Date Nut Bread

I copied this recipe from my mother’s recipe box when I was a newlywed. I am certain her index card was not this disorganized. There is a reason recipes aren’t written in paragraph form. The stained recipes cards have the best recipes. But what hasn’t changed is the sweet and moist date nut bread. I like it the second day better than the first. It’s mandatory to refrigerate it for maximum flavor. If you are so inclined, it freezes beautifully and is always a welcomed gift.

Heat oven to 325 degrees. Grease a bread loaf pan. I like to line it with parchment so the bread releases easily after cooling.

1 cup boiling water

1 cup chopped dried dates

1 tsp. baking soda

1 pat butter

2 eggs, room temperature, separated

1 cup sugar

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour

1 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 cup chopped nuts or additional chopped dates (optional)

Preparing the dates:
In a, preferably, glass bowl, place one cup of chopped dates, 1 tsp. baking soda and one pat of butter. Pour 1 cup of boiling water over date mixture. Let cool to room temperature, for about 1/2 hour.

Separate the eggs. Place the egg whites in a mixing bowl and beat until stiff. Place the egg yolks in a small bowl and stir them until well mixed.

Into the cooled date mixture, add the egg yolks, sugar, flour, vanilla extra and the nuts/dates, if you desire. You can also leave out the nuts and additional dates. Stir until completely mixed. Fold in the egg whites. Be careful to gently fold them so you don’t deflate the egg whites.

Pour into prepared pan and bake for one hour. I always check at 50 minutes, just in case. When done baking, place on a cooling rack for about 15 minutes. Take the bread out of the pan and cool completely. Once cooled, I place the bread in a plastic bag and keep it in the fridge or freezer.

Enjoy!

Vegetable Soup for the Soul

Winter is a great time for soups. They taste delicious and keep you warm. Today we are experiencing a blizzard and I am soup ready! This vegetable soup is on the stand by for when we lose power. This is what I call TBTND: tastes better the next day. Over the years I’ve added a few things to make it even better. I like to add a small piece of parmesan rind to the soup. As it heats up, the cheese on the rind melts into the soup. I still like to garnish the top of my soup bowl with grated parmesan, but this addition to the simmering pot is a bonus. It adds a creaminess and flavor. After all the ingredients are added and heated through, I like to make a roux, of equal parts butter and flour. I cook it until it’s a dark brown and stir it into the bubbling pot. This adds a nutty flavor and helps thicken the soup.

I love to bake because it’s a precise science but I love to make soup for the opposite reason. It’s a free for all! It’s your time to be creative Soup recipes are more of a guide than a rule. You can add or take away from a recipe, to your liking. The most important part of making soup, is to have enough liquids to cook your ingredients. I like to think of soup as a meal in bowl which includes a protein (usually beans), vegetables, and a starch (potato or pasta).

Let’s make some soup!

Ingredients

  • Piece of parmesan rind
  • 32 ounces of vegetable or chicken stock
  • 15 ounces cannellini beans (or any bean of your choice)
  • 15 ounce can of diced tomatoes (petite diced is my favorite)
  • 16 ounce package of frozen mixed vegetables
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 2 minced garlic cloves
  • 1/2 can of water
  • heaping 1/2 cup of uncooked ditalini or 1 large potato, diced or tortellini or uncooked rice
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • olive oil
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp dried parsley
  • 1 celery stalk, diced
  • 1 dried Bay leaf
  • 1+ tsp of seasoning of your choice, such as Umami, Creole seasoning , oregano, etc.
  • handful or two of baby spinach

Roux

  • 3 tbsp butter
  • 3 tbsp flour

In a large pot, heat oil olive until it shimmers. You will need about 1 tbsp. You want to cover the bottom of the pan to saute the onions. Add the onions and celery, and sprinkle about 1 tsp of salt over them. Stir. Cook on a medium heat until the onions are almost translucent. Add the garlic cloves and stir for one minute. Add the tomato paste and stir until it’s totally mixed in.

