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November 2015



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Nov. 16th, 2015


Beef Lasagna

Cooking for a picky eater takes an adjustment.  Everyday cooking style must be explained and recipes that you adore have to be adapted or put on a shelf for when that picky eater isn’t eating with you.  About half of what I like to eat, the picky eater in my household won’t eat (curries I’m looking at you, stroganoff you also are a no go), but other things that I enjoy can be adjusted so that we both can enjoy.  Whether that is serving some things on the side (like mushrooms), pulling servings out before “finishing” a dish, or changing the ingredients, adjustments while not easy, can be made to make all parties satisfied.  I’m thankful that my picky eater isn’t vegan.

In this recipe, I changed what I usually do for a lasagna the following ways:

            1)  I changed 1 pound of mild sausage and 1 pound of 85/15 ground beef to 1.75 pound   ground beef
            2)  I removed the fennel
            3)  I used canned sauce instead of homemade (mostly to shorten time)
            4)  I upped the mozzarella cheese from ¾ cup to 1.5 cups

Please note that while this recipe is very easy to make, it does take time and has a lot of steps.  If you layer it differently that listed below, that's fine it'll still be yummy.  I recommend taking the full time to reduce the sauce with the beef.  The flavor will pay out of this.  If you wish to make this for dinner, I recommend this on a weekend or you will have a late dinner after work.  This recipe takes approximately 2.5 hours to make as written, but the vast majority of that time is hands off.

Beef Lasagna


*  1.75 pound 85% ground beef
*  1 yellow onion, minced
*  5 cloves garlic, smashed and minced
*  1 tbsp tomato paste
*  48 oz Classico tomato and basil
*  ½ cup water
*  1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
*  2 tsp kosher salt
*  1 teaspoon ground black pepper
*  12 lasagna noodles
*  16 ounces ricotta cheese
*  1 egg
*  1.5 pound mozzarella cheese (shredded or sliced your choice)
*  3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese


1.  In a stock pot or dutch oven (use one that is not cast iron here, unless your cast iron is coated in ceramic) bring 1 tbsp of olive oil to medium high heat.  Add the onion reduce the heat to medium.  Cook the onion, stirring infrequently for 6-7 minutes.

2.  Add garlic and cook for an additional minute, then add the tomato paste.  Break up the tomato paste so the onion become brick red.  Cook for about 1-2 minutes.

3.  Add beef and brown, breaking the beef down into a fine mince.  Drain the fat at least once, preferably twice.

4.  Once the meat is fully browned (no pink showing) add the tomato sauce.  I listed the one I used in this recipe, but feel free to use your favorite.  This recipe used two glass jars.  I loosened the sauce that sticks to the jar with ¼ cup water per jar and added the watery sauce mixture of both jars to the pot.  Salt and pepper the mixture.  Add the Italian seasoning.

5.  Reduce the heat to low and cover the pot partially.  The lid should be crooked and facing away from the kitchen to allow the steam to leave the pot and the sauce to reduce a bit.  Cook the sauce for at least 20 minutes, preferably longer (about 40 minutes is ideal).

6.  Remove the sauce from the pot and reserve in a large bowl.  Rinse the pot out and add about 3-4 qts water.  Salt the water with about 2 tsps salt (not in the ingredient list).  Bring to a boil.

7.  Meanwhile, heat the oven to 375 F.  My oven takes about 15 minutes to come up to temperature.  Start your oven earlier if yours takes longer.

8.  When the water boils add the first 6 noodles.  Cook the noodles as directed (mine took 8 minutes).  Meanwhile prepare the ricotta by placing the ricotta in a small bowl and adding the egg.  Whip the mixture together until the egg is well incorporated.

9.  Also assemble your ingredients in an easy fashion so that it makes putting together the lasagna a snap.

10.  Place 1 cup of the beef mixture on the bottom of a greased 9x13 pan and spread till smooth.  Add the six cooked noodles to the pan so that they overlap well.

11.  Bring the pot to a boiling and add the remaining six noodles.  Cook the second batch as directed again.

12.  Layer ½ of the ricotta mixture on the noodles in the pan, spreading so that the mixture is fairly smooth.

13.  Add 1/3 of the mozzarella on top of the ricotta.  Cover the mozzarella with about 1.5 cups of the beef mixture.  Top the beef mixture with 1/2 of the parmesan.

14.  Remove the second batch of cooked noodles from the pot and layer on top of the parmesan.

15.  Add remainder of the ricotta mixture on top of the noodles.  Add ½ of the remaining mozzarella and the remainder of the beef mixture.  Cover with remaining mozzarella and the remaining parmesan.

16.  Grease the inside of some foil and cover the lasagna.  Bake for 25 minutes covered and then remove the foil and bake an additional 25 minutes.

17.  Pull the lasagna and let rest about 15 minutes prior to cutting.  This keeps the lasagna together when you cut.  Don’t worry, it’ll stay plenty warm during the resting period.

18.  Slice width wide into five strips and length wise into three strips.  Makes about 15 servings (unless you have seconds).  Serve with a small side salad and a slice of garlic bread if you wish.  Leftovers of this are divine.  Eat this for lunch with some fruit.

Serves 15 | Calories 504 | Fat 21.6 g | Saturated Fat 10.5 g | Cholesterol 105 mg | Sodium 955 mg | Potassium 69 mg | Carbs 37.6 g | Fiber 1.0 g | Sugars 4.2 g | Protein 39.9 g 

Nov. 12th, 2015


Slow Cooker Beef Pot Roast

It’s that time of year officially now.  Pennsylvania has had a spate of extremely warm weather this fall.  Even a week ago, the high reached 70 F.  But that stretch of warmer weather I think is finally over.  While we are still not as cold as per usual, the shorter day combined with the usual Pennsylvania cloudy fall days have conspired to dreary blah days.  Time for something hearty.

Our house uses the slow cooker pretty heavily, usually at least once a week but three times a week is not unusual.  We grew up in the far south, so slow cookers in the summer always made sense to us.  They just don’t heat the house up as much.  While here it makes sense also to use the slow cooker during the fall and winter months as well.  Hearty stews are perfect for the season, but the real plus is having a warm meal on the table quick after work.  It’s hard this time of year to get motivation to cook when it’s basically pitch black out when you leave work.  Slow cooker to the rescue.

I vastly prefer a beef pot roast that is cooked in a Dutch oven.  I like the contrast of textures you get in the oven, however that said, this slow cooker version is never one we will turn down.  A sacrifice of extra crunchy bits and the darker broth is somewhat easily traded for the convenience of dinner being ready after work and the gym.  (And it gets my young niece to bed quicker too!)

Slow Cooker Beef Pot Roast


·         1 3.5-4-pound beef chuck roast (or other suitable stew meat, avoid the precut stew meat packages)
·         1 tsp Kosher salt
·         Freshly ground black pepper
·         1/3 cup all-purpose unbleached flour
·         3 tbsp olive oil
·         1 tsp garlic powder
·         1 tsp onion powder
·         3 large carrots, cut into 2-inch pieces
·         4-6 medium Yukon potatoes, cut into quarters
·         1 medium yellow or Spanish onion onion, cut into 1/2-inch wedges
·         1 tbsp minced garlic
·         3 tablespoons tomato paste
·         1 cup water
·         3 cups low- or no sodium beef broth
·         2 bay leaves
·         2 sprigs fresh thyme


1.  Bring a large cast iron skillet to medium high heat with 2 tbsp of olive oil.

2.  Sprinkle the roast all over with 1 tsbp kosher salt, cracked black pepper, onion powder, and garlic powder.

3.  Coat the beef in flour and shake off any excess.

4.  Add the roast to the skillet and cook until browned on each side of the meat.  This will take around 8-10 minutes.

5.  Transfer roast to a large crockpot (at least 6 qt).

6.  Add the remaining 1 tablespoon oil to the skillet and reduce heat to medium.  Scrape the bottom of the skillet to release
any leftover bits from the roast.

