Tag Archives: dinner

It’s Tomato Time! | Homemade tomato sauce & more!

25 Aug

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Oh hi there! It’s been a while! Hope your summer has been amazing. It’s so hard to believe that it’s nearly September. Wow! But before I go on and on about how I love the Fall, I’ll share a hint of what we’ve been up to recently—lots of cooking/making with fresh local veggies! Hooray!

Our amazing 90-year-old neighbor’s son dropped off a bag of tomatoes from her garden and one of our other neighbors (Ollie’s favorite!) invited us to “go shopping” his garden. What a treat! I’ve eaten my share of fresh garden tomatoes this year but this time we’d gotten so many at once and were a bit overwhelmed. So we decided to make our own red sauce.

This recipe is a mostly scaled down version (with a little twist) of the “Big-Batch Summer Tomato Sauce” from America’s Test Kitchen DIY Cookbook. It still made about 3 pints of sauce. We froze some & took some to Ollie’s favorite neighbor but truth be told, I didn’t share any with the other neighbor because she is Italian and I was completely intimidated. I did, however, thank her profusely for the amazing tomatoes the next time I saw her, so don’t worry. 

Also, I’m apologizing in advance for the lack of photos. I took some stellar ones but my phone got completely destroyed (run over by a highway full of cars) and failed to back up that day (Murphy’s Law!). Seriously, people. I know. 

Ingredients

5 lbs of fresh organic tomatoes (in season & garden fresh are the BEST!)
2 Tbsp of tomato paste (we didn’t have any so see how I improvised below)
2 cloves of garlic
1 tsp of organic cane sugar (you could use raw honey or brown sugar, too — or omit it altogether)
2 tsp dried basil (or 2 Tbsp fresh)
1 tsp salt
1 Tbsp of red wine vinegar

Steps

1. Oh crap! = The realization that you don’t quite have all of the ingredients to make what you want to make. What went wrong this time? Well, we didn’t have any tomato paste. I researched a bit online and most sources said to cook down (reduce) tomato sauce. Honestly, we were making 2 other things that night and I didn’t feel like waiting for a can of tomato sauce to reduce on the stovetop BEFORE I could make the tomato sauce. Then I remembered that I had a package of organic sun-dried tomatoes and I found this recipe for Sun-dried Tomato Puree (I followed the recipe exactly but omitted the garlic cloves & recommended additions because I wanted to keep it simple since I was adding it to a sauce recipe. I also don’t think I used quite as much olive oil as the 1/2 cup in the recipe when all was said & done).

2. Bring 4 quarts of water to boil in a large pot over high heat and prepare an ice bath (ice & cold water) in a large bowl. Remove core from tomatoes and score a small X in the base of each. In batches, with a slotted spoon, lower tomatoes into boiling water & cook just until skins are loose, about 15-45 seconds. Using a slotted spoon, transfer tomatoes to the ice bath to cool (about 2 minutes). Take tomatoes out of the ice bath and remove loosened tomato skins (they will fall right off like magic!). 

3. Process garlic in a food processor until minced, about 10 seconds. Leave the garlic in the food processor.  Process peeled tomatoes, in batches, until almost smooth, 15-20 seconds. It’s okay that your garlic got a little more processed in the first batch of tomatoes. They’re all going to hang out together in step 4 anyway. Transfer each batch of pureed tomatoes to a large pot (we used a dutch oven). 

4. Add the garlic, sun-dried tomato puree (substituted for the tomato paste), basil and salt to the tomatoes and bring to simmer over medium heat. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until sauce has thickened and reduced by 1/2  (about 1.5-2 hours). Stir vinegar and sugar into pot, seasoning with additional sugar to taste. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

5. You could easily can the sauce, but we opted to pour it into pint size mason jars & freeze what we knew we wouldn’t give away or eat in a couple of days.

Notes

This sauce was really tasty and fresh! While it took a while to make a lot of that time was simmering time (read: time when you can be doing lots of other things!).

It was the perfect recipe to use all of the fresh tomatoes that we’d never have eaten in time.

If you don’t like tomato seeds in your sauce (or you have picky kids), consider straining the seeds out before pouring the finished sauce into mason jars…or better yet…cut each tomato in 1/2 and scoop the seeds out with your thumb after step 2 above. 

Happy New Year | A Healthy Start!

19 Jan

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Holy cow! Happy 2014! Where did all of the days after Thanksgiving 2013 go? Wheeee!

