Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Cheese Steak Sammies

Growing up in Pennsylvania, you know I'm a sucker for cheese steak sammies. I've had almost as many types of cheese steaks as there are years to my age. I've made a handful of types too. The basic's are always the same, thin sliced beef, onions, peppers, garlic, cheese and sometimes mushrooms. Making them varies greatly. When In needed a fast meal one night I came up this quick and easy recipe. It would be great to through together any night of the week. Serve it with a salad or some veggies and you have a complete meal in just minutes.

What You Need:

1 lb store roasted roast beef, sliced thin (lunch meat from the deli section)
8 slices of provolone cheese
1 lrg onion, sliced
1 lrg bell pepper, seeded and sliced
1 garlic clove, minced
1 c sliced fresh mushrooms or 1 can of mushrooms
4 hoagie rolls
2 tbs veg oil
salt and pepper

What To Do:

In a large sauté pan over medium high heat, cook the onions, peppers, garlic and mushrooms in the 2 tbs of veg oil until slightly softened. I like mine a little crunchy still so cook yours as long as you want. Meanwhile, take the lunch meat and slice into strips. Once the onions and peppers are cooked to your liking, stir in the lunch meat until heated through. Divide among the 4 rolls and top with 2 pieces of provolone cheese. Place under a broiler for just a minute or two so that the cheese melts and gets bubbly. Serve and enjoy!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

How To Make: Compound Butter

Lately, I've started making lots of these compound butters to help my cooking a life a little bit. I've been buying fresh herbs but don't always use all of them during the week. Instead of throwing them out or letting them go bad just sitting into the fridge I mix them into some butter. Then when I want to flavor something I just drop a bit of the flavored butter into the dish and viola: two birds, one stone. I had some dill on hand for a dish I was doing but only need a small amount so that's what I used for this example.

What You Need:

salt and pepper

What To Do:

Let a stick of butter soften on the counter until it's at room temp. It makes it easier to work the herbs into it. Chopped the herbs into whatever size you want and mix into the butter along with a bit of salt and pepper. Roll it into a log on wax paper or plastic wrap and store in a zip top bag in the freezer. To use, just slice off as much as you need and let sit out for a few minutes before adding it to your dish. I made dill butter last week and added it to some roasted fingerling potatoes after they had been cooked. The butter melts and the dill coated the potatoes.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Perfect Pie Crust

It has taken me years to come up with a pie crust that was simple enough for me to actually make and yet still taste good. Everyone has their own way of making pie crust. Some use all butter, some use a combo of butter and lard, sugar or no sugar. Then of course comes putting it all together. Purest will do it all by hand but I find that using a food processor it so much easier.

What You Need:

2 1/2 c flour
1 stick very cold butter
1 tbs agave or honey
1 tbs apple cider vinegar
a pinch of salt
ice cold water

What To Do:

In a food processor fitted with a the blade, place the flour and salt in the processor and give it a pulse to combine it. Slice the butter in half long ways, then in half long ways again, so that you have 4 long square sticks. Cut those sticks into chunks and place into the food processor. Pulse the processor a number of times until the butter is incorporated and the flour looks like wet sand. Be sure to pulse it and not just let it run.
With it running quickly add in the agave and the vinegar and slowly add in enough cold water until it just comes together into a dough. Turn it off and dump the dough onto a large piece of plastic wrap. Use your hands to quickly form the dough into a disc. You want to work the dough and handle it as little as possible. Cover it with the plastic and put it in the fridge to rest for 30 minutes before rolling it out for dough. Makes enough for 2 crusts.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Sautéed Green Beans with Mushrooms

I love me some green beans, but often times they're just so plain and boring. This recipe however, is neither of those things! It's so easy, and with just a few ingredients, you can make this side any night of the week. Jessica brought up a good point. In her review she said she used canned green beans. I never recommend using canned veggies. They are normally cooked to death which means they loose a lot of their nutrients, and then they're preserved with lots of salt. They don't hold up well when cooking them any other way but in the microwave or in a pot of water. If you can find fresh, use frozen! Frozen veggies are flash froze during their season, retaining their vivid colors and nutrients and are much better suited for a dish like this.

