Easy Pizza Sauce

OK, I know its easy to pick up a jar of pizza sauce at the grocery but what do you do if you find yourself ready to make a pizza but don’t have any pre-made pizza sauce? Um, you make it yourself and after the first time you make, you might never buy pizza sauce again. We’ve been making our own pizzas for a few years now have settled on a couple techniques. One is to use the pizza dough from Trader Joe’s because it’s so convenient and it taste good. The other method is to use Trader Joe’s Lavash Bread. We’ve used a lot of different sauces for the pizza but we’d never set out to make a traditional pizza sauce because we always have a jar or can of a store bought sauce. One day we realized we didn’t have any pizza sauce so we looked online for directions. There are a lot of them but we didn’t want to spend hours simmering a sauce and we didn’t want to use a lot of ingredients. When we found a selection with simple ingredients and simple cooking methods, we took the flavor profile we were looking for and came up with this easy pizza sauce recipe. We’ve used it a number of times now and it always turns out great.

Some comments on the ingredients – this is supposed to be easy and from items already in your pantry.  If you don’t have the separate containers of oregano, basil and rosemary, you can substitute with 1 1/2 tablespoons of Italian Seasoning mix. If you don’t have garlic cloves you can substitute with other forms of garlic. Check out this conversion for using garlic powder, garlic salt, etc.

Ingredients

  • 6 oz can tomato paste
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • salt to taste
  • black pepper to taste
  • 1/2 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 tablespoon dried basil
  • 1/2 tablespoon dried rosemary, crushed
  • 1 teaspoon of crushed red pepper flakes (optional)

Instructions

Combine all ingredients into a saucepan. Cook over medium heat until mixture boils.

Reduce heat to low and simmer 10 minutes, or until it has the thick consistency of pizza sauce.

Allow sauce to cool and spread on pizza dough and add the toppings of your choice.

 

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Bacon Jam

Finished bacon jam

Finished bacon jam

This post is long over due. I thought I had shared one earlier this summer but it appears it was left in draft limbo land. The idea for this post came from a pizza we had at Cane Rosso here in Austin, TX. You might have seen this restaurant on the TV show “Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives” or written up in Austin or Dallas food blogs. It’s a great restaurant with fun pizzas. One of the ones we tried when we visited their Austin, TX, location was a bacon jam pizza. We had never heard of anything like this and immediately fell in love with the flavors. A quick Google search resulted in a lot more recipes than I expected.

We took a few of them and came up with a version that we really like. We use the jam to put on pizza but it’s got so much more potential that you can do anything you want with it.

Ingredients

  • 1 lb bacon, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 4 cups of yellow onion, diced
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon of chopped hot pepper (we used a red jalapeno in the pictures)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil

Direction

chopped bacon ready to be cooked

chopped bacon ready to be cooked

Place the bacon in a large pot and cook over medium until the bacon is crispy and rendered fat is foaming and white. It should take about 10 minutes. Pour bacon and rendered fat into a strainer placed over a bowl to collect the fat. Save the fat for the next step.

cooking bacon

cooking bacon

Return the pot to medium-low heat and add 2 tables spoons of bacon fat and 2 tablespoons of butter in the pot. Add the chopped onions and 1 teaspoon of salt and saute until the onions are soft and translucent. It should take about 10 minutes.

picture of ingredients

picture of ingredients

Onions sauteing

Onions sauteing

Add the garlic, brown sugar, apple cider vinegar, black pepper and cayenne to the onion mixture. Once mixed, add the cooked bacon and stir in the water. Cook until the jam is a reddish-brown brick color and has a jam consistency. This will take about 10 to 15 minutes.

Bacon mixed into onion mixture

Bacon mixed into onion mixture

Once you get the jam consistency, remove from heat and stir in the balsamic vinegar and olive oil. Stir the mixture until shiny and thoroughly mixed.

Final consistency of the jam

Final consistency of the jam

Finished bacon jam

Finished bacon jam

Salmon en Croute with Asparagus & Dill

Salmon en croute with asparagus and asparagus cream sauce.

Salmon en croute with asparagus and asparagus cream sauce.

We first tried to make Salmon en Croute a few years ago and used a recipe that was mushroom based. We actually only made that version one time and then we switched over to a method with asparagus and dill. We like this new version because it is brighter and lighter. For those of you who aren’t familiar with a Salmon en Croute, it is similar to a Beef Wellington except it is salmon wrapped in a puff pastry. I realized I haven’t written up this recipe so here is our contribution to the Salmon en Croute recipes.

