Saturday, June 22, 2013

Celebrating Joyously Domestic's One-Year Anniversary

Today marks exactly one year since my first post went "live" here on Joyously Domestic, the blog.  In honor of my "blogiversary," I want to extend my gratitude to all of you who have been followers, supporters and friends of Joyously Domestic. 

When I first got the blog up and running, I spent weeks asking (a.k.a. "pestering" and "hounding") all of my friends and family on Facebook to come over and "like" JD's Facebook page and to become followers of the blog.  So many of them, also, helped by sharing the links to both our page and our initial posts with their own Facebook friends.  I remember when I was thrilled to have twenty-five FB followers and my first initial email followers. 

In truth, my blogging experience began in March of 2012 with a small blog that I started on a different hosting site.  I wasn't happy with the format and a few other aspects there, so I moved everything over to our current home here on Blogger.  That was on June 22, 2012.  I started out slow - as most bloggers do - with maybe a hundred or so FB followers and only a handful of email followers after our first four months of beginning the blog.  Getting a few hundred visitors to the blog each day was the "bee's knees" in my mind back then!  I set up a Pinterest page associated with the blog and started promoting the blog across various recipe sites. I began networking with other recipe and food bloggers ... I am so thankful for the blogger friends I've made along the way.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Vegetables Baked in Parchment Paper

I was inspired by Mario Batali on The Chew to make these vegetable parchment paper packets.  His version included varying types of in-season summer veggies and the addition of some country ham cubes.  I wanted to keep my version meat-free to be served as a side dish on Father's Day with some citrus-marinated grilled pork chops.  (I am looking forward, however, to trying this recipe with the addition of the ham next time.)
The beauty of this recipe is that you can choose for inclusion any veggies, herbs, seasonings and even meat (ham or sausage would work best) that you desire or have on hand.  Listed below is what we used, but other veggies (zucchini, yellow squash, green beans or broccoli) would work excellent in this recipe.  Choose whatever herbs - fresh or dried - that you like, too.  A little white wine is called for in the recipe to be splashed on top of the veggies just prior to sealing up the packets, but I would guess that a little stock could be substituted if you don't like to utilize wine in your cooking.
This really is just a technique or method of cooking that can be adapted to your liking.  In-season vegetables will work best, but you can really utilize any that you prefer or think would marry well together.
Yields 4 servings.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Puff Pastry Cheesy Sausage Bites with Honey Mustard Sauce

You'll need just seven ingredients to throw together these little sausage bites ... and that includes the dipping sauce, as well.  Score!  Better yet - I think I was only in the kitchen for about ten minutes to prep these little babies before popping them into the oven.

What perfect party fare!  These would, also, be excellent snacks for a game day gathering or an at-home movie night!

Yields 16 - 18 bites.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

"Veggie Overload" Pasta Salad

I am in love with this pasta salad!

I've lessened the amount of pasta I would, typically, use for pasta salad from sixteen ounces to ten ounces, but have amped up the amount of veggies in order to make this a little more full of the "healthful, good stuff."

I have to admit that I normally "cheat" when making pasta salad by utilizing a store-bought, good-quality Italian dressing.  I found a pasta salad recipe by Jamie Deen recently that got me excited about doing my pasta salad a little differently this time around.  He adds in his carrots and broccoli to the boiling water during the last couple of minutes of cooking the pasta.  The veggies still stay crisp, but aren't as "harsh" to the palette.  I was, also, intrigued by his dressing.  I altered a few things and came up with something that I am crazy about.  He uses red wine vinegar in his dressing, but I chose to use balsamic vinegar (highly recommended).  (I have provided the amounts for either.)  The dressing begins as a vinaigrette, but the addition of a little mayo brings about a smooth, creamy texture that beautifully coats the ingredients.

What I enjoy, too, about most-any pasta salad is that you can use any types of vegetables that you prefer or have on hand.  Below is what we love in our pasta salad.  For example, I like the combination of both fresh tomatoes and sun-dried.  (Leave out the sun-dried if you don't care for them or if you don't happen to have any on hand, but I truly believe that they help "make" this dish.)  We like peas in our version, but Jamie uses edamame.

Serves 6 - 8.

Saturday, June 08, 2013

Peanut Chocolate Chip Larabar Balls

I just recently began following a blog that is all about a family's journey into healthy food and lifestyle choices.  My Whole Food Life is a beautiful and inspirational site.  The blog author, Melissa, really caught my attention and sucked me in with her many posts on homemade versions of Larabars.  (Her Coconut Cream version sounds amazing, too!)  I immediately began following her on Facebook so that I could keep up with all of her future posts surrounding healthier foods and "clean" eating.

This recipe uses just three ingredients (not counting the salt and water).  I was inspired by her bar version, but turned mine into little bite-size balls that would be easier to snack on while on the go (hello, kids' baseball season).  This is a super healthful snack to have on hand ... and you'll be happy knowing you are eating (and feeding those you love) something unprocessed and free of all of the yucky stuff found in most supermarket snack food.

Bring together peanuts and a little salt in a food processor, then pulse in whole dates (and a little water).  Stir in the chocolate chips (I used carob ones) and form into balls.  And, there ya have it ... a super healthy snack that is way less expensive than store-bought Larabars.  (For those curious ... I used around five dollars worth of ingredients to make 34 snack-size balls.)  If you prefer these in bar-form, My Whole Food Life has instructions for shaping the mix into a pan ... I believe you'll get about 9 square-shaped "bars" going that route.  (At around $1.50 per bar in the store, you'll be saving a ton by making these from-scratch at home.)

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

Homemade Slow Cooker Chicken Stock

I make chicken stock usually every couple of weeks.  I have turned to making it in the slow cooker because I can toss everything in and not have to "babysit" it.  What I like doing is allowing it to cook overnight while I sleep, but this can be done throughout the course of the daytime while you go about your daily tasks or head off to work, too.

There's a few things you should consider when making homemade stock or broth.  First, you can use either a leftover chicken carcass (from a roasted or rotisserie chicken) or you can use raw chicken (whole or in pieces).  Depending on what you use, there will be subtle differences in the depth, flavor and color of your broth/stock.  But, either yields a delicious liquid that will result in a better quality product that store-bought.  If using raw chicken, I recommend buying inexpensive cuts when they are on sale.  Wings, thighs and legs work great.  Save the breasts for your favorite chicken recipes.

There are some who have clear (yet often differing) opinions and definitions of the differences between stock and broth.  The differences can encompass distinct variables such as whether you use the bones/carcass from already-cooked meat or whether you start from raw meat, for example.  The Cooking Geek offers some insight into the differences between stock and broth.  Call it what you'd like, but making your own at home is simple, economical and darn tasty!

I recommend not salting your stock during the cooking process since you never usually know what you'll be using it for in the future.  Salt later when utilizing the stock in a recipe.  If you do choose to salt the stock, do so sparingly.  Also, unless you have whole peppercorns on hand, I do not recommend adding ground black pepper during the cooking process.  Doing so can discolor your liquid.  Add later.

If I make or buy a whole rotisserie/roasted chicken, I throw what remains of the carcass into the freezer in a zip-top plastic bag for making stock at a later time.