Hello? Hello? Is this thing on??

Hello everyone (all two of you) who read this blog.  I am back from the hell that is a grad school thesis.  I had little if any time to cook while writing it and even less time to even consider posting anything here.  Which was sad because lets face it…I like to cook and share.

So I am going to start out with an easy one.  Homemade brown sugar.  If you have not made your brown sugar this way you are missing out on a quick and easy way to boost the flavor to any baked good you may bake.

Ingredients:
3 cups granulated sugar
3 tablespoons molasses

No, seriously, that’s it! 

Directions:
Pour 3 cups of granulated sugar into a bowl.  Add 3 tablespoons of molasses.  Mix with a spoon.  This takes a few minutes to incorporate the molasses into the sugar but trust me its worth it.  Smoooosh (technical term) the lumps of molasses into the sugar and keep going.  Then smoosh a little more.  Almost there.  Ok, now you’re done.  Wha-la…homemade brown sugar. 

This will result in 3 cups packed brown sugar.  The ratio is 1 cup of sugar to 1 tablespoon of molasses.  So you can adapt this recipe to more or less brown sugar.  I made 3 cups for the recipe I will be posting later this evening but will be making more to store as it stays well in an air tight container.

 

Homemade Brown Sugar

Homemade Brown Sugar

If you make this let me know!

Jennifer

My Mushroom & Meat Sauce

As I mentioned on my Facebook page, this past week has been a gloomy, rainy and grey mess!  I need comfort food and I need it now!

Tonight’s meal plan was for homemade mushroom and meat sauce over whole wheat spaghetti.  Are you a bottle sauce person or do you make it yourself?  There are numerous choices at the grocery store for bottled or canned spaghetti sauce.  Once I became allergic to carrots I ended up switching to homemade sauce because a lot of spaghetti sauces out there contain carrot fiber…(ie: Hunt’s brand sauce).  Plus it is cost-effective and healthier to make your own.

I use a recipe that I base off of my mother’s spaghetti sauce recipe.

My Mushroom & Meat Sauce Recipe

Ingredients:
1 tbsp. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
4 cloves of garlic, smashed
Ground Pepper, just a dash
1/4 cup beef broth
8 oz. Cremini mushrooms, sliced and diced
1 1/2 lbs. lean ground beef
28 oz. can of diced tomatoes
6 oz. can of tomato paste
16 oz. can of tomato sauce
1 tsp. basil
1 tsp. oregano
1 tbsp. sugar or sugar substitute

Directions:
– In a stockpot place the olive oil, garlic cloves, and pepper and turn the burner to a low/medium setting.
– Cook the garlic until you can smell a wonderful garlic aroma, no more than 2 minutes.  (If you’ve never burnt garlic before this is not the time to find out what it smells like)
– Add beef broth and mushrooms to the stockpot.
– Cook together for 2 more minutes to cook the mushrooms down a bit.
– Now add the ground beef to the stockpot and break down the beef into chunks and cook until browned. (I break my ground beef down into the smallest pieces I can, but that’s my preference)
– Drain liquid and grease from the beef and mushroom mixture.
– Turn the burner to low and add the diced tomatoes, tomato paste, tomato sauce, basil, oregano and sugar.  Mix well.
– Cover and cook on low for as long as you want (be reasonable, that doesn’t mean all day).  I let mine heat and mix up for an hour.  Stir every 15 minutes.
– Serve over hot noodles of your choice.

Did she say SUGAR?  Yes, I did.  Sugar takes the tartness out of the tomato sauce.  You do not need to add this but it helps take the bite out of the sauce.  Adjust to the level you enjoy.

Mushroom and Meat Sauce

Mushroom and Meat Sauce

- Jennifer

Don’t Fry Anything!…but if you do

Don’t fry anything!

But if you do, fry it this way!

Ever since I left Savannah I have been craving Chicken Fingers from Spanky’s.  And don’t even get me started on their honey sauce.  I sat there and thought “what is it that they do to those chicken fingers to make them so perfect?”  I may not have it right but I have it close enough for my taste.

