So after being informed by my BFF that the print feature I added awhile back actually prints the entire blog post instead of only the recipe like I wanted it to, I have (with a little help from a more experienced blogger) figured out how to make only the recipe in each post printable. Yay! So from now on you will be able to print only the best part of each post: the recipe! And when I get time here and there I will go back and add the feature to all of my other posts (which number 72 as of today, so it may take me a little while to get it done). Thank you all for sticking with me thus far! <3
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Ok, seriously; I cannot even begin to tell you how much I love this sauce! Remember when I told you that my husband loves my sausage gravy so much he wants to eat it in a bowl like soup? Well that’s me with this sauce. And I can do that because this sauce is actually good for you! I’ll get into how I eat it in a bowl later. But first, I’ll get right into the recipe…
This sauce is so ridiculously simple that you’re going to wonder why you ever bought sauce at the store. It’s incredibly inexpensive to make too! These ingredients hardly cost anything:
I suppose I should clarify: if you have all of these ingredients on hand, this recipe hardly costs anything. If you don’t have them on hand, you should. I’m perfectly serious. Go out and buy these ingredients if you don’t have them. The herbs will last you awhile and will allow you to make SO many other dishes! And having cans of tomato products on hand will allow you to easily and cheaply make your own sauces and soups without the cost and additives/preservatives the store bought stuff has. Ok, enough about that. Moving on…
So I have picky kids when it comes to onions. The girls like the idea of onions; meaning that they like the flavor that onions add to certain foods, but if they bite into a piece of onion then it’s game over. They won’t eat another bite for fear of getting another piece of onion. Any my son is just now starting to branch out beyond the realm of chicken nuggets and mac & cheese, so if he can see pieces of onions he won’t even allow the dish to appear on his plate. To combat this I got creative. Ok, sneaky. Same thing sometimes. Anyway, I grated the onion when I started playing with this recipe and it worked perfectly! Even I prefer it that way and I LOVE onions! So now I grate the onions on the small holes of the grater every time. When you grate the onions, do it on a plate or over a bowl to catch the juice as well as the pulp.
Now mince your garlic. You do not need a garlic gadget! Use your chef’s knife and hone your skill with it.
Holding your knife as usual, use your off hand to keep the tip of the knife on the board (putting your fingers on the TOP of the blade to steady it) and your dominant hand to do the actual mincing by lifting up and down while also working the blade back and forth over the pile of garlic. It’s MUCH easier than it sounds. You’ll get the hang of it pretty quickly. You’ll end up with a pile of minced garlic…
Super easy! And it only takes a couple of minutes. Now that those two things are done, all you have left is opening a can and measuring herbs and spices. How much easier can homemade get?! You do have to make a choice, though. You can use olive oil for this sauce and it will turn out amazing. But I use bacon fat to saute the onion and garlic and the slightly smoky flavor it imparts makes the sauce stellar. I recommend using bacon fat, but the choice is yours. So choose one or the other and put it into a large saucepan over medium heat. Saute the onion first, adding the juice as well. It may sizzle a bit, so be careful. Once the onion is beginning to turn golden, add in the garlic.
Let the veggies cook for another 2 minutes, making sure the garlic doesn’t begin to burn. Give it a stir every 20-30 seconds to prevent burning. The picture above is as dark as you want it to be; much darker and the garlic will turn bitter and ruin the sauce. Go ahead and add the tomato sauce and mix well. Add the brown sugar (sadly not pictured above), basil, oregano, thyme, white pepper, the smaller amount of salt, and the bay leaf into the pot.
SO much flavor going into this sauce! Give this a good stir to distribute the herbs, cover the pot, and bring the sauce to a boil. Back the heat down to a slow simmer and set a timer for 30 minutes. If you think of it, you can come back and give the sauce a stir. But even if you don’t stir it at all in that 30 minutes, the sauce will be fine. This is one of those wonderful times that you can set a timer and just let the sauce do it’s own thing while you go do yours.
Once half an hour has gone by, take the lid off and give the sauce a good stir. While it should definitely be a sauce, and as such should be pourable, it should still be a bit thick. It should not be runny or watery. If it is watery, let the sauce continue to simmer uncovered until it looks like this:
If your sauce was too watery after its covered simmer, it most likely means that the can of tomato sauce you started with was of lesser quality; they added too much water in the process of turning the tomatoes into sauce. That way they can use less tomato and make more money. In short; you got ripped off if you bought the super cheap “bargain” brand. Some bargain or store brands are great and work just fine. But then there are those that really do rip you off. Unfortunately sometimes it’s a matter of living and learning and figuring out which ones do and which don’t. So I usually go for the mid priced tomato products. Not the super fancy “premium” brand that costs a ridiculous amount, but not the super cheap “bargain basement” stuff either. Once again- moving on…
Assuming your sauce is the proper consistency, go ahead and give it a taste. Add more salt if you think the sauce needs it (I almost always do) and the red chili flakes if you want to use them. Remember that if you do use red chili flakes, let the sauce sit for a couple of minutes after you add them for them to take effect then give it another taste and readjust the seasoning if needed. If you want a spicy, arribiata type of sauce, go ahead and add the red chili flakes at the beginning with the herbs. But be warned: it will be SPICY! We like a little kick but still want to be able to feel our lips when we’re done eating, so I add just a little and only at the end.
