Goat Cheese and Pepper Jelly, oh my….

Many of you that read this are my loyal followers, and you already know that I have been doing chef’s demos at The Historic Longview Farmer’s Market, and I have been having so much fun cooking with all the fresh veggies!  Well, this week I wanted to showcase some products that are being sold already packaged and ready to eat.  I have found some unconventional ideas that I want to share. The first product we are going to work with is from Pace Farms. This is using the demo for the lemon grass pepper jelly glaze from my demo on June 1, 2013. These are the ingredients you will need (plus some kind of oil): glaze ingredients

  • 1 clove of garlic, coarsely chopped
  • 2 Tbsp. of oil, I use olive oil, but feel free to use what you prefer
  • 1/4 cup rosemary lemon grass pepper jelly
  • 1/4 cup brown mustard
  • 2 Tbsp. brown sugar
  • 1 tsp. prepared horseradish

Putting it all together….

  1. Start heating the 2 Tbsp. of oil in a sauce pan over medium heat.  Once it is hot, add the garlic. Cook the garlic until it is well done.
  2. While the garlic is cooking, whisk together the remaining ingredients until combined.
  3. Pour the mixture into the hot garlic oil.  It is going to sizzle when you do this.
  4. Turn the heat down to low and stir until heated.
  5. Pour in to another bowl and let cool to room temperature and then use it with your pork.

This is going to yield almost one cup. I used a 2 pound roast for this and it was plenty of glaze. While your glaze is cooling, you can start preparing your pork roast.

And now for the best pork roast you will ever put in your mouth……

mire pouixYou are going to start with a mirepoix of sorts.  A mirepoix is normally a mixture of carrots, onions, and celery. It is used to add flavor and aroma to stocks, soups, and really any dish that you roast in the oven. For this, we have changed things a bit, we are using new potatoes, noonday onions, and bell pepper. IMG_0062You want to cut everything up and put it in a roasting pan. I added a cup of chicken stock over this to add even more flavor.


side by sideYou start with the roast on the left. Then you take a sharp knife and slice down the middle. This would be called a butterfly cut on the right.

stuffingPlace a single layer of fresh basil leaves, roughly 10-12 leaves. Then I used Haute Goat Creamery’s Thai Spice Goat Cheese crumbled over the basil.

meat with glazeFold your roast over, place on the mirepoix, and pour 1/2 cup of your glaze over the meat.  Cover your pan with aluminum foil, place on a sheet pan and then place in a preheated 350* oven for 30 minutes.

after thirtyAfter the first 30 minutes, take the pan out of the oven and remove the aluminum foil.  You are going to pour the rest of the glaze over the meat, leave the foil off, and return to the oven for another 30 – 45 minutes, or until the internal temperature reaches 165*.

doneAt this point the meat is done, if your vegetables aren’t quite as done as you would like, you can place the meat on a cutting board and return the pan to the oven to cook for a while longer.

You really want your meat to rest for at least 10 minutes, but definitely do not slice it before you are ready to eat.  I find this time perfect for finishing up whatever side dish you are planning on serving.

platedAnd this is what Gina eats…

I served the pork on a bed of the roasted vegetable with a side of mango pasta salad.  The savory and sweet is a great combination with pork.  I would love to know if any of you try this with a different flavor jelly. Please comment and let me know

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 3 Comments


Have you ever looked at all the different flavors of croutons there are out there?  Now, I like to sit and munch on croutons like most people do with potato chips.  The absolute best croutons (as well as potato chips), to me, are homemade.  I know, you are thinking, “Stale bread is stale bread”, right?  OK, yes, it basically is just stale bread, but it is just better when you make them at home.  There is something about the aroma of the garlic that fills the whole house.  It gives me that content feeling, like everything is good in the world……

loaf of french bread       OK, let’s stay on track

Everything begins with a loaf of French bread.  I prefer using fresh made bread, but the most efficient thing to do would be to use leftover French bread that is a day or so old.

bread sliced

Next, you will slice about the bread into 3/4″ slices. Three should be plenty.

two cups of cubes

Once you cut those three slices into cubes, you should end up with around 2-2 1/2 cups of bread.

all ingredients

The only other ingredients that you need for this recipe are one clove of garlic and 1/4 cup of butter.  I used the Land O’Lake butter with olive oil and sea salt, but regular butter will work just as well. I am just always looking for a way to add more flavor.

butter and garlic  Now, let’s cook!

