One Pan Wonder

In our house there is a rule that I cook, and Jeremy cleans up afterwards. If it’s an especially messy meal, I will help him, but generally he does it on his own. So I really shouldn’t care how many dishes are left after I cook dinner, or how hard it is to clean it all up, but I love my husband, and it takes him an hour to wash a sink full of dishes, so I present you with this one-pan wonder dinner.

The sausage, cabbage and apples in this came from my Coastal Farms Co-op. I love this program -I pay a membership fee, and each weekend I can log in to a website where over 50 farms and producers have posted what they have available. There are vegetables, fruit, cheese, seafood, meat, bread, honey, pre-made meals – and it’s all local. I pick what I want and I pay online. Then on Thursday afternoons, they deliver it all to a pick up spot that is very close to my house and I just go there and pick it up between 3-6 pm. It’s like shopping for lazy people, so it’s right up my alley. The turnips came from my Great Uncle Joe’s garden. There is no website for that, you just have to be in-the-know and VIP. Also, right up my alley.

layer sausage, cabbage, turnips and apples

layer sausage, cabbage, turnips and apples

Rustic Smoked Sausage and Cabbage

Ingredients: 

  • 1 lb of smoked sausage, (mine was a pinwheel, cut into link-sizes pieces)
  • 1/2 head of cabbage, sliced up (or a whole head if you’re serving more than 2 people)
  • 2 turnips, peeled and sliced into 1/2” rounds
  • 2 tbs. olive oil
  • 2 tsp carraway seeds
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • 1 apple, peeled, cored and sliced into rings

Method:

  1. On a large sheet pan, arrange your smoked sausage
  2. In a large bowl, toss cabbage and turnips with olive oil, carraway seeds and salt and pepper to taste. Arrange on sheet pan with sausage. Top with slices of apples.
  3. Roast at 475 for 18-20 minutes or until sausage is done through and cabbage and turnips are tender.
Rustic Smoked Sausage and Cabbage

Rustic Smoked Sausage and Cabbage

This is definitely what I would call a “rustic” meal. Very basic, farm-fresh ingredients, nothing fancy about the preparation or presentation, but hearty and filling. Because I made this recipe up on the fly, it could use a few alterations were I to do it again. First, and unfortunately, I think I’d have to use two pans. The sausage was so strong and so smokey, that it really just made all the other ingredients taste like sausage. I think if I did it again, i’d roast half of the veggies on a separate pan to keep their flavor in tact. It’s also possible that linked store-bought sausage would not be nearly as strong (three days later, my house still smells like sausage – it was serious). And so you could do it all on one pan like the original recipe. I would also try to roast this for a little less time. I’d shoot for 15 minutes next time. Provided the sausage is done, it would be perfect – at 20 minutes the veggies were just a little more done than I like. Also, I might try tossing the cabbage and turnips with a little apple cider vinegar along with the olive oil before roasting, just to brighten it up.

This sheet pan method can work for a lot of things, though. Try chicken (skin on) and carrots and potatoes or Salmon with asparagus or any other combination of meats and sides that cook well together. Adjust your temperature and time (longer for chicken, less for salmon) and experiment with it. It really was such a breeze to clean up, super easy to make,  and it was done in less than half an hour.  Again, all things that are right up my alley.

Advertisements

soul soup

“You don’t have a soul. You are a soul. You have a body.” ~ C. S. Lewis

Soul food is food cooked from the soul, for the soul, or both. Soul food nourishes us beyond a physical, nutritional need. Soul food heals things that medicines and treatments can’t touch.

This past week we lost a friend in a tragic car accident. It wasn’t her fault, she did nothing wrong. She was simply here one minute, gone the next.

When I heard the news, I went to my kitchen. I scrapped what I had planned for dinner and started working on something much more complicated. Something with a very hands-on sauce. I needed this time to whisk and whisk and whisk. Physically and mentally, I have been in the kitchen ever since. For me, cooking is therapy. The repetitive motions, the quiet time alone are healing in some way. And food. Nothing in this world works on the soul like food. So yesterday I began to make a soup, a soul soup. It couldn’t be from someone else’s recipe. It had to be from me, from my soul. It had to be a part of the grieving, and ultimately, a part of the healing.

