Thursday, November 7, 2013

Slow Cooker Pot Roast

As the weather gets cooler, my slow cooker gets more use. I've been hunting for great slow cooker recipes and I've certainly found a few. But you can't beat a tried and true one like a classic pot roast. This is another recipe which I've tried many variations until I felt the need to come up with my own. There are plenty of great pot roast recipes out there, even one that isn't for the slow cooker that I especially love from The Pioneer Woman. But on one of those days when you just want the slow cooker to do the work for you, give this simple slow cooker pot roast a try.

Taste in Bloom Original Photo
Difficulty: Easy; Serves: 6; Prep time: 10 minutes, Cook time: 8 1/2 hours

Taste in Bloom Original
Ingredients:
  • 2 1/2 lbs roasting meat (I prefer chuck roast or brisket for this. I find eye roast turns out too tough).
  • 1 1/4 cup water or beef stock (I used, and prefer, water)
  • 1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp or more Italian seasoning or herbes de Provence
  • 2 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp or more garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp seasoned salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 3 russett potatoes, scrubbed, peeled, and diced into 1/2-inch chunks
  • 3 carrots, peeled and diced into 1/2-inch chunks, or a bag of baby carrots
  • 1/2 a bag or more of frozen peas

Preparation:

Place roasting meat in the bottom of a slow cooker with the water (or beef stock) and Worcestershire sauce. Season with Italian seasoning (or herbes de Provence), onion powder, garlic powder, seasoned salt, and pepper. Set the slow cooker on low and cook for 7 hours.

Prepare vegetables. Carefully remove the pot roast to a cutting board and put all of the vegetables into the slow cooker in the broth. Return the pot roast to the slow cooker. Cover and set the slow cooker on high and cook for an hour or slightly longer, until the vegetables are fork tender.


Saturday, October 26, 2013

Banana Pumpkin Bread

This is a lovely Fall take on the banana bread recipe I posted earlier this year. I used a homemade pumpkin purée, the recipe for which I've included in case you have a spare pumpkin or two. You can very easily freeze any extra purée in small batches and thaw out and use as needed. If you prefer the canned variety, that works just as well.

The original banana bread recipe called for 1/2 cup of oil. In this recipe, the pumpkin purée replaces the oil. As a result, there wasn't a popping pumpkin flavor, but rather a minor change in consistency. Maybe, if you want more pumpkin flavor, try scaling back the bananas and add more pumpkin purée 1/4 cup at a time. This recipe is worth experimenting with in multiple batches because the odds of each loaf turning out delicious are pretty high. 

Taste in Bloom Original Photo


For the Pumpkin Purée:
For the pumpkin purée: Difficulty: Easy; Makes: 4 (1/2 cup) servings depending on the size of pumpkins; Total time: 50 mins
Barely adapted from The Pioneer Woman

Ingredients:
  • 2 small to medium sized pumpkins
Preparation:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Slice the top off of each pumpkin and cut them in half. Scoop out the seeds and pulp and slice the pumpkins into quarters. Place the pumpkin quarters on a baking sheet. I put them skin-side down, but they can go on the pan any way you'd like. 

Roast pumpkin pieces in a 350 degree oven for 45 minutes or until the flesh is fork tender.

Once the pumpkins are cool enough to handle, gently peel back the skin with a knife and slice the roasted pumpkin into chunks.

Purée the pumpkin, a few chunks at a time, with a blender or food processor, adding water as needed to make the purée smooth. If storing the pumpkin purée, measure out 1/2 - 1 cup at a time into freezer bags and store in the freezer.



Taste in Bloom Original Photo
For the Banana Pumpkin Bread:
For the bread: Difficulty: Easy; Serves: 1 loaf; Total time: 2 hrs 20 mins
Adapted from *Food Network: Flour's Famous Banana Bread

Ingredients:
  • 1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup + 2 Tbsp sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin purée (fresh or canned)
  • 3 1/2 very ripe bananas, mashed
  • 2 Tbsp crème fraiche or sour cream
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2/3 cups walnuts, toasted and chopped (opt. - I left them out)
Preparation:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line bottom of a loaf pan with parchment paper.

Sift dry ingredients together: flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. 

Whisk together sugar and eggs until light and fluffy, about 10 minutes. Stir in pumpkin purée and add mashed bananas, crème fraiche or sour cream and vanilla extract.

Pour into lined loaf pan and bake about 45-50 minutes, up to one hour. Test doneness with a toothpick or wooden skewer. Poke the middle of the loaf and make sure no batter sticks to the toothpick or skewer.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Basic Beef Stew

Fall is in the air. It's my favorite season. There's just something about the cooler weather that adds an extra bounce to my step. So, I've been up and bustling about since the crack of dawn. Yesterday, we went pumpkin picking and while my husband carved a pumpkin as our 15-month old son looked on, I cooked up a pot of delicious beef stew.


In the past, I've tried different variations of beef stew. There have been some that added crushed or diced tomatoes or tomato paste to the base. Other recipes instructed searing the beef on such high heat that the outsides would char and burn and stick to the pot. Needless to say, I haven't had much luck with finding the right beef stew recipe.

