Thursday, September 11, 2014

Antipasto Pepper and Sausage Pizza

One of the things I miss most from my hometown of Rochester, NY is Rubino's. Rubino’s is an Italian grocery store that sells everything from groceries to homemade sausage to pasta rollers. If there’s a store like that here in Atlanta, I haven’t found it yet. So imagine my delight when I received three items from Sarah that reminded me of Rubino’s: Italian style antipasto peppers, marinated mushrooms, and marinated eggplant, made right in Sarah’s town of West Haven, Connecticut. You can find these items at Cosmo's Foods.

It just so happened that a good friend had brought me 5 pounds of Italian Sausage from Rubino’s just a few weeks before I received my goodies from Sarah (yes, Italian sausage makes it through TSA security.) With all of this good stuff in hand, I decided to make an Italian pepper and sausage pizza. To add a little extra crunch, I breaded and deep-fried the marinated eggplant strips to top it off. The result was a little taste of home. I made my own pizza dough and ricotta, but you could certainly use store-bought (making ricotta is so easy-you should try it if you haven’t. It’s about as easy as boiling water, and the result is delicious.)

Antipasto Pepper and Sausage Pizza
by Jennifer

Makes 2 10-inch pizzas

1/2 recipe pizza dough (I used Julie's recipe, found here, but substituted patent flour for the bread flour)
3 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 Tablespoon fine cornmeal, plus more for dusting surface of pizza peel
Salt and pepper to taste
Cosmo’s marinated eggplant strips (about 1/2 jar), drained
Oil for frying eggplant strips
Olive oil
Ricotta cheese to taste
Mozzarella cheese to taste
Italian sausage, bulk or squeezed out of the casing and broken up before cooking (I used 2 links)
2 Tablespoons (or to taste) Cosmo’s Italian-style antipasto peppers, drained

At least one day before you want the pizza, make the dough. You can also cook the sausage ahead of time and keep it in the refrigerator until you’re ready for it.

Mix flour, cornmeal, and salt and pepper to taste in a ziptop bag. Add drained eggplant strips and shake to coat. Deep-fry or shallow fry in oil and drain on paper towels, reserving for after pizza is baked.

Heat oven to 500°F (with a pizza steel in it if you have one) about 1 hour before ready to bake pizza. Stretch the pizza dough and place on a pizza peel generously coated with cornmeal. Drizzle dough with olive oil and top with ricotta, mozzarella, sausage, and drained peppers.

Transfer pizza to the pizza steel and bake for about 7 minutes, or until done to your liking. Top with fried eggplant strips and serve.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Peanut Butter, Date, and Fruit Smoothie

I have been loving my blender lately to make nutritious smoothies. When I received my surprise ingredients for this challenge, I started thinking of how could I put them together. You guys know I am all about simple, easy, quick recipes and this is definitely one of them!

Peanut Butter, Date and Fruit Smoothie
by Sarah M

1 cup strawberries, halved
1/2 cup blueberries
1/2 frozen banana
3 dates, pitted and chopped
1/2 Tablespoon ground flaxseed
1 Tablespoon homemade peanut better (recipe below)
1/2 cup milk (I used 2%)

Add all ingredients in order to your blender and blend it up! I pulse mine a few times to get everything started and then blend it for a few minutes until everything comes together. Couldn't be more easy, right? It is really tasty, and the dates play a big part in bringing a natural sweetness.

2-Ingredient Peanut Butter
by Sarah

2 cups salted peanuts
1 Tablespoon coconut oil, melted

Add the peanuts to your food processor. Pulse until the peanuts get small and crumbly. Keep processing until you see the peanuts coming together and then add the coconut oil. Continue to process until the peanuts become smooth. This will take about 10-15 minutes.

The result will be a peanut butter with a bit of texture to it; not quite as smooth as what you go out and buy. Store in a small container (2 cups of peanuts made 1 cup of peanut butter) and keep in the fridge.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Comfort Food with Grilled Cheese Croutons

About a year ago or so, Willie went to a cooking class based on Ina Garten's cookbook, Foolproof. The cookbook was included with the price of the class. Even though we've had the cookbook in our house all this time, it wasn't until my friend Dayna sent me Foolproof as a part of our cookbook club, that I actually cooked from the book. I was intrigued by this recipe immediately because 1) it's tomato soup, 2) it has grilled cheese croutons, 3) do I need to tell you another reason before you're as intrigued as I was? No?! I didn't think so! 

This soup is fantastic! I made it with the orzo pasta, but I want to experiment with it a little more in the future and I suggest you do the same. I'll be trying it with no orzo, half the orzo, whole-wheat orzo, and fregola pasta. How about you?

Tomato Soup with Grilled Cheese Croutons
by Sandra
Adapted from a recipe from Ina Garten's cookbook, Foolproof

1 Tablespoon olive oil (I used Sciabica Manzanillo Variety Fall Harvest)
2 large sweet onions, roughly chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
4 cups chicken stock (mine was homemade, use what you have on hand)
1 28-ounce can San Marzano crushed tomatoes
A large pinch of saffron threads (I used Marx Foods Sargol Saffron Threads)
1 Tablespoon coarse kosher salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 cup orzo pasta, drained (use package instructions but only cook for 7 minutes)
1/4 cup heavy cream

Heat a heavy stock pot or Dutch oven over medium heat until hot. Add the olive oil and you will see a shimmer to it. Immediately add the chopped onions and stir. If your onions brown quickly, reduce the heat to medium low. Cook the onions, stirring occasionally, until they are softened, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and stir. Cook for about a minute or so until it becomes fragrant. Add the stock, tomatoes, saffron threads, salt, and pepper and stir. Simmer for 20 minutes. Add the cooked and drained orzo. Add the heavy cream. Stir. Cook until heated through. Serve with Grilled Cheese Croutons (below).