Add the broth, the diced tomatoes and water to the pot and bring to a low boil. Once the pot is boiling add in your frozen vegetable, beans and parmesan rind. You can use a bag of mixed vegetables or chose several bags of the vegetables you like, and use a portion of the bags. If you are inspired, you can chop your own fresh vegetable. Once, it starts to boils again, if you’re using potatoes or uncooked rice, add them now. Add what ever seasonings or herbs you like. Lower the heat and simmer for about 15 minutes. Stir it a few times so the rind doesn’t stick to the pot bottom.

Once the soup base is heated through and the vegetables are cooked, add the ditalini. Stir the mixture until the ditalini starts to soften. It tends to stick to the pot bottom. Let this cook for about 12 minutes or so. Once the ditalini is cooked through, toss in your fresh baby spinch. This will take only a minute to cook. Continue stirring. Taste your soup and add additional seasoning if you’d like.

If you would like to thicken your soup, you can make a roux. In a small frying pan, melt your butter and stir in the flour. Use a medium high heat. Keep stirring as the color darkens. You cannot walk away from this or it will burn. Bring the soup to a boil. Keep stirring this mixture until it’s a dark brown.

Once the roux is done, quickly stir it into the pot of boiling soup. It will sizzle! Keep mixing until it’s incorporated. Lower the heat and let it simmer for about 10 minutes. The color should have changed and it will have thickened a bit.

I like to serve this soup with a fresh roll, or two! It’s a great bring to work lunch. If you need to feed a crowd, this soup will not disappoint.

Store in the fridge for about 5 days. This freezes well too. When you reheat it, you will need to add some water, as it gets thick when it cools.

Enjoy!

Baking hacks

You want to bake, but the butter and eggs are ice cold. I know, first world problems. But there’s a hack for that.

To warm your eggs to room temperature, place them in a bowl of warm water from your faucet. Not hot water, just warm. Let them sit for about 10-15 minutes. Voila! Room temperature eggs at the ready.

The butter. It will takes hour on the counter to soften. When you microwave it, some of it becomes puddles of butter, while the rest is still hard. How do you soften it quickly? There’s a hack for that! Fill a heat resistance Pyrex bowl with hot water. I have an electric kettle which makes the process faster. Fill the bowl about half way with hot water and let it sit for 5 minutes. Slice your butter on a heat resistant plate. Dinner plates are usually ok if you can microwave them. Don’t pile the slices of butter on top of each other, like I did. Rookie mistake. I had to do the process twice. Check to make sure the bowl and plate are compatible sizes. Ok. Now, throw in that laundry and fix your “no-show” socks that keep slipping. Empty the bowl, giving it a quick wipe and then place the empty, hot bowl over your plate of single layered sliced butter. Let it sit for about 10-15 minutes. Ok. Now fix those stupid socks again. Prepare your baking pans. Make sure the oven is heating up. Measure your dry ingredients and your wet. This process does not take away time from your baking. Maybe it even lets you manage it better? (insert shrugging shoulders emoji) Check your email and the weather. Butter is ready for baking!

My last hack involves vanilla extract. My measuring spoons have straight sides. No matter how I tip them to pour in the vanilla extract, there is some residual in the spoon. So, I place the empty spoon in the milk. I hate wasting delicious vanilla.

So, what’s your excuse? Get baking! I have a cake to frost. Bye!

Perfectly Pillowy Cinnamon Rolls

King Arthur Flour (KAF) has done it again. This recipe produces a very soft and pillowy roll that tastes fresh even the next day. They prove again, that technique is important. The vanilla icing is rich and wonderful. As they state, “the result is truly the ultimate cinnamon roll.”

Whenever you bake, it’s important to use fresh and quality ingredients. Make sure your yeast is still fresh, the flour is the correct flour for the recipe and not expired. I sometimes only use a flour once because of a recipe, and it just sits on the shelf until the fateful expiration-date-trash-toss. You can freeze flour if you don’t think you will be using it soon. It’s important to have the right space. If you have to roll a dough, you should have the space to roll it and for excess flour to splash about. I cover counter items with dish towels so I don’t have flour between olive oil bottles and such. Most importantly, you need to make time. Look at the recipe and see if it accounts for the prep, bake, or total time. Add on to whatever time is stated. Professional bakers are more skilled. The equipment they use is not the same as ours. I have started using a kitchen scale to weigh my ingredients. It does make a difference.

