Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Grilled Bologna Sliders!!

I'm learning that when you write a food blog, people will offer suggestions on what to make and write about. A lot of the ideas are really great and I will definitely get to them all at some point. This one hit a nerve because one of my cousins reminded me about this totally retro concoction that my mom and uncle used to scarf down with wild abandon and not gain an ounce of weight while doing it: fried bologna sandwiches. When this was suggested to me, my little organic-loving soul plummeted to the third level of hell because God knows, this ain't anywhere close to natural.

Your basic fried bologna sandwich is pretty much just bologna fried up in a pan with butter and plopped on a roll (with more butter). And while I enthusiastically indulge on gameday, even this little cardiac on a kaiser was pushing the envelope. I needed to figure out what I could do to tone down the danger level. So I pulled out my good ol' grill pan and got to work...

After a little brainstorming, I came up with: Grilled Bologna Sliders with a Garlic Avocado Spread. And you thought you couldn't glam up balogna!

First of all, my biggest concern was making something less greasy. By grilling the bologna in a dry grill pan, I succeeded in that regard. On top of that, the grill marks looked pretty nice. Next I wanted to add a condiment that was lower in fat and would compliment the bologna. I decided that a garlicy avocado spread would do the trick. Finally, I reduced the size by putting it on a slider roll and adding a little lettuce to it so that it isn't the belly bomb it originally was. They're now perfect for gameday because they've been reduced to finger food. You can never go wrong with finger food on gameday.

Grilled Bologna Sliders with a Garlic Avocado Spread
(serves 4-6)

1/2 lb sliced bologna (make sure not to have it sliced too thin)
1 avocado (soft)
1/4 small red onion, finely minced
1 very small garlic clove, finely minced (or passed through a garlic press)
1 package of slider or dinner rolls (I used potato dinner rolls)
salt & pepper to taste


1.  Place slices of bologna on a hot grill or grill pan and heat through until grill marks form. This happens quickly, so keep an eye on them. Flip over and do the same on the other side. Remove to a plate and repeat until all the balogna is grilled.

2.  To make the avocado spread:  mash 1 soft avocado. Finely mince the onion and garlic and add to the mashed avocado. Mix thoroughly. Salt and pepper to taste. I used white pepper for this because I like the milder flavor.

3.  Cut the slices of bologna into quarters (to fit) and place on top of the rolls. Add the avocado spread and a slice or 2 of the lettuce (trimmed to fit the roll). Arrange the sliders on a platter and let the games begin.

I think you'll have fun making these and your guests will definitely enjoy taking a trip down Memory Lane with a new twist. And that ain't no baloney!

There you have it! See you back here next Wednesday for more gameday entertaining inspiration!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Tuscan White Bean Tuna Spread!!

I don't know about you, but my fantasy teams are killing me. I'm full of angst every Sunday morning making the decision of who to play and who to sit. I worry more about them than my own real football team - who I really should be worried about at this stage! But at least I can control who the players are with my fantasy team! My real team, not so much! Oh well, that's all part of the fun of the season!

While I'm angst-ridden about fantasy football, there's something comforting about a good spread on a cracker or a piece of toast. That will take my mind off how many points my wide receiver did or didn't get. Out of everything that gets wolfed down on gameday, spreads always go fast. It's almost mandatory to have them for the games. Gotta do it. And they are so simple to prepare because they're all done in the food processor.

 I came across this recipe for Tuscan Tuna Spread when I was in culinary school. We were working with the robot-coupe (commercial food processor) and I was loving how you could turn pretty much anything in a tasty spread or pate with it. Our assignment was to develop a spread using Tuscan white beans and tuna. We were all allowed to go off on a culinary tangent using various ingredients, as long as we included the white beans and tuna. I came up with this version and it's served me well over the years.

My spread consists of (besides the white beans and tuna) red onion, fresh rosemary, a small clove of garlic, red wine vinegar, olive oil and black pepper. It all goes into the food processor and the magic happens. Try to let this sit a couple of hours before serving because it'll have a little time for the flavors to develop. The spread can be served on crackers or you can use a baguette, cut it into thin slices and toast them in the oven until crispy.

Tuscan White Bean Tuna Spread
(serves 4-6)

1 can of tuna (any kind you like in either water or oil), drained
10 oz can of Canellini Beans (or any white beans that you like) - drained and rinsed
1/4 small red onion
1 tbs fresh rosemary leaves
1 very small clove of garlic, crushed
1 tbs red wine vinegar
1/4 cup (or less) light flavored olive oil
salt & black pepper to taste

1.  Preheat oven to 375-degrees. Slice the baguette into thin rounds and place on a baking sheet. Bake until the bread becomes slightly golden in color.

2.  In the food processor, add the onion, garlic and rosemary and pulse until they are all finely minced.

3.  Add the tuna and beans. With the processor running, add the red wine vinegar and drizzle the oil in a little at a time until the mixture begins to resemble a spread. Add salt and pepper to taste. Turn off processor and spoon spread into a small bowl.

