Tag Archives: onions

Slow Cooker Caramelized Onions and Easy Weeknight Mini Pizzas

Mini Pizza with caramelized onions, artichoke hearts, and mozzarrella

Mini Pizza with caramelized onions, artichoke hearts, and mozzarrella



I recently completed another Skillshare class (Character Illustration from Concept to Final Artwork)!  I almost didn’t take this one because I felt character development is something I’m pretty capable of doing.  But it also has an Illustrator and Photoshop component, and I felt I can always learn more about creating digital art.  I’m really glad I did take it, because I was introduced to some key things that I will definitely use in my work — for example, importing layers into Photoshop from Illustrator (who knew!!?).  I don’t know if I will end up working exactly this way in the future, but going through the process was really valuable and a great learning experience!  And I did learn things I am using now that I didn’t before. 🙂 Here is my work process for this assignment: I first did sketches of pirates and chose a final one to take to final: roughs

This is the one I decided to work with.

This is the one I decided to work with.

This is my pirate after I drew every shape in Illustrator.  it was WAY tedious!

This is my pirate after I drew every shape in Illustrator. it was WAY tedious!

This is the pirate after rendering it in Photoshop -- I realm I am a lot more comfortable in!

This is the pirate after rendering it in Photoshop — a realm I am a lot more comfortable in!

This is a full illustration incorporating the character.  I will use this as a promotional piece.  I used a lot of techniques I learned in the Skillshare class, so I'm really happy I took it.

This is a full illustration incorporating the character. I will use this as a promotional piece with my artist rep. I used a lot of techniques I learned in the Skillshare class, so I’m really happy I took the class!

With these various projects going on, the slow cooker has been my friend.

My bestie!

My bestie!

Our favorite dish is Slow Cooker Pulled Pork.  It’s so great to throw everything in the cooker and forget about it.   In 6-8 hours, you’ll have tender, tasty meat. Ooey and gooey, and yummy I tend to avoid chicken in the slow cooker, unless it’s dark meat though.  White meat tends to dry out. Recently, I knew I wanted to saute some onions for easy Mini Pizzas I was planning for a quickie dinner.  That morning, I had the brainstorm of throwing some sliced onions in the slow cooker and letting it cook all afternoon while I was out.  That cut down on about 20 minutes of sauteing later in the evening– 20 minutes of precious time I could be working!  I just used one onion and drizzled it with some olive oil.  It cooked on low for 4 hours.  But next time, I will buy a bag of onions and a bunch at one time.  This might take closer to 6 hours to cook. onions 2
You end up with soft, sweet, meltingly tender onions.  They can be store in the refrigerator and used throughout the week in omelets, fritattas, quesadillas, burritos… I’ve even put them on my salads.  They are soo good!

For this batch, though, I put them on our mini pizzas for a FAST week night meal!

How about you all– what are some slow cooker recipes you can’t live without that make life easier?

onions 1

Slow Cooker Caramelized Onions

Some onions, sliced vertically in to 1/4 inch slices

Drizzle of olive oil to coat

Pinch of kosher salt

1.  Put sliced onions in slow cooker and drizzle with olive oil.  Season with salt.  Stir.
2.  Cook on low for about 4-6 hours.

pizza 2

Mini Pizzas

Mini or Regular sized whole wheat pitas

Your favorite marinara sauce (or homemade!)

Shredded cheese

Slow cooker onions

Chopped artichoke hearts

Any other topping you would like!

1.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (I use our toaster oven).

2. Spoon some sauce on each of the pitas.  Top with toppings.

3.  Cook in oven about 8-10 minutes depending on how crunchy you like it (place directly on rack).

4.  Slice into wedges and eat! 🙂

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25 Comments

Filed under Art Related, Dinner, Vegan, Vegetables, Vegetarian

Valentine’s Day Steak Sandwich

Steak Sandwich with Cheese and Onions

Steak Sandwich with Cheese and Onions

 

Tomorrow’s V-day will be a family affair here on Shelter Island.  It’s a winter wonderland today, so we are all hunkered down in coziness preparing to stay inside for awhile.  This morning, though, J and I played in the snow and rain (unfortunately the snow turned to rain pretty quickly) until we were soaking wet.

