Lick Your Plate Clean Spaghetti Sauce

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Before we delve into this recipe there are a few things you need to know:

First, this recipe is near and dear to my heart. I grew up eating Italian food and loving every bite. It didn’t matter if it was made by my Mother, my Nana, or any other relative, I just couldn’t (and still can’t) get enough homemade Italian food. This recipe, to me, is a big part of my childhood. To the annoyance of many I have insisted that homemade sauce is ALWAYS better than jar sauce. To be honest, most have disagreed. Some have even scoffed at how long it takes to make sauce and claim it is not worth it. But despite the criticism and doubts, I still feel very strongly about making pasta sauce from scratch. I urge you to give it a try. It is not difficult recipe and to me, nothing provides more comfort than a belly full of homemade sauce.

For some of the ingredients listed below there are no measurements. Why? Because this is how I learned to make sauce, so this is how I’m going to explain it. Make this recipe just once and you’ll get a feel for it.

This makes a big ole’ batch of sauce. Why? Because I make sauce in big batches, freeze it in smaller containers and than defrost for quick weeknight meals. BUT here’s the beauty of this recipe, it can easily be reduced by cutting back on the tomatoes. Want to make a small batch? Just use 1 can of diced tomatoes and 1 can of crushed tomatoes. Want to make an even bigger batch than this? Increase the tomatoes so that you use 4 cans of diced and 4 of crushed. The key is to keep the varying texture of tomatoes even, so that there is always an equal amount of each.

The last thing you should know is that the title of this post has been inspired my my husband, who literally licks his plate clean every time I serve it.

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Clara’s Pasta Sauce

Ingredients:

  • olive oil
  • 1 bunch of fresh parsley
  • garlic, minced
  • 3 cans (28 oz) of diced tomatoes
  • 3 cans (28 oz) of crushed or pureed tomatoes
  • 1 can tomato paste
  • dried oregano
  • dried basil
  • salt
  • pepper

Directions:

Start out by getting everything ready to go, mince a few garlic cloves, chop the parsley, and open all of the cans and have them near the stove top ready to rock and roll. Trust me.

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Next coat the bottom of your sauce pan with olive oil. You want enough to coat the bottom of your pan so this will vary depending on the size pot you are using. Heat the oil over medium-high heat and when the oil is warm add your chopped parsley and a few cloves of garlic to the pan. Garlic lovers, feel free to load up on garlic here, otherwise 3-4 cloves ought to do it.

Stir the parsley and garlic frequently. The garlic should be toasted and brown, but not burned. Do not walk away from your pot, keep an eye on that garlic because it will go from browned and lovely to burned and acrid quickly. Burned garlic ruins sauce. If you burn the garlic, dump out your pot and start over.

Ok, so the garlic is nice and browned, now it’s time to add all of your tomatoes and the tomato sauce. Gently pour them all into the pan and set the cans aside.

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Now, take one of the empty cans of tomatoes and fill the can about 1/3 of the way with water. Carefully swirl the water around the can to rinse the excess tomato from the can.

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Then pour the tomato-ey water into each can and repeat the process to clean all of the cans.

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Pour the tomato-water mixture into the sauce and stir to combine.

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Now it’s time to add some spices. How much basil? About this much.

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How much oregano? Slightly more oregano than basil.

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Next add the salt and pepper and stir to combine. Allow the mixture to come to a simmer then reduce the heat to low and cover. Cook the sauce for 3-4 hours, stirring every 20-30 minutes. Stirring the mixture and keeping it on a low temperature is key, as tomato burns easily. Keeping the heat low and stirring the mixture will prevent that. There is no fixing burned sauce. If you burn the bottom of the pot, I’m sorry, but the whole batch of sauce will taste burned. Do not burn your sauce.

Taste the sauce about half-way through the cooking process to determine if more seasoning is needed. You will know the sauce is done when the tomatoes no longer have a raw taste to them and taste a little bit sweeter.

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Clara’s Pasta Sauce

Ingredients:

  • 2-3 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 bunch of fresh parsley
  • 3-4 garlic cloves
  • 3 cans (28 oz) of diced tomatoes
  • 3 cans (28 oz) of crushed or pureed tomatoes
  • 1 can tomato paste
  • dried oregano, to taste
  • dried basil, to taste
  • salt, to taste
  • pepper, to taste

Directions:

Start out by getting everything ready to go, mince the garlic cloves, chop the parsley, and open all of the cans and have them near the stove top.

Next, heat 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil in a heavy bottomed pot over medium heat.

Next coat the bottom of your sauce pan with olive oil. When the oil is hot an easily coats the bottom of your pot saute the parsley and garlic. Stir the parsley and garlic frequently. The garlic should be toasted and brown, but not burned. Do not walk away from your pot, keep an eye on that garlic because it will go from browned and lovely to burned and acrid quickly. Burned garlic ruins sauce. If you burn the garlic, dump out your pot and start over.

Once the garlic is a golden brown add the canned tomatoes and tomato paste. Then, take one of the empty cans of tomatoes and fill the can about 1/3 of the way with water. Carefully swirl the water around the can to rinse the excess tomato from the can. Pour the tomato-ey water into each can and repeat the process to clean all of the cans and pour the tomato-water mixture into the sauce and stir to combine.

