October and Ocracoke Vacation 2022 Food

Welcome back (to me, finally getting back to posting after a few week’s hiatus)! Here are the highlights of October food in our house, the wonderful food we made on vacation in Ocracoke, and notes on the cookbooks the recipes came from.

*This post contains affiliate links to some of my favorite cookbooks. If you click a link and make a purchase, I may earn a small commission.

Beets and Greens Phyllo Pie from Melissa Clark’s book,  “Dinner In One”. We took the suggestion in the recipe notes and swapped roasted butternut squash for the beets, and I only had feta on hand (not the washed-rind cheese Melissa suggests), but this was still delicious and 10 out of 10 would make again — and will follow the recipe next time b/c it seems a funky cheese would only make this crispy, hearty, veggie pie even better.

crispy Phyllo Pie on a cutting board

Grilled picanha steak w/ romesco sauce, fried plantains, coconut rice and beans. This was my birthday dinner and the recipe is… basically in the title. Simple and delicious, and note to self to include more plantains and coconut rice in my life. What really made this meal sing for me was the smoked almond romesco sauce, which I do have a recipe for and it’s included at the end of the post.

Brazilian steak, rice, and beans on two plates

A bloomer loaf and a rye, ale, and oat bread from “Paul Hollywood’s Bread”. Anyone else glued to the current season (and every past episode, ever) of The Great British Baking Show? I can’t get enough of it, mostly because of Noel Fielding. But a couple years ago, the show also inspired me to buy Paul Hollywood’s bread cookbook and learn to make bread, from scratch, by hand– not a stand mixed or a bread machine in sight. IDK what it is but something about making a loaf of bread with my hands makes me feel like I’m in total control of my life and am awesome. I love this book b/c it explains the why behind the how which, it turns out, is pretty important with bread-making.

Pizza with caramelized onions, homemade buttermilk ricotta, roasted mushrooms, and shaved brussles sprouts. Agh, my heart is aching that I don’t have a piece of this pizza right now. It checked every oniony, creamy, earthy, crispy greens box for me. And I MADE the ricotta! What! That recipe came from  “To the Last Bite” by Alexis deBoschnek and was easier than I thought. I want to be the person who always uses leftover buttermilk to make ricotta. Then puts it on a pizza with mountains of brussles sprouts and mushrooms.

And now on to the real fun… our Ocracoke vacation!! Here’s some of what we ate:

Scacciata from my one true cookbook love: “Italian American” by Angie Rito and Scott Tachinelli. My best description of this dish is a layered pizza? It has about 3 pounds of swiss chard and spinach cooked down with lots of garlic and wine, and loads of mozzarella. You make the dough, spread the filling, fold and repeat until it’s small, bake it, slice it, and all your friends say, “Wow“.

Oysters! My husband and friends foraged for and caught these oysters and were dining on them with lemon juice and hot sauce within about 30 minutes of pulling them out of the water. I mean… rockstars.

Smoked pork butt, ribs, and wings! It’s not an N.C. vacay without them.

Caramelized Onion and Short Rib Ragu with Pasta and crostini with smoked ricotta. Mmmmkay, the onion and short rib ragu is maybe one of my top 10 favorite things on earth and it is from, once again, “Italian American” by Angie Rito and Scott Tachinelli. I don’t think I need to explain why a ragu with that name tastes so good. We had it for dinner then again for lunch while dinner was on the smoker and I decided to become a badass for 15 minutes and smoke some leftover ricotta (with advice from “Via Carota” by Jody Williams and Rita Sodi). NBD.

Brief interlude for some 1718 Brewing food. The fried cheese cuuuuuurds:

Steamed buns and coconut curry pork meatballs. Yessss! These buns are on repeat from earlier this month, I will love them forever. And the coconut curry pork meatballs are a staple in this house from How Sweet Eats. The meatballs are so easy and the sauce is creamy and rich with a great punchiness from lime juice — fabulous.