4.  Serve with the baquette toasts.


There you have it! This is an easy one, so I hope you try it! And I also hope your fantasy teams are doing better than mine  -  unless you happen to be playing against me!

See you back here next week!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Homegating101 Traveling Roadshow: Touchdown Totchos!!

As you guys know, Homegating101 is a blog about entertaining at home on gameday. It was inspired by the weekly gatherings at my place during football season. So while my home is the official Homegating Headquarters, once in a while I'll take it out on the road. Hey, it's always good to spread a little Homegating101 love. Such was the case this past weekend...

My good buddies Ang and Lou invited me over to create the Homegating101 vibe at their place. I showed up armed with lots of food and lots of accoutrements (I think I may need a van next time.) We proceeded to whip up the usual lineup of gameday favorites, but the star attraction were the Touchdown Totchos. Oh my...

Touchdown Totchos are my riff on nachos, but using potato tots instead of tortilla chips. I also swapped out the taco meat for shredded beer braised short ribs. After that, it's the usual cheese, scallions and jalapeno slices. This dish is super simple to put together. The only time consuming part is braising the short ribs, although that's pretty hands off as well.

Assembling the totchos is a cinch, first brown the tots in the oven (follow the package directions for that). Once the tots are done, place them in a baking pan or tin and begin layering the tots with the meat and cheese. I used sliced American cheese, but you can use any cheese(s) you want. Keep creating layers until you either reach to top of the pan or you run out of tots, meat and/or cheese. Place the pan back into the oven and heat through until the cheese is melted. Remove from the oven and sprinkle with scallions and jalapeno slices. You can also top it with pico de gallo, beans, guac, sour cream and/or hot sauce - or let your imagination run wild. It's up to you. Just make sure you have enough on hand because I almost lost one with everyone digging in to get some.

The Road Show turned out to be a success. Everyone had a great time - even though our teams went down in flames. At least the food was a winner! Hey, it's a long season. We'll see what happens this weekend.

Touchdown Totchos
(serves 4-6)

20 oz bag of potato tots
3 lbs beef short ribs, braised (recipe below)
6 slices of American Cheese or 8 oz package of shredded cheese
2 scallions, sliced
pickled jalapeno slices
16 oz of lager or ale (don't use dark beer)
8 oz beef stock
1 medium onion sliced
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 bay leaf
salt and pepper to taste


1. Heat the tots according to the package directions.

2. In a baking pan, begin layering the meat, cheese and tots until you reach the top of the pan. Place in the oven and heat through until the cheese is melted.

3.  Remove from the oven and sprinkle the scallions and jalapenos on top.

Braised Beef Short Ribs:

The day before, brown the ribs on all sides in a dutch oven on medium heat. Once they're browned, add sliced onions and garlic. Cook through then add the beer, beef stock and a bay leaf. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Put the cover on the dutch oven and place it in a 300-degree oven for 4 hours. Depending on your oven, start checking the meat after 3 hours. Test the tenderness of the meat with a fork. Once you can pull the meat apart with the fork, it's done. Let the meat cool and then fridge it for the next day.

And there you have it! Hope you get a chance to try this at one of your gatherings.

See you right back here next week!

Enjoy the games!

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Wheat Ale Beef Stew!!

This past weekend I had the opportunity to attend the grand opening of a new brewery in upstate New York:  Westtown Brew Works. My krazee kuzins are friends with the owner (it's always good to have friends in high places) and they were nice enough to extend the invitation to me. Westtown Brew Works is a farm brewery, meaning that they grow their own hops. Along with using their own hops, they acquire the remaining ingredients from other farms in the region. Everything is local. You've heard of farm to table, well this is farm to pint glass. The beers are fresh, the flavors are robus and of course it didn't take too long for me to get inspired to create a gameday dish with one of their wheat ales (Farmhand Wheat Ale). As we all know, everything tastes better with beer on gameday, so I came up with a Wheat Ale Beef Stew. The heartiness of the ale will add a richness to the stew gravy. This is going to be perfect to serve to the gang on Sunday.

Beef stew takes a little while to prepare and it's done in stages, but with a little patience, your efforts will be rewarded. Brown the meat in batches. Don't crowd the pan. Once the meat's browned, remove the meat to a plate or bowl and then brown the veggies in the same pan. You'll notice a lot of browning collecting in the pan. That's good. That's all added flavor. You want to sautee the veggies until they get a little golden and then add tomato paste and let that cook through. Once you get to that point, add the beer and scrape up all those browned bits because that's the good stuff. Once you do that, bring it to a low boil, and let it reduce down to almost nothing. Return the meat and juices to the pan and add beef stock. Don't completely submerge the meat in the stock. You want about an inch of the meat showing. Bring it to a boil, add an herb/spice sachet and reduce to a simmer. After an hour, add the carrots and potatoes. Continue to simmer for another hour. Begin to check the meat at that point. You want the meat to be tender and easy to cut with a fork. Once it gets to that stage, it's done. At that point, add the vinegar and stir through. I like the vinegar because it brightens the flavors. I don't add any flour to the stew because the russett potatoes are starchy enough to naturally thicken the gravy. If you feel you want the gravy even thicker, you can add a slurry of flour or arrowroot  and water to thicken it at the end.

