Thursday, January 29, 2009

Sick

I've had a bad cold/flu for a couple of days - not much cooking going on. Sorry

Monday, January 26, 2009

Italian Sausage and White Bean Soup

Why go out and get the all you can eat soup and breadsticks at a well-known Italian restaurant chain when you can make a soup that tastes just as good for a fraction of the cost at home? All you have to do is buy some ready-made breadstick dough (and bake them!) and you've got a great Italian meal.
Ingredients
  • 8 ounces hot (or mild) Italian sausage, casings removed and broken up into small pieces
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 bell pepper, diced
  • 1 cup shredded carrot
  • 1 can (14 ounces) chicken broth
  • 1 can (14 ounces) white beans (undrained)
  • 2 cups baby spinach leaves or chopped kale (I prefer the kale)
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh basil
  • 1 cup shredded parmesan cheese (topping)
Directions
Cook sausage, onion, bell pepper, and carrot in a large saucepan over medium-high heat until the sausage is no longer pink. Add chicken broth and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to medium and cook 10 minutes, or until the carrots start to soften. Add the canned white beans along with their canning liquid. Bring to a simmer and add spinach or kale. The spinach will wilt rather quickly (just a couple of minutes) but if using kale, simmer for another 5-10 minutes, or untill the kale is as cooked as you like it. Remove from heat and stir in the basil. Pour into serving bowls and top with cheese.

We leave the Parmesan cheese off the 3A's 

Friday, January 23, 2009

Greek Pasta Salad

I love Greek food (see post for 11/2/08). However, it can be a bit fussy and require a lot of prep. This easy recipe requires just a few common ingredients and can be done in less than 20 minutes.

Ingredients
  • 6 cups cooked pasta (rotini, fusili, or pene, or ziti)
  • 1½ cups diced cucumber
  • 1 medium bell pepper, diced
  • 1 can (14 ounces) diced tomato, drained
  • 4 ounces feta cheese, crumbled.
  • 1 small can sliced black olives
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh dill
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
Mix everything together. Chill and eat.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Microwave Meat Loaf

So I know what you're thinking: "Microwave meat loaf?!" To you I say, "Yes, meat loaf can be good in the microwave." I don't know why this works, but it's super tasty!

Ingredients
  • 1 pound 90% lean ground beef
  • 1/4 pound Italian sausage, casings removed
  • 1/2 cup dry bread crumbs
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons pasta sauce, divided
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
Directions
In a large bowl, combine beef, sausage, bread crumbs, cheese, eggs, 1/2 cup pasta sauce, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, allspice, and pepper. Gently mix together (your hands are good tools for this - you don't want to be too rough). Work into a loaf shape and pat into an ungreased microwave-safe loaf pan (you can also use a glass casserole dish or similar vessel). Microwave on high for 8 minutes, covered with a double layer of paper towels. Pat/Drain off any grease. Mix remaining 2 tablespoons pasta sauce and 1 tablespoon lemon juice. Spread sauce mixture over the top of the meat loaf. Microwave, uncovered, on high for an additional 3-5 minutes, until the meat loaf reaches 160 degrees in the center. Rest for 5 minutes before serving.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Simple Steak Rub

So I recently invested a few hundred dollars in a cow. More precisely, I bough ¼ of a whole cow and filled my freezer with high-quality beef. Now that I have all this beef, I've got to figure out how to cook it all. Since I don't want steak to get "boring," I decided that I need to come up with different ways to cook each meal. I decided to go simple with my first attempt: cumin rub with au jus. Wow! It turned out perfectly, so I had to share the recipe.

