Fast Pickled Red Onions


I make a bunch of these any time I’m feeling like some Mexican flavors. Tonight, I’m thinking spinach and black bean enchiladas (recipe to come!), and what better to top them off with than some crunchy, sweet-savory pickled onions?!

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If you’ve never had pickled onions…you have to try them. My boyfriend isn’t a huge fan of raw onion or pickled cucumber, and he seems to really enjoy these. The taste is way more complex than a raw onion, and it adds a lot to dishes that are lacking texture or a zing of flavor. You can load them on quesadillas, sandwiches, salads, cheese boards…you name it. You can also adjust the vinegar, salt, and sugar to your liking after you’ve tried my recipe!


Fast Pickled Red Onions

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups thinly sliced red onion (Using a mandolin will yield the best results, but I cut mine by hand)
  • 1 clove garlic, smashed
  • 3 tablespoons white sugar
  • 1 1/4 tablespoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon whole peppercorns
  • 1 cup distilled white vinegar

Put the sugar, salt, peppercorns, garlic, and vinegar in to a small sauce pot. Stir well to dissolve the sugar, lid the pot, and bring to a boil over medium-high heat (don’t be shy! The first time I made these my pickling liquid wasn’t hot enough and I ended up with half-pickled vegetables). Pour through a colander over the onions and press to submerge them all. DO NOT USE METAL CONTAINERS. The vinegar will react in a bad way. I used tempered glass and then switched to a plastic lidded container when they were cool. Let them cool and then serve. They last for about 2 weeks in a tightly sealed container.

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Creamy Garlic Alfredo Pasta with Peas

Growing up, my parents always made home cooked meals, but they were usually on a time constraint because they both worked full time. We ate a lot of partially homemade meals, like a fried pork chop with a side of the prepackaged, flavored, cook-in-10-minutes pasta or rice. Nothing against cooking with easy time-savers, but I don’t like seeing all the ingredients in some of those yummy sides that I can’t even pronounce and definitely don’t want in my body. My hands-down favorite side, the one I would always pick if I got to pick the side for dinner, was the Knorr pasta sides Creamy Garlic Shells. I really try not to buy them anymore because of the weird ingredients and how expensive they are for what you get, so I made up this recipe. It’s cheesier and way more flavorful, and I know every single ingredient that went in to it! I top it with sriracha and some frozen peas, but you could add in some fresh spinach, sun-dried tomatoes, blistered tomatoes, zucchini, mushrooms…the list goes on. Anything that pairs well with Parmesan and cream belongs in this dish.

This is another budget dish with a lot of flavor. I calculated 4 servings at about $2.50 total.

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Creamy Garlic Alfredo Pasta with Peas

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 box any type of short pasta (I prefer something that holds the sauce)
  • 1 1/3 cups skim or 1% milk
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon seasoned salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/3 cup frozen peas
  • sriracha, optional, to taste

Cook the pasta according to the package directions. Drain and do not rinse or your sauce will not stick. In the saucepan you cooked the pasta in, melt the butter over medium heat. Add in the flour and whisk. Cook until your roux is starting to bubble. Slowly add in the milk, whisking constantly to prevent lumps; add the salt, pepper, garlic, onion powder, and oregano and bring to a boil to thicken. Once thickened, stir in the parmesan and the frozen peas. Add the pasta back to the pot, stir, let warm through, and serve.

Creamy Potato Leek Soup

I’m obsessed with soup, and it’s even easier to eat soup for every meal now that the weather is cooling off. A kitchen I used to work at made some ho-hum potato leek soup, and I figured I could top that soup easily (which I did!). This is a recipe I made for my own tastes, so feel free to adjust the seasonings as you see fit for what you like.

This soup is creamy, garlicky, silky-smooth, and packs a little punch of heat thanks to sriracha (yes, you can basically use it in everything). I dip crusty bread or biscuits in to this liquid gold and then go in to a deep, satisfied food coma. The awesome part is that this soup isn’t even that heavy aside from the potato base. Another reason I love making pureed soups is that I just bought an immersion blender a few months ago, and I’m absolutely obsessed with it! It’s so awesome to easily make hummus, pasta sauces, smoothies, and, of course, SOUPS, with ease. I highly recommend investing the thirty bucks in a good KitchenAid immersion blender – I haven’t looked back since buying mine.

