Confessions of an Unintentional Domestic Goddess

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Got Tomatoes?

You know me, I’ll all about easy. Recipes that is! This is one of my favorite summer recipes, but you can make it any time of the year. No to mention it’s idiot-proof, which always helps!  To me it says summer because it’s one you can use fresh, home-grown tomatoes.  Honestly, home-grown are always better than any you can buy at the store, I wish someone could tell me why! And they really don’t need any dressing up. My mother-in-law has been known to eat tomatoes like apples! Me, well, I guess I’m too refined for that, I need a fork and a plate!

I found this one in a magazine forever ago, but as per my norm, I had to go and tweak it to my liking. I’m not as crafty as some of my friends in the blogosphere, I hope you can live without a recipe card!

Tomato and Mozzarella Salad

5 to 6 Roma tomatoes (or homegrown, whichever you prefer)

4 oz mozzarella cubed

2 cloves garlic

2 tbsp balsamic vinegar

1 tbsp olive oil

1/2 to 1 tsp salt (to taste)

Quarter tomatoes and slice into small pieces. Add the mozz cubes, vinegar, oil, and salt. Using a garlic press, press the garlic into the bowl and toss all ingredients together. Refrigerate at least 30 minutes. You can alter the amounts of salt, vinegar, garlic and cheese to your taste, and it will still be good. Cucumbers or mushrooms are good in it as well. Or you can get really wild and throw in some fresh basil! Yum! 

This is probably our favorite salad. Really delish, I get raves every time I take it somewhere. It is good the next day or two, unlike other salads that wilt and get really gross after a couple of days. Just keep in mind that the olive oil can get a little weird in the fridge. If you take it out after a day or so and see the oil has solidified a bit, don’t worry, as it warms up, the oil will go back to normal. It totally weirded me out the first time I saw that happen! I didn’t think olive oil would solidify, but, it does!

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How do I love my garlic? Let me count the ways

To borrow a line from my favorite poet seems the best way for me to begin this ode to my favorite herb/spice. I grew up in a house where my mother’s repertoire of spices was seasoned salt, table salt, garlic salt. Oh, and there may have been a jar of onion flakes and garlic flakes too, but you get my meaning. As I have grown and expanded the horizons of my palate, I have come to really love my garlic. My husband was teasing me one evening as I was cooking, every pot on the stove had garlic in it! Yes, it is pungent and gives bad breath. However, it really has  many health benefits as well.

HISTORY & HEALTH: Garlic has been used and known for thousands of years. In fact, models of garlic were found in the tomb of King Tut. It has antibacterial properties and can boost the immune system. Next on the list is cholesterol and high blood pressure. It has been shown to possibly decrease cholesterol levels and therefore affecting blood pressure. Mosquitoes don’t like people who use garlic, which is a really nice thing! And of course, we all know that VAMPIRES don’t like garlic, so obviously Bella didn’t eat any!

HOW TO CHOOSE: when choosing a bulb, or head, of garlic at the grocery, look for nice, white, papery skin. If you see any green shoots coming out of the top, separation of the cloves on the bottom, or cloves that crush easily or are soft, that bulb is old, put it back and move on. I was a Pampered Chef consultant for a while and my joke to my guests about choosing the right head of garlic, I would simply think of my lovely husband, white and tight! Just remember “WHITE AND TIGHT’ and it will be a good choice.

STORAGE: Fresh garlic should be stored in a dark cool place. Think of where you store potatoes, not in the fridge, that will affect the flavor of the garlic.

HOW IT COMES: There are many forms garlic comes in and depending on how you want to use it, it can be odorless and not give bad breath or as stinky as you want to be. Let’s see there’s fresh, powder, salt, flakes, minced in a jar, roasted at the deli. When using fresh, you can mince it, slice it, chop it, or use a press and crush it. The amount of flavor you want will dictate how you prepare it. Crushing it in a press will expose the most of the oils and give you a stronger flavor than any of the others.

ROASTED: To roast a head of garlic, cut off the top half, drizzle with olive oil, wrap in heavy duty foil (or use a garlic baker) and bake at 350F for 35 to 45 minutes. This changes the flavor of the garlic, making it very mild and almost nutty. You can use it in cooking for a different, almost smoky taste. Or, one of my favorite ways, spread it on fresh, crusty bread. The cloves become very soft and spread almost like butter.

PEELING: If you are going to chop, slice, or mince your fresh clove of garlic, the easiest way to get the skin off is to lay the clove on a cutting board and use the heel of your hand and the flat of a knife. Lay the knife flat on the clove, sharp edge pointing away from you, and give it a good smack keeping the heel of your hand toward the dull side of the knife. This will just crack the clove enough to make the skin easily come right off.