Ingredients
  • 24-36 ounces of steak (top sirloin, rib eye, strip steak), cut 1½ inches thick and portioned into 4 steaks.
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
  • 1 teaspoon cumin (freshly toasted and ground would be best)
  • 1 tablespoon vegatable oil
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • 1 tablespoon cold butter
Instructions
Take steak from fridge and trim exterior fat. Mix salt, pepper, and cumin. Evenly sprinkle the salt mixture onto both sides of steak and pat on to adhere. Let the steak rest at room temperature for 30-60 minutes.
Heat the oil in a large (12-inch) cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat until you see wisps of smoke appear. Carefully place the steaks in the pan (lay them down away from you to avoid splatters) and do not touch them for at least 4 minutes to achieve medium-rare doneness (5-6 minutes for more well-done). Flip the steaks and cook for another 4 minutes (or longer for more well-done).
Remove the steaks to a cutting board and cover with aluminum foil. Keeping the skillet on medium-high, add the broth and scrape up the brown bits on the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon or wisk. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring constantly, until broth is slightly thickened. Remove from heat and stir in butter until it is completely melted. Serve each steak with a small bowl of sauce on the side.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Blueberry Pie


I saw this recipe on America's Test Kitchen on PBS this weekend. It looked so good, we had to try it right away. It is really dellicious!
A note on the use of vodka in the crust: Alcohol is wet, but will not produce gluten in the crust like water will (gluten makes pastries tough and chewy - not what you want in pie). A "wet" dough is necessary to ensure it will roll out thinly enough and create flaky layers. Since vodka is around 50% alcohol and imparts no flavor to the dough, it is a good choice to help make the crust easier to work with. Additionally, since Alcohol boils at 180 degrees and the pie bakes for an hour at an average temperature of 375 degrees, very little (if any) alcohol will remain in the finished pie. If you are opposed to using any alcohol at all (e.g. for religious reasons), you can substitute 2 tablespoons of water for 1/4 cup vodka - just realize that the dough will be much stiffer and harder to roll out.

Crust Ingredients
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (unbleached)
  • 1 teaspoon table salt
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 12 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled and cut into 1/4-inch slices
  • 1/2 cup shortening, chilled and cut into 4 pieces
  • 1/4 cup vodka, chilled
  • 1/4 cup ice water
Pie Filling Ingredients
  • 6 cups (about 30 ounces) fresh blueberries
  • 1 granny smith apple, peeled and grated on the large holes of a box grater
  • all the zest and 2 teaspoons juice from one lemon (toss the remaining juice with the apple shreds to keep them from browning)
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons minute tapioca, ground in food processor or spice grinder
  • pinch table salt
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 1/4 inch pieces
Additional Ingredients
  • Flour for rolling out the crust
  • 1 egg beaten with 1 teaspoon water (AKA "egg wash")
Directions

Process 1 1/2 cups flour, salt, and sugar in a food processor until combined, about two 1-second pulses. Add butter and shortening and process until the dough is homogenized and clumps up (around 15 seconds - there should be no "loose" flour left in the bowl). Scrape the dough up with a spatula and evenly distribute around the processor blade. Add remiaining 1 cup flour and pulse until the mixture is evenly distributed around the bowl and the dough is broken up, about 4-6 quick pulses. Empty the mixture into a medium bowl.

Sprinkle the vodka and water over the dough and fold with a rubber spatula. Work the dough until it is slightly tacky and all comes together. Divide the dough in half and form into two 4-inch disks. Wrap each disk in plastic and refrigerate at least 45 minutes (up to 2 days).

Remove one of the chilled dough disks from the refrigerator and roll out on a generously floured (up to 1/4 cup flour) clean work surface. Form a circle approxamately 12 inches across and 1/8 inch thick. Move the dough onto the center of a pie plate, leaving at least 1 inch of crust hanging off the entire circumference (gently rolling about half the dough onto your rolling pin and then unrolling over the pie pan is an easy way to do this). Working around the edge of the pie pan, slightly lift the dough off the lip and press it onto the bottom and sides of the pan (this ensures the crust is making good contact with the pie pan and will not shrink up or crack as it cooks). Do not trim excess dough yet. Place pie pan in fridge to chill the dough while working on the filling.

Adjust oven rack to it's lowest position, place a sheet pan on the rack and heat the oven to 400 degrees. Place 3 cups of berries in a meduim saucepan over medium heat. Mash the berries several times with a potato masher. Cook berries, stirring frequently until the mixture reduces to 1 1/2 cups (about 8 minutes). As the berries cook, mash a few more times to ensure the juices are released. Cool slightly before adding to other ingredients.

