Congratulations Lel Dinner: Part Two

Dessert!  Earlier in the day I was looking around my kitchen and trying to figure out what to make for a celebratory dessert.  On the counter was a large bowl of recently harvested sweet potatoes from my garden.  A handful of fresh eggs from the hen house and hhmm… custard?… pie?… and then I remembered flan!

When I was little, my mom made a pumpkin flan once for Thanksgiving.  I think I might have begged her to make it again every year for the next few years.  That wonderfully light creamy texture dripping with caramel sauce.  Hands down it is a simple yet elegant treat.  I figured if you can make flan with pumpkin then you can make it with sweet potato.

I spent a few minutes scouring the internet for recipes.  I found a few good sweet potato flan recipes, but none that were sugar free.  So I decided to make my own based roughly on the recipes I had found online.  Another difference I made was to make Dulce De Leche for the caramel sauce.  Most recipes do not ask you to do this, but I have found that Dulce De Leche is about the easiest caramel sauce to make.  I find it way easier than water based caramel sauces.  It also has a very smooth creamy taste.  Normally Dulce De Leche is made with sugar, but I wanted to make it without sugar.  So the recipe below is a sugar free version.  If you want a great recipe and instructions on a sugar based Dulce De Leche.  Check out Alton Brown’s recipe.  You should also be able to find the video clips from the episode of Good Eats if you want to watch the process in action.

Dulce De Leche Recipe:

2 Cups Milk (I used reduced fat because that is what I had in the fridge, but you can use full fat too)

3/4 Cup of Honey (I had more honey than agave so I opted for honey, but you could substitute agave)

1/4 Tsp Baking Soda

1 Tsp Vanilla Extract

In a small sauce pan place 2 Cups of Milk, 3/4 Cup of Honey, and Vanilla.

On medium high heat bring the milk up to a simmer.  Add the 1/4 Tsp of Baking Soda and reduce the heat to low.  You will want to keep an eye on this and stir occasionally, however when you see foam appear on the surface do not stir the foam into the sauce.  Use a spoon to skim the foam off the top and discard.

It will take roughly an hour to reduce.  I watch the sauce for color, it should turn a golden amber color like those little caramel square your grandmother always had a jar of,  also occasionally dip a spoon in letting the sauce drip off the back to get a sense of thickness.  You are aiming for something along the lines of warm maple syrup.  Keep in mind that it will thicken up a bit when it cools.  Also the photos I took of my Dulce De Leche are a bit dark.  So don’t base the color of yours by the color below.

Pour the finished Dulce De Leche into a jar and store in the fridge.

And now onto the flan!

Sweet Potato Flan Recipe:

1 1/2 Cups of Sweet Potato ( Roughly 1 large sweet potato or a few small ones)

2/3 Cup of Agave Nectar

1 Cup Half and Half

4 Eggs

1/2 Cups Heavy/Whipping Cream

1/4 Tsp Salt

Preheat oven to 350F.  Wash a few small sweet potatoes or one large one, pierce the skin a couple times with a fork, and place on a baking sheet.  Bake the sweet potatoes for roughly 45 min to an hour.

I made extra because baked sweet potatoes are tasty!  After the sweet potatoes are done roasting, you can let them cool if you want to,  peel and place them in a mixing bowl.  It is time to mash!

After the sweet potatoes are mashed set them aside.  In a separate bowl or the same bowl minus the sweet potatoes add four eggs.

Whisk the eggs thoroughly.  Whisk in the cream, salt, and sweet potato.

This is a good point to prep your baking dish or dishes.  I decided to go with two small baking dishes.  Pour a  1/4 to 1/2 inch layer of the Dulce De Leche on the bottom on your baking dish.  Make sure to reserve 2 TBLS.  Place your baking dish in a larger roasting pan.  Fill the roasting pan with hot water to at least the half way make on the baking dish you will be putting the flan in.

