Monday, July 25, 2016

Homemade Crockpot Applesauce

Lance just got his wisdom teeth out, finally.  This means that our fridge is stocked full of mush right now – jello, pudding, ice cream, etc. 

I had just bought a giant bag of apples before his surgery, not thinking about the fact that I’d have to eat them all on my own.  I decided to try making homemade applesauce so he could enjoy them too. 

After this, I won’t ever get store-bought applesauce again.  It’s made in the crockpot so it’s super simple and cooking the apples for such a long time gives them a much richer flavor – the Motts stuff seems so bland compared to this. 

It’s amazing just on its own, but I’ve been enjoying it added to oatmeal or on top of vanilla ice cream (like I said, our fridge is all soft foods right now…)  This recipe made 2 large mason jars worth, but next time I plan to double it since we went through them so quick. 

Crockpot Applesauce (adapted from Pip and Ebby)
  
Ingredients:
  • 10 medium apples (I used Gala)
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 T cinnamon
  • Juice from ½ a lemon
Directions:

1.    Peel and core the apples (you can leave the skin on if you’d like the texture, but I wanted it to be as easy to eat as possible so Lance could enjoy it…)
2.    Dump everything into a crock pot and cook for 8 hours.

3.    Use a potato masher or large fork to break up the apples.  Enjoy!  

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Northwest Salad

We just got back from our honeymoon in Portland, Seattle, and Vancouver (ate so much great food – more on that soon!)

I also just started a new job this week doing marketing for an architecture firm which is super exciting.  Lots of big changes lately… 

I have to be up pretty early for work, so I’ve been packing my lunch the night ahead.  And after indulging ourselves on vacation, we’re trying to eat healthy and get back to a routine. 

It seems that every place we visited in the northwest had amazing salads – a lot of them including beets, sweet potatoes, avocado, and other ingredients I normally associate with fall.  I stocked up on tons of these ingredients at Trader Joe’s as soon as we got back from our trip, so we have plenty to keep us eating well. 

One of the non-traditional items we asked for on our wedding registry was gift cards to Joe & Son’s Olive Oils.  We already bought several varieties – including chipotle infused olive oil, Tuscan herb olive oil, and fig balsamic.  They are perfect for simple salad dressings (and we’ve used them to drizzle on popcorn as well). 

I’ve made a version of this salad 3 times this week already – it’s my new favorite lunch.  You can add or subtract ingredients as you like, but one of the things I like is that it has such a wide variety of ingredients.  You can include whatever veggies you like, or even add hard-boiled eggs, chicken, or other proteins. 

Northwest Salad

Ingredients:
Directions:

Combine all ingredients & enjoy!  If you are planning to bring this for lunch, wait to add the nuts and the dressing to keep it from getting soggy (although this does hold up pretty well even with dressing…) 

Friday, May 20, 2016

Tomato, Apricot & Ricotta Flatbread

Here’s another recipe from my latest Cooking Light magazine (two in a week!) I thought peaches were in season but for some reason Publix didn’t have any, so I substituted apricots instead. 

You could grill your flatbread, but since it was pouring rain the other night when we made this, we just baked ours in the oven.  It was ready in less than 15 minutes.

Tomato, Apricot & Ricotta Flatbread: (adapted from Cooking Light)
Ingredients:
  • ¾ cup ricotta cheese
  • 2 T finely chopped green onions, divided
  • 1 T finely chopped fresh oregano
  • 2 T extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • ½ t black pepper
  • 1 package naan breads (like Stone Fire)
  • 1 medium tomato, sliced (we also had a baby tomato from our garden we threw in since it was ripe)
  • 1 apricot, pitted and sliced
  • ¼ cup Parmesan cheese
  • 2 T fresh basil leaves, chopped
  • 1/8 t sea salt
Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Drizzle 1T olive oil over the naan and cook in the oven for about 5 minutes.  

2. Combine the ricotta with the other 1T olive oil, 1T green onions, oregano, and pepper. 

3. Remove naan from the oven and spread ricotta mixture evenly over.  Top with tomato and peach slices, then sprinkle with parmesan cheese. 

