Pizza, and I didn’t even have to make it!

As I was searching other blogs I came across this one & it had to make me laugh. I keep telling Rich he should start a blog of all the good stuff I cook for him (and his photos would just be of empty plates since I usually have to fight him off while I take a photo). He is a wedding photographer (who also is available for pregnancy photos, family photos, you name it – he/we do it!) and has helped my food-photo skills out so much this summer, continue to look for improvements from me. You should really check out his facebook page (where he posts his favorite few from each engagement shoot, wedding, or whatever we shoot) as well as taking a moment to visit his website! And if you like what you see & live in Eastern PA, New Jersey, New York, Delaware (ya know, a reasonable drive from the Poconos) go ahead and contact him for your next photography needs!

In addition to being a wonderful photographer, he makes absolutely amazing pizza! This was the first thing he ever cooked for me when we started dating (and now that I spoil him with my cooking so often, one of the few things he ever creates in the kitchen anymore!)

A few weeks ago I was really craving one of Rich’s pizzas and it took a week or two until we actually got around to having it……

Rich's homemade pizza (photo by Rich)

Day 1 he made the dough (I think: yeast, water, sugar, flour, salt – its just your basic dough recipe… but I have never been one to experiment with breads… maybe one day!?) and then put it in the fridge during the next day. Day 2 we  made sauce (a can of crushed or diced tomatoes with 3 [or so] cloves of garlic diced up) he spreads the dough (to make 2 pies) into a greased cookie sheet, spread the dough onto the sheet, added sauce, placed ripped (easier than slicing) mozzarella cheese on top (whatever toppings you want are optional at this point, we usually stick to plain or add some fresh tomatoes/garlic on top). That bakes for about 15 minutes in a 400 degree oven (he does it by look & smell more than time usually). Then some fresh basil on top, slide the whole thing to the wooden cutting board & eat before it is cool enough to not burn the roof of your mouth!

Dip or Spread – that is the question

I love dips! I love dips that are healthy even more! Last week we were invited to a Turkish (Muslim) retreat for Ramadan (the retreat is in the area & as part of Ramadan they are to open their hearts & homes to neighbors – it was a very interesting, educational, & tasty evening. Check out this news report about the evening (see me getting my food there too).

Before heading over to the dinner my parents came over to hang out & help us try to take a good photo with the dogs (coming soon). I decided to do some appetizer and wanted to make a really healthy spinach dip. After some searching I decided to invent the following “dip”

To make the dip:

Spinach "dip"

  • 1 package frozen/defrosted spinach
  • 1 can great northern (or chick pea or whatever) beans
  • 1/4 cup (no idea, I didn’t measure) sour cream
  • 2 – 3 cloves garlic (depending on your taste)
  • fresh basil, sat/pepper to taste
  • few drizzles olive oil

I just dumped all ingredients in the blender & blended until smooth.

We served this in a bread bowl (Rich makes a pretty good bread – and this was the other half of the dough from his amazing home-made pizza the night before, more on that another time!) with some fresh veggies for dipping. I served about 1/2 of it that night and the rest I had with lunch and some cut veggies at school and it didn’t last long! This makes a super healthy dip for veggies of spread on a sandwich. I also cannot wait to try this with fresh spinach & also as it gets cooler to try mixing some cheese in & broiling it to serve with bagel chips.

Healthy, Tasty, Hearty – good food combo!

Slow Cooker for busy teacher

School has officially started! I have now seen my students for 2 days and am glad to be back (even with all the start of the school year stresses). Last week we had 3 fun-filled days of school preparations and I knew that I was not going to want to cook something crazy after those busy days so I was thrilled that Giant had “picnic pork” on sale! All I had to do was put the pork & ingredients in the slow cooker, turn it on & wait until dinner time (I love slow cookers & our current model was a Christmas present to Rich from his folks last year which got re-gifted to me so I could cook for him more!)

Pulled Pork in Crock Pot

This dish did not photograph as well as it tasted, but we gave it our best shot. Along with the pulled pork (recipe below) were frozen potato croquettes (from Omaha steaks – thanks dad for not wanting them) and sauteed beet tops. To make the beet tops all you have to do is wilt them down in a hot skillet with some oil & then I sliced up some beets (cooked & peeled) and threw it in last minute with some garlic vinegar and some fresh sea salt!

The recipe (as I found it on Allrecipes – with a few alterations, since I am known for not being able to follow a recipe!)…..

