Monday, March 31, 2014

How to Make Coconut Milk

So, years ago on the blog I did a few "how to" posts.  There weren't very many and it didn't last long.  Teaching people how to do something, especially when it comes to cooking and food, is a real passion of mine.

We got a coconut in our CSA basket a few weeks ago and my girls would not stop asking me when we could open it and make coconut milk.  I was thrilled at their enthusiasm and couldn't wait either to have some fun with them.  

Making coconut milk is a relatively easy process, although some steps are more labor intensive than others.  However, you not only come away with fresh delicious coconut milk, you also have the coconut water and the coconut flesh that you can use in other things.  So you get a lot of bang for your buck here as far as I'm concerned.  

How To Make Coconut Milk
what you need:
1 or 2 coconuts (If you use young coconuts you can drink the water, it won't be bitter like from more mature coconuts)
corkscrew bottle opener
Light tea towel
vegetable peeler
warm water (below 115 degrees if you want it raw)
cheesecloth or nut milk bag

1.  First, grab your coconut and find the dark indentations on the top.  Use the corkscrew bottle opener in one of the indentations and drill a hole.  (Alternately you can pound a clean screwdriver with a hammer to make a hole.  Just make sure it's wide enough that the liquid doesn't stay trapped in.) Drain all the coconut water out of the hole into a bowl.  Feel free to save it for smoothies or even drink as electrolyte replacement after a workout. Fresh coconut water will last about a week in the fridge.

2.  Next, whack it a few times with the back of a knife or a hammer and get it to split enough to pry it open. Once it is open, you can either use a knife to get the flesh out or flip it over and tap it out with the hammer.


3. Next, you'll want to get your vegetable peeler out and peel the skin off the coconut flesh. Hopefully you won't have too many small pieces so it doesn't take too long. 

4. Give the coconut a rough chop and throw it into a blender with 2 cups warm water per coconut. Blend it up and let it run a few minutes until it makes a slurry.

5. Strain the slurry through a nut milk bag or over a few layers of cheesecloth. Squeeze out any extra liquid.  Fresh coconut milk will last 2-3 days in the fridge.  The fat will separate and rise to the top as it sits.  Just give it a shake before using it.

*The remaining pulp can be made into coconut flour. Place in a dehydrator at 115 degrees until dry, then put it in a blender to grind until fine. Keep in an airtight container in the pantry or store in a freezer for longer term storage.  Use in any recipe calling for coconut flour.

*If you don't want to dehydrate the pulp, place it in the fridge and use within 2-3 days or in the freezer for up to a few months.  You can use the pulp in homemade granola, cookies, muffins or other baked goods.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Ina Garten's Winter Minestrone

Now I realize that we have just entered into what is now officially spring and here I am posting about soup.  But spring in Utah is CRAZY!  You never know what you're going to get any given day.  And seriously the weather can change so quickly.  When I was living in Logan, many years ago, I remember it SNOWING on June 6th!!  That's practically summer.  We had a garden that year and I remember frantically going down to cover all the plants as quickly as we could so they wouldn't freeze and die.  We get it all this season, wind (and lots of it), rain, sun, snow and just about anything else. So, I'm not counting anything out just yet.

I'm a huge Ina Garten fan.  She is so classic and classy and she's got impeccable taste.  I trust any recipe of hers.  When I stumbled upon this recipe I immediately wanted to make it and knew I wouldn't have to tweak a thing to get the right taste.  And I was right.  Spot on.  If you think soup is boring or flavorless, you're going to be WOWed by this soup.  It has a very rich hearty taste and the fresh spinach and pesto at the end really finish it nicely.

Don't give up on soup just yet. We've still got plenty of chilly spring days that nothing but a warm bowl of soup can remedy.

Ina Garten's Winter Minestrone
serves 8-10 generously

good olive oil
4 oz pancetta (I had some diced ham in the freezer so I just used that)
1 1/2 cups yellow onion, finely diced
2 cups  (1/2-inch) diced carrots (about 3)
2 cups (1/2-inch) diced celery (about 3 stalks)
2 1/2 cups (1/2-inch) peeled diced butternut squash
1 1/2 Tbsp. minced garlic, about 4 cloves
1 tsp. dried thyme
28-oz. diced tomatoes
8 cups chicken stock
1/2 cup white cooking wine
1 bay leaf
Kosher salt
fresh ground black pepper
1 15-oz can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
1 cup small pasta shapes, such as tubetti or ditalini
8-10 oz. fresh baby spinach leaves, roughly chopped
2 Tbsp. basil pesto

In a large heavy pot or Dutch oven, heat a drizzle of olive oil over medium high heat.  Add pancetta (or ham) and cook until slightly browned.  Remove to a plate.  Add another drizzle or two of olive oil (1-2 Tbsp.) then add onions, carrots, celery, squash, garlic  and thyme  and cook about 8-10 minutes, until the vegetables begin to soften.  (I like to cook my onions about 8-10 minutes before the rest of the veggies so they are good and caramelized.)