This is also a really good soup recipe to keep around when you’re on a budget. I’ve been on a very tight budget the past couple months and this is a good recipe to bring around again and again. A tip for getting the most bang for your buck is buying leeks in bulk, or at least in twos or threes, (my local grocery store usually sells them in pairs, which is why I began doing this) rinsing, chopping, bagging, and freezing enough leeks for one batch of soup. It makes it so easy when it comes down to it – all the other ingredients are usually in my pantry except leeks.

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Before blending

Creamy Potato Leek Soup

Ingredients:

  • 2-3 medium roasting potatoes, rinsed, peeled, and cubed
  • 1/2 of a large leek, thoroughly rinsed and chopped
  • 4 cups vegetable stock
  • 1/2 of a yellow onion
  • 2 stalks celery
  • 1 cup skim or 1% milk
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1-2 teaspoons sriracha, optional and to taste
  • 2 tablespoons butter

Begin by roughly dicing the onion and the leeks and browning them in the pan with the butter. Add the garlic after the onion is translucent, about 5 minutes. Stir and cook until the garlic is fragrant. Add the peeled, chopped potatoes, the chopped celery, the vegetable stock, and all of the spices except the sriracha. Bring to a boil and let simmer until potatoes are fork tender (it was about 20 minutes for me, but it depends on the size of your cubed potatoes). Once the potatoes are tender, blend with an immersion blender or in batches in a standard blender. Add the milk to the soup after blending and let simmer. Adjust the creaminess with more stock if needed, mix in the sriracha, and serve.

Caramel Apple Upside-Down Cake

It’s been a dreary week as the last leaves fall from the trees and the cold overtakes us once again. It’s only November 2nd, but it feels like it’s winter – the snow has been flying for a few days. The cold, damp weather and some time off work prompted me to do quite a bit of baking the past few weeks. The winner of the bunch is hands down this gorgeous, buttery caramel apple cake. Few things soothe the hate I feel towards winter better than caramel and apple.

The key to this cake is following the procedure. It leaves you with a soft, buttery pound cake without lumps. I used Gala apples which worked perfectly because of their crispness, but I’m sure you could use your favorite kind of apple, too. Enough talk, on to the recipe!

20171102_104225The first step is making the caramel sauce, which was easier than I thought. The first time I tried to make caramel sauce was in a professional kitchen under pressure, and I ended up clarifying the butter and making a sweet compound butter instead of caramel. I tried again and the second try turned out, luckily! This is less of a caramel and more of a sugar goo that bakes down in the oven. Simply combine brown sugar and half a stick of butter and bring the whole thing to a boil. Once it reaches a boil remove it from the burner, add 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon, and spread it in the bottom of the pan. Lay peeled, sliced apples evenly on top of the caramel. My one regret after seeing the visual result of the cooked apples is not layering the rows closer together. Next time, I will probably slice another whole apple to really pack in that yummy baked apple texture.

The rest is easy peasy – make the cake batter, spread it on top of the apples, and bake that sucker for 55 to 65 minutes at 325 degrees Fahrenheit.

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It comes out golden brown, crisp around the edges, caramel boiling up in between the apple slices. This is the hardest part…waiting 15 minutes to invert the pan and see the final result! I made 16-minute muffins to make the time go by faster, and it didn’t. It really didn’t.

 

 

 

Finally, I inverted the pan and….beauty in the corm of perfectly roasted apples and gleaming caramel sauce. Yes, please.

