Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Tangy Tomato Slow Cooker Pot Roast

Is there anything better than coming home to a hot meal, ready and waiting for you?  My husband gets to enjoy that quite often.  I, however, have to think ahead if I want to experience that luxury (love you anyway Mikey!).  

As such, I've been experimenting a lot with my slow cooker lately, and this pot roast recipe will be on repeat for us this winter.  Pot roast is the perfect cut of meat for the slow cooker because it's a larger size and doesn't dry out even when it's cooked all day.  I love a classic pot roast cooked in beef broth, but this tangy version, with a sweet and savory sauce of crushed tomatoes and apple cider vinegar,  is the perfect twist.  

* 1 (2.5 lb.) pot roast
* 1 tbsp. olive oil
* 1 tbsp. butter
* 6 large carrots (I wash them but don't peel them)
* 3 celery stalks
* 2 onions, chopped
* 1 (15 oz.) can crushed tomatoes
* 1 (14 oz.) can beef broth
*2 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
*1 tbsp. brown sugar
* 1 bay leaf
* 1 bunch of thyme (5-6 sprigs)
* 2 garlic cloves, crushed
* salt, pepper

Heat a saute pan to medium high heat.  While the pan is heating, pat the meat dry and season it generously with salt and pepper.  Add butter and olive oil to the pan and swirl to coat.  Add the meat to the pan and brown it on all sides (about 1 minute per side).  

In the slow cooker, layer celery and carrots on the bottom of the pan.  Place the beef on top, then scatter onions through out.  In a bowl, whisk together crushed tomatoes, beef broth, cider vinegar and brown sugar.  Pour this mixture in the crock pot.  Add garlic cloves, bay leaf, and thyme to the pot.  Cook on low for 8 hours, or until the meat is fork tender.  Enjoy! 

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Frozen Hot Chocolate

I feel like i'm experiencing some seasonal confusion.  For the last week, the weather has been so gray and overcast, and when I look outside my window it just feels like it's got to be cold out there. 

I've been layering my  scarves and cardigans in anticipation and then… I step outside.  Reality check! October 1 is upon us, halloween decor is making it's way out of the attic, we're surrounded by pumpkin everything, but it still feels like summer here in Wilmington.  

This frozen hot chocolate is the perfect prescription for your seasonal confusion.  Cool and refreshing, but with the wintry taste we all love. 

Ingredients (serves 2):
* 1 c. whole milk
*.5 oz instant hot chocolate mix (I used a k-cup)
* 3 c. ice**
* whipped cream, chocolate shavings, for serving

Combine milk, hot chocolate mix, and ice in a blender.  Blend until smooth.  Divide among two glasses and top with whipped cream and chocolate shavings.  Enjoy! 

**If your refrigerator has an ice crusher, help your blender out and start with the crushed ice rather than large cubes. 

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Crispy Sweet Potato Strings & Thoughts on my Spiralizer

So I finally bit the bullet and purchased this spiralizer I've been eyeing for months.  Before I buy any more kitchen tools that take up a considerable amount of space, I try to think long and hard about how often I would use said tool.  

While I was teetering on the edge of my decision, my best friend's mom made it for me.  Mama Jill (as I like to call her) is doing a lot of free advertising for Williams-Sonoma.  I was standing in her kitchen and before I could ask how she liked it, she produced a zucchini and had it reduced to spaghetti like strands in about 10 seconds flat!  I was officially sold. 

The spiralizer is just so much fun, and it's surprisingly easy to use.  I didn't really expect it to be as easy as it was, especially when it came to spiraling a potato.  In actuality, it took almost no effort, and the thin potato strands make absolutely perfect oven fries. 

I was so excited about my new toy that I pretty  much made an entirely spiralized dinner.  I'm loving the zucchini and squash noodles - although, don't be fooled into thinking they will taste like a noodle!  These would be great mixed in a pad thai or other noodle dish so that you can use less pasta and bulk up the serving with veggies. 

For the zucchini and squash, I just used olive oil to sauté them for a few minutes over medium high heat and they were fork tender with a bit of a bite in under 5 minutes. 

Crispy Sweet Potato Strings:
* 2 sweet potatoes
* 1.5 tbsp. olive oil
* kosher salt, pepper

Preheat the oven to 425.  Slice the ends off the sweet potato so you have a flat surface and use the spiralizer with the larger size hole.  Toss the spiraled potatoes in olive oil, salt, and pepper and arrange in a single layer on a baking sheet.  Bake for 20 minutes, stirring twice, then increase the heat to 450.  Continue to bake until the strings are crispy (5-10 minutes longer).  Enjoy! 

Target Giveaway!

I'm teaming up with some great bloggers today for a $175 Target gift card giveaway!  I've rounded up some of my favorite go-to kitchen tools below, all of which are available at Target.  These are all products that I use regularly and love!

