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Catered Brunch for 20

Catered brunch for 20

After request upon request to cater, Denise and I have given in several times in the last few months. It has been fun and a learning experience on what it takes to be a true caterer. As of now, we still don’t think catering, in

Baked Egg Rolls

Pork Egg Rolls

My family loves Chinese food, and who doesn’t love a good egg roll? The only thing I’m not a fan of is that they are fried and greasy. So…I decided to try my hand at baked egg rolls to see how they would taste. Delicious!

Traditional Chili

I have been making this variation one of my aunt’s traditional chili recipes for years. It is always a big hit for family and friends and very easy to make. I have never made it with 9 lbs. of beef before, but I have also

Vegetarian Chili

Vegetarian Chili

When I was trying to figure out what type of vegetarian chili to make for New Year’s Day, none of the recipes I saw completely appealed to me. So what did I do? I combined several recipes and threw in a few extra ingredients for

White Bean Chicken Chili

Happy New Year!!! It’s hard to believe that 2016 is already upon us. We know that we were a bit off the grid in 2015, but one of our resolutions is to get back in the kitchen and bring you more fantastic recipes and cooking tips.

Chicken Tenders with Grilled Romaine

For those of you who live in the Atlanta area, you know that school started for many students last week. My children were among those that headed back.  At the beginning of every school year, I have the energy and desire to cook new meals

Black Rice with Cilantro

You all have heard about my friend Kayla by now. She’s my taste-tester friend (and an amazing local jazz singer) who I also work out with. On occasion, we will go for a run and then treat ourselves to the most incredible lunch in Atlanta at Breadwinner

Grilled Appetizer – Peach, Prosciutto and Ricotta Crostini

appetizer with prosciutto and ricottaI’m a big fan of Williams-Sonoma. They have great things for cooks of all levels. So, although I don’t like being on many mail lists, I do receive their catalogue. It is great because they market their products with many seasonal recipes. I saw something very similar to this grilled appetizer that I changed up more for my taste. Tried it out on a great guinea pig, my sister-in-law. She loved it too.

Level of Difficulty: Easy – Moderate Time Required: Prep and Cook Time – 20-30 minutes

Ingredients:

2 peaches

1/2 loaf of French bread

8T Ricotta cheese (I used part-skim)

2 handfuls of arugula

2T extra virgin olive oil

Juice of 1 lemon

4 slices of prosciutto

Balsamic Reduction

Coarse sea salt

Freshly cracked black pepper

Garlic powder

Grilled Appetizer Preparation – Peach, Prosciutto and Ricotta Crostini:

First – it is important to decide how you are serving this. If it will be in a seated setting with knife and fork or as an appetizer, standing and eating with your fingers. This will dictate the thickness and or quantities for everything listed below. I made this for a knife and fork this time but think it would also be great as finger food. If I did for finger food, I’d essentially only use 1/4 of a peach, a thin slice of bread for the crostini, maybe 1/2 the ricotta and place the arugula under the peach.

Preheat grill to medium-high heat.

Make the balsamic reduction

Crostini:

Slice bread to desired thickness.

Brush with olive oil and sprinkle with a bit of garlic powder

Set aside until ready to grill

Peaches:

Cut in half, remove pit and peel skin. This is the most fun way to learn to do this quickly and easily. Check out this video.

If making as finger food, slice the half in half again so that it is thin (opposite direction of a typical quartered piece of fruit)

Brush a bit of olive oil on one side.

Set aside until ready to grill

Ricotta:

Place the ricotta in a small bowl. Add sea salt, fresh cracked black pepper to taste. If desired, add a bit of parsley or even chop a bit of the arugula up and mix all together.

Arugula:

Toss the arugula in lemon juice, olive oil and sea salt

Assembly:

Grill the bread and peaches.

When done, spread the ricotta mixture on the bread.

Top with 1/2-1 slice of prosciutto.

Add peaches.

Add arugula.

Drizzle with balsamic reduction and sprinkle with a bit more sea salt.

Variations:

This could even be a meal. I’d just place the larger version of the crostini’s on a bed of arugula too to make a little salad.

Middle Eastern Salad

Middle Eastern Salad

As I mentioned in a very early post, I am half Middle Eastern. I am sure that is why I love garbanzo beans, feta cheese, olives, tomatoes and such. As many of you who frequent the mall food court know, Hovan makes a great side salad. Many years ago, I tried to recreate it and didn’t do a bad job at it if I do say so myself! It’s very easy to make it your own and add more or less of certain ingredients depending on your tastes.

