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Hotbox Hipster

a pittsburgh hippie chick's unbridled love for all things food related

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One of my (many… many) FAVORITE dips…. Warm Bacon and Onion

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i have a thing for dips. salsas, quesos…. pretty much anything you can nosh on at will while waiting for more food to arrive.  let’s be honest… there’s no better place to have a dip than in your own home with your own family. no fretting over double dipping, no scooping a measly tablespoon size of the dip out on to a flimsy little paper plate and having reservations about going back for seconds or ((gasp)) thirds while chatting at a party…  no way Jose.  at home, it’s just you and the dip, in the vessel you prepared it in… eat as much or as little as you like, for as long as you like. you are the boss here.  when I saw this dip on the internet… I knew I had to make it.  except now I cannot remember where I originally saw it to give street cred.  I know I tweaked it heavily (as I habitually do) so it is a twisted version of the original anyhow.  I made it for super bowl sunday. we stayed home to watch, so it was perfect.  I hope you like this as much as I did.

WHAT YOU WILL NEED:

2 large Vidalia onions

five pieces of cooked bacon (cool and crumble a bit)

a heaping cup of shredded cheese (I think I used part provolone and part swiss) but you could really go any direction you want to here.  I think the original called for Gruyere- but honest to pete I think a nice hunk of Monterey jack would suit here just as nicely! it’s your rodeo.

a small container of light sour cream (I don’t know what they are, maybe 8 oz??)

a half a cup or so of mayo (I prefer Helmann’s light)

salt and pepper to taste

bread of choice for dipping.  rip it all apart (see pic) and lightly toast it in the oven for eight mins or so to give it a bit of crunch.  pitas or tortilla chips would work fine here as well, I just like the rustic look of the torn bread.  again… you do you.

HERE IS WHAT YOU DO:

HALF AND PEEL YOUR ONIONS: SLICE UP YOUR ONIONS NICELY AND SAUTE THEM IN TWO TABLESPOONS OF BUTTER on medium to low heat until they get going and then reduce heat to low. ten more mins or so until they look beautiful and brownish.  (I used a cast iron skillet here, it is not necessary to do this, but keep after them and low heat if you do- as it retains wicked heat)  Keep in mind: when caramelizing onions…. low and slow. I added my salt and pepper here too.

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WHILE THESE ARE GOING YOU CAN SHRED YOUR CHEESE.  IF YOU PURCHASED PRE-SHREDDED CHEESE, WELL THEN POUR YOURSELF A BEER OR SOME SHIT, I DUNNO.

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COMBINE ALL OF THE LISTED INGREDIENTS INTO A BOWL BIG ENOUGH FOR MIXING. MIX IT UP YO. THEN ADD IT TO A CUTE LITTLE OVEN SAFE DIP VESSEL OF YOUR CHOOSING.  TOP WITH FRESH BACON CRUMBLES, AND PUSH SOME OF THEM DOWN INTO THE DIP A BIT SO THERE IS BACON IN THE MIDDLE AS WELL. BAKE THIS UP UNCOVERED AT 400* FOR ABOUT 25 MINS OR SO.  (if taking to a party, take it right up until the bake it part, and then bake when you get there) SERVE ASAP!  ENJOY!!

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7 ingredient Watermelon Cucumber Feta Salad

an unlikely combination... sure to wow.
an unlikely combination… sure to wow.

the first time I tasted this salad, a doctor friend of mine brought it to work to share with all of us.  I was smitten. somehow, the saltiness of the feta was the perfect, albeit unlikely compliment to the sweetness of the juicy watermelon.  Add in crunchy seedless cucumber chunks and fresh basil… and you’re about to board the happy train. I wanted to keep this very simple, but still chocked full of flavor- so I added as few things as possible to the mix.  technically, you could leave out the cucumber if you didn’t have it, and it would be just as yummy.  I do enjoy the crunch of the cukes though – and they bulk it up a bit more as well.  I added shallot, one small one, as I thought the red onion would be a bit overpowering.  the recipes I viewed on the internet called for mint.  I prefer basil in mine, so I went with it.  I like the taste of fresh squeezed lime, so I used some of that as well.  ok enough talk… HERE IS WHAT YOU DO.  

