Monday, July 4, 2011

3 Ingredient Roast That Will Knock Your Socks Off

So would it help if I told you one of the ingredients is BACON.  Truthfully, what isn't better with a little bacon.

Yesterday I needed to throw together a dinner main course that would feed a crowd and not require me to spend an inordinate amount of time in the kitchen - for this I dragged out my trusty crock-pot.  I pulled out a roast from the freezer.  Would you think less of me if I told you that I didn't know what type of roast it was a beef roast for sure, but I'm lousy with knowing what type of cut it was. However, I do know that it was big!!

Putting together this roast couldn't have been any simpler.  Here's the ingredient list (and I don't count salt& pepper, or olive oil, because those are pantry staples):

6 cloves of garlic
1 package bacon
1 Jar of Roasted Raspberry Chipotle Sauce (Fischer & Wieser)

That's it!

So I first, defrosted the roast (I had less then 10 hours to cook this and so I wasn't about to wait for the crockpot to defrost and cook the roast). Once the roast was defrosted enough, I sprinkled salt and pepper (liberal on the pepper) on both sides of the roast.

Next, I peeled 6 cloves of garlic, diced them up and then drizzled a bit of olive oil on them (less than a tsp.) and sprinkled course salt on top of garlic. Then using the flat side of my knife I mashed and smeared my garlic.  The goal is to make a kind of garlic paste.  It's totally cool if it's kind of chunky.  Once you're happy with the garlic paste, scrape it up and smear it on oneside of your roast.

I then put the roast in the crockpot, garlic side up.

Now the rest couldn't be any easier.  I opened a package of bacon and layered the bacon across the surface of the roast to cover the entire thing.  I had several extra pieces so I just stuffed them under the roast.

Finally, I opened a jar of Fischer & Wieser's Roasted Raspberry Chipotle Sauce and poured the whole thing over the bacon covered roast.  That's It!

I turned the crockpot on high and left it for about 6-7 hours.

I got home from church last night about 5:30 and there was only one tiny little piece left for my dinner, because everyone else (all 6 adults & 8 children) had devoured it.  I didn't eve get a chance to take a picture of the finished product.  But I'm happy to report, the last piece that I had was AWESOME!  The meat was perfectly tendered, and the bacon had just pretty much melted and flavored everything, and the sweetness from the sauce was a perfect compliment.  In fact we all agreed these ingredients would also be perfect on a pork roast....hmmmm, the possibilities.

And once again I've proved that everything tastes better with bacon.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Random photos of favorites

I've been telling myself for months that I need to get back to blogging.  This food blog combines two of my very favorite past-times -- food and photography.  There's no reason why I shouldn't be posting several times a week. Heavens knows I'm consuming enough food that I could be blogging about it for countless hours each day.

In my quest to get my food blog going again, I've decided just to go through some of my old food photos and share with you some of my favorites in hopes of garnering some inspiration.  Interestingly enough, almost all my favorite food photos also include an interesting event, family activity, or friends.  Food and folks really do go hand-in-hand.  I've been thinking more and more about that relationship and may just have to do some ethnographic work around my family and food traditions...but that's a blog post for another time.

On to the good stuff...
These are Craigo's breadsticks, specifically from Craigo's Pizziaria in Rexburg, ID. I lived for these things while I was going to Ricks. And in the past few years when I went up to Rexburg to visit my sister I would drag her over there to order them. Cheezy goodness.

This is my Thanksgiving plate this past year. I have no problem with my food touching. All that matters is that it tastes good going down. This was the Thanksgiving that I was introduced to Aunt Char's TO DIE FOR dip. And I'm not exaggerating, I ended up putting it on everything - vegetables, turkey, my roll, jello -- you name it and it tasted better with the dip. Someday I'll get around to sharing the recipe.

Did you hear the choir of angels singing when you looked at this Butterscotch Christmas wreath? Cuz let me tell you, this Christmas dessert is DIVINE! I'm not Christmas is not complete with out Judy Thompson's Butterscotch Christmas wreath. I hover near the front door starting about Dec. 10th waiting for the knock that heralds its arrival.

Ok, this little confection combines two of my favorite food items - peanut butter and my mom's homemade jam (doesn't really matter what flavor because I LOVE them all), in this case homemade blueberry jam. I came up with a peanut butter cupcake topped with blueberry jam and a delicious peanut butter frosting. Turned out FABULOUS! I'll have to post the recipe for that sometime too.

OK - the next two are both from Italy...what I, in my limited knowledge, believe to be the culinary mecca of the universe. I LOVE Italy and not just because of the beautiful art and architecture. I love Italy because the Italians invented the Caprese Salad and Gelato.

