Friday, January 31, 2014

Roasted Tomato Sauce


 These cold winter months are making me dearly miss spring and summer.  I am a HUGE summer fan; I love spring just because it leads to summer.  I dislike fall because it leads to winter (I won’t use hate because there are too many other good things about fall that I love that overrides the weather).  So I have spent today, which has been a cold and very windy day dreaming about my favorite seasons.  Lounging around planning our vegetable and herb gardens in my head and ways to improve some of last year’s first round attempts. 


Which got me thinking about the fact that we crazily thought we could plant 21 tomato plants in our part-sun backyard.  Again, first time gardeners here, and tomatoes weren’t the only thing we went over the top with, I’m not even going to mention the peppers.  I don’t think I have to say more, we were overambitious.  Anyway, though we sadly didn’t have a lot of luck with this we did still get a decent amount of our Roma tomatoes to grow (the peppers did pretty well also).  The whole idea behind the garden and overabundant amount of tomatoes and peppers was so we could make our own tomato sauces and salsas to freeze and/or can. 


So with the little amount of tomatoes we did get I was determined to make the tomato sauce at least once.  I think there is something so wrong about the fact that all growing up I thought that tomato sauce was supposed to be red, I mean tomatoes are red who was I to question this.  But then I made this; slow roasted tomatoes with onions and garlic, flavored with thyme and oregano.  And well what do you know, it’s orange.  Not your bright crazy orange by any means but that beautiful tomatoe-y orange I’ve come to recognize, know and love about tomato sauce. 

This is one of those recipes that will always be in the works until I think I have perfected it. Then of course I’ll start tweaking it again trying to make sure it’s just right.  So, this is where I am at with the recipe currently, which I still love.  I served this with homemade pasta tossed in parmesan and chopped parsley to garnish.  Now all we need is some garlicky bread goodness to go along with this and a glass of our favorite wine and we’re good.  J Enjoy

Roasted Tomato Sauce
Makes 4 cups

20 Roma tomatoes, halved and seeded (you can use other tomatoes if need be)
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 large onion, cut into wedges
6-8 whole garlic cloves
1 bunch thyme, leaves removed
1 bunch oregano, leaves removed

1.  Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
2.  In pan place tomato halves cut side up.  Sprinkle generously with olive oil, salt and black pepper.  Top with onion wedges, garlic cloves and herbs.  Bake tomatoes for 2 hours.  Check to make sure your onions and garlic aren't cooking too quickly after about an hour.
3.  After the 2 hour mark, bump your oven up to 400 degrees F and cook for an additional 20 to 30 minutes.
4.  After that remove from the oven.  Using a food processor, add all of your roasted ingredients and blend until smooth.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Wild Mushroom Ragu


What kind of woman would I be if I didn't like mushrooms?  I love them!  I look at my brother, who is not a mushroom lover in the least and I judge him for it-I mean seriously I'm not sure we're related at all anymore.  But putting his bad food decisions aside, I love this dish because it is literally jam packed with mushrooms and flavor. 

Though this is not a traditional ragu in the sense that there isn't any meat at all.  It does mimic the technics that go with a ragu.  Traditionally, ragu is a meat based sauce, it is usually cooked slowly by braising or stewing.  It can be done with any type of meat,  with an assortment of different vegetables added to it.  As well as numerous different stocks and/or liquids that can be added to cook the meat.

This has the same concept with the fresh mushrooms being braised slowly in a mushroom stock made from dried mushrooms that has an aroma to die for.  This particular recipe does also have chicken stock added in, however if you were wanting to omit that you could just up the amount of mushroom stock you use and leave out the chicken stock all together. 

Otherwise enjoy!  The only other thing to make this better would be fresh homemade pasta to serve this over.  Which we did do in my Pasta and Sauces class last night, but of course I missed out on getting a picture in time before it was all gone.  So your stuck with my home version I made with whole wheat linguine-still delicious.  But stay tuned, I have pasta dough I made earlier and left over Roasted Tomato Sauce from last night so I'm thinking that recipe sharing two yummy sauces is a good way to celebrate this hump day!