7.  Add the tomato paste and garlic.  Stir the mixture until oil begins to turn brick-red and the garlic is fragrant.  Add the beef broth and water.  Let simmer about 2-3 minutes.

8.  Add the broth mixture to the crockpot.

9.  Add the carrots, onions, and potatoes to the crockpot along with the bay leaves and the thyme.  Cover and cook on low for 8-10 hours.  (I usually do around 10 hours)

10.  Remove the roast and let it rest covered with tin foil on a cutting board for a few mixtures.

11.  Remove the vegetables and reserve them in a separate container for service.  Strain the broth and remove the bay leaves and thyme.

12.  At this point you can either thicken the gravy or serve as is.  Make sure to test the seasoning and adjust if needed.  If you wish to thicken the gravy, slurry one cup of broth with 1 tbsp of corn starch.  Add the slurry to the gravy and stir.

13.  Carve the roast into slices and serve warm with gravy and reserved vegetables.  Enjoy!

Serves 9 | Calories 440 | Fat 16.2 g | Saturated Fat 5 g | Cholesterol 158 mg | Sodium 654 mg | Potassium 1145 mg | Carbs 14.4 g | Fiber 2.5 g | Sugars 3.4 g | Protein 56.6 g

Nov. 4th, 2015


Slow Cooker Turkey Bolognese

A few notes to this recipe.  I had to sub some items that I would not normally sub due to thinking I had certain ingredients and then realizing later that I didn't have them.  (Later being when I already was in the process of making this recipe.)  I usually would use a whole spanish onion chopped along with dried basil and red wine instead of white.  I also did not have celery which I like to add to this dish.  I don't keep anchovies in my house, but I like that umani taste in a bolognese so I subbed fish sauce for the achovies.

I also engaged in some short cuts because this was a spur of the moment sort of dish.  I was planning on making it later in the week but my sister decided she wanted it today...at 8 am.  I would usually cook the milk down in the turkey mixture prior to adding it to the crockpot.  Stirring all the ingredients prior to adding the milk and cooking on a low temperature should help with the milk being incorporated in a different stage of the dish.  Additionally, the milk if added to the ground turkey would have been doubled as I cook it down pretty far in the usual rendition of this sort of dish.

Slow Cooker Turkey Bolognese
Adapted from Slow Cooked Bolognese Sauce

·         2 tablespoon olive oil
·         1/2 large red onion minced
·         2 carrots, halved
·         1 tbsp minced garlic
·         2 tbsp tomato paste
·         2 pounds 93/7 ground turkey breast
·         1 tbsp kosher salt
·         3 tbsp fresh basil
·         1 tbsp Italian seasoning
·         1 tsp fresh ground pepper
·         ½ cup 2% milk
·         2/3 cup white wine
·         44 oz diced tomatoes no salt added (1 28 oz can and 1 16 oz can)
·         24 oz tomato puree
·         1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
·         1 tbsp fish sauce


1.  In a large stock pot heat 1 tbsp olive oil over high heat.  Add ground turkey breaking apart the meat and browning.  Add to a large crockpot.

2.  In the same pot heat 1 tbsp olive oil over medium heat and cook onion for about 5-6 minutes.  Add garlic and tomato paste and cook another minute.  Add mixture to crock pot.

3.  Add the diced tomato and tomato puree to crock pot along with 1 cup of water.

4.  Add basil, halved carrots, salt, Italian seasoning, pepper, fish sauce, balsamic vinegar, and wine to crockpot.  Stir the mixture and then add the milk.  Stir again so everything is well combined.

5.  Set the slow cooker to low and cook for 8-10 hours.

6.  In the last 30 minutes or so of cooking, check the sauce.  If it looks too loose, remove the lid and raise the temperature too high to allow the extra liquid to evaporate.

7.  Cook the pasta during this last 30 minutes or so as the pasta directs.  Make sure the water is well salted.

8.  Serve over pasta with parmesan shavings on top.  You can also use this sauce for lasagna.  Freeze the extra in freezer bags laying flat.  The frozen sauce will be good for about 3 months if stored correctly.

Serves 9 | Calories 259 | Fat 11.3 g | Saturated Fat 3.8 g | Cholesterol 74 mg | Sodium 1198 mg | Potassium 456 mg | Carbs 18.2 g | Fiber 4.5 g | Sugars 10.6 g | Protein 23.2 g

Nov. 2nd, 2015


Best Stove Top Mac & Cheese

If you’ve been around you have seen my struggle to get a stove top mac recipe to be what I want.  Every time I have tried a new recipe I hope that this one will be my stove top mac & cheese, but they all have failed.  Even Alton Brown let me down.  So with some surprise I admit that this weekend’s attempt…SUCEEDED.  The recipe bones I’ve seen many times on Pintrest, but have discounted it every time.  It was too radical.  It was too weird.  Damn it, it works.

A thanks to Budget Bytes blog without which I would have continued to resist to try this recipe.  This recipe serves two but is easily doubled or tripled.  Please note that if you use pre-shredded cheese the mac will have a slight grittiness to it.

Best Stove Top Mac & Cheese
Adapted from Miracle Mac and Cheese


·         1.5 cups 2% milk
·         1 cups dry macaroni
·         1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
·         1 tsp salt
·         1/8 cup shredded parmesan cheese
·         1/2 tsp ground mustard
·         Ground pepper


1.  Combine 1.25 cups milk, parmesan, and the pasta together in a medium saucepan with a lid.  Cover the pot and bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring occasionally.

2.  When the milk begins to boil, reduce the heat to low and continue to simmer or until the pasta is tender.  Keep stirring infrequently to prevent the milk from sticking or burning at the bottom of the pan.  This step should take around 7 minutes or so.

3.  When the pasta is finished cooking and has retained most of the milk, season the mixture with salt, ground mustard, and pepper.

4.  Add the shredded cheese and stir till it is all melted.  Add the reserved milk and mix together until everything is creamy.

5.  Serve immediately.

Serves 2 | Calories 410 | Fat 17 g | Saturated Fat 10.3 g | Cholesterol 55 mg | Sodium 1557 mg | Potassium 233 mg | 41.5 g Carbs | Fiber 1.5 g | Sugars 9.6 g | Protein 23.2 g


Maple Nut Granola

Granola is my weakness in the winter.  I could dive straight into a vat of it and be perfectly happy munching away.  I tend to stay towards the less fruity types and focus on the granolas that emphasize more subtle flavors.  I save the fruit for fresh toppings.
Maple Nut Granola
Adapted from Maple Nut Granola


·         1 cup maple syrup (use the real stuff)
·         2 tbsp olive oil
·         1 tsp real vanilla
·         3 cups old fashioned oats
·         1/2 cup chopped cashews
·         1/2 cup chopped walnuts
·         1/2 cup slivered almonds
·         1/4 cup flax seed
·         1 tsp kosher salt
·         1 tbsp ground cinnamon


1.  Preheat oven to 325 F.

2.  In a large mixing bowl combine the oats, nuts, cinnamon, and flax seed.  Set aside.

3.  In a small saucepan over medium heat combine the maple syrup and olive oil.  Bring to a boil stirring occasionally.

4.  Remove from heat and add salt and vanilla to the pot.

5.  Pour the maple syrup mixture over the oats and stir to combine.

6.  Spread the oat mixture over a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

7.  Bake for about 40 minutes stirring occasionally and spinning the pan in the oven.  Pull the oats when they start to toast and let completely cool.  (The nuts and oats will continue to harden while cooling).