Baked eggrolls for lunch. Molly Yeh strikes again — this recipe came from her book  “Home Is Where the Eggs Are” except instead of beef and store-bought coleslaw, I used leftover pulled pork and the Crunchy Asian Slaw from that same Molly Yeh book. I’m pretty sure you could fill these eggrolls with any combo of meat and cabbage-y thing and be successful. And yes, the eggroll wrappers and flour tortillas, but are still completely satifying.

baked eggrolls on a pan

Clean-out-the-fridge fried rice. This last-night-of-vacay dinner consisted of rice, pulled pork, minced up smoked chicken wing skin and meat, minced smoked rib meat, diced leftover roasted cauliflower, potatoes, and brussles sprouts, leftover coleslaw, and some croutons made from leftover brioche buns. Essentially, a masterpiece of leftovers.

fried rice in a pan

I’m terribly sad vacay is over. But, a good smoked almond romesco sauce recipe can help me move on.

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Smoked Almond Romesco Sauce

Brazilian steak, rice, and beans on two plates

A smoky, tangy sauce to serve with steak, grilled tuna, or as a spread on sandwiches.

  • Author: Megan
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Total Time: 10 minutes
  • Yield: 1 cup 1x

Ingredients

Scale
  • 8 oz jarred roasted red peppers
  • 3/4 C salted, smoked almonds
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1 TBS tomato paste
  • 1/2 tsp smoked hot paprika
  • 1/8 tsp cayenne
  • 2 TBS sherry vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp honey + more to taste
  • 2 TBS olive oil

Instructions

  1. Combine the first nine ingredients in a food processor and pulse to combine.
  2. With the food processor running, stream in the olive oil.
  3. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary — sometimes, depending on how sweet the roasted red peppers are, I like to add an additional squeeze of honey.

Keywords: quick romesco sauce, easy romesco sauce, almond romesco sauce, smoked almond recipe

End of August Menu + Macadamia Rum Bars

Sending silent thanks to the universe that it’s almost September and we’re quickly approaching the absolute best time of year on the OBX. Finally! But, while it’s still August, let’s recap this week’s dinners:

dinners written out on a white board

*This post contains affiliate links to some of my favorite cookbooks. If you click a link and make a purchase, I may earn a small commission.

end of august dinners

What we made this week, with notes:

Saturday 8/20/22: Brothy fregola, broccoli rabe, and prosciutto with grilled cheese. Hot soup in August is totally fine by me and this one was fun. At first, my taste buds were like, “NO!” because the broth became pretty bitter, thanks to the broccoli rabe. But… I also could not stop eating it. I think the salty prosciutto, the parmesan, the tiny pasta, and the rich broth just made it all alright. I would not have liked it as much without the bitterness. It all works. This recipe came from Colu Henry’s book, “Colu Cooks“, from which everything I’ve cooked so far has been fab. Here’s a pic of this meal, which has me frustratedly sighing at how much better the picture would be had I put a couple of spoons in the dang bowls. Oh well.

bowls of soup and a plate of grilled cheese sandwiches

Sunday 8/21/22: Frozen pizza and salad!

Monday 8/22/22: Giant Dinner Salad. A Serving Tonight staple. This time I made it with kale, brown rice, roasted carrots and chickpeas, smoked almonds, golden raisins, feta, and chicken. So goooood.

Tuesday 8/23/22: Scallion feta dip; corn, zucchini, and shrimp salad; steak and tuna with romesco sauce; roasted potatoes; and pistachio cake. Our good friends Tara and Jamie (of the lovely blog and YouTube channel Savory Saver) were in town and came for dinner! I barely remember how good the food was because it was so nice to see them and catch up (and there was more than one bottle of wine involved), but I know it was indeed good. My favorite part was the romesco sauce, which I need to document with a full recipe at a later date, but is roasted red pepps, smoked almonds, sherry vinegar, honey, and olive oil all blended in a food processor. Can literally eat it by the spoonful, all by itself. We had it with a seared sirloin steak (was very nervous about this cut being tough but Tara has a sixth sense for when to flip a piece of meat and she nailed it).

Wednesday 8/24/22: Trader Joe’s sweet corn, burrata, and basil ravioli with fresh tomato butter sauce and salad. The menu board said miso harissa noodles for this night but it wasn’t in the cards. This ravioli was in our freezer and felt much easier. The sauce was pretty much this Fresh Tomato Butter Sauce recipe, which I should make more often than I do.