Just like that, you’re done! And oh; the things you can do with this sauce! You can can this sauce in jars or freeze it in bags or containers. Or it will keep for about a week in the fridge. This amount makes one batch of lasagna or spaghetti with meat sauce for me. If I want to make pasta with no meat, I use what I need and save the rest (trust me; you’ll find a use for it). It’s perfect as a pizza sauce, but you can also make pizza fondue. Really; it’s one of my family’s favorite fun meals! Heat the whole batch of sauce in a fondue pot over low heat (if using an electric pot) or a couple of tea light candles if you’re using an old school fondue pot. Cut up your favorite pizza toppings and lay them out. If you want veggies that aren’t crunchy, saute them lightly before you set them out. I use cooked and sliced Italian sausage, ham, pepperoni slices (they’re easier to eat if they’re cut in half), and pineapple for a super easy spread of toppings. Cut some mozzarella into cubes (the block stuff will do but it won’t be nearly as good as the softer, “fresh” mozzarella you get packed in a little water) and some hot french bread into slices. Spear a cube of cheese and then your favorite toppings with your fondue fork and dip it all in the sauce. Slide the contents of your fork onto a slice of french bread and enjoy! I usually get 2 dips out of one slice of bread, so that helps fill up the hungry tummies gathered around the fondue pot :-)
OH! I said up above that I would tell you how I eat this out of a bowl… it’s so simple and SO good…
I make crustless pizza in a bowl. Stay with me on this! Put about half an inch of sauce in the bottom of a microwave or oven safe bowl then put some shredded or cubed mozzarella cheese in the sauce. Cover the bowl and heat it until the edges of the sauce are bubbly. Then add a few pizza toppings evenly over the surface. You don’t want to add a ton or the sauce won’t heat through well- just like real pizza. Cover the bowl again and heat until everything is good and hot. In all honesty, this is one of my favorite meals if I’m making something just for myself. But ONLY if I’m using this sauce. It’s just that good.
29 Oz Can Tomato Sauce (plain, no flavoring added)
1 T Bacon fat or Olive Oil
1/4 Large Onion, Grated Fine
8-10 Cloves Garlic, Minced
3-4 t Brown Sugar (start with the smaller amount and add more if needed after the sauce is simmered)
1 1/2 t Dried Basil
Scant 1 t Dried Oregano
1/4 t Ground Dried Thyme (or about 1/2 t dried thyme, unground)
1 Bay Leaf
1/2-3/4 t Kosher Salt (start with the smaller amount and add more if needed after the sauce is simmered)
1/4 t White or Black Ground Pepper (or to taste)
1/8-1/2 t Red Pepper Flakes (or to taste)
*Grate the onion (on the smaller holes) onto a plate or into a bowl to save the juice as well.
*Mince the garlic.
*Add the bacon fat or oil into a large sauce pan over medium heat.
*Once the pan is ready, saute the grated onion (with its juice) until it begins to turn golden brown.
*Add the garlic to the pot and saute for about 2 minutes, stirring often to prevent burning.
*Pour the tomato sauce into the pot and stir to incorporate the veggies.
*Add the brown sugar, basil, oregano, thyme, salt, pepper, and bay leaf. Stir well.
*Cover the pot and bring the sauce to a boil. Back the heat down to a slow simmer and leave the sauce to cook for 30 minutes. You could give the pot a stir a couple of times if you think about it.
*Once 30 minutes is up stir and check for proper consistency. If the sauce is too watery let it simmer uncovered until the right thickness is reached.
*Add the red chili flakes if you’re using them, more brown sugar, salt, and/or pepper to taste.
*Use as desired immediately, can, freeze, or store in the refrigerator for about a week.
Yes; you read that right: Maple Syrup Dumplings. As in soft, pillowy biscuit-style dumplings in a smooth sauce of maple syrup. Because sometimes it’s SO HARD to get out of bed with all of the not-so-great stuff you may have going on in life and you just need something indulgent and comforting for breakfast. Or because sometimes you get tired of the same old rotation at breakfast time and you need something easy but NEW to get your day started right. I would fall in the camp of the former. Right now things are just not as awesome as they should be. And while things are, in fact, improving, there are days that I have to argue with myself to get out of bed and take care of business. Those are the mornings that I try to make something fun for breakfast that will be a pleasant respite from “stuff” for my family and I. Maple syrup dumplings definitely qualify as fun!