8.  When completely cool, store the oats in a Mason jar or Tupperware container.  This will keep for about 2 weeks on the counter in a cool spot.

Makes 3 cups – 12 servings (1/4 cup per serving) | Calories 347 | Fat 13.4 g | Cholesterol 0 mg | Sodium 198 mg | Potassium 336 mg | Carbs 48.9 g | Fiber 5.9 g | Sugars 17.3 g | Protein 8.4 g


Red Curry Coconut Shrimp Soup

 When my sister isn’t home, I indulge in food that I don’t really get the opportunity to make at home any more.  I’m looking forward to splitting households for that reason, but at the same time will miss the craziness that happens when you combine two adult women, a toddler, and a dog in a house.

This soup is adapted from Wok’s of Life 15 Minute Curry Soup.  I changed it for my purposes, but check out the original for more ideas.

Red Curry Coconut Shrimp Soup


·         2 tablespoons olive oil
·         2 garlic cloves, chopped
·         2 tablespoons chopped white onion
·         2 tablespoon fresh ginger, grated
·         2 tablespoons Thai red curry paste
·         6 oz. deveined and peeled medium shrimp
·         5 cups water
·         3 tsp chicken base
·         1 tablespoons fish sauce
·         2/3 cup coconut milk
·         1/2 cup thinly sliced red bell pepper
·         1 cup thinly sliced baby portabella mushrooms (or other firm small mushroom)
·         4 oz. dried rice vermicelli noodles
·         1 lime, juiced
·         Chiffonade basil for serving


1.  In a large saucepan over medium heat add the oil, garlic, onion, ginger, and Thai red curry paste.

2.  Toast in the oil the aromatics for about 5 minutes, stirring infrequently. 

3.  Meanwhile, bring a smaller pot filled with water to a boil.  Cook the vermicelli noodles as directed (unless the noodles do not require precooking then skip to the serving step.  Add them to the bowl and pour the hot broth over top)

4.  Add the water, chicken base, fish sauce, coconut milk, and shrimp to the pot with the ginger mixture.  Bring the mixture to a boil.  Add bell pepper and mushrooms.  Let boil for about 4-5 minutes.

5.  Taste the broth for seasoning and adjust if needed.  Add water if too salty.

6.  Place the noodles into two bowls and top with the basil.  Squeeze the lime into the broth and then pour the broth into each bowl.

Serves 2 | Calories 694 | Fat 39.4 g | Saturated Fat 20.5 g | Sodium 3848 mg | Potassium 598 mg | Carbs 63.7 g | Fiber 3.8 g | Sugars 5.4 g | Protein 20.1 g

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Red Heart

French Baguette

French Baguettes
Adapted from Mark Bittman’s French Bread


·         3.5 cups bread flour, plus more if needed
·         2 tsp kosher salt
·         1.5 tsp instant yeast
·         1 cup water, plus more if needed


1.  Place the flour in the stand mixer and start the mixer on low.  Add the salt and yeast and continue to process.  Bring the speed up to medium and add a cup of water a little at a time into the mixer.  If you need to stop and push down the flour, feel free.

2.  Once the water is incorporated wait to see if the dough starts to travel on the hook.  If so and the dough looks relatively smooth don’t add any more water and let the dough kneed for about 1-2 minutes.  If the dough looks too dry and shaggy add another 1 tbsp of water or so.  If the dough is sticking to the side of the mixer and not becoming a ball add another 1 tbsp of flour.  You are looking for a slightly wet ball of dough. 

3.  Oil a separate bowl with about 1 tsp of olive oil.  Dump the dough into the large bowl and cover with plastic wrap.  Allow to rise at least 2 hours but preferably 3 hours.

4.  Once risen, shape the dough on a lightly floured counter into baguettes.  Place the baguettes on a baking sheet if using.  Allow the baguettes to rise another 2 hours.

5.  30 minutes prior to baking bring the oven up to 450 F.  Place a cast iron skillet or similar shaped baking dish on the bottom rack while the oven is coming to temperature.

6.  Slash the baguettes and then place the baguettes in the oven (either on a baking sheet or directly on a stone) on the top rack about 10 inches away from the top of the oven.  Drop 1 cup of ice and 1 cup of water into the cast iron skillet on the bottom rack.

7.  Close the oven and bake the baguettes about 20 minutes or until golden. 

8.  Once golden, pull from the oven the bread and allow to cool on wire racks.  Wait until entirely cool and then serve.

Serves 6 | Calories 268 | .8 g Fat | 0 ml Cholesterol | 778 mg Sodium | 99 mg Potassium | 56 g Carbs | 2.2 g Fiber | 7.9 g Protein

Oct. 23rd, 2015


Slow Cooker Spicy Italian Sausage and Kale Soup

In an effort to continue to eat well but cheaply during the week, I turn more and more towards my crockpot. Already a vessel that I adore, there is something so satisfying to start a meal in the morning and come back in the evening with it 98% done.

This week I ate pretty cheaply and well for lunch. I started my crockpot on Sunday and used some ingredients I already had. My grandfather gave me a couple pounds of potatoes last week and I had some leftover kale from a neighbor desperate to get rid of his excess. I made a big batch of chicken stock a week ago out of scraps.  Basically the only things I paid for was the meat, the onion, and the milk.  Love those sort of meals.

This soup is very similar to the Olive Garden Zuppa Toscana, but different enough that I didn't call it a copycat.

Slow Cooker Spicy Italian Sausage and Kale Soup


*  1 lb ground Hot Italian sausage (I found a package without casing, but if you can only find links, pop them out of there casing prior to cooking)
*  5 medium potatoes, peeled and diced.  Should be around 5 cups of potatoes.
*  1 medium yellow onion, diced (Spanish not sweet)
*  2 tsp chopped garlic
*  128 ounces chicken stock (I used homemade)
*  1 bunch of kale, destemmed and sliced into 2 inch pieces
*  1 cup 2% milk (I used organic milk purchased for my niece)
*  Salt and pepper, to taste

NOTE:  If you like a thicker soup, use about 1-2 tbsp flour slurried into the milk prior to using.


1.  Heat large saute pan over medium high heat and brown sausage.

2.  Yank out the slow cooker, turn onto low.

3.  Add cooked sausage to slow cooker, reserve the fat in the pan.

4.  Add the onion to the sausage fat and saute about 3 minutes, then add garlic and saute about 30 seconds.

5.  Add onion mixture to slow cooker along with the chicken stock.

6.  Cover and cook on low for 5 hours up to 9 hours.

7.  30 minutes prior to service, add the kale and milk.  Cook on high for 30 minutes.

Serves 6 | Calories 439 | Fat 22.5 g | Sat Fat 7.4 g | Sodium 2039 mg | Potassium 1068 mg | Carbs 35.9 g | Fiber 4.9 g | Sugars 7.2 g | Protein 22.9 g 

Oct. 6th, 2015


Sugar Cookie Cut Outs

My family has been making one sort of cut out cookie for as long as I can remember and likely as long as my mother can remember.  I am not a fan of them.  We call them "Kris Kringles" and they only show up around Christmas time like a cherished affair.  I make them dutifully for my family upon request the whole time thinking...there are better cookies out there.  Yet like a well worn pair of pants that should really be trashed, I still come back and eat them-of course, after all of my favorite cookies are gone and the Kris Kringles are appropriately stale.  It's Christmas time.  I am usually desperate for more sugar like an addict.

In any event, my sister recently mentioned to me that she wanted to make sugar cookies for her 15 month old daughter to decorate.  (My sister is very into sensory activities with her daughter.  It's a thing).  She, of course, purchased one of those packets that promise perfect sugar cookies.  I appropriately said I'll make some.  Mind, that I have NEVER made sugar cookies before.  So I reached out to some of my favorite blogs and adapted a recipe from Sally's Baking Addiction.

