Salsa Fresca & a Letter from Gwen

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Hello, friends.

I’ve missed sharing recipes and stories with you this summer. I have often thought about my little food blog that I just started at the beginning of this year, and about you all, who are so kind as to read my posts. I so appreciate your support. The thing is, these last few months I have really been GOING through something. I’m talking painful, not fun, trudging-through-the-mud kind of stuff. I’ve been going through and living one of the most difficult struggles of my 29 years on God’s green earth. This summer in particular, my struggle has left me without a desire to cook or to blog (among other things), and I’m not very good at pretending, so I haven’t.

It’s crossed my mind over the last several weeks to share this struggle in a more public way, expressly on my blog and facebook. A lot of people think it’s a taboo topic. Or that it’s embarrassing; humiliating, even shameful. That you’re not supposed to talk about it until you’ve already overcome it. It breaks my heart. I’m a pretty open person, and I have experienced firsthand the deep, deep blessing of sharing my life’s joys, occasional burdens – especially this burden – and challenges with my community. I share this with you not just to lay bare my struggle, but to more importantly inspire others to do the same. SO, you must be thinking, get.to.the.point.

My husband and I are struggling with infertility.

We began “trying” to get pregnant at the beginning of 2012, with much anticipation and no doubt whatsoever that in nine months our doberman puppy Tank would be a big brother. The first few months, it was easy to chalk it up to our travels, as last year we were gone a lot, and we kept our hopes high. We were “trying” at the same time as a few friends of ours, and over the course of the year, each couple got pregnant, except us. And then some. New life and pregnancies kept coming out of the woodwork for people around us. With the news of each baby on the way, I felt a little more left behind, as though I was further and further away from our goal to start a family. The genuine and true happiness that I feel for a friend who shares with me the news of a new baby on the way is mixed with sadness and grief when I wonder why we have not been able to create a baby of our own. When I was younger, I never for one second thought that infertility could or would be an issue for my husband and me someday. Now that I’m here, I can say that few things in my life have been harder than this.

I know that God is good and that He has plans for us. Dom and I will be parents; we are confident in that. The waiting and uncertainly are so hard though. I have learned how little control we actually have in life matters such as this (read: little to none). And I am now learning that though I am 100% in this struggle, infertility does not define me or my identity. I have lots of other, WAY cooler things that I am defined by, such as living in the grace and love of Jesus Christ (the creator of all things and giver of every good and perfect gift!). Or that I am Dom’s wife, or that I LOVE to sing, laugh, go running… You get the point.

So that’s my big confession; my big news. Don’t you worry, this is not turning into an infertility blog. I started this blog to share food, photos, stories and recipes with you, and most of all, LOVE. Love is hard and messy, and so is life sometimes. You better believe that when I have good news, I will share it with you! :) I covet your prayers for Dom and I and our future family.

And in the meantime, I would love to hear from any of you that might be struggling with this or who have struggled with infertility in the past. It can be such a lonely, hopeless struggle. Infertility affects one in six couples that are trying to conceive, and there are so many people out there suffering in silence. This is not a burden any couple should have to carry alone. I encourage you to reach out to your community of friends; be vulnerable and real even when it’s scary, and if you have good friends, they will carry you and pray for you when you can’t carry yourself. Find a support group. Journal and pray. Just don’t go it alone! Through this I’ve had the ever-present help of the Lord, my INCREDIBLE husband, and our wonderful best friends and family, who have been loving us through this journey. Jesus himself said “come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke (ie. a cattle yoke) upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and my burden is light”.   My hope is in you, Jesus.

I am literally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually sustained by love. Thanks for reading and for letting me share my heart and journey with you.

Until good news comes, let us get our minds back on yummy food. Today I’ll show you how to make one of the best summer snacks, salsa!! We’ll refer to it as salsa fresca, since only fresh ingredients are used.

