If heaven is real, then I really don’t think it’s made of puffy clouds and golden harps. I rather imagine it must be filled with endless tables, buckling under the weight of all the chips, dips, cheeses and crackers (all calorie-free, OBVIOUSLY) that a person could possibly want. Really, is there a better way to eat than scooping up succulent dips and salsas with crisp, salty shards of simple carbohydrates?
My obsession with chips is pretty severe. I’m hopeless at Mexican restaurants. Those continuously re-filling bowls of free chips and salsa at the start of the meal virtually guarantee that I’ll be in a food coma before my main course even arrives. I’m pretty shameless about them at potlucks and dinner parties, too. But unless I am hosting a party of my own, I actually avoid buying them: if I have chips in the house, there’s like a 70% chance that I’ll skip cooking dinner and simply dine on chips and salsa instead, strangely able to justify it by pretending they are vegetables. Sad, I know.
But I’ve found a little loophole. As long as I have corn tortillas in my fridge (which is pretty regular) I can make teeny batches of chips whenever I like! Satisfy my cravings without overdosing! Plus they are baked, which in the chip world, is code for healthy! (Right?)
It’s shockingly simple. Cut tortillas. Spray with cooking spray and salt. Flip over and repeat. Bake. Eat.
I realize that I’m a month or two late for the PUMPKIN-EVERYTHING craze that annually arrives in September, but I finally gathered the time, the initiative, and the pumpkins to try my hand at making my own pumpkin puree. I’ve always been a big fan of Libby’s, but I’m pretty pleased with both the results and the ease of making this myself. Right after Halloween, it’s easy to find pumpkins for just a couple dollars, so it’s a great time of year to stock up for all your coming holiday desserts, as it freezes wonderfully.
And it’s sooooo easy. I urge you to give it a try for your own pumpkin recipes this year! Here’s how it’s done:
1. Select 1-2 small-ish pumpkins, or as many as you want to make in one batch. You can definitely puree pumpkins of any size, but they flavor and texture will be better from smaller pumpkins. These are often sold as “pie pumpkins” or “sugar pumpkins”.
Two years ago, I wrote a rather desperate post about my first experience in bulk tomato canning. I scarcely realized the task I had undertaken, did not have pots quite large enough or a food mill worth its weight in feathers, and I had unwittingly committed to waaaaay to many products for a two-day stint. At the time, I wasn’t sure it was worth the effort, and there are least a few moments that tears dripped down my tomato-flecked face.
But over the course of that year, I grew quite fond of the sauces I had made and became rather dependent on them in my cooking. When tomato season rolled around again, I decided to tackle the project a second time with a few changes. I reduced the variety of products, but I also added about 25% more tomatoes since I had run out of many favorites in the weeks previous. However, the project still produced a vast amount of stress. I had to do my canning at a friend’s apartment (I didn’t have the right kind of stove to manage it), which meant packing up all my supplies and commandeering a kitchen that was not my own. More tomato-stained tears were had.
They say third time is the charm, and in this case I agree: I tackled my tomatoes this year with some MAJOR upgrades that turned this somewhat dreaded experience into an exciting one.
I know many of you are completely uninterested in large-scale canning. Even with upgraded equipment and a few years of experience, putting up 120 pounds of tomatoes (!!!) is a massive amount of work. However, if you are interested but have not approached the craft because it seems too daunting, I want to share with you a few of the things I’ve learned that I wish so much I had known the first time around.
Hey guys! Sorry it’s been like, months since I’ve been here. After a brief website shut down (not a big deal, I fixed it), an October full of autumn festivities and adventures, a November featuring major events at my job, a contract birthday cake, and two Thanksgivings, a December just being its normal insane self, and a January long hours, cold-weather-crankiness, and holiday recuperation, it’s finally time: climbing around my kitchen with a camera and sharing tasty treats with you is finally back at the top of my list. No hard feelings, k? Or if you have them, can I fix them with pizza rolls?
The answer should be YES. I felt for years that pizza rolls were just one of those things that could only be purchased in the freezer section, compliments of food scientists and packaging specialists. But no! You can make your own, and I daresay they are even better than their freezer-burned counterparts. For one thing, you can know exactly what’s inside and make that choice yourself.
For this, my first foray into homemade pizza roll-dom, I stuck with the basics: pepperoni, zesty red pizza sauce, and the three cheeses I put on all my pizzas all the time always: mozzarella, parmesan, and asiago.
I don’t eat a lot of sandwich bread. Brad can finish off a loaf of bread in three or four days, even faster if he’s trying to eat at home. I, on the other hand, have a tough time getting through even half a loaf before it takes a turn for the moldy.
I’ve always tended to prefer my breads in other forms. Tortillas, bagels, biscuits, cornbreads, and baguettes are much more likely to appeal to me than a loaf of sandwich bread. And more recently, English muffins.
Considering that I love finding ways to replace my store-bought staples with homemade versions, I am somewhat ashamed to admit that I really haven’t spent a lot of time focusing on breads. I do have some go-to recipes for quite a few quick breads, but not many that I cook on a regular basis (the dramatic exception being my favorite, favorite cornbread, which ends up on my menu quite frequently). So when I ran across a recipe for this, my current bread-of-choice, I decided it was time.
With another wedding cake baked and spring semester in my rear-view mirror, I finally feel like summer has begun. No, summer isn‘t quite the same as it used to be; the three-month vistas of free time I enjoyed from age 5-22 no longer lie ahead. I’ve been nostalgic for those childhood summers lately: sleeping in, spending the day flitting about town with mom, attempting badminton on the lawn with my sister, eating dinner off the grill in the cool Colorado evenings. Bliss!