Thursday 8/25/22: Grilled wings and salad. Should we talk about why we eat wings so often? Sure. It’s because we messed up our CrowdCow order twice in a row and now have enough wings to feed a football stadium. It’s fine, we’re fine. For this, we once again used the Buffalo Wild Wings thai curry sauce. It’s addictive!

Friday 8/26/22: Steak al limon with roasted potatoes and creamed kale. Big steakhouse vibes over here! This steak was interesting — the marinade/sauce was lemon juice, sugar, chiles, and fish sauce and I’m glad we tried it but not sure I’d make it again. The creamed kale on the other hand… holy cow. I used the Greatest Creamed Greens recipe from Alison Roman’s book “Nothing Fancy“. I want more RIGHT NOW.

plates of steak, potatoes, and greens with a glass of red wine

I mean… I’m pretty proud of this week of food. High fives. For the recipe this time around, I’m sharing the baked good that’s been most successful with the guests at the inn I bake for each week: Macadamia Rum Bars. It’s a version of my mother-in-law’s recipe and I believe she got it from a cookbook, sorry I don’t know which one. But these bars are foolproof and so sweet and gooey and crunchy, and just a little boozy. Love!

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Macadamia Rum Bars

macadamia rum bars stacked on a plate

A sweet cookie crust topped with a lightly boozy, gooey coconut and macadamia nut filling.

  • Author: Megan
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 45 minutes
  • Total Time: 55 minutes
  • Yield: 16 squares 1x
  • Category: dessert, snack

Ingredients

Scale

Cookie crust:

  • 1 stick unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/4 C sugar
  • 1 C flour
  • pinch of kosher salt

filling:

  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/4 C light brown sugar, firmly packed
  • 2 TBS flour
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1 C flaked, unsweetened coconut
  • 1 C macadamia nuts, chopped
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 TBS rum

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease an 8×8 cake pan and line it with parchment (leave some parchment hanging over the edges for easy removal).
  2. Make the crust: In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the butter, sugar, and flour and mix until thoroughly blended. Press the mixture evenly over the bottom of the cake pan (no need to wash out the bowl, you can reuse it for the filling). Bake in the preheated oven for 20 minutes, until beginning to brown.
  3. Make the filling: In the same bowl you used for the crust, combine all of the filling ingredients and mix until thoroughly blended. Spread this mixture evenly over the baked crust. Return the pan to the oven and bake for another 20-25 minutes or until the filling is firm and golden brown on top.

Notes

*The cooking times and nutritional info noted in this recipe are approximate.

A stand mixer is not necessary — you can make this recipe stirring by hand or using a hand mixer.

In the photo, I cut these into smaller-than-usual squares because I was making them for a group that requests bite-sized servings.

Keywords: macadamia recipe, macadamia rum cookie bars, coconut recipe

Late August Menu + Crispy Pecorino Romano Chicken Sandwiches

Shall we talk about what we’re eating? Here’s what went on at our house this week:

dinners written out on a white board

Usually we deviate from the white board slightly but, this week, I’m glad to say it all went pretty much as planned. Let’s discuss the juicy details, and keep scrolling for how I finally perfected the Crispy Pecorino Romano Chicken Sandwich pictured at the top, which has been haunting my dreams.

*This post contains affiliate links to some of my favorite cookbooks. If you click a link and make a purchase, I may earn a small commission.

late august dinners

What we made this week, with notes:

Saturday 8/13/22: Fig, caramelized onion, and bacon pizza. Come on. Do I need to say this? It was obviously amazing. The recipe came from NYT Cooking except I used fresh figs we grilled last week and added shredded fontina and goat cheese to the blue cheese called for in the recipe. More is more when we’re talking cheese.

Caramelized Onion, Fig, and Bacon Pizza on a cutting board

Sunday 8/14/22: Beef phyllo pie with salad. Wowzers… this was even better than expected and I expected a lot — it is super-seasoned meat wrapped in flaky pastry, after all. I’d originally planned to add some sauteed zucchini and bell peppers but then thought, “Calm down here, just try it the way the recipe was written.” Very glad I did — this phyllo pie needs nothing but the beef, the feta, the fresh herbs on top, and maybe a little lemony yogurt sauce on the side. The recipe came from the cookbook “To the Last Bite” by Alexis deBoschnek . Except, her recipe used lamb. Lolz, I guess I didn’t follow the recipe 100% but whatever — it was still amazing and will be making it again!

