Hoppin’ John – Revisited ~ SoCal-Style

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All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2012

Follow @celisemccarthy

The last day of the year.  A grim year for me in many ways – a very happy year for me in others.  Lost my beautiful 4 year old son, Grisbi, in August.

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No explanation for his passing.  He died in his sleep – exactly where he is in these two photos.  DEVASTATING!

But I was gifted a new little angel – the incredible Memphis Blues.

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He has managed to more than fill the huge hole that was left not only in my heart – but in the hearts of my other kids – Dexter & Moxie (shown here very young.  As you can see – I have a huge ear fetish).

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I also managed to find an amazing guy & managed to convince him I was a good catch, too.  Isn’t Miles cute?

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Worked a bit here & there, got my film – Bathing & the Single Girl – into over 100 film festivals.  I traveled to Oxford, Mississippi and Victoria, Texas and Kansas City and Little Rock, Arkansas and Saugatuck, Michigan and Louisville, Kentucky and Orlando, Florida and Gluckstadt, Mississippi with Miles and Miles came to LA three times.  I also went to San Francisco with my parents.  I rewrote my novel, got a few more rejection letters telling me how HILARIOUS I am and I started this blog.

I get to hike here for free as often as I want (which I mention here as something I am always grateful for):

And see coyotes frequently

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That guy is one of three we watched cross the road yesterday at 11am.  Last week – one was following a hiker so closely – we mistook him for the guy’s pet.  Anyway – I digress.

I’m getting audited (UGH!) and my driver’s license renewal requires I take the written test again (almost worse than getting audited).

Anyway – I won’t dwell on the ugly minutia because I am too aware – for example – that Newtown exists & I cannot even imagine the heartbreak there or on Staten Island or any one of the other places in this country alone where true tragedies & unspeakable losses took place.  Humbled by those things – I still REEEEEEALLY hope next year is a SAFER, better – and more prosperous – year than this one was.  For all of us.

So – I revisit the southern tradition – New Year’s Day Hoppin’ John – dressed this time with a little So Cal flair.  Hoppin’ john (black-eyed peas) are served on New Year’s Day to bring prosperity.  A friend on Facebook added this note to my Hoppin’ John recipe of yesterday:

“As a Southerner from South Carolina—you add the ham hock to the beans as they cook. Remove from beans after having simmered for several hours and shred the meat off of the hock and add back into the beans. If you quick cook the beans, brown the ham hock before adding to the beans—still cooking with beans until beans are done! Don’t forget the collard greens–hoppin’ johns are nothing without collards and hot pepper sauce! Black eyed peas represent coins and collards represent folding money!! HAPPY NEW YEAR!”

CLICK HERE to see yesterday’s post & the full recipe for Hoppin’ John.

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The dish here is simply that dish but garnished with cilantro, parsley, tomatoes, lots more diced green chilies and avocado – served over a long grain white rice rather than the red cargo rice I used yesterday.  Also – I recommend using a good hot sauce – like Crystal – (not my image)

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Or the equally yummy Trappey’s.  Or both!

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And most importantly – DO NOT run out of champagne!!

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HAPPY HAPPY new year to all of you!!!!!!

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New Years Day Spicy Hoppin’ John (vegetarian – vegan) with Red Cargo Rice

2 cups uncooked rice of your choice

1 lb dried black eyed peas (or 2 lbs canned – drained & rinsed)

1 medium onion – diced

3-6 garlic cloves – diced

4 celery stalks – diced

1 red bell pepper – diced

1 7oz can diced green chilies (optional)

2-3 chipotle peppers in adobo – diced (more or less – to your taste)

1/4 tsp baking soda

1 TBS ground cumin

1 TBS olive oil

S&P to taste

GARNISH OPTIONS:

2 tomatoes – diced

4 scallions sliced

fresh Italian parsley – chopped

Fresh cilantro – chopped

1 small red onion – diced

Avocado – sliced

Tabasco (or other hot sauce)

COINS (Pennies – silver dollars?  Your call) – for placement under each serving dish

DIRECTIONS

Cook your rice according to the package instructions.

If you are using dried black eyed peas – bring a pot of water to a rapid boil.  Add the black eyed peas & boil for ten minutes.  Turn off heat, cover & let stand for an hour.  Drain & RINSE WELL.

In a large saute pan, heat the olive oil & saute the garlic, onion, red pepper and celery until the vegetable are soft.

The rest of the steps are the same whether you are going stove top with canned beans or slow cooker with dried beans.  The only difference is the time involved and the fact that the canned beans will need almost no water added.  The slow cooker beans will need a good 5 hours.  The stove top version could – arguably – be eaten almost immediately (but the longer it sits simmering – the better).

If you are using bacon – fry it up & the chop it.  If using a ham hock – I don’t know.  Do you add it to the black eyed peas already cooked?  I imagine so.

Anyway – once your vegetables are sauteed, you simply combine the already partly cooked beans with the vegetables, chipotle, green chilies, cumin, baking soda and S&P with (in the case of dried beans) 4 cups of fresh water (not the water used to cook the beans) – or in the canned bean instance – maybe 1 cup of water.  Stove top – heat until boiling, then lower heat & simmer covered until you are ready to eat.

For you slow cookers – I set my cooker at high, covered it & stirred the contents occasionally.  The beans were pretty tender after 5 hours.  In fact – they could probably take more time if you felt like it but I feared they would begin to break up & look like an ugly mush.   Taste – season with S&P – serve over rice with whichever garnishes you selected.

Slow Cooker New Years Day Spicy Hoppin’ John (vegetarian – vegan) with Red Cargo Rice

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All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2012

Follow @celisemccarthy

I had a kinda tough year & an even harder holiday season.  Not as bad as some – but certainly bad enough for me to want things to take a turn for the better.  Hoppin’ John is a traditional southern dish, typically served on New Years Day to bring a prosperous new year.  Here is WIKIPEDIA’S explanation.  I didn’t add peas to mine but you certainly can & I love the idea of serving each bowl with a coin beneath it to ramp up the good fortune.

This is CRAZY easy to make & tastier than you might guess – even without the bacon or ham hock.  Still – if you like these things – feel free to add them.  I made these in a slow cooker with dried beans but these can be done very quickly on your stove top with canned beans.  Also – I made a shitload – mainly because I added too many chipotle peppers to my first batch – so I doubled the batch to lessen the heat.  I will post the recipe here for a single pound of dried beans, however.  If you use canned – use two pounds or so.

Also – I used red cargo rice because I already had some made & because I enjoy the crunch it has (and the extra fiber!) but a long grained white rice is traditional  – and, arguably, prettier.   I buy the red cargo rice at my local Thai market.  I imagine it can be found on Amazon – as everything can be had on Amazon these days – but do not feel pressure to use this specific rice.    White rice, instant rice, basmati, brown – whatever.