They turned out fabulous.  Optimately you will want to make these cookies at least 12 hours ahead of frosting, if you wish for frosted sugar cookies.  I made the cookies the night before we frosted and cooled completely before bagging them for the next night.  Then, out of the bags and into a toddler's hand they went to be decorately frosted.

Sugar Cookie Cut Outs
Adapted from Sally's Baking Addiction
Cooling Time in Refridgerator:  At least an hour
Cooking Time:  Approxiately 8-10 minutes at 350 F.  (The second batch at 10 was too long, so watch them carefully)
Cooling Time:  At least 12 hours

*  3/4 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature (1-2 hours is what I usually aim for.  The butter should be somewhat soft when pressed)
*  3/4 cup white granulated sugar
*  1 large egg (remove from refrigerator at least 30 minutes before mixing)
*  2 teaspoons vanilla extract
*  2.25 cups white unbleached all purpose flour (don't pack this)
*  1/8 tsp cream of tartar
*  1/4 tsp baking soda
[Or if prefered, instead of the cream of tarter and baking soda use 1/2 teaspoon baking powder]
1.  In a stand mixer's large bowl (you can use a handheld here, but standmixer is preferrable) fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium speed until creamy.  This should take about 1 minute, but do not go longer than 1.5 minutes.  Scrape down the sides as needed.

2.  Add the sugar and beat on high speed until fluffy, around 3 minutes.  Scrape down the sides as needed.

3.  Add the egg and vanilla and beat on medium until combined around 1-2 minutes.

4.  Stop the mixer and add the cream of tartar and baking soda (or the baking powder in place of both).  Add one cup of flour.  Start the mixer on low at first and slowly bring up to medium speed until the flour is all incorporated.

5.  Stop the mixer and add the remainder of the flour.  Start on low at first again and slowly bring up to medium speed until all the flour is incorporated.

6.  Stop the mixer and remove bowl.  Split the dough in half and roll each half into a ball.  On two sheets of parchment or wax paper place one ball on each.  Flatten the balls into ovals and stack the papers on top of each other.  Place the two papers on top of a half-sheet pan and refrigerate at least 1 hour.  If refrigerating overnight, cover the top cookie oval with another piece of paper.

7.  15 minutes before you plan to bake the cookies, preheat the oven to 350 F.

8.  Bring the cookie dough out and roll each oval to a rectangle about 10 inches by 8 inches and about 1/4 inch thick.  (If your rectangle is smaller or large than that, it's ok.  Just make sure it's consistently 1/4 inch thick throughout and you'll be fine.)

9.  Prepare two sheet pans with parchment paper, silpat, or cooking spray.  Cut out the cookies with your desired shapes (or use a drinking glass to create perfect little circles).  Place each cut cookie about 1/2 inch away from the next on the prepared sheet pans.

10.  Bake each tray for about 8-10 minutes a piece, making sure to turn the cookies halfway through the time.  If cooking together watch carefully.  They may need to cook another minute or so.  You are looking for the edges and top to become a light golden color but not toasted.

11.  Pull the cookies from the oven and allow to cool on the sheet pans around 20 minutes.  Remove the cookies carefully from the sheet pans on to wire racks to let cool completely (about 1 hour or so).  Transfer to bags once completely cool.  If there is the slightest bit of warmth, hold off on the bagging.  The cookies will become soggy if you don't.

12.  12 hours later, remove the cookies from the bags and frost.
Makes 14 large cookies or 20 medium cookies.  Calories calculated on 14 large.

Calories 207 | Fat 10.4 g | Cholesterol 39 mg | Sodium 97 mg | Potassium 35 mg | Carbs 26.2 g | Fiber .5 g | Sugars 10.9 g | Protein 2.6g

Sep. 17th, 2015


Beef Lo Mein

I attempted a new recipe last night.  While the flavors are similar to several other chinese/japanese sort of dishes I make the end result was noticeably different from anything else I've made.  Now, spoiler alert, I have never had any sort of lo mein...ever.  It's actually my sister's favorite dish for chinese order out (I don't count Pad See Yu because that's Thai).  She liked this recipe but wasn't wowed by it saying it was missing something.  Next time she orders I'll snack a bit on her order to figure out what was missing.  Once I figure out what is missing, I'll update this recipe, but I found it enjoyable enough to share.  This recipe is a conglomeration of several I found plus my own twists.  Stir frying happens fast so make sure all the vegetables and the meat are prepped before hand and all of the other items are in easy reach.  I usually made a "stir fry" section on my counter where everything is together.
Beef Lo Mein

*  8 oz. flank steak,  sliced thin against the grain on an angle (I usually freeze the meat to make this process easier)
*  1 teaspoon corn starch
*  1 tbsp light soy sauce
*  1 teaspoon canola oil (for marinade)
*  2 tbsp canola oil (for frying)
*  10 oz lo mein noodles (read the packaging and prepare as directed, some lo mein noodles are preboiled and only need to be added at the frying stage)
*  1 cup shredded green cabbage
*  1.5 cup broccoli florets
*  1 medium carrot, julienned
*  1/2 cup beef stock
*  2 tsp garlic
*  1 tbsp white wine (next time I'll use sherry or shaoxing wine but I was out of both)
*  1/2 cup white onion thinly sliced
*  1 tsp sesame oil
*  2 tbsp oyster sauce
*  kosher salt
*  cracked black pepper


1.  Marinate the steak in soy sauce, oyster sauce, 1 tsp canola oil, a pinch of kosher salt, a couple cracks of black pepper, and corn starch.  Set aside.

2.  Bring a pot of water to a boil if the lo mein noodles are not pre boiled (follow directions on package).  And drop the noodles in the boiling water.  My noodles only needed 4 minutes of cooking.  You don't need salt or oil in the water (I know it feels weird not to salt the water)

3.  Remove the noodles and rinse in cold water to stop the cooking.

4.  In a large fry pan or wok bring about 1 tbsp of canola oil to medium high heat.  Add the beef and the marinade.  Cook until beef is cooked throughout.  Remove beef and marinade and set aside.  Wipe the pan clean.

5.  In the clean pan bring the remaining 1 tbsp of canola oil to medium high heat.  Add garlic and cook about 30 seconds stirring the entire time to prevent burning.  Add carrots and onions and cook about 2-3 minutes, stirring the vegetables.  Add cabbage and cook another 1-2 minutes.  Add broccoli cook another minute.

6.  Add beef stock to the pot and cover letting the vegetables steam about 2-3 minutes.

7.  Remove the cover and add the beef and the beef marinade to the pot.  Cook until the sauce starts to reduce a bit (around 1-2 minutes) and then add the lo mein noodles.

8.  Toss everything several times so everything is coated in sauce.  Taste and adjust seasoning.  Turn off the heat and add the sesame oil, tossing all the contents again so that everything is well coated.

Serves 4 | Calories 481 | Fat 14.2 g | Saturated Fat 2.8 g | Cholesterol 31 mg | Sodium 1397 mg | Potassium 405 mg | Carbs 69.5 g | Fiber 4.3 g | Sugars 10.8 g | Protein 23.4 g

NOTE: You can easily change this recipe up in regards to protein or vegetables.  Just make sure everything is sliced thin for even quick cooking.  This would be great with ramps, green onion, snow peas, chicken, shrimp, tofu, bok choy...etc.

