Eat your veggies!

Image

I don’t know about you but this arrangement of root vegetables makes my insides feel happy. After an indulgent weekend of Holiday related eating and festivities, this vegetable collage was exactly what the doctor (and waistline ordered). I had no recipe in mind and was pretty confident that any combination of what was available would be delicious once it was met with some olive oil and s&p and a hot hot oven. I went with what looked most fresh, in color and in price.

Here is what I ended up with:

Sweet potatoes

Parsnips

Onions

Leeks

Red Beets

Golden Beets

Carrots

Drizzle lightly with oil and sprinkle with s&p and pinch of rosemary if you’re feeling ‘earthy’. Roast for about 45-60 minutes at 375 or until lighty caramelized. This super-food side dish can accompany anything and is sure to be a crowd pleaser, even to the non-veg-liking-type since they get all sweet and crunchy the longer you cook them.

DIY Snausages

I’m well on my way to being a DIY in the kitchen kinda gal, whether it be making my own pasta, butter, or bread, I’ve made it my goal to be as ‘homemade” as one can be in a 4 by 10 foot kitchen with limited counter space. So when my sous chef had a meat grinder on his birthday wish list this month, I knew it was ‘twue wuv’

With 3 pounds of pork butt and 10 feet of casing (intestine) we were set. We decided to tackle something simple and crowd pleasing for our first go with good ol’ grindy, classic breakfast sausages. Sage and thyme complimented the pork nicely and some light s&p rounded it off. I refer to “we” because as you can see below, I had a helper. It wasn’t my birthday gift anyways… and it is a two person job. One to feed meat into “the hopper” and one on the south end to feed it through the casing (me).

I was quite pleased with our first attempt at sausage making and see a bright future for us in the world of meat grinding. Next into the hopper and onto our plates? BURGERS! Stay tuned…

Image

Sweet on you

I often find myself twiddling my thumbs on Sunday afternoons, thinking of anything to procrastinate and put off the household chores I know I need to do before the inevitable end to a relaxing and sleep filled weekend. This is when I come up with and tackle most of my challenging and time consuming recipes. Lucky for me it also results a nice Sunday evening meal for us to enjoy, and usually leftovers for Monday lunch too, but it mostly makes me feel like even though, I haven’t gotten dressed at 4pm and the house is still a mess, I am accomplishing something. This Sunday I got re-acquainted with my best friend the sweet potato and together we made sweet sweet pasta, gnocchi to be exact. This is messy (like flour everywhere.. at least for me), hands on, and a bit labor intensive but the end result is well worth it.

What you need:

3 pounds of sweet potatoes

3 cups flour – give or take a half cup plus more for rolling out

one egg

s&p

olive oil

water

large surface to work on

picstitch

Cut the potatoes in half and lightly oil the cut surface, place face down on a cookie sheet and bake in the oven at 375 for about half an hour. Flip them right side up and bake another 15 minutes or so, until they are cooked through and mushy. Let them cool, scoop out the contents in to a bowl and mash them.

Next, dough time. Pile about 2 cups of the flour into a flat surface or pastry sheet, make a well and drop in the egg. This is the old school method of making dough and I don’t have a stand mixer (hint hint..) so this is how I roll.. get it? Roll.. dough.. Right? Moving on. Mix the flour and egg, adding a little bit of water just to make it come together but not wet. Once the egg is incorporated, add the mashed taters and kneed until it is almost pizza dough consistency. You can add more flour and water as needed. You just don’t want sticky dough. I then cut my dough ball into small chunks to make it easier to roll out.

photo(28)

Roll dough between your hands, like you did in elementary school when you were making play dough snakes. Make a long roll, about an inch in diameter. Cut the dough into about 3/4 – 1 inch chunks. Repeat for all the dough (you can freeze what you don’t cook). I am in no way a perfectionist in the kitchen and am actually rather impatient so all my gnocchi pieces are different sizes and some get smushed but I like it and have no intention of forming each one by hand to look just like the rest. Nope.