For this time, we made our own crust using a pate brisee recipe that I wrote up for our chicken pot pie in a pumpkin. For the pate brisee, we substituted dill instead of the thyme for that recipe. We also used butter for our cream in this recipe but you can easily substitute cream cheese, creme fraiche or Neufchâtel.

This recipe is for 2 people but you can easily adjust it for more. Wih the holidays coming up, it would be a nice treat that you could serve for your guests. It’s really not that hard and the presentation of it on the plate is pretty impressive.

Ingredients

  • 1 pound of asparagus
  • 1 teaspoon of dill
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 teaspoon of lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons of butter
  • 1 pinch of salt
  • 2 salmon fillets (boneless and skinless)
  • 1 sheet of puff pastry (or similar sized sheet of pate brisee)
  • 1 egg

Instructions

First, trim the asparagus to the length of the salmon fillets. Don’t throw away the cut off pieces. Put the cut end pieces into a pot of water and bring the water to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and simmer for about 30 minutes, until the tips are fork tender.

Salmon and trimmed asparagus

This is the asparagus trimmed to the length of the salmon.

While the asparagus ends are simmering, poach the long asparagus spears.  To do this, bring salted water to a boil and then add the asparagus spears. Reduce heat and simmer the spears for 5 minutes then move them into an ice bath. Once cooled, put them on a paper towel to dry.

Asparagus ends simmering

Here are the cut asparagus ends simmering in salted water.

Once the cut ends of the asparagus are tender, put them into a food processor with the dill, lemon zest, pinch of salt and butter. Mix this in the food processor until it is a smooth cream.

Making the asparagus sauce

Making the asparagus sauce

Here is the final asparagus cream sauce.

Here is the final asparagus cream sauce.

Heat your oven to 450 degree Fahrenheit.

OK, now you’ve got everything prepared and you’re ready to start assembling the final product while your oven heats up.

Place a piece of parchment paper on a baking sheet. Next, put your pastry on the parchment paper and roll out your puff pastry or pate brisee into a square, about as wide as a baking sheet. You want it fairly thin and large enough to completely wrap around the salmon. Once it is rolled out, place your first piece of salmon on the center of the pastry and sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste.

Rolled out pate brisee

Rolled out pate brisee

Salmon on pate brisee

Salmon on pate brisee

Next, you’re going to put a layer of the asparagus cream sauce on top of the salmon filet. After that, place a layer of asparagus spears length-wise. This is why you want to trim the to the length of the salmon filets. You’ll notice we timmed our a little too much so we cut a couple spears down to help give us complete coverage.

Asparagus cream sauce on the salmon filet.

Asparagus cream sauce on the salmon filet.

Asparagus spears on top of the cream sauce.

Asparagus spears on top of the cream sauce.

Now, lightly salt and pepper this layer to taste, then repeat with the other salmon filet, then cream sauce and then asparagus layers.

When you’ve finished assembling the layers, you are going to wrap it up with the pasty. We pulled up long side, then the two small sides, and finally the final long side. Be careful folding it over so you don’t get holes in the pastry. If you do, just pinch it back together. As hard as we try to be gentle, we typically get a couple of tears in the pastry.

Pate brisee pastry wrapped around the salmon and asparagus.

Pate brisee pastry wrapped around the salmon and asparagus.

Once it is assemble, cut small slits in the top of the pastry so it can vent while it is cooking (see picture below). You are going to cook the assembled salmon en croute for a total of 30 minutes and put on an egg wash at the 10 and 20 minute intervals. So, to start, put a light egg wash on the salmon en croute before you put it in the oven. Next, cook for 10 minutes, then take out the salmon en croute and apply a second egg wash. Put the salmon en croute back into the oven and cook for 10 minutes, then take it out and apply the final egg wash. Put the salmon en croute back in the oven and cook for the final 10 minutes.

Egg wash on the salmon en croute before we put in the oven.

Egg wash on the salmon en croute before we put in the oven.

Egg wash on the salmon en croute after 10 minutes in the oven.

Egg wash on the salmon en croute after 10 minutes in the oven.

The finished salmon en croute.

The finished salmon en croute.

