Happy New Year! I’m Still Here!!
I hope that 2014 is off to a great start for you! I know it is for me. I’m still here! Still cooking and now, I’m grinding and mixing my own line of Changing Seasonings spices and spice blends. I apologize for the lack of posts over the past few months. I am eager to get writing again and sharing amazing recipes with you very soon. I have been busy getting a logo designed by a local artist, learning how to do website design, developing spice blend recipes and getting some product out in time for the holiday shopping season. It has been an absolute whirlwind, and I hope that you have hung in here with me.
So, since I am still learning WordPress and have much design work still to do, I am excited to say that there is now a link available to my online shop. If you look up at the top right side of the page, across from the Changing Seasonings page title, you will see the link to the Changing Seasonings Market page. From that page, you can click and will be redirected to the shop.
You can also follow Changing Seasonings on Facebook, where I often make quick, short recipe posts. There are also links to other food related pages and articles. www.facebook.com/changingseasonings
Watch for upcoming posts including: Caribbean Jerk Chicken Breasts, Savory French Toast, Cauliflower Potato Pancakes, Versatile Tomato Basil Sauce, Potato Soup and many more tasty dishes!
I first made these yesterday for myself as a quick dinner since I had the fresh tortillas on hand. They were so good, I had to fix them again for lunch today and am eating one as I type. Good thing none of you can see the fingerprints on the keyboard! By the way, if any of you know my son, do not share that his mother was eating while on the laptop because it is a forbidden activity…Shhhhh!
These quesadillas are a combo of three of my very favorite foods: garlic, cheese and bread. First, the garlic. Roasted garlic is easy to make and I keep it on hand in the fridge because it has so many uses. Click here to find out how to roast garlic.
Second, the cheese. I used Gorgonzola. Gorgonzola is a bleu cheese from Italy made from cow’s milk. It is salty and the strong flavor comes from the veins. It is an easy to crumble cheese and melts well. It is also a great pairing with the potent garlic flavor.
Lastly, the bread. In this case, fresh, soft, warm flour tortillas. Here is the link to the recipe for the flour tortillas. They are so simple to prepare and cost less than pre-packaged tortillas.
Okay, now you have your ingredients, time to put the quesadillas together.
|Spread roasted garlic on one tortilla|
|Sprinkle cheese over the garlic|
|Place a second tortilla on top and heat in a skillet over medium heat until the cheese melts, turning once.|
I am one of those people who has a slight addiction to Pinterest. It’s not a “hi, my name is Carrie and it’s been five minutes since my last Pin” kind of addiction, but I can get caught up designing my dream kitchen and reading the work-outs that take less time to actually do then it takes to read and Pin. Of course, I love reading recipes. Lately, I have been really interested in the recipes for ingredients that I would typically buy when making a dish such as cheese, breads, and this one for homemade flour tortillas.
I used to have a favorite Mexican restaurant that made their flour tortillas fresh on a griddle just outside the kitchen so you could watch them being prepared. They were brought to the table warm and soft…so yummy! But, I honestly had never thought to make my own until seeing all of the Pinterest posts. How simple it is! Only four ingredients, if you count the water, and less than 30 minutes. This is a fun recipe to cook with the kids too. They can help knead and roll the dough.
My adaptation to the recipe is that I used Coconut Oil and a little butter instead of shortening (so technically, five ingredients). There has been a lot of information available about the health benefits of Coconut Oil. I’m not a doctor, so check out the research for yourself. Click here for a great resource about Coconut Oil. I have been using it in place of my facial moisturizer, body lotion, to rinse my mouth and on the ends of my hair with great results. I have also been using Coconut Oil and Coconut Milk in the kitchen. Coconut Oil is a saturated fat, which contrary to the push for chemically altered poly unsaturated fats, our bodies need for things like brain cell health and fuel.