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New Years Day Spicy Hoppin’ John (vegetarian – vegan) with Red Cargo Rice

2 cups uncooked rice of your choice

1 lb dried black eyed peas (or 2 lbs canned – drained & rinsed)

1 medium onion – diced

3-6 garlic cloves – diced

4 celery stalks – diced

1 red bell pepper – diced

1 7oz can diced green chilies (optional)

2-3 chipotle peppers in adobo – diced (more or less – to your taste)

1/4 tsp baking soda

1 TBS ground cumin

1 TBS olive oil

S&P to taste

GARNISH OPTIONS:

2 tomatoes – diced

4 scallions sliced

fresh Italian parsley – chopped

Fresh cilantro – chopped

1 small red onion – diced

Avocado – sliced

Tabasco (or other hot sauce)

COINS (Pennies – silver dollars?  Your call) – for placement under each serving dish

DIRECTIONS

Cook your rice according to the package instructions.

If you are using dried black eyed peas – bring a pot of water to a rapid boil.  Add the black eyed peas & boil for ten minutes.  Turn off heat, cover & let stand for an hour.  Drain & RINSE WELL.

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In a large saute pan, heat the olive oil & saute the garlic, onion, red pepper and celery until the vegetable are soft.

The rest of the steps are the same whether you are going stove top with canned beans or slow cooker with dried beans.  The only difference is the time involved and the fact that the canned beans will need almost no water added.  The slow cooker beans will need a good 5 hours.  The stove top version could – arguably – be eaten almost immediately (but the longer it sits simmering – the better).

If you are using bacon – fry it up & the chop it.  If using a ham hock – I don’t know.  Do you add it to the black eyed peas already cooked?  I imagine so.

Anyway – once your vegetables are sauteed, you simply combine the already partly cooked beans with the vegetables, chipotle, green chilies, cumin, baking soda and S&P with (in the case of dried beans) 4 cups of fresh water (not the water used to cook the beans) – or in the canned bean instance – maybe 1 cup of water.  Stove top – heat until boiling, then lower heat & simmer covered until you are ready to eat.

For you slow cookers – I set my cooker at high, covered it & stirred the contents occasionally.  The beans were pretty tender after 5 hours.  In fact – they could probably take more time if you felt like it but I feared they would begin to break up & look like an ugly mush.   Taste – season with S&P – serve over rice with whichever garnishes you selected.

Pour a deep glass of wine or beer or bubbly & embrace the hair of the dog that bit you last night.

And – HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!

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Eggy-Weggy Breakfast Pizza Roll-Up or Wrap

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All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2012

I’m not a big breakfast food person but sometimes, especially during the holidays, I like an excuse to crack a bottle of champagne too early & swill it down with some brunch fare.  I will not post a formal recipe with this one because it is endlessly customizable.  The nice thing about this pizza wrap over other wraps is that the pizza crust gets crispy & holds its shape where tortillas and such would not.  It sliced up easily & held together nicely & each slice could be eaten cookie-style.  Fill this with whatever you might put in an omelette – vegetables, cheeses, meats – your call.  I used a ball of PIZZA DOUGH about the size of a pool ball & rolled it out pretty thin.

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I sauteed some veggie sausage in olive oil with garlic.

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I scrambled two eggs & added some of the veggie sausage & grated mozzarella & cheddar.

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I left it a tad undercooked because the eggs would cook further in the oven.

I put the eggs, more cheese & some pico de gallo onto the rolled out pizza dough.

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I rolled that bad boy up (it tore a bit but that isn’t an issue) – and put it on a greased cooking sheet.

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I baked this at about 450 for about 10 minutes.

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The split in the back leaked only a tiny bit.

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I sliced it up & ate it up.  With champagne, of course!  Try it!  These are fun!

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Chipotle Vegetable Split Pea Soup (Vegetarian – Vegan)

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All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2012

Wednesday night I had the great pleasure of being invited to return as a guest on the Sheena Metal show – this time to promote this very blog!  We talked about many things, however, some food related, others not.  Sheena is a great hostess & keeps the conversation flowing & interesting.  The entire interview can be heard HERE.  Some topics we covered were my pitch to the OG 90210 producers to do a Gilligan’s Island (with the Mosquitos) episode & cast the West Beverly High gang as members of the Gilligan’s Island cast.  I couldn’t wait to get Brenda (as Mary Ann), Kelly (as Ginger) & Andrea (as Mrs. Howell) on screen doing this:

We talked about my growing guilt about buying anything but pastured eggs – having seen this video below.  It isn’t slaughterhouse footage or gory in any way.  It just shows 100 free range hens being released to a sanctuary – but the state they are in is deplorable.  I post this here now hoping you all will watch it & maybe buy/use fewer eggs – or better yet – support the growing pastured egg business by seeking out that variety.  This isn’t gross video – just very sad.

We also discussed how much we both hate Facebook (as a necessary evil) and I brought up my new obsession with internet sensation – Colonel Meow.  Check this “scotch & treaties” obsessed bad boy out.

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(Colonel Meow images borrowed from his Facebook page.)

Have you ever seen anything more glorious??  Plus – he has the funniest things to say to us, his minions.  Seriously.  The only thing that makes me happier than Colonel Meow is Loca the special pug.  TRUST me & watch this awesome guy HERE.  I must admit I cry at the end (in a happy way) but I cry watching The voice – so take my tears with a grain of salt (See how I did that?  Salt?  Cooking?  I’m a real card.).

Speaking of The Voice — Bruno Mars – a new discovery for me.  LOVE this song!

After & hour of intellectualizing & laughing with Sheena – I got in the car to head back to Hollywood from the valley.  At rush hour.  Impatient with traffic, I jumped into the center lane in a rush to get up to the green arrow in the left turn lane.  As I sped up there & took the turn – I saw a cop car pull into the lane & take the turn with me.  Fuck.  And yup.  He got me.

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I played innocent (“I didn’t realize it was illegal to pull into the center lane to turn.”) which had no impact.  “The double yellow lines are CLEARLY marked, m’am.”  License, registration & proof of insurance.  Ugh.  Then – a stern little speech about cleaning up my act and he let me go with a warning.  MERRY CHRISTMAS to me!  Thank God!  I told him I was insanely grateful & he waved me off & went back to the squad car.

Ah – so – what for dinner?  Having already spent way too much money on groceries & black market wine (that story HERE) – I forced myself to cook something with ONLY what I had on hand.  I threw it all together & behold!  My Chipotle Vegetable Split Pea Soup is IRRESISTIBLE!   Another easy, low cost & fairly healthy result.  Try it!  So yummy on a cold day!  Don’t be thrown by the ingredients.  If there there are some you do not have or do not like – omit them.  I used celery root because I had it & love it – no other reason.  If you don’t have smoked paprika – blow it off.  If you hate spicy food – drop the jalapenos & chipotle.  Add cooked ham if you like meat.  This soup is endlessly customizable.