This time, instead of trying to find the perfect beef stew recipe online and in cookbooks, I decided to take the knowledge learned from past mistakes and combine it with my general knowledge of cooking gained over the past few years of experience. I also read a lot of comments posted by reviewers of recipes until I came up with a recipe of my own. I got just what I wanted: a simple, hearty beef stew that my whole family, especially myself, could love. And we all loved it. Even the 15-month old.

Taste in Bloom Original Photo

Difficulty: Easy; Serves: 8; Total time: 45 minutes 

Taste in Bloom Original
Ingredients:
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil, divided
  • 2 Tbsp butter, divided
  • 2 lbs sirloin steak, chuck roast, or London broil chopped into 1-inch pieces
  • 1/2 - 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 tsp onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp herbes de Provence or oregano
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 2 russet potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 2 carrots, peeled and diced
  • 2 celery stalks, diced 
  • 5oz frozen peas
  • 4 cups beef stock

Preparation:

In a large Ziploc bag, combine the pieces of meat with  flour, onion powder, garlic powder, paprika, herbes de Provence, salt and pepper. Shake the bag until all the meat pieces are thoroughly covered with flour and seasonings.

Heat one tablespoon of olive oil in a large pot over medium to medium-high heat. Once the oil is hot, melt one tablespoon of butter in the pot.

Sear half of the meat pieces, stirring frequently, until they are completely browned, about two to five minutes. Remove the seared meat to a plate.

Add another tablespoon of olive oil and another tablespoon of butter to the pot. It will get hot quickly, so be prepared to add the other half of meat pieces to the pot. Sear the meat as before.

Once the second batch of meat is seared, add the first batch back to the pot and add the beef stock. Bring to a boil and add all of the vegetables. Reduce heat to medium-low, bringing the broth to a simmer.

Simmer for 30 minutes or until the vegetables are fork tender. Serve hot.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Bacon Chicken Caesar Salad

There's few things that don't go well with bacon. And though bacon has become something of an epidemic in the U.S. finding it's way into just about everything you can imagine, spreading from the brunch plate into desserts such as brownies and ice cream, I try to keep it under control in my own cooking. Seriously though, bacon in salad is delicious. And if you disagree, this salad is still delicious without it.

This recipe might seem a bit  labor intensive and indeed it might feel like it is the first time you make it. Once you've made it a couple of times, it becomes a simple weeknight dinner that becomes almost second nature to create. Enjoy.

Taste in Bloom Original Photo
Difficulty: Easy; Serves: 4-6 Total time: 45 minutes

Adapted from Martha Stewart
Ingredients:
  • freshly squeezed juice of 2 lemons, strained
  • 1/4 - 1/2 loaf of good quality white bread: Italian, French, Sourdough, etc.
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 4 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan
  • salt and freshly ground pepper
  • seasoned salt
  • 2 anchovy fillets, roughly chopped (optional - I omitted them)
  • 8 chicken tenderloins
  • 4-8 slices of bacon (4 slices if you want to use a ratio of half bacon to chicken)
  • 2 cloves of garlic, peeled
  • 1 lb romaine lettuce hearts

Preparation:

For the croutons: 

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cut the bread into slices. Slice each piece lengthwise in half or quarters to make strips. Cut each strip into bite-size pieces. Put the pieces into a mixing bowl.

Mince one of the garlic cloves with a little salt and add it to the bread pieces. Sprinkle bread pieces with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Add two tablespoons of olive oil and toss it to coat the bread pieces evenly.

Spread the coated bread pieces onto a rimmed baking sheet (works really well lined with parchment paper). Bake for 12-15 minutes, tossing about halfway through baking time, until golden. Allow to cool.

For the Bacon Chicken

Rinse the chicken tenderloins and pat dry with paper towels. Season one side with seasoned salt and black pepper. Wrap each tenderloin with a strip of bacon.

In a heavy skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium-high heat. Place tenders, seasoned side down, and cook until browned, about 6 minutes. Turn each tender over and cook the other side for an additional 6 minutes. Drain off the fat and allow to cool. Once cool enough to handle, slice the tenderloins into bite-size pieces.

For the salad and dressing: 

Pull apart the romaine lettuce leaves and slice them crosswise into 1-inch ribbons. Wash and dry the lettuce ribbons and put them into a large mixing bowl.

In a blender, combine the freshly squeezed lemon juice, mayonnaise, freshly grated Parmesan, anchovy fillets (if using), and the remaining garlic clove. Blend until smooth. 

If you are making the salad ahead of time and storing it in the refrigerator, see note before proceeding.

Once the chicken and croutons have cooled, toss them with the lettuce and dressing until thoroughly combined. Top with freshly sliced or grated Parmesan and season with more salt and freshly ground pepper if desired. 

* Note: If you are storing the salad in the refrigerator before consuming, allow the chicken and dressing to come to room temperature before tossing it with the romaine lettuce ribbons and croutons. Allow the croutons to sit at room temperature, sealed in a container or plastic bag, so they do not become soggy. 



Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Meatloaf

Having grown up in the southern U.S., comfort foods were a staple of my childhood diet. I grew up in south Louisiana where comfort food could be defined as a steaming bowl of gumbo over white rice, a plate full of jambalaya or a tray of freshly boiled spicy crawfish, but I digress. We also spread the table with comfort foods more familiar to the greater U.S. such as fried chicken and meatloaf. This week I made meatloaf. I don't add the traditional bread crumbs to my meatloaf mix, but you can if you like.

Taste in Bloom Original Photo
Difficulty: Easy; Serves: 6 Total time: 1 hr 10 mins (10 mins for prep)

Taste in Bloom Original
Ingredients:

For the meatloaf:
  • 2 lbs lean ground beef
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 1/2 small yellow onion, diced
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/2 red apple, diced
  • 1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
For the topping:
  • 2/3 cup ketchup
  • 2 Tbsp spicy brown mustard
  • 1 Tbsp brown sugar

Preparation:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large mixing bowl, combine ground beef, egg, onion, garlic, apple, Worcestershire sauce, oregano, salt and freshly ground pepper by hand until thoroughly mixed. 

Using your hands, form mixture into a loaf and place it into a loaf pan, that has been lightly coated with cooking spray. Cover with a lid or foil.

Place the loaf pan in the center of the oven and set the timer for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare the topping. 

In a small bowl, combine ketchup, spicy brown mustard and brown sugar until thoroughly mixed.

When the meatloaf has cooked for 30 minutes, take it out of the oven and spread the topping evenly over the meatloaf. Replace the cover and return the meatloaf to the oven and allow it to cook for another 30 minutes.

Allow the meatloaf to sit on the counter for a few minutes before removing the cover and slicing. Serve warm.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Frittata

When anticipating a busy week, I often like to prepare my breakfasts ahead of time on the weekend. A frittata is a favorite because of its versatility and ease. Each morning, I cut a slice and warm it or allow it to reach room temperature and eat it with some fruit. For variety, I like to try different vegetables and seasonings each time I make it. Frittatas also make a great brunch entrée.


Taste in Bloom Original Photo

Difficulty: Easy; Serves: 8-10 Total time: 30 mins (15 mins for prep)

Taste in Bloom Original
Ingredients:

  • 8-10 large eggs
  • 1 Tbsp water
  • 1 Tbsp butter
  • 3 chicken sausage links or 3 breakfast sausage patties or breakfast meat of your choice, diced (opt.)
  • 1/2 cup - 1 cup fresh steamed broccoli or veggie of your choice
  • 1/4 small onion, diced or minced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric or seasoning of your choice
  • freshly grated Parmesan cheese or cheese of your choice (opt. - omitted in this recipe)
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Preparation:

Preheat oven broiler on low.

Melt butter in a large oven-proof skillet on medium-high heat.


Beat eggs with 1 Tbsp of water. Season the eggs with turmeric or your choice of seasoning and add salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste. Whisk seasonings into the eggs.

Combine sausage, onion and garlic into skillet and allow to cook until the sausage is heated through and the onion is slightly browned, about 5 minutes.

Add steamed broccoli or veggies and stir to combine.

Pour the egg mixture slowly into the skillet, making sure it spreads evenly around the sausage and veggies. Cover and reduce heat to low. 

The frittata should only cook long enough for the sides to solidify. The middle should remain runny. Sprinkle a generous amount of freshly grated Parmesan cheese on top if using.

Once the sides have cooked, remove cover and transfer the skillet to the top rack of oven and broil on low just until the top has browned. Remove and allow to sit a few minutes before slicing. Serve immediately or store in the refrigerator for up to several days.

Note: Frittatas are a great dishes in which you can exercise creativity with flavor. Instead of using onion and garlic, try mincing a shallot. Diced roasted red pepper or jalapeños also create exciting flavor. Nutmeg and cinnamon can make the frittata more earthy. 





Sunday, June 9, 2013

Ratatouille

Some days I want a substantial meal that isn't overly rich or filling. With summer just around the corner, Ratatouille seems great for its seasonal vegetables. I made a full batch to store half in my refrigerator to enjoy for lunch with a salad of mixed greens for a few days this week and stored the other half in the freezer for later use. Ratatouille is considerably versatile. You can always add protein to it in the form of chicken, beans, cheese, or I'm sure even shellfish would be good. I kept it to a simple vegetable makeup this time. It would be delicious served with bread and maybe even a glass of white wine if the occasion calls for it.

Taste in Bloom Original Photo
Difficulty: Easy; Serves: 4-6 Total time: 45 mins - 1 hr (20-30 for prep)

Adapted from Food Network: Emeril Lagasse
Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup or more olive oil
    Taste in Bloom Original Photo
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 medium eggplant, diced (leave skin on)
  • 1 medium zucchini, diced
  • 1 medium yellow squash, diced
  • 1 medium red bell pepper, diced
  • 1 medium green bell pepper, diced
  • 1 14 oz can diced tomatoes
  • 1/2 tsp fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 Tbsp fresh basil leaves, thinly sliced
  • 1 Tbsp fresh parsley leaves, chopped
  • salt & freshly ground pepper to taste

Preparation:

Heat oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Once hot, add garlic and onion and cook until onions are slightly caramelized, about 5-7 minutes.