2 3/4 C All-purpose flour
3 T Coconut Oil & 2 T Cold Butter (or 5 T Shortening)
3/4 t salt (I used Kosher salt)
3/4 C very warm Water
Put the flour, salt and oil/butter in a processor and pulse until combined. Slowly add the water to the mixture on a low setting until the dough forms a ball in the processor.
Put on a lightly floured surface and knead for 2 minutes.
Divide the dough into 10-14 pieces depending upon the size of the tortillas you desire. Roll the pieces into balls and let sit while you preheat the skillet. Heat a non-stick skillet over medium heat.
Roll each ball very thin. Place one or two at a time in the skillet. When the dough begins to bubble, flip the tortilla over. It only takes about a minute for each side. Don’t over-cook or they will get tough.
Remove from the pan to a serving dish. Use for tacos, burritos, quesadillas or enchiladas. You can also make fresh chips by brushing lightly with olive oil, cutting into triangles with a pizza cutter, putting the pieces on a baking sheet, sprinkling with salt and baking at 350 degrees for about 5-8 minutes until the edges are a golden brown.
If you don’t use the tortillas right away, allow them to cool and store in the refrigerator in a resealable bag.
Once you have warm, soft fresh tortillas, you won’t mind the few extra minutes of prep time. What else can flour tortillas be used for?? Here is one idea: a scrumptious Roasted Garlic and Gorgonzola Quesadilla.
- 2¾ C All-purpose flour
- 3 T Coconut Oil & 2 T Cold Butter (or 5 T Shortening)
- ¾ t salt (I used Kosher salt)
- ¾ C very warm Water
- Put the flour, salt and oil/butter in a processor and pulse until combined. Slowly add the water to the mixture on a low setting until the dough forms a ball in the processor.
- Put on a lightly floured surface and knead for 2 minutes.
- Divide the dough into 10-14 pieces depending upon the size of the tortillas you desire. Roll the pieces into balls and let sit while you preheat the skillet. Heat a non-stick skillet over medium heat.
- Roll each ball very thin. Place one or two at a time in the skillet. When the dough begins to bubble, flip the tortilla over. It only takes about a minute for each side. Don't over-cook or they will get tough.
How does it happen that so many weeks have gone by since I last posted?? My son and I have been spending most of the summer at the lake with family and friends. I really need to get an Internet connection here! Instead of typing, I just relax and take in this amazing view!
When it’s warm outside, I cook outdoors on the grill as much as possible. Grill cooking tends to be healthier than some of the heavier, gravy-laden comfort foods of the cold weather months. Especially when we steer away from the higher carbs for the cleaner eating proteins and vegetables. And, honestly, I’ve yet to find a vegetable that doesn’t taste wonderful roasted over a flame.
I typically try to mirror the spices I use to marinade or rub the meat in flavoring the vegetables. Simply toss the vegetables in olive oil and sprinkle with spices. If I am going to serve the vegetable with a Balsamic reduction, I typically just season with salt and pepper. Place in a grill pan and grill while the meat is cooking, tossing occasionally. I use a grill pan/veggie basket to prevent the vegetables from falling through the grill rack. Click here to see the type of grill pan that is my favorite because it fits next to the meat on most grills, and the holes help the vegetables to roast evenly and quickly. Most vegetables take about 20 minutes.
Here are several of my favorites:
|Cinnamon Carrots: toss with olive oil, salt and cinnamon|
|Grilled asparagus: toss with olive oil, salt, pepper and minced garlic|
|Mixed vegetables (onion, squash, red pepper & mushroom): toss with olive oil, salt, pepper and dill|
|Grilled onion, squash, carrot & mushroom: toss with olive oil, salt & pepper and serve with balsamic vinegar|
|Broccoli: toss with olive oil and grill seasoning|
|Beets: toss with olive oil, salt, pepper & thyme and serve with Raspberry Balsamic (Click for recipe)|
|Grilled Brussel Sprouts: toss with olive oil and salt & pepper|
What are your favorite ways to grill vegetables???
