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Meat Sauce

Here is another child friendly dish that I made for my friend. I used canned diced tomatoes, leaving the tomatoes in large chunks instead of chopping them up. I quite like biting into the chunks of tomatoes. It also adds more texture to the meat sauce and her children didn’t mind it at all!

Photography by Heaven on Hearth

The adults also enjoyed the meat sauce. It’s easy to make, versatile and this recipe is enough for 2 meals.  Meat sauce can be served with spaghetti or topped with mashed potatoes and cheese, then baked in the oven. My Mum loves to eat meat sauce with white rice and a tossed salad. It is also great in a toasted hoagie roll or on a toasted hamburger bun, similar to a Sloppy Joe. Meat sauce stuffed in a baked potato with some freshly diced red onions, cheese, jalapenos and freshly chopped versatile is that? And the list can go on…

1 1/3 pounds of ground beef (75/25)
½ cup carrots, finely diced
1 stalk celery, finely diced
½ a large sweet onion, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 teaspoons salt
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon sugar
1½ teaspoons dried basil leaves
1½ teaspoons dried oregano leaves
28 ounces canned diced tomatoes with juice
6 ounces tomato paste
¾ cup of beef broth
Diced Onions, Celery and Carrots
Finely dice ½ cup of carrots, 1 stalk celery, ½ a large sweet onion and 2 cloves garlic finely chopped and set aside. Heat a large skillet over medium high heat. Once the skillet is hot, add 2 tablespoons olive oil and then the ground beef. Make sure the ground beef is spread out evenly in the pan, while breaking up the meat. Brown the meat for 3 minutes, then add the finely diced vegetables, season with 3 teaspoons salt, ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper, 1 teaspoon sugar, 1½ teaspoons dried basil leaves and 1½ teaspoons dried oregano leaves. 
Browned Ground Beef with Vegetables
Then add 28 ounces canned diced tomatoes with juice, 6 ounces tomato paste and ¾ cup of beef broth and stir occasionally. Allow the meat sauce to simmer for 27 minutes over medium high heat until the sauce thickens.
Meat Sauce
Yields 6 cups of sauce. Voilà. Enjoy!


Chicken Bake for Children

A friend of mine had injured her finger some weeks ago and wasn’t able to prepare any food for her family without suffering pain, so a group of friends offered to help her out for a few days. With the kids at school, she had a chance to relax a bit, but needed help with dinner, so I offered to help her out for two meals.

With no kids of my own, I was truly unsure what to make. I have heard that children have quite a few dislikes and can be quite finicky at times, so I really wanted to prepare something that the whole family would enjoy. From past experience, with other friends that have kids, macaroni and cheese or chicken nuggets always seem to be a hit, so a chicken bake should do the trick.
Photography by Heaven on Hearth

Not wanting to the kids to be turned off by too many spices, but also having the parents enjoy a nice meal, I came up with my plan: chicken thighs, pasta, creamy sauce and cheese. Children must love it! So I rolled up my sleeves and got to work.

I used a six cheese Italian blend that has Mozzarella, Provolone, Parmesan, Asiago, Fontina and Romano Cheeses. It wasn’t too harsh in flavor that the kids wouldn’t enjoy it.
You will need:
6 cups of elbow pasta cooked
4 boneless chicken thighs (about 22 ounces) sliced in thin strips
½ of a medium sweet onion, finely diced
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
4 ounces mushrooms chopped (Cremini and White button)
1 teaspoon salt
½ cup cheese Six Cheese Italian Blend)
¼ teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
5 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons flour
8 ounces heavy cream
1½ cups chicken broth
1 handful of parsley finely chopped
1/3 cup of cheese for the topping
Begin with cooking the pasta as the directions suggest, as you will be requiring 6 cups of cooked pasta. By the time the pasta is cooked, the chicken and cream sauce will be ready. It’s so much easier when all ingredients are nice and hot so the baking time at the end will not be too long.
Prepare your ingredients before hand. So start by slicing 4 boneless chicken thighs into thin strips, then, finely dice ½ of a medium sweet onion. Finely chop 1 clove of garlic and roughly chop a mix of 4 ounces Cremini and white button mushrooms.
Chicken Strips, Onions, Garlic and Mushrooms
Heat a large skillet at medium high heat. Once the skillet is nice and hot, add 2 tablespoons olive oil and toss in the chicken strips evenly in the skillet. Let it brown for 3 minutes on one side, then toss again after 2 minutes. Add the finely diced onions and the chopped garlic and let soften for 3 minutes, tossing occasionally. Toss the chopped mushrooms in the skillet, then season the chicken mixture with 1 teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon black pepper and toss occasionally for another 3 minutes before transferring the mixture into a bowl.
Creamy Sauce
Using the same skillet, over medium high heat, melt 5 tablespoons butter. Once the butter is melted and slightly bubbling, add 4 tablespoons flour and using a whisk, stir the butter and flour mixture so that it doesn’t burn for 1½ minutes. Turn the burner down to medium low, then add 8 ounces heavy cream and 1½ cups chicken broth and simmer on medium low heat till bubbling for about 4 minutes. Add chicken mixture and pasta to the cream sauce and toss well, ensuring that the pasta is well incorporated in the sauce. Turn the heat off.
Chicken and Pasta Mixture with Parsley
 Take a handful of parsley and finely chop. Add to the chicken and pasta mixture as well as ½ cup six cheese Italian blend. Toss the mixture well, again.
Chicken and Pasta Mixture with six cheese Italian Blend
I used 4 individual ramekins. Fill each with 2 cups of the mixture. Or if you wish, you can use two large ramekins and 4 smaller ones if you have little children. Top the ramekins evenly with 1/3 cup of six cheese Italian blend.
Ramekin filled with Creamy Cheesy Chicken Pasta
Since the mixture is still hot, turn the oven on to broil, on high. Place the ramekins on the top rack and broil until the cheese is golden brown. This will vary with each oven, but it shouldn’t take more than 2 minutes if as much.
Ready to be Enjoyed!
This serves 4. Voilà. The whole family enjoyed this and I was told that the kids didn’t even mind the parsley, so I was quite happy.