Wild Mushroom Ragu
4-6 serving

1 cup dried mushrooms (I usually grab the assorted mushroom medley, but porcini, shiitake or many of the others would work fine as well.
Extra virgin olive oil
1 onion, cut in small dice
2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
Kosher salt
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 pounds assorted fresh mushrooms (porcini, shiitake, oyster, baby Portobello and/or cremini); trimmed, cleaned and cut into bite-sixed pieces)
1 cup dry white wine
1 cup chicken stock
1 tbsp. thyme leaves
3 bay leaves

1.  Soak the porcini in 3 1/2 cup of hot water, until very soft, about 30 minutes.
2.  Coat a large wide saucepan generously with olive oil and bring to medium-high heat.  Add the onion and red pepper flakes and season with salt; cook until the onion is soft and aromatic, 8 to 10 minutes.  Add the garlic and cook for 2 to 3 minutes or until it starts to become aromatic.
3.  Add the fresh mushrooms, season with salt and sauté until soft, 8 to 10 minutes.  Add the wine and continue cooking until reduced by half, roughly 5 minutes.
4.  Using a slotted spoon, scoop the mushrooms out of the soaking water (that has now become your mushrooms stock).  Be careful to try not to stir up the stock too much, much of the crummy stuff and dirt that was on the dried mushrooms that you don't want has settled on the bottom of your pan, try and leave that is undisturbed as possible.  Put the mushrooms in a food processor, ladle in about 1/2 cup of the soaking liquid (mushroom stock), and puree to a very smooth paste.
5.  Add the mushroom paste, 2 to 2 1/2 cups of the mushroom stock and 1 cup of the chicken stock to the pan; toss in the thyme and bay leaf.  Taste and season with salt if needed.  Bring the liquid to a boil and reduce to a simmer.  Simmer for 25 to 30 minutes, adding more stock if needed; this sauce should be saucy but not soupy.  Remove the bay leaves before serving.



Monday, January 27, 2014

Citrus Marinated Olives


   Delicious orange juice, spicy jalapenos, herbaceous cilantro and parsley- these are some of the things that I really like about this citrus marinated olive dish.  It gives a nice little spin on your cocktail olives.  And enables you to make something a little bit special and a little different in advance and be able to wow your guess with the flavor. 

     I originally made this recipe when I had to come up with a special to put on the menu in my Specialized Cuisine class.  I had been assigned Spain as my region to do my report and presentation on as well as develop one appetizer and one main dish based on the cuisine.  I decided to do a tapas style dish with different items that were based on five main areas in Spain.  So this citrus marinated olive dish came about.  It's one of my favorites because you can control the amount of heat if need be.  When I did this for a special I usually topped with thinly sliced jalapenos and lemon zest but when making it at home I mix it right in and then add more on top if I don't think it's spicy enough.  Whichever you prefer is fine.
Citrus Marinated Olives
Makes 3 cups
1 1/2 cups Kalamata olives
1 1/2 cups green olives
1 cup olive oil
1/2 cup fresh cilantro, minced
1/4 cup fresh parsley, minced
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup orange juice
8 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
2-3 jalapenos, thinly sliced
zest from 1 large lemon
zest from 1 orange
1 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
1.  Combine all of the ingredients in a large Ziploc bag or large bowl.  Shake bag to blend ingredients or if in bowl stir to combine.  Refrigerate at least 1 day and up to 3 days, tossing ingredients occasionally. 
2.  When ready to serve, transfer to a serving bowl.  Let stand 1 hour at room temperature before serving and top with additional thinly sliced jalapeno and lemon zest if desired.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Spider-Man Batman Cake

