The Ultimate Pesto Post

Let’s talk about pesto.

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All pesto.

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PESTO!

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Pesto is one of my favorite things to both eat, and make.  What I love most, is that you can change the flavor profile to match whatever you are eating.  It is also insanely easy.  Just throw everything in a blender, hit start, drizzle oil, taste.  Boom.  Done. You don’t even have to take the herbs off the stems!  It is pure magic.

And pesto goes with EVERYTHING. Trust me.  You cannot name a food I would not put pesto with. Everyone knows that it can be mixed into pasta as a sauce, but it can also be used on rice, potatoes, or really any other sort of starch.   It works fabulously as a healthy, rich substitute for salad dressing or a spread on sandwiches.  Mixing with greek yogurt or mayonnaise makes an incredibly flavored dip (or sandwich spread again). It can be spread on toast or pizza, and is amazing with melted cheese and tomato.  Marinate meat or fish (salmon, chicken, and lamb are some of my personal favorites!) or just dump it on top when you’re done to turn your entree into something spectacular.

Pesto can be absolutely as “pure” and “traditional” as you want, or as creative and customizable.  There are a few simple rules, and once you get the hang of those, you can do whatever you want!  Mix and match!  Be free!  The guide below contains things I have personally included in pesto in the past.  And this is not close to everything that could be included!

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Add the following ingredients to the bowl of your food processor

  • 3-4 cups greenery
  • 1/4 cup nuts
  • 1/4-1/2 cup crumbled cheese
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic
  • juice and zest from 1 lemon
  • salt and pepper

Start the food processor, and as it runs slowly drizzle in about 1/3 cup of olive oil, or until it reaches desired consistency.  Feel free to add more olive oil to make a runnier sauce, or less to make one that is chunkier.

Taste, and decide if you want/need more salt, pepper, or lemon.  You will know it is done when you can’t stop taking little tastes!

This recipe can be made with any combination of the ingredients I listed above.  However, let me provide you with some of my favorites!

Kind of Traditional: This version keeps the flavors of the basil pesto we know and love, but is slightly cheaper.   The peppery arugula is perfect with the basil, and the walnuts give a luscious texture. Use half basil, half arugula, walnuts, parmesan.  Perfect with salmon, pasta, salads, and sandwiches

Cilantro: Bright and refreshing. Use Cilantro, scallions, cotija, sunflower seeds, and replace lemon with lime. Great on tacos, eggs, and with chicken. Can also add jalapenos for extra punch, or mix with avocado or greek yogurt to make something creamy!

Holiday: Beautiful with holiday flavors, especially pumpkin, cranberry, and turkey.  Use half sage, half parsley, pistachios, and feta. Drizzle on pumpkin soup or anything with butternut squash.  Also great on a holiday appetizer spread with crackers and cheese.

Mint: Something extra special, best with lamb.  Use mint (or half mint, half spinach), almonds, and feta.  Serve with roasted lamb, or on pasta with lamb meatballs.

Those four are a great place to start, but everything in the chart has made it into one of pestos at some time or another, and all of them are delicious.  If you have a favorite pesto combination that didn’t make my list, or any extra special secret ingredients I may have missed, please let us know!

To Cheat: Throw everything in the food processor.  Stems and all.  Make sure it’s clean, but this is a great way to use up all the parts of veggies and greens that we often throw away.  Whether it be carrot tops, beet greens, or cilantro stems.  It all can turn into pesto!  I have made many a “scraps” pesto and they are great!

Not to Cheat: Use fresh greenery.  If it’s been going slowly bad in your fridge and you just need to use it up, all those bitter icky flavors will be compounded by the pesto.

Eat well, and keep clashing!

A

Apocalypse Dumplings

So!  What are you doing with all your new found free time?

Finishing up some long over-due chores?

Cooking more?

Discovering a new hobby?

Well A and I have decided to try vlogging.  Vlogging, or video blogging, is something we have always talked about doing.  So here is our first attempt!

Want to follow along?  The whole recipe is written out below so go ahead and give it a look!

Apocalypse Dumplings Video!

Shrimp Dumplings with Dumpling Dipping Sauce

For the Dumplings:

  • 1 lb shrimp, diced
  • 1/3 lb ground pork sausage
  • 4 Tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 Tbsp green onion, chopped
  • 1 in. (about 1 Tbsp) fresh grated ginger
  • 1 tsp. soy sauce
  • 1 tsp lemon grass (paste or fresh minced)
  • 1/4 tsp fish sauce
  • 1/8 tsp ground pepper
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 package wonton or potsticker wrappers
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp sesame oil

For the Dipping Sauce:

  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 2 Tbsp fresh chopped cilantro
  • 1 Tbs green onion, chopped
  • 1 tsp rice wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp Hoisen
  • juice of 1/2 lime
  • 1 tsp lemon grass (paste or fresh minced)

To Make the Dumplings:

Mix all the ingredients together except for the last three.