Add 2 tablespoons of oregano, 1 tablespoon of basil, 2 teaspoons of salt, and 1 teaspoon of pepper.

Allow the mixture to come to a simmer then reduce the heat to low and cover. Cook the sauce for 3-4 hours, stirring every 20-30 minutes. Stirring the mixture and keeping it on a low temperature is key, as tomatoes will burn easily. Keeping the heat low and stirring the mixture will prevent that. There is no fixing burned sauce. If you burn the bottom of the pot, the whole batch of sauce will taste burned. Do not burn your sauce.

Taste the sauce about half-way through the cooking process to determine if more seasoning is needed. You will know the sauce is done when the tomatoes no longer have a raw taste to them and taste a little bit sweeter.

The Tuna Salad Alternative

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Howdy! Today I have a quick and delicious recipe that makes a great make-ahead lunch or just an all-around yummy snack; the Tuna Salad Alternative.

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I personally am not a fan of tuna salad or chicken salad. For one, I don’t care for too much mayonnaise in general, but also canned tuna grosses me out a bit.  I stumbled across this recipe not too long ago and had to try it out right away. What really caught my attention was the use of chickpeas in place of tuna or chicken. I made a few alterations to the recipe and I was so pleased with the final results that I had to share it with you.

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I hope you enjoy this and I promise holiday baking posts will be coming soon.

The Tuna Salad Alternative

slightly adapted from LaurenConrad.com

Ingredients:

  • 1 can of chickpeas (15 oz), drained and rinsed
  • 1 celery stalk
  • 1 1/2 TBSP rice wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup fat-free Greek yogurt
  • 1 Tbsp mustard
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp paprika
  • 1/4 tsp cumin

Optional Additions:

  • Handful of nuts of your choice, roughly chopped
  • Handful of raisins or dried cranberries, roughly chopped
  • 2 TBSP pickles, roughly chopped

The Tuna Salad Alternative Ingredients

Directions:

Roughly chop the chickpeas, celery, and optional additions.

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix together.

Serve on toasted bread, your favorite crackers, or on top of a salad and enjoy!

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It’s certainly not the most complicated recipe in the world, but it is yummy! What are your favorite additions to a tuna or chicken salad? I’m partial to dill pickles, or a crunchy nut such as pistachios.

If you’re enjoying these posts and don’t want to miss any new ones be sure to join my other Reckless Readers and subscribe to receive new posts via email.

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The Tuna Salad Alternative

slightly adapted from LaurenConrad.com

Ingredients:

  • 1 can of chickpeas (15 oz), drained and rinsed
  • 1 celery stalk
  • 1 1/2 TBSP rice wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup fat-free Greek yogurt
  • 1 Tbsp mustard
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp paprika
  • 1/4 tsp cumin

Optional Additions:

  • Handful of nuts of your choice, roughly chopped
  • Handful of raisins or dried cranberries, roughly chopped
  • 2 TBSP pickles, roughly chopped

Directions:

Roughly chop the chickpeas, celery, and optional additions. Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix together.Serve on toasted bread, your favorite crackers, or on top of a salad.

Green Monster Smoothies

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A few years ago a good friend of mine introduced me to these green vegetable-fruit smoothies. At first, I admit I was more than skeptical. They were green and weird. Drinking spinach? As a self-proclaimed veggie hater, this was pure crazy talk, I proclaimed! But the funny thing is, I found them delicious. I couldn’t get enough of them to be more accurate, and they have been a staple ever since. Let me tell you why I love these gross-looking drinks;

  • Firstly, and foremost they don’t taste like they look! When made correctly, these smoothies don’t taste like salad, but delicious fruit. This is good because I have a tendency to eat like a little kid and avoid veggies like the plague. And hey, that’s not so great. Everyone needs some veg in their life. This smoothie is a great way to “sneak” those veggies in.
  • These smoothies make me feel very energized and they can be a great caffeine-free pick me up.
  • Green Monsters are great for a meal or snack on the go.
  • I also love the choices. I have a green monster smoothie several times a week, but they vary in flavor depending on how I’m feeling that day.

So be brave. Step outside your comfort zone and give it a try. With the holidays approaching and all the rich food associated with this time of year, you’ll be glad you did.

So here are the basics to making your own Green Monster. The ingredients are guidelines and the measurements approximate.

There are 4 components to a Green Monster;

(1.) The Greens

To make a green monster smoothie you need some greens! I typically go for spinach, but kale or arugula are also good choices. I promise you won’t be able to taste them so use whatever you like.

(2.) The Liquid

This is extremely flexible; milk of any kind (almond, soy, coconut), milk with a splash of juice, cold green tea, or even water. I usually use skim milk or almond milk. To make this smoothie a meal replacement I recommend adding some protein powder to really make it filling.

(3.) The Masking Agent

This ingredient is going to cover up the flavor of the greens. In my opinion, the best choices are banana, pineapple, or ginger. They have really bold flavors that easily cover up any green flavor and have a lot of pairing options for additional fruit flavors.

