Make It: Homemade Caramelized Apple, Bacon, and Goat Cheese Pizza.

Fall means smoky flavors, thick crusts, and roasted and caramelized veggies. The best way to combine all the flavors of fall in one bite? Pizza! The best part of purchasing the heavy black pizza stone I got a few months ago is the amazing crunchy crusts you get from it. For those that have to do without the heavy duty wood-fire ovens that gourmet pizza chefs love so much, a pizza stone is a welcome alternative.

Homemade Caramelized Apple, Bacon, and Goat Cheese Pizza

  • 1/2 pound of bacon (I used Applewood Smoked, fresh from the butcher.)
  • 1 italian sausage, cut into small bits outside of the casing (I used a medium heat one, to balance the sweet of the apples. Optional, just if you want a secondary type of meat.)
  • 4 oz. of goat cheese (I chose the creamy Chevre version for this.)
  • 1 bag of premade dough (I used the garlic and herb type from Trader Joe.)
  • 1/2 cup of shredded Mozzerella (or more if you like a lot of cheese.)
  • 1/2 cup of shredded Parmesan
  • Olive Oil
  • Garlic, 3 cloves, smashed
  • Dried Oregano
  • Sea Salt
  • Pepper

For the caramelized apples:

  • 1 fresh large apple, thin slices
  • 1/2 cup of brown sugar
  • 2 table spoons of cinnamon
  • olive oil

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Spray your pizza stone or pizza tray with cooking spray or olive oil to prevent your crust from burning or sticking.  Take your premade dough out of the bag and let it rest without messing with it for 15 minutes (this lets the air get to the gluten in the flour, letting it become more pliable.) Slowly stretch your dough to the sides of the pizza stone or pan to make the full circle base for your pizza pie (I held my corners down with coffee cups to force the dough to stretch.)

Combine the finely chopped garlic cloves with the oregano, salt, pepper, and olive in a small bowl. Drizzle the garlic oil mixture over the raw dough evenly as your sauce base. Cover the crust liberally and evenly with the shredded cheese, spreading the mozz first and then the parm.

Heat up a small pan with olive oil and put your sliced apples in. Cover the apples with the cinnamon and brown sugar and let it heat up until the sugar dissolves and caramelizes. Take the apples off the heat, let them cool slightly, and then place them on the pizza.

Next layer is the meats. Cut your bacon and sausage up into small bite size pieces and arrange them evenly throughout the top of your pizza. Add small balls of the soft goat cheese, drizzle with olive oil, and pop it into the oven. Bake for about 17-22 minutes, take it out when your crust edges are browning.

Give the pizza a few minutes to chill before slicing out of the oven because the pizza stone will be VERY HOT (believe me.) Slice into thick slices and serve. (I topped mine with fresh mixed greens for a nice crunch to pair with the heartiness of the bacon and sausage.)

This pizza is a crowd pleaser for Autumn afternoons (Including my mom and boyfriend, who aren’t crazy about goat cheese.)

Enjoy with your favorite fall ale, great as a prelude to pumpkin carving.

Thanks and happy eats,

Lisa

Make It: Roasted Acorn and Butternut Squash Soup

Using up the last part of my CSA delivery is always a challenge. There it was, a weirdly shaped Acorn Squash, sitting on my kitchen, as if it was mocking me with it’s hard outer shell and culinary obscurity. What the heck was I going to do with this thing? Dealing with a squash in the kitchen is no easy feat, and it’s an underrated undertaking.

What is the best way of dealing with a veggie like this? Roasted, with olive oil and salt. Easy enough right?

I knew that I wanted to make soup with it. And I knew one small Acorn Squash wasn’t going to suffice so I bought a medium sized Butternut Squash to help balance it out.

