Thursday, July 24, 2014

 Sweet Potato and Ham Dinner



"It takes no talent to make a ham." These are the wise words of my grandmother who was indeed an outstanding and talented cook. The context of this is a little murky, but I can't really make ham without hearing these words in my head. Ham is a pretty foolproof thing to make in general. Think about it; have you ever really had a terrible ham? Even a bad ham sandwich? Probably not. 

Fortunately, even if you do have some cooking talent ham is still  delicious. I typically love the sauces that go with this porky pleaser more than the meat itself. This slow cooker dish is no exception. The cinnamon, sugar and delicious sweet potatoes add something really special to the ham to make it a terrific dinner. 

Wanting a hot dinner and having a hot kitchen is a problem I face pretty regularly. The slow cooker really helps out with that and gives food great cooked all day flavor. Not to mention your dinner is ready when you get home from work. I see no bad side to this at all. 

Ingredients

4 medium sweet potatoes, peeled, and chopped into bite sized cubes
1/4 cup almonds, chopped
2 tablespoons of butter, diced into small bits
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon of salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon sugar
1 ham steak, trimmed


 Combine all the ingredients except for the ham steak and stir well to combine. Then add in the ham steak. I like to put about half of the sweet potato mixture under the ham and about half on top of it. That way it absorbs all the delicious flavors.





Monday, July 21, 2014



 Apricot Upside Down Cake

 

 

 I just love upside down cakes! I think they are a great way to make really tasty fruit desserts regardless of what is in season. This was not always the case. As a child I was very excited about anything that could be eaten and had the phrase "upside down" involved. That was until I had a crazy weird upside down rum cake that tasted like candle wax with a side of indigestion. 

I have overcome the situation and reignited my love for these cakes. 

Apricots are just a delightful fruit. A bit like a peach's forgotten step sister, these little beauties are just perfect to eat plain or put in a cake. The sweet sugar topping really intensifies the flavor of the apricots making this cake something extra special.

1/4 cup brown sugar
4 tablespoons of butter, melted
8 to 12 apricots, halved
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup milk
1/4 vegetable oil
1 egg
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
 1 1/2 cups flour



First, measure some parchment paper to fit into a 9 inch cake pan. Cut out the parchment and spray the top with cooking spray. This will ensure the cake will have no chance of sticking. 


Combine the brown sugar and the melted butter in a small bowl. Then pour this over the parchment. This will give the cake a beautiful sheen and the apricots a sweet buttery glaze. 
 

Squish in your halved apricots. The number you use will depend on the size of the apricots and how they fit into the pan. Mine fit perfectly with a bit of encouragement, but I had plenty of extras in case they didn't. The apricots look so cute, don't they? It's almost like they are little cherub cheeks!


In a medium bowl, combine the remaining ingredients in order, mixing well after each addition. If you were really ambitious, you could combine the flour, salt and baking powder in a separate bowl before adding it to the wet ingredients. I did not, so I will not ask you to do such things. 

Pour the batter over the top of the apricots. Tap the pan on the counter to bring all the air bubbles to the surface. 
 

Bake the cake for about 25 to 30 minutes at 350 degrees. You will know the cake is done when a cake tester comes out mostly clean. There can be crumbs, but no gooey batter.


Let the cake cool until you can safely touch the pan with your bare hand. When that time comes, you are ready to flip over your cake. Put a plate over the cake pan and flip the whole thing over. Take off the parchment and admire the delicious, butter sauce swimming over the top of the cake.


Thursday, July 17, 2014


Slow Cooker Carnitas




Carnitas are one of my favorite Mexican foods to make home. Carnitas literally translates to mean "little meats." It's a pretty accurate description of what it ends up being. Little chunks of tender and juicy meat. Traditionally carnitas are the left over pieces of pork that then fried in lard or oil. 

One of our favorite restaurants does this in the old fashioned style. The pork comes out juicy and crispy. As enjoyable as it may be, it is probably not a great idea to eat it every day. So an easy and healthy way to get the same flavors is with this slow cooker recipe. 