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All that you’ll need you can find in the produce section (or your garden if you have one!). I got a little excited when I took this picture, and I let a red bell pepper sneak in, and I pictured too much produce! To make one blender full of salsa, we’ll use a few fresh tomatoes, 2-3 jalapeños (depending on how spicy you like it), a red or white onion, a lime,  a bunch of fresh cilantro… Let me pause here and let’s take a moment to think about how incredible a bunch of fresh cilantro smells… Ahhh, it’s just the best. AND, cilantro helps rid our bodies of heavy metals, so I read. Lastly, you’ll need a few cloves of garlic, and they don’t have to be chopped like they are here; peeled is just fine.

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If I do say so myself, these heirloom tomatoes from our garden are SO handsome! They’re naturals at modeling. ;)

I can’t help myself… here’s one more angle on these beauties before we blend them up into salsa fresca oblivion.

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Time to make this happen! Lop the tops off of the jalapeños, and slice them in half lengthwise. Be careful not to touch the white “spines” (not sure what that’s called so I’ll go with spine!) or the seeds inside the pepper – it will make your skin red and feel like burning! Carefully slice out the spines and scoop out the seeds and discard them. Peel your garlic and cut off the woody bit on one end (not pictured). I like to get a little violent and crush my garlic cloves with the heel of my big chopping knife, because it breaks open the skin and makes the clove super easy to peel.

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Onto the lime. God really knew what he was doing when he created citrus. The flavors of SO many dishes around the world are characterized by the fresh, tangy zest of these amazing fruits. There would be no salsa without lime. There would be no fish tacos without lime. There would be no fun without lime. Period.

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Now onto our key player and  the most beautiful ingredient today, the tomato! Pictured here are brandywines, grown organically in our garden. So intricately crafted and full of life they are.

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Cut them in half first, and seed each tomato half. This simply means sticking  your finger in each seed area to remove them from the tomato.  This reduces the amount of excess water in the end product, since tomatoes are made up of over 90 percent water. You can do this into the sink or a separate container. Call me crazy, call me a hippie if you will, but I don’t have it in my heart to waste these little organic heirloom seeds & their juices, so I drink the seed mixture when I’m done!  Ha! Think of it as a V-8 without the 420 grams of sodium. After seeding, quarter each half.

Cut your onion in the same way that you did the tomato. Rinse your bunch of cilantro, then get ready for some manual labor and remove the leaves from the stems, discarding the stems. This is actually the most time-consuming part of making salsa.

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Meaty.

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Place the tomato nuggets (yeah I said it) into the blender first, because if you put the onion in first, the blender won’t blend properly and will just be revving its little blender engine. Not that I had to learn that the hard way and dump everything out and place it back in or anything…. So, tomatoes first, then the onion, garlic, jalapeño, and the juice of one lime. I add six or seven turns of sea salt from my grinder; you can salt to taste. Start with a little salt before you blend, and add more to taste when you sample it. Save the cilantro for the second round of blending.

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As you can see, I cut up a few too many tomatoes! They could be used to make a second batch, some bruschetta, or baked with onion and garlic and then blended for pasta sauce…. There are so many options! I enjoyed these extras with some salt and fresh pepper, basil, mozzarella, lots of olive oil and a splash of balsamic.  Ahh, summer.

Start the blender on low, then turn it on high after several seconds. Blend to your desired smoothness. My husband prefers his salsa less chunky, so I make it nice and smooth. Note: sometimes I use a spoon near the top of the blender (not anywhere near the bottom where the blades are spinning and WILL ruin your spoon and your batch of salsa… again, not that I speak from experience) to get the ingredients moving, pushing them down toward the middle of the blender. After a couple seconds of doing this, I let the blender do the rest of the work. Once blended, add the cilantro and blend it right in, to your desired consistency. Total blending time should be less than 30 seconds. It’s super quick!

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Time for sampling! My hand model and taste tester, Meghan, is pictured here. Thanks for all your hard work, my friend!

