Marinated Maple & Orange Salad with Turnips & More!

SaladMarinated

I brought home some fresh “salad” turnips from a local market today that the lady working the stand described as “slightly sweet.” My three year-old son actually picked out this specific bunch because they were the “biggest” ones. She suggested we slice them in a salad. Two things came to mind: 1. I bet my boys will eat them sliced and 2. I can’t wait to make a salad with them tonight.

If you’d like to try it, here are the ingredients:

  • 1 Turnip (small to medium) sliced as thin as you can, then cut in half
  • Turnip greens attached to the turnip you sliced, Chopped in half
  • 1 Tomato chopped
  • 2 Red onion slices (thin)
  • 1/4 Cucumber sliced and cut in half
  • 1/4 cup Pecans toasted for a few minutes
  • 1 TB Maple syrup (the real stuff)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp cracked pepper
  • 1 tsp Orange zest (before you cut up the orange) – more orange flavor with less liquid
  • 1 Navel orange cut into pieces
  • 1 TB fresh squeezed orange (from the rest of the orange along the rind)
  • 1 TB Olive oil

Finishing directions:

  • Put all vegetables into a bowl
  • Drizzle with maple syrup
  • Drizzle with olive oil
  • Sprinkle with salt and pepper
  • Toss well with tongs
  • Sprinkle toasted pecans on top
  • Let sit for 5-10 minutes
  • Toss once more and serve
  • Optional: top with Parmesan, Manchego, Goat or Feta cheese (my wife and I both commented that the salad was great, but a little cheese would have been nice too)

I would love to hear if you try and how yours comes out!

Happy cooking,
John

Bacon, Parmesan and Green Bean Pasta

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When you need a quick pasta dish that the whole family will like, try out this recipe. It’s a one dish meal. You can serve a green salad on the side also if you want more veggies (3 out of 4 of us at that too). My boys both loved it, but who can blame them with bacon, bacon fat and spaghetti?

I used this recipe from Tasty Kitchen as a base, but tweaked it a bit. I cut the recipe in half, which was perfect for my family (2 adults and 2 small kids), but adjust it to your needs.

Ingredients:

  • Six strips of bacon
  • 2 oz. cream cheese
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese shredded
  • 1/4 cup of whole milk (or cream)
  • 1 cup of frozen cut green beans
  • 1/2 yellow or sweet onion diced
  • 3 garlic cloves minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 egg
  • 8 oz. spaghetti (or other pasta)
  • 6 sun-dried tomatoes chopped (optional topping)

Directions:

  1. In a skillet with lid (contains splatters), fry the bacon. When done, remove bacon onto paper towel. Leave bacon fat in pan (this is the good stuff).
  2. Sautee onion and garlic in bacon fat for three minutes, and then add in green beans. Cover and cook for about 8 minutes. Stir periodically, and cook until beans are done to your liking.
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  3. Cook the pasta in boiling salted water until done (according to package instructions).
  4. Place milk (or cream) and cream cheese in a small saucepan. Heat over low heat until cream cheese is melted, and whisk until smooth. Remove from heat. Add the parmesan cheese, egg, and pepper. Whisk until blended.
  5. Drain pasta (reserving 1/4 cup of hot water) and return to pot. Immediately add the white sauce and toss to coat. The hot pasta will cook the egg. Dump pasta mixture and crumbled bacon into the pan with the veggies.  Add the reserved pasta water to loosen the sauce.
  6. Serve!
    (This is an easy dish for your kids to use tongs and serve themselves getting some protein, pasta and veggies in one grab)

4 Things That Helped Me Cook Better Stir-Fry

wok

Want to cook stir-fry like the kind you get at a typical Chinese restaurant? You can. Just a few things to keep in mind before you start.

1. Get a wok. Now not just any wok will do. You can spend a lot of money on one, get a cast-iron or non-stick… but none of those are needed. The cast-iron ones are too heavy to handle once they’re hot and the non-stick ones will never get hot enough to actually sear the food. You want a carbon steel wok. You can find one online or in a store for as little as $14.99 and it will do the job! Just read the instructions first. You’ll spend about an hour after you first get your wok to season it with heat and oil. Then you’re set.

2. Clean your wok with oil and salt. Pour about a tablespoon of canola oil in the wok and sprinkle in some kosher salt. It will resemble a paste. Then scrub it with a paper towel. Don’t ever use soap to clean it. Rub out the salt but leave some of the oil, which helps it develop a great coating.

3. Let the wok heat up well before cooking. Add some oil. [good fat is not bad]

4. Don’t overcrowd the pan. Put too much meat or vegetables in the pan at once and you will steam them instead of searing them.