When I was first told about maple syrup dumplings, I had the same reaction I imagine you’re having: “Wow- that has to be so sweet it will make my teeth ache!” But once I actually found a recipe and made it, I found out that it really isn’t as sickeningly sweet as it sounds. See, the sauce is made not only with maple syrup but water as well. So while it’s not something that you should eat all the time, it’s definitely worthy of an occasional spot on your breakfast table!
This dish is super easy to make and I would bet that all you’ll need to buy is the real maple syrup (unless you’re like me and try to keep it on hand). And you HAVE to use real maple syrup. If you can’t get any of the real stuff, make something else. If you try to use the fake maple syrup (the cheap “pancake syrup” you can buy in the plastic bottles in cute shapes) the dish will not turn out. The fake syrup doesn’t take well to cutting with water, at least flavor-wise. And it will be as sweet as you first thought when you heard the name of the dish. Just don’t try it; use the real deal!! Anyway, here’s what you need:
Once you get your dry ingredients mixed, you’re going to add the butter. The easiest way to do that is to use frozen butter and use a regular old box grater to grate it into the dry ingredients. Then all you have to do is stir and the butter will distribute, like so:
Set this aside for a minute and mix the maple syrup with the water in a large pan. If you don’t have a saucier like I do, use as big a sauce pan as you have or a soup pot. You could also use a very large skillet so long as you can cover it. One of key parts of this dish is having a tight fitting lid to make sure the dumplings cook through properly.
Look at that deep amber color! It’s a thing of beauty :-) Turn your burner to medium high and bring the sauce to a boil. Just before it gets to that point, go ahead and add the milk to the flour and butter mixture. You may have to work a bit at getting the dough formed, but it only takes a minute. You should end up with something that resembles biscuit dough…
By now your sauce should be boiling. Drop the dough by the spoonful into the sauce. I try to get dough balls that are about the size of a golf ball, maybe a tiny bit bigger.
These will puff up quite a bit, don’t worry! Now put a tight fitting lid on your pan, lower the heat slightly to medium, and set a timer for 10 minutes (but don’t go far; you’ll need to keep an eye on things). You may notice…
That the sauce is bubbling up over the dumplings A LOT. That’s OK! It will do that for a little while. Eventually, though…
Things will calm down and the sauce won’t be bubbling as high. That’s when you need to back the heat down a little bit- but keep the pan at least at a fast simmer. When the 10 minutes are up take off the lid and check the dumplings.
See the dumpling in the lower part of the middle? I used a spoon to open it up a little and make sure it was cooked through. It should look like a biscuit inside with no raw dough. And the sauce… Oh, the sauce!
So thick and rich! The flour from the dumplings thickens the sauce into a velvety smooth taste of bliss! I usually give one and a half dumplings per serving with a good scoop of sauce over the top. It looks like a rather small serving, but a little goes a long way. If you want to add a little protein to this indulgent breakfast, bacon is a natural accompaniment. But I must say that as much as I love bacon, a mildly spicy breakfast sausage compliments the flavor of this dish perfectly. So go ahead; give yourself (and someone you love) a little treat for breakfast- you deserve it :-)
1 3/4 C Real Maple Syrup
1 1/2 C Water
1 1/2 C Flour
4 1/2 t Baking Powder
1/2 t Salt
1/4 C Butter, Frozen and Grated
3/4 C Milk
*In a large pot or pan/skillet with high sides, combine the maple syrup and the water. Set the burner to medium high.
*In a small bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and the salt. Add the grated butter and stir until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.
*Add the milk to the flour & butter mixture and stir until the milk is worked through and there is no more flour in the bottom of the bowl. The dough will be fairly stiff.
*Once the syrup mixture is boiling gently add the dumpling dough by the spoonful, making the dumplings just slightly larger than a golf ball (or about the size of an egg).
*Once all of the dough has been used, cover the pan with a tight fitting lid, lower the heat to medium so that the syrup continues boiling gently, and set a timer for 10 minutes.
*Once 10 minutes have passed, take the lid off and check the dumplings. They should be firm and there shouldn’t be any sticky dough left in the center.
*Serve immediately, storing any leftovers in the fridge.
So here we are in one of the coldest parts of the country, and we moved here willingly- happily even. Believe it or not, we wanted to move to northern Wisconsin. When my husband got his job with the railroad and it became very clear that staying in Colorado wasn’t going to be an option, we started very seriously researching places to live. And when we realized that we didn’t like South Dakota as much as we thought we would, we started taking trips to places we thought we would like. Turns out, northern Wisconsin just immediately felt like home. Some have called us crazy; “I mean, the winters there are awful!” they would exclaim. This is true. But they aren’t a whole lot worse than eastern South Dakota. And from what we’ve experienced in the last 2 months, the rest of the year more than makes up for the winters.