4.  Put back in oven for 5-10 more minutes or until the flatbread gets to your desired crispness. 


5. Sprinkle with remaining 1T green onions, bail, and salt.  Enjoy!  

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Slow-Cooker Beef Lettuce Wraps

Two nights in a row of new recipes!  I love anything Asian-inspired.  I get a few cooking magazines in the mail (Everyday with Rachael Ray, Cooking Light, Southern Living).  Honestly, I don’t end up cooking the recipes as much as I’d like – most of my meal ideas come from Pinterest.  But I like getting something in snail-mail besides bills and junk. 

My June copy of Cooking Light had this recipe for beef lettuce wraps with pickled vegetables.  It only had cucumbers and carrots, but I added some red bell peppers, green onions, and mushrooms to make it extra veggie-filled. 

My favorite lettuce wraps are the ones at the Cheesecake Factory.  I rarely eat there anymore since I prefer trying out non-chain restaurants, but every time I go, that’s my dish.  Somehow it’s considered an appetizer but it’s big enough for two people to split it as a meal (that restaurant definitely doesn’t understand portion sizes…)

The beef wraps that we made were so filling that I actually could only eat two. Even though the beef cooks in juices, next time I may throw together a separate dipping sauce since I love the ones from the Cheesecake Factory version (maybe a peanut sauce could be nice?)

Lance actually used the leftovers from this dish to make a really tasty quiche a few days later. 

Slow-Cooker Asian Beef Lettuce Wraps: (adapted from Cooking Light)
Ingredients:
  • Cooking spray (we always use coconut oil spray)
  • 1 large onion, cut into ½” slices
  • 8 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1-1/2 t olive oil
  • 1 2-lb boneless chuck roast, trimmed
  • ½ cup unsalted beef stock
  • ¼ cup low-sodium soy sauce
  • 11 T rice vinegar, divided
  • 2 T dark sesame oil, divided
  • 2 T brown sugar
  • 2 T unsalted tomato paste
  • 1 T white miso/soybean paste (I omitted this since it wasn’t an ingredient I’d normally use…)
  • ¾ t crushed red pepper
  • 1 cucumber, sliced
  • ¾ cup julienne-cut carrots
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, sliced
  • ½ cup mushrooms, sliced
  • ¼ cup green onions, sliced
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 T granulated sugar
  • ¾ t sale
  • 1 head cabbage
  • 2 t toasted sesame seeds
Directions:

1. Coat the bottom and sides of your slow cooker with spray.  Line with onions and garlic. 

2. Heat the olive oil in a large cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the roast to the pan, cooking about 3 minutes and turning to brown all sides.  Place the beef on top of the onions and garlic and pour the drippings from the pan on top.

3. Combine the stock, soy sauce, 3 T of the vinegar, 1 T sesame oil, brown sugar, tomato paste, and red pepper in a medium bowl and whisk together.  Pour over the beef, cover the crock pot and cook on low for 8 hours.

4. Place the cucumber, carrots, and red pepper in a shallow bowl 15 minutes before the meat is done.  Combine the remaining ½ cup rice vinegar, 1 cup water, and granulated sugar in a saucepan over high heat and bring to a boil.  Remove from the heat and pour over the vegetables.  Let stand until ready to serve, then drain well. 

5. Move the beef from the slow cooker to a large platter and shred with 2 forks.   

6. Heat the remaining 1 T sesame oil in a large cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the shredded beef and onions, pressing into an even layer.  Cook 2-3 minutes without stirring. Turn off and sprinkle with salt and ½ c liquid from the crock pot (discard the rest of the liquid). 

7. Serve the beef with the pickled vegetables, green onions, and mushrooms.  Top with sesame seeds. 

Sun-dried Tomato, Spinach & Bacon Chicken

With all the wedding planning I’d been slacking on making us home-cooked meals (Lance actually did more of the cooking this past year than I did since I was always so busy…) Well, this week I’ve tried making up for it – I’ll post a couple really great recipes we tried out the last few days!

Chicken can sometimes be a boring dinner but this was far from that – loaded with all sorts of exciting toppings.  Plus, I made Caesar salad from scratch which was easier than I thought.  Adding these to my go-to recipes.