Add the eggplant and thyme leaves and cook for 5 minutes until the eggplant is slightly cooked, stirring occasionally.

Add the diced peppers, zucchini and yellow squash and cook for an additional 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add the diced tomatoes, basil, parsley and salt and freshly ground pepper to taste. Cook for 5 more minutes. 

Stir well and serve hot or at room temperature.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Roast Chicken

If you haven't heard of Ree Drummond, The Pioneer Woman, you should definitely acquaint yourself with her. She has a cooking show on Food Network and her own website that's full of recipes, memoirs and the latest of her favorite things. Oh, but her recipes. This lady knows food. She knows. I can say without a doubt that I would be willing to try everything that she makes. I have have made her Perfect Pot Roast and it was true to her word - it was perfect. And tonight I made her Roast Chicken. The simplicity of the ingredients really makes the chicken delightfully delicious. When making this, use a high quality roaster or fryer chicken such as Bell & Evans. It really makes a big difference in the outcome.

Taste in Bloom Original Photo


Barely Adapted from The Pioneer Woman
Ingredients:

  • 1 whole roaster or fryer chicken, rinsed and patted dry
  • 3/4 cup butter, softened
  • 2 lemons, zest them (set aside), then slice the lemons in half
  • 3-4 sprigs of fresh rosemary
  • salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste

Preparation:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees on convection or 425 degrees for standard baking.

Line a baking sheet with heavy duty foil. Lay the chicken on the sheet, breast side up.

Pluck the leaves from one rosemary sprig and chop them finely. Add them to the lemon zest. Combine the finely chopped rosemary and lemon zest with the softened butter in a bowl. Add salt and fresh ground pepper to taste.

Coat the chicken with the butter mixture using your hands, making sure to get under the skin and in the cavity. Squeeze the lemon juice from both lemons all over the chicken, then put the lemon halves into the cavity, or as many that will fit.

Roast for 1 hour 15 minutes or until the skin reaches a deep golden brown.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Pork Sirloin Steaks

I love meals that are plain and simple to make yet still yield delicious results. I have a few of these that I like to rotate through each week. They are favorite menu items that can be tweaked in ways that give refreshment to their flavor so they never get old. For example, using a different cut of meat each time presents a different texture and introducing a new spice or marinade opens a plethora of possibilities. Keeping the intent simple provides ample room for experimentation.

Taste in Bloom Original Photo


Difficulty: Easy; Serves: 4; Total time: 15 mins

Taste in Bloom Original
Ingredients:

  • 4 boneless, skinless pork sirloin steaks or pork chops; or 4 bone-in center cut pork chops 
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • salt & fresh ground black pepper

Preparation:

Melt butter over medium heat in a heavy cast iron or nonstick skillet. Allow the butter a few more seconds to get hot.

Meanwhile, pat pork dry with paper towels and generously sprinkle both sides with salt and fresh ground black pepper.


I served these with Fried Apples
Place pork chops in the hot skillet and cover, cooking for 3-4 minutes until browned. Turn pork over and repeat for the other side until done. If you are using thinly sliced boneless pork chops, skip the cover and just sear the chops on each side for about 3 minutes. If they are thickly sliced and you prefer them medium rare, skip the cover and sear each side about 4 minutes.

Experiment with different cuts of pork if you like. You can also try rubbing some dried thyme, sage and paprika on the pork for some variety.


Monday, April 22, 2013

Roasted Red Potatoes

Potatoes are an excellent staple to complete almost any meal. They are quite versatile in preparation and flavor. I like to keep a couple of different varieties on hand and add a different type of potato each week to the rotation. Red potatoes are one of my favorites. They absorb flavors nicely and hold up well roasted or boiled. I like to season them to match or complement the flavor of the main course. This recipe includes my go to seasoning for roasted red potatoes as the marinade I most often use for meats feature fresh rosemary sprigs and olive oil.


Taste in Bloom Original Photo

Difficulty: Easy; Serves: 4; Total time: 30 mins

Taste in Bloom Original
Ingredients:

  • 1 lb red potatoes, scrubbed and quartered
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1-2 tsp dried rosemary
  • salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
Preparation:

Preheat your oven broiler on low. Line a baking sheet with foil, lightly sprayed with cooking oil or a sheet of parchment paper.

In a mixing bowl or gallon sized plastic bag, combine all ingredients and toss to coat potatoes. Spread potatoes evenly on lined baking sheet.