Salmon en croute with asparagus and asparagus cream sauce.

Salmon en croute with asparagus and asparagus cream sauce.

Smoked BBQ Ribs

Here are our ribs after an hour in the oven with BBQ sauce on them.

Here are our ribs after an hour in the oven with BBQ sauce on them.

Two years ago we bought an electric smoker on Father’s Day from Academy. At the time, I really wondered how much we would actually use it but it did seem like something that would be fun to have. Now, two years later, I don’t understand how we lived without it for so long. One of our favorite things to make is smoked BBQ ribs. We uses a 3-2-1 method to cook the ribs that works really well.

The 3-2-1 method calls for smoking the ribs directly on the rack for 3 hours, then wrap the ribs tightly in foil and put back in the smoker for 2 hours, then remove the foil and coat the ribs with sauce and put them back in the smoker for a final hour of cook time. It comes out to about 6 hours of cook time. When you factor in the prep time and pulling them in and out of the smoker, it usually is a minimum of 7 hours for us from start to finish. I want to also point out the smoking temperature is relative to your smoker. We have found that most recipes call for a 225 degrees Fahrenheit smoking temperature but this isn’t enough for our specific smoker. When we cook at 225 degrees, our food isn’t ready in time so we’ve found we need to up the cooking temperature a little for most recipes. I assume there is a little bit of variability in these electric smokers so you might need to experiment a little to find out how your smoker does with different meats.

For the 2 of us, we just do one rack of ribs. However, you can do multiple racks of ribs at a time, depending on the size of your smoker.

Ingredients

  • One rack of ribs
  • 1/4 cup of yellow mustard
  • 1/4 cup of dry rub (we used our Ring of Fire Rub)
  • 1/8 cup of apple juice, wine or beer
  • 1 cup of your favorite BBQ Sauce

Directions

Start out by coating your ribs with the yellow mustard. This helps the dry rub stick to the ribs and adds some vinegar to help tenderize them. You won’t taste the mustard when they are done cooking.

Once you’ve coated the ribs with the yellow mustard, then coat them generously with your dry rub. You can use our Ring of Fire Rub or any dry rub you have available. Here in Texas, there are dozens of varieties available at the grocery store.

With your ribs coated in yellow mustard and dry rub, wrap the ribs tightly in a double layer of aluminum foil. Put the ribs in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours but preferably over night if you are planning ahead.

Here are the ribs after they were coated with the Ring of Fire Rub.

Here are the ribs after they were coated with the Ring of Fire Rub.

Prepare your smoker by heating it up to 250 degrees Fahrenheit and get the wood chips smoking. Then unwrap your ribs from the aluminum foil and put them in the smoker. Save your foil because you will use it again to wrap the ribs for part 2 of the cooking. Smoke the ribs for 3 hours. Check for smoke every 30 to 45 minutes and add wood chips as necessary.

Here are the ribs when we first put them in the smoker.

Here are the ribs when we first put them in the smoker.

After 3 hours, pull the ribs from the smoker so you can wrap them back in the aluminum foil. I want to point out to close the smoker door after you take out the ribs so you keep the heat in the smoker. I will admit, I learned this the hard way because the first time we smoked them, we were so excited to get them cooked that we forgot to close the door and had to wait for the smoker to get back up to temperature.

Ribs after 3 hours in the smoker.

Here are the ribs in the smoker after 3 hours.

We bring the ribs back in the kitchen to wrap them back in the foil that we used to hold them while they sitting in the refrigerator. Before you seal the foil to wrap them, add the 1/8 cup of liquid. You can use apple juice, wine, beer, or any liquid you want. We use beer because it’s Texas and that’s what we do here.

Here are the ribs being wrapped in the aluminium foil.

Here are the ribs being wrapped in the aluminium foil.

With the ribs tightly wrapped in foil, put them back in the smoker and cook them for 2 hours. At this point you’re halfway through and you don’t have much to do for the next 2 hours. Grab the remaining beer (you know, the one you opened to put in 1/8 cup of liquid in with the ribs) and hang out near the smoker and visit with your family or friends. I find the smell of the smoker is a magnet for getting people to show up in the backyard.

At this point you have a decision to make. Do you want to continue using the smoker or move to your oven for the last hour. We usually move to the oven because it makes it easier to add extra layers of BBQ sauce to the ribs during the last hour. My instructions are for using the oven, however, you can certainly continue using the smoker. If you use the smoker, you won’t need to add multiple layers of BBQ sauce.