Everything is fairly simple.  You want to melt the butter first and then add the garlic.  You don’t want the garlic to get brown.  Just cook it for a minute or two until it is translucent and fragrant. Add the bread cubes to the butter and toss until the cubes are coated in the butter and garlic.

coated in oil

Spread the butter coated bread cubes on a parchment lined sheet pan.  Place the sheet pan in a 350° oven. It will take around 15 minutes.  You should check them about half way through the cook time. You may need to turn some of the cubes so that they evenly brown.

out of the oven

Once they are done, let them sit and cool completely. You will have perfect, flavorful croutons.  It is amazing that in around 45 minutes (this includes prep and cooling time), you can have croutons that are better than anything you can buy in a bag.

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Lemon Muffins…meh, not great…

One of my priorities for doing this blog is to show people that not everything turns out the way you want it to turn out.  Sometimes it’s because the recipe was written wrong (typos happen), sometimes it’s because the cook doesn’t completely understand what they are doing. Whatever the case, I want to encourage everyone to just keep trying.  You should always give a recipe a second try if it doesn’t quite turn out right the first time.  This post is an example of a recipe that I have tried that just didn’t turn out quite like what I wanted.

It all starts with the fact that I, personally think, that bread is an important part of every meal.  One of my favorite breads is the muffin.  It is so versatile, it can be either savory or sweet, and it can be appropriate for any meal. So, I have been on a quest to find the perfect muffin recipe.

I just happened to be at a local bookstore the other day and was looking through all of their discount books.  They had quite a few cookbooks, so I knew that I would find something that I wanted to buy.  Then, it was like a beam of light shot out of the sky and illuminated it……


It was as if the heavens were telling me, “It is time to make muffins. Lots of muffins.”  So, make muffins is what I shall do.

With Spring around the corner, and all of the adorable holidays associated with the season, there is a huge selection of cute muffin liners and I found some that were super cute.

muffin liner

Now, to pick the perfect variation of this particular muffin recipe.  Going back to the whole “it’s about to be Spring” thing,  I wanted to do something sweet and I wanted to use something fresh and light.

I found a recipe that was called “Baby Shower Muffins”.  They are lemon flavored and that sounded fabulous to me.

The basic muffin mix, you know, the one that makes 100 different muffins book is:

oil or melted butter, for greasing (I use liners, so this isn’t necessary for me)

2 cups of all purpose flour (you may substitute whole wheat flour, bran, rolled oats, oatmeal, wheat germ, or cornmeal for up to half of this quantity)

1 Tbsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda (when using yogurt)

1/8 tsp salt

heaping 1/2 cup granulated sugar or firmly packed brown sugar (omit sugar on savory muffins)

2 large eggs (I always use extra large eggs)

1 cup milk (may substitute buttermilk, yogurt, sour cream, cream, coconut milk, fruit juice, or fruit puree)

6 Tbsp vegetable oil or melted butter, cooled

1 tsp vanilla extract

To make these particular muffins, the only added flavor is the zest of one medium lemon.

Believe it or not, there really is a muffin method for mixing muffins.  First, in a medium sized bowl, mix your dry ingredients….

2 cups of all purpose flour

2 cups flour

1 Tbsp. baking powder

1 Tbsp baking powder

1/8 tsp. salt

eighth tsp salt

heaping 1/2 cup sugar

heaping half cup sugar

Give your dry ingredients a quick stir with a whisk and grab a small bowl to mix your wet ingredients….

2 extra large eggs

2 eggs

You need a cup of buttermilk, but if you are like me, you don’t always have buttermilk on hand.  I used my little trick for making my own buttermilk (milk and vinegar), and this could have been where I went wrong with this recipe.

1 cup buttermilk

The recipe calls for 6 Tbsp of sunflower oil or melted butter. I had butter and vegetable oil, and I decided to go with vegetable oil.  This is also where I could have gone wrong

6 Tbsp veg oil

And the zest of one lemon

zest  of 1 lemon

Whisk the wet ingredients until blended. Then you should have this…

wet and dry

The proper way to combine the ingredients when making muffins is to add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients…..

all together

Now, you only want to stir these ingredients until just combined. Lumps are totally ok

batter mixed

The next thing to do is divide the the batter 12 muffin cups

batter in pans

Now, pop them into a 400* oven and bake for 20 minutes. Mine came out like this. To me they looked more like biscuits than muffins.

out of oven

They were very dense and not cakey enough for me.  But, as disappointed as I was, I decided to juice the lemon that I had zested and mix it with some powdered sugar to make a glaze.


