Posts Tagged ‘recipes’

Food: Best Freaking Tomato Sauce

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In the very first cooking class I attended from Tom (he’s the best!) he taught us how to make a rustic tomato sauce. It’s my go-to. I don’t buy store bought anymore. Best of all, no can opener required. I’ve never been a huge fan of the overly-acidic, dump-all-your-food-storage-into-a-pot sauces. They don’t taste like a real tomato grown on a vine. This sauce does. And you don’t have to make it at the height of growing season, either. I can make mine in the middle of winter with 72″ of snow piling in our front yard.

The secret is in the type of tomatoes. Regular cherry tomatoes work fabulously. If you happen to find yourself near a Trader Joe’s, stock up on ALL of their mini tomatoes, especially their Villagio Marzano tomatoes! OMG, so good just plain.
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This recipe may feel like it’s more work than the typical recipe that calls for cans and Italian seasoning, but this gets more of a rustic, home-grown tomato taste rather than a canned taste. It’s just so. much. better.

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RUSTIC TOMATO SAUCE

Adapted from Food Made By Tom | Makes 2-3 cups
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 2 tbs salted butter
  • 1/3 cup coarsely sliced onion
  • 2 cartons grape tomatoes*
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock or broth
  • kosher salt to taste

Peel garlic and coarsely chop. Turn on the stove to medium high heat. Add butter, garlic and onion.

While the onion and garlic are simmering, slice all of your tomatoes in half. Dump tomatoes into the pot once the onions and garlic is aromatic (until onion goes clear, you can go until it browns a little if you’d like). Cover and cook for 30-40 minutes. Check in on it and stir about once every 5 minutes.

You’ll want the bottom of the medium sauce pan to burn just slightly so you get a roasted flavor in there. Timing depends upon how juicy your tomatoes are. Add salt and pepper. Add broth. I eyeball it. Uncover the sauce and reduce at medium-high heat.

At this point you could just remove from heat and put on pizza dough as a rustic pizza sauce. My kids don’t much care for the larger skins, so I’ll allow the mixture to cool and blend it with my immersion blender or I’ll put it in the blender and puree. Garnish with fresh basil.

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The above image is when it’s about half-way done. You’ll want a soupier consistency. It’ll start bubbling and burning slightly on the bottom. The charred bottom adds a lot of flavor, as if you roasted the tomatoes in an oven. You can add broth or stock to the sauce or leave as-is. It just depends upon how thick you want your sauce to be and how much time you have to let it reduce. If I have time, I’ll add broth and let it reduce a couple of times so the flavor is concentrated. My best batches tend to be the ones I forget about because I get caught up with the drama of after-school studies or who gets the iPad. It’s best to cook at medium to medium/high heat. I tend to go medium/high heat because we’re at altitude. Things take FOREVER to cook otherwise.

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So this may not be a hard-and-fast recipe, it’s more recipe theory and based on “Looks”, so I hope it’ll be as good for you as it has been for our family.

Recipe: Easy Chipotle Lime Salmon

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I stumbled upon this deliciousness by accident. It was incredibly easy and practically brainless to make. We had my brother over for dinner on Sunday so I made this, pan seared broccoli and this ridiculously tasty Harvest Salad with Buttermilk Sage Dressing.

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The photos could be better, but It was one of those I-should-probably-document-this-for-blogging-sake moments and I busted out the camera. Foolishly I didn’t get more than one angle with my DLSR so you’ll have to suffer the bright overhead iphone photo. We’ve become so spoiled with good photography in the digital age.

On to the recipe. This salmon has a nice balance of creaminess, smokiness with a touch of zing. Definitely going to make this again, so I’d better blog about it so I don’t forget what I did.

Chipotle Lime Salmon

Serves 6-8

  • 1 fresh salmon filet (this one was 2.14 lbs)
  • 1-2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 lime
  • chives
  • 1-2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • fresh cracked pepper (to taste)
  • 1 teaspoon chipotle powder (or more for a smokier, spicier taste)

Preheat the oven to 450ºF. Place the filet in a casserole dish or jelly roll pan. I cut my filet in two to fit in the casserole dish. Brush melted butter overtop and season with salt, cracked pepper and chipotle powder.

Add thinly sliced limes and chives overtop, placing the limes like you would pepperoni on a pizza. Bake for 15 minutes.

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Et voila! This is a great recipe for guests because it takes very little time to make. Pop it in the oven as guests arrive and serve hot by the time everyone gets settled and sits down!