(4.) Additional Fruit Flavor

This ingredient acts as another flavor component that don’t cover up the greens on its own, but complements the Masking Agent. Go for what you like and get creative! Examples: blueberries, strawberries, cherries, apples, oranges, mango

My Favorite Smoothie Flavors:

  • Spinach-Skim Milk-Banana-Blueberry
  • Spinach-Skim Milk-Banana-Strawberry
  • Arugula-Water-Ginger-Mango-Crushed Ice

The Method:

First, combine some of the liquid and the greens. You want a generous portion of greens here, about 1 1/2 cups-2 cups, and a splash of liquid (1/4 c). More will be added later, but for now the goal is to get a smooth texture, and break down the greens. Using a blender mix the liquid and greens until you have a smooth green liquid with no large bits of green in it.

Next, add your Masking Agent and any additional fruit. I find that not much fruit is needed for big flavor. For a 2 1/2 cup-3 cup smoothie I only need half of a banana or handful of pineapple slices to cover up any and all green flavor. For additional fruit I try not to add more than a 1/2 cup. Blend together until smooth.

Finally, add some more liquid as desired. Some folks, like a nice thick fruit smoothie, while others like it a bit thinner. If it’s a hot day (and depending on your equipment) you might want to add some crushed ice to your smoothie. I typically add about 1/4 cup more milk, as I don’t like my smoothies too thick. Also, give it a taste to see if more Masking Agent needs to be added. Blend any additional liquid and/or ice being added until smooth.

And presto, Green Monster Smoothie success!

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A Few Green Monster Tips:

Storing fruit in the long-term:

  • I buy a bunch of bananas at a time and let them get very ripe and full of brown spots and then cut them up into 1/2 in slices. I lay them out flat (and not touching) on a tray that has been lightly sprayed with cooking spray and freeze. Once they are frozen solid I put them in a bag for easy storage.
  • I recommend the same treatment for any fresh fruit you would like to use; break it down into small pieces, freeze, and then store in bags for easy access.
  • I typically do not put any ice in my smoothies because my Masking Agent and Additional Fruit is frozen.

Storing greens in the fridge:

  • I keep my greens stored in a mason jar (or any glass jar with a top that screws on/off), and I find this prolongs the shelf life of my greens.

What other veggie-fruit smoothies have you tried? I would love to hear new flavor combinations!


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Green Monster Smoothies

Ingredients:

  • 1 ½ -2 c baby spinach
  • ½ c liquid (milk, soy milk, almond milk, coconut water, etc.)
  • ½ c frozen blueberries (or fruit of your choice)
  • ½ frozen banana (see tips below)

Directions:

First, combine half of the liquid and the spinach in a blender. Blend until you have a smooth green liquid with no large bits of green in it.

Next add frozen blueberries, banana and remaining liquid. Blend until smooth. Add more liquid if needed or if a thinner texture is desired.

A Few Green Monster Tips:

Storing fruit in the long-term:

  • I buy a bunch of bananas at a time and let them get very ripe and full of brown spots (so they taste sweeter) and then cut them up into 1/2 in slices. I lay them out flat (and not touching) on a tray that has been lightly sprayed with cooking spray and freeze. Once they are frozen solid I put them in a bag for easy storage.
  • I recommend the same treatment for any fresh fruit you would like to use; break it down into small pieces, freeze, and then store in bags for easy access. Freezing the fruit in a tray first makes it easy to grab small portions from the freezer.

Storing greens in the fridge:

  • I keep my greens stored in a mason jar (or any glass jar with a top that screws on/off), and I find this prolongs the shelf life of my greens.

 

 

A Thanksgiving Smorgasbord

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Thanksgiving is only a few days away, and I cannot wait! As promised I have one more fabulous side dish suggestion (I saved the best for last!) and some of my favorite Thanksgiving recipes.

Let’s start with my last side dish suggestion: Butternut Squash Mac & Cheese. Oh, this stuff is good. So, so, so, delicious! Even if you consider yourself to be not much of a squash-eating person, you will probably find this mac & cheese dish delicious. If you don’t have room on your Thanksgiving table for this dish, I strongly suggest making room for it in the near future.

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Butternut Squash Mac & Cheese

Slightly adapted from Cooking Light Magazine (Click here for original recipe)

Ingredients

  • 2 lb Butternut Squash, peeled and cut into cubes
  • 1 1/4 c chicken broth
  • 1 1/2 c fat-free milk
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 2 tbsp plain non-fat greek yogurt
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 5 oz (1 1/4 c) smoked Gouda cheese, grated*
  • 1 c Pecorino Romano cheese, grated
  • 1/4 c Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, grated
  • 1 lb pasta, uncooked (I suggest cavatappi, rotini, or small shells)
  • 1/2 c breadcrumbs
  • cooking spray

*A note on ingredients; please feel free to substitute in any kind of cheese you enjoy, but I strongly suggest you use smoked Gouda for this recipe because it really gives the dish a great flavor. Trust me.

Directions:

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. In a large saucepan combine the squash, chicken broth, milk, and garlic and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 25 minutes (the squash should be sort of soft and easily stabbed with a fork).

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When the squash has 10 minutes of cooking time remaining, in a separate pot, bring enough water to boil to cook the pasta. Once the water is boiling cook the pasta according to the instructions on the packaging.

When the squash is done cooking remove from heat and pour into a blender or food processor with the salt, pepper, and Greek yogurt. If you are not able to run your equipment without allowing steam to escape (and not getting hot squash everywhere), allow the mixture to cool slightly. Blend the squash until smooth. Pour into a mixing bowl and add the grated cheese. Stir to combine.

