10 Minute Tomato Sauce

I’ve been looking forward to this challenge. I think tomato sauce can be an easy thing to make instead of buy. It’s probably less expensive and tastes better than what you can buy. It’s so easy, though, to buy that jar of sauce for a quick weeknight meal. This was the perfect excuse to get out of my comfort zone.

The circumstances surrounding the first attempt were kind of perfect. Thad and I were planning to be gone for a long weekend and wanted to use up the food we had instead of going grocery shopping. We had an open box of pasta and half a jar of sauce. It wasn’t enough, but I had some tomatoes in the cupboard and remembered that I needed to try a recipe for sauce. Perfect, right?

I quick looked up a recipe for tomato sauce. I was a little worried that it would take a while, but I found Food.com’s recipe for 10 Minute Tomato Sauce. I knew it would take longer than that, but it didn’t require a lengthy simmer and it had good reviews.

First, you saute some onion and add spices and add garlic.

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Then, add crushed tomatoes and sugar. I only had these whole tomatoes, but figured they would work.

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Then, simmer for 10 minutes (see how it totally took longer than 10 minutes?). During that time, I had to help the whole tomatoes turn into crushed tomatoes. This hand blender is one of my favorite appliances. IMG_3846

Then you stir in olive oil and a few more spices.

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It turned out really good! Thad and I found some pepperonis and a ton of cheese, so we decided to turn regular spaghetti into what Thad calls…spaghetti pizza. Spaghetti Pizza was also featured in Week 35 (Italian) of the blog last year.

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Verdict: Homemade spaghetti sauce really can be fast and easy and cheap. For me, it will be especially easy because I almost always have the necessary ingredients on hand.

 

 

Margaritas!

This month was by far the most exciting challenge. I didn’t have to deal with raw meat, it was an excuse to have some friends over, and I didn’t have to spend more than like 10 minutes in the kitchen.

I decided to make margaritas. Honestly, I didn’t go outside of the box too much, but I did try a new recipe.

I made a spicy cucumber margarita. It was so good and so easy. I definitely recommend it and will probably even make it again myself. It wasn’t that spicy…in fact, I’d probably turn up the heat a little bit next time. It also wasn’t overly cucumber-y.

You need:

  • 2-3 cucumbers, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 cup tequila
  • 2 tablespoons triple sec (what is triple sec anyway?)
  • 1/4 cup fresh lime juice (I just used 3 juicy limes)
  • 1 jalapeno, sliced.

First, add the cucumber to the food processor and puree. Then, run the puree through a mesh strainer. You want to discard the pulp and save the juice.

Second, combine the sugar and water in a saucepan. Heat on low until the sugar dissolves.

Third, combine all ingredients in a pitcher and refrigerate.

Fourth, Enjoy!!

The second margarita I made was a blackberry margarita. I basically created just a regular lime margarita, but added blackberry syrup.

Blackberry Syrup:

  • 1 pint fresh berries
  • 1/8 cup sugar
  • 1/2 a lime

To make the blackberry syrup I took the fresh berries, mixed them with the  sugar, and some lime juice in a saucepan. I cooked on low heat for 20-30 ish minutes. Towards the 20 ish minute mark, I started breaking up the blackberries to make the juice. Once they were broken up, I strained the blackberries with a fine mesh strainer (also used for the cucumbers above) and pressed the blackberries down to get the juice.

Both margaritas were really good, although I’m not sure the blackberry one was worth the cost of the blackberries. The cucumber was my favorite!

As you can see, I did a really great job taking pictures. I’ll be better next time!

 

State-Themed Drinking in July

This has obviously been my favorite challenge so far.  (Also, July was my birthday month, so more reasons to celebrate).

I’ve got two cocktails for you in one post!

Colorado Bulldogs

Lately, my friend Liz has been on a Colorado Bulldog kick.  I’m not sure what started it, but she’s been drinking them all summer long.  Sometimes I join, sometimes I pass. To me it’s not the most summery of cocktails, but it’s super yummy and very easy (almost too easy) to drink.

The basics:

  • 1 shot of Kahlua
  • 1 shot of Vodka
  • 1 shot of Half & Half (or cream)
  • Ice
  • Coca-Cola

 

 

Pour the shots over ice & top it off with Coca-Cola!  The cocktail might be something that would benefit from a martini shaker just to get everything really well mixed.  Though it could also make a big mess.

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It’s a 1:1:1 ratio, so if you want to up the ante a little, just make sure you double the Kahlua, Vodka, & Half & Half in equal measure!