purchase: need

a bit of watermelon

a block of feta cheese (costs more than crumbled, but looks OH SO much prettier here)

a small shallot

a juicy lime

a small handful of basil (maybe 7 leaves) chopped

a seedless cucumber (or a few of those cute baby cucumbers Aldi carries)

two tablespoons of either red wine vinegar or white wine vinegar

TO PREPARE THIS:

decide what bowl you want to serve this in, and then make only that much.

carefully dice up some of your watermelon  **(I write this assuming everyone knows how to cut a watermelon… but if not here goes. Cut watermelon in half, lay one half cut side down on your cutting board and begin to carefully slice this into slices going from right to left or left to right. if you want to chunk it- carefully cut rind off and cube it nicely into a container. otherwise cut slices in half and place in airtight container if you are that person who likes to eat it off of the rind. I am NOT that person. I like my watermelon chunked and in a pretty container ready for me to scoop out a bowlful at any given moment.  my husband and my daughter are the rind types. I just don’t get it.)

cut your feta into pretty chunks.

slice/chunk your cucumbers.

wash and cut your basil

cut your shallot into thin slices.

in a small bowl, squeeze all of the juice from one lime.  to this, add a bit of vinegar. mix them and set aside.

in a large bowl (big enough to toss this with clean hands…) add all ingredients. pour the lime and vinegar juices on top.  toss together with clean hands.  transfer to your serving bowl.  if extra, store in airtight container for up to four days.  it won’t last that long, trust me.  Enjoy!!

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grilled chicken bacon poppers ~ whoa good!

everyone is entitled to an opinion... except those who don't like BACON.
everyone is entitled to an opinion… except those who don’t like BACON.

ok people… I have said it before, and i’ll say it again… I DON’T trust people who don’t like bacon!  I like it in the morning, I like it at lunch on a BLT or on a big fat beefy burger when out indulging with friends.  I like it wrapped around fat juicy scallops… there isn’t an end here people, so I will just stop.  I recently discovered this FUN new trick with bacon so I thought I’d share it with ya’ll.  Chicken tenderloin bites wrapped in a half a piece of bacon, and secured on skewers for ease of grilling.  Pop them off the skewers once cool enough, and serve them as the main squeeze, as an appetizer with friends (we dipped in BBQ sauce… but think ranch, think a Sriracha/Maple syrup dip, anything goes here) or a couple of them alongside a juicy burger as an over the top addition!  however you serve them… you’re gonna like them.

WHAT YOU NEED:

CHICKEN TENDERLOINS (CUT INTO BITE SIZED CHUNKS)

BACON (CUT IN HALF)

SKEWERS

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wrap them as shown and skewer them to secure.

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ADD FRESH BLACK PEPPER  IF DESIRED

GRILL THESE OVER MEDIUM HEAT AND CHECK OFTEN. they will be dripping a lot so the flames will be dancing upward. Careful not to burn the bacon.  if needed, place over indirect heat. You will work it out.  Once chicken is cooked, you are golden.  allow to cool for a few mins and then remove to a platter.  Enjoy!!

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these are great with freshly sautéed asparagus as well.
these are great with freshly sautéed asparagus as well.
or as I mentioned... alongside this big fat son of a gun.  YUMMO.
or as I mentioned… alongside this big fat son of a gun. YUMMO.

basic muffin recipe ~ make it your own!

“How you can sit there, calmly eating muffins when we are in this horrible trouble, I can’t make out. You seem to me to be perfectly heartless.
“How you can sit there, calmly eating muffins when we are in this horrible trouble, I can’t make out. You seem to me to be perfectly heartless.”
“Well, I can’t eat muffins in an agitated manner. The butter would probably get on my cuffs. One should always eat muffins quite calmly. It is the only way to eat them.”
~Oscar Wilde… the trouble with being earnest.

This is a very basic muffin recipe that I have spun to my liking by using unrefined coconut oil.  I have made this recipe as is, bare bones with mini chocolate chips only.  I have added two mashed nanners and dark chips, which I show here with pics.  I have added fresh raspberries and white chips.  I have added lots of cinnamon and dried cherries.  take this wherever you like, as it is a solid, sturdy muffin mix that is wickedly adaptable. (which is a very admirable quality in my humble opinion)

Don’t ask me about nutritional value, because I can’t get wrapped up in that shit.  I know I can pronounce and see all of my ingredients, and they are fresh.  That is what I deem important. Feel good about knowing what you are feeding your wee ones and yourself.  I usually let the tots have two… and then we eat a healthy lunch.  you do you.

