BBQ Steak, Sweet Potato & Squash

IMG_5397
My family has re-discovered the outside patio area. We; well actually I wanted a sitting area on the patio. Not just any sitting area I wanted someplace where we can; after a long hard day of working we could sit and relax comfortably. I finally pulled the trigger on an outdoor couch and we LOVE it!  We make plans of when we could meet, what we are going to drink and who has to get up and make dinner.

IMG_5407

Looks pretty comfortable huh? 

With the nights already getting shorter meals have to be something quick to throw together just so no one has to be away from lounging on the patio for too long. What fun would it be if I spent an hour in the kitchen while they are out there chilling out. No fun at all.

IMG_5401

As long as the raw meat doesn’t touch the tray; you can use it to take everything off the grill

Here is something so surprisingly delicious but so crazy easy that anyone can make this meal and you won’t hear any complaints from the loungers

IMG_5402

I use a little tinfoil so I don’t lose the veggies

Steak – you cannot go wrong with Ribeyes
Squash – whichever kind you like or both
Sweet potato or whatever you have on hand
Large Onion peeled and sliced
Olive Oil
Black Pepper
Kosher Salt

IMG_5404

You still get grill marks even while using tinfoil

That’s it!  Take the steaks out before you start anything else, they are best when the come to room temperature; season liberally with Salt and Pepper and put aside.
Start the grill, Slice the veggies and potatoes. Season those with olive oil, salt and pepper.
Grab a sheet pan or whatever you use when you grill and head outside. I have a little plastic basket I put all the supplies I need like the plates, utensils and tinfoil etc. And I usually only have to come back in for a refill of my wine.

Have a wonderful long labor day weekend!

 

Red Sangria – Simple & Delicious

So does anyone even remember what we did before we could google everything we needed to know? I know in my family if any of us have a discussion and happen disagree wink wink; someone immediately pulls out there phone and googles whatever we were discussing. I guess we must have been SO isolated with our knowledge back then? My husband has gone as far to dub the passenger seat in his truck the “google seat” basically meaning if he needs to know something the person sitting next to him needs to “google it”. 99% of the time it’s our son and I swear he is the fastest googler I know.
IMG_5368

I am fairly certain that I have mentioned in the past how I google myself for my recipes all the time.  The other day I wanted to make a batch of Sangria and recall writing a blog about it.  So I type cookingatclarktowers/sangria and it popped up but the recipe, story and pictures were all gone – sad face! I then had to try to recreate it because I KNOW its good; I have had and have also made some that I just didn’t care for. Not all Sangria is created equal. Thankfully this is a recipe that is a super easy and the best one I have ever had. Bonus is you can drink it right away ever come across one that wanted you to wait 24 hours “to meld” umm no thank you!
IMG_5366
Red Sangria

1 bottle of inexpensive red wine – you still want it to taste good
1 bottle of Lemonade (equal size of the wine bottle plus another cup or so)
Plum Brandy – 1 shot or use one of your favorites
Grand Mariner – 1 shot – no need to buy a large bottle – buy a nip?
Apple – peeled and diced
Orange – peeled and sliced
Lemon – sliced
IMG_5367

In a large enough container combine all the ingredients – I fill to the top of my pitcher with more lemonade add some ice and serve

IMG_5370

I had some leftover blueberries – so I added those too!

BBQ Marinated Shrimp

I am writing this week’s blog on Friday morning before my house becomes so busy and full of a lot of people. A girlfriend of mine is coming over to help me prep for an anniversary party we are hosting for my in-laws. My feeling was that it needed to be a step up or so from the normal backyard BBQ I throw since it is their 60th wedding anniversary BBQ and that is quite the accomplishment in my book and deserves something a little special.
IMG_5297
In a little bit a couple of my sister-in-laws will be here along with my girlfriend JC oh and did I mention that JC is a trained chef; no pressure for me to be prepping along side her ugh!  I even felt obligated to clean my oven last week just because I wanted everything “perfect” for her. I doubt she would judge me for a dirty oven, but I wanted to make cooking in my kitchen a pleasant experience.
IMG_5284
When deciding what we were having I wanted some of my favorite sides. Potato Salad, Pasta Salad, Baked beans and BBQ Shrimp.  So I well I guess we are all going to work on cooking the pasta & potatoes. I cheated on the beans and doctored up a large can I had on hand already. We’ll need to marinate the shrimp and decorate some cupcakes that I made up yesterday. JC is going to be in charge of the chicken and steak tips. She mentioned making up a few for us to taste, I have no doubt that they will be delicious.
IMG_5286
The BBQ shrimp is a recipe a friend brought to a party many years ago and has been a staple at my parties ever since. I have shared it with many people over the years but I have never blogged about it before. Funny thing is I tell everyone where I got it but they still refer to it as my recipe. When I make it I still bring out the same page that on the top says Jack’s family recipe, it has many stains and blotches on it but it is still excellent and a crowd pleaser!
IMG_5291