     It's a bird!!  It's a plane!!!  No, it's a super hero packed Spider-Man Batman Birthday Cake!!!  Wow I could not even begin to believe that I was able to pull this off.  Don't get me wrong, I did it-I see the flaws there.  It is by no means perfect at all.  But for my third attempt at frosting an entire cake (which the last time I've done this has been over a year) and my first time working with fondant I have no complaints. 
I used a 10inch and 6inch round cake pans for this.
     You see, we had a 7th birthday to celebrate.  And he loves all things super heroes, just ask "What do you want for your birthday?"  What would you like for Christmas?"  For the past 3 years that I have known him his answer has always quite simply been SUPER HEROES!!!  So with that response again this year I decided to take to Pinterest.

I baked two of each size
     I have an addition to that site, and that's all you need to know-don't judge!  At first it was only to look for decorations for the house and game ideas and then I started finding superhero cupcakes and then they had all of these amazing looking cakes.
I cut the tops of each cake round off with this little thingy that I got at Walmart (no clue what it's called)
     Then the down fall happened, showing said future 7 year old the cakes...I don't think I even have to explain what happened, you know.  He wanted one, and just how do you say no?  You don't, you figure out a way to make it happen. 
Made the buttercream icing (the recipe is listed below)
     When looking at all the different cakes for ideas to pull from, I was really frustrated that every single link was just to a picture.  No directions, no how-to, or anything.  Though I knew the basics of how to do everything sometimes it's just nice to have a point of reference.  
I put the first cake of the bottom tier cut side down and frosted the top.
     Something that tells you your heading in the right direction and gives you some tips of some sort along the way.  So, though I don't do cakes, and don't usually post a lot of cake stuff I figured I would at least share this one.
Smoothing it and removing any excesses

Placing the second cake round cut side down on top of the iced cake. (This is the 10 inch cake)

This is the 6 inch cake after being stacked.
To frost the cakes, I use a generous amount of icing.  I piped icing onto the sides of the cake and all over the top, not the prettiest looking thing but you get the idea.

I cover and smooth down the top, allowing the icing to spill over the sides and then go to work on the sides of the cake.  Smoothing and removing excess icing as I go.  Obviously this is not as smooth and perfect as it could be but trust me it's not as easy as it looks and please know my inner OCD is cringing at all the things I want to fix!

Like I said before, I have never worked with fondant so I asked around and had a few people recommend the Wilton brand so I decided to try that out.  Instead of buying white and attempting to dye it myself on my first go around I took the easy route and bought it already in color since I just needed black and yellow.

To help prevent sticking, sprinkling a little bit of confectioners sugar on the counter and rolling pin helps. (Obviously I sprinkled a lot!)
I used less than a fourth of the block I bought to roll this out, just because I didn't know how much I was going to need and didn't wait it drying out.

I cut the batman sign and used an Exact-o knife to cut around it on the fondant.

Using a bench scraper, I made little squares out of the yellow fondant (not the most exact but it worked given the time I had left to finish it).

As well as using the bench scraper to make different sized buildings to go around the bottom cake.
Finished Batman sign after I put the 3 different fondant pieces together.

Finished Spiderman sign, and wow was this one a little harder to do.  I had to do a really rough spider and then go back in and finish the detail work.
Finished buildings.
Now that I have the cakes stacked all that is left is to pipe on the spider web on the top cake and start assembling.

Again with the Wilton brand, I used that again to dye regular store bought icing (yes I know this must be a crime, but I was afraid that my buttercream frosting was too thick to pipe the way that I store bought it was for now).

