 
We put the sandwiches together on soft-on-the-inside, crusty-on-the-outside rolls with cole slaw and more of the sauce. I wish you could reach into the screen and taste this pork and the sauce. On its own the pork had just a hint of the heat, so adding that touch of sauce on the sandwich was perfect. Sticky, sweet and then hot all in one bite. 
Pulled Pork with Rated X Sauce
Original recipe by Mary Ellen of Mary Ellen's Cooking Creations, inspired by Offbeat Gourmet's Rated X Sauce
Serves 8-10
  • One 2 lb pork loin or tenderloin; I prefer to use a loin or tenderloin instead of a butt or shoulder as there is less fat and gristle
  • 1 Tbsp onion powder
  • 1 Tbsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 Tbsp paprika
  • 1 Tbsp chili powder
  • 1/2 Tbsp cumin
  • 2 Tbsp light brown sugar
  • 1 tsp Kosher salt
  • 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • One onion, sliced
  • 3 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
  • 1 bottle of IPA (I use Goose Island IPA)
  • Splash of cider vinegar (maybe 1/2 tsp)
  • 1/2 tsp of the Rated X sauce (or more), plus more for serving
  • Your favorite cole slaw and rolls, for serving
  • In a bowl, mix the onion powder, garlic powder, paprika, chili powder, cumin, brown sugar, salt and pepper. Rub the mixture generously all over the pork.
  • Put the onions and garlic in the bottom of your crock pot
  • Pour in the beer and cider vinegar, and then add the Rated X sauce, stirring to combine.
  • Place the pork in the pot and cover
  • Cook on high for 5 hours, turning the pork once
  • Turn to low and cook 2-3 more hours. In the last hour shred the pork with 2 forks.
  • Keep pork on warm until ready to serve. 

Monday, April 18, 2016

Grilled Chicken BLT Salad with a Bacon Balsamic Vinaigrette and Blue Cheese

We're back to grilling season here in the Northeast! Jon will grill year-round, but once the warm weather hits it makes grilling so much more enjoyable. He can actually stay outside and enjoy a beer while grilling instead of having to run back in the house.

The grilling bug has officially hit so last week when I asked Jon what he wanted for dinner I should have known to expect "something on the grill" as his answer. Fine with me - keep the mess outside! Then he asked for grilled chicken and salads and I immediately thought about the gourmet medley of tomatoes I just bought that morning. And what goes better with greens and tomatoes than bacon? I decided to make a BLT salad with a warm bacon dressing.

I kept the chicken simple with just some garlic, onion, salt and pepper and a quick zest of lemon rind before going on the grill. I also kept the salad simple - I chose spinach as my greens (romaine for Jon), some grilled red onion, fresh multi-colored tomatoes, cucumbers and green onions. There was a reason for keeping everything simple - this dressing. It is seriously over the top good - I mean, it's a dressing pretty much made from bacon and its grease, how couldn't it be? Then you get the tang of balsamic and the bite of the blue cheese all poured over the crisp, cold salad. Heaven!

Grilled Chicken BLT Salad with a Bacon Balsamic Vinaigrette and Blue Cheese
Original recipe by Mary Ellen of Mary Ellen's Cooking Creations
Makes 3 salads

The Chicken

  • 3 chicken breasts
  • 1/4 c olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp onion powder
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • Zest from 1/2 of a lemon
  • Squirt of lemon juice
Mix all of the ingredients and pour over the chicken for 2 hours. Grill until internal temperature reaches 165 degrees. Let rest at least 5 minutes before slicing and serving. 

The Salads
  • 1/2 of a red onion cut into rings
  • Greens of your choice; we used Romaine lettuce and spinach. 
  • Tomatoes, chopped; I used a medley of yellow, campari, grape and kumatos (brown tomatoes)
  • Green onions, chopped
  • Cucumber, chopped
  • Crumbled blue cheese
Divide ingredients among bowls. Top with the sliced chicken and dressing and blue cheese. 

