The beaten path is overrated

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Stop the Presses: Waffle Iron Sandwiches

Who needs a panini press when you have a waffle iron?  I heard about using the waffle iron somewhere or another quite some time ago and decided to give it a spin for grilled ham and cheese sandwiches.  It worked like a charm.  Mr. G enjoyed that it gave the sandwich more "grilled surface."  So, you just butter or spray your waffle iron, put the first slice of bread in, fillings, then second slice of bread and close the lid.
I used ham and swiss, but the possibilities are almost endless.  Here are some ideas:
  • Italian or french bread, fresh mozzarella, basil, tomato, maybe some prosciutto
  • tuna salad, cheese, and chutney
  • fancy grilled cheese
    • use Gouda, Manchego, Jarlsberg, spreadable cheese like Boursin...etc.
    • add-ons: roasted vegetables like red peppers, asparagus, red onion, and butternut squash, walnuts, apple or pear slices, carmelized onions, dried fruit, hot pepper or other jams 
  • for a dessert, spread your bread with Nutella
Don't overfill or you'll end up with a lot of oozing out the sides!

Monday, September 5, 2011

A Tale of Two Crostinis: Peach and Chutney

Isn't summer coming to a close the best and worst of times?  (Or was Styx right?  The best of times are when I'm alone with you and have nothing to do with seasons?)  It's hard to think about giving up warmth, sunshine, and swimming, but back to school, apple picking, changing leaves, and sleeping with the windows open have their own charms. 

Here I have two crostini recipes, an unusual one with peaches for the peak and end of summer times and an apple chutney version that is perfect for fall and winter times.  The peach crostini is easy and quick.  The chutney crostini is more time and labor intensive, unless you use a similar purchased chutney, which would also work well.  Both are not the worst things I've ever eaten.

Sliced baguette or ciabatta bread
Olive oil
Preheat oven to 450°F. Arrange bread slices on baking sheet and brush with olive oil. Bake until golden and crisp, about 8 minutes.  Also may be grilled instead of baked. I like it either way.

Peach, Prosciutto & Ricotta Crostini
from Bon Appetit
12 slices crostini
1 ripe peach
small container fresh ricotta (I used whole milk type)
Black pepper
4 thin slices of prosciutto (if you haven't checked this out before, prosciutto is an expensive Italian dry-cured version of ham, but the deli at my local Village Market carries this so I got what I needed for less than $2)

Halve, pit, peel, and thinly slice peach.   Spoon about 1 tablespoon ricotta onto each toast and sprinkle with fresh ground pepper. Tear prosciutto into feathery pieces and drape a few slices over ricotta on each. Drizzle each with honey and top with 1or 2 peach slices.

Crostini with Roasted Garlic, Goat Cheese and Apple Chutney
based on a recipe from the 128 Cafe in St Paul that was published in Bon Appetite

1/2 c (packed) golden brown sugar
6 T. rice vinegar
1 garlic clove, minced
3/4 t peeled fresh ginger
dash cayenne pepper
1 cinnamon stick
3/4 lb Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, cut into -inch pieces (about 2 cups)
1/2 cup golden raisins
1 1/2 t chopped fresh mint

Roasted garlic:
1 head garlic
1/4 c olive oil

12 to 16 slices crostini

6 ounces soft fresh goat cheese (such as Montrachet), room temperature

For chutney:  Stir sugar and vinegar in heavy large saucepan over medium heat until sugar dissolves. Add next 4 ingredients and simmer until mixture is syrupy and reduced to 1/2 cup, about 8 minutes. Mix in apples and raisins. Increase heat to high and boil until apples are tender, stirring frequently, about 10 minutes. Cool to room temperature. (Chutney can be made 3 days ahead; cover and refrigerate.) Mix in mint.

For roasted garlic:  Preheat oven to 350°F. Cut top 1/4 inch off head of garlic to expose cloves. Place garlic in small baking dish. Add oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper; toss to coat. Turn garlic cut side up. Cover tightly with aluminum foil. Bake until garlic skins are golden brown and cloves are tender, about 55 minutes. Cool. Squeeze garlic cloves from skins.

Spread each toast with roasted garlic; top with goat cheese and chutney.

If you need a third crostini, and who doesn't, whip out the ever-delicious tomato, fresh mozzerella, basil, and olive oil crostini. 

For those of you who are confused about the difference between crostini and bruschetta, according to Nancy Silverton from Food & Wine, both are Italian and toasted bread.  "Crostini translates to "little toasts" and generally refers to small pieces of bread that are baked. These toasts are then topped with a variety of ingredients like cheese, vegetables, meat, or seafood. Bruschetta, on the other hand, is a larger piece of bread that is cooked over coals or a grill. Bruschetta can be rubbed with garlic and is traditionally served freshly charred. Like crostini, bruschetta can be topped with a wide range of items."  So call it what you want and eat it like you like it.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

White Peach Sangria

Here at the end of the summer party weekend is a recipe for the best dang white sangria I've ever had.  Red is usually my wine style the rest of the year, but summertime is perfect for white wine with a little sparkle or even better, some fruit and a little extra booze.  This is good enough to make in the dead of winter.

White Peach Sangria, from Allrecipes
1 bottle dry white wine
3/4 c peach flavored vodka
6 T frozen lemonade concentrate, thawed
1/4 c white sugar
1 lb or so of fruit of your choice--halved grapes, peach slices (fresh or thawed frozen), raspberries, etc.
club soda

1.In a large pitcher, combine white wine, peach vodka, lemonade concentrate, and sugar. Stir until sugar is dissolved. Add fruit. 
2.Refrigerate sangria until well chilled, at least 2 hours, or overnight to blend flavors.  Beware that these go down easily since they are not too sweet.  So serve with several splashes of club soda to cut the alcohol content, plus add fizz.

Makes 6 glasses.  Cheers!

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Corn Corn Corn Quiche

This is a super quick and easy quiche recipe and my goodness is it tasty.  No cheese, no meat, just corn corn corn.  You could jazz it up with bacon, jalapeno, red pepper, but I love it as is.  Serve with a caprese salad (tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, basil, olive oil) and you have exquisite end-of-summer simplicity on a plate.  Yumma !

Corn Quiche (from Gourmet magazine)
3 eggs
1/2 small onion, coarsely chopped
1 T flour
1 T sugar
1 t salt
1 1/3 c half and half
3 T butter, melted
2 ears of fresh corn kernels (2 cups)
1 deep-dish frozen pie crust, thawed

Preheat oven to 375°F. Combine first 5 ingredients in processor; blend until onion is finely chopped. Add half and half and butter; process just until blended. Transfer to large bowl. Mix in corn. Pour into crust. Bake until filling is slightly puffed and top is golden, about 50 minutes.

Note:  Once corn season has passed, you can substitute 2 cups frozen corn (thawed) for the fresh corn.  Overachievers can make their own crusts.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Layered Cobb Salad and Fancy Burgers, Color Him Blue

A dish with the combination of blue cheese and bacon will make Mr. G's heart sing and causes him to gaze adoringly at me.  I've been thinking I'm ripe for an adoring gaze, so this holiday weekend I'm making two different meals featuring these tasty ingredients. 

The first one isn't really a recipe.  I grill burgers and top them with bacon, caramelized onions, and blue cheese.  The finishing touch is a toasted bun.  Caramelizing onions just amounts to frying them in a bit of olive or other oil on low for a good 45 minutes to an hour.  So today I fried a package of thick cut bacon and used half for the salad recipe below and will use the other half for burgers tomorrow.

The Cobb Salad recipe is adapted from a Gourmet magazine recipe.  You could also add chicken and you could use whatever kind of bottled dressing sounds good instead of making dressing from scratch.  I think the original Cobb Salad was served with a French dressing.  Mr. G came through with an adoring gaze after eating this and said, "Either I'm really hungry or this is the best salad I've ever tasted."

Layered Cobb Salad
Makes 4 main dish servings.
For dressing:
3 T red wine vinegar
1 T lemon juice
2 t Dijon mustard
1 small garlic clove, minced
1/2 t salt
1/2 t sugar
1/4 t black pepper
1/2 c extra-virgin olive oil

For salad:
2 avocados
1 small head Boston lettuce, torn into pieces (could use romaine or any other lettuce)
1 c iceberg lettuce, sliced thinly
5 thick cut bacon slices, cooked until crisp, drained, and finely chopped
3 Roma tomatoes, seeded and chopped
3 oz Roquefort cheese (or other blue) crumbled (about 1/2 c)
3 hard-boiled large eggs
2 T finely chopped fresh chives

Dressing preparation:
Whisk together all dressing ingredients except oil in a bowl, then add oil in a slow stream, whisking until emulsified.

Make salad:
For perfect hard-boiled eggs (I think I got this from from Martha Stewart):  Start eggs in cold water, the water covering by about 1".  Bring to a boil.  Shut off and cover for 12 minutes.  Put eggs in cold water to stop the cooking and to cool.  Chop egg whites and set aside  yolks.

