Simple Tomato Sauce

I remembered this recipe recently that I had from my poor college days. It was cheap and fairly fast but mostly good and nutritious way to eat my noodles. Depending on what spices I put it in, it could be a zesty pizza sauce or a tomato base for various pasta dishes. This one is so simple. Only tools needed are a pot and if you like, an emersion blender (though I didn’t have this when I was in college). When you don’t start with a pre made tomato sauce, it’s a little surprising how much salt is required.

1 Tbsp olive oil

5 ripe roma tomatoes

1 large onion

5 cloves garlic

Italian seasoning

salt and pepper to taste

Optional: Cream, chili powder

Chop all your vegetables. If you’re using an emersion blender then you don’t need to chop finely. Pour some olive oil in a pot before adding vegetables on medium heat. Stir periodically to ensure even cooking. Once the onions are tender and translucent, I blend. Add Italian seasoning and salt and pepper to taste, it may take a little more salt but you’re starting with an unsalted base unlike pre made sauces in jars. I will admit, it won’t be a pretty red color but it’s a fresh and light sauce. For a little zestier flavor, you can add a little chili powder, it gives a milder heat without being over powering. A little goes a long way. Also, if you want to make it creamy, I add 2 Tbsp of cream right before you serve since cream has a tendency to burn.

If you want your sauce to be more tomato-y and red like traditional sauce double the tomatoes. I like the flavor of this one more than wanting that pretty red color.

If you want to be Super Healthy! I make this with spaghetti squash with some mushrooms and broccoli. Happy Cooking!

Best shredded chicken

5 chicken breasts, skinned and trimmed

5-7 large garlic cloves

1 Tbsp salt

Water

Place chicken breast in a large pot, stock pot if you’ve got one

Cover chicken with water (an inch above chicken)

Put in garlic and salt. Boil

When water is reduced to half, remove chicken and chop into four pieces width wise. Chicken should be easy to shred

Remove all but half a cup of the boiling water. Return chicken to pot and stir to shred the chicken

Easy hot water pie crust

Long ago there was a time of failed pie crusts that hurt my ego and… well… my feelings. Sadly, I did not realize that the rough pastry crust that is commonly used for pies isnt the only option. Enter in the wonderfully easy hot water crust. It’s stable, EASY, and can be used immediately without chilling. This crust is so great, you can even patch it! Yeah!!! Crazy! The best thing is you end up with a tasty, flakey but sturdy pie crust. This is a common method used in Britain that for whatever reason didn’t quite catch on here. We use this method often as an emergency dinner to use up left overs and I didn’t prepare pie crust beforehand. It’s the best way to make hand pies or pasties.

2 1/2 cups all purpose flour

10 Tbsp unsalted butter

2 tsp salt

3/4 cup boiling water

Mix salt and flour to integrate. Blend in butter. (I don’t worry about keeping the butter chilled as it will be melted down with the water) pour all the boiling water and quickly mix with spatula or wooden spoon. Once incorporated, turn onto a clean surface and knead the dough until you get a smooth ball. May be a bit greasy. Don’t worry. You can use immediately or form into discs and chill.

Bake at 375 until crust is nicely browned. 

Creamy Gnocchi Soup

2 Tbs olive oil

2 Tbs butter

1/3 cup all-purpose flour

1 small onion, finely chopped

6 garlic cloves, minced

1 carrot, grated

1 celery, chopped

2 cups pork stock

4 cups water

1/2 cup cream or half and half

1 package (16 ounces) mini potato gnocchi

1 cup fresh spinach, chopped

Cook onion and garlic in olive oil over medium heat until tender. Add celery and stir until tender. Add in the grated carrots. Stir for about one minute then add your stock and water. Increase heat to allow the boil.

In a separate pan, heat olive oil and butter over medium heat. Once the butter is melted, add your flour and stir vigorously to make your roux.

Add a few scoops of the stock to slacken your roux to add into the soup. This will thicken the soup without creating lumps. If you do have lumps, whisk vigorously.

