maple balsamic dressing

you know, making my own salad dressing isn’t really something i think about doing often.  it’s just so easy to pick up a bottle from the grocery store.  it seems to be just fine.  until you make your own.  then it’s all over.  i’ve made various salad dressings before for somen salad and chinese chicken salad, as well as blue cheese dressing and the thai peanut dressing i made recently.  all of those are great but they didn’t convince me to just make my own regular salad dressing.

then my friend/colleague brought a maple dressing to serve with the salad she made for our office’s end of the year potluck.  i had a taste and it was the most delicious thing ever.  i knew i wanted to try to make some of my own.  but when i asked her for the recipe, she said she just throws things in a jar and mixes it up.  uh oh!  i don’t know to do  that.  you know me and how i need a recipe to follow.

so i went to the googles and found a recipe for maple balsamic dressing.  whipped it up and within minutes i had the most delicious maple balsamic dressing in the world.  i know, the WORLD!  this is a big claim but the fact that i have made probably 5 batches in the last 5 weeks says something.  plus chris even likes it and he’s usually not a big vinaigrette fan.

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crockpot bolognese sauce

i have a problem.

i am officially obsessed…

obsessed with my slow cooker.

since we got a new slow cooker from our dear friend tammy, i have made a ton of different crockpot recipes.  it makes cooking soooooo much easier!  i can make a big batch of whatever it is and have some for a couple of meals through the week, plus a bit to freeze for later.  i have made everything from meatballs to black beans.  i’ll be posting all of the recipes slowly but surely and first up is this absolutely divine, crockpot bolognese sauce.

although it’s not a completely authentic bolognese sauce, it is completely delicious and perfect over a bowl of rigatoni pasta topped with a sprinkle of parmesan cheese.  i also used this sauce to make stuffed shells which i will post about soon.  plus i saved a few cups and froze it so we can enjoy a quick meal in the future.

this sauce is full of vegetables, ground turkey, tomatoes, and even some bacon.  really, you can’t go wrong.  so bust out your slow cooker and whip up a batch of this crockpot bolognese sauce!

first up, the vegetables.  i used my small handy dandy food processor/hand blender to mince a bit of onion, carrot, and celery.

next cook some pancetta… i used bacon because i didn’t have any pancetta on hand.  be sure to cook it until it’s nice and crisp.  i failed to do this and there were still bits of bacon fat even after being in the slow cooker for hours.  boo.  oh well you live and you learn.

then add the vegetables and about a tablespoon of chopped garlic and cook for a few more minutes until the vegetables are tender.

ready freddy…

now add the lean ground beef or turkey.  i used turkey because i happened to have a bunch in the freezer.  also sprinkle on some italian seasoning.

cook until the turkey/beef is browned and then drain off the excess fat.  i actually used a baster to do this which worked really really well.

then add some red or white wine and cook until it reduces down a bit.

finally, the meat and vegetable mixture is ready to go into the slow cooker.

okie dok…

pour the crushed tomatoes on top of the meat and also add the bay leaves and some salt and pepper.

mix everything together and set your slow cooker to low.

cook for 6 hours.  p.s. i just love the fact that my slow cooker has a way to program it to cook at a certain setting for a certain amount of time.  when the time is done, it automatically switches to warm.  amazing!

once it’s done, add some basil.  i used my good ol’ tube of basil…

and a bit of half and half and some parsley.

mix it all together…

and it’s ready to eat!

since i didn’t make a ton of drastic changes to the recipe, i’m going to send you over to one of my new favorite blogs, skinny taste for the recipe.  just be sure to add about 1 tablespoon of chopped garlic to the pancetta/bacon and vegetable mixture, 1 teaspoon of italian seasoning to your ground beef/turkey, and about 1 tablespoon of chopped basil to the finished sauce.  

tomato jam

i actually made this tomato jam this past summer!  eeek!  i know it was a while ago.  but it was so good that i still wanted to share the recipe with you years later.

i talked about this before, but this past summer and fall there was an awesome farmers market right here on campus at university of maryland.  even though some things were kind of expensive for a farmers market, the convenience could not be beat and all of the vendors there were so nice and helpful.

i found the tomatoes above at the farmers market.  they totally look busted up but i got them “on sale” because they weren’t the nicest looking.  but the helpful vendor said that they would still be great, especially if i was cooking them down into tomato jam.  and you know what?  she was right!  they were perfect.  she helped me pick out a variety of tomatoes that would be good for jam and it worked wonderfully.