Just like we did here, grab a friend, some tortilla chips, and enjoy!! Any chips will do, but my favorite are the blue corn chips from Trader Joe’s. You can also serve this with rice and beans, put it in a burrito or tacos, or pour it over scrambled eggs! It should keep in the fridge for up to three days.

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Thanks for joining in on my salsa post, and for reading about the journey that we’ve been on. To see our journey as photographers unfold, check out our dominick b. photography blog.

Love big this week,

Gwen

Recipe: Salsa Fresca

Ingredients

  • 3 large tomatoes, seeded
  • 2 fresh jalapeños, pitted
  • optional: 1 small red bell pepper
  • 1 medium red or white onion
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 1 lime
  • Sea salt, to taste
  • 1 bunch fresh cilantro, stems removed
  • blender

Instructions

  • Halve and seed tomatoes, then quarter each half.
  • Cut off tops of jalapeños, slice in half, then remove seeds & spines and discard. If using bell pepper as well, do the same, and slice into quarters.
  • Halve onion, then quarter.
  • Peel garlic cloves and cut off woody tip.
  • Rinse cilantro and remove leaves from stems. Discard stems. Set cilantro aside.
  • Place tomatoes in blender first, then onion/jalapeño/garlic. Squeeze the juice of one lime into the blender and add a pinch or two of salt to begin.
  • Blend on low for several seconds to your desired consistency.
  • Add cilantro leaves and blend.
  • Add more salt to taste.

Total Time: 20 minutes   |   Serves: 12

Spaghetti alla Carbonara

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Last spring Dom and I spent a week in Rome while we were over in Europe for a few weeks visiting my sister who lives in Germany. This was my second visit to Rome, and Dom’s… fourth. He studied European history in college and did his thesis on Roman Britain history, of all things, so he’s kind of in love with the ancient empire.

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There is nothing like taking in the ruins that still tower in the beautiful city.  Huge white stones, still majestically put together to make strikingly beautiful and strong buildings, silently echo the grandeur of an era that is just history now. I sure do love me some Rome.

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I love the huge pine trees all around Rome and the sycamores that hang over the Tiber River.

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I loved the perfect Spring weather we got to enjoy.

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I loved being with my man in the most romantic city in the world (I’m sorry I’m not sorry, Paris).

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{ at the Spanish steps }

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{ my handsome man overlooking Circo Massimo, standing in Colle Palatino (Palatine Hill), his favorite part of Roma }

I LOVED renting an apartment right off of Campo de Fiori for the week and walking through the farmers’ market every day.

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I loved people-watching and seeing how modern-day Romans live, and soaking in the warm friendliness we saw when a passerby said “buongiorno” to us. All of the above is amazing, but there is one more thing about visiting Rome that took the experience from being awesome to out of this world amazing: THE FOOD. And don’t even get me started about the gelato. Oh, the gelato!!

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There are many, many delicious things to eat in Rome, but I’m going to exercise every ounce of self-control I have and only talk about one here: Pasta alla Carbonara. Dom fell in love with this dish years ago, and during our time in Rome, it was very difficult for him not to order carbonara every time we were out for lunch or dinner, so most of the time, that’s what he ended up ordering, and he doesn’t regret it! Without further ado, let’s get to the recipe and bring a little piece of Rome into our kitchens!

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There are two main ingredients that flavor this dish, one being pancetta, or Italian bacon…

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It comes from pork belly.

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…and parmesan cheese. YUM.

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We’ll start with the pancetta. Heat a skillet over medium heat with a dash of olive oil and add the bacon.

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Cook the pancetta, stirring occasionally, for 5-8 minutes.

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When the bacon is golden brown, it’s done. Right about now is when your neighbors will start to wonder what deliciousness you are cooking. Remove the pan from heat and transfer the pancetta to a large bowl and set that aside to cool.

