Simple meals are my favorite. They are easy to make, delicious to the palate and a wonderful break from the otherwise elaborate meals I cook on Saturdays. The best part about it? With a few simple ingredients the meal doesn’t hurt the budget. I also find I can make many of these types of dishes without much prep time either. And that’s a big bonus for those of us on a schedule.
One of the easiest things to make is a good ol’ fashion frittata. If this is your first foray into Italian cooking, don’t be afraid. A frittata is a fancy way of saying omelet. There is, however, a big difference with an omelet and a frittata, and that is in the final presentation.
The quickest way I make a frittata is this way: take a pan, add olive oil and one small garlic clove. While you’re waiting for the garlic to cook in the pan at medium heat, beat two eggs in a bowl adding finely chopped parsley and salt to taste. Once you see the garlic cooking, flip it a couple of times until it browns. Turn the heat down to simmer, remove the garlic then pour the egg in the center of the pan. What should happen is the egg will cook nice and even, but not stick to the pan. After you see the bottom turn a golden brown, flip the egg over to the other side. Leave it cooking until the other side is golden brown. Remove the frittata and serve with your choice of veggies. I love carrots with my eggs, so you’ll see that happening at Casa Flacco.
Also, you don’t necessarily need only to add parsley to the mix. You can add virtually anything you like. I’ll dice sweet red pepper and have that as part of the egg mix.
Remember how I said frittata is like an omelet? Guess what? Instead of flipping it a second time, you can add a good amount of mozzarella cheese on top, then flip one-half over the other, wait a minute or so and serve warm. You’ll find the omelet will have a nice flavor because of the garlic base you cooked it in and the cheese will have melted inside.
My favorite part about the whole adventure with this kind of omelet is cutting through it to make trailing strands of cheese with every bite. I don’t think I have this much fun with food than when I eat a cheese-filled omelet. There really isn’t anything like it.
Okay, your turn. What is quick to make, fun to eat and won’t cost you much but a few bucks?
Whenever the family and I go to a restaurant, I look for something different to try. I do have my favorites, but I also go out of my way to find a dish that is unique in taste and original in presentation. Sometimes, I won’t know what I’ll be getting until the server places it in front of me.
For today’s feature Freedom Friday, I would like to give you a sampling of what I’ve had the pleasure of eating. I wish there was a way to transform the photos into real dishes in order for you to smell the aromas and savor the sweet flavors, but this is not the Starship Enterprise where I can say, “Tea, Earl Grey, hot,” and the replicator will create the item for you. Wouldn’t that be something? Instead, I’ll give you some background to the shot, and relate my thoughts about the experience.
My goal is to make you hungry.
Prime Rib Burger—For Mother’s Day, I thought I’d treat my amazing wife to one of our favorite restaurants here in Canada. They have a delicious gluten-free menu she can enjoy while the kids and I can gorge on the pizza and burgers. For this time around, I chose to order a Prime Rib Burger. Since I love mushrooms so much, I added them as a topping for a buck. I can only describe the meal as an explosion to the taste buds. The chef cooked the meat to perfection and the mushrooms added an extra level of flavor. The side Greek Salad complimented the meal, making it all the more enjoyable.
Curry Beef—During one of our Thursday night dinner dates, my wife recommended the Curry Beef. I’ve never liked beef unless prepared on a burger. This time, she was right. I had one taste of her dish, and I quickly ordered one for myself. The plate comes with tender sirloin drowning in curry sauce. Added in the mix is a sprinkling of onions and green pepper. A surprising finish to a morsel is the heat delivered by the sauce. Not overly strong, but having a kick, the dish leaves a satisfying aftertaste.
