Friday, September 19, 2014

Got Leftovers? Make a Pizza!



I'm lucky enough to have a husband who appreciates leftovers. Since the girls left for college, it's been a fun challenge to repurpose yesterday's dinner into an interesting next night's dinner. Good thing Rich is game, because there was a ridiculous amount of BBQ pulled pork left in the fridge after last night's sandwiches.

Here's an example of my crazy thought process.. Pizza Hut commercial on TV (I don't care for Pizza Hut, but do love pizza) - BBQ chicken pizzaaa... yum! What do I have in the fridge? Some pizza dough, chipotle BBQ sauce, leftover pulled pork (ok, it's kind of like shredded chicken,) a red bell pepper, red onion, green onion, cheddar cheese, mozzarella cheese, cilantro. What about grilling an ear of corn? Nah, pork is already sweet.. ok, chop it all up, let's see what happens. On special nights, my dogs get to hear this one-way conversation out loud.

A word of advice- don't be afraid to play with your food. Use a little sweet, a little salty, something acidic, a little spice.. something soft, something crunchy.. that will just about cover it. Some of my absolute favorite recipes have been made on the fly from what I already had in the house.

The pizza was really, really tasty! Four bites in, Rich declared it was one darned-good pizza. "This is pork?" He asked after a few more bites, and having caught one of a hundred or so words I had just said to him.. "Yep, from last night.." I had already explained how I came up with the idea, how I used up stuff in the fridge.. I've discovered that 27 years of marriage has a way of making your spouses' voice sometimes sound like white noise.

He has already asked me to make the pizza again, though, so I'll declare a victory. A couple of secrets to a long and happy marriage.. cook delicious food, and choose your battles. Very wisely.

Cooking Tips:
- I try to make as much of our food from scratch. That being said, I will usually purchase Trader Joe's or Von's already made pizza dough. It comes in a fresh ball of dough, and all you have to do is leave it out on the counter for one-half hour before using it to let the yeast activate a bit. It tastes the same as fresh dough to me, and is a heck of a time and mess saver.
- I'm fairly new to at-home pizza making, but would highly recommend adding a pizza stone to your holiday wish list. It's well worth the money! The difference in the crispness of the baked crust when you use a pizza stone vs. a baking sheet is night and day. The crust cooks evenly too- every time.


BBQ Pulled Pork Pizza
Serves 4

2 cups of leftover BBQ pulled pork
1/4 cup leftover BBQ sauce
1/2 red bell pepper, seeded and diced
1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced
2 green onions, sliced
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1 Tbsp olive oil
chopped cilantro for garnish

- Take out the pizza dough from the fridge and let sit on the counter for a half-hour to activate the yeast and let it rise a bit
- Preheat your pizza stone at 425 degrees for at least a half-hour before you make your pizza
- Spread some corn meal on your working surface, and roll out the dough (press from the middle out to the edges) to your desired size of pizza. I have an oblong pizza stone, so I roll mine out into a rectangular shape about 9x11"
- Spread the 1/4 cup BBQ sauce evenly over the pizza, leaving a rim of 1 inch around the edges
- Sprinkle the pork evenly over the sauce
- Top the pizza with the red bell pepper and red onion
- Sprinkle cheese evenly over the toppings
- Add green onion over the top of the cheese
-Using a small brush, brush a little olive oil over the exposed 1 inch of crust
- Transfer your pizza to the pizza stone and bake for 18 minutes or so until the crust is golden and the cheese is melted and bubbly
- Use caution handling the pizza stone after the pizza has baked- it will remain very hot for some time

Dairy free option: Use a dairy free cheese such as Daiya, or leave the cheese off all together- the pizza will still be delicious!




Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Sweet and Tangy Broccoli Salad



I first discovered this broccoli salad while eating at the Claim Jumper restaurant. I had never had anything like it, and liked it so much I asked for seconds. Recreating it was pretty simple- just 7 ingredients including those for the homemade dressing. It's sweet and tangy at the same time, and the crunchy and salty peanuts are a delicious surprise.

This salad is perfect when you know you'll have a few days of leftovers- it keeps it's crispy crunch, and the flavors continue to meld together the longer it sits in the fridge. Try pairing it with pulled pork from the slow-cooker. I made this yummy Root Beer Pulled Pork from Six Sister's Stuff to serve with it tonight.


A night of homemade BBQ dinner with Broccoli Salad-
Happy, happy, happy.