Roasted Acorn and Butternut Squash Soup

  • 2 pounds squash, halved, seeded, and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • Olive Oil
  • 1 1/2 cups diced onion
  • 2 carrots, peeled and diced
  • 2 stalks of celery, cleaned and roughly chopped into bite size pieces
  • 3 (13 3/4-ounce) cans chicken broth (or two boxes)
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 cup light cream or heavy cream (I went with one of the small cartons of heavy for this.)
  • Sour cream, a dallop for garnish

Halve your squash, using a very sharp serrated knife and a lot of patience as it will take a few minutes to crack these bad boys open. Clean out the seeds thoroughly, using a spoon to carve out the innards and stringy bits. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees, place your squash face up on a cookie sheet and drizzle with olive oil, placing a small pad of butter in the center of seed pit to keep it moist. Bake for 40 minutes, or until a fork can go through the flesh with ease.

Dice your onion, celery, carrots, and brown them in a deep pan with olive oil. Once the onions start to caramelize the mirepoix, add your chicken stock/chicken broth to the pan. Cook for about 20 – 25 minutes, stiring frequently.

When the squash is fully baked, scrape out the warm insides of the halves directly into a food processor or high-powered blender, adding in the rest of your butter, heavy cream, and a dash of salt. Blend until smooth, adding in your chicken stock and blending again. Serve warm, with a dallop of sour cream.

This soup, although a bit calorie dense due to all of the cream and butter, is great to make ahead for a warm way to heat up the cold Autumn nights.

Enjoy!

Thanks and happy eats,

Lisa

Edible PSA: Making The Best of Your CSA

One of the blessings of living in such a culturally and culinarily diverse place is that fresh fruits and veggies can be found with relative ease. California is home to some of the most sought-after produce, which is shipped all over the world. The reason I started this blog was to document all the mouth watering ways local resources can be used, without having to step much further outside of my hometown to find memorable ingredients.

The biggest trend in cooking right now is “farm to table,” which essential translates into cutting out the middleman and eating locally grown foods to further connect communities to their land and their meals. One movement to ensure to become a member of a local CSA, or Community Supported Agriculture. CSAs are known for sourcing local seasonal fruits, veggies, and nuts and shipping directly out to members for a modest cost. For about 30 bucks, I get this huge box that usually contains an range of leafy greens, root veggies, vine veggies, berries, fruits, and other things that might be in-season that week. Depending on the size of your CSA, you can choose themes to get more of the things you enjoy cooking with such as “All Fruit” or “No Cooking Needed” or “All Veggies.” Joining a CSA is great for the local farmers, who don’t end up losing profits by having to sell to large buyers like Safeway or Whole Foods, and so they pass that savings onto you. Totally worth it if you’re trying to turn over a healthier leaf, no pun intended.

One notable downside/challenge of joining a CSA is that even though you get to choose your theme if you’re lucky, you don’t get to individually choose your box contents. Which means you often get veggies or fruits that you wouldn’t normally buy for yourself in the grocery store. One such challenge for me this month: 3 large red Beets, 1 Acorn Squash, 1 bunch of Carrots, 1 large bunch of Lacinato (aka Dinosaur) Kale, and 1 bunch of Radishes. I tried giving them away but no one would take them! So I thought to myself: Be a big girl. Find a way to make these things delicious. Expand your palette.

Know what you do with veggies that you don’t enjoy? Bake them! Sautée them with garlic! Liquify them! My biggest problem with this basket was the Beets. I mean, Beets? Red, staining, tastes-like-earthy-dirt Beets? YUCK. Every time that I’ve tried to give them a try in other preparations or in restaurants, they were cold, slimy, and tasted like I was eating a plant bed. I knew there had to be a way to make them digestible. Luckily, I have Ina Garten (aka The Barefoot Contessa) on my side. I had forgotten that I had seen a show where she roasts them and then hits them with fruity acidity of orange juice right before serving to cut some of that earthy taste, ingenious!

