Brown Chicken Stock aka Liquid Gold

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Alright folks, I’ve shared with you some of my favorite chicken recipes (Roasted Chicken Thighs and Spatchcock Roasted Chicken), but don’t throw away those bones! In fact, I always have a “bone bag” in my freezer and and as we make these dishes the discarded bones go into this freezer bag rather than the trash. Once I have a full gallon-sized zip lock bag or more and a rainy day with no plans I make this chicken stock.

Chicken stock is one of the staples I like to have in my kitchen at all times, and if you’ve got the time (and the bones) this one is seriously worth it, it really is liquid gold in my kitchen.

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Brown Chicken Stock

adapted from Bon Appetite MagazineBrown Chicken Stock

Ingredients:

  • 5 lb chicken bones
  • cooking spray
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 2 carrots (or 16 baby carrots), peeled, rinsed, and diced
  • 2 celery stocks, diced
  • 2 Tbsp tomato paste
  • handful of black peppercorns
  • 10 parsley sprigs
  • fresh thyme
  • fresh sage
  • 2-3 bay leaves

Directions:

Adjust the racks in the oven so one is on the bottom third of the oven, and the other is in the top third of the oven. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Arrange the bones in a single layer in a large roasting pan.

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(I know it looks kind of gross but hey, sometimes cooking ain’t pretty!)

Coat a baking pan with cooking spray and place the diced vegetables in it. Set aside. I do not recommend using a 9×9 pan as pictured above, the vegetables are too crowded and take to long to roast.

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Roast the bones for 15 minutes on the bottom rack of the oven. After 15 minutes place the vegetables on the top rack of the oven and roast for 20 minutes (let the bones continue roasting in the oven). Remove the vegetables from the oven and coat them in the tomato paste.

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Return to the oven and roast for an additional 10-15 minutes. The bones and vegetables should be a nice deep brown color (and smell amazing).

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Place the bones and the roasted vegetables into a large pot. While the roasting pan that the bones were in is still hot pour a cup of water in and scrape the brown bits up from the bottom of the pan. Pour the mixture into the pot with the bones and vegetables.

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Add 16 cups of water, and all remaining ingredients to the pot and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat and allow the mixture to simmer for 3 hours.

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Now for the fun part! Remove the stock from heat and using a slotted spoon remove the solids.

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Once the big pieces are out of the way, strain the stock through a fine mesh sieve.

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Return the stock t0 medium-low heat and simmer for an additional 1 1/2 hours.

Remove the stock from the heat and allow to cool. Once cool, spoon off the excess fat.

The stock will keep in the freezer for up to 3 months or in the refrigerator for 3 days, I like to store it in quart-sized zip lock bags. I typically put about 3-ish cups of stock per a bag and let them freeze flat so that once they are frozen solid I can stack them or stick them in small places in the freezer. To defrost them place the bags in a sink of hot water.

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Brown Chicken Stock

Adapted from Bon Appetit Magazine

Ingredients:

  • 5 lb chicken bones
  • cooking spray
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 2 carrots (or 16 baby carrots), peeled, rinsed, and diced
  • 2 celery stocks, diced
  • 2 Tbsp tomato paste
  • handful of black peppercorns
  • 10 parsley sprigs
  • fresh thyme
  • fresh sage
  • 2-3 bay leaves

Directions:

Adjust the racks in the oven so one is on the bottom third of the oven, and the other is in the top third of the oven. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Arrange the bones in a single layer in a large roasting pan.

Coat a baking pan with cooking spray and place the diced vegetables in it. Set aside. Roast the bones for 15 minutes on the bottom rack of the oven. After 15 minutes place the vegetables on the top rack of the oven and roast for 20 minutes (let the bones continue roasting in the oven). Remove the vegetables from the oven and coat them in the tomato paste. Return to the oven and roast for an additional 10-15 minutes. The bones and vegetables should be a nice deep brown color (and smell amazing).

Place the bones and the roasted vegetables into a large pot. While the roasting pan that the bones were in is still hot pour a cup of water in and scrape the brown bits up from the bottom of the pan. Pour the mixture into the pot with the bones and vegetables.

