Slow Cooker Beef Ragu with Pappardelle

Slow Cooker Beef Ragu with Pappardelle

The story of this Beef Ragu with Pappardelle started when Dana went up to a party in Brooklyn a couple of months ago.  The party was just around the corner from a pasta shop. Looking through the shop she spotted some of the best looking pappardelle around.  She had to buy it. Once she got home I was excited to try it out.  I wanted to make something to utilize the pasta to its fullest potential.  So I decided to make the ultimate comfort food, a Ragu!  To make it easy on me, I braised the beef in a slow cooker.  Set it and forget it.  It does not get any easier than that.

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Thin Crust Taco Pizza

Thin Crust Taco Pizza

As noted in my thin crust pizza dough post, Stevi B’s pizza buffet is my son’s favorite place to eat.  While he loves pizza, we all know it is because they have a nice arcade.  Either way, Dana and I have grown to love the the thin crust taco pizza.  This is my take on this delicious pie.  You have to try this Thin Crust Taco Pizza!

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Marinated and Grilled Cherry Tomatoes

Marinated and Grilled Cherry Tomatoes

I love tomatoes!  I am the weird guy at parties that eats the cherry tomatoes in the vegetable tray.  It seems as if I am the only person that eats them.  So I decided to grill some up as a side dish.  They were delicious!  They were a tad bit tart from the balsamic vinegar making them a great side dish to accompany any grilled meat.

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The Wedge Kettle Chip Dip plus Giveaway!

The Wedge Kettle Chip Dip plus Giveaway!

The Wedge Kettle Chip Dip

I was recently asked by Kettle Brand Chips to create an original recipe chip dip for one of their different varieties of Kettle Brand Chips. This task allowed me to indulge myself in the flavors that I love. As a new father, my wife and I don’t get to go out as much as we used to. Our favorite date night was a trip to the steak house which included a nice wedge salad to start things off. The iceberg lettuce topped with tomatoes, blue cheese and bacon was a flavor that we haven’t had in a long time. So I decided to turn our favorite indulgence into a chip dip that we can enjoy every day.

The Wedge Dip

After varying the ingredients and amounts, I came up with an extremely tasty dip that reflected our favorite flavors from a wedge salad. The dip is not a light dip and requires a real potato chip to handle the indulgent dip. Kettle Brand Chips can handle the pressure of lifting up this awesome dip. Kettle Brand cooks real, unpeeled potatoes in small batches for a superior taste and a signature crunch that allows them to be the perfect match to this hearty dip while others crack and crumble under the pressure.

The Wedge Kettle Chip Dip

Add the sour cream, mayonnaise and milk to a bowl and mix until creamy and smooth.

Mix until smooth

Add the Worcestershire sauce, parsley, garlic powder and salt. Mix to combine.

Add the seasonings

Finally add the bacon bits, blue cheese and tomato and fold them into the dip.

Add the bacon, blue cheese and tomatoes

Make sure to reserve a 1/4 tsp of each of these to top the dip before serving. This little bit will highlight the ingredients so that your guests can see the flavors of the dip.  A big tip when entertaining is to make everything appealing to the eye.

All Mixed Up

Refrigerate the dip for at least 4 hours before serving.  This is a crucial step as it was soften the parsley and cause the dip to thicken up.

The Dip

Finally scoop into a serving dish and top with the reserved tomato, blue cheese and bacon.  I prefer to serve these with classic sea salt kettle chips, but the dip will work with any of the 14 varieties of Kettle Chips.

A loaded chip

The bacon and blue cheese added a nice contrast to the fabulous crunch of the Kettle Chip.  This dip is awesome and really drives home the wedge flavor.  Now you can indulge yourself everyday with the taste and flavors of a steakhouse.