Roasted Beets

  • 3 red Beets, scrubbed and peeled, chopped into bite sized quarters
  • 3 tablespoons good olive oil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves, minced (or any fresh herbs you have, sage and basil work great here, too.)
  • 2 teaspoons sea salt (don’t worry about overseasoning here.)
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • Juice of 1 large orange

NOTE: Keep the beet greens at the top for a nutrient-rich easy stewing or sauteing green. It’s insane the amount of Potassium, magnesium, fiber, phosphorus, iron; vitamins A, B & C; beta-carotene, beta-cyanine; and folic acid that you get from a red Beet, which can also be found in the greens so don’t waste them! Serious gift from nature.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Remove the tops and the roots of the beets and peel each one with a vegetable peeler. (If you can’t peel them entirely, don’t sweat it. As long as they’re scrubbed thoroughly, you’re fine if some of the outer skin gets left on.) Cut the beets in 1 1/2-inch chunks. (Small beets can be halved, medium ones cut in quarters, and large beets cut in eighths.)

Place the cut beets on a baking sheet and toss with the olive oil, (I always cover my cookie sheets with tin foil for easy cleanup.) fresh herbs, sea salt, and pepper. Roast for 35 to 40 minutes, turning once or twice with a spatula, until the beets are tender. Remove from the oven and immediately toss with the orange juice. Sprinkle with additional salt and pepper and serve warm.

(And now here is where we reuse those valuable Beet greens!)

Sauteed Lacinato Kale and Beet Greens

(Generally, this technique can work for any greens you have around, including swiss chard and thicker types of spinach.)

  • 1 bunch of Kale, cleaned and separated from the stalk
  • 1 bunch of Beet greens, cleaned and separated from the stalk
  • Olive Oil (about 5 tablespoons, plus extra for cooking as needed)
  • Sea Salt
  • Pepper
  • Garlic Cloves (four or five, just smashed)
  • 1 fresh lemon

Taking a deep pan or dutch oven, heat up your olive oil on medium heat with the garlic cloves. (Stir often to prevent your garlic from burning.) After about a minute or two, just after the oil becomes fragrant, add your leafy greens, ripping them into halves. Toss the leaves gently in the hot oil (don’t be frightened if the oil is making popping sounds, that is just the water in the leaves being cooked down.) Wilting the leaves evenly, squeeze half of a fresh lemon into the pan, hitting it with some of the sea salt and pepper. Give the leaves one last toss, transfer to a platter and hit it with the juice of the other half of the lemon. Serve warm.

Roasted Carrots and Radish Halves

  • 1 bunch of fresh Carrots, scrubbed and separated from the stalks
  • 1 bunch of Radishes, scrubbed and separated from the stalks
  • Sea Salt
  • Pepper
  • Fresh herbs (any that you have around is fine)
  • Dried Oregano (Just a sprinkle.)
  • Smoked Paprika (Just a sprinkle and totally optional. Use what ya’ got.)

Heat up your oven to 400 degrees. Take a shallow cookie sheet (it is better if it has a lip on it to prevent any oil spillage in your oven.) line it with tin foil, sprinkle the bottom with olive oil. Rough chop your veggies into halves and place them on the cookie sheet, drizzling more olive oil on top, sprinkling your fresh herbs, sea salt, pepper, and smoked paprika here. Toss the veggies until fully coated and roast for about 15 – 20 minutes until done, tossing them about halfway through. Sprinkle them with just a bit more salt and serve warm.

This is a great way to prep the veggies for eating later in the week, they keep for a while in the fridge and are easy to microwave to heat up. I’m glad to say that I no longer hate beets!

I hope this fall, you discover some new ways not to hate some seasonal ingredients, too.

Thanks and happy eats,

Lisa

Make It: “Kicking that Cold fast” Chicken and Dumplings

It’s fall. The leaves are changing, the thunderstorms are starting, and my nose is running.

Time for some good, stick-to-your-ribs Chicken and Dumplings soup.