WHAT YOU NEED:

2 cups flour

1/2 cup sugar

1 Tablespoon baking powder

1/2 tsp of salt

1 egg

3/4 cup milk

1/3 cup coconut oil (warm it for 25 secs in microwave to liquefy)

Add ins:  (3/4 c choc chips;  two mashed nanners;  3/4 cup blueberries; 1/2 c shredded coconut;  almonds; whatever you think would be yummy.  if berries, gently stir in at last min, or better yet poke them into the muffins once poured into cups)

I usually add a dash of nutmeg over my flour as well, just for a little flavor punch.

WHAT YOU DO:

mix it all together in a bowl in order listed…. easy peasy.  lightly grease muffin cups and evenly distribute.

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ready for the oven!
ready for the oven!

400* for 18 mins.  remove from tins carefully loosening sides with butter knife- place into a lovely towel lined basket and let cool a few minutes.  Enjoy!!

MAKES 12 LARGE MUFFINS.

quite fresh and good and comforting!
quite fresh and good and comforting!

FOODIE FANTASIES

many a night i spent dreaming up ways i could make a food delivery service come to fruition.  i’d turn over scenarios in my head… catchy names, food truck artwork,  meals that would be eaten easily while standing or sitting in the grass, visions of hipsters noshing on a paper lined boat of my fabulous ‘something or other’ and posting about it on twitter or the FB.   i imagined rolling through Larryville in my converted mail truck throwing peace signs out the open door/window here and there.  rocking out to death cab for cutie… wearing an apron with the words ‘SHARE GOOD VIBES’  on it.  i could finally get that cute little spoon tattoo on my hand at the base of my thumb!   and then maybe later a santoku knife on my other wrist (cause you know you’re always thinking about your NEXT tat the minute you leave the parlor)…   this is literally how i would fall asleep more nights than i can remember.  i still do sometimes… even though i have done the homework and know how hard it is to turn even a meager profit while manning a food truck biz.  it is a labor of love, as a brick and mortar restaurant would be as well.  be prepared to be married to it they say.  fourteen hour days are the minimum, with sixteen hour days being more realistic, after preparation, clean up, book keeping, and maintenance woes on a daily.  not to mention finding a co-owner, helping hand or hired staff you can trust and rely on always.  not a good look for a wife and mother of two.  life is hard sometimes.  you know what you enjoy doing… you know you are good at it… you know people would LIKE what you sling… but you meet roadblock after roadblock when thinking of how you can get there.  more often than not, it’s money.  things cost money. A LOT of money.  to get a food truck up and running and stocked with equipment, etc etc- you’re looking at at least 30G’s start up cost… rockstar trucks decked out with bells and whistles… 70 G.  but hot damn are they beautiful.   if i was rich/ aka a trust funder or one of those lucky SOB’s who hit a powerball ticket with a group for 4 mill a piece… Hell to the Yezzesss i’d be all over this.  i’d service private picnics or corporate events…  do festivals and fairs… have FUN with it.   but for now, i am a nurse.  i make a fine and comfortable living doing it.  make no mistake in thinking me ungrateful for said career.  i worked hard to become a nurse, and it was not easy.  i feel proud of this accomplishment in my life- especially deciding to do it late, as i was about to turn 30 and already working as a social worker after college.   nursing has been good to me.  to us.  but this post is about passion.  about the Foodie world that exists in my mind.  so i do what anyone in this situation would do.  i think small.  what can i do that would simulate being a part of the food service industry while allowing me to harness some of my entrepreneurial spirit???  i seek out small groups of people that would like me to cook for them.  ie: a pediatrics office full of busy, hungry medical professionals who get an hour lunch break each day;  a group of hungry policemen who are notorious for working up appetites  while out fighting crime.  the latter had me cooking for them a week before Christmas this year… and they were pleased as punch with the whole foodie event!   prior to this i cooked for my co-workers, who also found the whole delivery yummy and satisfying!   so i am having fun with it… but on a small scale.  my food truck is my silver Subaru… and i am finally using up some of the hundreds of containers i bought online late one night when i was feeling extra ‘ready’ to make this REAL.   after all, a girl’s gotta dream.  if you never CHASE you dreams you will never CATCH them.

micro side salads
micro side salads
chicken parmesan over penne with red sauce
chicken parmesan over penne with red sauce
small batch homemade vinaigrette
small batch homemade vinaigrette
slow cooked sausages sliced over cavatappi with red sauce
slow cooked sausages sliced over cavatappi with red sauce

 

garlic bread - lined up like little soldiers
garlic bread – lined up like little soldiers
hot soup, ready for 16 oz containers.
hot soup, ready for 16 oz containers.