Salmon Sushi Combo—This year’s Canada Day festivities included a trip to our favorite sushi restaurant here in town. While the rest of my family was ordering Vegetable Maki, Chicken Fried Rice and Miso Soup, I order a Salmon Sushi Combo. I gotta tell you, of all my favorite dishes I’m writing about today, this is my absolute favorite. The meal comes with six salmon maki, three sushi and one salmon hand roll. Like all sushi meals, it also comes with a generous helping of soy sauce and wasabi. I have to tell you something. Sushi is the only meal that feels like home to me. I don’t feel stuffed, sick or bloated when eating sushi, and the next day, I’m gearing up for more. I wish the whole world was made of sushi because then I wouldn’t have to wait so long before eating it again.
Grilled Chicken Salad—As part of an extended celebration my family and I had for my youngest, recently having performed in the drama troupe’s rendition of Beauty and the Beast at a Ribfest, we stopped by the Greek restaurant down the street. I typically order a lamb dish, but that night I had already eaten a bit at the Ribfest, I needed to go for something light. The Grilled Chicken Salad was perfect for this occasion. A Greek Salad topped with the moistest grilled chicken I’ve ever tasted made this meal a treat to enjoy. Every single ingredient was fresh. Every single bite had a perfect finish. One day, I hope to learn to cook chicken this way.
The other night my wife surprised me with a barbecue chicken meal. I say surprised because it was the first time she’d made it. It was delicious. No surprise there since she cooks pretty amazing things for me and the family. During the weekend, I return the favor by cooking the Saturday meal. My kids like it as does my wife.
Freedom Friday is not the same if I don’t talk about food in some form or another. Today makes no exception.
Some of my favorite meals my wife makes are the simple ones with lots of flavor. For instance, during those cold winter nights when the heat cuts in every two minutes and the snow piles high outside our front door, she’ll dedicate a good portion of her time making all sorts of soup. Squash soup, heavy on the hot pepper, is a regular treat for dinner. It lights up the palate and soothes the chills from the bitter wind blowing from the Arctic. Broccoli soup is another one of her specialties. I don’t know what she puts in it to get it so creamy, but I have to say it’s so good.
Although not a meal, my wife has taken to making batches of Greek Tzatziki sauce. It’s a yogurt-based sauce with bits of cucumber and lots of garlic in the mix. We use it to dip fries, chicken and pita bread in it. I can only describe the flavor as divine. The creamy richness of the sauce provides the meal a missing element of flavor that few sauces can compare. Simply outstanding.
My wife also cooks the traditional Italian dishes for our family. Pasta sauce and meatballs is a staple in our diet. Our typical Tuesday night meal consists of lots of pasta—penne, rigatoni, spaghetti, etc.—drenched with her homemade sauce and lots of spicy meat as part of the plate. She’ll add salad and vegetables as side dishes, but her salads are meals in themselves. Standard ingredients in her salads are sliced cucumbers, chunks of feta cheese and at times, Greek olives. I suppose you might call it a Greek salad with a little something to boot.
My Saturday meals can be anything. I’ve been on a curry kick lately, making everything from curry chicken to any meat with curry in there. I have a handful of ingredients I use on a regular basis to bring out the flavor of the meat in a wild and exciting way (coconut milk, curry, garlic, onion, salt, black and cayenne pepper).
I’ll sometimes make lamb as a special treat on a long weekend. I love my garlic, so I’ll mince garlic in the lamb, add olive oil, salt, pepper and Dijon mustard to give it an extra kick. I don’t want to brag—oh, why not—it’s one of the best dishes I enjoy making and eating with the family.
Lastly, the best part about our meals is sitting together as a family and talking about our day. Nothing quite beats that.
Everyone likes new recipes. I mean, I love new recipes and I don’t cook that often. I cook once a week, typically on a Saturday, and I change things up by trying new ingredients in my recipes. But with guacamole—why am I thinking Whac-A-Mole?—there are a few things I do to spin the recipe on its head.
Football season is here and it’s all about guacamole today. If you enjoy food, this Freedom Friday post is just for you.