Here’s a couple of bonus tips: I always prefer using fresh veggies to stir-fry. Frozen will work, but it helps to steam them first before putting in the wok. Don’t be afraid to pick up a bottle of pre-made stir-fry sauce from the grocery store. They really work and taste pretty good. Once you get the hang of the cooking part, then experiment with different sauce recipes.

Knives (Guest Post)

Every meal that I prepare begins in the same place, at the cutting board. I love to prep the meal by cutting, chopping, and dicing all the ingredients I will need before I ever turn on the oven or stove. The cooking process is so much smoother and faster when you don’t have to stop and chop veggies between steps.

Morimoto's Knives

I place great stock in the knives that I use and take great care of them. Get a good knife, treat it properly, and it will have a very long life. If you don’t treat your knives well, it doesn’t matter what quality of knife you buy, they will not last you. Top of the line knives can dull, pit, or rust from misuse (even stainless steel, don’t be fooled). So, if you’re looking for ways to care for your knives, here are a few tips from my kitchen to yours.

First, make sure you have an appropriate cutting board. Wood or plastic are the two best options out there as they are softer, providing more give against your knife and therefore doing less damage to the sharpened blade. If you have a board made out of a hard surface with no give (glass, marble, stone), get rid of it! Contact with a cutting board is the most frequent cause of a dull blade.

Even if you are careful about your blade and cutting surface, your knife will dull in time. You will need to sharpen your blade with some regularity as your knives begin to dull. I cannot recommend a specific timeline for this as everyone uses their knives with different levels of regularity. The picture below shows an extreme example of wear on a knife. The knives are from Iron Chef Morimoto’s restaurant. The top knife is new and the bottom is one that has been used for three years.

If you notice your knife start to dull or if you feel yourself using more force to cut an object, please make sure and sharpen your knife (Many knife companies will even sharpen your knives for you if you don’t feel comfortable doing this yourself!).

Finally, washing and storing your knives are important. NEVER wash your knives in the dishwasher. The heat and abrasive chemicals will damage your knives faster than any other method. Instead, hand wash your knives directly after each use with warm water, mild dish soap, and a soft sponge. Dry them directly after and store them. store them either in a drawer or a knife block. If you store them in a drawer, it is best to leave them in their sheath. When using a sheath, though, make sure it is not leather, as leather will hold moisture which can pit your blade. Storing your knives in a knife block is the best option, and I tend to recommend standard wooden knife blocks.

If you follow these simple steps to caring for your knives, your knife set should last you a long time.

Happy chopping!
Danny Bennett

3 Steps to Easily Make Your Own Salads (Restaurant Quality)

For some reason it always seems fun to get an interesting salad from a restaurant. They use ingredients I haven’t thought of or have on hand normally. They make me think that what they’ve done must be too difficult to do on my own. 

Thankfully creating restaurant quality salads is easier than replicating steaks, fish and so on. 
Below I’ve listed some ideas for ingredients. Feel free to add or subtract anything you’d like. That’s the best part about salads. You can add whatever you want to them!

1. Start here:

  • Keep some handy ingredients in your pantry and fridge
  • Make or buy some tasty salad dressings
  • Take 5 minutes or less and prepare your salad

2. Ingredients I like to have around:

  • Canned beans: white beans, black beans, garbanzo beans, etc.
  • Cheeses: Parmesan, goat, feta, cheddar, blue
  • Greens: romaine, iceberg, spinach, butter lettuces
  • Nuts and seeds: walnuts, pine nuts, sliced almonds, pecans, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds
  • Meats: salami, pepperoni, ham, turkey
  • Veggies: cucumber, carrots, tomatoes, red cabbage, sweet onion, red onion, peppers, 
  • Fruits: Dried cranberries, raisins, fresh peaches, blueberries, strawberries
  • Olives (I prefer jarred olives): green, kalamata, Greek
  • My favorite dressings: Balsamic Viniagrette (this one from Emeril is super easy and tasty!), and my newest favorite is a creamy basil dressing I made: bunch of fresh basil chopped, 1/4 cup mayonnaise, 1/4 cup full fat Greek yogurt, 2 tsp. lemon juice, pinch of salt and pepper to taste, 2 cloves fresh minced garlic. Mix all ingredients together in bowl or jar and spoon onto your salad. It’s thick!

3. Create:

  • Pick a few of the different ingredients that you have on hand and put them together. I usually bring the dressing along in a separate container if bringing it to work.
  • Here are some of my favorite combos:
    • romaine, red onion, peaches, pecans, cucumbers, tomatoes, goat cheese, balsamic dressing
    • iceberg, salami, green olives, feta cheese, tomatoes garbanzo beans, balsamic dressing
    • romaine, red cabbage, cheddar cheese, tomatoes, black beans, sweet onion, cucumbers, carrot (shredded), tortilla chips

Great ideas from other blogs / websites:

Have a favorite salad blend? Let me know in the comments!

