I decided to only use the red tomatoes, which came in at slightly under four pounds.
Start by getting a large pot of water boiling on the stove. Prepare a large bowl with an ice bath. Wash your tomatoes, and cut X’s into the bottom of each of them.
I dropped about 4 or 5 at a time into the boiling water. For the larger tomatoes I boiled for 25 seconds and that was perfect. For the smaller ones, 20 seconds did the trick. If you do it too long, the tomatoes will start to cook and get mushy, so try to avoid that. Remove the tomatoes and immediately put them into the ice bath. They will cool off in a few seconds. Peel them and place them in a bowl. The peels (and any remaining stems) literally fell off, there was little effort on my part with this process.
Since I wasn’t ready to make the sauce yet, I covered them with plastic wrap and threw them in the fridge where they sat for about two hours, they kept just fine. I am no expert, so I have no idea how long you could let them sit like that before using them.
My recipe for marinara was based on ideas I read on different websites, along with using what I had around the house/garden.
4 lbs tomatoes, peeled – I used Roma, Big Boy & Early Girl, so use what you have!
2 tbsp olive oil
1 Vidalia Onion, chopped
8 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup Merlot
1 tbsp honey
4 sprigs fresh basil
4 sprigs fresh oregano
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
Salt & Pepper to taste
I had read that using whole tomatoes without seeding them made too watery of a sauce. So, I squeezed the juice out of about half of them. Just take the tomato over the sink, and squeeze. Juice and seeds will come out. I don’t think you need to squeeze everything out, but if you are trying to get a thicker sauce, it’s worth doing this to them.
Heat the olive oil in a pot. Add the onion and garlic, sauté for about 3 minutes over medium high heat, until they have softened and are starting to get some color. Add the tomatoes, whole, with a pinch of salt. You don’t need to chop them. Let them simmer over medium heat for 30 minutes. Stir occasionally, they will start to break down over time, you can use a wooden spoon to help break them down if you need to.
After 30 minutes you will have a nice sauce, the tomatoes will have broken down almost all the way. Add the wine, honey, basil, oregano, red pepper flakes, and some salt and pepper. You can add more salt and pepper later to taste, just add about 1/4 teaspoon of each at this point. Stir to combine, bring to a simmer, and allow to simmer for another 30 minutes, while stirring occasionally.
Once the 30 minutes are up, fish out the herb stems and discard. Add the balsamic vinegar, otherwise the sauce will be too sweet. Taste and season with salt and pepper to your liking. I personally felt the sauce was too chunky, so I chose to use my immersion blender to make a smoother sauce. Once I did that, it was perfect to me.
I ended up making some Italian sausage and mushrooms, added to the sauce and served over spaghetti. This made enough sauce to go with one pound of pasta. There was enough for us tonight, leftovers for lunch tomorrow, and some to freeze for use in the future.
So I came up with something, and I made it. I still incorporated zucchini from the garden and some chicken and I was so happy. Soooo happy. This now my favorite mac & cheese recipe, and I have many, but this was soooo good. Thank you, fiance, for telling me to make something with cheese.
1 package shells or macaroni
2 tbsp olive oil
2 chicken breasts, cut into bite sized pieces
2 tbsp cajun seasoning
2 zucchinis, cut into thin rounds
1/2 red onion, chopped
4 tbsp butter
3 tbsp flour
2 cups milk
8 oz cream cheese
1/2 cup sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
1/2 cup white cheddar cheese, shredded
1 heaping tbsp dijon mustard
1 heaping tbsp sweet & hot mustard – if you don’t have this, substitute with any other mustard, or just double the dijon
Salt & Pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 400. Cook the noodles according to the package. Drain, set aside.
In a skillet, heat the olive oil. Add the chicken and cajun seasoning. Saute the chicken until no longer pink, add the zucchini and onions. Continue cooking a few minutes until zucchini begins to soften. Remove from heat, set aside.
In a big pot melt the butter, then add the flour and whisk until combined. Add the milk while still whisking, once it is all smooth, let it bubble up for about a minute. Add the cheese, cream cheese, mustards, and some salt and pepper. Stir it all until it is melted and gooey and yummy.
Put the pasta in the cheese mixture and mix it all up to coat all the noodles. Add the chicken mixture and stir it all up again.
Pour this delicious, hot, cheesy mixture into a 9×12 baking dish. Top it with more cheese if you like – like I did – and then put it in the oven for 20 minutes.
Take it out, let it set for a few minutes and then devour it. I hope you love it as much as we do. Take the leftovers for lunch tomorrow and freeze the rest if you like, it reheats well
I don’t have children, I don’t do Easter egg hunts. But I do like crafty things, and I did have Friday off work because people were coming to work on my house. So, I had to be home and there isn’t all that much to do here. I cleaned a little, and then I decided to test this project out. It’s something I have seen time and time again over the years. So, I figured today would be the perfect day!