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Caramel Apple Upside-Down Cake

Topping (Caramel):

  • 1/4 cup (half a stick) butter
  • 2/3 cup lightly packed brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 medium apples, 3 small apples, peeled and cut in to 1/2″ wedges

Cake:

  • 1 1/3 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup softened butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup milk

Preheat your oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit and grease a 9×9 baking pan generously. In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt 1/4 cup of butter and stir in the brown sugar. Heat until boiling, stirring frequently, until the mixture boils. Remove it from the heat and add in 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon. Spread the caramel evenly in the bottom of the pan and layer the apples neatly on top of the caramel. Overlap them tightly for a cake with more fruit.

In one bowl, mix together your dry ingredients – flour, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and salt, and set these aside. In another, larger bowl, beat together your softened 1/2 cup of butter and 1 cup of white sugar until it’s fluffy. Hindsight 20/20, I would recommend a hand mixer for this and not elbow grease. I definitely broke a sweat on this one. Beat in your eggs one at a time until the batter is smooth. Add the vanilla and begin adding in the flour mixture, alternating additions of flour with additions of milk. After each addition, beat the batter until it’s smooth and fluffy. Spread the batter over the apples.

Bake for 55 to 65 minutes (I baked mine for about 61 minutes in a glass 9×9 Pyrex pan) or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool on a rack for 15 (very long) minutes, run a knife around the edges of the cake to loosen it from the pan, and invert the cake on to a heat proof plate. Store loosely covered.

Servings: 8-10

Cabbage, Carrot, and Scallion Potstickers

This past week, I realized that I haven’t eaten a potsticker…ever. Usually stuffed with pork or some sort of meat, I never tried them. Now that I made my own vegetarian version, I’m addicted! Crunchy, chewy, and salty, these little filled dumplings are something I will make again and again. And the filling options are endless!

I’m about to lay some honesty down for those of you who want to try this recipe. If you don’t want to sit down for an hour and finesse these small little dough rounds, choose something else for dinner. The actual forming of the dumplings is labor intensive, but once I figured out how to crimp and shape them, it was easy to crank out these bad boys. If you have a knack for handiwork, I’d highly recommend trying this recipe!

There are tons of options for fillings. I personally don’t like cilantro, but you could easily substitute the red onion for cilantro, or the scallions…you get the idea. Broccoli, cauliflower, peas, zucchini, and mushrooms would all lend themselves to good filling combos as well.

Cabbage, Carrot, and Scallion Potstickers

Ingredients:

  • 1 napa cabbage, thinly shredded
  • 1 cup shredded carrots
  • 1 bunch scallions, sliced on the bias
  • 1/2 of a red bell pepper, thinly julienned in to 1″ strips
  • 1/2 of a red onion, thinly julienned in to 1″ strips
  • Gyoza wrappers (I used Twin Dragon brand, which happened to be vegan)
  • 2 cloves of garlic, finely minced
  • 1 teaspoon dried ginger (use fresh if you’d like and adjust accordingly, I didn’t want to spend the money)
  • 2 teaspoons soy sauce, regular or low sodium
  • 1 tablespoon white vinegar
  • 1/8 teaspoon white pepper
  • 4 tablespoons sesame oil, divided

Heat up 2 tablespoons of the sesame oil in a large frying pan or wok over medium heat. Add in the onion, carrot, and bell pepper and saute until tender but still crisp. Add the garlic in, along with the vinegar, soy sauce, ginger, and white pepper. Add half of the cabbage and stir constantly until it cooks down a bit. Then add in the rest of the cabbage (if you’re using a wok, which I wasn’t, you might have enough room to add all of the cabbage at once). Stir everything together thoroughly, then drain the mixture in a colander. This step helps keep the dumplings from getting too soggy or busting a hole in the wrapper. Cool the mixture off on a sheet pan in the freezer (it’s been about ten degrees here, so I just set it outside) until it’s at least room temperature.

Now it’s time to create the actual dumplings. Get a little station set up with your mixture, a little bowl of water, a brush if you’re above using your finger to spread water on the dough, and a cutting board, plate, or saran wrap to assemble the potstickers on.