The glaze seemed to help a little. They still weren’t right. I will try this recipe again, but first I plan on trying a different flavor….maybe something chocolate or with coffee….stay tuned for more results….

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Homemade Pizza – One of my favorite things…

See, here’s the deal about my pizza…..it’s good, I would go as far as REALLY good, and it is probably one of my favorite things to make at home.  I like pizza to have lots of toppings, cheese being the most important, but I like to clean out the fridge and use whatever I find.

I definitely have to have a few hours to cook when I’m making pizza.  I make the crust and marinara for the pizza because I like all the different aromas going on in the kitchen. I always start with the dough for the crust so that I can let it rest for a while before putting it in the pan.

This is all you need for your crust:


1 cup of warm water (around 110*F)

1 Tbsp sugar

1 packet of active dry yeast (2 1/4 tsp)

3 Tbsp olive oil

1 tsp kosher salt

2 1/4 cups of flour

In the bowl of a mixer that has a dough hook, add the sugar and yeast to the warm water

yeast and water

Give it a little stir and wait about 5 minutes. The yeast will start to foam up, or “bloom”.

yeast bloomed

Next, add the olive oil and salt. Give another little stir

yeast with olive oil (2)

Now, add the flour

add flour

Stir the flour with a wooden spoon until the dough just starts to stick together. Then turn on the dough hook and mix until dough forms a ball and pulls away from the sides of the bowl.  Do not over mix. Once it is done, just let the dough sit and rest while you get everything else ready.

flour mixed

So, now that I have that great yeasty scent going on in the kitchen, it’s time to start the sauce simmering.

I like marinara on pizza to be a thick sauce.  If it is too thin, it’s just spaghetti sauce and I think it makes the crust soggy.  Also, I do not par bake my crust, so the soggy crust thing is kind of important.

These are the basic ingredients for a marinara:

sauce ingredients

small can of tomato sauce

small can of tomato paste

italian seasoning

garlic powder

You can add onion, pepper, fresh garlic, even a little meat if you want, because the more aromatics that you add the better it is going to smell.  The above ingredients are just a base, and on this particular day it is all I had to work with. If you do add any aromatics, first cook them for a few minutes in some butter, otherwise you are just going to dump everything in a sauce pan…..

sauce ingredients in the pan

Stir it up and let it simmer while you are doing the rest of your prep.

sauce warmed

Pizza toppings can be pretty much whatever you want.  I like to have lots of different toppings, I just have to remind myself not to put too much of any one ingredient.  Ultimately, all pizza toppings fall into 2 categories:

1) Stuff that needs to be cooked first

cooked toppings

2) Stuff that doesn’t need to be cooked, but still might involve some prep

cold ingredients

Go ahead and start the meat first, because you want it to be partially done before you put the peppers in the pan.

starting meat

The only prep on the cold toppings is chopping the olives and fresh basil and chives

cold stuff chopped

When the meat is almost done go ahead and throw the peppers in and let them cook until the meat is completely cooked.  Take the pan off the burner and clear off a space to start putting everything together

meat with peppers

With a little bit of olive oil on your hands, press the dough out to the edges of a pizza pan or stone. Then, put roughly 1 cup of marinara in the middle of the crust

1 cup sauce

Spread the sauce out to the edge of the crust, adding more sauce if you want

sauce spread

As I mentioned earlier, cheese is one of the most important ingredients to me on a pizza.  The next layer is an Italian blend of cheese, you know, one of the bagged grated cheeses. Yes, I use the whole bag, which is the equivalent to 2 cups.  I find that this layer of cheese is what holds the other toppings on to the crust, so I want to make sure there is plenty there.

layer of italian mix

The next step is the meat and peppers. They should still be warm enough to start melting the bottom layer of cheese

meat and peppers

Next is the layer of olives and herbs that you just chopped up

layer of chopped cold stuff

I like using the mozzarella balls that come packed in olive oil.  That is where you get the long strings of cheese when you take a bite.

layer of mozz

And finally, the Parmesan. Lots of fresh, grated Parmesan.

layer of parm

It  is ready for the oven.  The oven should be preheated to 425*, I use the top rack and leave it in for about 20 minutes.  You will smell when it is done…..

