Tag Archives: homemade

Homemade Ranch Dressing & Easy Peasy Pasta Salad

25 Jun

Two for one recipe special today! In my continued effort t learn to make my own everything from scratch, I’ve been working on perfecting condiments. Mayonaise — not yet. But I found a really great recipe for a fairly simple homemade ranch dressing.

To begin, I followed this recipe for homemade ranch seasoning. I highly recommend just making this, and mixing batches of the dressing as you need it. The seasoning keeps longer and can be used for many other things — to season couscous, burgers, or chicken breasts, or as a powder on baked tortilla chips for homemade ranch Doritos (YEAH).

To make the dressing, just mix one tablespoon of the seasoning mixture with 1/4 cup milk and about 1/3 cup mayonnaise (though I’m sure you could also use sour cream, or maybe even yogurt).

Due to my impending move, I wanted this week to make something that would both get rid of the last of my ranch seasoning and would make a big batch of something I could eat without cooking throughout the week. Hence, this super-easy pasta salad was born, a great discovery for hot summer no-cook days. I’ll provide the recipe without measurements, since I made a batch based on the proportion of “how much pasta do I have left?” which was about 2/3 of a box.

  • Pasta, cooked, drained and cooled
  • Cubed turkey breast
  • Peas (cooked with pasta for the last minute)
  • Homemade ranch dressing.

Simply wait until the pasta and peas are cool, then toss in the turkey, and mix ranch dressing to cover the whole thing. Chill at least 30 minutes.

Easy Homemade Granola

11 Jun

Over the course of the last year, I started getting into the habit of making my own granola bars, and then of making my own cereal, so after hearing from multiple people just how easy it is, and a few months of being frustrated at how quickly I ran out of my cereal base, I decided to make my own granola at home, too.

Once again, I don’t see myself going back:

  • Fast
  • Easy
  • Large batch
  • On-hand ingredients

What’s not to love?

I really just perused a few recipes online and tweaked them based on what I had, and was ultimately very happy with the super-easy results.

What You’ll Need:

  • 3 cups quick cooking oats
  • 1/4 cup sugar (I used turbinado, because it’s what I had, but brown sugar would probably be yummy, too)
  • 1/4 cup milled flaxseed (optional, but replace with additional oats if you’re cutting this out)
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

Note: I opted not to incorporate any extras like nuts or dried fruit, because I wanted to be able to use the granola interchangeably (some morning I feel like almonds, some I feel like pecans) but you could easily add those into this recipe and get it all done at once.

How You Do It:

  1. Preheat oven to 250 degrees F.
  2. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
  3. In a large bowl, combine all dry ingredients.
  4. Pour wet ingredients over dry.
  5. Stir.
  6. Spread evenly over baking sheet.
  7. Bake for 50 minutes to 1 hour (or until browned and crunchy), stirring every 10-15 minutes.

It’s that simple. And truthfully, as per usual Marissa, I got distracted during the baking and only stirred the granola once. Came out just fine. A few tips: use a rimmed baking sheet if you have one, to make your life easier while stirring. Use a rubber spoon or spatula to mix, spread and stir the granola. This helps chunks of the granola bake together, and if you’re gentle when you remove it from the sheet,  you can maintain some of those, should you be a fan of clusters of oats.

Store the granola in an airtight container, and so far, mine is going on two weeks and still crunchy!

What are you favorite uses for granola — or granola recipe variations? Leave a comment and let us know!

Arugula & Goat Cheese “Ravioli”

4 Jun

This weekend, when I felt like spending some time in the kitchen, I decided to let the ingredients in the fridge speak to me. I knew I wanted to craft something vegetarian, and wanted to work with what I had.

The ingredients that automatically jumped out at me were arugula and goat cheese. I’ve been eating the two together as a lunch side lately, tossed with some homemade creamy balsamic vinaigrette. They seemed like a good pairing for the basis of a strong vegetarian dish, and I had just the pasta for it: lasagna noodles.

I’m always looking for creative new uses of lasagna noodles, because, while I really enjoy lasagna, I don’t always feel like making a dish that large. A few weeks ago, I tried, and liked this recipe for individual spinach lasagna rolls, so I wanted to use the arugula and goat cheese in a similar free form way that would require even less work on my part. I wanted to make a filling, and then just kind of throw it all together.

