Alas, my beautiful and charming Mrs. Chowbelly is not the first, there was another before her – but that’s a tale for another time. The ex-Mrs Chowbelly is Sicilian and can whip up anything in the kitchen with just what she has laying around. You know, divorce can be a cantankerous thing and all parties lose a part of themselves. But sometimes its the small things you wish you could take with you. One example of that is her Amogio Sauce recipe.  Amogio is like an Italian salsa – it can be eaten on meat, fish, poultry, bread or pasta. Amogio recipes vary from region to region in Italy and even moreso from family to family. The ex_Mrs.Chowbelly wont part with her secret for anyone! I’ve even sent our 23-year old daughter on covert missions to look through her recipe boxes and we’ve come up empty! Throughout the past 6 or 7 years I have tried to recreate it a few times and have been sorely disappointed. This time, however, I think I’ve got it! Please give feedback and let me know how your family makes this amazing condiment.

 

Chowbelly’s Amogio

1/2 C.Finely diced tomatoes
¼ C. Olive oil
¼ C. Fresh lemon juice
2 Tbls Fresh minced garlic
1 Tbls Fresh chopped mint
¼ Tsp Red Pepper flakes
¼ Tsp Salt
¼ Tsp Finely ground White Pepper

Add all ingredients in a non-reactive storage container and allow to combine flavors several hours before serving.

 

ex-Mrs.Chowbelly: If you’re listening, am I close?

HersheysCakeMrs. Chowbelly loves chocolate cake and during a moment of inspiration a few weeks after she gave birth to BabyBelly-Ellie I wanted to make her a tasty treat. Those of you that know me know that baking isnt my thing. I have Attention-Deficit-Disorder way too bad to pay attention to the exacting measurements and precision that baking requires. So whenever I do bake, it’s a labor of love and requires immense concentration – glad you liked it Honey!

I discovered this recipe in a Hershey’s Best-loved Recipes cookbook that my friend, Dawn, gave me for Christmas a few years ago. Take a look and try it yourself!!

Ingredients
2 cups sugar
1 3/4 cups flour
3/4 cup HERSHEY’S Cocoa
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1 cup milk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup boiling water

Directions
1. Heat oven to 350-degrees. Spray 9×13 pan with floured baking spray or grease and flour.
2. Stir together sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a large bowl. Combine eggs, milk, oil and vanilla in a separate smaller bowl. Add these liquid ingredients to the dry ingredients in the larger bowl and mix together until combined. Slowly add water while beating with an electric mixer – the batter will be very thin. Pour batter into 9×13 pan.
3. Bake 35 to 40 minutes – check doneness by inserting a wooding toothpick near the center of the cake. If it comes out clean the cake is cooked completely through. If it comes out with some batter clinging to it, cook for a few more minutes.
4. Cool in the pan for 15 minutes, then remove and transfer to wire rack to cool completely before frosting.
5. Prepare chocolate frosting below or substitute your own favorite.

“Perfectly Chocolate” Chocolate Frosting
Ingredients
1/2 cup butter
2/3 cup HERSHEY’S Cocoa
3 cups powdered sugar
1/3 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions
1. Melt butter. Stir in cocoa. Alternate adding powdered sugar and mild while mixing with an electric mixer. Continue beating to desired consistency.
2. Stir in vanilla. Add a small amount of additional milk if necessary to thin the consistency.

I added mini chocolate chips and some chocolate syrup for an extra special touch! Other ideas to dress it up a bit might be adding toasted coconut, colorful sprinkles, chopped pecans or even a light dusting of powdered sugar!

Weird Snack Combinations?

Weird Snack Combinations?

I was taking a few minutes to myself this afternoon and saw an interesting post over at SeriousEats The post was about weird snack combinations that just taste right – although you might blanche at the thought, the taste can be spectacular – for example, the blog post started off with Frito’s and Nutella!

One of my all-time favorite weird combo’s was a sammich Mrs. Chowbelly made me several years ago right after we first got married. She thought she was being a smart-aleck by putting the kitchen sink on a sammich she made me – it had peanut-butter, Nutella, Marshmallow Fluff, M&M’s, Hershey’s Chocolate syrup and some sweetened coconut flakes!!! Yes, it put me in a sugar coma, but it was FANTASTIC!

Other weird combo’s include:

  • Peanut-butter, marshmallow Fluff, chocolate chips and a banana wrapped by a cinammon tortilla
  • Wheat Thins, Irish Cheddar and jalopeno jelly
  • White Cheddar Cheez-Its, Blue Moon Pale Ale and . . . well, that’s it really!

