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!

Tteokbokki

This is a vegan recipe. Tteokbokki is a popular Korean street food. I love it. It’s one of the easier Korean dishes to make. It’s my adaptation that doesn’t require anchovy stock (because I never have any) and no Asian fish cake (as my intolerances doesn’t allow me to any more). There are many options to put in tteokbokki… here’s how I make mine

2 cups water

1 heaping tablespoon gochujjang (red pepper paste)

1 tsp gochugaru (red pepper powder)

1 Tbsp soy sauce

2 handfuls tteok

1/4 tsp sesame oil

A few cabbage leaves (chopped)

1 pack ramen (optional)

A few strips or balls of Fish cake (optional)

Mandu or dumplings (optional)

Pour water into a frying pan and bring to a boil. Add in gochujjang, gochugaru, and soy sauce. Gently stir

Add in cabbage and tteok. Allow to simmer for a few minutes.

When liquid is reduced by a third, add ramen, mandu or fish cakes. Gently stir until liquid is thick

Remove from heat and add in the sesame oil. Stir to incorporate. And enjoy!

The case for dry brine

One of our kids does not like to eat meat. Being a little obsessed with finding the best ways to make tasty and healthy foods, we sought out how to make meat more appealing to picky kid. We heard some years ago to do a “dry brine” which sounded alien. What the heck? Well…. we gave it a go and I’ve never looked back. My husband will sometimes forget what food was like before and try different recipes he finds online. Nothing has ever come close to a dry brine. I’ll start with simple instruction/explanation and end with why it’s the best.

To do a dry brine…. get your meat. Coat your meat in salt. Or a dry rub with salt. Do this the night before or worst case, that morning. Sprinkle and resist the urge to “rub in” the salt, it doesn’t work. Now, you’re reducing the amount of salt on the meat with it now sticking to your hands. Also, you’ll have meat contaminated hands. Trust science. So. Don’t do this.

For whole chickens…. rub salt into the cavity with your hands. A little extra salt for the breasts compared to legs and thighs. If you have a turkey do it ATLEAST two days prior. Stick it in the fridge and wait. In the words of Porky Pig… that’s all folks.

The reason this works is because of osmosis. Salt by its nature will draw moisture to it. Water will come out of the meat drawn out by the salt. The salt will then melt and the salt water will now be pulled back into the meat. This is oversimplified but that’s what happens. Though this takes time, hence prepping the day before.

Why dry brine is the best! Clean up is the EASIEST. There’s no contaminated bacteria water or milk to discard or risk spilling from a traditional brine. I will trim and salt in whatever container I plan to store my meat. Very little clean up. I keep a clean hand and a meat turning hand.

It is the tastiest! I’ve heard people rave about their seasoning or marinating practices… so I’ve tried them but I’ve found few to even come close to the dry brine. Dry brining seasons your meat deep to the inside. Flavor in every bite. This is how I do turkey and it needs no salt or gravy or anything added to it. Including the breast. So good.

And finally! Dry brining is the best because the salt added into your meat helps hold water. This translates to tasty, tender meat that is not dry. Even if you over shoot it a bit. We make pork chops, pork tenderloin, brisket, whole chickens, turkeys, chicken cutlets, fried chicken, chicken nuggets, and steak this way. I do not use this for fish, ground meat, or pulled pork.

Pizza crust

3 cups flour

1 tsp salt

2 tsp yeast

1 1/2 cup distilled water (or reverse osmosis water

Optional but recommended: garlic powder, additional salt, oregano, salted butter

Put flour into a bowl.

Add yeast and salt on opposite sides of the bowl (salt will kill the yeast and inhibit your rise)

Add water and mix

Tip dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead for about ~ 10 minutes

Shape into a ball (bread term meaning to pull sides down and gather to the bottom of the dough to make into a ball. Go around the dough and get all sides. You want a somewhat taut surface, pull sides and gather at the bottom as needed)

Let rise until double the size (about two hours)

Gently pull dough out of the bowl. Do not punch it; that breaks the gluten matrix built up during the rise. It is totally unnecessary, be gentle.