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Chipotle Vegetable Split Pea Soup

INGREDIENTS

1 lb split green peas

4 TBS olive oil

1/2 celery root (optional) – diced

5 carrots – diced

4 stalks of celery – diced

2 jalapenos (optional) – seeded & diced

4 garlic cloves – whole or diced

1 onion – diced

1-4 chipotle peppers & adobo sauce (optional) – diced fine

1 TBS fresh thyme – chopped

2-3 bay leaves

1 tsp savory

1 tsp poultry seasoning

1/2 tsp smoked paprika

S&P to taste (I used about 1 tsp of each)

7 cups vegetable stock (or bouillon dissolved in 6 cups water) – more for thinner soup – less for thicker soup

Fresh parsley or cilantro – for garnish

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The best thing about Smart & Final’s brand of split peas is that they are “great for cooking.”  Says so – right on the bag!

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DIRECTIONS

Chop all your vegetables up.

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Heat the olive oil in a deep stock pot.  Saute all the vegetables (celery root, carrots, celery, onion, jalapeno, garlic)  for about 15 minutes or so – until softened.

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Add thyme, bay leaves, savory, poultry seasoning, smoked paprika, chipotle peppers and S&P.  Stir it about & then add the split peas.

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Stir this around then add maybe 1/2 cup of your stock & deglaze the bottom of your pan.  Once everything seems nicely blended – add the balance of your stock.

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I used 4 cups that I had in the freezer of my own homemade vegetable stock (plus 3 cups of tap water) but water & some veggie bouillon is great, too.

Heat until boiling.  Lower heat to low, cover & simmer for and hour or so – or until the peas are soft & begin to break up.  Remove the bay leaves.  At this point – I used a hand immersion blender & blended most of the soup up – leaving about 1/4 in chunky form, unblended.  You can choose to go all rustic & blend none of it – or traditional & blend it completely.  Totally your call.  Top with chopped parsley or cilantro – and devour it!

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Shrimp & Tortilla Cheesy Lasagna in a Pink Sauce

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All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2012

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Once again – a make-shift invention born of the need to not waste ingredients I already had.  My recent homemade tortilla fixation nets me twelve tortillas at a time.  I eat two meals a day.  Even if I eat NOTHING but quesadillas (and that is what I have been doing – just ask my growing arse) – that is still 6 days of eating.  The tortillas have a three day shelf life – I am discovering.  So – out of desperation not to throw away more unused & stale tortillas – I came up with this guy.  I had everything in it already.  I used a frozen batch of my Roasted Tomato & Garlic Pasta Sauce which I recently tried on pizza & found it too acidic.  I had heavy cream left over from my Vegetable Pot Pie Cupcakes – and I plotted to curb the acid of the sauce with the smooth silkiness of the dairy.  I had a lot of grated cheese (a mix of cheddar & mostly mozzarella).  I also had frozen shrimp.  I know that cheese & seafood are an ill-suited pairing (some Italian restaurants even stating on their menus that they will not comply with any request to cheese up a seafood dish) – but these were some BS frozen shrimp in a two pound bag in danger of dying a second death due to advanced freezer burn so I decided to risk the arrival of the food police and blend them up in a recipe with a HEAVY dose of cheese.  My shrimp had tails – which I had to remove post-cooking.

I just took this thing out of the oven & tasted the slice you see in the photos.  HOLY CRAP!  This is one of the most delicious things I have ever made.  It was all I could do not to just inhale the whole piece – even though I had just eaten a quesadilla.  Outrageously delicious & undeniably, flat out out AWFUL for you!  SO much fatty cheese & cream & tortillas & yum!   I bet this would go over very big with kids or at football parties.

This is a very easy dish to prepare – especially if you use a jarred sauce (but try not to!  Try this easy 5 minute arrabiata sauce – if you possibly can) & pre-made tortillas.  You could cut the heavy cream entirely, too, to lessen the devastation to your waistline.  Maybe use cooked chicken or cooked sausage rather than shrimp?  But whatever way you make it – you gotta try it!  Trust me!

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Shrimp & Tortilla Cheesy Lasagna in a Pink Sauce

INGREDIENTS

5 flour tortillas

3 TBS butter

30 shrimp or about 1 lb – peeled & cleaned

1 tsp crushed red pepper (optional)

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp ground pepper

6 cloves of garlic – chopped coarsely

2 cups tomato sauce

1 cup heavy cream (optional)

2 cups (or to taste) grated cheese (mozzarella or a mozzarella blend)

fresh parsley – chopped

Pico de Gallo – as garnish

DIRECTIONS

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.

Melt the butter in a frying pan & cook the shrimp with the garlic (I left mine whole – but you can use chopped garlic), salt, pepper & crushed red pepper (if using).  When they are pink – remove from heat.  Err on the side of under-cooking because they will cook more in the oven.

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Blend the two cups of tomato sauce with the heavy cream (if you are using it).

Grease (with olive oil, butter or cooking spray) a deep pie dish.  Put a tortilla on the bottom.  Layer with 1/4 of the shrimp, 1/5 the sauce, 1/5 the cheese & some parsley. Add another tortilla, press it down & continue in the same manner until the last tortilla which you only top with sauce & cheese.

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Bake at 350 for 20-30 minutes or until the cheese begins to brown.  Remove from the oven & let rest a good ten minutes before cutting into it.

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Make a promise to yourself not to step on the scale for a few days – and serve this baby hot with more chopped parsley & pico de gallo (if using).

Enjoy!

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FOLLOW UP!!!!  This tastes great at room temperature, too!  And here is how it looks sliced up – cold out of the fridge:

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Chipotle Sweet Potato & Caramelized Onion Quesadilla with Goat Cheese on Homemade Flour Tortillas

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All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2012


Well – now that I know how easy it is to make homemade tortillas – I’ve kinda gotten lazy & have been living on an all-quesadilla-all-the-time diet.  Once you invest in the 5 lb bag of cheese from Smart & Final and the 10 lb bag of flour – all you really need is a bunch of creative details, other ingredients – most of which can be overlapped from one quesadilla adventure to the next.

I will post two more random choices from my quesadilla marathon: a sweet potato & onion one & a simple mozzarella & green chile version.  They are both delicious!  The sweet potato one is stuffed pretty thick & is rather substantial.  Here is the sweet potato one but made with spinach tortillas (which were beginning to stale & get too crumbly):

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FLOUR TORTILLAS

INGREDIENTS

3 cups flour

2 tsp baking powder

1-2 tsp salt

5 TBS olive oil

1 – 1 1/2 cups water

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DIRECTIONS

In your food processor, pulse the flour, baking powder & salt until blended.  Add the olive oil & pulse until it is incorporated.  Add water in a slow stream & pulse until it is completely incorporated and the dough has formed a tacky ball & is traveling around the bowl.  You might not need all the water – you might need a bit extra.  If it is too sticky – just add a bit more flour & pulse it around.

Put the dough on a lightly floured surface & roll it around to eliminate any tackiness that remains.  Dived the dough into four balls & then divide each of those four balls into three more balls.  Each ball should be about the size of a golf ball.  Let the dough rest 10 minutes or so.