Okay now back to the flan.  In a small sauce pan heat the half and half with 2 TBLS of the Dulce De Leche.  Gradually whisk the heated half and half into the sweet potato mixture.  Strain the whole mixture through a fine mesh strainer back into the small sauce pan.

Stir over medium heat for one minute.  Remove from heat and pour into prepared baking dish.

Bake at 350F for roughly an hour or until the center is set.  Remove from the oven and place the flan in the fridge for 4 or 5 hours.  This can be done a day ahead.  Once the flan is completely chilled and you are ready to serve.  run a knife along the very edge of the dish.  Place a plate on top of the baking dish and turn it over.  The flan will slide out on to the plate with the caramel sauce dripping down the sides.

Congratulation Lel Dinner: Part One

In celebration of  Lel’s new job we had an impromptu dinner at Adrianne’s house.  One of Lel’s favorite dishes is Baked Scallops and Shrimp.  With only a few hours notice I decided that this was a great dish.  One because it is simple and delicious and two because it really feels like celebrating when you bring out the Scallops!  I also wanted to make something special for desert so after a quick look around the kitchen.  A whole bunch of sweet potatoes, some eggs…hhhmm what could I make.  well tune in to the next install of this blog post to find out 😉

  • Baked Scallops and Shrimp Recipe:

  • 12 – 16  Scallops
  • 1 Pound Shrimp
  • 1 Cup Bread Crumbs
  • 5-8 Garlic Cloves
  • 2 Shallots
  • 2 Tbls Olive Oil
  • 6 Tbls Butter
  • 1 Cup Grated Parmesan Cheese
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Lemon Wedges for garnish
  • Chopped Flat Leaf Parsley for garnish

I make my own bread crumbs out of homemade bread.  You don’t have to do this, but if you want to make your own with bread
you have laying around it is beyond simple.  First toast the bread in your oven on a relatively low heat between 300F and 350F.  Slow and low drys the bread out as well as toasts it.

I use a blender, but if you have a food processor that would work better.  I throw a few broken up pieces of the toast into the blender and blend until bread crumbs.  That’s it…Simple huh?  I like to do this step early in the day.  One less thing to do around dinner time!

If you are ready to get the dish together preheat your oven to 425F.  Finely Chop the garlic and shallots.  In a small pot or skillet melt the butter.  Add the garlic and shallots to the butter.  You don’t want to brown the garlic so don’t let this cook too long.  I usually put the temp low and let them just sort of cook slowly together.  While the butter is melting with the garlic I usually work on prepping the rest of the dish.

Wash and peel the pound of shrimp and put them in mixing bowl.  Give the scallops a quick rinse, dry them off and add them to the same mixing bowl.  Toss them together.  I forgot to take any pictures of this part, but I am sure you have a good imagination.

In a separate bowl mix together the bread crumbs, parm, and a little salt and pepper.  If you can smell the aroma of garlic in the air the butter is probably done so turn the heat off.  Add 2 Tbs Olive oil and 2 Tbs of the garlic butter to the bread crumbs.  Mix the bread crumbs up so that the olive oil and butter coat everything.

Add the rest of the butter to the shrimp and scallops.  Toss to coat them in the butter and season with a little salt and pepper.  I like to use my hands for this next step.  Scoop out the shrimp and scallops and lay them out in one layer in a casserole type baking dish.  At this point you want to top the whole thing with the bread crumb mixture.  Pop this in a 425F oven for roughly 15 mins.

I also forgot to take pictures after it is done baking.  At this point people are usually trailing my heels and asking me when dinner is going to be ready 🙂  So I tend to get a little distracted.  So you will just have to try this one yourself or use your imagination, but eating real food is so much more fulfilling.

I usually serve this with a simple side salad of soft red leaf lettuce with balsamic dressing.  Lemon wedges and chopped parsley in their respective small bowls for people to garnish their dishes as they wish.  Don’t expect left overs from this one!

Friday September 28th Dinner: Sofia’s Birthday!