Broiled Pork Sirloin Cutlets with Sage Rub and Onions

These lean steaks are similar to sirloin chops, only meatier and boneless. It’s a cut from the sirloin end of the tenderloin. This type of cut is good for braising and grilling as well. For this recipe, use slightly thicker pieces, about ¾ to 1 inch thick, so when they are broiled, they remain juicy. Thin ones have a tendency to dry out quite fast.

Even though this is a lean cut, look for the pieces that have a bit of marbling in them. Marbling is when you see small streaks of fat within the muscle. It has a strong effect in maintaining the juiciness, flavor and tenderness of the meat.
Photography by Heaven on Hearth

The best way to marinate your meats is in a food-safe plastic bag, a stainless steel dish or a non-reactive container. A glass dish would be perfect.

To impart the flavors that I wanted to the meat, I used a wet rub. A rub is a mixture of herbs and spices that are pressed onto the surface of the meat. Rubs are commonly used on roasts and steaks and in Jamaica, we also use it to season stews before cooking it. A dry rub consists of herbs, spices and any other dry seasonings you wish to add, whereby a wet rub may have a small amount of liquid like oil, Worcestershire sauce, soya sauce, mustard, just to name a few, along with the dry rub.
A wet rub adds flavor and also seals in the juices of the meat because of the beautiful crust of seasonings that cover it. It will help the meat from drying out while cooking.
I chose sage as my herb because it has a rich, distinctive flavor and pairs perfectly for this simple pork dish. Albanian sage has a richer flavor than the California sage normally sold in supermarkets.
You will need:
1½ pounds pork sirloin cutlets
1 teaspoon salt
ground fresh pepper
2 teaspoons rubbed Albanian sage
2 cloves garlic, chopped
For this simple dish, simple seasoning works best.
As you all know, I like to season my meat a couple hours before cooking, even overnight, so that all the flavors have a chance to mingle together and penetrate into the meat. Because this particular cut of pork is not one of the best cuts of meat and quite lean I wanted to make sure that the meat is tenderized, that is why leaving the meat to rest for a bit longer will help. The meat will also be very flavorful and you won’t regret it. Do not overpower the meat with too much seasoning, as you still want to taste the meat, so the right amount of sage is imperative.
Pork Sirloin Cutlet Seasoned with Kosher Salt, Freshly Ground Pepper and Albanian Rubbed Sage
Place the cutlets in a glass dish. Season the cutlets with a mixture of 1 teaspoon salt, freshly ground pepper and 2 teaspoons rubbed Albanian sage on either side. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons olive oil add 2 cloves chopped garlic and rub the seasoning into the meat so that the cutlet is well coated with the wet rub. You can also mix all the ingredients into a wet paste and then rub on the meat, whatever is easier for you.
Slice 1 medium sweet onion in ¼ inch slices and place on the top of the meat. Make sure it’s well covered and always refrigerate, never allow to let the meat sit at room temperature.
Turn the cutlets occasionally so that they will absorb some of that onion flavor from the slices and the onions will also get the chance to be seasoned as well. Don’t worry if the slices do not stay intact with the occasional turning, you will still enjoy them.
Pork Sirloin Cutlets with Wet Rub and Sliced Sweet Onions
Take the meat out of the fridge about 30 to 60 minutes before cooking. Make sure it is nearly at room temperature. The reason for this is because you want the meat to be evenly cooked, so raising the internal temperature before cooking will ensure that.
Place the rack 8 inches below the broiler. Set the oven to low broil. Once heated, broil the cutlets for 10 minutes. Turn the cutlets with a pair of tongs or a spatula, as using a fork will rob the cutlet of its juices. Once the cutlets have been turned, set the oven on hi broil for another 10 minutes. Turn the cutlets again, leaving the oven on hi broil and add the onions around the cutlets for 5 more minutes.
Just as a rule of thumb, the internal temperature of the pork should be anywhere between 145° to 160° Fahrenheit. Also remember that all ovens work differently, so it is good to check the cutlets every now and then.
Ready to be Enjoyed!
>This serves for 4. Voilà. Bon Appétit! This can be served with Parsley Potatoes, a tossed green salad with vinaigrette and glass of Chardonnay. Enjoy!


