My Bolognese Sauce

1 lb ground beef
1 lb ground pork
2 28oz cans crushed tomatoes
1 large carrot, finely chopped
2 ribs celery, finely chopped
1 medium onion, finely chopped
4 Tbs butter
1 Tbs fennel seed, measured then finely ground
1/4-1/2 tsp red pepper flakes (or to preferred heat level)
1 Tbs fish sauce (umami flavor!, salt replacement)
salt & pepper to taste (see below)
1 handful of fresh basil, chiffonaded

1. Melt butter in a large pot and saute on medium heat until the carrots, celery and onion are soft. Add the ground meat, incorporating well and browning meat until fully cooked.

2. Add the ground fennel seed, red pepper flakes and fish sauce. Mix and saute for 1-2 minutes until well combined and the fennel begins to become fragrant.

3. Add the tomato sauce and then cover with a metal mesh splatter guard and partially with a lid, to let steam escape and evaporate. Reduce heat to the lowest possible simmer setting and let cook for 1-2 hours, depending on personal preference. My bolognese relies heavily on tasting the sauce to know when it's done. Taste your sauce. If you think it needs further reducing, salt or pepper, then do so.

4. Add the basil towards the end of cooking the sauce, as the fresh basil flavor will basically cook out while the sauce is simmering and reducing.

5. Boil pasta to box directions or to preferred liking and then serve sauce on top of pasta.


*Do not add garlic to your bolognese. With how long you cook your sauce, the garlic will only turn bitter and reflect so in the sauce. You do not want a bitter bolognese.

*Only add salt when you're nearly ready to serve, as you can always add salt but you cannot take it out. Adding salt to the beginning may concentrate the salt and make the end result sauce too salty. Keep this in mind for any cooking you may do.

*I personally prefer San Marzano tomatoes, but it's entirely up to you which brand and type of tomatoes to use. I also prefer to use crushed tomatoes rather than sauce, because I feel it creates a more hearty sauce.

Thin Spaghetti with Crispy Bacon and Leeks

Dinner tonight was extra delicious thanks to some hearty bacon! I've made this before and it had always been a little off, but I finally feel I have perfected the process and ingredients (pasta water!).

Thin Spaghetti with Crispy Bacon and Leeks

3/4 lb thin spaghetti
1 large leek
1/4 lb bacon
1 cup reserved pasta water
salt & freshly ground pepper to taste

1. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Meanwhile, slice bacon in half lengthwise and then into 1/2" pieces. Remove the roots and green parts of the leek, thinly slice diagonally and thoroughly rinse under cold water to remove any sand, dirt or grit.

2. Toss bacon into an extra large frying pan and begin to render down over medium heat. Begin cooking the pasta as well.

3. Add the sliced leeks into the bacon once it begins to brown and become crispy. Toss it around to evenly coat the leeks in the bacon fat, cooking on medium. Turn the heat up to high after the leeks have softened to begin caramelizing the leeks and bacon. At this point, the thin spaghetti should be finished or nearly finished cooking. Make sure to reserve some of the pasta water and dilute it down if it's too salty.

4. Use tongs once the leeks and bacon begin to evenly caramelize, to add the thin spaghetti and toss until everything is evenly distributed. Add about 1 cup of the reserved pasta water and incorporate until the pasta is almost creamy. This may not take very long since the heat should still be on high. It's ready!

Pate Brisee - The Easiest Pie Crust

Creating a pie crust can be one of the most daunting and challenging things to those unfamiliar to baking, but fret not! After growing up watching my mom effortlessly throw together a crust for apple pie and experimenting on my own for several years, I have this dough down pat (pun intended)! If you follow my directions and notes, your end result with be the flaky pie crust that you're wanting. This dough will yield two crusts (top and bottom layers). You can easily halve the recipe if you're making a galette.

Make this dough by hand!

Pate Brisee

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp sugar
1 cup butter, cold & cubed (2 sticks)
1/4-1/2 cup cold ice water (don't use the ice) [Note: more may be needed, depending on climate and humidity]

1. Blend the flour, salt and sugar together and then add the cubed butter. Evenly distribute the butter in the flour mixture but using either a fork or pastry blender. Blend this mixture until it begins to resemble a coarse meal.

