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Semi-Homemade Stromboli

Semi-Homemade Stromboli

Friday nights at my house are almost always deemed Pizza Night. We love this one consistency in our weekly meal planning. And also at the end of a long work week, my husband and I usually find ourselves looking for a simple, no decision making […]

Hearty Midwestern Pot Roast

Hearty Midwestern Pot Roast

  Cold and snowy Ohio mornings always make me crave warm comfort food. Beef Pot Roast is probably the meal my mom made most frequently when I was growing up and something about it always reminds me of my childhood home. The mere thought of […]

Easy Weeknight Ramen

Easy Weeknight Ramen

Cold weather and busy work days sometimes make it a bit hard to get a fast dinner ready on a week night. This fast soup is the perfect remedy! I take your typical store bought 25 cent ramen packet, toss out the weird ‘chicken’ flavor packet, and dress it up using homemade chicken stock, real protein, fresh veggies, and a soft cooked egg 😛

My results are this super yummy ramen, and you can watch me make every step in this video:

 

Broth

Confession time: I love those super cheep weirdly flavored ramen noodle packets. I always have.

A few years ago after tasting restaurant ramen for the first time, I decided to try it at home using some chicken broth and the noodles. While the first time I did this (using a thin store bought canned broth) was not much to be excited about, I saw the potential of how much better ramen could be! I spent a few years in my mid twenties perfecting and building the *homemade chicken stock* recipe my mom taught me, and guess what? It turns out that a super rich chicken stock is the most necessary part of this recipe.

The optional part of the broth recipe is adding ginger. I sometimes feel like having that extra zest of asian inspired flair, and when I do my preferred way to make the addition is using the pre-measured frozen crushed ginger cubes. They are easy to find in my local stores (Kroger/Trader Joes/Whole Foods Market). Each cube is 1 teaspoon and I would recommend 1-2 teaspoons of the crushed ginger per serving, so two to four cubes depending on how much gingery zest you want to add.

Protein

Adding protein, aka meat and or eggs, are absolute must haves for ramen if you ask me! I’ve said it before, but pork belly is one of my FAVORITE meats to make! I don’t yet have an updated ‘sous vide’ pork belly recipe ready to share (coming soon) but here is my traditional dry brine *basic pork belly roast* recipe I shared last year.

Not mentioned in the video, but a great alternative to the pork belly would be some sliced (or shredded) chicken–either a freshly cooked breast or yesterdays *roasted spatchcock chicken* leftovers would work well!

In my case, the soft boiled ramen eggs are one of my favorite parts of the dish. The creamy, barely cooked yolk makes ramen feel so rich and indulgent, even if I use a less fatty meat (or no meat at all)! What I like is essentially a ‘six minute egg.’ You make it by boiling water, gently adding your egg to said boiling water, turning the heat down, then removing the eggs from the water at the six minute mark. If you have a joule sous vide, there is a super great preset for a perfect soft boiled egg! Pro-tip on de-shelling the egg: crack the shell then remove the shell pieces under cold running water.

Veggie

I always add either chopped green onions or finely shaved onions (mandolin) when I make ramen.

Other veggies for me are super optional when it comes to ramen.

If you want to use this as a way to increase the veggies you are consuming, here are a few asian inspired ideas of what you can add!

  • carrots, shredded or julienne
  • sliced mushrooms
  • nori (seaweed paper) cut into strips
  • greens, such as spinach, kale, or bok choy

Sous Vide

Now the big question of the day: what does it mean to Sous Vide? This is a precision cooking method where you seal your food to be cooked in plastic vacuum sealed bags, submerge said bag in a water bath, and cook gently at very precise temperatures for specified amounts of time. Essentially it is like a really precise and super fancy version of a slow cooker.

A really nice benefit of using a sous vide, especially with a steak, is the wider window of time the meat is fully cooked without being over done. For example, a steak on the stove or grill has only a few minutes where the meat is perfectly cooked, before going ‘over.’ With a sous vide however, you schedule to cook time and temperature based on desired doneness, and have often an entire hour past ‘done’ that the steak can stay in the sous vide before it goes ‘over.’

