Bourbon-Brown Sugar-Maple Glazed Carrots

Hubby and I love baby carrots as a bright, pretty side dish. Carrots bring such vivid color to the table and go so well with a variety of main dishes. Kiddo isn’t so keen on carrots, unless they are glazed with butter, brown sugar and a splash of booze.

Recently we tried a new recipe. The first time out, we were a little less than thrilled. The original recipe did not include brown sugar and contained far too much bourbon – it was about the only thing you could taste. A little tweaking was in order. I’ve cut back on the bourbon and added brown sugar to the mix, rendering a thicker glaze that is more suited to our tastes.

The most common Baby Carrot is the one most of us are familiar with – the orange carrot. So bright, so beautiful and so orange. Whenever possible, I look for carrots in a variety of colors – everything from a creamy-white to a deep purple.  The white or cream-colored carrots are mild in flavor and lack some of that “earthy” goodness we recognize as a carrot. The deeper the color, the more this earthiness comes through. Purple carrots (those purple through and through) are very sweet with a subtle hint of pepper. These are also the hardest to come by. Sometimes. if you are lucky, you will come across a bundle of carrots containing a range of colors. If you do, by all means experiment with your veggies – this recipe works well with any color carrot.

Bourbon-Brown Sugar-Maple Glazed Carrots
1 lb Baby Carrots, rinsed, green tops removed
1 Pinch or so Table Salt
1 Pinch Fine Sea Salt
1 Tablespoon Butter
2 Tablespoons Brown Sugar
2 Tablespoons Bourbon Whiskey
1/3 Cup Pure Maple Syrup
1 Pinch White Pepper

Bring a medium-size pot of water to a boil over medium-heat. Add carrots and a pinch of salt. Cook until carrots are tender, about 8 to 10 minutes. Drain well and set aside.

In a sauté pan over medium-heat, melt butter. Add Brown sugar and stir until melted into the butter as a thick paste. Add Bourbon Whiskey one tablespoon at a time, stirring constantly. Pour maple syrup into the glaze. Lower heat to a strong simmer, and allow to simmer until mixture is reduced to a thick glaze, about 10 minutes.

Add carrots and toss to blend. Continue to simmer until carrots begin to color, about 5 minutes longer. Transfer to a serving dish, season with sea salt and a pinch of pepper and serve.

Suggested Main Dishes:

ChickenRoast Chicken with Cinnamon and Spice and Everything Nice

Pork RoastCaramelized Onion Pork Tenderloin

Roast Beef: Cracked Peppercorn and Herb Rubbed Garlic Roast Beef

Seafood: Monterey’s Wharf Market Pan-Roasted Bay King Salmon


Old-Fashioned Glazed Ham – Not Just for the Holidays

Last week was Easter. Instead of serving up the traditional Ham Dinner, my family enjoyed an Easter Brunch with all sorts of yummy “breakfast” foods. It turned out wonderfully. The food was great and the company awesome. After all, it isn’t what you eat but that family gather to break bread and enjoy one another whenever possible. In this day and age, that is easier said than done. Which is why holidays are so special.

In the days leading up to Easter, I noticed a trend on my blog – most visitors were checking out my recipe for Creamy-Cheesy Au Gratin Potatoes. When I mentioned this trend to Hubby, he commented that my Au Gratin Potatoes were a favorite with him, especially as part of a Ham Dinner. Hum, who said you needed to wait until the Holidays for a great Ham Dinner? Who said Ham Dinners are reserved for Sundays? So this weekend, on a Saturday, with just my guys at the table, I made a supper fit for the Holidays.

It was great for a number of reasons. Not only was the food delicious, but we lingered together at the table. It wasn’t until we started clearing the table that I noticed we had spent over an hour sitting together, laughing, talking and just taking our time. Now that’s what family suppers should be about – the company you keep. It was magical.

Now you can make this ham with a honey ham, but I prefer the salty, smokey flavor of a smoked ham. Ours was large – 12 pounds – with the bone-in (great for soup later or to add to a pot of beans), and a thick layer of fat. Rather than trim the fat, I scored it diamond-cut and let the fat melt away during the cooking/warming. This helped to keep the ham nice and moist while adding a wonderful flavor.

