Laughing, Weeping, Living

Life happens. You laugh about it or cry about it, sometimes both.

Eggroll Pizza

100_2074Folks, the pinnacle of culinary invention has now been achieved. The world has now witnessed the marriage of two perfect foods, which have become, in their union, a single even more perfect food.

It all started this afternoon when I experienced a craving for Chinese fast-food eggrolls, a craving that was never to be fulfilled on a Friday during Lent. So I took matters into my own hands. I already knew I was experimenting with pizza for dinner, since I recently read a recipe for pizza crust made from cauliflower puree. Why not experiment with the toppings as well?

So I followed the cauliflower crust recipe: Chop up one head of cauliflower into smallish pieces. Pan fry in 2 tablespoons of olive oil until crisp-tender and browning. Puree in a blender or food processor with 1/2 cup cornmeal, two eggs, salt and pepper to taste. Throw in extra seasoning if you like. Line a pizza pan with parchment and pour out the batter. Spread it around to fill the pan. Bake at 450 for 20 minutes.

While the crust bakes, prep the toppings. I used some of my red cabbage sauerkraut, rinsed and drained, matchstick carrot pieces, thinly sliced bell pepper, and about a teaspoon finely minced fresh ginger.

I made an asian peanut sauce from this Rachel Ray recipe. I could eat this sauce everyday, on anything, it’s so delicious.

So, when the crust is baked to your liking, spread the sauce, then arrange the kraut, pepper slices, carrot shreds, and sprinkle the fresh ginger. Bake an additional 10 minutes or longer if you like your veggies cooked more thoroughly. I liked to keep them fairly fresh since I had all that lovely sauerkraut on there. Cooking the kraut kills all the probiotic organisms which are the main reason to even eat the stuff.

I was actually not overwhelmed by the cauliflower crust. It tasted good, but it didn’t hold together and we had to eat the pizza with forks. I can see where I personally went wrong and I’m willing to try it again, but I’m not convinced it’s worth the trouble for me. I added a bit of water to the blender because the stuff wasn’t blending and I probably should not have done that. I think a food processor would work better for this job. I am planning to try these same toppings on a regular pizza crust and see how that goes. I can’t wait!

This pizza satisfied my eggroll craving, and it looked so pretty. Definitely a flashy dish that would even impress company! If you can convince them to try it!

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Awesome Roast Chicken

I made a roast chicken for dinner tonight less than a week after making the same roast chicken. It is that good.

I followed the “Simple Roast Chicken” recipe in The New Best Recipe cookbook from American’s Test Kitchen. These are the people behind the Cook’s Illustrated magazine. The cookbook is called the “best recipe” because the recipe for each item really is the best way to do it. The test kitchen works out scientifically all the possible ways to roast a chicken, for example, then they figure out the way to roast the chicken that results in the most awesome chicken, and that’s the chicken that makes it into the cookbook.

So, I made it. It was AWESOME! I only did one thing different from what the recipe says: I put carrots in the bottom of my roasting pan instead of a roasting rack.

Here is how you make the most awesome roast chicken you ever tasted ever.

100_20691. Brine your whole chicken. Dissolve 1/2 cup of table salt in 2 quarts water and soak the chicken in the fridge for at least an hour. This is the most important step. Your brined chicken will be tender and juicy, never dry.

2. Put your roasting pan in the oven and preheat to 375. It is important to preheat your pan. I used the deep covered baker from Pampered Chef. But without the cover.

3. Cut up the carrots and melt 2 to 3 Tbsp of butter. Set aside the butter. Put the carrots in the preheated pan and drizzle with olive oil. Get the chicken out of the brine and pat it dry. Rub the melted butter all over the chicken. You can season with pepper. Put the chicken on top of the carrots, on its side so a wing is sticking up.

4. Roast the chicken for 15 minutes. Flip the chicken so the other wing is sticking up. Roast for 15 minutes. Turn up the oven to 450 and flip the chicken on its back, breast side up. Roast until done. For a 3 1/2 pound chicken, 20 to 25 minutes more. For a 4 1/2 pound chicken, 35 to 40 minutes more. Meat thermometer stuck in the fat part of the leg should read 160 to 165.

5. Get the delicious crispy golden chicken out and rest it on a cutting board for 10 minutes. You can keep the carrots warm in the oven while you fix the rest of the sides and set the table. Carve the chicken at the table and prepare to enter chicken bliss.

6. You can shave more meat off the carcass to make sandwiches later, or to put in tacos. The carcass will make a killer chicken stock. Don’t throw it away!

The only criticism I have with this recipe is it results in flabby back skin, but since no one really lines up to get the back off a roast chicken, I’m willing to overlook this.

Please promise me you will make this chicken for your family. That is all. Thank you.