Monday 8/15/22: Chicken mole with cilantro-lime beans and rice. A repeat recipe in our house from America’s Test Kitchen’s book, “Dinner Illustrated: 175 Meals Ready in 1 Hour or Less”. It sounds wrong, but this mole sauce can be made in like… 10 minutes. And it’s reeeeeaaalllly good. This time, I used the leftover chile-peanut salsa from last week’s skirt steak tacos in the mole and it worked great!

Tuesday 8/16/22: Crispy Pecorino Romano Chicken Sandwiches! Recipe below! Proud to say, on what ended up being the third try, I finally nailed the right combo of ingredients (following last Sunday’s fried chicken cutlet disappointment). The elements that righted all my past sandwich wrongs: a toasted brioche bun (not a kaiser roll!), my standby Crispy Pecorino Romano Chicken recipe (crackly and crispy, not greasy like previous attempts), and homemade quick pickles for a much-needed tangy crunch. Hallelujah.

Wednesday 8/17/22: –leftovers–

Thursday 8/18/22: Smoked ribs with cola BBQ sauce, roasted sweet potatoes, and salad. Fun times and a good bottle of shiraz were had on Thursday. This cola BBQ sauce is where it’s at. The recipe came from Toni Tipton-Martin’s cookbook ,”Jubilee” and is the sauce she pairs with the orange-glazed wings shared last week. Loved! I mean… look at these freaking ribs:

glazed ribs on aluminum foil

Friday 8/19/22: Pasta with white vodka sauce, garlic bread, and salad. Heck yeah! A deceptively simple recipe that tastes like the best alfredo sauce you’ve ever had but better, from my all-time favorite book, “Italian American: Red Sauce Classics and New Essentials: A Cookbook” by Angie Rito and Scott Tacinelli. I bought this book b/c Bon Appetit wrote about its mussels stuffed with pepperoni rice recipe and I thought, “These people get me.” I’m quickly cooking my way through the whole thing and am very glad I tried this buttery, creamy, onion-and-shallot-laced pasta. It’s fab. No photo b/c we ate it too fast.

What a tasty week! Now please enjoy this crispy chicken sammy:

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Crispy Pecorino Romano Chicken Sandwiches

crispy chicken sandwiches on parchment paper

Thinly sliced chicken coated in a mixture of grated pecorino romano cheese and breadcrumbs and pan-fried, topped with shredded cabbage, parmesan, and quick pickles, sandwiched between toasted brioche with a generous layer of lemony mayo!

  • Author: Megan
  • Prep Time: 30 minutes
  • Cook Time: 20 minutes
  • Total Time: 50 minutes
  • Yield: 4 servings 1x
  • Category: dinner, lunch

Ingredients

Scale
  • 1 English cucumber, thinly sliced
  • 1 tsp salt, plus more for seasoning the mayo
  • 1/2 C white vinegar
  • 1/3 C sugar
  • black pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 C mayo
  • 1/4 C greek yogurt
  • a squeeze of lemon juice
  • Crispy Pecorino Romano Chicken
  • shaved Parmesan
  • shredded napa or savoy cabbage
  • 4 brioche burger buns, toasted

Instructions

  1. Make the quick pickles: in a large bowl, toss thinly sliced cucumber in a teaspoon of salt and let sit for an hour in the fridge with a heavy bowl on top to help press the liquid out. Drain off the liquid, stir together the vinegar and sugar until the sugar has dissolved (or mostly dissolved) then toss the cucumber slices in the vinegar mixture, season with pepper, and refrigerate until ready to eat.
  2. Make the lemon mayo: stir together the mayo, yogurt, and lemon juice. Season with salt, to taste.
  3. Assemble the sandwiches in this order: toasted brioche bun, lemon mayo, 1 piece of Crispy Pecorino Romano Chicken (slice in half and stack it to make it fit), shaved Parmesan, quick pickles, shredded cabbage, more lemon mayo on the top half of the toasted brioche bun.