Roll out each ball as flat & thin as you can – or until they are about 8 inches across.  Heat a large skillet over medium high heat.  Do not use any oil or cooking spray.   Leave the pan dry.  Cook each tortilla on each side about 20 seconds or until brown spots begin to appear.  Over cooking will make them crispy so err on the side of under-cooking.

Store under a clean kitchen towel as you cook all 12 tortillas.

Wrap the ones you do not use in a zip-lock bag or tightly in plastic wrap & store on your counter for up as long as they last (3 days or so) before getting stale.

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PRINT THIS QUESADILLA RECIPE

 

Chipotle Sweet Potato & Caramelized Onion Quesadilla with Goat Cheese on Homemade Flour Tortillas

INGREDIENTS

1 baked sweet potato (pierced with a fork & baked for 45 min at 400 degrees)

2 TBS Adobo sauce from a can of chipotle peppers (or to taste)

1 inch cube of goat cheese (or to taste)

1 small onion – sliced thick & sauted on olive oil til soft & browning

Grated cheese (cheddar, jack, pepper jack or mozzarella – or a blend)

sliced fresh jalapeno (optional)

1 small can green chiles (optional)

Fresh cilantro

Tortillas

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DIRECTIONS

Mash the baked sweet potato into a creamy texture.  Add adobo sauce to taste.

Saute your onions til they begin to caramelize.  Remove from heat.

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Heat a tortilla in a dry pan over med-high heat.  Layer with sweet potato, goat cheese, grated cheese, sauted onions and jalapeno and/or green chiles (if using) – and maybe some chopped cilantro.  Fold over & place a soup pot or other heavy, heat tolerant item on top your quesadilla.  OR – you can just top the flat tortilla with a second tortilla & continue.  After a minute or so, flip it, put the pan on top of it & cook until your cheese is sufficiently melty.

Cut into slices.  Sprinkle with fresh cilantro.  Serve!

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And just because I have the photos – here is a lighter, easier one.

Cheese Quesadilla with Green Chiles & Cilantro

INGREDIENTS

Tortillas

Cheese

Green Chiles

Cilantro

DIRECTIONS

I think pictures get it all across:

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Serve with pico de gallo!  YUM!

Spinach Pesto Quesadilla with Homemade Spinach Tortillas

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All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2012

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Hey!  Have you heard?  I wrote a really funny & dirty novel!  www.BathingBook.com.   Check out the reviews on Amazon!  Why not buy a copy?

vromans front vromans back

I posted a Margarita Pizza Quesadilla recipe with the spinach tortillas earlier this week HERE.  I am posting the tortilla recipe again here but without the photographs.  These tortillas can be made without spinach simply by leaving the spinach out and using 3/4 cup to just over a cup of water.  DELICIOUS!  And easy.  I really recommend trying them.

Anyway – not sure if it is the holidays or the Connecticut tragedy or both plus more – but I really need comfort food these days.  And I haven’t got the energy to get elaborate with the meal.  These quesadillas are a super-fast & easy & yummy & how can you go wrong with melted cheese?

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Spinach Tortillas

INGREDIENTS

2 cups fresh spinach

3 cups flour

2 tsp baking powder

1-2 tsp salt

5 TBS olive oil

Water

DIRECTIONS

Steam the spinach in a pan in about a cup of water.  Once wilted, scoop it out with a slotted spoon & cool in in cold water.  RESERVE the hot spinach water.  Squeeze all the water out of the spinach, put the dry ball into a measuring cup & then add the hot spinach water until you have 1 1/2 cups with the ball of spinach in there. (ignore my photo showing 1 cup.  I did end up using 1.5 cups.  If there isn’t enough spinach water – just add more tap water.  Set aside.

In your food processor, pulse the flour, baking powder & salt until blended.  Add the olive oil & pulse until it is incorporated.  Add the spinach & pulse it in & then add the spinach water in a slow stream & pulse until it is completely incorporated and the dough has formed a tacky ball & is traveling around the bowl.  You might not need all the water – you might need a bit extra.  If it is too sticky – just add a bit more flour & pulse it around.

Put the dough on a lightly floured surface & roll it around to eliminate any tackiness that remains.  Dived the dough into four balls & then divide each of those four balls into three more balls.  Each ball should be about the size of a golf ball.  Let the dough rest 10 minutes or so.

Roll out each ball as flat & thin as you can – or until they are about 8 inches across.  Heat a large skillet over medium high heat.  Do not use any oil or cooking spray.   Leave the pan dry.  Cook each tortilla on each side about 20 seconds or until brown spots begin to appear.  Over cooking will make them crispy so err on the side of under-cooking.

Store under a clean kitchen towel as you cook all 12 tortillas.

These can be stored at room temperature in a zip-lock bag on your counter for several days.  Rewarm in the oven wrapped in foil or between damp paper towels in the microwave.

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SPINACH PESTO

INGREDIENTS

2 packed cups fresh spinach

40 almonds, crushed & toasted for 5 minutes or so

1 tsp salt

1 tsp pepper

3 cloves garlic

1/2 cup grated Parmesan

1/2 cup olive oil

water for added smoothness

DIRECTIONS

Blend all in a food processor.

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SPINACH PESTO QUESADILLAS

Ingredients

Tortillas

Cheese

Spinach pesto

diced jalapeno (optional)

DIRECTIONS

Heat a dry pan.  Place a tortilla in the pan, spread pesto & sprinkle cheese.  I added diced jalapenos.  Fold & heat until cheese melts.  Devour.  ‘Nuff said.

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Margarita Pizza Quesadilla on Homemade Spinach Tortillas (Vegan)

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All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2012

 

LARGE BathingandthesinglegirlOrangeV52

 

My debut novel is out!  Check it out!  I think it is HILARIOUS!  I hope you will, too!

www.BathingBook.com

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Yes – yes, I bought the 3 pound bag of spinach at Costco & now I am making a conspicuous number of things using spinach.  At least spinach is good for you.  Not so much the 5 pound bag of grated pizza cheese I bought at Smart & Final but this recipe puts both items to use so it works for me.

These tortillas are EASY to make – if you own a food processor.  I really suggest you try them at least once – because I think you will have the same sense of pride & achievement I did – making such a simple & basic item but so clean & fresh – it makes a huge difference.

Lots of tortilla recipes I looked at used lard or vegetable shortening.  Not only does that sound gross, I don’t have Crisco in my house which would have meant adding more expense to my already bloated grocery tab – so I substituted olive oil.  It worked out just fine!

