Shepherd’s Pie

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When people find out that I love to cook, try my food, or find out that I have a food blog I get several pretty regular, frequent reactions:

“Oh, you’re a REALLY good cook: have you ever thought about going to culinary school?”

“Wow, you should open up a restaurant and/or catering company!”

“You should totally go on ‘Chopped’ ‘Next Food Network Star’ or ‘Master Chef’!” (Popular food tv shows)

I always politely laugh off these remarks and questions in the real world. However, since this happens to be my blog and here I’m not obligated to laugh or even be all that polite about it, I can just give the straight up honest answers that go off in my head when this happens. Because I know you guys can take it.

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Do I ever think about going to culinary school?

Never.  Not once. It’s a notion that has not, nor ever will be a possibility in my life. For one, culinary school tuition is not cheap. I already signed my life away in five years worth of student loans for my B.A. degree- I’m still trying to get it back now in the small loan re-payments I make now every month. Signing off on more loans to go to culinary school? Ain’t nobody got time for that. Second, culinary school is not something I would ever want to pursue because for me, shaping the act of cooking around the very regimen and structure of school would completely take all the fun out of it for me. When I cook for myself and my family, I like having the freedom to not only add or take away from a recipe as I see fit, but also to mess it up. In culinary school you learn so-called rules of making this and that, having to add this many ingredients, and these exact seasoning with very little wiggle room for freedom and personal interpretation of a dish. And if you do make a mistake and blow a dish, you could fail a mid-term or a final. Where’s the fun in that?

I’ll pass, thank you.

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Would I ever open a restaurant?

Heh. Honey, you couldn’t pay me enough to do that. Long, endless hours of thank-less work. An almost guaranteed loss in profit in the first 1-2 years. Disgruntled, rude customers. The stress of continuity in putting out good food. Just a few reasons for me to steer clear of the restaurant business like it’s the Plague. I would want to have a life outside of my restaurant- most restaurant owners don’t. I want to be able to see my family on a regular basis- most restaurant owners don’t. I don’t do so well with failure- statistically speaking, most restaurants go belly up. There are virtually no pros to balance out those cons, at least not for me. A restauranteur, I am most definitely not.

Do I want to go on tv shows like ‘Chopped’ or ‘Master Chef’?

H-E-double hockey sticks, NO! No. No. No. And, uh no. I don’t do very well cooking under pressure,much less the added pressure of cooking on national television. Although it would certainly be nice if I did get to win one of those contests,the emotional repercussions if I didn’t wouldn’t be pretty. I’m a really sore loser, folks. Plus, if I had to cook for celebrity chefs (several of whom I really like and revere) and they didn’t end up liking my food, I would seriously give up cooking for the rest of my life, no joke. Why put myself through all that?

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Okay, moving on.

It’s fall, and that means you have to have a shepherd’s pie. Seriously: you HAVE to. I keep mine pretty simple; it’s a real meat and potatoes kind of dish-literally. If you’re not in the mood to make mashed potatoes from scratch, then please feel free to use the potato flakes you can microwave- I’ve done that in the past and the dish still comes out perfectly fine. We also don’t add cheese to ours, but I know that most people do, so I added it in the recipe. My only regret is that I didn’t make some brown gravy for these pictures, because that’s how I serve it to my family. This is pure comfort food, folks. No frills, no fancy stuff. But it sure is good for what ails you on chilly winter nights.

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 Shepherd’s Pie

CLICK HERE FOR PRINTABLE VERSION

Ingredients

  • 4.5 lbs. ground beef
  • 12 medium russet potatoes, peeled & cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 12 oz. frozen, mixed vegetables, thawed and drained
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
  • 1 15.25 oz. can of tomato sauce (like for Hunts Meatloaf sauce)
  • 1/2 cup low sodium beef broth
  • 2 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tbsp. garlic powder, divided
  • 2 tbsp. onion powder, divided
  • 1 tbsp. sugar
  • 1 tsp. basil leaves
  • 1/2tsp. Ground thyme
  • 1 tsp. garlic salt, divided
  • 1 tsp. pepper, divided
  • Cheese (optional)

 Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350°

2. Set a large pot of boiling water over the stove. Cook potatoes, fully submerged in water for about 15 minutes, or until they are fork tender and drain.

3. Mash potatoes using a potato masher (or a mixer fitted with paddle attachment). Don’t worry about making them completely smooth– lumps aren’t a bad thing here. Add the heavy cream, butter, 1 tbsp. garlic and onion powder, and 1/2 tsp garlic  salt and pepper. Taste and adjust for seasoning if need be.