Making 5 at a time, place about a tablespoon of the filling in the very center of each dough round. Using your finger (or a brush, if you must), wet half of the round with water. Pick up the round and cradle it in your hand as you push the dry edge against the wet edge, making 4 or 5 little creases along the edge as you seal the filling in. There isn’t an exact science to this, and everyone’s dumplings look different because of that. As long as you make them all look the same, they look good! Set the dumplings aside on wax paper or parchment paper. Don’t allow them to touch or they might stick together.

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My final product, which made 35. I layered them on wax paper in a cake pan.

Heat up the rest of the oil in the same pan you used to make the filling. Once hot, add however many dumplings you want to devour. Let one side brown, and then flip them over. Once that side is golden, add about a quarter of a cup of water and top the pan off with a lid so they steam. Check them frequently and shake the pan so they don’t stick too badly. When the dough is tender, they’re done. I finished mine off with some teriyaki soy sauce and some scallions, although there are loads of potsticker dipping sauce recipes out there.

 

 

Dill carrots with honey butter

Who says that cheap eating has to be boring? Not me, that’s for sure! Honey and dill on carrots is one of my favorite combinations by far, so tonight when I was poking around in the fridge, checking out my meager selections, I saw the carrots and was instantly inspired. I quick-marinated some broccoli in store bought Italian dressing that was hiding behind the ketchup, pulled out a pat of butter to come up to room temperature, and dug around until I found a can of cannellini beans (gotta have protein!). Overall, it wasn’t a bad meal by any means, but the carrots were definitely the star of the show. Honestly, though, I think anything that’s smothered in honey butter is going to taste delicious!

Dill carrots and honey butter

  • 1 bag baby carrots
  • 2 teaspoons fresh or dried dill (I used dried because I had it on hand, but I recommend fresh for the best result!)
  • kosher salt and pepper, to taste
  • 3 tablespoons butter, room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon honey

Toss the carrots in a large saute pan over medium-high heat with a little bit of butter. Salt and pepper them. As they cook, stir them frequently (I like my carrots a little charred on the outside and still crunchy on the inside). Mix together the honey and the rest of the butter until the honey is evenly incorporated. When the carrots are tender on the outside, add in the dill. Plate the carrots and then top with a little bit of the honey butter.

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Or more than a little bit…it’s okay, it’s on carrots. Not unhealthy, right? Riiiiight.

Caprese Crostini with a Balsamic Reduction

Want to impress guests..and yourself? I don’t even like tomatoes, and I devoured these! The combination of the salty mozzarella, acidic tomato, peppery fresh basil, and bittersweet balsamic glaze is a classic for a reason! I made these this past summer during peak tomato season, so the tomatoes were perfectly ripe, right out of my parents’ garden. I personally like to de-seed the tomatoes prior to use just because I like the texture more that way – but you definitely don’t have to.

Caprese Crostini

  • 1 fresh French Baguette, sliced thinly on the bias
  • 3-4 fresh roma or heirloom tomatoes (depending on size), sliced and de-seeded
  • 1/2 log fresh mozzarella, sliced thinly
  • a handful of basil, cut in to a chiffonade for garnish
  • Extra virgin olive oil for garnish
  • salt and pepper, to taste

For the reduction:

  • 3/4 cup balsamic vinegar de Modena (I prefer Alessi brand)
  • 1 tablespoon honey

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Place the balsamic vinegar in a medium sauce pot over low heat. Place the baguette rounds on a sheet pan and drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake for about 10-12 minutes or until crusty. As they bake, slice and de-seed your tomatoes. Slice mozzarella pieces about the same size as the bread rounds, and chiffonade the basil so everything is ready to go.

Once your balsamic vinegar has reduced by about half its volume (you should be able to see a line on the side of the pot where it started versus its volume now), add in the honey and whisk. Let the mixture cool down. It should be slightly syrupy, which is the goal.

Once the baguette is crusty, top with the mozzarella and return them to the oven for a couple minutes (keep an eye on them, you want the cheese to just start to melt). Pull them out of the oven once the cheese is molten and top each crostini with a slice of tomato, a few strands of basil, a sprinkle of salt, freshly cracked pepper, and a drizzle of the balsamic reduction.