Note: The soup serves 4. If you do not plan on serving all of the soup at once, it is a good idea not to add the orzo to the soup. Pasta absorbs so much liquid that your soup will be less soup-y as a leftover. Simply add a serving of orzo to your individual soup serving bowl and then add the soup over it. Make fresh orzo with your leftover soup.

Grilled Cheese Croutons
by Sandra
Adapted from a recipe from Ina Garten's cookbook, Foolproof

Use any kind of bread you have on hand and any cheese as well. I used a 15 grain bread and a combination of Gruyere and Jarlsberg because it is what I had on hand, but you can use white bread and American cheese, if that's what you have! Anything will work! Make a grilled cheese and then allow it to sit on a cutting board until slightly cooled. Cut in 1-inch squares like croutons and serve your soup with a few, more more than a few, atop the soup.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Caramel Mustard Roast Pork Loin

When I saw the box that I got from fellow 37 Cooker, Jenny, I knew right away that I wanted to use the Wicked Natural Caramel Mustard Dip. I could imagine dipping pretzels in it, but that wasn't quite enough of a recipe, so I decided to slather it on a pork roast. Twice.

Since I've been playing around with a sous vide machine, I decided to use that to cook the pork, but you could certainly roast your pork with a caramel-mustard topping. Put it on towards the end of cooking, so it doesn't burn.

I twice-cooked the roast - the first time using sous vide, and the second time I cooked in the oven to warm it and brown it.

Caramel Mustard Roast Pork Loin
by Donna

4(ish) pound pork loin
Wicked Natural Caramel & Mustard Dip

Coat the pork loin with a thin slather of the caramel mustard dip, place in a vacuum-sealer bag, then vacuum-seal it.

Place in the sous vide water set for 145°F, and cook for 6 hours. I'm still messing around with cooking times and temperatures to see what works best.

When the time's up, remove it from the sous vide and refrigerate. In theory you don't need to do this - just brown it and serve, but I find that it fits better into my schedule if I cook in two stages.

When you're ready to cook, heat the oven to 375°F, put the roast on a rack on a baking pan, and - from refrigerator temperature - roast for about an hour, slathering it with more caramel & mustard dip after it has cooked for 45 minutes.

If you're cooking straight out of the sous vide, slather it with the mustard caramel sauce and just cook until it's browned - the longer cooking time was required to get it warm after it was refrigerated.

Let the roast rest before slicing.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Vivid Vanilla Cupcakes

Talk about a challenge. Sweet Debbie's Organic Treats by Debbie Adler brought it. I am a bit ashamed to admit that I was not familiar with half of the ingredients that she uses in the book because of necessity. I truly did so much research that I had dreams about it. These cupcakes jumped out at me because of the vanilla. I absolutely love vanilla cake. I am going to stuff these with raspberry puree and frost them, but they were amazingly delicious plain.

Vivid Vanilla Cupcakes
by Traci
Adapted from Sweet Debbie's Organic Treats by Debbie Adler

Makes 12 standard cupcakes or 6 large ones

Vanilla Cake Batter:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon stevia
1/4 cup coconut milk
1/3 cup vanilla yogurt
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
Seeds from 1/2 vanilla bean

Preheat oven to 325°F. Line your cupcake pan with liners.

In a medium mixing bowl combine flour, baking powder and baking soda. Add salt and stevia.

In a small bowl, combine coconut milk, yogurt and vanilla. Slowly add wet ingredients into the dry, stirring to combine well each time. When you have your batter mixed well, add in the vanilla seeds.

Evenly distribute the batter in the cupcake pan. Bake for about 15 minutes or until golden brown on top.

Cool on a wire rack for about 5 minutes and remove them from the tin. Cool completely.

Feel free to frost these with your favorite frosting or enjoy them as they are!

Spamacaroni Salad with Broccoli and Macadamia Nuts

Spamacaroni Salad with Broccoli and Macadamia Nuts
by Gary

Serves 2

1 cup cooked elbow macaroni, drained
1/2 cup Spam Lite, cubed
1 boiled egg, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup tiny broccoli florets, quickly blanched and rinsed in cold water, then drained*
1/4 cup celery heart, thinly sliced
1/4 cup unsalted dry roasted macadamia nuts, coarsely chopped, plus more for garnish
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
2 Tablespoons Ranch dressing (my favorite recipe follows)
Dash hot sauce
Dash Aleppo pepper
Butter lettuce leaves, for serving

In a medium bowl, combine macaroni and next five ingredients. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and toss gently to mix. Drizzle with dressing, hot sauce, and Aleppo pepper to taste. Toss to combine.

Serve on lettuce leaves, garnished with additional nuts.

*Cook’s note: Using a mesh strainer, lower the broccoli florets into the egg cooking water for 15-20 seconds. Remove, rinse and drain.

Ranch Dressing
From National Cowboy Hall of Fame Chuck Wagon Cookbook by B. Byron Price

Makes about 1 1/2 cups

3/4 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup buttermilk
1/3 cup minced celery with leaves
2 Tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1 Tablespoon grated onion
1 clove garlic, crushed through a press
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon celery seed
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

In a medium bowl, combine all the ingredients. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use, up to 5 days.