Before you think I am a sous vide master (I’m not) I’ll give you my secret: I use a Joule Sous Vide that comes with a pretty sweet app that lets me pick my preferred doneness then calculates the time and temperatures for me. And most importantly, it sends me alert messages so it is basically impossible to screw up!

My sous vide was also a great reason to ask for a kitchen blow torch for Christmas!

 

Easy Weeknight Ramen (measured for two generous filling portions)

  • 2 Packets Ramen Noodles
  • 1 Quart *Homemade Chicken Stock*
  • Protein
    • I love *Pork Belly* here, Chicken Breast also works really well
    • 2 Soft cooked eggs
  • Veggies
    • Green Onion/shaved onions a must
    • other asian inspired veggies (such as julienne carrots/sliced mushrooms/spinach/kale/bok choy/nori) are super optional
  • Grated Ginger (optional)
  • Sesame Seeds for topping
  1. Gather all desired ingredients, put a pot of water on to boil
  2. Warm chicken stock on stove
  3. Add eggs to water once boiling, turn heat down, set timer for six minutes
  4. Clean and slice green onions, remove seasoning packets from ramen
  5. Final prep of meat, if sous vide, finish by blow torch/broil/sauté then cut into bite size slices
  6. Add ramen noodles to boiling chicken stock
  7. If using, add ginger while noodles are cooking
  8. De-shell egg by cracking shell then peel shell under cold running water
  9. Assemble final bowl: noodles first, broth, add protein & veggies, then top with sesame seeds
  10. My favorite step: ENJOY!

 

Super Easy Pork Ribs

Super Easy Pork Ribs

I met my husband almost ten years ago (!?!?!) and his family shortly thereafter. Drew’s mom, my mother-in law, Debbie, makes some of THE BEST Pork Ribs. Like seriously, I never really liked BBQ sauce as a kid but these ribs changed that (my unbreakable […]

Homemade Chili from Scratch (No Seasoning Packet!)

Homemade Chili from Scratch (No Seasoning Packet!)

Happy January! Todays high was 15 degrees, the low this evening will be -4 degrees and my yard is pleasantly covered with a good 5ish inches of fresh snow. This is the bitter winter weather that calls for an evening cuddling in front of a […]

Homemade Three Ingredient Dark Chocolate

Homemade Three Ingredient Dark Chocolate

Chocolate is basically woman’s best friend. It helps cheer up a bad day, celebrate a good day, and pairs just as well with breakfast coffee and pancakes as it does with dessert ice cream or wine. Plus, as an added bonus, it even provides you with antioxidants!

My husband and I love to travel and I have had a lifelong love of nearly all things chocolate. One of my favorite things to do is take a local food (or beverage) tour when traveling. I find it brings vacation memories alive when I enjoy that particular treat again at home 🙂 Last December we visited the Taza Chocolate Factory just outside of Boston, Mass and took such a tour. Taza specializes in a stone ground chocolate using just sugar and cacao nibs for the unflavored chocolate. I love how the texture of  their chocolate is different than the mainstream chocolate most widely available, plus it reminds me of the chocolate we enjoyed on our honeymoon.

Now I haven’t made Taza’s style chocolate (yet) but basically, this tour is what began my quest to make my own chocolate. I decided to make it the first time on my 30th birthday, one of three new things I tried to celebrate my three decades. I promise this is a recipe that will be tasty (even if it doesn’t temper correctly).

To enjoy these goodies yourself, you need a few items

  • bowl/sauce pan to make a double boiler
  • food scale to weigh ingredients
  • silicone mold of your choosing

Chocolate making is all about ingredient ratios. Exact weights are important because all the ingredients are meltable and to achieve the correct ratios everything needs to be exact. Volume can differ based on how much the ingredients compact when measuring (think about brown sugar doing that) so in this case weight is preferable. One feature I really like about my digital scale is that I can zero the weight. This helps me ignore the weight of the bowl for example.

The photos demoing this recipe are of my 70% chocolate. I come to this calculation based on my use of 2.5 ounces cacao butter, 1 ounce cocoa powder, and 1.5 ounces powdered sugar. Since 3.5 of the 5 ounces are cocoa pod based ingredients (3.5 divided by 5) the chocolate percentage is 70% cocoa. And I thought I wouldn’t use math after highschool!