Notes

*The cooking times and nutritional info noted in this recipe are approximate.

Keywords: crispy chicken sandwich, pecorino romano chicken, chicken breast recipe

Mid-August Menu + Orange-Glazed Grilled Wings

Back again with another week’s worth of dinners and a recipe! Here was the original plan for the week:

dinners written out on a white board

We didn’t totally stick to this plan but came pretty close. Pizza delivery made an appearance and one meal was swapped out because our grocery store didn’t have what I needed, plus I found FIGS at the farmer’s market. Fig life forever.

*This post contains affiliate links to some of my favorite cookbooks. If you click a link and make a purchase, I may earn a small commission.

Mid-August dinners

What we made this week, with notes:

Saturday 8/6/22: Grilled fig and cheese skewers w/ hot Italian sausage. Man, this was a good one. We were meant to have grilled halloumi and veg skewers but my local search for halloumi only turned up something called The Big Moo baked cheese, which I now never want to be without. It can be grilled or cooked in a skillet and tastes just like a grilled cheese sandwich, except no bread. We threw the above-mentioned figs on skewers with the cheese, some red onion, and tossed it all on the grill alongside sausage. *Chef’s kiss* and so good for summer. Check it out:

figs, cheese and onions on skewers

Sunday 8/7/22: Fried chicken cutlet sandwiches with fries. This was… ok. I was following a recipe for the breaded and fried chicken cutlets and, IMO, it ended up too greasy-tasting. We can do better! Stay tuned for round two of this meal next week.

Monday 8/8/22: We ordered pizza! I did also make the coconut curry meatballs mentioned in the photo above but that was for the folks I cook for at our local inn. I used this coconut curry pork meatball recipe from How Sweet Eats, used turkey instead of pork, subbed ground almonds for the breadcrumbs, (one of the gals at the inn doesn’t like to eat pork and is gluten-intolerant) and added sweet potato and spinach. For me, this recipe is as good as takeout. Winner! I just didn’t make enough for Joey and me to eat, plus we had friends over for haircuts… it was a busy night, so pizza was the solution.

Tuesday 8/9/22: leftoveeeeers

Wednesday 8/10/22: Skirt steak tacos with chile-peanut salsa. This recipe came from Alison Roman’s cookbook ,”Nothing Fancy”. The salsa, which is just toasted dried chiles, peanuts, and oil, came out a little bitter (I think b/c I overtoasted the chiles). However, we added lime juice and honey and it ended up tasting good enough that I’m going to reuse it in a mole sauce this week. Fab!

Thursday 8/11/22: Curried turkey and vegetable quinoa. Here, I was messing with a simple recipe from Alex Guarnaschelli’s book, “Cook With Me” by adding zucchini, red onion, and tomatoes to a ground turkey quinoa pilaf seasoned with curry powder. I topped it with the spicy chakri mix from Trader Joe’s, which turned an otherwise soft, semi-textureless meal into a crunchy adventure. Loved, and will be making it again with even more tweaks.

Friday 8/12/22: Orange-glazed grilled wings, roasted broccoli, and fries. Wing recipe below! What a way to end the week.

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Orange-Glazed Grilled Wings

orange-glazed chicken wings on a sheet pan

Grilling chicken wings on indirect heat for 15-20 minutes, then tossing them in a sweet and salty orange glaze and throwing them back on the grill for a couple minutes prevents the glaze from burning and gives you perfectly sticky, glazed, grilled wings. The glaze recipe came from Toni Tipton-Martin’s book ,”Jubilee”. (In the book, she shares a method for oven-baking the wings if you prefer not to grill them, and pairs them with a delicious barbecue sauce.)

