Infused Olive Oils

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Now that spring has arrived, I have devoted even more time to our garden and the herbs that we have been growing. To get as much use out of the produce growing on our property, as well as ingredients I tend to keep in my pantry, I infused olive oil using four different combinations. It’s a great way to make use of a variety of herbs, as well as other ingredients such as citrus, garlic, and peppers.

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To infuse the oil, I simply heated it with the herbs and aromatics, let simmer gently for about five minutes, and bottled it once cooled. The amount of herbs completely depends on how potent you want the oil to be. I typically use about four sprigs of herbs per cup of oil, resulting in a delicate but still noticeable flavor. You can use any combination of ingredients, so long as they are appropriately infused. Soft herbs should be blended with the oil separately, whereas woody herbs and aromatics can be added directly to oil when heating. Aromatic ingredients, such as garlic and onion, can be lightly roasted in the oven to extract extra flavor before adding to oil for heating.

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For the first combination, I used rosemary, mint, and orange rind, all from our very own garden.

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For the second oil, I used roasted garlic, thyme, scallions, and ginger. I like to add the ingredients used to the bottle for presentation, and as a reminder of what’s inside.

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The third infused oil included garlic, dry chiles, and basil. I love using this combination on meats, and to drizzle on pizza.

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For the final oil, I used thyme, oregano, and rosemary from our garden. These oils add extra flavor and fragrance to all meals, making them great to have for multiple uses such as drizzling on meats, adding to salads, or just for dipping bread.

 

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Roasted Garlic Knots

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I have finally mastered making delicious garlic knots that are crisp on the outside, and soft and chewy on the inside. For these decadent knots I used a favorite pizza dough recipe, and instead of chopping up fresh garlic as many garlic knot recipes do, I decided to roast an entire garlic bulb and make a thick paste that thoroughly infused the knots with flavor.

For the dough:

Ingredients: 1 packet active dry yeast, 3 1/2 cups all purpose flour (plus more for dusting), 1 tablespoon honey, 1 tablespoon olive oil (plus more to grease a large bowl), 1 1/2 cups warm water, 2 teaspoons salt.

Instructions: Add yeast and warm water to a small bowl, gently stir and let sit for five minutes, then add honey and stir.  Add the flour, salt, and oil to a large bowl. Slowly add the water to the flour bowl and mix thoroughly with your hands. You should be able to make a slightly sticky large dough ball. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead for about three minutes. Place dough on a well oiled bowl and cover with a tea towel; let sit for 1 1/2 hours, until the dough doubles in size. Remove dough from bowl and cut into three equal sized pieces. Gently roll the pieces out into balls, cover and let sit for an additional 15 minutes. Roll each dough ball out to flat long shapes, then cut into strips with a knife.

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For the garlic paste:

Ingredients: 1 whole garlic bulb, 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon dry parsley.

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Instructions: chop off top of the garlic bulb and roast in 350F pre-heated oven for 30 minutes (the cloves will gently start to pop out when ready). Let cool and squeeze out garlic cloves. Mash with a fork in a small bowl, add olive oil, salt, and parsley.

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Brush the garlic paste on each strip to cover one side entirely.

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Tie each strip into a knot, and place on a lightly floured cookie sheet. Brush remaining olive oil onto tops of knots and bake at 350F for 20 minutes, until golden brown. Make sure to eat them when they’re fresh!

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Zucchini & Turkey ‘Lasagna’

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I’ve made this zucchini dish several times and love coming back to it with new ingredients. This time, instead of ground beef, I decided to use ground turkey. I actually like this low carb/gluten free meal much better than traditional lasagna.

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INGREDIENTS:

2 large green zucchini

2 large yellow squash

1/2 white onion

1/2 cup sliced crimini mushrooms

1 pound ground turkey

2 cups tomato sauce

2 tablespoons salt

1 tablespoon peper

1 teaspoon fennel seeds

1 teaspoon dried thyme

1 1/2 cups low fat shredded cheese

INSTRUCTIONS:

Pre-heat oven to 350F.

