Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Homemade Hot Chocolate


Hot chocolate is a staple for me in the winter. It helps me satisfy those sweet cravings without wreaking total havoc on my healthy eating choices. When I ran out tonight, it was a problem. It was an especially big problem because I just got home from the gym, I was a hot, sweaty mess, and it was a windchill of 8 degrees. Who wants to run back out in that state? Pinterest to the rescue. I have made hot chocolate at home before, but it had powdered milk in it and that's not an ingredient I keep on hand. I figured there had to be another way and I was right. I found multiple ways. Here's what I decided. I am a dark chocolate gal. I'm at 86% cacao and I think it's divine. Most of the recipes I found had more sugar than cocoa. I wasn't exactly sure how this was going to work, but I knew I didn't want it to be super sweet. I decided to start with a 50-50 ratio. I usually have regular cocoa powder and special dark cocoa powder. I went with a 50-50 ratio on those too. I also added some salt. So what's that look like in my first batch? 1 cup sugar, 1/2 cup cocoa powder, 1/2 cup special dark cocoa powder, 1 1/2 t salt.

Mix it all up and use about 2 T per cup of milk. I had more than 8oz of milk and I also used half 2%  and half half/half to add some creaminess. You can heat it up on the stove or you can be impatient like me and use the microwave. If I'm being honest, this is still a bit sweet for me. It's delicious, but when I run out (next week) I'll try it at a 75-25 ratio of cocoa to sugar.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Osso whatto?

Osso Buco. I had no idea what that was, but after eating it you might call it fancy pot roast. I mean no disrespect by that either, as I happen to love a good pot roast. This is up several notches from your ordinary pot roast though.

We tend to be a frugal household. How does that translate at the grocery store? My husband always knows when the chicken wings "sell by" date is and knows to be there the day before to buy them. Thank the Lord for the deep freezer we just got from our awesome parents for Christmas. It also means I will always look at the "Manager's Special" section at Kroger. Not being big red meat eaters, I will usually get any roasts or steaks from this area and just cook them that night for dinner. Last time we were at the store together we saw this shrink wrapped package of beef shanks. I had no idea what part of the cow that was, how to cook it, or what it might be good with, but it was a good price and the meat looked quite good, so it came home with us. After about 20 minutes on Pinterest looking up beef shanks, I saw a pin with the "S" word in the title (Simple!) and I was sold.

In case you're like me and you didn't know, the shank is the the upper leg of the cow. Because it's a part that is used often it's very muscular and tends to be tough, so you have to cook it for a long time to get it tender. It's a Milanese dish prepared with vegetables, wine, and broth. Those are all things I usually have in the house, so right off the bat I knew this was going to be my recipe. The original is Taste of Divine's recipe and only made a minimal change. Instead of chopping a carrot, onion, and celery I used a bag of Mirepoix vegetables I had in the freezer. It's what I had, so I made it work.

I used my cast iron dutch oven to make this dish. You start by seasoning the meat well with salt and pepper. I used seasoned salt because I like it!
Get a couple tablespoons of olive oil in your pan and get it nice and hot. You'll sear the meat on both sides, I let mine cook about 2 minutes each side. Enough to make them nice and brown. This will prevent them from falling to pieces while cooking later.
Remove the seared meat from the pan, turn the heat down to about medium, and add your vegetables. I used 2 cups of mixed veggies. Does that translate to one carrot, one onion, one celery stalk? Who knows? It looked like a good amount though. Add two cloves of minced garlic as well. Let that cook until softened and brown. With frozen veggies it only took a few minutes.

Now grab your favorite dry red wine and add a cup to the veggies. It won't hurt if you add a tad more to the cup. Or if you drink a glass yourself. (It doesn't matter if it's only 4pm, you're working hard ok?!) Let this cook until the wine is reduced by half. This doesn't take long in cast iron, it took about 5 minutes for me.

Add a couple tablespoons of tomato paste and stir it up. It'll give the mix a nice red color.
Add your seared meat back to the pot now. I just set them right in on top of the veggies.

Pour beef broth over the top until they're about  covered. For me, that took a little less than 3 cups. I peeked at the pot about half way through the cooking time and there was still plenty of liquid.

Cover the pot with the lid slightly ajar and let it simmer for 3-4 hours. We're late night eaters. We frequently stay up until midnight, so starting at 4:30pm I had this simmering by 5pm. I let it cook until 8pm, when I looked at the dish the meat was already off the bone. Yum.

I removed the meat to a small dish and put it in a warm oven to rest. Then turn the heat up on the pot of leftover juice and heat it until it reduces to a sauce. Have patience, it may take a while.

We ate this with some Red Wine Risotto and broccoli, with the sauce over the meat and rice. I paired it with a glass of the Pinot Noir I used to cook it. It was amazing. Cheers!