This is a great recipe since there is very little prep work. Just dump everything in and go. It is very rare that I make a slow cooker recipe that asks you to brown the meat first. It's just silly. If my true desires were to heat a pan and brown meat, I wouldn't be using a slow cooker, would I?

 Pork shoulder works really well for this recipe. You can buy carnitas but I feel it is a much lower quality meat with a lot more fat. When I have purchased the packaged carnitas, the top third of the slow cooker ends up being grease. Ew. Not only is it money wasted but then you have to clean it up. Ew.

Ingredients

2 pounds pork shoulder (whole or pieces)
2 teaspoons of taco seasoning
3 cups of medium salsa
1 diced jalapeno
 Cooked white rice or tortillas for serving.

This is super simple and easy. First, coat the pork with the taco seasoning and place it in a slow cooker. Throw in the salsa and jalapeno. Cook this on low for about 6 to 8 hours. You can cut the cooking time by cranking the heat up to high, but I find it makes the meat less tender.


This is so simple but delicious! You will know the meat is done when it shreds very easily. My favorite way to eat these is to shred the meat and serve over rice. The rice soaks up all the juices from the meat and spicy sauce. It is also very good with tortillas and cheese

 Be on the look out for recipes on what to do with the leftovers, this is fabulous for any Mexican food you want to make!

Monday, July 14, 2014


Lemon Supreme Poke Cake

 


Many people who love to cook have an obsession with cook books. I do enjoy them, but it is rare any recipe from them gets made in my kitchen. I usually have them just for the pictures. 

However, I have found an exception to this tendency. My sweet friend Shanna got me an awesome cook book for my bridal shower. I have made tons of recipes from it already. Sometimes cookbooks have overly fancy recipes no one makes. The Better Homes and Gardens Bridal Edition has seriously rocked my world. No, they are not paying me to say that. They have real recipes you can make with things already in your kitchen. 


Shanna is one of those people who is just so sweet you worry she might melt in the rain. Here is a cute picture of us from my wedding! When she requested a lemon recipe for our ladies group I couldn't say no and I knew it had to be extra good. 

This luxurious dessert starts with a light and tender white cake from the Better Homes and Gardens cook book. A layer of creamy lemony goodness is added on top and some whipped topping finishes it all off. This is so good!

Ingredients 


Cake
4 egg whites
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup softened butter
1 3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/3 cups buttermilk

Topping
1 can of sweetened condensed milk
zest and juice of 2 large lemons
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 small tub of whipped topping



This is a very delicate cake. You really do need to let the buttermilk and the egg whites stand at room temperature for at least 30 minutes before you start. Trust me, it makes a difference.


Beat the butter, sugar and vanilla on medium speed with a mixer for about two minutes. This should be very fluffy. Add in the room temperature egg whites slowly. Once all the egg whites are in, mix for another minute or so to make sure this is very well combined. 


In a medium bowl combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Stir this around a bit until it is combined.


Ok, it is serious mixing time! Add in about a third of the flour and mix well. Once that is combined, add in one third of the buttermilk. Keep alternating until everything is blended very well.When you have everything in, mix for about another 30 seconds for maximum fluffiness.


There are several theories about what to end the mixing with: dry ingredients or milk. Paula Deen says to end with the milk, and Martha Stewart says to end with the dry ingredients. Honestly, I don't think it really matters as well as it's all nicely combined. 


Pour all of this goodness into a well greased 9 X 13 pan. This will bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes. You will know the cake is done when a tooth pick comes out cleanly. 


While your cake is baking, combine the condensed milk, lemony goodness and the vanilla in a small bowl. Mix this well so it is ready to go when the cake comes out of the oven. 


Now that we have our beautiful cake baked, we need to make some poke marks in it to allow for our delicious filling to soak through. 


Poke, poke, poke!


When your cake has more holes than a sieve, pour the lemon mixture over the top. It is important to do this while the cake is still hot so it will absorb this better. 


Soon enough the cake will begin to drink up all the delicious filling. If you feel left out of the process, you can continue to poke while the filling soaks in. Once the cake is cooled, cover it with plastic wrap and let it chill in the fridge for about an hour. 