And for tonight, last, but not least is Hawaiian fried rice. This was a Sunday night staple in my house growing up. This particular batch was made by my Grandma Johnson in a good ol' electric fry pan. What makes it Hawaiian as opposed to Chinese is the SPAM. I LOVE SPAM. It's in my blood and good fried rice must have SPAM. I'm inspired and hungry. :)

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Planting This Years Harvest

This post is an indirect path to food...actually it's a much more direct path to the actual food itself, but a round about way to the recipe from which I prepare my foods. Anyways, it's GARDEN TIME!

So you may or may not recall that I planted a few tomato plants in some containers last year (in about August).  And with some very careful babying I nurtured those plants along through the entire winter and I have been enjoying the fruits of my labor, literally, for the past several months.  However, in about February I noticed that the leaves on my sweet 100 plant were shriveling up and falling off.  I took a portion of the plant into the local nursery and they told me my tomato plant had caught a response "are you kidding! Is this something I can treat by putting some vitamin C in the soil?!?!!"  Their response, "Nope, just go home, enjoy what's left of the fruit and let your plant die a peaceful death."  I felt like I had just pulled the proverbial plug on my plants.

So while my final plant is dying away (I just harvested 5 ripe tomatoes off of it today and the last of the tomatoes should be off by next week - the leaves have long since given up the ghost), I decided it was time to replant my new seedlings.

A few weeks ago I planted a few seeds -- Jubilee tomatoes, Red cherry tomatoes, jalapeno, cilantro and basil.  The seedlings have been growing well (except that I killed all of the cilantro when I left the seed tray out in the sun for way too long (who knew an hour in the sun could do so much damage).  Obviously the cilantro seedlings were way too woosy for me.  So the surviving seedlings were in desperate need of replanting.  Last Saturday was the day.  Here's what happened.

Here are my desperate seedlings who need a new home.
Tomato starters

I got a bunch of buckets from a friend:
Buckets, and buckets, and buckets

I had to drill holes in all the buckets (and wouldn't you know that the whole time I did it all I could think about was that stoopid song "There's a whole in my bucket, dear Liza, dear Liza....":
Holes in my buckets

Then a little dirt, a little plant food, and voila -- a container garden filled with a tomato plants. I've got about 5 Red Cherry Tomato plants, 8 Jubilee Tomato plants, 3 jalapeno plants, 2 cilantro plants, and about 6 more basil plants waiting to eventually be replanted. In addition to the onions, full grown basil plants and the Oregano and Rosemary plants.
Container Gardening

A Red Cherry Tomato plant

Here are the jalapenos that were replanted in my handy-dandy radio flyer wagon:
Jalapeno plants

Now here's a quick tour of the other things that I have growing...

beautiful and positively delicious basil (and a bit of Greek Oregano)
Beautiful Basil

Basil -- the love of my life

cliantro for my fresh salsa

red onions (also for my fresh salsa)
Red onions

And last, but not least, my jalapeno plant
Jalapeno plant

Some day all of these scrumptious plants will bear fruit that I will harvest and turn into delightful eats. In the meantime I will spend my time watering, watering, and watering some more in this very dry desert climate.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Strawberry season is coming

I may be a little anxious, but I know strawberry season is coming. Ok so it's like 4 months away, but soon is all relative.

In anticipation of strawberry season I wanted to share with you my very favorite way to eat, consume, dispatch, devour,and otherwise partake of this luscious red berry.

I don't think this "recipe" actually has a name. If it does I'm not aware of it. There are only 3 ingredients - no measuring required.
  • strawberries
  • sour cream (if you're feeling "good", you can even use the no-fat kind)
  • brown sugar
Now please note that you may be tempted to use something sweet, like yogurt, instead of sour cream - resist the temptation.  Sour cream is very important in this recipe.

I told you that there is no measuring required in this recipe but there are a few steps.
1. make sure your strawberries are washed and DRIED
2. dip your strawberry in the sour cream

3. press the sour cream covered strawberry in brown sugar

4. enjoy

It really is absolutely amazing how fantastic this tastes.  I've surprised so many people with this when I use it for dessert.  It's so unassuming, fresh, and perfectly delicious.

I bet you can't wait for strawberry season now, can ya!?!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day - Part I

OK - I've done it.  I've started the great bread experiment.  I'm actually about 4 weeks into. If you're wondering about which "bread experiment" I'm alluding to I refer you back to my early post.

I made my first batch of dough a few weeks ago.

It was as simple to make as the book stated.  Just dump in all the ingredients, mix it with a spoon till everything was incorporated and then put a lid on it.