1 lb fresh green beans, stems trimmed (can use frozen)
½ lb button mushrooms, sliced
¼ lb pancetta or bacon
1 tbs veg oil if using pancetta
4 cloves garlic, chopped
Salt and pepper

Bring a pot of water to a boil and salt generously. Blanche the green beans for about 4-5 minutes. You want them to keep their nice green color but soften up just a bit. Remove them and immediately dunk them into ice water to stop the cooking.
Meanwhile, dice the pancetta and sauté in the tbs of oil until crisp. Remove to paper toweling. Add the mushrooms to the pan and sauté with the garlic until the mushrooms are soft and browned. Add in the green beans and cook for a few minutes so that they’re heated through and pick up the flavor of the garlic. Sprinkle with the pancetta and serve.  

What I Liked:
This recipe is very simple and I have most of the ingredients on hand on any given day of the week.  When I first made this dish, I was making two other time consuming dishes at the same time. It was nice to be able to leave this one till the last minute (quite literally!) and not worry about whether or not it would be complete.  To make it all that much better, the recipe was PERFECT!  I love all of these salty flavors with any vegetable, but I particularly favor green beans, so it was perfect for my taste buds.  I also have this memorized and I'm excited that I won't have to "follow" the recipe each time, just whip it together!
What I Didn't Like:
I always prefer to use fresh vegetables.  After all, who wouldn't prefer fresh veggies over canned?  However, I typically use canned vegetables any way.  I usually never plan ahead enough to have fresh veggies on hand for any meal.  So, in lieu of fresh green beans, I used canned French-Style Green Beans and kept the rest the same.

Loni (working mom and wife):

Oh my gosh, the green beans were so good.  I loved the idea of boiling them for a quick second and then blanching them because that way they get cooked all the way through but are not soggy.  I could not find pancetta in my store but I used bacon and it was great, it really added a lot of flavor to the green beans.  

Monday, September 20, 2010

Chicken and Veggie Stir Fry

Stir Fry is a wonderful combination of flavors when it's done right. The sauce should add to the veggies and meat, not over power them. It shouldn't be too sweet or too spicy. Another great thing about stir fry is that you can really use just about anything in them. This one uses chicken for the protein but shrimp would work really well too. This stir fry uses just some peppers, snow peas and mushrooms but the veggie combo's are endless! Christi took the sauce and used it with just some chicken and broccoli. Jessica left out the mushroom and added in some carrots. Stir fry is a dish that's pretty hard to mess up too. The only big mistake you can really make is to not have the pan hot enough. If it's not super hot, the veggies can get mushy and the chicken won't brown evenly before becoming over cooked. A wok and the right oil helps with this, but I've make plenty of stir fry's in a regular sauté pan and plain veg or canola oil. 

*Note* The recipe for the sauce makes a lot. Use as much or as little as you'd like in your stir fry. I used about half and my stir fry was nicely sauced. You can always freeze the rest and use it at a later date.

What You Need:


3tbs oil
1 ½ tbs minced ginger or 1 tsp dried
4 cloves garlic, minced
½ c water
½ c ketchup
¼ c soy sauce
¼ c rice wine vinegar
2 tbs agave or honey
1 tsp Sriracha (more if you like it spicy, red pepper flakes work as substitute)
1 tbs cornstarch dissolved in 2 tbs water

Stir Fry:

1lb chicken, cut into bite size pieces
1 tbs cornstarch
3tbs high temp oil such as peanut or almond
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 bell peppers cut into bite size pieces
2 c snow peas
8oz mushrooms, cut into quarters
A bunch of scallions, chopped, for garnish

What To Do:

In a small sauce pan, heat the oil over medium heat and sauté the garlic and ginger for just a few seconds. You want them to get fragrant, but not browned. Add in the water, ketchup, soy, vinegar, agave or honey and the Sriracha. Turn heat up and bring to a boil. Once boiling, stir in the cornstarch mixture and stir until thickened. Turn off heat and set aside.
Toss the chicken with the tablespoon of cornstarch, set aside while you cut up all the veggies. Heat the oil in a wok over high heat. Once the oil is super hot, toss in the chicken and cook until nicely browned. You want to make sure the wok is super hot so that the cornstarch creates a crispy crust on the outside of the chicken, while the inside stays moist. Remove to a plate. Toss the veggies into the wok and stir them constantly until they start to soften. You don’t want to cook them until they’re completely soft unless you like it that way. Turn the heat to low and add the chicken back in. Add in as much or as little of the sauce as you’d like. I added in about half of the sauce and put the rest in the freezer for next time. Serve over rice and sprinkle the scallions over the top.

Christi (wife and mom to 3) said: 

I was in a bind and didn't have a lot of veggies on hand so I adapted this to what we had.  I'm glad stir fry is so flexible!  I made the sauce straight from the recipe.  I poured it over rice, chicken and broccoli and served it up.  This stir fry sauce had a great flavor to it.  It didn't have too much ginger in it and it wasn't too sweet.  It had a perfect blend of sweet and spicy.  Very delicious!

Jessica (college student on a budget) said:

Recipe Changes:
No scallions or mushrooms.
Used carrots and red pepper flakes (in sauce).
My take:

If I had to change one thing about the way I prepared this dish, I would have pre-measured my ingredients.  There are a lot of them, but each one of them adds something special to this dish and makes the flavor so rich and savory.  I prepared this recipe for my boyfriend and I and both of us love Chinese food, so we were tough critics.  We honestly had no complaints!  It was so nice to sit in the comfort of my own home dining on a delicious Chinese dish!  Thank you, Erica, for making ME seem like a Goddess of Cooking!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Easy Rosemary and Garlic Focaccia

Focaccia is a large, thin, semi flat Italian bread. It is dimpled, brushed with extra virgin olive oil and sprinkled with all sorts of things. It's great along with just about any dish or even sliced up for sandwich bread. This recipe is so simple anyone can make it, even if they don't have any bread making experience. A simple pizza dough from your local grocery store or pizza place takes the place of all the hard work. All you need to do is stretch the dough, let it rise and cover with your toppings.

What You Need:

1 ball of pizza dough
4 tbs extra virgin olive oil
1 tbs minced fresh rosemary
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp coarse sea salt

What To Do:

Coat a 13x9 baking sheet with 2 tbs of extra virgin olive oil. Place the pizza dough onto the sheet, turning it over so that the olive oil coats it. Press it out as much as you can to get it fit the baking pan. Don't worry if you can't get to completely fit just yet. Cover the pan and dough with plastic wrap and let rise for 90 minutes.
After the rise, work the dough to fit the pan as best as possible. Brush with the remaining 2 tbs of extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle with the rosemary, garlic and salt. Take your fingers and press dimples into the dough randomly. Preheat your oven to 500 for just 10 minutes before placing the bread into the oven on the middle rack. Bake for 12-14 minutes or until browned and cooked through.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

How To Make: Bread Crumbs

Making your own bread crumbs is so easy you'll wonder why you ever bought them in the store. Not only that but it's a money saver too. If you've been following me over the past year you know that I'm a mom of two. My oldest is almost 2 years old and like most children, she hates the crust on her bread. I cut them off before making her sandwich, but instead of throwing them away and wasting money, I place them into a zip top bag and then into the freezer. Once the bag is full, I make breadcrumbs! I also use the ends of bread that everyone leaves in the bag. Why throw money in the trash when you can do something with it! What's really great about making your own is that you can use whole wheat bread, making it healthier for your family.