Food: 3 Ingredient Red Velvet

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So there’s all this red velvet hype. I can’t quite get around it.  It’s barely chocolate cake with 4 million tablespoons of red food coloring. Am I right? I never had a fascination with ingesting heaps food coloring (although give me Swedish Fish and I’ll sing a different tune). I’m not a stickler about food, but I do like my cooking/baking to be on the more real side of things.

This is a red-velvet on the more real side of things (although you can’t tell much by the pics because I used a dark chocolate cake mix – didn’t have light chocolate or white on-hand). It’s really red. It’s also naturally red.

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It also uses only 3 ingredients.*

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*When I say 3 ingredients, I really mean 3 components. I’m not oblivious to the fact that white chocolate chips are not a 1-ingredient item. Same with a box cake mix. Tons of stuff goes into those. Fewer ingredients for the more organic brands. For some reason it bothers me when a recipe claims (like this one – I’m such a hypocrite) to only require 3 ingredients when it’s really a store-bought item that contains many ingredients. So I’m a liar. It’s not 3 ingredients. It’s 3 components. 3 store-bought components. That make something surprisingly delicious.

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Red Velvet Cookies

Makes about 3 dozen
  • 1 can whole beets (NOT PICKLED)
  • 8 oz. white chocolate chips
  • 1 box cake mix*
  • optional: 1 tsp vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste

Preheat the oven to 375ºF.

Separate the beets and the juice. In a blender or food processor (I recommend processor because you need a thicker beet paste), puree your beets. Use only enough juice to puree the beets. You’ll have about 9-9.5 ounces of beet puree.

Mix the puree, cake mix and chips together until completely incorporated. I used a rubber spatula. No need to dirty the stand mixer for this one.

Spoon out the cookie dough to a greased pan and bake for 8-10 minutes.

*Use a light chocolate or white box cake mix for a more red cookie. I used double-chocolate box cake mix because that’s what I had on-hand. If I get the chance to re-shoot, I’ll show the difference.

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Watch them disappear!

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Food: Udon Fusion Recipe

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This is one of those kitchen sink recipes that changes depending upon mood and fridge contents. Nearly any combination of veggie will make this taste delicious. It’s kind of a fusion between Japanese Udon and Vietnamese Pho. It’s great comfort food for the colder temperatures, but still has a lightness to it that’s not like your typical winter soup.

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The key ingredients here are hoisin sauce, sriracha and udon noodles. I personally can’t make it without mint, either. I’ll opt out of the mint if I’m using chicken or have just egg in there. But if I’m cooking up pork or beef, it’s a must!

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The thick udon noodles have a chewy consistency, much like a rustic chicken noodle soup.

I like to cook everything separately until adding it all together at the very end. It keeps anything from going mushy and flavorless. To keep yourself from going crazy, this is a great recipe for putting leftover vegetables and meat to use. I’ll do meat and veggies with rice for one meal, cook an abundant amount of veggies and meat and warm those up for the udon. It helps to cut down on clean-up afterward.

Here’s how I do it:

Udon Fusion

makes enough for 2-4 people
  • 1 package udon noodles any flavor (looks like this, you can find it in the international aisle in just about every grocery store)
  • petite ball tip steak or boneless country style rib meat
  • carrots
  • broccoli
  • green onions
  • mint
  • 2 eggs
  • hoisin sauce
  • sriracha
  • lemon slice or bit of lemon juice

Start by steaming or pan frying veggies. I’ll do a bit of a steam in a frying pan with water and a small pat of butter. Cook until browned and soft, or at least soft. You can use raw carrots here if you peel or grate the carrots.

Cook your meat separately. I like to get the pan super hot with grapeseed oil, pepper and salt; then quickly fry up small slices of the meat. Alternatively, use pre-cooked meat for a speedier meal.

Cook up the eggs. I may have some soft boiled eggs on hand that I’ll add at the end (one to each dish) or I’ll fry up an over-medium egg in a separate pan. Poached eggs are great here, too.

Prepare the udon according to package instructions. If you’re doing an unflavored package of udon, a bullion cube or chicken or beef stock is great to add into the cooking process.

Chiffonade your mint and chop up green onions.

Mix up the veggies and meat in the soup. Dish up the soup and place the egg, garnishes and sauces on top.

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The kids love this recipe, but I’ll nix the sauces for them. I may sneak a little sriracha when they’re not looking, though.