Red Wine Risotto

I've made risotto with some success in the past, so I thought it would be a good addition to the Osso Bucco I was preparing for dinner tonight. I usually make this with chicken broth and white wine, with some Parmesan cheese added at the end. One problem...I don't have any chicken broth today. Or any white wine for that matter. I do have beef broth and red wine though...so we're going to experiment.

Melt some butter in a pan and add some minced onion. I used about 3 tablespoons. Make it easy on yourself, grab some chopped frozen onion and then just mince that. Let it saute until translucent and add the rice. You're not trying to brown the rice here, you just want to get a good coating of butter and let it heat up a little. Add 1/3 cup of red wine. Stir it in and let it absorb completely. Then start adding your beef broth. You want to have at least 2 cups of broth simmering as you're preparing this. You want to add the hot broth a little at a time, stir, let it absorb, then repeat. It a process but it's worth it. You have to keep stirring. That's how your rice will get that creamy texture. If the rice is not soft enough when your broth is gone, use hot water. I usually put a cup in the microwave during my last 5 minutes or so, just in case. In today's instance, I used a full cup of water after my 2 cups of beef broth.

Remove from heat and add your cheese. A half a cup can be a bit much, so you may want to start with a quarter cup and increase if you so desire.

I was really pleased with how this came out tasting. It looks weird due to the purple wine and the brown broth, but it tastes quite good!

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Quick Broccoli Cheese soup

I found an amazing recipe for some broccoli cheese soup. You can find the original here. As much as I love to cook with raw veggies, sometimes I just don't have the time to peel, chop, etc. Here's how I adapted this fantastic recipe with frozen veggies to make it just a bit faster for you.

4 T butter
1/4 c flour
2 c vegetable broth (use the homemade kind found here!)
2 c half and half
1 16oz bag frozen broccoli florets
1 12oz bag mirepoix veggies (celery, carrot, onion mix)
1 t minced garlic (about 1 clove)
8 oz sharp cheddar

Melt the butter in a heavy soup pan. Whisk in the flour. Make sure the flour is fully incorporated and thick, then slowly add the vegetable broth. Keep whisking. Next add the half and half. Keep whisking. You'll know you did it right if you have a semi-thick base once everything is in. You can simmer about 10-15 minutes here to thicken it up some more. I skipped this step. Add all your frozen veggies, the garlic, and the seasoning. Let it simmer a good 20 minutes. Once the veggies are cooked through you can add your cheese OR you can put your soup in the blender and make it smooth. I like to do that with my broccoli cheese soup. Once it's to your consistency, add the cheese and mix until melted. So very delicious and so quick. You can add rotisserie chicken to quickly make it a little more hearty. I prefer it as is in a homemade bread bowl. Yum...

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Chicken & Noodles

There's something so comforting about chicken and noodles. It's just that kind of dish. It's especially wonderful when you get in from nearly freezing temps and sit down to watch the Wiz.

My favorite thing about cold weather is the savory crockpot dishes that can be made. As you can see, our crockpot is very loved.

One thing I love about this dish is the variety of ways it can be made. You can pretty much add any vegetable, use any kind of base, the only constants are the chicken and the noodles!

Here's how today's version went. I started with 6 boneless chicken thighs. I trimmed the excess parts of fat off, tossed them in the crockpot and then added my favorite seasoning. Chesapeake Bay. It's a must in the kitchen.

Shake the seasoning on to your liking. I like to get a good covering on the whole piece of chicken. After seasoned, add a can of cream of chicken soup to the top. You can use cream of mushroom or cream of celery, either will work. If you have a homemade version, use that. I went with cream of chicken today. Empty the can and spread it around the top of the chicken.

My veggies today were fairly simple. I started with about six carrots. Peel 'em, chop 'em. Add them to the crock pot.

Celery. I cut the stalks in half lengthwise and then chop them.

Two small onions. Peel 'em. Chop 'em.

I had some white mushrooms that needed to be used, so they got chopped up as well. I would estimate that there was about a cup to a cup and a half of each veg.

Look how pretty they all look once in the crockpot. I have a homemade vegetable broth mix. If you have the time and you have the spices, please do yourself a favor and make this mix. I use it ALL THE TIME. I added two teaspoons over the top of the veggies and then added one cup of water to the crock pot.

Shut the lid and let it cook 6-7 hours. It will be pretty thin when you it's finished. You can choose to leave it or add a cornstarch or flour slurry to thicken it up. I like a thick base, so I made the slurry. I add 1/4 cup of flour to 1/4 cup of water. Mix it up and add it to the crockpot. Let it cook another 30 minutes and it will thicken right up for you.

When it's finished take some noodles, I like egg noodles, and get them boiled up.

Add them to a bowl.

Scoop some of that deliciousness on top.

