Thursday, June 15, 2017

Sheet Pan Supper #2

I tried to like the Instant Pot. I really did. I tried many times over to get the hang of it and make it do all of the things so many promised me that it could do. My Instant Pot failure is another notch on my belt that proves to me....

Things that are popular just never work out for me.

I think my expectations are a little too high. If it's popular and receiving rave reviews, then it must be some sort of magical. If the Instant Pot is supposed to be faster than the crockpot, maybe I expected it to be George Jetson fast. Like super-futuristic-nearly-magical fast. Perhaps I wasn't patient enough.  At any rate, I feel the IP is never gonna work for me and I can't keep small appliances around that don't carry their weight in productivity. The only food I successfully cooked from the Instant Pot were super yummy, buttery, golden potatoes. However, for an appliance to hold a spot on my pantry gotta be able to make more than potatoes.  I guess I'm old school when it comes to kitchen cooking tools and I couldn't get on board with the IP fascination that so many of my friends have come to enjoy. I felt the same way about Botox. I tried to like it, I really did.  Everyone told me it was wonderful...everyone was wrong. The headache, the inability to move my muscles - My GOD-given muscles! Yes, I know that is supposed to be the point, but I guess I didn't close the loop on what Botox actually is/does until it was too late. WHAT are we doing to ourselves?! Does it really improve my life to  inject toxin into myself? Not one bit. I think it actually made my life worse. I may be the only person to spiral into a full on panic attack....from Botox. Won't be doing that again any time soon. Just let it be already. YOU ARE FEARFULLY AND WONDERFULLY MADE. (Psalm 139:14) We get to Jesus at the finish line no matter what sefl-inflicted, fountain-of-youth tactics we do to ourselves beforehand. However, true to my gender, I reserve my right to change my mind at any point that I feel like trying something irrational again in the future. I digress... 

When the Instant Pot did not work out for me, I went back to my tried and true oven and my ever faithful sheet pans. 

Preheat said oven to 350 degrees and line a sheet pan with parchment paper.

Toss 6 plums (halved) with 1 Tbs. of olive oil, 1 tsp. ground cinnamon, and 1/4 tsp. nutmeg. Spread them onto parchment lined sheet pan. Thinly slice 1 red onion and coat with 1 Tbs. olive oil. Add onion to the sheet pan. Season entire pan generously with salt and pepper. 

I realize from looking at the picture that I used more than six plums or else I most likely quartered them. You get the point though. Throw some plums on the sheet pan. Add some thinly sliced onion. Heat 3 Tbs. of butter in a cast iron skillet and lightly sear two pork tenderloin roasts...

Place seared pork tenderloin on your bed of plums and red onion....

Roast uncovered in 350 degree oven for about 45-50 minutes or until pork reaches an internal temperature of 145 degrees. Let meat rest for about 15 minutes before serving. 

Slice pork and serve with roasted plums/onions and a complementary vegetable - steamed asparagus works for our family, but caesar salad would be nice as well or a buttery green bean. Do what works for you! Enjoy! 


Thursday, January 5, 2017

Sheet Pan Supper #1

I adore cooking and find it very relaxing especially after a long day of baking. I know it may seem contradictory to enjoy being in one kitchen after having spent your entire day in another, but as any foodie will tell and baking are two entirely separate beasts just as owning a bakery and managing a home kitchen are two boats in completely different ponds. That said, I've been dying for more simplicity when it comes to dinner time with 6 people. We are not fast-foodies or even convenience-foodies which only serves to complicate dinner when there are limited shortcuts between beginning the meal prep and all of the ingredients actually reaching edible. I am venturing into sheet-pan-suppers and trying to find ways to get our evening meal executed with minimal cookware, resulting (with any luck) in minimal dishes. This sheet-pan-supper was my first attempt and turned out incredibly savory. So simple and a very flexible recipe that will allow for a myriad of seasonings and vegetables for numerous variations. Change it up! 