The Wedge Kettle Chip Dip with Sweepstakes!
Recipe type: Dip
Cuisine: American
Prep time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 32
The Perfect Dip for any occasion. This dip reflects the flavors of "The Wedge" salad, so that you can enjoy it every day.
  • ½ cup blue cheese (finely crumbled)
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • ¼ cup milk
  • ¼ cup bacon bits
  • 1 tomato, seeded, finely chopped
  • 1 tbs dried parsley
  • ½ tsp worcestershire sauce
  • ¼ tsp garlic powder
  • pinch salt
  1. Add the sour cream, mayonnaise and milk to a bowl and mix until creamy and smooth.
  2. Add the Worcestershire sauce, parsley, garlic powder and salt. Mix to combine.
  3. Finally add the bacon bits, blue cheese and tomato and fold them into the dip. Make sure to reserve a ¼ tsp of each of these to top the dip before serving.
  4. Refrigerate the dip for at least 4 hours before serving.
Nutrition Information
Serving size: 21g Calories: 53 Fat: 4.6g Saturated fat: 1.7g Carbohydrates: 2.3g Sugar: 0.7g Sodium: 91mg Protein: 0.8g Cholesterol: 7mg

Overall this dip hit each and every flavor of the wedge salad. It was a huge success and both Dana and I loved it! This is definitely going to become a staple at our house. Now tell me, what is your favorite dip to be entered in to win a $100 Visa gift card.

Sweepstakes Rules:
No duplicate comments.
You may receive (2) total entries by selecting from the following entry methods:
a) Leave a comment in response to the sweepstakes prompt on this post
b) Tweet (public message) about this promotion; including exactly the
following unique term in your tweet message: “#SweepstakesEntry”; and leave the URL to that tweet in a comment on this post
c) Blog about this promotion, including a disclosure that you are receiving a sweepstakes entry in exchange for writing the blog post, and leave the URL to that post in a comment on this post
d) For those with no Twitter or blog, read the official rules to learn about an alternate form of entry.
This giveaway is open to US Residents age 18 or older. Winners will be selected via random draw, and will be notified by e-mail. You have 72 hours to get back to me, otherwise a new winner will be selected.
The Official Rules are available here.
This sweepstakes runs from 11/13-12/31.
Be sure to visit the Kettle Brand Page on where you can read other bloggers’ reviews and find more chances to win!

I was reimbursed for my ingredients and the Kettle Brand Chips in this post. While I was compensated for my time, the review found on this blog is truthful and honest in my opinion, it is not an advertisement. I was not obligated or encouraged in any way to only provide positive reviews. Opinions found on this blog are those of the individual reviewer and do not necessarily represent the opinions of

Chicken, Spinach and Tomato Pasta

Chicken, Spinach and Tomato Pasta

I like to keep fresh produce lying around, but it spoils so quickly.  So I have determined a few ways to keep fresh produce on hand but have it last as long as possible.  First tip, cherry tomatoes.  They keep for a long time and you can use them for everything from sandwiches to pasta.  Second tip, Spinach.  I have no idea why, but spinach seems to last forever in my fridge.  Once again, I use it as my green addition to everything.  My third tip is for protein, chicken freezes very well.  So I always buy it in bulk.  The best way to freeze chicken is to…. Trim it, wrap each piece with plastic wrap and then tightly wrap with aluminum foil.  Use a marker to write the date and you are good to go.  It thaws in about 5-6 hours in the fridge.  So using my go to ingredients I made a quick pasta.  Delicious.

Chicken, Spinach and Tomato Pasta

  • 1 lb boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 cup zesty Italian dressing, bottled or click here for a recipe
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, quartered
  • 6-8 oz baby spinach
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 tbs fresh basil, thinly sliced
  • 2 tbs olive oil
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 3/4 lb spaghetti, angel hair or cappellini pasta
  • 1/4 freshly grated Parmesan Cheese

Prepare the Chicken

Marinate the chicken in the Zesty Italian Dressing (feel free to substitute regular Italian Dressing) for at least 1 hour.

Marinate the chicken

Then grill over medium/high heat until the juices run clear.  Remove from the heat and let the chicken rest.

Cube the chicken

Once cooled, cube the chicken and set aside.

Make the Pasta

Meanwhile bring a large pot of water to boil and cook the pasta until it is al dente.  My suggestion is to set a timer for 1-2 minutes less than the amount on the pasta box.  Take a sample when the timer is up.  If it has a little bite to the pasta it is perfect.