Old-Fashioned Glazed Ham
1 Smoked Bone-in or Spiral Cut Ham (10 to 12 lbs with bone)
1 20-ounce can pineapple slices, juice reserved
15 to 20 whole cloves (optional) or toothpicks
1 small jar maraschino cherries
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
2 tablespoons yellow mustard

Preheat the oven as directed on the ham package and follow the instructions for warming the ham.

The goal is to reheat the ham without drying it out. The best way to do this is to place the ham on a rack in a roasting pan. Add water to the bottom of the pan and cover the whole thing tightly with foil. Bake at 325 degrees for 18-20 minutes per pound, until a meat thermometer registers 140 degrees.

Meanwhile, make the glaze. In a small bowl, combine the brown sugar, mustard and just enough of the reserved pineapple juice to make a thick glaze.  Set aside until ready to use.

About 30 minutes before serving, remove ham from the oven. Unwrap the ham and apply the glaze. (If desired, trim the fat from the meat). Decoratively arrange pineapple rings with a cherry in the center of each ring around the ham. Secure rings/cherries with whole cloves, if using, or wooden toothpicks. (I prefer the toothpick method).  Increase the heat to 400 degrees and bake for 15-20 minutes longer until the glaze thick and sticky.

When ham is heated through, transfer to cutting board. Remove pineapples and cherries, set aside. Slice ham for serving and arrange fruit on platter for a “pretty” look.

One Pan Chicken and Rice-A-Roni

One of our favorite, quick one-pot suppers is my Beefy Corn Rice-A-Roni – When “Quick” is All That Matters. Using one large non-stick skillet and a few simple ingredients, supper can be on the table in about 30 minutes. My family loves it. I began to think about other flavors of Rice-A-Roni and different types of ground meat to see what else could be created. The Chicken and Rice-A-Roni is a dish still in the creative stage – it needs a little tweaking. Unlike its beefy counterpart, this dish is very mild in flavor. Next time, I’m going to add finely chopped red onion for a little extra flavor. Still, the family liked it. The perfectionist, gotta have tons of flavor home cook that I am found the dish nice, but without enough mouth-watering flavor. That surprised me because Chicken Rice-A-Roni isn’t exactly bland. Red onion should do the trick. I’ve added it to the recipe for next time.

While this is a great base, please feel free to add whatever you like to the dish. I’m always open to suggestions.

One Pan Chicken & Rice-A-Roni
1 lb ground chicken
1/4 Cup Red Onion, finely chopped
1 Box Rice-A-Roni Chicken
2 tablespoons butter
2 1/2 Cups Water
1 Can Corn
Salt to Taste
Pepper to Taste

Brown ground chicken and onion together in a large pan. Drain well and set aside.

Brown rice according to package in butter. Put chicken back in pan with rice. Add water and seasoning package. Stir to blend seasoning into mixture.

Drain corn of canning liquids. Stir into pan. Cover and let simmer 15 to 20 minutes or until liquid has evaporated.

Serve with a simple salad for an easy week-night supper.

Cheesy Baked Cheese Tortellini

This wonderful recipe was inspired by my  blogger-friend Jan over at Mommermon, who received her inspiration from no.2 pencil. Giving credit where credit is due; I have included links to both sites below.

Isn’t that the beauty of recipes and the whole internet/blogging thing? One inspires another, then another – each taking liberty, a little tweaking and giving rise to yet another spin of the same recipe. Case in point, my own take on the baked tortellini from mommermom. The recipes are very similar in ingredients. The biggest differences were that mine used a sauce without any meat and a blend of Italian cheeses rather than Mozzarella Cheese. Kraft makes a nice Five-Cheese Blend. It’s one of those packaged cheeses that is usually found in my deli cheese drawer in the fridge. Great on salads or sprinkled over just about anything Italian that screams “cheese me please”.

My guys loved this easy casserole dinner, going back for seconds. I thought we would have left-overs for another night. That didn’t happen – they gobbled it up. And in my book, that’s the best complement of all.

Cheesy Baked Tortellini Casserole
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 zucchini, chopped
1/2 sweet white onion, chopped
2 tablespoons roasted garlic, minced
1 Jar Spaghetti Sauce (I used a spicy red sauce for added zip)
1 package (20 oz) fresh or frozen cheese tortellini
2 cups Italian Cheese Blend

Preheat over to 375 degrees for frozen tortellini or 350 for fresh.