This is the cake after attaching everything to the cake (I used icing on the back of the fondant pieces).
And the back that I did to use up the left over buildings that I had.
     Pretty much this whole thing overall was a lot of fun to do.  It taught me that I have a lot to practice and work on, but it also got me excited about practicing and working on those things in the future.  I mean hey, what else am I supposed to do with all the left over Buttercream?  :)

Simple Buttercream
via On Baking
Makes 3 pounds
1 pound unsalted butter, softened
2 oz. pasteurized egg (optional)
2 pounds powdered sugar, sifted
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1.  In the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter until light and fluffy.
2.  Beat in the egg (if using).  Gradually add the sugar, frequently scraping down the bowl.
3.  Add the vanilla and continue beating until the icing is smooth and light.
 When looking for cake ideas, I found so many different cake ideas.  This Super Hero Birthday Cake Link shows the original that I first found.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Bacon Wrapped Stuffed Mushrooms

     This weekend was a crazy busy time.  With graduation happening this past December, we pushed back a party until January so we weren't interfering with any holiday plans people might have.  Single best idea, I had one aunt and cousin make a surprise trip up from Florida and that completely made the weekend!  Don't get me wrong, I spent all of last week preparing and prepping for Saturday and then spent all of Saturday freaking out that I wasn't going to have everything done in time.  (Did I mention I am a slight control freak, so when my parents decided to throw the party I took over all of the food planning and prep and wanted to do it all on my own-talk about giving yourself a mini heart attack!)  But all of that was well worth it just to get to spend a great time with family and friends and see them enjoying the food that I made. 

     These little crazy delectables might not look like much but their filling packs a delicious punch with all the green onions and garlic mixed into the cream cheese mixture.  And what item isn't better with BACON??  Not to mention wrapped in bacon, that just takes me to a happy little place.  For now I'll just post the one picture I have from the party.  But I'll be making these little babies again soon at home and I'll have my camera a little more handy so I can take better pictures and I'll update the post then.  Just knew that it's almost been TEN days since I last posted.  Goodness I didn't even realize that it had been that long.  My new mission now is to try and actually make a post every day if I can (this is the only reason I didn't post all of the picture and recipes from this past weekend).

Bacon Wrapped Stuffed Mushrooms
20 baby bella mushrooms, stems removed
4 oz. cream cheese
5 green onions, thinly sliced
1 bulb roasted garlic
Kosher salt
Ground black pepper
10 slices thick cut bacon

1.  In a small bowl or mixer, combine cream cheese, green onions, roasted garlic and salt and black pepper.  Mix to completely combine.
2.  After stems have been removed from mushrooms, and cleaned stuff each mushroom with cream cheese mixture.
3.  Cut each slice bacon in half.  Wrap each half slice of bacon around a stuffed mushroom.  Use a toothpick to secure if needed (optional).
4.  Place wrapped mushrooms on a cookie sheet.  Place cookie sheet in a oven that has been preheated to 425 degrees F.  Cook until bacon is crisp and mushrooms are soft, around 30 minutes.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Braised Chicken and Brussels Sprouts


     In preparing for a party this weekend, I have spent the vast majority of today prepping some of the ingredients and doing a start up on some of the cooking.  In doing this, I some how let dinner for tonight completely slip my mind.  And I'm sure we have all been there, whether away at work all day, busy on a project or just not focused on dinner for the night.  We have all been in that mad dash to the fridge to try and figure out what in the world can be made for dinner.  Well this was one of those nights. 
     I'll be the first to admit that I'm not above just getting take out and hitting up a restaurant when I've forgotten about dinner.  But there was something about spending the whole day in my own kitchen cooking for a different event that made it to where there was no way in the world I was settling for anything but a home cooked meal.  And that is just what I did.
Braised Chicken and Brussels Sprouts
4 bone-in chicken thighs, skin on
2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 pound Brussels sprouts, end cut off and cut in half
4 ounces mushrooms, quartered
1 onion, cut in wedges
2 cups chicken stock
1 tbsp. thyme, dry
Kosher salt
Black pepper
Garlic powder
1.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
2.  Season chicken thighs with salt, pepper, and garlic powder.  In a cast-iron skillet or other oven proof skillet add olive oil and heat over medium heat.  When oil is heated and just beginning to smoke add chicken thighs, skin side down and cook until skin is brown, 5-10 minutes. 
3.  When skin is browned, flip the chicken over.  Add in your Brussels sprouts, mushrooms, onions, and thyme.  Cover with chicken stock.
4.  Place skillet in oven, uncovered for 25-30 minutes or until chicken is done and Brussels sprouts have started to brown and caramelize.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Potato, Spinach and Leek Frittata

