Ever tried a cooking class? Ever had a wicked fun night full of memory making? YEAH, ME TOO.
I’m looking forward to breaking down this meal and experience! While I can’t package up my family to spread the laughs, I can share the details of our night!
We attended Tuscan night at the Auburn Watson Culinary Institute. The Tuscan menu option was a hit with our group! The glory of the class was the ability to choose a meal that we were most excited about.
All in all, I would rate this experience five stars! The night started with our instructor going through each course and showing us what to do and how to prepare the food. For instance, the first walk through was the vodka tomato cream sauce, where we chopped onion, added it to sauté with butter, etc etc.
The stations were in groups of four, so I think this is something to consider when buying the experience! We went as a group of four, so we were together. If you choose to cook as a couple, you may be teamed up with two others. Maybe you can make some new friends and share cooking flare!
While the instructor was walking through each course of the meal, she covered basic cooking skills. I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect as far as culinary technique! Growing up with my dad cooking for a good portion of his life, and Spencer a very talented cook, I feel fortunate to be surrounded by their expertise! If you’re looking for more advanced instruction on technique, I would recommend an alternate option. BUT, with that being said, I will do this again and we all loved it.
For logistics, I also wanted to touch on time! The class is booked for 7-9pm and we ended up sitting down to eat about 9:15. This was no biggie since we were all having fun, but a factor to keep in mind if you have a babysitter or something of that nature.
Alright, let’s jump into the food! The important part!
Spinach & Ricotta Gnocchi
Frozen spinach, 10 oz
2 T butter 🧈
1 shallot, chopped
1/2 t garlic powder
3/4 whole milk ricotta
1 cup parm, freshly grated
2/3 cup rice or AP flour
2 egg yolks
Fresh grated nutmeg
Next up - Vodka Tomato Cream Sauce for the spinach ricotta gnocchi!
This is very simple and is a great pairing for any pasta dish!
3 T butter
1 white onion, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
Canned whole tomatoes 28 oz, chopped
1/2 c vodka
1/4 t red pepper flakes
1/2 c heavy cream
Fresh basil, chopped
Salt & pepper to taste
Porcini Rub 🍄
1/2 c porcini powder
1/2 c olive oil
1/2 t sugar
2 T salt
2 T pepper
2 T red pepper
2 T garlic powder
Mix all ingredients together! 🎉
Rub over all sides of the steak! Let marinate for 1-2 hours before cooking, if you can! If not, just get after it!
This recipe should make excess, which can be stored for about one week!
If you can’t find porcini powder, you can find dried porcini mushrooms at most grocery stores. Then, you can grind them down in a spice grinder or blender!
Now that we have the Porcini Rub, it’s time for the monster 2” Ribeye steak and how to cook it!
With winter coming in the Northeast, knowing how to cook a steak indoors is important! Like it or not, grill season is almost behind us 😆
The key kitchen tool to make this happen is an oven safe pan to not only sear the steak, but also finish in the oven. Another option is the reverse sear method.
A thick steak is crucial so when we sear the steak, you can develop a nice crust without cooking the steak.
Last and most certainly not least for this scrumptious meal is the tangy and addictive Garlic dressing.
I’m stoked about this salad dressing because it’s easy peasy to make AND it will put to use all the leftover egg yolks I constantly have 🤣
Served the dressing over arugula, crispy pancetta, tomatoes and Gorgonzola 🧀
2 egg yolks
1 T Dijon mustard
1 T red wine vinegar
3 cloves garlic
1 lemon, juiced
Salt & pepper to taste
Add all ingredients to food process/blender and begin pulsing. Slowly add 3/4 c extra virgin olive oil and blend until completely emulsified.
So, if you could eat your screen right now, would you? Is your mouthwatering? Just kidding! But, really this meal was special and a neat experience! Hit me up for more details, and until then eat well!
🚨 Two pan 30 minute dinner recipe 🚨
▫️ 6-8 oz preferred pasta (we used chickpea pasta)
▫️1 homegrown tomato, or a heaping handful of cherry tomatoes
▫️1/2 white onion, sliced
▫️1 tsp garlic, minced
▫️1 lemon/summer squash
▫️2 T bacon fat or olive oil
▫️2 banana peppers, mild (or bell peppers) de-seeded and chopped
▫️1 lb ground beef
▫️1/2 c Basil, chopped (or to taste)
▫️fresh shaving of parm or smoked Gouda
▫️salt and pepper to taste
1. Cook pasta per directions
2. Add 1 T olive oil or preferred cooking fat to a sauce pan over medium heat. Add garlic, onion and banana pepper once hot. Stir every 2 minutes or so until browned and softened.