I’m not a librarian but I play one in real life. I love to research. So, I approached this recipe with caution. I was glad there wasn’t a “best” snuck into the title. There is no “best.” I follow KAF on Instagram (@kingarthurbaking). They made a video on how make this recipe. Several tips, not included in the recipe, were shown in the video. I was unfamiliar with the Japanese technique, tangzhong. After watching the video, I knew how to do it and what it should look like. Confidence booster. This technique pre-gelatinizes the flour’s starches, which helps them retain liquid, thus enhancing softness and shelf life. Food science! I also followed the suggestion of adding the rest of the milk to the tangzhong, when it was done, to take the chill off the milk. One more trick I learned was to brush the rolled out dough with some milk, to make the cinnamon filling stick. Also, somewhere between the video and printed tips, I learned that rolling it too tightly, makes the center “pop” when it’s cooked. Yes. More information that I needed to stop the cursed mountain-looking roll.

Ingredients

Tangzhong:

1/2 cup (113 grams) whole milk

3 tablespoons (23 grams) King Arthur Unbleached Bread Flour

Dough:

2/3 cup (151) whole milk, cold

2 1/2 cups (300 grams) King Arthur Flour Unbleached Bread Flour

1 tsp. (6 grams) salt

2 tablespoons (25 grams) granulated sugar

2 teaspoons instant yeast

4 tablespoons (57 grams) unsalted butter, softened

Filling

1 tablespoon (14 grams) butter, melted

1/2 cup (107 grams) light brown sugar, packed

2 tablespoons (15 grams) King Arthur Flour Unbleached Bread Flour

3 to 4 teaspoons (8 grams to 10 grams) cinnamon

1/16 teaspoon (pinch) salt

Icing:

3 tablespoons (42 grams) butter, melted and divided

1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

1/16 tsp. (pinch) salt

1 1/2 cups (170 grams) confectioner’s sugar, sifted

1 to 2 tablespoons (14 grams to 28 grams) milk or cream enough to thin to desired consistency ( I like it thick)

Instructions:

To make the tangzhong, combine both ingredients in a small saucepan, and whisk until there are no lumps. Place the saucepan over a medium heat and cook the mixture, stirring regularly, until thickened. It should be thick as paste. If you drag a spoon along the bottom of the pan, the mixture does not cover the drag line. It should take about 1-3 minutes. Remove the pan from heat. Add the 2/3 cup of milk to the pan, to take the chill off. Warm milk helps the yeast rise quicker. Hot milk, over 110 degrees, will kill the yeast.

To make the dough, transfer the tangzhong and milk from the pan into a the bowl of a stand mixer. Add the ingredients to the mixing bowl in the order listed. If you didn’t add the milk to the tangzhong, add the 2/3 cup of milk to mixer, to warm the cold milk.

Mix on low speed of a stand mixer with the dough hook. Once it’s mixed, knead the dough until it’s smooth, elastic, and tacky. This will take about 10-12 minutes on medium-low speed of a mixer. I periodically stopped the mixer and scraped the dough off the hook, and then turned it back on. I wanted to make sure it was getting kneaded.

Shape the dough into a ball, place it in a bowl, and cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a reusable cover (shower cap!) Let the dough rise until puffy, but not necessarily doubled in bulk. This should take from 60-90 minutes depending on the warmth of your kitchen. I like to turn my over on to 200 degrees, and place the dough near the back of the stove, so the heat from the oven helps it rise. Keep an eye on it. I turn the pan so both sides get some warmth. If the pan seems hot, pull it toward the front of the stove. You don’t want them to cook, just warm enough to help the rise.

To make the filling, while the dough is rising, put the melted butter into a medium bowl and add the rest of the remaining ingredients, stirring until the mixture is the texture of damp sand. I used Vietnamese cinnamon. It’s very strong. I used 3 tablespoons and it was still strong. Next time I will use only 2 tablespoons. If you are using regular grocery store cinnamon, use the recipe recommended amount. You can add less and then add more once you have tasted it. Always taste. Set the bowl aside.

Lightly grease a baking sheet, or line it with parchment paper. I prefer parchment paper.