So how about you?
Have any weird combinations you care to share?

chickenmilano

 

I am a big fan of the AllRecipes.com website. I get a daily email from them with awesome recipes and a great community that tests out each recipe and provides feedback and interesting twists. Last week I got an email with an interesting sounding recipe that they called Chicken Milano. The recipe sounded yummy with a creamy sun-dried pepper sauce served over pan-fried chicken filets and fettuccine. There were a lot of variations recommended by others who had tried the recipe and of course I am never content to leave well-enough alone! I am going to be making this dish for some wonderful friends who have just given birth to their second child. So I had to test out my modifications and my favorite guinea pigs are Nana and Pop-Pop! Pop-Pop barely spoke until his plate was clean and everyone else gave thumbs-up as well!

 

Below is my version that I am calling Chicken Ciao-Belly (in keeping with the Italiano theme).

 

INGREDIENTS

2 tbl. vegetable oil

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

salt and pepper to taste

1 tbl. butter

2 tsp. minced garlic

1/3 C. sun-dried tomatoes (diced)

8oz sliced mushrooms

1 C. chicken broth

1 C. white wine

2 C. heavy cream

2 tbl. chopped fresh basil

16 oz fettuccine

 

DIRECTIONS

 

In a large skillet over medium heat add oil to warm. Season the chicken breasts with salt and pepper and slice into approximately 1” strips and place into warmed oil to sauté.  Cook 8-9 minutes turning occasionally to evenly brown all sides. Remove from pan and cover.

 

 Reduce the heat to low and add the minced garlic to sauté for about 30 seconds. Then add the diced sun-dried tomatoes and sliced mushrooms to sauté for about 3-4 minutes or until the mushrooms start to release their juices but haven’t browned. Add the chicken broth and white wine and increase to medium heat and bring to a boil. Simmer for about 10 minutes. Increase the heat, add the cream and bring to a boil, stirring continuously. Simmer over medium heat to desired thickness.

 

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add fettuccine and cook as per directions for an al dente finish. Drain when finished and return to pot.

 

Place the chicken strips over the fettuccine noodles and pour the sauce and contents of the skillet over top of the chicken strips and pasta. Sprinkle fresh basil over top and toss gently.

 

Fall presents a great opportunity to pull out some nice, thick hearty soups. One of my favorites is Potato Corn Chowder (you can see my recipe here), but another favorite is chili. I love how versatile it is and how I can tailor it to fit whatever group I am with. Vegetarian? No problem! Don’t eat red meat? Make it a white chicken chili!

There are a couple of tips for producing award-winning chili – the first advice comes from my dear Mother – she always says “Chili is always better the next day”. Good point Mom! Now I try to make my chili a day ahead and let the flavors come together overnight before re-heating on the stove the day we’re actually going to eat it.  The other point came from some friends who compete at the Terlingua International Chili Championship - if you look at the recipes you will see a couple of common ingredients: unsweetened bakers chocolate (just about a 1/2 ounce) and a pinch of cinnamon! I know these are not traditionally thought of as “chili flavors” but you dont actually taste them, their presence just allows the flavors of the other ingredients to come together in perfect harmony!

Here is one of my favorite chili recipes, but dont stop here – add, change, modify and make it your own!

Scott’s Saucy Secret Chili
2lbs lean beef
1lb Ground Italian Sausage
2 Tsp vegetable oil
1/2 Cup Worcestershire Sauce
1 Sweet Onion (Walla Walla or Vidalia) finely chopped
3 Garlic cloves
1 Can Beef Broth (14.5oz)
1 Tsp Oregano
8 Tbl Gebhardt Chili Powder
1 Can Tomato Sauce (8oz)
1 Can Ro*Tel Fire Roasted Tomatoes
3 Med. Chipotle Peppers in Adobo Sauce coarsely chopped
2 Tbls Adobo Sauce
1 Tsp Sea Salt
1 Tbl Brown Sugar
1 Tsp Cinnamon
2 Tbl Apple Cider Vinegar
1/2 oz. Unsweetened chocolate, shaved
1 Can Pinto Beans (14oz), Washed and rinsed
1 Can Northern Beans (14oz), washed and rinsed


Instructions:

Two Days Before Serving:
Cut the beef into very small, bite-size pieces. Place in gallon size ziplok bag with Worcestershire sauce to marinate refrigerated overnight.