3. Add squash and tomatoes to same pot. Keep over heat for ~5 more minutes.
4. While the vegetable medley is cooking, add remaining 1 T olive oil to second pan over medium high heat. Once hot, add ground beef and brown. Stir in salt and pepper to taste (~1 tsp each).
5. Once veggies are cooked down and resemble a light sauce, add in pasta and stir. Turn heat to low for 2 minutes.
6. In a bowl, add desired serving of ground beef, noodle vegetable medley and a handful of basil. Stir all together and the basil will mix in beautifully from the heat. Add cheese and let melt! Enjoy and please let me know if you try it! PS just omit the ground beef for a vegetarian option! ❤️
Duck breast with raspberry tomato reduction, garlic potatoes and sage forest mushrooms
▫️2.5 c blue oyster/shiitake mushrooms, roughly chopped
▫️6-9 sage leaves, stems removed and chopped
▫️1/3 c white onion, diced
▫️About 10 homegrown cherry tomatoes
▫️2 c homegrown raspberries
▫️1 lb potatoes, quartered
▫️1 tsp salt
▫️2 T orange brandy or OJ
▫️1/3 c balsamic vinegar/red wine
▫️2 T brown rice flour/all purpose flour
▫️2 T chicken broth (splash)
▫️2 T butter
1. Score duck skin by making 3-4 small slits per breast with knife. Place duck in cold pan, skin side down. Turn heat to medium low. The goal is to render the fat making crispy skin!
2. Pre heat the oven to 425 degrees. On a sheet pan, mix quartered potatoes, salt and a dash of olive oil. Pro tip - roast on parchment paper for easy clean up. These will take about 35 minutes.
3. While the duck is cooking, melt 2 T butter in a sauce pan. Once melted add orange brandy, balsamic, cherry tomatoes and raspberries. Bring to a simmer and keep there until liquid reduces. Remove from heat and serve! Note: if you want a smoother sauce, you can strain out the seeds and tomato skins. We’re eating as is!
4. Okay, back to the 🦆 - keep it on that medium low heat for ~20 minutes or until the skin is browned. After browning, flip the breast and cook until reaching 125 degrees (roughly 5-10 minutes). Remove the duck from heat to rest!
5. Use the same pan and remaining duck fat to sauté onions and mushrooms for ~5 minutes on high heat. Add sage and turn to medium heat for additional 3 minutes Add splash of broth to scrap the bottom of the pan. Slowly add flour to crisp up the remaining fat, which turns out like a bread crumbs. NO FLAVOR LEFT BEHIND 😉
This recipe allows for the sweet, acidic raspberry reduction to cut through the fat of the duck with each bite! It’s important to think about duck as a red meat more like a steak than chicken in fat content. The final result turned out amazing! Comment with questions or if you try the recipe! PS we used brown rice flour in the mushrooms as we were looking for a fine flour option, but feel free to use whatever you have! Enjoy! ❤️
Let’s talk about pizza! This is an important post, and even more so for those who eat gluten free!! I just realized this is going to be a blog post where I actively have to control my exclamation points, because I am that excited!! I was just talking to a friend about this the other day…rereading work emails and realizing you need to tone down the excitement.
Anyways, finding a good, airy gluten free crust can be quite the challenge. Generally speaking, I will take anything I can get because having pizza at all is such a treat. There is one local pizza place that blows everyone else out of the water, but other than that, until these homemade crusts, I really haven’t experienced anything to write home about. BUT, here we go - These have amazing texture, hold their shape and the flavor is just like a regular crust!
For the past eight months or so, I have been learning to expand my gluten free baking skills through the guidance of Gluten Free Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois. I was at first intimidated by the process they propose as the recipes guide you to make roughly four servings of one-pound loaves, etc depending on the recipe. Then, you have dough ready made and you can store it in the refrigerator for about a week. When you’re ready for fresh bread, you pull off the desired size dough ball, shape and bake it! It is a little more work on the front preparing the ‘Master Mix’ as I call it, but it is definitely worth it.