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 Spinach Tortillas

INGREDIENTS

2 cups fresh spinach

3 cups flour

2 tsp baking powder

1-2 tsp salt

5 TBS olive oil

Water

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DIRECTIONS

Steam the spinach in a pan in about a cup of water.  Once wilted, scoop it out with a slotted spoon & cool in in cold water.  RESERVE the hot spinach water.  Squeeze all the water out of the spinach, put the dry ball into a measuring cup & then add the hot spinach water until you have 1 1/2 cups with the ball of spinach in there. (ignore my photo showing 1 cup.  I did end up using 1.5 cups.  If there isn’t enough spinach water – just add more tap water.  Set aside.

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In your food processor, pulse the flour, baking powder & salt until blended.  Add the olive oil & pulse until it is incorporated.  Add the spinach & pulse it in & then add the spinach water in a slow stream & pulse until it is completely incorporated and the dough has formed a tacky ball & is traveling around the bowl.  You might not need all the water – you might need a bit extra.  If it is too sticky – just add a bit more flour & pulse it around.

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Put the dough on a lightly floured surface & roll it around to eliminate any tackiness that remains.  Dived the dough into four balls & then divide each of those four balls into three more balls.  Each ball should be about the size of a golf ball.  Let the dough rest 10 minutes or so.

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Roll out each ball as flat & thin as you can – or until they are about 8 inches across.  Heat a large skillet over medium high heat.  Do not use any oil or cooking spray.   Leave the pan dry.  Cook each tortilla on each side about 20 seconds or until brown spots begin to appear.  Over cooking will make them crispy so err on the side of under-cooking.

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Store under a clean kitchen towel as you cook all 12 tortillas.

These can be stored at room temperature in a zip-lock bag on your counter for several days.  Rewarm in the oven wrapped in foil or between damp paper towels in the microwave.

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Margarita Pizza Quesadillas

INGREDIENTS

Tortillas

tomato

grated mozzarella (or fresh buffalo mozzarella) – or vegan alternative

chopped basil

S&P

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DIRECTIONS

Heat a dry skillet.  Put a tortilla in there & let it warm with the pan.  Add cheese, THINLY sliced tomatoes, chopped basil & heat until cheese begins to melt.  Fold the tortilla over & press.  I put a smaller pan on top to increase the heat & to compress the quesadilla – but this is not necessary.  Once your cheese is good & melted – remove the quesadilla from the pan, slice it up & serve!

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Vegetable Pot Pie & Cupcakes

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All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2012

Well – so much for a grocery budget.  If I include the black market wine I recently bought with cash out of a van in a parking lot this week – I have already spent $585 on groceries this month. Seems insane as I’ve eaten little else than my leftover broccoli & cheese torte, leftover black beans & coconut rice, leftover pizza cupcakes, and now leftover deep dish pizza since the start of the month – and I will have MORE deep dish pizza & now pot pie & pot pie cupcakes to contend with for days stretching far into my future.  The good news is – I won’t be spending money on wine for a while but still.  OUCH!

So – yesterday I posted an Indian Spinach Curry Cupcake but I made regular vegetable pot pie cupcakes at the same time.  I also made a full-sized pot pie.  This recipe should provide you with enough tart dough & filling to make 6 cupcakes & one full-sized pot pie.  I actually had half an herbed tart dough recipe in the freezer – and made another whole batch without herbs.  So – 1.5 quantity of the recipe was enough dough for 6 spinach cupcakes, 6 pot pies & a full-sized pot pie.  This recipe HERE should be enough for the six pot pie cupcakes & the full pot pie.  There was even a little extra with which I made a braided treat.

I used canned peas because they were cheaper than the larger bag of frozen ones.  I used canned corn because – BIZARRELY – my grocer had zero fresh corn on the cob.  I recommend buying two ears & cutting the kernels off & using fresh corn here – if you can.

I used the cans of Campbell’s soup because 1) I had them and 2) they seemed less fatty (and easier & cheaper) than a fresh milk & flour or heavy cream & flour replacement.  I used one can of creamed mushroom & one of creamed celery – because that was what I had.  Two of either is fine.  You could do this in a fancier way – making your own roux or whatever but really.  Why?  Sodium, you say?  Well, yes.  Yes – you got me there.  But at least now I can blame my middle-aged bloat on Campbell’s free hand with the salt rather than my carbohydrate, cheese & black market wine loaded diet.  A girl needs a scapegoat – and right now, for me, Campbell’s fits the bill.  And my budget.  So fuck it.

As to celery root – I am kinda having an affair of sorts with those guys.  I have long said that parsley & celery get the short shrift in the culinary world – often written off as garnish or soup stock staples to be tossed once drained of their flavors.  But I love them both.  Clean & fresh – they add more than they get credit for.  And celery root has a cool, creamy, light celery aroma & a completely different texture.  It makes the greatest soup – as in a celery root bisque sort of thing.  I used it in my stuffing this past Thanksgiving – and I used it here. I recommend trying it – but it might not be available near you.  I am surprised to see just how available it is near me because I don’t ever hear anyone talking about using it but the stores wouldn’t carry it if it didn’t sell – so – there.  Mainstream stores like Pavilions carry it here – so look around for some near you.  It is that big, brown rooty-softball looking thing below.  Also – I was going to include sweet potato in this but I baked it into a mush & decided against including it.

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Vegetable Pot Pie & Cupcakes

Homemade Herbed Tart Crust Pastry

NOTE:  – this is enough for 6 cupcakes AND extra to line the bottom & top of a full-sized pot pie.

INGREDIENTS

3 cups flour

12 TBS butter (salted, if possible) – CHILLED and cubed

2 eggs

1+ TBS fresh thyme (or diced fresh sage or fresh parsley or fresh oregano) OPTIONAL

water

1/4 tsp salt

DIRECTIONS

Mix the salt & flour together in your food processor (or in a bowl – as this dough could be made by hand – just not by me).

Pulse in the butter until it is incorporated into the dough.  Pulse in the fresh herbs.  Pulse in the two eggs.  Add water 1 TBS at a time until small lumps of dough form.

Divide the dough in half.  Roll the dough out on a floured surface.  Roll out half for the cupcakes.  I used a small bowl to cut out 12 circular disks.  I made them all the larger size required to line the bottoms of my cupcake pan.  I had to ball up the extra bits & roll it out again to get my 12 disks.  

I divided the remaining dough in two.  I rolled them out flat, lined the bottom of my pie dish & left the other (the topper) flat on a plate.

Spray your cupcake tin with cooking spray and line each cup with pastry.

Refrigerate your pastry-lined cupcake pan, the pie dish & the topper for at least 30 minutes.

(the dough below is sans herbs)

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Vegetable Pot Pie & Cupcakes

INGREDIENTS

Tart dough (recipe above)

4 TBS butter

1 medium onion – diced

1/2 celery root – peeled & diced (optional but DELICIOUS!)