Halve, pit, and peel avocados, then cut into 1/2-inch cubes.  Dice tomatoes. 

Spread lettuce over bottom of a 6- to 8-quart glass bowl. Sprinkle bacon over, then continue layering with tomatoes, cheese, avocados, eggs (breaking up yolks and sprinkling over),and chives.

Use tongs or other utensil to serve salad onto plates.  Add salad dressing.  Note:  if all the salad will be eaten immediately, you could dress the salad in the bowl.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Ever So Slightly Spicy Sesame Chicken Pita Sandwiches

This is one more in the small list of recipes that please everyone in the household, so I'm happy to add it to my repertoire. I was looking for something that would be good as leftovers and the recipe this started from caught my eye on the Country Living magazine website.  The chicken was very moist and tender.  Pita sandwiches are a nice change of pace for us, but the breasts could also be served as is with rice or another side or it could be made into a full-blown salad.  It makes about 8 sandwiches.

2 lbs boneless chicken breasts
1 t salt
1/2 t black pepper
2 T butter, cut into small pieces
3/4 c orange marmalade
3 T sesame oil
3 T soy sauce
1 t Frank's hot sauce (I put that s*t on everything--is it just me or are those ads disturbing?  Add more hot sauce or cayenne pepper if you want some actual heat.  This was pretty tame.)
1 t sesame seeds
2 oranges
1 1/2 c sugar pea pods
thinly sliced lettuce
4 large pocket-style pitas, halved

Heat oven to 400 degrees and start a large pot of water to boil.

Season the chicken on all sides with the salt and pepper and place in a baking dish. Dot the top of the chicken with the butter and place in the oven on the center rack. Roast for 10 minutes.

Mix the marmalade, sesame oil, soy sauce, hot sauce, and optional cayenne pepper together in a small bowl and use it to baste the chicken frequently until the meat reaches 167 degrees, about 20 more minutes.

Boil the sugar snap peas for about 30 seconds. Drain; rinse under cold water and drain again.
Adjust oven to broil, sprinkle the sesame seeds over the chicken and broil until seeds are toasted, about 1 minute.

Remove the breasts from the oven and let rest for 15 minutes.

Bring the basting sauce to a boil and cook for 1 minute. Remove from the heat and let stand.

Cut the skin and pith from the oranges and slice into 1/4-inch-thick rounds. Remove any seeds.

After chicken has rested, slice the chicken and place equal amounts of it, the oranges, pea pods and shredded lettuce inside the pitas. Drizzle each sandwich with the boiled sauce.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Caesar Dip with Crudite and Crouton Sticks

We spent some time in the basement yesterday afternoon due to tornado and thunderstorm warnings.  It seems like weather as usual for Memorial Day weekend, nearly always rainy and cold or both. But after the pummeling we took from winter, and our mediocre and rainy spring, I'm going to be optimistic that summer and blue skies are just around the corner.

Caesar salad was invented in Tijuana on the fourth of July, the height of summer.  So here, just in time for the beginning of summer, is a yummy dip that is great for backyard barbecues or any other parties all year long.  I've made it several times and it's been a hit.  The novelty of a non-ranch vegetable dip plus the crouton sticks make it fun.

From Bon Appetit
Caesar Dip
1 c mayonnaise
1/2 c sour cream
1/2 c freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 T fresh lemon juice
1 garlic clove, pressed
1 anchovy fillet, mashed (OR 1 t anchovy paste OR 1 t Worcestershire sauce)
Serve with assorted fresh vegetables (blanched pea pods are really good with this) and crouton sticks, recipe follows.

Crouton Sticks
1 loaf unsliced sourdough bread (can substitute other bread types
2 T olive oil
1 garlic clove, smashed and chopped finely
Slice the bread into sticks approximately 1"x1"x 4". Microwave the olive oil and garlic for 30 seconds.  Toss the sourdough bread with the olive oil.
Spread the bread sticks on a baking sheet.  Bake at 400°F for 20 to 25 minutes.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Tex Mex Chili with Butternut Squash

This is probably better suited as a fall or winter recipe, but it can all be done on the stove top, and I am still finding butternut squash at the grocery store.  I bought the squash with the intention of making my favorite Barefoot Contessa couscous recipe, but I get a lot of push back on the idea of couscous around here.  I caved and made something more son and husband-pleasing.

The guys loved this chili enough to eat two helpings.  No one complained about the butternut squash and I really enjoyed the sweetness and texture it added.  The chipotle seasoning cubes are in a little box like bouillon cubes and I found them in the Mexican section at Cub Foods.  I was looking for an alternative to a can of chipotle peppers, most of which would go to waste.  Bingo!

The recipe is very loosely based on a Texas Beef Brisket Chili recipe from Bon Appetit, which contained no beans, ancho instead of chipotle, and lots of other variations.  Mainly I stole the idea of adding butternut squash and pureeing some seasonings.  Measurements are approximate.  Oh, and I meant to add frozen corn with the squash, but forgot.  Chili is one of those things you can do endless successful variations on, so this maybe next time.

I served this with blueberry muffins.  Weird combination, maybe a first thought, but once you go blueberry you might not go back. 

1 large onion, diced
6 garlic cloves, minced
2 to 3 lb beef chuck roast, cut into approx 1 1/2" cubes

Spice mix:
1 Knorr Chipotle Seasoning MiniCube
1 c water
1 c fresh cilanto leaves and stems
2 T chili powder
1 t cayenne pepper (optional if you want heat)
2 t salt
2 t cumin seeds
1 t cumin
1 t dried oregano
1 7-ounce can diced roasted green chiles
1 stalk celery, chopped into several pieces
6 baby carrots, chopped into smaller pieces

1 can Rotel (choose the level of heat you like)
1 large can whole tomatoes
1 large can tomato puree
1 bottle of beer
1 can garbanzo beans, rinsed
1 can chili beans with chili sauce (don't rinse)
1 can black beans, rinsed
1 peeled and seeded butternut squash, cut into 1" cubes

Sauté onion and garlic in large dutch oven or similar pot.  Add beef and brown.

In a blender or food processor puree the spice mix.

Add spice mix, tomatoes with juices, beer, beans. Stir.  Bring chili to simmer and cook 2 or more hours.

Add squash; stir to coat. Simmer until beef and squash are tender, about 45 minutes longer.

Season to taste with salt and pepper.   Serve with toppings of your choice, such as cheese, sour cream, guacamole.

This could be turned into an all day on low crockpot recipe, but the butternut squash would probably fall apart.  If you wanted the squash to stay intact, you could cook it in the microwave and add at the end.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Chinese Spaghetti with Asparagus

How do you trick children into eating something new?  Call it something that sounds like something they like!  And the boys and Mr. G did thoroughly enjoy this one.  It's a good use of the asparagus in season now.  I made rhubarb strawberry crisp for dessert, but that was yet another unsuccessful baking moment, so I won't post the recipe. 

This recipe is adapted from the April 2011 issue of Bon Appetit.  You could serve this with rice, but I mixed it with fine rice noodles so I could call it spaghetti.  I used the kind of curly noodles that cook in three minutes and look a lot like Ramen.

3 T soy sauce, divided
1 T saki or dry Sherry
2 t cornstarch
1 lb ground pork (or ground beef or turkey)
3 t sesame oil, divided
1 bunch asparagus, trimmed, cut on diagonal into 1/2 inch pieces
1 big handful snow peas, trimmed and also cut on diagonal (optional)
1 red jalapeno chile, minced
1 T minced fresh ginger
2 T oyster sauce (can be found in Asian section of most grocery stores)
1 t honey
2 green onions, thinly sliced on diagonal
salt and pepper

Whisk 1 T soy sauce, saki, and cornstarch in medium bowl.  Add pork, toss to blend.

Combine 2 T soy sauce, oyster sauce, and honey in a small bowl.

Heat 2 t oil in wok or deep skillet over high heat.  Add aspargus, peas, chile, and and ginger.  Stir fry until asparagus is crisp-tender, about 3 minutes.  Transfer asparagus mixture to a plate.

Add remaining 1 t oil to wok.  Add pork mixture and stiry-fry until browned, breaking up into small pieces.

Return asparagus mixture to wok.  Add oyster sauce mixture and stif fry.  Add water by tablespoonsful if dry, about 2 minutes. 

Add green onions; toss to incorporate.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Serve over fine rice noodles.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Crockpot Chipotle-esque Barbacoa Burritos

I love Chipotle's barbacoa burritos and now that I have somewhat picky children, I rarely make an appearance there.  So I googled and found a few different copycat recipes.  I settled on one and made a few modifications, including changing it to a crockpot recipe.  The end result was reasonably similar, but not exact.  It is good though and I'll make it again.  It is pretty spicy hot, and I think the heat level is pretty close to the original.  But if that's not your thing, you may want to reduce to 2 chipotle peppers and leave out the jalepeno.  The jalepeno and onions were not called for in the recipe I used, so it may taste more like the real thing without it. 