4.Brown beef over stovetop, then add mixed vegetables beef broth, Worcestershire sauce, remaining garlic and onion powder, sugar, basil leaves, Ground thyme and garlic salt and pepper. Bring to a medium high heat and allow to cook for a further 10 15 minutes, or until most of the liquid is absorbed (it’s okay if there’s a little bit left). Taste and adjust for seasoning if needed.

5. Spray a 9 x 13 baking dish (or any casserole dish) with cooking spray. Spoon meat filling into bottom of dish, then spread mashed potatoes over the top. Make sure potatoes completely cover the meat to prevent any juices from bubbling up and spilling over.

6. Bake in preheated oven for 30 minutes, until potatoes begin to barely brown across the top. Remove dish from oven and turn on broiler.

8. Spray the potato layer with Butter-flavored cooking spray, or dollop with unsalted butter. You may also add cheese here if you like. Place dish back into oven, directly beneath the broiler and allow to cook a further 1-2 minutes, until potatoes are golden and browned.

Supreme Pizza Pasta Salad

Pizza Pasta Salad1

I know, I know. Another ‘pizza’ themed recipe. I’m sure it’s kinda getting to be overkill at this point, right?

Well just bear with me one more time. This’ll be the last ‘pizza-style’ recipe I share for a while (at least I THINK it will. I may change my mind about that), and it really was too good NOT to share with you all in the case that you hadn’t heard of it before.

Does pizza have a flavor? I don’t mean the individual ingredients themselves, I mean the actual dish of pizza in and of itself- does it have a specific taste and flavor all on it’s own?

I think so. I mean, I sure can pick out a particular smell at my job and immediately think, “Someone here ordered pizza.”

Then I stick out my bottom lip and kick an imaginary rock because somebody has pizza and they’re not sharing it with me.

I don’t care if it’s just one of the $5 Hot-N-Readys from Little Caesars. When you’re at work and you smell pizza, ANY kind of pizza smells and looks good. And when you don’t get any, you just get in a really rotten mood, then turn back to your crappy food that you brought from home and tell yourself that it tastes just as good. (It definitely doesn’t. Very few things taste as good as pizza.)

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I decided to make this dish purely out of curiosity. I thought it sounded like a good idea, but wasn’t exactly sure if pasta salad- that most famous dish of cookouts that’s usually just seasoned with a bottle of Italian dressing, could actually taste like the ‘flavors’ of a pizza. As it turned out, it really did because the first thing that came out of mouth when I took a bite of this was, “Heh. It tastes like pizza.” (i.i, delicious)

Although the title of this recipe is Supreme Pizza Pasta Salad, I think you should really just adapt it for yourself, and throw whatever you eat on your pizza, into this salad. Supreme Pizza is just what I like, so I used the toppings, plus some roasted red peppers that I roughly chopped up.

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Well, I kinda take that back. There are some rules that go with this when it comes to add-ins. You have to put pepperoni in this- even if you don’t like it on your pizza. And if you don’t like pepperoni on your pizza, then you’re dead to me.

Also, if by some horrible error of your tastebuds in fooling you into believing that you like things like anchovies or black olives on your pizza, then you shouldn’t add them in here either. They’re both disgusting. They’ll ruin the dish.

I’m taking this dish to this week’s Fiesta Friday #28, hosted by  Margot and Saucy.  Give it a shot,  it’s quick, easy, and tastes like pizza: what more do you want from me? 😉

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And now, because I’ve run out of things to say and am too lazy to try and think of anything else to discuss: some completely random facts I hunted down just for you guys.

  • It takes the “Where’s Waldo” artist one month to complete a drawing. (Yeah, I can definitely buy that. I have no idea how that guy can make so detailed drawings that, save for the one itty bitty space where Waldo is hiding, are wholly insignificant. Great talent.)
  • Oprah Winfrey earns $315,000,000/year = $26,000,000/month = $6,000,000/week = $850,000/day = $35,000/hr = $600/minute = $10/sec! (I don’t know whether to be really happy about this because Oprah represents such a Cinderella story, or really depressed because my yearly salary is what she makes in an hour and a half.)
  • Make a fist with your left hand, squeeze your left thumb and then put your right index finger down your throat. “NO GAG REFLEX” (OMG, guys, I actually tried it, and it worked! #MINDBLOWN)

