Harissa is My Hero

Hey all you people! Welcome back. As always…it’s been a minute.

But since last time, I had a wedding! And it was perfect and amazing and everything any girl could want their wedding to be. Pics for interested parties:

I am so incredibly proud of this event. I got to do most everything I wanted, and the things I couldn’t do were just background noise to joining my best friend in the game of life for forever. I was so honored by everyone who helped me make this vision I’ve had my whole life into a reality. It really was perfect.

So now that you’ve scrolled past my cheesy wedding gush, let’s talk FOOD.

salmon lunch

The recipe I have for you today is a quick lunch I pulled together for myself after a 12 hour fast. Crispy skin salmon has become one of my favorite at-home gourmet things I treat myself with. If you’re one of those people who pulls the skin off your salmon, SHAME UPON YOU. Eat it. It’s delicious. And paired with the cool, smokey, refreshing aioli, I think y’all are gonna like this one. Harissa is a fun ingredient to play with, we became friends a little while ago, and I’m so excited to finally introduce you!

Harissa is a spice blend hailing from North Africa. Like many regional spice blends (Herbs de Provence, Za’tar, & Raz al Hanout) there are as many variations as there are spice shops, but the basics remain constant. The essence of Harissa is the combination of sumac, chilies, and garlic. The specific blend I use hails from World Market, and includes an incredibly specific blend of: chilies, spices, sumac, & garlic. Very helpful, I know.

Basically what you need to know about this blend’s flavor profile is that it’s similar to that chili powder buried in the back of your pantry you bought to make tacos 6 years ago, but with some serious depth. It tastes like what I imagine an open air market smells like, with spices floating in the air, overwhelming and subtle all at once. It’s just way better than american chili powder, trust me.

If you binge on Food Network like I used to when I had cable, you may have seen this ingredient on Chopped or Iron Chef and totally missed it. It’s sometimes in a paste, but personally, I prefer the powder. The shelf life is longer, and your options are far less limited. Pastes take up prime real estate in the fridge, and they go bad within a week or so of opening. The powder is also much easier to find. As I mentioned above, I purchased mine from World Market (AKA the Happiest Place on Earth) for a tagine recipe from one of my favorite cook books. I have been sneaking this stuff into meal preps and dinners ever since! I promise, you’ll love having this spice in your arsenal. It’s one of my absolute favorite things to have around.

The salmon in this recipe is loosely inspired by one of those meal kits you get in the mail. They had this method of cooking salmon I had never tried before, but totally made sense! And y’all know I’m a sucker for new methods. To preface, I very recently took a Masterclass by Gordon Ramsey. And if you know anything about him, you know salmon is kind of his jam. (Obviously understated.) And his method is to start with the skin down in a screaming hot pan for a good hard sear, then finish with the skin up and baste with butter to further crisp up the skin. It is fairly labor intensive, but it is SERIOUSLY good. Like, seriously good. Best salmon I have ever had. Ever. And I like salmon. BUT, this certain meal kit has you preheat your oven to 400, start your salmon in the pan skin side UP, flip it, then bake it in the oven for like 8 minutes. Crispy skin with about a quarter of the work. The oven and the pan work together to create the texture with no basting.

And since this was a lunch for me, I prefer to expend as little energy as possible. So for this recipe, you basically put everything in the oven, and in 20 minutes you have a gourmet lunch. Sound too good to be true? Nah. It’s all about method. Gourmet is completely subjective, and doesn’t necessarily mean you stood over a salmon fillet for 10 minutes basting it. The oven is your friend. Become acquainted. You’ll be fast friends, I promise.

Other notes on this recipe are that it is made for one person, but scaling it is super easy. Just do all the salmon at once, and use a bigger pan for your broccoli. Easy! Lastly, there are a few instructions not to wash the bowl between seasoning different elements, this allows us not to leave a bunch of the expensive spices in the bowl just to be washed down the drain. Really try to get the most out of your seasoning. It will save you in the long run.

Ok guys, here you go:

 Moroccan Blackened Salmon
with Harissa Broccoli & Smokey Garlic Paprika Aioli

Ingredients

For Aioli

  • 1 tsp Garlic Powder
  • 1 tsp Smoked Paprika
  • 1/2 cup Mayo (homemade or high quality store bought)

For Broccoli

  • 1 1/2 tsp Harissa Powder
  • 1 tsp Raz al Hanout
  • 1 Head of Broccoli (trimmed into florets)
  • 2 Tbsp Olive oil or Grapeseed oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

For Salmon

  • 1 Salmon fillet
  • 1/2 tsp Harissa 
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 2 Tbsp Olive oil or Grapeseed oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Preparation

Preheat oven to 400°F

Combine aioli ingredients, cover, and refrigerate until time to plate.

Toss broccoli with oil and spices in a medium prep bowl. DO NOT WASH BOWL. Spread on to a foil lined baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes or until desired tenderness is reached.

While broccoli is cooking, heat a cast iron skillet over medium high. Do not add your oil until your pan is hot. Do not add your oil until you can feel intense heat on the back of your hand while hovering over the center. 

