Friday, July 26, 2013

Hello?! ... Remember me?! ... And Red Pepper Pasta

I know. I know. I know. Every year I say I'm going to keep up my food blog, and it ends up going by the wayside, like most New Years' Resolutions. I have been busy this year, but that's no excuse, really. I'm always busy. But, I have been trying to remember to take pictures of some of the dishes I cook so that I can eventually, some day, maybe get them posted to my blog. A friend asked me about my blog last night, and I felt guilty that I had to tell him that I haven't kept it up this year. So, here's a post to get me started again. Hopefully, I'll keep at it.

Pioneer Woman's Red Pepper Pasta

I may have previously mentioned Ree Drummond a/k/a Pioneer Woman. Her blog is hilarious, her recipes delicious, and that cowboy husband of hers is hawwwwwwwtttttt! She posted a recipe for Red Pepper Pasta that sounded really yummy, so I decided to try it. I actually followed it almost exactly (you know I have to change at least one thing), AND I remembered to take some photos along the way.

You can follow the link to the recipe, so I'm not going to list it exactly here. But it contains onions, garlic, roasted red peppers, veggie or chicken broth, heavy cream, parmesan cheese, basil, parsley, and the pasta of your choice. I chose papperdelle pasta, which is basically broad, flat noodles.

First, I sauteed onions and garlic in butter.

Next, I added in the chopped red peppers and cooked them for a few minutes.

I poured the onions, garlic, and peppers into my food processor and pureed it.

I put my pasta on to boil while I sauteed some zucchini. This is where I deviated from Ree's recipe in that I decided to add in some zucchini.  I put the pepper puree back into the skillet with the zucchini and some broth, plus salt and pepper, and heated it back up, then added the cream.

By this time, my pasta was done so I drained it then mixed it in with the pasta along with parmesan cheese, basil, and parsley.

And, voila!

This entire dish only takes about 30 minutes to cook and tastes sooooooo good!  Most ingredients I would normally have on hand, so long as I remember to keep roasted red peppers in my pantry.  You can make this totally vegetarian by using veggie broth and not chicken broth. Otherwise, you could also put some grilled chicken on top or some grilled shrimp if you want to add in some protein.

I've passed this recipe on to several mommy friends, and their families all raved about it. I hope you enjoy it too!

Saturday, January 12, 2013

New Year's Day Dinner

I hate black-eyed peas! I mean, I think they are really, really disgusting! So I refuse to eat black-eyed peas on New Year's Day. I haven't had one in years, so I don't think I need them now. Therefore, I made an herb-crusted pork tenderloin, creamy mashed potatoes, and whiskey-glazed carrots for New Year's Day Dinner.

One of the reasons I started writing my blog again is that after I posted on Facebook about the pork tenderloin I was making, some of my friends asked for my recipe. I also knew I was going to be trying out some new gadgets, so I thought I should restart my blog.

Herb-Crusted Pork Tenderloin

Here's my recipe for pork tenderloin. It comes out really moist, tender, and flavorful and really is easy to make. I use one of the packaged pork tenderloins like you get from Walmart (this one came from Costco). Whenever I see these on sale, I buy a few and throw them in my freezer.

So take the pork out of the package, pat it dry then make a rub of garlic salt, onion powder, lemon pepper, italian seasoning, and rosemary and rub all over the pork. Rub minced garlic all over the pork too. I keep a jar of minced garlic in my fridge since I use it all the time. Put olive oil in a skillet (I didn't use my iron skillet for this once since it still had the brunch casserole in it) on medium high heat and sear the tenderloin on all sides until really good and browned and the herb rub is seared into the meat. The tenderloins I get are in two pieces so I just do this to both pieces. You could, however, put some fresh herbs in between the two and tie them with kitchen string and cook them as one piece, but I was going for quick and easy.

Slice a large yellow onion and put 2/3 of of the slices in the bottom of the crock pot. Lay the tenderloin on top of the onions. Put the rest of the onions on top of the meat. Sprinkle a small can of sliced mushrooms (yes, canned, I keep a bunch of them in my cabinet, fresh is fine too) on top of the meat and onions. 

In the skillet, pour in a cup of hot water and sprinkle one package of pork gravy mix over medium high heat. Whisk, removing the seared bits from the bottom, until gravy is dissolved and bubbling, and starts to thicken. Pour it over the meat in the crock pot. This is what mine looked like:

Cook on low for 5 hours. The crock pot that I use is this one.  I can program it so that it will switch to warm when it's done.  It also comes with a probe, but I only use that for large cuts of meat like a big beef roast.

When it's done, take the tenderloin out and put it on a plate to sit for 15 minutes. Scoop out the veggies in the gravy, turn back to high and thicken with a little corn starch/water mixture if necessary. Mine wasn't doing this fast enough, so I poured it into a pot and thickened it on the stove.  Slice the tenderloin and pour some of the gravy over the sliced tenderloin. I usually put the onions and mushrooms in a small bowl to put over the pork slices on the plate. This is what the sliced, finished pork looked like. It was yummy!

Because this pork cooks for so long, it will be very tender. I use an electric knife to cut it so that it mostly stays in slices.

Creamy Mashed Potatoes

I love mashed potatoes!!! At Thanksgiving, I made the Pioneer Woman's Creamy Mashed Potatoes, and they were a huge hit! I decided to make them again to go with the pork tenderloin. The only thing I usually do different with this recipe is to add a couple tablespoons of minced garlic to the water when boiling the potatoes. I also add some onion salt at the end when adding the seasoning salt (usually Tex-Joy) and pepper. This time, I used whipped cream cheese with chives instead of the standard block of cream cheese. This gave the potatoes a really good flavor!