Soggy Jamie

Soggy Jamie

He had an early Valentine’s day and exchanged gifts with his friend before we came out.  It was very sweet because it was the first time he ever did this before.  His card to her expressly said, “This is not a Valentine’s gift”  — very romantic, no?  Luckily she knows him well and was not offended in the slightest.

I did this piece, inspired by them (however not shown to them!) as a sample of older kids for my rep, Chris Tugeau– I have a gaping hole in my portfolio in this area, as all of my books are for the very young.  I think I would do it differently now– I’m not sure I like the crisp lines…  But it was fun, and it illustrates perfectly their relationship:

Ipad and Nexus tablet users

Ipad and Nexus tablet users          Copyright Melissa Iwai 2014

The Steak Sandwich recipe is based on this NY Time’s recipe for Italian Peppery Steak.  I don’t use as much pepper, because J doesn’t like it, and no rosemary, because D doesn’t like it.  It is all done in the oven and is so easy, because the most time consuming part is just waiting for the meat to marinate and preheating the oven!  I cut our meat thin and layered it with havarti and sauteed onions and used a baguette to make delicious steak sandwiches.

My hand lettering assignment that I did for Mary Kate McDevitt’s Skill Share Lettering class was the inspiration. 🙂  (By the way, they are having a Presidents’ Day sale there for 25% off — use code PRESIDENT — also if you want to sign up for a class, email me, and I will refer you for $10 off — no I do not work for them, I just love their classes!)

This is a Cervantes quote which I hand lettered and illustrated

This is a Cervantes quote which I hand lettered and illustrated

Another art related venture is that the bunny card and wrapping paper design from the last post is now in a Valentine’s Day Challenge Contest.

Remember these guys:
cardwrapping paperex

Please do me a favor and vote for my design here!  (I’m choice E)  Thanks, people! 🙂

Here is the recipe for the sandwich:

front of steak sandwich

Steak Sandwich

For Steak:

About 2 pounds flank steak (or other steak — I’ve used London Broil before)

Kosher Salt

Ground Pepper

Couple cloves of garlic, thinly sliced

5 tablespoons olive oil, divided

For Sandwich:

Cooked steak

Sliced onions

Cheese

Baguette, cut in half vertically and then horizontally into sandwich sizes

  1. Lay flank steak on a baking sheet or plate and season on both sides with salt and pepper. You may have to cut the steak in half so it will fit.  Sprinkle meat evenly with garlic slices. Drizzle with 4 tablespoons olive oil, then massage meat with your hands, and press garlic into its surface. Leave at room temperature for an hour (or refrigerate for several hours and bring to room temperature before proceeding).
  2.  30 minutes after prepping meat, turn on oven to 450 degrees. Place a cast iron skillet large enough to hold the steak (or a heavy roasting pan) on the upper rack. Let skillet heat for at least 30 minutes.  You may have to cook steak in two batches if your skillet is not large enough.
  3. While skillet is heating in oven, saute onions in 1 tablespoon olive oil on the stove until softened.  Set aside.
  4. Place flank steak in the oven heated cast iron pan and return to oven. After 5 minutes, flip the steak (it should be well browned on the bottom) and cook just until juices appear on surface of steak, 3 to 4 minutes more for medium-rare meat. Remove steak and let rest on a carving board for 10 minutes.  Continue to do the same with the other piece of meat if you had to cut it into two pieces.
  5. Cut meat on a diagonal, against grain, into thin slices. Arrange sliced meat on the bottom slice of a baguette.  Top with sauteed onions and havarti and top slice of baguette.  Return to hot oven and warm until cheese melts, about 3-5 minutes.
YIELD
4 to 6 servings

22 Comments

Filed under Art Related, Beef

Weight Watchers 50th Anniversary Cookbook

72 weight watchers

I’m embarrassed that I have had this cookbook and have been meaning to post a review of it FOREVER.  The nice folks at Saint Martin’s Press sent it to me, and it’s a fantastic cookbook.  The more I use it, the more I love it. I’ve never done Weight Watchers, but I know a lot of people who have with great success.  Even if you are not dieting or involved in Weight Watchers, though, this this is a great cookbook to have in your library.  The recipes are not all about using fat-free ingredients, and shunning food groups, etc.  The focus is on fresh ingredients and healthy cooking tips.