Start by placing your veggies of choice on a sheet pan. I opted for baby carrots and onion, but potatoes would be oh so yummy as well. I will definitely try with fresh brussel sprouts next time. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and dried oregano. Dice and cook 8 oz of bacon and cook in a skillet.  Remove bacon and sprinkle on top of your sheet pan veggies. Cut up a whole chicken (or buy it already cut up if you prefer), season chicken well with salt/pepper, and brown chicken portions in the bacon fat of your skillet. You may have to do this in batches to get all of the chicken browned. Layer your seared chicken portions on top of your veggies and pour any remaining bacon fat and juices from your skillet over the sheet pan of chicken/veggies. Place your sheet pan in a 400 degree oven and carefully pour in 1/2 cup chicken broth and 1/2 cup dry white wine (sauvignon blanc is my favorite to cook with) OR you can use 1 cup of chicken broth and skip the wine if you prefer. Set your timer for 1 hour and roast it all together until the internal temperature of the chicken reaches 165 degrees. You will have ample yummy broth in your sheet pan to pour over your plated chicken.  Or use the fluid to make a flavor filled gravy to drown your day in as many calories as possible. Why not?  Sometimes life calls for exactly such salve. Enjoy!

My apologies for the photo quality - I didn't set out to blog this recipe, but when I witnessed how delectable it was shaping up to be, I couldn't help whipping out the iPhone an snapping what I could before my people devoured the goodness.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Eat More CHIKIN'

It was 1989 in rural Shawnee, OK and I was not quite a teenager.  My older brother had become enamored with the idea of having several chickens to raise - a task which proved far more difficult than we could have imagined as many wild things like to devour chicken as a midnight snack while the rest of us are sleeping. We eventually learned how to protect our babies and their eggs, avoiding danger from the big, bad wolf. There is no place where the circle of life is more poignantly displayed than on a farm. Animals give birth, animals die, we eat the animals. Knowing this, I’m not quite sure why I was surprised when it came time to butcher a few of the chickens - naturally, we had named each of them. I was a little slow on the uptake back then as I still am now. I’ve never had an exceptionally strong stomach and one would think farm-life would have sent me straight to devout vegetarianism. One afternoon, with little warning as to what would ensue, I found my outdoor activity abruptly disturbed as chickens were taken out to the butcher block. No classroom-taught, nervous system science lesson can compare to the automatic response of a freshly slain chicken. As it hopped to its feet and raced about in a headless frenzy of chaos, I mirrored its activity in equal frantic behavior. In that moment, I believed in all things angel and demon, life after death, and the need for exorcism - much to the humor of all those around me. Several chickens were de-feathered, cleaned, and preserved that day while I stood by - mostly watching and hardly helping. As time marched on I learned many different ways to prepare chicken and this lean and versatile bird has a place on our family’s table at least twice every week. As a light, cold salad on a crostini or a hearty, comforting main course, chicken is sure to leave tummies full and hearts happy. 

Spatchcock Chicken

1 whole organic chicken
2 sprigs rosemary, finely chopped
1 stick of salted butter cut into 8 Tbs.
6 slice bacon
4 cloves garlic
1 Tbs. olive oil
Kosher salt
Dried Oregano

Rinse chicken thoroughly and pat dry. Place chicken breast side down and beginning at thigh end of chicken cut along ones side of the backbone with a pair of very sharp kitchen shears; repeat on the other side of the backbone and discard. Flip chicken over and open it like a book; press firmly on breastbone to flatten. 
Take 4 cloves of peeled garlic and smash with flat side of a knife. Put the garlic in a cluster on your roasting pan and place chicken over the garlic. The smashed  garlic will steam during roasting and flavor the chicken from the inside out. Using a finger gently separate the chicken skin from the meat and stuff 3 tablespoons of butter between the skin and flesh of each breast and the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter between the skin and flesh of each thigh. Gently rub the outside of the bird with 1 tablespoon olive oil and generously sprinkle with kosher salt, pepper and dried oregano. Sprinkle on the rosemary. Lay strips of bacon vertically across the body of the bird and continue on the thighs. Roast in a 400 degree oven, basting often, for approximately 1 hour or until meat thermometer reaches 190 degrees. 

Chicken Cucumber Salad

1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 3-4 breasts)
1 cucumber, peeled, seeded and diced
3/4 cup fresh corn
1/3 cup finely diced red onion
1 avocado, peeled, pitted, and diced
1/2 cup cucumber vinaigrette 
Fresh chives for garnish

Poach chicken breasts, cool, and dice. Combine chicken, corn, onion, avocado, cucumber, and cucumber vinaigrette in a large bowl. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve on a toasted crostini. Garnish with chopped, fresh chives.

