Watermelon and Avocado Salad

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A few weeks ago I Pinned a gorgeous-looking photo of a salad made of watermelon, avocado, radishes, feta, and red onion. It seemed to capture the essence of summer! I forgot about it until today when I was trying to figure out what to have for dinner. I could only vaguely remember all of the ingredients and I left out the radishes (I forgot) and the red onion (dislike!). You can find the original recipe here. You will henceforth be disappointed in my photography skills after looking at that! I blame my track lighting in my kitchen. It’s terrible and it’s impossible not to cast shadows under it!

I started out by cutting an avocado in half. To remove the pit I just whacked the knife into the pit and then rotated the knife counter clockwise and the pit just comes out attached to the knife. I spooned out the halves of avocado carefully and cut each in half again.

 

Then I cut them in half the long way and into cubes (I use the term ‘cubes’ lightly – they were whacky shapes but I tried to keep them the same size-ish). I set them aside and got out my watermelon, slicing it into similarly sized cubes. Now came the fun part! Arranging! Everything was a little crooked so I used a spatula to run between the rows and columns to line everything up better. So pretty!

 

I made a quick dressing from half a lime and a tablespoon of olive oil. It was way too sour and plain so I added a generous pinch of brown sugar – maybe half a teaspoon. I whisked it with a fork until emulsified and drizzled it lightly over the plate. Then I chiffonaded some basil (yes I am aware that that might not really be a verb in the English language) and sprinkled that over the top. I crumbled up some Ricotta Salata, which is similar to Feta but a bit milder – very salty so use it sparingly. I salted and peppered my masterpiece, wishing I had a fresh peppercorn grinder, and presented it to the hubs!

 

He liked it! I think he thought it was a little strange at first but he ate it all and said it was good and very filling! I didn’t taste it because I can’t eat watermelon or avocado (my mouth hates me) but I’m sure it was delicious! I made myself a spinach salad with blueberries, ricotta salata and the same dressing. Then I ate a huge plate of pasta carbonara and didn’t have my salad. It’s sitting here waiting for me to want my late night snack though!!

 

Pork Roast with Apples and Onions

Pork with Apples and Onions

A couple weeks ago I bought a 6lb pork loin and cut it into 3 sections. We usually have pork tenderloin instead but the sale was too good to pass up! The first roast I made was very dry. I used the second section for pulled pork and it was a little dry but not too bad. This time I went searching for a good recipe and found Pioneer Woman’s Pork Roast with Apples and Onions. I modified the recipe to adapt it to what I had on hand and it turned out fantastically!! I was expecting the meat to be dry but the sauce to be delicious so I was pleasantly surprised that the meat was not dry at all and the flavor was incredible. Even the hubs ate some of the apples and enjoyed them despite his issues with hot fruit! He absolutely loves onions and was raving about them the whole meal. This one is definitely going in the rotation!

First I cut up a large Vidalia onion and started caramelizing it in a heavy pan with some butter and olive oil.
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While the onions do their thing chop up 2 apples. These are Pink Lady apples but you can use whatever you have.

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Once your onions are nice and caramelized pull them out of the pan and set them aside. Look at all the brown goodness in there! Yum.

Add some olive oil to the pan. While it’s getting screaming hot take your roast (ours was about 2.5 lbs with the fat trimmed) and generously salt and pepper it. Brown the meat on all sides in the olive oil.

We are going to braise the meat in liquid. The recipe I looked at called for apple juice as the liquid but I’m not a big fan of apple juice and I was using a much quicker-cooking roast so I wasn’t sure it would have time to cook down properly. I mixed 5 cups of water with 1 chicken bullion cube and half a beef bullion cube (each cube is supposed to make 2 cups of broth). I heated it in the microwave and then added 2 tablespoons of dark brown sugar for sweetness. I intentionally made a weak broth because the liquid will be reduced later on to use as a sauce and most of the water will evaporate.

Throw the apples and onions in the pot with one bay leaf and your braising liquid. Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer and cover with the lid.

Cook the pork loin for 1 to 1.5 hours (use a meat thermometer to make sure it is at a safe temperature). I stirred it around occasionally to make sure the apples were dunked in the brothy goodness.

Remove the meat to a cutting board and tent with foil to rest. Get out a pretty platter and spoon the apples and onions onto it, leaving room in the middle for the pork. Crank the burner up and boil the braising liquid until it reduces down to about 1.5-2 cups of liquid. It wasn’t thick enough for me at this point so I made a slurry with about a teaspoon of corn starch and a couple teaspoons of cold water stirred together and whisked it into the boiling liquid to thicken it up a bit. You could also make a roux with flour and butter and whisk that in. I also added a small dash of Worcestershire sauce while it was reducing for that “meaty” flavor. If I had thought of it I would have added that at the beginning!