One of the nice things about a stew (or any braise for that matter) is that it tastes better the next day. So if you have the time, get this going the day before and let it sit in the fridge overnight to let all the flavors intensify. Another nice thing about fridging it overnight  is that the fat will come to the top and harden, so you can remove it before you reheat it and you can get rid of all that unwanted fat.

Wheat Ale Beef Stew
(serves 4-6)

4 lbs chuck roast cut into bite-sized cubes
1 medium yellow onion, minced
1 celery stalk, minced                                                    
1 small carrot, minced
1 tbs tomato paste
1 tsp Worchestershire Sauce
2 cups amber wheat ale
32 oz low-sodium beef stock or beef broth
2 large russet potatoes, chopped into bite-size pieces
1 large carrot, cut into small pieces
Sachet: 1 thyme stem, 1 large garlic clove, 5 dried juniper berries, 8 black peppercorns crushed, small handful of fresh parsley (wrapped in cheesecloth)
1 tbs red wine vinegar
Salt & pepper to taste


1. In a medium-sized dutch oven, on medium heat, brown the meat on all sides (do not cook through) and remove to a bowl.

2. Sautee the onion, celery & carrot until golden brown.

3. Add the tomato paste and cook through (about 3 minutes).

4. Add Worchestershire Sauce and the wheat ale. Bring to a boil and let reduce down until the vegetables are visible.

5.  Return the meat and any collected juices to the pan and add enough beef stock to just below the top of the meat. You don't want to completely submerge the meat. Bring back to a boil, add the sachet, then reduce to a low simmer. This will simmer for 2-3 hours. Stir occasionally.

6.  After 1 hour, add the carrots and potatoes.

7.  Start checking the meat after 2 hours. Once the meat is tender and easy to cut with a fork, it's done.

8.  Taste for seasoning, adjust and add the red wine vinegar. Stir through.

You can keep the stew warm in a crock pot or buffet server and let your guests help themselves throughout the day. I pretty much guarantee that you won't have any leftovers. Hope you give it a try!

Join me back here next Wednesday for more gameday grub inspiration!

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Roasted Pumpkin Soup!!

Welcome Homegaters!

I love Fall for many reasons. But one of the main reasons why I love Fall - besides football - is because of pumpkins. I dig cooking with pumpkins. One of my favorite dishes to make is roasted pumpkin soup. There is nothing more comforting than coming home on a chilly day to a hot bowl of roasted pumpkin soup.

I was cruising around Whole Foods the other day and came across a most sincere display of pumpkins. The Great Pumpkin would be proud. I felt the need to get one and make soup for my gameday gang this Sunday.

I like to roast the pumpkin because it intensifies the flavor. It also makes it easier to remove the skin. Pre-heat the oven to 350-degrees. Cut the pumpkin into quarters, place on a sheet pan, drizzle with a little olive oil and roast for about an hour. Remove the pumpkin from the oven and let cool. Once it's cool, you can easily remove the skin and cut the flesh into chunks.

One of the many nice things about my roasted pumpkin soup is that it's low calorie, yet tastes really decadent. It's all about the veggies and spices. I use the usual mirepoix (onions, celery, carrots) along with garlic, ginger, sage and 1 medium-size cayenne pepper (because you know I'm a fan of all things spicy). Once it is thoroughly cooked through, I add the pumpkin and vegetable stock and simmer for about 30 minutes. Once that's done, I run the soup through the blender in batches (see caution below) to puree it. I return the soup to the pot, check my seasoning and adjust if necessary.

You can make this ahead of time and freeze it. All you'll have to do on gameday is reheat and serve in bowls or mugs.

Pumpkin Soup
(makes 4-6 servings)

3 lb pumpkin, roasted, peeled and cut into small pieces
1/2 large onion, minced
1 1/2 stalks of celery, minced
1/2 carrot, minced
1 clove of garlic, minced
2 inch knob of ginger, grated                      
4 sage leaves or 2 tsp dried sage
2 tbs olive oil
32 oz low sodium vegetable broth
1 cayenne pepper, minced (optional)
pumpkin seeds (optional)
salt & pepper to taste


1.  Heat 2 tbs olive oil and add the onions, celery, carrot, garlic, ginger, sage and cayenne (if using). Sautee until the onions are translucent and the vegetables are softened.

2.  Add the pumpkin chunks and the vegetable broth. Bring to a boil and lower to a simmer. Simmer on low for 30 minutes.

3.  Place soup in the blender in small batches and puree. (Caution: to avoid any mishaps with hot liquid, fill your blender only 1/4 full at a time, remove the middle cap from the lid and cover the top with a towel). Return the puree to the pot and adjust the seasonings, if necessary. If you feel the soup is too think, you can add a little more stock or water to reach the consistency you like. Heat through one more time. Pour into bowls or mugs. Top with a couple of pumpkin seeds (optional) and enjoy!

So there you have it. See you next Wednesday!
Enjoy the games!