My Favorite “Breads” to Bake

About a year and a half ago I got a bread machine from my mom for Christmas. That began my new passion for making homemade breads. Now when I say breads, I mean more than just your basic loaf. I’m going to highlight a few of my favorites today. There are some that can be done in as little as 30 minutes, and others that proof over night. The best part with each is that you control the ingredients. All have less than eight ingredients, which is by far less than most grocery store breads.

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Super-Soft Whole Grain Sandwich Bread
This is my go to bread to make. We make toast and sandwiches with it. Start it the night before and when you get up, let your bread machine do the rest! I adapted a recipe from Peas and Thank You to work in my bread machine. Here’s the recipe.IMG_5125

Naan Bread (Indian style flat bread)

This stuff is great. It can be eaten by itself, used to dip into hummus, make a wrap or even as a pizza crust. Give yourself just over an hour for this one. No oven needed. You make it in a cast-iron skillet. This recipe from Budget Bytes is so tasty!

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Pizza Dough (Quick!)
If you keep a few things on hand,  you can make homemade pizza in as much time as it takes to call and order it. I always have a jar of sauce, mozzarella cheese and pepperoni (only way my boys eat it) around. I found this recipe from Center Cut Cook that is easy and great! It only takes yeast, water, salt, olive oil, honey and four.

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Dutch Oven Crusty Bread
This stuff tastes like you just sat down at a really good Italian restaurant. You won’t believe you created this with four ingredients. Flour, water, salt and yeast is all it takes and a lot of hours sitting on the counter. This is another overnight recipe. You don’t even have to knead it. Just stir with a wooden spoon. Here’s a simple recipe from Alaska From Scratch that is great!

 

HAPPY BAKING! And…In case you’re wondering, I buy only King Arthur brand flours. You can get them at most local grocery stores and I believe they’re worth the small extra cost.

Menu for the Week! June 1

 

 

 

 

Our discussion this morning with friends centered around finding some balance amongst the everyday things in life. One way that we’ve found some balance in our home is by doing some meal planning. It takes a little bit of time over the weekend, but the payoff during the week makes it well worth it. Here’s our menu for this week:

Monday:

  • Pan-Fried Porkchopsthis one from the Pioneer Woman. Can’t wait to try it!
  • Mashed Potatoes – Make your favorite recipe, or pick up the refrigerated kind (just nothing boxed).
  • Roasted Cauliflowerthis one from Food Network is so good and easy! Even if you think you don’t like cauliflower I think you’ll like this.
  • Sliced Tomatoes – They’re in season right now and add great color to your plate.

Tuesday:

  • Mexican Meatball Street Tacos – Don’t these just sound good? Looking forward to Tuesday. Here’s the recipe.
  • Mexican Three Bean Salad – This is great and you pretty much just dump some cans of beans and a few other things together, then mix. Here’s the recipe.
  • Corn – Take some frozen and saute it in some butter until lightly browned. If you really want to jazz it up add a little garlic and chopped red pepper.

Wednesday:

  • Take-out night or Leftovers

Thursday:

  • Grilled Chicken with Lemon Basil Pasta – Another tasty dish from the Pioneer Woman.
  • Salad
  • Bread – Think you can’t make homemade bread? Thing again! Baguettes in 30 minutes. Trust me. These guys are easy and so tasty. You will love the smell in your house. Here’s the recipe with pictures and video.

Friday:

  •  Pizza Night – make it at home and you can control the ingredients. There are some really easy crust recipes like this one, or you can buy the dough ready made (not the canned stuff). The trick for pizza is to pre-bake the crust until just golden, add just enough sauce (but not covered in thick sauce), cover in cheese (but still leaving room that you can see through the cheese to the sauce), then the toppings. If you put a lot of veggies on it, consider baking them first to remove some moisture so you don’t get soggy pizza.
  • Veggie Sticks

BBQ Chicken Pizza – Homemade Quick!

pizza!

I like pizza, my wife likes pizza and my boys like pizza, which means we eat pizza at least once a week. My oldest son declared about a month ago that Friday night is pizza night. That holds true most weeks, but sometimes we make it over the weekend. Yes I just said make it. You’re probably thinking to yourself… I don’t have time for that. Try it though, and you’ll be hooked.