Pulled Pork all plated up

Ingredients

  • 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
  • 1 (4 pound) pork shoulder roast
  • 1 cup barbeque sauce
  • 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon prepared yellow mustard
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 extra large onion, chopped
  • 2 large cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dried thyme

Directions

  1. Pour the vegetable oil into the bottom of a slow cooker. Place the pork roast into the slow cooker; pour in the barbecue sauce, apple cider vinegar, and chicken broth. Stir in the brown sugar, yellow mustard, Worcestershire sauce, chili powder, onion, garlic, and thyme. Cover and cook on High until the roast shreds easily with a fork, 5 to 6 hours.
  2. Remove the roast from the slow cooker, and shred the meat using two forks. Return the shredded pork to the slow cooker, and stir the meat into the juices

Waking up to Muffins

Having two dogs is much like having two kids sometimes! Early weekend mornings I am reminded of this more and more. When you normally get up for work during the week between 5 or 5:30 or 6 or so, the dogs (or kids) think that is normal & also like to get up that time on weekend when you really want nothing more than to just lie in bed! Well, on a recent weekend (and actually again today which is why it is 7:45 am and I have already been up for over an hour – but I guess I should be thankful for that, they let us actually sleep in!) I decided to use my time wisely and whip up a batch of Apple Cinnamon muffins. I did some searching and stumbled across this great blog by Georgia (check it out if you get a chance) and found my winning recipe (which like all great cooks, she had changes & modified from other’s ideas).

Donner & Boca

The recipe is as follows:

Apple Cinnamon Muffins (makes 12)

Ingredients

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup sugar

3 teaspoons baking powder

1 1/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 eggs

1 cup sour cream

1/4 cup butter or margarine, melted

1 1/2 cups chopped, peeled tart apples

TOPPING:

1/4 cup sugar

3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

2 tablespoons cold butter or margarine

Directions

* Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

* In a large bowl, combine dry ingredients. In another bowl, beat the eggs, sour cream and butter. Stir into dry ingredients just until moistened. Fold in apples.

* Spray paper muffin cups with nonstick cooking spray and fill cups to the top. ( I skipped the “spraying cups” part since I was using paper & it didn’t need it with paper, without paper it would have though)

* For topping, combine sugar, flour and cinnamon. Cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Sprinkle a rounded teaspoonful over each muffin. (I hate making crumbs – mine was still “flour-y” and was just fine)

* Bake for 20-23 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool for 5 minutes before removing from pans to wire racks. Serve warm.

Apple Cinnamon Muffins

SO – these muffins were about 1/2 done as Rich blearily came down the stairs so he got some hot out of the oven (after allowing me to snap a photo or 2 as they cooled). The sour cream in these muffins was an amazing (and healthy) change to some other muffin recipes that I have used. I also cut my apples to different sizes so some almost disappeared & others gave you a nice big chunk. When this gets made again, I think I will add some more cinnamon since I love that flavor in these muffins! Then my dad came over to enjoy some. Well, Dad actually came over to help build stairs & I just happened to have yummy food – but it was all worth it because by the end of the day we had stairs from the porch to the fenced in area of the yard to let the said dog/children out, everyone enjoyed muffins, & I was all ready to bring in some snacks to the secretaries at school! 🙂

Tomatoes to Salsa

crazy-ugly-huge tomato

Salsa…. one of my FAVORITE foods – always has been & always will be (if I had to name my top 2 foods it would be salsa & chocolate, hands down… just not together – although I do have a gourmet chili-chocolate bar that I love, so maybe I could make a chocolate salsa!). When we got fresh tomatoes from our gardens (some from our garden, some from Rich’s current landlord’s garden – he has lots of heirloom tomatoes which have a fantastic taste, maybe next summer here) I just had to make salsa.

Garden fresh Veggies

Before I did anything, I just had to snap this photo of the bounty – it was too pretty to ignore. All I did for this salsa was chop up tomatoes, different heats (and amounts) of hot peppers since my mom likes it mild, I like it medium hot, dad likes it hot, & Rich likes it burn your face off… so I made two bowls to try to make everyone happy. To the tomatoes and peppers I added chopped onions (scallions), lime juice, cilantro, and some salt & pepper. I do have to say that it actually is not my favorite salsa that I have made, but the freshness of the flavors was absolutely amazing  and there were no complaints.

Bowls of Salsa

Light & Fresh Tomato & Orzo salad

The other night we went out for wings at a local bar that has a million (ok, maybe like 100+) different beers from around the world. I love going there for wings, but unfortunately it is very close to the college & therefor during the school year we almost never go because there are too many college kids (and at age 27, I already can not deal with that type of bar crowd – I’ve always been such an “old lady” at heart!) BUT – I am not posting about wings, I’m posting about eating before wings. I don’t know about anyone else, but I always eat before going for wings so I don’t eat too many wings & then get sick and things like that.

Tomato, Orzo, & Garbanzo bean Salad

We had a ton of fresh cherry tomatoes & I was browsing my favorite site: www.foodgawker.com when I came across a beautiful picture for Orzo Tomato Salad from “The Hazel Bloom” who has a very real and down to earth approach to her blog which I like – so check out my inspiration for tonight at her blog and was sold! I had to run out to the store (the poor puppy had eaten the last of her dog food that morning) so while I was out I bought my first ever box of orzo (I know I have eaten it out before – just never grew up having it or cooking it, I’m now quite pleased with it though). Came home & mixed it up – cut up those fresh tomatoes, mixed in the 2 cups of cooked orzo, fresh basil & mint from outside, a can of garbanzo beans and our light dinner was ready. I let it sit out for much of the afternoon just because I wanted it room temperature & it was fabulous. Thinking I’m gonna try it again with our big tomatoes we have right now: the flavors and textures and everything in this dish just worked (entree, lunch, side, whatever) – just enjoy it!