Wring out the grated apple in a clean kitchen towel, getting them as dry as possible. Combine apple, cooked and uncooked berries, lemon zest and juice, sugar, tapioca, and salt in a large bowl. Pour into the chilled pie shell and scatter remaining butter pieces over the filling.
Roll out the remaining dough on a generously floured (up to 1/4 cup flour) work surface to an 11-inch circle. Using a small biscuit cutter (about 1 1/4 inches), cut a hole in the middle of the dough disk. Cut an additional 6 holes in the dough, 1 1/2 inches from the first one and evenly distributed around the center. Place the dough on top of the pie (use your rolling pin to help), leaving at least 1/2 inch dough hanging off the edge all around the pie pan.

Using kitchen shears, trim top and bottom crust together to an even 1/2 inch overhang. Fold the dough under itself flush with the edge of the pie plate. Flute the edges using the thumb and forefinger of one hand pressed into the forefinger of the other hand. Brush top crust all over with egg wash. If dough has softened, chill for 10 minutes in the freezer.

Put the pie on the sheet pan in the oven and bake for 30 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 350 and bake for another 30-40 minutes, or until the juices are bubbly and the crust is a deep golden brown. Cool on a wire rack a room temperature for at least 4 hours. Do not skip the last step - you will be eating blueberry soup if you do!

Apology

I'm sorry that my posting has been off over the last couple of weeks. I got a new job (actually, I returned to an old one, but that's a long story) and the transition has thrown off my schedule. I think I'm all settled in now, so you should see regular postings from now on -or at least until something else monumental happens in my life ;)

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Burritos

So Monday's post will make a lot of meat and beans. So many, you'll want to count on it for two meals (if you have a small family). These burritos require very little work and taste really good!

Ingredients
  • 2 cups leftover Pork Chili Verde from Monday (1/5/09)
  • 2 cups cooked white rice
  • 1/4 cup lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 6 flour tortillas, warmed in the microwave
  • Mexican blend shredded cheese
  • Sour Cream
  • Shredded Lettuce
Directions
Mix together rice, lime, oil, and salt in a bowl. On each tortilla, place rice, meat/beans, cheese, lettuce, and sour cream. Roll into burritos.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Chile Verde with Beans

The nice thing about this recipe is that it can be used with almost any kind of pork you have around. Shoulder and rib cuts work very well, but you could probably use loin or sirloin cuts or chops. Bones and other connective tissue in the meat will add moisture, body and flavor.

Ingredients
  • 3-4 pounds country style pork ribs (see note above about using other cuts)
  • 1 pound dried beans (great northern, pinto, or black all work well), soaked overnight and drained (check for bad beans or rocks first!)
  • 6-8 cups water
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cans (4 ounces each) diced green chiles
  • 2 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons oregano
Directions
Place all ingredients except pork and water in a slow cooker. Stir to evenly distrubute spices. Add pork, keeping the pieces evenly distributed and surrounded by beans (as much as possible - this might be difficult in a smaller slow-cooker). Add enough water to cover everything by an inch or two. Put on lid and cook on high for 8-10 hours. Check every couple of hours to ensure the food stays covered with water, adding hot water as needed to keep everything submerged.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Pudding Cake

I'm not a huge fan of plain chocolate cake with chocolate frosting (it's usually too dry), Kai on the other LOVES it, so I bought a box of Betty Crocker Chocolate Fudge cake for his birthday party. On the back, I discovered this tasty recipe: Chocolate-Peppermint Poke Cake.

It was wonderful. Since then I've made different variations:

1. Straight up chocolate, no peppermint stuff.
2. White cake, banana pudding filling, white frosting, banana slices covering the top
3. Yellow cake, coconut pudding filling, chocolate frosting, toasted coconut generously sprinkled on top

I plan to try a white cake, lemon pudding filling, a thin layer of raspberry jam with lemon frosting on top. I'm not sure how that will turn out but we'll see.