The ‘Master Mix’ contains white rice flour (I sub brown), sorghum flour, tapioca flour/starch, potato starch and psyllium husk. The mixture makes about four and a half pounds of flour mixture, which can be used for many different variations of bread, pizza dough, bagels and SO much more. Here is the recipe:
Brown/White Rice Flour: 2 pounds, 4 ounces (6 cups)
Sorghum Flour: 1 pound (3 ¼ cups)
Tapioca Flour/Starch: 8 ounces (1 ¾ cups)
Potato Starch: 8 ounces: (1 ¾ cups)
Psyllium Husk/Xanthan Gum: 1.4 ounces (1/4 cups)
I measure my ingredients by weight after a super failure on a sugar cookie recipe right around Christmas time. Measuring ingredients by volume leaves a ton of room for error and differences between recipes depending on how compact the flour is, how much you compress it, etc. We use a shabby kitchen scale and it works well. We may invest in a new one soon that isn’t 15 years old. Spencer has had this one for ages since he was selling on eBay when he was just a little runt, so I suppose it’s probably time! I put all the dry ingredients in an airtight food storage container. I became obsessed with these containers a few months back. They are actually airtight and I have all my dry ingredients, protein powder, etc stored in these. The brand I have is Vtopmart. They’re affordable and of course, on Amazon!
Back to the pizza! Now from this ‘Master Mix’ you can get into a bunch of different recipes. The beautiful thing about preparing the mixture is the versatility past that point. Recipe for pizza/flatbread dough:
Master Mix: 1 pound, 11 ounces (5 cups)
Cornmeal: 9 ounces (1 ½ cups)
Potato Starch: 6 ounces (1 cup)
Psyllium husk: 2 t
Yeast: .35 ounces (1 T)
Salt .6 ounces (1 T-1 ½ T)
Lukewarm water (110 degrees): 1 pound, 14 ounces (3 ¾ cups)
Olive oil: 3 ¾ ounces (1/2 cup)
Egg whites: 4 ounces (3-4 eggs)
Mix together all the dry ingredients, then whisk all the wet ingredients together in a separate bowl. In either a stand mixer or large bowl, slowly pour in the wet into dry until fully mixed. This is the time when the yeast will really start to evolve into the flour, so if you’re using a stand mixer, give it a solid five minutes of beating. Cover the dough, but not airtight for at least two hours. The longer the better to let the dough develop.
Cue the fast forward through the rise process, and grab a hunk of dough. For a large size pizza about 24 ounces, or for a small personal pan pizza (I had this for lunch today) about 8 ounces! Add any ingredients you would like to top the pizza. We don’t have a pizza stone so I rolled out the dough on parchment paper and then transferred to the Silpat on a baking sheet. Don’t be afraid to get a little messy with the flour while you’re flattening the dough. Dust an ample amount so the dough doesn’t stick either to the rolling pin or parchment.
For our first rendition, we whipped up a homemade pesto sauce and it was awesome! Rough estimates here because we eyeballed it as a test kitchen moment. I am allergic to specific tree nuts, so we never purchase store brand pesto, as they normally have pine nuts or cashews. We used almonds to get that nutty flavor in addition to parmesan cheese, lemon juice, garlic cloves, Aleppo pepper, fresh dill, basil and parsley. After the pesto came black olives, diced onions and pepperoni. I also may have snuck a little mozzarella on my side!
1/3 c each of fresh parsley, basil & dill
2 garlic cloves
1/3 c almonds
½ c parmesan cheese
Dash of Aleppo pepper
Juice of ½ lemon
¼ c olive oil
Put all ingredients in the food processor, or blender until the herbs are shredded and well-blended.
At 475 degrees, I cooked the pizza (24 ounce) for 20 minutes on the middle rack and then for an additional 3 minutes, put it on the bottom shelf just to further crisp up the crust. YUM! See how airy the crust is?! Fluffy just like a regular crust.
I am telling you this is worth the effort, whether you eat gluten free or not, it is delicious. Spencer doesn’t have to eat gluten free, but we eat gf at home. He had rave reviews and for someone who can eat both, that’s huge! I can’t wait for you to try it. Let me know what you think!! Until next time, eat well!
▫️1 1/2 heads of smoked/roasted garlic
▫️4 T olive oil
▫️2 T red wine or apple cider vinegar
▫️Dash of Dijon mustard
▫️Honey, salt & pepper to taste
Add all ingredients into blender and run until emulsified! Easy Peasy! Also, one dish cleanup - my favorite!
Serve on vegetables, meat or over a fresh salad! We had this tonight over roasted potatoes, zucchini, carrots and beef!