To assemble the rolls, transfer the dough to a lightly greased work surface and press it into a 10″ x 12″ rectangle. I treated myself to this rolling mat and don’t regret it. It’s made of silicone, so there’s no sticking, no grease to wipe off. I use it when I roll out my pie dough too. Handy but not necessary. For evenly shaped rolls, try to pat the dough into an actual rectangle (with corners). You don’t need a rolling pin for this. I did use one after I patted it into a rectangle.Try to handle it as little as possible. You don’t want it to snap back on you. If it does, give it a rest before you continue. It’s very pliable, so it should be easy to shape.

To help the cinnamon mixture stick, I brushed the dough with a little milk. Sprinkle the filling over the dough, covering all but the 1/2″ strip along one long side.

Starting with the filling-covered long side, roll the dough into a log. Don’t roll it too tightly. This will cause the center to pop out when it’s baking. Pinch the seam together with your fingers. This recipe makes 8 generous rolls. I would not change the size, but you can. I score the log in the middle. Then I score each half, at the half point. And then again to make 8 scores. Using dental floss is the best way to cut the dough into individual rolls. Slip it under the dough, cross it on the score mark, and pull the ends. Voila! The rolls are not squished. Save the minty floss for your teeth. Only use unflavored floss for your rolls. But you knew that!

Place the rolls on your baking sheet. The directions say to space them 2 inches apart. I like to space them closer. I like when they rise and bake to be touching. Pulling apart warm rolls is one of life’s joys. Keeping them close helps keep the rolls from unraveling too. I put them about an inch apart. You can lay them out in a 3-2-3 pattern. If you do space them further apart, to hold the ends in place, you can tuck the ends of the spirals underneath the rolls.

Cover the rolls with a clean dish towel and let the rise for 30-60 minutes (depending on the warmth of your kitchen). The rolls should be puffy and the dough shouldn’t bounce back immediately when pressed. About 20 minutes before you’re ready to bake, position a rack in the top third of the oven. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Bake the rolls for 14 to 18 minutes, until they’re a light golden brown and a digital thermometer inserted into the center of one roll reads 190 degrees. Bake for the lesser amount of time for extra-soft rolls, and the longer amount of time for rolls with a bit more color and slightly firmer texture.

Remove rolls from the oven, place pan on a cooling rack, and brush the hot rolls with 1 1/2 tablespoons of melted butter. Let the rolls cool for 10 to 15 minutes before icing.

To make icing, combine the remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons (21 grams) of melted butter with the remaining icing ingredients in a medium bowl. I sift my sugar through a mesh strainer. Nothing fancy. Mix with a spatula until smooth. I did not divide my butter. I used only one bowl to melt the butter. and brushed enough to coat the rolls. I used the remaining melted butter for the icing. Not quite what the directions said, but it worked out wonderfully. I had to add a little more milk. I like the icing to be thick. When the rolls are warm, thick icing melts a little into crevices, while some stays on top. It’s magical.

If you have any left you can store them at room temperature for a few days, or freeze them up to 1 month.

Next time I may add cooked cinnamon sugar apples to the filling. You can also add raisins.

Enjoy!

Brussels sprouts with sweet potatoes, dried cranberries and bacon

BACON!! There. I got your attention! Woo hoo. Brussels sprouts! Wait!! Come back! I promise you will love them. I’ve adapted this recipe from my favorite food blogger on Instagram, Diane Morrisey. She’s fab. Her recipes are fab.

Ingredients

2 sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped

6 or so pieces of bacon

1 pound Brussel sprouts (fresh not frozen) quartered with stems removed

bacon grease

olive oil

salt and pepper

The beauty of this dish is the use of bacon grease as a cooking oil, and crispy bits of bacon mixed in with perfectly roasted vegetables, topped of with dried cranberries. Put it in a fancy bowl and you WILL impress your family.  It’s so easy. The preparation can be done in steps, which is my favorite approach to anything.

I start with cooking the bacon on the stove top, low and slow. You want it crispy. Once it’s crispy, put it on a paper towel lined dish. After it cools, you will break it up or chop it, and add the bacon to the vegetables, later. When I am feeling particularly lazy, I use microwave bacon. Don’t judge. It’s still bacon!