Place baking sheet on top rack of oven and broil on low for 15-20 minutes or until the potatoes are tinged with gold.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Brussels Sprouts

My husband does not like Brussels sprouts, at least he didn't. Actually he really doesn't like any vegetable in the cabbage family unless it's hidden in an egg roll. But I found a couple of ways to make Brussels sprouts that makes him look forward to eating them. I found that the real trick to making them more enjoyable to his palate was to cut them in half before cooking them. This also made their preparation easier as whole sprouts tend to be difficult to manage. So what is it that makes these sprouts so enjoyable to a picky eater? Bacon and heavy cream of course.

Taste in Bloom Original Photo
Difficulty: Easy; Serves: 4; Total time: 30 mins

Adapted from French Farmhouse Cookbook
Ingredients:

  • 1 lb fresh Brussels sprouts, sliced in half
  • 3 strips of raw bacon, diced
  • a little heavy cream or crème fraîche
  • salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
Preparation:

Steam the Brussels sprouts in a steamer basket placed over lightly boiling water until tender, about 9 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook the bacon in a skillet over medium heat until just done, about 10 minutes.

Add a small amount of cream to the bacon and stir to combine. Allow to cook for about a minute. 

Add the Brussels sprouts and stir until the sprouts are coated with the cream.

Season to taste with salt and fresh ground black pepper.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Best Banana Bread

My husband loves baked treats and frequently asks me to bake some. Once in a while, I give in and bake a batch of cookies or banana bread. I pack some of it up and send them off to work with him. His coworkers often ask me for recipes. Now, I can send them here.

Like most bakers, I have tried many different recipes for banana bread before finding one that absolutely blew my mind. I asked my husband to taste the bit of dough left in the bowl. He doesn't usually like to, but when he did, he was floored. We knew this was going to be good. The best way to describe this banana bread is to say that the crust, which comes out a nice shade of brown is on the crispy side. But the center is so soft and almost doughy without being underdone. Take great care not to eat too much (this is difficult) because it is very sweet. I might even suggest adjusting the sugar with each new batch. Though my husband would disagree as he thinks it's perfect the way it is. To each his own.

Taste in Bloom Original Photo
Difficulty: Easy; Serves: 1 loaf; Total time: 2 hrs 20 mins

Barely adapted from *Food Network: Flour's Famous Banana Bread
Ingredients:

  • 1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup + 2 Tbsp sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup oil
  • 3 1/2 very ripe bananas, mashed
  • 2 Tbsp crème fraiche or sour cream
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2/3 cups walnuts, toasted and chopped (opt. - I left them out)
Preparation:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line bottom of a loaf pan with parchment paper.

Sift dry ingredients together: flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. 

Whisk together sugar and eggs until light and fluffy, about 10 minutes. Drizzle in oil and add mashed bananas, crème fraiche or sour cream and vanilla extract.

Pour into lined loaf pan and bake about 45-50 minutes, up to one hour.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Chicken Soup

I consider a good steaming bowl of chicken soup one of the best comfort foods out there. I love chicken soup any time of the year and for any meal of the day. My definition of a good chicken soup is one that is packed with flavor and herbs that clear up congestion in your body and soul. With every bite, take a deep breath of the steam wafting from your spoon. I sincerely hope this evokes feelings of wellness and happiness. That is what it does for me. 

Taste in Bloom Original Photo

Difficulty: Intermediate; Serves: 6; Total time: 2 hrs 30 mins

Ingredients:
  • 2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • one recipe Mirepoix
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 recipe chicken stock (recipe below)
  • shredded chicken from one whole cooked chicken
  • salt, to taste
  • freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • handful of fresh parsley, finely chopped
  • 8 oz package egg noodles

Preparation: 

Heat the olive oil in a large stock pot over medium heat. Add the onion, carrots, celery, garlic, thyme and bay leaf. Cook until softened, about 6 minutes, stirring frequently. Pour in chicken stock and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and stir in chicken pieces. Allow to heat through for a couple of minutes. Sprinkle with chopped parsley when ready to serve.

In a separate smaller saucepan, cook egg noodles according to package instructions. Serve separately from the soup. Noodles tend to soak up all of the soup broth if they are cooked in the soup.

Chicken Stock Recipe:
  • 1 whole chicken, approximately 3 1/2 lbs (free-range preferred), rinsed, giblets discarded
  • 2 carrots, coarsely chopped
  • 3 stalks celery, coarsely chopped
  • 2 white onions, quartered (no need to peel)
  • 1 head of garlic, chopped in half (no need to peel)
  • 1 turnip, ends removed, halved (no need to peel)
  • 1/4 bunch fresh thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • up to 1 tsp whole black peppercorns

Preparation:

Place all ingredients in a large stockpot over medium heat. Cover with cold water (about 3 quarts). Slowly bring to a boil. 

Reduce heat to a simmer, partially cover with a lid and allow to simmer for 1 1/2 hours. Skim off any impurities that rise to the surface as necessary as the broth cooks. Also, if necessary, add water to make sure the chicken stays covered, careful not to add too much. (Note: I found I did not need to skim the broth, nor did I need to add any water as it cooked. It came out perfectly).

Carefully remove the chicken to a cutting board and allow to cool before handling. Shred the chicken off of the bone and discard the carcass.