I used to think that beets came either in a can or pickled in a jar. My mother ate canned beets two ways: cold on a salad or warmed up (and slightly mushy) with a splash of vinegar. Come to think of it, at the time, I ranked cooked beets in the same category as cooked spinach because of those mushy, vinegary attributes. I typically just turned my nose up. I thought the pickled beets were just used for color and I moved them out of the way so I could get to the tasty pickled eggs hiding in the jar. I didn’t know what I was missing. Hurray for growing up and discovering those foods can be very tasty when prepared properly!
Beets are a root vegetable that are high in potassium. The leaves, which taste similar to spinach (funny that I had just mentioned spinach!) are a good source of vitamin A, iron and calcium. Buy beets that are smaller and have their root and at least two inches of stalk still attached. When cut too short, they will “bleed.” They keep for several weeks in a cool place.
I grew to appreciate the colorful root vegetable, but didn’t truly fall in love with beets until I roasted them. I stand by my conviction that all vegetables taste amazing when roasted, especially over an open flame. Cooking them slow and allowing all of the natural sugars to caramelize enhances the flavors. Some of my favorites are beets, broccoli, cauliflower, asparagus and brussel sprouts.
This recipe uses fresh thyme, though you could use dried thyme if you don’t have fresh handy. Just remember to use less when you use dried spices because the flavor can be more intense. Thyme has a robust, slightly lemony flavor and a woodsy, warm aroma. It can dominate other flavors, so it goes well with garlic, onions, red wine, meats and tomato based dishes. Just pinch the stem and pull down to remove the leaves. The leaves are small enough to just sprinkle into the dish or you can put a rough chop on them which can help release the flavor.
8-10 Medium Beets, peeled and cut in 1 inch dice
1 1 /2 t Fresh Thyme
2 t Salt, sea salt or kosher salt
1- 1 1/2 t coarse ground Rainbow Peppercorns
3 T Olive Oil (I used the peppery Arbosana from The Olive Twist)
Preheat oven to 400 degrees or the grill to medium or medium-high (if your grill has a thermometer, heat to 300-400 degrees).
Raspberry Balsamic Reduction
3 T Raspberry Balsamic (I also get my balsamic from The Olive Twist)
1 T juice (the original recipe called for orange juice, I used some peach mango because it was in the fridge)
Whisk together the vinegar and the juice. Add a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil and cook for 2-3 minutes.
These beets make a perfect side dish for grilled flank steak, though I just eat them by themselves for a tasty lunch! They would also be perfect as leftovers on a salad. Top mixed greens with thin slices of the flank steak, beets and crumbled bleu cheese. Make a vinaigrette with the Raspberry Balsamic, juice and a drizzle of olive oil. Serve with big, crunchy croutons. Click here for my crouton recipe.
Let me know what you think about beets after trying them roasted! Enjoy!!
National Garlic Day is actually on April 19. However, for me, everyday is garlic day! If you have read many of my posts, you know that there is no chance that I will ever have to fend off or risk falling madly in love with a vampire because garlic is coursing through my veins. After a visit to the farmer’s market last weekend, I ended up with a huge bag of garlic scapes (purchased simply because I couldn’t resist the smell) that I had no idea what to do with. So after some researching, I decided to try my variations of pickled garlic scapes and garlic scape pesto. I also needed to replenish my roasted garlic supply, so my kitchen smells absolutely incredible this afternoon!!
If you haven’t roasted garlic before, check out my post on garlic. I always keep roasted garlic on hand by storing it in a little olive oil in the refrigerator. I use it in recipes, as a spread on crackers and croutons, or sometimes just eat it right out of the container!
Scapes, however, were new to me to use. The scape is the curling top of the garlic plant and is as edible as the bulb. They are similar to green onion, only they are solid all the way through on the lower portion and have a garlic flavor. They can be used raw or cooked in pasta, salads, dips, etc. I chopped one and used it in a salad and it was very flavorful. Because I knew I couldn’t eat the entire bag before they would go bad, I searched for ways to use them that would also preserve them so I didn’t have to include garlic scapes in every meal for the next couple weeks.
