Monterey Chicken Sandwich

Life has been crazy around here lately. First off, our school day has been extended through the remainder of the year to make up for lost time for all the snow/fog days we had. So, our 1st grader goes in at 8:15 AM – and doesn’t get home until around 4:45.

Then factor in homework, Cub Scouts, and baseball practices/games into our schedule…and it doesn’t leave much time for a good, home-cooked meal around the dinner table. This chicken sandwich is an answered prayer on those evenings!

A chicken cutlet cooks up quickly on the grill or in a skillet, brushed with a flavorful barbecue sauce, then piled with bacon and melted cheese. Throw it on a bun, and dinner is done! They’re even great wrapped up and taken “to-go”, to later be enjoyed at the game (or on the beach!).

I added a slice of tomato and onion for a little extra flavor and crunch, and I thought it worked nicely with the other components. I served alongside some sweet potato chips and a pickle, for a quick dinner.

Another great, quick recipe to have under my belt for those nights when life is just – crazy!

Source: adapted from The Pioneer Woman

Boardwalk Fries

I was kind of shocked when I realized I didn’t have a recipe for good, old-fashioned boardwalk fries here on the site. It’s shameful really. Sure, I have oven fries (which employ the same soaking technique I’ll touch on later) and fish & chips…but I needed to have an entire post devoted to these crispy, salty favorites.

My first taste of boardwalk fries was of course at Thrasher’s in Ocean City, MD…notorious among Marylanders, Eastern Shore folks, and really the entire nation in some cases. That’s because they’re the best. Their first trick is a soak for the cut potatoes in hot saltwater. It helps to remove some of the starch, and softens them up a bit for cooking.

The second key step is the twice-fried technique. The potatoes are cooked in hot oil for one round, basically to par-cook them. They’re then removed from the oil, set aside to drain, and then added back to the oil to attain that beautiful golden brown and crunchy exterior.

Immediately season with salt, and apple cider or malt vinegar. Never ketchup! It’s actually a rule at Thrasher’s…they don’t have it available. The place  next store has a racket selling containers of it at exorbitant prices. We don’t have boardwalks here on Chincoteague, which is just fine by me – but it’s nice to have a little taste of it here at home!

Hot Pepper Shooters

If I had to choose a favorite new food item of 2014, Pepper Shooters would be it. I first had them when I was in the hospital after having Nathan, from a sandwich chain called Primo’s

Their sandwiches are pretty much life-changing, as are these little bites of Heaven that they sell known as Pepper Shooters. From first bite I was hooked. So I thought it was only appropriate that I share this for my last recipe of the year!

Hot pickled cherry peppers that are hollowed out, then stuffed with chunks of sharp provolone cheese and proscuitto. You could also use other Italian deli meats – like capicola or thinly sliced salami. Whatever floats your boat! A little drizzle of good olive oil and a sprinkling of dried oregano and you’re good to go!

They’re the perfect party appetizer. Either served alone, or with other cured meats, olives, and cheeses for to make a lovely antipasto platter. And, the best part is they only take a few minutes to throw together – which always makes for a winner in my book!

Chili con Carne

Chili is one of those dishes that everyone has their own special recipe for, which they swear by as being the best. Mine is no different! Meaty, spicy, and filling – it’s one of the things my boys most look forward to in the colder months. There’s nothing better than a pot of chili bubbling away on the stove on a lazy football Sunday!

I like to start with a mix of lean ground beef and a roll of hot pork sausage, plenty of beans, chunks of chopped tomatoes, and some tomato paste to thicken it up a bit. Then, some beer. It adds so much great flavor to the chili, and I’m always looking for an excuse to cook with the stuff. But, you could certainly use beef broth for your cooking liquid as well.

A couple hours simmering on the stove and you’ve got a delicious and hearty meal that’s always a family favorite. Leftovers are good for days, and great to re-invent into so many applications (Frito pie or chili dogs, anyone?). And, it’s great for a group too. A low maintenance meal for the cook, and guests can have tons of fun topping their bowls of chili with different ingredients – scallions, cilantro, sour cream, cheeses, jalapenos, guacamole, tomatoes or pico de gallo, poblano-corn salsa…the possibilities are endless!

Also, the possibilities are endless when it comes to the ingredients in the chili itself. I love to switch it up using a chuck roast instead of the ground beef and sausage. Or, using black and pinto beans in place of the kidneys. It’s so easy to make your own! So, if you’re still looking for that one perfect chili recipe, give this one a try! It’s our favorite, and it might just become yours too.

Chili con Carne

1 Tbsp olive oil
1 lb ground sirloin
1 lb bulk roll hot sausage (like Jimmy Deen)
1 large onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 (6 oz) can tomato paste
6 Tbsp chili powder
3 Tbsp cumin
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1 (15 oz) can light kidney beans
1 (15 oz) can dark kidney beans
1 (28 oz) can diced tomatoes
1 (12 oz) can or bottle beer (your favorite is fine)
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp black pepper

In a dutch oven heat oil over medium-high heat. Brown the ground beef and sausage until browned well. Remove from pan into a bowl. Drain most of the rendered fat from the pan.

Throw onions into the pan and cook until onions are softened. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add in the tomato paste and spices, and cook for about 3 minutes – until the tomato paste darkens in color. Add in the beef and sausage, tomatoes, beans, and beer. If it looks like it needs a little more liquid, add a splash of water.

Cover, bring to a boil, and reduce heat to low. Cook over low heat for about 2 hours. You could also cook up to this point, then place all ingredients in the slow cooker and cook on low for 8 hours.

Season to taste with salt and pepper before serving. Serve with your favorite toppings.