Strain the broth through a fine sieve into another large stock pot and discard the vegetable solids. Use immediately or set the pot into a bath of ice water to cool before storing in the refrigerator. Use within 4 days or freeze for up to several months.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Applesauce

When my 6-month old first started solids, the first fruit I tried feeding him was applesauce. After a few days, he was displaying some symptoms of sensitivity to this first fruit and it was suggested to me that it might be too acidic for his tender age. While I was pregnant, I had found a recipe for applesauce that calls for a few strips of lemon zest. While alone, lemons tend to be acidic, they are also thought to be alkalizing or neutralizing when we consume them. So in testing this theory, I am making my own applesauce for my son to try in hopes he won't be as sensitive to the acidity in apples. I will post those results in a few days. Even still, for anybody, this applesauce is deliciously sweet and the hint of cinnamon is perfect. Adding any more would be too much. Keep it nice and chunky right out of the pot or purée in small batches in the blender to make it nice and smooth. Refrigerate and use within a couple of days or freeze for up to several months.


Taste in Bloom Original Photo

Difficulty: Easy; Serves: 8; Prep time: 10 mins + 30 mins cook time (+5 mins if using blender)

Slightly adapted from Smitten Kitchen
Ingredients

  • 4 lbs apples, peeled, cored and sliced (I used Empire; Rome and Cortland work well too)
  • 1 1/2 strips of lemon zest, peeled from the lemon with a vegetable peeler or paring knife
  • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon or 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 cup water

Preparation:

Combine all ingredients in a large pot. Bring to a boil. Cover and reduce heat to a simmer. Simmer for 30 minutes or until apples are tender or easily pierced with a fork. When tender, mash apples a bit with the back of a fork. Remove lemon zest and cinnamon stick if you used it. Allow to cool a bit.

If you like your applesauce really smooth, purée in a blender in small batches for a few seconds each.

Edit: My son still showed sensitivity even to homemade applesauce, though it was a little less severe. I used this same recipe but changed the apples for D'anjou pears and simmered for about 45 minutes until they were very tender. He loves it!

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Mirepoix

Being from Louisiana and having grown up in "Cajun Country," I've learned a thing or two about Cajun cooking. One of the most important things I've learned, aside from how to make a good roux, is the mirepoix, also known as the holy trinity of cooking. The trinity consists of diced onion, carrot and celery or celeriac. It makes up the base of most Cajun cuisine. I use it in my stocks, soups and stews. It's a basic recipe worth learning for any new cook. Though it may not be called mirepoix in most recipes, many stocks, soups, stews and sauces call for these ingredients together as a base. It wouldn't hurt to keep a supply of this on hand. If you do so, store it in your refrigerator for up to a few days, but check on it before using it. You'll want the freshest ingredients you can find if you make it ahead of time.

Taste in Bloom Original Photo


Difficulty: Easy; Prep time: 5 minutes

Taste in Bloom Original
Ingredients:
  • 2 medium carrots
  • 2 medium celery stalks 
  • 1 medium yellow onion

Preparation:

Dice all ingredients. Use in your next soup, sauce or stew recipe that calls for them.

Weeknight Chili

Some days, you just need a hot meal that is easy, quick and can be made in one pot. Well, here you go: a one-pot, weeknight chili. Just like many of the recipes I post here, this concoction is also versatile. You can use shallots instead of onion and garlic; yellow, orange or green bell pepper or yellow squash instead of zucchini; or ground turkey instead of ground beef. While I don't usually add beans to this chili, you can add black beans and red kidney beans for a heartier version. When you serve, melt your favorite cheese on top and scoop it with chips. This chili is also great for chili dogs.

Taste in Bloom Original Photo

Difficulty: Easy; Serves: 4; Prep time: 10 minutes + 20 (up to 45) minutes cook time

Taste in Bloom Original
Ingredients:
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 1/2 lbs ground beef
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced.
  • 1 medium bell pepper or zucchini
  • 3 Tbsp chili powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 2 tsp dried oregano
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 1- 14.5oz can of diced tomatoes (try fire roasted)
  • beef stock (opt. to taste if your chili is thicker than you like)
  • 1-2 cans of beans of your choice, drained (opt.)

Preparation:

Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. 

Combine ground beef, diced onion and minced garlic together in the large pot and cook until the beef is browned.

Add the seasonings: chili powder, cumin, oregano, salt and pepper and stir until combined. Stir in diced tomatoes and bell pepper or zucchini and beans, if using. Reduce heat to a simmer.

If at this point the chili is a little thicker than you like, stir in beef stock, one tablespoon at a time, until the chili reaches the desired consistency. Simmer for 20 minutes or up to 45 minutes, covered just so a little steam can escape.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Tuna Salad

There are lots of ways to prepare tuna salad. You can mix it with mayonnaise, salt and pepper. You can add celery to the mix and even some chopped up hard boiled eggs. My favorite way to make tuna salad is to throw in some celery, onion powder and dried fruit. It is very satisfying for lunch, snack or any old time of day. I eat the tuna salad right out of the bowl. Sometimes I like to scoop it onto half an avocado. It's also delicious on half a cored apple. And if you like, it's great on your favorite sandwich bread.