While your pan is heating, remove salmon from it’s package and pat dry. Place fillet in the bowl used for the broccoli along with the remaining spices and 1 Tbsp of oil. Toss and rub evenly to coat. Get as much of the seasoning out of the bowl as possible.

Once your pan is hot and you are ready to cook the fish, add the last 1 Tbsp of oil. Lay salmon in pan away from you, skin side UP. Sear for 4 minutes. Flip, and immediately move pan to the oven. Bake for about 8 minutes or until it reaches your preferred level of doneness. 

To plate, place a dollop of sauce on one side of the plate using a spoon, and drag it across in one sweeping motion. Place salmon on top of sauce with crispy skin up. Plate broccoli alongside.

Enjoy!

And please, let me know how it turned out for you! I am always trying to perfect my recipe writing. Feedback is much appreciated!

–Rosie

 

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Long Time Gone

Well hello, Everyone! It’s been a minute since last we met, but I’m glad to be back!

In the year or so since I last posted, SO MUCH has happened, so I will be taking the full length of this post to fill you in. No recipe this time, sorry! But I have some big things in the works, I promise!

Well, the first incredibly major, super amazing thing that happened is that…

I’M ENGAGED!

chapeldarock.jpg

My other half and I are finally tying the getting married, in October, at this gorgeous plantation in Ben Wheeler. If you want to know how he did it (and it’s completely the most adorable thing ever…albeit I’m a little biased) you can check out our wedding website and read how we met, our proposal story, see all the pictures, and more!

The second major life event occurred about a year before the first:

We Moved to Tyler

As much fun as College Station was, it came time for us to either lay down roots, or get the hell outta dodge. I was presented a massive opportunity as Head Chef at the wonderfully amazing wedding venue in Bryan that gave me my start. These people are seriously amazing. Being a college drop-out, The word “internship” can feel pretty exclusive. But when I called to ask about it, they were ready and willing for me to give it a try. I fell completely in love with this job, you guys. So much in love that I did it for free for a year. After being chosen first from my group for a paid position, I found myself almost hypnotically drawn to the kitchen over and over again. I was coming in before any of the other girls, usually by several hours, helping with prep, working the entire event, and cleaning up after. It was such a rush, I loved every second of that job. But Caleb and I felt a major deficit in our lives…we both missed our families terribly. I hated every missed gathering, birthday, holiday, all of it. And if I wanted to physically be at anything, it meant missing out on an event, and taking off from my day job, and missing out on money that I couldn’t afford to miss out on. Caleb and I almost always went separately to family events because of the aforementioned reasons. It was causing a strain that was almost too much.

So when The Coats presented me with the job I had been dreaming about, I was presented a huge dilemma. Stay and have a kick-ass job working for people who listened to my opinion and genuinely cared for me and believed in my talent, or move closer to my mother, sister, best friend, Caleb’s family, and my entire extended family. The more I thought about it and Caleb and I talked about it, the more right Tyler felt. So began our search for a house. #ugh

After an exhaustive search, we found this beautiful historical home in a central location, with an incredible backyard full of perennial daffodils, azaleas, roses, wisteria, and irises that blanket the lawn every spring. Not to mention all the squirrels and birds that stay and sing all year long it seems. Our home went from this tiny cave-like dwelling I dreaded returning to every night, to a safe place, my inspiration and oasis. And within the confines of this beautiful place we call home, I have become my best self yet.

Found Myself

myself

Which is seriously the cheesiest thing I have ever allowed to escape my brain and immortalize itself in binary code on the internet.

So what had happened was…

Upon moving to Tyler, the relationship between Caleb and I was strained to say the least. And any relationship expert will tell you that moving is on of the most stressful things you can put a couple through (outside of like having children) But for us the disconnect started before that in College Station. We worked near opposite schedules and almost always spent all of our limited time together among friends. Quality couple time was basically non existent. We did everything separately, but this strain went mostly unnoticed because we really weren’t alone very much. It wasn’t until moving to Tyler and we both had nights off to spend together that the cracks were exposed. Then the inevitable fighting began until one night that changed my life indefinitely.

The fight began the way most do: with something COMPLETELY irrelevant to the actual issue and COMPLETELY petty in origin. I honestly couldn’t tell you the specific trigger. I do remember that it was me that started it.

Long story short, it came out that each of us had some major grievances with each other, and despite being on the ledge, neither of us was ready to abandon ship just yet. One of his prime complaints was that I didn’t take care of myself. That he had tried to help to no avail. That my family was worried about me. That he knew about the diabetes that runs in my family, and that he would not stay to watch me kill myself.

Boom. There it was, all laid out in the open. My deepest insecurity, my biggest fear, all in one, staring me in the face. I suddenly became very aware of the over sized grey shirt, and matching sordid sweats. And I had my epiphany.

My outside appearance was a window into how I felt within. I was the heaviest I’d ever been. I hardly ever cooked anymore. I had subconsciously decided I was ugly and disgusting and unworthy of love, and had made my outside a reflection of that feeling. And how could I possibly expect Caleb to love me if I could not first at least attempt to love myself?