Add tomatoes, wine, bay leaf, chicken stock 1 tablespoon kosher salt and 1 1/2 teaspoons fresh ground black pepper.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer and let cook, uncovered for 25-30 minutes, until vegetables are tender.

Meanwhile, in a separate pot, cook pasta according to package directions.  Drain, rinse and set aside.

When soup is ready, remove from heat, remove bay leaf and add the pasta, beans and spinach leaves.  Toss like a salad to mix in spinach leaves and let it sit until they begin to wilt. Stir in pesto and taste for seasoning.  Add more salt and broth as necessary.

Ladle soup into large bowls and serve warm.

SOURCE: Ina Garten

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Menu Plan Monday

It's officially spring!!  I can't even convey how incredibly excited I am that winter is FINALLY over!  After being sick and cooped up for like three months straight, I'm so excited to see the sun and just be outside. My girls are pretty stoked about the nicer weather too.  They were outside at the park for like 4 hours straight yesterday! Can't say I didn't enjoy the nice quiet afternoon, it was great.

This week's menu is full of quick and easy favorites.  I'm continuing to gather crock pot recipes for my Sunday dinners and this week's looks great.

Weekly Menu March 24-30
Easy Pad Thai with Chicken

Pasta with Red Pepper Sauce
Italian Salad

The Perfect Hamburger, Homemade Buns
leftover salad
steak fries

Chili-Lime Taquitos
Shredded Slaw
fresh fruit

Pizza with Blue Cheese, Balsamic and Cherry Tomatoes


Crockpot Pesto Ranch Chick Thighs
Mashed Potatoes
Strawberry Spinach Salad with Poppy Seed Dressing

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Kalua Pork

Out of all the kitchen tools and gadgets I have, my crockpot is one of the most severely underused that I have.  I don't know why I use it so little, most of the time it just doesn't even cross my mind.  But I know many people use it tons and and  love it.

In a few months time my crock pot is going to me by best friend on the weekends and I need to get reacquainted with it.  You see our church meetings on Sundays are soon going to be letting out at 6pm!!  So LATE! My kids go to bed early (most of the time) so having dinner just about ready when we get home is going to be key.  So between now and then I'm going to have to start gathering recipes that we can use for those late nights.  It's either that or eat pancakes....which isn't entirely all that bad either.

I've had this recipe in my notebook for probably 6 years and made it a time or two.  (As far as giving credit for the recipe, I'm not sure there is anyone in particular because the recipe is everywhere on the internet.)  We just love it.  Not only is it the easiest thing to throw together, with a whopping 3 ingredients, but the flavor is delicious!  My husband and kids like to call it kalua pig just to say they're eating pig.  Pork, pig, whatever. It's still yum.  We just throw the pork on slider buns, with or without the cabbage,  and serve it with some fresh fruit and veggies.  Quick and easy and super tasty.

Kalua Pork and Cabbage
3 lb.  pork shoulder roast
1 1/2 Tbsp. liquid smoke
2 Tbsp. coarse sea salt

1/2 head green cabbage, shredded

Place roast in crockpot and rub it down with the liquid smoke and sea salt.  Turn it on low and let it cook a good 8-12 hours. For larger roasts, err on the longer cook time, even up to 14-16 hours. Overnight is great.  Don't add additional liquid, the fat from the pork will be enough.  When finished cooking, cool and shred with two forks.  Serve warm, on buns or over cooked rice.

To make the cabbage, take a few tablespoons of the liquid from the crockpot and add it to a frying pan.  Heat over medium high heat.  Add cabbage and saute until crisp-tender.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Marsala Chicken Mushroom and Barley Stew

Mmmmm....MAR.....SA.......LA......! Love that word.  Love the flavor even more.  I swoon at dishes that are infused with marsala.  Every time I see a recipe for Chicken Marsala, I think to myself, I'm going to make that "FOR REAL" this time. And then, of course, it gets put off until I completely forget about it...again.

I had Chicken Marsala once at the Olive Garden a very looooong time ago and I completely fell in love with it. Tried to make it at home a time or two and it didn't  really seem to fit the bill. But that was also a very long time ago.  My skills have much improved since then.  I haven't come back to it since but I still love to reminisce about how much I loved that dish back then. Granted if I went back today and ate there again, I doubt I would be as enamored with the dish as I once was (we've kind of sworn off OG).