In a sauce pan large enough to hold your sauce and vegetables, heat olive oil over medium-low heat. While oil warms, chop onion and zucchini. A food processor fitted with a blade will make quick work of the chopping. Set vegetables aside until ready to use.

When oil is warmed, saute onions and garlic until soft, about 3 minutes. Add chopped zucchini and continue to saute another 2 minutes or until zucchini is soft.

Add spaghetti sauce, bring to just the boiling point. Lower heat to simmer, cover and continue to simmer for about 10 minutes for the flavors to marry.

Spread tortellini in a 9″ x 13″ casserole dish. Pour sauce over tortellini and gently toss to blend. Mix in about 1/2 cup of the Italian cheese blend.

Cover tightly with foil, pressing along edge of casserole dish to “seal” completely.  (This is a MUST for pasta to cook).

Bake casserole for 30 minutes or until pasta is cooked and everything is nice and bubbly.

Remove foil. Sprinkle remainder of cheese over top of casserole and bake an additional 5 minutes or until cheese has melted.

Serve with a simple tomato based salad for a complete, delicious supper.

Tortilini Bake (2)

Buttery Garlic-Herb Broccoli

A while back, Hubby, Kiddo and I stopped in at a neighborhood steak house for dinner before heading to the theater. I don’t remember exactly what I had ordered – some sort of grilled chicken breast with a side of Broccoli. The chicken was good, but the broccoli was absolutely wonderful. I could have made a meal of the Broccoli – all buttery and bright with a wonderful blend of garlic and other seasonings. Since then, I have been trying to recreate that delicious broccoli at home. Some attempts were closer than others. This recipe is perfect – and a home-run with my guys (which is where it really counts). Hubby said it was some of the best broccoli he has ever tasted. That’s a huge compliment from a man who once complained when I didn’t drown his broccoli in a cheese sauce or Hollandaise sauce or some other sauce.

The blend of garlic and herbs enhanced the beautiful flavor of the broccoli, and the butter – I love melted butter over my veggies. Don’t you? While I generally don’t promote one brand of seasoning over another, after sampling different spice blends – everything from my own combination to the pre-packaged variety – this one had all the flavor I was looking for.

Buttery Garlic-Herb Broccoli
1/2 lb Broccoli
1 Tablespoon Garlic-Herb Blend (McCormick’s has a nice blend)
4 Tablespoons butter, cut into small pieced
1 gallon size zip-lock freezer bag

Cut broccoli into individual pieces and place into the bag. Season with Garlic-Herb seasoning. Shake bag a little to distribute seasoning. Lay bag flat on a micro-wave safe plate. Distribute pieces of butter throughout the bag.

Seal bag, leaving small gap at the center of closure to vent. Micro-wave on HIGH 90 seconds. Turn bag over, micro-wave on HIGH an additional 90 seconds. Check broccoli for doneness. It should be hot and tender-crisp. If still firm, turn bag again and micro-wave on HIGH for another minute. Repeat until broccoli is heated through, tender but not “soft”.

CAREFULLY open bag (it will be steaming hot) and empty into a serving dish. Toss and serve. Perfect with my Buttery Panko Baked Chicken.

Buttery Panko Chicken (3)

Buttery Panko Baked Chicken

You know what they say about best laid plans and all that jazz. On my meal planner this week was a recipe from for Butter Chicken. The recipe called for 1 sleeve of Ritz Crackers for breading the chicken. I’ve used Ritz Crackers before, but unlike my method, this recipe had the chicken breasts dipped in egg, rolled in crushed crackers and baked in the oven with pats of butter scattered around the pan. When I’ve made my Ritz Cracker chicken, I brush my breasts with Miracle Whip (for a little “zip” while creating a thermal blanket to hold in the moisture), then rolled the chicken in crackers and baked on a pan lightly sprayed with non-stick cooking spray.

The night before making my chicken, I thawed the breasts in the refrigerator. The next night, when we returned home, I was ready to make dinner. My mouth was all set for the buttery breasts with salty-crushed crackers. That’s when I discovered we did not have any Ritz crackers in the pantry, or any other kind of cracker that would suffice. Time to improvise. We had butter, panko crumbs and a wide assortment of seasonings to choose from. I rolled up my sleeves, put on my creative thinking cap and made an awesome, flavorful chicken supper for my hungry guys.