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Supreme Pizza Pasta Salad

Recipe Adapted from Rachael Ray

CLICK HERE FOR PRINTABLE VERSION

Ingredients

  • 2 plum tomatoes, seeded and chopped
    1/2 medium red onion, chopped
  • 8 fresh white button mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 small green bell pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 1 stick pepperoni, casing removed and cut into a small dice
  • 1 (9.6 oz) bag of pre-cooked sausage crumbles
  • 20 leaves fresh basil, torn or thinly sliced
  • 1 pound rotini pasta, cooked to al dente and cooled under cold water, then drained

Dressing:

  • 1 teaspoon garlic salt
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano leaves or Italian dried seasoning
  • 1 rounded tablespoon tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar, eyeball it
  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil, eyeball it
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese

 Directions

1. Combine tomatoes, onion, mushrooms, peppers, pepperoni, mozzarella, basil and pasta in a big bowl.

2. Whisk garlic salt, oregano or Italian seasoning, tomato paste and vinegar together. Stream in extra-virgin olive oil while continuing to whisk dressing.

3. When oil is incorporated, pour dressing over pasta salad, add a few grinds of black pepper to the bowl. Add the parmesan cheese, then toss salad to coat evenly. Adjust your seasonings and serve salad.

Dornish Garlic Strata

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Game of Thrones Series Week #7

I swear that every time I think I’ve seen the most dramatic Game of Thrones episode this season, the next one will come on, and I will be freshly stunned and shocked by the jaw dropping ending. I think this may be the best season yet, and from what I understand from my twin sister (who knows what’s going to happen with the story ahead of time), the best is still yet to come in the final two episodes we have left. There was a lot to recap from this past week’s episode- yes, even more than that last scene, which I’ll get to in a minute. So let’s review, shall we?

  • I find the romance between Grey Worm and Missandei to be cute. They definitely have chemistry between each other, and although I think they may be one of the sweeter couples in the GoT series, I can’t see that they have much of a future together. Unless Missandei is one of those women who don’t mind being in a relationship with a guy who’s been ‘handicapped’ (if you know what I mean), which she doesn’t seem to be for now. Peeping Tom or no Peeping Tom, she’s definitely into Grey Worm. Side note: the Mother of Dragons braids her servants hair and does Girl Talk in her spare time? Since when did this happen?

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  • Speaking of Daenerys, oh man, how about  her kicking Ser Jorah to the curb? I understand her suspicion of him now that she’s found out the truth about the poison, but I still feel like this may be her one, big ‘fatal error’ that sets things into motion towards her losing her shot at ever being able to take over the Iron Throne for herself. Whether she realizes it or not, Jorah was the best and truest friend that Daenerys has EVER had. Tywin Lannister certainly realizes it, and she’s playing right into his schemes to thwart all of her plans just because of one mistake that Jorah made years ago. All that he’s went through with Daenerys should have been more than enough for her to at least grant him the opportunity to properly explain himself to her and allow him to give his side of the story. Not only that, I’m also disappointed that she made the blunder of throwing him out of her country alive when he now has so little to lose and now, so much to get revenge on her for. Let’s not forget, Jorah still had sour grapes over her new dalliance with Daario Nahaaris. To be rejected by the woman you’ve loved, served, protected and stood by through thick and thin is hard enough for any man- but to then be kicked to the curb over 1 misunderstanding without even the chance to properly defend himself is probably going to be enough to send Jorah over the edge and straight into the enemy’s camp. He knows her mind, her secrets, the workings of her kingdom, army, and her plans. If Daenerys was really set on ridding herself of him, she should have just had him executed and let that be the end of it; Banishing Jorah is going to be the nails in her coffin, mark my words.

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  • You know, I’m definitely not going to say I’m thrilled about this turn of character for Sansa, but I’m also definitely not going to say that I don’t completely understand why she’s decided to stay on Littlefinger’s ‘good side’ and try to make herself an ally for him, and not a mere prey. She knows that he was obsessed with her mother, she saw him shove her aunt through the moon door without blinking an eyelash, she knows that he poisoned Joffrey- all with that cool, sneaky smile on his face. It took her a while, but our Sansa has finally grown up and seen the way that the world works. She knows she’s not tough or strong enough to take Littlefinger on as an enemy, but she obviously feels strong enough to try and play his (creepy/disgusting) infatuation with her as Catelyn’s daughter to her own advantage. I can’t say that I can see any other way for her to survive at this point. Women do what they have to do when they have to do it- it’s just the way things are. (Another side note: was I the only one reminded of Maleficent by Sansa’s new threads and hair job? Maybe it’s just because Angelina Jolie’s movie just came out, I don’t know. But she did  seem very reminiscent of of the Disney icon to me,)
  • In other news, Ygritte’s heart wasn’t completely demolished by Jon Snow’s diss as she was willing to let Gilly and her baby live. To be honest, I can’t wait to watch it freeze right back up when the two of them meet back up again. I don’t care how good a fighter he is; Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned and that means that our Jon is in for SUCH a beat down when Ygritte gets her hands on him again.It’s bound to be epic.
  • Well, Theon turned his ‘faux’ performance out after all- resulting in more people dying and Ramsay Snow dropping the ‘bastard’ title from his name. Oh joy. Oh rapture. I’m sure this will go splendidly.