To give you some background, I wasn’t raised eating this fantastic soup. I was raised on Chicken Noodle, sometimes homemade but mainly from a packet or can. So when I got in my mind that I wanted to make Chicken and Dumplings from scratch, I wanted to do it right.

One of my favorite food bloggers, Bree Drummond aka The Pioneer Woman, came out with her adapted version of a Gourmet Magazine recipe. I further adapted it to suit me, which just shows you the chain of bastardization and recipes on the internetz. Oh, the internetz.

“Kicking that Cold fast” Chicken and Dumplings:

  • 1 stick of salted Butter
  • 2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
  • 1/2 cup All-purpose Flour
  • 1 whole Chicken, Cut Into Pieces OR 5 Chicken Leg Quarters (Precut, in a pack)
  • Salt And Pepper
  • 1/2 cup Finely Diced Carrots
  • 1/2 cup Finely Diced Celery
  • 1 whole Medium Onion, Finely Diced (I prefer red onions, adds sweetness.)
  • 1 lb super small fingerling red potatoes (any color of fingerling will do)
  • 1/2 teaspoon Ground Thyme
  • 1/4 teaspoon Turmeric
  • 1/4 teaspoon of dried Tarragon
  • 6 cups Low Sodium Chicken Broth (or I used 2 32oz. boxes)
  • 1/2 cup Apple Cider (uncarbonated, in the plastic bottle)
  • 1/2 cup Heavy Cream (weird but YUM)

Dumplings:

  • 1-1/2 cup All-purpose Flour (you can add more if you think your mix is too wet)
  • 1/2 cup Yellow Cornmeal
  • 1 Tablespoon (heaping) Baking Powder
  • 1 teaspoon Kosher Salt
  • 1-1/2 cup Half-and-half
  • 2 Tablespoons Minced Fresh Parsley (optional)
  •  Salt As Needed

NOTE: To achieve the best flavor, let the broth simmer continuously AND remember to add just a little bit more salt every step of the way. Seasonings are your friend when it comes to working with large amounts of liquids in broths or soups, especially if you opted for the low/reduced sodium chicken broth as your base.

Prep:

Sprinkle chicken pieces with salt and pepper, then dredge both sides in flour.

Melt butter in a pot over medium-high heat. In two or three batches, brown chicken on both sides and remove to a clean plate. (All depends on the size of your pot and how large your chicken pieces are.)

NOTE: I used a heavy duty dutch oven pot, which sealed the heat in and gave me a great non-stick surface to cultivate the chicken flavor. I highly recommend using a pot you’re comfortable with, because you can’t change in the middle of the process.

In the same pot, add diced onion, carrots, and celery (In case you were wondering, this infamous flavor trio is called mirepoix.) Stir and cook for 3 to 4 minutes over medium-low heat. Stir in ground thyme, turmeric, and tarragon, then pour in chicken broth and apple cider. Stir to combine, then add browned chicken. Cover pot and simmer for 20 minutes.

While chicken is simmering, make the dough for the dumplings: sift together all dry ingredients, then add half-and-half, stirring gently to combine. Set aside. (Here is where you use your best judgement if you need to add more flour OR more liquids. For best density, use new AP flour.)

Remove chicken from pot and set aside on a plate. Use two forks to remove chicken from the bone. Shred, then add chicken to the pot. Pour heavy cream into the pot and stir to combine. (Add your quartered small fingerling potatoes here. The simmering will cook them rather quickly without absorbing too much broth.)

Drop tablespoons of dumpling dough into the simmering pot. Add minced parsley if using. Cover pot halfway and continue to simmer for 15 minutes. Check seasonings; add salt if needed. Allow to sit for 10 minutes before serving.

The soup is amazing, definitely what I needed. (I had two full servings, with a total of four huge dumplings.)

Hope you enjoy it too.