Add 16 cups of water, and all remaining ingredients to the pot and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat and allow the mixture to simmer for 3 hours.

Next, remove the stock from heat and using a slotted spoon remove the solids. Once the big pieces are out of the way, strain the stock through a fine mesh sieve. Return the stock to medium-low heat and simmer for an additional 1 1/2 hours.

Remove the stock from the heat and allow to cool. Once cool, spoon off the excess fat.

The stock will keep in the freezer for up to 3 months or in the refrigerator for 3 days, I like to store it in quart-sized zip lock bags.

The Bird is the Word

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It all started this past November a few days before Thanksgiving. First of all, if you don’t already know this, you should; Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. I love, love, love it. I love all of the cooking/baking/love that goes into it. This year I was able to host my very first Thanksgiving, and even though I’m pretty sure I drove my husband crazy, I loved it. But I was spending so much time focusing on which side dishes to prepare (See: Butternut Squash Mac & Cheese, Roasted Mushrooms, and Buttermilk Biscuits ) that I really kind of forgot the turkey. I know, I know, that’s crazy talk.

So a few day before Thanksgiving, I started looking at different recipes for roasting a turkey. That’s when I came across various claims that spatchcocking a turkey is the fastest and greatest way to roast a turkey. So let’s back up, today’s word of the day is spatchcock. This is a cooking technique for poultry where the back bone is removed, the bird is pressed flat, and then cooked. Basically it’s a fancy word for butterflying a whole bird.

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Let me just say, this blew my mind. I had never heard of it before and I was kind of fascinated by a technique that claimed to cut cooking down significantly and produce a juicy turkey with a crispy outside. But this was days before Thanksgiving, and I was not brave/crazy enough to experiment with this technique for the very first time on Thanksgiving.

Now let’s fast forward to a few weeks ago. My time had come, and I was ready to try this whole spatchcocking thing for myself. I bought a 4 lb chicken, brined it, and gave it a try. OH MY GOODNESS. It was magnificent! It was delicious! It was more than I dreamed it would be. Thankfully my husband called to say he would be working late that night because I almost ate the whole chicken myself. I have no regrets.

So without further ado, I give you my recipe for a fool-proof roasted chicken. Be brave! This yields awesome results and I will most certainly be doing this the next time I host Thanksgiving.

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Spatchcock Roasted Chicken

Ingredients:

  • brine for the chicken
  • 4 lb roasting chicken
  • 2 oranges
  • 2 lemons
  • cooking spray
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 2 tsp bacon fat (optional)
  • salt
  • pepper

Step 1: Brine the bird

You can use any brine you like. I halved this recipe from Pioneer Woman. I like this one in particular because it gives the bird sweet and savory flavors. I swear by brining whole birds before roasting, you’ll never have a dry roasted bird again! I recommend brining for at least 16 hours, or up to 24 hours before roasting.

Step 2: Spatchcock

Take the chicken out of the brine and allow it to drain for a few minutes.

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Place the chicken on a cutting board and pat dry with a paper towel.

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Using kitchen scissors, cut vertically along the backbone of the chicken on both sides and remove entirely.

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Flip the chicken over and press the bird as flat as you can.

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Step 3: Roast the chicken

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Place a cooling rack in a flat baking pan and put in the oven while it is preheating. Slice the lemons and oranges into thin round slices and set aside. Melt the butter (and bacon fat if using) in the microwave and set aside.

Once the oven is up to temperature, remove the hot pans from the oven. Carefully, spray the cooling rack with non stick cooking spray and arrange the lemon and orange slices on the the rack.

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Place the chicken on top of the citrus. Brush the skin with the melted butter (and bacon fat) and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

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Roast for 50-60 minutes until the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165. Let the chicken rest for 10 minutes before cutting up and eating.

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Just look at that beauty.

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How you doin?

Sorry, I’ve been watching a lot of Freinds reruns lately. I regret nothing.

The wings and thighs are my favorite, and I love using the juicy meat from the breasts in sandwiches and soups. After carving the chicken, save those bones! Later this week I will share with you my absolute favorite recipe for brown chicken stock.