For-and-From-the-Soul Soup

Ingredients:

  • 1 tbs vegetable oil
  • 1 large turnip, washed, peeled and diced 
  • 3 carrots, peeled and diced
  • 2 stalks of celery, chopped
  • 1 small yellow onion, diced
  • 1 tbs dried parsley
  • 2 sprigs of fresh rosemary
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tsp. pepper
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 6 cups of chicken broth (homemade or store-bought)
  • 3 boneless, skinless, chicken thighs
  • 5 lasagna noodles, broken up into pieces

Method:

  1. In a large stock pot, saute turnips for several minutes in oil over medium heat.  Add carrots, saute for several more minutes, then add celery and onions and finally garlic when the onions are softened. 
  2. Season vegetables with parsley, drop in rosemary, bay leaf, pepper and salt – stir well to combine and heat through until fragrant. You want all the vegetables to be softened.
  3. Add chicken broth and bring to boil. Drop in your chicken thighs and boil until chicken is done through – 10-15 minutes. Remove thighs from broth, place on cutting board and cut into chunks or shred. Whichever you prefer. Return to broth along with noodles and simmer until noodles are done.
  4. If the soup gets too thick, add in water, 1/2 cup at a time  (or broth, if you have extra) until it’s as soupy as you’d like. If the water cuts down on the flavor, add a 1 tsp. of bouillon per cup of water. Since the chicken cooks in the broth, your flavor should be pretty big, so adding water shouldn’t hurt it too much.
From and For the Soul Soup

From and For the Soul Soup

 

I’ve made chicken soups before, usually an Asian or Italian inspired “gourmet” type of recipe. But this was simple, down-home, soul food. I used ingredients I had on hand: left-over lasagna noodles, homemade broth from a crock pot chicken, turnips from my Uncle Joe’s garden. This soup was who and where I was in that moment. We sipped this soup out of mugs before and after the wake. We will eat it today as we prepare for the funeral. We will let the warmth of it sooth our souls. We will mourn. We will heal.

Andrea, your body may be gone, an empty tomb, but your soul, which doesn’t require such earthly boundaries, lives on forever. Fly free. See you on the other side. 

A Little Dab Will Do Ya

Julia Child noted in Mastering the Art of French Cooking that “Sauces are the splendor and glory of French cooking, yet there is  nothing secret or mysterious about making them.” This is so absolutely true. A good sauce can elevate an ordinary meal to something spectacular and while a Hollandaise or Bechamel may sound French and scary, there’s really nothing to it. And most basic sauces are made with things you probably already have on hand: butter, eggs, flour, some stock or broth. And once you learn to make some basic sauces, and you’ve mastered their techniques, you can start to expand, making your own: adding some herbs, cheese, or anything else that sounds good.

A good French sauce usually starts with cream or butter. Two things that I usually stay away from, but as Julia herself said “Everything in moderation… including moderation.” The thing about good sauces is that you don’t need much of them. In fact, a very good sauce will do its job in just a dab or two. So indulge away. Julia would.

Served over salmon - a perfect, buttery complement.

Hollandaise served over salmon – a perfect, buttery complement.

Hollandaise with Dill

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 4 egg yolks (fresh and local, if possible)
  • 1 Tb lemon juice
  • 1/2 C. unsalted butter, melted, but not hot
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1/8 C. chopped, fresh dill

Method:

  1. Vigorously whisk the egg yolks and lemon juice together in a stainless steel bowl and until the mixture is thickened and doubled in volume.
  2. Place the bowl over a saucepan containing barely simmering water (or use a double boiler,) the water should not touch the bottom of the bowl. Continue to whisk rapidly. Be careful not to let the eggs get too hot or they will scramble.
  3. Slowly drizzle in the melted butter and continue to whisk until the sauce is thickened and doubled in volume.
  4. Remove from heat, whisk in salt and dill. Cover and place in a warm spot until ready to use. If the sauce sits for awhile and gets too thick, whisk in a few drops of warm water before serving.

I got these eggs from a little farm stand down the street and the dill came through my co-op from Vaughan Farms in Virginia Beach. When you’re dealing with so few ingredients and with such an intensified flavor, you’d do well to use the best, freshest ingredients you can get. Again, Julie backs me up when she says “You don’t have to cook fancy or complicated masterpieces – just good food from fresh ingredients.”

What are your favorite sauces? Or your favorite indulgences?