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Now we’ll move on to my favorite ingredient in this dish, the parmigiano reggiano. Did you know that if the label says “parmigiano” that it’s from Parma, Italy (or one of the surrounding areas that produce the cheese), and if the label says “parmesan”, it is not from Italy and is not considered authentic. A good domestic parm should closely resemble the real deal, and the cheese produced here is easier on the wallet, so that’s typically what I buy. Back to the matter at hand… Shred a good amount of that cheese up; about 2 cups. Can you ever have too much parm?

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Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Grab your spaghetti add it to the boiling water, and stir the noodles immediately so they don’t stick together. My Mom taught me to break my noodles in half before cooking because it is WAY easier to eat and no one has to deal with foot-long noodles spilling off of their fork. I like this spaghetti at Trader Joe’s because somehow they added more fiber to it, but whatever spaghetti you have will do just fine.

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Boil it al dente according to the amount of time on the package, usually between 7-10 minutes. I always test a noodle myself to check when they are done, but you can always try the throw-a-noodle-against-the-wall technique. It’s fun. When the noodle sticks, it’s done.

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While the pasta is boiling, crack one whole egg and three additional egg yolks into a bowl. Whisk them gently with a fork until combined.

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My free-range, organic egg yolks would NOT stay in one piece; they kept breaking and thus getting mixed with the egg white, so I had no choice but to fry up those eggs in the pancetta grease with lots of fresh pepper for one amazing snack for the chef!

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Grab that bowl containing the now cooled pancetta, and add to it about 1 1/2 cups of the cheese, as well as the egg mixture.

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Stir it together until combined. Things are about to get real, people!

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Now on to the Italian parsley that has been modeling so beautifully. Remove the leaves from the stems and chop the leaves finely to garnish the dish, or you can toss them into the dish as well.

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Your pasta should be done by now. Reserve about 3/4 cup of the hot pasta water in a glass. Then strain the spaghetti as usual.

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We are ready for the pasta!

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Add the pasta to the bowl. Toss the noodles and cheese/pancetta mixture together, adding a small amount of pasta water at a time to create a creamy sauce.

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Tossed!

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Time to dig in. If you haven’t already, call your friends and tell them to bring the wine, and share a great night of food, friendship & laughter together! Garnish the pasta with parmesan and parsley.

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Enjoy! See more photos of our trip to Rome here.

Much love,

Gwen

Recipe: Spaghetti Alla Carbonara

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 8 oz. thinly sliced guanciale or pancetta cut into 1⁄2″ pieces
  • 2 tsp. freshly cracked black pepper, plus more to taste
  • 1 3⁄4 cups finely grated Parmesan
  • 1 egg plus 3 yolks
  • Sea salt, to taste
  • 1 lb. spaghetti
  • 1/2 cup Fresh Italian parsley, chopped

Instructions

  • Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add pancetta and cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned, 5–8 minutes. Add pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, for 2 more minutes.
  • Transfer pancetta mixture to a large bowl to cool slightly. Once cooled, stir in 1 1⁄2 cups Parmesan and egg and yolks and stir to combine; set aside.
  • Bring a 6-qt. pot of salted water to a boil. Add pasta; cook until al dente, 8–10 minutes. Reserve 3⁄4 cup of the hot pasta water; drain pasta and transfer it to pancetta mixture.
  • Toss the pasta with the pancetta mixture, and add pasta water a little at a time to make a creamy sauce. Season with salt and pepper; serve with fresh chopped parsley and remaining Parmesan.

Total Time: 25 minutes  |  Serves: 6

Adapted from Saveur’s Carbonara recipe.

Greek Yogurt Banana Bread & Meeting the Neighbors

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How many of your neighbors do you know by name?

Let’s take it a step further. How many of your neighbors do you actually know a thing or two about, have had a real conversation with, shared a meal with, or would even go so far as to call them friends?