Here piggy piggy….. melt in your mouth pork roast…

soooo… i just have to be honest here. i have never met a pig i didn’t like.  i mean let’s be honest. they are adorable to look at when they are little, they are fun to watch when they are MASSIVE… and when my hubby worked part time on a local farm to help pay the bills last winter, the stories of the big pigs were always my faves!  at one point he had to fight one of them off with a broom handle to avoid getting knocked over and trampled in the mud! they can be brutal and mean! but they are so funny and somehow still cute even at 600 pounds!  it was hard to keep a straight face when he told me that story.  when there are farm animals around, the first thing my kiddos run to are the pigs. they love feeding them with baby bottles, and listening to their oinky cute sounds.

piggy pic

however…….  (and i know i’m gonna get flack for this next statement)  i have never met a more tasty animal.  i mean come ON…. bacon?? enough said.   a big succulent slice of ham at Christmas time??? shut the front door.  crispy sausage links dripping in maple syrup alongside your cinnamon french toast??  hold the phone Ma.   sweet italian sausages slow cooked in red sauce all day long and sliced over a bowl of pasta??  That’s Amore.  shall i go on??  crispy yet melt in your mouth pork belly tacos with mole sauce and cilantro??   just yes.   carnivores… you’re feelin’ me?    but the one piggy dish i love preparing most is a slow roasted pork butt with a nice spice rub… dotted with garlic cloves… and served atop a nice sturdy bun with a drizzle of BBQ sauce, a heap of coleslaw and some spicy bread and butter pickle chips.  smack my ass and call me Sally.  this meal is sure to please, and with ease.

so here’s what it looks like before going into the oven.  (get about a 3.5-4 lb pork butt roast- boneless or bone in- either way) whatever looks good to you. try to pick one that has a nice layer of thick fat on the top.

rub it down yo
rub it down yo

this rub, i just make it up in a small bowl with all flavors i envision imparting good flavor.  it goes something like this.   take your 1/4 tsp spoon, and pull out some garlic powder, some chili powder, some cumin, some dried parsley, some dried mustard, paprika, onion powder (if you have it, i never do), dried thyme and black pepper- you’re lookin to add even amounts of all of these.   a pinch of cayenne, add a whole tsp of salt, and add a whole Tablespoon of brown sugar.  mix it all up in the bowl, and rub that sucker down good on all sides.  i always do this inside my foil- so that it catches all the ‘crumbs’ in the vessel i’m gonna bake it in.  stab it a few times to create little slots for the garlic and jab some peeled cloves in those slots.  hit it with a drizzle of olive oil all over the top.  flip it to FAT layer side up.   so yeah, the Foil… lay out a big sheet, then put another sheet going the other way, etc- unless you have that lovely Heavy duty, extra large foil… in which case you’re golden.  the goal here is to wrap this up so well and tight, so that the juices are trapped in the foil.  ya’ll are crafty.  fold and pinch this foil like it is your job.   place this foil in a pyrex dish, just to catch any juices that will inevitably escape.  see visual below:

ready for oven
ready for oven

i always start this out at 425* for like 25 minutes, and then i turn heat to 270* and let her go for five hours at least. i’ve done six before when i had to leave and didn’t get to do the pre-game 425* part.   still perfect.  never, under any circumstances unwrap this during the cooking.  when it is done, remove from oven and let it sit for ten mins or so.  unwrap, drool, and then let it sit for ten mins more.  perfect time to pluck off the corners and stand around taking pictures and sipping a cold beer if you’re anything like me.   See below for the big reveal:

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drooling on my camera
drooling on my camera

SHRED THE PORK now in the baking dish you cooked it in… allowing all the juices created to run into the pan as you gingerly remove the foil from around the meat.  use two forks, or however you like to do this. i like some big chunks coupled with small shreds- i feel that makes a good sandwich.  Add BBQ sauce if you have a favorite, honestly it is tasty enough to stand alone on the bun or plate.  i like mine as i described above- with a healthy serving of tater tots or crispy crowns-  and an ice cold craft beer.  Life doesn’t get much better than that folks.   Enjoy!!

Stellar.
Stellar.