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The next step is to prepare the sweet potatoes. I peel and dice them. You want them to roast quickly, so make sure they are not too large.img_1736

Then I trim the Brussels sprouts. Once the end is cut off, I cut the sprouts in quarters, pulling off the outer leaves. Sometime they are spotted or wilted. Just toss them.

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Heat your oven to 400 degrees.

Combine the vegetables in a bowl. Use the bacon grease and some olive oil to coat the vegetables. You’ll have a nice shiny coat. Ha!  Add salt and pepper. You can always add more while they are cooking. 

Arrange the vegetables on a sheet pan, in a single layer. You don’t want them overlapping. They need to be separated to roast. 

Roast them for about 20 minutes. Give them a toss or a stir. They may start caramelizing. You can add a sprinkle or two of more olive oil if needed. You want them in some olive oil to roast and not burn. Just look at the sheet pan. You will know! Cook them for another 15- 20 minutes.

Remove from the oven when all the vegetables are fork tender. Taste some and see if it needs more salt and pepper.  I like to add the chopped/broken up bacon and dried cranberries to the sheet pan. Let them all warm up together.  You can serve this room temperature or hot. 

This is good side dish for chicken, beef or pork. I hope you try this recipe. Roasted vegetables are a fantastic way to introduce vegetables to your family. The leftovers also make a great lunch.

 

 

Creamy Garlic Butter Scallops with Prosciutto

The other day I headed to Trader Joe’s and the lines stretched out past several store fronts. I kept driving and headed to Whole Foods. No lines. I found some frozen scallops and grabbed them. It was meant to be! The day before I found some prosciutto on sale at another grocery store. Dinner. Planned. For the side dish, Cacio e Pepe seemed seemed like the perfect match for the scallops and the cream sauce.

Cruising the web I found a recipe that did not wrap the prosciutto around the scallops. The concept just did not seem right. And it involved cream. And wine.

My only warning, besides be hungry, is to watch how much you salt the pasta water and the scallops. The prosciutto is salty and the pasta has two different salty cheeses. Use salt judiciously. You can always add salt, but you cannot remove it.

Make sure your scallops are dry. I put them on a plate with paper towels on top and bottom, to absorb any water. When they hit the pan, you don’t want hot oil spitting at you. They will also brown better if they are dry. I had about four scallops for each of us as I was also serving pasta. The portions were good.

This dish cooks relatively quickly. I was concerned with making the quick pasta dish at the same time. I made sure I had ingredients for both recipes measured out so I could work quickly. I started cooking the pasta first knowing it goes back into a hot pan with melted butter and then cheese. It would warm up quickly. After I drained the pasta, I started cooking the scallops. It all worked out perfectly. Everything was hot and delectable.

Ingredients

1 tbsp. olive oil

8 oz scallops (about 10 large scallops)

3 oz prosciutto (roughly chopped or just torn into large pieces)

2 tbsp. butter

3 cloves garlic, minced

1/4 cup heavy cream

1/4 cup white wine

1/4 tsp salt or to taste

1/4 tsp pepper or to taste

First step is to make sure all the ingredients are measured out or ready to be used.

Season the scallops lightly with salt and pepper.

In a medium skillet, heat the olive oil over a medium high heat. Add the scallops to the skillet in a single layer and sear them on each side until slightly golden. Remove the scallops from the skillet to a plate and set aside.

In the same skillet add the chopped prosciutto and fry until nice and crispy. Leaving the prosciutto in the pan, add the butter and the garlic to the skillet and cook until butter melts and the garlic becomes aromatic.

Stir in the wine to deglaze the pan. Add the heavy cream and stir while it thickens and reduces. Taste the sauce after it reduces a bit. If you think it needs salt you may add it now. I strongly suggest you taste it first. Cook the sauce until it thickens. I would double the cream. Or triple it. I like to reduce cream sauces until they are very thick. You’ll also want enough sauce to drizzle on the pasta. If you think there’s too much, then don’t use it all. But you will want more! Add the scallops back into the skillet. You can garnish it with fresh parsley.

I like to plate the pasta first, and the put the scallops and sauce on top. Enjoy!

When is a chicken pot pie too much?