CRUSHING: To crush the garlic, all you need is a good garlic press. I love this method because there’s no peeling required! Just put the whole clove in the press and give it a good squeeze. The press likely came with a little plastic scraping tool, use that to scrape the garlic off the press. Left behind in the well of the press will be the skin of the clove, throw it away. Here’s my favorite press https://www.pamperedchef.com/ordering/prod_details.tpc?prodId=26463&words=GARLIC PRESS

(no, this is not my website and I get nothing from sharing this with you, other than knowing you will have the best garlic press out there!)

FRESH VS JARRED: I have to tell you, I used to use the jarred minced garlic because I thought I was too busy to mess with peeling/chopping/mincing/pressing the fresh garlic. Well, I was completely wrong! Ok, so chopping/mincing/slicing does take a little longer than scooping a bit out of a jar, but the difference in flavor is so worth that little bit of time! It is truly amazing the difference the fresh made in the flavor of my meals. My problem with the jarred garlic, as with anything that is jarred/canned, you have no idea how long it’s been in that jar and it seems to decrease the intensity of the flavor.

If you want the health benefits of garlic without actually eating it, there are supplements that come in capsule form and will not give you bad breath. And for as long as I’ve taken them, i really have not had an issue with them coming back up at all.

BULB (OR HEAD) VS CLOVE: Garlic grows beneath the surface and sends shoots out of the ground. The bulbs are white and contain anywhere between 10 and 20 cloves each. It is very important to know the difference between a ‘clove’ and a ‘bulb’. I heard a story once of a newly wed making 20 clove garlic chicken, but she didn’t know the difference and thought the bulb was a clove! Needless to say, her dish was very stinky, but her sweet husband ate it and told her he loved it!

Here’s one of my favorite, extremely simple and delicious recipes involving garlic and it goes really well with pasta.

Garlic Bites

1 can 5 count Grands biscuits flaky layers cut into 1/8ths

2 to 3 cloves of garlic

1tsp Italian seasoning

1 to 2 tbsp butter

Melt the butter in an ovenproof 8″ skillet/frying pan. Press the garlic into the pan, add the Italian seasoning and stir. Cook just long enough the garlic gets soft. Place the biscuit pieces into the pan and toss to coat all the pieces.

Place the pan in a preheated 350F oven and bake about 10 min, or until the biscuits are golden brown. Carefully remove the pan from the oven and invert it on a serving plate. Enjoy! This is so delicious and so easy. You can use more or less of the garlic and butter, whichever you prefer.

Now that I’ve got you up to date on the garlic, I think I”m going to go and have some on my Cheerios! (Just kidding, I can’t have garlic for breakfast, it’s a little early yet, but lunch isn’t out of the question!)

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The Domestic Goddess Strikes Again!

Yes, it’s true! The DG was in my kitchen last night I am happy to say. How, you ask? Well, I had some ideas for dinner, but nothing solid and couldn’t find a recipe that I liked, so I just flew by the seat of my pants and the results were fabulous!

I had some orzo that I wanted to make as a side, and since the recipe I have for the orzo calls for parmesan and garlic, I decided it needed to be Italian. Love Italian food. Or what I think is Italian anyway. I haven’t had the pleasure of visiting Italy yet, so authentic may be way different from what I’m used to or make. But…I wanted to make a chicken parmesan, but couldn’t find a recipe that really looked good.

Oh, and I had what I call ‘free’ bread crumbs. Since most people in my house don’t like to eat the heel of a loaf of bread, I throw them in a freezer bag and toss it into the freezer. When it gets full, I toast the bread in the oven til it’s nice and crisp, then put it in my food processor to create the crumbs. I put the crumbs back in the freezer bag and back into the freezer to keep them fresh. Voila! Free bread crumbs!

I pounded out three chicken breasts to approximately the same thickness and dipped them in an egg wash. The bread crumbs I mixed with Italian seasonings, onion flakes, dried minced garlic, grated parmesan, and salt. From the egg wash, I dipped the chicken, both sides, in the crumb mixture and then sprinkled some shredded Italian 5 cheese blend on top and popped the tray in the oven @ 350 for about 30 minutes.

In the meantime I made the garlic/parmesan orzo, TDF! And a tomato and mozzarella salad with fresh mushrooms, balsamic vinegar, olive oil, yet more garlic, and a bit of salt.

I topped it off with steamed broccoli and some red wine. When my husband came down for dinner, I warned him about the garlic! there was a lot. I use fresh garlic when I can. I have a garlic press that I love and doesn’t require me peeling the little boogers, so it’s super easy. There’s nothing like fresh garlic, in my mind. And my other thought about garlic, too much is just about right!

Wow! I really impressed myself. The chicken was tender and juicy and the crust was nice and crisp. Of course, the orzo and tomato & mozzarella salad were wonderful as well. You know, I don’t cook like that every day, but when I do, I really love it! Feel free to try out my recipes, that’s why they’re here! But if you do, you have to tell me how it turns out!

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