Hence, my fake-out arugula and goat cheese ravioli was born.

Here’s what you’ll need (for 16 ravioli):

  • Eight lasagna noodles, cooked according to the package directions
  • Your choice of sauce (I used tomato, but I think an alfredom béchamel or rose would work here too)
For the filling:
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 cloves finely chopped garlic
  • 5 ounces arugula
  • 4 ounces goat cheese
  • 4 ounces grated parmesan cheese
  • Black pepper

Here’s how you do it (forgive me, when I write out recipe directions, I can only remember them in the order I actually do them. So the directions below bounce between preparing the noodles, the filling, and assembling the whole dish because that’s how it’s the most logical to me. I’m incapable of doing one thing at a time.)

  • Start cooking the lasagna noodles. Drain and lay out flat on a plate or towel to dry. While you wait, prepare the filling.
  • Heat olive oil in a 12-inch heavy skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and cook, stirring frequently, until garlic turns golden brown, 1 to 2 minutes.
  • Add arugula and pepper and cook, stirring frequently, until arugula wilts, 2 to 4 minutes.Let arugula cool, then chop finely and transfer to a bowl. (I know it seems silly, and difficult, to chop wilted arugula, but it’s valuable so you aren’t picking arugula stems out of your teeth while eating.)

  • While the arugula is cooling, cut the cooked lasagna noodles into four squares each (for a total of 32 squares).
  • Preheat the oven to 375 and grease a 9 x 13 inch baking dish. Lay half of the lasagna squares out along the bottom of the dish.
  • Stir the cheese into the wilted arugula, and spoon a tablespoon-sized dollop into the center of each square.
  • Cover each with another lasagna square, then spoon the sauce over the whole thing.
  • Pop it in the oven and bake about 15 minutes, until heated through. Enjoy!

I love this recipe and the idea behind it. The great part about the free-form style is that it doesn’t matter how messy you get, which is especially valuable for me in the kitchen. The building is also relatively speedy because of this. But on the other hand, you could also really easily transform it into a traditional lasagna, or the filling for a real ravioli, if you have the equipment to make those from scratch, and make it a pretty fancy, company-worthy meal.

Smoothies Galore!

28 May

My sister recently requested a post with some smoothie recipe ideas, and once summer comes around, between the heat and a more regular workout routine, I put away a lot of blended fruit.

Let’s start with the basics.

Smoothies basically consist of the following components: liquid, fruit, blending agent and ice (though that last one’s optional — I’ll get to that!). There can also be a few extras, or a sweetener in some cases. Once you get that ratio figured out (and it’s easy to tweak this on the fly), it’s incredibly easy to experiment with different combinations of flavors.

Liquids: My favorites are either orange juice or non-dairy milk. I use OJ because I’m not a big fan of drinking it, and it’s a good way to squeeze in an extra serving of fruit a day. Non-dairy milks (my favorites are vanilla soy or almond milks) are a great way to add protein to a smoothie, and I don’t even like the taste of them on their own. Mixed into a smoothie, they are delicious. I’ve also used apple cider, sparkling pomegranate juice and regular milk.

Fruit: You can really make a smoothie with any kind of fruit (this week, I’m using watermelon and cantaloupe!), but I find berries to be my favorite. Other easy ingredients are bananas, mango and pineapple. The best part — if you prepare your fruit properly, and freeze it, you can skip adding ice to your smoothie (which always leads to some liquid separation issues).

Either buy bagged frozen fruit, or buy fresh and freeze it on your own (I often do this with pints of berries). Doesn’t take a lot of extra effort — just peel and chunk the fruit, then portion it into smoothie-sized servings.

Blending Agents: I use Greek yogurt almost exclusively here, though regular yogurt and ice cream serve the same purpose. Sometimes I will add rolled oats or ground flax seed, both of which give smoothies a nice creaminess, but neither will quite blend liquid and fruit on its own.

Extras: Here’s where the real fun comes in. Almost anything can go into a smoothie, and extras can really add some nutritional punch. Some surprisingly good additions I’ve tried include oats and flax seed, as mentioned above. Nuts like almonds and walnuts add protein and calories to make a smoothie more filling. Sweets and spices like honey, agave syrup, vanilla extract, cocoa powder, or cinnamon can add variety to even the same base recipe on a daily basis. My personal favorite indulgences include peanut butter and nutella!