Before the 2 hours is up, heat your oven to 250 degrees Fahrenheit. You can set the oven to 275 degrees Fahrenheit if you’re using convection bake.

At the end of 2 hours, it’s time to bring your ribs back in the kitchen. Remove the ribs from the foil wrapping and apply a thick covering of the BBQ sauce. Place the ribs on a a sheet of foil on a baking sheet and put them on center rack of your oven.

 

For this last hour, we pull the ribs out every 15 to 20 minutes and reapply a thin layer of BBQ sauce.

This is the top side of the ribs after we added the BBQ sauce.

This is the top side of the ribs after we added the BBQ sauce.

You can adjust the amount BBQ sauce you apply to your individual taste. We like them really messy with a thick coating of BBQ sauce.

Here are our ribs after an hour in the oven with BBQ sauce on them.

Here are our ribs after an hour in the oven with BBQ sauce on them.

We served these Father’s Day ribs with some steamed Patty Pan squash and German Potato Salad.

Smoked Ribs, Patty Pan squash and German Potato Salad

Smoked Ribs, Patty Pan squash and German Potato Salad

Strawberry Cobber

Strawberry-cobbler

Our finished strawberry cobbler.

I’m really not a sweets person, but I really do like eating cobblers made with fresh fruit in the summertime. A couple of our first posts were for cobblers that we made for 4th of July.  This time we tried a new version with strawberries that came out really great.

This recipe is simple because it’s mostly just 1-1-1. One stick of butter, one cup of sugar, one cup of milk, you get the idea. Easy to remember and easy to make but it comes out delicious every time. I have to say, the best part is the batter. The batter gets a

This recipe is easy to double for a larger cobbler, which is what we did last night to make sure we had enough for everyone at dinner and would have some left over for lunch today.

For other cobblers, check out our Passed Down Fredricksburg Peach Cobbler or our Red, White & Blue Cobbler.

First, melt your butter and put it in your dish.

Butter-for-strawberry-cobbler

This is the butter in the dish

Next, pour your batter over the butter. Do not mix it together.

Batter-and-butter

This is the batter poured over the butter

As you can see, the butter will come up around and through the batter but it is not mixed together.

The next thing to do is add the strawberries. A thick layer of fruit is best. Once again, don’t mix them. Just place them on top of the batter. They will naturally sink and the batter will fill in around them.

Strawberries-added-to-butter-and-batter

Here are the strawberries placed on top of the butter and batter.

Here is a look at the final product right after we pulled it from the oven.

Strawberry-cobbler

Our finished strawberry cobbler.

Ingredients

  • 1 stick of butter (1/2 cup)
  • 1 cup of sugar
  • 1 cup of flour
  • 1 tablespoon of baking powder
  • 1 cup of milk
  • 1 pound of strawberries (cut the larger ones into bite-sized pieces)
  • zest of one lemon
  • juice of 1/2 the lemon (about 1 tablespoon)
  • 1 teaspoon of sugar to mix with the strawberries
  • 1 teaspoon of sugar to sprinkle on top of dish

Directions

Melt the butter and pout into an 8 by 12 inch baking dish.

Mix the sugar, flour, baking powder and milk. Pour over the melted butter. Do not stir or mix the batter into the butter.

Mix the strawberries, lemon zest, lemon juice and sugar. Place on top of the batter in the baking dish. Do not mix into the batter.

Sprinkle the top with 1 teaspoon of sugar.

Bake at 350 degrees for 40 to 45 minutes or until golden brown.

Ring of Fire Seasoning Rub

You can find many variations of this rub online. We use it on everything from pork, chicken, fish, beef and vegetables. We found it originally from Alton Brown, who happens to be one of our favorite TV personalities. He always brings a smart amount information to help you understand the food and the process. This post is really just as a reference because we use it so much in a lot of recipes that I needed a place to record our variation so we can reproduce it easily.

Here is our variation of the Ring of Fire Spice Rub:

  • 1 part curry powder (see recipe below)
  • 1 part chili powder
  • 1 part adobo powder
  • 1 part ground cumin
  • 1 part smoked paprika
  • 1 part cayenne powder
  • 1 parts cocoa powder
  • 1/2 part garlic powder
  • 1/2 part onion powder
  • 1/2 part ground black pepper
  • 1/2 part salt

The good part about this rub is that you can adjust it to you specific taste. For example, most of them don’t call for the cayenne but we like the heat so we always include it. Also, we usually cut back a little on the cocoa, but that’s just our personal preference. The original recipe has 2 parts cocoa powder.