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Drain the pasta from the water, when done cooking and combine the drained pasta into the mixing bowl.

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Spray a 9×13 baking pan or a jelly roll pan with cooking spray. Spread the macaroni mixture onto the pan and top with breadcrumbs. Bake for 25 minutes or until it bubbles slightly.

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This delicious mac & cheese can easily be made ahead of time and warmed in the oven before serving. It is so fabulous, seriously, you should probably just make it now.

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Hungry for more? Here is a round up of a few more mouth-watering suggestions for your Thanksgiving dinner;

I hope everyone has a fun and delicious Thanksgiving!


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Butternut Squash Mac & Cheese

Slightly adapted from Cooking Light Magazine

Ingredients

  • 2 lb butternut Squash, peeled and cut into cubes
  • 1 1/4 c chicken broth
  • 1 1/2 c fat-free milk
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 2 tbsp plain non-fat greek yogurt
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 5 oz (1 1/4 c) smoked Gouda cheese, grated
  • 1 c Pecorino Romano cheese, grated
  • 1/4 c Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, grated
  • 1 lb pasta, uncooked (I suggest cavatappi, rotini, or small shells)
  • 1/2 c breadcrumbs
  • cooking spray

Directions:

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. In a large saucepan combine the squash, chicken broth, milk, and garlic and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 25 minutes (the squash should be sort of soft and easily stabbed with a fork).

When the squash is cooking, in a separate pot, bring enough water to boil to cook the pasta. Once the water is boiling cook the pasta according to the instructions on the packaging.

When the squash is done cooking remove from heat and pour into a blender or food processor with the salt, pepper, and Greek yogurt. If you are not able to run your equipment without allowing steam to escape (and not getting hot squash everywhere), allow the mixture to cool slightly.

Blend the squash until smooth. Pour into a mixing bowl and add the grated cheese. Stir to combine.

Drain the pasta from the water, when done cooking and combine the drained pasta into the mixing bowl.

Spray a 9×13 baking pan or a jelly roll pan with cooking spray. Spread the macaroni mixture onto the pan and top with breadcrumbs. Bake for 25 minutes or until it bubbles slightly.

 

Roasted Mushrooms and Buttermilk Biscuits

Alright people, Thanksgiving is less than a week away and it is time to get your game faces on!

We all know the main players at the Thanksgiving table; a big ol’ roasted turkey, mouth-watering mashed potatoes, and stuffing, stuffing stuffing. This year, for the very first time, I am hosting my own Thanksgiving dinner! I am so excited and I am looking for ways to make our table really special with some non-conventional side dishes.

Here are two potential side dishes that I’ve tried out already that get my seal of approval.

Side Dish # 1: Roasted Mushrooms

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These make the cut because I absolutely love the earthiness that roasted mushrooms bring to the table and they complement turkey and gravy oh, so well. These are easy to make and will certainly impress your guests (or your hosts if you have offered to bring a dish).

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb baby portobello mushrooms
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tsp cooled bacon fat (Optional, but this really takes these mushrooms to the next level)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp ground pepper
  • fresh parsley (optional, for garnish)

Directions:

Preheat your oven to 425. Lightly coat at 9×9 pan or small roasting pan with cooking spray or butter. Next, clean the mushrooms with a damp, clean towel. Toss the cleaned mushrooms with the olive oil, bacon fat, salt, and pepper and place in prepared pan. Roast for 25 minutes , stirring the mushrooms gently after 12 minutes.

Allow the mushrooms to cool slightly after roasting and top with fresh parsley before serving.

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Pretty easy, right? Don’t let that fool you, this side dish tastes amazing and can easily become a favorite, and definitely has a place at my Thanksgiving table this year.

Side Dish #2: Cheddar-Chive Buttermilk Biscuits

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Growing up, I was more likely to see hearty Italian rolls or a slew of mini muffins to accompany my Thanksgiving meal. Over the years, however, I’ve gained a new appreciation for the buttermilk biscuit and I thought it might make a nice and unique (in my experience) addition to the Thanksgiving table.  This recipe is also very simple. (Noticing a theme? Roasting a turkey can be tricky enough, the rest of the dishes should be easy to make!)

Cheddar-Chive Buttermilk Biscuits

Slightly adapted from Martha Stewart (click to view the original recipe)

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp ground pepper
  • 6 tbsp unsalted butter, cold and cut into small cubes, plus 1/2 tbsp melted
  • 3/4 c buttermilk
  • 1 1/4 c cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 3 green onions or a handful of chives, cut into small pieces

Directions:

Rearrange oven placing  the racks towards the bottom of the stove, then preheat your oven to 425 degrees. In a large mixing bowl combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and pepper. Using a pastry cutter or fork (or your hands), cut the cubes of butter into the dry ingredients until the mixture is well combined and has a coarse texture.

Next, add the buttermilk, cheese, and chives and mix until combined, and a unified dough is formed (I like to use my hands to mix together but a spoon works just fine).

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Place the dough onto a well floured surface and roll out to 1 inch thick. Cut with a 2 inch biscuit cutter or the top of a water glass.