The concept is dying hardboiled eggs with foods and spices. There are so many different color ideas on the internet, along with many different directions on how to do it. But I decided to work with what I have, and I also decided to test both white and brown eggs to see how the color varied.
What I learned:
*This is time consuming, but I think it could be fun if you were doing it in a group or with kids.
*This will make your house smell like all sorts of things; that is not necessarily a good thing.
*Some dyes worked great, others did not.
Boil 12 eggs, half white, half brown – I lost one white egg in the boiling process. So, I started with 11 eggs.
Make six different dyes:
Green – Spinach – I used about two cups of baby spinach leaves
Yellow – Cumin – 2 tablespoons ground cumin
Blue – Red Cabbage – About one cup, chopped
Pink – Red Beets – A little less than one cup, shredded
Brownish Orange – Chili Powder – 2 tablespoons
Purple – Red Onion Skins – The skins and ends of two onions I had cooked with the night before
I started by boiling the eggs. I put them in the fridge to cool off. I then did two dyes at a time – I used the formula of two cups water + dye material. You also need white vinegar – one tablespoon to each cup of water.
We’ll use spinach as an example of how I made the dye. I put the spinach and two cups of water in a pot, brought to a boil, and then lowered to simmer for 30 minutes. I followed this pattern with every color. When it was done, I either dumped the water into a container for the eggs to dye in (the spices) or a strained them into that container (the veggies). With the spinach I made sure to squeeze out all of the liquid into the container. I then added two tablespoons vinegar to each container, since there were two cups of water in each one.
I let the liquids cool to about room temperature, and then I added the eggs – one white and one brown per container. Except the one container where I broke an egg while cooking. I covered each container and put them in the fridge for the eggs to steep.
I let the eggs sit in the dye for about 24 hours. I took them out and put them in an egg carton to dry, in the fridge. I let them dry out overnight and took them out this morning.
I am happy with the way they turned out. All of the dyes worked very well, except the spinach. Maybe more cups of spinach were needed, or maybe spinach just isn’t good to dye with. I like that some of the eggs formed really unique designs in the drying process.
I had fun with this project and I would do it again if ever in need of colored eggs! Now, i’m off to make egg salad
1 lb broccoli crowns, cut into bite sized pieces
6 slices of bacon
1/2 cup sliced almonds
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 red onion, chopped
1 cup Greek Yogurt
1 tsp red wine vinegar
2 tsp sugar
Salt & Pepper to taste
Fill a large pot with salted water and put it on the stove to boil. Once the water is boiling, put the broccoli in and let it cook for two minutes. Immediately remove it from the boiling water and put the broccoli in an ice bath to cool off. Drain in a colander and set aside.
In a small bowl, whisk together the Greek Yogurt, red wine vinegar, and sugar.
Meanwhile, start cooking the bacon in a skillet. Once bacon is done, remove to a paper lined plate to drain and cool. Reserve about one teaspoon of the bacon fat in the pan. When the bacon is cool, break it up into bite sized pieces.
Put the skillet back on the stove and heat to medium. Add the chopped onions and quickly fry them in the bacon fat for about one minute. You don’t want the onions to be soft (or if you do, cook them longer) but just to barely soften and take the intense raw onion flavor down a notch. Transfer the onion to a paper towel lined bowl to drain and cool.
Once everything is done and cooled down, combine the broccoli, bacon, onions, Greek Yogurt mixture, almonds, and cranberries in a large bowl. Toss together and season to your liking with salt and pepper. Place bowl in the fridge to chill until you are ready to eat.
This is a tasty, easy dish to take to a potluck, serve at a party, bbq, or picnic, or have as a side for dinner. We had it with some garlic and ginger glazed chicken.]]>
2014 was a crazy year! As I stated in my last post (10 months ago!) I started this blog because I was unemployed and wanted a hobby. It was fun, gave me something to look forward to doing, and gave me a way to share recipes with my friends.
After a little over two years of unemployment, I finally started working again – in fact I will be at my job one year next week! Time flies, it doesn’t even seem that long. Once I started working again, cooking was challenging. I had to start meal planning again and working with limited time, as opposed to taking as much time as I wanted to cook a meal. I was dealing with traffic and getting home late – things I never had to deal with at my previous job. It was an adjustment that I am honestly still struggling with sometimes. Cooking went out the window, especially cooking really complicated meals. I started doing a lot of crock pot recipes, freezer meals, and simple things like salads and sandwiches. Nothing worth sharing on here.