Level of Difficulty:Easy
Time Required:Prep Time – 15 minutes. Chill time: At least 30 minutes

Ingredients:

For the Salad (these are ideas, use them all or just some):

Roma Tomatoes, Diced
Feta Cheese, Crumbled
Small or mini cucumbers, quartered
Parsley, chopped
Fresh mint, chopped
Red onion, sliced
Chick peas, drained
Kalamata Olives, drained
Pepperoncini

For the Dressing:

Juice of 1/2 lemon
3 T. Olive oil
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 T. Dijon Mustard
1 tsp. dried oregano

Preparing Middle Eastern Salad:

For the salad: Combine desired quantities of chosen ingredients together in large mixing bowl.

For the dressing: Combine all ingredients together in bowl and whisk together.

Pour dressing over salad and toss to coat. Chill for at least 30 minutes before serving.

Middle Eastern Salad

Important Tips:

Most of the time, we will suggest adding “salt and pepper to taste”. However, with this dish, you need to remember that feta cheese and Kalamata olives are quite salty. If you want to add salt, do so after all of the flavors have blended together for at least 30 minutes. Otherwise, you might ruin the dish.

Variations:

You can certainly eat this as a side dish by itself. I chose to put it in some radicchio for lunch one day to make it more of a “lettuce based salad”. You can also add a piece of grilled chicken to it and some nicely crisp green lettuce if you like. You really can’t go wrong. Make it your own!

Middle Eastern Salad




How to cut meat against the grain and on a bias – Video

flank steak recipe

McNack’s is dedicated to answering your questions and comments. We received a few requests for a video on how to cut meat against the grain and on a bias after we posted the recipe for the marinated flank steak.

Ask and you shall receive. We hope this helps explain what is often so difficult to put into words.

This is a NEW and improved version of the video. Let us know what you think!!

Southwestern Black Bean and Corn Salad

Salad with black beans, corn, tomatoes, cilantro and jalapeños

Southwestern Black bean and corn salad is a side dish I often make for a crowd when having a Mexican themed dinner. It is easy, cheap, colorful and serves a lot of people. You can kick up the spice by adding more jalapeños or tone it down by adding less.

Level of Difficulty:Easy
Time Required:Prep Time – 20 min; Chill time: At least an hour

Ingredients:

2 cans of sweet corn (not creamed corn)
2 cans of black beans, drained and rinsed
6-8 fresh jalepenos, seeded and chopped
1 bunch of cilantro, washed and snipped
1/2 red onion, chopped (see how to chop an onion )
1 tomato, chopped
Juice of 4-6 limes
Salt and pepper to taste

Preparing Southwestern Black Bean and Corn Salad:

Empty the corn, WITH the liquid into mixing bowl. Add all other ingredients and mix well. Add salt and pepper to taste. Cover and let chill in the refrigerator for at least one hour before serving.

Salad with black beans, corn, tomatoes, cilantro and jalapeños

Important Tips:

Remember to use a serrated knife when chopping or slicing a tomato. Also, don’t forget to wear gloves when seeding the jalapeño. If you need a knife, try one of these. Melissa’s favorite is Henckles:
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Got Leftovers?:

When I have leftovers of this, I will often put it on a salad with some leftover chicken and make my own version of a taco salad.

How to Prepare Sugar Snap or Snow Peas

How to Prepare Sugar Snap Peas

When I first made snow peas for my step-daughters, they called them “crunchy peas.” Why, you ask? Perhaps when you buy snow or sugar snap peas at the grocery store, they are dull and limp?. Perhaps you don’t buy them because of that reason? Well, if I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a 1,000 times, it’s all in the preparation!! Sugar peas and snow peas are delicious and kids love them.

Level of Difficulty: Easy
Time Required: Prep Time – 10min; Cook Time – 5 min

Ingredients:

However many snow or sugar snap peas you want. I usually buy a handful per person.
Sauce of your choice. Some of my family’s favorites:

    Terriyaki Sauce
    Soy Sauce with 1 T butter
    Butter
    A tiny bit of sesame oil with soy sauce
    Equal parts rice wine vinegar and soy sauce with a touch of sesame oil
    Asian style chili sauce

Preparation:

First and foremost in the list of important steps: wash and soak in ice cold water for a minimum of 30 minutes, especially with snow peas. This will rehydrate them and give them that crunchy texture. I like to soak them for a few hours. Prior to cooking, you can pinch off the ends and pull any strings from the peas you can. This is somewhat optional. Some serve with them on and some do not. I generally take them off until I just don’t have that extre 5-10 minutes and then I don’t. Simple as that.
How to Prepare Sugar Snap Peas
When everything else you have prepared for the meal is done, place these in a saute pan with a little bit of water (depends on how many peas, but probably about 1-2 cups for 4-8 servings). Turn it on high. As the water heats, stir the peas. They will transform to a bright green. Cook no more than 5 minutes. Drain any remaining water and add the sauce of your choice. Toss and serve.