If your answer is “none”, don’t stop reading or be discouraged! You are right there with most people in today’s busy culture. Since moving out of my parents’ house and getting married almost four years ago, I have slowly come to make it a personal goal to be better at knowing my neighbors. I believe we are all placed in our communities – be it work, neighborhood, kids’ school, or even the grocery store where you shop – for a reason; that reason being to breathe love into that very community and to share the love that we’ve been shown by God and others. We’ve all heard the old “love your neighbor as yourself”, but does anyone besides Mother Theresa DO that, or even know how? I don’t have all the answers, but in a simple way I try to take opportunities to love our neighbors. Like baking them banana bread.

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Three new families have recently moved into our small, quiet neighborhood of three streets and about 75 homes. It’s hard to miss the “SOLD” sign out in front of a house, and the subsequent moving truck with movers unloading a new neighbor’s dear possessions. Around this time, I start thinking “Hmmm, what to bake them…”.

I LOVE bananas and eat (at least) one a day, but since they ripen so quickly, I usually end up putting the last banana in the bunch that is too ripe for my taste in the freezer. Once I have several bananas in the freezer, I know it’s time to make some insanely delicious banana bread. I recently found and tweaked a recipe that includes Greek yogurt, which is soo good for you, non-fat, packed with protein with no added sugar.

Back to the neighbors, though. It can be uncomfortable walking up to a complete stranger’s home, knocking on their door, and waiting anxiously for them to answer… What will I say? They’re going to think I’m a salesperson and not answer! Well, when it comes to making conversation with new people, my friend Kristi’s mom gave her the best advice: Just ask them questions about themselves, because people generally love to talk about themselves! And I don’t mean that in a vain way, but people by and large will truly appreciate when someone shows interest in who they are, their background, likes, dislikes, etc. Throw in something sweet to eat and they are going to love you forever.

Here we go…

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For today’s post, I tripled the ingredients to make three loaves, while the recipe listed at the end of this post is for one loaf. When I made this batch of bread, I had loose bananas still in their skin in my freezer, as well as banana puree I had previously made by removing the skins and mushing with a fork, stored in a ziploc bag.

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And…

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After removing the bananas from their skin, mash up that sweet goodness with a fork.

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Prep your loaf pans by greasing them first and then sprinkling with flour, for easy bread removal later. Don’t get caught with the ole’ my-banana-bread-is-in-three-pieces-because-I-couldn’t-get-it-out routine!

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Start by putting all the dry ingredients into a large bowl (if you have one, use your KitchenAid mixer bowl).

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Then add your wet ingredients. Vanilla, eggs, honey… Honey?! I added it on a whim a few batches back, and I will never go back. It adds a subtle extra sweetness.

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Measure up the banana puree, and marvel at all the real fruit going into this yummy bread. Keep in mind this is for three loaves, my friends!

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Aaaand our mixer bowl is starting to get full. We haven’t even added the Greek yogurt yet! Will there even be room? I’m getting nervous. I’m second-guessing everything. I swear I had tripled this for three loaves before, but can my 5-quart KitchenAid handle this madness again?

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Take a mental break with me from my guessing game and measure the yogurt, so creamy and white as snow.

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Add it to the bowl. Folks, things are getting crazy here! But we are committed. We are going to mix this. Do it for the neighbors!

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Side note: I would like to propose a toast to my KitchenAid mixer. Best wedding present ever!! It has saved me many a cramped forearm in mixing cookie dough, breads, and creams. If you don’t have one, fear not, but take a deep breath and prepare to sssstir that dough.

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Look at her; she’s mixing that triple batch like a champ and the crisis has been averted. Phew! Mix on “stir” speed until all the ingredients are combined.

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Pour into your prepared bread pans, until they’re about 2/3 full. The bread rises quite a bit during cooking.

