Gimme a Beet: Roasted Beets with Tarragon, Goat Cheese, and Pine Nuts

Wow.  Am I original with the recipe titles…  But that’s what this recipe is, so I guess it works.

To beet, or not to beet?

To beet or not to beet?

Anywho, I remember going to the grocery store with my Grams as a kid to get some random supplies for whatever it was she was making for dinner that night while the ‘rents were being busy doing whatever it is that parentals do while there are no children around (gross).  I like to think they were napping.  I don’t have kiddos, but I have babysat before and rugrats are exhausting.  So, I was spending time with Grams and my parents were napping.  🙂

My favorite part of going to the grocery store with Grams was that we would stop by the salad bar for lunch and stuff a container full of salad-y deliciousness (surprisingly, I liked salad as a kid, although I’m sure I drenched it in dressing).  We would get the standard tomatoes, cucumbers, whatever deli meat they had cubed, maybe a hard boiled egg (which I didn’t like at the time, but Grams was fond of them).  But my favorite part of the salad were the baby corns and the pickled beets.  I would stuff the container as full of them as Grams would allow (3 or 4 baby corns, and several beets — always disappointing…).  I loved how the beets made every thing various shades of fuchsia.  However, up until recently I had never actually had a real, from-the-earth beet; they either came from a salad bar or a jar and were tangy and tart with a hint of sweet on the side.

Well, when I went on my epic berry picking adventure with the ladies, the beets were ready and, being ever curious and looking for new things to try, I picked out a few.  This was a risky move given that Hubs is not so much a fan of their pickley counterparts no matter how much I try.  But can you really blame a girl for trying to broaden the veggie horizon?  He liked kale, which was new to both of us the first time I made that…  Besides, I had heard that roasted beets were T.O.T.A.L.L.Y different from jarred beets.  Needless to say, I paired these puppies with steak just so Hubs would have something to eat were they not a hit.

I shouldn’t have been worried.

So. Freaking. Nums.

You see, unlike pickled beets, which are — ya know– pickled, therefore tangy, roasted beets are sweet, sweet melty nums on the tongue.  So nums I even got a “Hmmmmm, these aren’t bad” from Hubs, which translates to “Super good but I”m not going to tell you because I refuse to like (insert veggie here).”  I just let the second helping speak for its self (the steak was the size of a small dinosaur so clearly the second helping of beets were not strictly necessary).

I wasn’t exactly sure what to do with them, so I went to our reliable and informative friend, Google, for some help.  I found a really interesting recipe on foodnetwork.com by Guy Fieri for a beet salad and used that as my jumping off point.  Hubs and I lurve us some goat cheese, so I figured why not make it as enticing as possible.

Ingredients:
Pre-heat oven to 400º

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8-10 small beets, greens removed (the larger the beets, the less sweet)
2-3 garlic cloves, halved
salt and pepper
1-2 tbsp olive oil

Small log of goat cheese
2-3 tbsp pine nuts, dry roasted in a frying pan

Tarragon Dressing:
*adapted from here*

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1/4 c rice vinegar
2 tsp soy sauce
2 tsp dried tarragon
1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp Dijon
1 tbsp Greek yogurt
1/4 c extra-virgin olive oil

First, I cut the tops off the beets and washed them.  I then laid them out on some tin foil, scattered the garlic halves around and drizzled the olive oil on top.  I folded the tin foil into a little packet around the beets and threw them in the oven at 400º and let them roast for a little over an hour.  You can pull them out any time after they are soft, but the longer they roast, the sweeter they get.  Caramelization at its best, yeah?

When the beets were done (~1 hr 15 min) I let them cool in the tin foil packet for a bit, until I could handle them without burning my fingers off.  Next, I pulled the skins off.  No need for a peeler, the skins just slipped right off.  However, my fingers did get a bit, um, purple during the process.

Once they were peeled, I cut them into cubes.  I added about half the log of goat cheese, the pine nuts, and added a little less than 1/4 cup of the dressing.

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I mixed everything together.  It looked a little strange, but I was determined to not let that get in the way.  Once the steaks were done resting, I served up my pretty purple concoction and dug in.