I have always–like we’re talking my whole life always–loved  food. Cooking it, learning about it, talking about it…my mom even took me to a high-end grocery store for my birthday once. Yah. That’s me. Excited to get to talk to an actual butcher. Ogling over dozens of fresh baked bread options, pastries, cheeses, flours, coffees, and exotic sauces I hadn’t even heard of on the Food Network. That’s me. Food is one of the great passions of my life. And because of this, somewhere down the line I mentally accepted the fact that I could never love food and be thin and beautiful.

And standing there, red-faced and bloated in my big grey Frump Monster costume I thought about how horrible it was going to be trying to eat healthy. I was at a complete loss. How could he ask this of me? To eat healthy meant giving up my passion, my niche. How was I even supposed to start this whole healthy thing?

I heaved the heaviest sigh of defeat so heavy I felt it in my heels. And I said, “Ok. I’ll do it.” Then he dropped the killing blow,

“That means no Starbucks.”

DO WHAT?! Y’all, when I say I almost fell out, I almost FELL OVER. This was too much. Boiled chicken and steamed broccoli was one thing, but taking away my daily caffeine fix…FOREVER?? How could that kind of psychological torture benefit anyone??? Much less me?!

But after my initial melt-down, I thought about it and agreed, because I love that man. And if I had to brew coffee at home to prove it, then challenge accepted.

Fast Forward a couple months of passing on the bread, and reading a ton of nutrition labels, this show airs called “My Diet is Better Than Yours”. The premise of the show is participants choose a diet, and try it out with an expert on that specific diet. Their results are monitored over the course of several weeks Results being tracked include weight, physical fitness, and emotional health. If they are unhappy with their diet, they may switch once during the course of the show. This was right up my alley. A way to sift through all the diet B.S. I had been reading on Pinterest and see what actually yields results for real people. And also see what was the easiest to maintain within day to day life.

One of the diets that immediately caught my attention was Abel James’ Wild DietHe had me at butter and bacon cheeseburgers. According to Abel, you could have coffee, meat, cheese, and fat. So I went to Barnes and Noble the next day and bought his book, The Wild Diet and read it cover to cover in a week. My outlook on food in relation to health completely changed. I started drinking butter coffee, and quit chugging sweet tea all day long…which was probably the hardest thing, being that I am a die-hard Texas Woman. I started pounding water all day and meal prepping at night. And something crazy happened…for the first time in my life, an intentional, concentrated effort I made had yielded actual, tangible results! And everyone noticed.

I had more energy, I was happier, and I was cooking again. Replacing carb-laden foods with ketogenic alternatives flexed my creative culinary skill. I was committed to the Wild Diet for nearly a year, then I got engaged and on came the happy weight. Which in turn brings me to present day.

I find myself struggling to achieve my pre-engagement commitment to eating right. It is a battle every day to make just one healthy choice. To limit cheats, to meal prep, to exercise. Some days it feels impossible. But I have discovered so much about my own psyche through this journey. What seems to work and what really doesn’t. I still don’t drink sweet tea, and have reduced my overall coffee intake drastically which has in turn facilitated a beneficial green tea habit I thoroughly enjoy. But since falling off the wagon I have become hopelessly addicted to sweets, something I never struggled with much before.

And within this new frontier of wellness and naturalizing my lifestyle, I have discovered a few new interests: including herbalism.  It began with essential oils, and has blossomed since paleo/primal perspective forced me to look at my world through less industrial eyes. This newfound interest will surely manifest itself in my future postings for sure!

And there you have it. You’re all caught up! I felt the need to clarify this new perspective I have before writing anything informative through it. I hope y’all enjoy reading it as much as I enjoy living it!

bliss

Love,

Rosie

Redneck Risotto

Okay, so I know I preach a lot about making things from scratch, but sometimes that just ain’t an option. Sometimes The sink is already full of dishes and you haven’t eaten all day. Sometimes it’s been a while since the grocery store happened and the money is drying up. But you’re hungry. Real hungry. Like, stuff me full of carbs so I can fall into a carbohydrate-induced hibernation-type slumber afterwards.

Yah, one of those days.

Many lowly twenty-somethings like myself turn to comfort foods we ate, or weren’t allowed to eat in access growing up. I turn to this. I grew up with my mom calling it Souper Rice. I makes me smile just thinking about it. Being a kid you find joy in the simplest things, you know? I used to beg for this in grade school. It was a special thing and I just thought it was the greatest Friday surprise ever. And it was.

Now, I have taken my mother’s Souper Rice Recipe and tweaked it (as is tradition) and therefore have re-christened my version: Redneck Risotto. Where my mom would use a can of cream of mushroom soup and a can of water, I use my Homemade Chicken Stock, a little bouillon, and of course, it wouldn’t be easy if I didn’t use the cream of mushroom soup.

So, besides the chicken stock, this is literally all you need:

needs.edit

Rice (my mom says the instant rice is better, but I like my Uncle Ben’s , and I literally always have this on hand), one can of cream of mushroom soup, one bouillon cube flavor of your choice (I had beef already), and one can full of chicken stock plus like a tablespoon extra. And THAT’S IT. And you need one medium-sized pot.