Last Friday was Sofia’s Birthday.  Sofia is one of those people with amazing self-discipline.  She exercises daily, almost never drinks, eats only organic, and has not eaten refined sugar in years- sometimes I worry that she is an alien 🙂 She is also a regular to our Friday night dinners, for her, this often means watching the rest of us enjoy red wine and homemade deserts.  I usually try to have something that is sugar-free for her, but that is not always practical. I hate it when she is left out, but for both my birthday and Adrianne’s, I made cake-  angel food cake- which requires sugar.  I didn’t want to risk/experiment with a sugar-free version and end up with a flat chewy angel food for birthday Fridays.

So now we are celebrating Sofia’s birthday and I wanted her to have a sugar-free cake.  I had never attempted a sugar-free cake before, so I was a little worried it would come out dense, but this recipe seemed to do the trick.  I spent sometime scouring the internet for cake recipes using Agave Nectar instead of refined sugar.  I came up with a couple, but wasn’t completely satisfied with the presentation. Then, I remembered making a Plum Tatin  a while back and thinking how beautiful it was.  So I decided to go with a sugar free peach tatin-peaches because right now in GA the organic peaches are unbelievably sweet and tasty. Game on!

  • Sugar Free Peach Tatin Recipe:

  • 3-4 Organic Peaches
  • Agave Nectar
  • ½ cup butter, softened
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 ½ cups Organic King Arthur unbleached all purpose flour
  • 2 ½ teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 ½ teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 ¼ cup organic milk
  • a Pint of Organic Heavy Whipping Cream

Ok, pre-heat your oven to 375F and get a medium sauce pan filled with water boiling.  I sort of made this whole part up based on what I thought I peach Tatin should/could look like.  I decided to peel the peaches.  The easiest way to do this is to cut the peaches in half, pit them, and then plop them into the pot of boiling water for 30 seconds.  You only want to add about three halves to the pot at a time.  Otherwise the temperature of the water will drop below a boil. After 30 seconds,  immediately move them from the boiling water to an ice water bath (a big bowl full of water and ice).  Oops, I forgot to take pictures of this part.

After you have done this to all the peach halves, pull them one by one out of the ice water bath and peel them.  It is fairly easy, but you can use the back of a paring knife or a butter knife to help when the skin sticks.

  After you have peeled all the peaches, you can begin to slice them.  I found it was easiest to just add them to the cake pan as I sliced.  I don’t actually have a regular cake pan, so I decided to use the spring form bundt type pan that I do have.  You could actually just use a pie pan or what ever kind of cake pan that you do have.  Lightly butter the cake pan and lightly flour it.  Now you can start adding the layers of peaches to the bottom.

    First full layer

Second Layer

Since this was sort of an experiment, I just eyeballed the agave I added.  I would say it was roughly 3 TBLS, but I basically took the bottle of agave nectar with the squeeze top and drizzled a nice layer on top of the peaches.  The peaches are very sweet on their own and don’t really need very much help- if you want to you could slice all the peaches first and toss them in agave and taste to get the sweetness that you want.

Ok, so now that the pan is prepped, we can start working on the cake batter.  I found this cake batter recipe on another blog.  Simply Food Online the title of the post was yummy yummy yellow cake.  The first step is to mix together 2 ½ cups flour, 2 ½ teaspoons baking powder and ½ teaspoon salt in a small bowl.  In a separate bowl beat the butter with an electric mixer on medium to high speed for roughly 30 seconds.

Once the butter is beaten slowly add 3/4 Cup of Agave nectar.

After the butter and agave have mixed, add 3 eggs and 1 1/2 teaspoon of Vanilla.  At this point, start adding the flour mixture and the milk alternately.  Slowly add a little flour mixture and then a little milk until all the flour and milk are incorporated (that means  batter-like). IMPORTANT! Do Not Over Mix or you will have a Brick instead of a cake- only funny when it happens to other cooks.  Then stop the mixer.  Spoon the cake batter over the peaches in the cake pan.  Leave a little room at the top for rising.