You can see how much it has reduced in the above photo. It took a good 5-10 minutes to get to this point. Now you can turn off the burner and slice up the roast. Arrange the meat on your platter and spoon the sauce over the top. Serve with a big spoon so everyone can get extra sauce for their plate!

The verdict is that this was awesome! I will be making it again! We want to try using pork shoulder or pork butt next time because pork loin is a very lean meat and even though it was as tender as it could possibly be, it is still on the dryer side. For pork butt the cooking time would be increased to 2.5 to 3.5 hours. The sauce would likely need to be skimmed before reducing as well because that cut has a lot more fat.
Ingredients (serves 2 with a little left over):

  • 2-2.5lb pork loin
  • large Vidalia onion, sliced
  • 2 firm apples, sliced in wedges
  • 5 cups of liquid – a combination of chicken and beef broth, one or the other, or a chicken bullion cube and half a beef bullion cube with 5 c of water
  • 2T dark brown sugar
  • 1 Bay Leaf
  • Salt and Pepper to season the meat
  • dash of Worcestershire sauce
  • 2t butter and 1T Olive Oil for caramelizing onions
  • 2-3T Olive Oil for searing pork
  • Slurry of 1t corn starch mixed with 2t cold water (water must be cold!)

I encourage you to try this one out! I can’t wait to make it again!

Homemade Baby Food – Plums!

I’ve been making all of my son’s baby food since he started eating solids at a little under 6 months old. I love doing it! I really like that I can control the quality of the fruits or veggies and offer him foods that are at their tastiest. It saves a ton of money, it’s really easy, and we both love it!

Two nights ago I made him plums for the first time! Now I can’t eat plums because they have a pit and they are one of the many many fruits I can’t have. I used to be able to eat them when I was a kid so I know how to pick out ripe ones. I cut a small X through the peel on the bottom of each plum and put them X-side down in an inch of water and let it come to a boil, cooking them for about 7-10 minutes. The skin had mostly come off by itself at that point but when I took them out of the water I worked quickly to remove the rest of the skin. My poor hands did not enjoy the piping hot task. And also…did you know that plums will stain your fingers almost as badly as beets? Yeah, neither did I. Oops. Look how pretty my little skinless plummies are! Sorry for the terrible lighting – it was 11pm when I decided to undertake this task!

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Now I cut them into chunks, removing the pit, and threw them in the food processor in batches and poured the puree into a bowl. Easy! As you can see I’ve got quite the set-up going. I don’t know why I thought I’d have the energy to do all those fruits and veggies at 11pm. I did not. They are still on my counter waiting to be pureed.

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Next I spooned the puree into an ice cube tray, put on the cover, and popped it in the freezer! Now I should mention that you can buy all sorts of products that are marketed to be used specifically for freezing baby food.  I almost bought Oxo brand baby food trays until I realized they were identical to the Oxo ice cube trays but with a green lid instead of a blue lid and twice the price. Hubs ran to kmart or somewhere that you can buy ice trays and picked up these Oxo ones. They are rounded on the bottom so I never have corners of frozen baby food getting stuck. They are covered, too. Make sure you put plastic wrap over your trays if they don’t have lids.

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So pretty!! These plums just said “California Plums” so I’m not sure what variety they are but I was so surprised that they were purple all the way through! I feel like the plums I used to eat were yellow inside. Maybe I’m crazy. Or maybe it’s from cooking them? If you’re a plum expert and care to chime in, please enlighten me in the comments section! I should also note that they were very sour! I took a tiny taste (remember I can’t eat plums without my mouth falling off) and made the hubs (who despises hot fruit but loves his son) come taste the hot puree for me. He said “well we’ll just have to see if he likes it!”, which I think is code for “EW!”. The next morning I threw the cubes into a quart sized ziplock bag and took out 2 to defrost for Henry’s lunch.

So for the test! I had to use a good bit of baby oatmeal to thicken up the puree. I can’t get over the beautiful color! I am totally making beets for him soon!
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*Also– am I the only crazy person that chooses the baby spoon color based on the color of the food I’m serving? I’m really particular about this – I do not ever use a spoon that is the same color as the food. I was slightly disappointed that blue was the only color left. I like a more contrasting spoon color. Hey, mealtime has to be fun, right? Ok, end crazy lady tangent.*

He LOVED it!! I was shocked. I’m sure someday he’ll be eating Warheads (remember those?) and Sour Patch Kids like his mama!

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And here’s the happy tester! I feel this photo needs a caption. Can you please offer a proper caption for me in the comments? I am not feeling creative today :-)
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Pancakes for Dinner

So what do you do when all of your meat is in the freezer and you don’t feel like going to buy veggies to go with your dinners? Make PANCAKES!! I’m lucky that my husband also has a weak spot for breakfast foods and was fully on board with this plan. I always use my dad’s pancake recipe and they are the best, in my opinion! I have always liked cooking more than baking. I love eating baked goods but I’m impatient and don’t like waiting for them to cook and I’m not always in the mood for precision, which is essential with baking. Pancakes are like a very quick-cooking and free form of baking! 

