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Ode To Ritas

It truly is Ice- Custard- Happiness. 

Before I lived here in PA I lived in CT. The only Ritas in my area came in maybe 5 years ago. Now if you aren’t familiar with CT then maybe this will sound a bit weird to you but this is very true in the area I grew up in. New London County. Gold Star Bridge. We don’t cross unless it’s a must. At least if you live on the Groton side. Which I did. In the winter you avoided it like the plague and in the summer traffic too. For most of us we didn’t cross it unless we needed to go to the mall or other various big name stores. The whole area was always a traffic nightmare at all times. 

So back to Ritas. Where do you think they put this Ritas? Right smack dab in gun shoot central New London. On a main road yes but in a bad part of town and of course over the bridge. 

Sadly I never went there. Ever. I’d drive past and say oh, they are actually open, but traffic is to bad to get in and out of the lot, oh well, maybe next time. Next time I wouldn’t even think about it and cruise right on by. Then I’d see it in their off time and say oh, well I guess they didn’t make it because they are closed. Little did we know that they reopen in the spring. 

Well I move to PA. I have been here for almost 2 years.  Ritas are everywhere. It wasn’t until a couple of months ago that I actually went there. We were going to go on “free ice day” , everybody at my then job walked down on their lunch break to go get one. Sadly I didn’t have cash. So I mention it to my fiance when I get home. He said we should go right after dinner. Ok I thought we might have to wait in a line but it won’t be that bad. Ha, was I wrong. So very, very, wrong. After battling the fact that if we leave our parking space(I live in a city with on street parking only) after 6pm, we will not have one any where near our place when we get back. Yet we decide to venture out. It’s 730pm and we cruise on up to the closest of 2 Ritas. There is no parking for miles and it’s a busy road. The lines are so long we would be lucky to get to the front by closing time. So we drive past and I sadly say I’m tired lets just go home before he even says well lets check out the other one. 

Two months go by and I decide I want to go to Ritas. So off we go. We get there and it’s like heaven. They have roughly 10 different flavors that day and they change them up all the time. First and foremost, I hate cherry flavored anything. It reminds me to much of my child hood cough syrup. Gross. Normally I would go for blue raspberry, my favorite, but I see they have juicy pear, banana, mango and the list goes on. I ask to try the banana. Glad I did. Yuck. I do like banana stuff but it was just weird. So I try the pear and wow, it’s just like juicy pear jelly belly jelly beans. Which is just like eating a real pear. Delish. That’s what I got. A large juicy pear ice. 

The following week we go back and they still have pear so that’s what I get again. A couple of weeks later we go again and they have honeydew. Another favorite flavor of mine. So I try it and yes it is as good as the pear except the flavor fades a bit by the last third. I’m in italian ice heaven. The next time we go  try the blueberry, my favorite fruit. Simply wonderful, not as flavorful as the pea r but still very good. The last time we go they really didn’t have much variety. Chocolate, consistency was strange. Vanilla, tasted fake and way to sweet. They had 2 sugar free ones, not my thing. I think peach and mango but I was not in the mood for either. So I tried sour patch kid. Yum. Got it with chocolate ice cream and wow was that good. 

Can’t wait until I can try cantaloupe, cranberry, watermelon, pineapple, raspberry, root beer and strawberry.

I think the season is just not long enough. Can’t wait till my next Ritas fix.

Until then, Happy Summer “Tr”eating!!

 

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BBQ Cowboy Casserole *No Cowboys Were Harmed In The Making*

I promise I did not cook up and shred actual cowboys for this dish. Although the joke in my family is since I have a culinary degree and a forensics degree that I will inspect the bodies and then cook them. Gross I know.

However, one and a half chickens did die for this meal. Sad yes, tasty, even more so. It’s a sick sense of humor kind of a day. I apologize. 

So onto the actual food part of this post!!                                                                                                                                    

I have seen so many cornbread topped casseroles lately and they sound good. So decided to experiment and this is what I came up with.

Servings: at least 6, less if you’re really hungry, more if your not

Ingredients:

3 boneless skinless chicken breast halves

1 cup of your fav bbq sauce, I used Sweet Baby Rays Original, divided

2 cans black beans, rinsed

2 cans whole kernel corn, drained

1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese, divided

2 boxes jiffy cornbread mix, if you are lazy or don’t have cornmeal on hand.**

**For those of you who would like it:

 Cornbread Topping:
½ cup cornmeal
1 ½ cup flour
1/3 cup sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1/3 cup oil
2 eggs, beaten
1 ¼ cup milk

Directions: 

In a small crockpot place 1/2c bbq sauce and the chicken breasts. Cook on low for 4-5 hours. I did this because I like the consistency of shredded chicken in casseroles. You can also use left over chicken and shred it or cube it up or you can just cube up the chicken and cook it right before you need to use it. However you like,  I am sure it will work well.

Preheat oven to 375.

Lightly grease a 9×13 glass baking dish.