Once everything is prepped, we want to start with the double boiler. The water should be warm, but not boiling. Boiling temperatures will burn the cacao butter and negatively affect the texture. I like using my medium size glass (pyrex) mixing bowl over a small saucepan because it allows me to keep an eye on the water. Note: the water level should be able to touch the bowl. The cacao butter will only take a few minutes to melt and you will want to whisk it throughout the melting process.

It is also super important that none of the water, not even a drop, makes it into the bowl as this can make the chocolate sieze up and go grainy.  *note* if this happens, you can still use it for ice cream topping or a homemade hot chocolate, but it wont make a good piece of solid chocolate.

Once the cacao butter is melted, we are ready to add the cocoa powder and powdered sugar! I prefer to do this by sifting them into the cacao butter (a mesh strainer works great here) so I can minimize any clumps. Super basic step, right?

Whisk away! I was so surprised the first time I made this with how quickly the ingredients incorporate and transform themselves into chocolate. The pictures above were all taken in less than sixty seconds.

Powdered sugar is what I use in chocolate making because it dissolves very quickly. Quickly however is not as soon as all the ingredients are incorporated. I recommend you plan to keep the liquid chocolate on the double boiler for around five minutes to give the sugar the best opportunity to fully dissolve. You wont notice any undissolved sugar until it has hardened however.

Tempering the chocolate is the hardest part of this process (and not just because of my impatience). Essentially what you want to do is slowly cool the chocolate before it goes into a mold. Tempered chocolate is the super pretty shiny finish chocolate has once solidified. Untempered chocolate will still taste good, but the finish will be very matte. I won’t go into the chemistry details but essentially tempering assists with building the crystalline structures of the chocolate. Don’t worry though, badly tempered chocolate can be remelted and retempered.

I also temper by the seat of my pants…aka I use zero fancy tools or even a thermometer. Between reading several dozen chocolate recipes and a few dozen trial and error batches of chocolate making, I have found that using myself as the gage works best for me. Your lip is a very nerve dense place and can therefore notice the temperature changes quite well. Once incorporated, whisk the chocolate every minute or so and then touch the whisk to your lip. If you feel the heat before the whisk even touches you then it is still too hot. Keep whisking and testing the temp to your lip until you can nolonger feel the temperature difference at all. Dark chocolate needs to be cooled to about 90 degrees, so body temperature is a good estimate. For me, the tempering process is about 15 minutes.

One of my favorite parts of chocolate making is choosing is the mold I can use for the chocolate. Each shape is so individual and can add so much personalizing to a gift. The puzzle is one of my favorites because it holds exactly five ounces (one whold batch of this recipe) and is perfect to use for a gift because it really plays well with having two different levels of chocolate. Above you see my 70% and 90% chocolates intermixed in the puzzle pattern. My other favorite mold is a lego shape. It was a birthday gift from my sister in law Nora, and is a super great mold choice for making a filled chocolate 🙂 P.S. These molds are only $4.99 at Michaels Craft Store!

Once you spoon the chocolate into the molds you want to put it in the fridge for 30-60 minutes, depending on how big/thick/intricate your mold shapes are. A thin, flat candy bar mold would probably need a little less time.

Once out of the molds, the chocolate is ready to enjoy or package and gift! Hopefully your chocolate tempered well and came out with that perfect shine.

 

Homemade Three Ingredient Dark Chocolate

70% Dark Chocolate

  • 2.5 ounces Cacao Butter
  • 1.5 ounces Cocoa Powder
  • 1 ounce Powdered Sugar

90% Dark Chocolate

  • 2.5 ounces Cacao Butter
  • 2 ounces Cocoa Powder
  • 0.5 ounces Powdered Sugar

 

  1. Measure the Cacao Butter into one bowl. Measure Powdered Sugar and Cocoa Powder together into their own bowl, zeroing the scale in between
  2. Warm the double boiler without allowing a boil, then melt the Cacao Butter
  3. Sift the Powdered Sugar and Cocoa Powder into the melted Cacao Butter
  4. Whisk Away!
  5. Keep chocolate on double boiler for 5 ish minutes to allow all sugar to disolve
  6. Whisk and temperature test every minute or so until chocolate has been tempered to appropriate temperature (see notes above on my recommended tempering process)
  7. Spoon chocolate into your desired mold and place in fridge to cool, most molds 30-60 minutes
  8. Remove from mold and enjoy or package for a gift!