I learned how to make guacamole from watching master chefs on Food Network Canada a number of years ago when all I watched was Food Network. The thing that attracts me to this Aztec cuisine dip is its versatility in its use.
For instance, I use it for a Saturday night dip with broccoli. If you don’t like broccoli, you can use almost any vegetable and it’ll still make the snack extra special to munch. Just don’t try dipping something crazy like kale with it. Although, I haven’t really tried it, in which case it may actually be somewhat good. Have you ever tried kale chips? Oh, you have to—it’s to die for! I digress.
Let’s get to the recipe, as I know you’re probably wondering what it is.
Ingredients (Serves 2):
7-8 cherry tomatoes
1 garlic clove
4 slices of onion
Cilantro (to taste)
Salt (to taste)
Jalapeño (to taste)
You can make this recipe two ways. The first way is to use a mixer and make it smooth. The second way is to use a fork, a deep bowl, and mix it by hand. If you go the mixer route, you can make the guacamole very smooth and creamy. It will go well as a dip. If you like chunky, I would suggest the second way—the one I prefer, as you’ll get a nice texture from the mix, but also a wonderful blend that you can taste the ingredients individually.
Prep work is easy. Cut the cherry tomatoes into halves in order to have them blend properly in the mix. Add them to your mixing bowl.
Scoop the meat of the avocado; they’ll break down easier in the mixer, and by hand mixing. Into the bowl it goes. (Note: Make sure the avocados are ripe, otherwise you’ll end up with double the mixing time.)
Squeeze the juice of half a lemon.
Chop a medium garlic clove in fine, small pieces. Very small is what you’re going for—the smaller the better. Did I say small?
This is where it gets tricky, as I don’t really measure from this point forward. I rather eye it. Depending on the strength of the onion, I go for four slices but if you don’t like so many onion slices, go for less. Two will work as well.
Cilantro is one of my all-time favorite herbs. It goes well with salads, dips and as garnish for fresh vegetable recipes. It is so good. Just grab a couple of sprigs, wash and pat dry, and chop finely to add in the bowl.
Salt is up to you. Go light at first, believe me, guacamole doesn’t need too much of a kick to taste great.
Lastly, add your jalapeño. Cut a couple of small chunks, again, chopping finely, and add to the bowl.
Once all the ingredients are in, mix to your choice consistency. As I’d mentioned, I like mine chunky, but you may prefer smooth. It’s totally up to you.
This recipe takes me about 10-15 minutes max to make. It’s easy, tasty and ready to serve. Try it with broccoli, as it makes for a lovely snack.
Most of all—have fun!
RANGER MARTIN AND THE ALIEN INVASION, on sale October 21.
Do you make your own guacamole? What do you do to make it special?
I love food. I mean, I really love food. By my appearance, you wouldn’t guess it. I stand a lean human whose weight wafts along that of disappearance. Yeah, I’m that thin. But regardless, I really enjoy eating food. That’s why for Freedom Friday I thought I’d give you a rundown of what I love to snack on, not so much to inform you what I think everyone else should be eating, but more to let you know how wonderful an experience it is to find a food worth eating.
Let’s start with the basics. I’m not a processed food kind of guy. I like eating chips now and again, but they don’t provide me with the comfort I crave to keep me going throughout the day. You’ll find, as you peruse the list, my thing is natural snacks. I’ve tried the chips and ice cream route, yet it doesn’t do much for me. If anything, I’m not satisfied.
Which brings me to the snacks I love—walnuts is one of them. There’s nothing quite like eating a handful of nuts to keep the energy going for the day. Nuts, especially, provide me with the protein I need to keep me focused and energized. I also enjoy the incredible taste. Who said you need salted nuts to satisfy a craving?
The energy lift doesn’t last long though, I suppose because I have a fast metabolism.
Next on the list is cheese. I gorge on cheese, particularly mozzarella. If anything is true, cheese makes Jack a happy boy. I’ll have it in chunks. I’ll spread it on a pita with some salsa sauce and away I go. Great snack. Really. I also love feta. I’ll talk about feta later, but it has such a well-rounded flavor, it’s hard to resists its draw.