Gimme A Beet

Gimme A Beet

Mmmmmm, the nums!  The creaminess from the goat cheese, the sweetness of the beets, the light crunch from the pine nuts, and the tang from the tarragon dressing.  Perfection.  Really, it’s one of my new favorite side dishes.  Don’t be alarmed by the purple goat cheese… beets stain E.V.E.R.Y.T.H.I.N.G. (so don’t wear your favorite shirt…).  Oh man, I’m a convert.  I don’t know if I will ever be able to appreciate a pickled beet again without daydreaming about their roasted counterpart.  Yummy.

So, what do you guys think?  To beet or not to beet?

Printable Recipe

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Magic Green Sauce & Pablano Carnitas Soft Tacos

I must say, this post was inspired by a pin I saw floating around Pinterest a while ago.  I was trying to come up with an interesting green salsa to pair with our left over pork shoulder for carnitas soft tacos.  The original recipe, courtesy of Savvy Style, Mindful Home, looked so nums that I just had to try it.  I have never had tomatillos before, but have always been curious.  So when I saw that it was combined with avocados I knew this was one pin I really was going to try. In true Jess fashion, I tweaked a few things and made it my own, and boy let me tell you it was super delish!

Fixin's for Magic

Fixin’s for Magic

Magic Green Sauce (aka Salsa Verde)
Printable Recipe
*this makes A TON of salsa, and if you don’t want to eat the whole jar by yourself in one sitting with a spoon, I would cut the recipe in half…

2 ripe avocados
6-7 small tomatillos (husks removed)
4-5 cloves of garlic
1 small white onion
1-2 jalapenos*
juice of 2 limes
large handful cilantro
1-1.5 tsp ancho chili pepper**
2 tsp roasted cumin**
salt to taste
2-3 pinches sugar, or 1-2 tbsp honey

*We used 1 jalapeno and felt it was a little too mild for our tastes.
**I added this after I made the salsa to give it a little bit more kick and depth of flavor.  Without it it’s very bright and fresh and very nums, but I like me some cumin!

I rough chopped all of the ingredients and put them in the food processor (or blender) and gave it a whirl until everything was blended together.  I then put it in a mason jar, thinking we would keep some in the fridge… that didn’t last long! (Although, it will keep for up to a week)

Sauce to Spare

Sauce to Spare

For dinner, I started some rice in the rice cooker, then chopped up an onion and two pablano peppers and sautéed them in some olive oil (not extra virgin, just the regular stuff which is a little more heat stable.  I would also suggest trying coconut oil) until almost soft.  I then added some ancho chili pepper (maybe about 1/4 tsp) and roasted cumin (about 1/2 tsp), salt and pepper.  I didn’t want to add too many more spices since the pulled pork was so liberally seasoned already.

Then I added the left over pork shoulder and let that warm up.  I poured in just enough water to deglaze the bottom of the pan and coat the pork with the spices, then let it evaporate.

Once the rice was done, Hubs added a handful of chopped cilantro, the juice of one lime,  and fluffed it together.  I warmed up some tortillas and we started serving.  I layered the cilantro-lime rice, pablano carnitas, a little sour cream, the magic green sauce on the tortilla and wrapped them up.  Wowzah!  It was so nums!

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Not only was this a fantastic leftover recipe, the salsa verde is really what pulled all of it together — hence, “Magic Green Sauce.”  You could also just eat it with chips… which we did.  I also think it would be good in breakfast burritos, or any kind of recipe that calls for a salsa.  I would also use it as a dressing on a salad with some red onion, seasoned chicken, ripe tomatoes, and some sweet corn.  Really you could put this sauce on anything.

I have also been contemplating a roasted version of this sauce.  What do you guys think?  Let me know in the comments.  🙂

Strawberry Rhubarb and a Weekend To Do Update

On Friday I posted my Weekend To Do List and truly believed I had finally done it: made a doable list.  But I should have known better.  Lab homework always takes about a gazillion times longer than it really should (especially when you’re three hours in and realize you’ve done all of the calculations wrong…) and, as my mother warned me about, home improvement projects always take a gazillion times longer as well… *sigh*

I did get my homework done (that’s kind of mandatory) after much huffing, puffing, sighing, and harrumphing [special shout out to Hubs for the forehead kisses, tea warm ups, dinner making, and general awesomeness!!!].  I also have pretty new lamps.  So that’s exciting.  As for the powder room… progress was initially made, then promptly un-made.  Let me just emphasize to always check your paint colors in the exact same  light (including light bulbs!)  as they will be displayed in.  So now, instead of the stormy blue ceiling and pretty silvery blue-grey walls I had planned on (and boy was it beautiful!), we have a weird blue ceiling and purple walls.  Thanks new light fixture.  Hubs also had to make several trips to Home Depot to get the faucet fixture to be compatible to the sink.  The sink is still sitting in the dining room.  But the toilet is back!