Buttery Panko Baked Chicken
4 Boneless Chicken Breasts
1 1/2 Cup Panko Crumbs, Plain or Italian
2 Tablespoons Mrs. Dash Original Blend
1 Teaspoon Salt
1 Teaspoon Black Pepper
8 Tablespoons (1 stick) Butter

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

In a small casserole dish (Just large enough to dip and roll chicken one  piece at a time), place panko crumbs and mix with Mrs. Dash Original Blend. Set aside.

In another casserole dish, melt 1 stick of butter (8 tablespoons) in the micro wave. Heat butter in intervals of about 20 seconds until just melted but not heated. Set aside.

Slice breast lengthwise to create two thin breasts. Repeat with remaining breasts. Rinse sliced breasts under cold water. Place in a single layer on sheets of paper towels over a cutting board. Place more paper towels over the chicken breast and pat dry. Season lightly with salt and pepper on both sides.

Dip each breast into the melted butter, allowing excess butter to drip back into the dish. Press and roll the breast in the panko crumb mixture and place on a rimmed baking pan. Repeat with remaining breasts, allowing about 1/2 inch between them.

Place baking pan into the pre-heated oven and bake 25 to 30 minutes or until done, turning breast over about mid-way through the cooking time.

Remove from oven and serve with your favorite sides. (This is great with Stove-Top Boxed Stuffing with a Home-Made Twist. Just make the stuffing while the chicken bakes.)

Grilled Spicy Chorizo-Bean Burrito Supreme

A little while back, while Hubby was out-of-town on business, I enjoyed a good old-fashion sleep-over with a good friend of mine from work. We talked all night, went for coffee and pastries in the mornings and just had a great time.  For dinner one night, we picked up some Mexican food (tacos and refried beans) from a little strip-mall taco shop. One of the best things about the refried beans is that it contained chorizo – adding both texture and flavor to the beans. Since then, I’ve made it a point whenever possible to throw a little chorizo into my refried pinto beans.

I’ve made Grilled Beef and Chorizo Spicy Burritos and on meatless Fridays, plain bean burritos. Then it occurred to me – combine the Chorizo and Refried Beans to make a spicy Chorizo-Bean Burrito. They were quick, easy and very tasty. My guys gobbled ’em up. Served with Mexican Rice with Chunky Salsa for a complete, satisfying supper that will take no time to prepare, perfect for busy week nights. Maybe a simple salad of green-leaf lettuce and tomato wedges just to round things out.

For a little extra “kick”, refried beans containing jalapeno peppers will do the trick.

Grilled Spicy Chorizo-Bean Burrito Supreme
1 lb Chorizo, bulk
1 Can Refried Beans
1/2 Cup Sour Cream
1/2 Cup Sharp Cheddar Cheese
1 or 2 tomatoes, diced
6 Flour Tortillas, Burrito Size
Cooking Spray

In a cast iron skillet over medium-high heat, cook chorizo meat, breaking it into small pieces as it browns (like ground beef). Once the chorizo is cooked through, lower heat and add 1 can spicy refried beans. Stir well to blend and heat through.

Spray cooking spray on a flat griddle pan over medium heat. Place a tortilla on griddle and spray side up with additional cooking spray. Heat through until tortilla is warm and pliable, about 30 seconds per side. As tortillas warm, stack on a plate for assembly. Repeat until all the tortillas are warm.

Spread about 1 tablespoon over one side of the tortilla. Sprinkle a line of cheese down the tortillas, about 1 inch from the edge. Spoon some chorizo-bean mixture over cheese. Top chorizo mixture with some diced tomatoes. Fold tortilla over filling, tuck under and fold in ends. (Creating an envelope to hold filling). Roll/fold into a burrito. Place on the griddle to grill. Repeat with next tortilla. When ready to place on griddle, turn first burrito over to grill other side. Repeat with third burrito. Remove first, turn second and place third. This is a nice, steady rhythm of fill, grill, roll, remove.

If desired, serve with Mexican or Spanish Rice and enjoy.