About 1 pound garlic scapes, cut into pieces
1 1/4 C grated Parmesan cheese
2-3 T pine nuts (optional)
1 T fresh lemon juice
fresh ground pepper, kosher salt and sugar to taste
Slowly drizzle the olive oil into the processor while it is on low until the pesto becomes the consistency you desire. Taste and add more lemon juice or salt and sugar as needed, a small amount at a time.
Pesto can be used as an appetizer, on sandwiches, in pasta dishes and on meats. It also freezes well. I hope you enjoy this new use for garlic!
Now you are humming that song while you read this, or are so young that you are having to Google it!! I am so incredibly behind on my planting this year! I typically get my flowers and garden planted just after Mother’s Day. In the part of the universe I live in, that is when we can be fairly confident that it won’t frost or even snow anymore. But, here I am nearly a month late…the herbs that I had moved indoors for the winter were looking distressed and begging for fresh air and sunshine. So, I set out to the local greenhouses in search of a few more herbs and some vegetable plants, along with some hanging baskets to adorn my very un-springlike looking porch. What I find is very disheartening (as you can see from the photos!). Slim pickings and some real question about whether what’s left is even salvageable.
However, I am determined. The one positive is that the plants are cheap. The owner at one local greenhouse said he’d actually just give me the herbs I wanted, but his wife would kill him. I walked away with four slightly wilted but fairly large herb starts for a single dollar bill and a smile. Feeling confident that I have just enough of a green thumb to rescue these poor plants, I gathered my tools and got my container garden planted.
Container Garden Tips
Here’s a few tips for container gardens that should have you harvesting fresh herbs and veggies all summer:
- Use good dirt. Now, that doesn’t mean that you have to invest big dollars in the highest quality bag of soil you can find. In fact, I use the dirt left from the years before with a little extra added when needed. It does mean though that the soil should be free from weeds, sticks and whatever those maple tree seed pod whirly-gig things are actually called. I am also sure to clean out any bunches of dead roots that are left from the prior years plants.
- Feed the plants. I get an inexpensive slow release plant food and weed killer that you just sprinkle in the dirt. I dampen the soil and then use a hand shovel to mix in the food. I have also heard that a little bit a coffee grounds and crushed egg shells can give the soil the nutrients it needs.
- Don’t crowd the containers. You want to leave room for the roots to spread and the plant to grow, and you don’t want the plants competing for food, water and sun.
- Speaking of sun, be sure to note how much your plants can handle. Most herbs need or can handle partial to full sunlight. The pepper plants and tomato plants I get are also good with quite a bit of sun. My container garden is on the south side of my house and not shaded.
- The biggest key to growing a great container garden is watering. Be sure that you have a drainage system so the roots don’t rot. Holes in the container along with rocks under the soil work well. Most herbs need to be in damp soil at all times. Depending upon the weather, I typically water once to twice a day. I am certain to water early in the morning and in the evening to avoid the direct heat and sun of the day.
- Protect from bugs. There are a wide variety of six legged creatures that like to inhabit my garden and munch on my plants, so I get an organic spray that I put on once a week that keeps the bugs off but is safe for plants that will be consumed.
Drying Fresh Herbs:
Freezing Fresh Herbs:
I am often looking for unique casual get-together foods. Dishes that are slight twists on the average fare that people might serve or bring to a party. These tasty little sammies are an adaptation of the “Sassy Ham and Cheese Sandwiches” shared by Caryn Ross on Food Network.com and in many varieties all over the web, so I can’t take total credit for them. However, baking them in a cast iron pan is one of my adaptations. Cooking in cast iron causes the buns slathered in oniony-cheesy goodness to crisp and really adds to the flavor. And of course, it wouldn’t be a recipe of mine if there weren’t some additions of great spices to jazz things up a bit. In this case, the addition of fresh grated nutmeg which I often pair with dishes that include Swiss cheese.