Now, having said that, I do have to say as well that I put a lot of effort into making sure my family is comfortable when it’s miserably cold outside. Sweat shirts, warm socks, hot chocolate, and hearty, piping hot foods that will stick with them for awhile. One of the easiest ways to get a hot breakfast into my family is to make farina for breakfast. You might know it by it’s brand name: Cream of Wheat. I know, I know; it’s old fashioned. Fuddy duddy. Incredibly bland and boring. At least, that’s what you think. But in all reality, farina is the perfect blank canvas for a surprising number of favorite flavors. Don’t believe me? Then read on; I’ll show you some fantastic ideas for jazzing up a classic hot cereal! (I’ll put the recipes at the bottom, giving amounts for 2 large servings.)
First, I want to take a minute to talk about the cereal itself. I use Bob’s Red Mill farina (also called creamy wheat on the package). I do like that it’s organic but, more than that, I like the finer texture of the finished cereal as opposed to the slightly coarser finish of brand name Cream of Wheat. I can also buy the Bob’s Red Mill cheaper on Amazon than I can buy the Cream of Wheat at the store (because we have Amazon Prime so our shipping is free), so that’s what I use. You can, of course, use whichever you like. Just make sure to follow the preparation directions carefully, because if you don’t you’ll end up with a lumpy mess. Also, I cook mine with one part milk and 3 parts water to give the cereal a little more flavor and a little extra creaminess. You can use whatever ratio you prefer. So without further ado, let’s get down to the tastiness!
How about pumpkin pie for breakfast?? Well… I actually do serve pumpkin pie for breakfast on occasion. But if that’s not your thing, try this on for size! Make your normal batch of farina and add pumpkin, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and brown sugar. Throw some whipped cream on top and you’ve got a bowl of pumpkin pie for breakfast that will fill you up and start your day with a smile!
Or how about a cinnamon roll for breakfast that won’t leave you hungry 20 minutes later? It’s super easy to make cinnamon roll farina! To your batch of finished cereal add cream cheese, brown sugar, vanilla, and cinnamon. That’s it! You can make an easy powdered sugar glaze to swirl over the top by adding a little milk to powdered sugar; that’s all glaze is. Or if you have some cream cheese frosting left over from something (like I did from my carrot cake), you can add a dollop to your bowl. This is my favorite way to eat farina!
Ok, so if cinnamon roll is my all time favorite farina flavor, this one is a close second. Two words: BANANA BREAD. Seriously! Banana bread hot cereal! I wouldn’t joke about something like this. Add mashed banana, cinnamon, nutmeg, some walnuts, and a little butter and you’ve got a bowl of warm banana bread. So comforting on a cold morning!
And here’s my kids’ favorite way to eat farina: french toast! This one was thought up when the kids and I were discussing all the different things one could do with farina. The thought struck me and after a couple of minutes I had a basic idea for the how to. I tried it a few weeks later and it was awesome. All it takes is adding sugar, vanilla, maple syrup, and eggs to the hot farina. You do have to temper the eggs first, though, or you’ll end up with scrambled egg farina and that’s just yucky. I’ll add those instructions below. Add a pat of butter and an extra drizzle of maple syrup and you’ve got a bowl of french toast tastiness. This is such a fun way to serve this old fashioned cereal!
Mmmmm…. those are some super awesome bowls of comforting yumminess!! And get this: you can make a big batch and reheat it as you need it! That’s right; you can make a double or triple batch and warm it up throughout the week. All you need to do is add a little milk as you microwave it to get it back to the desired consistency. That makes it an even better weekday breakfast! So go ahead and embrace an old fashioned classic; your stomach will thank you on the cold mornings to come!
The Recipe: Pumpkin Pie Farina
2 Servings Cooked, Piping Hot Farina
1/3 C Pumpkin Puree
1/4 t Kosher Salt
1/2 t Cinnamon
1/8 t Nutmeg
1/2 t Vanilla
Whipped Cream, Pecans, and/or Butter to garnish
The Recipe: Cinnamon Roll Farina
2 Servings Cooked, Piping Hot Farina
6 T Brown Sugar
2 Oz Cream Cheese
1/4 t Kosher Salt
1 t Cinnamon
1 t Vanilla
Whipped Cream, Glaze, Cream Cheese Frosting, Butter, and/or Nuts to garnish
For Glaze, if desired:
1/2 C Powdered Sugar
2-4 t Milk
The Recipe: Banana Bread Farina
2 Servings Cooked, Piping Hot Farina
1 Banana, mashed
1/3 C Brown Sugar
1/4 t Kosher Salt
1/2 t Cinnamon
1/8 t Nutmeg
1/2 t Vanilla
Butter and/or Walnuts for garnish
The Recipe: French Toast Farina
2 Servings Cooked, Piping Hot Farina (for this one I usually use half water and half milk to cook the cereal)
2 Eggs, Beaten
2 T White Sugar
1/4 C Maple Syrup (this is one time that the store bought pancake syrup will work fine if that’s all you’ve got)
1 1/2 – 2 t Vanilla
1/8 t Salt
Pat of butter and extra maple syrup if desired
*To temper the eggs before adding to the cereal: Beat the eggs in a small bowl then add about 1/4 C of the fully cooked hot cereal a little at a time while stirring the eggs constantly. Once that’s done, you can put the egg mixture back into the pot and stir it in.