2 carrots – diced

2 celery stalks – diced

1 baked potato (or boiled) – diced

handful of chopped parsley

2 TBS Fresh Thyme – chopped

1/2 tsp dry thyme

1/2 tsp oregano

8.5 oz canned corn (or half a 15 oz can) – OR – the kernels cut from two ears of fresh corn

8.5 oz canned peas (or half a 15 oz can)

1   10 3/4 oz can Cream of Celery soup

1   10 3/4 oz can Cream of Mushroom soup

up to 1 cup milk (optional)

1 egg – whisked – for the crust wash (optional)

Melt the butter in a large saute pan.  Add the diced onion, carrots, celery root, celery stalks & saute for about ten minutes or until the harder veggies are tender.  Add the potato, corn, peas, parsley, fresh thyme, dry thyme, oregano, both soups and S&P to taste.  CAREFULLY fold these ingredients together being careful not to mush up the soft potato.  If you like the contents of your pot pies to be wetter & creamier – add some milk to thin up the veggies to your taste.  Set aside.

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Get the cupcake tin out of the fridge & fill each cup with the veggie mix.   Top with the cupcake tops & pinch the rims closed with your fingers. VENT with a fork or knife.

 The images below include 6 spinach curry cupcakes.  I added the soup directly atop each cupcake with the veggie mix but I now recommend that the soup & liquid (milk – if using) be added in the saute pan – as it blends better.

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For the full-sized pie, fill it with the remaining veggie mix.   Top with the crust & trim, seal & flute the edge.  Brush all your pastries with egg wash (if using).  VENT each pie with a fork or the tip of a knife.

Brush all your pastry with egg wash (if using).

Like my little black bird pie vent???  I do!

You will see below that I began to doubt the moisture level of this pie so I drizzled heavy cream on top.  You will also see in the end result that the cream pretty much stayed where it landed – offering no moisture to the veggies below – so do not make this calorie adding & useless step.

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There is the drizzled heavy cream.  Blow that off.  Add any moisture you want to add (like some milk) to the veggie blend in the pan & stir it up before putting the mix into the pastry.  Trim & flute your edges.

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I washed the crust of just the full-sized pie with a watered down heavy cream because I was too cheap to waste an egg.  The cupcakes went in dry.  Anyway – either use a Goddamn egg or use nothing.  Sometimes I am really an ass.  Black market wine by the case?  OF COURSE!  One egg to make my blog a success?  Uhm…..nah.

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Bake the cupcakes 20-25 minutes – or until their crusts look nicely golden.

Bake the full pot pie 25-35 minutes – or until golden – checking frequently to be sure you do not burn the crust.

Let the cupcakes & pot pie sit for ten minutes before serving.

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Note the heavy cream just under the crust in the sliced image.  It trickled down a little – but not like I’d hoped.  (Insert scathing political joke about the Republican “trickle down” theory of economics.)

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Not wanting to waste anything – I used the extra dough & braided & baked it.  It was yummy!

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FOLLOW-UP to my Stuffed Deep Dish Pizza Pie

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All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2014

To see images of my past posts & get links to the recipes – look on my Pinterest board – HERE.

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This is a follow-up post on my Stuffed Deep Dish Pizza Pie post.  While I initially felt my success with the deep dish pizza had two major flaws (a too thin crust & too wet contents) – let me show you what this beauty:

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became after a night in the fridge:

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The contents condensed measurably.  It went from a 2 1/2 inch deep pie to a one inch deep tart.    No longer too wet – it is moist & solid – is slices up like a dream now.  It is DELICIOUS at room temperature & even better reheated.  Look how pretty!

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So – I take back everything I said initially about this guy.  There is so much flavor packed into one dense little slice – with the addition of a simple salad – you would have a very elegant meal – whether for brunch, lunch or dinner.  So – go ahead & make one of these guys & you will have good eating on your hands for DAYS!!!!

ORIGINAL POST IS HERE.

 

Indian Spinach & Garbanzo Curry (Chana Saag) Pot Pie Cupcakes in Homemade Herbed Tart Crust

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All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2012

I don’t have a lot to say about this except for the fact that it takes a few steps, each step is very simple & these are wonderfully delicious.  I am going to post a more traditional pot pie recipe next – but these are really a winner!  I also hope you will make the tart dough yourself rather than buying some.  It takes 5 minutes, makes a huge difference & will make you very proud.

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Indian Spinach & Garbanzo Curry (Chana Saag) Pot Pie Cupcakes in Homemade Herbed Tart Crust

Homemade Herbed Tart Crust Pastry

enough for 12 cupcakes AND extra to top a full-sized pot pie

INGREDIENTS

3 cups flour

12 TBS butter (salted, if possible) – CHILLED and cubed

2 eggs

1+ TBS fresh thyme (or diced fresh sage or fresh parsley or fresh oregano) OPTIONAL

water

1/4 tsp salt

DIRECTIONS

Mix the salt & flour together in your food processor (or in a bowl – as this dough could be made by hand – just not by me).

Pulse in the butter until it is incorporated into the dough.  Pulse in the fresh herbs.  Pulse in the two eggs.  Add water 1 TBS at a time until small lumps of dough form.

Roll the dough out on a floured surface.  I used a small bowl to cut out 24 circular disks.  I made them all the larger size required to line the bottoms of my cupcake pan.

Spray your cupcake tin with cooking spray and line each cup with pastry.

Refrigerate your pastry-lined tart pan for at least 30 minutes.

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Indian Spinach & Garbanzo Curry Pot Pie Cupcakes

INGREDIENTS

13.4 oz Garbanzo Beans

4 packed cups (or more) chopped fresh spinach

3 TBS olive oil

1 medium onion – pureed in a food processor (or chopped VERY fine)

2 inch cube fresh ginger – pureed in a food processor (or chopped VERY fine)

3 cloves garlic – pureed in a food processor (or chopped VERY fine)

1 tsp cumin

1 TBS curry powder

1 TBS tomato paste or puree

1/2 cup of half & half (or whipping cream)

2 tsp ground coriander

S&P to taste

DIRECTIONS

PREHEAT OVEN TO 400 DEGREES.

Puree the onions, garlic & ginger in a food processor or chop them VERY fine.

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Heat the oil in a large saute pan & heat the cumin & curry powder.  Add the onion-garlic-ginger & fry.

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Add spinach, garbanzo beans, tomato sauce/paste, coriander and S&P.  Mix well.  Add the half & half (or whipping cream).  Stir & heat over medium heat for about ten minutes until the spinach is very wilted.  You shouldn’t need it – but add a small quantity of water if it gets too dry.  Remove from heat.

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Take your chilled cupcake tin lined with the chilled tart dough out of the fridge.  Fill each tin with the curried spinach mix being sure to spoon extra curry sauce gravy into each cupcake.  Top with the remaining tart dough disks & pinch to seal the edges.  Pierce with a fork or the tip of a sharp knife.

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Bake at 400 degrees for about 20-25 minutes or until pastry is a lovely golden brown.  These should life out of the pan very easily & can be served immediately.  They reheat at the same temperature in about 5-10 minutes.

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Stuffed Deep Dish Pizza Pie

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All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2014

To see images of my past posts & get links to the recipes – look on my Pinterest board – HERE.