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To my delight, I had some extra batter, so I made a mini-loaf for myself. Mmmm, I can see toasted banana bread with butter and peanut butter on top in my future! I credit my husband for my obsession with putting peanut butter on things, ie. pancakes, ice cream…

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Bake at 350 for 55 minutes or so (a bit shorter for a mini-loaf), until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Cool them in their pans for ten minutes, then gently remove them from their pans – I use a butter knife to loosen the edges – and let them cool completely on a wire rack. Here they all are posing for the camera.

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And here’s our own mini loaf. Once they were cooled, I wrapped those babies up in plastic wrap and some yarn and went to go make some deliveries! Two out of the three new neighbors were home, and the introduction and fresh bread was warmly welcomed! One of them has since asked me for the recipe, and we already have tentative dinner plans with the other two couples. I am so looking forward to seeing them around and getting to know all of our neighbors better. It’s a great feeling, and if you have not yet met your neighbors, I don’t care how long you’ve lived where you have, go say hello! And report back; I would love to hear your stories!

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Love to you all, and may we all be sustained by love today!

xo

Gwen

Recipe: Greek Yogurt Banana Bread

Ingredients

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups mashed ripe banana (about 3 bananas)
  • 3/4 cup nonfat Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts (optional)
  • Cooking spray/oil

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Grease and lightly flour loaf pan.
  3. Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups.
  4. Combine flour, baking soda, salt, sugar, vanilla, honey, butter, eggs, bananas, yogurt, and walnuts (if desired) in a large bowl, mixing well.
  5. Pour batter into an 8 1/2 x 4 1/2-inch loaf pan coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350° for 55 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean.Cool 10 minutes in pan on a wire rack; remove from pan. Cool completely on wire rack.
  6. Enjoy! Or, go meet your neighbor(s) and take them a fresh banana bread loaf!

Prep Time: 15 Minutes  |  Cook Time: 55 Minutes  |  Servings: Makes 1 loaf or 12 slices

Roasted Rosemary and Lemon Chicken with Root Vegetables

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Winter seems to be fading here in Southern California; some days straight into summer, and other days into delightful spring weather.  Our new birch and sycamore trees that we planted this winter are getting hundreds of shiny, green new leaves, which Dom and I are really excited about.

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Today’s post makes a perfect dinner for a chilly, cozy evening in. Crack open a bottle of wine, or in my case, a Bavarian hefeweizen, and start preparing yourself one satisfying meal.

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Roasting a whole chicken always seemed daunting to me, until I tried it for myself and realized that it is super easy, it makes your whole house smell amazing, and one bird can actually yield quite a bit of meat. The hardest part is carving it, which I am still figuring out myself and am not prepared to give any tips on. You professional chicken carvers out there will be laughing when you see the photo in this post of my first attempt at carving… and it only went south from there. But it sure tasted delicious! That’s what really matters here, right?

So, on to the good stuff. There are lots of ways you can season a chicken, but I chose rosemary and lemon because they are exquisite; a perfect pair. We have rosemary in our garden, which I was excited to put to use, along with some lemons that our neighbors shared from their tree. We’re trying to keep it local here, people. Now I just need to build myself a chicken coop… but I digress. This would be a good time to preheat your oven to 425 degrees.

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Here are the root vegetables that will be roasted along with our chicken. Are potatoes vegetables? Always start with clean, washed veggies.

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Oh, beautiful carrots. Delicious and healthy. Cut off the top and bottom tips of six carrots. It doesn’t have to be six, that’s just what I had on hand.

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I was amazed at the vivid purple color of these heirloom potatoes. The market had white, purple and red, so I got all three! Cut 2 pounds of potatoes in half, and then each half into smaller pieces. Cut the carrots into small chunks.

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Half of the fun of making this meal is how colorful it is!

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Halve two lemons, and then cut each half in quarters.

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At this point, your bird should be rinsed off with water and patted dry with paper towels. Take four sprigs of rosemary and stuff them into the cavity, along with some of the lemon quarters. I’ve been told that if you boil or microwave the lemon before you put it in, it really brings out the flavor.