In September of 2014 we decided to sell our condo. That was crazy stressful, and again, cooking sort of became pointless. I had to keep the kitchen spotless at all times for showings, and I couldn’t have any lingering smells in the house. It was supposed to smell like a Febreeze commercial in my place every day.
Finally at the very end of December, everything was done – we had sold the condo and bought a beautiful house with an AMAZING kitchen. I am so excited about cooking in it every day. I have awesome granite countertops – no more ugly white tile with that hideous white grout that was impossible to keep clean. I have a great five burner range and a double oven! I even have a nifty cabinet to keep my Kitchenaid mixer in. It truly is the kitchen of my dreams.
To top that off, I also have my dream backyard! It came with numerous mature citrus trees (and a pear tree!), so I have not had a shortage of lemons or oranges yet! I also have LOADS of room for gardening, it just needs some clearing out. I am looking forward to getting that all cleaned up so I can grow tons of veggies and herbs to cook with this summer! I have already started seeds for four different kinds of tomatoes and chives. I have a bunch of other seeds ready to start in Spring too.
I am excited about 2015. Not only did we just move, but, after EIGHT years of “dating”, we finally got engaged this past weekend! I know I will be busy with house stuff, gardening stuff, and wedding stuff in the coming months, but I really want to start taking advantage of my new kitchen and start blogging again.
So, I leave you with this, the dinner I made tonight: Feta Brined Roasted Chicken (in a cast iron skillet cause my roasting pan got lost in the move), mashed potatoes, and pan seared brussells sprouts. Hopefully I will have a real recipe soon!
So I have started working on really simple meals. Crockpot meals. Freezer meals. There have been more misses than hits so far, but I know I will find my groove. My boyfriend has even chipped in and cooked a couple times, which is beyond amazing!
This recipe is one of my favorites, I think I have made it four times. It’s a crockpot meal. It takes almost all day. It’s the easiest thing ever. It makes a lot of food so you can have multiple dinners or lunches. I usually make tacos with this meat, but you can also use it for enchiladas, taquitos, a soup, whatever sounds good! This week I made the meat on Sunday, and I froze some for enchiladas later this week, and kept the rest in the refrigerator for tacos on Monday.
The most “time consuming” part of this recipe is making the spice blend. Since I love this recipe I just made a jar of it so I always have some on hand. I tripled this recipe, mixed it all up, and keep it with my spices for when I am ready to make this.
***I have a crockpot with a timer. This recipe takes 6 hours. I am gone about 10 hours. The first time I made it, it was with my old crockpot that didn’t have a timer, so it cooked for close to 10 hours and while tasty, the meat was a little dry. Now I set the timer for 6 hours and it automatically switches to warm when the time is up. I recommend not cooking longer than 6 hours if you can avoid it.
3 bell peppers – any color – thinly sliced
2 onions – any color – thinly sliced
4 boneless, skinless chicken breast – left whole
2 tbsp of the spice blend
4 tsp chili powder
2 tsp salt
2 tsp paprika
2 tsp sugar
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
Place bell peppers in the bottom of the crockpot. Place onions on top of bell peppers. Place chicken on top of onions. Sprinkle with two tbsp of the spice blend. Set your crockpot to low and walk away for six hours.
When the six hours are up, or whenever you are ready to eat, take tongs and break the chicken up so it’s shredded. It will be so tender that this should take less than 30 seconds.
Use the meat for tacos, or enchiladas, or whatever you want! Like I said, this makes a lot of food. This last batch I made provided six tacos for dinner one night, two tacos for lunch the next day, extra meat to use for whatever, and I also make six enchiladas and froze them.
Easy Turkey Loaf
1 onion, chopped
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp fresh ground black pepper
A couple sprigs of fresh thyme, stems removed
1/4 c worcestershire sauce
1/3 c chicken stock
3/4 tsp tomato paste
2 pounds ground turkey
3/4 c plain dry bread crumbs
1 egg, beaten
1/2 c ketchup
Preheat your oven to 325. Line a baking dish with foil, for easier clean up.
In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium. Add the onions, salt, pepper, and thyme. Saute until the onions soften, about 10 – 15 minutes.
Once onions are ready, add the worcestershire, chicken stock, and tomato paste. Stir together to combine, and remove the skillet from the heat. Allow to cool about 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, combine the turkey, egg, and breadcrumbs in a large bowl. Once the onions have cooled, add the mixture into the bowl with the turkey. Mix everything together with your hands. Form meat into a loaf shape and put it in the baking dish. The meat will be really soft and not holding together perfectly, that is normal.
Cover the loaf in the ketchup, spreading it all over the meat with a spoon so it is totally coated.
