Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Spinach Artichoke Wonderpot

Christmas down, New Years to go! Today I have a great, no-brainer recipe for you to try. Its not spectacular or super special but its tasty, unique, and oh-so-easy. So I guess you could say it's perfect for this lull in the next few days. And who doesn't love spinach artichoke anything?

How was your Christmas? Ours was full! We started opening presents at 7am, and was making our annual Christmas breakfast by 9am. We have the same thing every year - Mimosas, Eggs Benedict except with Welsh rarebit sauce (beer cheese sauce) instead of Hollandaise with tomato slices, orange rolls, cinnamon rolls, and a big bowl of fruit salad. This year we added in some apple cinnamon sausage compliments of my husband. Family and friends lingered and a mix of Christmas music and The Hunger Games played in the background. Not the most traditional Christmas movie ever, but you know, c'est la vie.

By 4pm we were at Mambos, our restaurant, for a Christmas dinner. Lobster Fra Diavolo for me and prosciutto wrapped tenderloin for Jeremy. Cannoli and chocolate hazelnut panna cotta for dessert. Not bad at all. Kids opted for regular bow tie pasta with meatballs. My sister, brother-in-law, and niece joined us this year and between us, ridiculous things were said.

Right before we left the restaurant Kaylee, my sister, let out a defeated Oh-no... I look...like... a... whore. It was shocking because my sister doesn't usually use words like "whore" and also because of the sincerity and seriousness in which she said it. Turns out she had a run in her stocking. I laughed, then took a picture.

And that's not all. Other ridiculous things were said. Things like I think I might train for a half marathon and do you want to join me? To be clear, that came out of my sisters mouth. I said A HALF MARATHON? Crazy. Why not start with a 5K? I mean, we don't even run...like at all. Then the real ridiculousness started when I responded with I would train for a 5K with you...

Don't laugh. I realize a 5K is only 3 miles, but I have never run a mile before. I jogged two miles really, really, s-l-o-w-l-y two years ago. I probably could have speed walked faster than I jogged. But that's about all the experience I have going for me. I listened to Mumford and Sons "I Will Wait" and Katy Perry's "Firework", and "You Ain't Never Had A Friend Like Me" from Aladdin while I did it. I remember. I was on the bike path by the river way down where it starts on the west end of town. It was cold, but not quite enough to deter me. 

End random memories.

Christmas night was spent reliving our childhoods while my two oldest kids played Super Mario Bros  for the first time on the Wii they got for Christmas. Up until now I have banned video game playing from my house. I hate it. But I used to play Mario Bros and was feeling nostalgic and I knew the kids would flip so I said yes. That music came right back to me. My sister and Pat were throwing out names I had long forgotten like Bowzers castle and Princess Peach and Yoshi. I forgot that a flag pole signaled the end of the level and Mario would slide down in victory. Pat looked up some video online of a kid playing elaborate piano to all the Mario theme songs. It was awesome.

Uncle Pat showing the kids how it's played

I caught this one morning around 5:45am. My son was just beholding the tree, sitting still and waking up. It's my favorite.

End Christmas re-cap.

So back to this wonderpot. The genius of the wonderpot recipes is that the pasta and all ingredients are cooked together for a specified amount of time and when it's done the remaining liquid, thickened by the starch in the noodles, becomes the sauce itself. Just stir and eat. Fun, right? The only thing to be wary of is cooking too long. You must eat this when it's ready. If allowed to sit, the liquid will keep absorbing into the noodles and become overcooked and thick. Make sure you season to taste with salt as well. This dish needs a hefty dose to make all the flavors shine through. I may even add a dusting of Parmesan to the top of my bowl next time.

Happy New Year, friends!

Spinach Artichoke Wonderpot
adapted from budgetbytes
serves 4-6

8 oz. mushrooms
1 (14 oz.) can artichoke hearts
5 cloves garlic
1 medium yellow onion
5 cups vegetable broth
2 Tbsp olive oil
12 oz. fettuccine (I used whole wheat)
1 tsp dried oregano
½ tsp dried thyme
freshly cracked pepper
4 oz. frozen cut spinach
Parmesan for topping
kosher salt

*I adapted this recipe to make a whole box of pasta, serving 6. I used 1 lb fettuccine and 6 1/2 cups of vegetable broth and added some extra salt, oregano, thyme and artichoke hearts but kept everything else the same. It turned out well.

Rinse the mushrooms to remove any dirt or debris. Slice the mushrooms thinly. Drain the can of artichoke hearts and roughly chop them into bite­ sized pieces. Thinly slice the onion and garlic (you can mince the garlic if you don't want large slices). Place the vegetable broth, olive oil, mushrooms, artichoke hearts, onions, and garlic in a large pot. Break the fettuccine in half and add it to the pot along with the oregano, thyme, a few hearty pinches of salt and some freshly cracked pepper. Push the ingredients down under the broth as much as possible. Place a lid on the pot and bring it up to a rolling boil over high heat.

