Catching Up

Hey everyone.  I know.  It’s been, like, a really, really long time since I’ve posted on here.

It’s not for lack of cooking.  Or baking.  Or experimenting, or anything like that.  I’ve just been pursuing other avenues of creativity lately that has left this blog patiently waiting in the backseat.

Like…

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beach glass jewelry making.  I decided, after much pinteresting, that I wanted to tackle as many homemade gifts for Christmas as I could.  So I learned how to wire wrap.  This is just one of a number of necklaces and earring sets I made last December.

I also made this.

Picture 8

Okay.  Not exactly this.  You can probably tell this is not my picture (rotary phone, what?).  This came from the website where I got the tutorial, Living on the Chic.  But MY pin-tucked duvet ended up looking just like this.  And it’s now our favorite, most warm and cuddly comforter in the house.  Next up – Canadian Smocking techniques.  Oh yeah.  Livin’ on the edge.

I do have a long list of recipes I plan on making and photographing for you all.  I have a new salad I’ve been eating for weeks that is my new absolute favorite thing in the world (AND that I’ve been losing weight eating!  Well, between that and working out 6 days a week for the past month).  Plus  a new improved pizza crust recipe.  And several really cute Easter desserts, that, you know, I’ll put up here AFTER Easter because that’s the way I roll.

Now, if you want to see something right now (i.e. you’re THAT bored), I have actually been updating The Decorator’s Corner quite regularly.  It’s cake season again for us and I’ve been quite busy doing those.  I love learning new techniques and, while just about every cake I’ve done has gone through some kind of “caketastrophe” at some point in the making, I’ve definitely improved my skill set this past year.

Okay.  That’s all I’ve got for this morning.  I’ve got to go hard boil four dozen eggs now because it’s Egg Decorating Day!!!  And no, sadly, we’re not doing any of the cool techniques you’ve seen on pinterest with the shaving cream or kool aid or plant food dyes or anything like that.  Just a box of regular Paas egg dye tablets.  Sometimes you have to recognize where to keep it simple.  And with everything I have planned for this Sunday’s craziness…simple is good.

Have a lovely Easter everyone and I’ll see you next week!

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My All Purpose Gluten Free Flour Blend II

You probably already know I have a gluten free flour recipe on this site.  It’s a solid recipe.  It’s also one I no longer use.  I have streamlined my recipe and changed the ratio of flours to starches.  My original AP GF flour blend was 60% flours 40% starches.  I have found, however, that a 50/50 mix works better for sweet and delicate baked goods – cakes, cookies, pie crusts, quick breads – that kind of stuff.  The only savory GF bread I make with any regularity is my pizza crust, in which I use an entirely different formulation so I now only make my 50/50 blend for everything else.

It works for pretty much any recipe you want to convert to GF.  I use it for baking, for thickening sauces…anywhere flour is needed.  It’s simple, easy to remember, and relatively cheap.

For more information on GF flour formulations you can read my original post here.  It’s a bit more in-depth.

My All Purpose Gluten Free Flour Blend II

200 grams Potato Starch

200 grams Cornstarch

200 grams Sorghum Flour

100 grams Sweet Rice Flour (found in your grocer’s Asian section and/or the Gluten Free aisle if you have one)

100 grams Brown Rice Flour

Put all ingredients in a tightly sealed canister or ziplock bag and shake until uniform.

This recipe makes 800 grams AP flour.  This is as much as I can fit in my designated canister.  If you wanted to make more at a time (believe me I would if I had a bigger container and room to house it), just remember the ratio and you’re all set.

2 parts Potato Starch

2 parts Cornstarch

2 parts Sorghum Flour

1 part Sweet Rice Flour

1 part Brown Rice Flour

And that’s it!  Now you’re all set to get in the kitchen and bake!  ‘Tis the season!

 

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Southwestern Pulled Pork

We make pulled pork frequently at our house. It’s great because it feeds a crowd, it’s cheap, it’s versatile, and everyone LOVES it. I almost always do it in the slow cooker which makes it great for hosting since it leaves the oven free to do other things.

Because we make pulled pork so often I’ve tried a number of different recipes to keep things fresh. Recipes for ribs work amazingly with pork shoulder as a substitute. (It’s also called “pork butt”. Shoulder/butt – it’s all the same thing here.)

