2 ingredient Whole Chicken {In the Crockpot}

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I think I’m almost ready for the New Year.  I don’t really do the whole resolution thing per se, but I do spend quite a bit of time trying to think of how to simplify my life.  And for me, dinner is a big part of that simplification process.  And dinner doesn’t get any simpler than this!  A whole chicken roasted in the Crockpot.

I sort of stumbled into this method out of necessity.  I live near a chicken processing plant and buy my chickens already seasoned and frozen – in bulk.  It was taking forever to defrost a whole chicken in my refrigerator (because it thinks it’s a freezer – can’t wait for it to die so I can buy a new one!), so out of desperation I threw the whole frozen chicken into my Crockpot, and I’ve never looked back.

If you don’t have access to already seasoned and frozen chickens, simply season your own and freeze!  There is no need to add water when cooking the chicken!

2 Ingredient Whole Chicken

1 whole chicken

seasoning salt or other spice rub

Generously season the whole chicken with seasoning salt, and place in a 2 quart freezer bag.  Once frozen, use any time you like by placing the whole frozen chicken in a Crockpot for 10 hours on low.

*I have cooked the chicken for 8 hours on low in a pinch, and it was good, just not as tender as cooking for 10 hours.

Bonus!  You can strain the juices from the cooked chicken and freeze in large ice cube containers for instant stock cubes!






Hawaiian Sweet Rolls

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Thanksgiving is next week!  It’s time to talk about some rolls.  I just love everything about sweet dinner rolls.  The smell, the soft puffiness, the way they bounce out of the baking pan.  And I love the taste of them.  I could eat like three.  But I can’t.  So I won’t.  I’ll just admire them from afar.

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These rolls are best served the day they are made, but they’re still good the next day.  You can also place them in a freezer bag and freeze them for up to a month.

Now I know there are a ton of directions below.  Do not let that dissuade you from trying these out – just read through first, and get ready to make these over and over again for your family!

Hawaiian Sweet Rolls Adapted from Bakeaholic Mama

4 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast

1/2 cup warm water

1/4 teaspoon sugar

2/3 cup pineapple juice

1/2 cup coconut milk

1/2 cup melted, unsalted butter

1/4 honey

3 eggs, room temperature (if eggs are cold, place the eggs in a bowl of hot tap water to warm up, then crack as usual)

1 Tablespoon coarse kosher salt

5 to 6 cups bread flour

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the yeast, water, and sugar.  Let set for about 5 to 10 minutes, or until foamy.

Add the melted butter and whisk to combine.  Then add the pineapple juice, coconut milk, honey, eggs, and salt.  Whisk together until combined.

Add the flour, 1 cup at a time, and stir until the dough gets hard to stir in the bowl.  Turn out onto a floured surface and knead the dough – adding more flour as needed, until the dough is slightly sticky and smooth.

Set the dough in a large bowl and cover the top with plastic wrap, or let the dough rise in a dough rising bucket with the lid just sitting on top.

Let the dough sit at room temperature until doubled in size.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead a couple of times.  Divide the dough into 12 equal pieces – roughly 4.3 to 4.6 ounces each (this will just depend on how much flour you end up using).  Use your kitchen scale for this task!

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Spray a 9×13 glass baking pan with nonstick spray.  Form each section of dough into a ball (see below for tutorial), and place on the pan – there is enough room across for three rows of (four) rolls (see below).

Place a damp dish towel over the pan of rolls and let rise for about an hour, or until doubled.

Gently brush dough with egg wash.  2 egg yolks + 2 Tablespoons heavy cream – strained through a sieve (that way it’s nice and smooth).

Save any leftover egg wash in a covered container in the refrigerator for 1 week.

Bake the rolls for 25 minutes.  They should be golden brown and fluffy.  Let cool in the pan for about 10 minutes.  Then carefully lift them out, or flip them over onto the counter (like me).  These are best enjoyed the day you make them, or the following day.

They also freeze beautifully and can be reheated wrapped in foil at 350 degrees for about 15 minutes, or until soft and warm.