2. Continuing to use a fork or pastry blender, gradually add the cold ice water in small increments (do NOT add it all at once) until the dough just begins to stick together. It may still appear to be slightly crumbly, but kneading the dough will bring it all together.

3. Wrap up the dough in plastic wrap and let it chill in the fridge for 30 minutes. This will help to re-chill the butter so that it's firm and easier to work with. You do not want a warm, elasticity and sticky dough, as it'll be difficult to work with when rolled out.

4. From here just follow the recipe for whichever pastries you're baking! Such an easy dough!

My Grandmother's Apple Pie

This apple pie is the ultimate comfort food. It was originally my grandmother's recipe, who taught my mother how to make and who subsequently taught me how to make. I grew up eating this apple pie and trust me... no apple pie can compare to this, once you've had it; you'll never buy a store-bought pie again.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

To begin, you make the pie crusts first. You can absolutely use store-bought pastry dough that come two in a box, but that's cheating in my eyes. I just can't do it! This pie crust recipe is to die for. It's better than any pie crust from a store-bought pie you'll ever have. Really!

1 Pate Brisee Dough Recipe

Apple Pie Filling:
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup flour
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp cinnamon
dash salt
6 cups thinly sliced apples (I prefer Gala; I don't like tart green apples)
2 Tbs butter, cubed into 8 pieces

When I make the filling, I blend together the sugar, flour, spices and salt. That way, when I'm peeling and cutting the apples, I can add them right to the mixture (mixing occasionally) so they don't begin to brown. You do not need lemon juice for this apple pie if you prepare the filling this way. The lemon juice only stops the apples from browning.

When the filling mixture is complete, roll out one part of the pie crust dough into a circle 1/8" thick. Place into an non-greased pie dish and fill with the apple mixture. Distribute the cubes of butter on top of the apple mixture. This will give the pie some moisture as well as extra flavor. Roll out the second piece of doll to the same thickness and place on top, cutting off excess dough and crimping the edges so it's completely sealed. Unsealed edges will result in bubbling filling spilling out of the sides and a smokey mess billowing out of your oven! If you want to play it safe, you can place a cookie sheet on the rack below the pie. Make sure to cut an X slit in the top middle of the pie so steam can escape.

Bake the pie at 425 degrees for 40 to 50 minutes, until the crust begins to brown and juices bubble from the slit in the top. If at any time throughout baking the crust begins to brown too fast, you can place foil on top to prevent any further browning.

Let the pie sit and cool before immediately cutting right into it. The filling will ooze out everywhere and it'll be a mess, if it isn't given an opportunity to properly set. Enjoy!

Mini Pecan Pies

I came up with the idea for these mini pecan pies when deciding on the Thanksgiving menu a week ago. I figured there would be hundreds of recipes online for these perfect little pecan pies. I found a few, made some adjustments to my liking and I came out with this recipe. Everyone that had these at Thanksgiving LOVED them! I had made a test batch for some workers we had at the house on the week prior to Thanksgiving, and they loved them as well! I heard praise after praise so these tiny little pies were definitely a success! They're perfect for those not wanting an entire piece of pie too! The recipe is as follows:

3 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup light corn syrup
1/4 cup butter, melted
1 Tbs flour
1 cup pecans, finely chopped
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp salt
1 Pate Brisee dough recipe

Step 1: Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Step 2: Roll out dough to a 1/8" thickness. Using a circle cookie-cutter approximately 3 inches in diameter, cut out circles and place into muffin pans. Pre-bake the dough without any filling in the oven for 5 minutes, and no longer! Pre-baking the dough ensures that it's thoroughly cooked. Greasing the muffin pan isn't necessary at all, unless otherwise preferred, as there is plenty of butter in the Pate Brisee dough. I have already made this recipe a handful of times and I have never greased my pans.

Step 3: Combine all other ingredients into a bowl and mix well. Make sure the melted butter is neither hot nor added directly to the beaten eggs, or you'll end up with scrambled eggs.

Step 4: Fill the pre-baked pastry with pie filling, to the same height as in the picture above (almost entirely to the top). Bake for about 10 minutes, or until done. The mixture will bubble and may rise a bit, but it will deflate back down when taken out of the oven and left to cool.