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I have no one to blame but myself. I exhausted myself making chicken pot pie. I bought into the easy-breezy style of the tv chef. I watched the episode and stored it away in my old mind, excited for the changes. I have made plenty of chicken pot pies. My previous attempts have resulted in soggy crusts. Not enough filling, too big a pan? Probably all of the above. This chicken pot pie is different. A few more steps. Cream cheese in the pie crust???? I am promised a flaky, bubbly pot pie. Why not?

I will tell you why not. After 700 steps, 50 pans and utensils, the final step is what flabbergasted me. “Put chicken pot pie in freezer for 15 minutes until the dough feels frozen.” If I had room in my freezer for a chicken pot pie, I’d have bought one. I have chopped, stirred, shredded, rolled, chilled, cooled off and grated. For hours. I followed each step with the focus of a dog, waiting for food to drop. I became dehydrated, forced  to drink 10 glasses of water. Now at 3am Hubs and I will be positioning for the bathroom. I still have laundry to do. Knitting? Someday. I have emptied the trash twice and run the dishwasher once. This process has been ongoing for hours.  I am now chilling the filling before I bake it. Hot filling in a cold crust is a no-no.

Why does only the pie dough get to rest for 20 minutes? I have done all the work.  I am heading to the couch with a coffee drip. Wake me in 30.

In lieu of the freezer step, I rolled out the dough and placed it in the pie plate, and the other crust on a cookie sheet, and placed them in the fridge. I call this my work around. I am now measuring all efforts by what needs to be hand washed or placed in the dishwasher. My efforts of rolling out the pie dough fell a little short. A little tug. A little pull. Good enough. The raw dough tastes delish! Crimping is crucial. I don’t want anything boiling over and under the crust. I speak from experience. I fork the crust. I pour the cooled filling from the bowl into the pie pan. Bowl and fork, dishwasher. Cookie sheet. Rolling pin. Hand wash. Damn it. I have to beat an egg to create an egg wash. Spread over top pie crust. Cut slits into crust for venting. What do you do with leftover egg wash? Sometimes I microwave it and then throw it out. I’m too weak. No lunch. Just water. Bowl, spreading thingy, knife, and another fork…..dishwasher. I placed the pie plate on another cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. I just looked up and saw people outside. Walking. Freely. In the warm sunshine. Sigh. A ray of sun has landed on my tablecloth. Crumbs.  Parmesan? When…what…. oh, never mind. Add to laundry…some.day.

Pot pie is in the pre-heated oven. Please say prayers for me.

DONE! It is beautiful. Golden brown and bubbling, just as promised. No soggy top crust, no oozing filling. Will I make this again? Meh. It was delicious, but it’s very time-consuming to prepare. At the end of the day, it’s chicken pot pie, tasty but labor intensive.

 

InstantPot Black Bean Soup

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Black Bean Soup. It’s not pretty, but it’s delicious and filling. This tasted better the next day. I stumbled upon this looking for healthier eats. I managed to make it a little less healthy. It’s a gift. I doubled the sausage and served it with rice. You’re welcome. I plead the Czech Republic. I don’t know if this belongs to any nationality, or if there’s a great story behind it. I’d figure itout and share, but apparently, people don’t want food bloggers to tell stories or have a voice. Meh to you all. Then don’t talk about food or included recipes in your books. Enough said.

Ingredients

1 tbsp olive oil

1 cup coarsely chopped onion

1 tbsp chili powder

1 1/2 tsp ground cumin

1 1/2 tsp dried oregano

2 cups water

2 tbsp. tomato paste

4 cups vegetable or any stock

1  (14.5 ounce) can diced tomatoes

2 carrots peeled and diced

1 lb. (2 1/2 cups) dried black beans, picked over and rinsed

12 ounces andouille sausage, diced

4 to 6 garlic cloves, minced

2 bay leaves

salt to taste

In a 6 quart InstantPot, heat oil on sauté. Stir in the onions, carrots, tomato paste, chili powder, cumin and oregano. Cook until the onions are soft, stirring frequently. Your kitchen should smell heavenly. Add the diced sausage. Stir to brown for about a minute. The sausage is already fully cooked. I like to add it now for a little color.

Add the water, stock, tomatoes, garlic and bay leaves.  I swirl a little water in the tomato can to get all the tomato goodness. That’s what grandma would do! I wait before I add salt. The sausage is salty. I only add a little salt to the onions when they are softening.