Chop the onion and mushrooms and add to a pan with a little bit of olive oil. Sauté until the onions are a little translucent.

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Add the ground turkey to the pan and using a wooden spoon, separate the meat while it’s cooking. While the turkey cooks, slice up the squash into long flat slices.

Add the tomato sauce once the turkey has mostly cooked through on the outside (it will finish cooking in the oven) along with the salt, pepper, thyme, and fennel seeds. Let the meat soak in the tomato sauce and spices for a couple of minutes on the stovetop.

In a large flat baking dish lay the squash flat to create the bottom layer of your lasagna. Then simply layer it with meat, followed by cheese, then squash again. Your top layer will be a final layer of squash topped with a layer of cheese.

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Put in 350F oven for about 15 – 20 minutes for the meat to finish cooking and the cheese to melt. That’s it! It’s easy and it makes plenty. I can’t wait to have this for dinner again tonight. Leftovers are just as good.


Zucchini Noodle Salad

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I am not actually a vegetarian, but I often tend to lean in that direction. I enjoy meat, and am not willing to completely give it up, but I find myself seeking out vegetable based dishes more often than not. I also love finding ways to swap out ingredients in dishes in favor of making it healthier. There are many vegetables that work so well to replace starches such as eggplant lasagna or spaghetti squash, so taking a cue from the latter I decided to try making ‘noodles’ out of zucchini. I am so excited with the results. I flavored it as I would a light pasta salad, and served it warm. It was a perfect light and comforting meal for these early autumn nights.

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INGREDIENTS (makes 4 large servings):

5 zucchini (I used green, you can of course use yellow squash as well)

1 1/2 cups cooked chick peas

1 cup cherry tomatoes

1 corn husk

1/4 cup red wine vinegar

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 orange bell pepper

Salt and pepper to taste

Goat cheese for sprinkling on top

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INSTRUCTIONS:

Cut your zucchini long ways in half and carefully make thin long slices from each half. I laid the zucchini flat on my cutting board and make horizontal slices to get thin flat slices. If you have a mandolin this process should be much easier, I had to use a knife. After you’ve cut all your thin slices slice the zucchini into thin long strips. You can make them as thick or thin as you would like, the idea is just to emulate spaghetti. Keep in mind that zucchini shrinks when it cooks. On a griddle (or in your oven on a piece of aluminum foil) roast the corn until it is evenly cooked. Cut the cherry tomatoes in half and sprinkle a little bit of olive oil and salt just enough to lightly coat them. Add tomatoes to griddle and let them roast for a couple of minutes. I used tongs to keep them moving so they would grill from both sides.

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Once the corn is cooked, remove from heat and let it cool down. When it is safe to handle, use a knife to remove the corn kernels from the husk. Add the zucchini to a pot and cook until they are slightly tender but not soggy. Mix in the other vegetables and add remaining olive oil, vinegar, salt, and pepper to taste. Serve with little dollops of goat cheese. You can have this hot or cold, it’s yummy either way.

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Eggs in Tomato Sauce

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This past weekend, I decided to use my brand new skillet for the first time by making an egg breakfast. I love our cast iron griddle, but this is my first cast iron skillet and I’m so excited to be using it! They may look like fried eggs, but these were actually cooked in the tomato sauce in the oven. Next time, I would love to add some mushrooms or some crumbled bits of chorizo to further enhance it.

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INGREDIENTS (makes for four eggs):

2 cups tomato sauce (I used the Trader Joes Puttanesca sauce which has olives, capers, and anchovies that give it a great flavor)

4 eggs

1/2 large white onion

1 tablespoon olive oil

INSTRUCTIONS:

Pre-heat your oven to 350F.