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I def want to whip one up in the fall some time, or maybe toss in a scoop of vanilla ice cream? This is a cocktail that is designed to be doctored.

Recommendation; don’t drink through a straw, it goes down waaaaaay too easy!

Hawaiian Mimosa

I was looking for something a little more fruit-based for my second cocktail, and I stumbled upon this post: Hawaiian Mimosas.  It has 3 things I love: Prosecco, Pineapple, and Malibu.

(I’ll confess, 22 year-old me spent a summer drinking Malibu + Pineapple cocktails at crappy dive bars).

The details:

  • 1 shot Malibu
  • 2 shots pineapple
  • Top with Prosecco
  • Garnish (if you’re so inclined)

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Chad & I were both so excited to try this one, it sounded delicious.

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It was just, too sweet!  It might’ve been different if all the ingredients were well chilled (only the Prosecco was).  But I still think the Malibu & pineapple combo was just a little too much sugar.  You know something is sweet when you can feel it in your jaw.

I loved the kismet element of both these cocktails being state themed.

Any bartenders out there have tips on how to make these even more delicious?!

I’ll be back soon-ish with some red sauce.  In the meantime check out Lisa’s 10-ish minute red sauce recipe!

 

Burgers

Friends, I kind of failed in June. I didn’t blog about either of my burger attempts. I did make two different kinds of burgers, though, in two different ways. Here’s the make up post:

Burger 1: I mixed half a pound of bacon in with two pounds of ground beef.

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Oh, I added some cheese too!

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I used the food processor to kind of grind up the bacon before mixing the bacon, cheese, and beef in a bowl. I also added the usual egg, breadcrumbs, and seasonings (I didn’t take a picture and a month later I don’t really remember what seasonings…I always just make it up as I go along anyway).

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We were having people over!!! I didn’t just make 2.5 pounds of burgers for two people. But the part of making burgers that I need to perfect is the sizing of them. I never know what size to form the patties into because they always shrink when they are cooked. If anybody has a tip, let me know!

Anyway, Burger 1 was delicious. I don’t have a picture of it, but I added some diced jalapenos (that I froze from my garden last year!) to half of the batch and those were great too. If you’re looking to switch things up once in a while, I’d definitely try bacon, cheese, and jalapeno.

Burger 2: Like Janine, I’m a fan of the black bean burger. It doesn’t replace a regular burger in my mind, but it’s something different to have once in a while.

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I followed this recipe and they were super easy and delicious. You basically mix most of the ingredients together in the food processor, stir in a few more, and then form them into patties. We tried grilling them, but they weren’t firm enough, so I ended up cooking them on the stove.

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Ok, so they aren’t super attractive, but they are worth trying. That fish spatula that you see is also a must try. It’s my go-to spatula.

So, June is finally done. I’ll be doing another quick post at the end of July with some cocktails!!

Say it Ain’t Cilantro Burger (Actually, black bean burger).

OMG this burger is so good.  Just.  So. Good.

I first tried a black bean burger at a local restaurant, I never thought I’d like it, but it turned out to be something I’d crave from time to time.  When this month was burgers, I knew I wanted to give black bean a whirl at home.

The recipe I chose is super easy, but it involves lots of ingredients, and each requires at least one prep step.  I pulled the recipe from a great local cookbook (this one is from a local TV personality).

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In my research I found that most black bean burger recipes are pretty labor intensive when prepping the patty.

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The recipe calls for: onion (chopped), garlic cloves (whole), cumin. Into the food processor and pulse until roughly chopped

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Plus: black beans, bread crumbs, and chopped cilantro.  Add these and pulse until it’s just combined.

Then toasted chopped walnuts, salt, pepper, and one beaten egg. Mix it up.  Into patties and then into the fridge for an hour.

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While it was chilling I made some I topped it with some cilantro lime aioli with: mayo, Greek yogurt, lime juice, cilantro, garlic, salt & pepper.  The recipe calls for finely chopped cilantro, but I didn’t like the cilantro when chopped by hand, so I went after the mixture with my immersion blender.

The recipe called for cooking this on a grill pan for 4-6 minutes per side.  Since I’m grill-less I did some googling and decided that 6 minutes on my George Foreman should be good.

Things started to fall apart a little as I took the patties off the grill.  Next time I will pulse for longer, and maybe add another egg yolk to help keep the patties together.  Uniform sizing would probably also help.

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Final burger included some guacamole on the bottom, burger, a little bit of feta cheese (I had it on hand), and the cilantro lime aioli.  Yum!

