Saturday, January 31, 2015

Heat's Homemade: Vanilla extract

I had always wanted to learn to make my own vanilla extract. New flash: It's incredibly easy! Vanilla beans are a bit expensive, but it makes a ton of vanilla extract so will be well worth it. Also, you can continue to add vanilla beans and vodka if you start to run low. In a weird way, it's self sustaining.

Vanilla extract-adapted from Simply Recipes
Total time: Store for at least two months
Makes 1 cup vanilla

  • 3 vanila beans
  • 1 cup vodka
  • Large mason jar
With a small paring knife, slice the vanilla beans almost all the way down the center, leaving them together at the end. Place in the mason jar, cover completely with vodka and shake. Store for at least 2 months before using, shaking occassionally. You can continue to top off with vodka if desired. Lasts for years.

White chocolate cranberry cinnamon rolls

Hopefully this comes across in how much I cook, but I'm trying to stay away from all processed/packaged foods as much as possible. That being said, I've never made cinnamon rolls from scratch unless you count those that come from a can.

Normally Scott and I stick to a standard of eggs, bacon, toast and possibly hash browns for breakfast. I came across this recipe, decided to find a date I could prep them (as they need to rise for a day) and then have these as a treat. These were absolutely delicious. However, it's a little bit too much work for my normal breakfast that I don't know if I'd make them again anytime soon. This recipe makes a ton, and they would be awesome if you're having family or friends stay over or come for breakfast.


Finished product

White chocolate cranberry cinnamon rolls-adapted from Taste of Home Cooking School
Total time: 1 hour 30 minutes + overnight rising
Serves 16
  • 4 1/2 teaspoons (or two packets) active dry yeast
  • 2 cups warm water
  • 1 cup butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 5 to 6 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 package (10 to 12 ounces) white baking chips
  • 1 cup dried cranberries
  • 2 cups confectioners' sugar
  • 5 to 6 tablespoons milk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
In a large bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water. Add the butter, sugar salt and 4 cups flour; beat until smooth. Stir in enough remaining flour to form a soft dough.

Turn onto a floured surface; knead until smooth and elastic, about 6-8 minutes. Place in a greased bowl, turning once to grease the top. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

Punch dough down. On a lightly floured surface, roll into a 24 inch x 12 inch rectangle. For filling, combine the butter, brown sugar and cinnamon; spread over dough to within 1/2 inch of edges. Sprinkle with white chocolate chips and cranberries. Roll up jelly-roll style, starting with a long side; pinch seam to seal. 

Cut into 16 slices. Place cut side down in two greased 9x13 inch pans. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 45 minutes.

Bake at 350 degreese for 30-35 minutes or until golden brown. Combine glaze ingredients; drizzle over warm rolls.

Mongolian beef

I was so excited when I bought Bee Yinn Low's Easy Chinese Recipes. Chinese food is one of our favorite guilty pleasures, but if I can make a good stir fry, that's all I need. I also got a rocking wok for a wedding gift and it's the most amazing thing ever for stir fry. It's completely changed my life when it comes to stir fry. If you don't have one, go get one. If you don't have one-never fear-you can just use a skillet!

This Mongolian beef is one of our favorites so far! It has a lot of awesome flavor and is super easy to put together. The only thing I don't usually have on hand is the oyster sauce, but you should be able to find that in your local grocery store in the Asian food section (although, I did have to check a few times-it seemed to be hiding).

Scott is a huge fan of adding water chestnuts to stir fry. When I told him I was making Mongolian beef, he asked me to throw in some water chestnuts. I'd definitely recommend chopping them up a bit. But that's another great thing about stir fry-the majority of the flavor is in the sauce. Go ahead and add whatever veggies you like!

Mongolian beef-adapted from Easy Chinese Recipes by Bee Yinn Low
Total time: 25 minutes
Serves 4

  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon soy sauce
  • 1/2 tablespoon oyster sauce
  • 1 teaspoon hoisin sauce
  • 1 teaspoon rice wine
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch
  • 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3 dashes white pepper

Stir fry

  • 8 ounces flank steak. Cut into bite sized pieces
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1-1 inch piece garlic, peeled and sliced thin
  • 3 green onions, cut into 2 inch lengths
  • 1 can water chestnuts, chopped
  • Cooked rice, egg rolls or crab rangoon, for serving
Place all the ingredients for the marinade in a resealable bag. Place beef inside and toss to coat. Let marinate for at least 15 minutes. 

When done marinating, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a wok or skillet over high heat. Stir-fry the beef until the beef is browned on  the outside but still pink inside. Place on a dish and set aside.

Heat the remaining oil in the same wok or skillet over high heat. Add the garlic, ginger, green onions and water chestnuts and stir from until aromatic. Add back the beef and good until no longer pink, about 1-2 minutes. Serve beef mixture with rice, egg rolls and/or crab rangoon.

Shredded pork burritos with tomatillo sauce

Aren't slow cooker's the greatest thing ever? I just love that I can put everything together the night before, and have minimal work to do when I get home. This pork recipe is more sweet than spicy for tacos-probably good if you have picky eaters.