The Dressing

Source: Guy Fieri

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil 
  • 2 tbsp chopped red onion
  • 6 slices bacon, chopped
  • 1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a saute pan over high heat. 
  • Add the onions and bacon and cook until the bacon is crispy, about 6 minutes. 
  • To the same pan add the balsamic vinegar and 1 tablespoon of the olive oil and stir to combine. Season with freshly ground black pepper to taste. 

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Slow Cooker Pot Roast

There is something to be said about good old-fashioned, hearty home cooking. They are recipes that have been around for years and get passed down from generation to generation. Just the thought of these meals take you back to your childhood or bring back warm memories. And sometimes just the smell of something cooking can put you right back at that old table in your grandmother's kitchen. 

Even simply hearing the words "pot roast" reminds me of growing up, and that's funny because we rarely ate it. I guess it's the style of cooking that takes me back. Sunday dinners were often cuts of meat roasted or braised with potatoes and veggies. So when it comes time to plan my Sunday dinners, I often turn to comforting one-dish meals. 
Although I prefer my Dutch oven for braised meats and stews, I have been turning to my slow cooker more often. Pulled meats for sandwiches or tacos are my most popular slow cooker meals, but last week I wanted something that would be a complete meal all in one pot. My supermarket had chuck roasts on sale, so pot roast it would be.
I have several different beef stew recipes that I like to make, so I used them as inspiration as far as the seasoning, searing and deglazing method, and veggies. For liquid I usually turn to a dark beer like Guinness, but decided to play with red wine and beef stock for this dinner. 
The gravy produced from this dinner was so rich, thick and packed with flavor. The beef fell apart and you didn't even need a knife to cut it. Leftovers the next night were just as good, if not better. The fat will rise to the top after sitting in the fridge overnight, so skim it off with a spoon before reheating the meal. The only thing that would have made this dinner better would have been a snowstorm outside and a loaf of warm, homemade crusty bread! 

Slow Cooker Pot Roast
Original recipe by Mary Ellen of Mary Ellen's Cooking Creations

(note: amounts of spices are approximate - I seasoned the roast liberally)
  • One 3-lb chuck roast
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp Kosher salt1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 c flour
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil plus 1 additional Tbsp
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 Tbsp tomato paste mixed with 1/4 c water
  • 1/2 c red wine
  • 2 c beef stock
  • 2 Russet potatoes, chopped
  • 3 carrots, chopped
  • 2 stalks of celery, chopped
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Additional thyme, salt and pepper
  • Season the roast with the thyme, cayenne, onion powder, garlic powder salt and pepper. Coat in flour, shaking off any excess. 
  • Heat 2 Tbsp olive oil in a large saute pan over medium high heat until shimmering. Add the roast (being careful to set it down in a direction away from you to avoid splatter/splashing) and sear on all sides. Take your time on this step - you want a good sear.
  • Once completely seared, transfer the roast to a warm slow cooker and surround with the carrots, celery and potatoes.
  • To the pan, add 1 Tbsp olive oil. Add the onions and garlic and saute 2-3 minutes. Add the tomato paste/water mixture and stir until combined. Add the wine and bring to a simmer. 
  • Pour the wine mixture over the roast followed by the beef stock and bay leaves. Note - add the beef stock slowly as you may not need all of it. You want the liquid to just barely cover the food.
  • Let cook on high for 4 hours followed by 2-4 hours on low. Check seasoning during cooking and adjust, if needed.
  • Once done, transfer the roast to a dish. Note - it's going to be falling apart so you will want an extra spoon to help you do this. You won't even need a cutting board to slice the meat before serving!
  • Using a slotted spoon, transfer the veggies to the serving dish. 
  • Serve the meat and veggies with some of the gravy, being sure to remove the bay leaves first. 