Sep. 15th, 2015


High Heat Roasted Chicken

There are a couple of ways that I roast a chicken.  On colder weekend days, the best way is low and slow.  A bird cooked at 300-325 F for several hours, coated in butter, stuffed with herbs, and on a bed of sturdy vegetables.  A quick way I like to cook a roast, is butterflying the chicken, pressing it flat, coating it with salt and olive oil and cooking at 375 F.

Another quick way, and a truly fun way, is the high heat roast.  Warning:  The high heat roast chicken feels wrong.  There is no butter or oil on the bird...really.  Nothing.  Just some salt on the dry skin (be sure to remove the chicken from the fridge about 30 minutes from roasting and pat dry) and if you are feeling super fancy, stuff the interior of the bird with some fresh herbs or lemons.  And that's it.  Okay...not really it.  You have to cook it...really hot.  Like scorchingly, are-you-sure-your-oven-gets-this-hot hot.  There are plenty of variations out there for a high heat roasted chicken, but this is the one I've adapted over the years and fall back on.

High Heat Roasted Chicken


*  4-6 pound whole chicken (fryer is ok)
*  kosher salt
*  [optional] Thyme, rosemary, sage, onion, or lemon (or any combination thereof - pick sturdy veg, fruit, or herbs if not using the suggested ones)


1.  30 minutes prior to cooking, move the racks in the oven so that the bottom rack is in the second to last position.  The other rack can remain in the oven so long as a cast iron skillet and an uncovered chicken can fit within.  I also leave both of my circle stones in my oven to help keep the oven hot (one on each rack).

2.  Preheat the oven to 500 F and place a cast iron skillet on the bottom rack.  Close the door and let come up to full temperature.

3.  Remove the chicken from the packaging and pat dry.  (You make the skin crispier if you let the chicken air dry in the fridge for several hours, but you can skip this step if it freaks you out.  I usually just forget it.  Make sure, if you do this, that nothing touches the chicken in the fridge or your will have contamination problems.)

4.  Coat the dry chicken VERY generously with kosher salt.  You want a thick crust of salt.  If you are worried about salt content in your diet, don't eat the skin when it comes out (which would be a shame) or scrape the salt off after cooking.  Prior to cooking you must do this in order to get a super crispy crust.  Yes.  Put the salt on the bird like you have no care for sodium content.  Then coat again.  Really.

5.  Stuff the chicken if desired for the picture below I hurriedly chopped some lime thyme from my garden and two yellow onion quarters.

6.  Once the oven is to temp either carefully remove the cast iron skillet and place chicken in skillet or do what I do and pull the rack out that has the skillet on it and plop the chicken in the skillet (braving horrible burns along the way).  Your choice.  In any event, get the chicken in the skillet as fast as safely possible and put the skillet back on the bottom rack.  Close the door and don't open it...even if you are tempted by the smell.

7.  Cook at 500 F for 10 minutes.  You should be prepared for smoke in your house.  Start the hood vent and open some windows.  This is dinner and a show.

8.  Then reduce the heat to 450 F and roast about 10 minutes per pound.  Really.  Just 10 minutes per pound.

9.  Once the timer goes off.  Turn off the oven and walk away.  Yes.  Walk away.  For at least 5 minutes, but I usually leave it for 10 minutes while I frantically make some sides.

10.  Pull the chicken out of the oven with the skillet.  Remove the chicken carefully and place on a cutting board to rest for 10 minutes covered in foil.  Place the skillet on a burner and make a pan sauce if you'd like.  Or just eat the awesomeness right out of the pan, like I usually do.  (The dog likes this juice as well).

11.  Once your chicken has rested, carve it up.  You won't regret it.  Serve hot with some awesome sides or some fabulous bread, or let cool and store in the fridge for later prep (think shredded chicken salad or as a sub for rotisserie meat).  Enjoy!

[NOTE:  I have never had a problem with this chicken being cooked through, but this is because I let the chicken rest for 30 minutes on the counter prior to cooking.  I would advise checking the meat with a thermometer or slicing into the chicken to make sure the juices run clear before serving.]

[NOTE 2:  Excuse the chicken picture.  I sort of, kind of, forgot the kitchen twine outside (I also use it for tomatoes) and it got soaked in two rain storms.  I didn't feel like it was food safe any longer.]

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Sep. 9th, 2015

Red Dress

Grilled Romaine and Chicken Salad

A restaurant near my home is famous for its grilled caesar. This restaurant has been serving this wedge salad for as long as I can remember, but at least since 2000 when I had it for the first time. It is awesome. Now I'm not claiming they were the first to try this, but it was very memorable when I first had it there. My mother took me for lunch as a thank you for helping her out at her office. I wasn't even allowed to have a menu. She just said trust me, get the grilled caesar with chicken. I trusted her and I was not disappointed. To this day I still get this salad on occasion, but not always with chicken. The grilled romaine drizzled in caesar (homemade of course) is usually rich enough for my tastes.

Last week I mentioned to my sister that I wanted to grill romaine for a salad and instantly she said just like that restaurant? I laughed. Even my picky sister loves this salad (she just pretends that their caesar doesn't have anchovies in it...I won't spoil it for her). In this recipe I used ranch that I had on hand and my sister used a greek vinaigrette. While we both enjoyed those choices, I still think the caesar dressing is king with this. Next time I would like to experiment with a spicy ranch with some grilled shrimp.

Grilled Romaine and Chicken Salad


*  2 heads romaine, split in half with about 1/8 inch trimmed off the end (make sure not to trim too much off the end or it won't hold together) and 1 inch trimmed off the top
*  dressing of choice
*  1 chicken breast, defrosted
*  1/2 cup shredded parmesan
*  olive oil
*  kosher salt
*  2 slices of bread, cut into 1 inch squares (or use premade croutons)
*  fresh cracked pepper


1.  Turn the grill on and bring it up to temperature.  If you use a charcoal grill (like I do) make sure the coals are grey prior to cooking.

2.  Brush the chicken breast with olive oil, and sprinkle generously with salt and pepper.  Cook for about 15-20 minutes on the grill (or until juices run clear) turning to create grill marks

3.  Meanwhile, in a small skillet bring about 1/4 cup of olive oil to medium high heat and season with pepper and salt.  Once the oil is up to temperature, add the bread cubes and toss vigerously.  Drop the temperature to medium low and let toast.  Make sure to toss the bread cubes every so often to prevent the bread from burning.

4.  While the croutons are cooking, bring out a baking sheet and place the romaine halves cut side up.  Brush the cut sides generously with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.  Turn the romaine halves over and repeat with the other side.

5.  Once the chicken has been cooking for at least 15 minutes, bring out the romaine and place cut side down on the grill carefully.  The oil might make flare ups with the grill so proceed cautiously.  Each romaine half should only need about 1 minute on the cut side and one minute on the non-cut side, but use your best judgement.  I like the romaine to have grill marks and be slightly wilted.  Pull the romaine as soon as you feel its done and place back on the baking sheet.

6.  Pull the chicken once the juices run clear and let rest about 5 minutes before cutting.

7.  On the warm romaine halves, sprinkle about 1/4 cup of parmesan on the cut sides.  Reserve the remaining 1/4 cup of parmesan for serving.

8.  Pull the croutons once done off the heat and toss again.

9.  After the chicken is done resting cut the breast into either thin strips or cubes.

10.  Serve two romaine halves per person as a main or one romaine half per person as a side.  Top with equal shares of parmesan, croutons, and chicken.  Use your choice of dressing on top.

Serves 2 as a main or Serves 4 as a side

Aug. 24th, 2015

Red Heart

Asian Style Peanut Broccoli Salad w/Quinoa

I'm always looking for recipes for lunch that travel well, suit my need for change (especially due to living with a picky roommate), and I won't get bored of during the week.  This week I'm taking a recipe I found on Gimme Some Oven and changing it to suit my taste and bulk it up to make it suitable for a lunch and not a side.