In a medium bowl mix up the corn bread batter. Add 3/4c cheddar cheese and stir. Set aside to rest.

In a large bowl shred the cooked chicken. Add the drained corn, rinsed black beans, 1/2c bbq sauce and cheddar cheese to the chicken. Mix until well combined. 

Spread mixture into the greased baking dish. 

Remix the cornbread batter, about 3-4 stirs is enough. Drop batter by large spoonfuls on top of the base, then spread it evenly across the top.

Bake for about 40-45 minutes. You want the cornbread to be brown but fully cooked. If when you insert a toothpick into the cornbread it comes out clean then turn off the oven and let rest 10 minutes before serving. If toothpick has uncooked cornbread on it but the top is brown, tent with foil and cook another 5-10 minutes until toothpick comes out clean. Then let it rest for about 10 minutes before serving.

Now there are many variations you can use in this casserole.

For example:

Meat: chicken, ground beef, ground pork, shredded pork, ground chicken

Beans: black, pinto, white/cannellini 

Corn: canned, frozen, fresh off the cob

Sauce: bbq, salsa- homemade or jarred

Cornbread: homemade, boxed

Cornbread add ins: cheese, fine diced jalapenos, fine diced red or green pepper

You can do your own experimentation with any of these ingredients. I used what I had on hand any combination of these would be fantastic. Don’t be afraid to mix it up!!

If any of you try any of these combinations please share with me what you used and how you liked it.

As always I bid you,

Happy Eating!! 

 
 

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Marc’s Shepherds Pie- Quick. Simple. Delicious.

As I am sure all of you are aware, there are so many ways to make this classic casserole. Some think ground beef, corn, brown gravy, topped with mashed potatoes.

Others think ground lamb or mixture of lean ground meats, peas, carrots with a flavorful sauce topped with whipped potatoes. One lady told me some restaurant keeps begging her for her recipe, she made me some, I was NOT impressed. Way over the top, she used ground beef, did not drain the grease, the veggies were assorted peas, carrots, corn and lima beans. Sadly she did not cook them well and they were still very hard. The sauce was a odd combination of white wine, cream and some butter and herbs. Then to top off the monstrosity her “famous” whipped potatoes. Lumpy, slightly runny, how that is classified as whipped I will never know. They might have been ok but she added way to much    lavender and tarragon to them. She managed to take a rustic meal and tried to turn it into upper crust but failed miserably. 

The other end of the spectrum is my mothers. We were poor. I am not knocking my mothers cooking at all but somehow this rustic poor mans meal turned even poorer when she made it. Sadly to the point where I would not touch it for many years to come, that is until I met my fiance. Hers was so dry, poor quality ground meat and layers of unflavorful boxed  mashed potatoes and vegetables.

Marc, said fiance, cheats a little because we do not have a lot of space or money most times. We do however love to eat. This tray does not last the night in our house

Starts off with as lean of ground beef as we can afford, browned and drain thoroughly.

In a glass baking dish he combines 2 cans of veg-all, yes canned veggies, I told you he cheats due to space, our freezer is an avalanche of meat from awesome deals, this way we save money on meat but then sadly have no space for frozen veggies. 

Back to the pie. Stir in 1 can tomato soup, condensed. Do not add the water. Combine well. Add the drained meat to the soup/veg mix and combine well. 

We do make our own mashed potatoes, so after they are done boiling rinse well and add back into pot. I use 6-8 large potatoes or more depending on what that looks like chopped up. We like to have a huge potato top. Add to the potatoes, a pinch of salt, pepper to taste, 3oz cream cheese, soft, 4T butter soft and milk to desired consistency. Mash until desired lumpiness is achieved. 

Plop the  potatoes on top of meat/veg mix and spread out over the whole top. Bake at 350 until top is golden brown. Not sure how long since the fiance doesn’t do this, he just puts it in the oven until it’s hot all the way through. 

I don’t think there is a right or wrong way to make this dish, to each their own, but Marc’s is for me rustic enough, flavorful and simple. We each have two servings for dinner and the last two servings are for lunch the next day. 

If anyone has a favorite shepherds pie recipe they would like to share, I would love to try them!! 

Happy Eating!!

 
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Posted by on July 26, 2012 in Beef, casseroles, Veggies

 

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Loaded Hash Brown Potato Casserole

Pinned onto my MMM Food board on pinterest is this loaded hash brown potato casserole dish. 