 

 

Spag balls 2.0

it was Christmas eve morning, and i sat, making a mental checklist of all that still had to be done… trying to remain ‘jolly’ all the while.  i am sure every other mama in the world felt the way i felt  – and at times it is just that very fact that puts things into perspective for me.  you are not alone woman… suck it up buttercup.   one of the ticks on the tick list was to make meatballs.  enough meatballs for Christmas EVE, and Christmas DAY.  that’s a lot of balls.  i call my meatballs Spag balls… as my friends call me Spags.   as i sat cringing at the thought of pan searing all of those balls in olive oil, and the mess that comes with, i thought to myself… there has GOT to be an easier way.  THE OVEN!!  flash bake them at high heat for a snap, and then transfer them to the sauce bath in the pans to finish cooking in the oven.  YESS!!  i’m gonna try it.  so i created the balls, and as i rolled them out, i placed them about an inch apart on Silpat lined baking sheets.  (parchment works here too, PS)  set the oven to 425*, and bake them, one tray at a time for about 10 minutes or so… you will see them start to get a bit brown.  this browning bit helps them hold the ‘ball’ shape, and allows an easy-peasy transfer with a large fork right into the tray of sauce you will have waiting patiently.  Bake the next pan same way- once they are all par-browned and in in the sauce bath,  BAKE, uncovered, for about an hour at 325*.   top with freshly shaved Parmesan cheese when they come out, (if you like) and you are DONE!  could it get any easier??    here is the original recipe for my Spag balls.

ready to be flash baked.
ready to be flash baked.
mouth watering meatballs
mouth watering meatballs

spicy wheat berry chili… with or without sausage… you’re gonna like it!!

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what berry??  wheat berry.  WHAT??  what the hell is a wheat berry?  this is how the conversation began when I started to tell my hubby about my dinner plans last weekend.  he immediately jumped on the laptop and proceeded to educate himself, and admittedly, me as well… on just what in the hell the wheat berry was.  I saw this recipe that made my eyes widen a bit while looking at Eating Well.com,  on there it was listed as ‘zesty wheat berry black bean chili’… and my recipe is an adapted version.   I tweaked it a bit, but not a ton-   it was a vegetarian recipe to start with… but the omnivore in me felt compelled to start it out with a bit of ground hot sausage, browned well, thus leaving a beautiful crust on the bottom of the pot, only to be ‘deglazed’ right the hell into the mix once the veggies began to sauté over it.  this created a ‘cooked all day’ taste, especially when the chicken broth was added.   so yeah… wheat berries.  this little guy is a superstar in the grain world.   easily put, the wheat berry is the whole grain form of the wheat, in its most natural state before any processing has occurred.  it’s full of fiber, vitamins and minerals.  it brings copper, manganese, phosphorus and selenium to the table.  most of which are hard to find in every day foods.  selenium is great for our immune systems and our thyroid gland, and manganese helps boost our metabolism.  all good, right??  if the pure healthy reputation isn’t enough to convince you, the taste will.  wheat berries have a chewy, almost nutty sweet texture that blend seamlessly with even the boldest of flavors.  they could have easily stood alone here, (they even have protein!)  and  I compel my veggie friends roll with this recipe sans sausage.  just jump right in at sauté the onions, peppers, etc.  (and sub vegetable broth for the chicken broth)  Golden!! have it both ways.

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the day you’re gonna make this, go ahead and cook the wheat berries ahead of time, as they take one hour to cook.  the preparation?? EASY PEASY LEMON SQUEEZY.   put the wheat berries in a heavy pot. cover with water two inches or so above the grains.  bring to a boil, cover, and reduce heat to low.  simmer for one hour, stirring occasionally.   once cooked, drain into a colander, rinse with cold water and set aside. This recipe calls for two cups- cooked.  I bought two cups of dry berries for 1.99/pound at my local Whole Foods.  i’m guessing any health food store is gonna have these guys.  they were listed as “hard red winter wheat berries” .  when they cook up, they plump a bit- so you end up with more than you need. Add what you think looks right to your stew,  (at least two cups but I did more) and then put the rest in an airtight container to use over salads, etc. for the rest of the week.  heck, they’re so versatile you can even add them to your morning yogurt!  ok, moving forward.

WHAT YOU NEED:

olive oil

about a half a pound of bulk hot sausage (ground not links) -anything under one pound will do.