You see, when you make it yourself, you control what goes into it. (The chains don’t seem to care)

Tonight I made a BBQ chicken pizza for my wife and I, and a pepperoni pan pizza for the boys (sorry I forget to get a photo of that one). I started with the same dough recipe but baked them differently. Here are the recipes:

Start with homemade Pizza Dough Quick (You could always pick up some dough from the Publix bakery and let it rise, but this is easy):

  • 2 1/2 teaspoons rapid rise yeast (1 packet)
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

I made the two recipes below from one crust recipe. For a really thick crust, just make one pizza out of the homemade dough recipe.

Crust Directions for hand tossed / thin crust flavor:

  • In a large bowl, combine water with honey and then add yeast and stir until the yeast is dissolved (stir lightly).
  • Add in flour, salt, and olive oil and use a wooden spoon to combine.
  • Once the ingredients are well combined with the spoon, use your hands to knead the dough for a few minutes.
  • Form the dough into a ball, and let it rest for 10 minutes.
  • Pre-heat your oven to 450 degrees and spray a 16 inch pizza pan with non-stick cooking spray (or use pizza stone)
  • Roll the dough out into a 16 inch circle. Roll the edges of the dough.
  • Combine 2 tablespoons olive oil with Italian seasoning and brush the entire crust with this mixture.
  • Place the crust in the oven for 8 minutes.
  • Remove from the oven and add sauce, cheese, and toppings.
  • Return the pizza to the oven for 10-12 minutes, or until the crust is crispy and the cheese is melted.
  • Cut into slices and enjoy!

BBQ Chicken Pizza Ingredients / Toppings:

  • 1/2 pound chicken cutlets. Brush a little bbq sauce on them (I used Trader Joe’s) and broil for ten minutes total (or less, just keep an eye on them). Once done, wrap up in foil to let the juices settle in. Then chop into chunks.
  • 1 cup mozzarella cheese.
  • 3/4 cup cheddar cheese.
  • BBQ Sauce (I used Trader Joe’s).
  • 1/4 cup sliced red onions.
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro.

For a Pan Pizza:

  • Use a 9×13 inch metal baking pan and grease it with olive or canola oil.
  • After letting your dough rise, press it out into the pan. If needed, let it rest for a few minutes, then continue to press out to the edges, being careful not to tear or create holes in the crust.
  • Let sit in the pan for 10 minutes, then brush a little olive oil mixture onto it.
  • Place in the oven for 8 minutes.
  • Remove from the oven and add sauce (I used Muir Glen brand in the can), cheese, and toppings (my boys only eat pepperoni pizza).
  • Return the pizza to the oven for 10-12 minutes, or until the crust is crispy and the cheese is melted.
  • Cut into slices and enjoy! (You won’t need Pizza Hut again!)

 

Chorizo Corn Bread

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This corn bread can be a great side item or a main in and of itself! We enjoyed it with a side of braised brussels sprouts and green peas. I adapted the corn bread part of the recipe from the Pioneer Woman, but tweaked it. You could easily make it gluten by substituting gluten-free flour for the AP flour.

Ingredients:

  • 1 package fresh chorizo sausage (not the hard dried kind)
  • 1 medium onion diced
  • 1 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup milk (whole is best)
  • 1 whole egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 tablespoons plus 1 tablespoons coconut oil

Directions:

  • Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.
  • Combine the cornmeal, flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl. Stir together.
  • Measure the buttermilk and milk into a measuring cup and add the egg. Stir together with a fork. Add the baking soda and stir.
  • Pour the milk mixture into the dry ingredients. Stir with a fork until combined.
  • In a small bowl, melt 2 tablespoons coconut oil in the microwave (not too hot). Slowly add the melted shortening to the batter, stirring until just combined.
  • Sautee onion and chorizo in a cast-iron skillet breaking up meat into small pieces. Cook until lightly browned.
  • In the cast-iron skillet, melt the remaining 1 tablespoon of shortening with chorizo and onion mixture. Pour the batter into the hot skillet. (The batter should sizzle.) Spread to even out the surface. Cook on the stovetop for 1 minute, and then transfer to the oven and bake until golden brown, about 20 minutes. The edges should be crispy! Test with a toothpick in the middle for doneness.
  • Cut and enjoy!

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Tips for Better Pancakes

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Here are my top two tips for pancakes no matter what recipe you use (though I have some favorites):

– Cook them in a cast-iron skillet. Nothing else gives you the same golden brown, crisp outside like at a restaurant. Make sure you let your pan heat up long enough and don’t cook higher than medium.

– Let your batter sit before cooking. After you mix together the dry and wet ingredients (never over mix), let the batter sit for about 10 minutes.

I’ll share some favorite pancake recipes and ingredients in another post, but this will get you started. Pancakes are easy and tasty to make at home!