After lots of yummy, and well worth it in a homemade-coconut-cream-pie-kind-of-way, holiday eating & baking & giving, we’re back on a healthier eating track. A friend recommended a healthier food blog to Jess and we’ve started flipping through all of the wonderful cookbooks (old & new) on our bookshelves for inspiration–with the interwebs a finger’s length away, it’s easy to rely solely on them web for meal planning even though we’ve got a wealth of beautifully bound print books close by. One resolution (use what we’ve got!) is well underway.

Here are the two things we’ve (ahem…Jess) has made so far from Sarah Britton’s blog, My New Roots. The Winter Abundance Bowl (recipe here) and these little gems (Spaghetti Squash Baby Cakes with Crispy Sage). The abundance bowl was insanely good (seriously, it’s a MUST make)–trust the recipe and her cooking process AND the fact that everything tastes amazing together (a bite of this with a bite of that) with all of the the different textures. Oh hi, pumpkin seed sauce! Where have you been all my life? It would be a delicious dip for veggies, too.

We adapted the squash baby cakes recipe because every store we went visited was out of spaghetti squash (seriously, not a single one). Jess used butternut squash instead and didn’t include the fried sage leaves on top & they were still delicious and sage-y. She cooked some of the cakes in a skillet and then baked the rest. The leftover cakes heated up really well in the toaster oven. I don’t love butternut squash and I happily ate these up.

I’m really excited to explore the other recipes on My New Roots and share our experience with you.

We had what seemed like a million carrots in the refrigerator so I made a really yummy Ginger Apple Carrot Soup from Joy the Baker’s blog one Sunday afternoon. 

Ok. It wouldn’t be a good food related post without ending on a yummy sweet treat that I’ve made several times since discovering the recipe. Available here (but I’ve shared the recipe below so I can include my tips/process notes). It makes four servings and even though you’ll be tempted to eat more…don’t do it–it’s really rich.

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Chocolate Ricotta Mousse from Real Simple
Serves 4

Ingredients

1 15-ounce container ricotta (about 2 cups)
2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
1/2 cup semi sweet chocolate, melted, plus more, shaved, for topping (I used these mini chocolate chips and then just sprinkled a few on top)

Directions

  1. In a food processor, blend the ricotta and sugar until smooth.
  2. Add the melted chocolate and blend until thoroughly mixed in (should be a smooth chocolate color with no visible white).
  3. Divide among bowls and top with the shaved chocolate.
  4. The mousse can be refrigerated until ready to serve, up to 2 days. The original recipe says to bring it up to room temperature before serving — but we like it a little more chilled so I usually toss in into the refrigerator after making it for 30 minutes or so.

Maker’s notes:
There were several comments on the original recipe that said it had a very grainy texture. Mine wasn’t at all–quite the opposite actually. I attribute this to 2 things.

  1. A great (but not insanely expensive) food processor. We have this Cuisinart that I found online on sale for $99. I don’t care that it’s white and doesn’t look super modern & sleek. It’s an amazing kitchen work horse.
  2. Really good quality whole milk ricotta (I know I’ve mentioned it before, but Calabro is my favorite & we buy it at Whole Foods). It’s creamy &  blends up very nicely. It’s so tasty, that I’ve been known to eat it straight from the carton with a little bit of salt & pepper. Oops!

What healthy and delicious recipes have you been making in 2014?

Simple Side Dish | Roasted Sriracha Brussels Sprouts

6 May

One of my favorite places to eat locally is Highland Kitchen. Highland Kitchen is a family owned neighborhood restaurant and bar located in the heart of Somerville. They serve American comfort food, local craft beer, creative cocktails and great service. Recently Kate and I had an impromptu date night there, and this is when I remembered one of their famous side dishes, buffalo brussels sprouts. As we walked out, I brainstormed with Kate about making a riff on that buffalo brussels sprouts recipe at home for us one night the following week. Kate in all of her genius, then exclaimed… it would be tasty if you used Sriracha instead of Franks Red Hot Sauce. Done and done.

sriracha brussels

Sriracha Brussels Sprouts
serves 2

Ingredients

 1 lb brussels sprouts (cleaned and cut in halves)

3 TBS melted butter

1 tsp – 1 TBS Sriracha (hot chili garlic sauce) 

salt and pepper to taste

cut brussels

Steps
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees

2. Lightly coat a baking sheet with nonstick spray or olive oil
3. Place the cleaned and halved brussels sprouts in a medium bowl
4. Combine melted butter and Sriracha, pour over brussels sprouts, stir to combine, make sure they are coated evenly.
5. Place coated brussels sprouts on to the prepared baking sheet in a single layer.
6. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper.
7. Bake 20 – 30 minutes depending on the roast level you desire. Stir brussels half way through to ensure even browning.
8. Remove from oven, season before serving with salt.