Thank and happy eats,

Lisa

 

Make It: Making My Daddy Happy Lemon Meringue Pie

My dad has always had a sweet tooth. He loves sugar, candy, pie, and baked goods. But, the one sweet that seems to be above all others when it comes to pie is Lemon Meringue.  So when I offered to whip him up the sweet of his choice for Father’s Day, that’s what he chose.

When I first put my mind to make a meringue, I was a bit intimidated. First of all, I don’t have a professional culinary torch, which is kinda key to getting that mouthwatering caramelized look to the top of your meringue. However, I decided to put my trust in the classic chef’s at Better Homes & Gardens to show me the way.

Lemon Meringue Pie:

  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 3 slightly beaten egg yolks
  • 2 tablespoons butter, cut up
  • 1/2 – 2 teaspoons finely shredded lemon peel
  • 1/3 cup lemon juice
  • 3 egg whites
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 6 tablespoons sugar

Prepare Baked Pastry Crust. In a medium saucepan stir together the 1-1/2 cups sugar, the cornstarch, and flour; gradually stir in water. Bring to boiling, stirring constantly. Reduce heat; cook and stir over medium heat for 2 minutes. Remove from heat. Gradually stir about 1 cup of the hot mixture into beaten egg yolks; pour yolk mixture into remaining hot mixture in saucepan. Bring to a gentle boil; cook for 2 minutes more, stirring constantly. Remove from heat; stir in butter and shredded lemon peel. Slowly stir in 1/3 cup lemon juice. Keep filling warm while preparing the meringue.

For meringue, in a large mixing bowl beat egg whites and 1 teaspoon lemon juice with an electric mixer on medium speed about 1 minute or until soft peaks form. Gradually add 6 tablespoons sugar, beating on high speed about 4 minutes or until stiff peaks form and sugar dissolves. Pour warm filling into cooled crust. Immediately spread meringue over filling, carefully sealing to edge of crust to prevent shrinkage*. Bake in a 350 degree F. oven for 15 minutes. Cool on rack for 1 hour. Chill 3 to 6 hours before serving. Makes 8 servings.
from the test kitchen

Note: Bakers sometimes notice that their meringues “weep” after baking. The key is to spread the meringue over the pie filling while it’s still very warm.

Overall, the pie turned out beautifully  The key is to keep it cool for as long as possible to prevent it turning into mush. Meringues are very temperamental but worth it.

Thanks and happy eats,

Lisa

P.S. Blogging brought to you today by Blizzard, the blog cat.

blizzard_blogcat_1

Make It: Summer Wheel Salad (Rotelle with Onions, Cucumbers, and Herbs)

hJSbR4HItSypishoI3VfHckLO6ebOHx5 A huge part of being a creative cook isn’t necessarily coming up with your recipes out of thin air but taking one that you’ve found and making it your own with tweaks, new tastes, and additions.

I normally don’t invest in cooking and recipe magazines just because most of anything that you want to make can be found on the internet. Why waste the money on a magazine you’ll throw away when you could save that money for some high quality ingredients? Duh.

However, Martha, being the vixen that she is, seduced me into buying her June 2013 issue last week due to the promises of summer recipes and deserts; she didn’t disappoint. The issue has a bunch of easily punched out recipe-book-sized cards with fun, fresh pasta salad recipes on it for a new kick to some old favorites.

Summer Wheel Salad (Rotelle with Onions, Cucumbers, and Herbs)

  • 3 pounds Vidalia or other sweet onions, sliced crosswise into 1/2-inch-thick rounds
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper (I used Maui, but sweet red shallots can work too.)
  • 1 pound rotelle (wagon-wheel pasta)
  • 1/2 English cucumber or 2 Persian cucumbers, unpeeled, very thinly sliced crosswise (about 1 cup)
  • 2 cups packed fresh herbs, such as mint, tarragon, basil, and parsley, leaves torn into pieces if large (I skipped the tarragon, and doubled the mint. It plays nicely with the onions.)
  • 1/4 cup Champagne vinegar (I used Citrus Champagne Vinegar, it adds a nice twist.)