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NOTE – THERE IS A FOLLOW UP POST TO THIS BLOG PIECE HERE.

 

This effort was not a 100% success.  Right off the top – the suggestions I must make that vary from what I tried are:

Use much more pizza dough & build a pretty decently thick crust.  Thin crust – not good for deep pizza as it cannot support the weight of the contents.  This is less of an issue if you use a deep pie pan & not a springform pan – but still.  This much stuffing needs more bread than a sparingly-topped normal pizza.

Also – maybe don’t make your pizza 2-3 inches deep.  Thatsa lotta stuff to try to hold together through the trauma of slicing.

I was terrified of making a dried out pie & added several ingredients for their moisture factor as much as anything else.  MISTAKE.  My very first deep pizza is kind of a runny mess.  It tastes really yummy but it isn’t the prettiest thing on earth & I don’t think it could take many more slices being cut out before it collapsed entirely.

Maybe consider not removing the springform ring until you cut into your pizza & can assess its free-standing worthiness.

You would think I would have learned from my wet spinach-feta pizza cupcakes that maybe spinach & feta are wetter than they seem during assembly.  Or maybe the mushrooms I used released all their moisture during the baking process – so – I think the next time I attempt a deep pizza – I shall eschew the spinach AND the mushrooms….or save the mushrooms for only the very top where the heat of the oven will evaporate their moisture.

Anyway – I am not going to post a formal recipe here because I don’t think this pie warrants it.  I just threw everything I had (meaning ingredients) into it & hoped for the best.  I will experiment more & when I perfect it – I will post the recipe here.

Yesterday – with no recipe in mind – I roasted some sliced onion in olive oil at 450 for about 30 minutes – stirring them about once or twice in the process.  I also drizzled olive oil on whole garlic cloves & baked them wrapped in foil – along with the onions.

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Once the garlic cools – you can squeeze each clove & the gooey, nutty garlic comes out in a creamy texture – like soft toothpaste.

I then treated some multi-colored peppers & jalapenos to the same olive oil & roasting treatment.

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Once they were good & blackened & while still very hot, I put them in a bowl & topped it with plastic wrap.  Once they were cooled – I peeled the charred skin off under cool running water & got this delicious result:

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I made a spinach pesto using

2 packed cups fresh spinach

40 almonds, crushed & toasted for 5 minutes or so

1 tsp salt

1 tsp pepper

3 cloves garlic

1/2 cup grated Parmesan

1/2 cup olive oil

water for added smoothness – all blended in a food processor.

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Today – I decided I’d experiment with the deep dish pizza thingy.  I already had about 1/3 of my pizza dough recipe leftover, and settled for that.  In the future – I’d use the entire dough recipe & make a MUCH thicker crust.

I also had sauteed mushrooms, black olives, extra peppers, feta cheese, lots of spinach, grated pizza blend cheese, half a tomato and a few slices of mozzarella.

PREHEAT YOUR OVEN TO 400

I sprayed a springform pan with cooking spray & lined it with my TOO LITTLE pizza dough.  I let the dough come up over the rim to anchor it upright.

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My next step SHOULD have been a layer of grated cheese – but I opted for the spinach pesto.

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I then added half of a two inch cube of feta & the roasted onions.

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I then added grated cheese & mushrooms

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then I added some arrabiata & the roasted peppers

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then some chopped mozzarella & the roasted garlic

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then a layer of spinach & then more feta & mushrooms

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then chopped tomatoes & more arrabiata 

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more cheese

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then I got crazy with raw bell peppers & black olives

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I put chopped peppers inside each ring – using the two colors the ring was not.  For example: red & yellow chopped pepper in the orange rings & so on.

I baked this for about 30 minutes.

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I let it set for ten minutes & removed the springform ring.  I let it sit another 5 minutes but I was anxious to cut into it while it was hot so the melted cheese would still be soft & gooey.  I had to saw very gingerly with a finely serrated knife – as if I was cutting glass – to keep my FAR too fragile thin crust from shattering.  The contents spilled out – FAR wetter than I’d anticipated.  But – even in Chicago – this is a knife & fork dish, not something you eat with your hands.  I put my very sloppy slice on a plate & sampled it.  It really does taste pretty amazing!  Just a tad disappointing on the presentation angle.  Note that the liquid is brown – not red (from the tomato sauce).  This makes me think the roasted peppers & the mushrooms are my main culprits wetting the bed here.  But even so – the most significant failing on this version is the way too thin crust.  Don’t try that at home, kids.

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If you endeavor to make one of these – please go big or go home with the crust & try to limit wet ingredients to a minimum.  With these adjustments – you should do fine.  And you can put any old things in these guys: cooked meats, a second layer of crust in the middle, any of an infinite variety of vegetables & cheeses.  So get creative!!!

 

NOTE – THERE IS A FOLLOW UP POST TO THIS BLOG PIECE HERE.

 

Pizza Cupcakes Redux – Spinach & Kale Pesto

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All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2012

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So – after the success of my first pizza cupcake effort – I thought I broaden the experiment with other pizza toppings I had around.  I had leftover kale pesto, about 5 ponds of fresh spinach & several kinds of cheese.  I’m finding that the cheese doesn’t melt as much as I’d like before the crust gets too brown – so – you might want to play around with oven temperature.  I originally suggested 425 – but this might work a tad better around 350-375.  That way the cheese gets to sit n the heat for longer than ten minutes or so.  None of this is a science because all of us will roll our dough to varied thicknesses and use different ratios of cheese to other fillings etc.  And – our ovens are no calibrated exactly the same.  I found these spinach pizza cupcakes to be on the wet side – even though I used raw spinach.  I suspect a longer baking time at a lower setting will fix that.

For the spinach filling – I just tossed 2 cups or so of spinach with some olive oil, crumbled feta cheese & grated Parmesan cheese.  You could use all Parmesan or goat or whatever blend you prefer.  I left this in the fridge for a while & it wilted the spinach to the point that it could be manipulated better than the springy fresh, raw spinach leaves.

The kale pesto cupcakes were layered with mushrooms & my five-minute arrabiata sauce and cheese.  Again – these layers were randomly selected.  Experiment with your own favorite toppings.  If you are using any meats, though, be sure they are cooked before adding them as these cupcakes are not in the oven long enough to cook meat.

Just for fun – I will show you the layered progress of these two kinds of cupcakes:

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Five (5) Minute Arrabiata Sauce

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All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2012

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This is a really easy, 5-minute pasta sauce.  It is fairly spicy so cut back on the crushed red pepper if you are sensitive to heat.  Canned tomatoes are not desirable – even BAD – (read why you should avoid canned tomatoes & seven other foods HERE) – but they are sometimes the only affordable (and super convenient) option.  This can cost me $1.19.  That is CHEAP for 29 oz or delicious arrabiata.  I guess I will pay for it in doctor bills in the future.  😦

Fresh herbs will also improve this sauce measurably but – in a pinch –  they are absolutely not REQUIRED to make this sauce tasty.