Once the cake has been chilled for an hour, swish the whipped topping over the cake and continue to chill until you are ready to serve. 


This is a rich and decadent cake, so I cut it into small squares. If you are in a hurry, a white cake mix will do just fine instead of making it from scratch. I would encourage you to try out the full recipe, it is so worth it!

Thursday, July 10, 2014


 Homemade Taco Seasoning


It's no secret that I love spicy food. Lucky for me, my husband does too. His family has even joked our kids will have to walk around with hot sauce in their pocket to make other people's food taste normal to them. I often cook Mexican food at home and I have been on the hunt for the perfect combination of spices to use in my recipes.

Taco seasoning is one of the most common recipes in the spice isle. I have tried many of them and I am not a huge fan of the prepackaged ones. Some are far too salty, some too bland and others too sweet. This is a good in between version. It's not too salty or spicy, but it has a good deal of flavor. Many taco or Mexican spice seasonings are designed just for tacos and have flour in them to thicken up taco meat. This puts a huge dent in the amount of flavor this adds to your recipes.

I like to have seasonings on hand that will work with anything I am making. This is a great recipe for chili, tacos, salsa, quesadillas, and one of my favorite Mexican foods,  burritos.

Taco Seasoning Ingredients

1 part salt
1 part garlic powder
1 part ground chile (Latino foods isle)
1 part cumin

Just like the other seasonings, I just measure out the container and divide by four. Make sure your container is very clean and dry before putting the seasonings into it. Keep in mind, ground chile is not the same thing as chile powder. Chile powder is a combination of different spices. Ground chile is the chile itself made into a powder. It shouldn't be too difficult to find. If you are unable to locate this powdered gold, then chile powder will work well, too.

To use your new seasoning for delicious burritos...


Saute about half of a diced onion in vegetable oil over medium heat. Cook this until it is a bit tender.
 

Add in about 1/2 pound of ground beef or turkey and brown until the meat is no longer pink. Add in about 1/4 teaspoon of your fresh taco seasoning.  We will add more in later, but you want to make sure each layer of the ingredients has been seasoned well.
 

Next, add in 1 small can of diced green chilies. I like to use the mild version and add in more heat depending on who I am serving. 


For the last ingredient, add in about 1 to 2 cups of whole beans. You can use canned or homemade if you have them on hand. I like pinto beans, but black beans would work well here, too. If you are using canned beans add in another 1/4 teaspoon of the seasoning. Homemade beans tend to have less salt in them so you can add up to another 1/2 teaspoon depending on your taste.


 The only thing you need for a delicious burrito is a few warmed flour tortillas and a good sprinkling of cheese. This is one of my favorite meals and best ways to enjoy a delicious homemade taco seasoning.

Monday, July 7, 2014


 Homemade Spice Mixes

 

 Summer time is a season where I feel my cooking muscles get weak. It's so easy to just grill up some meat and veggies that I don't really cook anything spectacular or special. To get some inspiration, I took a look at the spice isle hoping to find something new. 

There are so many different spice mixes out there! Spicy, sweet, salty, and so many other types to add some flare to your food. After noticing the variety my eyes took in the hefty price tag for each one of the "special blends." The ingredients usually list the same things: salt, pepper and garlic. This got me to thinking about making my own spice mixes. I have played around with them a bit and they have become a new staple here in Gingerlocks' Kitchen. These mixes add so much flavor to everyday dishes with things you already have in your kitchen. Not to mention all these benefits without the cost of the premixed seasonings at the store.

All Purpose Seasoning 

1 part salt
1 part pepper
1 part garlic powder

This is a great seasoning to put on anything savory you cook. Sometimes I under estimate the power of pepper and don't add nearly as much of it as I should. I love to use this seasoning mix on grilled meats and veggies, it really adds tons of flavor. 



To make your spice mix we first need to measure out whatever container you are going to use. This can be something like a small bowl, baby food jar or even an old spice container. Regardless of what you use make sure it is squeaky clean. This way you will just have the spice flavor you are adding and not what was previously in the container. I used these awesome magnetic spice containers that stay on a utensil holder on the stove.

