Are you looking for a way to seriously improve your salad game? Swapping storebought for homemade dressing is the first thing you should do. The second is making your own croutons.
Homemade croutons are far better than any you can get at the grocery store. Making them yourself also allows you to add any seasoning you like and use up any bread that is going stale or is close to getting moldy. Not to mention it doesn’t require any skill and very little time.
All you have to do is cube the bread, toss with oil and seasonings and bake for about 20 minutes. Just be sure you make at least double what you think you need. Almost every time I make them people gravitate toward the kitchen and slowly snack on them as dinner is being finished. They’re so irresistible you might have to set aside what you actually want to put in the salad to make sure you have enough!
You can use any bread you have around, but they’ll be best with a bread that has a good crust. I usually make them with baguette, french bread, and sourdough. I would avoid any bread that is too sweet, like a whole wheat sandwich loaf, or too dense. Of course, it really depends on what salad you’re going to put them on! I’ve seen salads with cornbread croutons which are both sweet and dense, so really anything goes if it tastes good with your other ingredients!
Homemade Garlic Croutons
- 6 oz. stale bread
- 1 garlic clove, peeled
- 2 T olive oil
- 1 T vegetable oil
- ½ t. garlic powder
- ½ t. dried basil
- 1 small pinch red pepper flakes
- salt & pepper
- Heat oven to 350°.
- Cube or tear your bread into about ½” cubes. Press, mince, or grate the garlic clove into a medium sized bowl and add the oils. Add the bread to the bowl and toss to coat. Sprinkle seasonings on top and toss again to coat.
- Spread croutons on a small baking tray and bake for about 20-30 minutes, tossing ¾ of the way through, until golden brown. If the croutons look very dry when you toss them, feel free to add an extra drizzle of oil before returning them to the oven.
- These measurements are just a guideline. Feel free to use more bread, oil, or different seasonings. This is just a very basic version of the croutons I make. I switch everything up depending on the salad and my mood.
Cravings & Crumbs http://www.cravingsandcrumbs.com/
Congratulations, you made it to the weekend! If you’re absolutely nothing like me, maybe you went out yesterday for St. Patrick’s day and drank too much at a bar packed with too many people. I’m much older in my heart than my true age, so my idea of a good time is a relaxed cocktail hour with close friends or family, and of course good snacks.
This popcorn is a perfect drinking snack. It’s crunchy and salty, with a great mix of textures and flavors. If I were you I would put the whole batch in one big bowl for everyone to share.
I used Kerrygold butter here because I was lucky enough to talk to a self-proclaimed Butter Connoisseur who described the flavor as ‘popcorny’, which really set me off on a mission to see if it was true. I mean, who doesn’t want to improve their homemade popcorn with a butter that adds onto the flavor! In this recipe there are so many other flavors competing that you can’t necessarily discern the nuances of the butter from everything else, so feel free to use any type of butter you like.
Because this popcorn has a mexican flavor profile I think it would pair especially well with a cold beer or margarita. A warm spring evening enjoyed on the patio is optional, but if you’re lucky to have both of those please enjoy your drinks and snacks there.
Chile Lime Popcorn
- 1 T vegetable oil
- 3/4 c. popcorn kernels
- 4 T butter, melted
- 2 t. lime juice (from 1 lime)
- 1 t. aleppo pepper flakes
- 2-3 T cotija cheese
- 2 T chopped cilantro (optional)
- salt to taste
- In a large pot with a lid or a Whirly Pop, add the oil and popcorn kernels over medium high heat. Cover, shaking intermittently, until all kernels are popped. Remove popcorn to a large bowl.
- Melt the butter in the microwave in a small bowl and add lime juice and 3/4 t. salt. Drizzle over popcorn and toss to coat. Add the crumbled cotija and aleppo pepper and toss again. Taste and add more salt if needed. Garnish with cilantro.
- If you want to make this popcorn ahead of time, bake on a large rimmed baking sheet at 300° for about 5-7 minutes to dry it out.
Cravings & Crumbs http://www.cravingsandcrumbs.com/
One of the great things about living in California is that you can find an abundance of fresh produce year round. While obviously everything is best in season, even in winter you can find tomatoes, strawberries, pineapple, and so many other spring or summer season fruits and veggies that I consider to taste good enough and didn’t have to travel very far to get to me. However, the smaller farms that sell at the farmer’s markets stick to the seasons so I was still excited to see the first of the season’s strawberries pop up at the Sunday Jack London farmer’s market in Oakland.
