Archive for the ‘ Dinner ’ Category


The real title of this post should be “Mom’s Meatloaf,” as this is the very same recipe I grew up eating as a child.  A perennial favorite in our household, few meatloaves deliver in the way this barbecue sauce-topped rendition does.  The epitome of comfort, my Mom would be the first to tell you that this dish is “hard to screw up.”  In fact, it’s the simplicity of this recipe that makes it a true standout in my mind.  Perfect for company, yet quick and easy enough for a weeknight meal, this tender and juicy meatloaf comes together in no time and feeds a crowd for next to nothing.  Covered with a sweet, tangy homemade barbecue sauce, this meatloaf is sure to please even the pickiest of eaters as few can resist it’s sticky, ketchup-like topping.  If you love meatloaf but can’t justify the saturated fat, substitute ground turkey for a version that is just as tasty and quite a bit healthier — you’ll barely notice the difference.  As good cold as it is served warm, this recipe also makes for a killer meatloaf sandwich.  So, in a world filled with so much bad meatloaf, do yourself a favor and go with a tried-and-true recipe that works.  Your family, friends and significant others will thank you.

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I should start by saying that this dish is rich — certainly not for those still trying to stick to their New Years resolution.  While cream sauced pasta might always be an off-limit item for calorie counters, it’s the Gorgonzola, ricotta and Parmesan cheese that makes this dish especially decadent and delicious.  It’s this same indulgent quality that has people lined up around the block at Gayle’s Bakery & Rosticceria, a neighborhood fixture in a small beach town called Capitola, a few miles south of Santa Cruz in Northern California.

I visited Gayle’s for the first time in college on an adventure to find a solid, quality meal and a break from the less-than inspiring food of the dining hall.  Craving something comforting more than anything, I felt right at home in front of their massive rotisserie and deli case packed with roasted chickens, slow barbecued ribs, potato salad and sandwiches.  The place was bustling with business and food was flying out the door but nothing seemed to be selling faster than the humble looking spinach-gorgonzola pasta.  As I remember it, not one customer left without ordering some.  So, like any smart food explorer, I did as the locals did and took some to-go.  After a few bites, it was obvious what all fuss was about.

Having moved away from Santa Cruz, I’m no longer able to take part in what became a near-weekly trip to Gayle’s for some of their signature pasta.  So feeling especially deprived of late, I searched for the restaurant online and was lucky enough to find that they’ve been giving out the recipe to their customers for years.  After making the dish at home this past weekend, I’m happy to report that it’s as soul-satisfying as I remember it.

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My girlfriend (and her entire family) is nuts for broccoli beef.  In fact, she’s down with almost all of the classic Chinese-American dishes — chow mein, wonton soup, cashew chicken, etc.  When I told her I was planning on pulling together a few recipes for Chinese New Year to post on the blog, she insisted that this dish had to be on the menu.  As she put it, “this is the type of Chinese food that everybody loves.”  As hard as it is to admit, I too am fairly partial to a good take-out box of broccoli beef every once in a while.  Sure, I have a few Chinese friends that scoff at the very notion of this dish as a truly “authentic” Chinese dish, but the fact of the matter is, this is good, simple comfort food at its best.

Making good broccoli beef at home is way easier than most people think.  In fact, with a few Asian ingredients that all home chefs should have in their pantry and about a pound of good flank steak, the average home cook can have an outstanding dish on their table in less than a half hour.  Simply follow the principles of good stir-frying technique and you are pretty much guaranteed solid results.  Make this dish. After you see how easy it is to put together you might just reconsider paying $9-$10 for it at a restaurant the next time you get that craving.

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Throw grated cheddar cheese, sour cream, sliced green onions, and cilantro over a bowl of Stagg Chili and you have a satisfying bowl of chili.  Throw those same condiments over a warm bowl of this hearty lamb and chorizo chili, and you have an epic winter meal.  But I’ll warn you, this chili isn’t for the faint of heart.  This is some rich, earthy fare the likes of which are seldom explored by the typical American diner.  In my mind, I believe this is chili the way chili was always meant to taste.

Thick, heavily spiced and slightly gamey, this is cold weather, stick-to-your-ribs food at it best, making it not only great for the winter season, but also perfect Super Bowl grub if you’re looking to feed a group with a big appetite. I’d go so far as to call this real man food, if my girlfriend weren’t so quick to remind me that women love chili, too.

Garnishes are key here; they lighten the rich flavors while enhancing the chili’s meatiness, so set out a spread of shredded cheese, chopped onion, cilantro and sour cream and let your guests go nuts.

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I’m sure they wouldn’t like to admit it, but even some of the world’s most accomplished home cooks struggle when attempting to roast the perfect chicken.  The fact is it’s far easier to make a roasted chicken look good than it is to make it taste good. I don’t know how many times I’ve sat down to enjoy what I believed to be a perfectly roasted chicken — the quintessential golden brown bird flecked with black pepper and fragrant herbs — only to cut into the thing and find it bone dry or worse, still raw at the bone. Or, and this is perhaps worst of all, a combination of both, so that you end up hacking it up and destroying the only thing it had going for it: its good looks.

But this roast chicken? Well, it’s an entirely different beast, or rather, bird.  First, it’s the smell. An intoxicating aroma of garlic will start you salivating. Then you’ll notice the skin. Not only is it golden brown, it’s crisp, like really crisp.  And beneath that exterior you’ll find the juiciest and most tender chicken you’ve ever cut into. But it’s the flavor that will leave you coming back for more. The marinade’s combination of garlic, mustard, soy sauce and herbes de provence create a flavor that is at once familiar and completely unexpected. In addition to the marinade, the cooking method is also unique. Unlike typical whole roasted chicken, this recipe calls for you to butterfly the bird. Not only does this help the meat cook more evenly, but it also allows you to sear the bottom of the chicken before throwing it in the oven and cook it in half the time of a usual whole roasted chicken. Sound perfect? It is. But don’t take my word for it.

Continue reading roasted chicken recipe . . .