And when you take it out, this is what you will have:

out of oven

It’s a good idea to let it sit for about 10 minutes before you cut the pizza.  I know this is going to be hard, but trust me, it is worth the wait when you end up with this for dinner…

pizza plated

I am not going to try and tell you that this is healthy meal, but it is healthier and tastes better than take out or frozen pizzas.  Not to mention, it is a lot of fun to make!

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Chocolate Bundt Cake with a Caramel Glaze

OK, I will admit that I am…shall we say….”frugal”?  I buy very few convenience products, I clip coupons, and I always make sure that I have basic staples (flour, sugar, butter, milk, eggs, etc…) in my kitchen. I do have all the ingredients to make a cake from scratch at any time. Most of the time I do make my cakes from scratch, but I am guilty of stocking up on cake mixes when I find quality mixes on sale.  Some convenience is worth paying the cost.

Another of my, what some might call “faults,” is my compulsive need for organization.  Once a week I have a kitchen organization day.  I go through my fridge and pantry to see what I need to use immediately and plan my menu for the week. On my most recent KOD, I found a devil’s food cake mix that had been pushed to the back of the pantry!

I was so excited to have found this box of chocolate gold, that I had to do something great.  I love caramel with chocolate and I just happened to have the ingredients for a basic caramel sauce, so it was my lucky day!

Now, caramel sauce has to cool and thicken before it goes on the cake.  So, I will make the sauce first.  This is all you need:

caramel ingredients

1/2 cup butter

1 cup sugar

1 Tbsp. corn syrup

1/2 cup cream

The first step is to melt the butter, in a heavy bottom pan, over medium heat. Then, add the sugar and corn syrup.  Constantly stir the mixture.

butter sugar cornsyrup

It’s going to look weird at first.  You have to keep stirring to get the butter and sugar to emulsify.

caramel cooking

As the sauce cooks, it will start to look smoother and turn a golden color.

caramel cooking longer

When all the sugar is dissolved and it is a pretty color (roughly 10 minutes)…….

caramel done

Take it off the burner, set it to the side and let it cool for a couple of hours.  It will thicken as it cools.

caramel cooling

Glaze is done for the cake! Next step, the cake.  My favorite part about using a box cake is the fact that it is so easy to change things up and make, even the best quality box cake, better.  This is what I use with any chocolate cake:


Cake mix

Coffee Liquor


Vegetable Oil

Eggs (Extra large, not large)

If you look at the back of the cake mix box it calls for 1 cup of water. This is not acceptable.  Why use water when you can make it so much better?  I substitute 1/2 cup milk and 1/2 cup of coffee liquor.  The biggest reason is that the coffee enhances the chocolate flavor and the milk makes it super moist.

back of box

Throw everything in a bowl. You can use a mixer, but I like to mix by hand. It is less likely to over mix your batter if you mix it by hand.

ingredients mixed

I like to use a glass bowl, so that when I am mixing I can see that I have mixed everything completely.  After 50 or so strokes, it should be mixed.  If you have a few lumps, it’s ok, they will dissolve.

ingredients mixed

I buy mostly store brand cooking items.  You will notice in my pictures that it is usually Sam’s Brand.  But, Baker’s Joy is one of the best non stick sprays that I have ever used for baking.  If you bake a lot of cakes or bread, I highly recommend investing in this spray.  Your bakeware will thank you.

cake pans best friend

Once you spray the pan, just pour in the batter, and it is ready to go in the oven

batter in pan

About 40 minutes later, times vary with different ovens, you will have a beautiful chocolate cake.  Notice the cracks in the top, this is a good sign that it is done.  If you push on the top and it feels firm, and bounces back, this is a good sign that it is done, as well.

cake out of oven

Let the cake cool in the pan, on a wire rack, for 15 – 20 minutes.  Now you can flip it onto a plate.

cake out of pan

Once your caramel sauce has completely cooled you can pour it over the cake and put it in the fridge to let it set.

cake with glaze

And, now, the best part!  Dessert!  A big piece of cake, ice cream, and a little bit of the extra sauce.

cake plated

Even though you have used a convenience product, you are still going to have dessert for the family for just a few pennies per person.