All in all, though, it was a successful weekend, despite the set backs (and endless homework assignment).  Home ownership is still awesome, DIY is super fun, and school is, well, necessary.

I didn’t make strawberry rhubarb pie, much to Hubs disappointment.  So, I was on a mission Monday when I got home from school.  Pie: Make it.  And I did.

Now, I like me some strawberry rhubarb pie, but this post, from Tough Bananas, cracked me up!  …I digress.

When I make pie, I make pie.  Crust and all.  Who wants eat a sub-par crust with yummy homemade deliciousness anyway (no offence to those who use store bought crust!  I have been known to grab some Pillsbury when I’m in a rush!)?  The first time I made homemade crust, I was very nervous.  “Homemade crust?  Really?  Well, here goes nothin’.”  Turns out, homemade crust is super easy (and sans preservatives).  There are varying degrees of ease depending on the method you use: two knives, pastry blender, or food processor (with the dough blade, NOT the cutting blade!).

Dough Blade

Dough Blade

Not a dough blade.

Not a dough blade.

I have used all three methods, and while I love my pastry blender, I opted for the easy way out (re: food processor).  Making pie crust with a food processor takes about three seconds (ok, I exaggerate, it’s more like three minutes, but it’s still quick).

Basic Pie Crust:

makes (2) 9-in crusts

Crust

Crust

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp sugar (or 1 tbsp powdered sugar — I have only ever used regular sugar)
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup Crisco*
1 stick (8 tbsp) unsalted butter*
1/3 cup plus a couple of tbsp ice water
Almond Extract (optional)

*The Crisco/butter mixture can be swapped for 1 cup of Crisco.  Also, when using a food processor to make pie crust, it’s best that the fats are very cold, preferably frozen.

First, I measured the dry ingredients into the food processor and blended for a couple of seconds.  It’s always best to mix/whisk/process dry ingredients together first before adding anything else.

Next, I added the Crisco and the butter (in chunks).

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I processed until the mix had balls about the size of peas in 2-3 second bursts (about 30-45 seconds).

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Then, I added 1 cup and 1 tablespoon (tbsp) ice water.  You can add a cap-full of almond extract to the water, if you like.  I processed this until the dough started to form.  You want the dough to just stick together.  You should be able to pinch a few pieces together and have them stick.  If they don’t add more water, a tablespoon at a time until it does.

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Next, I dumped the dough out onto some parchment paper (my attempt at keeping things relatively clean), formed two balls, and wrapped them in plastic wrap.  I put them in the fridge to firm up, at least 30 minutes, up to two days.

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After a couple of hours (I got distracted, ok?), I took the dough balls out of the fridge and rolled them out on our pizza slip (for easy transport) with some flour.  I placed one in the pie dish and cut off the excess.  The second one I cut into strips for the lattice top (fancy!) and put them both back in the fridge.

Lattice strips

Lattice strips

Then I started on the nummy stuff!

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie:

Pahie...

Pahie…

*Preheat oven to 425° F.

2 1/2 cups strawberries, hulled and halved/quartered
2 1/2 cups rhubarb, cut to about 1-in pieces
1 1/4 to 1 1/2 cups sugar (I use the lesser amount)
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/4 tsp salt

First, I cut the strawberries into quarters and the rhubarb into pieces and placed them in a bowl.

Strawberries and their "unfortunate" friend, Rhubarb (read Tough Bananas!)

Strawberries and their “unfortunate” friend, Rhubarb

Next, I combined my fruits and vegetables with sugar, cornstarch, and some salt, and let them sit for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, to get nice and juicy.

Just starting out | 15 min later

Just starting out …       |        …15 min later

Once my filling was nice and juicy, I took the pie dish and cut strips out of the fridge.  I filled my shell with the filling, then started making the lattice top.  Which is surprisingly easy as long as your strips stay cold.  I generally lay about five strips down in one direction.

Lay out 5 strips.

Lay out 5 strips.

Then, working from the middle out, I add the perpendicular strips by pulling alternating strips down about half way.  After each one, I return the strips back to their original position and pull down the others.  I do this until I have another 5 strips laid out on top of my pie.