So really the only labor-intensive thing you need to do is heat up the broth and dissolve as much of the bouillon cube in it as you have time/patience for. It will always melt while the rice is cooking anyway.

stock.edit

Now, you open your can of cream of mushroom and dump it into a pot. Next, pour rice into the can to measure.

*Let me take a second to bestow some knowledge upon you.*
Anytime you cook regular rice, it’s a 2:1 ratio, meaning one part rice to two parts liquid. Take this information and run with it! This is one of those method knowledge tidbits I use all the time to tweak and add flavor to regular old recipes.

That being said, dump measured rice into the pot with the soup. Now, pour the stock into the can and dump it into the pot. Putting the stock into the can helps get out those little grains of rice stuck to the thick soup in the can, as well as getting the left behind bit of soup that didn’t get scraped out. Now, for this recipe, since the cream of mushroom soup is pretty thick and our rice is going to cook for 20 mins, we want to add a little more liquid to the mix to keep everybody lubricated. (Ya. I said lubricated.) Otherwise the rice would stick to the bottom of the pan and burn during cooking. So I add a few extra tablespoons of stock. Mix it all up so the rice is all incorporated into the mix. It should look something like this:

indapot.edit

Excuse my dirty stove. Like I said, dishes in the sink and all that.

Now, follow your rice’s package directions for cooking. Mine tells me to bring the rice up to a boil, then down to a simmer for twenty minutes, covered.

lid

And like we discussed earlier, this is a thick mess, so I know your granny told you not to uncover rice while it’s cooking, but I PROMISE. It’s gonna be okay. Take the lid off and stir it occasionally during the covered phase, otherwise the rice will stick on the bottom and burn and burnt rice ain’t good.

So, if you did everything right, after 20 minutes, you should have something like this.

finished.edit

TA-DA! Redneck Risotto. Creamy, filling, and savory. And since we made it with stock, it will be super filling.

Serve with some Slap Ya Mama

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Somethings that may be really good if you’re feelin’ squirrely, maybe a bay leaf during cooking? And if you had some leftover chicken you could shred it of slice it and throw it in the pot right before you turn the rice to a simmer.

Disclaimer, pleased do not attempt this in a rice cooker. I do not own one, and I don’t know how they work, so I do not want to be responsible for breaking yours. Okie Doke? Thanks.

Y’all enjoy this one. I’m not even writing a formal recipe for this one because who are we kidding?

With love always,

Rosie

Fresh Frozen Remix

Well, first thing’s first, HAPPY NEW YEAR EVERYONE!
And hello from my backyard. It’s a BEAUTIFUL January day here in College Station. Here’s my view as I blog this morning!

outside

Made a cup of some delicious apricot tea, pulled out the makeshift outdoor table and brought the electronics outside. And where’s my spoiled dog? Chillin’ inside the house. I will never understand dogs. Ever.

So December was ridiculously busy for me this year. Between the day job and my event internship, there were two weeks where I was working 18 hour days every day. So there was not much cooking happening. Lots of “Hey babe, you thinkin’ pizza tonight? Ya me too.” phone calls. First time I’ve felt like a college kid since moving here. That, as well as dealing with a bit of writer’s block led to no blogging.

But, It’s January and I have no events until FEBRUARY. I feel like I’m going to go crazy. So there will probably be much more blogging and definitely more cooking. I have loads to tell ya’ll! I’ve begun to plan my new garden, started Dixie on a raw food diet, and it’s slowly getting warmer, which means it’s almost planting time!!! But more on all that later.

So this recipe comes from my mom…sort of. My family loves Costco and all their frozen deliciousness. One of our favorite frozen quick meals from this glorious place is called “Tortilla Crusted Tilapia.” They don’t look like much coming out of the package, but holy crap are they good. Well, since moving 3 hours from home I have lost my Costco privileges, and that tilapia just sounded soooooo good.

So I made a trip to the most magical place on earth, H-E-B, and rounded up the few things I didn’t have to make me some fish. And besides kitchen staples, this is literally all I needed from the store:

Ingredients

Just the fish (cheap), cilantro (super cheap), jalapenos (cheapish), limes, and Tortilla chips (could have been cheaper.)

*Disclaimer*
If you have by chance had the Costco original, you will notice mine have more of a crust and less of a breading. This is intentional. I really liked having more of a crunch with the fish, which tends to be a little mushy sometimes , being that tilapia is such a thin fillet.