Place about a tsp of the mixture in the center of the wrapper.  Brush a small amount of water around the edges of the wrapper.

For steamed dumplings: bring all four corners up to the center and pinch them together to make an air tight little pouch.  Set a wok with about an inch of water in the bottom on the stove and get it simmering but not boiling.  line your steamer basket with parchement paper and poke holes in it with a fork to allow pleanty of steam to filter through.  Set the dumplings in the basket so they are not touching.  Secure the lid and steam for five to seven minutes or until the sausage is cooked through.

For potstickers, fold across the center and pinch the seam together making little folds regularly to make a pleated look.  Put the olive oil and 1 tsp of sesame oil in the bottom of a wide bottom skillet.  Once the oil is warm but not yet smoking hot place the potstickers in the skillet so they are not touching, pour about a 1/4 cup of water in the skillet and set a lid securely on top.  Leave on at medium heat for five to seven minutes or until sausage is cooked all the way through.

To Make the Dipping Sauce:

Mix all the ingredients together.  Serve in small dipping bowls as the sauce is very runny!

To cheat: Do what we did, and use wonton wrappers.  Yes, you can get crazy and make your own dough, and it will be delicious.  But that will also take this from a quick easy dinner to a very involved process.  Even in the apocalypse, we think that using wonton wrappers is a perfectly reasonable hack.

Not to cheat: Use fresh herbs.  Although dry herbs will work for so many things in cooking, these dumplings absolutely need the freshness and flavor of the real herbs.  They will not be bright and flavorful like you want if you don’t use fresh herbs.

Well that is all for now!  Let us know what you think!

Eat well,

E and A

Crispy Pork Egg Rolls with Homemade Sweet and Sour Sauce

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Welcome to the global pandemic!

Many of you probably don’t know this but A and I love to play board games.

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Have you ever played pandemic?  It is a great game about fighting off a global disease and saving the world!

Seems horribly relatable right now…

Anyway, A has been REFUSING to play it with me!  Something about how it is less fun when it is real.  Crazy talk!  I think we should be playing it more!  You know… for practice.

Anyway, pandemic (and no.  No one has asked me to say these things or is sponsoring me) is a great game and you should all order it off amazon right now.  There are two legacy games which are also great among with a few other spin offs.

Anyway!

This is a food blog and my sous chef Summit thinks I should talk about egg rolls now.

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So!  Egg rolls!

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Egg rolls are a fun, easy thing to make.  You can wrap them ahead of time and either freeze them or toss them in the refrigerator for up to a week before frying.  The sauce I’m going to show you is also super easy and really uses almost solely the ingredients you already need on hand to make the eggrolls plus a jar of jelly.

Jar of jelly?

Yes you heard me.  I make my eggoll dipping sauce by CHEATING.  And use jelly.

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But now I am ahead of myself!

Let’s get back to eggrolls.

First thing’s first, let’s pick some produce.

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I used shiitake mushrooms, green onions, cilantro, ginger, garlic, and napa cabbage.  Now chop it!

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Don’t worry!  I know that looks like a LOT of cabbage but it is going to cook way down and be great.  Now to flavor my eggrolls we also get out some fish sauce, sesame oil, chili oil, soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, sesame seeds, and lemongrass (I use a paste but you could do fresh or dried if that is easier for you to find).

Also pork sausage.

Now that I am ready lets cook!  We are going to start with a giant wok (or a big, deep skillet if you don’t have a wok), one Tbsp vegetable oil, and one Tbsp sesame oil.  Get this nice and hot before throwing your mushrooms in.

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The mushrooms will quickly soak up all the oil but have no fear!  They will dispel all that oil again when they are cooked.  Once that starts to happen (should be about three minutes) we add in the sausage.  This is also when I add all those lovely seasonings.

Once the sausage is uniformly brown with no more pink or white raw meat add in the cabbage, green onion, and cilantro.

See?  I told you it would shrink.  Now take the whole thing and set it in a strainer over a bowl to cool.

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Don’t skip this!  You need that moisture to come out so the eggrolls won’t be soggy.  So leave it be for a minute.  Let it cool and drain while you go make your sauce.

Jelly.  You must think I’m crazy.

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But don’t knock it ’til you try it!

Use any jam or jelly or preserve you want.  I love using spicy ones with red pepper in them.  This  time I used a Strawberry + Balsamic + Black Pepper jelly.  It was great!  Feel free to get creative.  Just mix in the rice wine vinegar, Chili oil (if you need it spicier than the jelly will make it) cilantro, toasted sesame seeds, and the secret ingredient.

*Dramatic pause*

Your filling drippings!  All those yummy flavors from your egg rolls are in that delightful liquid you are catching from your egg roll filling and make a great base for your sauce.