Cucumber Vinaigrette

1/2 cucumber, peeled and seeded
2 TBS white wine vinegar
2 TBS dijon mustard
2 TBS fresh chives
1/2 cup olive oil

Place cucumber, vinegar, mustard, and chives in a food processor and process until smooth. With the machine running, drizzle in olive oil and process until emulsified. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

A New Day Is Dawning

I seriously considered waiting until exactly two years since my last post to revive this blog, but the slightly cooler weather has my enthusiasm for fluffing and refreshing at an all-time high. There is  something about fall that makes my heart so very happy. I know this is true for many of you. Cooler temperatures bring to mind thoughts of warm fireplaces, cinnamon candles, turkey and dressing, and all of the wonderful aesthetic condolences that come with family and the holiday season. I am more excited than ever to enter into winter 2016. Joy fills my heart. I wish I could say this was always so, but as with so much of life.....the burdens have been many. The past year in particular has been one of the hardest of my life. I'll explain more in coming months. For now, let's take a peek at these two boys who have taught me more than I could ever imagine.

They are both now in school. I am officially alone during my days and have never been on my own before. Never Ever. So Bittersweet. Oh the good times we've had! Amazing, memorable times. That littlest guy wasn't even born when I began my business and was  still in diapers when I opened my first big-girl, brick and mortar shop -- he went to work with me every single day. Oh the eggs he's seen cracked, the fondant rolled, the sugar he's drooled over and the countless times he climbed up beside me and whispered..."I love you mom". 

I'm saddened to know these days are leaving me. They both still kiss me square on the lips with no shame. Time marches on and while the baby would still be nursing if I'd let him, the fact is...He is five. Breastfeeding is not an option. I briefly imagined adopting a baby or even trying IVF (did you know that at my age carrying a baby would be considered a "geriatric pregnancy"?! So serious!).  Something about the baby of the family -- the bond is inconceivably real and oh-so-strong. Suddenly my youngest  brother living  just a few doors down from my mother makes perfect sense. 

As I sent my two youngest sons off to school right alongside the two oldest,  I realized that I had been driving life with my foot on the brake. So many ambitions, projects, and ideas that stay warming on the back burner as I make sure the offspring have just what they need. They are my highest calling after all. I truly believe that we are who we are by the choices we've made or have allowed others to make for us. Despite the numerous trials that sometimes seem unending, I like who God is shaping me to be and wouldn't change anything even if I could. I treasure the days I've had with my babies. That said.....having all four children in school allows me an amazing amount of flexibility to:


Every season of life brings with it just exactly what God has in store for us in order that we may continue to learn and grow. "To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven". In truth, a huge part of my heart is mourning. They are little men. This season is over and we are moving into the next season filled with football schedules, after school activities, and birthday parties organized around how many friends are in each class. I am full and empty at the same time. The night before his first day of school I asked my little one if he was excited...he replied, "I'm scared and happy all mixed up".  

Me too, baby. Me too. 

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Old Man Winter {Red Bean & Bacon Soup}

Baby, it's cold outside. Maybe not so much for my northern friends and Ohio family, but for Oklahoma and for this thin-blooded girl in particular, I'm a freezin'. I can't seem to get enough soup. This version of red bean and bacon soup is particularly yummy as it's gently pureed - making all the ingredients that my sometimes picky offspring might turn their nose up to (celery, etc) unidentifiable. With bacon sprinkled on top, who can resist? Sneak the good stuff in under the bacon, ha. I hope you enjoy it as much as we did! 

Red Bean & Bacon Soup

1 lb. dried red beans, soaked according to package directions
1/2 lb bacon, cut into 1/2" pieces
1 1/2 cup chopped onions (about 2 onions)
4 garlic cloves, chopped
2 bay leaves
1 1/2 tsp. cumin
1 Tbs. chili powder
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 1/2 cups chopped celery (about three stalks)
1 1/2 cups chopped carrots
6 cups chicken broth 
1 28 oz can whole tomatoes