And yes — you can even add spinach and other green veggies!

Here are some of my favorite smoothie recipes, which will give you an idea of how to use a variety of ingredients. Try them out, an then mix and match as you see fit!

My Berry Almond Power Smoothie

(never home)maker’s Chocolate Spinach Smoothie

Martha’s Strawberry-Flax Seed Smoothie

Watermelon Lime Summer Cooler

And this morning’s invention: Raspberry Nutella Smoothie

  • 1 cup orange juice
  • 3/4 cup frozen raspberries
  • 2 heaping tablespoons Nutella
  • 1/2 cup honey-flavore Greek yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon flax seed meal

Homemade Nutella (Four Ingredients)

14 May

I meant to do a “regular” recipe post this week. A post with a nice pork loin, some tips for grilled chicken, a pasta salad. Something normal, mainstream, everyday.

But then I made homemade Nutella.

Turns out, it’s incredibly easy to make homemade Nutella. Dangerously easy. Too easy to be good to know. So I’ll say it, right now: I will not be held responsible for any Nutella overdoses as a result of this post (mine or any of yours).

I looked at a variety of recipes online and found quite a lot of variety in terms of how people recreated the delicious chocolate hazelnut spread, so after perusing them for awhile, I decided to pull the best from all and work with what I have and, frankly, kind of wing it.

Without further ado, then, here is what I came up with:

  • 1 bag of chopped, toasted hazelnuts (1/5 cups) — of course, using raw hazelnuts that you toast yourself would be delicious, too, but this is what I had on hand.
  • 1 9 oz. bag of semi-sweet chocolate chips, melted in a bowl the microwave
  • 1/2 cup of almond milk (or any kind of milk)
  • 1.5 tablespoons vanilla-flavored agave syrup (I might actually slightly reduce this next time. And you could easily substitute maple syrup, or honey. If you use a liquid sweetener like stevia or vanilla extract, definitely use less.)

Process the hazelnuts in a food processor, until they form a nut butter (1-2 minutes). After melting the chocolate, mix it, and all other ingredients into the food processor. Run until just smooth and fully incorporated.

Watch as hazelnut & chocolate become one!

BAM. It’s that simple.

Don’t worry if the mixture looks a little runny when it stops. The Nutella will thicken as it cools and stands, so it’s better to stop the food processor early.

Store in an airtight container, not refrigerated, for up to two weeks. And don’t cut your tongue on the blades when you lick the food processor clean.

Homemade English Muffins

7 May

In my ongoing quest to make as much of my food from scratch as possible, I periodically re-evaluate to check myself — what am I buying and eating from the store that I never thought to attempt to make myself? This is how I figured out how to make my own cheez-its and my own granola bars, among other things.

I bake quite a bit, especially breakfast foods at this point. I tried this delicious cinnamon bread last week. But another breakfast favorite — the English muffin — is one I’d never tried to make, and haven’t actually eaten in quite a while, for this reason. This weekend, I had a big craving, though,  so I gave them a shot.

I used this recipe, which I decided was credible because it came from the Brits themselves, but I converted the measurements for you all, helpfully, below:

Ingredients:

  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 package active dry yeast (1-1/2 teaspoons)
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour [I used whole wheat flour, so I made sure to sift it a little extra air]
  • 1-1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder dissolved in 1 tablespoon of water
  • cornmeal for dusting

Process:

  1. Combine the butter and sugar in a small sauce pan, stirring to dissolve the sugar.  Add the milk, stir it and remove it from the heat.  Stir in the yeast and the egg.
  2. Combine the flour and salt in mixing bowl.  Add the milk mixture and stir till it’s all well combined.  Cover and set aside for 1-1/2 hours, or refrigerate overnight (removing it from the fridge an hour before cooking).
  3. Heat a griddle or a skillet over medium heat.  If you’re using rings, butter them.  Stir the dissolved baking powder into the batter.  Dust the griddle or skillet with corn meal.  Scoop-pour about 1/4-cup portions onto the griddle, free form or in rings.  Cook for about seven minutes.  Flip them and continue cooking till done, 7 to 10 more minutes. [Mine were free-form.]
  4. Serve with butter, jam, peanut butter, bacon, eggs, etc!