1 large yellow onion (diced)

1 jalapeno pepper (seeded and small diced)

1 yellow bell pepper (diced) – (red would work here too, but i’m a ninny and think about the visual of the end product)

1 28 oz can diced tomatoes (undrained)

5 cloves garlic (minced)

2 cans black beans (rinsed and drained)

your wheat berries from above

2 tsp chili powder

1.5 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp dried oregano

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp black pepper

1 can chicken broth

1/2 cup water

2 tsp brown sugar

1 avocado (diced)

1/2 cup fresh cilantro- chopped

HERE’S WHAT YOU DO:

OK, like any recipe I tell you guys about, I say prep all of your ingredients first, and that way they are waiting on your ass when it’s go time.  trust me, it makes your life sooo much easier when you’re starting out doing these recipes.  it makes it hard to ‘mess up’ that way.   I still cook this way for the most part- and that is probably one of the reasons I keep loving it so much.  the old nursing adage applies here: work smarter, not harder. 

so hit up your pan with some olive oil- just a swirl will do…. and start to brown your hot sausage.  start out at medium high, breaking it up with your spatula as it cooks.  you have to keep at this, flip it around, break it up continuously until it is small lovely browned pieces…. ready to add in later.  remove the meat to a plate, and set aside.  the bottom of your pot should look crusty and a mess at this point.  perfecto.  we are gonna work all of those lovely browned bits into the mix here in a sec.   reduce heat to medium and add your pile of chopped onions.  stir around for a few minutes while they warm up.  add a bit of the diced tomatoes, maybe a 1/4 cup- and continue to try to ‘clean’ the bottom with the ingredients.  add in the bell peppers and the jalapeno and turn the heat up to medium high.  stir for a few mins and then add in the garlic and all of the dry spices.  stir around a few more mins, at this point, your pot should be deglazed, if not, a bit more tomato and make it happen.  once you’ve achieved that, add in your chicken broth, water, diced tomatoes, beans, brown sugar and add the sausage back in.  Reduce heat, cover, and simmer like this for 25 minutes.

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remove lid, stir well,  and go ahead and add in your wheat berries.  like I said, at LEAST two cups, but I just dumped in what I thought looked good as I gave it a stir. I wanted it to be thick.  it’s your rodeo people…. take charge.

cook it for like 5 minutes more,  and then remove from heat. give it a stir, and then you’re adding in the juice from one whole lime, and at least a half cup of chopped fresh cilantro.  (again, I did not measure, just take a big rip and chop it)  I reserved a smidge of the cilantro to sprinkle on top of the bowls, mostly because I love love love cilantro.   after you stir in your cilantro and lime juice, you’re ready to eat!!

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serve up a bowl and top with a few pieces of diced avocado (if you dig it) –  and get ready for a flavor explosion in your mouth!!  I love this recipe, and can’t wait to cook it up again soon.  multiple co-workers liked it, my mom liked it, and hubba-lish liked it too!!  winning!!   Enjoy!

peace and love yo!  spags.

zesty chili pic

 

 

the tomato pie experiment

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last evening was delightful.   it surprises me that i jump in with that statement, given the fact that we are in the thick of two tots at home with a nasty  childhood virus known as Hand Foot and Mouth disease.   which… thankfully so far has been completely bearable.  neither child has been febrile, (aka- no fevers; sorry nurse in my coming out) and their spirits have been high and completely untarnished.  they are… simply put… contagious.  so at home with me they have remained over the past few days.  yesterday was a lovely sunny autumn day in Pittsburgh, so we took advantage and lassoed up the poodle to visit our local off leash dog park.  he ran his heart out, as always, and we had fun watching and breathing in some of the fresh end of summer air.  my dinner plans had been in mental motion from late morning, as i looked at five or so impeccably perfect garden ripe tomatoes, as well as a small bowlful of yellow round cherry tomatoes with excellent flavor.  i knew i loved my friend’s tomato pie, i mean really loved it, the last time i visited her for a girls weekend with some pals.  she is always cooking up something wholesome and fresh and seasonal each time we visit… and knocking our socks off, which is probably why we get along so well!  she has the most charming blog as well, called Simplify Wellness. give it a whirl if you are wellness minded like i am.  so yeah, tomato pie.  i knew i could do it.  i obtained some important tips from WFOHBH (wellness friend of hotbox hipster), like laying the tomato slices out on paper towels to let them sweat for a half hour.  i was shocked at how wet the towels were afterward!  i found a lovely recipe for a ‘healthy’ pie crust (i know, right?) that used extra virgin olive oil instead of butter. not that i don’t like LOVE butter, make no mistake… but i am always looking for nice alternatives along my cooking paths.  i located the recipe at a lovely little blog called Chocolate & Zucchini. this is the LINK for your enjoyment!