I’m a definitely adding these to the my regular rotation!

 

(also, fun fact, the titles for both my blog posts come from the TV Show Bob’s Burgers.)

 

 

The Say Cheese Burger

The weather ’round these parts is pretty nice right now, though, it’s been a little humid and my hair is frizzy.  The demon bugs that shall remain nameless (aka mosquitoes) are out in full force and my ankles are becoming well-acquainted.

Basically – it’s grillin’ season.  And with June being burger month, I demanded that Chad teach me how to make one of his most excellent cheeseburgers.

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I got some meat, an onion, and some buns at the grocery store, the rest of his regular components he had on hand.

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Chad kindly chopped up an onion for me.

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Beef, onion, an egg yolk.  Apparently adding the white would make it more meatloaf-y.

Some Worcestershire, shredded cheese (Rob says this is a new addition) and something called ‘Brady’s Cheese Sprinkle’ from Penzey’s.

Then time to get my hands dirty, literally.  Mix it up, until it’s combined, but not for too long or it gets tough.

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Into patties, with a little smush down at the center to help cook.

Then on the grill!  (plus some cheese, of course).

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Dinner is served!

These make a super yummy burger.  I’d go for this combo if you’re ever looking for ways to doctor things up a bit.

Chad’s grilling word to the wise “It’s not about charcoal or gas, fancy or basic, you just have to know your grill.”

 

 

 

I want cheers

My original plan was to make the same pizza dough recipe, but try it with my stand mixer instead of hand kneading.  Over the weekend I spent some time with my friend Madeline and her two adorable kiddos.  Madeline’s plan was for us to make homemade pizza, so I decided I’d give you a blog post featuring those two adorable mini-chefs.

Madeline’s pizza dough recipe is pretty similar to the one I originally used.

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She puts the yeast in the warm water to get it going.  Once it’s foamy she adds all-purpose flour, salt, olive oil, and honey.  (My original recipe called for sugar or malt syrup, and I used sugar).

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Got it mixed up, and we kneaded with the combo of hand and spoon in the bowl.  This was different from my 8-10 minutes of kneading (and then throwing in the air like a fool).

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Once it’s combined and stretchy, it goes into the oven to rise for awhile.

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Chef Dane popped up onto his stool with cookie cutters in-hand, because when he sees Madeline with a rolling pin, he assumes it’s sugar cookie time.

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Chef Dane spreads the marinara sauce, attempting the new technique of ‘sauce-under-crust.’

Chef Andren assists in artfully distributing the cheese on top of the marinara.

Spread some olive oil on the crust, pop in the oven, and bake til delicious!  Chefs Dane and Andren sample the cheese to ensure quality & deliciousness.

The dough was much better, more even, and not quite as tough or bread like.  I also preferred the traditional cheese pizza (my favorite, seriously) to the Margherita.

Madeline has always had a good ‘touch’ for cooking.  She makes delicious, simple foods with a little bit of flair and a lot of confidence. She just kind of wings it with some recipes, not worrying too much about being exact.  While making the pizza, the best part wasn’t eating it, but it was enjoying the experience of cooking and the help of our 2 adorable assistants, and who can blame her.

I’m sure you’re thinking: “Janine, that title is in no way relevant.”

Chef Dane enjoys the art of toasting.  Well mostly just the glass-clinking part, not the speeches.  Every 2-3 bites of pizza, he stops, raises his bottle of milk and announces “I want cheers!!”  Demanding that we clink glasses with each other before moving onto the next bite, it was probably my favorite part of the meal.

Pizza #2

This was my second time making pizza dough from scratch. Usually, I’ve always used frozen pizza dough from Rhodes. It’s super fast and tastes good. It does take some thinking ahead though, because it needs to be thawed. A couple of times, I’ve made a pizza dough when we cook the pizza on the grill. The recipe is literally called “The Best Pizza Dough for Grilling”. I’m sure it would have been just fine in the oven, but I thought I should try a different recipe.

While searching, I wanted a recipe that I’d make in the future. Most recipes always had a rise time for the dough. That also requires thinking ahead. When I found this recipe from allrecipes.com that had really good reviews, I thought it was worth a try. There was no rise time.

So first you dissolve yeast and sugar in warm water. “Let stand until creamy, about 10 minutes.” The question is…what does “creamy” look like?

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This was the yeast and sugar “dissolving” in the warm water.

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This was after it sat for 10 minutes. I figured it looked creamy enough.

So then you stir in flour, salt, and oil. It says “beat until smooth.” Honestly, I used my hands and kind of kneaded it in.