Form each roll into a ball, and stretch it into a fat disc.

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Next, push up through the center of the dough with one hand, while using the other to pull down the edges around it.

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While the top will look smooth, the bottom will look like a big wad of collected dough (because that’s what it is!).

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The top is smooth, and ready to be placed in the greased 9×13 inch baking pan.

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After the dough has risen they look so beautiful and puffy!

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Perfectly browned and delicious!

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Fresh Homemade Pizza Dough

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I can’t say enough great things about this pizza dough – it’s reliable, can be frozen prior to baking, and frozen after baking, fashioned into muffins, mini pizzas, or full sized.  It’s just the bee’s knees.

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And since it’s summer, I’ve been making it a lot.  So I’m finally posting it here for you lovely people to make for your pizza lovers.  The mini muffin pizzas are perfect to serve as appetizers or a simple snack for kids’ parties.

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My friend Janna was out here visiting with her husband and I made them come over for dinner and make their own pizzas.  Which I thought was a lot of fun.  I made 3 double batches of pizza dough, and suffice it to say – we had plenty.  What can I say, I have issues.

If you really want to gild the lily, you can heat up this spread and dip your pizza in it.  Oh my gosh, it’s so good!

Fresh Homemade Pizza Dough Adapted from The Family Kitchen (double recipe)

2 2/3 cups warm water

3 teaspoons sugar

2 teaspoons active dry yeast

5 Tablespoons olive oil

2 1/2 teaspoons coarse kosher salt

7 1/2 cups bread flour (approx.)

In a large mixing bowl stir together the water, sugar, and yeast and let sit for 6 minutes.  Add the olive oil and the salt and stir.  Stir in 4 cups of flour.  Add an additional cup of flour as needed.  Continue to add flour until the dough starts to firm up.  Then pour the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for about 5 minutes.  Adding more flour as necessary until the kneaded dough is smooth like playdough – you may not need to use all the flour.

Place the dough into a large bowl to rise – cover with plastic wrap and lay a clean (dry) dishtowel over the plastic wrap, and refrigerate overnight.

I’ve also had great luck making the dough the same day and allowing it to rise at room temperature until doubled (about 1-2 hours).

When you are ready to use it, punch the dough down and on a lightly floured surface knead it a couple of times.  Divide into 6 – 8 pieces (or more depending on the size of pizza you’re making), and let the dough sit at room temperature covered (if the dough was chilled) for 20 minutes; otherwise, roll out the pizza dough and place on a parchment-lined baking dish sprinkled with cornmeal (or use a well greased cast iron pan), and top with sauce and any other toppings (except cheese).

Bake in a 400 degree oven for 15-20 minutes.  Then take the pizza out and top with freshly shredded mozzarella.*  Then return the pizza to the oven for another 5-10 minutes to finish cooking and melt the cheese.

Serve hot or cold!

*If you buy cheese that has been already shredded it will contain an ingredient that prevents the cheese strands from sticking to each other, which in turn prevents the shredded cheese from fully melting together.  For this reason, I prefer to shred my own fresh cheese.

To make meatball mini muffin pizzas:

Simply make small rounds of dough and fill a muffin pan with the dough overhanging, add sauce to the bottom of the dough, and a cooked meatball and bake for 15-20 minutes at 400 degrees.  Top with cheese and bake for another 5-10 minutes until the cheese is melted.

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To make frozen pizzas:

Simply make the dough, roll the dough out and top with sauce and toppings (except the cheese) and bake at 400 degrees for 5 minutes to parbake.  Let the pizzas cool, then top with cheese and freeze.  Once frozen, about 30 minutes, cover each pizza with plastic wrap and store in a large plastic storage bag.  To heat, remove the plastic wrap and place the pizza on a baking sheet, lined with parchment, and bake at 400 degrees for 15-20 minutes, or until the crust is heated through and the cheese is melted.