As I shared in my Grown-up Mac & Cheese recipe, I use nutmeg in many savory dishes including my chili for an added depth to the flavor that will have people asking what they are tasting. Nutmeg is the hard, brown seed from the nutmeg tree which is a tropical evergreen tree. Most cooks prefer to grate it fresh from the seed. The seed should be stored in an airtight container, away from heat, moisture and sunlight. Though there is some disagreement about storing dry spices in the freezer because they may lose potency, I do store my nutmeg seeds and my ginger root in the freezer. I pull them out and grate them fresh whenever I need them. I store them for many months, and have not noticed either losing any flavor or aroma.
Why cook with cast iron?? Cast iron is a great heat conductor so it’s the optimal choice for a perfect crisp. Well-seasoned cast iron is virtually non-stick, so you can use less oil when cooking. Cast iron, when cared for, lasts for decades.
Rockin’ Ham & Cheese Sliders
1 12 count package Hawaiian style rolls
8 oz thin sliced deli ham (Black Forest or honey smoked are both great in this recipe)
8 oz grated Swiss (Gruyere or Jarlsberg both melt well and are sharp flavors)
1 8 oz block or container of cream cheese
2 t chopped green onions, just the green (chives also work)
1/4 t dried thyme
1 stick butter, melted
2 T grated onion
2 T Worcestershire sauce
1/2 t fresh grated nutmeg
Homemade Tater Chips
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Mix together the melted butter, grated onions, Parmesan cheese and Worcestershire sauce.
Thinly slice the potatoes. I use a mandolin to ensure even slices and that I still have fingers when I am done slicing. Pour about 1 1/2 inches of vegetable oil in a skillet for frying the chips. Preheat over medium high heat to 350 degrees, being careful not to go over the smoking point.
Cut the rolls in half and place the bottoms in the cast iron skillet. Top each with a couple slices of ham and some of the Swiss cheese. Spread a large dollop of the cream cheese mixture on the top roll and place on the sandwich.
Pour the butter and onion mixture of the tops of the sandwiches. Don’t try to be neat, part of the yumminess of these sliders is the cheese, butter and onions that are dripping out of the sandwiches and getting wonderfully crisp while they bake.
While the sandwiches are baking, fry the potato chips. Take a paper towel and be sure to dry the slices. Carefully place 9-12 potato slices in the hot oil. Do not over-crowd the oil. Fry until golden brown, turning once half-way through.
Remove the chips from the oil to a plate lines with paper towel to drain. Generously sprinkle with coarse ground sea salt or kosher salt and pepper while the chips are hot. Replace the towels between each batch.
It’s a beautiful day out and I want to toss something on the grill. I open the freezer and find very little looking back at me. I always keep a couple of packages of ground chicken on hand for my Buffalo Chicken Meatballs in case I need a quick appetizer for a get-together. So, I think…hmmm…what if I tweak that recipe and make burgers!??! I really love when an experiment turns out as tasty as it is in my mind when I am throwing it together!
Roasted Garlic Mayo
1 C Light Mayonnaise (I suppose you can use Miracle Whip if you prefer, just don’t tell me if you do!)
4-5 Roasted Garlic cloves
pinch of salt & pepper
Mix ingredients together and refrigerate until ready to use. Letting the ingredients marry for a day will give your mayo a great garlicky flavor.
Four Cheese Chicken Cheese Burgers
Serve on a bed of lettuce and top with a dollop of the Roasted Garlic Mayo for a healthy burger meal. This burger would be great on a whole grain bun with lettuce, onion and avocado slices. You could also substitute Bleu cheese for the Feta and top with barbecue or buffalo sauce. Or, with Cinco de Mayo coming up, substitute Monterey Jack or Pepper Jack cheese for the Mozzarella and top the burger with guacamole and salsa . The combinations are endless!
One of America’s favorite foods: pizza, meets one of the favorite pastimes: grilling! What emerges from this interaction is a thin, crispy, smoky crust topped with fresh, flavorful toppings and smooth, melted cheese. How could this not be amazingly perfect!?!