In hindsight I think I didn't add enough flour - user error in counting. And I tried a new brand of yeasty and it was VERY "yeasty".

Following the directions of the book, after the dough sat in my fridge over night, I formed it into a shape and using my new pizza peel and old-seasoned stone I baked my first loaf.

Drum roll please............................ Tada!

I know, pitiful, huh?!?

It definitely wasn't much to look at, but it tasted fantastic. And just in case you couldn't tell how oddly shaped it was here's the loaf from another angle.

I made 2 more loaves later during the week from the same batch of dough.  Judging when the loaf is done is still kind of tricky for me.  I'm so worried about burning it or over cooking it, that I tend to take it out too early.  I found that I have to bake my bread at least 15-20 minutes longer than it says to in the book.

So the last batch of bread I made from the dough turned out much better, see for yourself:

The bread taste was pretty much consistently the same - great, but the crumb was much improved.  The first loaf was a little dense and moist, this loaf had more air pockets.

Another batch of dough is sitting in my fridge right now.  I haven't had the guts to try one of the flavored recipes yet, because i still think I've got a lot to improve on with these plain loaves.  Once I get them down, I'll go crazy.

One thing I didn't think of though when I started this...I don't usually eat this much bread and I hate to say it but I may be reaching my consumption limit.  I've got to hurry up and perfect this recipe so I can start giving the bread away.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Delicious Homemade Pizza

I just can't own a new pizza peel and not make homemade pizza.  Last week I had a hankering for pizza and so I invited a few friends over for my culinary experimentation - and I scored BIG!


In order to get that perfect authentic pizza crust, I would argue that you need to bake your pizza on a stone.  I've tried the pan method and I don't feel like you can get the same rustic crust color and texture from a pan as compared to a stone.  Besides that, I think every kitchen should have a good stone, because sooooo many things taste better cooked on a stone.

Anyways, back to the important first step -- stick your stone in the oven, second from the bottom tier, and get it heating up.  I turned my oven up to 400 degrees and let my stone heat up for a good 20 minutes - which is about the amount of time it takes to put everything together. ;o)

The Dough

The pizza dough was from a friend of my mom. After putting all the ingredients together I set the bowl aside to rise while I made the pizza sauce.

1/4c. water  with 1 tsp. sugar
*warm water and sugar in microwave until warm, then add
1 TBS. yeast

add yesty-water to
2 1/4 C. flour
1tsp. salt
1 TBS sugar
3/4 c. warm milk

Set dough aside to rise.

The Sauce
And I'm going to do ya'll a huge favor and introduce you to Cento Tomatoes.
This is the secret to a perfect tomato sauce. I swear to you that Cento tomatoes are distinctly different canned tomatoes. Now I'm not a spokes person for Cento, but I am someone who has tried a lot of canned tomatoes. It was obvious from the moment that I peeled back the can lid that these tomatoes were different:
  • there was actually a smell of ripe tomatoes that proceed the first glimpse of the contents of the can
  • the color of the tomatoes was a deep red, not the regular sickly red with spots of yellow and green
  • when I stuck my finger into the can and tasted the crushed tomatoes they were delightfully tomatoey in taste without an overpowering acidity.
With tomatoes like this I really didn't have to do much to make a yummy pizza sauce.  I diced and sauteed a half of a sweet onion and about 2 cloves of crushed garlic in 2 TBS of olive oil.  Once the onions were translucent I dumped 1 28 oz can of crushed Cento tomatoes into the pot, added some dried oregano, basil, and a pinch of rosemary and let it hangout on the stove top on low while I went back to play with my dough.

Shaping the Pizza

Seeing as I make a big enough mess in the kitchen with out throwing dough around, I just stuck to rolling out a hunk of dough on a floured counter top.Thin crust pizza is my favorite (it's the whole dough to toppings ratio thing) and so I probably rolled my dough out more than most people.
I sprinkled the top of my pizza peel with corn meal and then flopped my dough onto the pizza peel.  Transferring the pizza dough from my peel to the super-duper hot stone in the oven required a little shaking and jiggling (the pizza peel, not me).  And here's where the fun began:

  • I let the pizza dough in the oven for 2 minutes, then air bubbled begsn to form and in some cases made my pizza dough look like a big pillow. After two minutes, I opened the oven, and using a fork, I popped all the air bubbles.
  • After about another 3 minutes I used my peel and pulled out the dough (it smells FABULOUS by this point)
  • I covered the top with a light spreading of the tomato sauce (too much sauce can kill the pizza) and added slices of fresh mozzarella and thin slices of Genoa Salami
  • I flipped the oven to broil and popped the pizza back onto the stone for a final back of 4-8 minutes
After that, you pull that pizza out and indulge in warm-cheezy-yeasty-salty Italian perfection.