Kallie /// Kala /// Kippy
Erin /// Kelly /// Sarah

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Cheesy Jalapeño Corn Dip

When it comes to party foods and potlucks, i'm a sucker for a good dip.  A hot, bubbly dip is always irresistible and this cheesy corn dip is no exception.  The sweet corn with the savory cheeses and flavorful pickled jalapeños are a winning combo.  Even better, it's easily prepared in advance and just needs to be baked before serving. 

* 1 (15 oz) can corn, drained
* 4 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
* 1/2 c. sour cream
* 4 oz. cheddar cheese, grated
* 1 green onion, chopped
* pickled jalapeños, to taste

Preheat oven to 350.  Stir together corn, cream cheese, sour cream, green onion, and half of the cheddar cheese.  Place in a small baking dish and top with jalapeños and remaining cheddar cheese.  Bake for 20-25 minutes or until cheese has melted and edges are brown.  Serve with blue corn chips.  Enjoy! 

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

The Perfect Chicken Breast

A few months ago, my friend Stephanie informed me that she had discovered the perfect way to cook chicken breast.  I listened to her, of course, and was intrigued, but for some reason never tried the recipe. 

Let's be honest, you all have heard me bitch time and time again about boneless, skinless chicken breasts.  I eat them at least once a week, but I just don't enjoy it.  I will admit that I am guilty of overcooking the poor things until they are a rubbery, chewy disaster, but I'm always just the slightest bit paranoid that they aren't cooked through. 

After seeing this recipe on various other food blogs (I believe the Kitchn is credited for the original) I finally gave it a whirl this week.  This method really is fool proof.  It requires almost no active cooking time and the result is a juicy, tender chicken breast that has poached in its own juices.  

It's so easy that I've already made this chicken twice this week (and it's only Tuesday..).  The first night I served it with a mushroom cream sauce that I made while the chicken was cooking, and the second straight up with a little barbecue sauce on the side. 

Here's how I made it:
1) Pound out your chicken so it is even thickness throughout (I prefer mine on the thinner side and either pound it to once inch, or slice it crosswise so I have two thin breasts)

2) Heat a large heavy bottom skillet over medium high heat (you need one with a tight fitting lid)

3) Pat the chicken dry and season it on both sides with salt and pepper

4) Add 1 tbsp. of olive oil to the pan and add the chicken.  Sear for 1 minute, then flip the chicken

5) Cover the pan with the lid and reduce the heat to low

6) Set the timer for 10 minutes. Do NOT, under any circumstances, open the lid. 

7) After 10 minutes, turn the heat off and reset the timer for another 10 minutes.  Resist the urge to peek!  The steam needs to remain in the pan

8) Enjoy! 

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Getting Figgy With it

For the September issue of Focus on the Coast, I learned how to can jam.  Can I just tell you how much fun it is?!  If you haven't canned before, I would definitely suggest starting with something simple like jam or preserves, which you process in boiling water.  Having a stocked cupboard and enjoying the fruits of your labor for months to come makes the canning work totally worth it. 

Photo by Jason Armond for Focus on the Coast
I chose to start with Fig Jam because I use it so often in my cooking.  Figs are in season now and this jam is very versatile, especially in fall recipes.   
Photo by Jason Armond for Focus on the Coast
I used the jam as a base for this rustic Caramelized Onion & Bleu Cheese Pizza and it was absolutely to die for.  Mike, the photographer and I stood around in the kitchen after the shoot and ate every last bite! The sweet, salty, and tangy combination is out of this world. 

Photo by Jason Armond for Focus on the Coast

One of my favorite prepared marinades is vidalia-onion fig, so I whipped up something similar using my fig jam.  This Balsamic-Fig sauce paired perfectly with pork tenderloin. 
Photo by Jason Armond for Focus on the Coast
Head over to the Focus on the Coast for the full recipes, and click here for more of my do's and don'ts of canning!

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Peanut Chicken Meatballs

I always find that when I take time to meal plan, I end up with a different theme each night of the week.   What can I say, I love a good theme!   One of my favorite things to make is dim sum.  I just love variety and having a little bite of everything.

These Peanut-y Chicken Meatballs make the perfect bite.  They're tender, sweet and savory at the same time, with a rich sauce and a slight crunch from the sesame seeds.  

When it comes to Asian food, there are so many great prepared foods to compliment a little bite like these meatballs.  Enter: my new favorite salad.  Have you tried the Asian Chopped Salad from Harris Teeter?  It is SO good.  I just love a cabbage salad, and especially because this one is very similar to my favorite Indochine salad.

Another pantry staple in my house is Trader Joe's Chicken Shu Mai.  They also come in a pork variety and both are delicious.  The serving size is pretty generous too, and the sauce that comes in the box is delicious.