Eating Less Meat — Kiddie Style

2 May

The other day via Twitter, my friend Lindsey mentioned that her family is trying to eat less meat overall, but having a tough time coming up with recipes that translate well into toddler food. With a growing-like-a-weed nearly-16-month old on their hands, this is a major issue. Gavin needs his protein! So I’ve come  up with a couple of ideas to get them — and anybody else out there with kiddos trying to go meatless every now and then.

Some of these are ideas for how to construct a meal for both adults and toddlers (as a former nanny, I have some experience with this, because I am lazy and don’t like to cook twice at each meal), and others are more veg-centric (which, since I was a vegetarian nanny, I also have some experience with).

1. Eat with Your Hands

This is “think like a toddler” advice. If you can eat it with your hands, chances are good a toddler can eat it. Obviously, anything really tough or crunchy may not work, depending on where your toddler’s teeth development is, but for the most part, anything you can pick up is toddler-edible.

When brainstorming finger foods, really think like a toddler. What do you eat with a utensil that doesn’t really need one? We sometimes forget that all the pieces of a salad, for example, when not drenched in dressing, are finger foods. And how cute would it be to get your toddler obsessed with eating raw spinach leaves, or dried cranberries?

2. Sandwiches & Fritters

Some ideas for great vegetarian recipes that are less flatware centric include sandwiches and fritters (as long as they are served cool enough to handle!). Sandwiches can get pretty gussied up for dinner, going way beyond grilled cheese (though that is also delicious): Cucumber and cream cheese, roasted red pepper and goat cheese, eggs and bacon and gruyere!

I’ve also lately come across lots of yummy veggie fritter recipes that would work similarly. Try these summer corn cakes, mashed potato cakes (a great one for leftovers), or zucchini fritters. You could easily mix in summer squash, carrots, or cabbages into similar recipes, too. Great pick-it-up food that is primarily vegetable, rather than fried grain.

3. Split Your Meals into their Littlest Selves

Toddlers need to eat a lot — but they tend to prefer to do it in more frequent, smaller meals, than we do. So when thinking about what you want to make for dinner, ask yourself what smaller portions you could dole out over the course of cooking, and then eating, to your toddler.

If you have a meat-based dinner, for example, with two or three sides, the little one can snack on tomatoes and avocado cubes while you’re prepping, and then some shredded chicken and tortillas while Mommy and Daddy enjoy their grown-up Chicken & Guacamole Tostadas (probably with a Dos Equis or two…). Pineapple Chicken Satay for you can become pineapple and sugar snap peas for him, with chicken and dipping sauce at dinner.

This allows the grown-ups to get grown-up meals without having to cook something different for Junior — and has the added perk of keeping him occupied while you are cooking!

4. Substitute

You can also take a lot of the meat-based toddler-friendly recipes you may already have in your repetoire and transform them into veggie options with some simply substitutions. Once allergy concerns have passed, tofu is very kid-friendly, as are lentils, seitan, etc. If you’re not big on meat-substitute products, you can also find grain and veggie substitutes, like eggplant in place of meat in Italian recipes like lasagna, or quinoa in place of ground chicken in nuggets.

My very favorite thing about kids — whenever I’m around them — is that they remind us not to take ourselves too seriously. Feeding your young is serious business, but it can also unlock a totally different spirit to our cooking. Enjoy little bites! Eat with your hands! Get messy!

Nothing better than eating with a smile…

What toddler eating advice do you have? Anyone out there raising fully meatless kiddos have some tips I didn’t think of? Leave a comment and share your ideas!

Slow-Cooker Honey Soy Pork Roast

30 Apr

(First, as an aside. I still feel weird calling it a slow cooker, not a crock pot. You can take the girl out of New England…)

Anyway.

Today, I have for you all another delicious, easy, slow-cooker recipe for pork. This may be my first official Pinterest post on We Meat Again, as that is where I found this original recipe for Parmesan Honey Pork Roast, pinned by my dear friend Lindsey, who is the working momma of a growing toddler, and therefore, in need of many quick and easy recipes.

Linds, if you haven’t tried this one yet, you should.

The prep time for this is as simple as mixing up the sauce and tossing it all in the crock pot. 15-20 minutes max, and dinner’s served later that night.

