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!

 

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!!

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

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!

Steak 3

I know, I’ve already done 2 steaks this month, but I wanted to try one more. I wanted to see if there was much difference between a steak on the grill and a steak cooked inside.

First…what cut to buy?? I had two recommendations for top sirloin steak, so that’s what I went with this time.

Second…how?? My mom suggested looking up a recipe from Alton Brown. He said to get a cast iron skillet, put it in the oven and preheat the oven to 500 degrees. Once the oven was preheated, take the skillet out of the oven and put it the stove on high heat. Prep the steak with canola oil, salt, and pepper. Sear the steak by putting in the pan for 30 seconds each side. Then put the pan and steak together in the oven for 2 minutes a side.

Boyfriend pointed out that the steak I bought was massive and that he didn’t think that short of a cook time would cook the steak to my preferred doneness.


He’s a pretty smart guy, and I agreed with him…especially when I remembered Alton Browns recipe was for a ribeye steak.

After some discussion, I preheated the oven, seared the steak, and then put it in the oven for 5 ish minutes and then another minute or two after I flipped it.


There was a little smoke detector incident, but everything turned out great! I would definitely use this method in the future.

So steak month is over. I learned that rib eye and sirloin are the cuts of steak I should buy in the future. Also that if I need to make a steak by myself, the inside method would be best because I don’t have to deal with the grill.

Steak #2

For this attempt, I got a different cut of meat and used a different grilling method. I wanted to get a ribeye (the same as Steak #1), but couldn’t find it at Cub. Instead, this package caught my eye:


It said it was great for grilling. It lied. Later, I learned that this was the worst cut I could have purchased. I guess that’s why I thought it was reasonably priced.

Anyway, we grilled them up. I learned that you put the charcoal in the grill in an even layer, except for a little hole in the middle, which I guess is something relating to heat and placement of the meat.


Then you light the charcoal on fire, but you have to wait for it to die down before you put the meat on (bummer).


Anyway, then we put the meat on and flipped it once and it was done!


It seemed like less monkey business than the gas grill, even with the charcoal. I didn’t like it because the texture was chewy, but I’m blaming that on the cut of meat. Apparently this is good steak to put *in* things, like fajitas or something. I’ll try that with the leftovers. My mom said sirloin is the way to go, so I’ll have to try that next time.

Steak #1: “You just have to know”

I (helped) grill my first steak last weekend. I thought my first resource would be Boyfriend, because he has experience cooking steak, especially on the grill. My first question was what kind of steak to buy. He suggested the Rib Eye because it was a good cut for the price (at least, that was my takeaway). After I purchased them (more expensive than the chicken last month btw), I started doing some internet research. The internet suggested I just season them with salt and pepper.IMG_3469

Back to Boyfriend to learn how to cook the steak. We turned the grill on high, put the steaks on for “a minute” (not a real minute, mind you) each side to…sear them. Then they went on that small top rack of the grill to cook. I asked how long they cook for or how I’d know if they were done. Boyfriend says “you just have to know.” Super helpful, right?

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Anyway, they turned out, but I’m not confident it would be as easy if I had done it alone. We both agreed that the salt and pepper was all the needed seasoning, at least this time.

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My takeaway: this is waaaay easier than the chicken, although more expensive. I appreciated that I only had to have three ingredients (steak, salt, pepper) and that it didn’t take very long. Also, apparently, you’re not supposed to cut the fat off the steak, so I didn’t have to handle the meat very much, which is a huge plus.

Bundt Pan Chicken

Have you all seen that video going around on Facebook where it instructs you to put veggies in the bundt pan and then a chicken on top? It’s like a “cooking hack”. Eyeroll. I thought I had to try it though.

I used this recipe from Food.com. Overall, the recipe was easy, but more work, because I had to cut up all of the veggies (carrots, onions, potatoes, celery). Once again, the chicken took a million years to cook. When the chicken was done, it turned out just fine. The veggies didn’t turn out, but I wasn’t too concerned with that part. I’m guessing they didn’t turn out because they either needed more space or more fat (olive oil, butter, etc). I also didn’t think they added any flavor to to the chicken. The only point was to have like a “one pot/dish” meal, but since they didn’t turn out, I felt bad wasting the veggies. I think Thad was going to save them and cook them, but I don’t know if he ever did.

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I’m going to use the meat from this chicken to make a couple of Chicken Pot Pies this weekend!

Roast Chicken Number 1

Chicken #1: I used my Cooks Illustrated recipe. The chicken turned out great, but not without some stress on my end. The recipe was clearly not written for those of us who have never cooked a chicken before. I read the recipe a bunch of times and tried to think it through, but I didn’t do any additional research. Here were my problems:

The recipe did not tell me that I had to clean out the chicken. Good thing I called my mom with a different question (what can I use to tie the legs together because I don’t have “twine”?) and she mentioned it. Also good thing I have a boyfriend fiance (eeek!!) who will do the dirty work.

Once the chicken was cleaned, I had to figure out where the wings were (on a frozen chicken, they looked pretty darn similar to the legs) and how push them back and how to tie the legs and ugh. I seasoned it and put it in the pan, “breast side up”. I wasn’t confident that I knew where the breasts were.

Also, can we talk about how I didn’t know the chicken was frozen? It’s not like I got it from the freezer at the store. So this probably was a factor in the next problem…

It took so long to cook!!! The recipe said just over an hour. This took at least two hours probably.

Bottom line: I paid almost $9 for this 4.2 lb chicken (it was the smallest one I could find). It tasted good, but not any better than the rotisserie chicken I can pick up at the store. And it was way more time and effort than picking the rotisserie chicken up at the store. So I’m not really sure why I’d ever roast a chicken again. Other than for cooking challenge purposes.

Before:

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After:

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