So, first we Mise en Place. (Which is a fancy culinary term for get all your crap prepped and ready to go so you don’t get halfway through your recipe and go “Oh NO! We have to run to the store!”) We start with cleaning a few jalapenos. I did not find this spicy AT ALL and I used 2 medium sized peppers. I will probably use more next time, but that’s all on you. Two would be plenty for just a mild spice. So, to clean your jalapeno, slice once lengthwise in half. Now take a spoon and scoop out all the seeds and the white ribs. Julienne (meaning to slice into “matchstick” size pieces), and dice finely, nearly a mince, but you still want some pieces. Toss that into a medium bowl.jalapeno

On to the cilantro. To prep this, take the whole bunch in your left hand, knife in the other, and point the bunch towards your cutting board as if you were using is like a paint brush, at a 45 degree angle. Now place your knife at a 45 degree angle at the base of where the leaves start and shave the leaves form the bunch. Twist the bunch as you shear the leaves. I just did about a handful. Then wad the leaves under your hand tightly and pushing them forward chop them finely. put a few tablespoons in the bowl with the jalapeno, and set the rest aside.

cilantro

Now to the limes. Citrus is one of my favorite things to incorporate into dishes. What’s better than getting two ingredients out of one purchase? Nothing. Absolutely nothing! So what we will do is grab a microplane, or the smallest grater you have, and zest the entire lime directly into the bowl, being careful to avoid grating the pit in there. That’s the white just below the zest. It’s bitter and gross.

zest

Now slice your lime in half and juice. Set the juice aside. If your lime is pretty hard, help it out a bit by tossing it into the microwave for 10 seconds to get the juices flowing. you can also press and roll it on your cutting board if you’re really worried.

juice

Next, prepare the chips! And cue adorable cooking show TV host saying, “And your kids will LOVE this!” Fill a gallon Ziploc bag mostly full with the whole chips. (I swear this was my measuring system.) And with a rolling pin or your hands or any enthusiastic small children you have them on hand, crush them to bits! Your bits can be more fine than mine were, or not, that’s totally up to you. The larger bits don’t dredge on the fish very well, but the do make a nice crunchy crust. Mine were still fairly large.

Chippies

Dump bits into the bowl with all the green stuff, and stir. Add about a tablespoon of lime juice so the mixture is slightly damp. Add a little salt, taste, and set aside.

mixture

Next, go ahead and preheat your oven to 375, and set out your THAWED fish fillets. Douse each one with olive oil and rub to coat. Salt with kosher salt and a little garlic powder. Rub to coat. Flip and repeat on other side.

image (29)

Now, put the tortilla chip mixture into a plate or a flat dish and spread it evenly. Prep a half sheet pan with a silicon mat if you have one, or a layer of nonstick spray if you don’t. Press each side of each fillet into the mixture. If you did big pieces like I did, just a little will stick to the fish, but that’s OK. After you get as many bits as possible to adhere to your fillets, arrange them on your pan. They can be nearly shoulder to shoulder, that’s completely fine. Now, take the remaining mixture and distribute it onto the tops of your fillets. Do as much or as little as you like. Pour remaining lime juice over each fillet.

precook

Toss those babies into that 375 oven for about 15-20 minutes. Check them with a fork, they should be white and just barely translucent and flaky.

postcook

And there you have it! I served this with steamed broccoli and Parmesan risotto.

feature2

Tortilla Crusted Tilapia 

Ingredients:
– 1-2 Jalapenos, diced
– 1/3 cup fresh cilantro, chopped fine
– 1 lime, zested and juiced
– 2 cups crushed tortilla chips
– 5 tilapia fillets
– Salt
– Garlic Powder
– Olive Oil

Method:

Preheat oven to 375.

Combine jalapenos, cilantro, lime zest, crushed chips, salt, and 1 Tbsp lime juice in a medium bowl, mix to combine. 

Coat each fillet in olive oil, salt and garlic powder to taste. Dredge in chip mixture and arrange on greased half sheet pan. Top fillets with remaining chip mixture, and disperse the remaining lime juice on top of the fillets. 

Bake for 20 minutes or until flaky and translucent on the inside. 

Yield: 5 Fillets 

So there you have it. A pretty simple, easy weeknight dinner from scratch! You’re Welcome.

Rosie

Chicken Bones and Ice Cubes

Here in central/south Texas, the weather has taken a much welcome chilly turn, which you will never hear me complain about. My porters taste better, my house feels better, my new COUCH is cozier…I was born for winter. Bring it on.

So kiddies, today we’re going to talk about something I ALWAYS keep in my freezer. Always. It’s a staple and I end up basing many of my recipes around it…homemade chicken stock. I mentioned this staple in my stuffed squash recipe. Its cheap, freaking delicious, and it’s recycling! I love feeling like I got as much out of what I’ve bought as possible, and this recipe does just that. Now, you can use a whole raw chicken and roast it or cook it yourself, I’m just not that hardcore yet. What I like to do is wait until I have a recipe that calls for shredded chicken, usually jambalaya, because it calls for shredded chicken, and a good bit of stock, then I use a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store, pick almost all the meat off the bones, and use them for the stock.

There are a few things equipment-wise you will need: a few standard size ice cube trays, (explaining later) a mesh skimmer, (optional) a large pot, cheesecloth, large strainer, large mixing bowl, (a really deep one, like the biggest mixing bowl you have), a couple gallon freezer bags, (depending on how much you make) and a ladle. Most of this stuff you should have in your kitchen already…if you don’t, you should. and all of it can be found at Walmart…if you must.

WARNING: There will be an excessive use of the word carcass in this post. If that term bothers you…I’m sorry, this may not be for you. Please turn back now.