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Cut the biscuits close together. Gather up the scraps and re-roll the dough out to 1 inch to cut the remainder of the biscuits. Arrange the biscuits on baking sheets lined with parchment paper, placing the biscuits 1 inch apart. Brush the tops of the biscuits with melted butter. Bake for 15-18 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through.

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These can be made in advance and stored in air-tight containers. This recipe makes just shy of 2 dozen biscuits.

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If you enjoyed this article, stay tuned; I’ve got one more post coming up to help you get in the mood for Thanksgiving. I’ll be posting it Monday morning and it will include one more side dish suggestion along with a round up of some of my favorite Thanksgiving recipes from around the web. If you don’t want to miss this and other upcoming posts join my other reckless readers and subscribe to receive new posts by email.

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Roasted Mushrooms

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb baby portobello mushrooms
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tsp cooled bacon fat (Optional, but this really takes these mushrooms to the next level)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp ground pepper
  • fresh parsley (optional, for garnish)

Directions:

Preheat your oven to 425. Lightly coat at 9×9 pan or small roasting pan with cooking spray or butter. Next, clean the mushrooms with a damp, clean towel.

Toss the cleaned mushrooms with the olive oil, bacon fat, salt, and pepper and place in prepared pan. Roast for 25 minutes , stirring the mushrooms gently after 12 minutes.

Allow the mushrooms to cool slightly after roasting and top with fresh parsley before serving.

 

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Cheddar-Chive Buttermilk Biscuits

Slightly adapted from Martha Stewart (click to view the original recipe)

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp ground pepper
  • 6 tbsp unsalted butter, cold and cut into small cubes, plus 1/2 tbsp melted
  • 3/4 c buttermilk
  • 1 1/4 c cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 3 green onions or a handful of chives, cut into small pieces

Directions:

Rearrange oven placing  the racks towards the bottom of the stove, then preheat your oven to 425 degrees.

In a large mixing bowl combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and pepper. Using a pastry cutter or fork (or your hands), cut the cubes of butter into the dry ingredients until the mixture is well combined and has a coarse texture.

Next, add the buttermilk, cheese, and chives and mix until combined, and a unified dough is formed (I like to use my hands to mix together but a spoon works just fine). Do not over mix (over mixing = tough biscuits).

Place the dough onto a well floured surface and roll out to 1 inch thick. Cut with a 2 inch biscuit cutter or the top of a water glass.

Cut the biscuits close together. Gather up the scraps and re-roll the dough out to 1 inch to cut the remainder of the biscuits. Arrange the biscuits on baking sheets lined with parchment paper, placing the biscuits 1 inch apart. Brush the tops of the biscuits with melted butter. Bake for 15-18 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through.

These can be made in advance and stored in air-tight containers. This recipe makes just shy of 2 dozen biscuits.

 

Homemade Hummus & Crostini

My favorite holiday is almost here! Guys, I love, love, love Thanksgiving. It is by far the best holiday, and in preparation for this glorious holiday I have been whipping up some delicious posts for you this week!

This post is all about homemade hummus and crostini. This is an easy snack that can served before the big meal, so if you need to put something out for your guests to munch on, or if someone asks you to bring something to share, this my easy, make-ahead suggestion to you.

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This is the recipe my Mom uses. She makes hummus for almost all holidays and big family parties. I remember making it with her back when we thought it was better to skin the chickpeas first (trust me, it does not make a noticeable difference), and I always associate hummus with holiday times and special occasions (even though I eat it all year round!). So, let’s get this hummus started already!

Hummus

adapted from:

The Complete Middle East Cookbook
by: Tess Mallos

Ingredients:

  • 1 can chickpeas (garbanzo beans)
  • 2/3 cup tahini (available in some supermarkets and in most deli’s)*
  • juice from 1 lemon
  • 1/2 can water (use the chickpea can)
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, crushed
  • salt to taste

*A note on this ingredient, if you cannot find tahini, sesame oil will do, just add to taste, 1 tsp at a time.

Are you ready for these super hard instructions?

Directions:

Place all ingredients (except salt) in a high-powered blender or food processor. Blend until smooth. Taste. Add salt to taste.

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So here’s the thing about hummus, yes you can absolutely buy it at the store, and it tastes great, but homemade hummus tastes even better to me and I also like to make a chunkier hummus than you generally see in stores. So give it a try, and let me know how you think it compares. Additions such as roasted garlic, toasted pine nuts, or roasted red peppers are welcome!

Next, let’s make some crunchy homemade crostini to go with our hummus!

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Crostini

Ingredients:

  • 1 baquette, cut into slices
  • olive oil
  • salt, pepper, dried oragano

*A note on this ingredient; These can be seasoned many different ways and still come out delicious! The flavor combinations are endless and can be tailored to match whatever is intended to top the crostini.

Directions:

Preheat your oven to 300 degrees. Arrange the baquette slices on a cookie sheet. They can be very close together. Brush the slices of bread with olive oil and sprinkle evenly with spices.

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Bake for 30-40 minutes until level of desired toasted perfection is achieved. I like mine to be fairly dark and golden brown, but they are also good when only slightly toasted, so feel free to play with the bake time on this recipe.

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I love these because they are so easy to make and great make ahead snacks for any dinner party. They can be topped with hummus, or meat and cheese or pretty much any topping making them a very versatile snack, and a nice homemade touch to any party.