We eat one of these at least once a week as you can buy them fresh at the grocery store all year round.

Important Tips:

Soak them unless you like limp vegetables!!!

Variations:

Try different types of salty, savory, sweet, spicy sauces of your choice. I love asian style flavors with these peas.

Meal Ideas:

Great with just about any meal as a nice, fresh side.

Catered Brunch for 20

Catered brunch for 20

Catered brunch for baby showerAfter request upon request to cater, Denise and I have given in several times in the last few months. It has been fun and a learning experience on what it takes to be a true caterer. As of now, we still don’t think catering, in the technical sense of the word, is for us. HOWEVER, providing a home-cooked, delicious spread at a fair cost for friends is definitely something we enjoy!

Catered brunch for 20

This past Saturday, we provided a brunch for about 20 people hosting a baby shower. It was so much fun! Melissa knew a lot of the guests which made it extra special to see friends and the appreciation for the food was enough to lift our spirits through the week.

catered brunch

 

We worked with the ‘to be Mom’s’ sister on the menu which needed to include enough vegetarian items to suit the guest list. Here is what we ended up with:

  • Frittata with mushrooms, leeks and fontina
  • Frittata with sausage and cheddar
  • Shrimp grits with toast points
  • Baked French toast
  • Greek yogurt, mixed berries and granola
  • Caprese salad
  • Prosciutto cups with spinach and ricotta
  • Mimosas, OJ, and iced tea

Do you have a book club, Bible study, regular friend get together that you don’t want to cook for…let us know if we can help!

Vegetarian Frittata

 

Brunch Salad

 

Baked French Toast with Pecan topping

Baked French Toast with Pecan topping

Baked Egg Rolls

Pork Egg Rolls

My family loves Chinese food, and who doesn’t love a good egg roll? The only thing I’m not a fan of is that they are fried and greasy. So…I decided to try my hand at baked egg rolls to see how they would taste. Delicious! You will not even miss the fat or clogged arteries!!!

Level of Difficulty: Easy
Time Required: Prep Time – 30min; Cook Time – 18-20 minutes

Ingredients:

1 package egg roll wrappers

1 lb. ground pork sausage

4 scallions, chopped

2 zucchini, shredded

Stir Fry Sauce (just use your favorites)

1 egg

Soy Sauce for dipping

Preparing Baked Egg Rolls:

Brown pork in medium skillet until no longer pink. Add scallions and zucchini. Saute for 3 minutes. Add stir fry sauce and mix well. Remove from heat and let cool. Preheat oven to 350 Degrees. Crack and beat the egg in a small bowl.  Take an egg roll wrapper and place it on a work surface on the diagonal. Place about a tablespoon of mixture on the bottom third of the wrapper. Brush with the beaten to moisten slightly. Roll from the bottom, making sure you pinch in the sides as you roll.  Place on a pan and repeat with remaining ingredients. Brush the outside with the egg as well. 

Pork Egg Rolls

Bake for 18-20 minutes (oven temperatures and times will vary). Turn at 9-10 minutes for even cooking. Dip in your favorite soy sauce. 

Pork Egg Rolls

Variations:

Put whatever kind of filling in here that you like. Try this chicken filling that I have used for lettuce wraps if you don’t want to use pork.

 

Traditional Chili

I have been making this variation one of my aunt’s traditional chili recipes for years. It is always a big hit for family and friends and very easy to make. I have never made it with 9 lbs. of beef before, but I have also never made chili for a huge crowd before. I would make it again using this much meat even if I had less people because I could easily freeze half of it to get us through the winter! It’s an easy recipe to cut in half if you want to. You can also change up the amounts of your spices, add more beans, less onion….the opportunities are endless! If it wasn’t gone so quickly, I would have taken a better picture of it in a bowl all dressed up with cheese and sour cream! 