 

pizza party

I want you all to put your thinking caps on, use your inside voices, and think back to that blue-industrial carpeted, windowless, cement walled room covered in bulletin boards with cut outs that generically represented whatever season it happened to be. It smells like kids and chalk and old books. You’re in third grade, and sentence conjugation and algebra are a bummer. What was the number one most exciting thing that could ever happen on a school day such as today (besides the school day being cancelled for snow)? What’s the one thing that would awake you from your ‘is-it-recess-yet-slumber’? That’s right: PIZZA PARTY! Usually pizza party day coincided with ‘watch a movie’ day, so basically as soon as you saw this:

ERMEGERD PERRRZEERR

ERMEGERD PERRRZEERR

And this:

ERMAGERD MERVEEERS

ERMAGERD MERVEEERS

Your tiny 8 year old heart was about to explode with joy.

Well, maybe the rest of you have grown up a little more than me, but as far as I’m concerned, anytime I see pizza I still feel like eating it while laying on my stomach on the floor and watching a crummy edited VHS version of The Indian in the Cupboard. (true story). Nowadays, the pizza is the only thing that’s grown up. And the movies. Sometimes.

Making your own pizza at home is super easy, super cheap and super fast. You can seriously make a pizza at home, from scratch, in less time than it would take you to order a pizza and have it delivered by a high school kid who has hit every bump on the way to your house, causing the majority of your pizza toppings to remain firmly attached to the roof of the pizza box.

I started making this pizza crust years ago, and it’s so easy it’s absurd. Like, it’s actually insane to me that everyone doesn’t do this and that people still buy pre-made pizza crust. First, there are only FIVE ingredients (besides water), most of which you probably already have in your cabinets. Second, the crust is this delicious, chewy, wonderful thing when you’re done. Not too thick, not too thin. If you’re one of those people who likes pizza that is essentially a heavily topped cracker, this is not for you. And for those of you who like pizza that was baked in a cake pan and you have to eat with a fork, it’s so thick, this is not for you. But for everyone else – this is our pizza crust.

Homemade Pizza Crust

pizza party crust

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup warm water (110 degrees F)
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 packet of Fleischmann’s pizza crust active dry yeast (2 1/4 tsp)
    (find it in the baking aisle of your grocery store)
  • 3 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 1/2 cups AP flour

Method:

  1. Add the sugar and yeast into the water, stirring until dissolved 
  2. Stir in the olive oil and salt, then the flour, stirring until well combined
  3. Knead the dough very lightly just until a ball of dough forms. Let dough rest in the bowl for 10 minutes.
  4. Pat dough out onto pizza stone or pan into desired shape, 1/4” thick. Top with olive oil, garlic powder and herbs, if desired before topping with ingredients.
  5. Bake at 425 for 15-20 minutes or until done. Let rest five minutes before cutting and serving.
Top it up.

Top it up.

Your ingredients can be whatever you want, but I love a good Greek pizza, and usually just throw together whatever I have on hand at the house. In this case, I topped the dough with a little more olive oil, Italian seasoning and garlic powder, then I put down a sauce that I had frozen from some local tomatoes mixed with some tomato paste. You can just use store-bought pizza sauce – no big deal. Then I topped that with a thin layer of fresh grated Parmigiana Reggiano, low-fat mozzarella, kalamata olives, diced sundried tomatoes, sliced pepperoncini peppers, half an onion, thinly sliced, and most importantly – browned, ground, local, Italian sausage from Windhaven Farms. I used about 1/3 of a pound. Since I’ve got a lot going on there, I bake my pizza for a good 20 minutes. I don’t want the dough to be underdone in the center. Take it out of the oven and let it rest for a few minutes. This will be the hardest part, cause when it comes out it looks like this:

pizza party pizza

And your 8 year old self is going to just want to grab it and stuff it in your face before that greedy kid with the runny nose touches it.

What are your favorite pizza toppings?

the other green

I was reading a story in Edible Piedmont this morning about a kale recipe, which could also be made with collards. The author made this substitution because she said she knew how popular collards are in eastern North Carolina, so much so that the region has been referred to as “The Collard Belt.” I’ll take it. But I’ll also take kale. Any day of the week. I think it’s actually a bit more palatable to the general population than collards and is usually cooked in more various ways.