Sun-dried Tomato, Spinach & Bacon Chicken: (adapted from Julia’s Album)
Ingredients:
  • 6 small chicken breasts
  • 1 T butter
  • Italian Dressing powdered mix packet
  • 1 T olive oil
  • 10 oz fresh baby spinach
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2/3 cup half and half
  • 2/3 cup pepperjack cheese, shredded, plus 6 slices
  • 1/8 t salt
  • ¼ cup sun dried tomatoes, drained of oil & chopped into pieces
  • 6 slices bacon, cooked
Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F

2. Butter the bottom of a baking dish.  Season the chicken breasts on both sides with the Italian seasoning mix.  Place chicken into the baking dish and cook for 15 – 20 minutes.

3. In the meantime, heat the olive oil in a large skillet on medium heat.  Add spinach and cook for about 2 minutes until it begins to wilt. 

4. Remove from heat and add the garlic & half and half.  Return to the heat, bring to a boil, then add the shredded cheese.  Keep stirring on high heat until the cheese starts to melt.  Reduce heat and continue to simmer & stir until you have thick creamed spinach.  Season with salt and remove from the heat.   

5. Remove the chicken from the oven after baking 15-20 minutes.  Top with creamed spinach, then sun-dried tomatoes, chopped cooked bacon, and broken slices of pepperjack cheese.


6. Bake in the oven uncovered for 15-20 more minutes until the chicken is completely cooked through.

Homemade Caesar Salad:
Dressing Ingredients:
  • ½ cup Greek yogurt (the original recipe used mayonnaise and sour cream but this is healthier and I think tastes better)
  • 1-1/2 t anchovy paste
  • 1-1/2 T olive oil
  • 3 T lemon juice
  • 1-1/2 t whole grain mustard
  • 1 T Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 t black pepper
  • Salt to taste
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
Croutons:
  • Old loaf of bread
  • 3 T olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • ¼ t salt
  • ¼ t pepper
Salad:
  • 1 large head Romaine lettuce, chopped
  • ½ cup fresh parmesan cheese
Directions:

1. Whisk together all the dressing ingredients (you can also add whole anchovies if you want)

2. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Slice bread into cubes and bake 5 minutes.  While they are baking, mix together olive oil, garlic, salt & pepper.  Take the bread out of the oven, toss in the olive oil mixture, then bake 5 more minutes.  Toss again and continue baking until golden brown and crisp. 


3. Toss the Romaine, croutons, cheese, and drizzle with dressing. 

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Trattoria Pasquale – Tampa, FL

My friend Hillary was super sweet and gave us a gift card to Trattoria Pasquale as an engagement gift (we got engaged over a year ago!)

We finally got the chance to check this place out.  It’s an Italian restaurant and since they don’t have a liquor license, it’s BYOB.  We stopped by Total Wine on the way there and picked up some beers to enjoy with our meal. 

It was pretty nice out this evening so we decided to eat out on the patio.  It seemed a bit loud inside and this gave us our own private dining area since we were the only ones eating outside. 

Our waiters were really welcoming.  They even brought out an ice bucket for the table since to keep our beers cold. 

They have an extensive menu of all sorts of traditional Italian dishes.  I ordered the Tortellini Susanna – beef filled pasta with caramelized onions, tomato cream sauce, and truffle oil.  Lance had the Veal Parmigiana – served with side penne pasta and green beans.

They started off with bread and olive oil with whole roasted garlic cloves.  Each of our meals came with a fresh garden salad. 

Our dinners were both delicious but my pasta was amazing!  The sauce was so flavorful - and it was very filling so I brought enough to make a second meal out of it.  

We decided to splurge and split the tiramisu for dessert since we still had a bit left to spend on our gift card.  It was coated in chocolate sauce - despite being pretty full from dinner, we polished it off in no time. 

I was very impressed with our meal – you wouldn’t think that this unassuming little restaurant in a strip mall had such authentic food.  It is definitely worth checking out! 


Trattoria Pasquale is located at 4334 S Manhattan Ave, Tampa, FL 33611.  They are open Tuesday – Saturday 5pm – 10pm.