What You Need:

Crust and Ends of Bread
Your favorite herbs

What To Do:

Take the ends of your bread and pop them into the toaster, toast until nice and dark. Preheat your oven to 350 and scatter the crusts into a single a layer on a baking sheet. Bake until dried out and toasted. Once cooled, pop everything into a food processor and let it whirl until the bread is broken down into crumbs. From there you can add in your favorite herbs such as oregano, parsley, and thyme, and give it another pulse to combine or leave them plain. Place the crumbs back into a zip top bag and store in the freezer.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Roasted Tomato Soup Base

During the summer, there tends to be an over abundance of red, juicy, sweet, vine ripened tomatoes. Tomatoes are another veggie (or is a fruit?), that I can't seem to get enough of. The recipe is for the amount of tomatoes I had on hand today but you can use as much or as little as you want. I’m calling it a base because after you make the basic soup you can do whatever you want to it. You can add in all sorts or herbs or pasta and tiny meatballs or all sorts of veggies or even use it to make minestrone!
This is also a tested recipe so you can find the girls reviews at the end along with any additions or changes they made.

What You Need:

5lbs of tomatoes
Olive oil
Salt and Pepper
2 cups chicken or veggie stock

What To Do:

Core the tomatoes and cut them in half. Place on a large baking sheet that has been drizzled with olive oil, cut side up. Slice the top off the head of garlic to expose the cloves and place on the baking sheet with the tomatoes. Drizzle olive oil over the tomatoes and garlic and sprinkle it all generously with salt and pepper. Roast in a preheated 400 degree oven for 30-40 minutes or until very soft and caramelized in spots. Remove from oven and let cool for a bit. Squeeze the soft garlic out of the skins and into a blender along with the tomatoes and any liquid that has accumulated onto the baking sheet. Puree until nice and smooth. Pour into a large pot and add in the stock. Simmer over low heat for at least 20 minutes, longer if you want a thicker soup with richer flavor. 

Her changes:

1 large tomato
1 Tbsp. minced garlic
Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper
1/2 c. Chicken Stock

Jessica sliced the tomatoes and followed the recipe from there. She added in mini meat balls and put it back into the oven for 20-30 minutes instead of simmering it on the stove top.
Here is what she had to say:
I loooooooooooooooooooooooooove this recipe!  If I would have known that homemade tomato base was so easy to make before, I would have made it much, much sooner.  I simply have nothing more to say.  It was just PERFECT and delicious.  I can't wait to make it again!!!

I'll admit.  I've never had tomato soup before.  Ever.  It has never sounded very appealing so I've always avoided it.  So when Erica sent me the recipe for her Roasted Tomato Soup I was really hesitant about trying it.  Well you know how the saying goes.  Try it!  You'll like it!  Or maybe that is Yo Gabba Gabba.  I digress.  So I bought the tomatoes (which were $1 a pound today whoo!) and took the plunge.  Wow!  Can I say that I was EXTREMELY surprised?  It is amazing!  Not only was it simple to make but it is actually VERY tasty!  In fact, my husband had two bowls.  I fully expected him to turn his nose up at it since he is male and it didn't contain steak or potatoes.  When I asked him if he liked it he didn't bother stopping to eat.  He just nodded his head as he spooned the soup in.  What a fantastic recipe!  This soup would go well in a bread bowl or with some tortilla chips.  I can say that we will definitely make this again!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Change of plans

Hello fellow foodies!!
Unfortunately life has thrown yet another curve ball at me. This time however it was a swing and a miss and strike three for me! I was in the hospital over the weekend with gallbladder issues and pancreatitis. What this means is that I need to have surgery to have my gallbladder removed. On this coming friday, that surgery will take place. What this means for GOC? Well basically it means that I will be gone until September 11th. Why? While my surgery is a same day deal, I'll be taking the kids and heading to my mothers for the the labor holiday and staying until the following weekend so that I have some help with the kids and don't have to worry about anything while I'm recovering. I don't expect to need a week to recover, however once I'm there, I won't have a way home until the following weekend.
It saddens me that I won't be able to post any new recipes as I have some great ones that I want to share with you. I hate to admit but part of me still lives in the stone age as I have no lap top or smart phone as most seem to have these days. I do all my work on a 6 year old desktop. Not to mention my parents don't even have a desktop to speak of. So for now I bid you farewell for short duration and hopefully when I'm back, I can play the game well and get up those recipes for you.
I wish you all good food's to fill your tummies till then!
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