Level of Difficulty: Easy
Time Required: Prep Time – 30min; Cook Time – 2 1/2 -3 hours

Ingredients:

9 lbs. ground beef

3 onions, diced

6 T. olive oil

6 garlic cloves, minced

4 cans green chiles

3 10 oz. cans beef consommé

4 cans Rotel Chili Fixin’s

4 4oz. cans tomato paste

1 T. oregano

2 T. cumin

6 T. chili powder

3 cans kidney beans (1 drained, 2 undrained)

Garnishes (optional):

Shredded cheddar cheese

Sour cream

Fritos (although the kids will say this is not an optional ingredient)

Special Equipment and Other Items Needed:

Large Pot

Preparing Traditional Chili:

In a large pot, saute onion and garlic until softened, about 6-8 minutes. Add meat and cook until done. Drain.  Return mixture to pot. Add chiles, consommé, Rotel Chili Fixin’s, tomato paste, oregano, cumin and chili powder. Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring occasionally. Cover and simmer for 2 hours. Add beans. Simmer for another 30 minutes. Serve hot. Top with cheddar cheese, sour cream, and Fritos, if desired. 

Chili

Important Tips:

The key to a good chili is to never rush it. The longer the flavors have to blend together, the better it will be! 

Variations:

You can easily substitute ground turkey or chicken for the ground beef in this recipe. You just might need to add a little spice! 

Got Leftovers?:

As with all chili, this will keep for months in the freezer as long as you double bag it! 

Vegetarian Chili

Vegetarian Chili

When I was trying to figure out what type of vegetarian chili to make for New Year’s Day, none of the recipes I saw completely appealed to me. So what did I do? I combined several recipes and threw in a few extra ingredients for fun! The result was delicious…and spicy!! Consider yourself warned! What I love about this dish is that you can very easily make it your own depending on your specific tastes. Since it was New Year’s Day, I threw in some black-eyed peas and greens. When I make it again throughout the year, I likely won’t use the black-eyed peas and will add more of another type of bean. 

Level of Difficulty: Easy
Time Required: Prep Time – 30 min; Cook Time – 3 hours

Ingredients:

6 T. olive oil (better yet, garlic infused oil if you have it)

2 onions, chopped

2 carrots, chopped

5 celery stalks, chopped

2 green peppers, seeded and chopped

2 red peppers, seeded and chopped

4 zucchini, cut into cubes

1 can chipotles in adobo sauce, chopped

2 T. chili powder

2 T. dried oregano 

4-28 oz. cans diced tomatoes with liquid

1 can black beans, drained

1 can red kidney beans, drained

1 can chiles

1 can sweet corn, drained

1 can black-eyed peas, drained

2 bags baby kale

Shredded Cheddar Cheese (optional)

Special Equipment and Other Items Needed:

Large Pot

Preparing Vegetarian Chili:

In a large pot, heat oil over medium heat. Add onions and next 5 ingredients. Cook until vegetables are soft, about 10 minutes. Add the chipotles AND the adobo sauce, oregano, and chili powder. Mix well. Add the tomatoes and simmer, uncovered for 60 minutes. Add all of the beans, corn, chiles and kale. 

Spicy Vegetarian Chili

Simmer for an additional 30 minutes. Serve hot. Sprinkle with shredded cheddar cheese, if desired. 

Vegetarian Chili

Variations:

You can use whatever beans and greens you like. I used the black-eyed peas since it was New Year’s Day and every good Southern knows you need black-eyed peas and greens on New Year’s Day for good luck! 

Got Leftovers?:

Double bag the leftovers in freezer safe resealable bags and it will last through the winter! 

White Bean Chicken Chili

Happy New Year!!! It’s hard to believe that 2016 is already upon us. We know that we were a bit off the grid in 2015, but one of our resolutions is to get back in the kitchen and bring you more fantastic recipes and cooking tips. It’s not that we haven’t been cooking, we have just too busy to blog about it!! Anyway, here is the first recipe of the New Year: White Bean Chicken Chili! I had a few people over on New Year’s Day and made three different types of chili…a) Traditional Chili b) White Bean Chicken Chili 3) Vegetarian Chili. They were all great, but the overall consensus was that this was the favorite because it was so different and not too spicy.  Don’t worry, the others will be posted in the days ahead!!! 

Level of Difficulty: Easy
Time Required: Prep Time – 30min; Cook Time – 3-4 hours

Ingredients:

6 lbs. chicken, poached and shredded

4 jalapeño peppers, seeded and diced

2 onions, finely chopped

2-4 oz. cans green chiles

6-15 oz. cans small white beans, rinsed, drained, & divided

12 cups chicken broth, divided

4 T. olive oil

1 T. dried oregano

1 T. cumin

Garnishes, if desired:

Shredded Cheddar Cheese

Cilantro

Sour Cream

Special Equipment and Other Items Needed:

Large pot

Crock pot

Immersion Blender

Preparing White Bean Chicken Chili:

In a large skillet over medium heat, sauté jalapeños and onions in oil for 3-4 minutes or until they start to soften. Add shredded chicken, oregano, cumin and chiles. Mix well. Set aside. In a medium bowl, add three cans of beans and 4 cups of broth. Using an immersion blender, mix well.  Add to chicken mixture and stir. Transfer to crock pot. Add remaining beans and broth. Put on low for 3-4 hours. Serve hot with shredded cheddar cheese, sour cream and cilantro, if desired. 