Anyway, this stew is kind of a mix between one of my favorite dishes, Chicken Marsala, and one of my husband's favorite dishes, Mushroom Barley Soup.  It all came about on a cold and rainy day, perfect day for soup if you ask me.  I wasn't  exactly sure how the two dishes would come together but it turned out to be a winner. My girls even gobbled it up and that doesn't happen much.

Marsala Chicken Mushroom and Barley Stew
6 boneless skinless chicken thighs
olive oil
1/2 onion, diced
8 oz cremini mushrooms, chopped
2 cloves garlic
1 cup marsala cooking wine
4 cups chicken broth
1 tsp. dried basil
1 tsp. sea salt
1/2 tsp. fresh ground black pepper
1 cup quick cooking barley
fresh herbs for garnish, such as basil, or parsley

In a large pot, heat a couple drizzles of olive oil over medium high heat.  Add chicken thighs and brown on each side; about 2 minutes per side.  Work in batches if your pot is not big enough to hold all of the thighs at once.  Remove chicken to a platter.  Reduce heat to medium.  Add another drizzle of oil, if necessary, and add onions and mushrooms to the pot.  Cook until onions are translucent and tender.  Add garlic and cook another minute.  Add chicken back in, then add wine, broth, dried basil, salt and pepper.  Reduce heat to a simmer, cover and cook 10 minutes.  Add barley and cook another 15 minutes.

Ladle warm soup into bowls, garnish with fresh herbs and serve.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Easy No-Cook Pizza Sauce

I am eternally grateful to my friend Carrie for introducing me to this pizza sauce.  We have regular pizza nights around here so I want something that tastes GOOD if I'm going to be eating it over and over! I have used this easy sauce a TON and still do on occasion, but I just love this one a little more.  Plus it has fresh basil, need I say more?  I think not.  I love that this sauce has the ease of opening up a couple cans and tossing in some herbs but still has that fresh taste to it.  This is my favorite, it'll be yours too.

Easy No-Cook Pizza Sauce
1 14-oz can diced tomatoes
1 6 oz- can tomato paste
2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 tsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp. fresh oregano (or 2 tsp. dried)
8 large basil leaves (or 2 tsp. dried)

Place all ingredients in a blender and puree until smooth.

Store leftovers in the refrigerator.  I like to divide mine up into small containers and freeze it for the next time we make pizza.

SOURCE: Carrie's Creative Kitchen

Monday, March 10, 2014

Grilled Citrus Chicken

What is your favorite thing to do on vacation?  Don't laugh but mine is to watch Food Network since we don't have cable.  We even sat and watched it on our honeymoon because back then we didn't even have TV! No Netflix, no HULU, nothing.  The last time we stayed in a hotel it wasn't really a vacation, it was actually a funeral, but we were in a hotel nonetheless and it had cable and a pool and we were all pretty thrilled to be out of our element for just a little bit.

While we didn't actually spend much time in the hotel I was able to catch a few glimpses of one of Guy Fieri's shows while I was getting ready. He was making citrus chicken and it looked so delicious with lots of fresh herbs and citrus juice and zest.  I couldn't wait to get home and make a go of it with my own twist. 

I thought of my dad and my husband while making this because they have the same complaint about eating a big piece of meat, particularly chicken; there's not much flavor.  So, I was bound and determined to make it right and get bursting flavor all throughout it.  I think I scored pretty well, hubby liked it!  The key is to use chicken thighs and give it enough time to marinate.  With spring just around the corner and grilling season upon us, you'll want to give this a try.

Grilled Citrus Chicken
for the marinade:
6 bone-in chicken thighs, skins removed
juice and zest of 1 orange
juice of 1 lemon
juice of 1 lime
1 clove garlic, minced
2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 Tbsp. fresh basil, chopped
2 Tbsp. fresh mint, chopped
1 Tbsp. minced onion
1 Tbsp. white balsamic vinegar
1/2 tsp. salt
few cracks of fresh ground black pepper

for the glaze:
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 Tbsp. minced onion
1 tsp. fresh ginger, grated or minced
1 Tbsp. white balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup jalapeno jelly
1/4 cup sweet chili sauce
reserved marinade

In a mixing bowl, combine all marinade ingredients, except chicken.  Whisk together.  Pour into a gallon ziploc bag, add chicken and refrigerate about 6-8 hours, up to overnight.

Remove chicken from marinade, reserving remaining marinade for glaze.

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in small saucepan over medium-high heat.  Add onion and ginger and saute about 2-3 minute.  Add remaining ingredients and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and let simmer 5-10 minutes.  Depending on how thick your jelly is will help you determine cook time.  Mine was homemade and pretty thick so I didn't simmer it long.  If it is thinner, opt for the longer cook time.