Serves 6-8 as a side dish

Salad:
1 bunch broccoli- rinsed, drained and cut into bite-sized pieces
4 strips bacon- cooked, cooled and crumbled
1/2 cup (about 1/2 a small one) red onion, diced
1 cup roasted peanuts
Cracked black pepper

Dressing:
3/4 cup low-fat mayonnaise
3 Tbsp sugar
2-3 Tbsp apple cider vinegar (I like the tang, but start with 2 Tbsp and adjust to your taste)

- Combine the salad ingredients in a large bowl
- In a small bowl, whisk together the dressing ingredients
- Pour dressing over salad, and mix well
- Refrigerate for at least an hour before serving

Dairy-free recipe!

Monday, September 15, 2014

Leaded Pumpkin Bread with Walnuts and Cranberries


My husband is on to me. He's figured out that I regularly play with recipes and will just as soon make a gluten-free and/or dairy-free treat than a "regular" one. He'll pick up the piece of cake, cookie, or  muffin and look at it closely, smell it, then take a tiny taste and ask me suspiciously "is it unleaded?" I've figured out unleaded is his way of asking me if what I made has regular flour, butter, and eggs, etc. in it. I used to try to reason with him, telling him to "just try it- it tastes great" or "you can't tell the difference," but was finding he would set the treat back down and not eat it. Now, I just tell him "nope- not unleaded, it's regular" and he eats what I make and doesn't know the difference. At this point, he's eaten as many "unleaded" treats as "regular" ones. Pretty funny.

Everyone has a pumpkin bread recipe. You've read a million of them online and in cookbooks, and if you're anything like me, every year you look for that one "even more perfect" recipe. I've baked dozens of recipes for pumpkin bread… some with oil, some just butter, some with applesauce, varying amounts and types of flour and sugars.. Some I've liked, some not. Looking up a recipe online and giving it a try is pretty much a crapshoot.

I can tell you emphatically that this recipe may be the last one you need to look up. It's a delicious, dense yet moist bread that has the fantastic holiday flavor of pumpkin and spices. You can play with your add-ins, maybe some chocolate chips and nuts? Do you like raisins rather than cranberries, or maybe not a fruit person at all?


Recipe Tip:
- Get your ingredients and bowls (you'll need one large, two smaller) ready before you start this recipe. It comes together in no time- no mixer needed. Double it up while you've already got everything out.. 1 cup of pumpkin is only 1/2 of a can. Make two loaves, and give one to your family or neighbors :)

1 2/3 cup all purpose flour
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp baking Soda
1/2 tsp baking Powder
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla paste
1 cup canned pumpkin
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted
1/2 cup canola oil
3/4 cup chopped nuts (I used walnuts)
1/2 cup dried cranberries

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

- In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugars, cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, salt, baking soda, and baking powder
- In a small bowl, whisk together eggs, vanilla, pumpkin, butter, and canola oil until combined
- Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients bowl. Add the nuts and cranberries and stir until the mix is combined
- Grease a 9x5" bread/loaf pan
- Pour the batter into the prepared pan
- Bake for about *50- 60 minutes, until a toothpick pushed into the center of the loaf comes out clean

** I also made a second loaf gluten-free and dairy-free by using Domata all-purpose gluten-free flour (it's a ready to use cup for cup flour), and a stick of Earth Balance in place of the butter.

*The gluten-free (unleaded) loaf baked in 50 minutes, the leaded loaf in 54 minutes.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Gluten-Free Cinnamon Sugar Mock-Tarts



I can sum up my favorite thing about having a food blog in one word- "Ummmmm." I love, love, love when someone takes a bite of something I've made, and that's the first thing they say. There's just something so special about being able to make a person happy with something you've cooked.

This week when I was taking my recipe idea notes, I thought about some of my favorite foods as a kid. I didn't get to eat a lot of sweets when I was younger, but I remember Pop-tarts as being such a treat. The cinnamon sugar ones with the frosting on top were my favorite. That and little teeny spoonfuls of frozen orange juice concentrate, but that's a story for another day.

I wanted to try to make a gluten-free mock-tart that tastes as good as the original. Simple as that. I've played with a couple of different GF flours for a few of my recipes- almond and coconut, but it's a bit of a hassle to make your own cup for cup flour blend. In addition to finding the right percentage of each flour to use, you need to add arrowroot powder and xanthan gum to ensure the baked good comes out right. Purchasing the flours and the extras is really expensive! I came across Domata brand all-purpose bake-ready gluten free flour today at Home Goods for $3.99 a box, and decided to give it a try. It's main ingredient is rice flour. I am so happy with this product, I guarantee if you didn't tell someone something you baked with it was GF, they wouldn't know. I'm going to go back tomorrow and buy-out what they have left on the shelf.