With homemade dressing you’re getting triple the flavor and NONE of the preservatives or extraordinary amounts of sodium. I encourage you to try a homemade mix! You can put together many different combinations. We are looking forward to bringing in fresh herbs once the weather continues to cooperate. Unfortunately, we have another snow dump coming this week. We spent the evening planning out our preparation to keep our freshly germinated seeds protected and even the frost hardy herbs.
These dressing concoctions should last a week or so with the vinegar base. Let me know if you give it a try. PS check out the photo below of the two garlic bulbs after they came out of the smoker. We wrapped them in foil and drizzled a little olive oil, done! So, so delicious. Enjoy, friends!
Have you ever tried pizza with a ground beef or poultry for the crust? If you’re anything like me you LOVE a good pizza. Great toppings, nice balance of flavors and of course, a solid cheese pull. But of course, pizza is not the healthiest option on the menu. I am a firm believer that a traditional homemade pizza is eons less greasy and allows you to control the type of preservatives, or lack thereof, in the crust. You’re also looking at double the protein and half the carbs!
To inch pizza even a little bit closer to achieving the healthy label, I would like to present the meat-za, or in this case Chi-Za! I used ground chicken for the crust. In the past I have experimented with beef and ground turkey could also be used. Something to keep in mind when choosing your protein is the level of fat that will cook out of the meat. The leaner options are not only healthier, but also less messy when it comes to the flip process of the crust. If you use a fattier meat, more grease will cook out. Regardless of your protein choice, you will need to dab excess moisture away with paper towels before flipping the crust. You will see what I mean when I give the run down on how to put this masterpiece together. Once you mix the protein and cook it for ten minutes on parchment paper at 450 degrees, you’ll flip that baby over before you add your toppings!
You can make this chi-za ANYWAY you want! Literally the possibilities are endless! We actually made another variation just a few nights prior with red pepper, olives, mushrooms and smoked gouda. YUM!
But, for the Greek version let’s discuss – so we started with a very thin layer of tzatziki made with Greek yogurt, garlic powder, dill and a little dash of Aleppo pepper! Then, add feta, sliced black olives, cherry tomatoes, romaine lettuce, green onions and dill pickles!
The crust holds together so well you can eat it like a regular slice of pizza!
Recipe & Ingredients
1.5-2lbs ground chicken
1 t minced garlic
1 t salt & pepper
2 T parmigiana
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Combine all ingredients and shape on parchment paper over a baking sheet. Bake for 10 minutes and dab excess juices with paper towels. Then, carefully flip crust directly onto the pan. Add thin layer of tzatziki, feta, sliced olives & tomatoes. Put back in oven for 10 minutes to finish cooking. Add your sliced green onions, romaine and a dollop of tzatziki. Time to enjoy!
In a mixing bowl combine the ground beef, salt, pepper and bread crumbs. Divide the ground beef into even proportion sized balls. Cut the onion into paper thin slices. If you have a mandolin, you can also use this tool to create very fine cuttings. Just from first hand experience, if you decide to use the mandolin PLEASE use the safety or you may end up an urgent care getting a hand wound cauterized. LOL, I’m allowed to laugh now, three years later…
Okay, so here we go. Heat up the cast iron skillet, place the beef on, flatten with the metal spatula and add another dash of s & p. Immediately, load up the onions on top of the burger and let the meat brown for ~2 minutes. You’re looking for the burger to develop a crust, which will be loaded with flavor when you bite in! Flip the burger using the spatula to help keep the onions in place. Now your onions will be frying in the beef fat under the burger. Add your cheese and cook about 2-3 minutes until your burger reaches desired consistency. Immediately top with pickles, tomatoes, lettuce and enjoy!
Depending on the size of your cast iron, you may be able to do 2 at a time, but don’t crowd the pan because it will be difficult to flip the burger. We had two pounds of beef to make six burgers, but you can use what you have! These were so good and a great bite with the crunchy onions and gooey cheese. I used a gluten free burger bun and Spencer used romaine lettuce wraps, so whatever suits your fancy!
2 lbs ground beef
¼ c gluten free bread crumbs
1 t salt & pepper
2 white onions – Vidalia or Spanish
6 slices of cheese (smoked hot pepper)
Dill pickles, sliced tomatoes, romaine & gluten free hamburger buns
Send me a note if you try it or make a variation! I'd love to continue evolving this recipe!
These waffles are so, so good and very easy to make. Whether you’re looking to prep them ahead of time or double the recipe, it’s easy as can be. The macros are great. The sweetness in this recipe is going to come from the banana, vanilla and the natural flavors in your peanut butter protein powder or substitute.