After the sun set, summer nights in our house usually involved a movie. And where there are movies, there sure as Sam was gonna be some popcorn.
Admittedly, most of the popcorn I remember eating at home was microwave popcorn, though there was also brief stint where Kelli and I found an air popper almost as entertaining to watch as whatever movie was selected for the night. I do remember, quite vividly, one attempt to pop corn on the stove and the ensuing clouds of smoke that followed when it cooked too fast and burned to a crisp. Perhaps scarred by this event, up until recently I had mentally relegated popcorn popping to the arts of yesteryear, one that I was unlikely to ever master. But then, after seeing some friends pop corn at a party — quite casually and deliciously and with no clouds of smoke, I might add — I bravely bought a bag of cheap yellow kernels and decided to give it a shot.
It turns out making popcorn is really easy. And really fast. I’m really not sure now what happened that fateful night as a child when I developed a fear of popcorn-making, but I am now here to say that if any of you have similar fears, give them up! Tonight! You can make freshly-popped popcorn with just a few kitchen tools that you already have.
Brad and I sometimes grapple a bit when it comes to ordering pizza. Brad likes lots of toppings: meats, mushrooms, onions, veggies, goat cheese, herbs… and I actually like those, too. But if I ever have a choice, if I’m ever ordering pizza just for me, I get cheese. Beautiful, glorious, unadulterated cheese pizza.
But the shocking truth is that until last week, I’ve never made a cheese pizza at home. I know. I know. I can’t explain myself. I’ve been making pizza regularly now for a couple of years, but I’ve always dressed it up. It was high time I build my own perfect cheese pizza from scratch.
This pizza started with my go-to pizza crust recipe. I have another crust that I really love, but I only make it when I have excess whey from a batch of homemade mozzarella. This recipe, on the other hand, is super-easy to whip up when you need dinner in less than an hour. It’s a no-fuss crust that requires little resting time and rolls out easily.
Every once in a while, I come across a recipe for a homemade version of a dish that I’ve previously classified as “will-never-be-made-as-well-at-home” that blows my mind. It’s the culinary equivalent of an explorer uncovering an ancient temple, a researcher finding stunning results, an eager learner having their first philosophical epiphany. I’ve felt this on a number of things I’ve shared with you here: yogurt, fresh mozzarella, handmade pasta, beef jerky… all products that, a few years ago, I never would have considered being possible.
Such was my opinion with french fries. I always heard other people talk about making them, but I was firmly convinced that they couldn’t possibly be as good as fries I could get from my local burger joint. I’d learned that the best fries are cooked twice: once to actually cook the potato so the inside of the fry is light and smooth, and again to give that light-and-smoothness a crisp outer shell. There was no way I could be bothered to hand-cut my own fries, purchase large quantities of oil, possibly a deep-frier, and then cook TWICE a side dish that I could have exactly perfect in 10 minutes from a dozen restaurants near by.
Folks, I have never been so wrong.
This method, which I’ve repeated already and plan to again, is SO easy and SO satisfying. No special equipment is required beyond what I’ll wager you already have in your kitchen. The ingredients are simple and few. And let me repeat: it is breathtakingly easy.
I’ve always strongly associated oranges with summer. Their summery orange glow, bright flavors, and balmy geographic origins have all contributed to this perception. And yet I also remember that my dad always brought home the best grapefruits, even in thoroughly NOT balmy Colorado, in January and February. Occasionally, we’d receive boxes of citrus as Christmas gifts, and I even recall the local chapter of FFA selling them to neighbors as a fundraiser in the weeks preceding the holidays.
Citrus is cultivated year-round in many of the southern-most states of our continent, but it really shines in the winter. Not surprisingly, when I was driving back to North Carolina from a late-November trip to Florida with the fam, I simply couldn’t resist stopping at a roadside stand for a bag of this fruit so far outside my normal local fare.
I probably could have just eaten or juiced each and every one of these golden orbs, but I’ve been curious for some time about marmalades. I don’t remember growing up with marmalade in the house, though my mom confirms that she loved it when she was a child. Our spreadables tended to be homemade from the berries and stone fruits my grandma and grandpa grew in their garden, so perhaps that accounts for the marmalade vacuum of my youth. I’ve heard from some that marmalade is an acquired taste, that it’s a bitter product not suited for those who prefer sweet jams. I wanted to give it a shot, but wasn’t sure how I would feel about a bitter final product. I ran across this recipe, a blend of oranges and cranberries, and thought that it might be just the transitional product between sweet and bitter I was looking for.
I’m not entirely sure where November went, but December (and with it, the holiday cooking season) seems to have arrived quite suddenly. Before Thanksgiving, I felt like I was finally on it for my holiday planning: I had lists, I had a rough cooking schedule (don’t judge me), I had some hard-to-find ingredients ordered. But now we’re here, hurtling through the first week of December, and I feel overwhelmed and scrambled and concerned that I won’t get everything done. As usual, I’ve probably scheduled waaaaaay too many recipes to try, I decided months ago that throwing a food-filled holiday party this weekend would be a good idea, and I have a fantastically busy schedule at work.
However, at least one of my gift-giving projects is already under way and is actually right on schedule. And just in case you think it’s a swell idea too, I’m gonna go ahead and ruin the surprise for those of you on my Santa list this year.
Everyone on my list is getting homemade mulling spices! And, because it’s fun and I like sharing, I’m hosting a little giveaway so that three of you readers can have some too!
Last year, my holiday crafty-gift-project was making these little hot chocolate sticks. They were a hit, and they make a mean mug of hot chocolate, but this year I wanted to come up with something a bit more versatile. After seeing tiny containers of mulling spices being sold at a market in Ohio, I knew I had found my next project.