Mix it up and enjoy every single bite.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Sweet Spaghetti Sauce

I'm fairly certain I have multiple blog posts about spaghetti sauce. This is probably for two reasons.
1. I love spaghetti
2. I love to make spaghetti sauce

It really is such a fun thing to make. I don't think I ever make it the same twice. Today I did a sweet sauce with a dark red wine base. Yum. I also threw in some home grown, home canned green tomatoes to mix things up. Another yum. Here's how we started today.

The first thing I did was brown some sweet Italian sausage. This is just over one pound. It was 6 links. I like to season the sausage with onion and garlic powder, thyme, and marjoram. 

Once it's about half way browned, find a good red wine. This week I used Dark Apothic. Apothic is usually a mix of reds and I kind of like it. I saw this dark brand and had to give it a try.

Pour enough in to cover the bottom of your pan. You can add more, it just takes longer to cook out. 

While you're at it, pour yourself a glass to enjoy while you finish cooking. 

Add onions. I cheat and use frozen chopped onions. I actually think it's much better with fresh onions. They absorb the wine better, but these work in a pinch. 

Let everything cook together until most of the liquid evaporates. Once that happens, add some garlic. You can add this to your liking. I used about three cloves, minced. I also like to let it cook a little, about a minute, before adding anything else. 

Canned, green tomatoes. I must admit, they didn't come from my kitchen. It's good to have friends that garden. I've never used green tomatoes in spaghetti sauce, so this was an experiment.

I drained the jar and dumped it on the meat. 

I was making a large amount of sauce, so I also used a 28oz can of diced, red tomatoes as well.

To top everything off, 6oz tomato paste.

Mix everything up and let it simmer for a while. I like to add about a teaspoon of seasoned salt and two teaspoons of sugar at this point as well. I think the salt cuts the acidity and the sugar adds just a touch more sweetness, which my husband enjoys. 

This is about when I start my water for noodles. I like to let the sauce simmer for a while, so that gives it plenty of time. It's also an excellent time to cut yourself some bread. You can use the bread to test the sauce as your noodles cook. You have been warned though, it's hard to stop once you start...

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Baked goodies!

Friends, would you like to know what happens when you forget the fridge isn't working and you buy eggs? You bake. You bake a lot of things. I decided if I was going to be heating the whole house, I might as well try some new things! I have sweet potato chocolate chip cookies, chocolate oat banana bread, gluten free peanut butter cookies, and some good old fashioned plain chocolate chip.

The sweet potato cookie recipe came from Kitchen Queen Eats Clean. I made a couple changes to her recipe and it went as follows:
2 medium sweet potatoes - peeled, chopped, boiled, pureed
1/2 c oat flour (that I made myself in the blender)
1/2 c oats
1/2 c natural peanut butter
3 T vanilla syrup
1 t cinnamon
1 t pumpkin spice
1 t cocoa powder
1 t baking soda
1 t baking powder
1 t salt
1/2 c mini chocolate chips...with more sprinkled on top

Mix your dry ingredients. Add your wet ingredients. Add the chocolate chips. Side note: make sure your potatoes are cool. I got a little impatient and now my cookies are brown because the chocolate all melted. They're still delicious. My batter wasn't really thick. I put everything in the fridge for about 20 minutes to let it firm up. Then bake at 350 F for 15-17 minutes. 

Also, I'm baking all my cookies on foil over my cookie sheets. Why haven't I done this before? Clean up is a breeze. 

I thought these turned out quite good. I don't taste the sweet potato at all so I call it a success.

I had bananas in the freezer so once they started thawing I decided I needed to make banana bread. I found this recipe at The Wholesome Dish. I made a couple of pretty big changes though since I didn't have applesauce and I didn't want to use sugar. Here's what I did:
3 ripe bananas, smashed up
1/2 c raw honey
1/2 canola oil
2 eggs
3/4 c flour
1/2 c cocoa powder
1 t baking powder
1/2 t baking soda
1/2 c oats
chocolate chips and oats for the top

Mash the bananas, add the honey, oil, and eggs, and whisk together. Add all dry ingredient except oats. Mix until incorporated. Add the oats and mix until combined. Don't over mix. Pour into a greased 9x5 bread pan, sprinkle the chocolate chips and oats on top, and bake at 350 F for 50-60 minutes, until tooth pick comes out without any raw batter. Let it cool in the pan 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack and let it continue to cool. 

This was also a success. It certainly looks pretty. 

If you search pinterest for peanut butter cookies you will find tons of sites advertising 3 ingredient, gluten free cookies. I decided to try it out. 
1 c peanut butter
1 c sugar
1 egg

Mix together. Scoop into balls. Press down with a fork. Bake at 350 F for 10-12 minutes.

These were stupid good. Holy cow. 

Last, but certainly not least, some chocolate chip cookies. I found this recipe for Perfect Chocolate Chip cookies on Tastes Better from Scratch. I cut it in half (because seriously, how many cookies do I really need? Just kidding. I'm just running out of room.) I didn't make any changes except that I was out of vanilla so I skipped it. They're amazing.