White Bean Chicken Chili

Important Tips:

You can easily make the entire dish the day before and then just pour it into a crock pot  about 4 hours before you want to serve it. If you do this, put the crock pot on high instead of low since you are starting out with the ingredients being cold instead of at room temperature or warm.  

Meal Ideas:

I had made a bunch of traditional cornbread to serve with all of the chili. I had so much that I decided to turn some of it into jalapeño cheddar cornbread to go with the white bean chicken chili. It was a pretty great pairing if I do say so myself. 

Got Leftovers?:

Any leftovers can easily be frozen into individual sized portions with resealable freezer safe bags. 

Chicken Tenders with Grilled Romaine

For those of you who live in the Atlanta area, you know that school started for many students last week. My children were among those that headed back.  At the beginning of every school year, I have the energy and desire to cook new meals and be creative. However, it was a bit of an emotional start since I had one kid starting high school and another starting the end of her middle school years. I knew I didn’t have it in me to go all elaborate and fancy (and I’m not Melissa) but wanted something new, healthy and delicious.  As I was thumbing through old Food Network Magazines, I came across a recipe that looked exciting. Of course, I changed it a bit to suit my family’s tastes. The end result was this chicken tenders with grilled romaine dish that was a hit with everyone!!

Level of Difficulty: Easy
Time Required: Prep Time – 10 min; Cook Time –  15 min. 

Ingredients for 4 servings:

1/4 c. extra virgin olive oil, plus 2 T. for drizzling

2 tsp. balsamic vinegar, plus 1 tsp. for drizzling

1 1/2 T. fresh thyme, chopped

1 T. minced red onion

2 garlic cloves, minced

1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes

Kosher Salt and Pepper

2 artisan heads of romaine, cut in half (or one head of romaine cut in quarters)

12 boneless, skinless chicken tenders

1 1/2 c. seasoned breadcrumbs

1/2 c. shredded or shaved parmesan

Preparing Chicken Tenders with Grilled Romaine:

Preheat grill to medium-high heat. Whisk together olive oil, vinegar, thyme, onion, garlic, red pepper and a pinch of salt in a large bowl. Drizzle the cut side of the romaine with 1-2 tsp. of the dressing. 

Add the chicken to the bowl and toss with remaining dressing. Add the breadcrumbs and toss to coat. Thread the chicken onto metal skewers. 

Grill chicken until cooked through, about 8 minutes. Take off the grill and let sit for 5 minutes. Place the cut side of the romaine on the grill, turning once. Grill for about 2 minutes total. Transfer the romaine to plates and drizzle with olive oil and vinegar. Season with salt and pepper. Place 3 chicken tenders on each plate and sprinkle with parmesan cheese. 

Chicken Tenders with Grilled Romaine

 

Black Rice with Cilantro

You all have heard about my friend Kayla by now. She’s my taste-tester friend (and an amazing local jazz singer) who I also work out with. On occasion, we will go for a run and then treat ourselves to the most incredible lunch in Atlanta at Breadwinner Cafe. Any time we eat there, Kayla orders their black rice salad. I had never seen or heard of black rice before Breadwinner.  Eventually, she convinced me to try the black rice salad and I have to say that it was AH-MAZING!!! Since I’m always looking a cooking challenge, I decided to try and make black rice with cilantro. It is by no means a substitute to Breadwinner’s black rice salad, but it’s an amazing dish you can make at home!

Level of Difficulty: Easy
Time Required: Prep Time – 10 min; Cook Time –  30 min. 

Ingredients:

1 c. black rice

3 roma tomatoes, diced 

2 fresh jalapeños, diced

1 avocado, cut into cubes

1 bunch fresh cilantro

4 limes

1/2 tsp. cumin

1/2 tsp. salt

Preparing Black Rice with Cilantro:

Cook the rice according to directions. While the rice is cooking, dice your tomatoes, jalapeños, and cut your avocado. Put them in a bowl. Add fresh cilantro (no set quantity on this, it’s all about taste), the juice of 4 limes. Add the cooked rice, cumin and salt. Mix well. Chill. 

Spicy Black Rice