But--those of you that like spicy food, do not dispair. I made the tomatillo sauce a bit spicy and it was absolutely heavenly. I wish I had more recipes for tomatillos. I will be honest, I don't really know what they are or how I should use them, but I always like when I do use them.

TIP: Since this is a bone-in roast, when I remove the bones, I put them in a gallon freezer bag, and keep in the freezer. Once the bag is full of bones, I'll make a bone broth out of it!

I will say though, I got to use my new Ninja blender for this, but ended up cutting my finger on the blade (it's really sharp!) :(  I am fine, but it definitely hurts!

Scott always makes fun of me for the amount of stuff I put in my tacos/burritos. Do you think it's too much for one girl to eat??

My burrito

Tomatillo sauce
Shredded pork burritos with tomatillo sauce-adapted from Taste of Home's Easy Back to School Meals
Total time: 9 hours
Serves 16
For the pork:
  • 1 bone-in pork shoulder roast (5 pounds)
  • 2 tablespoons plus 1/2 cup packed brown sugar, divided
  • 3 teaspoons paprika, divided
  • 2 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 12 ounces cola
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1 large onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
For the sauce:
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 tomatillos, husks removed
  • 2 tablespoons dried cilantro
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and diced
  • 1 envelope ranch dressing mix
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 16 flour tortillas
  • Cheese, black olives, lettuce, sour cream-for serving
Place roast in a greased 5-quart slow cooker. Cover with 2 tablespoons brown sugar, 2 teaspoons paprika, pepper flakes, cumin, salt, cola, chicken broth, onion and garlic. Cover and cook on low for 8-10 hours or until meat is tender. 

Shred the meat (sometimes I can do it right in the crock, sometimes I need to put it on a cutting board-do whatever is comfortable for you). Discard the bones. Return meat to slow cooker if removed. Stir in remaining brown sugar and paprika. Cover and continue to cook on low until heated through and sauce is done.

For the sauce, in a blender, combine the mayonnaise, milk, tomatillos, cilantro, jalapeno, ranch mix, lime juice, garlic and cayenne. Cover and process until blended. Pour into a small bowl and chill until serving.

Using a slotted spoon, fill each tortilla with your desired amount of pork, and top with you favorite toppings and the tomatillo sauce.

Italian pork chops

Oh man. You guys will love this recipe. It includes a tad bit more than a 'set it and forget it' to thicken the sauce, but it's still incredibly easy. I think my favorite part is that it makes a TON of sauce. I have a bunch left over that I plan on using this week for a recipe. We're working on moving into a new place, and once that is done, I want to learn to can, and I think this would be a great recipe!

Anyway, This is one of the easiest meals I've made! The flavors were fantastic even though there wasn't too much to it. The pork ended up super tender, you didn't even need a fork! I served over pasta for the extra sauce.

Italian pork chops-adapted from Taste of Home's Easy Back to School Meals
Total time: 6 hours
Serves 4

  • 4 boneless pork chops
  • 1/2 pound fresh mushrooms
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 2 cans (8 ounces each) tomato sauce
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried parsley flakes
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 1/4 cup cold water
  • Cooked pasta of your choice, for serving
In a 4-5 quart greased slow cooker, place the pork chops, mushrooms, onions and garlic. Top with tomato sauce, lemon juice, salt, oregano, basil and parsley. Cover and cook for 6-8 hours on low, or until pork is tender and cooked through.

Remove pork to an oven-safe dish, and place in an oven preheating to 250 degrees. This will keep them warm. Transfer the sauce to a medium sauce pan. 

In a small bowl, combine cornstarch and water and mix until smooth. Add to saucepan and bring mixture to a boil. Cook and stir for 2 minutes or until thickened. Serve over pork chops and pasta.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

BBQ Shredded Beef

Using honey chipotle barbecue sauce may be my new favorite thing for shredded beef. It adds a bit of heat, but not too much that I don't like it. I did cook the beef on high for about 4 hours and it was very tough where it really didn't get shredded, but I had to slice it instead.

I know I don't normally post specific brands in my ingredient listings. You can certainly trade them out, but Sweet Baby Ray's is the only way to go for shredded beef in my opinion!

BBQ Shredded Beef-adapted from Tasty Kitchen
Total Time: 5 hours
Serves 8

  • 3 pound beef chuck roast
  • Garlic salt and seasoned pepper to taste
  • 1-16 ounce bottle Sweet Baby Ray's Honey Chipotle BBQ Sauce
  • 1 12-ounce can beer (I used Sierra Nevada Pale Ale)
  • 1-22 ounce bottle Sweet Baby Ray's Traditional BBQ Sauce
  • Rolls and cheese for serving
Rub the roast with garlic salt and seasoned pepper to taste. Place roast in a greased 5-quart slow cooker and cover with remaining ingredients. Cover and cook on high for 4-5 hours.

