Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Grilled Cheese With Spinach and Bacon

We were very excited about the first day of school this year. So much so that we even attended "Meet The Teacher Day" and everything. Down here in Florida, we started a week earlier than many of our family and friends' children back home in Maryland. We have an “all day" kindergartner this year! Our daughter Julie, it's her first school experience and she has to go all day from 9:45 am to 3:45 pm. It's a long day and I miss her but it's a good miss. Anyways, as a mother there is nothing more disappointing associated with school (aside from bad behavior and poor grades) than when we open our little ones lunch boxes to clean them out and find a half eaten lunch. But I think in Julie's case, it came with first day jitters.

I usually like to assemble lunch the night before. I was ready and game; I wasn't going to strike out again this time. I started thinking what does she really like? What do we have in our refrigerator? Moreover, how can I spin it and be creative while still creating something that she actually likes? I had alot of this 4 cheese Italian cheese blend and spinach left over from my sister's visit.  She had prepared a chicken alfredo for us with a side of fresh sauteed spinach with garlic. There is nothing like fresh spinach, once you've had it you probably won't go back to the canned or the frozen stuff anymore. My sister, she can shop, is a whiz at stocking a fridge and pantry but often times she is reluctant to do so because sometimes she feels she may go a little overboard. However, the one good thing is that you won't ever starve in her home or in her company lol. There was also bacon in the refrigerator and again lots of it. My kids love bacon! I mean they really love it. But who doesn't love bacon? So, I decided that I would make a bacon grilled cheese. It was a hit! With orange slices and a cupcake there were not any leftovers in her lunch bag the next day.


2 slices of your favoritewhite bread
1/2 cup of Italian 4 cheese blend (aged provolone, asiago, parmesan, and romano)
2 slices of bacon (thick sliced and halved to make 4 sandwich sized slices)
1 tblspn  sauteed fresh spinach
1 tblspn of salted butter (enough to coat a small frying or saute` pan)

I like to cook my bacon in the oven. It doesn't shrink up as bad and it burns off much of the oil. Above all no grease wars leaving you victimized by painful grease spatters. I usually bake it in a baking tray, at a temperature of 350-375 degrees until somewhat crisp and done. Set aside on paper towel to drain. Next, heat up the pan that you have reserved to make your grill cheese, I like to spread/sprinkle a little bit of cheese in the middle of the pan. Then, place a slice of bread over top of it. This will give the bread a crust that is cheesy in flavor (like cheese bread). After, I sprinkle the cheese blend over top of that slice; arrange the bacon slices on top of the cheese. Sprinkle more cheese atop the bacon. Add your second slice of bread, then press with a spatula until slices are sealed with melted cheese. You can sprinkle more cheese on the outside of the sandwich again to create a crusty cheese flavored bread. Toast on both sides until toasted to the color and texture of your liking. Cool, slice and enjoy.


Of course, I made an adult version for myself and added fresh sauteed spinach to the middle of my grilled cheese. The adult version is the actual sandwich pictured. Fresh spinach usually cooks down to nothing, so though you may not need much make sure your have enough. For this dish, you shouldn't need more than 1-2 cups to yield the amount needed. Generally for a basic spinach saute you can use...

1-2 mashed garlic cloves (I love to use my pampered chef garlic press but a spoon can be used)
1-2 tsp of lemon juice
Salt and pepper to taste
1-2 tblspns of salted butter or 1 1/2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil

Very simple, melt butter or heat oil. Then add in your spinach, garlic, lemon juice, salt and pepper. I usually place the spinach in between a layer of bacon and cheese. And I only use about 1-2 tablespoons of the cooked spinach. Enjoy!

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Ericka's Hot Garlic Wings

My sister drove down over the weekend from Maryland to visit my family and I in Florida. We recently moved this summer and the visit was to bring some of our belongings we left behind. They were also visiting because it was my son Jerry's 3rd birthday. Before we moved, my sister would host full spreads for monthly Sunday dinners. Sometimes, we would each make a dish for the dinners that we considered our specialty. However, most of the time my sister would say "Just bring your appetite". Since moving to Florida, I miss those dinners. It was a busy weekend with all of our little ones, my Julie and her Gio are only 2 days apart, and then Jerry and her youngest Gianni are only 15 months apart. I'm a wing girl! I love good hot wings! Wings are one of my favorite comfort foods so of course a wing recipe had to be one of my first entries. Often times, whenever I order a pizza (Italian style of course), I have to have an order of buffalo wings and fried calamari to go with it.

Anyways, over the weekend, she divulged her wing recipe to me. I was ready to use my deep fryer, but I was disappointed because though the fryer made it down the power cord was missing. Some of the things that she brought down included alot of my kitchen goodies. Well, I didn't let that stop me, I just used a good stock pot. She had already bought the groceries, so I went to work.


1 stick of salted butter
1 Qt or more of canola oil
3 Minced cloves of garlic (I use pampered chef's garlic press)
1 Family pack of wings disjointed and separated (or wingettes can be used)
1 bottle (standard size) of Texas Pete hot sauce
1-2 Tblspns of garlic powder
1-2 Tblspns of onion powder
1 Tspn + 1 pinch of kosher salt (I love kosher salt because a very little goes a long way, I rarely use table salt because of the bitter after taste).
2 Tspns of black pepper

Preparation for the wings is fast once the portions are separated and even faster if wingettes are used. I usually like to give my chicken a good rinse before seasoning. Season wings with salt, pepper, garlic and onion powder. Rub and work in seasonings. You will know if you have seasoned the wing well by the smell of the aromas blended together. Set aside. Next, take the pressed garlic, butter and add to a non stick sauce pan. Do not burn the garlic or it will taste bitter! Butter can also burn as well and lose quality as it browns so maintaining low heat is key. Just allow the butter to melt and the two flavors to render together. After, add the whole bottle of Texas Pete hot sauce, wisk together and simmer on low. It is okay if the butter isn't completely melted, the main objective is to get the two flavors together. Once your oil is hot enough, usually a temperature of at least 350 degrees, begin frying the wingettes in batches. It is best to eyeball the wings, they will be done once they float, are crispy and brown. Drain off the oil, and toss a few wings at a time in the saucepan. Tossing the wings in the hot sauce works best if you work with just a few at a time and not more than a handful of wings. Set sauced wings aside in a bowl; The bowl works best in helping the wings to set and distributing the sauce. Repeat the above, until all of the wings are finished. If the sauce is getting thick be sure to remove from heat, adding water will only diminish your sauce of its robust flavor. As the sauce thickens the bottom of the pan can burn causing the sauce to stick and burn.
I usually love to have my wings with a homemade blue cheese dressing. Although I was unable to make it this day I still decided to share the recipe. I must warn you though, once you have homemade blue cheese dressing it's hard to go back to the bottled stuff.


1/4 Cup of blue cheese crumbles (this amount will depend on your preference for chunkiness)
1 cup of sour cream
Juice from 1 large half of lemon
1/4 tsp of kosher salt (you can add more to your taste)
1/4 tsp of pepper
1/4 Cup (or less) of mayonnaise (you don't want the mixture to be too soupy but chunky and creamy).
The dressing may be a little thick. If it is too thick for your liking then you can add a little less than 1/4 cup of buttermilk. Serve with wings and celery slices. Enjoy!