I decided to tempura fry the tenders.  Not in canola, or peanut oil…instead I used coconut oil.  Do your own research but there are a lot of benefits to using coconut oil.  While frying isn’t healthy at all, atleast using coconut oil will make it a wee bit better and maybe you’ll feel a little less guilty.  Also below I will give you the recipe for tempura batter.  DO NOT buy tempura batter at the store.  You have all of the ingredients already.  Trust me!  (If you don’t, then you should add these staples to your cabinets.)


Tempura Batter and Fried Chicken Recipe

1.5 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1.5 cups water
2.5 tbsp white vinegar
1 tsp baking soda
1 cup coconut oil
1 lb boneless skinless chicken tenders

Directions:

- In one bowl whisk together flour, salt and water.
– In a second bowl whisk together vinegar and baking soda.
– Add the vinegar and baking soda mixture to the flour mixture.
– Stir well.

- In a dutch oven heat coconut oil over medium heat.
– To test readiness of the oil, drop a droplet of water into the oil.  If the oil sizzles it is ready.

- Take each chicken tender and place it into the tempura batter.
– Shake the chicken tender to get any excess batter off.
– Place into the hot coconut oil.  (If it smokes and sputters all over the place cut the temperature down a little)
– Cook about 3 – 4 tenders at a time. 
– Cook for 5 minutes (2.5 minutes on each side)
– Remove finish chicken tenders from the oil and place on paper towels or napkins to drain the remaining grease from the chicken.
– Cook the remaining tenders.

Add your favorite dipping sauce and then chow down! 

With that said, I normally do not like fried anything (other than french fries) but cooking with coconut oil reduces the greasiness of fried foods. 

Frying in Coconut Oil

Tempura Fried Chicken Tenders

Tempura Fried Chicken Tenders

If you try this, let me know. 

- Jennifer

Mushroomy Goodness

Tonight was Girl Night!  My friend, Christine, and I have Girl Night every couple of weeks.  It involves making a new recipe, movies and playing with the dogs.  Tonight Garrett joined us as an honorary girl.  :)

We watched a great movie, Jesus Henry Christ.  It is available on Netflix Instant Streaming.  We also made Mushroom Pesto Pizza. 

With whole wheat dough from Trader Joe’s, homemade pesto (we used walnuts instead since pine nuts give me headaches), delicious red onions, mushrooms and a provolone/parmesan cheese mix we made a wonderfully tasty pizza.

Thank you to Brown Eyed Baker for this recipe!

Click here for the pizza recipe:  Brown Eyed Baker

If you want to make your own pesto, search Pinterest of easy pesto recipes.  We used a basil pesto recipe.

Mushroom Pesto Pizza

Mushroom Pesto Pizza

Eat up!

- Jennifer

How Sweet It Is – Toasted Coconut Tilapia

My friend, Christine, was asking me what I was making for dinner Thursday night and I mentioned that I had planned for blackened tilapia.  She then sent me a quick recipe she had found earlier that day for Toasted Coconut Tilapia with Pomegranate Salsa.  After reviewing the recipe, I realized that I had almost all of the ingredients.  I stopped by the store and picked up the missing ingredients and went right home to start making this recipe. 

To say it was easy to make would be an understatement.  It really took only a few minutes to get everything set up and ready to go.  And cooking, no time at all.  This was my first experience cooking with Coconut Oil and I loved it.  Not slimy, not smelly and way healthier.

You will note that I altered the recipe in that I used diced mango instead of pomegranate arils.  I honestly didn’t feel like dealing with a pomegranate..lol

This is a wonderfully tasty recipe that I encourage everyone to try.  

Toasted Coconut Tilapia with Pomegranate Mango Salsa

via:  How Sweet It Is

Yield: serves 2-4

Total Time: 30 minutes

Ingredients:

4 tilapia filets
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 lemon, cut in half
3 tablespoons coconut oil
1/3 cup unsweetened shredded coconut

salsa
1 tomato, chopped
1/2 red onion, finely diced
1/2 cup pomegranate arils  (we used diced mango)
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
the juice of 1/2 lime
the juice of 1/2 orange
1/4 teaspoon salt

Directions:

To toast coconut, add to a saucepan over low-medium heat and stir, cooking for about 4-5 minutes. As soon as mine starts to turn golden, I use a wooden spoon and toss continuously until it’s evenly toasted. Set aside.