*Heat the pot of cereal to a simmer once again to ensure that the eggs are cooked through.
*Add the rest of the ingredients and stir well.
We are preparing to delve into the world of homeschooling this year. We’ve felt the need to homeschool for years but were never in a position to be able to until now. So we won’t have the hustle and bustle of trying to get out the door in time to meet the bus this year. However, that doesn’t mean there won’t be mornings that we need to get in the car and go somewhere earlier and in more of a rush than I’d like- especially since it’s a 40 minute drive from our little village to get anywhere. On those mornings it’s SO nice to have a breakfast that I can put into containers or baggies so we can eat it in the car. And it’s even nicer to know that this “fast food” is homemade instead of processed and super unhealthy. Try to get that out of the little packages of muffins from the store!
Since I like to make these as easy to eat as possible, I tend to make these into mini muffins. They’re easily popable that way and the crumbs are kept to a minimum. They are just as tasty as regular muffins, so use whatever kind of pan strikes your fancy. And speaking of fancy, these make great baby bundt cakes! You can ice them with a simple glaze and presto- you’ve got a pretty little dessert!
One of the great things about these muffins is that they use everyday items that are probably in your pantry and fridge as we speak…
The second great thing about these tasty little gems is how simple they are. All you have to do is mix your dry ingredients…
Then mix your wet ingredients well…
Then all you have to do is mix them together…
Ta da! Done! Now you just fill the liners and put the pan in the oven…
It doesn’t get much easier than that! From start to finish these muffins take about 20 minutes (depending on what size you make them). And if you don’t want chocolate chips in them, no problem; use whatever you like. Peanut butter chips (or half chocolate chips, half peanut butter chips), toffee chips, mint chocolate chips, dried fruit, your imagination is the only limit! Oh- and if you really want to make these a little decadent, whip up some cream cheese frosting and smear a bit on top of the muffins. That will brighten the dreariest day :-) And you can even make a big batch of these and freeze them for later. Then you can just thaw some on the counter overnight and have a quick breakfast in the morning. Or you can put a frozen muffin in your lunch bag and have a tasty treat at midday.
Autumn is fast approaching (thank goodness!!) and with it comes busier schedules. I hope this simple recipe brings a smile to your hustle & bustle the way it does to mine :-)
1 1/2 C Flour
1/2 C Sugar
2 t Baking Powder
1/2 t Salt
1/4 C Sour Cream (or yogurt; vanilla yogurt adds a nice, subtle flavor)
1/2 C Milk
1/4 C Oil
1/2 C Chocolate Chips (I use mini chocolate chips- especially if I’m making mini muffins)
*Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
*Prepare your muffin pan by either greasing and flouring each well or lining them with paper cups.
*In a medium bowl, mix all of the dry ingredients. Make a well in the center into which you can pour the wet ingredients.
*In a small bowl, whisk together all of the wet ingredients.
*Add the wet ingredients to the dry ones and stir until well combined. Don’t worry if there are a few lumps in the batter.
*Scoop the batter into the prepared pan. A small ice cream/cookie scoop works well for mini muffins.
*Bake 15-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean.
*Keep in an airtight container for up to 3 days. Or you can freeze in a zip top bag or well wrapped in plastic wrap and then foil for up to 2 months.
The last few days here in Northern Wisconsin have been just heavenly; highs in the low to mid 70’s, a cool breeze all day, and chilly nights to cool the house off to be ready for the next day (saving a ton on the AC bill). This is what I envisioned summers to be up here and I love it! It’s a very welcome break from the unusual heat that’s been hanging around and making a nuisance of itself. And it may return, so I’m going to make the most of these cooler days and get some things made to help when it’s too hot to do any real cooking. One of the items on that list is lemon garlic chicken breasts. There are 2 huge advantages to this chicken: 1) you can put it in a zip top bag with the marinade ingredients and put the whole thing in the freezer until you’re ready to use it and 2) it’s super versatile, which is always a plus! These chicken breasts can be served just as they are with some sides, they can be sliced and put over salad veggies, they can be made into a sandwich, or they can even be chopped up and made into a creamy, garlicky chicken salad with just a hint of zing from the lemon zest. They’re fantastic year round, but they definitely hold a special place in my summer line up!