Take out beef and shred or slice. Return to slow cooker and serve with rolls.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Herbed rib roast

As part of one of our Christmas presents, Scott's dad bought us a giant rib roast! I was so excited to make it, and it gave us a great reason to try out our rotisserie (don't worry, I have instructions if you don't have a rotisserie too). It was absolutely phenomenal, and I can't wait to make it again as we had to cut the roast in half it was so big!

Herbed rib roast-adapated from Taste of Home
Total time: 1 hour 30 miniutes (rotisserie), 2 hours (oven)
Serves 8-10

  • 1 beef ribeye roast (4-5 pounds)
  • 3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried majoram
Cut slits into the roast and insert the slices of garlic. Rub the roast with the seasonings. If making in a rotisserie: follow rotisserie instructions for loading and cook times. Ours took about 1 hour, 20 minutes.

If making in the oven: Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Place roast on a roasting pan fat side up. Bake uncovered for 2-2 1/2 hours or until cooked to desired doneness. (Medium rare is 145 degrees).

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Steakhouse potatoes

Oh. Em. Gee. Let me tell you about these potatoes. I think I'm pretty good at making mashed potatoes but these were something else. I couldn't. Stop. Eating them. You won't be sorry making these.

Steakhouse potatoes-adapted from Ree on Tasty Kitchen
Total time: 25 minutes
Serves 4

  • 5 large red potatoes, quartered
  • 1 stick butter, softened and cut into pieces
  • 5 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
  • 2 green onions, sliced
  • 3/4 cup sour cream
  • Salt to taste
  • Pepper to taste
  • 3/4 cup french fried onions
  • 1 cup cheddar cheese
Boil potatoes as if you are making mashed potatoes-about 20 minutes. Drain and return to pan. Smash with a potato masher and add in all other ingredients, mixing well. Top with additional cheese and french friend onions, if desired.

Garlic and butter green beans

This is such a simple recipe, but it's so good. It's probably all the butter. I seriously cannot say no :)

Garlic and butter green beans-adapted from thechefs(ex)wife on Tasty Kitchen
Total time: 20 minutes
Serves 4

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 pound frozen green beans, thawed
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
Melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add remaining ingredients and saute until heated through, 5 to 15 minutes depending on if beans are still frozen. 

Friday, January 2, 2015

Baked manicotti

When I was going to the store, I had to Google the difference between cannelloni and manicotti. The original recipe calls for cannelloni, but I was struggling to find it. From reading online, I couldn't tell much of a difference, so just went with manicotti

Although it's a pain in the butt to stuff the manicotti's it wasn't as bad for me this time (see the last time I made manicotti here). I actually read the box (weird, right?) and cooled the manicotti on a baking sheet. It helped so much--and, as an added bonus, the noodles didn't stick together!

Anyway, this recipe also calls for you to make your own bechamel sauce. Scott absolutely LOVED this recipe. I would definitiely make it again. I was actually surprised as I didn't add any extra seasonings (or salt). The original recipe calls for using brats and removing the casings, but just using a 16-19oz package of regular Italian sausage will work too. It takes awhile to make (you need at least an hour), but it's totally worth it. Plus, you could probably put it together a day or so ahead of time.

One last thing, when it says large skillet, definitely use the biggest one you have! I got everything to fit in our standard, what I would call medium, pan with a bit of a raised edge, but it got a bit messy when I started stirring.

Baked manicotti-adapted from Taste of Home Cooking School, original recipe from Johnsonville
Total time: 1 hour
Serves 6

  • 2 tablespoons oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 4 ounces mushrooms, chopped
  • 16-19 ounces Italian sausage
  • 6 tablespoons butter
  • 6 tablespoons flour
  • 3 cups milk
  • 12 ounces mozzarella cheese, shredded
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 box (14 shells) manicotti
  • 1/2 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded
  • 1/3 cup Parmesan cheese, shredded
For the filling
In a large skillet, add oil, onion and mushrooms over medium heat and cook for about 5 minutes. Add sasauge, stir and cook until the onion is softened and the sausage is no longer pink. Set aside.

Meanwhile, cook the pasta according to package directions, minus 2 minutes (mine was about 5). Drain, place on a baking sheet to cool.

For the bechamel sauce
Preheat oven to 450 degreesMelt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add flour and stirr until well incorporated. Slowly add milk and whisk together until smooth. Continue whisking as mixture comes to a slow boil and begins to thicken. Stir half the sauce into the sausage mixture and reserve the other half to pour over the manicotti. Add 12 ounces shredded mozzarella to the sausage mixture and stir while adding in the egg yolks. Cover and set aside if pasta is not yet cool enough.

Spread 3/4 cup of the sauce on the bottom of a 9x13 inch greased baking dish. Spoon filling into each pasta tube carefully by starting at one end and pushing through with a spoon or your finger.

Nestle the manicotti in the sauce and cover with remaining sauce (if there is any extra sausage mixture, but this on top as well). Top with mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses.

Bake for 45 minutes or until heated through and the cheese starts to turn golden. Remove from oven and let stand for 5 minutes before serving.


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