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The Phenomenon of Recipe Rotation

I think Recipe Rotation is a real thing. The other day I was thinking about the foods I’ve been cooking lately, and they are not the same sorts of foods I used to cook last year, or even four years ago. I think my repertoire of recipes is shifting. It’s not that I don’t know how to cook those old dishes anymore, but they aren’t the first things I think of when I need to come up with a plan.

In the past week or so, I’ve made some version of oven-roasted vegetables three or four times. I made squash and carrot soup that started with roasting the veg in the oven before simmering and pureeing. This was served with crackers and cheese.

I made taco-stuffed sweetie peppers. This was served with rice on the side.

I made a squash and potato dish with bacon and cheese. This was served on it’s own as a complete casserole, but I would have done well to serve a salad or green beans or something.

I made a potato/carrot/beet dish with oil and fresh herbs. This was served with bread and cheese, and fresh cherry tomatoes.

Except for the stuffed peppers, these dishes feel rustic and simple. They are comforting to eat and simple to make despite the long roasting times. The hardest part is planning ahead to get the dish in the oven in time for an hour of roasting before dinner time. Even the fish I made last night for dinner was pretty rustic: slice some veg and make a foil packet, lay fish fillet over the veg and pour some sauce. Cook the foil packet. Easy.

I didn’t used to have a rustic cooking preference. A year ago, I was making a lot of pizzas, skillet suppers, mexican style food, and dishes served with rice. A few years ago I was making a lot of exotic ethnic foods, chili and stew type dishes, and casseroles.

This week when I made the roasted vegetable dish with bread and cheese on the side, I was surprised at how satisfying I found the meal to be, even though there was no meat and nothing complicated in the preparation. Jeremy agreed that he would also like to eat that kind of meal a couple times a week. That got me thinking about other rustic kinds of dishes I might like to sneak into my repertoire. Polenta with a variety of roasted or steamed vegetables. Simply seasoned chicken with fruit and cheese. Crock pot roast with mashed potatoes or rice.

I’m looking forward to exploring these options and making satisfying meals with simple ingredients. I’m happy my favored recipes are starting to shift toward the less complicated end of the spectrum. My life is complicated enough in other areas! Let the kitchen be simple!

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Taco-Stuffed Sweetie Peppers

I don’t usually post food stuff on here anymore, not because I’m not cooking and baking! No! Because I always forget to have the camera handy while I’m cooking or baking, then I forget about it and all the food gets eaten before I can take a picture. But, this time I thought of the camera soon enough, and you will be so pleased that I remembered because you are going to want to go make these little darlings just as soon as you finish reading this post. These stuffed peppers are so delicious, I could have willingly eaten the entire lot of them, if I had less will-power and lacked the forethought to consider my future heartburn should I attempt such a feat. So, long story short, these are delicious.

I read a stuffed jalapeno recipe in the current issue of Everyday with Rachael Ray that inspired me. I love jalapeno poppers, but the recipe in the magazine used sausage and cooked them on a grill. I didn’t have sausage and I didn’t want to get out Jeremy’s grill. So I adapted!

My dad has been getting these little sweet peppers in his weekly CSA produce bag, and this was a good way to use up a bunch of peppers. I did use some jalapenos too, but mostly the sweeties.

Taco-Stuffed Sweetie Peppers

1 pound ground beef

1/4 cup taco seasoning

1/4 cup water

2 packages (8 oz each) cream cheese. I used one regular and one low-fat

1/4 cup shredded jack cheese

1/4 cup plain greek yogurt

16 little peppers

1 cup crackers crumbs. I used Breton originals but any cracker should do. Except maybe Triscuits.

3 Tablespoons butter, melted

 

First, make taco meat. I put in less water than you normally do for taco meat because I wanted the meat dry. Then, while the meat is cooling, slice off the stem ends of your peppers, cut them in half, remove seeds, and lay them out real pretty on a baking sheet.

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Put softened cream cheese in a bowl with some shredded jack cheese and a little greek yogurt and Mix it up.

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Add the cooled meat and mix it up.

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Using a thin little spatula, smear the filling onto each pepper half.

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Melt some butter and crush some crackers. Make a crispy topping! Then dip each pepper popper into the crumbs and press to stick the crumbs.

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Bake at 375 degrees for 30 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through baking.

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Oh they are so, so good. Taco-y and pepper-y, and crunchy and creamy.

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Just a note, you will have a bunch of extra filling. You can make a third pan of peppers, or use it for burrito filling, or on nachos, or eat it with a spoon straight out of the bowl, or…

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Freshety Fresh

I know all y’all come to my blog for one reason, and one reason only: to look at blurry, poorly-lit photographs of my Farmers’ Market produce.