I panicked for a second because I wasn’t sure if I had bread flour (I did) and called my mom to find out if All-Purpose Flour would work. She says it will. My plan is to use the bread flour until it’s gone for the next few recipes, but then try All-Purpose. Unless I’m using bread flour on a regular ish basis, I don’t really want to keep it in my kitchen for the few times a year that I’ll use it.

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Then you let it sit for 5 minutes. At this point, I had to run to the store and we weren’t quite ready to top the pizzas, so I let it sit quite a bit longer.

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The recipe called for cornmeal on the pan before laying down the dough. I love the texture the cornmeal added!

As you can see in this picture, I wanted to see if there was a difference between the pizza stone and a baking sheet.

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All three pizzas turned out great! The dough was good, too! We determined that the pizza on the regular baking sheet was more crispy than the pizza on the pizza stone, so I was happy to learn that too.

I will definitely be keeping this recipe for the future. It was so easy and turned out great.

If you haven’t grilled a pizza, I highly suggest trying that method this summer too!!

Pizza Margherita

I have never made a homemade pizza crust before.  That’s three for three on the ‘new experiences’ front for this blog!


(Here’s a preview!)

I busted out my trusty baking cookbook (that has amazing and detailed instructions) and decided for this first pizza I would hand knead the dough. Next time I’ll use my stand mixer instead of kneading by hand.  This recipe calls for yeast, which seemed appropriate.

Yeast is one of those things that can be pretty easy to work with, if you know what you’re doing.  It can also be super intimidating.  I feel only vaguely confident with yeast.  This time I got pretty lucky.

This pizza dough recipe is pretty basic: flour, water, yeast, sugar, and salt.  There’s enough for two 12 to 14 inch pizza crusts.

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The yeast got all foamy.  I wasn’t as exacting with the water temperature and the time as I should have been.

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Added the flour.

Mixed it up.

Up next was the hand kneading for 8-10 minutes.  Unfortunately kneading is a two-handed job, and I didn’t have any assistants around to photograph the process.  I will admit, kneading the dough was pretty soothing.  It was a good way to get out a little stress.

I let the dough rise for about 2 hours, and then punched it down (beware – don’t punch the bowl), covered it in plastic wrap, and let it rise in the fridge overnight.  I wish I’d caught a picture of it while it was on the first rise, it almost blew up out of the bowl.  (This is maybe a sign related to my poor timing skills with the yeast).

The next day, I got the dough out to rest and started on prepping my tomatoes for the Pizza Margherita.

Blanch, peel, & seed.  Then they’re chopped.  I didn’t get quite all of the moisture out, which was a problem when baking.

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Prepping for the margherita (that’s sliced basil on the right).

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Divide it in half, cover, & let the dough rest a little longer.

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Rolling it out.  It’s much stretchier than a traditional dough, and rolling it often involves the dough shrinking back in on itself a bit.

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Trusty assistant, Chad, sliced the mozzarella.

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After I rolled out the crust, we decided to give the whole pizza toss thing a chance.  It worked pretty well, and I think stretched things out a little more.  It didn’t call for it in the recipe and I admittedly have no idea if this is the right kind of pizza dough to toss.  This may have contributed to the tougher nature of the crust, things might have gotten overworked.

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In the oven.

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Final product!

I definitely don’t think I’ve mastered things, but I was pretty happy with the results.  The original recipe called for heating up a pizza stone for 30 minutes, and then placing a prepped pizza onto the stone.  Once the pizza was ready, it was to heavy to move, or I didn’t have the appropriate tools.

Also I wasn’t in love with this margherita recipe.  The tomatoes still had too much moisture.  I think I’d do it with a really basic pizza sauce next time, instead of fresh tomatoes.

The crust I think was a little too thick and dense, which may have meant there was something wrong with my kneading, the yeast sat too long or something else.  It did not reheat well.

I’m looking forward to trying it again!  Let me know if you have any suggestions or tips or help for things I did wrong/can do better next time!

Pizza

For my first pizza challenge, I cheated a little. Thad and I had Owen over the weekend and we thought we’d try campfire pizzas. We got these handy tools from the store:

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Apparently, you just put buttered bread in the slot, add pizza sauce and toppings, and then another slice of buttered bread to make a little pie.

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Then you stick them in the fire…

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And play a guessing game.

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But they tasted pretty good.

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And of course the kids thought they were pretty cool.

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I promise I’ll do a legit pizza post next week, but this was too cute not to share!