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Coming up later this week: Non-traditional Thanksgiving sides to accompany your turkey!


 

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Hummus

adapted from The Complete Middle East Cookbook by Tess Mallos

Ingredients:

  • 1 can chickpeas (garbanzo beans)
  • 2/3 cup tahini (available in some supermarkets and in most deli’s)*
  • juice from 1 lemon
  • 1/2 can water (use the chickpea can)
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, crushed
  • salt to taste

*A note on this ingredient, if you cannot find tahini, sesame oil will do, just add to taste, 1 tsp at a time.

Directions:

Place all ingredients (except salt) in a high-powered blender or food processor. Blend until smooth. Taste. Add salt to taste.

 

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Crostini

Ingredients:

  • 1 baguette, cut into slices
  • olive oil
  • salt, pepper, dried oregano

Directions:

Preheat your oven to 300 degrees. Arrange the baguette slices on a cookie sheet. They can be very close together. Brush the slices of bread with olive oil and sprinkle evenly with spices.

Bake for 30-40 minutes until level of desired toasted perfection is achieved. I like mine to be fairly dark and golden brown, but they are also good when only slightly toasted, so feel free to play with the bake time on this recipe.

 

Cheesy Pull Apart Biscuits

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A few weeks ago I made some Monkey Bread Muffins  from Pioneer Woman, and they were so amazingly delicious. Seriously, you should stop what you’re doing right now and make these yummy treats. They were so easy to make they got me thinking about savory applications of this recipe. So after some slight tinkering, this is the result; a cheesy pull apart biscuit. Brace yourself, because these rock.

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Here’s what you’ll need for this naughty biscuit;

Ingredients:

  • 1 tube/can of premade biscuit dough, I used Pillsbury Grands
  • Salt
  • 1/2 tsp olive oil
  • 3 tbsp butter
  • 1/2 tsp minced garlic (about 1 clove)
  • Parmesan or Romano Cheese, grated
  • Cheddar, grated
  • jalapeno, chopped finely (optional)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375

Start by cutting up the butter into small slices and put one pat of butter in the bottom of a muffin tin. (If you use a can of Pillsbury Grands you will get 11 muffins).

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How much is a pat of butter? This much:

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Next cut up the preformed biscuits into fourths and put the dough in a medium-sized mixing bowl.

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Drizzle the dough with 1/2 tsp olive oil, 1/2 tsp minced garlic, a (teeny tiny) dash of salt, and a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese. Using your hands, toss the dough until it is evenly coated.

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Next, gently roll the dough into balls and place 3 in each muffin tin.

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Now, you can stop right there and top them with more butter and cheese and they will be delicious, wonderful biscuits. OR, you could take it a bit further if you dare…

If you wanted to, you could create little pockets full of cheese and jalapeno. I warn you, these are not for the feint of heart! Because these are so delicious, so very wonderful you will want to eat them all the time. I warned you.

If you choose to create cheesy spicy pockets, simply fill each fourth of dough with small amount of diced jalapeno and grated cheddar cheese.

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Seal it together by pinching the sides together and place into the muffin tin.

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Now top the muffins with a dash more of cheese, and the remaining small pats of butter.

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Bake in the oven for 19-22 minutes. The tops will be golden brown and lovely. Eat while they are hot. But try not to eat all of them yourself. Or if you do, no judgements, these are pretty yummy.

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Cheesy Pull Apart Biscuits

Ingredients:

  • 1 tube/can of pre-made biscuit dough, I used Pillsbury Grands
  • Salt
  • 1/2 tsp olive oil
  • 3 tbsp butter
  • 1/2 tsp minced garlic (about 1 clove)
  • Parmesan or Romano Cheese, grated
  • Cheddar, grated
  • jalapeno, chopped finely (optional)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cut up the butter into small slices and put one pat of butter in the bottom of a muffin tin. (If you use a can of Pillsbury Grands you will get 11 muffins).

Next cut up the preformed biscuits into fourths and put the dough in a medium-sized mixing bowl.

Drizzle the dough with 1/2 tsp olive oil, 1/2 tsp minced garlic, a (teeny tiny) dash of salt, and a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese. Using your hands, toss the dough until it is evenly coated.

Fill each fourth of dough with small amount of diced jalapeno and grated cheddar cheese. Seal it together by pinching the sides together and place into the muffin tin. Now, top the muffins with a dash more of cheese, and the remaining small pats of butter.

Bake in the oven for 19-22 minutes. The tops will be golden brown and lovely. Serve warm.

French Onion Soup

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This winter I’ve resolved to make soup once a week in efforts to make meals that are both lighter and able to warm the belly. So far, I’m off to a good start; first I tried this roasted root vegetable soup from the Eat Run Live Blog, and this week I tried a fabulous mushroom barely soup from Real Simple Magazine. Both were excellent, but I have to say my favorite so far has been the French Onion Soup.

I found this Tyler Florence recipe a few years ago, and I loved it so much the first time I made it, I made it again a week later. What I love about this recipe is the depth of flavor. It’s not just broth and onions here, there are layers of flavors. And of course there are cheesy croutons. Gotta love cheesy croutons!