I found inspiration for these mock-tarts from a few different recipes online. Making them started out as an experiment- let's make sure the flour tastes good, is the filling too sweet, etc. and I intended on adapting, but I was so happy with the finished product, I wouldn't mess with the original recipes. I used the Basic Pie Crust recipe from the Domata website, only substituting butter for the called-for shortening. It's delicious- the only change I would make is to double it up, because one batch only made 6 mock-tarts. The filling and frosting recipes came from this one on thecandidappetite.com. The only thing I changed was to halve both of the recipes (and I would leave them as-is if I doubled the crust recipe,) and to add a layer of espresso course sugar to the top of the tarts before frosting them. Mad, mad props to Jonathon aka candid appetite for this absolutely delicious skip-down-memory-lane. I can't wait to try some of his other recipes!

Enjoy!




Cinnamon Sugar Mock-Tarts
Makes 6 tarts

Tart crust:
Basic Pie Crust recipe from domataflour.com

2 cups Domata Recipe Ready Gluten-Free Flour
1 tsp kosher salt
2/3 (a little over 1 stick) of un-salted butter (keep it COLD)
1/4 cup ice water (keep it COLD)
Egg wash (1 egg lightly beaten in a little bowl with 1 Tbsp water)

- In a large mixing bowl, stir together the flour and salt
- Cut the butter into small chunks and add them to the flour
- Mix/cut the butter into the flour with a pastry blender until the butter is small pea-sized pieces
- Sprinkle in the water 1 Tbsp at a time, mixing after each addition, until the mixture holds together when pressed between your fingers (pie dough texture)
- Break the dough in half and into two balls, flatten them, cover with Saran Wrap, and put them in the fridge for about 30 minutes


Tart filling:
Slightly adapted from the Cinnamon Brown Sugar Pop-Tarts recipe from thecandidappetite.com

1/4 cup brown sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp Domata Recipe Ready Gluten-Free Flour

* Any filling you choose (I also made some cherry jam ones), add 1 1/2 tsp flour to 1/4 cup filling and mix well with a fork

Frosting:
Cinnamon Brown Sugar Pop-Tarts recipe from thecandidappetitite.com

3/4 cup powdered sugar
4 tsp milk
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp vanilla paste (use extract if you don't have paste)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees



To assemble the tarts:
- Flour the top of a large piece of parchment paper on your countertop
- Remove the Saran Wrap from the dough balls and roll each of them out with a rolling pin until it's about 1/8" thick and is rectangle shaped ( try for 9x12)
- Trim the edges of the rolled out dough so it has an even edge
- Cut the dough in half length-wise, then into thirds width-wise (each of the 6 squares should be 3x4". Using a ruler really helps- you'll end up with 3 tops and 3 bottoms from each ball of dough
- Set the tart bottoms on a parchment-lined cookie sheet
- Fill the center of each bottom with 1-2 Tbsp of the cinnamon sugar filling. Leave a 1/4 inch rim around the edges
- Brush the raw edges with a tiny bit of the egg wash
- Place the top pieces on the tart bottoms
- Using a small fork, pinch together the edges of the tarts
- Using the side edge of the fork tines, press a seal into the tarts along the inner edge of the forked edges
- Poke little holes into the top of the tarts (I did 5 like a playing card) so the dough will cook through
- Brush the top of the tarts with the egg wash
- Sprinkle the tops of the egg-washed tarts with a little espresso course sugar
- Stick the tarts (the whole cookie sheet) in your fridge for about 10 minutes. The tarts keep their shape better while cooking if they are cold
- Bake the tarts for 24 minutes- turning the pan once half-way during baking
- Set the tarts to cool on a wire rack
- Once cooled, top each of the tarts with about a Tbsp of the frosting. Put the frosting in the center and use the back of a spoon to spread it out

Dairy-free option: Use Earth Balance in place of the butter in the tart dough, and almond milk in place of milk in the frosting

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

My Cowboys are Big Fat Losers Carrot Cake with Orange Cream Cheese Frosting


Thank you Julie, who graciously provided the photo, and for the losing Cowboys who inspired this yummy cake. Proof there's always a silver lining.
______

I've fallen into a comfortable weekly food blog routine since starting this adventure almost 5 months ago. I read my favorite blogs and websites for inspiration and recipe ideas almost daily. Sundays I look through the grocery store circulars, and make notes and clip coupons. Mondays I grocery shop and plan out the family dinner menu, and the rest of the week I create and post new recipes. I've been able to keep up this blog, run the house, keep my husband happy, and save us money (grocery shopping IS cheaper than take-out.) Mission accomplished.