And that’s it!  That’s the sauce.

Now lets head back to the eggrolls.

First we need to wrap these puppies.  This is not difficult I swear.  Just lay out a wrapper and place about three tablespoons of filling into the center as a little log.

Then brush a little water on all the sides and fold in the corners at the short ends of your log.  Next fold one corner all the way over.  Get it nice and snug now so there isn’t any extra air in there.

Now just roll it the rest of the way up and you have one!

You will get faster I promise.  A can roll these little babies faster than you can believe.

And really, you are stuck at home anyway #stayhomeMN.  So you have plenty of time to practice!

And now we fry them.

I always pan fry mine so that is the instructions I will give but if you have a deep frier feel free to go with that instead.  The best way to pan fry is in a wide, flat bottom skillet with nice high sides and about an inch of oil in the bottom.

Make sure you get the oil very hot before you add the eggrolls or the wrappers will soak up too much oil and get soggy.  A good way to test oil temp if you don’t have a thermometer is to flick just a drop or two of water into the oil.  If it sizzles and pops than you are ready.

Since the filling is completely cooked there is no need to worry about under cooking the middle.  So just fry these babies to golden brown.

It doesn’t get any prettier than that my friends.

Eat well!

Crispy Pork Egg Rolls and Homemade Sweet and Sour Sauce

Eggroll Ingredients:

  • 1 Napa Cabbage, diced
  • 1 4-ounce package shiitake mushrooms, diced
  • 4 green onions, minced
  • 1 bunch cilantro, rough chopped
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 lb pork sausage
  • 1 package egg roll wrappers
  • 2 T soy sauce
  • 1 T rice wine vinegar
  • 2 tsp fish sauce
  • 1 T plus extra Vegetable oil
  • 1 T sesame oil
  • 1 T chili oil
  • 1 T roasted sesame seeds

Sauce Ingredients

  • 4 Tbsp drippings from eggroll filling
  • 4 Tbsp fresh chopped cilantro
  • 2 Tbsp jelly (dealer’s choice)
  • 2 Tbsp rice wine vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp chili oil (optional or to taste)
  • 1 tsp toasted sesame seeds

To Make the Egg rolls:

Start by heating 1 T of vegetable oil the sesame oil in a large wok or deep saute pan.  When the oil is hot, add the shiitakes.  Cook for about 3 minutes, or until they are golden brown, moist, and have released their joices.  Add the sausage and cook until golden brown.  Then add soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, fish sauce, chili oil, garlic, and sesame seeds. Mix together, then add cabbage and stir well.  Let cook down, stirring occasionally, until the cabbage is wilted, 5-8 minutes.  Mixture should be reduced by about half.  Set a colander over a bowl, and pour cabbage mixture in.  Stir around to get all the juices into the bowl.  Let set until cool.

Fill a small bowl, ramekin, or cup, with cool tap water and cover a wide, flat surface (such as a platter or cutting board) with paper towels.  Once cabbage mix is cool, open egg roll wrapper package.  Do NOT do this early, as they will dry out and be impossible to work with.  Set one wrapper with a corner pointing toward you,  Take two fingers, dip them in your cup of water, and lightly rub a little water around all four edges of the wrapper.  The water will let you eggroll hold together and not fall apart.  Try not to get the middle wet. Spread a couple spoonfuls of filling across between the two corners horizontal to you.  Do NOT overfill.  You need less than you think.  Fold in the two corners horizontal to you, tight against the filling.  Then fold the bottom corner over the filling row and roll tightly. (See pictures above.). Set on another plate covered with paper towels.  As you go, do not let the raw wrappers touch each other as they will stick.  It is very important to keep your workspace dry, and if your paper towel you are rolling on gets wet, replace it.

Once you have used all the filling, you are ready to fry.  Heat about one inch of oil on medium heat in a wide saute pan.  The oil is hot when you can flick water over it and it sizzles.  Carefully, set eggrolls with the seam side down in the oil.  Again, do not let them touch each other.  When one side is golden brown, (Usually around a minute, but watch it!) flip.  Continue until all four sides are golden brown and crunchy.  Take out, and set on a plate covered with a paper towel.  Continue in batches until all egg rolls are cooked.

To make the Sweet and Sour Sauce

Mix all ingredients together until the jelly is completely dissolved.  Serve in dipping bowls as the sauce will be very runny.

To Cheat:
Pick a protein!  Any protein!  Don’t like sausage?  Use ground pork, ground chicken, ground whatever you like instead!  Don’t want meat?  Sub in more mushrooms or try a crispy fried tofu instead!  Go crazy.  But make sure you add more soy!  Sausage has a  high salt content so this recipe reflects that.  If you choose a protein with no salt in it be sure to TASTE you mixture before wrapping your eggrolls and add more soy as needed.