This meal couldn't be simpler, or more fun, to put together.  What are some of your prepared pantry staples?

* sesame seeds, for garnish 

*1 lb. ground chicken 
* 1/2 c. panko
* 1/2 tsp. grated ginger, or ginger paste
* 1/2 tsp. dijon mustard
* 1 egg
* 1/4 tsp. garlic powder
* 1/4 tsp. onion powder

* 1/4 c. hoisin sauce
* 1/4 c. creamy peanut butter (I used reduced fat)
*1 tbsp. low sodium soy sauce
* 1/2 tsp. grated ginger, or ginger paste
*1 tbsp. rice vinegar
* 3 tbsp. water

Preheat oven to 425 and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  To prepare the meatballs, combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix with your hands until the ingredients are incorporated (the mixture will be wet).  Shape chicken mixture into 1 1/2 inch meatballs and arrange on the baking sheet.  Bake for 15 minutes. 

Meanwhile, prepare the sauce by combining all sauce ingredients in a small saucepan over low heat.  Stir until well combined. 

After 15 minutes, brush some of the sauce over the meatballs and return to the oven for 5 minutes.  Brush with more sauce, garnish with sesame seeds, and serve. 

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Filet Mignon Steak Sandwich

Last week, I saw a recipe for a Filet Mignon Steak Sandwich and immediately ditched my dinner plans so I could make one for myself. 

Everyone loves a good steak and cheese, but when you amp it up with filet mignon?  This sandwich reaches a whole new level. 

Trader Joe's has a great, affordable cut of beef tenderloin.  It's prepackaged, typically right around  one pound, and it's typically between $10-$12.  I buy one every time i'm in Trader Joe's and it's the perfect amount for Mike and me. 

I was so excited about this sandwich I could barely handle taking the time for pictures.  You need to eat it right away while it's still ooey-gooey.  I reheated the leftover in the toaster oven and it was perfection on day two as well. 

Ingredients (adapted from this recipe)
* 1 lb. filet mignon beef tenderloin
* 1 baguette
* 1 large, sweet onion, thinly sliced
* 1/2 tsp. balsamic vinegar
* 2 tbsp. olive oil
* 1/2 tsp. sugar
* 3 slices monterey jack (If you can't find slices, use about 5 oz. grated)
* 1 c. beef broth **
* 1/2 tsp. worcestershire sauce
* salt, pepper

Preheat oven to 450.  Allow meat to rest at room temperature for 10 minutes or so.  Pat the meat dry and season with sugar, salt, and pepper.  Heat a large, oven-proof skillet over medium high, add 1 tbsp. olive oil, and add the beef tenderloin. Sear on all sides until browned (1-2 minutes per side), then transfer to the oven and roast for 5 minutes for medium rare (Note: this method will only work with a large, thick cut piece of meat.  If you prefer you are using filet medallions or a thinner cut, cook on stovetop the entire time).  Remove the skillet from the oven and set the meat aside to rest. Reduce oven temperature to 400. 

To prepare the jus, add beef broth and worcestershire to the pan that the meat cooked in and simmer over medium low heat, stirring often.  If the mixture starts to reduce quickly, reduce heat to low.  Set aside. 

Meanwhile, prepare the onions.  Add 1 tbsp. oil to a separate pan and sauté the onions over medium heat until soft, then stir in balsamic vinegar. 

Toast the bread in the oven for 3-4 minutes, or until just lightly toasted and warmed through.  

To assemble the sandwich, add cheese to the pan with the onions in an even layer.  Spoon jus over one side of the toasted baguette, then add the steak and top with onions and cheese.  Enjoy!

** The original recipe calls for au jus starter.  I wasn't able to find any so I created my own with beef broth and worcestershire. 

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Life Lately

Get ready for an influx of pictures!  I hope everyone had a great long weekend. 

I'm feeling a bit nostalgic as we celebrated my friend Stephanie's birthday a little early this weekend with lots of old friends.  Stephanie and her husband, Jim, are getting ready to move to Japan for 3 years, where Jim will be stationed.  It was so much fun celebrating, but it all feels a little too real now!

Stephanie and I lived together in college and beyond.  At one point we realized that if North Carolina were a common law state, we would basically be married. 

The party was a surprise that Jim put together.  I think she may have caught on when she saw everyone's cars int he parking lot - but she put on a good 'surprise' face! 

If you live in Wilmington and have a water loving dog like me, please go to the Pooch Plunge at Legion Stadium!  This event is SO much fun, and Roscoe can barely handle his excitement when he's there.  There is a $5 charge for each pup and it runs through Friday or Saturday. 

The deep end was full of labs and retrievers, but there is also a shallow end where the little pups play (and where Roscoe plays once Mike gets tired of lifting him out of the water)

Roscoe will be swimming in his sleep for days after this! 

Until next summer!