Asian Style Peanut Broccoli Salad w/ Quinoa


*  2 cups chopped fresh broccoli (chop in bite sized bits)
*  1 cups frozen and defrosted lima beans (or use any other sort of sturdy bean such as cow peas or edamame)
*  1 cup thinly-sliced green onions
*  1/2 cup peanuts, slightly crushed
*  1 cup uncooked quinoa, rinsed several times in cold water to remove the acrid taste (trust me don't skip this step)
*  1 tbsp fish sauce
*  3 tbsp reduced sodium soy sauce
*  1 tbsp minced ginger
*  2 cups water
*  kosher salt and pepper
*  1/2 cup smooth peanut butter (I had Skippy Reduced Fat in cupboard...use your favorite)
*  2 tbsp rice wine vinegar
*  1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
*  1 tsp honey
*  4 tbsp water
*  4 cups baby spinach

1.  Place a large saucepan and a medium saucepan on the stove over medium high heat.  In the large saucepan bring several cups of water to a boil, covered.

2.  In the medium sauce pan bring 2 cups of water, 1 tbsp fish sauce, 1 tbsp soy sauce, and ginger to a boil.

3.  Once the ginger water mixture is boiling, add 1 cup of quinoa and reduce heat to a simmer.

4.  In a large mixing bowl, add defrosted lima beans, green onions, and peanuts.  Set aside.

5.  In a small bowl, heat the peanut butter about 30 seconds in microwave to soften and make easier to mix into a dressing.  Remove and set aside.

6.  Drop the broccoli into the large sauce pan once the water starts to boil.  Cook about 1-2 minutes, to desired "crunchiness."  I like a little crunch, so I boiled the broccoli only 1 minute.  Drain the water and rinse the broccoli in the pot under cold water until the broccoli is no longer warm to the touch.  (Alternatively you could do an ice water bath, but I don't have an automatic ice maker so I avoid this step).

7.  Remove cooked quinoa off the stove as soon as the water is all absorbed.  Add to the lima bean mixture and stir to combine.

8.  Add broccoli to the quinoa mixture.

9.  In the peanut butter bowl, add remaining soy sauce, honey, 4 tbsp of water, salt, pepper, rice wine vinegar, and sesame oil.  Whisk until smooth adjusting the texture with a little more water if you'd like a thiner dressing.

10.  Toss the quinoa mixture with the peanut butter dressing.  Divide the salad into four tupperware containers (could be divided even smaller with additional vegetables or protein in the mix) and store in the fridge for lunch.

11.  In the morning, prior to bringing the lunch to work, add 1 cup of uncooked baby spinach to the container.  (This keeps the spinach from getting to soggy).  Serve warm or cold as desired.

Serves 4 | Calories 552 | Fat 24.9 g | Saturated Fat 3.8 g | Cholesterol 0 mg | Sodium 1067 mg | Potassium 946 mg | Carbs 62.5 g | Fiber 11 g | Sugars 8.6 g | Protein 23.8 g

Aug. 21st, 2015


Vegetable Frittata

I love frittatas, not only for their taste and convenience, but also because of their wonderful fridge and freezer cleaning abilities.  Last night I was in urgent need of dinner for one.  I looked in the fridge and saw eggs, vegetables, and cheese.  FRITTATA TIME!  Feel free to change the vegetables.  Just make sure you have roughly 1.5-2.5 cups of ingredients + cheese + eggs for this size frittata (about 5 eggs).  You can also reduce the calories by removing the provolone and reduce the feta to 1/8 cup.  Cholesterol and calories can be reduced by switching in some egg whites or using egg beaters.

Vegetable Frittata


*  1/4 cup cow peas, parboiled (black eyed peas)
*  1/2 cup chopped cherry tomatoes
*  1 tsp oregano
*  kosher salt and pepper to taste
*  1/4 cup feta
*  1/2 slice of provolone cheese, roughly pulled into 1 inch pieces
*  5 large eggs
*  1/2 cup chopped bell pepper
*  1/2 cup chopped white onion
*  1 tbsp unsalted butter


1.  Preheat your oven to 400 F.

2.  In a small cast iron skillet (about 5-6 inches wide) over medium heat, melt the butter.

3.  Add the white onion and saute about 4-6 minutes.

4.  Add bell pepper and saute for another 2-3 minutes.  Then add the cow peas, salt, and pepper.

5.  Quickly whip the eggs together with the provolone cheese and pour over the pepper mixture.

6.  Sprinkle feta and cherry tomatoes on top of the egg mixture and place the cast iron skillet in the oven about 8 inches from the top element.

7.  Switch the oven immediately from bake to broil.  Broil about 2-3 minutes, watching to prevent the frittata from burning.  You want a few scorched pieces but not a ton.

8.  Pull from oven carefully and serve hot.

Serves 2 | Calories 378 | Fat 24.8 g | Cholesterol 502 mg | Sodium 498 mg | Potassium 400 mg | Carbs 19.7 g | Fiber 7 g | Sugars 5.7 g | Protein 28.7 g


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Aug. 19th, 2015


Chickpea Curry

I am addicted to curry.  I love it in all forms whether it be green, red, yellow, Thai, Indian...  Pretty much every way you can make curry...I'm there.  My sister hates curry or at least states that she hates curry.  She's never actually had it.  This may be because of the smell or may be because of my mother's stated hatred for it.  Regardless due to the fact my sister lives with me and we eat most dinners together, curry is usually not an option.  Lately I have been making things that I enjoy for lunch even though that sometimes creates friction in our house.

My sister is of the opinion I use too many ingredients to make a dish and she doesn't want to help pay for it.  Mind, my sister also devours ice cream like its nobody's business, eats a variety of snacks that would stump most people, and insists on the fried rice that I make that contains a wealth of ingredients and sauces.  Largely I ignore her complaints.  But for recipes like this I like to point out...look, there are only x ingredients.  I think her attestation of my ingredient use is largely inaccurate, but as most things, you can't convince your family to discard their hard held beliefs.  In any event, this recipe uses what I consider basic pantry items.  I usually have all of this in my kitchen at all times, but even if you don't, the ingredient list is fairly cheap.  The result is wonderful.

Chickpea Curry
*  1 tablespoons olive oil
*  1 large yellow onion, chopped finely
*  kosher salt, to taste
*  cracked black pepper, to taste
*  1 tbsp curry powder (I used a Malaysisan yellow ginger curry - feel free to use your favorite)
*  1 tbsp tomato paste
*  2 tsp chopped garlic
*  1 cup chicken stock
*  30 oz canned chickpeas, drained and rinsed (about 2 regular sized cans)
*  1 15 oz can of coconut milk (I prefer the lite coconut milk, but use your favorite)
*  1 tbsp clover honey
*  1 tbsp hot sauce

[Optional - cilantro, lime juice, pressed tofu, ginger, cooked eggplant, cooked carrot, naan or rice as a side]


1.  Cook the rice if serviving with rice (not calculated in calories)

2.  In a large skillet, bring the olive oil to temperature over medium heat.  Add onion and sautee for about 10 minutes.  The onion should start carmelizing and turning a lovely brown color.  (This would be the time also to add eggplant or carrot if using)

3.  Season onion with salt and pepper.  Add curry powder, garlic, and tomato paste.  Let cook for about a minute.  (This would be the time to add ginger and lime juice if using)

4.  Add chicken stock and bring to a simmer, scrapping the bottom of the pan for any delicious little brown bits.

5.  Add chickpeas, coconut milk, honey, and hot sauce (if using).  (This would also be the time to add chopped pressed tofu if using).