To get started, here’s what you’ll need:
Yes; that is honey mustard salad dressing- and it can be any brand. When toying with the marinade the first time I made this chicken I found something really lacking in the flavor. I stood at the fridge after dinner that night, searching for something to add and my eyes settled on a bottle of honey mustard and the light bulb went off. I added some the next time I made this dish and it solved the problem perfectly! So the salad dressing is optional; the flavor doesn’t stand out in the finished dish. But there is definitely a lack of *pop* in the dish when the honey mustard is left out.
There are 2 options for the chicken breasts; you can either buy chicken cutlets, which are chicken breasts that come packed in thin slices (horizontally), or you can buy regular boneless, skinless chicken breasts and slice them into cutlets at home. The latter option is SUPER easy and is what I do most of the time. Here’s how you go about such a thing…
(**Note: The Humble Food Snob is still married! You can’t see it here, but the nail on my ring finger is very bad off. I had a wound on the side of my nail get severely infected over a month ago- I actually had to go to the emergency room in the middle of the night it was so bad. Thankfully I didn’t have my wedding rings on when it started swelling, so they are still intact. Now I’m STILL waiting for the swelling to go down completely so I can start wearing them again!**)
See? Super easy! Don’t worry about making the two slices exactly even- you won’t be able to. What you’re going for is two cutlets of comparable thickness so they cook evenly. It’s not brain surgery, so don’t fret if things aren’t perfect.
So now that you have the hard part done, I’ll give an explanation of why I have lemon zest in that picture up there instead of the juice. Did you know that the acid in lemon juice actually cooks meat instead of marinating it? It’s true. If you look up the recipe for ceviche (a popular Latin American dish of raw shrimp or fish with herbs and spices) you’ll see that the dish isn’t cooked in any way except by the citrus juice it’s steeped in. That citrus juice does the same thing to any other meat you put it on. With chicken that results in tougher meat that needs more tenderizer (basically salt) in the marinade. The easy fix for that is to use the zest instead of the juice of whatever citrus fruit you’re wanting to use. And aside from not cooking the meat, I prefer the zest to the juice because of how much more flavor you get from the oil in the zest. But certainly don’t throw the juice away! Zest your fruit then juice it and pour that juice into an ice tray. I put one tablespoon of juice into each compartment of an ice tray and when I need “1 tablespoon of juice” here or “2 tablespoons of juice” there I have them ready and waiting in the freezer. Very handy!
Next you’re ready to put all of this together. Whisk all of the marinade ingredients together and make your decision: cook the chicken today or freeze it for another time? If you want to cook the chicken today, pour the marinade over the breast slices in a pan or large bowl, cover with plastic, and put it in the fridge for up to about 8 hours.
If you want to put the chicken in the freezer for another day, put everything in a zip top bag, squeeze out as much air as you can, seal it, and into the freezer it goes! One bonus of freezing meat in marinade is that as it thaws the meat draws in more of the marinade and is more flavorful overall.
Let 6 hours or so pass…..
Now that your chicken has marinated properly, it’s time to cook it! We don’t have a grill just yet :-( I’m bummed about that, but the fact that the other things we’ve had to spend our money on are for a house that we own makes up for it :-) So if you have a grill or a fire pit (you can read more about easily cooking over an open fire here) by all means, use it!! But if, like me, you have to pan fry your chicken that’s ok; it still turns out wonderful!
Put your pan over medium heat and add just enough oil to cover the bottom. Since the marinade already has a good amount of oil in it, you’re just taking out a little insurance that the chicken won’t stick to the pan. If you’re using a non-stick pan you can forgo the extra oil all together. Once the oil shimmers, remove your chicken from the marinade and put it in to cook for 4-5 minutes. Carefully flip the chicken over and cook 3-4 minutes on the other side. You want to make sure that the chicken is cooked through and also that it has a nice bit of browning on it.
Once the chicken is done cooking, remove it to a platter and cover it with foil to rest for at least 5 minutes before serving to let the juices redistribute. If you couldn’t fit all of the chicken into the pan the first time around, go ahead and finish cooking the rest. Just make sure all of the meat has a chance to rest before serving.
Hopefully the weather in your neck of the woods is fair and pleasant and you’re enjoying your summer (or winter, depending on which half of the globe you’re on!). And I hope that you enjoy this chicken as much as we do- and in as many ways :-)
2 Lbs. Chicken Breast Cutlets OR Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breasts sliced into cutlets
Zest of 3 Lemons
6-8 Cloves Garlic, Minced
2 t Italian Seasoning
1 t Kosher Salt
1/2 C Olive Oil
1/4 C Honey Mustard Dressing (optional, but recommended)
*If needed, slice the chicken breasts into cutlets by running your knife horizontally through the chicken breasts lengthwise.
*In a bowl, combine the rest of the ingredients and whisk well.
*Put the chicken in a bowl or baking dish large enough to hold everything. Alternatively, you could put the chicken and marinade in a zip top bag and seal it.
*If making this dish for a later date, squeeze as much air as possible out of the zip top bag, seal, label, and put in the freezer for up to 2 months.