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Fresh Gulf Seafood Nachos

Fresh Shrimp and Crab Nachos 022My family just got back from vacationing in St. George Island, FL.  And like any normal foodie, I took along my camera and sketchbook to hunt down local recipes to recreate at home.

I read about Eddy Teach’s Raw Bar in a magazine about three years ago, and after learning that they have other menu options to offer, decided to go check it out.

For those of you interest in the raw bar bit, happy hour is at 3:30 p.m. until 4:30 p.m. (subject to change – if you click the website you’ll understand that they make their own rules), for half priced oysters – cooked or raw.  There is no happy hour on holidays and weekends.  Oh, and if you’re new just grab a table and the waitress will find you.  Weird right?

Also, I should say that their oysters are so popular that they literally open them and serve them – raw.  Obviously the cooked ones are opened and then cooked.  But the shells are not cleaned – they literally have shells attached to them.  I’ve never seen such a thing.  If you’re into dives and a really laid back atmosphere (with live music) then this place is for you.  Don’t forget to bring your sharpie to sign the table!

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Moving onto the seafood nachos – the bad news is that I completely didn’t take any photos of Eddy’s Seafood Nachos, because I forgot.  Sigh.  However, you should know that they were yellow corn chips assembled in the traditional way with all the toppings stacked on top.

This always bothers me, because the nachos on top get all the love, then when you polish those off the rejects are left behind with no toppings.  And if you’re sharing, then there is a mad rush to see who gets all of the good ones.

Well, I decided that there had to be a better way, so I used Tostitos Scoops for my chips – my husband balked at first, because the restaurant used yellow corn chips, but he came around when he realized that using the scoops meant that you were guaranteed to get everything in each bite.

It goes without saying that these would make an awesome summer appetizer – and you can really stretch your fresh seafood.  I’m thinking I may add come fresh cooked corn next time.

Fresh Gulf Seafood Nachos Inspired by Eddy Teach’s Raw Bar – their menu lists these as Seafood Nachos

32 Tostitos Scoops chips

3/4 cup grated Asiago cheese

1 cup grated Colby Jack cheese

1 cup grated Mozzarella cheese

1/4 cup frozen spinach, defrosted and squeezed dry

1/2 cup sour cream

1/4 cup salsa, I used Herdez

1/3 cup of diced sweet onion, I used Vidalia

1/2 cup of diced, and seeded, fresh tomatoes

8 large shrimp (16 ct), cooked*, each cut into four pieces

1/2 cup of fresh cooked crab meat

6 cooked bay scallops (preferably seared in butter), chopped

1/2 cup fresh cilantro (whole or chiffonade)

1 lemon

1 lime

*Clean and devein the shrimp – then boil the shrimp in boiling water with a sprinkle of salt and 1/2 a lemon and lime for 2 minutes, then place the shrimp in a bowl of ice to cool them down.  Squeeze the remaining 1/2 lemon and 1/2 lime over the cooked and cooled shrimp.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Place the scoops onto a baking sheet and place a bit of spinach in each cup.  Then sprinkle with the Colby Jack, Mozzarella, and Asiago cheeses.  Place in the oven for about 3-4 minutes, or until the cheese is nice and melted.

Take the chips out of the oven and set aside to cool for a moment.  In the meantime, mix together the sour cream and the salsa – adjust as needed for taste (more of either).  Then set aside.

Top the chips with onions and tomatoes, then spoon the sour cream mixture onto each chip.  Top each chip with crab, a piece of shrimp, and some bay scallop and sprinkle on the cilantro.

Serve immediately!  As with most nachos, these don’t stay warm for long, which is okay because they are awesome at room temperature with a glass of wine.

Beef Chili Mac and Cheese

June 2014 045This is another family favorite meal, and it comes together super quick and easy.  Another favorite part?  There is actual real cheese stirred right in, and it’s so good.  I love how the meat ends up cradled in the saucy shells.

My kids prefer it with crackers instead of green onion, but it’s the only way I get a whole bowl to myself.  A mom’s got to do what a mom’s got to do!