Barbacoa Beef
1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
juice of 1 lime
3 canned chipotle peppers (don't use the sauce, just the peppers)
4 garlic cloves
1 jalepeno, seeds removed
4 t cumin
2 t oregano
1 1/2 t ground black pepper
1 1/2 t salt
1/2 t ground clove

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
4 pound chuck roast
1 onion, sliced
3/4 cup chicken broth

3 bay leaves

Combine vinegar, lime juice, peppers, garlic, cumin, oregano, black pepper, salt and clove in a blender or food processor and puree on high speed until smooth.

Slice the roast into 6 smaller pieces. Sear all sides of the chunks of meat in 2 tablespoons of oil over medium heat until browned.  Remove the meat from the pan and place in the crockpot.  Add the onions to the pan and brown slightly.  Add the chicken broth to the pan and stir to deglaze (incorporate the brown bits at the bottom of the pan into the broth).

Pour the adobo sauce over the meat.  Then pour in the chicken broth and onions.  Add the bay leaves.  Cook for 5 hours on low, then 3 hours on high.  I think you could probably get away with 8 to 10 hours on low.  I just came home at the 5 hour point and turned it up to high.

Shred the beef in the crockpot, allowing it to absorb the liquid.  Serve rolled up in tortillas (warmed in the microwave in a damp kitchen or paper towel) with sour cream, lime cilantro rice (recipe follows), and your choice of cheese(I used white cheddar because that's what I had) and salsa (I made some fresh salsa, but that's not necessary).  I don't get the beans or the guacamole when I order the barbacoa at Chipotle, so I didn't make beans or guacamole, but you can add whatever you like.

Lime Cilantro Rice
2 c cooked white rice

1 lime, juiced (or more to taste)
1/4 c fresh cilantro leaves, chopped
salt to taste

Cook rice according to package directions. Mix in the lime juice, cilantro and salt to taste.

This rice was good, but I used jasmine rice (all I had on hand) so it was not quite like Chipotle's.  Regular white rice might make it more similar.

These burritos were reasonably close to the real thing and very tasty.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Comfort Me with Mashed Potatoes

Sure, Song of Solomon says "comfort me with apples" but mashed potatoes will also do nicely.  This week Cub had BOGO on Simply Potatoes mashed potatoes.  I had a partial brick of cream cheese, some sour cream, and some cheddar cheese in my fridge.  So I decided to combine a couple old school recipes and make cheesy mashed potatoes with cornflake topping.  Not uber healthy, but we like to say they're good for the soul.

Cheesy Cornflake Topped Mashed Potatoes
One container Simply Potatoes mashed potatoes
2 T sour cream (more or less)
1/3 of an 8 oz brick cream cheese
1/2 cup shredded white cheddar cheese (you could use any cheese you want)
1/2 onion, diced
small bit of butter to saute' the onions

1/2 c crushed cornflakes
1 T butter

Preheat the oven to 350.  Saute' the onions in a little butter to caramelize them.  You could use raw onions too, but browning them a bit first seemed to bring a nicer flavor.
Heat the mashed potatoes in the microwave so they are easier to stir, a minute or two.  Add the sour cream, cream cheese, cheddar cheese, and onion to the potatoes and mix thoroughly.  Place in greased casserole dish.  Melt the 1 T butter and add the crushed cornflakes.  Top the potatoes with the cornflake-butter mixture.

Bake for about 30 minutes.

I served with a ham steak, which I had intended to grill, but then decided to use my grill pan on top of the stove.  Either way is very quick and tasty.  If I had been more ambitious I might have added a glaze to the ham steak.  But I wasn't.  And the ham and potatoes were accompanied by baked beans along with a cabbage salad from the grocery store deli.

It was an easy weeknight dinner and my beloved ate it with relish and gratitude, which is also good for the soul.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Steak au Poivre

Even though it's grilling season, I just don't love grilling.  So I made Steak au Poivre this week with our BOGO steaks from the local market.  It is a pan-fried steak with a delectable cream sauce.  I've made it before and I'll make it again, grilling season or not.  You just can't go wrong with steak, pepper, cream, and booze.  If you don't want to buy or can't find shallots, just use onions. That's what I did this time and although I prefer the more delicate onion flavor of the shallot with this, regular onions taste plenty good too.  I've always used regular brandy, and fairly cheap regular brandy at that, because I can't justify the cost of Cognac.  The Barefoot Contessa's recipe, which I've also made, calls for canned beef broth rather than cream and it calls for filet mingnon rather than strip steak.  It is good, but I prefer the cream.  Surprise.  Here's her recipe in case you want to compare and contrast:

I usually serve with mashed potatoes (usually Simply Potatoes because they taste good and you just heat and eat) and sauted green beans or asparagus.  This time I served with mashed sweet potatoes and corn on the cob.  I found a bag of chopped sweet potatoes in the freezer section at Cub this week.  You microwave, then, mash and add milk, brown sugar and butter to taste.  Yumma!

This recipe is what I adapted for two, but the original was for four.  It's from Gourmet and has been around since the 1950s.

2 boneless strip (or any kind, really) steaks (8 to 10 oz each)
2 t kosher salt
1 T whole peppercorns
2 t vegetable oil
3 T finely chopped shallots
2 T butter
1/4 c Cognac or other brandy
6 T heavy cream

Preheat oven to 200°F.

Pat steaks dry with a paper towel or napkin and season both sides with kosher salt.

Coarsely crush peppercorns in a sealed plastic bag with a meat pounder or bottom of a heavy skillet, then press pepper evenly onto both sides of steaks.  Alternatively, I have just used the pepper grinder and ground the pepper right over the steaks, heavily.  It is a better effect and taste with the coarser grind you get from crushing the peppercorns rather than grinding them, but depending on the day, maybe the effort is worth it to you and maybe it's not.

Heat a large heavy skillet over moderately high heat until hot, about 3 minutes, then add oil, swirling skillet, and sauté steaks, turning over once, about 9 minutes for medium.

Transfer steaks as cooked to a heatproof platter and keep warm in oven while making sauce.

Pour off the fat from skillet, then add shallots and half of butter (1 tablespoon) to skillet and cook over moderately low heat, stirring and scraping up brown bits, until shallots are well-browned all over, 3 to 5 minutes.

Add brandy (careful, it may flame but it will go out quickly) and boil, stirring, until liquid is reduced to a glaze, 2 to 3 minutes. Add cream and any meat juices accumulated on platter and boil sauce, stirring occasionally, until reduced by half, 3 to 5 minutes. Add remaining tablespoon of butter and cook over low heat, swirling skillet, until butter is incorporated. Serve sauce with steaks.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Crockpot Pork Tacos

We're on a bit of a crockpot and pork roll here, but a budgeters gotta do what a budgeters gotta do.  Pork has been on sale a lot.  There was a BOGO coupon at the local market this week for pork chops, and I thought, "Can I find one more recipe for pork chops I want to try?"  The answer is Yes. Yes I can. 

Crockpot Pork Tacos
4 large boneless thick cut pork chops (original recipe calls for boneless country-style pork ribs or pork shoulder, which would be great too)
2 t salt
2 t black pepper
1 t dried oregano
1 t cumin
1/2 t cayenne pepper
(I think it you really wanted to, you could use a packet of taco seasoning instead of these spices)
splash of water or broth (I was a little worried about the pork drying out, but I think it would have been okay without this)
1 onion, cut into slices
4 garlic cloves, smashed with the side of your knife or chopped
Tortillas and your choice of toppings: shredded cheese, salsa, sour cream, sliced avocados or gaucamole, etc.  I made fresh Cowboy Caviar type salsa and it was really good with this.

Toss pork in the slow cooker crock with seasonings to coat. Place onion and garlic pieces on top of pork. Cover slow cooker and cook pork on low setting until meat is very tender and falling apart.  Make sure it is plugged in.  The original says to cook for about 6 hours but I had it going for about 9 hours while at work and it was fine.

Using slotted spoon, transfer pork to cutting board. Using forks or fingers, shred pork; transfer to platter.  Serve with tortillas and toppings.

Here's the original:

There are lots of Cowboy Caviar recipes out there, some with black eyed peas and some with black beans.  I love black beans, so that's what I used.
Cowboy Caviar
2 cans black beans, rinsed
1 large can diced tomatoes, drained
1 can Rotel tomatoes, drained
4 tomatoes, seeded and diced small (optional--I had these on hand)
1/2 onion, diced small
2 cloves garlic, minced
kernels from 3 ears of sweet corn (or frozen or canned corn)
1 yellow, orange or red pepper, diced small
splash red wine vinegar
splash olive oil
salt and peppr to taste
handful of cilantro leaves, chopped

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Grilled Chicken with Hot and Sweet Dipping Sauce

I was reminded of how much I love hot and sweet together after making strawberry jalepeno jam last week with a friend.  And then I remembered this recipe.  It may look a little daunting at first glance, or at least it did to me the first time I made it, but don’t let the need to make both a marinade and a sauce deter you. They’re not that hard to make and don’t have that many ingredients. The dipping sauce is just like it says, hot and sweet. Oh so good too. The marinade with fish sauce really makes for tasty chicken. The combination of the two results in one of the best things I’ve ever made on the grill. This is not due to my mad grilling skills, because grilling is not my forte’. It is based on a recipe from the cookbook “Hot, Sour, Salty, Sweet: A Culinary Journey Through Southeast Asia.” It is one of my favorite cookbooks not so much because I have made that many recipes from it, but because it has great travel and recipe stories plus photos that make it part travelogue along with cookbook.