BBQ Marinated Shrimp

1 cup olive oil
¼ cup chopped parsley
1 lemon, juiced
2 tablespoons hot pepper sauce
3 cloves garlic minced
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground pepper
2 pounds large, peeled and deveined shrimp with tails on

In a large bowl or ziploc bag, add all the ingredients except the shrimp, mix well and then add your shrimp. Let them marinate for a minimum of 2 hours or best overnight.
IMG_5295
Skewer them and cook on your grill just till pink which means they are done. They cook quick but also depends on how hot you have your grill.

IMG_5296
The cook gets to get at least a skewer to themselves. At least that is how it works at my house.

Homemade Pizza Dough & Sauce

Happy Father’s Day!
14938302_10207738748251394_3402989645596747515_n
I am not sure what happened but this day kind of snuck up on me. I know you are asking how is that even possible. It is a busy time of year for me. I am on a fundraising board which I have been on I think for the last 10 years but I have proudly supported them since the beginning 17 years ago! Both my kids have their birthdays and my youngest just turned 25 UGH not sure how that happened either. The time goes by so fast; it seems like in a blink of an eye they went from just starting to walk and talk to running and talking back. Then came their their license and off to college and back. Through it all I couldn’t have asked for a better father for my children.

14980578_10207738742691255_6206870458508402566_n

Our first time playing with the Uuni this last Nov

So how are we going to celebrate this extremely hardworking man? Luckily he loves food just as much as I do. I am sure many people are going to be grilling out today and I thought about that but then decided to make homemade pizza in my Uuni pellet burning pizza oven and invite over both of our fathers to share in the yumminess!
15036315_10207738742531251_9143904106138992854_nI had never even heard of an Uuni oven before but there was a raffle sheet at the office so for $20 I wrote my name on 5 tickets and forgot all about it. Then a month or so later I got a call that I won! Pretty crazy actually and it is a crazy little unit but I love it. We had some friends over a couple of weeks ago and unanimously declared this little $20; to me item; was SO worth it and such a fun social thing to do, plus made excellent pizza. It says you can make other things in it but I haven’t explored that yet.
14938181_10207738747891385_3594414411391080513_nI know you can buy pizza dough at most markets and can even ask your local pizza place to buy some of their dough but my dough is better than any I have ever brought home. That goes the same as with my pizza sauce.

15032739_10207738747531376_4262270231098222327_n

Cooks the pizza in about 60 seconds – yeah baby!!!

Basic Pizza Sauce
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 28 ounce can peeled, crushed tomatoes with puree
1 bay leaf
1 ½ tablespoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon sugar
¾ cup dry white wine
Several shakes of crushed red pepper
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat the olive oil in  3-4 quart sauce pan and cook the garlic for 30 seconds. DO NOT allow it to brown or burn. If you do start over; add the remaining ingredients and simmer; stirring occasionally until the sauce has thickened and the flavors meld about 30-40 minutes. Any leftovers can be frozen.

IMG_5254

I just pulled this out of my freezer

Basic Pizza Dough – enough for 2 round 14” or 1 rectangle 11”x17”
1 tablespoon active dry yeast
Pinch of sugar
1 cup lukewarm water
2 tablespoon olive oil
3 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
14938302_10207738748251394_3402989645596747515_nCorn Meal helps keeps the dough from sticking on the pizza peel or stone or whatever you are placing and transferring the dough to.