Divide into two or more and shape your pizza. Use a rolling pin if easier. No rules. (Make dough on corn meal or a light dust of flour if using a pizza stone so that it’ll transfer onto the stone)

Before adding sauce and topping, I recommend sprinkling a light dusting of garlic powder. After adding toppings, sprinkle a little salt (if using low moisture mozzarella) and a little oregano. A little oregano goes a long way.

Bake your pizza on a cookie sheet with parchment paper or a pizza stone. For a crisper crust, bake at 425. For a softer, chewier crust bake at 350. It’ll take longer but my kids prefer the softer bread over crust.

Take out pizza and brush crust with butter (optional)

Chicken stock

Bones of a chicken carcass

Half an onion

4 cloves garlic

1 large carrot

1 celery stalk

1 bay leaf

2 Tbsp salt

Add all ingredients into a large pot and cover with water.

Simmer for 6 hours and add water as needed

Stock should become opaque and smell amazing.

Strain out bones and vegetables. Allow to cool before transferring into jars.

Best vanilla frosting

2 sticks softened butter

4 cups powdered sugar

1/3 cup cream

1/4 tsp salt

2 tsp vanilla

1/2 tsp almond extract

Beat butter until fluffy.

Add powdered sugar one cup at a time

Add in salt

Add in cream and extracts. Beat at high speed until fluffy and light. It will take an ivory color.

Chocolate chip cookies

3 cups AP flour

1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp baking powder

2 sticks butter (softened, not room temp)

1 1/4 cup brown sugar

2 large eggs (room temp)

1 Tbsp vanilla

1 cup chocolate chips

Mix flour, salt and baking soda into a bowl

Beat butter until fluffy.

Add brown sugar and beat until fluffy. Remember to scrape the bowl.

Add one egg at a time until incorporated

Add dry mix in three parts. Increase the speed of your mixer to not over strain the motor.

Beat in vanilla last.

Fold in chocolate chips by hand.

Scoop cookie balls into a bowl or container. Separate with parchment paper for easier removal.

Refrigerate for at least two hours (I often do this over night).

Heat oven to 350

Place parchment paper over cookie sheet.

Place cookie balls about two inches apart and smash cookie balls down to atleast a half inch thickness. This will ensure your cookies will not have over baked edges with a raw middle.

Place cookie sheet into the oven and immediately drop the temperature to 325. Ovens lose heat when opened and beginning at a higher temperature keeps the oven closer to the desired temperature. Otherwise, it begins cooking at a lower temperature and you get a less than perfect bake.

Bake about 12 minutes depending on your oven.

Remember to raise the temperature between batches. If using a convection oven, remember to adjust the oven temperature if it doesn’t do it automatically.

Cool cookies on the cookie sheet for at least two minutes before moving to cool on a cooking rack if you can.

Chocolate pudding

3 cups whole milk

3/4 cup sugar

1/3 cup cocoa powder

1/4 cup corn starch

1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp vanilla

3 Tbsp butter

Whisk all ingredients except butter and vanilla into a saucepan.

Whisk constantly at Med high heat until thickened. May take 10 minutes, don’t get discouraged… just keep whisking.

Once thick, remove from heat and whisk in butter and vanilla.

Pour into container or pie crust.

Refrigerate for 4-6 hours

Blondies

12 Tbsp butter melted

1 cup brown sugar

2 eggs room temp

4 tsp vanilla

1 1/2 cups flour

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

3/4 cup of chocolate chips and mini m&m’s or cranberries and white chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350

Melt butter in a medium sized bowl.

Combine dry ingredients in a bowl

Mix in brown sugar into butter and when fully mixed in add eggs one at a time.

Pour in dry ingredients and vanilla into butter mix.

Fold all together

Measure out the add ins (chocolate chips, nuts or fruit), fold into the batter

Grease a 9×13 pan. Pour batter into the pan

Bake for 22-25 minutes until the top is shiny.

Cool then cut out of pan.

When making cranberry bars, sprinkle chocolate chips on top immediately after removing from the oven. Let sit for ten minutes then spread melted chocolate across the top like a frosting. You can top it with chopped cranberries and chocolate chips

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