Vietnamese Grilled Chicken with Hot and Sweet Dipping Sauce
Dipping Sauce:
½ c rice wine or cider vinegar
½ c sugar
2 garlic cloves, minced
¼ t salt
1 ½ t red pepper flakes

1 t black peppercorns
3 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
1 ½ T cilantro aka coriander stems (the recipe calls for roots but I have not been able to find them so I just use the stems of cilantro)
Pinch of salt
2 (generous) T fish sauce (this is available at large grocery stores these days, including Cub Foods. I used to have to go to the Asian market to get it.)

1 package chicken boneless chicken breast, cut into approx 2"chunks
OR chicken pieces on the bone will work too, that's what the original calls for

Dipping Sauce: Place the vinegar in a small non-reactive saucepan and heat to a boil. Add the sugar, stirring until it has completely dissolved, then lower the heat to medium-low and let simmer for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, using the side of a large knife, smash the garlic and salt to a smooth paste (could also use a mortar and pestle or a bowl and the back of a spoon). Combine with the pepper flakes in a bowl and blend well. Remove the vinegar mixture from the heat and stir in the garlic paste. Let cool to room temperature. Store sealed in a glass jar in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.

Marinade: Place the peppercorns in a mortar with the garlic and pound to a paste. Add the cilantro stems and salt and pound to a paste. This will take 5 to 10 minutes depending on the amount stress you need to alleviate. Or if you have a small blender or other food grinder/processor that can produce a smooth paste, use it instead. Stir in the fish sauce.

Place the chicken and the marinade in a large ziploc and turn to coat well. Let stand, covered, at room temperature for about 1 hour or in the refrigerator for as long as 3 hours.

Preheat your grill. If using the breast pieces, thread the chicken pieces onto kebab skewers (I use metal ones). Grill about 6 minutes, or until golden brown on one side, Then, turn over and cook until golden brown on the other side and the juices run clear when the meat is pierced.

Transfer the chicken pieces to a platter and serve with the dipping sauce along with jasmine or other rice. I usually give each person a small dipping sauce bowl.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

More Crockery: Meat Loaf on a Bed of Potatoes

Mr. G loves meat loaf of all types, so I've made lots of different recipes.  Meat loaf in the crock pot sounds bizarre and maybe gross at first thought, but I can attest that it is just as good as baked in the oven.  It's good for a weeknight dinner and is another recipe that is great for keeping the oven off during the summer.  This is also based on a recipe from Not Your Mother's Slow Cooker Cookbook.  It is a basic and simple meatloaf recipe but you could use your favorite meatloaf recipe instead.  I have been substituting panko (Japanese) bread crumbs for saltines lately.  It seems to give denser meatloaf with a "tighter crumb" and is easier to cut.  You could cut this recipe in half too.  Or slice the leftover meatloaf into cubes and use it to make spaghetti and meat squares, a family favorite.

Meat Loaf on a Bed of Potatoes
2 T olive oil
4 large Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 to 2 inch cubes
2 pounds ground beef
2 large eggs, beaten
3/4 crushed saltine crackers
3/4 c ketchup
1 t salt
few grinds black pepper

3/4 c ketchup
1/3 c packed brown sugar
1 t Dijon or other mustard

Grease the bottom of the cooker with the olive oil.  Add the potatoes, tossing lightly to coat.  Arrange in a bed.

Combine the beef, eggs, crumbs, ketchup, salt and pepper in a large bowl and mix gently.  Shape into the shape of your crockpot (oval or circle) and place on top of the potatoes.  My crockpot is big and oval, so there is at least a few inches between the loaf and the crockpot on all sides.

Stir the topping ingredients together to combine and pour over the meatloaf.  Directions say to cover and cook on high for one hour, then on low for 6 to 7, but I cook on low for 8 to 9 hours. 

To serve, lift the meat loaf onto a cutting board or serving platter, using a large spatula.

Crock Pot Thai Pork & Peanut Sauce

Now that the weather is heating up, meals that don't use the oven come in handy.  I love this in the winter too.  It's year round good.  This is my version of my favorite recipe from "Not Your Mother's Slow Cooker Cookbook."  I am not sure if using teriyaki sauce is all that Thai, but the peanut butter moves it to the Thai area of Asian food.

Crockpot Thai Pork and Peanut Sauce
2 pound Boneless pork loin (I use any pork roast that is on sale)
1/3 c teriyaki sauce (it can be the kind with or without sesame seeds, I use Trader Joe's usually, but any kind is fine)
2 T rice vinegar (or regular, don't think it makes much difference)
1 t red pepper flakes
2 cloves garlic, minced

1/4 c creamy peanut butter

For Stir Fry Vegetables
2 t peanut or vegetable oil
2 red peppers, sliced
optional: snow peas, sliced red onion, bean sprouts, etc.
optional: splash of soy sauce

For Serving
1/2 c chopped spring onions (white & green parts)
1/4 c dry-roasted peanuts, chopped
1 limes, cut into wedges
jasmine rice (or any kind of rice, but I like jasmine)

Put the pork, teriyaki sauce, rice vinegar, red pepper flakes and garlic in the cooker.  Cover and cook on LOW until the pork is fork tender, 8-9 hours.

Chop or slice the stir fry vegetables.  Remove the pork from the cooker and coarsley chop. Add the peanut butter to the liquid in the cooker; stir well to dissolve to make the sauce.   The original recipe calls for including sliced red peppers in the crockpot, but they turn out mushy and gross in my opinion. So I stir fry red peppers and any other vegetables that sound good or I have on hand, such as pea pods and red onions. Stir fry in small amount of oil until crisp-tender.  Add a little soy sauce if desired.

Serve in shallow bowls. Jasmine rice in first, then stir fried veg, then pork, then sprinkle on onions and peanuts, then add a squeeze of lime.  These toppings make a big difference in the taste and are more than garnish.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Teriyaki Pulled Pork and Singapore Slaw

Here's a twist on the usual bbq pulled pork and tangy coleslaw combination.
The teriyaki pulled pork is a crockpot recipe from  I like this for a weeknight meal.  And for the coleslaw, rather than all the chopping and dressing making in the recipe below (it's good but takes more time than I want on a Tuesday night at 5:30) I have just added an Asian-style salad dressing to packaged coleslaw mix.

Teriyaki Pulled Pork
approx 3 lb boneless pork shoulder roast, trimmed
2 t olive oil
1 c finely chopped onion
1 c teriyaki sauce, divided
1/2 c unsweetened pineapple juice
3 T flour
8 buns, split
1 (20 ounce) can sliced pineapple, drained (optional)

In a large skillet, brown roast in oil over medium-high heat. Place in crockpot.  Add the onion, 1/2 cup teriyaki sauce and pineapple juice. Cover and cook on low for 7-8 hours or until meat is tender.

Remove roast; set aside. In a small bowl, combine the flour and remaining teriyaki sauce until smooth; stir into cooking juices. Cover and cook on high for 30-40 minutes or until thickened. Shred meat with two forks; return to the slow cooker and heat through. Spoon 1/2 cup onto each bun; top with a slice of pineapple if desired.

The slaw recipe is one I have written down in my recipe notebook and I have no idea where it came from but I have made it often for potlucks, which has led to questions like, "Why are there peanuts in my coleslaw?".   Most people think it's really good, and I agree.  There are other Asian coleslaw recipes out there too--I saw one that included coconut that I want to try.  I'll report back on that one later in the summer.

Singapore Slaw
1 head cabbage, shredded or 1 package coleslaw mix
1 jicama, peeled and cut into strips (and/or a can of water chestnuts, which have a similar texture but don't have the slight apple-y sweetness)
3 oranges, sectioned or can of mandarin oranges, drained
1 or 2 green, red, or yellow pepper, cut into strips
1/2 red onion, sliced thinly
1/4 c. cilanto

1/4 c. peanut oil
3 T rice vinegar (or plain, I don't think it makes much difference)
2 T sugar
1 T sesame oil
2 T soy sauce
1/2 t dry mustard
Whisk together

1/2 c peanuts

Chop and combine vegetables, cover and chill up to 4 hours.  Mix dressing.  To serve, toss salad with dressing and add peanuts.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

French Brats?