Cucumbers are so high on my list of snacks that I’m surprised I haven’t placed it at the top of this post. Whenever I get the munchies, cucumbers deliver on the goods. They’re great on their own or simply with a little salt. Typically, I’ll wash the cucumber, cut it in half and eat it plain. Simple, right? If I’m really feeling adventurous, I’ll dice it, add salt, pepper, lemon, oregano, and feta cheese, sit on the couch and stuff my face while watching reruns of Love It or List It.
Next on my list are avocados. I have my wife to thank for introducing this fruit to our family a few years ago. Easiest way to eat this is to cut it lengthwise, add some lemon and salt and off you go. Great, great snack. Not only does it provide a good source of monounsaturated fat that reduces blood pressure, but also contains carotenoids, which protects against eye disease. I eat it because it’s a great snack.
I eat other snacks, but let’s limit the list to what I have here. Suffice it to say, my fridge and pantry are always full of snacks I like.
I know that real chocolate comes to mind, but we’ll not go there.
RANGER MARTIN AND THE ALIEN INVASION, on sale October 21.
I’ve been looking forward all week to tell you about my curry chicken recipe. If you’re keeping track, this is my second curry chicken recipe I’m sharing with you for my Freedom Friday series. Born from the many Saturday afternoon meals I cook for the family, this dish will boost the spirit of any crowd looking for something fun to eat. So, sit back, put your feet up and allow the sweet smell of flavor to take over your imagination.
If you read my post Curry Chicken, then you will know I love cooking and eating. That shouldn’t surprise anyone. The big difference with this recipe has to do with the way I cook it. I wish I’d taken shots of the entire process, but I’m sure if I provide you detailed instructions, you’ll have no problem cooking it yourself. I’ll get back to the way I cook this a little later on. I don’t bake it like the first recipe, that’s for sure.
Let’s start with the ingredients:
You’ll notice one ingredient missing from the original recipe and two ingredients added. That’s right I pulled the ginger from the list because I already had two different heats competing for your palette, black pepper and cayenne. You’re also correct if you’ve guessed I added paprika and coconut milk. You’ll see what I’ll do with those later.
Now for the directions:
Buying the right chicken makes all the world of difference. If you can afford organic skinless thighs, then I’d suggest saving some cash in order to make it a special treat. If you can’t go organic, try Costco chicken. As I’ve mentioned in other posts, and not wanting to sound like an ad, but they give you a lot for your money and you’ll have leftovers to boot.
The prep is super easy. Cut the thighs into smaller pieces about two inches in length all around. You’ll notice once you begin cooking, the pieces will shrink to bite-size portions. Toss your chicken in a cooking pot, preferably one of those deep two-handle ones with the glass cover. If you don’t have one of those, any deep pot will do. Make sure it can hold the chicken and the coconut milk.
This is the fun part, besides eating of course. Place the pot with the chicken on the stove and begin cooking it at a medium heat. No oils, butters or anything like that. Add half a can of coconut milk and stir with a wooden spoon. Plastic spoons do not do justice to this dish. Next, add the rest of your ingredients. Now, I have to say this, I’ve never measured how much of one thing versus another I should add. I always say “to taste” but you see the problem there, right? You don’t want to taste raw chicken as you cook it since doing so would make you violently ill or even worse, kill you. Don’t do it.
Then how do I measure the ingredients to add? Well, imagine all the chicken laying on the counter in a straight line. How would you go about sprinkling the ingredients on them? That’s how I imagine it. I add a lot of curry powder enough to cover each piece. As for the rest, add a few shakes of each ingredient except cayenne pepper. You don’t want to make it too hot. If you have fresh ground pepper, go with that. Nothing quite beats the flavor of fresh. Regarding the salt, up to you how much you want to add. If you add a little, it’ll taste bland. Imagine the chicken spanning the counter again. You’ll get the hang of how much to add.