Now it is time for the oven.  I placed this cake pan on top of a baking sheet in a 375F oven.  Roughly 20-25 minutes, but keep an eye on this.  Poke the cake with a toothpick or a skewer.  If it comes out clean the cake is done.  It should look something like this:

Let the cake cool.  It will pull away from the sides a bit, which actually makes it easier to invert later.

I know this is not the best picture but I was kept busy keeping my guests/helpers away from the cake 🙂  The last step to this cake is to take a plate and place it over the top of the cake pan and then flip the whole thing over.  It will slide out of the cake pan beautifully onto the plate like so.  I also decided to add fresh whipped cream in the center and around the sides for a little added presentation/ moister.  Not that the cake is dry, but I figured whip cream is tasty and would add to the over all experience.  To make the whipped cream, I just whipped a pint of heavy whip cream with a little bit of agave nectar.  Just taste it to see how sweet you want the cream to be.

Sofia was so happy about this cake.  It was really an excellent birthday!  She even got a couple of slices ( Lel cried, but it was Sofia’s birthday, after all) to take home at the end of the night. 🙂

Friday Dinner: Pizza

Friday Night Dinner 9/21/12: Pizza

Last Friday we opened up the circle of regulars and invited a few more.  Unsure exactly how many to expect, I planned a relatively easy feast.  Chicken/Turkey meat balls, Homemade Tomato Sauce (for those two recipes check last weeks blog post),  Pasta  (Gluten free and Regular), a large salad,  Fresh mozzarella- tomato-basil pizza, and Caramelized Onion-Roasted Garlic- Goat Cheese pizza.

Pizza Dough Recipe:

Not wanting to repeat myself, I am not going to add the entire dough recipe again.  I normally use my basic bread recipe as pizza dough.  You can find information on how to make this dough in Friday Night Dinner Turkey Meatballs

The only difference you need to make, is that after the dough rises the second time, instead of punching it down and forming it into a loaf, you will punch it down and divide it into 3 parts.  I made 2 large pizzas and 1 small loaf of bread from this amount of dough.  If you don’t want to make this much food, you can either cut the  dough recipe or simply freeze the dough that you don’t use.  It lasts for quite a while in the freezer-then the next time you want to make pizza you can simply pull the dough out and let it thaw.  It works very well!

  • Caramelized Onion Roasted Garlic Goat Cheese Pizza Recipe:

  • Pizza Dough (look at Friday Dinner Bread for recipe)
  • 2 Head of Garlic Whole
  • 2 Large Sweet or Yellow Onions
  • 6 oz Goat Cheese
  • 1 Cup Plus of Olive Oil
  • Grated Parmesan Cheese
  • Slice tomatoes
  • Fresh Basil
  • Fresh Oregano

The first step to making this pizza is roasting the garlic.  So turn your oven on to around 350F.  Grab your two heads of garlic and just peel the outer layers of the skin off.  Do Not take the bulbs off the head and Do Not peel them completely.  Now just cut the very top of the head off from each bulb.  I usually do one cut on the very top and then go around the edges with a small knife cutting each outer bulb individually.

It should look like this when you are finished.  Now take a small piece of tin foil, place the head in the center, and pull the edges up slightly.

Now pour a TBLS of olive oil over the top of the head and wrap the whole thing up.

Pop that bundle into the oven for roughly 30 min.  You want to watch this pretty closely because the garlic can go from roasted perfection to burnt pretty quickly in the last stages of cooking.  When you smell that beautiful aroma of roasting garlic just make sure to peek in every so often. Pull the bundle open slightly and look at the tops of the garlic.  If it is a toasty golden brown it is probably done.

Poke bulb with a fork.  If the inside of the bulb feels soft pull the whole bundle out of the oven.  close the top back up and let it sit and cool.  You can do this  up to a day ahead if you want to, but watch out for snackers in your refridgerator!

The next thing you want to work on (you can be working on this while the garlic is roasting) is caramelizing the onions.  Cut the very top and the bottom off of your onions.  Peel them and slice them in half.  Now quarter them and thinly slice.