Homemade Kale Chips

Homemade Kale Chips

Carrots and their Abundant Greens.

Carrots and their Abundant Greens.

Delicious and Sweet Strawberries.

Delicious and Sweet Strawberries.

I made the pictures smaller to help disguise how awful they are. Thank you for your understanding.

Anyway, Jeremy and I have been hitting up the local Farmers’ Market on Saturday mornings, which has been really nice. We can use our EBT to buy tokens to use at the market, which is really awesome. I truly appreciate the state promoting healthy eating by allowing food assistance to be used for Farmers’ Markets. It can also be used to buy soft drinks and packaged snack cakes, but that’s another story. Plus the prices at the Farmers’ Market are quite high, which I’m not complaining about! Small time farmers need to be compensated for their effort and time and I’m willing to pay a premium for local, fresh, organic stuff. But being able to use EBT makes that a lot easier. If we were more on the edge and not qualifying for assistance, it would be really difficult for us to pay for the market stuff because of the prices. This post is about fresh foods, not about the wide segment of the population that are “in the gap” between solvency and poverty, but I do believe the folks in the middle have the roughest time. But that’s another another story.

Right now at the market, variety is just starting to pick up. For a while, the only things to buy there were kale, lettuce, beets, and radishes. Last week was the first week for strawberries, and this week we found carrots for the first time. We’ve been buying kale every week (it’s a super food!) and this time we decided to make chips. It’s pretty easy: just tear the leaves into smallish pieces, toss them with olive oil and salt, spread them on a baking sheet, and bake at 275 degrees for about 18 minutes or so. We used curly kale and the chips turned out great! Stephen at least stuck one in his mouth and pulled it out right away, but it’s progress with a green veg–he usually won’t even stand for the stuff to even just sit on his tray. He’s tried to remove it to the dining room table or even the floor on more than one occasion.

The carrots are also quite tasty, and the green tops that came attached are very impressive! We were walking out of the market wondering if you can eat the carrot greens. It seems like you should be able to, but we weren’t sure. Jeremy looked it up online and apparently you can. You can even make pesto with them! I think we should do that; we haven’t made pesto in ages.

The strawberries are the best treasure. We bought some last week, and my dad brought home a couple cartons in his CSA bag of produce he just started getting. We bought some again today because we can’t get enough. I will probably freeze most of these for later use, but I could just eat a bowl of them fresh. I’ve been feeding them to Stephen, putting them on cereal in the morning, we made smoothies the other day, we made sandwiches with roasted strawberries…

Oh, let me tell you about that! I saw a pin on Pinterest for a roasted strawberry sandwich with dark chocolate and brie cheese. What you do is slice the berries and lay them on a baking sheet, then drizzle them with olive oil and roast them in the oven for about 15 or 20 minutes at 375 degrees (I think, or maybe it’s 350). Then you do like a grilled cheese sandwich: layer on a slice of bread the cheese, chocolate, berries, more cheese, then the top of the bread and grill in a pan. We used goat cheese one time for this, and monterey jack. We never have brie around when we want this sandwich. Any mild cheese would work. The sandwich is to die for.

I love the creativity fresh produce inspires. When we get a bunch of something, I have to figure out how to use it. We eat better, and I feel satisfied in the kitchen. It’s a great thing about summer!

 

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I Heart The Pioneer Woman

If you haven’t taken a gander at The Pioneer Woman’s blog, you should head over and check it out. She writes quite colorfully about her life on a cattle ranch in Oklahoma, her children, her cowboy husband, her menagerie of pets, and of course, her cooking. The Pioneer Woman has a series on The Food Network, and she’s written a couple cookbooks full of delicious and lovingly-photographed food. She got her start blogging, and gradually gained more and more readers, with the cookbooks and T.V. show following after years of plugging away. Her success story is inspiring to me as a fledgling blogger. 

Hands down, my favorite part of her blog is: the food.

Some people like to look at pictures of cats or watch videos of babies and dogs to kill time, but I like to look at Pioneer Woman recipes and fantasize about the possibility that I might make them in my own kitchen.

I have made a few of her recipes, and they were amazing.

 Blueberry Lemon Sweet Rolls.

 Crash Hot Potatoes.

 Patty Melts.

 Perfect Iced Coffee.

But I’ve looked at dozens more, and I can tell you, my docket for cooking projects is filling up quickly! It’s mostly her desserts that get me itchin’ for the kitchen’ (HAHA, I just made that up!) but everything from the burgers to tacos to monkey bread looks amazing. I strongly urge you hop over to the Pioneer Woman and take a peek. If you love to read recipes and look at gorgeous food, that is the place to go. But plan to fix yourself a snack when you’re finished, because it will make you hungry!

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