In a medium sized skillet I sautéed some chopped onion before adding the tomato sauce to give it more flavor. After sautéing onions in the olive oil until they’re lightly browned on the stove top, add the tomato sauce and let it simmer for about a minute. When the tomato sauce is evenly warmed up crack your eggs right into the sauce. You can make little ‘pockets’ in the sauce before adding your eggs so they can submerge into the sauce a bit more. Lightly salt for taste and put skillet into oven for about 2 minutes for over easy eggs and about 5 minutes if you want the yolks to cook through. I quickly learned that it may continue to look like the yolk is soft, but it cooks very quickly using this method.

We ate this with some toasted corn tortillas, but if served with bread, or even alone it’s just as delicious.


Grilled Skirt Steak with Chimichurri Sauce and Asparagus

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I recently decided to try making chimichurri sauce for the first time, so I looked up a few recipes to get a basic idea, and then ended up taking my own approach. I grilled skirt steak with just a bit of salt and pepper rubbed over it, then topped it with sauce and paired it with simple grilled asparagus. I added an extra dollop of sauce to each plate to have some for the asparagus as well.

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INGREDIENTS:

1 cup arugula

2 cups parsley

2 teaspoons cumin

1 tablespoon salt

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 jalapeno

2 garlic cloves

1/2 white onion

INSTRUCTIONS:

Put all the ingredients in a food processor and grind until smooth. Add a tiny bit of water if it’s not coming out as smooth as you would like it. Serve over grilled steak with vegetables.

 


Grilled Chicken and Freshly Made Tomato Sauce with Whole Wheat Angel Hair

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Finding meals that are both delicious and quick to make can of course be a common challenge. This meal only took about 20 minutes total, if that. It was low fat, healthy, and really yummy.

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Eating outdoors on cool spring evenings is always an added bonus to a home-made meal. It’s a fun treat for our cats to roam around on the patio for a bit too as you can see in the photo.

INGREDIENTS:

2 large chicken breasts (I cut them into slices)

1 teaspoon olive oil

1 large can peeled plum tomatoes

1 medium white onion

2 sprigs fresh thyme

3 garlic cloves

salt and pepper to taste

1/2 lb 100% whole wheat angel hair pasta

INSTRUCTIONS:

Rub chicken breast pieces with salt and place on heated griddle, grill each side for about 5 minutes each – until both sides have griddle marks and meat is cooked through when sliced. While chicken is grilling heat a pan with olive oil and add the garlic and onions. Once garlic and onions are translucent add the tomatoes (with juices), thyme, salt and pepper. With a wooden spoon smush down the whole tomatoes, you can use sliced tomatoes too but I like the whole since they seem to hold on to their juices better for more flavor. Allow ingredients to simmer then add chicken breast slices to pan, let the chicken simmer with the sauce for another couple of minutes. Cook pasta per package instructions and serve topped with chicken and sauce.

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Prosciutto & Pancetta Wrapped Asparagus with Fried Egg Breakfast

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In the past, I’ve served bacon wrapped asparagus as an appetizer, and I thought I would do a variation of that for breakfast. I’m the type of cook that primarily gets inspiration from what happens to be in the refrigerator, and this time I had a ton of asparagus, but no bacon. I did however have some pancetta and prosciutto, which are more flavorful than bacon in my opinion, so I went for it! You can prepare your eggs however you like best, but I would recommend poaching or frying. I love the way the runny yolk melds together with the asparagus and toasted salty meats.

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The prep itself was fairly quick and easy. I simply separated the asparagus into bunches – whatever size/amount you would like per serving, keeping in mind that it will shrink down a bit as it cooks. I then wrapped the asparagus with one piece of pancetta and one piece prosciutto, drizzled some olive oil and a tiny amount of salt over it, and baked in a 350F oven for about 15 minutes.

I served this up with some fresh coffee, opened the curtains to let the sunshine in and had a lovely breakfast with my boyfriend who ate it all up. I cannot wait to make this one again!