Add roux to the soup and add gnocchi. Chop your spinach and add to soup. Once you have it at your desired consistency, add your cream. Salt and pepper to taste then serve!

Creamy Potato Soup

3 peeled and cubed Russet potatoes

1 celery stalk

4 cloves garlic

2 cups pork stock (or any kind you have)

1/4 cup flour

1/4 cup cream

1 tsp salt

1 kale stalk

5 bacon slices

Cook bacon set aside bacon fat.

Finely chop celery and mince garlic. Cook in a pan with 1 Tbsp bacon grease over medium heat. When tender, add potatoes and stir to prevent sticking

Add stock and increase heat and boil potatoes until tender.

Remove kale leaves from stem and chop finely. Add to stock. Add 2 cups of water.

Use about 3 Tbsp if bacon grease to make a roux. In a pan over medium heat, add flour. Stir to cook the flour. Add a few scoops of stock to the roux to slacken (this will prevent lumps of flour in the soup). Add all roux to soup. Reduce heat to medium. Stir gently and allow to thicken.

When at desired consistency, add cream and salt. Chop bacon slices and top on soup before serving.

Best Fluffy Pancakes

There’s few things that feel more like Saturday morning than pancakes. I’ve tried many different recipes and so far, I like this one the most. And, like many of my other recipes, I kind of came about it on accident. We just moved to Albuquerque and are between homes. So we don’t have our things and a very limited pantry. I ran out of flour and used a clementine in place of an orange and found that I like this result much more. And so… here’s what I did. For the first time, my kids asked for more pancakes when I made it this way. Normally, they aren’t too fond of pancakes so this one must be a winner!

Ingredients

1 1/2 cup milk

juice of 1 clementine or 1/2 orange

1/2 tsp salt

2 Tbsp sugar

1/2 tsp baking soda

2 tsp baking powder

1 2/3 cup flour

1 egg

3 Tbsp butter melted

Pour milk into your mixing bowl for the batter. Cut and squeeze orange into the milk to allow the acid to thicken (as if you’re making buttermilk) and set aside.

Melt your butter and set aside to cool.

Combine your dry ingredients and make sure it’s evenly distributed then set aside.

Break your egg and separate your egg white into the milk and yolk into the butter. Whisk  yolk into the butter. Then whisk butter mix into the milk. (Combining yolk with butter helps butter integrate into the batter better)

Add 1/2 cup of the dry mix into the batter and whisk until incorporated. Pour in the rest of the dry mix and fold into the batter. By folding in the flour mix, it prevents over mixing and ensures a soft and tender texture as a pancake should have. The batter should be lumpy but break up large flour lumps. Large ones may create flour pockets in your pancake and that’s just not good.

Cook on a warm skillet over medium to medium low heat. Flip once the edges are firm and there are bubbles in the top of the pancake. I’ve found that if you pour directly on a warm skillet, you don’t need the use of oil or butter for the pan. Enjoy!

 

Flakey Pie Crust

There are few things as intimidating as good pie crust. I’d like to say that I struggled with it for years but honestly, I had two horrible attempts that shamed me into convenient pre-made, frozen pie crusts. I looked over recipes and found that a lot of them emphasized keeping dough chilled but little else. Their beautiful smooth dough put mine to shame. Even if I got the dough pretty and smooth, never could I find the delicate flakey crust until I learned… it all comes down to butter. But doesn’t it most of the time?

Ingredients

2 1/2 cups all purpose flour

1 Tbsp sugar

1 tsp salt

1 1/2 sticks chilled butter (unsalted), cut into pieces

1/2 cup ice water

Equipment

pastry blender (optional)

rolling pin

pie pan

Combine flour, sugar and salt together until thoroughly mixed.

Take your chilled butter and blend into your flour. Cut the butter into the flour until it’s crumbly. You do not want this to be tiny pieces or totally smooth. About pea sized pieces and a little bigger is okay too. You should be able to see the butter pieces. There are two ways to do this. Take your pastry blender and use it to cut the butter into the flour mix. Or, you could use your finger tips. I do not at all recommend using your hands because it’s too warm and will melt the butter into your flour and your crust will not be so flakey. Please, just the tips of the fingers… it is more difficult but that extra effort is what makes a better pie. When using your finger tips, I like to do a sort of dip and lift to ensure that I’m not touching the same pieces of butter too much to warm them. I dip my fingers in and smash some pieces and lift out and dip into another spot. A single smashing each dip.