Place the sliced onions into a medium sauce pan.

Pour 1 Cup of Olive Oil over the top of the onions.  Sprinkle roughly a tsp. of Kosher Salt over the top and cover.

Over medium to high heat cook the onions, stirring occasionally at first. When the onions start to brown, make sure to stir them very often so that they do not burn or stick to the bottom of the pan.  Adjust the heat as well to keep the onions from burning.  When the onions look golden brown like this:

Turn the heat off and remove from the burner.  Have a mesh strainer positioned over a bowl ready.

Pour the contents of the pan into the strainer.  Push down slightly on the Onions with the back of a spoon.  You don’t want to smash the onions so don’t push to hard.  Your goal here is to squeeze a little of the the olive oil out of them.

Reserve that beautiful caramelized onion olive oil for later.  We will be using it.  This step can also be done a day ahead.  The next thing you want to work on is the roasted garlic and herb goat cheese.

If you are doing all these steps at once, make sure to take the goat cheese out before you start and let it come to room temp.  In a small bowl place the goat cheese, roasted garlic, finely chopped basil (roughly a TBLS), and finely chopped oregano (roughly a 1/2 TBLS), a Tsp of Kosher Salt, and a few turns from a pepper mill.  With a spoon start smashing the garlic and mixing everything into the goat cheese.

Now that you have the goat cheese mixed, and the caramelized onions ready, you can start building the pizza.  Heat your oven to 425F.  On a large baking tray covered in parchment paper stretch out your pizza dough.

Remember that Olive Oil that we reserved from the Onions?

Spoon a few TBLS onto the dough and spread with the back of the spoon.  Covering the entire surface of the pizza.

Put the pizza in the oven for 5 to 10 minutes.  You basically just want to toast or brown the dough. It should look a little like this when it is done:

Sprinkle fresh grated parmesan over the entire pizza.

Pop the pizza back in the oven for a few minutes or until the Parmesan has melted.  Once the parm has melted pull the pizza out of the oven and spread the goat cheese.

Now spread the caramelized onions.

Next add a layer of fresh basil.

Now for the thinly sliced tomatoes.  If I can get them from the garden, I like to use a mixture of red and green tomatoes.  It adds something both to the flavor and to the presentation.

Last layer is a sprinkle of grated Parmesan.

Into the oven at 425F for 20-30 minutes.

  • Fresh Mozzarella Tomato Basil Pizza Recipe:

  • Pizza dough
  • Thinly sliced tomatoes
  • Fresh mozzarella
  • Fresh Basil
  • Caramelized Onion Oil
  • Grated Parmesan

This is a simple pizza, yet despite its simplicity it has always been one of my favorites.  Basically, you want to stretch out the dough on your baking sheet (the same way I explained above.)  Use some of the caramelized onion olive oil or- if you don’t have that- just plain olive oil.  Spoon the oil onto the dough and spread it evenly.   After the pizza looks nice and golden brown, pull it out of the oven and sprinkle it with grated Parmesan.  Put the pizza back in the oven to melt the cheese.  Pull it out of the oven when the cheese is melted. (basically the same as the pizza described above)

Okay so now this is where it gets a little different.  First layer the basil onto the pizza.  Then lay the tomatoes out, like so:

  Now add a layer of thinly slice fresh mozzarella and finish it off with a sprinkle of grated Parmesan.

A sprinkle of Kosher salt and a few turns from the pepper mill to finish it off and you are ready to put this pizza in the oven.  Roughly 30 min at 425F, however like most recipes keep an eye and your nose open to tell when it is ready to pull out of the oven.

Unfortunately, my ravenous guests were so eager for a bite that I completely forgot to take any after pictures.  I was a bit worried I had made too much food, but after a wonderful evening I found that I didn’t even have any food to put away.  No leftovers and many happy faces are always telltale signs of a great dinner 🙂

Friday Night Dinner: Turkey Meatballs, Homemade Sauce, and Fresh Baked Bread!