Not to Cheat:
Let it drain and cool!  Don’t skip this step.  Trust me.  We have tried it.  Your eggroll wrappers will get soggy and this will make them explode in the oil.  Exploding means super splattery hot oil which WILL burn you and oil getting into your filling where you don’t want it.  If you let it cool, these things will not happen.  Pinkie promise.

Chicken Meatball Marinara

Meatballs!

The most important thing you need to know about me as a cook is this:

I. LOVE. MEATBALLS.

A and I take turns cooking dinner by switch off weekly.  And let me tell you. If it is my week to cook we are having meatballs.

BBQ meatballs. Italian meatballs. Korean meatballs. Pork meatballs. I am non-discriminating in my meatball consumption.

In Alton Brown’s cookbook Everyday Cook he does a fun play on a classic. Everyone likes chicken marinara. And everyone likes meatballs! So why not have both?

And meatballs are so simple and fun to make.  So here is my own version of something similar!

So let’s start with marinara.

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Marinara sauce is very easy to make and when it is made fresh you don’t get that canned taste. And you can flavor it how you like! Less salt or more? So many herbs or just a few? Spicy or sweet? Chunky or smooth?

Go wild.

But here is a great recipe to start with.

First heat up some olive oil. Not too hot now! Olive oil loses a lot of flavor if you heat it up too much.

Also, I will go ahead and recommend right here that you use a pan with a really wide bottom.  This will help a lot when we get to the part where we are adding in the meatballs.  Also make sure to use an oven safe pan.

I mean, you don’t have to but ignoring me will just mean more dishes for you later.  So don’t ignore me.

Now toss in some onions and cook just until they smell real nice. Now get the garlic in there and do the same thing. No need to see brown at all.  Trust your nose.

Then toss in your red wine. I like to use whatever wine we are planning to drink that night to tie all the flavors together.

Let the wine bubble for a bit and then once it smells less like booze throw in all the tomatoes and herbs and spices.

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Bring this up to a nice slow bubble, give it a stir, toss the lid on, lower the heat all the way to low, and let’s make meatballs!

I mean it.  Just let that pot simmer on the stove and leave it alone.  Time is all it needs now.

So, as I said, Meatballs!

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Raw chicken… Gross…

But in meatball form this is great I swear!  Meatballs are the easiest thing you ever made.

Just toss everything in a bowl, take all the jewelry off your hands, and get in there to mix it all together! Have a cookie sheet laid out before you start mixing to avoid washing your hands twenty five times during this process.

Once everything is mixed together we’ll start rolling. Each ball should be about the size of a golf ball. Remember, the more even the balls are the more evenly they will cook.

Now heat up some oil nice and hot and brown those balls.  No need to worry about cooking them all the way through.  Just get a nice crisp brown on all sides.  You will probably have to do this in multiple batches but stick with it until all the balls are brown.  This will really only take about 30-60 seconds per side so don’t wander off or get distracted for this bit.

Now toss them in the pan with the sauce, (and by toss I mean gently place and then carefully spoon some sauce over them all so that they are nice and evenly coated as we continue cooking them), sprinkle the top with cheese, and get that baby in the oven.

20 minutes at 350 and you will be left with meatball perfection.

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Now spoon that into a bowl with some kind of carbs and enjoy!

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My carb of choice was yummy crusty bread which we toasted.  But you could do rice, buttery pasta, mashed potatoes or even a polenta if you are really feeling frisky

Now let’s see my version!

Chicken Meatball Parmesan

For the Marinara

Ingredients:
Tbsp olive oil
1 yellow onion finely diced
3-5 cloves of minced garlic (depending on size and preference)
3/4 cup dry red wine (red blend or Cabernet work best)
1 28 oz can of crushed tomatoes
1 tsp basil
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp parsley
4 bay leaves
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp red pepper flakes (optional)

Directions:
Heat olive oil over medium heat just until warm.
Add the diced onion and cook just until they smell great and are tarting to appear translucent.
Add the minced garlic and cook just until it smells great.  No need to see any brown!
Toss in the red wine and turn the heat up just a bit.  Let this bubble about 3-5 minutes to allow the alcohol to all boil off.
Add the tomatoes, herbs, salt and pepper, and the red pepper flakes (if you want just a hint of heat).
Bring the whole thing to a simmer while stirring, then reduce to a low heat.  The sauce should keep bubbling but nice and gently.  Now you can put a lid on it and let it simmer for the next twenty minutes or so.  Be sure to check on it about every 5 minutes to give it a stir and make sure it is still boiling but doesn’t scald on the bottom.
And while that is cooking, let’s make meatballs!