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Enjoy and let me know how your chicken turns out.

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Spatchcock Roasted Chicken

Ingredients:

  • brine for the chicken
  • 4 lb roasting chicken
  • 2 oranges
  • 2 lemons
  • cooking spray
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 2 tsp bacon fat (optional)
  • salt
  • pepper

Directions:

Step 1: Brine the bird. You can use any brine you like. I recommend brining for at least 16 hours, or up to 24 hours before roasting.

Step 2: Spatchcock

Take the chicken out of the brine and allow it to drain for a few minutes. Place the chicken on a cutting board and pat dry with a paper towel. Using kitchen scissors, cut vertically along the backbone of the chicken on both sides and remove entirely. Flip the chicken over and press the bird as flat as you can.

Step 3: Roast the chicken

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Place a cooling rack in a flat baking pan and put in the oven while it is preheating. Slice the lemons and oranges into thin round slices and set aside. Melt the butter (and bacon fat if using) in the microwave and set aside. Once the oven is up to temperature, remove the hot pans from the oven. Carefully, spray the cooling rack with non-stick cooking spray and arrange the lemon and orange slices on the the rack.

Place the chicken on top of the citrus. Brush the skin with the melted butter (and bacon fat) and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Roast for 50-60 minutes until the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165. Let the chicken rest for 10 minutes before cutting up and eating.

Lemon Oregano Roasted Chicken Thighs

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Honestly, this dish is a staple in my house. I started making this a few years ago, when I was desperate for one-pot meals, and this one just stuck. I make this (or a variation of this) every two weeks or so. This can be attributed to a few reasons; the first being that it is quick and easy to make. I also love this recipe because it’s a building block for tons of other dinners. I often change the spice combinations and vegetables I’m roasting with the chicken so it doesn’t get boring.

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The last, and maybe most important reason we make this for dinner so often is because it’s with chicken thighs. Let me tell you, I used to think I didn’t like chicken. It turns out I was just drying out my chicken every time and that was really making my chicken dishes unenjoyable. Once I started cooking chicken thighs with this method I learned how absolutely amazing chicken can really be, crispy on the outside and juicy on the inside. It was literally a revelation to me that I had been ignoring, in my opinion, the best part of the chicken!

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And chicken thighs are so inexpensive. I buy big packs of them at the grocery store and freeze 4-5 thighs in a bag, so that when I’m making it for dinner I put the bag of frozen chicken in a sink of hot water and they defrost quickly. After they are defrosted I trim the skin so there is just a small amount on the top of the thigh, and trim the excess fat on the bottom of the thigh.

So, as you try this recipe in your own kitchen, I strongly encourage you to experiment with different spice combinations for the chicken and which vegetables get roasted with the chicken. If you like crispy chicken that is juicy and flavorful on the inside then this recipe is for you.

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Lemon Oregano Roasted Chicken

Ingredients:

  • 4-5 chicken thighs
  • salt
  • pepper
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 1/2 c carrots, baby carrots, or cut into 2 inch pieces
  • 1 lemon, cut into quarters
  • oregano

Directions:

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Pat dry the chicken thighs with a paper towel and place on a plate. Sprinkle the chicken thighs with salt and pepper. Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in an oven safe pan over medium-high heat. Once the oil is shiny and easily coats the bottom of the pan place the chicken thighs, skin side down, on the the pan. Allow them to brown for 6 minutes. Carefully flip the chicken and brown the bottom of the chicken thighs for 6 minutes.

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Toss the carrots in a small amount of olive oil and add them to the pan around the chicken thighs. Squeeze the lemon slices over the entire pan (be careful, this will splatter a bit), place the lemon slices in the pan on top of the vegetables.

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Sprinkle oregano on the chicken thighs and then place the pan (uncovered) in the oven and roast for 18-20 minutes (depending on the size of the chicken thighs).

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The chicken is finished when it reaches an internal temperature of 165.

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Let the chicken rest for 5-10 minutes before serving.