Day Before Serving:
Brown the sausage in a skillet, remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.
Heat oil in a large stock pot, add the beef to brown, then add the sausage.
In the skillet that the sausage was cooked in, cook the onions and garlic until translucent – then transfer to pot. Add the broth and oregano – reduce heat to a low boil, add chili powder and cook for 15 minutes. Add the Ro*Tel tomatoes, tomato sauce, chipotle peppers and adobo sauce. Cook for one hour on low heat, stirring often. Add the Chili powder and simmer for another 25 minutes on very low heat. Turn up the heat to a low boil and add the salt, brown sugar, cider and shaved chocolate pieces. Cook until chocolate and brown sugar is dissolved. Reduce the heat to simmer. Add the beans and continue simmering for 15 minutes. Remove pot from heat, cover and allow to cool to room temperature before placing in the refrigerator overnight – its always better the next day!

Day of Serving:
Reheat on stove or place in crockpot to heat.

 

 

If Jared can do it at Subway, it seems it can be done at McDonalds.  Chris Coleson from Richmond, VA is being showcased for his recent weight loss of 85# since December eating a diet of McDonald’s apple-walnut salads, snack wraps, and cheeseburgers.  Read more at SeriousEats

 

McDonald’s gets a bum rap for their fat-food fare, but let’s all be honest. They serve what we want. Now we are asking for something different and they are responding – salads, low-fat wraps, grilled chicken sandwiches, non-fat dairy desserts – these are some of the healthy options – what else are we asking for? High-sugar, high-fat, high-calorie blended coffee drinks!  Maybe this is only two steps forward and one step back?

 

Post in the comments and let us know what YOU think!

A couple of weeks ago, to celebrate the end of a very long phase of a project at work I decided to tackle the enormous job of cooking for nearly 40 ravenous Road Warriors who have been traveling to the beautiful state of North Carolina almost weekly since the middle of February! These awesome folks have come from places like Starkville, MS (don’t pick flowers there! Take it from Johnny Cash!), Boston Massachusetts, Warwick, Quebec and Kentville, Nova Scotia! We typically have lunch catered in from a local provider, but a few weeks ago someone mentioned that we have never served them our famous Eastern Carolina-Style Barbecue – that just didn’t seem right! So to right that injustice I set about planning and coordinating a barbecue feast for the whole group.  Before this, the largest group I had cooked for was about 20 at a church gathering – and that was just pulled pork. This time I wanted to go the whole nine-yards and show them how it’s done right.

The menu consisted of Sweet Tea (made by my beautiful bride of Carolina heritage!), creamy cole slaw, potato salad, barbecue beans, tons o’pulled pork and everyone’s favorite – dessert was brownies.  Now someone DID mention that I could go to the supermarket deli and buy the cole slaw and potato salad, in fact, several people offered recommendations on local establishments that would provide the whole affair! But that just didn’t seem like the Chowbelly thing to do! 

After preparing my shopping list I made a pass through the local co-op and was able to get everything I needed. It’s funny how you can do that when using natural and fresh ingredients!  When I got home I got down to it and started the preparations three days early.  Quality takes patience you know!  Rachel’s Mom stopped by and said “Oh Lord, that boy has lost his mind! He’s got whole, raw beans soaking!” Oh ye of little faith!

 

I started this process by rinsing off the 30-pounds of the finest looking pork butts you ever did see! Then I stacked them up in my counter-top roaster’s pan covered with a salty brine. That went into the beer ‘fridge out in the garage and soaked overnight. The following day I came back, dried those butts right off and started the rub-n-marinade process, then wrapped tightly and back in the ‘fridge they went for another day. Then I set to work on some of the other dishes. I rinsed off the pinto beans and picked through to remove the bad ones and the stones, then set them to soaking right in the slow-cooker crocks that they would eventually be cooked in. Next up, the Cuisinart made quick work of three heads of cabbage. I loaded all that into a tub, covered it and set it out in the beer ‘fridge too. Good enough for Day Two! The following day I started roasting the pork butts, loaded up the slow-cookers with the barbecue bean ingredients, made the slaw dressing and set it to rest back in the ‘fridge, mixed up the potato salad ingredients and set it to rest back in the fridge, and started baking brownies!

The morning of the luncheon I got up about 5am and started assembling everything, checking the pork butts, sampling the beans and packing up the car. Still, I didnt make it into the office much before lunchtime! An enterprising member of our team ran across the highway to get some crushed ice for the Sweet Tea and then helped by frosting the brownies before anyone got to them! Thanks Terry!

A final big thanks go to my beautiful bride, Rachel, who lent a hand whenever I needed it AND had to deal with a less than spotless kitchen that I left behind!