For the meatballs

Ingredients:
2 lbs ground chicken
2 large eggs
1 cup panko
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup fine shredded mozzarella cheese
1 tsp basil
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp parsley
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground black pepper

Directions:
Put everything in a bowl, roll up your sleeves, and mix it all up with your hands.  Be careful not to over mix it.  No need to knead it like bread.  Just make it all a nice even consistency.
Roll all the meat into balls about and inch in diameter.

For the Assembly

Ingredients:
3 Tbsp vegetable oil (or other oil that is good for high heat)
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
All those raw meatballs
All that delicious marinara sauce

Directions:
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F
Put the marinara sauce in a big, oven safe, dutch oven style pan.  Make sure it is still hot!  If the sauce is cold when you put in the meatballs all the cooking time will be thrown off.
Heat the oil in a big, flat skillet until nice and hot.
Drop in as many meatballs as you can comfortably fit in the bottom of the pan without them touching.  You will most likely have to work in batches.
Brown all sides of the meatballs.  This should only take about a minute per side.
Once the meatball is browned drop it directly into the marinara.
Once all the meatballs are in there give it a mix.  Be gentle!  You don’t want to break up the meatballs.  All you want to do is make sure the sauce is coating all of them.
Now sprinkle with the mozzarella cheese and put in the oven to bake for about 10 minutes.  The cheese should be all melty and soft and the sauce should be bubbling around the edges.

Now all you have left to do is eat!

To cheat:

No wine?  No problem.  If you are not a wine person or simply find yourself temporarily wine-less and don’t feel like driving all the way to the store it is no big deal.  Just skip the wine step and move on.  The sauce will still be delicious.  I personally really like wine and think it adds a real depth of flavor and sweetness to the sauce but really, you can absolutely make it without.  I do it without all the time.

Not to cheat:

Make.  The.  Meatballs.  I am serious.  No store bought crap.  Trust me.  They are so so simple and so so yummy!  It you are going to cheat pick anything but this.  Anything.  Frozen meatballs will never be the same once you try this and realize how quick and easy it is.

Well that is all for now friends!

Eat well!

E

Mr. Crunchy

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Ooey gooey cheese, fresh sourdough bread, spicy mustard, and salty shaved ham.  What more could you possibly want from a sandwich?

Wait?  You want a creamy garlic bechamel as well?  … Alright.

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A croque monsieur is a classic, open faced french sandwich which loosely translates to ‘Mr. crunchy’.  In Alton Brown’s cookbook Everyday Cook he calls it a Mr. Crunchy and I have to say… I like it.

The sandwich itself is rather simple.  Don’t be serving this as the main entree for your fancy dinner.  But as a side with a simple pasta dish or for lunch with a salad or even for breakfast/brunch if you tossed in a fried egg, this is decadent and delightful.

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The steps to make it are very simple.  First you find yourself a good sous chef.

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This is Summit.  He is the perfect sous chef because he is large, in the way,  and is very good at helping you pick up anything that may fall (accidentally or otherwise) onto the floor.  As you can see, he takes the entire width of the kitchen.

Which is extra helpful.

Sometimes his brother Snitch tries to help as well but … let’s face it.  I am only human.  One sous chef is enough to ‘help’.

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The hardest part of the whole thing is making bechamel.  But I promise it is very easy.  The most important thing to know about making bechamel is that you MUST prep everything before you begin.  Cooking the sauce only takes a matter of a few minutes which is lovely!  But you need to stir a lot if you want it all to came out nice and even so chop it all up before you begin!

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once the sauce is made you just assemble the sandwich,

Broil it for four or five minutes,

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And consume!

Here is my version of a ‘Mr. Crunchy’.

Enjoy!

Croque Monsieur

Ingredients:

2 Tbsp butter
2 cloves fresh garlic, minced
2 Tbsp flour
1.5 cups milk
1 Tbsp fresh thyme leaves
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
4 thick cut slices of sourdough bread
2 Tbsp whole grain mustard
8 oz ham
8 oz Gruyere cheese
1 tsp herbs de Provence

For the Bechamel:
Melt the butter in a sauce pan.  Add the minced garlic and saute just until you can smell it.
Add the flour and cook until the mixture is starting to look a little brown.
Add the milk, thyme, salt, and pepper.  Cook until thickened and bubbly.
Set aside to cool.

To assemble:
First toast the bread.  This keeps them nice and crunchy on the bottom.
Grease a cookie sheet and turn the oven on to broil.  Set the oven rack about six inches from the top.
Set the toast and spread with mustard.  top with ham, then cheese, then bechamel, then finally sprinkle with herbs.
Put in the oven for about 5 minutes or just until the cheese is melty and starting to brown.

EEEEEEAT!

To Cheat or Not to Cheat?

Cheat:  The spice blend can really be anything you desire.  Herbs de Provence is what you are ‘supposed’ to use but…. use what you have!  Love your pizza seasoning?  Use it!  Just have basil?  Sure!  The important thing is that the herb blend you use does NOT have salt in it or you Mr. Crunchy will turn into a Mr. Salty….