Lemon Basil Three Bean Salad

Lemon Basil Three Bean Salad

There is a blurb about each recipe (a lot are favorites that have been updated).   Servings and portion sizes, and nutritional information with PointsPlus points (if you are following the Weight Watchers 360 program) are also included with the recipes.  Recipes that are vegetarian and/or under 20 minutes to prepare are noted. The recipes are very easy to follow, the photography beautiful, but best of all, the dishes are wonderful.  I have made the Lemon Basil Three Bean Salad about four or five times.  It is my new go to side dish for grilling or having a get together (see recipe below).

Pork Chops with Onion Gravy

Pork Chops with Onion Gravy

I made the Pork Chops with Onion Gravy last night, and it was AMAZING.  The cool thing about it is that you cook the onions in chicken broth, rather than sauteing them in a lot of oil and butter (a la The Barefoot Contessa), but you don’t sacrifice flavor at all.  So you are only using 1 teaspoon of olive oil for the whole dish.  I will definitely make this again.  It is key that you use bone-in pork chops so they stay moist, and this is noted in the recipe.

Huevos Rancheros in Tortilla Cups

Huevos Rancheros in Tortilla Cups

Another recipe I absolutely love is the Huevos Rancheros in Tortilla Cups.  I make this for myself all the time now. I’m the only one who likes spicy foods, so I just make a single portion using our toaster oven.  I love the idea of making the cups using an inverted ramekin or muffin tin.  It works like a charm. And I love baked eggs and Mexican food, so this is one of my favorites.

There are a lot of really simple recipes that I’ve tried out that I am not reviewing here, but that I use regularly and vary to my liking.  Omelettes for Two (you use 2 large eggs and 3 whites),  Canadian Bacon-Cheddar Frittata, Potato Leek Soup, Kale Chips,  Banana “Ice Cream”, Oven Fried Fish and Chips, Vegetable Quesadillas, to name a few.

I chose to highlight these three because they were all very good, and I learned something from them that I think is valuable and that I’ll incorporate into other recipes (e.g. Including edamame in bean salad, and using lemon juice and zest, rather than vinegar; making tortilla cups; and cooking a pile of onions and softening them in chicken broth).

And there are  TON of recipes I want to try out in the future, like:  Bubble Bread with Herbs and Sun Dried Tomatoes, Southwestern Chicken Vegetable Soup, Mexican Chicken Wraps, Salisbury Steak with Mushroom Gravy, Individual Beef Wellingtons, Boston Cream Pie.  These are just a handful of them.  If I were to wait until I made everything, photographed the dishes, wrote about them, and posted about it, this review would take even longer than it has to get out!

Please enjoy these three dishes from Weight Watchers 50th Anniversary Cookbook, and buy the book for more great healthy and delicious recipes!

Lemon Basil Three-Bean Salad

From The Weight Watchers 50th Anniversary Cookbook

Serves 6

20 Min or Less

Vegetarian

1 teaspoon grated lemon zest

1 ½ tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

½ teaspoon salt

Freshly ground pepper

1 (15-ounce) can small white, rinsed and drained

2/3 cup cooked shelled green soybeans (edamame)

1/3 sweet onion, finely diced

1/3 red bell pepper, finely diced

5 large basil leaves, thinly sliced

Combine the lemon zest, lemon juice, oil, salt, and ground pepper in a medium bowl.  Add the black beans, white beans, soybeans, onion, bell pepper, and basil; toss to coat evenly.  Serve at once, or cover and refrigerate for up to 2 days.

Per Serving (3/4 cup):  160 Cal, 3 g Total Fat, 0 g Sat Fat, 0 mg Chol, 427 mg Sod, 26g Carb, 8 g Fib, 9g Prot, 94 mg Calc.
PointsPlus value: 4

bean salad

Skillet Pork Chops with Onion Gravy

From Weight Watchers 50th Anniversary Cookbook

Serves 6

4 (6-ounce) bone-in pork loin chops, trimmed

½ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon ground pepper

1 teaspoon olive oil

2 sweet onions, thinly sliced

1 ¼ cups reduced-sodium chicken broth

2 garlic cloves, minced

2 teaspoons all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon whole-grain Dijon mustard

1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme

1        Sprinkle the chops with the salt and pepper.  Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. (I used a cast iron one).  Swirl in the oil, add the chops and cook, turning occasionally, until browned, about 5 minutes.  Transfer to a plate.

2        Add the onions, ¼ cup of the broth, and the garlic to the skillet.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat and simmer, covered, stirring occasionally, until the onions are very tender, about 12-15 minutes.