They were big and red all the way through (no underripe white centers), but they obviously weren’t as sweet and juicy as real deal spring strawberries. So the best thing to do with produce that isn’t quite at the peak of the season is to cook it to concentrate the flavors. Then you can also add a little bit of sugar or a splash of lemon juice to enhance or balance the flavors.
I’ve been thinking about sweet empanadas for a while and already had some pie dough I had made in preparation for another project so I decided to break out the rolling pin and make these little hand pies.
The strawberries are macerated in sugar and lemon juice to pull out some of the juices while we roll out the dough. Once we bake them the crust is flaky and the strawberries inside have cooked into a sort of jam. In fact, if you didn’t have any fresh strawberries, I bet a spoonful of strawberry preserves would be just as delicious in these.
A final dusting of sugar on top and a dollop of whipped cream is recommended, but certainly not required. These were as delicious 5 days later heated up in a toaster oven as they were the first day.
- 2 c. all-purpose flour
- 2 T. granulated sugar
- 1 t. kosher salt
- 2 sticks unsalted butter
- 3-4 T. ice cold water
- 1 lb strawberries
- 2 t. granulated sugar
- 2 t. lemon juice
- 1 egg
- Cut the butter into smaller chunks (about ½” cubes). Add flour, sugar, salt, and butter to the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until the butter is combined and the dough has mostly come together in chunks (about 25 short pulses according to Serious Eats, but i didn’t count). Do not mix entirely in the food processor as this will overwork the gluten in the flour and you’ll end up with tough, dense dough.
- Scrape dough out into a large bowl and sprinkle over 3 tablespoons of water. Using your hands or a spoon mix and press the dough until the water is combined. Using your hands is easier, but if you do work very quickly so as not to warm up the dough too much. If your dough still seems dry feel free to add more ice water, 1 tablespoon at a time.
- Divide the dough in half and form each half into a disk about ½” thick. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 40 minutes, or until you’re ready to make the empanadas.
- Wash strawberries and slice green tops off. Chop into small chunks. (You’ll notice that in the above pictures I have the strawberries sliced, but chopping them smaller means you can fit more inside the empanadas. More filling = more flavor!) Mix in a bowl with the sugar and lemon juice.
- Preheat oven to 425° and line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Crack the egg into a small bowl and beat with a fork until combined.
- Remove the pie dough from the fridge, unwrap, and place on a lightly floured work surface. Sprinkle the top with a little more flour and roll out to about ¼” thick. If you’re having trouble rolling the dough at first, let it warm up for about 10 minutes. Using a 4” cookie cutter or other round object as a guide, cut out as many circles from the dough as possible. Transfer to the cookie sheet.
- Add a spoonful of the strawberries to one side of the pastry circles, leaving a ½” border. Use a pastry brush to brush a thin layer of the egg wash around the edges of the dough. Fold one side over and press out any air bubbles. Use a fork to press the edges together to prevent spilling.
- Shake any excess flour off of the dough scraps, press into a ball and repeat the entire process until you have no more left.
- Brush the egg wash over the tops of all the empanadas and sprinkle with some granulated sugar. Bake for about 14 minutes, or until golden brown.
- If desired, sprinkle another teaspoon of granulated sugar over each empanada while they’re still warm. And if you’re feeling real fancy, serve with a dollop of whipped cream.
Cravings & Crumbs http://www.cravingsandcrumbs.com/
Lunch options near my work are slim. Don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of restaurants, but they’re all too expensive and not even that delicious. As someone who likes to cook a lot, it pains me to pay too much money for something that I could have made better for half the price.
There are a few options I enjoy when I’m too lazy to cook lunch or simply forget. One of them is a mexican restaurant run as an offshoot to another two well known restaurants in the area. Everything tastes really good, but you end up paying $15 for three tacos and a drink. It kills me that I could go to the mexican market and buy everything to make enough tacos and drinks for 10 people for that price. Read More
On paper Peruvian cuisine is confusing. The Incas cultivated potatoes, quinoa, and dried beef (yes, beef jerky); the Spanish brought olives and rice; Africans made frying foods more popular; Chinese immigrants brought soy sauce, ginger, and stir-frying methods; Italians brought pasta…the list goes on. What you end up with are dishes like aji de gallina (a creamy chicken stew made with walnuts, hard boiled eggs and black olives), tallarines verde (spaghetti with a pesto sauce made with basil, spinach, and queso fresco) with a side of pollo saltado (a chinese chicken stir fry dish), and of course Lomo Saltado, a beef stir fry with french fries mixed in.