Lock the lid in place. I use the manual setting for 45 minutes. Go have a snack or a cup of coffee. You’ve got 45 minutes to yourself. At the 45 minute mark, allow the pressure to release naturally for 15 minutes. The thing-a-ma-jig should drop and then you can open the lid. Don’t forget to shut off and unplug the InstantPot.

Give this ugly beauty a stir. I like to use my immersion blender and give it a quick whirl. You don’t have to. I like the blended look. First, take out the bay leaves. You don’t want to whirl those into your soup. This soup thickens as it cools. You can serve it with guacamole, sour cream, salsa, a little cheese…..dress it up if you’d like. I tend to only put a dollop of sour cream on it. I serve it over some rice. Yep. Dinner in a bowl. I find making it the day before allows all the flavors to become friends. Most soups taste better the next day.

After it cools, I freeze lunch size portions. I also freeze some rice. YES! You can freeze rice. Together, this makes a great lunch. It’s filling and won’t slop around your lunch box. I brought it to work, and people came to see what was smelling so good in the microwave!

Here is the original recipe! Enjoy!

Note: I cooked the andouille in a frying pan instead of cooking it in the InstantPot. This way, you use the immersion blender to break up the beans. Add the sausage into the pot and give it a stir.

 

 

Flatbread Pizza with Spinach, Caramelized Onions, and Feta!

I was looking for something a little different and quick. I had almost forgotten this recipe. It’s simple and takes just a little planning. The most time-consuming part is caramelizing the onions. This is what rotisserie chickens were made for!

Knosh and Knit: the world according to Nora

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I know I have posted this before. This recipe absolutely deserves to be revisited. What do you make when you don’t feel like cooking? THIS! You can eat in 30 minutes.The hardest part is caramelizing the onions. If you can thinly slice onions and turn on a burner, you are almost done! If you are good at planning (not particularly, thank you) you can make the onions the night before and then put them in the fridge. You can do this while cleaning up dinner dishes, or throwing in some laundry. It will take about 15-20 minutes. Pour olive oil in a hot pan, place thinly sliced onions into pan. Sprinkle salt on onions. Stir. Stir. Stir. When the onions start to soften, put a lid on the pan and lower the heat a little. Check them after 5 minutes. They should start to brown. Cook until they are as brown…

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Strawberry Spinach Salad with Candied Pecans

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It’s important to use the best quality product of each season. Right now we have an abundance of juicy strawberries. This salad uses some of my favorite ingredients. What is life without an aged balsamic? . Throw in some creamy goat cheese and spinach and you will have my full attention! It’s simple and has something for everyone. A little sweet, a little savory and lots of flavor.

Traditional balsamic vinegar is always labelled Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale and carries a D.O.P. (“Denominazione di Origine Protetta”) stamp — a European Union certification that guarantees an ingredient’s quality, production, and place of origin. You don’t cook with this aged balsamic. You drizzle this syrup over foods like fresh strawberries. It enhances the flavors of foods. You can even put it on vanilla ice cream. Buy the good stuff. It’s expensive but a little goes a long way.

Candied Pecans

2 tbsp butter

1 cup pecan halves

2 tbsp brown sugar

Melt the butter in a small skillet over medium heat. Toss in the pecans and brown sugar. Sir to coat the pecans. Cook over medium heat until the sugar begins to caramelize. It takes about 3 minutes. Don’t walk away! It’s easy to burn the pecans. Stay with the 3 minute time frame. It’s better they are a little under done than burnt. Spread out the pecans on wax or parchment paper and cool. Go ahead. Sample a FEW! They are sweet, but not too sweet.

Salad

6 ounces of baby spinach leaves

1 1/2 cups sliced strawberries, stems removed (or more!)

Small log of plain goat cheese, sliced (or more!!)

Balsamic vinegar

Olive oil

salt and pepper

In a large bowl, place the spinach, strawberries, goat cheese and pecans. Drizzle some balsamic and olive oil over salad. Add a pinch of salt and pepper. Toss gently. Wait until right before you want to serve this salad, before you add the dressing.  You can add more strawberries or goat cheese if you’d like. It’s a salad! Go crazy!

Happy Summer!

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Here’s the original recipe