Most recipes I’ve found when searching are for BBQ Pulled Pork. Which is all well and good if BBQ is what you’re looking for. And there are endless variations on BBQ but sometimes I want something a little different. I need a recipe that will go well with southwestern flavors – chiles and lime and cilantro and all that.

After a little digging online I created this dry rub. I’ve made it three times now, tweaking the ratios until I felt I had it right . And oh man it IS. This pulled pork could be used for sandwiches, on nachos, in tacos or burritos, wherever. It is soooo good and so easy.

My favorite way to serve this pulled pork is with Pioneer Woman’s Cilantro-Jalapeno Slaw.  The recipe as written below is slightly modified from hers but I’ve posted the link above if you want to check out the original.  She was the first food blogger I started following years ago and is one of the reasons I started this blog.  I have both of her cookbooks and love them to death.  I actually created this dry rub to go specifically with this slaw.  It’s that good.

Here’s what we need to start.  1/4 cup brown sugar, 1 Tbsp Kosher Salt, 1 Tbsp Black Pepper, 1 Tbsp Ancho Chile Pepper Powder, 1 Tbsp Ground Coriander, 1 tsp Ground Mustard, and 1 tsp Ground Cumin.  That’s our dry rub right there.  Just mix that all up in a small bowl…

…and rub it all over your well trimmed pork shoulder.  It’s okay if not all of it sticks, it will get picked up in the juices later on.

Now, this is half a pork shoulder.  About 3 1/2 to 4 lbs.  The ones you buy at the store are normally bone-in, 7-8 lb monsters.  I only ever do half at a time and put the other half in the freezer for later.  A whole shoulder never seems to cook up as well in the slow cooker, I don’t know why.  (Even half is still a ton of meat though!  Unless you’re serving guests you’re still probably gonna have leftovers.)

  Now, just set the crockpot on low if you want it to be done in about 8 hours.  Set it on high if you need it done in about 5.  The pork is done when you can stick a couple forks in there and easily shred the meat.  It should just fall apart.  (But not disintegrate.  That’s what will happen if you leave it in for MUCH longer than it needs.  You want to cook it long enough to break down most, but not all, of the connective tissue.)

Okay, you can totally tell this is not my shot because the photo quality is like 1000x better than any of my pictures.  No, this shot comes directly from thepioneerwoman.com  I make my slaw slightly differently from hers in that I use only the red cabbage (in the convenient bags) and I chop up my cilantro instead of leaving it pretty much whole like she does.

In about the time it takes to pull the meat and grab some buns out of the cupboard (gluten free or otherwise!), you can pull together your slaw.  That being said, cole slaw is really much better if you make it a couple hours in advance and let the flavors come together before you eat it.   So do that.  If you think of it.

Just mix up some mayonnaise, milk, white vinegar, sugar, salt, pepper, and cayenne in a small bowl (see recipe below for exact amounts).  In a larger bowl, empty out a 10oz bag of shredded red cabbage, add a chopped jalapeno, and two big handfuls of cilantro, chopped (most of a bunch – you want a lot this time) and toss.  Pour the dressing over and mix to coat.

Pile some pork and some slaw on a bun and you’re done.  I was so starving and going mad from the wonderful smell permeating the house that I couldn’t be bothered to take a picture before this moment.  Even that shot at the beginning was just taken from the other side of this half eaten sandwich.  Insanely delicious.  This pork would also be great in any number of southwest flavored dishes like tacos, burritos, nachos, you name it.  So so good.

So what are you waiting for?  Go make some!

And enjoy!

Southwest Pulled Pork Sandwiches

1/4 cup packed brown sugar

1 Tbsp Kosher Salt

1 Tbsp Black Pepper

1 Tbsp Ancho Chile Pepper Powder

1 Tbsp Coriander

1 tsp Ground Mustard

1 tsp Ground Cumin

Half a pork shoulder, well trimmed (a little over 3 lbs after trimming)

Sandwich rolls (GF or regular)

Cilantro Jalapeno Slaw (recipe below)

Instructions:

Halve your pork shoulder and trim off any large sections of fat.  Don’t worry about the bone if you’re using that half.  You can remove it at the end when you pull the meat.  Wrap up the other half in plastic wrap, put in a ziplock and store in the freezer for future use.

Put prepared meat in the crockpot.

Combine first seven ingredients in a small bowl.  Rub all over meat until all surfaces are coated.  Set the crockpot to Low if you want to eat in about 8 hours, High if you need it sooner (about 5 hours).