 

 

Spinach Cheese Dip

Spinach Cheese Dip

I can’t be the only one to skip grocery shopping and have a ‘use up week’ before I head out of town. I am also sure I am not the only one to look into a perfectly stocked refrigerator and think “I have nothing to […]

Roasted Spatchcock Chicken (with a How-To Video!)

Roasted Spatchcock Chicken (with a How-To Video!)

Perfecting a Roasted Chicken is one of the easiest and always affordable ways you can impress someone that comes over for dinner. Let me tell you, I cannot count how many dry or rubbery or otherwise ill-prepared chickens I fed my husband trying to teach […]

Homemade Spaghetti Sauce from Fresh Tomatoes

Homemade Spaghetti Sauce from Fresh Tomatoes

I seem to have found myself on a bit of a tomato kick these past few weeks! I can explain! The tomatoes I have been growing all summer didn’t start producing ripe tomatoes until halfway thru August and have been going strong since! With the end of the growing season imminent I have been trying to make the most of my abundant tomato harvest while I can.

Today I present another fantastic bulk tomato recipe: a basic Spaghetti Sauce made from fresh tomatoes! Spaghetti dinners have always been a favorite for me, even when I was a kid. I am sure this was one of the most vegetable heavy meals I would eat at that time. The major difference now? I have become accustom to making my own sauce 🙂 Somewhere along the line, I started to notice the salt more and more when using canned sauces, so a few years ago I decided to make my own!

One of my favorite things about homemade spaghetti sauce, is how few ingredients it actually takes. Don’t let the ingredient list on your favorite jarred sauce fool you! I am able to make a great spaghetti sauce using a variety of fresh tomatoes, homegrown basil, fresh garlic, fresh onion, dry oregano, homemade butter (yum!) and pantry staples salt and evoo. Today I am using a mixture of beefsteak, roma, grape, heinz, and san marzanos.

I’ll let you in on a little secret! The tomatoes above to the right were all discounted ‘ugly’ tomatoes from the end of season Farmers Market. I had to cut off a few blemishes and gave a few the ‘sniff test’ before using but overall, I think it was a great value considering they were $0.75/pound instead of $3/pound! I used about 50-60% ugly tomatoes today, but you would never know the difference from tasting the sauce! Ugly produce is tasty too!

 

Back to the recipe: I give all of the tomatoes a very rough chop, then add them to the blender. I use a food puree setting, which is a Ninja preset of slow-medium-high increments for 60 seconds. I am trying to get the tomato as smooth as possible before we strain it.

Once blended, I send the tomatoes thru my diy food mill. If you have a bona fide food mill in your kitchen then pull it out now! If not, I find that a bit of patience, a silicone spatula (flexible), a fine mesh strainer, and a big pot work very well too. A good thought analogy of this process is the tomato puree in the blender is like a full pulp orange juice, and the straining process leaves you with a smooth pulp free OJ. If having the tomato skin and seeds in your sauce is not a bother for you, then feel free to skip this step completely. Personally, I do not care for tomato seeds getting stuck in my teeth.

I tried to show the stages of straining. Basically:

  • pour the tomato puree into the strainer
  • use the spatula to ‘stir’ the puree while scraping the strainer at the same time
  • have patience and keep doing this
  • after about 5-10 minutes you end up with a thick pulp of tomato skin and seeds separated from the tomato juice

Since I typically think of spaghetti sauce as a smooth sauce (aka not chunky like salsa) I like to grate my onions. This is actually a trick I learned from Rachael Ray! She does this to add onion to her burgers to keep them extra juicy. I like the grated onion in my sauce because the flavor is there but the onion is so small you can’t see individual pieces. Be careful with the end of the onion when grating. I switch to a knife and give as fine of a dice as I can when I get down to only the end of the onion and the rings start to separate.