Notes
1. Sriracha is a sweet hot chili garlic sauce, 1 tsp will give you a slight heat factor, feel free to increase the Sriracha in this recipe to increase the heat!
2. This recipe could be used with roasted cauliflower too. Y-U-M!
3. If the brussels sprouts are particularly large, cut them into quarters.

Keepin’ it local | Dave’s Coffee Syrup

1 May

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Keepin’ it tasty, keepin’ it local…

Dave’s Coffee is a small family owned craft coffee roaster based in Rhode Island. They are certified organic and do everything by hand, the old fashioned way. I bought some of this coffee syrup at a food show Kate & I went to last December and have been tinkering with different uses and recipes for it.

All in all Dave’s Coffee Syrup is just that syrup, a thick sticky bottle of deliciousness. Hand roasted in small batches, cold brewed organic coffee and simmered with natural cane sugar. Yum!

Here are three ideas I have tried, tasted & approve… enjoy!

Homemade Coffee Soda

Ingredients

12oz seltzer water

3 TBS Dave’s Coffee Syrup

Steps

1. Fill 16oz mason jar or pint glass with ice
2. Pour in seltzer water, you can make your own with a Soda Stream or use bottled seltzer
3. Stir in coffee syrup

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Vegan Coffee Egg Cream (adapted from Babycakes NYC)

Ingredients

2 TBS Dave’s Coffee Syrup

3 TBS vanilla soy milk

5oz seltzer water

Steps

1. Pour soy milk and coffee syrup into a tall glass and stir well to combine
2. Continue to stir vigorously while adding seltzer

Notes
1. For the best results, make sure the seltzer and soy milk are well chilled.

ImageSlow Cooker Marinated Pork Tenderloin
serves 2

Ingredients

1 – 24oz frozen pork tenderloin

1 medium onion roughly chopped

1 32oz box chicken broth

1 12oz bottle of ginger beer

1 TBS Dave’s Coffee Syrup

1/2 TBS Sriracha (hot garlic chili sauce)

1 TBS apple cider vinegar

1/4 c Trader Joe’s Soyaki (equal parts soy sauce & teriyaki sauce could substitute)

1/4 c ketchup

1/2 TBS smoked paprika

1 TBS grill seasoning

5 – 6 garlic cloves (peeled and smashed)

Steps

1. Roughly chop the onion and line the bottom of the center of the crock pot.
2. Cover your pork with salt and pepper and place on top of the onion, this will keep the bottom of your pork from getting chewy during the cooking process.
3. Whisk together the rest of the ingredients in a medium sized bowl and pour over the pork in the crock pot. The liquid should almost completely cover the pork.
4. Cook on HIGH for 2 hours, then reduce the cooking temperature to LOW for 4 hours.
5. Once the cooking time is complete, remove the pork from the crock pot, slice and serve.

Notes
1. If you need more pork for your meal, then double the amount of pork and use the same amounts of liquid in the above recipe.
2. To adjust the heat level, add more smoked paprika and Sriracha.
3. The outcome was a really moist, tender and flavorful protein.

For more info on Dave’s Coffee or to order some coffee syrup follow this link to Dave’s Coffee online shop.

Oven Roasted Tomatoes | Versatile & Easy!

28 Apr
tomatoes, olive oil and S&P waiting to be roasted

tomatoes, olive oil and S&P waiting to be roasted

The warmer New England weather is starting to remind me of the summer foods I’ve missed all winter. Top of my list? Fresh tomatoes!

Grocery stores have been taunting me with tomato sales but I know they’re not yet in season. There is nothing quite like a just-picked tomato at the height of its season (or any produce, for that matter). My dad grew them nearly every summer in the garden when we were kids. He’d have competitions with a fellow gardner friend and I have vivid memories of secret tricks and strange apparatuses surrounding the tomato plants in the garden. My mom would make tomato and cheese sandwiches for us to enjoy at the peak of tomato season — hearty white bread spread with Miracle Whip then stacked with layers of sliced tomatoes and cheddar cheese & a little sprinkle of S&P. Yum…summer in sandwich!