     Woohoo for finally feeling better!!  Still slightly under the weather but I am no longer completely loopy and walking around like a zombie.  Amazing what a shower, slapping on some make-up and wearing heels around your house for no reason can do to a girl.  But one thing for sure is it'll bring you back from a snot-filled, same clothes for an unmentionable amount of days, dirty hair that dry shampoo can't even bring back and cough/sleep filled haze.  I'm just glad I was out of it most of the time because the flash backs are scary.

     Second WOOHOO for finally being back in the kitchen too!  Feeling better means that I can get started again on some of the recipes that I wanted to test.  Unfortunately it put me majorly behind on things that I had planned to do for this week so I probably won't be able to get to everything that I wanted.  However, I will get to do some of them.  Like the leek frittata/tortilla that I was talking about.  Well that turned into more of a baked potato, spinach and leek tortilla-but it was still just as tasty.  My brother made a great point when I first posted the picture on Instagram though.  What is a frittata or a tortilla (not the tortilla your thinking of)?

     To me the easiest way to explain what a frittata is, is to say that is an open-faced omelet.  It's a mixture of lightly sautéed meats and/or veggies and mixed with whisked eggs and milk and cooked on a stove top until just set and then placed under a broiler or salamander to set the top and brown.  A tortilla, is a "Spanish omelette".  Similar to a frittata, this is called a tortilla de patatas and is made with fried potatoes.  The cooking technique for a tortilla is the same as a frittata.  For the purpose of this recipe I did sauté the vegetables in a pan but at the time I didn't have an ovenproof skillet so I just baked the whole thing.  You can do this recipe either way though.

     The biggest thing that I love about frittatas is I think that they are great if you have left over veggies.  A lot of times I have a small amount of leftovers from a bunch of different veggies, so this is a great way to use all of those veggies and added them together.  Or even leftover meats if your wanting to add some more protein to the dish.  The different ways that you can do this dish are literally limitless.

     The other added bonus to this, it's a breakfast, lunch or dinner kind of dish.  It's egg based so you can just do the breakfast route when adding in ingredients or you can have a slice for lunch.  I served this for dinner as a side to Venison Steak, it was a nice change from just having a side of veggies.  So explore and change it up if you like and make it yours.  Please share if you do, I love hearing the different ideas and combinations of food people come up with!

Potato, Spinach and Leek Frittata

Olive Oil
2 large leeks, thinly sliced
2 cups fresh spinach
1/3 cups milk
1 tablespoon rosemary, minced
1 tablespoon thyme, minced
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
3 cloves garlic, minced
4 large eggs
4 large egg whites
2 cups cooked, peeled potatoes
Cooking spray
2 tablespoons panko breadcrumbs
1/4 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
2.  Drizzle oil in a skillet over medium heat.  Add leeks; sauté for roughly 4 minutes.  Add in garlic, thyme, and rosemary and sauté until aromatic.  Add spinach and sauté about 2 minutes or until spinach wilts.  Remove mixture from heat and set aside.
3.  Combine milk, salt, pepper, eggs, and egg whites; stir well with a whisk.  Add spinach and leek mixture and cooked potatoes.  Pour into a 10 inch round pie plate that has been sprayed with cooking spray.  Sprinkle with the panko and top with cheese.  Bake at 350 F for 25 minutes or until the center for the frittata is set.
4.  Turn on the broiler.  And broil until the frittata is golden brown on top, roughly 4-5 minutes.  Cut into wedges and serve.