Drop the gnocchi into a pot of salted boiling water. I do in batches so not to overcrowd. When the pieces float to the top of the water, they are done! Scoop them out with a slotted spoon and add the others. Voila!

photo(29)

I served mine with mushroom and onion in brown butter sage sauce.. perhaps a recipe for another day.

Not your mom’s chili

Image

Not that your mom (or my moms but mom I love your chili) chili isn’t fantastic and probably one of the first things you learned how to cook, I just can’t picture serving my mom this fireball of a chili.

Ingredients:

  • One large onion
  • 5 cloves of garlic
  • one package of portobello mushroom caps
  • one pound of ground beef (or turkey)
  • One can each of black beans, red kidney beans, corn, WHOLE tomatoes
  • Cumin

and the secret (not really anymore I guess) ingredients that cause this chili to be served with a fresh shirt… because you’ll sweat.. and probably slop on yourself

ImageImage

  • one can of chipotle peppers and its sauce
  • liquid smoke

Like all good and mom-approved chili’s, start out by sauteing onions and garlic in some oil for about 5 minutes. While that’s going, dice your mushroom caps and toss into pan. Sautee another 5 minutes on high heat until they start to brown. Next into the pool is your meat. Break it apart with a spoon and let fully cook through. Reduce heat to medium. Now we start having fun. I wasn’t putting the word “WHOLE” in all caps lightly in the ingredient list, this is a crucial element in the “fun having.” Take each tomato out of the can and one by one.. squeeze them and break apart in your hand. Who doesn’t like to play with their food and use a tomato like a stress ball? I go with this method over a can of diced not only for the fun factor but because it provides a much juicer and rustic tomato in your chili. So squeeze and juice away!

Image

We’re good? Ok. Strain and rinse the beans and corn and like everything else before them… into the tub. Season liberally with salt and pepper and add about a tablespoon of cumin. Mix together and let everybody get to know each other, because now you’re going turn their world upside down. Open the can and chipotle peppers and take them out, leaving sauce in the can for now. Chop them into small chunks and introduce them to the party, sauce and all. You can very easily take this up the the 5-alarm status by adding 2 cans here.. if you’re insane. I am generous with my liquid smoke because I like the flavor but if its your first time working with the stuff, add a little at a time and taste, it is super potent. Once your chili is at its desired smokey-ness, add a lid to your pot an let it simmer on low for about half an hour or until you’re ready to eat. I topped ours with some creamy avocado to show some compassion for the inferno happening in my mouth.

Image

This one is for the next generation of chili makers.. and their moms.

Churn baby, churn

I like TV.  I’m not ashamed to admit it. I’m also not ashamed to admit that I believe everything I see on TV. So when I recently saw one of my favorite food network chefs make his own butter, I obviously had no doubt in my mind that I could attempt this culinary oddity.

Ingredients:

  • One large mason jar
  • One 500ml carton of heavy or whipping cream
  • One set of vigorous jazz hands
  • 10 minutes of exertion and patience
  • One song you can fist pump to (twice)

Leave your cream out on the counter for about half an hour until it room temperature. Pour the cream into the mason jar until it is about 2/3 full. Replace lid and make sure its sealed tightly.. like really sealed. This is where it gets FUN! Start shakin’ it like your mama have ya. (hence vigorous jazz hands) Give yourself some shaking space and crank that beat. I strongly suggest something along the lines of Britney Spears “work b**ch” for a solid and repetitive beat.

You literally just have to shake the mason jar, vigorously, for about 10 minutes. The cream will get to the point of whipped cream consistency and your heart will sink (as mine did) that you a) don’t have anymore shaking room in the jar because its expanded b) must have done something wrong and don’t see how you’re going to spread whipped cream on your toast then BOOM! (actually it’s more like a suction sound) The milk fats separate before your eyes and are at opposite ends of the mason jar of the milk whey (technically butter milk). You now have butter. If you have cheesecloth you’re one step ahead of me, but if you don’t just gently pour the milk out, holding the butter in with a spoon. Reserve the liquid for baking if desired. You might have to strain is a few times to get rid of all the liquid. But there you have it, homemade butter. You can add salt, garlic, herbs, whatever your little heart desires.

ImageDid you ever think you would be making your own butter?