Recently, I have noticed fire grilled pizza businesses popping up at local fairs and festivals. After just a few minutes wait, you have a tasty pizza. Well, when you see how simple these are to prepare and how much fun it can be for a family or get-together with friends, you will make grilling pizza a frequent event.
I often use a store-bought bread machine mix for an easy and fail proof dough. However, this time, my dough flopped for some reason and I ended up heading to my pantry for the ingredients for dough. I still used my bread machine so that while the dough mixes and rises I can be prepping the toppings for my pizzas. You can use whatever your preferred pizza dough is; homemade, box mix or refrigerated dough.
Pizza Dough Recipe (for bread machine)
1 T Milk
1 T Oil
1 T Sugar
1/2 t Salt
2 1/4 C Flour
1 pkg Active Dry Yeast
Optional: 1 t Italian Seasoning, pinch each Garlic & Onion Powder
Place ingredients in the bread machine in the order listed and set on dough setting. Once done, put on a lightly floured surface and kneed a couples times. Pull apart into individual pizza size pieces and roll into balls. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use. The dough will continue to rise in the refrigerator, and that is okay. A cold rise slows the life cycle of yeast allowing the dough to develop more flavor. Pull the dough out and allow it to rest a few minutes before use. When you are ready to grill, oil your hands and press the dough onto an oiled baking sheet. Press out or roll until the dough is about 1/4 inch thick or less. Part of the fun in grilled pizza is the “rusticness” of the crust, so no need to worry if it isn’t a perfect circle. Brush on olive oil and the dough is ready for the grill.
Time to get your toppings ready. You can use whatever your favorite pizza toppings are. Just remember, they aren’t going to have much cooking time on the grill so anything that needs to be cooked fully, like sausage, should be prepared ahead of time. Also, veggies such as mushrooms, onions and tomatoes should be sliced very thin. I love a variety of onions (Vidalia, green and red), fresh roasted garlic (how to roast garlic), fresh basil and a combination of cheeses including fresh mozzarella and a blend of grated Parmesan and Romano.
Sweet basil is a common herb used in Italian cooking. There are actually 64 species of basil. In addition to the basic clove flavor, it comes in citrus and spicy flavors such as lemon basil and anise basil. Basil is fairly easy to grow. It prefers full sunlight, temperatures above 60 degrees and regular watering. When you want to use it, just pinch off a leaf. Fresh basil is much preferred over dried because the flavor can change when dried. Basil leaves can bruise and turn dark when cut with a knife so for most recipes, just tear it with your fingers. I use so much basil that I have to plant 2-3 plants in my herb garden to keep up.
Preheat the grill and set temperature at medium heat. Be sure the grill rack is clean so you don’t end up with remnants of your last grilled meal in your pizza crust…yuck! Brush oil on the rack. Unless you are very familiar with your grill’s temperature settings and the location of any “hot spots,” start with one [test] crust…just in case! My dough took about 3-4 minutes each side.
Now, comes the part where you have to act fast. Once you have flipped the crust over, quickly put on the desired toppings and get the lid closed so they can warm and the cheese can melt. If you are going to let others put their toppings on, you will need to remove the crust to the baking sheet while they top it and then put it back on the grill.
Cook an additional 3-4 minutes or until the bottom is grilled to your preference and the cheese is melted. I love the flavor of the slightly burnt edges of the crust and the way the fresh mozzarella cheese melts. When you bite into the pizza, you get a little of all of the textures: crunch of the crust, tender crisp vegetables and warm, soft cheeses.
The variety of pizzas you can make are endless! If someone isn’t a marinara sauce fan, have some garlic butter or an Alfredo sauce available. Garlic butter with mushrooms, spinach and grilled chicken is a great combination. The Caps and Bleu Cheese Flatbread I make would also be excellent on the grill. I could go on and on, but I am making myself hungry! So, go ahead and try grilled pizza…I bet you won’t be ordering delivery this summer!