I realize peanut butter protein powder isn’t extraordinarily common, unless you love Bowmar protein as much as I do. A nice substitute would be ½ scoop of vanilla protein and ½ scoop peanut butter powder for the collagen. You’ll still get a ton of peanut butter flavor with the same consistency! Yum!
You can preheat the waffle maker while you’re putting the batter together. After the first time making them, it will only take 15 minutes start to finish. One serving is about 3 waffles. I use our Ninja single serve blender to put together the ingredients. The recipe fits if you double it, as well. I usually add a tsp of butter or peanut butter to the waffles for topping. For dessert one evening, I topped with fresh vanilla whipped cream.
Preheat waffle maker and spray with nonstick spray
1/2 scoop pb protein powder (or whatever you have)
1/2 scoop collagen (can be omitted, but seriously helping my recovery so sticking with it)
1 egg & 1 egg white
1/2 cup oats
1 tsp vanilla
1/8 tsp salt, baking p & s, cinnamon
Blend ingredients until smooth and put ¼ c on waffle maker
Topped with fresh vanilla whipped cream, butter or favorite topping 😋
We had leftover grilled sirloin from last night so we decided to whip up an Asian inspired meal with Teriyaki sauce and what we like to call dirty rice.
The rice consists of whatever veggies you have on hand, sautéed and reduced down in broth. Then, mix the veg and rice together. I used Forbidden black rice and for veg I had a red pepper, white onion and four carrots.
Traditional teriyaki sauce is equal parts reduced sodium soy sauce (San-j), mirin (sweet & savory cooking wine -Eden) and sake. But, as per usual we made some adjustments including using reduced sodium soy sauce so it is easier to control the salt. We also made our own sake substitute using just shy of 1 cup extra dry vermouth and 1 T rice wine vinegar (Marukan).
For equal parts we used a 1 cup measurement. We also added a corn starch slurry 2:1 water (2 T water: 1 T corn starch) to thicken. Who said you didn’t need to learn tratios? Bring the sauce to a boil over medium heat in a sauce pan, reduce by 1/3 until it reaches your desired consistency.
NOW, this is where is get exciting!
We wanted to spruce it up a little, so went with some aromatics by the way of minced sushi ginger, garlic, sesame seeds, Aleppo chili flakes and a dash of maple syrup for a HINT of sweetness. Mirin is naturally sweet so depending on your brand you may not even need to add it.
After the sauce was complete, we added the grilled sirloin to the sauce to simmer for a couple minutes and then served it over the dirty rice. Enjoy!!
One of our goals with recipe development is to cut down on added sugars, preservatives, etc. In this recipe, we cut WAY down on the traditional amount of sugar. We also added maple syrup instead of a typical white sugar. It is important to start with a small amount of sugar in recipes, then test to see if it is needed. We added the small amount for balance. Keep sugar low!!! Health goals 😊
This ratio made plenty for leftovers so tomorrow we’re planning to try baked chicken drumsticks and broccoli with a nice drizzle of teriyaki! Yum, I’m already excited!
1 c soy sauce
1 c Mirin
1 c Sake - substitute (just under 1 c dry vermouth & 1 T rice wine vinegar)
2 T water
1 T corn starch
2 T minced sushi ginger
1 T minced garlic
2 t sesame seeds
2 t aleppo chili flakes
Dash of maple syrup
1 cup rice
Vegetables of your choosing!
Comment below if you’ve tried this or something similar. I would love to try a new variation!
This recipe really is the definition of easy! Whether your breakfast (or even snack) needs are on-the-go or WFH life, these oats are perfect for 3-4 servings. You also will not get sick of the sweet and savory flavors packed with protein if you want to double it for an entire week of prep! Leave a comment if you try this recipe, excited for y'all!
Easy PB&J Overnight Oats - save this one!
▫️1 1/2 c oats
▫️2 T Chia Seeds
▫️2 c milk (any kind, I’ve tried whole & almond - both warranted the same results)
▫️1/2 c Greek yogurt
▫️1/2 t cinnamon
▫️1 banana, mashed 🍌
▫️1 t vanilla
▫️1/2 t salt
▫️1 scoop pb protein powder
▫️1/3 c berries 🫐
▫️ 1 T peanut better 🥜
Mix all ingredients and refrigerate overnight. Serve with a fresh scoop of PB and berries, if desired! So good!
Becca Wagner-Sharing our love for food, nature, gardening and all the career coaching resources! Explore the blog to get a closer look at recipe development and process with our lifelong commitment to sustaining our land.