So back to my point….since cherry tomatoes have been on sale quite a bit, Jess has been buying them. They were fine tossed into my lunch salads but I wanted a way to make them more delicious. Flour Bakery (a Boston area delight) is smart — and their BLT is the best BLT I’ve ever had in my life. I dream about it.  One of their secrets? They roast the tomatoes when they’re not in season in order to bring out their yumminess. Roasting also rids them of that gross mealy texture that often plagues out-of-season tomatoes. The recipe I used as a guide states, “roasting concentrates their flavor, turning the tomatoes into savory, tender little umami bombs”. Genius, right? It’s very easy & roasted tomatoes are a perfect addition to any recipe, sandwich, salad, pizza, pasta/rice salad, etc. — the possibilities are endless. We added them to a homemade pizza with oven roasted rosemary lemon turkey breast and banana pepper rings.

fresh_to_roasted

top: before roasting, middle: after first 20 minutes, last: after roasting

Oven Roasted Tomatoes (adapted from America’s Test Kitchen: DIY Cookbook, Oven Dried Tomatoes)

Ingredients

12 ounces – 1 pint of cherry tomatoes (grape tomatoes would work fine, too)
1 Tablespoon olive oil
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Steps

  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Rinse the tomatoes and lightly pat dry with a clean dish towel.
  3. Cut each tomato in 1/2 lengthwise & toss into a small bowl (with enough room for tossing later).
  4. Add olive oil, salt & pepper to the bowl and toss to evenly coat the tomatoes.
  5. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper (or aluminum foil) for easy clean-up. Place a wire rack on top of the prepared baking sheet and lightly spray with non-stick cooking spray.
  6. Place the seasoned tomatoes on the rack cut side down (not all of mine were facing down & they turned out fine).
  7. Place tomatoes into the oven for  20 minutes.
  8. Carefully remove the baking sheet from the oven and immediately turn the temperature down to 300 degrees.
  9. Use a fork to carefully flip the tomato halves cut side up and remove any tomato skin that has fallen off. If all of your tomatoes still have the skin on them, there’s no need to remove it since cherry tomatoes have such tender skin.
  10. Place them back in the oven for 20-25 minutes.
  11. Remove from the oven & allow to cool to room temperature before enjoying.

Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a week.

roasted tomatoes standing by to be the next pizza topping

roasted tomatoes standing by to be the next pizza topping

Tiny Bites, Big Flavors | Turkey Sliders

4 Feb

Saturday afternoon at work I had thought of the perfect idea for dinner on Sunday night, Super Bowl Sunday night. I knew I would have to do some convincing when it came to getting Kate on board, but I was up for the challenge. You see neither one of us are sports fans, so I knew I couldn’t approach it from that angle. Quite frankly I know I was more excited in Animal Planet’s Puppy Bowl, especially since it features adoptable dogs that need homes and uses this event to promote adoption. P.S. We didn’t get to watch that much of the Puppy Bowl because Ollie was so into it, he kept standing in front of the TV on his hind legs and barking along with the puppies, cute, but not conducive to apartment living, ha!

My goal Super Bowl Sunday menu was going to feature all game day themed appetizers. Yes! As I had predicted Kate wasn’t into it, but as she often does she humors me and my crazy themed meal ideas. On one condition, that the menu items had to be healthier versions. Got it, the challenge was on.
I found this amazing hot spinach and artichoke dip recipe on Skinnytaste.com it was amazing. We paired it with Stacy’s Simply Naked Pita chips that were on sale at Shaw’s yesterday, bonus. As an added tip, because Kate had her contribution to the meal cooking in the oven, we made the dip and baked it in the toaster oven my parents gave us for Christmas and it came out perfect.

Kate wanted to make her Mom’s stuffed mushroom recipe, so we had those as well. Upon returning home from grocery shopping she realized that she didn’t buy the French Onion Soup packet that her Mom’s recipe called for, to substitute she finely chopped some shallots, sautéed them and added some garlic salt to the recipe and they were amazing.
On to our main course…
sliders
Turkey Burgers with Sriracha Aoli

Ingredients
1lb Ground Turkey

1/4 c Panko breadcrumbs
3/4 small white onion grated
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
1/2 tsp cumin
1 tsp grill seasoning
3 dashes of Worcestershire Sauce
1 egg
2 TBS Dijon mustard

Steps
1) Place ground turkey into a medium size bowl

2) Grate the white onion directly into the ground turkey in order to get all of the onion juice into the mix

3) Add the remaining ingredients

4) Combine with your hands

5) On medium heat, heat a medium-sized skillet drizzled with 1 TBS of olive oil or sprayed with non-stick spray

6) Form the slider patties, make them approximately 3″ in diameter and 1″ thick

7) Cook for 3 minutes on each side, a meat thermometer should read the internal temperature as 165 degrees.

Sriracha Aoili

Ingredients
1 tsp Sriracha (hot garlic chili sauce)

4 TBS light mayonnaise
juice of 1/2 lemon
dash of salt

Steps
1) Combine the Sriracha, mayo, and lemon juice in a small bowl

2) Season to taste with a dash of salt

Notes:
1) We used Sara Lee dinner rolls for buns and they were the perfect size

2) To melt cheese on your sliders, once the burgers are done cooking, remove the pan from the heat, add one half of a slice of your favorite cheese to the top of each burger and place a sheet of aluminum foil over the pan, be sure to fold the foil in half so that it looks like a tent prior to covering the pan, this will keep your cheese from sticking to the foil.