Friday Night Dinner 9/7/12 : Turkey Meatballs, Homemade Sauce, and Fresh Baked Bread!

We held this weeks Friday night dinner at our house, so I got to spend the day in my kitchen working on dinner and wrapping up a few other projects.  Despite the 90 degree plus temp and the %100 humidity of the kitchen I did actually have a great and very productive day.  I harvested enough tomatoes from the garden to fill a large mixing bowl, prepped them for canning/saucing, baked a loaf of bread, made sauce, canned the extra tomatoes, made meatballs, herb butter, and fig preserves (which I will tell you about in another blog post).  So where to start…

I suppose we should start with the bread.  This my quick and dirty recipe for fresh homemade bread.  It is not a gluten free bread, but I do use Organic King Aurthur flour.  King Aurthur Flour’s  “ Non-GMO Statement follows: “Because of the many uncertainties surrounding genetically modified wheat, and based on input from our customers and employee-owners, King Arthur Flour does not support the introduction of genetically modified wheat, nor its use in King Arthur flours. For more than 200 years, King Arthur Flour has provided customers with flour products that are pure and naturally wholesome. Using genetically modified wheat as the basis for King Arthur flours would run counter to our centuries-old commitment to natural quality, so we don’t do it, plain and simple.” Irene @ KAF. Lel has found that despite a gluten allergy she has had no reaction to the bread and baked goods I make at home.  We believe that this might have something to do with the fact that I use only Organic Non-GMO Flour.  I am not recommending that anyone believe me and my theories, but it seems to be true for Lel and a couple other friends of ours with Gluten allergies.

  • Bread Recipe:

  • 2- 4 Cups Organic King Aurthur Bread Flour
  • 1/4 Cup Organic King Aurthur Whole Wheat Flour
  • 1 Packet or 2 Tsps Yeast
  • 1 TBLS Kosher Salt
  • Three Count  Olive Oil
  • Water

If you are lucky enough to have a stand mixer, this is a really easy bread recipe.  If you don’t have a mixer it is still easy, but obviously more labor intensive.  The first thing I do is put about a 1/4 cup of warm water in the bowl for my stand mixer.  Sprinkle the yeast on the water and then cover the top of the bowl with a kitchen towel.  Wait about 5 or 10 minutes for the yeast to start bubbling.  Once the yeast is bubbling add another 2 cups of water to the mixing bowl.  Attach the whisk attachment to your mixer or if you are doing this by hand get a whisk out.  If you are doing this in a mixer turn the mixer on 1 and start adding flour slowly.  When you get to batter texture add the salt and olive oil.  I just pour from the olive oil bottle and count to 3.  Also add the 1/4 cup of whole wheat flour now.

At this point switch the whisk out for the dough hook on your machine (or a wooden spoon if you are doing this by hand).  Turn the mixer back on to 2 and slowly add more flour.  When the dough comes together in one mass on the dough hook only add enough to keep it from sticking to the sides.  Once it stops sticking to the sides, let it be kneaded by the machine for a few minutes- if it starts to stick again just sprinkle some more flour along the side of the bowl.  Knead the dough to the point when it is elastic and only slightly sticky.

If you are doing this by hand, use the wooden spoon to mix flour into the dough- only adding a little bit at a time.  When the dough has come together, take it out of the bowl and start kneading it on a floured surface.  Sprinkling flour as needed on the the dough and then the surface to keep the dough from sticking.  Kneading the dough to the point when it is elastic and only slightly sticky.

At this point transfer the dough into an oiled bowl.  Cover the top with a kitchen towel and place the bowl in a warm place.  I place the bowl somewhere near the oven and start preheating to 425 for baking.

When the dough has doubled in size.  Sprinkle some whole wheat flour on the top and punch the dough down.

At this point I have my baking sheet ready with a piece of parchment paper.  I sprinkle some whole wheat flour on the surface of the parchment paper and spread the dough out.