As soon as it reaches a boil, stir the pot to evenly distribute the ingredients and prevent the pasta from
sticking. Turn the heat down to low so that the pot is just simmering. Allow the pot to simmer, with the lid on, for 10­-15 minutes, or until the pasta is tender and most of the liquid has been absorbed. Give the pot a stir every few minutes to prevent the pasta from sticking.

Once the pasta is cooked through, add the frozen spinach. Allow the heat from the pasta to thaw the
spinach. Stir the pot to help break up the clumps of spinach as they melt. Taste for seasonings. You'll probably need salt to prevent a bland finish. Serve hot with some grated parmesan on top.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Rotisserie Style Chicken and Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas! This was our Christmas card photo. No updates on how we're doing. Just simple. I need to choose more simple in my life.

Our christmas tree shopping was simple too. Four kids, five minutes and a picture later we were done. It was also really, really fun, so just goes to show.

This blog is called "My Life In Food". I chose this name because while I always include a recipe (the food part) it's also about my life. Sometimes I wrote mostly about the food. Other times, it's mostly about my family. This is my personal scrapbook of sorts. I write for me and it doesn't always make the most sense and its not always eloquent. It's alright. I have enough self awareness to know I'm not going huge with my blog. At least, I don't think I am. It's not the goal, anyway, even though I love sharing with every single one of you who reads. Since this is my personal scrapbook, I end up talking about myself a lot. This is one of those days, BUT I want to share it all with you. Keep reading.

I am an inspiration hunter. However, I don't start the day with the thought "I'm going to hunt for inspiration today". I just search for things that catch my interest, challenge me in good ways, make me think, or make me happy. I read a lot of articles. I shop and add things I love to my cart. I find gift ideas for other people. I hear a great song. Somebody's else's words will move me. A colorful magazine cover will draw me in. I collect it all and it's like fuel to my soul. I don't mind saying I love beautiful things, interesting things, smart marketing, good packaging. I appreciate the whole of things. I become intrigued with things or ideas, then inspiration just naturally follows. This is something that happens to me most everyday. These are some of the things I've found particularly interesting, thought provoking and life giving lately. I wish I had cool fonts and colors in which to present these to you...to do the very things I've been talking about, to draw you in, catch your interest, stop and make you say hmmmm. But I'm not tech savvy and I don't have the slightest idea how to deliver this info in pretty packaging on a blog as much as I'd LOVE to. Seriously, if I could, I'd spend hours designing something with style for you. But for now, I'll lay it out simply without flair. The quality content is still there.

-If you need a bit of motivation to JUMP and get started, whether it's achieving your goals, dreaming bigger, starting over, or not waiting around for your life to begin, read these two articles:

JUMP - By Glennon Doyle Melton
Why I'm leaving radio forever- By Matt Walsh

I select these because they're not written in the "five steps" fashion. Rather, they are stories/thought/ideas/concepts which inspire you to take what you want from them, whether it's a little nugget of wisdom or the whole dang message and run with it. I adore writers who inspire me to think for myself and give me the tools to do so without telling me what to do. This is especially helpful if you tend to understand things intuitively like I do.

-If your heart hurts this Christmas, read this:

What to do with a hurting heart this Christmas- By Ann Voskamp
I am sad- By Glennon Doyle Melton

Ann is pretty unique and artsy with her writing. Some find her hard to read while others didn't understand anything until she said it. Glennon is real, raw and honest. She also leaves you feeling better about humanity and life after you leave her site.

-If you have been trying hard this Christmas season to be peaceful and focused on the reason for the season, but find yourself still stressed and maxed. When your expectations for the holiday don't measure up to your ideal...read this:

Cobbled Together Christmas- by Addie Zierman

Really, this can be applied at any time of the year.

-If you want to understand God's love. Like actually GET IT. Or if you are having trouble with relationships. If you want your eyes opened, read this and then read it again and again to everyone you know.

Little Drummer Girl- by Glennon Doyle Melton

You may have noticed I seem to be a bit infatuated with Glennon. Its true, she's my penultimate right now and I can't even pretend to not favor her. She speaks to me like no one else has. She reaches the inner parts of me and I'm changed. I don't one hundred percent agree with the whole of her theology sometimes, but for the most part? She does an excellent job of pointing back to Jesus and spreading light and hope and love wherever she goes. Truth be told, I think its a dose of what everyone in the world really needs. This is my most favorite piece I've read all year. ALL DAMN YEAR.