3) The portions were two sliders per person and there was a little more than half of the ground meat mixture left last night, so tonight we are having ground turkey soft tacos in order to make our leftovers count.

4) For best flavor spread the aoli on each side of the bun, the bottom that the meat will sit on as well as the top to help anchor the greens.

Enjoy!

Two For One | Shredded Chicken & Enchilada Sauce

28 Jan

Make it count Monday, two recipes in one blog post. My ever thrifty self has been trying to meal plan on my day off and make the majority of our meals at the beginning of the week in order to have stress free healthy meals during the week when work is in full gear.

I’ve been using these simple principles:
– Cook at least one protein in the crock pot. Why you ask? Here are my tips… I can stretch one protein such as pork tenderloin, boneless spare ribs, chicken breasts, steak tips, etc. into about 2 -3 meals for Kate and I. Of course I get creative mainly because I can’t stand having the same thing over and over. One week we had steak tips cooked in the crock pot that we had with mashed sweet potatoes and kale chips, which then turned into asian spiced steak tacos with corn soft tacos and fresh lime juice.
– Save your money! Using the crock pot to cook at least one meal a week will save you money on utilities. One of my favorite crock pot recipe blogs, A Year of Slow Cooking, listed that there is documentation that suggests that a slow cooker uses approximately $0.02 of power per hour and that the monthly cost of using a slow cooker is $1.17. The slow cooking method of crock pots lends itself perfectly to less expensive cuts of meat that can be tough if not cooked using the low and slow method.
– Save your time! I only make slow cooker meals that require little to no prep ahead of time. That means less prep time, less dishes, and more time to spend with Kate and the pups 🙂

This week I made the recipe below originally posted on The Honest Company Blog.

Easiest Slow Cooker Shredded Chicken
serves 4

Ingredients
3 Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts (fresh or frozen)

1 16oz jar of your favorite salsa
1 onion finely chopped

Steps
1) Pour 1/3 of the jar of salsa covering the bottom of the crock pot

2) Layer the chopped onion over the salsa

3) Nestle the chicken breasts into the onion and salsa that is covering the bottom of the crock pot

4) Cover the chicken breasts with the remaining 2/3 jar of salsa

5) Cover and cook fresh chicken breasts on LOW for 7 hours. If you used frozen chicken breasts cook on HIGH for 6 hours.

Notes:
1) I used fresh chicken breasts and came out amazing, super moist and tender. Yum!
2) The salsa I used was Spike’s Salsa and it was the medium variety, but feel free to use whatever suits your heat level. I discovered Spike’s Salsa one week when it was on sale at the grocery store, it is really good and costs a fraction of the other bigger named salsa brands.
3) I removed the cooked chicken from the crock pot and shredded it using two forks, it basically falls apart on its own so you could use your hands if you want.
4) To store it, I placed the left over shredded chicken in a food safe storage container, we use these Anchor Hocking True Seal glass containers, then I added about 1/2 – 3/4 cup of the reserved cooking juices that were at the bottom of the slow cooker. Only use enough to mix into the shredded chicken to keep it moist.

sauce
Tonight I’m turning the left over shredded chicken into an Enchilada Casserole using a homemade enchilada sauce I made this afternoon.

Here’s the recipe:

Roasted Tomato Enchilada Sauce
inspired by America’s Test Kitchen

Ingredients
1 TBS canola oil

1 14.5oz can of Organic fire roasted diced tomatoes
1 onion diced
3 garlic cloves minced
1 Fresno chile finely diced, seeds and ribs removed
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp cumin
1 tsp smoked paprika
2 tsp sugar
2 TBS salsa
1/2 c water

Steps

1) Heat oil in a 1.5 – 2 QT sauce pan using med/low heat.

2) Start to cook onion, garlic, and chile in the heated oil to soften about 5 mins.

3) Add remaining ingredients and stir.

4) Bring sauce to a boil and then reduce heat to a simmer.

5) Simmer covered for 15 minutes.

6) Remove pan from heat, using an immersion blender submerge into sauce and blend until smooth. If you do not have an immersion blender a food processor or blender would work just as well.

7) Enjoy!

Notes:
1) The enchilada sauce recipe is totally vegan and low-fat!
2) It will freeze well in a freezer safe storage container, try using a canning jar just remember to leave approximately 1 inch of room in the jar before screwing on the lid.

 

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