I've been to Italy and tasted authentic pizza from Rome, Florence, and the hill country of Tuscany, and I'd say that this comes pretty ding-dang close.
This is a photo of my favorite pizza in Rome (this is one unforgettable creation)

What do you think?

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Butternut squash turns into a lasagna casserole

This post really is for my own benefit.  I love to experiment in the kitchen, create new recipes, etc. So one of my problems is that I don't write anything down so when I go back to recreate it I often can't remember what I did -- a symptom of age I assure you.
So tonight's experiment in the kitchen turned out F-A-B-U-L-O-U-S *said in a sing-songy voice*! I'm now going to capture the recipe here so I won't forget.  You're welcome to try it too and then send me your feedback.
**Side note - My dad and I are the true foodies in the family.  When I create new dishes he and I sit down and analyze them while we're eating. Comments surrounding this dish included - "Maybe try some italian sausage next time"..."The squash is cut up in just the right size"...."Good thing I didn't add the cabbage to the casserole. The cabbage flavor would have overwhelmed the squash" (we had steamed cabbage as a side dish).  We usually end up analyzing most meals we eat together.**

Back to the casserole. I've decided to call tonight's creation Butternut Lasagna Casserole.  I got 3 smallish butternut squashes in my Bountiful Basket this week and so I needed to use them up.  I first thought about doing a vegetable lasagna, which lead me to thinking about one of my favorite new sauces. One that actually comes in a jar:

Dave's Gourmet Butternut Squash Pasta Sauce. I've only seen it at Costco, but I really haven't looked too many other places. This stuff is delicious.  There are definite roasted red pepper undertones that add an element of heat, while the sauce is smooth and slightly sweet because of the butternut squash.  I just loooove this stuff.

So here's what I came up with tonight...

Butternut Lasagna Casserole
3 small butternut squashes
2-4 TBS olive oil
1 whole sweet onion
3 chicken breasts
1 box of pasta
1 - 15oz container of ricotta cheese
1 egg, beaten
1/3 c. grated Parmesan
1 tsp of herb de Provence
1/2 tsp dried basil
1 jar of Dave's Gourmet Butternut Squash Pasta Sauce
1/2 c. of grated mozzarella to top the casserole

These are pretty general directions:

1. I boiled the chicken in chicken broth and added 3 bay leaves to water.  Once the chicken was cooked I shredded it and set it aside.
2. I cut the skin off the butternut squash, scrapped out the seeds and then diced up the squash into 1/2 inch cubes.
3. I sauteed the butternut squash in a pan with 1-2 TBS of oil just until the edges of each cube started to turn transparent and some of the squares started to get a bit toasted.  I didn't want to cook the squash all the way, because I didn't want them to get to squishy in the casserole. I removed the squash from the pan and set it aside.
4.  I sliced up the onion into thin slices and sauteed the onions in another TBS or so of olive oil.
5. I boiled the pasta till just before al dente.
6. In a small bowl I combined the ricotta cheese with the beaten egg and Parmesan, and herbs.
7. In my 9x13 pan I combined the pasta, chicken, cooked squash and onions, and the pasta sauce.  Once everything was thoroughly combined I spread the cheese mixture over the top and tossed it lightly in with the rest of the ingredients. I wasn't going for a homogeneous mixture, rather I was looking for pockets of cheese amidst the other ingredients.
8.  I put the dish in a 350 degree oven for 30 minutes, after 25 minutes I pulled out the casserole, sprinkled the top with the grated mozzarella to melt over the top, and put it back in the oven for the final 5 minutes.

I call it a casserole, because I just mixed everything up.  I prefer to cook my ingredients separately before combing, because I find that this allows each element to develop its own flavor and characteristics which is preserved when combined with the other ingredients.  In the end, they all work harmoniously together to create a more complex and richer flavor.

For example, some would say just cook all your vegetables together, but if you did this then the sweet butternut squash would end of assuming the overpowering flavor of the onions and they would become lost by the time you bite in to the casserole after baking.  By cooking them separately you can enjoy the sweetness of the butternut, coated by the sweet and spicy pasta sauce followed by a burst of salty creaminess found in the ricotta mixture -- a harmony of flavor.

So on a scale of 1-5, 5 being the best...I'd give this recipe a 4.  Next time I might try improving the flavor profile of the chicken..hmmm...I've got to think about that some more.  Give this recipe a try and let me know what you think.

Any suggestions??