*If you plan to serve the chicken the same day, simply put it in the refrigerator to marinate for up to 8 hours. I usually do about 6 hours and it turns out perfect. The full 8 hours gives a stronger flavor. Take care in going past that though; the flavor gets overpowering.
*When ready to cook the chicken, grilling is preferable however not always accessible. To pan fry, heat a large frying pan over medium heat, covering the bottom with oil.
*Once the oil shimmers, add a few pieces of the chicken to the pan. Be careful not to overcrowd the pan.
*Cook on the first side for 4-5 minutes, depending on the thickness of your chicken cutlets.
*Carefully turn the chicken over and cook for another 3-4 minutes.
*Remove the chicken to a foil covered platter and let rest while the next batch cooks.
*Make sure all of the cutlets get at least a few minutes to rest before serving.
Hot damn; I’m bloggin’ again! I can’t tell you how many times in the last 6 months I’ve said to myself “I really want to blog… but I’ve got nothing.” You may ask “Why nothing?” To which I answer “because of the kitchen from hell with which I was making do.” See; when we moved to South Dakota I was in Colorado with the kids and my husband was in the Dakotas/Minnesota area working and it was almost impossible, as the new guy, to get time off to go look at places to live. So we went down to the wire and found the mobile home that would be ours with only a couple of days left before he came back to Colorado to get us. The mobile home was AWFUL but it was what we could get. Unfortunately, the worst part was the kitchen. My stove couldn’t boil a pot of water reliably (I’m not joking), the oven turned out to be incredibly finicky, and I had almost zero counter space. I literally had about a 3 inch width of counter space to work with most of the time, otherwise known as “the counter in front of the sink”. I’m perfectly serious; that’s all I had to work with. The tiny amount of counter to the right of the sink was constantly full of drying dishes and counter top stuff that could go NOWHERE else, the stove had hot spots over the pilot lights for the burners; if you weren’t careful, just setting something on the stove would melt it and I burned myself a few times by forgetting those hot spots were there. All this to say that as the days wore on and I tried to cook and bake I was met with failure after failure. I’ve cooked in inadequate kitchens before. I started this blog cooking in one, in fact. But the kitchen in that mobile home was totally and completely unusable for anything beyond frozen pizza and what could come out of the microwave. I went back to buying nearly everything premade. Our budget suffered because that stuff is way more expensive than homemade and our waistlines suffered because it’s also far less healthy than what I make from scratch. I haven’t blogged because there was not a single thing coming out of that kitchen that was blog worthy. It was awful. It was depressing. AND IT’S OVER!!!
If you’ll notice, I have been using the past tense in my explanation. We’ve moved! Yes; again. But not only that… We’ve bought a house! It’s in beautiful Northern Wisconsin and in desperate need of interior updating (meaning it’s a very sound house, but the previous owners seem to have not updated the inside since the late 70’s/early 80’s), but it’s ours and at a crazy low price! That means we can afford to make the aesthetic upgrades it needs.
Yeah. Definitely needs some upgrading. But it’s actually MINE! I’m not borrowing it from family or renting it from a landlord. And, get this, the kitchen has crazy amounts of storage space! It may not look like much, but there’s plenty of counter space and very nearly my whole kitchen has been unpacked into it and I have cabinets and drawers left empty! Seriously!! I have never had enough space in my kitchen so this is amazing!!
But, the kitchen not withstanding, I still have a lot of work to do unpacking the rest of our stuff. This being the case, I’m trying to make sure I cook easy meals with as little clean up as possible so I can do what I need to do in the rest of the house. I’ll have plenty of time for kicking around the kitchen after our stuff is unpacked. So this week I’m re-sharing my recipe for Crock Pot Caesar Chicken. It’s quite possibly THE easiest recipe I have in my entire repertoire. It truly is almost as easy as ordering takeout, it tastes fabulous, and there is a very small amount of cleanup. It’s also versatile: serve it as a sandwich, a wrap, on a salad, or even just on Triscuits or crackers!
I’m hoping to start blogging regularly once again. But if I can’t make it every week for awhile, please forgive me. And thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for sticking with me thus far! <3
As you know, I much prefer to use real food (“whole”, “natural”, etc) ingredients when I cook and bake. I try to stay away from processed foods as much as I can, but sometimes the classics are based on foods that are not really good for you. Take pecan pie, for example. One of the main ingredients is corn syrup. Granted; it’s not as bad as high fructose corn syrup (which is ultra processed- WAY more than regular corn syrup), but it’s still definitely not a health food. In fact, my mom can’t eat anything with corn syrup in it without getting a bad headache. So for Thanksgiving last year I set out in search of a recipe for pecan pie that doesn’t use corn syrup. I found several that use honey instead. Score! Honey is most definitely a health food, and you can use it in place of corn syrup in many recipes (but there will need to be other adjustments to the recipe too, so don’t just start swapping honey for corn syrup willy nilly). So I played around with combining some of the recipes and this is the result. My mom LOVES it and no one who’s tried it so far dislikes it.