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  • And of course, there was the Trial By Combat. Oh man, what a scene. I’m trying to think of a more grisly, gruesome death scene in Game of Thrones up to this point (and we all know there have been plenty), but I’m coming up with blanks. Nothing tops Oberyn’s exit. Blegh. Here’s my take on the fight: Guys, I’m sorry, but this was doomed from the very beginning. You know why? Because Oberyn was going into this fight with his feelings. It was personal for him, and there’s always a much bigger risk when you fight with your feelings. I understand why he wanted to fight the Mountain; he wanted vengeance for his sister and her children. But it was this desire for vengeance that ended up getting him killed. Oberyn not only wanted to kill the man who killed his family, he wanted to get  a confession from both the killer and indict/humiliate the man who ordered the hit: Tywin Lannister. If he’d been satisfied with just killing the Mountain, he never would have gotten distracted enough to let him live long enough to force him to name Tywin as the mastermind behind the crime. He couldn’t afford to be that careless with that good (and huge) a fighter- it should have been a quick, clean, precise kill. Oberyn was obviously capable of doing that, but he wanted to kill the Mountain, he also wanted to humiliate the Lannisters. His own pride was ultimately his unfortunate downfall. God knows what Tyrion is going to do now that his champion is dead. I’m sorry to see Oberyn go; he was a very charismatic character, and I was touched by his devotion to avenging his sister’s rape and death.

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Because last week was our farewell to Prince Oberyn, I thought that I would dedicated this week’s dish to him. In thinking of aspects of Oberyn’s character, I obviously decided to draw on inspirations from his amorous, exotic nature, while also being substantive and delicious. (Yes, I did just use that word because Pedro Pascal = male deliciousness on a stick. Am I right? Of course right.)  What I came up was this strata recipe. What makes this an Oberyn recipe? The garlic and the eggs; both are considered to be ancient and modern aphrodisiac foods (you learn something new every day, huh?). I ate mine with jalapenos and salsa on top to give it that extra ‘Dornish’ kick; it was just as fantastic as it looked. This would make a great recipe for a brunch to feed a crowd, or an easy fix for a Breakfast for Dinner craving.

R.I.P. Prince Oberyn. You fought well. You (and your smoking hot accent) will be thoroughly missed.

Game of Thrones Series

Week 1: Pigeon {Chicken} Pies

Week 2: Winterfell Brown Bread

Week 3: Southron Spinach & Plum Salad

Week 4: Baratheon Smothered Pork Chops & Apple Gravy

Week 5: Lemon Cakes

Week 6: Dothraki Flat Bread

Week 7: Dornish Garlic Strata

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Dornish Garlic Strata

Recipe Adapted from Annie’s Eats and Ina Garten

CLICK HERE FOR PRINTABLE VERSION

Ingredients

For Garlic Oil:

  • 6 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1 cup extra virgin olive oil

For Strata

  • 3 tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 1½ cups onion, finely chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, finely chopped
  • 2 (10 oz.) pkgs frozen chopped spinach, thawed & drained
  • 8 cups stale, cubed bread, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tbsp garlic oil
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded Parmesan cheese (6 oz.)
  • 12 large eggs
  • 2¾ cup milk
  • 1 1/2 cup meat of your choice (sausage, chicken, bacon, ham)
  • 1 tbsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp garlic & herb seasoning (like Mrs. Dash)
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper

 Directions

1. In a small saucepan, bring garlic and oil to a boil, then turn heat to low, and cook for 5 minutes, until garlic is lightly browned. Turn off heat and set aside. The garlic will continue to cook.

2. Remove garlic cloves from the oil & slice them. Place them in a bowl & pour the oil over them.

3. Place bread cubes in a bowl, and pour garlic oil over them. Toss to combine, set aside.

4. Melt the butter in a medium skillet over medium heat.  Add onions & peppers to pan and sauté until soft, about 5 minutes.  Stir in the spinach, remove from the heat and set aside.