-If you want something awesome and simple to cook: Rotisserie Style Chicken

This tastes just like what you get at the store and only requires a regular oven, no rotisserie necessary. The method is awesome. Try it, you'll like it.

Rotisserie Style Chicken
adapted from My Fathers Daughter by Gwyneth Paltrow
serves 4

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 3/4 teaspoon garlic salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon sweet paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • Large pinch coarse sea salt
  • 1 whole roasting chicken (3–4 lb; preferably organic), neck and giblets discarded
  • Twine
  1. Heat oven to 400°. Mix butter, garlic salt, paprika, pepper and salt in a bowl. Rinse chicken inside and out; pat dry. Insert fingers between skin and breast to separate the two. Rub seasoned butter over chicken and under skin. Tuck wings underneath bird and tie together with a piece of twine. Tie legs together with another piece of twine. Place chicken on its side in a heavy roasting pan and roast 25 minutes. Turn onto its other side and sprinkle with several tbsp water; roast 25 minutes more. Turn chicken on its back; roast 10 minutes more. Turn on its breast; roast until skin is crispy and chicken is golden brown, 10 minutes more. Remove from pan and let rest, breast side down, 15 minutes, before carving.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Roasted Sausage with Grapes

Roasted Sausages and Grapes

So, my sister Kaylee and brother-in-law, Patrick, left for a three day trip to San Francisco last week and I watched my niece, Paisley, while they were gone. So I had Olivia, who is five and can't walk or talk but is obsessed with pushing Paisley down. When Paisley gets pushed down, she cries, naturally. Paisley, who just turned one, enjoys opening all cabinets, eating dog food, pulling lamps down off tables, furniture diving onto her head and toddling over to Olivia to be pushed. Then theres Ellie who is now five months and likes to be nursed in the absolute quiet with no distractions and held for a major part of the day. I was alone with these three for almost 2 hours of the 3 1/2 day trip when I decided I'd be fine. Sure, it was going to be hard, but I vowed to keep calm and not loose my shit. Sorry. That's exactly what I thought though. So far so good i thought, but then again, it was nap time. When wake ups happened, they all ate lunch in shifts. And since I had to feed all four of us manually, it was just about time for another round of naps by the time I got done.

Olivia getting ready to hit Ellie and Paisley getting ready to eat something disgusting off the floor
Roasted Sausages and Grapes

I found the grove somewhere towards the middle of day two, and it got better. Thats always how it is.

Aunt Krysta, I like this drawer
Roasted Sausages and Grapes

The night before they left, my brother-in-law made us all gumbo for dinner. It was my request and he was so sweet to make it. It was incredibly swoon worthy. He's a chef so it was bound to be, but he's also a native of Louisiana so you could say he knows a thing or two about gumbo. My husband happened to bring home some special cheeses last night on a whim, so we also had quite an appetizer spread. And wine. And beer for the gumbo. Then, when we got done it was decided we should whip up an apple crisp quick. But while it was baking I made the heartbreaking discovery that we didn't have any vanilla ice cream. Chef brother to the rescue was like do you have cream? As a matter of fact I did. How about eggs and vanilla? Yes! Yes, we did. And he happened to have just picked milk up for Paisley earlier in the day. It was a Christmas miracle. He said okay, well I'll just whip up some ice cream then. I make it in 10 minutes flat all the time. It was probably one of my favorite nights ever.

Kaylee and Pat were also here for a couple days last month. On their last night I made them this quick roasted sausage and grapes dish. It was really easy and different. An excellent December menu item, for sure. The grapes and sausages get spiked with a bit of red wine and balsamic vinegar and its that delicious balance of sour, salt and sweet. This is perfect for company because it requires minimal effort, comes together super fast, but still retains a wow factor. I paired this with some celery root puree, but good ole mashed potatoes work very well to bring this dish together. Salad on the side and you've got a very well balanced dinner. You can also just serve this with some bread for mopping up the juices and call it a night! Make it and tell me what you think. It's so good!

Roasted Sausages and Grapes

Roasted Sausage and Grapes
adapted from Ina Garten
serves 5-6

1 1/2 pounds sweet Italian pork sausage
1 1/2 pounds hot Italian pork sausage
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 1/2 pounds green or red grapes, removed from stems (about 5 cups)
5 tablespoons good balsamic vinegar
4-5 tablespoons red wine, such as Chianti

Preheat the oven to 500 degrees

Bring a large pot of water to a boil, add sausages and simmer for 8 minutes to remove some of the fat. Remove to a plate.

Melt butter in a large (12 x 15-inch) roasting pan on top of the stove. Add the grapes and toss them to coat with the butter. Over moderately high heat add the wine and simmer until liquid is reduced by half. Transfer the sausages to the roasting pan with tongs, nestling them down in the grapes in one layer. Place in the oven and roast for 20 to 25 minutes, turning the sausages once, until they're browned and grapes are tender.