Now I do what is called a letter fold  by folding one side toward the middle then folding the opposite side toward the middle.  Make sure that you sprinkle each side with whole wheat flour.

You also want to turn it 180 degrees and do another letter fold.  I forgot to take pictures of this part or the next part:(  I then shape this into a loaf form by pinching the bottom together and sort of squeezing the whole thing into shape.      Cover the loaf with a kitchen towel and let it rise.  When the loaf looks about the right size (it doesn’t exactly double)  put it in the oven at 425 for 15 mins and then reduce the heat the heat to 350.  It usually  take another 30 mins, but I stay close to the kitchen in case it is finished sooner.  You can smell the bread when it is about done.

My Kitchen Help :  Miko

  • Herb Butter Recipe:

  • 1 Stick of Butter Softened
  • Mascarpone
  • Roasted Garlic or Boiled Garlic
  • Fresh Herbs of Your Choice
  • Basil
  • Chive
  • Oregano
  • Salt to taste
  • Pepper

I have made this spread a many different ways and with many different combinations of herbs.  Feel free to experiment with whatever you have in season.  In the winter, I use flat leaf parsley, garlic, salt and pepper.  If you make extra it is great to freeze in small balls and use on grilled meat.  For last nights dinner, I used fresh basil, chive, and oregano from the garden.  This was not originally on my menu plan, but Lel requested it a hour or so before everyone was going to arrive so I decided to whip some up 🙂 It is very easy to do in a short amount of time, the only problem being that there really wasn’t enough time for me to roast garlic (I was also trying to cool the house down before everyone arrived and turning on the oven again was not an option), there is an alternative to roasting garlic though.  My quick and easy method of boiling the garlic will soften it to the point that it can be smashed into a paste. Voila!  Or if you have garlic paste you can use that as an alternative quick fix.

Peel about 6 garlic cloves and place in a small pan of boiling water.  Boil the cloves for about 5 minutes or until they are soft. While they are cooking, I finely chop the herbs and place them in a small bowl.

Once the garlic is done add it to the bowl.

Now take the back of a spoon and smash the garlic and herbs together.  It will look a little something like this when you are done:

       Now that you have all the herbs and garlic all smashed up, add the softened stick of butter and the Marscapone.  Be sure to mix it up well so that it is all one consistency.  Now add a few turns of coarsely ground pepper and salt to taste.  Mmmmm. Put the spread in a small serving dish.  If you are ready to serve or close to serving let this sit out at room temp since it is easier to spread if it is soft.  If not, just stick it in the fridge until about a half hour before serving and then take it out to warm up.

  • Fresh From the Garden Tomato Basil Sauce:

  • Fresh Roma Tomatoes
  • Fresh Basil
  • Garlic
  • Salt to taste

My garden is at it’s peak right now.  I have more ripe tomatoes every day.  Yesterday I collected a large mixing bowl full of ripe Roma tomatoes.  If you are canning right now, this is a great easy sauce to make because you are already blanching the tomatoes and removing the skins for the canning process.  I suppose you could also just can the sauce, but we didn’t have any leftovers so I haven’t tried this yet.

To start the process yesterday I first blanched and peeled the tomatoes (if you would like direction on this step see my post on canning tomatoes).  Once I had a bowl full of peeled tomatoes I was ready to start the sauce.  Peel almost a whole head of garlic. Mmmm, garlic…

In a large pot, add enough oil to cover the bottom and the peeled garlic cloves.  Turn the burner onto medium low heat.  You want the garlic to cook slowly and not brown.  When the garlic is soft, it is time to add the tomatoes.

  I added enough to fill to about the half way mark on the pot.  I was saving some for canning, but I could have easily added all the tomatoes.  This sauce cooks down over a few hours.  If I had added more tomatoes, we may have had left overs so I would recommend adding enough to fill about 3/4 of the pot if you have them-next time I make this sauce I plan on doing it that way.  There is so much flavor in these fresh tomatoes that you really can’t go wrong on how many you add.  At this point I put the pot on the back burner and let it simmer on a very low flame for roughly 2 hours.