After the requisite amount of time, remove the lid and try prying the meat apart with two forks.  If it shreds easily it’s done.  If not, put the lid back on and turn it up to High if it was on Low before.  (Crock pots are not opened until the food is done, ideally, because they don’t regain temperature quickly, hence the changing of the setting.)

Shred meat and serve on buns with Cilantro Jalapeno Slaw.

Cilantro Jalapeno Slaw

(adapted slightly from thepioneerwoman.com)

1/2 cup whole milk

1/2 cup mayonnaise

1 Tbsp white vinegar

1 Tbsp sugar

a dash of cayenne pepper

Salt and Pepper to taste

1 10oz bag Shredded Red Cabbage

1 jalapeno, chopped

2 large handfuls fresh cilantro, chopped (most of a bunch)

Instructions:

Combine milk, mayo, vinegar, sugar, cayenne, salt, and pepper in a small bowl.

In a large bowl, combine cabbage, jalapeno, and cilantro.  Pour dressing over cabbage mixture and toss to coat.

Serve over top of pulled pork on buns (or any way you like!)

Serves a crowd (at least 8)

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Sun Dried Tomato Appetizers

As promised!  Yet another thing you can do with all the Sun Dried Tomatoes we made last week.

I made these delightful little appetizers for brunch last Sunday.  I wished after the fact that I had made twice as many because they were gone almost immediately.

That may have been partially because I ate at least four of them.  C’est la vie.  Anyway.

I wanted to be able to call these little beauties “Sun Dried Tomato Crostini” but sadly I did not have a baguette (GF or otherwise) sitting around.  But if you wanted to impress your friends you could use little toasted slices of baguette and call it crostini.  Because that just sounds so much more sophisticated than “appetizers”.

Or we could go the French route and call them “Sun Dried Tomato Hors D’oeuvres”.  (Yes, I had to look up the spelling.)  Or, my favorite, “Sun Dried Tomato Amuse-Bouche”.  But since most of us are not running French bistros I guess “appetizers” will do.

(Note to self:  Someday open a French bistro so you can use fancy words like “amuse-bouche” and not feel ridiculous.)

This recipe makes just enough for 12 but you can easily double, triple, or quadruple the amounts listed to make more.  These come together in under5 minutes and are super yummy and impressive on a buffet table.

Sun Dried Tomato Appetizers

12 of your favorite crackers

2 oz goat cheese

2 oz cream cheese, room temperature

a splash of heavy cream (to get the mixture to spreading consistency)

2 tsp minced fresh chives

1/4 tsp minced garlic

Kosher Salt and Freshly Ground Black Pepper to taste

12 Sun Dried Tomatoes

Instructions:

Mix goat cheese, cream cheese, heavy cream, chives, garlic, and salt and pepper until smooth and spreadable.

Spread a thick layer of cheese on each cracker.  Top with a Sun Dried Tomato.

Makes 12 appetizers.

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Sun (oven) Dried Tomatoes

Every year, starting around the last week of August, we are awash in tomatoes.  Beefsteaks, Romas, cherry tomatoes, you name it.  We plant a little bit of everything.  And for at least a month I eat a tomato at every meal.  I make salsa.  I make soup.  I make spaghetti sauce.  I make my mom take some.  (She says our garden tomatoes are the best she’s ever had, by the way.)  I’m constantly looking for new recipes in which to use my bags and bags of tomatoes.

And before you ask – no, I don’t can.  Why?  Because at the moment I don’t have the time to add one more thing to my plate, nor the money to buy all the stuff to start up.  Next year.  Every year I say next year.  I’m also a little more than a little worried that I’ll do it wrong and accidentally poison my whole family…

So until I get over my fear, and find some time and some money, this is what I do to make sure my tomatoes don’t rot in my kitchen.

When you make sun dried tomatoes yourself they turn out sooooo much better than the ones you buy at the store.  I make mine “dry” now (like the ones in the bags, not the ones in the jars packed in oil).  You can do them drizzled with oil and stored in a jar in your fridge but they spoil faster that way.

I’m gonna preempt this next part by saying this is the kind of endeavor you want to take on over the weekend.  At least your first time through.  The time element is quite variable depending on the size of your tomatoes and your oven itself.