I mean brat, as in bratwurst, not as in naughty haughty European children.  I found this recipe on and was intrigued by the combination of apples, cream, and sausage.  Oh yes, yes, yes, it's good.  I probably should have waited to try it further into the grilling season when we're getting a little sick of brats and hotdogs, but I will whip it out again maybe in July.
Bratwurst with Creamy Apple Compote
2 T butter
1 T vegetable oil
1 onion, sliced
2 Golden Delicious apples, peeled, cored, and sliced rather thinly
1 bay leaf
1 or 2 packages uncooked bratwurst, depending on the number you're serving and if you want leftovers (leftovers are good)
1 c white wine
2/3 c heavy cream
1 T cider vinegar
1 T packed brown sugar

Precook the brats; I boiled in beer because I had some leftover that I didn't like.  Maybe next time I would try boiling in the rest of the bottle of wine.  Would that be weird? 

Heat butter and oil in a fairly large skillet over medium-high heat until foam subsides, then cook onion and apples with bay leaf, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper, stirring once or twice, until golden brown, about 6 minutes.

Then split the brats down the middle, but not all the way through and broil or grill the brats.  Pay attention or some of them will burn.  Yes, that's obvious, but I never fail to burn at least one or two.

Add wine to apple mixture, then simmer, covered, until apples are tender, 6 to 8 minutes. Remove lid and briskly simmer until liquid is reduced by one third, about 2 minutes.

Stir cream, vinegar, and brown sugar into apple mixture and briskly simmer until slightly thickened, about 2 minutes. Discard bay leaf and serve apple compote over bratwurst.

I served with baby Yukon gold potatoes and asparagus I grilled using my handy Pampered Chef grill basket.  I pre-boiled the potatoes until almost done, then mixed the potatoes and asparagus in a bowl with olive oil, salt and pepper, and Bell's seasoning (sage based).  Then dumped into the grill basket and grilled.  I lost track of this along with the brats so some of the asparagus got a little burned.  But what was not charred was good.

However, next time I may serve with mashed potatoes because that apple cream sauce, holy cow, would've been good with mashed potatoes.  Or maybe hashbrowns.  Yes hashbrowns.  Or maybe potato pancakes...or egg noodles...

Spring Cleaning and Wine Go Together

I had a Norwex (cleaning  products) party a few weeks ago and along with about 3 gallons of wine I served some food.  My recycling bin was full of empties and a good time was had by all. 
Here's the menu:
Caprese Salad
Pea Pesto Pasta Salad
Carmelized Onion and Bacon Pizza
Baguettes and butter (from the good bakery in town)
Brownies (from a box because baking is beyond me)

For the caprese salad, there really isn't a need for a recipe since it's easy, but I'll include it anyway.  I used Roma tomatoes because it is not prime tomato season.  And so I used small mozzerella balls so the slices would be about the same size as the tomato slices.  I used about double the amount of cheese to tomatoes, which seemed about right.
Caprese Salad
2 containers small fresh mozzerrella balls, sliced
6 Roma tomatoes, sliced
1 package fresh basil, chiffonaded (roll leaves up like a cigar, then slice)
olive oil (about 1 T)
balsamic vinegar (also about 1 T)
fresh ground pepper
kosher salt

Arrange cheese and tomatoes on platter, sprinkle basil, olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper over.  I don't always include the balsamic.

The Pea Pesto salad is a Barefoot Contessa recipe.  She includes a recipe for pesto, but I used pre-made.  I also increased the amount of pasta, since I had a group about 20 people, but this amount would probably have fed 30 people.
1 pound fusilli pasta
1 pound bow tie pasta
1/4 c olive oil
1 container pesto (I used Trader Joes, I think it was 8 oz, which is less than Ina calls for, but turned out okay)
1 (10-ounce) package frozen chopped spinach, defrosted and squeezed dry
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 1/4 c Hellman's mayonnaise
1/2 c freshly grated Parmesan
1 1/2 c frozen peas, defrosted
1/3 c pine nuts
3/4 t kosher salt
3/4 t freshly ground black pepper

Cook the fusilli and bow ties separately in a large pot of boiling salted water for 10 to 12 minutes until each pasta is al dente. Drain and toss into a bowl with the olive oil. Cool to room temperature.

In the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade, puree the pesto, spinach, and lemon juice. Add the mayonnaise and puree. Add the pesto mixture to the cooled pasta and then add the Parmesan, peas, pignoli, salt, and pepper. Mix well, season to taste, and serve at room temperature.

The original recipe:

The pizza recipe was good and the platter was practically licked clean, but I think next time I will add chopped parsley for beauty and I will par-bake the crust before adding toppings and finishing it off.  The recipe called for making a crust from scratch, but I just didn't have time for such a thing.  Also, the recipe said to put the onions and bacon on the pizza uncooked, which just didn't seem like enough time to cook to me, especially for the bacon, which I enjoy crispy-style.

Onion, Bacon and Cream Pizza
1 pizza crust, however you get there (Pillsbury, Boboli, Jiffy, scratch, etc.)
For the topping:

2 white onions, peeled and sliced thin and carmelized by cooking slowly on low heat with small amount of olive oil, about half hour to 45 minutes
1/2 package of bacon, cooked til crisp, then cut in matchstick size pieces
1/2 cup crème fraîche
Freshly ground black pepper

Top the pizza with the onions, bacon, crème fraîche, and light sprinkling of pepper.  Bake at 450 for about 20 minutes.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Once, Twice, Three Times a Pork Chop

This is really only two recipes using pork chops, but we will get at least three meals from six pork chops, which were on sale again.  The boys shared one pork chop the first meal and Darby and I each had one, so I had three leftover from the first meal.  You can adjust the number the first time around, depending on family size and appetite. 

First is grilled beer brined pork chops and these were so good!  Very juicy, very flavorful.  This was the first time with this recipe and it was better than other brined pork chop recipes I have tried, although others have been good too.  Not sure what I served as sides because I made them a couple weeks ago and froze the leftovers.  If I had been planning ahead, I would have made rice and maybe grilled vegetables, and then made the pork fried rice the next day. 

I've made the pork fried rice recipe several times.  Darby really likes it and says it tastes like fried rice he had in Korea, although the recipe is Chinese.  Will loves the pork and egg pieces and will eat the rice to get seconds on the protein.  Griffin likes the pork, but had drama with eating the rest.  We had fortune cookies for dessert for those in the clean plate club.  We had watermelon as a side, which was surprisingly sweet and flavorful for this time of year.

The grilled chop recipe is adapted from a Bon Appetit recipe.  I use a gas grill, so you might have to modify for charcoal.  I barely know what I'm doing on a gas grill, let alone charcoal.

Grilled Beer Brined Pork Chops
2 c water
2 c dark lager beer (I used 1554 from Fat Tire--from a Fat Tire Folly Pack I had leftover from my Norwex party)
1/4 c Kosher salt
3 T (packed) brown sugar
3 T molasses
handful ice cubes

6 thick boneless pork chops

7 garlic cloves, minced
1 T coarsely ground black pepper
2 t salt
1 t ground sage

Brine:  Combine water, beer, salt, sugar, and molasses in large resealable plastic bag.  Add in ice. Add pork chops, then pour beer brine into bag and seal.  Refrigerate 4 hours, turning bag occasionally.

Mix garlic, pepper, salt, and sage in small bowl and set aside.
When ready to grill, preheat grill by turning to the max for 15 or 20 minutes. Remove pork chops from beer brine; pat dry. Rub garlic mixture over both sides of pork chops. Put pork chops on grill and then turn grill down to medium.  Grill pork chops about 10 minutes per side.  Directions say until instant-read thermometer inserted into center of chops registers 145°F to 150°F. 10 minutes on each side did work for me.  Transfer chops to platter; cover with foil, and let stand 5 minutes before serving.

And now for the recipe for the leftovers.  The original recipe calls for uncooked pork, but I have always used leftover cooked pork.  I also add garlic and peas, which the original doesn't call for. You could add other vegetables too.  I have also used dried ginger rather than fresh but yesterday I had fresh gingerroot.  Probaby a teaspoon of the dried to substitute for fresh.

Pork Fried Rice
3 leftover pork chops, sliced thinly (or other leftover pork or chicken)
1/3 c vegetable oil
4 eggs, lightly beaten
1 small onion, finely diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 T finely diced ginger
2 t white sugar
2 T hoisin sauce
2 T light soy sauce
1 T rice vinegar
1/4 t sesame oil
1 1/2 c or so frozen peas, thawed
4 c leftover rice (or just make it earlier in the day or right before, whatever!)
2/3 c finely sliced green onions

Heat half the oil in a hot wok until surface seems to shimmer slightly. Pour beaten eggs into wok and leave to cook on the base of the wok for 10 seconds before folding egg mixture over onto itself with a spatula and lightly scrambling for about 1 minute or until almost cooked through. Carefully remove omelette from wok with a spatula and drain on kitchen paper. Set aside.