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Place all of those colorful vegetables into a greased 9 x 13 baking dish.

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Back to the bird. Mix two tablespoons each of olive oil and minced garlic, along with 1 teaspoon of sea salt and, depending on how much you love fresh pepper, 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of that. Once you go fresh, you can never go back. Feel free to chop up some extra rosemary and add that to the mix.

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Get your cooking brush ready (or if you are super pro at roasting chickens, use your fingers). Spread the olive oil & garlic mixture all over both sides of the bird.

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To add moisture to the dish and to ensure that the vegetables and chicken stay moist during cooking, I decided to use chicken broth for my dish. You can use chicken broth, which is listed in the recipe below, or you can coat your veggies in 1/4 cup of olive oil. Either way works great. Top them with some salt and pepper.

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Place the chicken on top of the vegetables, and add the remaining lemon quarters around the dish. Tie the chicken legs up to keep moisture in. I may not have had cooking twine on hand, and may have improvised, but I’ll never tell what I used to tie that chicken’s gams up. It’s ready to go in the oven, uncovered.

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Dinner’s almost done!

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Once the internal temperature has reached 160 degrees and the juices turned from pink to clear (about 60-75 minutes), take the pan out of the oven, and let the bird sit for about ten minutes before carving. This will keep it nice and juicy. Can you smell this goodness?

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As promised, I present to you my first attempt at carving the bird. I really went for it and gave it my best shot. I later read that I think I was supposed to start with the arms and legs. Like I said, it tasted great. Feel free to leave a comment sharing what has worked best for you. This is it, my friends; lemon and rosemary chicken!

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Enjoy!

Love,

Gwen

Recipe: Roasted Lemon and Rosemary Chicken with Root Vegetables

Ingredients

  • 1 whole chicken, rinsed and patted dry
  • 4 sprigs rosemary
  • 2 lemons, washed and quartered
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 to 1 teaspoon ground fresh pepper
  • 2 pounds multicolored potatoes cut into bite-size pieces
  • 6 medium carrots, cut into bite-size pieces
  • Extra salt and pepper
  • 1-1/2 cups chicken broth

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 425 degrees and grease a 9×13 baking pan with olive oil. Stuff rosemary and 1 cut lemon into chicken cavity. Tuck wings under and tie chicken legs together with kitchen twine. Combine olive oil, minced garlic and salt and pepper, and rub or brush all over the bird.
  • Cut potatoes and carrots into bite-size pieces and place in baking pan. Season with salt and pepper. Pour chicken broth over vegetables, and then set chicken on top of vegetables. Place remaining lemon wedges around the pan.
  • Roast uncovered until an instant-read thermometer registers 160 degrees when inserted into the thickest part of the thigh (avoiding bone), 1 to 1-1/4 hours. Remove from oven and let the chicken sit for 10 minutes before carving.

Prep Time: 20 minutes  |  Total Time: 1 hour 45 minutes  |  Serves: 4

Puppy Chow

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This last weekend was Dom’s birthday. Early in his birthday week, he made a special request for one of his favorite snacks: puppy chow. This was music to my ears, because puppy chow is one of my favorite guilty pleasures, err, snacks too. I don’t make it very often because it’s one of those things that you can’t just walk by without eating some… and walking by again, and then a few more times. In fact, my husband and I generally can’t stop eating it until there is no more puppy chow left. It’s the perfect mix of peanut butter, chocolate, crunchiness and sweetness, all in one little nugget. Or sixty little nuggets; however many you can fit into your hand. But don’t take my word for how delicious puppy chow is – try it for yourself!

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One of the best things about puppy chow is its simplicity. There are only five ingredients, plus a double-bagged paper bag. Every time I make this, I double it, so the photos here have twice the amounts of the recipe at the bottom of this post.

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Start by scraping the peanut butter out of its containers and into a bowl. This saves time a couple steps down the line when we’ll be dealing with melted chocolate that we don’t want to burn.