Prepare the Sauce

Place a large skillet over medium/high heat and add the olive oil.  Then add the garlic and stir for 10 seconds.  Then add the tomatoes and cook until they are caramelized and the water is removed from them.  This will fill the pan with tomato juice.

Cook the Tomatoes

Then add the spinach and cover.  Let cook for 1 minute.  Then remove the top and stir.  Continue to cook until the spinach starts to cook.

Add the Spinach

Add the basil, chicken, pasta, salt and pepper.  Stir until fully incorporated.

Incorporate the Ingredients

Plate and serve. I have found that it is easiest to use tongs to do the plating.  Grate a little Parmesan over the top and you have a light and healthy meal.

Time to Eat

This meal was a home run.  Quick, easy and delicious.



I love guacamole!  It features the amazing avocado better than any other dish.  The major downfall is that avocados can be really expensive.  However, the other day the local super market had them on sale for 3 for $1.  Yep, so for little to no money I can have my favorite chip dip.

GuacamoleAdapted from Alton Brown

  • 3 avocados
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1/2 medium onion, diced
  • 2 Roma tomatoes, seeded and diced
  • 1 tablespoon chopped cilantro, optional
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced

The first step is to set up your mise-en-place – French for “putting in place”.  Basically before attempting to assemble the dish you need to have all of the ingredients prepared.  Dice the onions, mince the garlic, chop the cilantro and finally seed and dice the tomatoes.  This is an important step, if you do not seed the tomatoes, your guacamole will be runny and unappetizing looking.  Cut the tomatoes in half and then use a spoon or your fingers to remove the seeds and liquid from within the tomatoes.

Seeds Removed

Next you need the avocados.  Make sure that you pick up ripe avocados at the store. You want them to be soft and not rock hard.  A good indicator is if the skin has a little give when you press your thumb into it.  If you are unable to find ripe avocados you can place unripe avocados in a brown paper bag and they will ripen within two days, usually overnight.

The Amazing Avocado

Next you need to core and peel the avocados.

Avocado Halved

This is simple.  Cut the avocados in half.  On one half, the seed will stick to the avocado.  Using a spoon or a knife pop it out.

Use a spoon to scoop out the fruit

Then using a spoon, separate the skin from the fruit of the avocado.  Once you get it going, the fruit will pop right out.

Squeeze the lime juice over the avocados and stir so that the lime juice evenly covers the avocados.  This will prevent them from browning.

Toss the avocados with lime juice

Add the salt, cumin, and cayenne and mash the avocados with a fork, potato masher or whatever clean tool you have lying around that will get the job done.  I have used a pastry blender, nut chopper.  They all work and get the job done.

Mash the avocados

Next, add the onions, tomatoes, cilantro, and garlic.  Fold everything together.

Add the remaining ingredients

Then let the guacamole sit at room temperature for 1 hour and then serve.


Simple, delicious and extremely easy.

Time for a party

This is a must for every summer party.

Get Sauced! – Homemade Ketchup

Get Sauced! – Homemade Ketchup

Memorial Day is the ultimate grilling day!  Nothing goes with burgers and hot dogs like Ketchup.  So I decided to tackle homemade ketchup. This ketchup is made with tomatoes, brown sugar, vinegar and spices.  No high fructose corn syrup, preservatives or fillers. Homemade ketchup is not only good for you, it is also customizable to your varying taste buds. Besides a great topping for hamburgers and hot dogs, ketchup is also the perfect base for homemade barbecue sauce.  Make this ketchup and you are half way to making a championship barbecue sauce.

Tomato Ketchup – Adapted from Paul Kirk Championship BBQ

  • 28 oz can whole tomatoes
  • 1 small onion, finely diced or grated
  • 1/3 cup vinegar
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp coriander seeds
  • 1/2 tsp mustard seed
  • 1/2 tsp allspice berries
  • 1/2 tsp black peppercorns
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 3 whole cloves
  • pinch celery seeds
  • pinch red pepper flakes
  • 4 tsp brown sugar
  • 2 tsp granulated sugar

Empty the contents of the can of tomatoes in a large nonreactive pan.  Bring them to a boil, and then reduce the heat to medium-low.  Let simmer for 30-45 minutes, or until the tomatoes are soft.