6.  Bring the mixture to a boil and then reduce temperature to a simmer.  Simmer for about 15 minutes uncovered, or until the sauce has reduced by a third.  You want the curry to be on the thicker side, not watery.
7.  Taste and adjust seasoning if needed.  Serve with rice or naan.  Or with a side of steamed vegetables.  (If desired sprinkle some chopped cilantro and some squeezed lime juice over top before eating).

Serves 4 | Calories 330 | Fat 12.5 g | Saturated Fat 5.6 g | Cholesterol 0 mg | Sodium 548 mg | Potassium 546 mg | Carbs 46.9 g | Fiber 9.6 g | Sugars 6.7 g | Protein 12.2 g

Aug. 15th, 2015


Slow Roasted Tomato Sauce

I have an abundance of tomatoes in my garden. Besides making salsa and debating the merits of making dried tomatoes, I made a large batch of slow roasted tomato sauce that I froze in 4 quart sized bags this weekend. The base recipe is pretty simple and I usually throw whatever I feel like in the pot. No seriously, I've been known to throw in fish sauce and soy sauce into the pot for a certain umami taste (fish sauce is just like anchovies...right?). The best part of this sauce? Having your whole house smell like lasagna for hours while its simmering away on your stove. Now the "slow roasted" part of this recipe is a bit of a misnomer. The version I'm sharing with you today does not use the oven at all. Now I do use the oven for another version of this recipe where I basically stick everything in an oven at around 300 F for several hours in a large Lodge cast iron dutch oven (yes you can use cast iron with tomatoes so long as it's well seasoned before and after...seriously people its iron, it'll be ok)

Slow Roasted Tomato Sauce

*  4-6 pounds of various in season tomatoes (don't worry if they are Roma or beefsteak.  Pick whatever looks good)
*  1 quart of various cherry tomatoes
*  1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
*  1 tbsp tomato paste
*  2 tbsp olive oil
*  Salt and pepper to taste
*  4 tsp chopped garlic
*  1 whole white onion, chopped
*  3-4 stalks celery, leaves on and chopped
*  2-3 large carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
*  basil
*  dried oregeno


1.  Prepare a large stock pot with boiling unsalted water and a large bowl filled with cold water and ice.

2.  Score the bottom of the larger tomatoes with an x (don't bother with the cherry, but do score the bottom of Roma sized tomatoes all the way up to beefsteaks).  Once the boiling water has been prepared, slowly dip the scored tomatoes in the boiling water and let cook for about 30 seconds or until the skins seem to wrinkle.

3.  Slowly and careful use a slotted spoon to remove the tomatoes and place in ice bath.  Repeat as much as necessary placing the cooled tomatoes on a chopping board after their ice bath in order to make room for the rest of the tomatoes as they are being processed.

4.  Dump the ice bath water and the boiling water.  Dry the pot and place it back on the stove over medium heat.

5.  Slip the skins off the tomatoes and roughly chop them.  If desired, remove the seeds (I don't usually bother) and make sure to remove as much of the tomato cores as possible.

6.  While preparing the tomatoes add olive oil to the empty stock pot.  Add carrots, onions, and celery and let simmer for about 10 minutes.

7.  Remove any green bits from the tops of the cherry tomatoes.  Slice in half if desired (I don't usually bother)

8.  Add garlic and tomato paste to stock pot and cook for about 30 seconds or until fragrant.

9.  Add all the tomatoes to the stockpot and bring to a simmer.  Cook for about 2-4 hours, checking every 30 minutes or so.
10.  Add basil and oregano.  Remove from heat and blend with an immersion blender (or carefully in a food processor or blender).

11.  Place back on stove and taste.  Adjust seasoning if needed.  Add balsamic vinegar and cook for another 30 minutes to 1 hour.

12.  Remove from heat and allow to cool if you are planning on storing in freezer bags.

13.  If serving immediately, remove stockpot from heat and prepare pasta, reserving 1/2 cup pasta water after pasta finishes cooking.  Place a frying pan on stove and bring to medium heat.  Add as much pasta sauce as desired into the frying pan.  Add about 1/2 cup of pasta water and let simmer for 1-2 minutes.  Add cooked pasta and toss.  Serve.

Aug. 5th, 2015


Garden Explosion - Quick Marinara Sauce

My garden is exploding.  After four hours of work Sunday afternoon, it's somewhat back under control.  [Check out the bottom of this post to see the haul.]  But in reality the garden is throwing produce at us and we are desperately trying to use all of it.  Pickles are a good way to use some items.  So is canning.  But one of my favorite ways to devour the excess produce is to make meals out of it.  This week I make Tzatziki and Marinara with the massive amounts of cucumbers and tomatoes I have.  This marinara receipe comes out of pulling tomatoes off my counter to make BLTs last night and realizing that one was past its slicing prime.  It was a large "mortgage lifter" tomato, about two pounds of awesome glory that was destined for destruction...or was it.  As my sister and I devoured our BLTs last night and watched "So You Think You Can Dance" my tomato was simmering away creating a sauce for today's lunch.

Quick Marinara Sauce


*  2 pounds of tomatoes, most of the seeds removed and chopped.  Peeling optional (or one 32oz sized can of whole peeled tomatoes)
*  1 tbsp minced garlic
*  1 tsp fresh thyme
*  1 tsp dried basil
*  1 tbsp good olive oil
*  1/4 cup diced white onion
*  1 tbsp tomato paste
*  Kosher salt, to taste
*  Fresh black pepper, to taste


1.  In a medium sauce pan on medium high heat, add the olive oil and warm.

2.  Simmer the onions in the oil for about 4-5 minutes, or until softened.  Add a pinch of kosher salt.

3.  Add garlic and soften about 30 seconds to a minute.  Add tomato paste and stir.

4.  Dump the chopped tomatoes into the pot, along with the basil, and thyme.  Bring to a simmer and then reduce the heat to low and cover for about 15 minutes.

5.  Remove the lid and bring the temperature up to medium and let simmer for about 5-10 minutes to reduce the liquid in the sauce.

6.  Taste the sauce and add salt and pepper to taste.

7.  Serve warm or cold over a plate of noodles.  Also great to add to other dishes in the place of marinara.

*  Note 1:  Depending on your tomatoes, you may want to add a pinch of sugar or honey to reduce the acidity of the tomatoes.  I usually don't need to do this, but still check just in case.

Serves 2 | Calories 162 | Fat 8 g | Cholesterol 0 mg | Sodium - not calculated | Potassium 1199 mg | Carbs 22 g | Fiber 6.4 g | Sugars 13.9 g | Protein 8 g

*  Note 2:  I served this over Barilla Farfalle with some shredded mozzarella and added about 1/8 cup of cold greek yogurt to the sauce.

Jul. 30th, 2015

Red Heart

Refrigerator Cucumber Pickles

My garden is exploding.  Somedays I feel like I'm swimming in tomatoes and cucumbers!  Last week I picked almost 20 cucumbers, way more than two adults and one infant can eat by themselves.  So cucumber pickles.

While in the U.S. most people equate cucumbers with pickles, pickles can be made out of many more vegetables, "scraps," and proteins.  My family is Danish so we pickle a lot of things (not that my sister would eat any of that).  I spent a semester in Denmark and ate so much pickled fish I'm surprised I didn't smell like pickles.  In Pennsylvania the Amish are fond of pickling eggs and beets (eggs usually are pickled in beet juice).  In the south where I grew up we pickled pigs feet, okra, and green beans.  I'm sure there is almost no limit to pickling.  But today we are doing refrigerator pickles, also known as quick pickles, with cucumbers.