Alternate which ones you pull back and lay another piece.

Alternate which ones you pull back and lay another piece.

Then I crimp the edge of my pie.  This always used to baffle me, so I’d use a fork and my pies would always look funny.  Then I learned that if you use either your thumbs or index fingers and kinda squish the crust between them, you get a pretty crimped crust.  Who knew?

Crust crimping.

Crust crimping.

Also, just because I was feeling fancy I brushed the crust with some milk so it would get nice and golden.  Really this is just a “beautify” step and can be skipped if you want.

Now, it’s baking time!  I put my pie on a baking sheet and surrounded the outer edges with tin foil (my ghetto pie crust shield) and put it in the oven at 425° for 30 minutes.  After 30 minutes, I bumped the temperature down to 350° and baked it for another 25-35 minutes (I think it ended up being 35 min this time, but it definitely depends on your oven).

Ghetto crust protector.

Ghetto crust protector.

I took the pie out, and much to Hubs irritation, told him that under no circumstances was he to touch it until it was completely cool.  This is usually the most difficult part of pie making…

Pretty pie.

Pretty pie.

Once it was cool… well, you know.

Printable recipes can be found here and here.

Pie Making Tip: Make your crust first.  Have it rolled out, in the pie pan, and ready to go before you start the filling.  If the filling sits too long, say 30 minutes (while you’re messing with the crust because it’s been too long since you made pie and you’ve forgotten all your handy tricks… I mean… that didn’t happen here!), it gets a little too juicy and makes for a runnier pie.

Variations: This can easily be made into either Rhubarb Pie or Strawberry Pie (depending on which side of the argument you’re on) by simply leaving out one or the other.  However, whichever you choose, be sure to have a total of 5 cups.

All recipes have been adapted from Joy of Cooking by Irma S. Rombauer, Marion Rombauer Becker, and Ethan Becker, or, as my bestie and I call it, “The [cooking] Bible.”

Comfort Food: Chicken & Dumplings

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I remember as a kid my favoritest meal was Chicken & Dumplings… mostly the dumplings part.  It was always so wonderful when my birthday would roll around in the cold winter months and, though she knew the immediate answer, Mom would ask me what I wanted for dinner.  I would get a huge grin on my face and my mouth would start to water.  Then, when I left home to join the Air Force, every time I came home the same question, the same answer.

Now that I am older and have *ahem* learned to cook myself, more frequently I try whip up my newest culinary creation for the fam when I visit, giving my mama a much needed and very deserving break from the kitchen.  This left little room for the once King Dumpling and his faithful servant, Chickón.

However, things have a way of cycling through life.  When we were dating, Hubs and I made our yearly trek to the great state of Colorado and he asked me what my favorite thing my mom made was.  Immediately “ChickenandDumplings” poured out of my mouth faster than I could even form a coherent thought.  “Ummm, she makes good pan pizza, too,”  I added lamely.  “Hmmm,” he said thoughtfully.  “Sounds good.  You think she’d mind?”  Nope.  Since then he has frequently asked me why I never make my favoritest comfort food of all time (which he, too, loves).  “Because it’s my mom’s.”  Honestly, it’s because I never think about King Dumpling unless it’s cold, rainy/snowy, or my birthday.  Usually while simultaneously missing my family.  Chicken & Dumplings are a very sacred and emotional meal for me.

But now I have my own [micro]family.  I have made them twice, at the request of Hubs, because I love him dearly.

While these are traditionally a fall/winter food in my book, it’s been oddly cool and disappointingly rainy this year.  And these babies are the perfect yucky-weather food.

First, I placed my chicken (drums and thighs) in a pot with some fresh rosemary, thyme, and parsley.

Rosemary and Thyme (and later Parsley)

Rosemary and Thyme (and later, Parsley)

I then added about 1 cup of chicken stock, a cap-full of lemon juice, salt and pepper, and enough water to be about an inch over the chicken.  I brought it to a gentle boil and cooked it on the stove for about an hour.  You know the chicken is done when the skin pulls off easily and it starts falling off the bone.

Makin' broth!

Makin’ broth!

While I waited on the chicken, I made the dumplings.  So hard!  Yeah, no.  I doubled the recipe for dumplings off the Bisquick box (4 cups Bisquick, 1 1/3 cups milk).  Usually I’m all for homemade everything, but don’t mess with my dumplings!  Mom made them with Bisquick and so do I.  Maybe some day I will try a make-over with from-scratch dumplings.  But this was not the day.