5. Butter the inside of a 2½-3 quart baking dish.  Layer the bottom of the dish with one third of the bread cubes.  Top with one third of the meat, one third of the spinach mixture and one third of each of the cheese.  Repeat these layers twice more with the bread, meat, spinach and cheese.

6. In a medium bowl, combine the eggs, milk, onion powder, garlic/herb seasoning, paprika, and pepper.  Whisk together until blended.

7.  Pour the mixture evenly over the bread and spinach layered in the baking dish.  Cover with plastic wrap and chill for at least 8 hours or up to 1 day.

8. Remove from the refrigerator 30 minutes before baking.  Preheat the oven to 350˚ F.  Bake uncovered until puffed, golden brown and cooked through, 45-55 minutes.  Let stand at least 5 minutes before serving.

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Southron Spinach and Plum Salad

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Game of Thrones Series Week 3

Happy Mother’s Day everyone! I hope you all get to spend some time with the mothers or mother figures in your lives and make them feel appreciated. They deserve it.

It’s time for another GoT recipe you guys! I hope you’ve been keeping up with the series, if not I’ll post the recipes that I’ve done so far at the end of this post so you can play catch up. Before we get to the food, I’ll say a few words about my favorite parts of last Sunday’s episode:

  • I know that they’re a crazy family, but I just love the scenes between the Lannisters, especially when Tywin is involved. He’s undoubtedly a bad person, but he’s got a strong dose of pragmatism and resolve to survive at all costs that definitely makes him one of the show’s strongest and charismatic characters. So the Lannister’s are out of dough, huh? Never thought that day would come. As I watched the scene between Tywin and Cersei, I thought it was a great conversation between a rich father facing bankruptcy and his privileged, spoiled daughter who’s always been given everything she wants. I loved Tywin explaining the “facts of life” to Cersei and making her aware that she has to ‘take one for the team’ so to speak in order for them to survive as a family.
  • I’m really curious whether or not Daenerys is really going to get the epic battle for the Iron Throne that she’s dreaming of when it seems like every episode just puts up another roadblock/reason for why it’s not her time to invade Westeros and “take what is hers by blood and fire” (God, she used to get on my nerves when was forever saying that in season 2). I know that because she has the dragons, we’re going to get some kind of fancy special effects-laden scene, but I’m not altogether convinced that GoT is going to end with her as the supreme ruler of everything and everyone.

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  • Then of course, there’s Sansa- poor, poor Sansa. Now, not only is she dealing with Little Finger ( who is not only responsible for Joffrey’s death, but pretty much…everything that has to do with the major fallout ofKing Jon Arryn’s Hand- which is also the entire reason that the plotline of GoT got started in the first place) she’s also stuck with her crazy aunt who still harbors  jealousy for her mother and all the things Catelyn had that she never could. And, she has to get married AGAIN to her younger cousin. Sheesh. Sansa just can’t catch a break to save her life. I have a feeling that Sansa is going to end up doing something very drastic and heroic to save herself when this is all said and done- she’s been through too much without having the opportunity to defend or protect herself from all these people who keep wanting to harm her. I hope to God that one of those drastic things is shooting an arrow through Littlefinger’s head.
  • I really liked the short, but powerful scene between Cersei and Oberon. I don’t feel pity for her generally, but I felt for her situation as woman trapped in a ‘man’s world’ while still struggling to maintain her dignity and self esteem- even if it means causing pain and abuse to those weaker than she. I’m still thinking about that line: “Everywhere in the world they hurt little girls.” It gives me chills because of just how true it really is
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  • Finally an episode with Bran scenes that I can get into! Their escape from Craster’s Keep was pure suspense and satisfaction-especially Bran using his powers through Hodor to get them out of there. Now I finally see the merit behind all those creepy times that his eyes roll back in his head and he sees those weird visions. (Random fact: rolling eyeballs give me pure goosebumps. I just don’t like looking at it.)
  • Too bad Bran and Jon didn’t get to see each other again. I feel like a Stark family reunion (what’s left of them anyway) would be full of so much feels and emotion after all they’ve been though. At least Jon got to see the direwolf again. And at least that horrible Karl jerk got his- from both Jon and one of the women he’d been victimizing. It was a solid call to burn that hell hole to ground. Burn it and bury it forever.

