Boogaloo Wonderland Sandwich

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“What in the heck is a Boogaloo Wonderland Sandwich?”. That was EXACTLY my reaction when I came across this recipe in the current months issue of, Cook’s Country Magazine . (April/May 2018) It is basically a Sloppy Joe sandwich but with a bit of a different flavor profile. It is more sweet and zesty instead of just savory like traditional Sloppy Joe sandwiches are. Evidently, this is a popular sandwich in the Detroit area, I was intrigued to try something so regional so I decided to give it a go! Shockingly, my daughter, who is the the most picky eater in the world, loved it! She ate it with no complaint and she didn’t try to pick anything out of it which is always a plus! When Emerson eats something, I know the recipe is a keeper!

I adhered to the recipe for the most part, making only a slight adjustment with the chili powder. I felt that 3/4 tsp of hot chili powder would be a touch too hot for kids so I cut that down to just under a 1/2 tsp which was the right call. The finished meal had just enough to heat to be noticeable but not overwhelming. Also, I was a little short on beef so I used 1 lb of ground beef and 1/4 lb of ground pork. The cooked meat turned out very tender and delicious so I recommend trying the combination if you have both on hand. Lastly, I didn’t have any Italian sub rolls in the house so I decided to use English Muffins instead which worked out fine, they were nice and sturdy and held all of the meat well.

Just a little footnote, in the future I think I might adjust my seasonings to make it a touch less sweet. I think the combination of brown sugar and apple cider vinegar in the amounts called for added a little too much sweetness for my palate but that’s just preference. Feel free to adjust the seasonings to your liking. Enjoy!

Ingredients

For the sauce

  • 1 cup ketchup
  • 3 tbs apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tbs packed brown sugar
  • 2 tbs Worcestershire sauce
  • 3/4 tsp dried thyme
  • 3/4 tsp dry mustard
  • 3/4 tsp granulated garlic powder
  • 3/4 tsp chili powder
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper

For the sandwiches

  • 1 tbs vegetable oil
  • 1 1/4 lbs 85% lean ground beef
  • 1 onion, sliced thinly
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 3/4 tsp Kosher salt
  • 4 (6 inch) Italian sub rolls or English muffins, toasted
  • 8 slices of American cheese

Instructions

For the sauce, combine all of the ingredients in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Cook, whisking constantly, until slightly thickened, about 3 minutes. Set aside.

For the sandwiches, adjust the oven rack to the middle position and heat to 350ºF. Heat the oil in a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until just smoking. Add the beef, onion, pepper and salt and cook, breaking up the pieces with a spoon, until the liquid has evaporated and the meat begins to sizzle, about 10 minutes.

Add 1 cup of the sauce and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and simmer until slightly thickened, about 1 minute.

Place rolls on a rimmed baking sheet. Coat the bottoms of the bread with the remaining sauce. Evenly divide the meat mixture among the bottom of the rolls and top with 2 slices of American cheese. Bake until the cheese is melted and the rolls are warmed through, about 5 minutes. Cover each sandwich with the top of a bun and serve.

Cranberry Walnut Chicken Salad

Chicken Salad

Chicken salad can be a nutritious, healthy lunch however, the ones that are store-bought are loaded with mayonnaise which really adds a ton of calories and fat . Therefore, I prefer to make my own so that I control the amount of mayo, spices, and veggies. You can use store-bought rotisserie chicken to save time but making your own fresh chicken is very easy as well. Click here for my seasoned chicken recipe which is perfect for this chicken salad. This is a great make ahead dish and will keep nicely in the fridge for 2-3 days.

Ingredients

  • 1 – 1.5 lbs of pre-cooked chicken, cubed 
  • 2 ribs of celery, finely diced
  • 1/2 of a small red onion, finely diced
  • 1/4 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1/4 cup dried cranberries
  • Mayonnaise, to taste
  • Kosher salt and pepper, to taste

Instructions

Combine all of the above ingredients in a large bowl. Add enough mayonnaise so that the ingredients combine and the salad is moist. Add more mayo as needed. Season with salt and pepper. Serve on toasted bread topped with fresh baby spinach leaves.

 

“Saucy” Italian Sausage and Peppers

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Being Italian it will come as no surprise that one of my top favorite foods, hands down, is sausage and peppers and it just so happens that I make a seriously kick ass version! What makes this meal so good is the way the meatiness of the sausage mingles so well with the flavors of the peppers and onions and when done right, it’s an absolutely perfect dish! Scoop it out onto some warm, fresh Italian bread and you have yourself an out of this world sandwich experience. 

I prefer to make my sausage and peppers with red sauce and well browned slices of sausage over one that is more on the oily side and served with a giant, full sausage link. I find the versions cooked in just oil to be a little flavorless plus, I am just not a fan of biting into a huge hunk of meat either. Therefore, I always brown my sausages first while they are whole, then I slice them fairly thin and throw them back into the pan until they are browned on both sides and slightly crispy. Once the sausage is cooked through I remove them, saute the veggies in the sausage fat, add the sausage back in, adjust the seasonings, and toss with tomato sauce. It’s perfect EVERY single time and it really is super easy to make!

Naturally, the key to any great meal is to start with great ingredients. Cheap, fatty, unseasoned sausage will do nothing but bring the dish down therefore, I always get my sausage at a high quality Italian deli in my area. The sausages are far more flavorful and leaner than anything you will find in the supermarket. Also, I highly recommend getting sweet sausage with fennel because it adds such a nice complexity to the overall flavor of the dish. However, if you’re really not a fan of fennel you can skip it and plain sweet sausage will be just as delicious but give the fennel a try, you might be pleasantly surprised!

Ingredients

  • 2.5 – 3 lbs of pork sausage with fennel
  • 2 green bell peppers, seeded and sliced into strips 
  • 2 red bell peppers, seeded and sliced into strips
  • 2 large sweet onions, sliced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • extra virgin olive oil, as needed
  • 10-12 oz of plain canned tomato sauce
  • Kosher salt and pepper, to taste
  • 2 tsp of oregano
  • pinch of red pepper flakes

Instructions

Drizzle about 2 tbs of olive oil into a pan and turn the heat to medium. Separate the sausage links by cutting the strings in between. Do not cut too close to the base of the sausage or you will slice the casing . When the oil is shimmering and the pan is hot add in the sausage. Cook the sausages, turning frequently, until they are browned on all sides, about 10-15 minutes.

Remove the sausage from the pan. Using a fork to hold each link steady slice it up into 1.5″ slices. Once all of the sausages are sliced, return them to the hot pan. Add in a little more oil as needed so they don’t stick and burn. Continue to cook the sausage slices until they are nicely browned on each side and cooked through, about 15-20 minutes. Remove from the pan, cover and set aside.

Add to the hot pan the peppers, garlic and onion. Saute them in the sausage fat, adding extra oil as needed, until they are tender and browned. Season them with Kosher salt, pepper, oregano, and the red pepper flakes. Once the veggies are done, add the sausage back into the pan along with the tomato sauce and heat through, stirring gently to combine. Adjust the seasonings as needed. If a “drier” sausage and peppers is preferred, use less tomato sauce and conversely, add more to make it moister. Serve hot.

**Tip** – Sausage and peppers is actually even better if made the day before serving because the flavors have a chance to mingle. To reheat simply place the pan of sausage and peppers in a 350 degree oven and stir occasionally until warmed through or heat on low in a Crock-Pot.