There are three things that have become clear to me during this blog process- (1) I love to cook, especially bake, and am really bummed when I don't get a chance to for the day; (2) I love to re-purpose leftovers, and hate to waste food; and (3) I'm really attached to fresh herbs and citrus. I think I need to hide my zester and hand juicer for a while. A pretty high percentage of my to-date 90 recipes include some fresh citrus zest and/or juice. I really had no idea I was so in love…

This everything-but-the-kitchen-sink carrot cake includes some fresh orange juice and zest. Big shocker- LOL. I just can't help myself.

Typical carrot cakes call for 3-4 cups of grated carrots. That's a lot of grating, and a mess of orange fingers. I decided to puree the carrots (which produced a beautiful orange batter), and then use grated coconut and also walnuts in the cake for texture. Choose your battles- coconut comes pre-grated, carrots do not.

This recipe is inspired from one I found on food.com that called for carrot baby food. The title got my attention, and I liked the over-all ratio of ingredients, but honestly the thought of putting baby food in a cake didn't appeal to me, so.. I pureed fresh carrots. I know it's basically the same thing, but pureeing my own carrots didn't feel as strange to me as using baby food.

Carrot Cake with Orange Cream Cheese Frosting
Makes one 9" two-layer cake, two 8x8x2 square cakes, or one 9x13x2 sheet cake

Cake:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp kosher salt
1 1/2 cups canola oil
4 large eggs
1 3/4 cup pureed carrots
1 8 oz can crushed pineapple, drained well
1 cup chopped walnuts
1 cup shredded coconut (I used sweetened)

Frosting:
1 8oz brick of cream cheese
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter
2 - 2 1/2 cups sifted powdered sugar
2 Tbsp fresh orange juice

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Make the Cake:
- Boil 8 oz baby carrots in water for about 10 minutes until a knife easily cuts through them. Drain and mash with a potato masher. Put in the fridge to cool until you're ready to make the cake
- In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, and kosher salt and whisk to combine
- Add canola oil, eggs, pureed carrots and canola oil to dry ingredients and mix just to combine
- Stir in walnut and shredded coconut
- Pour into prepared cake pan(s) that have been buttered and floured
- Bake for about 25- 30 minutes (I started checking the pans at 20 minutes) until a toothpick poked into the center of your cake(s) comes out clean
- Cool cake(s) completely before frosting

Make the Frosting:
- Beat the cream cheese with the butter until combined and smooth
- Add the powdered sugar and orange juice and blend until combined
- Cover the bowl and refrigerate the frosting until you're ready to frost your cake(s)

Dairy free option- Use Earth Balance in place of the butter, and a dairy-free cream cheese substitute (like Tofutti) in place of the  cream cheese.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Super Foods "Pesto" Quinoa Salad


Every once in a while, I like to mix some of my Super Foods "Pesto" into my dinner. It is so fresh, healthy, and delicious! It tastes great with scrambled eggs, stirred into brown rice or quinoa, or on top of grilled chicken. You can make it in a matter of minutes, and it requires minimal prepping of the ingredients- just seed/peel everything and throw it in your food processor.

This quinoa salad was inspired by a recipe from  Sallysbakingaddiction.com. So absolutely delicious with smoked paprika seasoned grilled chicken, fresh oranges and avocados, a citrusy dressing, and my Super Foods Greens "Pesto" mixed into cooked quinoa. Who knew eating healthy could taste so good?

I came up with my Super Foods "Pesto" after making a regular-type pine nut pesto in my food processor. I love the taste of fresh herbs and greens, and thought of how I could make a fresh pesto without the nuts.

If you don't own a food processor, I highly suggest putting it on your wish-list. It is one of those things that once you use it, you can't believe you survived without it. It makes your life so much easier not having to hand chop your salsas and pestos.