This recipe has yielded approximately 34 mini pecan pies. This can vary depending on the size of your cookie cutter (if larger) and how much filling you add to the pies.

Enjoy and let me know how you liked it! :)

Masala Chai Tea

A few months back, I purchased a large bag of fresh green cardamom pods. I had bought them intending to attempt to recreate murgh makhani (butter chicken in Indian) that I had tried at a local restaurant. Ever since, I've been trying to come up with new recipes and ways to cook with these little green aromatic pods. These pods smell absolutely divine! One recipe that caught my eye, was Indian masala chai tea. The recipes I have found for masala chai have a few things I simply don't think would be very appealing in my tea. One such spice is black pepper. The other thing is milk. Being lactose intolerant, I have to avoid milk.. so that's instantly kicked out of the recipe. Soy milk would be a great alternative, though.

What I was left with was a simple spiced tea that everyone has complmented. It took a bit of tweaking to get the amount of spices right, but I got it! Personally, I make this masala chai by the gallon and keep it in the fridge, so that's what this recipe will reflect. Here are the ingredients:

6 bags of black tea
15 cardamom pods, crushed (I use the pointy end of a meat cleaver)
3 cloves
1 stick of cinnamon, broken into thirds
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup sugar (more or less, depending on your tastes)

When I make my tea, I pour the honey and sugar into the bottom of my jug and fill it with boiling water. I then take the six tea bags and use the strings to tie them together. When it comes to steeping the spices, I use cheese cloth. I cut off roughly a 6-7 square inch piece from the roll and place the spices in the middle. I crush the cardamom pods directly on the cheese cloth. Pull the four corners together, twist it a bit and then using the string from the tea bags, tie it shut so the tea bags and the spice pouch are tied together. That way you can easily steep your tea and then pull out the tea bags and spice pouch in one go.

Let the tea steep in the hot water for roughly an hour. This will give the spices enough time to steep, but you can take out the tea bags until it's to the strength of your liking. Store in the fridge.

Hungarian Goulash - Magyar Gulyás

Gulyás has a very long history in Hungary and there are so many different varieties made today. It was originally made by herdsmen in rural areas of Hungary, who were called gulyás, and from whom this soup is named. The gulyás would go out to the fields to tend to their flocks, not coming home for days. The simplicity of the soup made it a staple and an important meal for these men.

I have found many recipes for goulash, both in books and across the internet. One thing is certain, traditional Hungarian goulash is a soup, not a thick chunky stew that most of us Americans seem to think of it as.. and have changed it to be. Because of the wide variances in all the recipes I have found, it's difficult to find a recipe that looks "traditional" to me. Though, I was able to find a simple base recipe from an old cookbook written and published in Hungary, sometime between the two World Wars. I've based my version of Goulash off this recipe.

Hungarian Goulash:
2 lbs beef, 3/4 inch cubes
2 onions, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
3-4 medium potatoes, peeled and 3/4 inch cubes
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
2 Tbs Hungarian sweet paprika
1 tsp caraway seeds, slightly crushed with the back of a spoon
2 Tbs butter or oil
sour cream for garnish
fresh dill for garnish, if available
salt to taste

 1. In a pot, fry the onion in the butter or oil on medium heat, just until they begin to brown. Toss in cubed beef, green pepper, paprika and caraway seeds along with roughly 1 cup of water. Mix thoroughly so there are no clumps from paprika. Put on the lid and let simmer for about 15-20 minutes, until the beef is cooked completely through and has begun to absorb the flavors of the paprika and caraway seeds.

2. Add 8 cups of water along with the salt and mix thoroughly so everything is evenly mixed. Place the lid on the pot and let simmer for at least one hour, preferably two. The longer it cooks, the more tender the beef will be.

3. Twenty minutes prior to serving, toss in peeled and cubed potatoes and let boil. After twenty minutes have passed, the goulash is done.

4. Serve in bowls, garnished with a dollop of sour cream and fresh dill. The sour cream and fresh dill really add that finishing touch to the dish, they are absolutely necessary! Enjoy!