So what I do is I pick all of the chicken off of the carcass, not being super picky about it being picked clean. Small pieces of meat and skin just add to the flavor of the finished stock. I just leave the whole carcass in the container it comes in, and any small bones i just throw them back in there to keep it all contained. Chicken is just messy. There is no way around it. The only way to pick a chicken is with your fingers, so wash up. It will be slimy, but just remember it all washes off. Wu-sah.

Now grab that big ol’ pot we talked about earlier. The size of this pot will determine how much stock you can make (obviously), so if you need a ton of stock for whatever reason, think about investing in a large stock pot. I did, and I absolutely love it. So dump that whole container of chicken bones and skin and fat and meat into your pot. The whole thing. Just dump it.

Now everything else you add to this pot is optional. Like literally everything but the chicken is optional. The reason being is the entire reason I make stock the way I do is to add flavor. All stock is, is bones and water. that’s literally it. That tiny box you pay $5 in the store for is bones, water, and time. What I do as far as flavor additives are flavors I typically cook with or go well in many dishes, namely ones with chicken (again, duh) Bay, paprika, herbs de provence, thyme, green onion…just throw whatever herbs you like with chicken in the pot with the bones. I usually do a couple bay leaves, a handful of herbs de provence, some smoked paprika, and thyme and rosemary if I have them. The most important to me is the bay.

Next we talk about mirepoix. This is the base for many soups, and stews. All mirepoix is, is a fancy word for carrots, onions, and celery. We add the mirepoix to stock to add more depth of flavor, and also my mom loves to eat the carrots after they’ve stewed in the stock for several hours. Om nom nom. So basically to add the mirepoix to the stock it’s a little different than say making a soup. if we were doing a soup, we would chop all our veggies into bite-size pieces of similar size so the all cook evenly because we would be sauteing them. but for the stock, we will being boiling them over several hours, so we really just need them to fit on our pot. All i do is peel a couple red onions, quarter them, and toss them in there. Then peel my carrot and cut each one into two pieces. Then I like a bunch of celery, so usually about 4 stalks i wipe off and cut in half as well.

Now fill your pot with water and crank the heat up.

I boil my stock AT LEAST 3 hours. Usually more, it just depends on how late at night I started it. When I was living at home, I would start it before my shift at work, and leave it on all shift while my mom was home, then check it when I got back. You can’t overcook stock. the longer it heats, the more flavor is extracted. HOWEVER, it will lose water fairly rapidly once it does finally start to boil, so just keep adding water. Be prepared for your house to smell like chicken noodle soup for a long time.

You are looking for a deep golden brown color to your stock. I accidentally turned a batch green once because of my love for celery, I had grown some at home but didn’t collar it, so it was really tough, but it smelled really fragrant, so I figured it would be perfect for stock making. Well, it was a deep deep green, and after a few hours, so was my stock. I tasted it and it was just fine, but it was green nonetheless.

So once you are satisfied with the color and flavor of your stock, it’s time to strain. To prepare the strainer, locate that large mixing bowl, and set your strainer on top of it. Ideally, it will rest suspended on the top of the bowl. I find this operation is safest in the sink. Now, take the cheesecloth and line the strainer with it. Check the bowl to make sure it doesn’t wobble. If it feels un-sturdy, the massive amount of liquid you are going to pour into it will topple it and you will have a VERY large mess to clean. Or if you listened and put it in the sink, you will lose some of you hard earned liquid gold. So make sure your bowl ain’t going anywhere.

Now, VERY CAREFULLY remove the pot from the heat, and pour everything through the strainer. if it doesn’t all fit in one bowl, get another and strain into that bowl until everything is out of the pot and all of the carcass is chilling in the strainer. Now, pick up your strainer and hold it above the bowl so all the liquid can drain out of the carcass and mirepoix. this is where the best stuff is, so don’t skip this step.

After you have let the liquid drain, set the strainer on top of your pot, and let it drain some more.

Now take a step back and admire that steaming bowl of liquid awesomeness you just made. You. You did it.

Let liquid awesomeness cool a bit, and prepare a shelf in your freezer for the ice trays.

This is my favorite part: Storage.

To store all your golden liquid creation, simply ladle into ice trays and freeze! then store in a freezer zip top bag. So easy right???

To freeze all of it may take a couple days, I only have 3 ice trays, so I just empty them into the freezer bag when I get home from work and fill them up again until all the fresh stock is frozen. To store fresh stock, just cover the mixing bowl with saran wrap and keep it in the refrigerator up to 2 weeks…and not a day longer. This is still chicken, kiddies. After a day in the fridge, there may be some white buildup floating on the top of the stock, use the mesh skimmer to skim it off, and use as normal.

And there you have it. My most essential staple I have a hard time cooking without. Now here’s a bonus recipe for fried eggs my way :]

Ingredients:

eggs
frozen chicken stock ice cubes
oil (or bacon fat)
smoked paprika
salt and pepper

Method:

Heat a few tablespoons of oil in a frying pan. Crack egg into the oil once it’s hot. Fry until the white is nearly cooked through on the top. salt and pepper the egg and sprinkle with smoked paprika. When the white is nearly cooked, place one cube of chicken stock in the skillet but not touching the egg and cover immediately, this will steam the top of the egg, so no flipping!