Once the chicken was done, I strained the broth to get the various herb parts out and put it back on the stove, returning it to a boil.  Next, I dropped spoonfuls of dough into the broth and let them simmer for about 5 minutes, flipped them over, and simmered for another 3-5 minutes.

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Gravy, baby.

Once the dumplings are done, dinner’s on.  The beauty of the dumplings is the fluffy centers and the nummy gravy.

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Quick.  Easy.  Comfort.  Thanks, Mom.  🙂

Printable Recipe

Oven Roasted Tomato Soup with Mozzarella & Grilled Ham and Cheese Sandwiches

To

I have a slight obsession with Tomato Soup.

As a child I hated the stuff.  You couldn’t get me within 10 miles of a bowl of the red soppy mess, much less try to make it the star of a meal.  Well, twenty-some years later and an evening filled with family, friends, a grandiose meal served by wenches, and men dressed in armor speeding towards each other on valiant steeds changed all that nonsense (I took my mom and Auntie to Medieval Times the first time they visited me).  The full course meal was served with a soup that the child in me screamed to get away from — that’s right, tomato.  The grown-up me (I don’t think adult would exactly apply here) was like “Get over yourself and try it…”  Actually, those may have been my mother’s words, not grown-up me…

Anywho, I did.  And it. Was. Amazing.

Why?!?  Why had this been missing from my life all these years?!?  How did I not know the wonderful concoction sitting in front of me in a bent and banged up metal bowl was… heaven. In. My. Mouth?!?

Needless to say, I have loved tomato soup since that day and judge a sandwich shop by how nums it’s tomato soup is.

However, with all this wonderfulness in a bowl, I have never tried to make a homemade version…

Until now.

Thanks to Pinterest (that forbidding black hole of a time suck!), I found a lovely recipe that I believed would suffice as a guide in my attempt to make the tomato-y goodness at home.  I have adapted this recipe and added a nummy sandwich.

So, here we go!  My first recipe!  YAY! [round of applause, please.]

Printable Recipe

First, I started out with eight vine ripe tomatoes cut into eight pieces each and placed them on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper.

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Vine Ripe Tomatoes

Then, because I had them and they were getting wilty, I cut 4 small celery whites (the part at the very heart of the stock) into 1 inch pieces and added them to the tomatoes.
Next I cut two small onions into quarters and scattered them around the baking sheet, and added four large garlic cloves, halved, to the sheet.
I drizzled olive oil over the top of my veggies and sprinkled them with salt and fresh cracked pepper.

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Tomatoes, celery, onions, garlic, olive oil, salt, and fresh cracked pepper. Yum!

I roasted my veggies in a pre-heated oven at 400° F (the original recipe calls for 200°… Celsius.  Thankfully I realized the oven was not hot enough when I initially opened it to commence roasting…) for about 40 minutes (the tomatoes almost looked dry, but they were sizzling and juicy!).

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Post-roast

After the roasting concluded, I poured the entire sheet of veggies into a soup pot with a few sprigs of thyme and a bay leaf.  I added about 2 cups of chicken stock, brought it up to a boil, and simmered the soup for 20-25 minutes.

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Simmery goodness.

While the soup was simmering I browsed Pinterest started on the sandwiches.  We had white bread left over from pudgy-pies this weekend, so I ended up using that.  I spread butter on the outside of each slice and (very lightly) Dijon mustard on the inside.  I piled a good salty deli ham on top, added a few slices of mozzarella and threw them in a warmed frying pan to get brown and melty.  I rested a smaller frying pan on top to mush the sandwiches down a bit, so they had that pressed deli shop feel.

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Ham and Mozzarella Pre-Grill

After the soup was done simmering I poured the contents of the soup pot into a food processor (don’t overfill the food processor — no liquid over the top of the blade handle, it makes a mess.  Trust me…) and processed until smooth.  Hubs finished the sandwiches for me and I served up the soup in small bowls, topped with two slices of mozzarella.

Roasted Tomato Soup

Roasted Tomato Soup with Mozzarella & Grilled Ham and Cheese

Heaven. In. My. Mouth.

The bright, fresh taste of vine ripened tomatoes and the salty goodness of the ham complimented each other perfectly.  And despite the disaster in the kitchen (remember what I said about the food processor…), it was totally worth it.

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Super Nums.