Note: When broiling your onions, mine finished in about half the time Martha suggested. Check them often to make sure they caramelize but don’t burn. You can check out her recipe here.

Preheat oven to broil, with rack about 8 inches below heating element. Brush a rimmed baking sheet with 1 tablespoon oil, and arrange onions on it in a single layer. Brush onions with 2 tablespoons oil; season with salt and pepper. Broil onions until golden brown on top, about 15 minutes. Flip onions and broil until golden brown on other side, 5 to 7 minutes more. Transfer to a large bowl.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of generously salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook until al dente; drain. Transfer pasta to bowl with onions. Let cool 15 minutes. Gently stir in cucumber, herbs, remaining 3 tablespoons oil, and vinegar and toss to combine. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

This tasty salad will last for up to a week, great for taking to work or a picnic. I served mine up with some lightly sautéed garlic butter shrimp for a light summery dinner.

Thanks and happy eats,

Lisa

Make It: All Veggie Three Bean Burgers

 

One major power to cooking at home is you get to control what goes into your food. This blog isn’t mean to be entirely veggie but summer just makes me think light veggietastic meals.

I’ve never had a veggie burger, house made or prepackaged, that I thought was to-die-for. Most of the time they end up being rather bland and run into the problems of either too chewy, not structured enough and end up falling apart, or dry as the desert. My goal is to make a tasty, easy, fairly inexpensive solution to all three of these problems.

Note: You can attempt this using the classic fork and mash it all together but honestly, a food processor will seriously make the process that much quicker. You can cook up a few to eat immediately but theyre great frozen for the next time you have a BBQ and you’ll never settle for Gardenburgers ever again.

All Veggie Three Bean Burgers:

  • 1 cup pink beans, soaked
  • 1 cup white beans, small or Great Northern, soaked
  • 1 cup red kidney beans, soaked
  • 1 cup quinoa, soaked and cleaned
  • 2 small red shallots, finely chopped
  • 2 eggs (for a bonding agent, optional if you’re trying to keep it all veggie.)
  • 3 cups of breadcrumbs, fresh or store bought
  • Dried Oregano
  • Dried Parsley
  • Garlic Salt
  • salt and pepper

Part one: cooking with dried beans.

Overnight Soak
Combine the beans in a large bowl or stockpot with 6-8 cups of cold water per pound of beans. Let stand for 6-8 hours or overnight. Rinse and drain the beans.

Note: In general, this recipe is very forgiving. If you like it spicy, add some peppers. If you like it drier, add more breadcrumbs. Add as many different kind of veggies as you like: such as diced sweet peppers, carrots, celery, or bean sprouts. BUT make sure that if you add wetter veggies, make sure to balance out with more breadcrumbs because if they are too wet, the patties will fall apart, and you’ll end up with a gross mess.

Drain your beans. Drain your quinoa, which you’ve fluffed in 1 can of chicken broth.  Mash them all together, making use that you get it as smooth as possible. Add in you veggies, onions, seasonings, and breadcrumbs. Add additional spice to taste. Form the mixture into balls, flaten into 2 inch thick patties, and layer between sheets of wax or parchment paper. Seal the patties in a freezer zip seal bag and freeze for at least three hours to set the patties before cooking. If frozen, the patties will last quite a while so you can make them days or weeks ahead of your next grilling party.

Once  ready to eat, grill them up at medium to high heat for just a few minutes until you get a nice crust on the outside. Top with any and all of you favorite burger dressings and enjoy. (I served mine with melted fresh mozzerella, lettuce, tomatoes, and grilled onion-garlic-mushrooms, drizzled with olive oil and balsamic vinegar.)

If you need some solid, filling protein without the fat of ground meat, I highly suggest these babies.

Thanks and happy eats,

Lisa