Taste in Bloom Original Photo

Difficulty: Easy; Serves: 2; Prep time: 10 minutes

Adapted from *Primal Blueprint Quick & Easy Meals
Ingredients:

  • 2 - 6oz cans tuna packed in water
  • 2 stalks of celery, diced
  • 1 tsp onion powder or 1/4 cup red onion, diced
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise, or more to taste
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries or dried cherries

Preparation:

Mix all ingredients together in medium bowl. Serve as you'd like.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Cast Iron Cooking

I am from south Louisiana where food, family and tradition tend to be tightly intertwined. If you have a family gathering, food is almost always involved. This has gone on, and continues to go on, for generations. The best kind of traditions are the tried and true ones that are passed down. One of those is the use of cast iron cookware. I only have one piece right now: an enameled cast iron skillet. I use it for everything that can be made in a frying pan and then some. It can go from stove-top to oven with ease. With proper care, it can last for generations. Here is my skillet:

Taste in Bloom Original Photo


Drop Biscuits

Every weekend morning, it is tradition in our home to have biscuits with breakfast. This roots back to my weekend visits with my grandparents as a kid. We would have fresh homemade biscuits with a wide assortment of toppings at our disposal. My grandmother's recipe basically amounted to a "few scoops of this" and "a few sprinkles of that." No two batches of her biscuits were exactly alike, but they were always amazing.

When learning to make my own, I felt more comfortable following a recipe. I found one that works for me and have stuck with it, more or less, ever since. I always make sure to have ingredients on hand for these biscuits. Because if there is ever a day during the week that we are snowed in or home for some other reason, these are going right into the oven.

Taste in Bloom Original Photo
Difficulty: Easy; Serves: 12; Prep time: 5 minutes + 10 minutes baking time

Slightly adapted from *Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook 14th Edition
Ingredients (1 dozen):

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 Tbsp baking powder
  • 1 Tbsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3/4 tsp cream of tartar
  • 3/4 cup butter, softened
  • 1 1/4 cup milk or 1 1/2 cups buttermilk (less if humidity is high) 

Preparation:

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, combine all dry ingredients: flour, baking powder, sugar, salt and cream of tartar. Using either a pastry blender or butter knife, cut in softened butter into the dry mixture until it resembles coarse crumbs. Some butter lumps are okay.

Make a well in the center of the crumby mixture. Pour all of the milk into the well. Stir just until the mixture is moistened. Using a tablespoon, drop dough in heaping spoonfuls onto parchment paper lined cookie sheet. Bake for 10 minutes.

Friday, January 25, 2013

No Grain Granola

I mentioned in an earlier post that I once tried the Paleo Diet with success and that I would be filling this site with recipes that I used and continue to use. This is another one of those recipes. This is my cereal. I have not been diagnosed lactose intolerant, but I do feel sick after drinking milk. So I enjoy this granola with unsweetened almond milk. It is divine. And a very small serving is incredibly filling. And if you store the granola in an airtight container, it will keep for months. Even better.

The "flakes" are slivered almonds that have been combined with melted coconut oil, which after baking them for a while in the oven produces a very crispy flake-like consistency. The other nuts you may choose to use play the role of honeyed granola clusters. Combine it all with your favorite dried fruit and there you have it - your own perfectly customized cereal. You might not even go back to the boxed grain cereal variety after trying this.

I will list the ingredients I used. Feel free to follow this recipe word for word the first time. Next time, try  adding chopped or ground macadamia nuts to the slivered almonds and walnuts. Or, change out the dried cranberries for dried cherries or raisins. Pour in your imagination with each new batch.

Taste in Bloom Original Photo
Difficulty: Easy; Serves: 6; Prep time: 15 minutes + 1 hour baking time

Adapted from Paleo Parents
Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cup sliced or slivered almonds
  • 1 cup chopped or ground walnuts
  • 1 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/2 cup dates, diced 
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil, melted
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 1/2 Tbsp ground cinnamon

Preparation: 

Preheat oven to 275 degrees. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.

Combine nuts in medium mixing bowl.

In a separate small bowl, whisk together melted coconut oil, honey and cinnamon. Pour over the nuts and mix together well.

Spread the nut mixture evenly on the parchment paper lined cookie sheet.

Bake for 45 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes. Check consistency before turning off the oven. If you wish for the nuts to be slightly browned, bake an additional 5-10 minutes. Much longer gives them a slightly burnt flavor. 

Remove cookie sheet from the oven and allow the nut mixture to cool. Transfer to a mixing bowl and stir in the dried fruit. (Note: I do not include the dry fruit with the nut mixture in the baking process because they will harden like rocks. Mixing them with the nuts after the mixture has cooled keeps them chewy).

Store in an airtight container for up to several months.

