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Vodka Cream Sauce

December 27, 2016 Menu No Comments

Vodka cream sauce is my favorite alternative to a traditional red pasta sauce…aka gravy! While it may be tempting to simply grab one of the jarred varieties available in your grocery store, making a home made vodka cream sauce is not all that complicated. You do need to dedicate a little bit of time to allow the flavors to marry, and allow the sauce to thicken to the perfect creamy consistency. If you are a regular follower of my food blog, you probably know by now that I focus on low-fat alternatives to rich and creamy foods as often as I can. Unfortunately, this is not one of those recipes. Butter and cream substitutes aren’t going to give you a true, rich and tasty vodka cream sauce. But hey, you have to enjoy life to the fullest once in a while…why not enjoy it with a yummy pasta dish?

You may be curious as to why vodka is used in this classic recipe. From what I’ve learned, its purpose is to help release additional flavors from the tomatoes which are normally not released during a traditional cooking process. This is the same reason why certain recipes call for the addition of wine or other alcohols. The vodka also acts as an emulsifier. The oil from the cream would typically separate when it interacts with the acidic tomatoes. The addition of the vodka helps to prevent this from happening.

You can build on the ingredients and taste if you like. For additional spice, try adding a bit of crushed red pepper. If you are really in a creative mood, add a can of crab meat and some cooked chopped asparagus. Whatever way you choose to enjoy this recipe, I guarantee it will put a smile on your face.


Vodka Cream Sauce

Makes enough for 6-8 servings, with 1 lb of cooked pasta
Total cooking time: approximately 1 hour, 30 minutes

2 shallots, diced
1/2 cup butter
1 cup vodka
2 28-oz cans crushed tomatoes
1/2 pint heavy whipping cream
1 tbspn grated parmesan cheese
2 tbsp fresh chopped basil
*optional – 1 tspn sugar

Melt butter in a large skillet or pan over medium heat. Add shallots, sauté until soft. Add vodka, let cook for 10 minutes. Add the crushed tomatoes and one tbspn of fresh chopped basil. Stir together. Lower heat to medium-low, let simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the heavy whipping cream and parmesan cheese. Stir together. Lower heat to medium-low, let simmer for another 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Give the sauce a taste. You can add a tspn of sugar to help sweeten it up a bit. Add the second tbsp of fresh chopped basil during the last 10 minutes of cooking. Serves well with penne, rigatoni or your choice of ravioli.

To make enough sauce for a half pound of pasta, simply cut the recipe in half. However, be sure to follow the same cooking time.


Stirring the sauce.

Plated and ready to serve!


Oh, Fudge! Dark Chocolate and Zinfandel Fudge

December 18, 2016 Dessert, Menu No Comments

I once had a friend tell me that wine plus dark chocolate equals heaven. Being a fan of both, I have no problem agreeing with this statement. There is something magical about the pairing of a crisp, fruity, complex wine with the creamy, lush texture of dark chocolate. And according to an interesting article in the Huffington Post, there are also health benefits to this decadent combination!

If you are looking for some last minute ideas for home made goodie gifts for the holidays, and if your family and friends are fans of wine and chocolate, give this fudge recipe a try. The recipe is very simple and doesn’t take much time to make, yet your family and friends will be impressed! You can add nuts or maraschino cherries for additional texture and flavor. Just be sure to keep this sweet treat out of the children’s reach, because the alcohol does not fully cook down. To make a kid-friendly version, simply eliminate the wine.

Cheers to you and yours!


Dark Chocolate and Zinfandel Fudge

1 20-oz package of dark chocolate morsels
7-oz sweetened condensed milk (1/2 can)
1/2 cup Red Zinfandel

Place all ingredients in a sauce pan over medium-low heat. Stir often until the chocolate morsels are almost melted. Remove from heat, continue to stir until completely melted. Carefully pour the batter into an 8″x8″ pan lined with parchment paper and lightly sprayed. Smooth out the batter to evenly fill the tray. Let cool in the fridge until the fudge sets completely. Cut into small squares to share.

Be sure to wrap the fudge in wax paper, then store the fudge in an air-tight package or container. The fudge will have longer shelf life if stored in the fridge, just be sure to let it return to room temperature before serving.


Pancetta and Beans with Spinach

December 13, 2016 Entrees, Menu No Comments

With the cold winter weather rolling in, now’s the time to start planning some good, old fashioned, stick-to-your-ribs kind of meals. The dish that I’m sharing with you today is one of my all time favorites. The simple, yet classic ingredients make for a wonderfully tasty and hearty comfort dish. Old-school Italian soul food at its best!






Pancetta and Beans with Spinach

4 oz pancetta, diced
1 small onion, diced
1 14.5 oz stewed tomatoes, drained
1 15 oz can cannellini or garbanzo beans (I use a mixture of both)
1 bag spinach
olive oil (if needed)
1/4 to 1/2 cup chicken broth (if needed)
salt and pepper

Sauté pancetta in a large pan over medium heat until crispy and fat is rendered, about 7-10 minutes. Remove pancetta and set aside.

Add onion to rendered fat in the pan, sauté until soft and translucent (you can add some olive oil if needed). Add tomatoes and beans, stir together, cook until heated.

Add the spinach, stir together. You can add 1/4 to 1/2 cup of chick broth if needed, to help cook down the spinach.

Once the spinach is cooked down, add the pancetta back to the pan. Stir together, season with salt and pepper to taste.

Serve and enjoy with a loaf of crispy Italian bread!




Crock-Pot Pulled Pork

December 2, 2016 Entrees, Menu No Comments

Cooking a pork shoulder in a Crock-Pot or a slow cooker is a popular and easy method used for making pulled pork. While my personal favorite method is to slow cook it on the grill (you can find my recipe for grilled pulled pork by clicking here), I have tried a few different versions in the Crock-Pot as well. This version that I’m sharing with you today is my favorite Crock-Pot version. The pork shoulder gets rubbed down with a mixture of garlic powder, oregano, red pepper flakes and kosher salt prior to cooking, so barbecue sauce is not needed. Instead, I simply add two jars of pork gravy, which makes for a juicy, tender and delicious pot of pulled pork!




Crock-Pot Pulled Pork

1 large Vidalia onion, cut into 1/2-inch slices
1 (5- to 6-lb.) boneless pork shoulder roast
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 (10 1/2-oz.) can condensed chicken broth
2 12-oz jars pork gravy
1-2 tablespoons olive oil

Lightly coat the bottom of a 6-qt Crock-Pot with olive oil. Make 1-2″ deep slits around various parts of the pork shoulder. Rub the garlic powder, oregano, kosher salt and crushed red pepper all over the pork shoulder. Be sure to get the spices into the slits as well. Place onions in the pot, then place roast on top of onions. Pour broth over roast. Cover and cook (HIGH 6 to 7 hours, or LOW 8 to 10 hours) or until meat shreds easily with a fork.

Carefully transfer the pork to a cutting board. Remove and discard onions from the broth (you can reserve the onions to use as a topping, if you like). Add the two jars of pork gravy to the broth in the pot. Let the pork cool for 10 minutes, then shred with 2 forks, removing any large pieces of fat. Add the shredded pork back to the pot. Serve and enjoy!



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