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Mmmmm, peanut butter. And chocolate… Could you ask for more?

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Prep your paper bags by double bagging them, and add 1 cup of powdered sugar, then set this aside.

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Ready for action!

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On low heat, melt butter in a large pot. Since I doubled the recipe, I used an extra large pasta pot.

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Meet my Colombian spatula that I love and use almost daily for cooking. Ain’t she gorgeous?

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When the butter has melted, throw in the chocolate chips and stir…

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while they melt…

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into sweet, sweet oblivion.

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A pan full of melted chocolate… there are so many possibilities. Chocolate fondue, anyone?

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Back to the matter at hand. Grab that bowl full of peanut butter and 1) thank God for peanut butter, and 2) stir every last bit of it into the chocolate.

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The perfect marriage.

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Hello, chocolate. Hello, peanut butter.

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I think they love each other.

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This is the part where you go to your pantry, grab the graham crackers, and start dipping away! No, but really, try to stay focused; this is where the hard work comes in!

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Grab one cereal box and pour it into the chocolate mixture.

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Gotta love Chex. They’re gluten free!

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Begin to stir it up, Little Darlin.

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Resist the urge just a little longer to grab a whole handful, because at this point it’s a little sticky!

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If you’re doubling the recipe, go ahead and add the second box of cereal and stir it in. This is where things can get a little intense just because of sheer volume. Be patient and make sure you are getting the chocolate/PB from the bottom of the pan.


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Yummy.

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Grab that paper bag and pour about half of the cereal mixture into the bag, on top of the powdered sugar you put in there earlier. Note: If you double the recipe, I would recommend using two sets of bags so the puppy chow has more mobility to be coated with powdered sugar during tossing.

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Add more powdered sugar on top; about a cup.

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I repeated this layering for the doubling.

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And shake it!! Shake it indoors, outdoors, right-side up, upside down. Just shake it!

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Be prepared for a small cloud of powdered sugar when you open the bag. As you can see here, the cereal still looks sticky and not well coated with the sugar, so I continued to add more, about a cup and a half more, until it was coated.

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The best way there is to reuse a paper bag. Well done, my Trader Joe’s pal.

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And here, my friends, you have it. Puppy chow, just begging to be eaten. Dom loves his puppy chow cold from the freezer. I love to top ice cream with it, along with some peanut butter and banana slices. No matter how you enjoy it, this stuff is amazing!

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Let me know how your puppy chow making turns out!

Love,

Gwen

Recipe: Puppy Chow

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 12-oz package of chocolate chips (milk or semi-sweet)
  • 1 16-oz jars of creamy peanut butter
  • 1 box of Chex cereal
  • 2-3 cups powdered sugar

Instructions

  • Double bag two large paper bags. Place 1 cup of powdered sugar in the bag and set aside.
  • In a large pot over low heat, melt the chocolate while stirring; add peanut butter and mix until smooth.
  • Remove from heat, add cereal, and stir until evenly coated.
  • Pour the coated cereal into the bag and pour 1 more cup of powdered sugar on top of the cereal. Fold the top of the bag securely, and shake the bag until the cereal is well coated with the sugar. Add more powdered sugar if necessary. Store in an airtight container. Enjoy!

Total Time: 20 minutes  |  Serves: 12

I am sustained.

Hello, friends!

Welcome to my very first post at Sustained By Love, my shiny, new cooking & food photography blog. I am thrilled to start this journey with you of cooking yummy things and sharing them with you here!

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Fresh bruschetta using tomatoes from my garden.

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Sun-dried tomato & pesto gnocchi.  Hungry yet?

Visit my About section to read up on how Sustained By Love has come about and to get to know me. I’ll be posting delicious and easy recipes a couple times a month or more.

Thanks for coming and I look forward to seeing you around; stop by anytime!

Love, Gwen

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