Pour the water and yeast into a large bowl or your stand mixing bowl. Stir and put a pinch of sugar in it. Let is stand in a warm draft place for about 5 minutes until the yeast starts to activate into bubbles. If it doesn’t bubble you are going to have to start over.
Add the olive oil and then sift the sugar and salt. Into the yeast mixture.  Work the dough until it pulls away from the sides of the bowl. If you are using a stand mixer with the dough hook, let the machine knead the dough for 2-3 minutes. If you are doing it by hand work the dough till it feels springy. If it’s too stiff add a little warm water a teaspoon at a time.
IMG_5255Shape the dough into a ball and place in a large bowl that’s been lightly oiled.
Cover with a damp towel and place in a warm draft free place. Until the dough has doubled in size takes about an hour or so.
Punch the dough down, place on a lightly floured surface. This is the time to decide what size(s) you are making and split the dough as needed.  I tend to make individual pizzas so I break mine down quite a bit.

IMG_5256

This is my current dough I made a little bit ago

Roll out your dough ball and place on a lightly cornmeal pizza peel, stone or sheet pan. At this point you can cover it a let it rise a little again for a thicker crust or just put a little sauce, cheese and your toppings.  It’s best to not LOAD your toppings but place them sparingly so the pizza moves around easily for you. Not a fun mess to clean up topping debris after a split pizza dough.  Bake as you will in a very hot oven around 450’F for 10-30 minutes depending on how large your pizza is.

Garden Salad

Good morning and Happy Mother’s day!

IMG_0706

Looking forward to seeing this again this year!

My Mother’s day plans were to be spent in the garden but apparently Mother Nature had other plans. Unfortunately we are not supposed to see the sun until Tuesday; insert sad face here.

The gardens were on the agenda since the kids asked what I wanted to do today and I figured why not tick off something from my “to do” list. And the gardens need a lot of love to get ready for planting in a couple of weeks; and manual labor is a precious gift; to me anyway.  Many OK maybe 10ish years ago this was the weekend when I would go buy all my flowers for the porch and veggies for the garden but after losing more plants and money than I care to share I now wait until Memorial Day and then I go out and buy and plant everything I want. That seems to be the safest in this neck of the woods.

IMG_4438

Although yesterday; while it was still pretty nice out my husband got all the beds ready for planting and throwing caution to the wind he ended up planting a few things like potatoes, onions, leeks, carrots, beets and shallots. I think we should be OK since they are in the soil versus a delicate plant above ground; though we will be watching the weather very closely.  I did see that 3 or 4 towns over awoke this morning to snow and power outages instead of rain YIKES!

IMG_4450

In anticipation of the yummy veggies coming out of our and possibly your hard work and dirty hands I want to re-share a quick and easy summer salad  that everyone loved.

 

IMG_4439

Best if you can make this first before you start whatever you are serving it with so it has time to meld and let the veggies soak up the dressing.

Summer Garden Salad

⅓ cup cider vinegar
2 tsp honey
1 small clove of garlic, minced
½ tsp kosher salt
¼ tsp freshly cracked black pepper
1 cup sliced cherry, grape or like tomatoes
½ medium cucumber, halved, seeded and sliced thin
½ medium yellow summer squash, quartered and sliced ¼ inch thick
¼ medium sweet onion sliced thin
Kernels from 1 ear of corn
1 Tbs coarsely chopped fresh basil

Whisk the first 5 ingredients together in a medium bowl. Add the next diced/sliced 5 ingredients; stir well to combine. Let sit at room temperature for at least 30 minutes and up to 2 hours. Stirring occasionally before serving. Garnish with the basil.

 

Fried Brussel Sprouts & Piperade sauce

I wanted to give you all an update on my quest to like brussel sprouts! OK so that might not be the most exciting statement of the year, week or even day but I did come across another way that my husband will eat them.  My daughter and I actually do like them and would probably add them to my grocery shopping list a little more often if the faces and comments I get from my husband were a little less ummmm painful to see/hear.
IMG_5074

The other day my husband was at the grocery store with me; I’m not a fan of him going to the store with me; don’t get me wrong I wouldn’t mind if he didn’t end up spending me more money than I was thinking of spending. He’s like a little kid ooohh that looks yummy; and puts it in the cart. So I was grabbing the things that were on my list and yes there were brussel sprouts on it; he made a comment and a face and said several times that we really didn’t need them; such a child!
IMG_5085

My daughter had tried some fried brussel sprouts with a some red pepper sauce that she absolutely loved. Trying to recreate something we’ve had at a restaurant is kind of our thing. Sometimes it works and sometimes not so much. After making the sauce my first comment was; “where has this been all my life?” We all know the true test would be my husband. All I can say is my daughter and I both witnessed him finishing his plate AND reaching into the sprout bowl and grabbing a large one with his fingers and eating it.  YUP I win!!!!
IMG_5077