Super Foods "Pesto" Quinoa Salad
Serves 4

Salad:
2 cups cooked quinoa
* Super Foods "Pesto"
1 Tbsp olive oil
3 skinless chicken breasts, pounded into thin cutlets
1 tsp smoked paprika
kosher salt
cracked black pepper
2 large oranges- peeled, segmented, and chopped
2 large avocados, chopped

Dressing:
2 Tbsp fresh lime juice (1-2 limes)
1/3 cup knife-chopped cilantro
2 Tbsp orange juice (I just use not from concentrate juice if I don't have another orange)
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp honey
pinch of kosher salt
pinch of cracked black pepper

-This won't taste like regular salad dressing you'd have with lettuce- it's meant to be more acidic. If it's too acidic for you, just add a little more olive oil and maybe a little more honey until it's how you like it.

* Super Foods "Pesto"
3 cups baby spinach
1 small jalapeño, trimmed and seeded
3 scallions, trimmed
1 bunch (about 1 cup) cilantro (mostly leaves, I just twist off the top of a bunch of cilantro above the stems)
2 garlic cloves, peeled
1 Tbsp olive oil
Pinch of kosher salt
Juice from 1 lime

- Throw it all together in a food processor and chop away

Assembling the salad:
- Cook quinoa according to package instructions, run it under cold water, and set aside
- Make the "Pesto" and fold it into the cooked quinoa
- Heat the 1 Tbsp olive oil on medium/high in a sauté pan
- Sprinkle each side of the chicken breasts with kosher salt, pepper and the smoked paprika
- Cook the chicken in the heated pan for about 4 minutes on each side (once you put them in, resist checking them so they can get a golden-brown sear) until cooked through. Slice into strips
- While the chicken is cooking,  combine the dressing ingredients in a small bowl and set aside
- Combine the salad ingredients in a large bowl (Pesto/quinoa, oranges, avocado, cilantro, chicken strips, and the citrus dressing.) Toss to combine

Dairy and Gluten Free recipe :)



Friday, September 5, 2014

Blueberry and Orange Buttermilk Muffins


Anticipation…. oh, if you could smell my kitchen right about now!

I know I've already posted a few muffin recipes, but in celebration of the fact they are my favorite baked good, I'm going to post another one.

These Blueberry and Orange Buttermilk Muffins are a riff on my Spiced Blueberry and Citrus Muffin recipe. They're what you can come up with in the kitchen if you start thinking of those dangerous words "what if I…". I had some leftover buttermilk from making my sister's birthday cake yesterday and an orange sitting in my little basket on the bar counter.

The combination of juicy blueberries, sweet orange, tangy buttermilk, and spicy ground clove and cinnamon is SO good. Make these for a special breakfast or brunch, or for your neighbors- just because. Food is love- spread it around!

Baking Tips:
- If you don't have an orange, you can use another citrus fruit in this recipe. You just want to make sure you have about 2 Tbsp zest and 2 Tbsp juice for the batter.
- I love the baking cups from the Simply Baked company. I'm able to find them at my local Home Goods store for about $2.99 for 20 of them. They are nice and sturdy (and cute) and are meant to be filled and placed directly on a cookie sheet for baking. No muffin pan needed!


Blueberry and Orange Buttermilk Muffins 
Makes 8 large muffins

Muffins:
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp kosher salt
3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1 large egg, slightly beaten
3/4 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup (one stick) melted butter, cooled
3/4 tsp vanilla paste (you can substitute vanilla extract)
Zest from one medium-sized orange
Juice from 1/2 medium-sized orange
One small blister pack of fresh blueberries (about 1 1/2 cups)

For sprinkling on top:
1 Tbsp sugar
1/4 tsp cinnamon

Preheat oven to 400 degrees
- In a small bowl, stir together the topping sugar and cinnamon and set aside
- In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and ground cloves until combined
- Add to the dry ingredients the egg, buttermilk, melted butter, vanilla paste, orange zest and juice and stir just to combine
- Gently fold in the blueberries
- Using a cookie scoop, fill muffin cups 3/4 full of batter
- Sprinkle some of the cinnamon sugar over the top of each muffin
- Place filled baking cups on a cookie sheet (if you have regular muffin cups, you need to use a muffin tin) spaced evenly apart
- Bake muffins for 18- 22 minutes until a toothpick pushed into the center of the muffins comes out clean

Dairy Free option:
- Substitute Earth Balance for the butter
- Substitute either unsweetened almond milk or blend together 1/4 cup silken tofu, 3/4 cup water, 1 Tbsp lemon juice (or vinegar) and a pinch of salt for the buttermilk