Once the egg is cooked to your preferred doneness, Remove from pan and serve immediately with toasted Ezekiel bread. Yummmm 

Rosie

The Autumn Squash Obsession

I know it has been a while since I’ve written, so before I get into this recipe, a little catching up is in order…

Since my last post, my garden flourished (yaaaaay) and I have been eating roasted tomatoes for months, which I think everyone will agree is never a bad thing.
roasted tomatoes
I tried some heirloom Cherokee purple tomatoes this year (only because they were free from my main squeeze) and I really loved how they turned out. He gave me some pineapple tomatoes as well, but I didn’t get a single one all season. More on tomatoes in another post, because I had much success with them this year, I will write a post about what I did, because I think I figured out the secret. 😀
cherokee purple

In other news, I have uprooted my life and have moved into a duplex in central Texas. I have my own kitchen, my own (eventual) garden space, and a teensy bit of extra free time between both jobs. Our place did come with a few rose bushes which the boyfriend pruned and they just took off! I’ve never cared for roses before, so if anyone knows any tips, I am all ears. But this is what they look like after a few days of rain.
roses

Also, super random side note, there is a place down here that serves CHICKEN FRIED BACON. Yes, you read that correctly. No, it’s not greasy. It’s actually steamed inside the batter…crazy? No, It’s beautiful. And served with cream gravy. Need I say more?
chicken fried bacon

So I believe I will be posting more often, but hey, we’ll see when we see right?

ANYWAY, so this squash thing was pretty unexpected. It came out of nowhere while I was at my new job. (I’ll give you a hint; they’re famous for a bowl made of sourdough :]) So I was dipping this new, baby food-looking soup, and the smell hit me…it was freaking glorious. Like toasting walnuts and sweet potato pie, and just…fall. Now here in Texas, we don’t get much of the in-between seasons, so any glimpse of spring and autumn are always welcome. And this soup just smelled so inviting. Now, being that I am not much of a soup person (I like something I can sink my teeth into) I wasn’t too keen on trying the soup itself, but we have this butternut squash ravioli in asiago alfredo…which is right up my alley. So on my break I tried it, and this obsession began. As soon as I got home I was looking up recipes for butternut squash on Pinterest, and I found this one: Stuffed Butternut Squash but it was vegetarian, and I have a 25 year old man to feed. So I added and subtracted and tweaked and revamped like I always do.

So there’s a really cute farmer’s market down here and the boyfriend and I love to go there because it’s cheap and there’s a very nice old man in there who is a wonderful conversationalist. So we made a trip over there, and I have squash on the brain. I track down a good sized gourd and brought it home with us. Then we went to H-E-B (the most wonderful place on earth) and got some specialty ingredients. Some of these things can be substituted, like the Three Continent Blend I used, which contains red and gold quinoa, amaranth, brown rice, and wild rice. While this blend is really freaking good, you could do any grain mix, but I think anything with quinoa and wild rice would be perfect.

Something else I did was I used my homemade chicken stock instead of pretty much all of the water in the original recipe. I just have an abundance of it because I make it homemade, and if you don’t, you could use boullion, or even water or broth or stretch some stock. I just love the meaty flavor the stock adds to everything, ESPECIALLY the roasting squash.

As I said before, I’m feeding a man, so meat is pretty much a necessity for most meals. This being the case, I added turkey meat to the stuffing so as not to destroy the healthy-factor that makes this meal so satisfying, but also beef it up a bit.

A WORD OF CAUTION: In this recipe, when it says to flip over the squash after it’s been roasted, GRAB A BUDDY. I can’t stress this enough, that the flipping is a TWO PERSON JOB. Don’t make the mistakes I did. That’s why I spend hours typing. To help you crazy people. I have squash burns that could have been avoided if my pride would have gotten out of the way and grabbed a spatula.

I paired this stuffed squash with yet another H-E-B gem, pesto artisan bread. Om nom. nom nom. All I did was slice it, drizzle it with some olive oil and sprinkle it with some of the rosemary asiago cheese I topped the squash with, then tossed that guy in the oven till he was happy happy [copyright]. This needs something crunchy, because, delicious as the squash is, it is a bit on the mushy side. If you added some pecans to the filling or something that might be alleviated a little, but I was feeling some cheese toast.

Now that I have type-yelled and disclaimed and explainified everything, here is what I came up with. DISCLAIMER: If you have never used any of my recipes before, just know this is 80% METHOD. These measurements are estimated, and if it doesn’t look right to you, it might be off, so change it to fit your taste.