Saturday, January 11, 2014

Parm Meatball

     Still sick.  Sleep is still calling my name...constantly, all the time.  Right now even.  So this is just going to be a recipe share day.  Love making meatballs for people, and not necessarily meatballs just to be smothered in sauce.  I love just having a damn good meatball that can stand up on its own if need be.  This is that kind of meatball for me.

Parm Meatball
1 1/2 pounds ground turkey
1 tablespoon Italian seasonings
2 teaspoons red pepper flakes
2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 large egg
1 cup Parmesan cheese, shredded
1/2 cup Italian breadcrumb
Handful of chopped parsley
Extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and black pepper, to taste

1. Preheat oven to 425 F.
2. Place turkey in a bowl and season with Italian seasonings, red pepper flakes, and garlic powder, plus salt and pepper.  Add in egg, shredded cheese, breadcrumbs, parsley and a decent drizzle of olive oil to the bowl.  Mix meat and form into 12 large meatballs or 16 medium sized.
3.  Bake 15 minutes until golden and firm.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Roasted Butternut Squash and Arugula Salad

     So obviously it's the get sick season.  And that season has officially hit my household, ok-it's officially hit me, no one else.  And I'm glad, really I am that I am the only one that is sick.  But in the tiniest darkest part of my brain, I think "why did it have to be me??"  But it is me, so might as well make the most of it while I can.  And trust me there's not a lot to make of it, I spent all of yesterday laying/sleeping on my couch off and on all day until I finally made my way back upstairs to go to bed.   Not a pleasant day and I vowed that today I would be better. 
     Ha!  I don't know if your bodies have ever listened when you said you didn't want to be sick.  But mine does not, it never has, so if you have a secret answer to this-SHARE!  And though I don't feel as tired, I feel like I am 100% out of it and slightly in a daze, so if none of this blog makes sense today it's not my fault!!  Hell, I'm not sure that I'll even end up posting this one just because I'm afraid it's going to be a mixture of self medicated sick person rambling.  Tell me that we have all been there and it's not just me??......................Anyone?
     I'm bummed to say that at least for today I probably am not going to be cooking anything special.  And most likely won't be cooking at all, we'll see though.  I'm starting to go through kitchen withdraw and I think you take cabin fever to a whole new level when your sick on top of it all. 
     So until I am feeling a little bit better, which is hopefully soon, there will be no leek frittata or butternut squash soup.  Or no spice crusted venison.  GRRRR!  I am determined tomorrow that I will be well enough to make these things.  Or to at least make something-I'd settle for just a simple scrambled egg in the morning.  But since it is a non-cooking day, and in ode to the Butternut Squash Soup dish I should be making tonight I'll share with you my Butternut Squash and Arugula Salad.  

     Butternut squash is a winter squash, which has a sweet nutty flavor that is similar to pumpkin.  You can roast it-which is probably the most common way that I have seen it prepared or served, and how we prepared it in the salad.  You can use it in purees and I'm thinking it might be an interesting substitute to pumpkin in some sort of muffin preparation.  And like I said before, I'd really like to try out a spicy butternut squash soup of some sort.  However, until I am feeling a little bit better (or can stand up straight for longer than 5 minutes without wanting to pass out) I'll just have to make due with sharing a recent recipe I made with one of my classes and made again at home so I could take pictures and give you guys a little bit more visuals.  Hope you guys enjoy it like I did, and I am JEALOUS of any and all of you that are not sick right now!

Roasted Butternut Squash and Arugula Salad
Serves: 4
1/2 pomegranate
1 butternut squash; roasted
6 slices bacon; cooked and crumbled
1 package arugula
8 oz. goat cheese
Olive Oil
Kosher salt
Black pepper

1.  Roast the butternut squash at 400 F for 25-30 minutes or until nice and soft.  Cube when cool enough to handle.
2.  Deseed the pomegranate, rinse well and set aside.
3.  Cook the bacon, and drain it on paper towels.
4.  Mix everything together in a large bowl with a few tablespoons of olive oil.  Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper as needed.