Filet Mignon with Green Peppercorn Cream Sauce

I had been driving from supermarket to supermarket looking for some green peppercorns. Just before giving up, I found my coveted bottle at The Fresh Market. Green peppercorns are a condiment that I find is rarely used to my dismay. They are simply under-ripe peppercorn berries, offering a fresh mild peppery flavor, less pungent than black pepper. They are soft in texture and can be eaten whole. They are great for sauces, vegetables, terrines, grilled cheese and egg salad sandwiches, sandwiches, compound butter and any other dish that you would like to add them to.
Photography by Robert Demetrius

I held the bottle tightly in my hand, just thrilled to bits, while walking around the store. Walking through the store is always such a delight as it inspires me. Reaching the meat department, I stopped to look at the meat selection, admiring the pieces of filet mignon before me. Filet mignon is a steak cut of beef taken from the tenderloin. It is the most tender cut of beef and also the most expensive. My husband and I don’t eat a lot of red meat, however, I could not pass on the opportunity and I had green peppercorns in my hand. Dinner was a no brainer at this point, a nice piece of filet mignon with green peppercorn cream sauce. How luscious!

You will need the following:

1½ pounds of filet mignon (2 pieces about 1½ to 2 inches thick)
a few turns of freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons of green peppercorns
½ cup beef broth
1 shallot, finely diced
½ cup cream
1 ounce vermouth
3 tablespoons butter
salt to taste
Generously Adding Freshly Ground Black Pepper to the Filets
 I had bought 2 beautiful pieces of filet mignon. Take the meat out of the fridge about 15 minutes before cooking. Generously season with freshly ground pepper. I never sprinkle my filet with salt; I always add freshly ground salt after I have cooked it. Heat a skillet on a medium high heat, more towards the high end. Once well heated, add 2 tablespoons olive oil, and then place the filets in the pan and let cook for 6 minutes on either side. They were medium rare when done.
Filets In the Pan, Caramelizing on the Outside and Juicy on the Inside
While the filets are being cooked, finely dice a shallot. Once the filets are done, take the filets out of the skillet and place on a warm plate or if you have a warmer on your stove, just turn it on and leave the filet underneath.
Adding Diced Shallots to the Pan
You will have some bits stuck to the bottom of the skillet, but not to worry, it will give the sauce flavor. Turn the heat down a bit to medium heat, add the shallots and sauté for 2 minutes before adding 1 ounce vermouth to deglaze the pan, then add ½ cup of beef broth and 2 tablespoons of green peppercorns and let simmer for 1 minute.
Deglazing the Pan with Vermouth
Then add ½ cup cream and 3 tablespoons cold butter. You may want to add some salt to taste; I didn’t need any salt as I had used salted butter. Once the butter starts melting, you will see the sauce thicken. It’s now ready.
The Green Peppercorn Cream Sauce, Shalots, Vermouth, Green Peppercorns, Cream. 
Place the filet on a plate and spoon the green peppercorn cream sauce over the filet mignon.
Ready to be Served. Enjoy!
This serves 2. Voilà. It is quick to make and really makes dinner a special occasion. Serve this with a glass of Cabernet Sauvignon or American Pinot Noir.


Baby Eggplant with Asian Vinaigrette

I had gone to the Farmer’s Market in Winter Park and saw these beautiful baby eggplants. Once they are cooked, they are tender and have a rich, complex flavor when combined with the Asian Vinaigrette. Five Spice Powder which is made of a blend of ground star anise, cloves, cinnamon, ginger and fennel seeds, gives the dish a warm, yet exotic flavor.

Photography by Heaven on Hearth

1 pound baby eggplant
2 tablespoons peanut oil
1 shallot, finely sliced
1/8 teaspoon salt
3 stalks scallion, finely sliced
For the Asian Vinaigrette
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
¼ teaspoon five spice powder
4 tablespoons peanut oil
½ teaspoon freshly grated ginger (1 inch piece of ginger)
Mix 2 tablespoons soy sauce, 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard, ¼ teaspoon five spice powder and ½ teaspoon freshly grated ginger (1 inch piece of ginger). Once well blended stream in 4 tablespoons peanut oil until you have an emulsion.
Cutting the Eggplant Lengthwise in Quarters
Because the eggplant is so small, I cut them lengthwise in quarters. Heat a skillet over medium high heat. Once heated, add two tablespoons of peanut oil. 
Eggplant with Shallots
Throw the eggplant into the skillet and toss occasionally for 1 minute before adding 1 finely sliced shallot and sprinkle with 1/8 teaspoon of salt. Keep tossing occasionally for another 4 minutes.
Take the skillet off the heat, spoon the eggplant into a serving dish then pour the vinaigrette over the eggplant, add the sliced scallion and toss.
Baby Eggplant with Asian Vinaigrette
This serves for 4. Voilà. This goes well with grilled meats.

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