Monday, April 11, 2016

Whole Grain Blueberry Muffins

I can't believe I never shared this post! Somehow it got lost in my drafts and I just came across it this morning. It's definitely one worth sharing so let me get to it right away. 

These aren't your ordinary blueberry muffins. Rolled oats and flax give them texture and heartiness that you don't get in your typical muffin, and the orange zest and juice add a bright flavor. These freeze well, too, making them the perfect muffin to grab for a breakfast on the go. 

Whole Grain Blueberry Muffins
Adapted from: Real Simple


  • 1 1/4 cups whole wheat flour, spooned and leveled
  • 1 c old fashioned rolled oats
  • 1/4 c flaxseed meal
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp Kosher salt
  • 1 c plain low-fat yogurt
  • 1/4 c packed light brown sugar
  • 3 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 Tbsp orange zest
  • 1/4 c orange juice
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 2 cups fresh blueberries
  • Heat oven to 375 degrees F
  • Line 12 muffin tins with paper liners
  • In a food processor, process the flour, oats, flaxseed meal, baking powder, baking soda and salt until finely ground
  • In a large bowl whisk together the yogurt, sugar, butter, orange zest, orange juice, egg and vanilla
  • Add the flour mixture to the yogurt mixture and mix until just incorporated - do not overmix.
  • Fold in the blueberries
  • Divide the batter evenly among the muffin cups. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 22-25 minutes. 
  • Let cool 2 minutes before removing muffins from the tin to cool on a cooling rack. 

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Dijon-Garlic Pork Roast with Potatoes, Carrots and Green Beans

Roasting a large cut of meat with all of the veggies in one pan reminds me of childhood Sunday dinners. Dinners like these are the best - one pan, not much active prep time, and the prep you do have to do is pretty simple. You also get the bonus of the aroma of whatever you are cooking filling your house for a few hours.

I picked up a pork loin roast and decided to rub it with one of my favorite flavor combinations - Dijon mustard and garlic.

I roasted the pork with onions, carrots, potatoes, garlic, and mushrooms, and near the end of the cooking time I threw in some fresh green beans.

I used some chicken broth in the bottom of the pan would use it to baste the pork every 15 minutes or so. The pork stayed so tender and juicy, and the drippings mixed with the broth made a great base for a gravy.

Dijon-Garlic Pork Roast with Potatoes, Carrots and Green Beans
An original recipe by Mary Ellen of Mary Ellen's Cooking Creations


  • 2 lb pork roast
  • 2 Tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 large carrots, cut into 2 inch pieces
  • 2 Russet potatoes, cut into chunks
  • 1 large onion, roughly chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
  • A few mushrooms, stems removed and  halved
  • 1 Tbsp Olive oil
  • 1 c fresh green beans
  • 1 c low sodium chicken broth plus 1/2 c set aside 
  • 1 Tbsp flour
  • Preheat your oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Season your pork roast with salt and pepper
  • In a bowl, mix the Dijon, Worcestershire, thyme and garlic. Rub all over the pork. Transfer pork to a roasting pan
  • Toss all of the chopped veggies with the olive oil, salt and pepper. Pour veggies into the pan surrounding the pork and pour 1/2 c chicken broth into the bottom of the pan.
  • Roast, uncovered, for 1 hour or until the internal temperature reaches 150 degrees. Note: use the juices in the bottom of the pan to baste the roast every 15 minutes.
  • Transfer the roast to a cutting board and let rest for 10 minutes before slicing. Transfer the veggies to a serving platter.
  • Place the roasting pan over a burner on your stove over medium heat. Whisk together the flour and 1/2 c broth until smooth. Whisk the mixture into the drippings in the pan and continue to whisk, scraping up anything on the bottom of the pan, until the mixture begins to thicken. Let simmer a few minutes before serving over the pork. 

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Lemon Bundt Cake with a Vanilla Butter Glaze

I think my lemon kick was contagious because this cake recipe was chosen and baked by my husband. I couldn't help but laugh when he told me he was leaning towards a lemon cake for Easter.

I was also happy he chose a dessert that would fit perfectly in my new cake dish. I have been looking for a cake stand with a glass dome cover for a while and was lucky to stumble upon this one at Home Goods several weeks ago (and it was only $19.99!!). Isn't it pretty?

This simple lemon cake with a vanilla glaze made the perfect Easter dessert and would work well through spring and summer. After a fabulous Polish feast for dinner, this cake was the perfect sweet and bright note.

Lemon Bundt Cake
Source: Martha Stewart

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature, plus more for pan
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled), plus more for pan
  • 2 Tbsp finely grated lemon zest
  • 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice (from 2 lemons)
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2.5 cups granulated sugar
  • 6 large eggs
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F
  • Butter and flour a 12 cup Bundt pan
  • In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, lemon zest, baking soda and salt; set aside
  • Using an electric mixer, beat together the butter and sugar on medium high until light and fluffy; 4-5 minutes. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Mix in the lemon juice.
  • With mixer on low, alternately add flour mixture and sour cream, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Mix until just incorporated - do not overmix. 
  • Spoon batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top with a rubber spatula. Firmly tap pan on a work surface to level batter. 
  • Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 55-60 minutes. If the cakes begins to brown to quickly, tent loosely with aluminum foil. 
  • Let cake cool in the pan 30 minutes, then turn onto a rack to cool completely. 
Vanilla Butter Glaze


  • 3 Tbsp melted butter
  • 2.25 cups confectioners' sugar
  • 3 Tbsp water
  • 1.5 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • Whisk the melted butter, sugar, water and vanilla extract until smooth
  • Let stand 3 minutes or until it starts to thicken
  • Drizzle over the cake

Friday, April 1, 2016

Lemon Garlic Pork Medallions with Sauteed Kale

When life gives you lemons... make something delicious!

I love using lemon juice and zest in sauces for a bright and light flavor. I actually went on a little lemon/garlic/and sometimes Dijon kick for a few weeks and used the combo in several dishes.

One meal I really loved was this one - Lemon Garlic Pork Medallions. I often use pork tenderloin sliced into medallions for a quick way to enjoy this cut of meat that can take 30 minutes or more in the oven or on the grill, plus the time to pre-heat the oven/grill and then time to let the meat rest. These medallions cook quickly and rest while you are making the sauce.

We all loved this dinner. And what wasn't to love? Tender meat cooked quickly, a bright and flavorful sauce, all served with some garlic roasted kale. No need for carbs here, but if you really want them, some noodles, rice, or even bread would be good in all of that sauce.

Lemon Garlic Pork Medallions
Original Recipe by Mary Ellen of Mary Ellen's Cooking Creations


  • 1 sm pork tenderloin (1.5 lbs) sliced into medallions, 1.5-2 inches each
  • Salt, pepper
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil, separated
  • 3 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 c dry white wine
  • 1/2 c low sodium chicken broth
  • Juice from 1/2 lemon
  • Zest from 1/2 lemon
  • Chopped fresh parsley
  • Optional: 2 Tbsp butter
  • Heat1 Tbsp olive oil in a large saute pan over medium-high heat. Add the pork medallions, nicely spaced, and cook 4 minutes, flip, and cook for 4 more minutes (cook a bit longer if the medallions are thicker). Remove from the pan. You may need to cook your pork in 2 batches depending on how much you have. You don't want them crowded in the pan. 
  • Add remaining oil to the pan
  • Add garlic and saute 2 minutes, being careful not to let it burn.
  • Deglaze the pan with the white wine, stirring to scrape up all the brown bits.
  • Add the chicken broth, lemon juice and lemon zest. Bring to a low simmer. 
  • Taste and adjust salt and pepper, if necessary. 
  • Optional: for a richer sauce, whisk in 2 Tbsp butter. 
  • Return pork to the pan and top with some parsley