Add the onions, vinegar, garlic, salt and both sugars into the pot.

Place the spices in a cheesecloth and make a small spice bag by forming a pouch and tying it off.

Spice Bag

Add the spice bag to the tomato mixture and simmer over medium/medium-high heat for 45-60 minutes or until the sauce thickens.

Simmer till thick

Remove the spice bag from the mixture and then puree using an immersion blender or by pouring the mixture into a blender.  Remember that the sauce is extremely hot, so be careful when blending.


Pour the sauce into a large sieve or strainer.  Press the mixture through the sieve to get all of the flavor from the juices. Discard the pulp, seeds and spice bag.

Strain the Ketchup

If you wish the mixture to be thicker you can pour it back into the pan and simmer till it reduced to your desired thickness.  I have found that as soon as the ketchup clings to the back of a wooden spoon it will be the perfect consistency when cooled.

Homemade Ketchup

The ketchup tastes great as is, but will taste better after aging for a few weeks. Keep this stuff refrigerated and it will stick around for about 6 months.  However, I can not guarantee that you will not go through it in a couple of days.

This ketchup is simple and easy to make.  It makes about 2 cups of finished ketchup.  It contains no fillers or chemical thickeners.  It is pure tomatoes and a tad bit of sugar.  It was perfect.  Dana thought it was ok, but she is a slave to our friends over at Heinz.  I can’t blame her, that stuff is good.  However, this was also delicious.  Let me know what you think.

Stuffed Peppers

Stuffed Peppers

The other night I was struggling to think of something to make for dinner.  Then I saw this photo on SavorySights and I wanted stuffed peppers. So I modified the recipe a bit and created a stuffed pepper that was amazing.  It was tasty and filling and best of all, easy to make.

Stuffed Peppers – (adapted from Fun and Food Cafe)

  • 4 large bell peppers
  • 16 oz tomato sauce
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1/2 cup uncooked rice
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tbs Worcestershire Sauce
  • 1 tbs olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 tsp Italian Seasoning
  • 1/2 cup shredded Mozzarella Cheese
  • kosher salt and freshly cracked pepper to taste

Prepping the Peppers

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees

Cook the rice in a rice cooker or place in a sauce pan along with the 1 cup of water.  Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and cover for 18-20 minutes.  Fluff with a fork and Ta-Da, it is ready.

Remove the tops from the bell peppers.  Then remove the seeds and membranes.

Core the peppers

Arrange the peppers in a 8×8 or 9×9 oven safe pan.  Choose the pan that fits the peppers the best.  You want the peppers to be able to stay standing.

Arrange in a pan

Pre-heat a medium saucepan over medium/high heat.  Add the oil, onions and garlic.  Cook until the onions are translucent, roughly 6-8 minutes.  Then add the beef and brown, roughly 8-10 minutes.

Brown the meat

Remove the beef from the pan into a large bowl and combine with cooked rice, 1/2 of the tomato sauce, Worcestershire sauce.  Add a pinch of salt and pepper and stir.

Mix the rice, beef and seasonings together

Evenly distribute the beef and rice mixture between the four peppers.

The mixture should almost fill all four peppers

In a separate bowl, mix the tomato sauce and Italian seasoning.  Then evenly pour the sauce over the four peppers.

Fill with the sauce

Bake for 60 minutes, or until the peppers are tender.  Remove from the oven and then top with the cheese.  Place the peppers back into the oven for another 10 minutes, or until the cheese is melted.

Cover with cheese

Carefully remove the peppers from the pan and serve.

The Stuffed Pepper

I found that a large spoon was helpful in removing the peppers from the dish.

These peppers were amazing.  They were delicious.  Plus the peppers were perfectly cooked.