Heat remaining oil in hot wok and stir-fry onion and ginger for 1 minute. Add sugar and stir-fry for 30 seconds. Add pork and stir-fry for a further 30 seconds. Stir in hoisin sauce, soy sauce, vinegar, and sesame oil and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Toss in rice, peas, and reserved omelette and stir-fry, using a spatula to break up the egg into smaller pieces, for 2 minutes. Lastly, add spring onions and stir-fry for a further 30 seconds or until well combined and rice is heated through.

This says it serves 4, but seems like more like 6.  You could cut it in half and serve 2 or 3, if you only have one or two pork chops.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Won't You Take Me To...GermanTown

Got some brats at Trader Joes and decided to go kinda German tonight.  The menu:

Brats, boiled in beer then grilled on the grill pan
Cabbage Salad

First there was some drama when the grease from the brats caused a bit of a flare up while they were on the grill pan.  I'd estimate the flame was about a foot high.  And this caused the smoke alarm to go off, which made me think of my mom shouting, "Dinner's ready" in similar situations.  But no harm done, the flame went out on its own as soon as I got the brats off the grill.  And the smoke alarm stopped in time for eating, after I opened some doors.

Then there was lots of drama over trying the salad, but the boys did end up cleaning their plates.  "Big Voice" had to come out and count down the moments left to eat.  Big Voice is an iphone app that Darby uses for the boys to get dressed in the morning.  He's vaguely English and very authoritative.  I might be in love with him. 

Darby and I enjoyed the cabbage salad, and although the recipe says it is for 6 people, I think it would probably be more like 8 to 10.  There is a lot left.  The recipe is from epicurious and I used quite a bit of substituting.  I didn't have apple cider vinegar or Dijon, so I used mostly rice vinegar with a splash of red wine vinegar and stone ground type mustard.  And I used run of the mill bagged cabbage.  I'm sure the salad would have been much prettier with the red cabbage, but it still was looking pretty good. 

I liked the pecans and have a lot left in the bag so might make a close version of this for my big Norwex party on Friday and serve the nuts on their own.

Cabbage Salad with Apples and Pecans
2 t butter

1 c pecan halves
2 T brown sugar
1 T Worcestershire sauce
1/8 t (scant) cayenne pepper

2 T seasoned rice vinegar (in the Asian section of the grocery store)
1 T apple cider vinegar
1 t Dijon mustard
1/4 c olive oil

2 medium unpeeled Braeburn or Fuji apples, quartered, cored, thinly sliced crosswise
2 T fresh lemon juice
3 c thinly sliced red cabbage
2 c thinly sliced Napa cabbage
3/4 c dried tart cherries (about 5 ounces)

Nuts:  melt butter in nonstick medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add pecans and stir 1 minute. Add brown sugar, Worcestershire sauce, and cayenne; stir until nuts are coated, about 1 minute. Transfer nuts to foil sheet and cool.

Dressing:  Whisk both vinegars and mustard in small bowl. Gradually whisk in oil. Season dressing to taste with salt and pepper.
Toss apples with lemon juice in large bowl. Add cabbages and dried cherries; mix. Add dressing and toss. Stir in pecans and season salad with salt and pepper.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Easy Peas-y Carbonara

This is a Cooking Light recipe that is carbonara-like with its bacon and eggs.  It doesn't taste like it's only 359 calories per serving and it's an easy weeknight meal.  This recipe makes 8 servings and we like it leftover, so I often make the full amount.  It reheats better when heated in a pan on the stove rather than the microvwave.  I add a little milk.  If I cut it in half I use 2 eggs.  It would actually be easier to cut the recipe into thirds if you only want a generous serving for 2.
1 pound uncooked spaghetti
12 bacon slices, chopped (more or less)
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 c 2% reduced-fat milk (I usually have 1% on hand and use that)
1 t salt
1 t freshly ground black pepper
3 eggs
1 c frozen petite green peas, thawed (I add more than that because I like peas)
1 1/2 c (6 ounces) grated fresh Parmesan cheese (you can use the kind that comes in the tub, but I prefer to grate a wedge myself)

Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain in a colander over a bowl, reserving 1/2 cup hot cooking liquid (or just dip out 1/2 cup before you drain if you don't want to mess with draining into a bowl).

While water heats up and pasta cooks, cook bacon in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat until crisp. Remove bacon from pan, reserving 1 tablespoon drippings in pan. Discard remaining drippings; set bacon aside. Add garlic to drippings in pan; cook 30 seconds, stirring constantly.  (I frequently have cooked bacon in the freezer if I've made a whole package and only used part of it.  In that case I cook the garlic in some olive oil.)

Whisk together in a bowl the milk, salt, pepper, and eggs. Gradually add reserved hot cooking liquid to milk mixture, stirring constantly with a whisk. Add pasta, milk mixture, and peas to skillet; cook over low heat 3 minutes or until sauce thickens. Add bacon and cheese; stir to combine.

It reheats better in a pan on the stove with a little added milk, rather than the microwave.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Never Trust a Skinny Cook, Part Deux

Love, love, love.  I loved my visit to Paris and other areas in France.  (It was about 10 years ago with a group of friends.  I would love to go back with Mr G.  It was all so romantic and beautiful, and I was single at the time so it would be fun to be there in love, loving it.)  I love the French language, even though my Berlitz tapes only got me so far.  I love French food, at least what I've had, except when it involves goose livers.  And I love Ina's Barefoot in Paris cookbook because not only does it have lots of great recipes, it also helps with fantasies of having an apartment in Paris (like Ina does and like Julia Child did) and all the lovely things that would go along with that.  Going to the market everyday, cooking French food in France, sitting outside at cafes for an espresso, walking along the Seine, shopping for French cookware. 
These recipes are from the Barefoot in Paris cookbook.  The Lemon Chicken with Croutons offers an alternative to potatoes or rice with chicken.  The croutons are not quite like stuffing and are ever so tasty.  I have rarely roasted a whole chicken, and find the thought a little intimidating, but this was not difficult and was truly delicious.  And the French Green Bean recipe is very simple, but tastes great.

Lemon Chicken with Croutons
1 (4 to 5-pound) roasting chicken
1 large yellow onion, sliced
olive oil
Kosher salt
black pepper
2 lemons, quartered
2 tablespoons butter, melted
6 cups (3/4-inch) bread cubes (1 baguette or round boule)
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
Take the giblets out of the chicken and wash it inside and out. Remove any excess fat and leftover pinfeathers. Toss the onion with a little olive oil in a small roasting pan. Place the chicken on top and sprinkle the inside of the cavity with salt and pepper. Place the lemons inside the chicken. Pat the outside of the chicken dry with paper towels, brush it with the melted butter, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Tie the legs together with kitchen string and tuck the wing tips under the body of the chicken.

Roast for 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 hours, or until the juices run clear when you cut between the leg and the thigh. Cover with foil and allow to sit at room temperature for 15 minutes. (The onions may burn, but the flavor is good.)

Meanwhile, heat a large saute pan with 2 tablespoons of olive oil until very hot. Lower the heat to medium-low and saute the bread cubes, tossing frequently, until nicely browned, 8 to 10 minutes. Add more olive oil, as needed, and sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Place the croutons on a serving platter. Slice the chicken and place it, plus all the pan juices, over the croutons. Sprinkle with salt and serve warm

French String Beans (haricot verts)
1 pound French string beans, both ends removed
Kosher salt
1 red onion, large- diced
1/2 red bell pepper, large diced  1/2 yellow bell pepper, large diced
olive oil
black pepper

I usually just include one whole pepper, either yellow or red, rather than half of each, unless I've thought of another purpose for the rest of the peppers.  (Kung Pao chicken coming before or after, for example)
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
Blanch the string beans in a large pot of boiling salted water for just 4 minutes. Drain immediately and immerse in a large bowl of ice water to stop the cooking. When they are cool, drain and set aside.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl toss the onion and bell peppers together with 2 tablespoons of olive oil and sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Place in a single layer on a baking sheet and roast for about 15 minutes, tossing with a spatula from time to time to be sure the vegetables roast evenly.

Just before serving, reheat the string beans in a large saute pan drizzled with a little olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and arrange on a platter. Spoon the roasted vegetables over the string beans and serve hot or at room temperature.

Bon Apetit!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Never Trust a Skinny Cook

Here are a couple of my favorite Barefoot Contessa recipes.  Ina has never, ever steered me wrong.  First, a very tasty onion dip with carmelized onions.  Carmelizing onions is not hard or complicated, just oil and onions over low heat for a half hour or so.  Chips and dip do not get any better than this. 

Pan-Fried Onion Dip Recipe
2 large yellow onions
4 T butter
1/4 c vegetable oil
1/4 t ground cayenne pepper
1 t kosher salt
1/2 t freshly ground black pepper
4 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 c sour cream
1/2 c mayonnaise

Cut the onions in half, and then slice them into 1/8-inch thick half-rounds. (You will have about 3 cups of onions) Heat the butter and oil in a large sauté pan on medium heat. Add the onions, cayenne, salt and pepper and sauté for 10 minutes.