This is the best time to prep your garlic, salt, and oregano. The onion cooks quickly once we put it in the skillet.

Sidenote: you will very likely cry when grating the onion.

To start cooking, first melt your butter and add the onions. We want to cook the onions enough to get rid of the ‘raw’ flavor, but not so much as to caramelize or crispify them. The second picture in is what we want: just a light touch of brownness.

Next we mix in the garlic and cook for the standard “until aromatic” as garlic burns easily and quickly. As soon as you start smelling the garlic (probably 20-30 seconds after adding to the skillet) it is time to add the salt and oregano. Mix again and allow the flavors to mellow together. The onion moisture and melted butter combined with the heat help soften the oregano and drawl out the classic Italian flavor it provides, infusing that flavor into all bits of the sauce. My mouth is watering as I try to describe this 😛

Now that the onion/garlic/oregano mixture is cooked a bit, we are ready to add the strained tomato puree. Do this carefully to avoid splattering! I usually add about a quarter of the tomatoes, stir, then add the rest of the tomatoes.

A few things are happening as the sauce cooks down. First and most obviously, the tomatoes are cooking. Most importantly, they will loose the raw taste. Second, you may notice the color change from a bright tomato red to a deeper, slightly orange, red. The color change happens gradually if you are not paying attention, it would be easy to miss. Third, as we cook the sauce, the quantity will decrease as extra liquids evaporate. I let my sauce reduce down until I get a thicker consistency; you should cook it down until you get the consistency you prefer. I estimate I reduce my sauce by about half, and it typically takes 45 minutes to an hour.

Pro tip: if you choose a wider pot, it allows more surface area for evaporation, which can speed this process. I have a 3.5 quart braiser that works well for me (think large skillet with high sides).

Sometime during the sauce cooking process, you will want to cut the basil. I start by giving it a chiffonade cut, then run the knife thru the basil the other direction to get a dice. To chiffonade the basil, take the leaves and roll them into a bundle, then slice them into ribbons.

We are close! When the sauce is reduced to your desired consistency, it is time to turn off the heat and taste for additional needed salt. If needed, add salt, then add the basil and olive oil. Stir and allow the sauce to cool slightly. Fresh basil is delicate and does not need much cooking to get the extra something something it adds. Again, these are ingredients you add after the heat has been turned off.

Finally! The moment we have been waiting for! It is time to enjoy your freshly made sauce! This recipe is perfect to serve over your favorite shape pasta immediately or freeze in labeled freezer baggies for later consumption 🙂

 

Homemade Spaghetti Sauce from Fresh Tomatoes

  • 6-8 pounds of fresh tomatoes
  • 3-4 Tablespoons butter
  • One grated onion
  • 4-6 cloves minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon dry oregano
  • salt, 1 teaspoon + more to taste
  • fresh basil, about 1/2 ounce
  • 1 Tablespoon EVOO
  1. Clean and rough chop tomatoes
  2. Puree tomatoes in a blender – I used a 60 second Puree preset on my Ninja
  3. Strain liquids away from tomato skin/seeds using either food mill or fine mesh strainer
  4. Melt Butter, add grated onions, and cook thru until onions start showing faint signs of browning – about 3-4 minutes
  5. Add Garlic and cook until fragrant – about 20-30 seconds
  6. Add 1 teaspoon each of salt and oregano
  7. Carefully add all of the now pulp free tomato puree –  add little by little and stir to minimize splattering
  8. Cook until thickened to your preferred sauce consistency – I reduce mine by about half in a 45-60 minute period
  9. Turn off heat
  10. Add more salt if needed, add the basil, and 1 Tablespoon of EVOO, cool for five minutes
  11. Enjoy now with pasta, or freeze for later consumption
30 Second Pizza Sauce

30 Second Pizza Sauce

My husband and I both work full time jobs, so sometimes (always) by the end of the week we decisioned out. More than once we have argued about dinner Sometime in the past year or so we have started having “Pizza Fridays” to make a […]