Not to Cheat:  Make.  The.  Bechamel.  It takes a grand total of… 10 minutes tops.  Really.  Just don’t burn it and it is the easiest sauce you can make.  There is no scary cheese that might split or veggies that might end up raw.  It is just milk thickened with flour that you are adding a bit of pizzazz to.  Don’t skip it!  you will thank me later.

Eat well!
E

We’re BACKKKKKK Baby!

GOOOOOOOD MORNING…. INTERNET!

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After a four year long…sabbatical (?) we have returned to Clashing!

A lot has changed in four years. We moved a few times, and currently live together, along with our husbands!

We apparently have zero pictures of all four of us together.  But I promise, we like each other!!!

We got dogs!

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We travelled!

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We cooked a lot!

We started another blog, and wrote a whole story on that blog! (Check it out, at Panoptic Voices!)

A got diagnosed with terminal cancer, has survived well past the expiration date, and thrived!

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And now we are returning to our food blog, with tons of stories and recipes to share!

We are so excited, and have tons of great food and recipes we want to share with you all, starting with our current project!

Since we now live together, we have recently started cooking our way through various cookbooks.  We LOVE cookbooks, and own so many, and are excited to explore them. Starting with….

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Everyday Cook, by food genius Alton Brown!

We love Alton’s shows (Especially Cutthroat Kitchen! You’ll see what we mean soon! *winky face*) and this is one of my favorite all time cookbooks.  So be on the lookout, as we set out to cook and review some of our favorite recipes!

Eat well!

Spaghetti Squash Taco Casserole

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So before you lovely readers see the word squash and run away let me say that not all squash were created equal!  I mean so you like tacos? Do you like casserole?  Do you like noodles? Then this is the meal for you!

The squash is naturally slightly sweet which works really well with the spicy meat.  Also, spaghetti squash does NOT have the mushy squishy texture that make some squash hard to eat.  It literally is the same consistency as noodles!

OK now I have a confession to make.  My husband recently started a new diet… and I am totally supportive… and love hime to bits… but he decided to go grain and potato free.

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Grain and potato FREE.

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To be clear that means no bread, no rice, no noodles, no chips, no tortillas, almost no starch or carbs at all! None of the things in these pictures are allowed when I cook.

grain

Interesting….

So I have been playing with veggies!!  Cauliflower, squash, jicama, and other starchy veggies that can be turned into mashes, noodles, crusts and breading.  So far it has been a lot of fun!

So for this meal we played with spaghetti squash.  I love tacos. Well lets be honest I love most Mexican inspired cooking.  The spices and flavors of that culture are so much fun to play with and easy to find in anyone’s local grocery store. And all this is basically a giant taco! Who doesn’t like the sound of that?

The trick\ is to make all the separate things that you love on your taco.  If they differ from what I love, no problem!  Change and twist this however you choose.

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I used corn salsa, taco seasoned beef, fajita veggies, re-fried beans, cheese, sour cream, and of course spaghetti squash.  Each of these is cooked separately same as you would if you were making a taco bar and at the very end you assemble everything the way you would assemble a lasagna.

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I did meat, veggies, beans, corn, squash, cheese, repeat!

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Also I assembled the entire casserole inside of the shell as an added pizzazz and because lets face it, that is one less dish to wash!

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So with no further ado lets get cooking!

Spaghetti Squash Taco Casserole

1 large spaghetti squash

2 Tbsp vegetable oil

2 tsp salt

1 lb ground beef

1 Tbsp chili powder

1/2 tsp garlic powder

1/2 tsp onion powder

1/2 tsp paprika

2 tsp cumin

1 1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp black pepper

1/2 cup water

1 can re-fried beans (you can use black beans if you prefer)

1 can whole curnal sweet corn

2 Tbsp chopped fresh cilantro (or 1 Tbsp dried cilantro)

1 fresh lemon

1 1/2 tsp ground chili pepper

1 tsp salt

1/2 yellow onion

1 bell pepper (pick your favorite color!)

1 clove fresh garlic

Sour cream and fresh cilantro to garnish (optional)