Reduce heat to medium-low and cook, stirring occasionally, for 20 more minutes, until the onions are browned and caramelized. Allow the onions to cool.

Place the cream cheese, sour cream, and mayonnaise in the bowl of an electric mixer (use a paddle attachment if you have one). Beat until smooth. Add the onions and mix well by hand. Taste for seasonings. Serve at room temperature.

Next, these recipes are good on their own and great together.  Chicken with Forty Cloves of Garlic and Moroccan Couscous

First the chicken.  Forty cloves of garlic sound like a lot.  But cooked slowly, for a long time, very mellow.  You can serve with this with bread and spread the garlic on like butta.  I modified Ina's recipe so I could cook in the crockpot because the times I've made it I wanted to step away from the house for a while.  It's just been easier this way.  Ina's original recipe is on the Food Network site.
Crockpot Chicken with 40 Cloves of Garlic
3 whole heads of garlic, about 40 cloves
1 T butter
2 T olive oil
2 T Cognac
1 1/2 c dry white wine
1 T fresh thyme leaves
2 springs Italian parsley, optional
kosher salt and ground pepper
2 to 3 lbs chicken pieces (on the bone--can cut up a whole chicken or two if you do that sort of thing)

Lightly smash cloves of garlic with side of knife, then peel.  (Ina says to separate the clvoves ad drop them in a pot of boiling water for 60 seconds and then peel.  Sounds like more trouble than it's worth to me, but who knows.)
Wash the chicken and dry with paper towels. Season liberally with salt and pepper on both sides. Heat the butter and oil in a large pan over medium-high heat. In batches, saute the chicken in the fat, skin side down first, until nicely browned, about 3 to 5 minutes on each side. Turn with tongs or a spatula; you don't want to pierce the skin with a fork. If the fat is burning, turn the heat down to medium. When a batch is done, transfer it to the crockpot and continue to saute all the chicken in batches. Remove the last chicken to the plate and add all of the garlic to the pot. Lower the heat and saute for 5 to 10 minutes, turning often, until evenly browned. Add 2 tablespoons of the Cognac and the wine, return to a boil, and scrape the brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Pour garlic mixture over chicken in the crockpot and sprinkle with thyme and parsley leaves.  Cook on low for 8-9 hours, on high for about 3-4 hours.

Ina makes a sauce with the drippings and one more tablespoon of Cognac plus 2 T of flour and heavy cream each.  I'm sure it's good, but I don't think I've tried it.

I have looked a few times for this recipe online, but have only found other versions from Ina that I don't like quite as well as this one.  This is from her Barefoot in Paris cookbook. 
Moroccan Couscous
2 c. (3/4") diced butternut squash
2 yellow onions, chopped
4 carrots (3/4") diced
2 medium zuchinni (3/4") diced
2 T olive oil
Kosher salt
1 /2 c chicken broth
2 T butter
1/4 t ground cumin
1/2 t saffron threads (I left this out because saffron is expensive and I have no idea if it would take it from great to exquisite)
1 1/2 couscous
2 green onions, white and green parts, chopped

Preheat oven to 375 degreses.

Place butternut squash, onions, carrots, and zucchini on a baking sheet and toss with olive oil, 2 t salt, and 1 t pepper.  Roast for 25 to 30 minutes, until all the veg are tender, turning once with a spatula.

Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, bring the chicken stock to a boil and turn off the heat.  Add the butter, 1 t salt, 1/2 t pepper, the cumin, saffron and allow to steep for at least 15 minutes.

Bring the chicken stock just back to a boil.  Place the couscous and cooked vegetables in a large bowl and pour the hot chicken sstock over them.  Cover tightly with plastic wrap and allow to stand at room temperature for 15 minutes.  Add the scallions, toss the couscous and vegetables with a fork, and serve warm or at room temperature.

Also fabulous are her Lemon Chicken with Croutons and French Green Beans, which I'll post another time.

Signs of Spring

The snowdrifts are starting to melt, it's almost time to spring forward, and asparagus is in the grocery store.  Ah, springtime.  This recipe is based on a Bon Appetit recipe.

Roasted Asparagus Salad with Mandarin Oranges

1 lb asparagus, trimmed
1 t olive oil
1 can mandarin oranges
1/3 c orange or clementine juice
2 t rice vinegar
1 1/2 t sesame oil
1 1/2 t grated orange or clementine peel
1 garlic clove, minced
1/8 t ground ginger (or 3/4 t minced peeled fresh ginger)
2 T finely chopped green onion tops
2 T sliced almonds (toasting them in a dry pan until they start to turn color would probably enhance the taste, but I forgot to do this)

Preheat oven to 450°F. Place asparagus in medium bowl. Pour enough cold water over asparagus to cover; let stand 15 minutes. Drain. (This is to keep the asparagus from drying out in the over.)
Spread asparagus in baking pan; drizzle with oil. Roast asparagus until crisp-tender, turning occasionally, about 10 minutes. Transfer asparagus to platter; cool. Slice asparagus into bite-sized pieces and place in bowl; add oranges.
Whisk juice, vinegar, sesame oil, peel, garlic and ginger in small bowl to blend. Season dressing to taste with salt and pepper.  Add dressing to asparagus and oranges and toss.  Sprinkle with green onion tops and almonds to serve. 
*Note:  the original recipe did not call for the asparagus to be chopped up, but I think it's easier to eat that way and more like a salad.  It also said to use sectioned tangerines (not canned mandarins). I had clementines on hand which I tried to peel with a knife and section but that did not go well.  I've had some success sectioning regular sized oranges for other recipes, but I think there is not enough pith on clementines for it work.  Or a person needs better knife skills than mine.  So I used the juice from them for the dressing, but resorted to canned mandarins instead of the sections.  And one final alteration, the original called for chopped peanuts rather than almonds, which was just not appealing to me.  Maybe a different day.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Pork Chops Were On Sale

There were pork chops in the freezer and Simply Potatoes mashed potatoes were only sale, so one weeknight this week we had Tasty Pork Chops with mashed potatoes and corn.  The only thing requiring effort was the pork chops and they were...well, very simple, very easy.  I based them on a recipe I found on called Pork Chops with Escarole and Balsamic Onions.  The recipe sounded good, but I did not have escarole in the house and we decided to say screw the green vegetables for the evening and have corn.

Tasty Pork Chops
2 T olive oil
4 pork chops
salt and pepper
1 yellow onion, sliced into rings
2 T balsamic vinegar
2 T orange juice

Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Season the pork with salt and pepper. Cook until browned and cooked through, 5 to 6 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate and cover to keep warm.

Heat the remaining tablespoon of oil in the skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, for 3 minutes. Add the vinegar and orange juice and cook until the onion is soft, 2 to 3 minutes.  Pour onions and sauce over the pork chops to serve.

Here is the original recipe:

After enjoying this dish, Will decided he wants his new nickname to be Pork Chop.  Griffin decided his new nickname should be Marshmallow.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Sausage and Peppers from Big Hand and Head Lady

I've made several different sausage and peppers recipes, but Giada's is the one I like the most (Giada from Every Day Italian on the Food Network and seriously does she not have a huge head, mouth, and man hands?  She is lovely though and knows how to cook, don't get me wrong):

1/4 c olive oil
1 lb sweet Italian sausage (turkey or regular)
2 red bell peppers, sliced
2 yellow onions, sliced
1 t kosher salt
1 t black pepper
1/2 t dried oregano
1/2 c chopped fresh basil leaves (if you had to, you could substitute dried basil, maybe 1 T?)
4 garlic cloves, chopped
2 T tomato paste
1 cup Marsala wine
1 15-ounce can diced tomatoes
1/4 t red pepper flakes, for those who like a little heat

Heat the oil in a heavy large skillet over medium heat. Add the sausages and cook until brown on both sides, about 7 to 10 minutes. Remove from the pan and drain.

Keeping the pan over medium heat, add the peppers, onions, salt, and pepper and cook until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Add the oregano, basil, and garlic and cook 2 more minutes.

Add the tomato paste and stir. Add the Marsala wine, tomatoes, and pepper flakes, if using. Stir to combine, scraping the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon to release all the browned bits. Bring to a simmer.

Cut the sausages into 4 to 6 pieces each, about 1-inch cubes. Add the sausage back to the pan and stir to combine. Cook until the sauce has thickened, about 20 minutes.

Serve in bowls or as a sandwich in hoagie rolls.  You could serve over pasta too, maybe penne.   I have served this along with Cosetta's mostaccioli (St Paul Italian deli).  Their mostaccioli is served with a white ricotta sauce and red sauce.  You can buy both the sauces at the deli and make your pasta at home.  Someday maybe I will try to replicate it, but it sounds like a lot of work so for now, I buy it.

Mexican Pizza Night

By special request, here is my Mexican Pizza recipe.  It is based on a recipe I think I found in Bon Appetit quite a few years ago. 