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

How to add some flavor and save a little money….

Everyone loves flavor and everyone loves to save a dime, or a few hundred dollars.  I have worked in the restaurant industry for over 20 years, I think it is a great industry and I can’t imagine ever doing anything else.  But, I do see people who spend way too much money on eating out.  I hear these people say, all the time, “I don’t like to cook at home, because it never tastes as good as it does at a restaurant.” Well, that is because most people do not know about seasoning beyond salt and pepper. For the price of one meal, for one person, at most restaurants, you can buy enough dried spices to cook meals at home for a month.

Yes, salt and pepper are important.  Almost every “hot foods” recipe I have ever seen has, at least, mentioned “salt and pepper to taste”.  In baking, a small amount of salt is included to enhance the sweetness.  But, when a recipe calls for 1/4 tsp of sage, or 1 Tbsp of garlic powder, that is just a starting point.  If you can’t taste it, add more.  Tasting while you cook is SO important.  You will be amazed how much less you will eat because you are never really hungry or full.

I dare anyone to walk down the seasonings isle, at even the smallest grocery store or market, and just look at what you can find.  Smell things, if you like how they smell, you will probably like how they taste.

One of my first “tricks” that I came up with was adding flavor to boiled chicken.  I like to boil chicken for chicken spaghetti and chicken salad.  It is a fast way to cook it, even when it is frozen.  I had always added Kosher salt to the water that I used to cook the chicken. Well, one day I was going through my spices and I came across poultry seasoning and sage.  I never paid much attention to these spices, except at Thanksgiving, while doing the ritualistic preparation of my holiday bird.  Then the infamous “light bulb” went off, chicken and turkey are a lot alike, so why not add kosher salt, sage, and poultry seasoning to my boiling water and see what it tastes like…..chicken in pot

In the picture I am using a 3qt. pot with 6 cups of water and a pound of boneless, skinless chicken breast. The first thing I do is put 2 Tbsp. of Kosher salt, 1 Tbsp. of Sage, and 1 Tbsp. of poultry seasoning in the pot. Then I add the chicken breast and THEN add the water. I don’t know if the order of adding the ingredients actually makes any difference, but I am superstitious and if I don’t do it this way….it’s just not right.

chicken broth

So, what do you think you should do with this? Most people are going to think they should just pour it down the sink. STOP THINKING THAT!!!! This is a pot full of flavor!

frozen broth

Once it has cooled, you can divide it between freezer containers and use it to add a little flavor when you are making pasta or sauces.  I use pint containers and my digital scales to measure exactly 10.5 oz. because that is what an average can of chicken broth weighs.  Now, when a recipe calls for chicken broth, I can just pull it out of the freezer and let it thaw.

Now, what to do with the chicken….

cooked chicken

The first thing I want you to do is cut off a little piece and taste it.  That’s good, isn’t it?

Next step, cut it up….

chopped chicken

Now, gather your ingredients for that yummy chicken salad


I use about a cup of salad dressing (not mayo), a Tbsp of mustard, a Tbsp of  distilled white vinegar, a tsp of prepared horseradish, and a tsp of garlic powder.

everything in bowl

You can mix this up, taste it, if you want to add more of something….DO IT!  The best part about cooking is that you are creating.  You can make any dish your own.

I normally cover it and put it in the fridge for at least 30 minutes to an hour, but it is good at room temperature, as well.

lunch served

I like chicken salad on Texas toast bread that is toasted.  These are store bought potato chips….homemade chips will be another lesson, another day

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

2013 is going to be a GREAT year!

This year I am going to chronicle everything that I create in my small kitchen. My goals are to inspire people to see food differently and help people living in small spaces to get organized.  Today’s lifestyle is 24/7, learning how to organize your kitchen and planning your meals can help mental stresses and many health problems. 

I want feedback! Please feel free to make suggestions. I don’t want to claim to know everything, and I want to know any “tricks” that anyone knows.  I, also, plan to share my failures. If I completely bomb a recipe, you will know! 

Thanks for reading and let’s see what we can eat!ImageImage

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment