I absolutely love cooking with a crock-pot, especially now that the weather is cooler. Yes, it is for the most part effortless, but there is another reason I love the crock-pot. I love to walk into the house and be engulfed in aromas of food that's been cooking all day. Sometimes I will put something in the crock-pot and go do some chores outside just so I can walk back in and see if it smells good yet. It’s like I have my very own chef that has been working so hard on dinner all day and has it ready at the exact time that I’m hungry and ready to eat. You get the point.
I also love crock-pots because you really can’t mess up… for the most part. Yes, I have overcooked things, but they were fixable, and when you slap that “caramelized coating” description on, it goes from burnt to fancy gourmet in less than 15 seconds.
Garlic. So potent it's borderline amazing because not only can it spice up a boring soup, but it can also ward off vampires. Amazing. I have yet to find a garlic fest out here in the Midwest, but back home there is a garlic festival every year. Food with garlic, art made out of garlic and even garlic ice cream. The ice cream is something I still have yet to try and it’s not really on my top ten things to do just yet. I remember walking the festivals and craft fairs and always seeing the really pretty garlic wreaths and hanging braids. My favorites were always the braids and wreaths that had other pretty herbs woven into the garlic. We always had one hanging on the door in the kitchen for two reasons; a healthy welcome to visitors and easy access when cooking.
Roasting garlic gives the garlic such a nice, earthy taste and takes out that potent garlic taste that leaves it’s trace for hours. It turns a nice brown color and is soft enough to smash into butter for amazing garlic butter. Roasted garlic freezes really well – but be careful. Preserving in oil can lead to botulism and that is really dangerous. It is literally as easy as 1, 2, 3 and makes the house smell absolutely amazing while it is roasting.
Salem Massachusetts is one of my favorite places in New England and is just a quick ferry ride from Boston. When I was little and we lived in Boston, my parents took day trips to the little town that is packed with history. Fall in New England is known for the vibrant colors and amazing views, but Salem offers even more. I love boats and I love the sea with all of that salty air washing over you. Hey, one of my nicknames is Salty, no lie! I love history, cobblestone streets and hidden passageways in very old houses and imagining the life of the pioneers before me. How difficult their lives must have been and how ‘simple living’ now a days was necessity to live in those days. Salem offers you an amazing opportunity to learn about our ancestors, the pioneers that paved the way and how fear can create chaos with even the ones you love.
A few years ago before moving to the Midwest, a friend and I visited Salem and marked out all of the places we wanted to go and see. We camped on Winter Island where there is one road in and the same road out with the gate being locked at 10pm. As soon as you get to the island, you remember why you are choosing to camp in October in the wicked cold. The views are amazing and if you are lucky to get one of the tent sites that is closer to the water you literally wake up to the slap of salty air in your face with the ocean right outside your zipped door.
When I was younger I was a noodles and butter kid. No red sauce, spaghetti sauce or marinara. But I loved the sauce my grandmother made special for stuffed peppers, and still love it. I’m pretty weird when it comes to tomatoes; I love them and eat them every day but they have to be raw. I love tomato sandwiches made with fresh slicing tomatoes from the garden, cherry tomatoes that are usually popped in my mouth from the vine before making it inside and of course caprese salad. Stewed tomatoes or even chunky tomato sauces are not my favorite.
Since moving from New England, it has come to my attention pretty quickly that I can’t just snag a few jars of homemade spaghetti sauce from my mom’s house. That means, I need to make my own sauce and can it successfully. The hubs is a very meat and potatoes guy, and as much as I try, he is not a vegetable guy. I’m constantly trying to integrate veggies into recipes very subtly, but he always sniffs them out. The one thing I can get away with putting tons of garlic, onions and peppers in is homemade red sauce, as long it is pureed so smooth he can’t tell what is in the sauce.
I find it amusing that there are so many solutions and wonder rinses out on the shelves to clean produce. Let’s face it; in this day and age, what is on the outside of the produce is not the main concern. Genetically modified produce cannot be rinsed clean; therefore, these expensive vegetables baths are useless… and expensive!
I’m not going to lecture and start talking about what you should ban and what you should eat. Nope. But I will tell you this: local produce grown for flavor and not travel tastes a millions times better. The tomatoes are wicked sweet, the radishes are a little crisper and the corn is, well… amazing. It is allowed to grow to its fullest potential as it should on the vine as opposed to on a truck that still needs to travel 1000 plus miles.