Below are the recipes I made adjusted down to normal proportions.

How a Boy From Detroit Does Pig!
48 Hours Before:
Inject brine into pork butt (Brine: ½ C. Salt in 1 Gal Water)
24 Hours Before:
 Step 1 – Rub with plain ol’ mustard
 Step 2 – Cover with Rub Spices
              Rub Spices:
                        2 ½  Tbs Chili Powder
                        2 Tbs Cumin
                        1 Tbs Coriander
                        1 Tbs Kosher Salt
                        ½ Tbs Paprika
                        1 Tbs Dark Brown Sugar
                        1 Tbs Black Pepper
                        1 Tbs Cayenne
 Step 3 – Give him a shot in the butt! (cajun injector)
              3 Tbs Brown Sugar
              3 C. Cider Vinegar
              1 ½ C. Water
Around 6pm the day before eatin’
 Place butt on a rack in the roaster at 200 degrees – I use a regular countertop roaster
 Baste hourly for 19-20 hours
            Bastin juice
            3 Tbs Brown Sugar
            3 Tbs Black Pepper
            2 Tbs Red Pepper Flakes
            3 C. Cider Vinegar
            1 ½ C. Water
When sufficiently roasted, spread some aluminum foil on a cookie sheet. Lift the butt out using the rack, slide the butt off onto the foil and wrap tight.  Let stand 15 minutes to let the juices seep back into the meat.
 FINALLY! Unwrap and with a couple of forks, shred the meat into whatever size chunks you like! Toss on a little more bastin sauce, scoop some up, throw it on an onion roll with some cole slaw and you will go to HogHeaven!!

Slow-Cooker Barbecue Beans
Ingredients
4 slices bacon, diced (omit if desired)
1 large onion, chopped
1 1/2 Tbs minced garlic
2 tsps fresh thyme
1 pound pinto beans, rinsed and picked over
1 C. brewed coffee
1/2 C. Barbecue Sauce (I used KC Masterpiece, but whatever you like best is fine)
1/4 C. plus 1 tablespoon packed dark brown sugar
1 1/2 tbs whole-grain brown mustard
1 tbs molasses
1 tsp Frank’s Red Hot sauce
1/2 tsp coarse ground black pepper
8 C. water
2 Tsp salt
Soak the beans in a large pot overnight.

In a heavy skillet, cook the bacon over medium-high heat until rendered and crispy, 4 to 6 minutes. Add the onion and cook, stirring, until softened and lightly caramelized, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the garlic and thyme and cook for 1 minute. Remove from skillet and move to slow-cooker crock. Add the beans, coffee, barbecue sauce, brown sugar, mustard, molasses, hot sauce, and pepper and stir to combine well. Add the water and salt. Cover the crock and cook on low for 10 to 12 hours stirring occasionally until beans are tender.

 
Creamy Cole Slaw
Ingredients
1 head green cabbage, finely shredded
2 large carrots, finely shredded
3/4 C. mayonnaise
2 Tbs sour cream
2 Tbs minced sweet onion
2 Tbs common white sugar
2 Tbs white vinegar
1 Tbs dry mustard
2 Tsp celery salt
Kosher salt and coarse ground black pepper

Mix the cabbage and carrots in a good size tub – if you want to do this the day before you might want to squeeze some lemon juice over the mixture to keep it fresh, seal it tightly and refrigerate it. Whisk together the mayonnaise, sour cream, onion, sugar, vinegar, mustard, celery salt, salt, and pepper in a medium bowl, and then add to the cabbage mixture. Toss to coat and take a little bite – add more salt, pepper, or sugar if you like.

Potato Salad
Ingredients
5 good sized Yukon Gold potatoes, chopped into 1″ cubes
5 Tbs pickle juice
3 Tbs chopped bread-and-butter pickles
1 small sweet-onion, minced
3 stalks celery, chopped
2 hard boiled eggs, chopped (optional)
1/2 C. mayonnaise
2 Tsp Grey Poupon Dijon mustard
Kosher salt and coarse ground black pepper

Wash the potatoes with a vegetable brush. Chop them into 1″ cubes. Place potatoes in a salted pot of boiling water. Simmer until almost soft – they will continue to cook a little bit after removed from the pot. Drain the potatoes in a colander and set aside to cool.  In a large bowl, combine the pickle juice, the pickles, onions, celery, and hard boiled egg if you like. Fold in the mayonnaise, adding the mustard to combine. Mix the dressing with the potatoes and taste it again, salt and pepper to make it taste the way you remember Momma made it!

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