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Five (5) Minute Arrabiata Sauce

INGREDIENTS

1 29 oz can tomato sauce
Garlic to taste
1 tsp each of crushed red pepper, oregano, pepper & sugar
1/2 tsp salt
Fresh thyme (optional)
Fresh basil – chopped (optional)
Fresh parsley – chopped (optional)
1 TBS olive oil
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DIRECTIONS
Heat the olive oil. I sautéed maybe 10 tiny garlic cloves whole. If giant chunks of garlic offend you or yours, you might want to crush them a bit with the side of a knife or press them through a garlic press or chop them fine. Just do not burn the garlic and burning is easier – the smaller you chop the cloves. With whole cloves – I sautéed a minute before adding the spices. If you chopped the garlic – add it and the spices at once.After about a minute of both the garlic and all other spices sautéing – add the tomato sauce. Be careful as it will sputter and splatter you when it hits the hot oil.

A few minutes in – I used a slotted spoon to fish out the garlic cloves & put them through a garlic press but this is not totally necessary.Heat over med-low heat until ready to use. Add chopped fresh basil/parsley at the very end – if you are using fresh herbs.

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Pizza Cupcakes

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All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2014

To see images of my past posts & get links to the recipes – look on my Pinterest board – HERE.

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Hey, everyone!  I wrote a HILARIOUS & dirty humor novel!  Check out the Amazon reviews & other details – HERE!

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These are crazy easy, super cute, endlessly customizable & delicious!  I made a simple mushroom pizza here but you could add meat or other vegetables or whatever it is you like on your pizza.  There is no real recipe here.  I used my homemade pizza dough but you can use a store-bought variety.  I used a homemade arrabbiatta (spicy tomato sauce) but any sauce will do.  I seared some mushrooms in a bit of olive oil & salt & I used a cheap sliced mozzarella.  If I could change anything about this effort – I’d use a costlier mozzarella as I suspect it would melt more completely & my photo of the sliced open cupcake would be prettier.  🙂  But make no mistake – these tasted amazing!

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So the ingredients are:

Dough

Toppings

Directions are

PREHEAT THE OVEN TO 425 degrees.

Spray a cupcake tin with cooking spray.  I used a bowl turned upside down to cut the dough into circles.  A knife would work just as well.  Assemble the cupcakes (there is no art to this), top with a good amount of cheese of your choice & bake for 10-15 minutes at about 425 – or until the cheese looks all melty & the crust is browned.

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Avocado Caesar Salad Dressing with Jalapeno & Cilantro

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All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2012

This week my pal Frank Dana turned 86.   The fixed income gang from my early morning donut shop throw a group party for all the Sagittarians among them this time every year at Birds.  The party was yesterday.  Here I am sharing a glass of wine with Frank.  Frank is every bit the PLAYAH he looks to be here.  He is 5’2″ – probably 75 pounds & he is a firecracker!

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This crew is a flamboyant & hilarious bunch & Frank is famous for sharing stories about sleeping with hookers while on shore leave during WWII.  Frank was impressed last night when he discovered I had landed a 35-year-old boyfriend.  “No shit?” Frank replied in his heavy New York accent & nodded his approval.  I love Frank.  “You drinking wine normally now?” Frank asked.   I asked what he meant.  “You know.  You aren’t still drinking a bottle a day – are you?”  “Yes, Frank.  Yes I am.  A bottle a day is normal for me.”   Frank laughed & took a ginger sip of his cabernet.  Frank is limited (by his doctor) to two glasses of wine a day.  Frank informed me that he prefers it served as one large glass.

“See that guy over there?”  he asked and pointed out one of the party attendees.  He told me the man’s name was Mike.  “Mike’s a wine guy.  You wanna buy a case of wine for $2 a bottle – he can hook you up,”  Frank said in a distinctly conspiratorial tone.  Indeed?  “Yeah – he sells wine from the trunk of his car.  $2 a bottle.   You can’t go wrong.”  This sounded very shady but I was intrigued.  Black market wine and a dealer circulating amongst my Social Security set.  But Frank knew him & I know Frank is protective of me so – I thought this wine hustler had to be harmless.  Pretty soon I found myself sitting next to Mike the Wine Guy.  “So, Mike.  I hear you are the guy to go to for wine.”  He confirmed that.  “So – how does it work?”

“Come on out to my van.  I can set you right up.”

The van?

“Your van?”

“Yeah – I bought the stock out of a bankrupt liquor store.  I can sell you bottles, cases, bubbly – whatever.  Right outta my van.”

So – I followed him to the van and, sure enough, it was filled with several dozen cases of wine.

“I can sell you this case for $2 a bottle and this over here – these are $3 a bottle.”

Sensing I might be onto something special here I asked, “What do you have on the high end?”

Ah.  He had a live one.

He closed the back doors to the van & walked me around to the side & slid the door open.

“These bottles go for $40 in the store but I can let you have them for $15.  And this case – by the guys that produce Lynch-Bages – these are $10 each.  Probably go for $25 in the store.”

Hmmmm.  Now – with my $717 month grocery habit – I can’t start drinking $15 bottles of wine – and I certainly can’t be buying by the case.

“Can I buy one one of each & taste them before I commit to a larger order?”

Yes, yes I could.  So – I slipped him $25 cash, he handed me two bottles of wine and I walked to my car feeling kinda bad-ass and street smart – like I had just been involved in a very shady but successful drug deal.  Here is the wine:

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Some research revealed that the Arcane – which was alleged to be a $40 bottle is more like a $25 (or less) bottle of wine – available HERE for $24.99 – but $15 still seems a fair price.  The other – the Luna Benegas – for which I gave the man $10 – appears to be — WAIT FOR IT — a $10 bottle of wine – as seen HERE.  So – I got $35 wine for $25.  Still not too bad – especially if I LIKE the wine.  That remains to be seen.

Anyway – home again – it was time for dinner & I had romaine lettuce to use.  So – I made the dressing – a twist on the traditional Caesar with avocado, jalapeno & cilantro added.

I was going to make this completely from scratch – including making the mayonnaise – but I decided against it for fear of using raw eggs.  I wanted to make a dressing with a longer shelf life than a few hours and raw eggs are like 90% likely to have salmonella.  I don’t need nor do I recommend salmonella poisoning – despite its benefit of rapid weight loss.

This dressing couldn’t be any easier to make.  Feel free to up the garlic and/or jalapeno ratio if those flavors appeal to you.

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Avocado Caesar Salad Dressing with Jalapeno & Cilantro

INGREDIENTS

2/3 cup mayonnaise

2 garlic cloves – chopped or pressed through a garlic press

juice of half a lemon

1 TBS olive oil

1/2 large jalapeno (or more) seeded & chopped

1 ripe avocado

handful fresh cilantro

S&P to taste

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DIRECTIONS

Blend everything in a food processor.  Add more olive oil or WATER if you feel it is too thick.

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