I know it’s sort of cliche to have a food blog and regale the benefits of kale. Everyone gets it, I know. Kale is great, it’s good for you, it’s a super food, put it in your smoothies, bake it into cookies, blah blah blah. But seriously. It’s great. So great that I highlighted one of my favorite kale recipes in my January column in Tidewater WomenThe column this month is about resolving to “Live Locally” and what that means, how it benefits not only you personally, but your community as a whole. I also put it in there to remind people that local food isn’t in hibernation during the winter months. It’s readily available, if you’re willing to look for it, and to try something you might not otherwise try (ie – kale. or chard. or other things that are green and look like dinosaur food.) Not wanting to be a hypocrite, I went out yesterday, tracked down some kale and made this recipe, which I share with you below. It really is a great recipe, especially for the new year, if (like me) you are trying to drop a few “party pounds” from the holidays….this meal is so packed with protein that after only half a bowl you’ll feel completely full. It’s also so lo-cal and healthy that even if you down all four servings in one night, there’s really nothing to feel guilty about. Except for the amount of flatulence you will inevitably plague your family with if you decide to do that. ANYWAYS.

I found this kale at a little roadside stand out in front of somebody’s house. These are my favorite places to shop because it’s fresh, you’re helping support someone’s backyard gardening habit, and the produce is usually dirt cheap. I got a pound of kale and a dozen fresh, free-range eggs for $4. I could also have scored 4 lbs of sweet potatoes for a dollar if I’d liked. Keep an eye out for these stands in your neighborhood or town. And don’t feel shy or weird about driving up to them. The people who set them out are usually so nice and happy to have a customer. The chicken came from a Crock Pot Chicken I’d made earlier in the week. This was one of three meals I got out of one five pound chicken. The only change I make in this recipe is that I use dried lentils that I cook and season myself. I’ve never been able to find canned lentils in my grocery stores, but if your store has them – more power to you. If you go this route, use half the bag (1/2 lb) – not two whole cups of dried beans, as they will expand as they cook. 1/2 lb will give you just over two cups once cooked.

Shredded Chicken with Kale and Lentils

kale cooking

CAST IRON LOVE.

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 2 bunches kale, tough stems removed, torn into bite-size pieces
  • 2 cups lentils (from a 15.5-ounce can), drained and rinsed
  • 2 cups shredded cooked skinless chicken breasts
  • Lemon wedges, for serving

Method:

  1. In a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium heat. Add onion and thyme; season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is softened, about 5 minutes.
  2. Add kale and cook, stirring occasionally, until kale is wilted and tender, 4 to 6 minutes. Transfer to a medium bowl.
  3. Add 1 tablespoon oil and lentils to skillet; season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring, until warmed through, about 20 seconds. Transfer to bowl with kale, toss to combine, and divide among four bowls. Top with chicken and squeeze lemon over top. Serves 4.
Shredded chicken with kale and lentils

Shredded chicken with kale and lentils

I agree with what you’re thinking – this looks like a recipe you see in those magazines all about getting fit with advertisements for muscle milk supplements. But honestly, it doesn’t taste like that. It tastes yummy AND healthy, which is possible, I promise. Jeremy even got seconds. Flatulence be damned!

 

Burger Fancy

I am one of those people who inevitably gets attached to a really smart, funny, indi-flavored show that the FOX executives are smart enough to give a first season, and dumb enough to cancel after two. (Think: early Family Guy, Arrested Development, Futurama, etc etc). I fear this is the fate of one of my new favorite shows, Bob’s Burgers. It constantly amazes me that these shows don’t get the viewership required to stay on the air. I guess everyone is too busy watching The Bachelor or something where people vote on who gets to push someone off a cliff or something. Anyways, this show is hilarious and comes on Sunday nights on Fox. It’s about a little burger restaurant and the family who owns and operates it. It’s great and has a bunch of great comedians doing the voices including Jon Benjamin, John Roberts, and Kristin Schaal. I love shows about food that don’t make food disgusting. This guy Bob, he really loves his burgers. He takes it seriously and he has a burger special everyday that always has a great, clever name:

If Looks Could Kale Burger. Brilliant.

If Looks Could Kale Burger. Brilliant.

So this weekend I got inspired to make my own fancy burger. For Christmas this year my in-laws got me a cast-iron stove top griddle. One of the ones that sits on top two of your stove burner at the same time – one side is a flat top and the other is a grill. It’s awesome. It also weighs about 30 lbs. Seriously. I LOVE cast-iron, as you may remember from my last blog and my Le Creuset spiel.  I love it because it lasts forever, is easy to take care of, you can take it camping and use it over an open fire, and did you know that cooking on cast iron is actually a good way to get trace iron minerals in your system? I used to be anemic, so I look for ways to make sure I’m getting enough iron on a daily basis, and this is a no brainer way to do it. Anyways, back to the burgers . . .