Before we get started with the recipe let’s talk about chopping up onions. Another reason why I like this recipe is because I am a huge kitchen nerd and it gives me an opportunity to practice my onion chopping skills. So here is my crash course in cutting onions like a pro.

For this recipe you will need 4 medium/large yellow onions. You will also need a good, sharp knife. This is important, because without a good sharp knife this technique does not work.

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Start off by cutting the top of the onion off.

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Next, slice the onion in half length-wise.

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Now place the onion flat on the cutting board, the trick is to make slices in 2 directions without cutting all the way through the root. First, cut slices going through the onion vertically, without slicing through the root.

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Now make slices through the onion horizontally, also not cutting through the root.

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Now the onion is ready to be cut up; slice through the onion all the way to the root and small pieces of onion will fall off in tiny bits. Cutting the onions into these thin bits create a great texture, and their size will also aid in the caramalizing process.

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Now that the onions are chopped it’s time to get our soup started. Here’s what you will need;

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 4 onions, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 fresh thyme sprigs (or 1 tsp of dried thyme)
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 3/4 cup red wine
  • 3 heaping tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 quarts beef broth
  • 1 baguette, sliced
  • 1/2 pound grated Gruyere (or cheese of your choice)

First we’ll need to carmalize those onion bits to get the most flavor out of them. In a large pot melt the butter over medium heat.

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Once the butter is melted add the onions, garlic, bay leaves, thyme, 1 tsp salt, and 1/2 tsp black pepper. I know it looks like a lot, but the onion bits will shrink down to about 1/10 of their size by the time we are finished with them.

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Cook the onions over medium heat, stirring frequently, for about 20 minutes. At this point the onions will have released a lot of liquid. Increase the heat very slightly and cook until the liquid mostly evaporates and the onions are caramelized on the bottom and sides of the pan.

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Next add the wine to the pot and bring to a boil. Then, reduce the heat and simmer until the liquid is mostly cooked off (about 20-25 minutes).

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Remove the bay leaves (and thyme sprigs if using fresh thyme). Reduce the heat to low and sprinkle the flour over the onions and give them a stir. Allow the flour to cook for 10 minutes.

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Now add the beef broth to the purple onion mixture. Gently scrape the bottom of the pot to remove any yummy brown bits into the soup. Increase the heat to bring to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

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While the soup is simmering in its final minutes of cooking, it’s time to prepare the croutons. This is really the best part of French Onion Soup, let’s be honest. To make the croutons take slices of baguette and arrange on a baking sheet. Sprinkle the slices of bread the grated cheese of your choice and place under the broiler until the cheese is melted and slightly golden brown.

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Place the croutons on top of the yummy soup and enjoy!

*Recipe slightly adapted from Tyler Florence’s recipe for French Onion Soup*

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French Onion Soup

Recipe slightly adapted from Tyler Florence’s recipe for French Onion Soup

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 4 onions, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 fresh thyme sprigs (or 1 tsp of dried thyme)
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 3/4 cup red wine
  • 3 heaping tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 quarts beef broth
  • 1 baguette, sliced
  • 1/2 pound grated Gruyere

Directions:

In a large pot melt the butter over medium heat. Once the butter is melted add the onions, garlic, bay leaves, thyme, salt, and pepper.

Cook the onions over medium heat, stirring frequently, for about 20 minutes. At this point the onions will have released a lot of liquid. Increase the heat very slightly and cook until the liquid mostly evaporates and the onions are caramelized on the bottom and sides of the pan.

Next add the wine to the pot and bring to a boil. Then, reduce the heat and simmer until the liquid is mostly cooked off (about 20-25 minutes).

Remove the bay leaves (and thyme sprigs if using fresh thyme). Reduce the heat to low and sprinkle the flour over the onions and give them a stir. Allow the flour to cook for 10 minutes.

Now, add the beef broth to the onion mixture. Gently scrape the bottom of the pot to remove any yummy brown bits into the soup. Increase the heat to bring to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

To make the croutons take slices of baguette and arrange on a baking sheet. Sprinkle the slices of bread the grated cheese of your choice and place under the broiler until the cheese is melted and slightly golden brown.

Serve the soup with 3-4 croutons on top.

Cranberry Curd: a delicious take on fruit curd

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What is cranberry curd you say??? As our good friend Wikipedia explains;

“Fruit curd is a dessert spread and topping usually made with lemonlime,[1] orange or raspberry.[2] Specific types of fruit curd are named after the central curd in them – for example, that made with lemons is known as “lemon curd”. The basic ingredients are beaten egg yolkssugar, fruit juice and zest which are gently cooked together until thick and then allowed to cool, forming a soft, smooth, intensely-flavored spread.”

Lemon curd is one of my favorites. Delicious as a filling in cakes, cupcakes, or tarts, it is also delicious on toast or shortbread cookies. I had never actually realized it could be done with cranberries until reading about it in November’s issue of Cooking Light Magazine.

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So I thought I’d give it a whirl and let y’all know how it came out; YUMMY! It removes the tartness of the cranberries while still retaining a nice flavor that is not too sweet.

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Cranberry Curd (recipe from Cooking Light Magazine)

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 (12-ounce) package fresh cranberries
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon Grand Marnier (I used Triple Sec for my batch)

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Start by placing the water, lemon juice, and cranberries in a medium-sized sauce pan and bring to a boil.