3        Sprinkle the onions with the flour; cook, stirring constantly, 1 minute.  Add the remaining 1 cup broth, mustard, and thyme.  Bring to a boil, stirring until the sauce bubbles and thickens.  Return the chops and any accumulated juices to the skillet.  Reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, until the chops are heated through, 2-3 minutes.

Per Serving (1 chop with ¼ cup sauce):

253 Cal, 11 g Total Fat, 4g Sat Fat, 76 mg Chol, 420 g Sod, 9 g Carb, 2 g Fiber, 29g Prot, 30 mg Calc.

PointsPlus value: 6

Huevos Rancheros in Tortilla Cups

Serves 4

Vegetarian

4 (6-inch) corn tortillas

1 (14 ½-ounce) can diced tomatoes with green pepper, celery, and onion

1 (15-ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained

½ cup canned diced mild green chiles, drained

2-3 tablespoons mild peepper sauce, such as Frank’s Red Hot

¾ teaspoon ground cumin

3 tablespoons chopped cilantro

4 large eggs

¼ cup shredded reduced-fat cheddar cheese

  1. Place the oven rack in the center of the oven; preheat the oven to 425 F.  Lightly spray both sides of the tortillas with nonstick spray.  Place 4 inverted custard cups on a baking sheet, and drape a tortilla over each to give it a bowl shape.  (You may also use an inverted 12-cup muffin pan, placing the tortillas over alternate cups.)  Bake until the tortillas are crisped and lightly golden around the edges, 10 minutes.  Remove the tortillas and set them on a rack to cool.
  1. Combine the diced tomatoes, beans, chiles, pepper sauce, cumin, and 2 tablespoons of the cilantro in an ovenproof skillet.  Bring to a boil over medium heat, reduce the heat to low, and simmer until the flavors are blended, 4 minutes.  Break the eggs one at a time, on top of the sauce, spacing them evenly apart.
  1. Immediately place the pan in the oven and bake until the eggs are almost set, 6-8 minutes.  Sprinkle the cheese on top of the eggs and bake until melted, 1 minute.  to serve, place the tortilla cups on serving plates and spoon the eggs and sauce into the tortilla cups.  Garnish with the remaining tablespoon of chopped cilantro and serve immediately.

Per Serving  (1 filled tortilla cup):  289 Cal, 8g Total fat, 3 g Sat Fat, 216 mg Chol, 840 Sod, 40g, Carb, 8 g fib, 17g Prot, 200 mg Calc.

PointsPlus value:  7

11 Comments

Filed under Breakfast, Eggs, Lunch, Pork, Sides

Enchilada Remix

close up enchilada

Oh my gosh, people, I do believe, I am back!  Thank you all so much for your words of support and encouragement!  It’s been a long haul…

In my last post, I mentioned a wonderful way to cook chicken and make delicious broth at the same time.  This is one of the meals I made with the fruits of those labors:  Chicken Enchiladas.  So easy and yummy.  I did a post a couple of years back on Chicken Enchiladas that I made with my mom (I grew up with this dish), and I think I’ve improved it (sorry, mom!)!  My friend, Judy, of Bebe Loves Okazu (check out her beautiful, beautiful blog!) had mentioned she had made it but sauteed the onions.  Also, she wanted a thicker sauce.  I was keeping this in mind when I redid this recipe.  I also streamlined it a bit and instead of spraying and softening the tortillas in the oven, I just covered 6 at a time with a damp paper towel and heated in the microwave.

Sauteing the onions gave the dish a sweeter, milder flavor, and made the sauce tastier.  I reduced the amount of broth and increased the tomato sauce, which made the resulting sauce thicker — perfect for serving at the table.

Hope all of you have a wonderful Saint Patrick’s Day this Sunday!  I plan to relax with my family and just enjoy being. 🙂  Here is an image I did for the occasion with the same kids from Valentine’s Day.

May good luck flow your way!

May good luck flow your way!

Chicken Enchiladas (revised)

1 medium onion, diced

2 teaspoons olive oil

1 15 oz. can tomato sauce

3 cups chicken broth

1 tablespoon (or to taste) chili powder

kosher salt to taste

12 corn tortillas

About 4 cups shredded cooked chicken

About 8 oz. or more (to taste) shredded Monterey Jack cheese

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

2.  Saute diced onion in oil on stove in a large pot.

3.  When onions are softened and translucent, transfer about 80% of them to a bowl and set aside.  To the remaining cooked onions in pot add tomato sauce, chicken broth, chili powder, and salt to taste.  Bring to a simmer and cook for about 20 minutes, until thickened.