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Lemon Oregano Roasted Chicken

Ingredients:

  • 4-5 chicken thighs
  • salt
  • pepper
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 1/2 c carrots, baby carrots, or cut into 2 inch pieces
  • 1 lemon, cut into quarters
  • oregano

Directions:

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Pat dry the chicken thighs with a paper towel and place on a plate. Sprinkle the chicken thighs with salt and pepper. Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in an oven safe pan over medium-high heat. Once the oil is shiny and easily coats the bottom of the pan place the chicken thighs, skin side down, on the the pan. Allow them to brown for 6 minutes. Carefully flip the chicken and brown the bottom of the chicken thighs for 6 minutes.

Toss the carrots in a small amount of olive oil and add them to the pan around the chicken thighs. Squeeze the lemon slices over the entire pan (be careful, this will splatter a bit), place the lemon slices in the pan on top of the vegetables.

Sprinkle oregano on the chicken thighs and then place the pan (uncovered) in the oven and roast for 18-20 minutes (depending on the size of the chicken thighs).

The chicken is finished when it reaches an internal temperature of 165.

Let the chicken rest for 5-10 minutes before serving.

 

 

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.

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.

 

 

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.

 

Roasted Pork Tenderloin with Apples and Onions

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Well hello! How is everyone holding up in the summer heat so far? Today I am sharing with you one of my new favorite ways to cook pork. For those of you who don’t know, roasting a pork loin is actually my favorite main to make for dinner. And I know no one wants to turn on the oven in this heat, but I’m telling you, this one is worth it! AND, I promise to post some cold dishes soon.

Also, before we dive into this yummy recipe, I wanted to let y’all know I have an Instagram account now and I try to post to it several times a week with different things I’m cooking and some of the delightful treats I make at work. Check it out!  AND, if you love reading my blog, do me a solid and subscribe to it, so you never miss a post. You’ll receive an email every time I post a new article.

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Roasted Pork Tenderloin with Apples and Onions

adapted from Cooking Light Magazine

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 tsp olive oil
  • salt
  • pepper
  • 1 lb pork tenderloin
  • 1 1/2 c frozen pearl onions, thawed
  • 2 Gala apples
  • 2 tsp fresh thyme leaves
  • 1/2 c chicken stock
  • 1/2 tsp flour
  • 1 tsp cider vinegar

Directions:

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Heat an oven proof skillet or pan to medium high heat. Add 1 1/2 tsp of oil to the pan and swirl to coat. Coat the pork with salt and pepper and add to hot pan. Brown the sides of the pork for 4 minutes, turning so that all sides are browned.

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Just look at that lovely browned pork; brown food is good food!

After browning the pork put the pork in the oven and cook for 20-25 minutes. The thickest part of the pork should be 145 degrees.  The pork can also be tested for doneness by making  a small cut in the middle of the pork loin and checking that the juices run clear rather than cloudy.

While the pork is cooking, prep the apples and onions to make a delicious sauce. First let’s talk about these guys; pearl onions.

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So here’s the thing; if you can find a bag of frozen pearl onions, you should use those opposed to unfrozen ones that need to be peeled, because as it turns out these are actually a huge nuisance to peel. SO, if you cannot find frozen pearl onions, I recommend slicing up a yellow onion instead.

Ok, back to our sauce; first either pat dry the frozen pearl onions or chop up a yellow onion so that you have 1 1/2 cups of onions. Next slice up 2 Gala apples. For this recipe I like thin slices so that they cook up quickly.

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Next dissolve the flour into the chicken broth.

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When the pork is done, remove it from the pan and let it rest on a plate.

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Using the same pan that the pork was cooked in, saute the onions and apples over medium high heat for 2 minutes or until the onions are browned and the apples are cooked.  Next add the broth and fresh thyme to the pan and bring to a boil   scraping up the brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Cook until the broth is reduced to 1/4 c (about one minute).

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Stir in vinegar and butter and remove from heat.  Finally, cut the pork loin into slices and serve with the apple and onion sauce.

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Serve with a glass of chilled white wine and a green veggie side and you’ve got yourself a delicious meal. Enjoy!