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Guys! I’ve made a discovery- turns out, there’s a Game of Thrones Cookbook. A real one. Actually more than one- there’s an official one: A Feast of Ice and Fire, then there’s an unofficial one : The Unofficial Game of Thrones Cookbook. I was at an outlet store in my hometown a few weeks ago, and I came across the unofficial cookbook on a shelf priced for only $3.99 (that was marked down from an original price of $19.95). Now, you really can’t beat that, can you? So of course, I bought the cookbook (…along with a few others that were also too discounted to not buy. I collect cookbooks like some people collect stamps; there’s never too many. Don’t judge me.)

Question: what IS the actual difference between Official and Unofficial in this context anyway? I read the caption on the cover of the book that reads: “This book is unofficial and unauthorized/ It is not authorized, approved, licensed or endorsed by George R.R. Martin, his publishers, or HBO.”

So…does that mean that the other is authorized, approved, licensed or endorsed by George R.R. Martin, his publishers, or HBO? How does that even work? I don’t understand.

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Anyway, official or unofficial, this cookbook is pretty awesome, guys. The recipes are the perfect blend between medieval and still modern enough for the average cook to be able to easily recreate them. I’ve already made a few that I’m super pumped to review and share with you, the first of which being this delightful salad. I’ve never had a salad with plums in it before, but now that I have, I’m pretty much sold on making it a regular occurrence for when I eat salad from here on out. It adds such a special sweetness that is evenly balanced with the acidity of the lemon and orange flavors in the tangy dressing. Throw in some diced chicken or other type of protein, and you’ve got one winner of a meal here.

One of the things I love best about the cookbook is the little introductions that they author gives at the beginning of every recipe that serve to link them to their relevance to the book series. I thought that I could include it in my posting of the recipe here as well.

Thanks for tuning into this week’s  GoT post- stay tuned for next week’s recipe. I’ll give you a hint into two words: Baratheon. Pork.   😉

Game of Thrones Series

Week 1: Pigeon {Chicken} Pies

Week 2: Winterfell Brown Bread

Week 3: Southron Spinach & Plum Salad

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Southron Spinach & Plum Salad

Recipe Courtesy of The Unofficial Game of Thrones Cookbook by Alan Kistler

CLICK HERE FOR PRINTABLE VERSION

“After a fine day or tourney, Sansa joins the royal court at the riverside for a feast. It’s a magical evening where simply joys and the beauty of the night seem all the more enhanced. This salad of spinach and plums is both healthy yet provides a sweetness to complement the flavor of the night for the young Sansa, who has no idea how far away such lovely times will seem in the months to come.” (A Game of Thrones, Chapter 29 -Sansa)

Ingredients

  • 2 cups baby spinach leaves, torn
  • 4 plums, pitted and sliced into wedges
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 3/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 4 teaspoons lemon zest
  • 4 teaspoons orange zest
  • 1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper, ground
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped basil

Directions

1. Arrange the spinach and plum wedges on 4 plates.

2. Whisk vinegar, oil, juices, zests, salt, pepper, and basil in a bowl.

3. Drizzle approximately 1/3 of dressing over spinach and plums on plates. Remaining dressing may be refrigerated.

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Sesame Glazed Sweet Potatoes

Asian Sweet Potatoes1Tagged

I’ve mentioned to you guys before that when I find a new habit or trend, or something  in general that I like, I will wear it out TO DEATH until I’m either sick of it, or until I find a new something to wear out to death.

Me and my twin sister Jas are really alike in that (among other things: our DNA  also happens to be exactly the same.) Take movies for instance; when we were growing up, we went through a phase where when we found a movie we liked, we watched it every chance we got. I find a new favorite song and it gets put on constant repeat on my iPod . I find a new interesting tv show and will faithfully watch it ever week, or if its old, I will have entire marathons of it on Netflix until I get through it all.

Asian Sweet Potatoes4 Tagged

So far as good goes, I’m on a root vegetable kick right now.  For a long time, I’ve just always wanted to eat a side of root vegetables with my dinner. Mostly it’s been a mix between rutabagas and sweet potatoes. I can decide which I like more honestly. Although it may not seem like it, rutabagas too have a unmistakable sweetness to them that’s so clearly highlighted when they’re roasted. If you guys don’t believe me, then you should try this recipe for Herb Roasted Rutabaga that I posted a few weeks ago- if you’re not typically a fan of them, I promise you: I’m going to make you a ‘believer’ with 2 rutabagas, and a handful of dried herbs. Because I’m a miracle worker….okay not really, but I am a pretty good cook 😉

Asian Sweet Potatoes3 Tagged

 I’m experimenting with different recipes to mix things up so that I don’t get too bored. After all, variety’s the spice of life. Right now, this is my new sweet potato recipe that I’m really fond of.  Trust me, it tastes every bit as good as it looks.