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Rinse off the outside of the squash.  Chop off the top of the squash and then in half the long way.  Scoop out the seeds and innards.  Rub the inside of each half the cleaned squash with a Tbs of vegetable oil and sprinkle with salt.  Place them flesh side down on a baking sheet with sides and bake for 50 minutes.  To test if it is done try to scrape the insides with a fork.  If the squash easily falls apart andl ooks like noodles then it is perfect.
  2. While the squash is cooking start the beef.  Brown the ground beef in a skillet.  When the beef has no more pink, drain the excess fat out of the pan.  Add the chili powder, garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, cumin, salt, black pepper, and water.  Lower the heat and simmer for about 8 minutes or until most of the water has simmered off.
  3. Open up the beans and heat on low just till hot.
  4. Place the corn in a bowl. Squeeze the juice of the lemon over top and add the tsp salt and chili powder.  Toss and set aside.
  5. Chop the pepper and onion into long thin strips and fine dice the garlic.  Heat vegetable oil in a skillet till it is hot.  Add the veggies and quickly saute for about 2 or 3 minutes.  Just cook till the peppers seem brighter in color and the onions are starting to look slightly more translucent.  Set aside
  6. Once the squash is finished cooking let it cool for a few minutes.  scrape the squash out until there is only about a 1/4 inch left in the shell.
  7. Now it is time to layer.  I did meat, veggies, beans, corn, squash, cheese, repeat till both shells were full.  If you are using other ingredients like salsa, guacamole, or even a different kind of meat, feel free to mix up the order, as long as you end with cheese on the top.
  8. Turn the oven on to broil.  Place the two casseroles back on the baking sheet and place in the oven just until the cheese melts
  9. Top with sour cream and cilantro, serve hot!  Makes 6-8 serving

Ragu Bolognese with Tagliatelle

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This is a special recipe.

You know what I mean.  The kind of recipe that only gets made for special occasions.  It takes the whole day and makes your house smell like a five star restaurant.  A meal that you plan ahead for and anticipate for days, telling your family over and over to be ready, because they won’t want to miss out on this one fabulous meal.

That is what kind of recipe this is.

I had the opportunity once to spend some time in Italy, and of course what I remember most is the incredible food.  The beauty of Italian cuisine is that it is not about ridiculous, complicated recipes.  The focus is on gorgeous ingredients, treated with love.  To me, treating ingredients with care and respect is one of the most important parts of being an excellent chef.  That goes for all ingredients; from the lowly celery to a gorgeous piece of steak or seafood.  When you love your food it loves you back.  I promise, you can taste the difference.

Showing your product love and respect starts with picking quality ingredients.  There are lots of ways to save money in the kitchen.  Choosing bad produce or low quality cheese or wine is not the way to go.  Next, it means careful knife work, making sure your cuts are even so each piece is exactly the same size.  This makes sure every bit is cooked just right, nothing under or over done.  It also means not cutting corners. Do not buy pre-cut onions or steak at the store.  You have no control over the quality or freshness.  Take your time and give the food the love it so desperately wants.

Of course, this also means making your own fresh, beautiful pasta.  Fresh pasta cannot be replicated or replaced by dry store bought pasta.  It is one of the most heavenly things a kitchen can create, and it is absolutely worth the extra time.  Once you get used to making it, you won’t even notice the extra minutes.  This pasta is hand cut to make thick, luscious tagliatelle noodles.  If you have never made your own pasta, buy a roller, and learn.  Your life will never be the same.

Finally, be willing to take your time when cooking. Some recipes take a while and benefit from sitting on your stove all day.  Those recipes are often the best of them all, and the extra time is definitely worth it.

I know, we’re all busy.  But sometimes you just gotta drop everything else and make Ragu Bolognese and pretend you are back in the Italian countryside.

Ingredients

  • olive oil
  • 4 oz pancetta, diced
  • 1 yellow/brown onion, diced
  • 4 stalks celery, finely diced
  • 2 medium carrots, finely diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 oz dried porcini mushrooms
  • 1.5 lbs skirt steak, cut into 1/4 inch cubes
  • 8 oz ground pork
  • 1 cup dry white wine (I used a sauvignon blanc)(I am also generous with my cup.)
  • 3 T double concentrated tomato paste
  • 2 cups beef stock
  • 1.5 cups whole milk
  • 2 small parmesan rinds
  • 1 tsp nutmeg
  • 4 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 4 fresh sage leaves
  • 2 bay leaves
  • salt
  • 1 batch fresh pasta, cut into wide tagliatelle noodles
  • fresh grated parmesan, to serve

Directions

Start by preparing your mise en place, which translates to “things in place”.  Literally, get your ingredients ready so that when you need them you aren’t scrambling.  So the first thing we do is cut up our ingredients and make sure everything is ready to go!

Chopping onion.

Chopping onion.

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Perfectly diced celery. (If I do say so myself…)

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And perfectly cut steak.

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Mise en place.

Again, take your time to cut everything to be the same size, especially the steak.  The more consistent your cuts are on the meat, the better this dish will be.  Trust me.  Love your food, and it will love you back.

Now it is time to cook!

First, rehydrate the mushrooms.  cover the mushrooms with about 1 cup of boiling water.  Let sit for at least fifteen minutes, then remove the mushrooms from the water and dice.  Reserve the water.

Now we start cooking!  He 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat.  Once hot, add the diced pancetta.  Let cook for about 3-4 minutes, or until the pancetta releases its fat and begins to brown.