Feel free to double this or omit the noodles and freeze it for an easy school night meal.

Beef Chili Mac and Cheese Adapted from Tracey’s Culinary Adventures

1 Tablespoon vegetable oil

1 medium sweet onion, minced

1 Tablespoon chili powder

1 Tablespoon ground cumin

3 garlic cloves, minced

1 tablespoon brown sugar

1 teaspoon salt

¼ – ½ teaspoons freshly ground black pepper

Sprinkle of red pepper flakes

1 pound ground beef

1 1/2 cups water

1 15-oz can tomato sauce

8 oz (about 2 cups) orecchiette, slightly undercooked (it’ll continue cooking in the sauce)*

1 1/2 -2 cups shredded fresh Colby Jack cheese

In a large skillet, brown the ground beef in the oil.  Then add the sugar, seasonings, garlic, and onions.  Stir in the tomato sauce and water and heat until boiling.  It’ll cook down a little, then add the undercooked noodles and the shredded cheese – stir until melted.  Continue to cook until it’s the consistency you prefer – as you can tell, I prefer mine thick.  Keep in mind, it will thicken slightly as it cools.

*This can be made gluten free simply by using gluten free noodles – I’ve had great luck with Tinkyada Gluten Free Pasta.

Pasta with Clam Sauce

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Believe it or not, this is a very popular dish at my house.  Everyone will eat it and ask for seconds.  The good news, is that it takes longer to boil the water for the pasta than it does to prepare this sauce.  So it’s a great weeknight recipe to throw together, and it’s nice and light, which is perfect for summer.

The original recipe calls for three cans of clams with the juice, but fights break out at my house over the clams, thus the extra can of clams drained.

I like to serve it with roasted garlic bread and a fresh salad.

Linguini and Clam Sauce recipe from mom

1 medium onion, chopped

1 clove garlic, minced

3 Tablespoons unsalted butter

4  cans (6 1/2 ounces) clams in juice (drain one can)

1/2 teaspoon coarse kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon sweet basil

1/8 teaspoon pepper

1 pound cooked pasta, preferably spaghetti, capellini, or fettuccine

Saute the onion and garlic in the butter.  Add the clams with their juice and the extra can (drained), and the seasonings.  Heat 5 minutes, or until hot.  Add cooked pasta to the sauce, give it a good stir, and serve!

*I usually keep the pot on the stove on low after serving everyone just to keep the pasta warm.

Tomatillo (Green) Enchilada Sauce

Claire's 4th Birthday Party 097Oh, yum!  These were so good – they’re filled with shredded chicken, refried beans, cheese, and sour cream, but the real star is the amazing green sauce.  The fact is, I’m not a huge fan of the red enchilada sauce, but this, I could eat it everyday!

The original recipe called for green bell peppers, but I love the sweetness and red pops of color from the red peppers.  You can serve it on scrambled eggs, enchiladas, and grilled chicken.

Tomatillo Enchilada Sauce Adapted from Our Best Bites

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 large onion, minced

6 garlic cloves, minced

4 – 5 mini sweet red peppers (you could also sub 2 regular red peppers)

2 – 3 jalapenos seeded

1 1/2 pounds tomatillos*, husked and cut into quarters

1 bunch of fresh cilantro, just lob off the top bunch of leaves

1 1/2 teaspoons Coarse Kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1 1/2 teaspoons cumin

4 cups chicken broth

1 Tablespoon sugar

1 fresh lime, squeezed

In a large blender (or food processor) add the tomatillos, cilantro, and peppers with 1 cup of stock and puree.  Set aside.

In a large pot, sauté the onions and garlic in olive oil until translucent.  Add the pureed tomatillo mixture and add the salt, cumin, pepper, sugar, lime juice and the remaining stock – stir until combined.

Cook on medium heat for 30 minutes to 1 hour – until you have reached the consistency you prefer.

*I bought roughly a dozen tomatillos, but only used 10 because two were moldy when I husked them.  The lesson?  Buy a few extra!