Take your clean tomatoes and remove any remaining stems.  I tried to group them by size but it’s not even slightly necessary that you do that.  Cut them in half lengthwise, season them with salt (and pepper if you like a little bite), and place on a cookie sheet cut side up in a 200 degree oven.

Leave them in there until they are dried but not hard – like a raisin – chewy, with just a little plumpness left in them.  Most of these ones were done when I took this shot.  Some were not.  I know this because I picked them up individually to test them.  This is one of those things that you really have to go by feel.  When you can pick them up and the bottoms are firm (not squooshy, not hard) they are ready to come out.  Don’t worry – the temperature is so low you’ve got some wiggle room on the time.

The time varies greatly depending on the size of your tomatoes and on your particular oven.   I think mine runs a little cool because it always takes my oven longer than I think it’s supposed to.  If you have full size Romas, like the size you might pick up in the grocery store, you probably want to put these in before you go to bed.  I’ve read this takes about five hours but my smallest ones probably took eight.  The bigger ones took more like 14 hours.  At least for your first time…check them every hour or so starting around five hours to be safe.   (Like I said – weekend project.)

And here they are all done!  Try not to eat them all at once.  I actually ate two right off this plate after taking this picture.  The flavor of sun dried tomatoes is so very different from a fresh tomato.  So much more concentrated.  Sweeter.  Almost candy-like.  You have to try them to understand.

Once your tomatoes are cool, simply put them in a ziplock bag and toss them in your cupboard.   You can use them wherever sun dried tomatoes are called for in recipes.  Use them in pesto.  Chop them up and mix them into mayo for a gourmet spread.  Put them out alongside some olives, some bocconcini, some prosciutto and you have a first class antipasto.  Add them to pasta sauce, serve them with eggs, in sandwiches, there are a million uses.  They make adorable crostini (recipe teaser!)  And you know I adore them on my Balsamic Steak Gorgonzola Pizza.

Give it a try, I promise, they’re amazing.
Enjoy!

Sun (oven) Dried Tomatoes

Roma tomatoes

Kosher Salt

Instructions

Preheat oven to 200 degrees.

Clean and stem tomatoes.  Cut tomatoes in half and season with salt.

Put tomatoes cut-side up on a cookie sheet and dry in the oven until dried chewy like raisins, several hours at least.  Test for doneness by pinching between your fingers.  The bottoms should be supple but firm – not squooshy and not hard as a rock.

Allow to cool completely before sealing in ziplock bags.  Store like you would any other dried fruit in your cupboard.

Makes as many as you want.

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Refried Black Beans

I’ve been making these a lot lately.  They are super quick and easy and go well with pretty much any southwestern or Mexican food you may be having.  I made them this morning, as I have most weekends this summer, to go in breakfast burritos.   Quick, easy, cheap, versatile, AND healthy?  Yes, please.

Here’s everything you need:  1 can of black beans, 1 Tbsp olive oil, 2 cloves of garlic, 1/2 tsp cumin, 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper, 1 Tbsp fresh chopped oregano, and 2 Tbsp fresh chopped cilantro.  This oregano is from my herb garden.  I don’t have  Mexican oregano, and I’m honestly not even sure what the difference is, but if you have some and you want to try it please do so!

And let me know how it’s different :)

Start by heating your olive oil in a small pot over medium heat.  Add the garlic, cumin, cayenne, and chopped oregano and toast for a minute to bring out their flavors.

Add the entire can of black beans (liquid and all), and bring up to a simmer.

Using the back of a spoon, mash about half the beans.

Let it simmer until most of the liquid has evaporated away and your beans are the consistency you like.  Here mine are almost done.  I don’t know about you but I don’t like mine bone dry so keep a watch on them.  It only takes a few minutes.

Top with some fresh cilantro and serve!  You can, of course, chop up your cilantro before sprinkling it on (I usually do but leaving the leaves whole makes for a prettier presentation, I think)  We do these in breakfast burritos, as I said, but I also put them out on “make your own taco” night.  I also love them alongside my southwestern pulled pork (recipe coming soon!).

This recipe is very versatile and gladly accepts any number of alterations.  As it happened, I had a couple hot cherry peppers from the garden just begging to be included so I chopped up half of this guy right here and added it in with the spices.  You could add some chopped onion or red bell pepper in the beginning before the garlic, you could vary the spices, you could top it with some crumbled queso fresco or sour cream at the end – whatever!  Cooking’s great like that, you can always mix it up and make it yours.

