Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Carino's Italian Nachos

I know.... sounds strange... Italian nachos? But if you've ever been to Carino's (formerly Johnny Carino's) and ordered their Italian Nachos appetizer, you know they are SOOOO tasty! Seriously....
So, why not make them at home?

All I did in my attempts to recreate this masterpiece was first, look at the description of Carino's Italian Nachos on their online menu:

"Crispy pasta chips, Italian sausage, and/or chicken, olives, pepperoncinis, tomatoes, jalapeƱos, alfredo, mozzarella and parmesan cheese"

Cristpy pasta chips.... hmmm.... after searching the store for fresh pasta sheets (with no success) I thought of something else I had that I could substitute. Uncooked flour tortillas-- no not just your ordinary package of tortillas, but uncooked, flattened, rounds of dough ready to be cooked into tortillas. In Utah you can buy these at most grocery stores, and definitely at Costco. When I moved out to Ohio I was devastated to find that they did not carry them in the Costco here. Over the past year and a half I have been bringing them with me from Utah when I go to visit! BUT, don't worry... any of you Ohioans.... you aren't out of luck. When I went to Costco here last month, I saw that they had FINALLY decided to order them!!!! Hooray!

So, here is what I do:

If you like deep frying stuff, you can go ahead and deep fry some chips. However, for the sake of 1) less mess and 2) a healthier alternative,  I just bake them instead.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees

Stack up a few tortillas . Poke several holes in the tortillas with a fork (so that the chips don’t puff up and become all hollow when you bake them).

Use a pizza cutter (or a knife) to cut 8 wedges out of each tortilla. (like you’re cutting a pizza)

Separate all the triangles. Toss all the “chips” in olive oil until they are all lightly coated
OR after putting them in a single layer on a pan, spray them with olive oil spray.
OR..... now that I think of it.... it would probably be easy to just brush the tortillas with the oil BEFORE you cut them..... hmmm..... why have I never thought of that before?

Put chips in single layer on a cookie sheet. Sprinkle lightly with salt if desired.

Put in oven for 4 to 6 minutes, until lightly golden brown. Keep an eye on them! They are done when they are crisp like a chip :) Use your judgement.

You may have to do a few batches, depending how many chips you want.

Italian Sausage
This is NOT the same as breakfast sausage. Make sure it says ITALIAN sausage. You can usually find it by the other ground meats. We use hot, but you can use mild if you don't like things too hot. If you can't find just a package of ground italian sausage, you can buy the uncooked Italian sausage links, and just remove the casings off the sausage links.
Brown and break up the sausage in a skillet.
Alfredo Sauce-- store bought or homemade

Tomatoes chopped

Green onion chopped

Sliced olives

Canned sliced jalapenos and/or pepperoncinis (we usually just use jalapenos)

Shredded Mozzarella cheese

Shredded parmesan cheese

Fresh basil chopped

Layer on baking sheet-- chips, sausage, alfredo sauce, veggies, then top with shredded cheeses.

Place in the oven just until cheeses melt.

Top with fresh basil and devour!!!!!

Usually I end up serving a little extra alfredo sauce on the side, in case there wasn't quite enough on the nachos to begin with.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

"Moose Munch" (Caramel/Toffee Popcorn)

Thats right folks. Moose Munch. Moose Munch is the name of a gourmet toffee popcorn sold by Harry and David (known for their delicious fruits, confections, and other gourmet food gifts). It is quite delicious. But, believe me.... making it at home will save you TONS of money! Plus, all your friends will love you IF you decide to share it.


First, you'll need about 5-6 quarts of popcorn. You could either air pop some if you have a popper. Or, if not, use the 94% Fat Free microwave popcorn. About 2 bags should do the trick (depending on how coated you want your popcorn, you could always do another half a bag or more. Personally, I am a fan of lots of caramel/toffee).  

You'll want to make sure your popcorn is popped and ready. I recommend you pop it and then shake the bowl a bit to get all the unpopped kernels to go to the bottom, then carefully scoop all the popcorn into a very large bowl, leaving the unpopped kernels behind. Believe me, you don't want to bite into a caramel covered kernel unexpectedly..... Oh, and let me emphasize the words VERY LARGE BOWL. The larger the bowl, the easier it will be to stir the popcorn to coat it in caramel when the time comes. Otherwise, the popcorn doesn't seem to stay in the bowl very well.

To make the caramel/toffee you will need:


2 sticks of butter
2 cups brown sugar
1/2 cup dark corn syrup
1 tsp salt

Stir together in a pot on the stove, melt,  and bring to a boil. Allow to boil for 5 minutes. You don't need to stir it or anything while it boils.

While it is boiling, make sure you have your popcorn is waiting for you and have your vanilla and baking soda prepared as well (measurements below).

Also, turn your oven on to 200 degrees.

After 5 minutes of boiling, remove from the heat and stir in:

1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp baking soda (make sure there aren't any clumps)

Make sure it is well mixed in.Then, pour the caramel mixture over your popcorn.  Use a large wooden spoon to carefully stir the popcorn, coating it in the caramel. Stir, stir, stir, scraping the caramel off the bowl to make sure you get all of its goodness onto your popcorn.

Spread the popcorn onto two cookie sheets. Place in the oven. Bake for 1 hour total. Halfway through, turn the popcorn with a spatula and stir it around a bit. (You might also want to rotate your cookie sheets if you have them on two separate racks.)

Remove from oven and allow to cool.

Once the popcorn is cooled, you just break it apart and store it in an air tight container!

There are plenty of fun and tasty ways you can add to this basic recipe.

Want your popcorn CHOCOLATE coated as well? Melt some chocolate chips and then drizzle (or pour it... depending on how coated you want it!) the chocolate over the popcorn when it is partially cooled, then allow to cool and harden. You could use dark chocolate, semisweet, milk, white..... whatever you like! Have fun with it!

Are you a NUT lover? Try adding any combination of nuts to the popcorn BEFORE you pour the caramel over it. Then, mix the popcorn, nuts, and caramel and bake in the oven just as directed above. Almonds, peanuts, pecans, cashews........... nuts anyone?