While making this again, we realized we didn’t have curry powder. Here is the substitute we now use:

  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon ground cardamom (see below)
  • 1 tablespoon ground coriander
  • 1/4 cup turmeric
  • 1 tablespoon dry mustard
  • 1 tablespoon cayenne powder

Finally, for this recipe, we realized we didn’t have cardamom. So, after looking online for a substitute, we found a recipe for 1 part cinnamon and 1 part nutmeg.

 

 

Sunday Pot Roast Stew

Beef Stew in bowl

Pot Roast Beef Stew

Cold, wintry days scream for a hot stew at dinner time. This is the kind of stew that you get anxious as the bowl gets empty because you don’t want it to end. If I didn’t care about portion size or my waist size, I would have kept eating until this was all gone! This stew takes a little more time than we have to spend on week nights so it’s a great stew to make on a Sunday afternoon. Just put it all together and let it simmer until you’re ready to eat. We threw this together after looking for some recipes online. We couldn’t find a recipe that really matched what we wanted so we just picked the pieces we wanted to include in our stew. It really only takes about 1/2 hour to get the ingredients ready and cooked and then another 1 1/2 to 2 hours on a simmer.

I think of this recipe as having three steps. First you brown the meat. Then you get the vegetables cooked. Finally, you add the meat back to the vegetables and let the stew simmer for 2 hours.

Ingredients

  • 3 pounds of roast cut into cubes (sirloin or chuck roast)
  • 2 tablespoons of bacon fat or oil
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon of bacon fat
  • 3 carrots, unpeeled, cut into 1/4 inch discs
  • 1 large (or two medium) yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 turnip, diced
  • 2 celery stalks, diced
  • 4 red potatoes, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, chopped
  • 2 cups beef broth
  • 1 12oz can of beer (we used Michelob Ultra)
  • 1 tablespoon smoke paprika

Directions

Heat the first 2 tablespoons of bacon fat or oil in a large dutch oven.

Start by cutting your roast into cubes and getting the meat ready to cook. Then sprinkle with 1 teaspoon of salt and 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper and 1/4 cup of all-purpose flour. coat the meat thoroughly. Let it sit for a couple of minutes and the flour will be absorbed. Now, add the remaining 1/4 cup of flour and mix into the meat to give it a good coating.

Put the meat into the hot bacon fat or oil and brown for 10 minutes. Stir occasionally until the meat is browned on all sides. For example, while it was browning, we turned the meat every 2 minutes or so. Once browned, remove the meat into a heat-safe bowl. You could also brown this in 2 batches or use a big skillet where all the meat can be on one level. Our dutch oven didn’t allow us to have one layer so we had to mix it more than normal.

Stew beef browning in dutch oven

Stew beef browning in dutch oven.

Add the additional tablespoon of bacon fat to the dutch oven and let it melt. Once melted, add the carrots, onion, diced turnip and diced celery stalks. Cook over medium-high heat until the vegetables cook down for about 10 minutes.

Carrots, onion, celery carrots, onion, diced turnip and diced celery stalks cooking in the dutch oven.

Carrots, onion, celery carrots, onion, diced turnip and diced celery stalks cooking in the dutch oven.

Then, add the potatoes and garlic and gently fold into the other vegetables. Now add the thyme and rosemary and mix well.

All the vegetables and spices added to the dutch oven.

All the vegetables and spices added to the dutch oven.

Then add the meat back into the dutch oven and pour in the beef broth, beer and smoked paprika. Bring the mixture to a boil in the uncovered dutch oven.

The beef has been added to the vegetables and spices.

The beef has been added to the vegetables and spices.

Once you reach a boil, cover the pot and reduce for a simmer. Simmer for about 1 1/2 to 2 hours, until the meat and potatoes are tender.

The pot roast stew simmering in the dutch oven.

The pot roast stew simmering in the dutch oven.

Our Sunday Beef Stew

This is our beef stew after it has simmered for a couple of hours. As you can see, the liquid has thickened up and become a nice, rich, brown gravy.