Preheat outdoor grill.  Lay chicken on grill and baste with glaze.  Cook about 6 minutes.  Flip, baste other side and cook another 6-7 minutes.  Remove chicken from grill and allow to rest at least 5 minutes before serving. Serve warm.

SOURCE: Adapted from Guy Fieri

Friday, March 7, 2014

Orange Ricotta Muffins

I'm always up for making something tasty for breakfast.  We haven't had cold cereal in so long when I actually do buy it my kids won't even eat it.  True story, when I was sick these past few months, I broke down and actually bought Lucky Charms because I had no energy for anything and I could really care less what everyone ate.  Well, it sat in my pantry unopened, uneaten.  My husband ended up eating it.

My husband is not really a breakfast eater, plus he leaves so early in the morning anyway, he probably doesn't care much that me misses out.  The rest of us like our warm muffins, pancakes, oatmeal, eggs, etc. and I enjoy making it. 

I had some leftover ricotta in the fridge and hated to let it go to waste so I thought these muffins would be perfect to make. Plus, I absolutely love orange and chocolate together.  The muffins were delicious and my kids inhaled them.  I think there was only one left the next day and my daughter took it to school in her lunchbox.

Chocolate Chip Orange Ricotta Muffins
2 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup unrefined sugar (such as sucanat)
1/4 cup coconut oil (or butter), melted
1 egg
1 cup ricotta cheese, full fat
1 tsp. vanilla
zest and juice of an orange
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

In a mixing bowl combine sugar and orange zest.  Use a spatula to mix it together, smashing it up against the side of the bowl to work out the oil.  Add in egg, ricotta, vanilla, orange juice and stir.  Add coconut oil and whisk until well-incorporated.  Add dry ingredients and stir until just combined.  Fold in chocolate chips.

Line muffin tin with paper liners and divide batter evenly between the wells.  Bake for 12-15 minutes or until lightly golden.  Let cool a few minutes in the pan, then cool completely on a wire rack.

SOURCE: Slightly Adapted from Two Peas and Their Pod

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Veggie Frittata

I really hope Mother Nature isn't fooling us because it seems so hard to believe we've had such nice, warm weather the past week or so.  The end of February, c'mon, seems too good to be true.  I'm just waiting for it to turn again before it's here to stay.  Utah weather is kind of unpredictable, so I totally wouldn't be surprised.  However, I'll take any warm weather that comes our way!  I spent the last three months with a miserable sinus infection, which has finally cleared up, YAY!  I'm feeling like my old self again.

Savory breakfasts are my husband's favorite.  Too bad he's not home for breakfast more often because he doesn't have a chance to enjoy them much.  This morning I was actually craving something savory for breakfast and knew this would be right up his alley.  I usually just do eggs and toast, when I go that route. They are simple and quick, but I wanted a little more.  So, I decided to empty out my fridge of the last remaining veggies and fresh herbs before I went grocery shopping for the week.  I also tend to pick up random cuts of cheese at the deli so it was a good way to use that up as well. 

I loved everything about this frittata; the flavors, the brilliant colors and all that VEG! Frittatas are highly customizable so if you have different veggies on hand or different cheese, no prob!  Just throw it in there.  This makes for a nice weekend breakfast or Sunday brunch with family.

Veggie Frittata
1/2 onion, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic
1/2 lb. fresh asparagus, chopped into 1-inch pieces
1 large orange or yellow bell pepper, chopped into 1-inch pieces
1 large roma tomato, diced
1 heaping cup baby spinach, chopped
2 Tbsp. fresh basil, chopped
6 large eggs
1/2 cup whole milk, half and half, or cream
1 cup sharp white cheddar, shredded
1/2-3/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. fresh cracked black pepper
Parmesan cheese

Heat a large oven safe frying pan over medium high heat.  Reduce heat to medium to medium low, drizzle a good bit of olive oil and add sliced onion.  Let saute until they start to caramelize, about 7-10 minutes.  Add garlic, asparagus, and bell pepper.  Add a pinch of water if necessary if pan become too dry.  Saute 2-3 minutes.

Meanwhile, combine eggs, milk, cheese salt and pepper in a mixing bowl and whisk.

Make sure any added water has just about evaporated and add tomatoes and spinach and basil.  Then pour egg mixture over the top of everything.  You may need to jiggle some of the veggies back down.  Reduce heat to low, cover and cook 8-10 minutes, or until eggs are almost set. 

Turn on broiler.  Remove lid from frying pan.  Finely shred some Parmesan cheese over the top, if desired, and place under the broiler for about 3-4 minutes.  Keep an eye on it!  Remove from oven-DON'T FORGET TO USE AN OVEN MITT TO GRAB THE HANDLE, IT WILL BE HOT! Loosen edges of frittata and slide it onto a serving platter.  Serve warm.

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