I used a pork tenderloin, about one pound, so I cut back the recipe to scale, and it seemed to work fine. Here are my other suggestions for the recipe:

  • The suggested cook time is 6-7 hours. With the same liquid ratio, at seven hours, my one-pound tenderloin was a bit dry. I might try the shorter end of that time, or keep on warm for the last hour or so. Just make sure to check that the meat is cooked through.
  • This may be the first time I suggest a recipe modification, but … I don’t really get the Parmesan cheese in here. I mean, I love parm, but I felt I could taste it too much in the gravy, and next time, would likely just leave it out and let it become a more tangy, Asian-flavored roast.

  • Speaking of gravy, definitely take the time to make the cooking liquid into a gravy and serve it over mashed potatoes. That was probably my favorite part (though this does need to be done 20 minutes or so before the roast is ready, if you opt for homemade mashers).
  • Also speaking of Asian flavors, I used sesame oil instead of olive oil, and thought that worked really well here.

And there you have it. Another Marissa-tested slow cooker recipe for a yummy-smelling house with little effort. Enjoy!

Adventures with an Ingredient: Polenta

23 Apr

Today’s recipe post includes meat, but is really about the base grain ingredient here: polenta. Polenta is a misunderstood and often under-used ingredient, I think, because it requires a certain kind of attention to do it right. I’ll cover some of the basics and then get to the recipe at hand.

First, what is polenta?

Polenta is actually ground cornmeal — just like the stuff you buy to make cornbread, but ground to different consistencies. You can buy polenta either coarsely or finely ground. Coarse ground polenta is a grits-consistency, while fine-ground moves closer to cornmeal, and then to corn flour, with additional grinding.

You can buy polenta in many different forms, too. If dry, you will have to boil the polenta to make it edible. But many stores now sell precooked polenta (usually in a tube) which has already been boiled, and then shaped.

There are two different preparation types for polenta: creamy or solid. This recipe features creamy polenta, so the steps are included, but consists basically of a mashed potato consistency product. (And yes, you can produce creamy polenta from precooked polenta, by adding more liquid and boiling it, or you can just slice it and prepare as baked polenta, below.)

Baked polenta takes creamy polenta and transforms it into a solid by spreading it in a casserole dish (like the kind you’d bake brownie batter in) and either baking or chilling it to harden. From there, you can grill, fry, or slice the polenta into any shape you’d like. Some of my favorite solid polenta recipes include polenta sticks and polenta lasagne.

But I’ve always had textural issues with creamy polenta, so lately I’ve been determined to try a recipe that would make it work for me. When I came across this one for parmesan polenta with spicy sausage, it sounded just right. I thought the chunky sauce would mix well with a flavorful creamy polenta and I wouldn’t mind the mush.

And it worked! I definitely recommend mixing the parmesan into the polenta. It doesn’t have much flavor on its own. I used Italian-flavored pork sausage for the recipe, not the turkey sausage it calls for, but otherwise, stuck to the directions, figuring I could eat the leftovers for lunches this week.

Hopefully this edition of Adventures encouraged you to try something new!

What are your favorite polenta recipes? Leave a comment and share your tips! And as always, if you have any requests for ingredients to see showcased here, ask away!

Baked Chicken Flautas

9 Apr

We’re back! Thanks for your patience over the course of that much-needed hiatus. Look for  site upgrades over the next month, including a full recipe index, and hopefully new design elements, but for now, I hope that new recipes and content will keep you coming back.

This one has the We Meat Again trifecta: easy, healthy, and includes alcohol. I found this recipe for baked chicken and spinach flautas via my latest obsession, Pinterest, and couldn’t resist.

I’m a big fan of Mexican food, and always like trying to find ways to make it at home, for both the sake of my wallet and my waistline. Most restaurant food is deep-fried and includes less-than-traceable meat ingredients, and it’s  been my experience that you can find a way to recreate many of these recipes at home, with ingredients whose sourcing you can trace, and with a healthier spin.

Lauren, over at the Healthy. Delicious. blog found a way to make chicken flautas — by baking, instead of frying. I followed the recipe here almost identically. I left out jalapenos, because I didn’t have any, and added a bit more chili pepper to kick up the spiciness, and used chicken breasts rather than thighs (which are identical, but take a bit longer to poach). I also used white cheddar cheese which worked really well.

These flautas get the crispiness of a fried flauta, with the added perks of eating your greens! Welcome back, We Meat Again!

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