It’s like 20 degrees outside, so grilling on the outdoor grill is out of the question. (Hyperbole alert: this is southeastern Virginia. It is rarely ever 20. It’s more like 52, but that’s still too cold for me to spend significant amounts of time outside). So making burgers was a perfect opportunity to test out the stove top grill. I’m going to make a pretty significant confession now. Jeremy and I were craving a burger the other night, so we rolled through the Wendy’s drive thru hoping to get one of the mushroom Swiss burgers they had been advertising (hold your fire!), but apparently they had stopped selling them like the day before or something, so we never got our fix. Obviously, that was what I had to make.

A Shroom of One’s Own Burger

(a little joke for you literary fans out there)

A Shroom of Ones Own Burger

Ingredients:

Burger:
1 lb 80/20 ground beef (local and grass-fed when and if possible)
1 egg (again, local and pasture-raised when and if possible)
1 tbs Worcestershire sauce
1/4 c. onion, minced
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
Salt and Pepper to taste

Accouterments:
1/4 cup of mayo
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
Garlic Powder, Pepper and Salt to taste
4 Toasted Burger Buns
1 onion, sliced into thin rings
1/2 cup of mushrooms (fresh or jarred), sliced
4 slices of Swiss cheese

Method:

  1. Combine all of your burger ingredients in a medium bowl. I put on my surgeon gloves and combine it all with my hands.
  2. Divide the meat in half, then in half again so that you have four 1/4 lb pieces (you could also use a food scale). Shape each 1/4 lb into a large, flat patty. Set on a plate and refrigerate while you prep everything else.
  3. In a small bowl combine mayo, Worcestershire, garlic, salt and pepper. Whisk to combine. Spread generously on both sides of toasted burger buns. Set aside.
  4. Heat up your grill to medium-high. Put your burger and onion slices on. Flip burgers after about 3 minutes, or longer depending on how well done you want them. We like ours about medium (140-150 degrees). Flip your onions every minute or so until they become tender and have visible grill marks. In the last minute or two, add your mushrooms to the griddle and move them constantly until cooked, but not burned.
  5. While the burger is still on the grill, and after it has been flipped and only needs a minute or so, add a slice of cheese to each patty and let the cheese melt onto the burger for 30 seconds – 1 minute.
  6. Add burger, onions and mushroom to your sauced and prepped buns. Enjoy.

This burger was awesome. Juicy, flavorful, generously topped but not impossible to eat. Burgers like this makes me want to open a burger joint. Seriously, they were real yummy. We had them with “fried” (really baked) pickles dipped in home made ranch. I’m not even getting in to all that here. It’s just too much for one blog. So do me a favor, watch Bob’s Burgers (especially if you are a Nielsen family), and make these burgers. Then read Virginia Woolf. I feel like that is not too much to ask of you, dear readers.

Pinterest Perfection

I’m sure many, if not most, of you have heard of Pinterest. I first heard about this little site where you could “curate” your own visual boards over two years ago when the site was still in Beta testing. I did some quick researchpinterest-logo on the trusty interwebs and lo and behold, I was able to track down the Pinterest CEO to his person twitter page, where I began a barrage of direct messages begging for a beta tester invite. I got it. His name is Ben, by the way, and he’s super nice. I was one of the first few thousand people to use the site, and use it I did. I currently have over 30 boards, 981 pins and 125 followers. When Pinterest first started it was much more of an art and design crowd. The cool kids who were developing the site had no doubt invited their other cool kid friends who I’m sure were all interior designers, graphic artists, and web developers in San Francisco (that’s where the company is based, not the valley, which is why the site and its people are so cool) to give it a whirl. As Beta opened up to user invites, and the site became a real, live thing, it became much, much, much more crafty, crock potty and crap to do with your kidsy. But you know what? I still love it. Despite the fact that I have to sift through hundreds of pins of maternity photo sessions to get to the thing I’m looking for, despite the fact that when I search the food category I have to ignore a million recipes that suggest throwing four different kinds of canned Campbell’s crap into your slow cooker and feeding it to your family of 10 for less than .30  cents a serving, I still think it is an awesome, amazing thing. And every once in awhile, you run across some real gems.