Fill up the container with rice. You can use oats or another small grain, too. Then measure how much rice you have. Mine came out to be about 1/2 cup total. We need to divide this by three equal parts for the salt, pepper and garlic powder. There are 8 tablespoons in each half cup, so I needed to add about 2 and half tablespoons of each part.

This was a bit exact of me, but you can certainly eyeball it. I ran out of the all purpose seasoning mix the other day and added this with a quick estimate and it was just as good.



This seasoning mix adds so much flavor to everyday things, especially on the grill. These steaks were so tasty. Just add a liberal sprinkle of the seasoning mix and throw it on the grill, it will be fabulous!


yum!

Cinnamon Sugar 

 

 


scant 1/2 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon

Combine these well in a clean and very dry container. If there is any moister in the container, the sugar will crystallize and clump up. 

While I was in the spice isle this was one of the mixes that had the most surprising price tag. A small container or cinnamon sugar was over $3. Obviously this is not a rocket science type of mix, but it is really handy to have ready to go for cereal, oatmeal, toast or anything else you want to add a little sugar and spice to. 

One of my favorite ways to use cinnamon sugar is to make cinnamon sugar pancakes. The top is super flavorful with a sweet crunch. First, start with my super fluffy pancake recipe, just omit the bacon (unless you like everything in your pancakes).


As you pour the batter into a well greased pan, sprinkle over a pretty thick layer of the cinnamon sugar while the pancake cooks on its first side. Remember to grease your pan really well as there will be some sugary casualties that fall off. When there are bubbles around the edges of the pancake, flip it over carefully. Cook this only a few minutes keeping a close eye on the cinnamon sugar coating to ensure it doesn't burn.


These are soo yummy! The top is sticky and crunchy with a fluffy pancake underneath it. Heaven with a maple syrup topping.

Check back on Thursday for a spicy taco seasoning!

Friday, July 4, 2014


 Creamy Sausage Pasta


This is undoubtedly one of my husband's favorite meals in the world. I frequently refer to this as "The pasta that made you fall in love with me." He has never disagreed with this title. He could eat this pasta every day and still love it. I have to admit, he has good taste in pasta and women. 

The dish starts out with spicy Italian Sausage and is covered in a decadent pink sauce made from Alfredo and Marinara. The combination of the spice, creaminess and the tang of tomatoes is just perfect over piping hot pasta. This is great with any pasta, but this time I used orecchiette. Penne is also a great shape to soak up all of the sauce

I'm warning you, be careful who you feed this to. They may keep coming around!


Ingredients

1 pound of Spicy Italian Sausage
2 red bell peppers, diced
1 16 ounce jar of Alfredo Sauce
4 cups or 24 ounces  of Marinara Sauce
1 pound of short cut pasta ( penne, macaroni, orecchiette)



First, brown the sausage until it is no longer pink. I like to use the spicy sausage, but anything you like will be great here too. Start boiling the water for the pasta.


 Once the sausage is mostly done, add in the diced pepper. This adds a nice bit of freshness to the pasta. You don't need to add any oil to this. The sausage has enough yummy grease to cook them up just fine.

The pasta water should be boiling by now. Add in the pasta and cook for about 8 minutes. You will know the pasta is done when it is slightly chewy. The pasta should not be completely done since it will finish cooking in the sauce.


Once the peppers are slightly tender, add in both of the sauces. I like to rinse out both of the jars with a bit of water. This ensures I have sucked every bit of flavor out of their containers.


Look at this sauce. Just look at it. I could drink a good amount of this with a straw, but it would leave some very naked and sad pasta.


Add in the cooked and drained pasta. Stir well to make sure all the pasta gets a good coating of the sauce. Let this cook for about another 10 minutes. It will look like the sauce has cooked away, but the pasta has just soaked it all up.


This is a pretty rich pasta, so I like to serve it in small bowlfuls with a nice salad to go with it. 

This pasta is crazy delicious, but it is also really easy. All it takes is browning some sausage and boiling some pasta. I can't promise love is that easy, but even if it isn't you can feel pretty snuggled by this tasty dinner!