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Roasted Pork Tenderloin with Apples and Onions

adapted from Cooking Light Magazine

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 tsp olive oil
  • salt
  • pepper
  • 1 lb pork tenderloin
  • 1 1/2 c frozen pearl onions, thawed
  • 2 Gala apples
  • 2 tsp fresh thyme leaves
  • 1/2 c chicken stock
  • 1/2 tsp flour
  • 1 tsp cider vinegar

Directions:

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Heat an oven-proof skillet to medium high heat. Add 1 1/2 tsp of oil to the pan and swirl to coat. Coat the pork with salt and pepper and add to the hot pan. Brown the sides of the pork for 4 minutes, turning so that all sides are browned.

After browning the pork put the pork in the oven and cook for 20-25 minutes. The thickest part of the pork should be 145 degrees. The pork can also be tested for doneness by making  a small cut in the middle of the pork loin and checking that the juices run clear rather than cloudy.

While the pork is cooking; thinly slice the apples. Next pour the chicken broth into a liquid measuring cup and dissolve the flour in the broth using a whisk or fork, set aside

When the pork is done, remove it from the pan and let it rest on a plate.

Using the same pan that the pork was cooked in, saute the onions and apples over medium high heat for 2 minutes or until the onions are browned and the apples are cooked.  Next add the broth and fresh thyme to the pan and bring to a boil scraping up the brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Cook until the broth is reduced to 1/4 c (about one minute).

Stir in vinegar and butter and remove from heat. Finally, cut the pork loin into slices and serve with the apple and onion sauce.

 

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 
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

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.

Avocado Tomato Summer Salad

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I bought some plants a couple of weeks ago and in celebration of them still being alive I decided to eat them! Err, some of them. Ok, that sounds weird. Good thing I don’t have a pet pig or calf?

Anyway, 2 weeks ago I got myself a basil plant and a peppermint plant. I’m proud to report that they are both thriving. To celebrate the success of my basil plant I am making my favorite summer salad. It is a refreshing and quick salad that is great on a warm summer night. I know it’s not quite summer-time yet, but this sunny 80 degree weather here in Charleston has got me already thinking about summer. (And also how I’m going to start melting when July and August come around)

Avocado Tomato Summer Salad

Ingredients

½ cup chickpeas, drained

1 cup cherry tomatoes, sliced length-wise

1 ripe avocado, peeled and cubed

1 slice of a red onion

½ cup cubed mozzarella (optional)

fresh basil leaves (as many as you like)

¼ tsp salt

¼ tsp pepper

¼ tsp smoked paprika (regular is ok too)

2 tsp olive oil

Combine the chickpeas, tomatoes, avocado, red onion and mozzarella (if using) in a bowl.

Next stack the basil leaves on top of each other and roll together. Slice the basil thinly, and this will create small, thin basil strips. Add the basil to the bowl.

Finally add the spices and olive oil and toss together. Voila!

Mmm Mmm Mmm Avocado Tomato Summer Salad and Balsamic Glazed Pork. YUM!

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Avocado Tomato Summer Salad

Ingredients:

  • ½ cup chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
  • 1 ripe avocado, peeled and cubed
  • 1 slice of a red onion
  • ½ cup cubed mozzarella (optional)
  • fresh basil leaves (to taste)
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp pepper
  • ¼ tsp smoked paprika (regular is ok too)
  • 2 tsp olive oil

Directions:

Combine the chickpeas, tomatoes, avocado, red onion and mozzarella (if using) in a bowl.

Next stack the basil leaves on top of each other and roll together. Slice the basil thinly, and this will create small, thin basil strips. Add the basil to the bowl. Finally, add the spices and olive oil and toss together.

Satisfying the Crunch Factor

The crunch factor; a craving that can only be satisfied by consuming crunchy food items. Food items can be of either the sweet or salty persuasion. The crunch factor often occurs; while working on the computer for a prolonged amount of time, watching the tv or movies, playing video games, or around 4 pm (aka snack time).

Ah, yes, the crunch factor. I’m always looking for ways to keep it healthy and still satisfy the CF. While I’ve tried out a variety of crunchy snacks, roasted chickpeas is my new favorite way to satisfy my crunchy cravings.