Keep stirring the chicken in the milk every few minutes or so on medium heat. Leave it uncovered because what you’re trying to do is to allow the milk to reduce to a creamy gravy, which will contain all the flavors you’ve added. Cook for about forty-five minutes but it may be less depending on the stove. I tend to cook it until I see a thick gravy forming and that’s when I reduce the heat to simmer and cover.
On this particular Saturday, I made shoestring fries in the oven to compliment the dish. Rather than slapping the fries on a tray and shoving them in the oven like the instructions say, I add a couple of ingredients to the mix. I sprinkle onion powder and salt on the fries, then toss them in the oven. Believe me, if you have kids, they’ll love the restaurant quality fries you’ll serve them and may even brag about it to their friends.
As for the veggies, up to you what you want to serve with the dish. I had peas on hand and made those by steaming and adding some butter to them. They actually tasted great with the dish.
Before serving the chicken, grab a fork and knife and cut through a piece of chicken to make sure it’s cooked. If it’s white inside and the knife cuts the meat evenly without it feeling rubbery, then you know you’ve got yourself a winner. Try it before plating. If it’s missing flavor, more than likely you didn’t put enough garlic or onion powder. Add the missing ingredient to the pot and stir until dissolved.
When you’re serving the dish, make sure to add in the gravy, it makes for an awesome dip for the fries. Other than that, that’s all there is to it. I hope you enjoy this dish as much as I had writing about it!
Taking pictures of food has become a hobby of mine. For a long time, I took the photos not knowing what to do with them until one day it’d dawned on me. I didn’t need to do anything with them. The photos of the food not only represent edibles, but of times gone by. A single image floods my mind of all the good times associated with those meals. Let’s have a look at some of those photos and of what they mean to me for Freedom Friday.
My mom’s pasta is to die for. I don’t know how she makes the sauce, and believe me, my wife’s tried to replicate it, I’ve tried, yet to no avail, we have never been able to duplicate it from scratch. In its place, my wife has her own recipe, which I love with a passion, but it’s not mamma’s sauce. Don’t worry, my wife knows how I feel, it’s no secret. The point being, this photo of my mom’s penne pasta coated with her delicious sauce represents a typical Sunday meal at my parents place. Whenever I look at this picture, memories of all those good time family gatherings come back to me. Every so often, we also have the typical Sunday meal here at my house.
Every Saturday afternoon I cook something special for the family. It’s my time when I treat everyone to a culinary creation of my choosing. One of my favorite dishes I enjoy making is chicken. I think I’ve cooked chicken in every way possible, yet, I’m sure someone will say to me, “Have you tried it this way?” I’m sure of it. This photo has all the fall colors wrapped in a delicious assortment of vegetables and chicken. For anyone curious, those are marinate eggplants. I enjoy this photo because it reminds me of our Saturday family time together.
Sushi reminds me of special occasions, long weekends and my absolute love for Japanese food. For those who don’t know, I make my own sushi. It took a long time to understand how all the ingredients worked together, their names and their distinct flavors. Nowadays, it’s second nature making this stuff. This photo is of one of the long weekends here at Casa Flacco, and of how I spent my afternoon. Salmon, avocado, sticky rice, all wrapped with nori. The other dish I made with cucumber, sticky rice and nori. I love long weekends because of our sushi binges.
Nothing quite tops a good ol’ fashioned salad in my family. Salads remind me of summer and fall. We make our salads from the choicest, freshest ingredients. All of it organic and most of it comes from our backyard. This photo captures the essence of what our meals are like in the summer. Every day is salad day with olive oil, feta cheese, Greek olives and onions as extra ingredients. What this photo does not capture is the hard work involved with tilling the soil, watering, babying it every single day to allow it to bring forth an incredible bounty for all of us to enjoy.