Season tilapia on both sides with salt, pepper and lemon juice. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium to medium-high heat and add coconut oil. Once the oil is completely melted, add tilapia and cook until the edges are opaque, about 3-4 minutes. Using a spatula, gently flip the fish. Immediately cover in half of the toasted coconut mixture, and as the fish cooks the coconut will somewhat “adhere” to it. Once the tilapia is easily flaked with a fork, remove it from the skillet and top with the remaining toasted coconut if desired. Serve with pomegranate mango salsa on top!

salsa
Combine all ingredients together and mix! Can be stored in the fridge for 2-3 days

Thanks again How Sweet It Is for the recipe!

-Jennifer

Crunchy Black Bean Tacos

Tonight’s dinner is brought to you by Pinterest, Endless Simmer and Cornerstone Cooking.  On the menu for tonight was Crunchy Black Bean Tacos and boy were they delicious.  Aside from their tastiness, they are also healthy. 

Every once in a while I will make a vegetarian meal.  When I do G usually asks “where’s the beef?”  Tonight, he did not ask.  *GASP*

These were super quick to make and amazingly cheap to make as well.  So it is a double thumbs up in my book. 

Crunchy Black Bean Tacos
(makes 8 tacos)

Ingredients:
2 cups canned black beans drained
1/2 cup minced red onion (G does NOT like onions but I sliced them so small he couldn’t even tell)
1 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. paprika
2 tbsp. chopped cilantro
6 ounces pepper jack cheese, grated
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 avocado, sliced
8 corn tortillas
Salsa
Sour Cream

Directions:

–  In a medium bowl, add beans along with red onion, cilantro, and spices. Lightly mash all of the ingredients together.

-  Grate your cheese and have it ready.

-  In a large, non-stick skillet add a 2  oil and heat over medium-high heat.  (I used my Cuisinart 5-n-1 Griddle and only had to use spray oil)

-  Add one corn tortilla at a time and let each get hot in the oil for a few seconds.

-  Then add about 1/4 cup of the bean filling to one half of the tortilla. Top with a sprinkle of grated cheese.

-  Using a spatula, carefully fold the tortilla over so it forms a shell. Press down lightly on the tortilla so it holds its shape.

-  As the first tortilla cooks, move it to the side and do a second one. Depending on the size of your pan, you should be able to get 2 or 3 tacos at once. If you have a griddle you can do even more at once.

-  Cook each taco for about 3 minutes per side until they are nicely browned and crispy.

-  When flipping the taco to cook on the other side, use a spatula and flip the taco toward the fold so the filling doesn’t fall out.

-  Serve tacos with toppings like salsa, avocados, and sour cream.

Ingredients

Ingredients

Cheeeeeeeeeeese

Before the fold

Before the fold

Thanks again to Endless Simmer and Cornerstone Cooking for this awesome recipe.

- Jennifer

Out with 2012….In with 2013

This is the obligatory New Years Eve post that I am sure most bloggers will post today or tomorrow.

Let me first recap how 2012 went…..

- I watched 192 different movies this year.
– I read 24 books (down from my usual 45-50 books per year).
– I started a business.
– I got a great part-time job.
– I managed to work a full-time job, a part-time job, volunteer and attend part-time graduate school.
– I visited Savannah for Christmas :)
– I kicked up my cooking fun.
– Made a kick ass new friend :)
– Stopped drinking caffeine.
– Started this blog!

I know that a lot of people think it is foo-foo to make New Year’s Resolutions.  They call them wishes, hopes, intentions, whatever you call it, it is still a resolution.  You’re not fooling anyone by calling it something else.

Yes, I am aware that I probably won’t keep all of my resolutions 100% but that’s no reason to not try.

In 2013 I resolve to…..

- Complete my graduate thesis (expected no later than April 2013)
– Graduate with my Masters in Forensic Science (expected May 2013)
– Cook more adventurously.
– Be more active.
– Find opportunities to Pay it Forward more.

What about you?  Are you too afraid to make resolutions?  Don’t be a chicken, tell me what they are.  ;)

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

- Jennifer

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