I never would have thought initially to apply Asian style flavors to sweet potatoes. But let me tell you guys, it REALLY works. The saltiness of the soy sauce is perfect with the sweetness of the honey as well as the natural sweetness of the potatoes. The sesame seeds give it a subtle earthy and almost nutty aftertaste. I served them with a chicken stir-fry that I made my family for dinner ( the recipe and pics are very soon to follow).

Asian Sweet Potatoes2 Tagged

Random/Embarrassing Fact: About a year ago, I was on another carrot/sweet potato kick and I ate so many of them that I LITERALLY started turning orange. Seriously. I’m not joking. I went into my doctor for a general check up and she literally gasped and asked what happened to me. I didn’t notice until I stood under a fluorescent light in her office and held out my hands: my palms were the color of a carrot. My skin is naturally kind of yellow, so…suffice to say it just wasn’t a good look. I had no idea that consuming too much Vitamin A (which is dominant  in carrots and sweet potatoes) can do that. Now I do. So as delicious as these sweet potatoes are, I do try to be a little more careful to not make them take up the most space on my plate.

I try. I may not always succeed. Try this recipe and you’ll definitely understand why.

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Sesame Glazed Sweet Potatoes

Recipe Courtesy of Cookstr.com

CLICK HERE FOR PRINTABLE VERSION

Ingredients

  •  5 orange-fleshed sweet potatoes (yams), peeled
  •  2 tbsp olive oil
  •  Salt & freshly ground black pepper
  •  2 tbsp sesame seeds
  •  1 tbsp honey
  •  1 tbsp soy sauce

 Directions

1. Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C).

2. Cut the potatoes into large chunks and place on a baking sheet. Drizzle with the oil and season with salt and pepper.

3. Roast the potatoes for 30 minutes, turning halfway through, until almost tender.

4. Mix together the sesame seeds, honey, and soy sauce. Pour  over the sweet potatoes, and toss.

5. Roast 20 minutes more, or until well glazed and tender.

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Herb Roasted Rutabaga

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When I was very little girl, there was this show that used to come on the tv station Nickelodeon called ‘Allegra’s Window’. It was a very Muppet/Sesame-Street-esque show about a little girl puppet named Allegra that had these mild 3 year old problems (if those can even really exist) that she, her brother and best friend would spend the entire episode trying to solve and overcome. It was a pretty cute show and I still smile even when I think about it now. I don’t know why shows with puppet and human interactions like Allegra’s Window and the Muppets don’t seem to come on that much anymore on kid’s stations. Maybe they figure little kids of today in the age of the iPad and Wii don’t have the attention span of kids from the 90’s like me did- which i find to be kinda unfortunate. Moment of silence for Childhood Nostalgia.

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Now onto the main point: what the heck does Allegra’s Window have to do with today’s recipe? Well believe it or not, the truth is that Allegra’s Window was the very first mention that I had of the vegetable rutabaga. Honest, it was. One of the puppets in Allegra’s town was a zany, goofy kind of chef  puppet called Mr. Cook. It’s been nearly 20 years, so naturally I don’t remember a whole lot from the show, but the one thing that I do still recall is that the only ingredient that Mr. Cook ever wanted to cook with was rutabagas. He was legit always trying to shove a dish of rutabagas into Allegra and her friends faces, to which they would always squeal and yell in disgusted protest. Because apparently for little kids rutabagas are…not very tasty. I know it sounds crazy you guys, but the truth is that for twenty years, Allegra’s Window has successfully put me off ever wanting to have anything to do with rutabaga- which is crazy because anyone who knows me knows that I’m a vegetable-addict. There’s little to nothing I won’t try…except rutabagas (and peas. Don’t ever ask me to have anything to do with peas. It’s just not gonna happen.)

Whenever I saw rutabagas anywhere, I always remembered Mr. Cook and his nasty looking dishes of rutabaga and turned my nose up at it. So I guess that’s really saying something about the power of television over our minds.

….Yeah, I know. I’m weird. Moving on.

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About a month ago, I was having dinner at my grandparent’s house and my grandma offered me this orangey-looking mashed dish that she’d made as a side. When I asked her what it was, she said that it was mashed rutabaga.

Duh- duh- duhhn!