True Grit(s)

If you have ever had the pleasure of traveling south of the Mason-Dixon Line in The U.S, you would most definitely be familiar and I hope as obsessed with this dish as I am. Shrimp and grits. Or shrimp n’ grits (insert southern drawl here). Recently I was fortunate enough to spend some time in South Carolina with a short hop over the state line into Georgia where I was welcomed with southern hospitality, slow talkin’ and hot cookin’. While I was technically there for work, I spent every free moment eating fresh seafood, shopping at piggly wiggly, and eating my body weight in grits. Cheese grits, hominy grits, breakfast grits.. you name it. But nothing came close to the first meal I had off the plane, and one that I still dream about today, shrimp and grits.

Image

Now, I’m rarely one to follow a recipe to the point of putting my laptop in the danger zone beside a pan full of frying bacon, but the subject matter of the recipe, and star of the show, was something I was not only unfamiliar with eating, but more importantly, cooking. I wanted my first attempt at grits to be textbook. I came across this recipe from The Steamy Kitchen and since it had all my favorite food groups accounted for (shrimp, bacon, leeks, and wine) I knew it was the one. I will mention that I found the grits to be lacking a bit of the “creaminess” I remembered from my memorable meal, so I added a table spoon of butter and about half a cup of cheese to the mix. Perfectamundo.

ImageImage

You can find grits in most grocery store but I will advise, no, insist, you do not buy the instant variety… unless you want your little bacon fried crustacean swimming in something that might resemble day old porridge. No. Thanks.

Enjoy, ya’ll.

Let’s Do Brunch

Image

Why go out when you can stay in?

I had family in town this weekend and while most of it was spent touring the city and doing kid friendly activities, my contribution to the weekend was hosting Sunday Brunch, kids included (in a not very kid friendly apartment). While I normally have my better half and sous chef (and child wrangler) for these occasions, this weekend I was solo. I needed something easy, kid friendly, and preferably something I could make or at least prepare the night before to save face in the morning. Enter my sister with her delicious, fool proof (baking is not usually my strong suit) night-before-making, baked french toast recipe.

Image

Cranberry French Toast Breakfast Casserole

2 tbsp softened butter
8 lge eggs
2 tbsp maple syrup
3 1/2 cups milk
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1 lb loaf egg bread or white bread, day old, torn into pieces
1/2 cup dried cranberries

Butter a 9×13 inch baking dish.  In a large bowl, whisk the eggs, maple syrup, milk, vanilla, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg until thoroughly combined.  Gently stir in the bread pieces and cranberries.  Let the mixture stand for 15 min.  Give it a little stir, then spoon into the prepared baking dish.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.  Next day, preheat oven to 350F .  Remove wrap and bake for 35-40 min. or until the casserole is puffed, lightly browned and when  poked with a finger in the middle, is firm to the touch.  Serve with maple syrup.  Serves 8.

Serve with fruit, bacon, and scrambled eggs for the wee-ones and you’ll be considered the hostess with the mostess.

Image

I did end up having an extra set of paws in the kitchen afterall.

Holy Mole!

Image

if you’re only ever going to make one thing you see on this blog, I insist, strongly advise it be this.

I visited my local taco spot/grocer over the weekend, La Tortilleria, and stocked up on goodies to make the most incredible tacos that will make any normally bland weekday dinner mucho caliente! I picked up some chorizo, corn tortillas (gluten free!), hot sauce, queso fresco, and some in-store made Mole sauce. In addition to the Mexican grocer/resto, I stopped at a larger supermarket to get the rest of what was needed for this meal I wish I was eating right now. Cilantro, avocado, pork tenderloin, beans, corn and some yellow onions. All you need now is 5 hours and you’re good to go. I should have mentioned that earlier.. this is a slow cook meal, but it does not have to be. I chose to cook my pork in a crock pot to make it pull-apart but if you don’t have the time, oven, stove top, microwave, anything that will cook your meat will do. Ok here we go.