Mexican Pizza
1 pizza crust (can be premade like Boboli, or you can make one from scratch, use Pillsbury or store brand refridgerated pizza dough, Jiffy mix, etc.)
1 or 2 avocados, diced
juice from half of a lime
1 t cumin
1 t garlic powder
1 large tomato or 3 roma tomatoes, diced
6 strips of bacon, more or less, cooked and crumbled
1 c, more or less, shredded pepper jack cheese

Mix lime juice, cumin, and garlic powder with avocado.  Bake the crust as directed until about 5 minutes from doneness.  Top with avocado mixture, tomato, bacon,and cheese.  Bake about 5 more minutes, until cheese melts.  If you are using a premade crust, just put the toppings on and bake until cheese melts.

The original recipe called for a Boboli type crust to be grilled, top side down for a few minutes, then flipped over, toppings added, then grilled until the cheese melts.  This is plenty good too, but more trouble than it's worth, particularly in the winter.

Earlier this week I made California screwdrivers, which are the regular screwdriver orange juice vodka combination, plus club soda and triple sec.  I think a Mexican screwdriver would be good with this pizza recipe, which are a screwdriver with tequila instead of vodka.  Or what might be even better is a combination of the California screwdriver and the Mexican screwdriver--I think I'd call it a Baja Screwdriver:  tequila, triple sec, club soda, orange juice.  I might try adding vodka if I was feeling crazy.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Take this stuffing it

My BFF Diane had a turkey in the freezer she had purchased when they were uber cheap.  Because she loves us, a few weeks ago she cooked it in her giant electric roaster and brought it over to our house for a turkey dinner.  I decided to go full-blown Thanksgiving style and make stuffing and mashed potatoes. 

mashed potatoes
corn (homemade freezer type)

Can you say carbs? 

This stuffing recipe is based on one called Anyday Dressing from the Catholic ladies cookbook from my hometown and has been a Thanksgiving staple in my family for many years.  It was submitted to the cookbook anonymously.  This is a puzzle to me.  Who wouldn't want to take credit for something so divinely down home and good? We never actually stuff the turkey, because it is too much work, questionable in its food safety status, and the stuffing gets a nice little crust on it when you make it in a separate dish.  This is a great way to use up bread or buns you put in the freezer that have been in there a bit too long, since you want the bread dried out a bit.

Happy Day Stuffing
(because I like to call it Stuffing and not Dressing even though it is not actually stuffed, and any day that involves stuffing is a happy day)
10 pieces of bread, or the equivalent amount in buns, left out uncovered overnight or for several hours, then torn or cut into 2 inch or so cubes
1 medium onion, diced
1/2 c celery, diced
4 T butter
1 t salt
1/4 t pepper
1 t poultry seasoning or sage (I use Bell's Seasoning)
1 can chicken rice soup
8 oz chicken stock

Add bread to buttered or sprayed casserole dish.  Cook onion and celery in the butter in a large saute pan until softened and onion starts to brown.  Add the seasonsings and then the soup and stock.  Pour mixture over bread in the casserole and mix thoroughly. Bake uncovered at 325 for 1 hour.

I'm not sure why I don't think to make it more often, especially since the name says "Any Day."  It would be great with chicken too.  It's easy and I know I'm partial because I grew up on it, but it's the best stuffing I've ever had.  Also, Trader Joes frozen mashed potatoes are awesome if you haven't tried them.  They come fozen in little discs, so you can make a very small amount or the whole bag.

And friends, I tried something new with the leftovers and made a version of a shepherd's pie.  Layer turkey on the bottom, then gravy, then vegetables (I used mixed because the corn was gone but corn would have been more decadent and tastier), then stuffing and/or mashed potatoes.  I just used what I had left of the stuffing and mashed potatoes, so part of the casserole was covered with the stuffing and the other part with mashed potatoes.  Mr. G. really enjoyed.  I was just medium on it, and have that kind of reaction to shepherd's pie in general too, but appreciated the using up of leftovers as a budget helper.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Dippity Do Dah

Yesterday's lunch menu was outside of our normal peanut butter/nugget/mac and cheese/soup rotation because we had guests.  This is also good for a lighter dinner.

French Dip Sandwiches
Waldorf Coleslaw
Chips and salsa
Bakery valentine cookies

For the French Dips:
-1/4 lb (could be more or less) deli sliced roast beef per person
-1/4 to 1/2 c beef broth per person (I've used the packaged au jus you add water to or canned beef broth or beef boullion)
-hoagies or french bread (can use any variety, Target had Pepperidge Farm French Twin Heat and Serve on sale so I used that)
-sliced Swiss cheese (if desired--I don't always add this)

Heat the beef broth in a sauce pan on the stove top.  Add the deli beef to warm it.  Toast or warm the bread in the oven.  You could butter it, or not. You could add the beef and cheese to it before putting in the oven.  Otherwise, just make the sandwiches after the bread is toasted.   Serve the sandwiches with the au jus/beef broth for dipping.  You could also carmelize some onions (slice thinly and cook slowly in a small amount of oil) and put on top if you like.

For the Waldorf Coleslaw, I like this epicurious recipe for its sweet and tangy combination.  I add raisins and use whatever apples I have on hand (usually braeburn) and most importantly I used the precut coleslaw in the bag for speed and ease.  Also, yesterday I was out of plain yogurt so I used sour cream and also fresh out of dijon so I used regular mustard and it tasted just as good to me.  If you were totally crazy or a senior citizen you could add marshmallows.  I hear it's all the rage at the nursing home.  I cut this recipe in 1/4 since there were only 5 of us and 3 were kids.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Very Simple Very Easy

Chef Tell would approve, I think.

Quick and Easy Sausage and Sun Dried Tomato Pasta

1 T olive oil, or less
1 lb sweet Italian sausage (can use turkey sausage)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 c or so sun dried tomatoes, julienned (reconstituted if necessary)
1 container refridgerated al fredo sauce, can be light
1/4 to 1/2 c milk
1 t (more or less, depending on your heat tolerance) red pepper flakes
8 oz penne pasta, cooked

(Start the water for the pasta before starting anything else).  Heat oil and cook sausage in skillet until cooked through, remove from pan and slice, return to pan.
Briefly cook garlic.
Mix milk and al fredo sauce, add to pan and cook til heated.
Add sausage and tomatoes.
Serve over pasta.

For faster cooking, slice the casing down the length of the sausages and remove the meat from the casing.  Crumbled sausage will cook faster.  Sliced sausage looks prettier but the crumbled tastes just as good.

Sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil have more calories, so I don't usually use them.  I've been finding sun-dried tomatoes that are already julienned and do not need to be reconstituted in the plastic pouches in the produce section, but if you need to reocnsitute, you can put them in a bowl of water in the microwave for a couple minutes and then drain.

Pow! It's Kung Pao Time

This recipe is based on Big Bowl's Kung Pao Chicken recipe:

8 oz boneless, skinless chicken breast cut into bite-sized pieces
2 T oil (peanut or vegetable)
vegetables for stir fry (pea pods, bell pepper, red onion, water chestnuts, whatever)
4 cloves garlic, minced
green onions, both whites and greens
1/4 to 1/2 c. peanuts
2 T. black bean with garlic sauce
1 T. (more or less depending on your tolerance) Sriacha hot sauce (rooster on the label)
2 T hoisin sauce
1 T vinegar
1 T soy sauce
1 T sugar
Mix together.

Heat oil in stir fry pan or skillet. 
Cook chicken until no longer pink, remove from pan. 
Fry garlic and green onion whites briefly, then add vegetables and stir fry until crisp-tender.
Add sauce, chicken, and peanuts and heat through.
Sprinkle with green onion greens and cilantro.
Serve with rice.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Saturday Night Special

Saturday night's dinner menu:
Grandma's (somebody else's Grandma) Pork Chops
Mashed potato cheese and chive gratin
Minted sugar snap peas
Peanut butter chocolate shakes

Here are the recipes:
I used Simply Orange o.j. instead of squeezing oranges. I didn't have a lemon, so skipped it. Very tasty.

Only had 1/2 the cream cheese on hand, 1% milk, and spring onions instead of chives. Still yumma.

The mint really mellows when it hits the heat. These were good.

The mint in that pea recipe reminds me how much I like the recipe below. I wrote it down while watching The Naked Chef several years ago and haven't been able to find the "real" one online, but this works for me. I've made it quite a few times. I need to make this soon since I have mint on hand:
Squash and Zuchinni Crostini from Jamie Oliver
1 c. sliced pattypan squash
2 zuchinni, cut in qtrs and sliced
1 garlic glove, chopped
1/4 c. finely chopped mint
pinch of salt and pepper

Saute' the above in olive oil until softened, about 10 minutes, smashing it up a bit as it's cooking. When finished, squeeze the juice from half a lemon on top. Place in a serving bowl and sprinkle with feta cheese. Serve with toasted ciabatta bread.