I knew that I’d avoided rutabagas my entire life. I knew that Allegra’s Window had taught me that they were ‘nasty’…but I also knew that it was an impossibility that anything that came out of my grandma’s kitchen could ever, ever EVER be nasty. I tried the mashed rutabagas.

I’ve been believing a lie for the past twenty + years, guys.

Rutabagas are absolutely DELICIOUS.

That night began a semi-obsession with rutabagas that is still ongoing as I speak. This recipe is a result of that, and I can’t recommend it enough. Roasting is the perfect method of bringing out all the natural sweetness of the rutabaga, while the herbs are the platform on which it can stand. Try this, guys…because Everyone need rutabagas in their life.

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Herb Roasted Rutabaga

CLICK HERE FOR PRINTABLE VERSION

Ingredients

  • 2 large rutabagas, peeled and cubed into equal pieces.
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon dried rosemary
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground sage
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/8 teaspoon dried dillweed
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried parsley
  • 1 teaspoon garlic and herb seasoning (Like Mrs. Dash)

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 425°

2. Place cubed rutabaga into 2 9 x 13 glass baking dishes. Drizzle with olive oil and toss until evenly coated.

3. Combine remaining ingredients together into a small bowl. Sprinkle over rutabaga cubes and toss again until even coated.

4. Roast in oven until golden and tender, about 45-50 minutes, stirring half-way through. Serve.

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Roasted Brussel Sprouts {Thanksgiving Recap}

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I’ve never had a problem eating my vegetables.

When I was growing up as a young girl, I never really understood what the big deal was with kids my age never wanting to eat their veggies. As I’ve mentioned before, my grandparents have grown their own produce garden for as long as I can remember. Come summer/autumn time, we always had an abundance of collards, cabbage and turnip greens, green beans, tomatoes, lima beans, peppers, and sometimes squash. And I ate all of them with a smile on my face. If you guys were able to try my grandma’s cooking, you’d know why. There are very few vegetables that I don’t like. The only one I can think of now are peas. The pasty, mushy texture? Yeah, not a fan at all. Now any other vegetable you put in front of me: corn, carrots, spinach, squash, peppers, broccoli, cauliflower- I can eat those all day.

Also brussel sprouts. Brussel sprouts definitely fall into that category too.

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I really don’t know why brussel sprouts get such a bad rap. I’ve heard from their haters that it’s the slightly bitter after taste that they have, but I actually like that earthy bitterness. I’ve had them in just about every preparation you can think of and whether they’re roasted, sauteed, or even just steamed, the verdict for me is always the same: they’re delicious.

Anyone who claims they don’t like vegetables has clearly never had them when they’re roasted. Roasting practically any kind of vegetable brings out a subtle, but unmistakable sweetness to them that is seriously addictive. Brussel sprouts are no exception to this, and the blending of the natural bitterness of the vegetable and the sweetness from the roasting makes them even more tasty. Any parents out there who’s kids don’t like vegetables? Here’s a  humble word of advice from your cook-lete Jess: roast them. Trust me, they’ll come around soon enough. Any parents out there whose kids don’t eat brussel sprouts? Make them these. Again trust me: they’ll come around soon enough.

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This is my go-to recipe for when I want brussel sprouts. To be perfectly honest, I usually don’t even measure out the seasonings, it’s more of a throw-it-all-together in a pan kind of things. However, when I was making them for Thanksgiving dinner, I made some measurement estimations for you guys- because I love you. They were a delicious (not to mention healthy) welcome addition to our Thanksgiving dinner, and are still a welcome and healthy addition to my dinner, at any time of year.

Remember: don’t forget to eat your veggies! (i.e., these ones)

FEED(ME) BACK: What’s your favorite vegetable?

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Roasted Brussel Sprouts

CLICK HERE FOR PRINTABLE VERSION

Ingredients

*2 bags of fresh brussel sprouts (about 2 pounds), washed, trimmed and cut in half

*2 tablespoons olive oil

*1/2 tablespoon onion powder

*1/2 tablespoon garlic powder

*1/2 teaspoon salt

*1/2 teaspoon black pepper

*1 teaspoon brown sugar

*1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 425°. Spray a 9×12 baking dish with non-stick cooking spray.

2. Stir all of the spices together in a small bowl.

3. Place the brussel sprouts in the baking dish, then pour the olive oil on top. Stir.

4.  Sprinkle the combined spice on over the sprouts, and toss together, making sure they are even coated.

5. Place in oven and roast for about 40-45 minutes, stirring halfway. The brussel sprouts are done when softened, dark green and slightly charred on top. Serve.

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