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Ah yes, look at these beauties! I left that ratty-looking paper towel in the photo on purpose – I could have cropped it out but then I wouldn’t have the opportunity to mention my butter technique! for each batch I use a paper towel to wipe out the butter from the pan and put NEW butter in the pan. This is a very important step! Otherwise the butter gets too brown or burns and you get dark brown and burnt tasting pancakes. Trust me on this one! Hubs hates hot fruit so I added blueberries to only my pancakes before I flipped them so I wouldn’t contaminate all the batter. He also doesn’t like real maple syrup and insists on having Aunt Jemima! Whatever bro, more syrup for me!! I don’t like sharing so this works. I silently judge his choices while I hoard all the real maple syrup.

Here’s the recipe!

Pancakes

  • 1 1/2 c flour
  • 1t salt
  • 3T sugar
  • 1 3/4 t baking powder
  • 2 eggs
  • 3T melted butter
  • 1t Vanilla
  • 1 to 1 1/4 c milk

Mix dry ingredients and wet ingredients separately. I melt the butter in a big bowl and then add the milk and THEN the eggs so the hot butter won’t cook the eggs. Combine wet and dry, careful not to over mix. Heat up a skillet over medium heat, add butter to the skillet and pour in batter. Flip pancakes when bubbles start to form and the bottoms are golden brown (see the little bubbles in the pic? those bad-boys are ready to be flipped!). Cook for another minute or two and serve with whatever toppings float your boat!

Garlic Lime Chicken (aka The Tastiest Marinade Ever)

My mom and I started making this chicken probably when I was in high school. She found the recipe in Taste of Home Magazine and we tweaked it a bit for our tastes. I am not kidding when I say this is the most delicious chicken I’ve ever had in my life! The garlic, lime juice, and vinegar-based marinade makes the chicken so tangy and flavorful. All other marinades pale in comparison. You know when you go get a grilled chicken sandwich or chicken souvlaki somewhere and it tastes pretty yummy? I’m always like ehhh this is ok but it needs to be TANGIER. Enter Garlic Lime Chicken.

The key to this recipe is that the chicken must be marinated for at least 8 hours – preferably overnight.

This was my (very picky) husband’s first time trying it and he loved it and wants to make it every week now! Even if you happen to accidentally microwave leftovers too long and they turn into leather it will STILL taste amazing! I may or may not have just done this and devoured every bite…  Unfortunately I didn’t take a pic of the prettiest pieces before we ate them for dinner so the chicken in the above photo is the sad and lonely misshapen leftovers. So without further ado, the recipe!

Garlic Lime Chicken

  • 1/2 c lime juice (4 or 5 limes)
  • 1/4 c apple cider vinegar
  • 6 (yes, SIX) garlic cloves, minced
  • 2t dried oregano
  • 2t pepper (this is quite peppery but good! I may try a little less next time and see how it is)
  • 1t salt
  • 1t paprika
  • 4-6 chicken breasts – butterflied in half will make it even tastier because there is more surface area!

Throw everything in a gallon-sized ziplock bag and put in the fridge to marinate for AT LEAST 8 hours or overnight. Flip the bag over halfway through so everything gets evenly coated. *Note – the acidity of the lime juice and vinegar will turn the outside of the chicken white while marinating (much like how a ceviche results in fish being “cooked” by the citrus) so don’t be alarmed if you see this*. Grill the chicken and be prepared to have your taste buds wowed!

 

Try it out and let me know how you liked it in the comments section!

Welcome!

Welcome to i Rutabaga! As a relatively new wife and a new mom to a beautiful 7 month old son I am still finding my groove around the house. I have a passion for food and cooking and I love experimenting with new recipes and flavors. While I do sometimes use recipes when cooking I prefer to be more creative and try lots of new combinations and cook using whatever I have in my pantry and fridge. There are a few challenges I face when cooking – namely my own food allergies and my husband’s “food preferences” (that’s a nice way to say he’s kind of picky). I’m allergic to nuts and sesame and I have problems with many raw fruits and veggies. This doesn’t stop me from making lots of delicious food! If anything, I am more inspired to tackle a recipe for something I’m craving but can’t eat out safely – Asian cuisine and baked goods especially. I’m also having lots of fun making all of my son’s baby food! He has not eaten any food from a jar to date!

I plan to photograph and blog my way through meals, snacks, and desserts and hopefully I will come out with a delicious repertoire of recipes that please myself, my husband, and my readers alike!