After a few hours of simmering I add some coarsely chopped fresh basil to the sauce.

Put the lid back on and start working on the meatballs!

  • Turkey or Chicken Meatballs:

  • 2 Pound of Ground Turkey or Ground Chicken
  • 1/2 Cup Grated Parmesan
  • 6 TBLS Masa (for gluten free) or Organic All Purpose Flour
  • 2 egg
  • Finely Chopped Oregano and Basil
  • Finely Chopped Garlic
  • 1 Tsp Salt
  • few grinds of pepper from mill

I have made this recipe with both ground turkey or ground chicken.  Some people don’t like turkey so I make these meatballs with chicken for them.  If you like turkey I recommend the turkey.  In my opinion, it has more flavor and  is great for all that mood-enhancing brain chemistry.

Ok so once you have the parmesan grated, your garlic chopped, and your herbs diced.  Stick them all in a large bowl.  Add the masa (if you are doing gluten free and flour if you are not) to the bowl.  Also add the 2 eggs.

Now add the 2 LBS of ground turkey.  Using your hands knead all the ingredients together.  When they are well mixed, roll them into balls with your hands.  I have found that after kneading the meat all together if I wash my hands and have them slightly wet before making the balls, the meat will stick less to my hands making it easier to work with.

In a large skillet add enough olive oil to coat the bottom.  Put the burner on medium high.  When the oil is hot, place the meat balls in the skillet.  Be sure to add only as many as will easily fit-  leaving a little room between each ball.  I have to cook these in two batches.  Brown them on all sides and leave them covered in between turning.

When the meatballs have browned on all sides add them to the sauce.  Let them simmer in the sauce for as long as you want.  Last night I left them simmering in the sauce for roughly an hour before serving.

We are just about done with this meal.  Except I am going to let you in on one of my Biggest Secrets- I am going to publish one of my dressing recipes!  It is simple and yet people love it and are always requesting/demanding/begging me to make it for them.  Soooo, here are the basics:

  • Balsamic Vinaigrette Recipe:

  • Balsamic vinegar
  • 1 Garlic Clove
  • Kosher Salt
  • Fresh Herbs
  • Fresh Cracked Pepper
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil

First step in the dressing is to peel and smash 1 clove of garlic with the back of your knife.

I am making this dressing in a 1/2 pint jar.  Put the smashed garlic in the 1/2 pint jar.  Put about 1 Tbls of Kosher Salt in the jar.  I measure by hand, but I would say it is about 1 Tbls of salt.  For this dressing I used Basil and Oregano.  I might have added a little chive, but I can’t remember.  I usually just add what I have on hand as far as fresh herbs go.  However, my basic herbs of choice are always Basil and Oregano.  Add a few grinds from a pepper mill.  Okay now here is where I think the secret is (unless you believe that I can imbue love into my food) put the lid on and shake the dressing up.  Now let it sit and marinate without the oil for at least an hour.

The picture above is to give you an idea of the balsamic vinegar measurement.  The picture was taken when the only thing in the jar was the garlic and the salt.

       The picture above is the finished product (prior to the last shake) to show the measurement of the Extra Virgin Olive oil.  It will be roughly about equal to the amount of vinegar you add to the jar.  Now give the whole thing a good shake and you are ready to dress your salad.  You can also let this sit indefinitely.  We usually use it so quickly it isn’t sitting too long, but you can keep it in the fridge or at room temp and it will last for at least a month if not longer.  If you keep it in the fridge, remember to bring it to room temp and shake it before dressing.

       For last nights dinner I just made a very simple salad with red leaf lettuce, grated Parmesan, and a drizzle of this dressing.  Really excellent accompaniment to the pasta, meatballs, and bread.

       Oh, I forgot to mention the pasta.  For last night’s dinner we just used a store bought fresh pasta.  I recommend using what ever kind you like.  Whether it is gluten free, fresh, or dried. Or homemade….but that is another blog post 🙂