Like I said, these dishes don’t sound cohesive, but there’s just something about Peruvian food, that however strange the dishes sound on the menu, once you take the first bite you’re blown away. Somehow the flavors just work together, as if you took your favorite elements from each cuisine and mashed them up into something amazing. Read More
Last week it was my dad’s 68th birthday and when I asked him what he wanted he said lemon pie. This is the guy whose favorite dessert of his mother’s was lemon meringue pie and who has been talking about making lemon bars for at least two years, since the last time he made them. So you could say I was less than surprised by his request. Yeah, he likes lemon…
I don’t make pies or tarts very often, so after a few days of stressing about how I would get all the steps done, imagining completing one part of the recipe each day after work, I just started look at recipes and pulling elements that would actually make this dessert doable. Read More
The summer before our last year of college J and I took a summer study abroad trip to Argentina. In between many choripanes and bondiolas from street vendors, we ate at some really good restaurants. One that was recommended by our teacher was Chan Chan, a little peruvian restaurant in an alleyway that was supposed to be the best in the city. Come to think of it, there were a few restaurants that he praised as being lo mas bueno, but Chan Chan really did deserve it. We had never tried peruvian food before, but between the free cancha (a toasted corn snack) and bistec encebollado we fell in love with the cuisine.
One common peruvian dish that Chan Chan didn’t have was whole roasted or grilled chicken. Maybe it was just my experience in Buenos Aires, but I only remember having chicken once or twice the whole month – restaurants had all beef and a little pork. It wasn’t until a little peruvian restaurant opened up near our apartment last year that we discovered peruvian chicken and the cilantro jalapeño “green sauce” they served it with. The chicken was flavored with paprika, cumin, and garlic, and was tender enough to pull apart into shreds to dip into the sauce that was cool and spicy. Read More
It’s been fairly cold and rainy here in the Bay Area recently, which is exciting after years of predictions of el niño with barely a drop to show for it. But with all this wet weather, I’ve been wanting dinners that are comforting, rich, and full of flavor. These chile braised pork tacos hit the spot perfectly last friday. Armed with my pressure cooker and a few hours before a starving boyfriend barged through the front door i attempted to recreate a recipe I had found years ago on the internet that has since been removed. A few different types of chiles, onion and garlic, and some country style ribs from the freezer and an hour or so later I had an incredibly tender, full flavored taco filling.
The trio of chiles do most of the work here, flavor-wise. The chipotles are smokey and spicy, the anchos have a deep, complex sweetness, and the guajillos bring color, body and a brighter sweetness. Once the pork is shredded the sauce clings to every morsel, keeping the meat super juicy. Yes, you definitely want to eat these tacos over a plate. To add freshness I topped them with an avocado tomatillo salsa and a bit of shredded cabbage for crunch. Everything in the salsa is raw, keeping the flavor very light. Just chop the ingredients, dump them in a blender, and they’re good to go. Read More
Ah, finally, something on this blog that can actually be called dinner…
These pita burgers are absolutely delicious and a perfectly unambitious weeknight dinner with flavor that will make people think you worked hard. With essentially 4 steps (mix the meat, mix the sauce, stuff the pitas, and cook) you can pull this one off in about 40 minutes or less if you play your cards right. The best part, though? You can make these ahead through any step and save them for later. You can mix the meat and/or the sauce the night before and stuff and cook when you get home from work the next day. These even reheat really well in the toaster oven so you could make the whole recipe ahead and heat them up later. Read More
A few weeks ago someone in my office brought in homemade cookies and quietly laid them out with a small sign, “Holiday Snickerdoodles”. Imagine my surprise when I took a bite and they weren’t any ordinary snickerdoodle, but cardamom and currant snickerdoodles! What a pleasant turn the morning was taking and I hadn’t even finished my coffee yet. They looked so unassuming on a paper plate, covered up with a paper towel – they weren’t winning any points for presentation, but these cookies spoke for themselves with the first bite. They were so good they didn’t make it to the next day, but I couldn’t get them out of my mind. Read More