  • Author: Megan
  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 25 minutes
  • Total Time: 30 minutes
  • Yield: 20 wings 1x
  • Category: dinner, lunch, appetizer
  • Method: grilling

Ingredients

Scale
  • 20 chicken wings
  • canola oil for coating the wings
  • 3 TBS orange marmalade
  • 1 TBS light brown sugar
  • 1 TBS soy sauce
  • 1 TBS lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 tsp of kosher salt, plus more for seasoning the wings
  • 1 tsp black pepper, plus more for seasoning the wings
  • 1/4 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp ground cumin
  • 2 TBS toasted sesame seeds

Instructions

  1. Preheat a grill, setting one side to medium heat and one side to medium-high.
  2. Pat the wings dry with paper towels and either brush them with canola oil or use a canola oil spray to coat them on all sides. Season with salt and pepper.
  3. Whisk the remaining ingredients together in a large bowl and set aside.
  4. Place the wings on the side of the grill set to medium heat and grill for 15 to 20 minutes, turning occasionally, until the skin is just starting to show grill marks and the wings are cooked through.
  5. Transfer the wings to the bowl with the orange glaze and toss to coat. Place them back on the grill, this time on the side set to medium-high, and cook for a few minutes longer, turning occasionally, until the glaze is showing grill marks. Be careful not to take your eyes off the wings during this step, as the sugar in the glaze can easily burn.
  6. Sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds and serve.

Notes

The cooking time and nutritional info noted in this recipe are approximate.

Keywords: grilled wings, grilled chicken wings, grilled glazed wings, orange-glazed chicken wings

Giant Dinner Salad

Giant Dinner Salads: if you know, you know. When the mood strikes, they can be your one-way ticket to total satisfaction, in a leafy-green kind of way. (Looking at you Charred Corn Salad and Steak and Apple Salad😘.) If you’re familiar with this blog at all though, you’re aware there will be more than just greens in this salad bowl. In my on-going saga of “more is always more”, we’re adding farro, cheese (Parmesan is good but manchego is great), smoked almonds, sliced pears, and dried cranberries to this towering pile of good-for-you greens. Also, this Giant Dinner Salad features thinly sliced chicken breast. But, you are welcome to leave that out for a meat-free situation and things will still be delicious.

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Beef and Beer Stew with Cheddar Dill Scones

Here’s the thing. I’m all about healthy food and vegetables. And, I can even get behind using up all the odds, ends, and scraps of your plant-based delights in the interest of maximizing nutrients and such. But, I’m also veeeeery into super-cozy comfort food, and that’s what we’re dealing with today. This Beef and Beer Stew with Cheddar-Dill Scones is semi-quick-cooking (when compared to traditional beef stew, anyway), super-flavorful thanks to a beer-infused beef stock, and the whole shebang is topped with flaky, cheesy, herby scones. Yes, yes, and yes.

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Squash and Country Ham Hand Pies

Listen up, friends – it’s fall! Ok, it’s been fall ever since this epically delicious mac and cheese found its way into our mouths and hearts. But in this moment, fall means cozy, savory hand pies stuffed with an earthy butternut squash and salty country ham filling. And did I mention the pastry is loaded with toasted pecans? Yup. Fully channeling autumnal North Carolina goodness here.

hand reaching for one Squash and Country Ham Hand Pie
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Brown Butter Gingersnap Rice Krispie Treats

Rice Krispie Treats are back on this blog again… for many reasons. First, they are a no-bake dessert (read: perfect for lazy people, like me). Second, they are undeniably good. And third, they are an excellent vehicle for other yummy things, like brown butter and gingersnapssssss! Yuh. Oh, and I’ve thrown a big scoop of white chocolate chips in the mix, too, because, why not?

Brown Butter Gingersnap Rice Krispie Treats
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Sweet Potato Collard Green Fritters

I want to say I pulled this recipe out today because I was just trying to use up some last bits of veg in my house. But, the truth is, I have a long-standing, undying love for vegetable fritters. Sometimes, a fizzy batter and a shallow fry in a skillet is the best treatment you can give a vegetable. That’s the case today with these sweet potatoes and collard greens.

Batter for Sweet Potato Collard Green Fritters on a wire rack with lemon wedges
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Caramelized Onion and Bacon Mac and Cheese

Every once in a while a meal is created that you just want to curl up in bed and snuggle with. This is that meal. Macaroni and cheese already falls squarely in the comfort food category but when you add sweet caramelized onions and salty, smoky bacon to it… It’s a real situation. You might be thinking, “Nah, that sounds too rich for me,” to which I would say, “Get real. It definitely is not.”

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