On Wednesday of this past week, I made THREE recipes for one meal that I found on Pinterest: A Roasted Garlic salad dressing, a rosemary and Parmesan overnight bread, and an Italian style beef and butternut squash stew. They were all the kind of things that keep me obsessed with the site. Diamonds in the rough.

The Roasted Garlic Vinaigrette is a MUST try to anyone who loves garlic on the level that I do. Two heads of garlic go into this dressing. And while you do have to roast the garlic for a good half hour, the dressing itself is really easy to make, and you probably have most of the ingredients on hand. I’m currently obsessed with making my own salad dressings and have tried several I’ve found on Pinterest, but this one is my favorite.

From Fat Girl Trapped in a Skinny Body:

Roasted Garlic Vinaigrette

pinterest meal salad dressing

Ingredients:

  • 2 heads of garlic, roasted and peeled
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tbsp honey

Method:

  1. Cut the pointy top off of the garlic. Brush them with olive oil and roast them in a pan in the oven at 400 degrees for about 25 minutes, until it is starting to turn golden brown and soft. Remove from the oven, allow to cool. Once the garlic is cool, peel the skin off. Discard the skins, save the garlic. *Skin peels off really easily after they are roasted.
  2. Add all the ingredients to the food processor and process until smooth. Refrigerate until ready to serve.*If some of the skin get processed with the rest of the dressing, no big deal, it won’t change the flavor.

The salad dressing can be vegan if you sub the honey for agave. And it is dairy free, with no substitutions!

This dressing is tangy, but has that deep, rich caramelized taste from the roasted garlic. It’s a vinaigrette, but it’s creamy because of the garlic being processed right into it. Keep this for a week or so in your fridge in a covered container.

The bread recipe I comes from Simply So Good. I used her basic bread recipe, and put in my own additions. This bread is baked in your cast-iron enameled Dutch Oven (you have one of those, right??). I have a big, blue Le Creuset that is the Pride and Joy of my kitchen. Jeremy gave it to me for Christmas a few years ago. They are usually in the $300-$400 range, but sometimes you can score them at T.J. Maxx for half the price, which I believe is what he did (smartly). Other cast-iron enameled pots are fine for this recipe also, but when you have a Le Creuset, you tend to brag about it. Here is a view down on mine to give you an idea of the size of the vessel you might want to use:

I ❤ Le Creuset

OK, enough about my awesome piece of iron. Here’s the recipe.

Crusty Bread

Crusty Overnight Bread

Crusty Overnight Bread

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups unbleached all purpose flour
  • 1 3/4 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon yeast
  • 1 1/2 cups water

 Method:

  1. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together flour, salt and yeast.  Add water and mix until a shaggy mixture forms.  Cover bowl with plastic wrap and set aside for 12 – 18 hours.  Overnight works great.
  2. Heat oven to 450 degrees.  When the oven has reached 450 degrees place a cast iron pot with a lid in the oven and heat the pot for 30 minutes.  Meanwhile, pour dough onto a heavily floured surface and shape into a ball.  Cover with plastic wrap and let set while the pot is heating.
  3. Remove hot pot from the oven and drop in the dough.  Cover and return to oven for 30 minutes.  After 30 minutes remove the lid and bake an additional 15 minutes.  Remove bread from oven and place on a cooling rack to cool.

To this recipe, I added 1/4 cup of fresh grated Parmesan Cheese, 1/8 cup of fresh rosemary (from my garden), and several cloves of smashed and roughly chopped garlic. I added that in to the dough at the very beginning and then proceeded as normal through the recipe.

pinterest meal bread cut

This thing turned out beautiful. There is nothing quite like making your own bread from scratch and this is really a pretty easy way to do it.

Finally, the main course – Beef and Butternut Squash Stew from Closet Cooking. I’ll be honest and say there are a few things wrong with the way this original recipe is written, so the recipe below has a few very minor changes from myself, just to make things more clear.