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so the tots began preparing for a magic show they would put on for hubby and i later that evening, giving me plenty of ME time in the kitchen.  this pie was as simple as could be, layering tomatoes, freshly chopped basil, and cheeses…  but i wanted it to have another level of flavor.  ‘kick it up a notch’ if you will – in the words of wickedly talented Emeril.  how better to achieve that than with sauteed onions and garlic?  as the pan was heating for this task, i hit it with some olive oil, and then i sprinkled in a generous shake of red pepper flakes.

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i ended up almost caramelizing the onions/garlic over low heat, and the result was fabulous.  OK let’s get on with this rodeo…

THE CRUST:

2 cups flour (whole wheat or all purpose or a mix of both)

1 tsp of salt

1/4 tsp of black pepper

1/4  tsp dried thyme

1 tsp of dried rosemary

couple pinches of dried basil and oregano as well

1/4 cup of olive oil (i used extra virgin, but any will do)

1/2 cup COLD water

add dry ingredients in a medium sized mixing bowl.  stir to combine.  add in your 1/4 c of olive oil. mix with a fork a bit to combine. (won’t all be combined, and will be course to large crumbles)  mix in the cold water with same fork until starting to come together. set your fork down, and get one hand in there, finishing the job until you can turn it out in one piece onto a floured counter.  roll it, adding a sprinkle of flour as necessary, until it looks like it will fit your pie plate.  add it to the plate, shape it, flute the edges if you want, and fork the bottom a bit.  throw it in the fridge for a half hour.  then remove from fridge and bake it at 400 degrees for 25 or 30 mins. remove from oven and let cool.  you could literally use this crust for anything you can think up from a yummy veggie pie with zucchini, tomatoes and asparagus with swiss cheese… or an onion and swiss chard with bacon breakfast creation… a chicken pot pie with fresh mushrooms…  i mean the possibilities are endless.

THE FILLING:

four ripe medium to large tomatoes / or other heirloom variations

half a large onion, thinly sliced

2-3 cloves of garlic, minced

mozzarella cheese slices

provolone cheese slices

shaved or grated Parmesan for the top

fresh basil leaves (about a half cup, chopped) – reserve some to sprinkle on top after baking.

WHAT YOU DO:

Prepare your pie crust as instructed above.  While it is cooling from baking, you can begin preparations for the filling.  Slice your tomatoes (medium thickness) and lay them out on some paper towels to sweat.  saute in olive oil (with some shakes of hot pepper flakes) your sliced onion…. after about four minutes, add the garlic and then turn heat to low.  let it go for a bit, until onions take on a nice light brown hue. remove from heat.   once your pie crust has cooled down, begin layering.  First do a layer of provolone. (i think this took four or five slices)  then do a layer of tomatoes.  salt and pepper that layer, and add the chopped basil atop. then a layer of mozzarella.  then the sauteed onions. then another layer of tomatoes.  i ended with a layer of mozzarella, and then i topped it off with a bunch of sliced yellow small tomatoes.

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((i should add, that along the way, when i reached a cheese topped layer, i gave the whole thing a good firm pressing on with my hands.  ‘smoosh it down a bit, yo!’  ))  hit the top with some black pepper- and put it into a 375 degree oven for about 25 minutes or so.  remove from oven, sprinkle with fresh basil,  shave some Parmesan cheese over the top, and let it cool off a bit before cutting.  (like 15 mins or so)  Pour yourself a nice cold beer… or a glass of wine…  and get ready to eat one of the most surprisingly unique and shockingly delicious meals you’ve made in awhile!

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we literally had to stop ourselves from eating this WHOLE PIE in one sitting… who ARE we??  no joke, it was THAT good.  I had a piece and a half… and I knew I wanted to enjoy it the next day… (if the nerd in me is being honest, seeing how it holds up for day 2 crossed my mind!)  tonight is the night- I am less than an hour from leftover heaven on a plate…  and since I have no cooking to do, these summer wheat beers I’ve had stashed away are tasting even sweeter right now as I wrap up!  how will you close out your last week of summer???  make this pie dude.  do it.

peace and love yo.

watching it disappear!
watching it disappear!

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