Fried Apples

In 2011, my husband and I decided to try the Paleo Diet. We both enjoyed it and had great success. At first, it seemed like a daunting task to plan even one meal that is entirely grain-, dairy- and even sugar-free. But we stuck to it and did a lot of research online and used cookbooks specializing in the diet and managed to follow it, strictly, for six weeks. We both felt great as a result. Our friends still ask us for information on how they can get started.

Though we are no longer following the diet strictly, we still use many of the same recipes we found. I will be posting them here as I continue my food blog journey. This recipe is one of our all time favorites. It's incredibly simple and tasty. You can adjust the flavor of this dish from tart to sweet by the apples you choose to use. We started with Granny Smith, then started mixing in some Cortland apples. Now we are using Empire apples and it tastes like a dessert. Fried Apples are especially good as a side dish for pork. Each year, I make them as a side dish for Thanksgiving.

Taste in Bloom Original Photo
Difficulty: Easy; Serves: 4; Prep time: 10 minutes + approximately 18 minutes cooking time

Adapted from Paleo Diet Lifestyle
Ingredients:

  • 4 apples (Granny Smith if you like tart; Empire, Cortland, Braeburn or Jonathan if you prefer sweet)
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 3 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg

Preparation:

Peel, core and slice apples evenly into 1/4" slices. 

Melt butter over medium heat in a large pan or skillet with a lid. Once the butter is hot, add the apple slices to the bottom of the pan, careful not to overlap the slices.

Sprinkle apples with cinnamon and nutmeg. Cover and reduce heat to low. Allow to cook for 18-20 minutes or until the apples are tender enough that a fork slides through them easily.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Soft Sugar Cookies

For Christmas, I wanted to give cookie tins full of homemade cookies as gifts. Specifically, the softest sugar cookies I could make. These cookies were delicious and they fit the bill in buttery softness. More flour was used to make the dough more workable than was recommended in the recipe. The cookies were still very moist.

Taste in Bloom Original Photo
Difficulty: Easy; Makes: 4 Dozen; Prep time: 10 minutes + about 10 minutes baking time
Ingredients (4 dozen):
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 2 cups white sugar
  • 1 cup butter, slightly softened
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon almond or vanilla extract (pref. almond)
  • 6 cups flour
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Preparation:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl, combine sour cream, sugar, butter, eggs, and vanilla or almond extract. Beat for 2-3 minutes. Add dry ingredients and mix well. The dough will still be wet and sticky. Refrigerate the dough for 25 minutes or until firm.

Roll out the dough to about 1/4 inch thick and using cookie cutters, cut out cookies. Add a small amount of flour as needed to make the dough more workable. Keep in mind that the less flour you use, the softer the cookies will be.

Bake for about 8-10 minutes, until the cookies are light golden brown. They should appear underdone. Allow the cookies to cool on the pan. If you prefer a harder, crunchier texture, bake them a minute or two longer.

Perfect Roast Pork Tenderloin

In some ways, pork tenderloin is a weakness of mine. I have always loved the taste of a well seasoned pork tenderloin that just melts in your mouth. But I have never been able to replicate the experience in my own kitchen. Of course, not until now.

Several years ago, I came across a recipe for an earthy seasoning that gives pork a subtle kick. Perfect. However, it still lacked the melt-in-your-mouth texture that I so craved. When I found the preparation for this pork tenderloin recipe, I was skeptical at first but I had to try it. I am so glad I did. The roast comes out so... buttery soft. Just how I remembered tenderloin should be.

Taste in Bloom Original Photo


Marinade:
Adapted from APPLE A DAY

  • 1 1/2 tsp Chinese five-spice powder
  • 3/4 tsp dried sage
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 1 1/2 lb pork tenderloin

Difficulty: Easy; Prep time: 5 minutes to prepare marinade, marinate at least 1 hour and roast for 1 hour, rest for 10 minutes

Preparation:
Adapted from Food.com

Before opening the wrapper to the pork tenderloin, make a note of the exact weight before you discard the wrapper.

Combine all seasonings in a small bowl. Pat dry the pork tenderloin with paper towels. Place the tenderloin on a sheet of plastic wrap that is large enough to wrap around the pork tenderloin. Rub seasonings over the entire tenderloin and wrap with the plastic wrap. Refrigerate the tenderloin for at least one hour or up to overnight.

Place the bottom rack in your oven on the bottom 1/3rd of the oven. Preheat oven to 550 degrees. (Note: If your oven is older and not well insulated, this roasting method may not cook the roast effectively as residual heat is the cooking medium in this recipe).

Place the tenderloin in an uncovered roasting pan and place the pan on the bottom oven rack. Roast for 5 1/2 minutes per pound of tenderloin. If your tenderloin is exactly 1 1/2 lbs, roast it for 8 minutes and 15 seconds. Trust me on this. Turn off the oven, but do not open it. Keep the oven door closed for one hour. When the hour is up, remove the roast from the oven and allow it to rest for 5-10 minutes before slicing.

If you are using a meat thermometer, it should read 145-150 degrees. The tenderloin should be slightly pink in the center when sliced.