BLT Salad

BLT Salad

Who doesn’t love a nice Bacon, Lettuce and grilled tomato sandwich.  So I figured who wouldn’t love it in salad form.  With charred bread croutons and fire roasted tomatoes, this was a salad for men and women alike.  Heck, the main ingredient is bacon.  Who could not love this salad.  After making it, I declare that all salads made by me have fire roasted tomatoes on them.  It was one of the most delicious salads I have ever eaten.

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Epic Failure – Sun-dried Tomato Tilapia

Epic Failure – Sun-dried Tomato Tilapia

Even a food blogger has an epic failure every once in a while.  I have found that these posts get the most interest.  Maybe it is because it shows that even bloggers have faults.  I have no idea.  However, today is one for the books.  I have pan fried and finished many tilapia in my life.  Check out the blog post here.  I have also had many epic failures, check them out here.  However, this time I wanted to add a little tartness with sun dried tomatoes.  Sounds good right?  I have seen it before, however my execution was horrible. Well here was the recipe and the smoking hot story.

Sun Dried Tomato Tilapia

  • 4 Tilapia fillets
  • 1/2 cup bread crumbs
  • 1 tbs freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 4 tbs sun dried tomatoes, fine dice
  • 1 tbs of fresh parsley, chopped
  • 2 tsp lemon zest
  • salt and pepper
  • 3 tbs olive oil
  • 1 tbs butter
  • Rinse the fillets and gently pat dry.  No need to completely dry the fillets, just enough so that water is not dripping off them.

    Beautiful Tilapia Fillets

    Dice up the sun dried tomatoes as finely as possible.  The use of a food processor would have been helpful.

    Diced Sun Dried Tomatoes

    Then assemble the breading on a large plate or pie tin. Combine the the breadcrumbs, Parmesan cheese, sun dried tomatoes, parsley, lemon zest, salt and pepper.

    Preheat the skillet over medium/high heat.  Add the oil and the butter.  At the same time turn on the broiler to low and set the rack about 6-8 inches from the heat.  If your broiler only has one temperature, then you will need to cook the fish for a little less time below.  I will note the difference.

    Dredge the fish into the breadcrumb mixture.  Coat both sides.  Remember that not too much of the breading with stick to the fish.  This will be lightly coated.  Just to add a little texture without weighing down the fish.

    Dredged Fish

    Once the butter and oil are hot, place the fish into the preheated pan.  Sear on one side for 2-3 minutes, or until the breading starts to brown.

    Flip the fish using a spatula and then place the pan under the broiler.  At this point everything was going great.  Then the shit hit the fan.  I did not realize that sun dried tomatoes would instantly light on fire when under the broiler.  The fish needed to be under the broiler for 4-5 minutes.   I put the fish under the broiler turn around and within a minute the smoke alarm was going off.  The tomatoes instantly caught fire and ruined the dish.

    Super Crispy Tilapia

    Not sure how to remedy the situation.  I guess the first this would be to not finish the tilapia under the broiler.  However, what is the fun in that.  I think maybe soaking the tomatoes in a liquid to rehydrate them a bit before using them.  However, I was hoping the dried texture would add to the dish.  Any thoughts let me know.

    BBQ Chicken Quesadillas

    BBQ Chicken Quesadillas

    Last week I went to the local Safeway and they had an amazing deal on rotisserie chickens.  Only $5.  So I decided to purchase one and make a couple of recipes.  Using the roasted chicken you can quickly make a couple of meals.  There is plenty of meat on the bird and the bones can be used to make a nice stock or even a whole chicken noodle soup. The first recipe is inspired by the upcoming football game weekend.  You know the one.  I would call it by its name but I don’t want to get sued.  Hand-held foods are the best for football parties.

    bbq chicken quesadillas

    This quesadilla is quick, easy, portable and totally delicious.

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    The Blue Box Revisited – Spicy Mac n Cheese

    If you are like me, no matter how much you cook, you always have a box of Mac n Cheese in the pantry.  As much as I want to hate the stuff it is good.  So, I have worked to spice it up in more than one way.  Honestly, it is not much, but it is enough to transform a bland blue box to a tasty concoction.

    Spiced up Mac n Cheese

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