One of our favorite dips is Cheddar Bacon Ranch dip, or what I refer to as “Crack“.  I usually only make it during football season because it is HIGHLY addictive.  I only made this once this football season and  I forgot to take it to the tailgate.  I left it in my parent’s refrigerator!  I was devastated!  
I took the dip back home and started thinking about what to do with it – other than eat it all by myself.  I decided to mix the dip into a big bag of frozen hash browns.  The result? A fantastic potato casserole!  
Quoted from the blog Plain Chicken on Blogger
Needing to change up the boring meals as of late, I decided to try this out. We had my fiances 12 year old daughter this past Sunday and she is kind of a picky eater. I thought what kid doesn’t like smothered potatoes? So I whipped up a batch of these. 
Served with dutch oven braised boneless pork ribs, and peas with butter.
RECIPE:
2 (16oz) containers sour cream
2 cups cheddar cheese, shredded
2 (3oz) bags real bacon bits
2 packages Ranch Dip mix
1 large (28 – 30oz) bag frozen hash brown potatoes – shredded kind
 
Combine first 4 ingredients, mix in hash browns.  Spread into a 9×13 pan.  Bake at 400 for 45-60 minutes.   
Side note… when opening the lid to the dutch oven pot straight out of the oven DO NOT I repeat DO NOT forget that there will be steam!!!!!!! Hence the following picture warning.                                                                    
 
 
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Posted by on July 18, 2012 in casseroles, Cheese, pork, Veggies

 

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A little bit of everything cookie bars

While perusing my new love, Pinterest, I came across a blog about cookie bars. Being tired of regular cookies and needing a little something sweet, I decided to check it out.

The original had just chocolate chips and peanut butter chips. Yawn…BORING. 

I, of course, decided to make it my own and incorporate my own twists. So here goes.

 

  • 1 & 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 14 ounces sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 cup peanut butter chips
  • 1 cup butterscotch chips
  • 1 cup  toffee bits
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts
  • 2 cups sweet shredded coconut
  • mini marshmallows to cover top      

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine crumbs and butter. Press into bottom of a 9″ x 13″ pan. Pour condensed milk over the crust. Layer chips, nuts, coconut and marshmallows on top of milk. Bake for about 25 minutes or until lightly browned. Cut into bars and enjoy.

You may combine the ingredients any way you like, I opted to put marshmallows on the top but maybe next time I will put them under some of the chips. If it is hot weather out, refrigerate before cutting as it makes it easier because it gives it a chance to harden and set up.

After cutting arrange on dish/plate or like I did place in cupcake wrappers for a pretty twist.

Happy Sweet Indulgence!!

 
 

Comfort Dinner- Mac and Beef “re-vamped”

For anyone who is a busy soul like I am you know the importance of quick, simple but still delicious meals. I really enjoy cooking but I do it for a living and after slaving away for 8+ hours a day in a hot kitchen, then to come home to the ever famous…”I’m hungry, what’s for dinner?” I feel I need to have at least a few of these quick meals that I can just whip up. 

Take the traditional Macaroni and Beef we all know from not only school hot lunch but from our moms go to meals when we were young. Filling, yes, comforting, yes, tasty, not always. As I remember this was a very bland meal. Overcooked pasta, poor quality ground beef, jarred tomato sauce with chunks (if you like chunks, by all means keep them), pre shredded cheese. Sorry to say, but yuck. 

The following is my version of Re-Vamped Mac and Beef. 

1 box pasta (any kind will do, I used radiatori )

1-1 1/2 lg onion or 5-6 sm onion thin sliced

2T olive oil

2lbs lean ground beef

1 lg can(28oz) plain tomato sauce

1 sm can tomato paste

1c each cheddar and mozzarella cheese, shredded (or more if you like it cheesy, I added more cause I’m a cheeseaholic) 

*spices to taste, optional, oregano, basil, rosemary, tarragon, chopped garlic, garlic powder, paprika, chili powder, salt and pepper*

 

Preheat oven to 350.

Par cook the pasta less than al dente.  Meanwhile in a small pan sweat the sliced onions in 2T olive oil. Add a pinch of salt if you like. When the onions are almost done add the beef. Brown the beef fully. 

When pasta is par cooked, drain fully and return to pot. Add tomato sauce and tomato paste. Season with spices if you like and to taste. 

Add beef and onions. Stir to combine well.  

Taste to make sure it has the flavor you like, adjust accordingly. 

Top with cheese. 

Pour mixture into un-greased 9×13 pan, glass preferable. Bake at 350 until nice and brown and bubbly on top.

Serve with crusty bread and butter if you like.

Wishing you comfy eating!!

 

 
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Posted by on July 15, 2012 in Beef, Cheese, Pasta

 

New Job

Hello fellow foodies, I am excited to say that I have finally found a new job. This is the reason for my absence in blogging. Once I am settled in more I promise to be right back here with all my food for thought. 

This job is a long time coming, it has been a struggle since I moved here a year and a half ago to find a job that not only pays decent but is also what I want to be doing. I have landed a chef job with an up and coming upscale cafe that specializes in fresh inventive fare. They have only been open a year and a half roughly and are well on their way to stardom. 

If you are in PA or find yourself traveling to PA in the Bath area please stop in and visit, eat and enjoy with us. We have a facebook page and a website. Feel free to check us out at beanbathcafe.com 

Be back to food soon!!

As always Happy Eating!! 🙂

 
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Posted by on July 12, 2012 in Uncategorized