 

 

 

Piperade Sauce – definition below

Ingredients
3 plum tomatoes or use whatever you have on hand
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
2 red or green bell peppers (we used red because that is how Abbi had it)
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon hot Paprika or Espelette

Brussel Sprouts
Oil for frying
Balsamic vinegar
salt

Directions
using a 12 inch skillet over medium high heat, add the oil until hot but before it starts to smoke. add onions, peppers and the salt. saute, stirring frequently, until the onions are translucent and pepper start to lighten in spots; about 10 minutes.  Add garlic and saute for another minute or so.
IMG_5078

Add the tomatoes and the paprika, reduce the heat to medium low, cover and cook till the tomatoes are starting to breakdown and the peppers are soft; about 15  minutes.
removing the cover and continue to cook for about 5 minutes, you want to let it thicken a bit. It should be the consistency of a slightly runny relish.  Adjust the salt and enjoy!
IMG_5084

Brussel Sprouts
prepare your sprouts by trimming off the outer, dry leaves, cut the bottom off and slice lengthwise. Fry them in batches in about and inch or so of oil. Drain, salt and place them in a bowl with the piperade sauce, drizzle with a little balsamic vinegar, stir and serve.
IMG_5086

IMG_5087IMG_5088

IMG_5090

Not my favorite picture to share but it tasted delicious!

wikipedia definition of Piperade
Piperade
(Gascon and French) or Piperrada (Basque and Spanish), from piper (pepper in Gascon and in Basque) is a typical Basque dish prepared with onion, green peppers, and tomatoes sautéd and flavoured with red Espelette pepper.

 

 

Biscotti – Cranberry, White Chocolate, Pistachio

Happy Easter!
You might have been able to tell I have been on a baking kick these last few weeks. I am fairly certain it has a lot to do with my daughter and I binge watching the BBC’s The Great British Baking Show. What a great show with the too cute for words Mary Berry and the most handsome silver fox Paul Hollywood just their names make them stars and those accents. I am obsessed with British accents and how they speak so eloquently even when they are mad or make a mistake. I’m pretty sure if someone with a British accent were to tell me off for doing something I did wrong I would be totally OK with it. One of the most memorable phrases for me was in National Treasure 2 “Sir, please dismount the banister” it makes me smile every time. I’m smiling now while writing it.
IMG_5067Not sure if any of you see someone making something on TV or Online and think; I can do that! I can’t even tell you how many times I have done that, and I am proud to say that is one good thing I passed on to my kids. One of the challenges we watched they were to make biscotti. They could flavor them anyway they wanted; just that was pretty revolutionary for me; I’ve only ever had the almond flavored ones. I will admit that I’m not a big fan of almond extract so I never really ate them very much; I believe a little goes a long way and less is better for me.
IMG_5058


Abbi and I decided we were going to try making Biscotti! We had everything on hand; except the almond extract; which I am sure we could have left it out but we wanted it to be a little familiar. Within the last week my daughter has made them twice; she brought some into work and the chef du cuisine paid her to make him a batch. Yeah they are that good! And since I wanted to blog about them I made them again last night so I could share it with all of you.  If you are a baker you have to make these; they are DELICIOUS and way easier than I thought they were going to be.
Ingredients
¾ cup sugar
½ canola oil
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon – you can use a little more if you want
1 ¾ cup all-purpose flour
1 ½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt – we omitted this because the pistachios were salted
¾ cup white baking chips
¾ cup dried cranberries
¾ cup pistachios

Directions
Preheat oven to 325’F
In a small bowl mixing bowl beat the sugar and oil till well blended, Add the eggs and extracts beat till blended. Combine the flour and powder and salt if you are using it. Gradually add to the sugar mixture.  Stir in the last 3 ingredients.
IMG_5062Divide the dough in half. On either parchment or your Silpat, with lightly floured hands; shape each half into a rectangle. Roughly 10” x 1½”  Bake for 30-35 minute or until lightly browned.
IMG_5063IMG_5064Place pan on a wire rack and when they are cool enough to handle, transfer to a cutting board; cut into ½ inch pieces. Place each piece back on the pan cut side down.
IMG_5065Bake for 6-7 minutes on each side until golden brown. Place them on the wire rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container. You can also freeze them if you don’t end up eating them all.
IMG_5068

 

Recipe adapted from Taste of Home