Pecan pie is actually a very simple pie. All you need is some basic ingredients:
If you’re using salted butter like I am here, you won’t need extra salt. If you use unsalted butter (which is what most recipes call for) you’ll need to add a little salt to the filling.
You’ll notice, I’m sure, that I don’t have a pie crust pictured. You’ll need one, but the method you use to procure one I’ll leave to you. I used a refrigerated just-roll-it-out-in-the-pan crust from the store. By all means; if you want to make your own, please do! I didn’t because I don’t have anyplace to roll out a pie crust. The great thing about making your own pie crust is that you can make the pie any size you want. You can do a full pie or you can use a muffin tin or individual tart pans to make tiny pies. Either way, it’s up to you.
First you’ll need to melt your butter. Put the butter in a medium sized saucepan over very low heat. Once the butter is just melted, take the pan off the heat and let it sit for a little while; long enough for the butter to cool slightly.
In the meantime, line your pie pan with the crust and then put the pecans in the bottom. How much you need will depend on the size of your pie pan. The pan I used is a 9 inch, regular depth pan. I used about a cup of chopped pecans, maybe a tiny bit over that:
Most recipes call for whole pecans to be laid out nicely in the bottom of the crust. I don’t do that. One reason is that whole pecans are crazy expensive. Stupidly expensive. Another reason is the trouble I have cutting a pie that uses whole pecans. The pecans tend to just squish down and make a mess out of the filling. So I use chopped pecans and they work just fine.
Next, add the brown sugar, honey, vinegar, vanilla, and salt (if you need it) to the butter. Whisk all of that together very well. It will take a little mixing to get everything incorporated into the butter- that’s a lot of butter.
As you can see, there’s still a tiny bit of butter around the edges that hasn’t been incorporated yet. It’s ok; it will get mixed in once I add the eggs…
There we go! All mixed together and ready to go over the pecans. Gently pour this mixture over the pecans, scraping the pan with a spatula to get all the goodness into the pie pan. Once you do, you’ll notice something:
Yep. Bubbles. Little bubbles coming to the surface as the gaps between the pecan pieces are filled. But they’re nothing to worry about. You can try to jiggle the pan a bit to get rid of them, but you don’t need to. The pecans will float to the surface as the pie bakes and the bubbles will dissipate then.
Time to go in the oven! Place this on a foil lined cookie sheet so that if the pie overflows the pan will catch it (which I’ve never had happen, but better safe than scrubbing charred sugar off the bottom of your oven) and bake for 45-60 minutes, until the center is set. It shouldn’t jiggle when you shake the pan gently.
Ok, so my pie isn’t perfect. The crust on the right side there wasn’t pressed to the side of the pan correctly, so it shrank down a bit. Not a huge deal. The huge deal is that this pie almost burned. I should have taken it out of the oven about 3 minutes before I did. I missed the timer when it sounded. I’m lucky I walked through the kitchen when I did. So keep an eye on the timer and make sure you choose a loud one! Anyway, I managed to save my pie and not have to make another.
One of the problems I’ve noticed with pies that substitute another ingredient for corn syrup is that the filling is runnier than it should be.
As you can see, that isn’t a problem with this recipe! The center looks a little runny, but really that’s just where I pushed the filling in with a knife to cut the pie (which would have been much worse had I used whole pecans). This recipe really is the best I’ve found for pecan pie- period. The flavor is amazing and not sickeningly sweet like the corn syrup recipes out there. The texture is heavenly! And it’s made using one of nature’s super foods- how much better could it get?!
1/2 C (1 Stick) Butter
1 C Brown Sugar
1/2 C Honey
1 T Apple Cider Vinegar
2 t Vanilla
1/4 t Salt (ONLY IF USING UNSALTED BUTTER!)
3 Eggs, lightly beaten
1- 1 1/2 C Pecan Pieces
9 inch unbaked Pie Crust
*Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
*Prepare pie pan or plate with the unbaked crust.
*Melt butter in a saucepan over low heat.
*Once melted, remove from heat and add the next 5 ingredients.
*Whisk well, incorporating the butter into the other ingredients.
*Add the eggs and whisk very well.
*Pour the pecans into the pie crust so that they cover the entire bottom.
*Gently pour the filling over the pecans, scraping the saucepan to get all of the filling you can.
*Bake the pie for 45-60 minutes; until the pie is set in the center.
*Let cool completely before slicing, but chilling is not necessary. If having something that has eggs in it left on the counter and not in the fridge bothers you, you can go ahead & refrigerate it. But I left this pie out for 4 days before finishing the last piece and I didn’t even have a hint of tummy trouble. There’s so much sugar and fat in the filling that spoilage isn’t an issue for quite some time.