Stuffed Butternut Squash

Ingredients:

  • 1 Butternut Squash
  • 1 ½ + 2 ½ cups chicken stock divided
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 medium shallots, diced
  • 1 cup chopped wild mushrooms of your choice
  • 2 cloves minced garlic
  • 1 cup of Three Continent Grain Blend
  • ½ cup parmesan cheese (or I used rosemary asiago, any hard, salty cheese will work)
  • 1 lb lean turkey meat (I used 85/15)
  • 2 oz goat cheese
  • Herbs de Provence (a mixture of lavender and bay and a bunch of other deliciousness)

Method:

First, get you squash roasting. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Peel any stickers off your squash, and give that guy a rinse. Then slice in half and scoop out the seeds. Do with them what you wish. There are a TON of uses for them. Next, place each half of your squash cut side down in a 9×13 casserole dish and fill the dish with about 1/2 inch of stock. Roast Squash in the oven for 45 – 60 minutes. (Less time is better, because you will be trying to flip them…squishy squash doesn’t like to flip.) Once squash is roasted, remove from the oven and set aside.

While your squash is roasting, prepare 1 cup of your grain mixture according to the package directions, just replace the water called for to chicken stock.

In a large skillet, heat olive oil and add garlic, and shallots. Saute for a few minutes, and add the turkey meat and the Herbs de Provence. Brown the meat. Remove from pan and set aside. Add a little more olive oil and saute the mushrooms. 

Time to flip. Grab you aforementioned buddy and grab a few spatulas. Flip over your squash halves and scoop out the meat.leaving about a half inch rind so it doesn’t fall apart. Drain the stock from the pan and place the squash halves back in the casserole dish cut side up. 

Now, create you filling. Add the goat cheese to the squash meat and mash. If you like a little more tang, add more goat cheese. Then add turkey mixture, mushrooms, and cooked grain blend to the squash mash. Stir until well combined and taste for seasonings. Now is the time to make any final amendments. 

Distribute filling evenly between the two squash halves, and top with the grated asiago (or parmesan) cheese. Return to the oven and bake for 10 – 15 minutes. (This is a good time to put your cheese bread in the oven.)

Remove deliciousness from the oven, portion appropriately, and serve!

squashpic2

I hope y’all enjoyed this one. This was my first major meal in my new place, so I’m pretty excited about it. If yall try it and have any suggestions or questions, please post them in the comment section.

– Rosie

 

From My Garden to Yers

So, I’ve told you already I’m a gardener. This little hobby…obsession (potato potahto) began last year. I was helping my mom and sister plant our yearly side bed garden. We always did okra, some kind of tomatoes, maybe some squash, and always a bunch of herbs. Our tomatoes haden’t done well in a few years, they were so small, and they would crack before the sun could turn them red. Our okra always produced way more than we could ever eat, because here in Texas, the unofficial state weed is the okra bush. So if you live in Texas (or anywhere else where it’s hot as all get-out from the end of April till November) and you want something that is a heavy producer, okra is for you. Seriously.

I haven’t had much luck with herbs in the ground. So this year I made myself a bucket.

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I have in my fun little bucket: catnip, thyme, flat leaf parsley, marjoram, stevia, sage, and basil.

Sidenote: don’t plant basil until there is ZERO chance of frost. That basil in the picture is my third one this year. They just can’t handle any kind of chilly weather. 

So since the herbs and tomatoes in the ground didn’t work, I’ve decided to try more pots this year. Things I have had trouble with, or have never grown before, I put in pots.

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The second, and my favorite part of my garden is my raised bed. I started it last year after I saw the idea on Pinterest. I am not much of a carpenter, so I didn’t want to try and fabricate a wooden one. I opted to do the cinder block bed because of a few reasons:

1. No fabrication
2. Cheap and accessible materials
3. Fun planters for small things on the border
4. No rotting wood to replace in a few years

So here’s my actual step by step (revised from the Pinterest version)

Step One:
Pick a sunny spot

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Step Two:
Lay a fairly thick layer of cardboard.

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Step 3:
Place cinder blocks on the cardboard around the perimeter. And my advice would be to add a layer of expanded shale and poke holes in the cardboard to help drainage. I made the mistake of disregarding drainage my first year, and anything requiring deep roots withered, and everything else got root rot. I added the drainage this year and it was much more difficult to do than if I would have done it in the beginning.

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Step 4:
Add lots of compost and potting soil. Another tip from the school of hard knocks: DO YOUR MATH CORRECTLY. It will save you from making the 4 COUNT EM 4 trips I made to the home depot because it took me that long to figure out I needed to cube the area of the bed to know how much soil I needed. Math is important, people. Very important.

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And this was my first week of planting:

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Corn and jalapenos! That corn was from seed and so very promising. Lack of drainage kept them from growing big enough to tassel. No corn for me. But the jalapenos did AMAZING as you can see by my end of season picture below.

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So that was my first year of raised gardening. I’m on year two, and since I’ve added the drainage and aerated my soil, everything has taken off at a pretty steady rate.

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Onions on the left, cucumbers in the small peat pots in the front, carrots in the front behind the cucumbers, three different peppers in the middle, mint in the back, snow peas hidden behind the pot of brussel sprouts on the far right.

And there you have it. My intro to gardening. Besides food, this is one of my favorite things to talk about, so if you’re into that kind of thing, watch for my gardening posts as I tell you about the lessons I’ve learned in this ever changing hobby.

 

Rosie