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Reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes until the cranberries are poppin’ and lockin’.

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Carefully pour the cooked cranberries into a food processor or blender.

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Now whip it. Whip it real good. aka until the mixture is smooth.

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Pour into a fine-meshed sieve so that the seeds are not in the final product.

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Next, combine the sugars and butter using a hand or stand mixer. Add the egg yolks to the mixture one at a time and mix well. Then, add the strained cranberry mixture, cornstarch, and salt and mix to combine.

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Using a double boiler cook the mixture until it thickens, stirring frequently. This will take about 10 minutes, or if using a thermometer the mixture should reach 160 degrees.

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Last step; remove the cranberry mixture from the heat and let stand for 5 minutes before adding the Grand Marnier (or Triple Sec).

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Give it a good stir.

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Spoon directly into my face. I mean, a jar.

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It will keep in refrigerator for a week.

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A special thanks to my sister who helped me with this post!

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Cranberry Curd

recipe from Cooking Light Magazine

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 (12-ounce) package fresh cranberries
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon Grand Marnier (I used Triple Sec for my batch)

Directions:

Start by placing the water, lemon juice, and cranberries in a medium-sized saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes until the cranberries pop.

Carefully pour the cooked cranberries into a food processor or blender and blend until the mixture is smooth. Pour into a fine-meshed sieve so that the seeds are not in the final product.

Next, combine the sugars and butter using a hand or stand mixer. Add the egg yolks to the mixture one at a time and mix well. Then, add the strained cranberry mixture, cornstarch, and salt and mix to combine.

Using a double boiler cook the mixture until it thickens, stirring frequently. This will take about 10 minutes, or if using a thermometer the mixture should reach 160 degrees. Finally, remove the cranberry mixture from the heat and let stand for 5 minutes before adding the Grand Marnier (or Triple Sec). Stir to combine. Store in the fridge for up to a week.

Gazpacho inspired by Samuel L.

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Inspired by a commercial with Samuel L Jackson (the one for the iPhone 4/Siri), and the weather getting hotter and hotter here in Charleston, I decided this week was a good week to try making some gazpacho. I did a quick search for recipes online. Did you know that there are at least a gazillion gazpacho recipes online? I finally decided to ask my Mom to send me the recipe she used.

Now let me tell you something about the way my Mom cooks; firstly, my Mom is an awesome cook for many reasons but one of them being that she is flexible.

When she looks at a recipe she adjusts it to what she has in the house or what she thinks will taste better. So when she sent me the recipe she uses, she also sent me the modifications she has made. When I looked at both, I also decided to make some modifications of my own.

So here is my gazpacho recipe that has been twice adapted from The French Laundry Cookbook by Thomas Keller et all.

Gazpacho

Adapted from The French Laundry Cookbook by Thomas Keller et all

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium red onion
  • 1 green pepper
  • 1 yellow or orange pepper
  • 1 small cucumber
  • 4 large tomatoes
  • 3 c vegetable juice (such as V-8)
  • 1 1/2 tsp chopped garlic
  • 1 1/2 tsp kosher salt 
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  • 1 tsp ground pepper
  • 1 tbsp rooster hot sauce
  • ¼ c olive oil
  • 1 tbsp white vinegar
  • juice from 1 large lemon
  • 2 tbsp dried basil
  • 1 tsp dried thyme

If making in a food processor;

Cut all vegetables into large chunks and puree to the desired texture using a food processor.

If making in a blender;

Coarsely chop all vegetables. Add veggies and a small amount of tomato juice to the blender and chop into a smoother texture. Pour into a bowl when finished blending. With so many vegetables I had to do the blending in 3-4 batches.

Pour most of the vegetable mixture into a bowl and set aside, leaving 2 cups in the food processor or blender. Add garlic, salt, pepper, hot sauce, olive oil, vinegar, lemon juice, basil, and thyme to the reserved mixture and puree together until well combined. Combine the two mixtures in the bowl. Cover the mixture and refrigerate for 24 hours.

The soup can be served by itself or with a dollop of greek yogurt and/or diced avocados. 

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Gazpacho

Adapted from The French Laundry Cookbook by Thomas Keller et all

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium red onion
  • 1 green pepper
  • 1 yellow or orange pepper
  • 1 small cucumber
  • 4 large tomatoes
  • 3 c vegetable juice (such as V-8)
  • 1 1/2 tsp chopped garlic
  • 1 1/2 tsp kosher salt 
a
  • 1 tsp ground pepper
  • 1 tbsp rooster hot sauce
  • ¼ c olive oil
  • 1 tbsp white vinegar
  • juice from 1 large lemon
  • 2 tbsp dried basil
  • 1 tsp dried thyme

Directions:

Coarsely chop all vegetables. Working in batches if needed, add veggies and a small amount of tomato juice to a blender or food processor and blend into a smoother texture. Pour all but 2 cups of the blended vegetables into a bowl when finished blending.

Add garlic, salt, pepper, hot sauce, olive oil, vinegar, lemon juice, basil, and thyme to the reserved mixture and puree together until well combined. Adjust seasonings to taste. Combine the two mixtures in the bowl. Cover the mixture and refrigerate for 24 hours.

The soup can be served by itself or with a dollop of greek yogurt and/or diced avocados.