There are two main ways to pickle something, quick pickling or process pickling.  Quick pickling is the easiest and should be used for more delicate items such as cucumbers that don't hold up as well when cooked.  Quick pickling involves heating the vinegar (and other items) on the stove top and dumping the whole lot in the jar along with spices and vegetable you are pickling.  The jar remains on the counter till cooled and then stored in the refrigerator.  Process pickling is a form of canning.  Everything is combined and then the jars are heated until the tops "pop" indicating a good seal.  At which time, the pickles are usually self stable for around a year (sometimes more).

Today is a riff off The Kitchn's fabulous quick pickle receipe.  If you have never canned or pickled, this is a great entry recipe to try out.  The cute mason jars are, of course, a bonus.

Refrigerator Cucumber Pickles


*  3-4 large cucumbers (Kirbys and Persians are usually the best, I used Marketmore as that is what is growing in my garden)
*  2 cups apple cider vinegar (you can also sub white vinegar but it will make the pickles more sharp tasting)
*  2 cups water
*  3 tablespoons kosher salt
*  3 tbsp minced garlic (1 tbsp per mason jar)
*  3 teaspoon dill seed (1 tsp per mason jar)
*  3 pint mason jars (make sure the jar is a canning jar) and 3 lids


1.  Wash and slice the cucumbers.  I usually do spears, but "coin" pickles would also be lovely.

2.  Wash and dry the mason jars and lids.  You don't have to sanitze them as you aren't making the pickles shelf stable, but you can if you'd like.

3.  In a large pot, combine vinegar, water, and salt.  Bring to a simmer.

4.  Portion out the dill seed and garlic between the three jars.

5.  Arrange the cucumbers in the jars and pack in firmly.  Don't damage them, but make sure that you aren't wasting any space.  This is easier to do with "coin" sliced cucumbers that spears.

6.  Pour the vinegar mixture over the cucumbers leaving about 1/2 inch to 1 inch of headspace at the top.  Tap the jars lightly on the counter to release air bubbles.  You might have to tap a few times to assure all the bubbles have been released.

7.  Apply the lids and tighten firmly.  The jars should sit on the counter until they are at room temperature.  Don't be fooled if they "feel" like room temperature at the top and the sides of the jar.  Pick up the jar and feel the bottom.  It should also be at room temperature.  You can speed this up by lightly shaking the jars every 5-15 minutes to keep redistributing the liquid, but you really don't need to.

8.  Once completely cool store in the refrigerator and do not open for at least 48 hours to allow the cucumbers to soak in the vinegar brine. Eat within a month (some last longer but that's my "benchmark).

9.  Once finished I recommend saving the brine and reusing it on the stove top for the next pickle batch.  Add more vinegar and water (1/1) if needed.


Slow Cooker Red Beans & Rice

Good afternoon everyone.  This weekend I made a large batch of Red Beans and Rice using the slow cooker.  They turned out wonderful!  It's one of those recipes that start out with, "well that ingredient looks good, what can I make with that?"  Those sort of foods usually turn out pretty great in my experience.  I make a lot of bean dishes.  Not only are they cheap, but they are delicious and relatively guilt free.
Red Beans and Rice


*  1 tablespoons olive oil, divided
*  1 medium white onion, chopped
*  1 large bell peppers, chopped (I like to use whatever looks the best at the store or in the garden: red, green, yellow)
*  4 stalks celery, chopped
*  3 carrots, chopped
*  1 tablespoon kosher salt
*  2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
*  2 tbsp minced garlic
*  3 tbsp chicken base
*  12 oz smoked sausage (I used Turkey Sausage but feel free to use whatever), sliced into half moons
*  1/2 package of smoked bacon (around 8 oz), chopped
*  1 bay leaves
*  2-3 sprigs fresh thyme
*  1/2 cup hot sauce (you can reduce if you feel this is too hot)
*  2 tbsp cayenne pepper
*  1 tbsp cajun seasoning
*  13 cups water (10 for beans, 3 for rice)
* 1 pound dried red kidney beans, rinsed and picked of debris
*  2 cups rice (I like to use basmati or jasmine)


1.  Place a large slow cooker on high and cover.

2.  In a skillet, add 1/2 tbsp of oil and heat on medium high.  Add peppers, carrots, and celery and cook until softened.  Add to slow cooker.

3.  Place chopped bacon in skillet and cook until crisp.  Add to slow cooker reserving bacon fat.

4.  In the bacon fat add the chopped turkey sausage and cook for about 5 minutes or until well browned.  Add to slow cooker.

5.  Add the remaining 1/2 tbsp of oil to skillet with the white onion.  Cook about 2 minutes and then add garlic.  Cook for about 1 minute and add to the slow cooker.

6.  Place 10 cups of water into the slow cooker along with the fresh thyme, bay leaf, chicken base, cayenne pepper, black pepper, salt, cajun seasoning, hot sauce, and beans.  Cook on high for 5 hours or on low for 8-9 hours.  You do not need to presoak the beans (but if you have GI issues you might want to quick boil the kidney beans for about 10 minute to reduce GI distress.  Red beans are notorious for this...but I personally have never had a problem with them).

7.  30 minutes before serving.  Bring 3 cups of water and 2 cups of rice to a boil on medium heat.  Reduce heat down to low and cook covered, fluffing occassionaly.  The rice should be done in 15-20 minutes.

8.  Take a potato masher and mash some of the red beans in the crockpot, to desired textue.

9.  Serve pipping hot over cooked rice and enjoy!

Serves 8 | Calories 708 | Fat 27 g | Saturated Fat 8.3 g | Cholesterol 67 mg | Sodium 3910 mg | Potassium 1336 mg | Carbs 79 mg | Fiber 11.3 g | Sugars 4.3 g | Protein 35.9 g

Jul. 2nd, 2015


Green Salad w/Hot Pork Dressing

When I heard about this recipe I was skeptical but still willing to try it. I imagined it would be similar to a local dish, spinach with hot bacon dressing or somewhat like a cabbage stir fry. The original recipe was modified a bit. I had some ground pork leftover from potstickers and added some cucumbers from my garden. Btw, grow cucumbers. I pick anywhere from 15-30 a week.

Green Salad with Hot Pork Dressing
Adapted from the Kitchn

For the hot pork dressing dressing:
*  1 tablespoon olive oil
*  2 tablespoon minced garlic
*  1 tablespoon minced ginger
*  1/3 pound ground pork
*  1/2 teaspoon kosher salt (or to taste)
*  1 tablespoon soy sauce
*  1/2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
*  1/2 tbsp rice wine vinegar
* 1/2 cup warm water
*  2 teaspoons cornstarch
*  1/4 cup cold water
*  1/2 teaspoon roasted sesame oil

For salad:

4 cups romaine, shredded
1-2 cups peeled and seeded cucumbers

1.  Prepare cucumbers (peeling, seedings, and chopping) and place the lettuce and cucumbers in 2  large salad bowls

2.  Place heavy skillet over medium-high heat.  When hot add the olive oil and swirl until warm.  Add garlic and ginger, stirring until soft and turning a light brown color.

3.  Add the meat, chopping to break it up into small clumps (like taco meat).  Cook until the meat starts to brown.

4.  Add the soy sauce and vinegars.  Stir to blend.

5.  Add the warm water and stir.

6.  While the pork dressing mixture is coming to a boil, place the cornstarch in a small cup or bowl and stir in the cold water to make a smooth paste.

7.  Once the liquid is bubbling in the pan, give the cornstarch mixture a final stir, add to the pan, and stir for about 1 minute; the liquid will thicken and become smoother.

8.  Taste for salt, and add a little salt or soy sauce if you wish. Add the sesame oil and stir once, then pour the hot dressing onto the lettuce. Immediately toss the salad to expose all the greens to the hot dressing.

[Picture Borrowed from the Kitchn - not an original picture]

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