Bake the turkey loaf for 1 1/2 hours. Remove it from the oven and serve it hot with whatever you like. For me? Mashed potatoes and green beans
This is a recipe for a classic Bloody Mary, nothing fancy or weird to it. The way I make it is spicy to me, but if you like it hotter, add more cayenne. I also recommend trying out the Barrel Aged Worcestershire from Surfas Culinary District to jazz it up. Because it is aged in French Oak for three months prior to bottling, it definitely has a different, more intense flavor of any other Worcestershire sauce I have ever had. It almost has a balsamic taste to it and it’s sort of smokey – yum!
Now onto the cocktail. It’s super simple to make, so get your shaker out and get to drinking!
8 oz tomato juice
1 oz vodka
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
Juice of 1/4 of a lemon
1/2 tsp fresh ground black pepper
1/4 tsp celery salt
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
Start by rimming your glass in salt, or Bloody Mary salt if you have it.
Fill shaker halfway with ice.
Add all ingredients to the shaker – shake it up!
Pour cocktail into your prepped glass, garnish with a celery stick if desired, and drink up!
I have seen that movie at least a dozen times and never knew what Paprikash was, so I finally looked it up. It’s a Hungarian stew, made with paprika and chicken thighs, or veal. I decided to make it a month or so ago, and I found loads of recipes online. All different. It seems everybody has their own way of making this dish! But I went for it, taking bits and pieces of different recipes that sounded good to me, and omitting things that did not. My friend and I had it for dinner, and while we liked it, we both agreed something was missing.
So here it is again, this time jazzed up with more spice. I think it came out much better than when I originally made it. I also added broccoli, probably not so traditional, but I like veggies in my meals. I like this dish because it can sit awhile. Tonight I made it nearly two hours before my boyfriend came home, kept it on the stove on low heat so it wouldn’t get cold, and it tasted fine! Sometimes it’s nice to have dinners that can be made ahead of time
6 slices bacon, diced
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 yellow onion, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
2 broccoli crowns, cut into florets
1/4 cup flour
2 tablespoons Hungarian paprika
1 tsp cayenne pepper***My boyfriend thought this was too spicy. I didn’t. He just put a dollop of sour cream on top of his food and he was happy.
1 tsp salt
1/2 teaspoon ground marjoram
1 package chicken tenders
2 1/2 cups chicken broth
1 package egg noodles
1 cup sour cream
Salt & Pepper to taste
Put bacon in a large pan and fry over medium high heat until starting to brown and crisp up.
Meanwhile, mix flour, paprika, marjoram, cayenne, and salt in a bowl. Add chicken to the bowl and turn until all the chicken is coated in the flour mixture. Set aside.
Once bacon is browned, add onion, bell pepper, garlic, and broccoli to the pan. Saute for about ten minutes, or until broccoli is softening. Make sure to stir often so the other vegetables don’t burn.
Once broccoli is softened, push the bacon veggie mixture to one side of the pan and add the chicken tenders – reserve the remaining flour mixture. Cook the chicken three minutes per side.
After chicken is cooked, add the remaining flour mixture to the pan. Stir everything together and allow to cook for about two more minutes, stirring constantly.
Add chicken broth to the pan, stir, and allow to come to a boil. Once boiling, lower heat, cover, and simmer for ten minutes. If you want to serve this right away, start cooking your noodles now. If not, wait until you are ready – ten minutes before my boyfriend gets home, for me!
Add sour cream to the pan, stir to mix together. Taste and add salt and/or pepper if you think it needs it. Serve over noodles now, or leave on a low heat until ready to serve.
I grow cherry tomatoes and swiss chard, so I decided to use those. If you don’t like chard, substitute with spinach. I also have some delicious basil oil, which I know is not a normal household staple, so feel free to omit and just use regular olive oil. I do recommend purchasing some basil oil though if you can, it’s amazing!
Garden Pasta with Swiss Chard & Cherry Tomatoes
1/2 lb spaghetti, or whatever other kind of pasta you have on hand
6 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup basil olive oil, or plain olive oil
15 swiss chard leaves, roughly torn into smaller pieces
20 cherry tomatoes, halved
2 links chicken sausage, cut into one inch pieces
1 cup pasta water
1/4 parmesan cheese, shredded
Salt & Pepper to taste
Cook pasta according to package directions. Reserve one cup pasta water before draining. Drain pasta, set aside.
In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium high. Add garlic and saute for about one minute. Add tomatoes and chard, stir to combine.
Let tomatoes cook until they have softened. Using the back of a wooden spoon, smash the tomatoes so the juices release to create a sauce. Once tomatoes are smashed and chard is wilting (about five minutes), add chicken sausage and continue to saute for another eight minutes.
Add cup of reserved pasta water and stir everything together. Taste sauce and season with salt and pepper until the sauce is how you like it.
Put cooked pasta in the skillet, toss together to combine with the sauce, add the cheese. Serve!