Roasted chickpeas are an ideal CF snack because they are (1) easy to make, (2) store well in air tight containers, and (3) are a healthy and flavorful alternative to potato chips.*

*Ok, fine I’m not a nutritionist, but I swear these crunchy beans are better than Doritos and Cheese-its.

So here it is, roasted chickpeas two ways; spicy and sweet.

Spicy Roasted Chickpeas
Ingredients:
2 cans of chickpeas (15 oz cans)
2 tbsp olive oil
1 1/2 tsp paprika
1 1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp cayenne
Optional Add-in: a dash of “Perfect Pinch” for chicken (or any other pre-mixed spice combination of your choice)

First drain the chickpeas in a strainer.

Wash with cool water to rinse the starch off.

Next pour the beans onto a clean kitchen towel or paper towels to air dry. The key to these becoming a crunchy snack inside-out is allowing them enough time to thoroughly dry. I recommend allowing them to air dry for at least 1 1/2 hours-2 hours.

After allowing the peas to dry, preheat the oven to 400 degrees and line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Next, in a small mixing bowl combine the chickpeas with the olive oil and all spices.

Give it a good toss to evenly distribute.

Next, pour the chickpeas onto the prepared baking sheet so that they are in a single layer and pop into the oven.

These will take 40 minutes in the oven before reaching optimal crunchiness. Every 10 minutes take the tray out and toss with a spatula. Do not shake the pan to rotate the peas when they are hot, as this might cause them to pop/explode in one’s face. You’ve been warned.

Sweet Roasted Chickpeas
Ingredients
2 cans of chickpeas (15 oz cans)
1 tbsp + 1 tsp olive oil
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tbsp granulated sugar
Optional Add-in: a dash of apple pie or pumpkin pie spice
1 tbsp honey

To make the sweet version of these crunchy peas follow the directions above EXCEPT only toss the dried chickpeas in olive oil, cinnamon, sugar, and any additional spices you have selected. Immediately after taking them out of the oven, pour the chickpeas into a small mixing bowl and toss them with the honey while still piping hot. Pour them back onto the baking sheet and allow them to cool and the honey to harden.

Also, since these have sugar on them they need to be monitored more closely in the oven to prevent burning. Bake for only 30-35 minutes.

 

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Spicy Roasted Chickpeas

Ingredients:

  • 2 cans of chickpeas (15 oz cans)
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne

Directions:

First drain the chickpeas in a strainer. Wash with cool water to rinse the starch off.

Next pour the beans onto a clean kitchen towel or paper towels to air dry. The key to these becoming a crunchy snack inside-out is allowing them enough time to thoroughly dry. I recommend allowing them to air dry for at least 1 1/2 hours-2 hours.

After allowing the peas to dry, preheat the oven to 400 degrees and line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Next, in a small mixing bowl combine the chickpeas with the olive oil and all spices.

Give it a good toss to evenly distribute.

Next, pour the chickpeas onto the prepared baking sheet so that they are in a single layer and pop into the oven.

These will take 40 minutes in the oven before reaching optimal crunchiness. Every 10 minutes take the tray out and toss with a spatula.

 

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Sweet Roasted Chickpeas

Ingredients:

  • 2 cans of chickpeas (15 oz cans)
  • 1 tbsp + 1 tsp olive oil
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tbsp granulated sugar
  • a dash of apple pie or pumpkin pie spice (optional)
  • 1 tbsp honey

Directions:

First drain the chickpeas in a strainer. Wash with cool water to rinse the starch off.

Next pour the beans onto a clean kitchen towel or paper towels to air dry. The key to these becoming a crunchy snack inside-out is allowing them enough time to thoroughly dry. I recommend allowing them to air dry for at least 1 1/2 hours-2 hours.

After allowing the peas to dry, preheat the oven to 400 degrees and line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Next, in a small mixing bowl combine the chickpeas with the olive oil and all spices.

Give it a good toss to evenly distribute.

Next, pour the chickpeas onto the prepared baking sheet so that they are in a single layer and pop into the oven.

These will take 30-35 minutes in the oven before reaching optimal crunchiness. Every 10 minutes take the tray out and toss with a spatula.