Demystifying Baby Food

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Back when Penelope was a fish in my belly I was gifted 100 Baby Puree book at a baby shower. It intrigued me. My mom always made our baby food. She was the original natural mama raising us on natural, homegrown foods. It wasn’t a trend or health thing. It boiled down to plain old economics. Continuing my mom’s legacy of showing love through good food, I decided that I would make my baby food, too. When I had Penelope I needed to be as economically responsible as possible so we could survive in the Bay Area! Now I love to make baby food because it’s easy and delicious (I’m constantly catching Felix sneaking bites of June’s food!).

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Side note: store bought baby food is great. It’s convenient and it simplifies motherhood. Why be a stressed out mama?! There’s no wrong way to feed a baby (bottle or breast, store-bought or home made) besides not feeding a baby. If you feel otherwise, you’re welcome to meet my inner mama bear. Judgemental parents are not tolerated in my neck of the woods, in-person or online. But if you’ve been intimidated by making your own baby food, let me simplify it for you. It’s easy and rewarding. Let’s talk about common misconceptions:

It’s hard to make. Getting a recipe book is a great way to get started. It helped me think outside the box and get vegetables I wouldn’t have otherwise given a second thought: parsnips, leeks, cabbage, I’m looking at you! Since making baby food recipes, I’ve been more comfortable including those veggies into our more grown-up meal times, too!

Most recipes consist of cooking a veggie or veggies to a mashable consistency usually by boiling in water. In the cookbook I got, there are some fussy recipes like salmon and risotto. Not sure I’ll be attempting that any time soon, but it’s given me ideas on how to transform our evening meals into something that June can handle when we’re eating as a family.

melissaesplin-demystifying-baby-food-3 It’s time-consuming. I’ll cook a family meal and make baby food at the same time or batch cook as much as I can. Sundays are a low-stress day with lots of cooking, so I may do a large batch of multiple “flavors”. If I’m doing it while I’m doing my regular cooking routine, It’s no extra work at all. I just make sure that I have enough jars on-hand to fill with baby food. I’ve bought various types of jars (specialtybottle.com is a great place to start), but I’ve found 4 oz. jam jars are my favorite. They’ve got a wide mouth for easy filling and they’re the perfect amount for an emerging appetite. They’re easy to find at the grocery store, too.

It’s perishable. Yes. It is. The shelf life isn’t as long as store-bought food. I don’t can mine like my mom would when she would make applesauce just before winter would hit. BUT, I’ve noticed that if I mash the food and store it in canning jars while hot, they’ll seal in the fridge. HOWEVER, they won’t keep the seal at room temperature. I keep them in the fridge until I’m ready to use them (I don’t leave it at room temperature for more than 12 hours). But the jars of food stored this way will last a great while. I would admonish you to smell and taste the veggies before you feed your babe if you’re not sure about how well it’s kept. I haven’t ever had a jar sour on me in the fridge. I’ve had some in the fridge for over a month.melissaesplin-demystifying-baby-food-4

I don’t have the right equipment or space. The food processor I use Chris and I got as a wedding present. Some are as low as $15, but you can get decent ones for $30. They’re small unitaskers that don’t take up much space in the kitchen. As much as I would love a full-sized food processor, this little bad boy has worked fabulously for us when we had a 25 square foot kitchen. If you plan to make small batches and go through them quickly, regular tupperware is great. For doing larger batches, small jam jars you can find at the grocery store are worth it. The glass also doesn’t stain when it comes to the carrot and beet recipes!

Basic Carrots

makes about 6-10 4 oz. servings

  • 8-10 large carrots
  • 1-2 pats of butter (optional)
  • 1-2 cups water

Peel and chop carrots to 1/2″ discs (bigger discs are okay, but require a longer cook time). Place carrots in a medium sauce pan with 1-2 pats of butter and water. The water shouldn’t cover the carrots!

Cover and cook until soft (20-30 minutes) on medium high. The water will reduce so you may want to check every 5-10 minutes and add water if necessary. As soon as they’re soft, remove from heat and add to the food processor. Use all the water in the pot if there’s any left over. There are vitamins in that water. For a fridge seal with jam jars, process while still warm/hot. Add water as-needed to the mixture until the desired consistency. I tend to add more when my babies are just learning to eat and less when they’re more experienced eaters. If you’re using a blender you may need to use a touch more water. Add just little bits at a time.

Store in the fridge to cool. Serve plain or mixed with sticky rice for older babies.

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