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Add the celery, carrots, and onions.  Cook for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, as the veggies begin to soften.

Cooking the veggies.

Cooking the veggies.

Add the mushrooms and about half the mushroom water. 2015-10-17 15.02.08

Cook for about 15 minutes, or until the liquid is cooked out and the veggies are very soft.

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Remove the veggies from the pan and put in a separate bowl.  Put the same pan back on the heat, increase to medium high, and add about two tablespoons olive oil.  (Do NOT wash the pan in between!)  When the oil is hot, add the chopped steak, along with a bit of salt and pepper.  Cook until browned on all sides and then remove from heat onto a plate using a slotted spoon.

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Into the same pan, add your ground pork and cook until the pork is browned.

Turn heat back to medium.  Put your sage, thyme, and bay leaf into cheesecloth and tie off with kitchen twine to make a bouquet garni.  Add the veggies, steak, and the bouquet garni back to the pan and let cook for about 8 minutes, or until the liquid is cooked down.  Add the wine, making sure to scrape the bottom of the pan.

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Let this cook down for about 15 minutes, until the wine is cooked off.  The pot should turn a gorgeous, shiny color at this point.

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Add the tomato paste.  Let cook for about five more minutes.

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It should be starting to look very, very pretty.

Add 1.5 cups of stock and 1/2 cup milk.  Let cook for about 15 minutes, stirring every few minutes.

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Finally, add the rest of the milk and stock, the parmesan rinds, nutmeg, and a touch of salt.  Let simmer for about 1.5 hours, skimming the fat from the surface occasionally. You may want to lower the heat.  Sauce should thicken and become velvety and rich.

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This sauce can be made a day or two ahead of time, and only becomes better with age.

When ready to serve, reheat if necessary, and toss with hand cut fresh tagliatelle noodles.  (Please don’t waste this sauce on dry pasta, I beg you!)

Top with fresh grated parmesan.

2015-10-18 18.38.22I’m gonna go eat now.  K bye.

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Easy Crockpot Tikki Masala

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Ladies and gentlemen, it is officially crockpot season!  The leaves here in Minnesota have finally decided to change coloring, and are now changing and falling at breakneck speed. I traded my flip flops in for a cute pair of boots and found my sweaters.  Obi is shedding like crazy.  As the Starks would say…WINTER IS COMING! (Yes…that was a GoT reference.  Get over it.)

For now, the weather is gorgeously cool and cozy.  Perfect for crockpots and warm comforting meals.  There is nothing better than coming home after a long day at work to the smell of delicious food that is already cooked and all you have to do is sit down and eat it.

I made this meal for parent-teacher conference night, because I knew I would have no energy to cook after 12 straight hours of students and parents.  The only thing that wasn’t already done was the rice, which I asked my fiance to make while I was driving home.  Turns out, my fiance can’t make rice.  Not even close.  Even when I give very specific directions.  (He also set a pot of boiling water on fire once, so I’m not really surprised.)

As far as the recipe, it is sort of a lightened up non-traditional take on a Tikki Masala.  I used coconut milk instead of cream.  It was delicious.  If I was cooking this just for myself I would have used more cayenne instead of paprika to bump up the heat, but the fiance isn’t a huge spice fan so I was kind and didn’t do that.

I also made the sauce and starting marinating the chicken the night before, so all I had to do was throw everything into the pot the next morning and turn the crockpot on.

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Ingredients

  • 2 lbs uncooked chicken, diced into ~ 1.5 inch cubes
  • 1/4 cup yogurt
  • squeeze of lemon juice
  • 30 oz tomato sauce
  • 1 T ground coriander
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp ground clove
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground cardamon
  • 1 tsp ground black pepper
  • salt, to taste
  • 1 inch piece ginger, grated
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 white onion, diced
  • 1 can coconut milk
  • 1 T cornstarch
  • 1 large lemon
  •  chopped cilantro, basmati rice, and/or naan bread to serve

Directions

Put the chopped chicken in a large bowl with the yogurt and a squeeze of lemon juice.  Let marinate while you make the sauce, or overnight.  For the sauce, pour tomato sauce, spices, ginger, garlic, and onion all into the bowl of your crockpot.  Mix well.  Taste, and add spice as desired.  Or leave it like this if you are happy.  🙂

You can now refrigerate the sauce and chicken overnight, or get it started.  Add the chicken to the sauce in the crockpot and cook on low for 8-10 hours.

When ready to eat, pour the whole thing into a large skillet.  Add the coconut milk and cornstarch and let cook down and thicken for about 10 minutes while you are getting the rice or other accompaniments ready.  Finish with juice of one lemon before serving.

Serve with rice or naan bread or both (like I did, because I am bad at making decisions).  Garnish with cilantro.

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Delicious.

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