the jam is full of nice warm flavors from the cinnamon and cloves – actually it would be perfect as a fall or winter appetizer.  chris and i enjoyed the tomato jam on with wheat thins and a little bit of white cheddar cheese.  a to the mazing!  it was a bit too spicy for chris’ liking but he still ate it so that’s a good indication that this was some good stuff.

start off by putting all of the ingredients in a large pot or dutch oven.

mix everything together and bring to a boil.  then let it simmer…

and simmer some more.

finally after about 1 1/2 – 2 hours you have thick, sticky tomato jam.

serve with crackers and cheese or some crusty bread or use some in a sandwich, the possibilities are endless.

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roasted garlic eggplant dip

i commute to work on the metro.  it takes me about a little over an hour, door to door.  i know many people who do not love public transportation but i really like it.  since i don’t have to drive, i have time to relax, reflect on the day or get ready for the day, take a cat nap, read, grade papers, see there are so many things i am able to do with my time.  it’s glorious.

but one downside is that i take the shuttle from campus to the metro station.  why is this a downside?  well in the parking lot nearest to my office there is often fresh produce from the university’s agriculture department just up for grabs.  this past summer there have been all kinds of veggies from potatoes, zucchini, bell pepper, and more.  i usually miss out because i don’t go to the parking lot often.  but recently i lucked out when went to the parking lot with one of my coworkers on the way to happy hour – there as a bunch of beautiful purple eggplant.

well i actually don’t like eggplant.  but my coworker told me about this awesome eggplant dip that she made, so i grabbed a few with hopes of making some eggplant dip too.  i did some research online and found a great, healthy recipe on the weight watchers website.  yay!

although this is certainly not the prettiest dip in the world, it sure is tasty.  there is tons of flavor from the garlic and lemon juice.  plus it’s super healthy because there is only 1 tablespoon of olive oil in this dip.  awesome!!!

to start, pierce the eggplant with a fork.

  

roast the eggplant at 375 degree f for about an hour, turning it once.

once the eggplant is done roasting, it will look like this.  pretty funky looking, huh?

allow the eggplant to cool completely.  now it’s time to make the dip.  you can either use a food processor or a hand blender to make the dip.  i used a hand blender so i didn’t have to worry about lugging out the food processor.  so in a medium bowl or the bowl of your food processor, add a few cloves of roasted garlic.  for instructions on how to roast garlic, please visit this post.

then slice the roasted eggplant in half and scoop out the flesh into the bowl.

  

pulse your food processor or use your hand blender to puree  the eggplant and garlic together.

once it’s smooth, add the olive oil, lemon juice, salt, pepper, and cumin.

once it’s all well combined it’s ready to serve.  though i will say this eggplant dip is better the next day once the flavors have time to meld together.

enjoy with pita chips, veggie sticks, pita or flatbread wedges and more.

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hot fudge sauce

this past weekend, i had a few friends over for an ice cream party.  as you all know, i recently got an ice cream machine and usually it’s only chris and me eating the ice cream that i make.  so i was excited for the opportunity to make some ice cream for our friends too.

i made vanilla bean ice cream, chocolate peanut butter cup ice cream, and peach ice cream.

i wanted to set it up similar to a fro-yo toppings bar with a bunch of different toppings from fresh fruit, nuts, and oreos to m&ms, peanut butter cups, and heath bars.

i also made some homemade hot fudge sauce and vanilla bean caramel sauce.

it was so much fun trying out the different toppings with the different kinds of ice cream.  it’s a great idea for a party because everyone can customize their ice cream to their own tastes.  hopefully everyone had fun and enjoyed the ice cream!

okay so more about the the hot fudge sauce…  i had no idea it was so easy to make your own homemade hot fudge sauce.  all you need to do combine cocoa powder, bittersweet chocolate, cream, dark brown sugar, corn syrup, and a little salt in a medium saucepan.

heat and stir the mixture until it’s all combine and smooth, then cook it for 5 minutes.

now take the saucepan off the heat and add the butter, more bittersweet chocolate, and vanilla.

mix, mix, mix and then once it’s smooth, it’s ready.

allow the hot fudge sauce to cool for about 20-30 minutes before using.  then enjoy over ice cream, brownies, cookies, really everything goes well with hot fudge sauce right?  hahaha.

please visit brown eyed baker for the recipe.