Cook chopped bacon in the bottom of a heavy post over medium heat until crisp. Transfer with a slotted spoon to paper towels to drain. Add to your pot the onions, garlic, bay leaves, chili powder, cumin and cayenne. Cook and stir about five minutes until onions are soft.  Add the celery, carrots, beans, and broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for about an hour or until beans are tender. Add the canned tomatoes and their juice, roughly breaking up the tomatoes - if you choose not to puree the soup, go ahead and chop the tomatoes. Since I pulse it in the food processor, it is unnecessary to chop the tomatoes. Stir to combine the tomatoes and their juice into the soup. Discard the bay leaves. In small batches, pulse the soup in a food processor until coarsely pureed. Just a few pulses to keep it with some rough texture, not completely pureed. Return to pot and heat through. Serve topped with sour cream and chopped bacon. Sprinkle a little parsley fro good measure.  Enjoy!


Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Gimme Goulash

We recently had the opportunity to travel to Austria for a week-long adventure in performing arts and while there partaking of authentic cuisine topped my to-do list. We managed to find  dining experiences off of the beaten path and especially enjoyed restaurants where no one spoke a word of English. Since our German linguistic skills were limited to mostly enunciation ability with little knowledge of actual meaning, we  were able to clearly state what we wanted from the menu without actually knowing what we were going to get. Thank you, UCO, for German diction class. A few times the "surprise" meal was a little questionable, but after assuring myself the restaurant would not be in business if people were dying, I ate what arrived at my table with only slight hesitation. I'm still not sure what all I consumed in Austria, but I didn't die. So there's that. 

One thing we particularly enjoyed was authentic goulash. Typically made with an egg noodle accompaniment, my american-ized version sports potatoes - you could easily substitute 8-10 oz of  radiatore pasta or if you're feeling really adventurous, whip up some egg noodles from scratch. 

As most good things begin, cook half a pound of diced bacon in the bottom of a heavy pot. Nice and crispy. Remove bacon with a slotted spoon and set aside.

Keep the meat coming, and add 2.5 pounds of cubed chuck roast to the piping hot bacon grease and brown. You do not need to cook the meat through at this point, just brown it and remove, again with a slotted spoon. Add it to your bowl of bacon and set aside.

Next, add 4 onions (chopped) and four cloves of minced garlic. Every since reading Anthony Bourdain's Kitchen Confidential, I hesitate to mince garlic in a garlic press as this is a big no-no in the Bourdain world.  Nonetheless, I press, mince, and ask forgiveness from the fowl-mouthed celebrity chef. Cook and stir onion/garlic mixture in meat drippings until nearly translucent. 

Stir into the onion mixture 1/3 cup flour and 3 Tbs paprika. Cook and stir for about 2 minutes. The longer you cook flour, the more starchiness cooks out.

Add to the pot a 6 oz can of tomato past that has been mixed with 1/4 cup red wine vinegar...

Cook and stir together for about 2 minutes. This mixture will be very thick an goo-like. Stick with me, it gets better. 

Now add two red bell peppers (chopped) along with 5 cups of beef broth and 4 cups of water. You could use straight beef broth for the entire liquid portion, but as beef broth is a bit stronger than other broth (and since there are so many other strong flavors in this dish) mix the beef broth with water to tame it a bit.

Also add about 2 lbs potatoes, peeled and cubed. At this point, you could substitute 8-10 oz. uncooked small pasta in place of the potatoes. 

Return the bacon and beef to the pot. Stir together well. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer partially covered for about 45 minutes.

Serve it up with your favorite vino on a cold winters night.

Hearty Goulash

1/2 pound bacon, chopped
2.5 lbs boneless beef chuck, trimmed and cut into 1/2 inch cubes
4 onions, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 TBS paprika
1/3 cup flour
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
6 oz. can tomato paste
5 cups beef broth
4 cups water
2 red bell peppers, chopped
2 lbs potatoes, peeled and cubed

Cook bacon in the bottom of a heavy pot until crispy; remove with slotted spoon and set aside. Add meat to pot and cook until browned. Remove with slotted spoon and add bacon. Set aside. Add onions and garlic to pot and cook until tender. Stir in flour and paprika; cook for about 2 minutes. Add tomato mixed with the red wine vinegar and stir/cook for an additional 1-2 minutes. Whisk in broth and water; add red pepper and potatoes, return meat to the pot as well. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, partially covered, for about 45 minutes. Enjoy!