Transfer the sausages and grapes to a serving platter with tongs and a slotted spoon and cover with aluminum foil to keep them hot. Keep all juices in the bottom of the roasting pan. Add the balsamic vinegar to the roasting pan and cook over medium-high heat for 1 minute until it reduces slightly. Pour all juices over the grapes and sausages and serve hot.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Burnt Caramel Custards

Burnt Caramel Custards

Phew! What a week it's been. Craig and Sally, two of our favorite people, flew in from Dallas to spend Thanksgiving and my birthday with us. One of my very favorite things about them is how easy to be around they are. Theres no pressure to do this or that or all be together, we just move fluidly in and out of lunches, dinners, meetings, workouts and down time, talking or reading or sharing. Everyone is just themselves and accepted and loved as such. Plus their daughter, Evey and our son were basically inseparable the whole time. It twas awesome. I'm so sad to see them go. Sniff sniff.


Jeremiah and Evey pulling the wishbone

Also, on klove the other day (the Christian radio station) I heard one of the hosts say something about a story they read about someday being able to put a computer chip under our skin to use for credit cards or something like that. Then she followed up with wouldn't that be cool? What she did NOT say was EVERYONE FREAK OUT BECAUSE THIS IS DEFINITELY THE MARK OF THE BEAST!!!!!!!!!

You guys, don't look at me like that. I can't be the only little girl who was warned about this mark of the beast computer chip thing. Its burned into my fear memory. This information was presented to me as hard fact. Then, when I got married and told Jeremy all about it he rolled his eyes and said well, they were certain credit cards were the mark of the beast before the computer chip thing, and it was something else before that...maybe checks? Jeremy grew up in the church and his dad and grandpa were pastors, so I considered him the utmost authority about such matters. Jeremy didn't seem alarmed and I learned to relax a little.

If you're still staring, confused about all this "mark of the beast" stuff, you needn't worry. You might be like, well, thanks Krysta, but generally when we're talking about BEASTS I will worry. 

And I'll have to be like, good point, friend, but do you know how many religious leaders predicted end of the world stuff and were wrong? And do you know how many people believe different things about this beast business? And do you even want to spend your time worrying about beasts anyway? I mean, it's Christmas...

Burnt Caramel Custards

It IS Christmas, dontchaknow, and I'd bet since you are the type of person to read food blogs, you'd also be the type of person to throw a big ole Christmas dinner. If this is sounding right, then I have the perfect dessert for you this holiday! And I do mean perfect. One recipe makes 8 servings, it can be made up to a day ahead of time or morning of since its served cold, and its decadent and different. Also its easy and fast to make. There are a few steps, and I will ask you to bake these in a water bath but DON'T FREAK. Even if you don't know what a "water bath" is, much like the mark of the beast drama, it's not going to matter right now. It's going to be just fine. I'll walk you through it. The end result will be a creme brulee-ish custard without the hard top but it will taste like a soft vanilla caramel. These are rich, but so so lovely.

Burnt Caramel Custards
adapted from Bon Appetit, Oct. 2013
serves 8

1 quart heavy cream
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
3/4 cup plus 4 Tablespoons sugar, divided
6 large egg yolks, room temperature
pinch of kosher salt
Whipped cream (for serving; optional)

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Place cream in a medium saucepan; scrape in seeds from vanilla bean and add pod. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Remove from heat; set aside.

Bring 3/4 cup plus 2 Tablespoons sugar and 2 Tablespoons water to a boil in a small saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally to dissolve sugar (don't over-stir). Make sure sugar is completely dissolved and then raise heat to medium-high. Boil, swirling pan occasionally and brushing down sides of pan with a wet pastry brush ( I don't do this unless its obviously collecting at the sides of the pan), until mixture turns a deep amber color, about 4 mints; remove from heat.

Remove vanilla pod from cream; discard. Slowly add cream to caramel (mixture will bubble vigorously). Heat over medium heat, stirring occasionally  until smooth, about 2 minutes.

Whisk egg yolks, kosher salt, and remaining 2 Tablespoons sugar in a large bowl. Slowly pour in caramel cream, whisking constantly. Divide custard among eight 6-ounce ramekins or oven-proof bowls, and place in a large baking dish or roasting pan. If you need two pans to fit all the ramekins, thats okay too. Fill pan with water to come halfway up sides of ramekins. Don't freak out. It'll look like this:

Burnt Caramel Custards

 Bake until custard is just set but still jiggly in the center, 60-70 minutes. Remove ramekins from baking dish; place on a wire rack and let cool. Chill custards, uncovered, at least 3 hours.