Whiskey Glazed Carrots

I saw this recipe on the Pioneer Woman blog and was going to try it out at Thanksgiving. But I wasn't sure if the whole crowd would like something like this, so I just made regular steamed carrots with honey and butter. I didn't have large carrots, so I just used the small bag of baby carrots I had. Because her recipe calls for 2 - 3 lbs of sliced carrots and mine was only 1 lb, I cut back the ingredients a bit. I cut up the baby carrots into three pieces and then just followed the rest of the recipe. It came out really good, but I think next I will definitely use larger carrots. The baby carrots end up cooking down too small, I think.

To finish out the dinner, I heated up some corn and reheated the leftover Epic Mac & Cheese (recipe forthcoming someday) that we had at my End of the World Party. Yum! Yum! Yum!

Friday, January 4, 2013

Skillet Cooking - First Attempt

So I got a Lodge pre-seasoned 12" Cast Iron Skillet for Christmas (Thanks, Sis!!). I've never really used an iron skillet much, but decided I wanted to give it a whirl. All the cool kids are doing it, so why not me?!  For New Year's Day brunch, I decided to make a brunch casserole in my new skillet. I searched the interwebs for recipes and found this one.  I liked it because it included all the basic necessities of a breakfast skillet casserole: sausage, potatoes, eggs, cheese, etc. Of course, I changed the recipe, as I always do.

I put some extra oil on my skillet and heated it slowly to medium-high heat because that's what the Lodge instructions for my skillet said to do. Then I browned one pound of Jimmy Dean sausage. The recipe called for italian sausages but for breakfast, I prefer breakfast sausage, and it has to be Jimmy Dean!  Halfway through browning the sausage, I added in chopped onion and a can of sliced mushrooms. After the sausage was cooked through and the onions were tender, I took them out of the skillet and put them in a bowl. For the potatoes, I found in the refrigerated section at the grocery store a bag of cut up potatoes with onions. I put those in the skillet (turning the heat down a bit closer to medium) and cooked them according to the directions on the bag. However, I didn't look at the directions until after I had them in the skillet, and needed to put more oil in the bottom of the skillet, so my potatoes were sticking quite a bit. I'll remember this next time, maybe. I added some oil anyway, just a couple tablespoons of olive oil. After the potatoes were done, I put the sausage/onion/mushroom mixture back on top of the potatoes, and poured in the beaten eggs, stirring just a little to mix it up a bit. Oh, and because I used a pound of sausage instead of the 3/4 that the recipe called for, and because the bag of onions was more than the 2 cups the recipe called for, I used 10 eggs instead of 8.  The recipe said to just cook on top of the stove, but I didn't want to end up burning the bottom, so I put the skillet in the oven on 350 degrees for about 15 - 20 minutes, just until the eggs were set on top. Then I turned off the oven, put the cheese on top of the casserole in the skillet and put it back in the oven for about 5 minutes or so, just until the cheese was melted. I had that four-cheese Mexican cheese, and that was pretty good.

And voila! This is what it looked like:

It came out pretty yummy! Things I would do different next time: (1) Add some green onion and/or green pepper, (2) put more oil in the pan before cooking the potatoes (duh!), (3) add some salsa to my bowl when I ate it. It seemed a little dry to me, so salsa or better yet, some cream gravy (mmmmmm!), would be good on it.

A note about cleaning the iron skillet. I had heard and read in some places that you aren't supposed to wash them. What?! The potatoes, egg and cheese stuck a bit to the skillet, so it would definitely have to get washed. My Lodge instructions (can you believe I read the instructions for anything?!) said to wash with hot water but NO SOAP. Then dry immediately with a towel (not on the stovetop) and apply more vegetable oil while it's still warm.  This method worked pretty well.  I also gave my head dishwasher (my hubby) the skillet cleaning instructions.  :-)

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

New Year, New Adventures in Cooking

I know I started this whole blog thing a year ago, did a few posts, and then stopped ...

I think I need to be inspired when writing on this blog, so I guess I wasn't inspired much after that. But, it's now 2013, a new year, and with some additional cooking tools and a little inspiration, I'm going to begin new adventures in cooking and will hopefully blog about it as I go. No guarantees, it is me we're talking about here.

I got a couple new weapons for my cooking arsenal this year. My sister got me a Lodge 12" Seasoned Iron Skillet.  I had been reluctant to try using a cast iron skillet for many years. They're heavy, can be a pain to clean, etc.  But I know that all the best cooks use them, so I decided to put it on my Amazon Wish List and if it was meant to be, someone would get it for me for Christmas.  Alas, the stars aligned and I am now the proud owner of a cast iron skillet. I've made a couple of dishes with it already, and will blog those separately, along with the recipes and my notations (I can't ever leave a recipe totally alone).

The other item on my wish list that I got for Christmas is another pasta maker attachment for my Kitchen Aid Mixer. Last year I got the regular pasta roller attachments that make the flat pastas like fettuccine,  linguine, etc. After experimenting with that, and LOVING the pasta that it makes, I added the pasta extruder attachment to my wish list. The stars aligned again, and my wonderful husband got me that attachment as well. Now, I'll be able to make macaroni, rigatoni, spaghetti, etc.  I did buy myself a ravioli mold last year but have never gotten around to trying out ravioli yet. I've been kicking around a recipe idea in my head that is a different take on eggs benedict that involves a ravioli with an egg inside. I'll post that too if I ever try it.

Wish me luck on my new cooking adventures and that I'll actually get some of them posted this time.