I put my tenderloin in the crock pot and tossed in 2 quartered yellow onions and 6 cloves of garlic. That’s it. No oil, broth, nothing. The steam from the onions is the juice that cooks the meat. Cover, turn to high and simmer until cooked and pull-worthy. While that’s happening, cook your chorizo on the stove top until cooked through. Maybe 15 minutes. Chop avocado, rinse and drain beans and corn, crumble queso and slice some limes. Once the meat is cooked, add table spoon after table spoon of the delicious mole sauce until you reach your flavor peak, I ended up with using about 6 table spoons. Time to assemble. Drop a dollop of meat onto each tortilla, top with chorizo, avocado, beans and corn, a sprig of cilantro, sprinkle with queso and a drop or two of lime juice. Drizzle whatever your hot sauce of the week is on top. Get yourself a heavy duty napkin cause these babies are gonna get messy, and enjoy. At this point, my work here is done.

This one is for you Beak. Hope they have mole sauce in the Moose.

Good Morning You Green Goddess

ImageIsn’t she lovely. I’m not sure about you, but the colour of this elixir is enough to get me up and going in the a.m, that or it kinda scares me and just keeps me up all night.. jury is still out on that one.

For serious. The Green Goddess smoothie will change your life. It takes some time to wrap your head around the idea of downing a days worth of greens before 7 a.m but I swear, you will thank me once you do. Being so low in sugar and fat, it doesn’t give you an unnatural high only to crash an hour later. It’s greeny goodness keeps me going to lunch. BONUS: After committing to these for 5 days straight, I noticed a difference in my skin (and waist line) that was reflective of how good my insides felt. Totes worth it.

What you will need:

2 handfuls of baby spinach or baby kale

A few sprigs of parsely

1 inch of ginger

1 inch of cucumber

Juice of half a lemon

Half a small apple

Half a ripe banana

Cold water (enough to reach your desired consistency)

A blender

Add all ingredients to blender and blend baby blend! Stream in water as needed. Pour into your fave drinking glass, sip away and be the goddess that you are.

Winner Winner Chicken Dinner

photo(18)

While it might make sense for my inaugural post to be something more tame and less invasive (eg. hand in poultry cavity), I prefer to jump right in (eg. hand in poultry cavity) and make it known from the get-go that I don’t colour within the lines. Roasted bird, of any kind, has always been intimidating to tackle on my own but I thought it was time, at the ripe old age of twenty nnnn…ooonne….twenty-one.. yes, I was ready. Trust. If I can do it, it really shouldn’t be feared. This is coming from the girl who was actually afraid, legit fear, of raw poultry until a few years ago.

You have to start with a bird, a decent oven, or at least one you can understand, and some sanitizer for you and your counter ready because its going to get messy.

I chose a free run 3 pound chicken. I brought him home, gave him a rinse in the sink and a good pat down to dry off. I suggest getting all your ingredients prepared and portioned before hand so you’re not double dipping into the butter dish or salt&pepper bowl with chicken hands. NOT invited to dinner: sam & ella. No thanks. Heat your oven to 500F, hot hot hot. While that’s getting going, take a couple table spoons of room temp butter and massage it all over the bird, on top and under the skin, in the crevices, everywhere. S&P liberally and top with dried rosemary. Depending on the size of your chicken, you get to have some fun with the “cavity.” Mine was big enough to house half a white onion and half a green apple, they steam from the inside of the bird and the end result is mega-moisture juicy chicken.

Oven time. Place the chicken in a roasting pan or casserole dish, on a rack or on a home-made rack of veggies, brace yourself because that oven is HOT, in goes the bird for 25 minutes. He will get crispy, golden and delicious. After 25 minutes, lower the oven temp to 350F and cook for about another hour, more or less for a bigger bird. Its important the internal temperature reach 165F. Stick the meat thermometer into the breast and thigh and any other thick part of the chicken to check. Once all reads come back at 165F, take him out!! Cover him with foil and let him rest.

If your bird left with you some drippy goodness in the pan, do not throw it out. Make some gravy. Your chicken will thank you for it. Thicken with a rue of flour and butter and add water or chicken stock to add volume. Heat on medium to reduce to your desired consistency. Slice, drizzle, eat, repeat.

photo(19)