4.  Heat 6 tortillas at a time, covering with a damp paper towel, in the microwave for 45- 50 seconds, until warm and pliable.

5.  Pour some sauce into a 9-inch by 13-inch baking pan to coat bottom.  Lay one of the warmed tortillas in dish and coat both sides with sauce.  Then fill with  a handful of chicken, sprinkle of sauteed onions, and a bit of shredded cheese.  Roll up into a tube seam-side down.  Continue with five more warmed tortillas.  Then warm the remaining 6 tortillas and fill these in the dish, adding sauce to coat, as needed.  For the last two enchiladas, you may want to coat, fill and roll in another dish because there isn’t much space left.  I find that doing the bulk of the filling and rolling in the backing dish itself helpful though, because you don’t have to worry about the tortilla breaking and spilling mid-transfer!

6.  When all twelve enchiladas are arranged in baking dish, cover with cooked sauce, and sprinkle with remaining shredded cheese.  Cover with aluminum foil and bake for about 20-25 minutes.  Alternatively, you could also refrigerate up to this time and bake later.  We did this, and baked it for about 30 minutes.

Makes 12 enchiladas.  Serve with extra sauce.

enchilada

9 Comments

Filed under chicken, Dinner, Uncategorized

Slow Cooker Pork Shoulder

One of the many quick uses for slow cooked pork—Cheesy pork quesadilla. Mmm.

Here’s another — pork burger with cheese and grilled onions.

If you want to economize and save time, try investing in a slow cooker.   It’s one of the best appliances I’ve ever bought — and cheap too!  I think it was $20-something at Target.

I’ll be the first to admit that I haven’t taken full advantage of it — there are so many things you can make with one!   Our favorite though is  slow cooker barbecue pork shoulder.  When pork shoulder goes on sale, it is one of the cheapest cuts of meat at $.99/lb. in our area.  I buy a 4-pounder, slow cook it, and freeze half of it — it makes so much.

The meat becomes so tender and tasty, and it can easily be used in quesadillas, burritos, burgers, on top of pizzas.  It is also good by itself with some of the sauce and rice or noodles.  I often eat it as is with my cauliflower “rice”.
To prep the pork shoulder, I remove the huge slab of skin and fat that I know some people would cringe to hear that I discard.  You can roast the skin to make cracklings, and save the rendered fat, but it’s not my kind of thing. Here’s a great overview if you want to try it out though!

That is a lot of skin for pork “crackling” I don’t plan on making…

Then you just throw the pork in the slow cooker and top with onions and some ketchup, tomato paste, brown sugar, cider vinegar, and Worcestershire sauce.  I forgot the brown sugar the last time, and it came out fine. You might feel you don’t even need it.  To make your life even easier, you could also just buy a bottle of your favorite barbecue sauce and throw that in instead.  You just have to weigh your priorities — a little extra time to measure ingredients, or a little extra money for the bottled stuff. Either way, this is a very forgiving easy way to cook a lot of tasty meat without much effort!

*By the way, if you are in the Brooklyn area this weekend, come check out Greenlight Bookstore in Fort Greene. It is a fantastic independent book store and they have a great selection of books and events.  Denis and I will be reading there Saturday, September 22, at 11 am.  We’d love to see you if you can make it!*

Slow Cooker Pulled Pork

4 lbs. bone-in pork shoulder, fat and skin removed

2 medium onions, sliced vertically

1/2 cup ketchup

¼ cup tomato paste

¼ cup brown sugar (optional)

¼ cup cider vinegar

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

  1. Cut onion in half lengthwise, and then cut into half round slices.
  2. Place pork in slow cooker pot, then sprinkle onions on top.  Pour rest of ingredients over meat and onions.  Cook at low heat for 8 hours.
  3. Remove bone and discard.  Shred meat with forks.  Serve with sauce.

Note:  I use some of the meat the day of cooking.  Then the next day after it has been in the refrigerator, I remove the excess oil at the top and divide into smaller containers and freeze the meat and sauce for a quick week night dinner later on.

33 Comments

Filed under Dinner, Pork