Enjoy!

Refried Black Beans

1 (14oz) can black beans

1 Tbsp olive oil

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 tsp cumin

1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

1 Tbsp chopped fresh oregano

2 Tbsp chopped fresh cilantro

Instructions:

Heat oil in small pot over medium heat.  Add garlic, cumin, cayenne pepper, and oregano and toast for one minute.

Add in entire can of beans, including liquid.  Bring up to a simmer.

While simmering, mash about half the beans.  Stir occasionally until most of the liquid has evaporated away and beans look “refried”.

Top with fresh cilantro.

Serves 4.

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Crispy Fried Shallots

If you’re gluten free, or cook for anyone who is, you’re going to love this.

If you’re a foodie, you’re going to love this.

If you’re a huge fan of French’s French Fried Onions and can’t imagine why anyone would want to do any unnecessary work when they could just open up a can of those – you might not be interested in this at all.

I came across this technique a couple years ago when I was making Green Bean Casserole for Thanksgiving.  One of the essential ingredients, the french fried onions, are full of gluten.  (As is cream of mushroom soup.  Thanksgiving is a marathon of prep for us, isn’t it?  Anyway.)  For a couple years I had substituted (gasp) Funyuns for the crunchy onion topping we know so well.  They’re GF.  Who knew?  And for the record, if you can get past the horror of seeing Funyuns on your Thanksgiving table, they’re not actually that bad of a substitute.

But after a couple years of Funyun Thanksgivings I saw someone on TV, I can’t even remember who, making their Green Bean Casserole with crispy fried shallots on top.  Plain onions with no coating can be fried and end up crispy?  I was intrigued so I tried it.

Never going back.  They’re seriously easy to make and are so impressive on top of a wide variety of foods.  I prepare them almost every time I make mashed potatoes.  So good, so easy, so impressive.  What’s not to love?

Here’s what you do.  Slice up your shallots as thinly as you can.  I probably have five shallots here.  Shallots are the little pinkish-brown ones.  They’re exceptionally sweet as onions go.  Our grocery store stocks them next to the garlic.

Next, heat a couple inches of oil until very hot.  You can reuse oil, did you know that?  Just strain it and put it in tupperware in the fridge.  That way you don’t have to feel like you’re wasting oil every time you need to deep fry something.  The oil will get darker with each use so when it gets too dark just toss it.

I didn’t use a thermometer this time but if you are, we’re  working in the 350-375 range.  Add your shallots, being careful not to overcrowd the pan.  (This ^ is me not following my own advice.)  Toss the onions around every once in a while just to make sure they’re not sticking together.

You want to cook them until they are golden brown.  The onions are not going to be stiff and crispy when you pull them out of the oil.  That happens when you lay them on a paper towel lined plate to drain.

I use a strainer to pull them out quickly.  These are just a shade darker than I prefer but still absolutely wonderful.  At this point you can salt them or season them as you like – you don’t want to salt them beforehand, it’s not good for the oil.  I have no idea why, but that’s what I was taught when I worked at Burger King a million years ago.

These would be a delightful topping on any casserole, piled high on a burger, scattered atop mashed potatoes or meatloaf.  They would add a great salty crunch to a salad and would make a beautiful garnish on any number of soups.  Fried shallots have so many uses and it only takes a couple minutes to make them.  So please do.  Your foodie/gluten free/fried-food-loving friends will thank you for it.

Enjoy!

Crispy Fried Shallots

shallots, as many as you want to do, sliced as evenly and thinly as you can (mine were probably 3mm thick)

enough oil to cover your pan 2 inches deep ( you can use less than that, maybe an inch deep, but it’s harder to control the temperature of your oil the less you use)

Instructions:

Heat oil until very hot (350-375 degrees) and add in sliced shallots (add in batches if doing more than 4 or 5 so as not to crowd the pan.  The oil should sizzle frantically when you put them in.  Stir the pan occasionally to make sure the shallots are not sticking together.

Fry until golden brown (I have never timed this – I’ve always gone by the color – it takes a few minutes).  Using a small strainer, remove them to a paper towel lined plate.  The shallots will still be wiggly when you remove them from the oil, they will crisp up as they drain.

These are best used right away.  Refrigerating fried foods always makes them lose their crispness.

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