Chill the flour in the fridge for about 20 minutes or if you’re really careful or used your fingers to blend, chill in the freezer for about 10 minutes. Prepare your work surface and sprinkle with some flour. Get your ice water to form the dough

Remove the chilled flour mix. Begin adding the ice water just a tablespoon at a time. I live in a desert so my flour is extra dry and requires more water. It should take about 1/4 cup of water but mine is closer to 1/3. To keep from over wetting the dough, add the water, 1 Tbsp at a time. Overly wet dough will be springy… that’s not what you want. Springy means the gluten started to develop and it’ll be a less delicate texture.

Use a butter knife to incorporate your water into the dough. Once you have enough water to get the dough to just stick together (you don’t want it sticky, the dough should come together and hold when pressed but not at all sticky), turn dough onto your work surface. Carefully pressed the dough together and if it won’t hold or crumbles apart, add a little more water. Knead a couple times and divide the dough in half.

Shape each half into a ball and smash down the top a little. Wrap the entire ball in cling wrap. Smash down in the cling wrap to about 1 1/2 inch thickness. This forces the dough to hold together tighter and therefore will be easier to roll. Chill in the fridge for at least 2 hours. Overnight has best results.

Preheat oven at 425. Lightly flour your work surface and your rolling pin. Take out one disk of dough and unwrap. Here’s the fun part… smack your dough with the rolling pin! It seems somewhat violent but it makes your rolling easier. It smashes down the dough and softens the butter for rolling without heating it. Turn your dough and smack it some more to make a more uniform circle.

Roll out your crust. Lift and turn so it doesn’t stick to your surface. Dust with flour as needed. once your crust is about a 1/4 inch thick, lift gently into your pie pan. When you’re rolling, you’ll be able to see pieces of your butter that’s visible in the crust. This is desirable! If your dough is too smooth, then you won’t have a delicate, flakey crust. I think it affects the taste too but that might be from my personal dissatisfaction.

When placing your crust into the pan, gently lift and allow the crust to fall into place. Guide dough gently with your fingers. Please don’t pull or you’ll create breaks in the crust. Fill your pie then layer with your top pie crust. Seal however you like and cut vents into the top crust if you have a wet or fruit filling. Cover with aluminum foil and bake. I like to cover with foil for at least the first 30 minutes to prevent the top from over browning. Makes for a prettier top crust. I also brush with an egg wash sometimes to make an even prettier crust. Depending on the size of the dish, if it’s double layer pie, what filling you used will determine how long to leave in the oven. If you have a recipe you’re following, use their instructions. Store in the fridge for a few days or in the freezer for a couple weeks. If frozen, give it time to thaw before working the dough. Enjoy!

NOTES: The reason why it’s so important to have the larger pieces of butter is that butter has water in it. As it bakes, the water will boil out of the butter. When it does this, it escapes as it can and creates the flakey layers. If the butter is melted into the flour, instead of flakey crust, it’ll be a harder crust. Also, the butter layering between the flour and working it as little as possible helps keep the gluten (flour proteins) from working up and giving a tougher/chewier texture. That’s only good in bread.

Also! Make sure the buy regular ol’ unsalted butter. This is one of the times it’s important to NOT use European butter. European butter has a lower water content and that leads to a less flakey, delicate crust. European butter is needed though if you want to make croissants  or danishes or anything like that.

Cream Cheese Cinnamon Roll Icing

2 Tbsp cream cheese

1 cup powdered sugar

4 Tbsp milk

1 tsp vanilla

Soften the cream cheese. Whisk in 2 Tbsp milk. Whisk in powdered sugar 1/4 cup at the time (just easier to mix together). Whisk in remaining milk and vanilla. Add milk and sugar until desired taste and consistency. Enjoy!