Italian Style Beef and Butternut Squash Stew

pinterest meal stew 2

 

Ingredients:

  • 2 ounces pancetta (diced)
  • 1 pound beef (cut into 1 inch cubes) (My Note: he doesn’t specify what kind of beef to use here. My suggestion is to get a sirloin roast, if you can find one – that’s what I used. Otherwise a small round roast is fine or chuck if nothing else is available)
  • 1 onion (chopped)
  • 3 cloves garlic (chopped)
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional, to taste)
  • 1 tablespoon rosemary (chopped)
  • 1 tablespoon thyme (chopped)
  • 1 cup Italian red wine (My Note: I used a Zinfandel. It doesn’t have to be Italian, don’t stress out, just use a decent red wine that’s not sweet)
  • 3 cups beef broth
  • 1 splash balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 cup sundried tomatoes (chopped)
  • 1 (28 ounce) can diced tomatoes (My Note: He doesn’t specify drained vs. undrained. Because he does not, I put them in without draining them. It gave my stew a more “soupy” consistency, which I was OK with. If you want this to be more like a traditional stew, then drain the tomatoes before adding).
  • * parmigiano reggiano rind (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 pound butternut squash (peeled, seeded and cut into 1 inch cubes)
  • parsley (chopped) (My Note: optional for garnish. I used a bit of grated Parmesan instead).

Method:

  1. Cook the pancetta in a large pan on medium heat. (My Note: or Dutch Oven. Again, with my Creuset)
  2. Add the beef and brown on all sides in the grease from the pancetta and set aside. (My Note: I coated the beef cubes in flour first. I’ve always done this when searing beef that is basically going to be braised later. It also helps to thicken the sauce a bit, but it’s up to you).
  3. Add the onion and saute in the pancetta grease until tender, about 5-7 minutes.
  4. Add the garlic, red pepper flakes, rosemary and thyme and saute until fragrant, about a minute.
  5. Add the wine and deglaze the pan. (My Note: deglazing means you add a liquid to absorb the browned bits from the pancetta, beef and aromatics. When you add the wine to the hot pan, it will steam up. Take a wooden spoon and use that moment to scrape up all the bits in the bottom of the pan, stirring them into the liquid to create a flavorful base).
  6. Add the beef, broth, balsamic vinegar, sun-dried tomatoes, diced tomatoes, parmigiano reggiano rind, oregano, salt and pepper and bring to a boil.
  7. Reduce the heat, cover and simmer until the beef is nice and tender, about 1-2 hours.
  8. Add the squash and simmer until it is tender, about 15-20 minutes. (My Note: more like half an hour, at best).

This stew was filling, hearty and really quite healthy. Serve it with a glass of the same wine you used in the soup – superb! Always cook with wine that is good enough to drink. When you cook with wine, you are cooking off the alcohol, but intensifying the flavor. If you intensify a crappy wine, you will just get really intense crap. No Bueno.

Pinterest Perfection

Pinterest Perfection

The dressing, served over a bed of Organic romaine lettuce, the garlic, rosemary and Parmesan bread and this stew altogether? Perfection. Pinterest Perfection.

 

New Year: Two Ways

If you’re from the North, Midwest or you’re Polish or German then for you New Years probably means sauerkraut and pork, for good luck. If you’re from the south, it’s “hopping johnnies” or black eyed peas. Other parts of the country and world eat grapes, fish or special cakes to bring luck and prosperity for the new year.  Since Jeremy’s background is Midwestern German and Polish and my background is ….. southern, it’s always a toss up about what to eat each new year, so this year we did both. Obviously.

On new year’s eve, before we headed out for a fun night with friends, I grilled up some kielbasa, made a traditional German Potato Salad and served it all with Amish-made sauerkraut and spicy brown mustard. This is the kind of food I didn’t even know about as a kid, and I’m so glad I’ve been introduced to it through Jeremy and his family. That potato salad is on point – click above for the recipe.

Na zda-ró-vye!

Na zda-ró-vye!

Then on New Years day, we had Alton Brown’s Skillet Fried Chicken with black eyed peas and collard greens. This year I made my black eyed peas in the slow cooker, which eliminated any soaking time you would normally need to make dried beans. All I did was sort and rinse 1 lb of beans, throw them into the slow cooker with 6 cups of water and my seasoning and let them cook on low for 8 hours (or high for 4). I cooked up some bacon, onion, and garlic, which I added to the cooker along with a healthy dose of pepper. They were great this way and so much easier. I wish black eyed peas were prettier in pictures, but they’re just not. Oh well, they are still delicious.

not pretty, but tasty.

not pretty, but tasty.

This has "lucky" written all over it.

This has “lucky” written all over it.

I hope you all had a safe and wonderful new year’s, and I’m looking forward to sharing more recipes, tips, and total failures with you in 2013. Happy It’s Not the Holidays Anymore!!!

What are your new year traditions? What foods do you hope will make you lucky and prosperous?